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Kiel Leggere/Philadelphia Eagles

2023 NFL Game Picks: Week 3

Last week: 9-7

Season: 19-13


NYG (1-1) @ SF (2-0) 

Thursday, September 21 | 8:15 PM ET | Prime Video


The Giants head into a short week coming off a draining comeback victory over the Cardinals after getting outscored 60-0 over the first six quarters of 2023, and they’ll be doing it without their best two players in Saquon Barkley (ankle) and Andrew Thomas (hamstring). Fortunately, right tackle Evan Neal made some strides in Week 2 after a shaky opener, but he now has to take on Nick Bosa, so things could get ugly for New York if the big man doesn’t move his feet and Drake Jackson (3.0 sacks in Week 1) also brings consistent pressure across from the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Another positive for the Giants last week was rookie speedster Jalin Hyatt providing a spark with two receptions for 89 yards, and the offense badly needs him to become a weekly contributor—especially with Barkley out. I just don’t think there is enough overall firepower to take down San Francisco on the road, and Deebo Samuel could have a big night with Christian McCaffrey (100% of the snaps played last week) perhaps seeing his workload scaled back on a short week.


Winner: San Francisco 49ers


IND (1-1) @ BAL (2-0)

Sunday, September 24 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


It was great to see Nelson Agholor help lead Baltimore to a divisional win over the Bengals last week, as the veteran wideout caught five passes for 63 yards, including a highlight over-the-shoulder touchdown grab. Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle) being banged up allowed for the increased opportunity for Agholor, but the receiving corps of the Ravens is deep and deadly with Lamar Jackson under center, and the defense will only get better as Marlon Humphrey (foot) returns and the young pass rushers continue to improve. Baltimore can’t overlook the Colts this week with Anthony Richardson—assuming he passes the concussion protocol—capable of making plays, but road games against the Browns and Steelers are up next to begin October, which gives the Ravens a real chance to start 5-0 with a 3-0 record in the AFC North (all on the road). That kind of start could be enough to pull the trigger on a move for Jonathan Taylor with a Super Bowl in the franchise’s sights, so it’d be interesting to know if any exploratory discussions take place this week between the two opponents.


Winner: Baltimore Ravens


TEN (1-1) @ CLE (1-1) 

Sunday, September 24 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


The loss of Nick Chubb (knee) is demoralizing not only because he’s arguably the top running back in the NFL and Cleveland’s best player, but also because he’s such a high-character individual that everyone around the league respects. Frankly, the Browns might not have been going anywhere this season even with Chubb, as Deshaun Watson has been a shell of himself, and the superstar runner somehow not being named a team captain before the season—which I still can’t wrap my head around—is sort of symbolic of the issues for the franchise. Defensively, the Browns are undoubtedly an improved unit under Jim Schwartz, but Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah not playing on passing downs is another head-scratcher based on his athleticism and versatility. For the Titans, it’s not a surprise that Mike Vrabel quickly corrected Derrick Henry not being used enough in the Week 1 loss, and he should get another 20-25+ touches to pound the rock and keep the aggressive pass rush on their heels, but the run blocking needs to improve.


Winner: Tennessee Titans


ATL (2-0) @ DET (1-1)

Sunday, September 24 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


Injuries have quickly piled up for the Lions this year, including David Montgomery (thigh), Amon-Ra St. Brown (toe), Taylor Decker (ankle), James Houston (ankle), Emmanuel Moseley (knee/hamstring), and C.J. Gardner-Johnson (pectoral). The play of Jared Goff—who has delivered strikes all over the field—can keep Detroit afloat, but they have two games over a five-day stretch with a trip to Lambeau Field next Thursday night, so it’d be an ideal time to unleash Jahmyr Gibbs with more touches and increased downfield usage as a pass-catcher. Atlanta is already getting early returns from their own first-round runner after Bijan Robinson made the highlight reel in back-to-back weeks, and I’d love for Kyle Pitts to be featured against a defense he caught six-of-six targets for 102 yards against as a rookie; with Drake London flashing in last week’s win, the offense can be very formidable by having all three top-ten picks rolling. Still, Detroit needs to avoid an 0-2 home start if they want to reach new heights this year, and I have confidence in Goff keeping up his strong play.


