As the 2021-22 NFL season heads in to Week 3, there’s a slew of surprise teams, disappointing teams, and teams still searching for their identity.

The Carolina Panthers and Las Vegas Raiders will look to push their unlikely 2-0 starts to 3-0 starts, playing the Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins, respectively. 1-1 teams like the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, and New England Patriots have had a mixed bag of results so far, but this week should reveal more about each of these teams.

Highlighting Week 3 is a high-profile matchup between the Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Matthew Stafford’s Los Angeles Rams, as they each put their 2-0 record to the test on Sunday afternoon.

Picks Record

Week 1: 6-10

Week 2: 12-4

Overall: 18-14 (56%)

After a pretty bad showing in Week 1, I rebounded with a strong performance in Week 2, catapulting mu record back over .500. I played it pretty conservative, picking mostly favorites, but games like Washington-Giants, Cowboys-Chargers, and Bears-Bengals could have broke either way. The four games I missed on were all upsets.

In Week 2 I incorrectly predicted:

  • Steelers over Raiders
  • Chiefs over Ravens
  • Saints over Panthers
  • Seahawks over Titans

See Also: 2021-22 NFL Season Predictions

Thursday