Winner: Detroit Lions


NO (2-0) @ GB (1-1)

Sunday, September 24 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


The Saints have been very inconsistent on offense to begin 2023, but they are still 2-0, and Derek Carr will eventually get going—perhaps starting next week when Alvin Kamara returns from his suspension as the team’s offensive engine. For now, Carr just needs to be a bit more careful taking care of the ball rather than pushing it to his playmakers (Juwan Johnson in Week 1 and Chris Olave in Week 2), as the New Orleans defense will be one of the top groups in the league if kept in favorable positions to create turnovers of their own. Because of that, Sunday will be a nice challenge for Jordan Love (6:0 touchdown-interception through two games), and getting one or both of Aaron Jones (hamstring) and Christian Watson (hamstring) in the lineup would be huge. This is perhaps the toughest game of the week to pick, but I’ll say Carr knows he needs to take care of the ball against Jaire Alexander and company to push the Saints to 3-0.


Winner: New Orleans Saints


HOU (0-2) @ JAX (1-1)

Sunday, September 24 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


Trevor Lawrence is on his way to being a top-tier quarterback, but Jacksonville’s struggles last week could be traced back to putting too much on his shoulders—as the running backs handled just 13 carries in a close game where Lawrence matched Patrick Mahomes in pass attempts (41). To be clear, Lawrence is more than capable of throwing that much and having success/wins, but the Chiefs have a tremendous pass rush, and the offense would have been better off having balance by playing through Travis Etienne Jr. on the ground. This week is a prime get-right spot to do that with Etienne roasting Houston for 9.4 yards per carry in 2022, and getting to C.J. Stroud—who has absorbed 11 sacks through two games—will be easier if the Jaguars can play from ahead. Look for cornerback Tyson Campbell to slow down Nico Collins (7/146/1 line in Week 2) on the outside and emerging safety Andre Cisco to see if he can jump a route to create a takeaway for the third game in a row.


Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars


DEN (0-2) @ MIA (2-0)

Sunday, September 24 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


The explosiveness in the passing game is what draws the headlines for Miami, but as shown last Sunday night with Raheem Mostert going off, Mike McDaniel’s offense can be just as effective on the ground. Potentially being without Jaylen Waddle (concussion) would test the depth at wide receiver, though, and it’d be a definite break for Denver with Patrick Surtain II then being able to shadow Tyreek Hill (with help)—which is a matchup that can cause problems for the Dolphins due to Surtain’s physicality. Of course, slowing down Hill is easier said than done, and the second stint for Vance Joseph with the Broncos hasn’t started very well with the group being unable to get second-half stops in back-to-back losses. I get the feeling that Javonte Williams and Jerry Jeudy can both have a breakout game to make it close, but it might not be enough to outscore Miami whether or not Waddle is in the lineup.


Winner: Miami Dolphins


LAC (0-2) @ MIN (0-2)

Sunday, September 24 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


The season is still young, but the Chargers have felt like more of the same to begin 2023—as Mike Williams isn’t getting enough downfield opportunities, the defense has underperformed, and they have trouble winning close games. It’s more than fair to wonder if any changes might come about during the Week 5 bye if Los Angeles is unable to get a win over the Vikings or Raiders over the next two weeks; and this weekend will be a challenge with Minnesota being in desperation mode themselves, particularly with Kirk Cousins throwing the ball as well as ever amid team struggles. But simply based on having higher expectations for the Chargers entering the season and believing in Justin Herbert to right the ship, I think LA should have the advantage on the road by playing through Williams with more downfield shots after Minnesota couldn’t contain DeVonta Smith in Week 2.


Winner: Los Angeles Chargers


NE (0-2) @ NYJ (1-1)

Sunday, September 24 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


The Patriots have won 14 straight games against the Jets, and that includes last year with Mac Jones getting sacked six times in each matchup—but the New England defense forcing three interceptions from Zach Wilson in the first meeting and limiting him to nine completions for 77 yards just a couple of weeks later. For this season, I love how Garrett Wilson has handled losing Aaron Rodgers by essentially trying to boost Wilson’s confidence as much as possible, but fellow second-year players Breece Hall (expressing frustration about having four carries last week) and Sauce Gardner (being too caught up in what others are saying on social media) need to refocus to avoid the train somehow coming completely off the tracks for a season that began with Super Bowl aspirations. In the long run, Hall eventually being featured will be the best chance for the Jets to find their way into the playoffs, but it’ll likely be up to Wilson this week with New England sure to stack the box and make New York beat them through the air. Assuming that is the case, I like the Patriots to extend their winning streak against their rival to 15 games as Jones avoids Sauce to move the ball on Sunday.


Winner: New England Patriots


BUF (1-1) @ WAS (2-0)

Sunday, September 24 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


A 2-0 start for the Commanders has flown under the radar with so many storylines around the league, but it also might be a case of everyone outside of Washington waiting for the other shoe to drop with a crushing loss (which was almost the case in Week 2 before a non-call on the Denver’s two-point conversion saved them from going into overtime). Another factor is the Commanders barely coming away with wins over two teams that haven’t won yet, so this weekend is an excellent opportunity to prove all the doubters wrong by beating the Bills—or at least making it a close battle. I just think Sam Howell could have his flaws be more apparent by seeing a cloudier picture versus Sean McDermott’s defense, as holding onto the ball too long can allow Buffalo to run their sack total up (only two sacks so far this year) if Leonard Floyd can get some help from Greg Rousseau and others on the edge. If Josh Allen himself doesn’t get too reckless against a penetrating Washington front, this is a game they should handle on the road.


Winner: Buffalo Bills


CAR (0-2) @ SEA (1-1)

Sunday, September 24 | 4:05 PM ET | CBS


Bryce Young (ankle) is expected to miss his first career game this week, and that—combined with the general struggles for Carolina—is already leading to people questioning his worthiness of going No. 1 overall. That’s a silly conclusion, but I do have major concerns about Young’s supporting cast (including the coaches) based on what we’ve seen in the preseason and now for the real games; you don’t even need to watch the All-22 tape to see how ineffective and uncreative the offense has been, including players often running routes in close proximity, which makes absolutely no sense and is only spotlighted for a receiving group that doesn’t exactly have big-time separators. The “easy” fix is to play through rookie Jonathan Mingo to make that their offensive identity, but Frank Reich teams lacking a clear identity has been a longstanding issue. I wouldn’t bet on the experience of Andy Dalton providing a boost because Young doesn’t have issues with processing like many young passers, so frustration could quickly come to a boiling point in Carolina if the coaching staff doesn’t start putting players in better position to win games.


Winner: Seattle Seahawks


DAL (2-0) @ ARI (0-2)

Sunday, September 24 | 4:25 PM ET | FOX


Arizona has been a very competitive team through two weeks with close losses to the Commanders and Giants, but the scrappy play might only get them so far with the Cowboys coming to town this weekend having outscored opponents like a college football powerhouse (70-10) so far in 2023. The dominance for Dallas has been mostly fueled by the defense, and the Cardinals not having Kyler Murray (knee) might not give them much of a shot to put up points if they don’t get some favorable bounces and/or “gifts” from Dak Prescott—which he’s shown no indication of giving through two games. That said, it’d be good to get Michael Gallup (four targets this season) involved as a downfield vertical threat, and Sunday is the perfect opportunity to put the pedal down a bit to build confidence for the weapons not named Tony Pollard and CeeDee Lamb. Maybe we will even see Micah Parsons get some action at tight end, though it sounds like it might be a work in progress.


Winner: Dallas Cowboys


CHI (0-2) @ KC (1-1)

Sunday, September 24 | 4:25 PM ET | FOX


Wednesday was one of the craziest days in Chicago Bears history with Justin Fields blaming “coaching” for his struggles and later—to his credit—making sure he walked it back when talking to the media again, and then it was followed up by defensive coordinator Alan Williams resigning (along with some crazy rumors about the situation, all of which have been since revealed as fake news). This morning, general manager Ryan Poles had a press conference to say the organization is not “panicking” despite the sudden turmoil and a slow start, but they’ve lost 17 games in a row with zero signs of improvement despite a treasure trove of draft picks and cap space. The best chance of a turnaround is completely unleashing Fields as a runner; still, that would only solve half the problem in a best-case scenario because of how poorly the defense has played, and facing Patrick Mahomes is no cure.


Winner: Kansas City Chiefs


PIT (1-1) @ LV (1-1)

Sunday, September 24 | 8:20 PM ET | NBC


The rematch will be indoors and won’t have a holiday setting, but Steelers-Raiders was a classic last year on Christmas Eve, and Sunday night should be another very close game at Allegiant Stadium. Although the run blocking needs to be improved to make it work, Pittsburgh playing through Najee Harris—including as a pass-catcher—and Jaylen Warren to set up play-action shots to George Pickens is the best strategy on offense, and Mike Tomlin’s squad obviously can’t count on two defensive scores carrying them every week. The Raiders have also had struggles on offense to begin 2023, but I’d expect them to be better at home, so keeping Jimmy Garoppolo clean from the game-wrecking duo of T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith is the key. If that happens, Davante Adams might be too much to handle for Pittsburgh’s secondary, so this pick is being made with the hopes that Kenny Pickett comes out with a big game for the Steelers.


Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers


PHI (2-0) @ TB (2-0)

Sunday, September 25 | 7:15 PM ET | ABC


Through two weeks, Jalen Hurts and the passing attack for Philadelphia has not been close to as prolific as they were in 2022, but Monday night could be an explosion with A.J. Brown due for a multi-touchdown game and the Buccaneers—as we saw in Week 1 when Justin Jefferson had 150 receiving yards—struggling to contain big-time wideouts. Of course, the Eagles have two of them with Brown and DeVonta Smith, but I’d be trying to fool Hurts into thinking he has open opportunities to Brown by mixing up pre-snap looks on the backend. For the Tampa Bay offense, Chris Godwin draws the best matchup this week with Philly not having slot corner Avonte Maddox (pectoral), and Baker Mayfield needs to keep protecting that ball to allow Todd Bowles’ defense to keep playing fast and aggressive. Overall, the Eagles might just have too much star power on both sides of the ball if everything clicks for them offensively.


Winner: Philadelphia Eagles


LAR (1-1) @ CIN (0-2)

Sunday, September 25 | 8:15 PM ET | ESPN


The status of Joe Burrow (calf) is a mystery, but it’s difficult to imagine him sitting out entirely in such an important spot with 0-3 being a possibility for Cincinnati. At the same time, Burrow again not being himself or getting pulled early is very possible if the Bengals don’t have answers for Aaron Donald in a Super Bowl rematch, and it could be playing with fire if deep shots are attempted with a banged-up quarterback and not enough time for them to connect. The Cincinnati defense turning into the unit that has shown up late in 2021 and 2022 would be a welcomed boost, and it might be wise to almost treat Puka Nacua like Cooper Kupp with bracket coverage to make someone else beat them. So, assuming Burrow is able to suit up and the Bengals don’t let Kyren Williams and Nacua do too much damage after the catch, I like them to win and provide hope for the franchise again being a team opponents won’t want to face in January.


Winner: Cincinnati Bengals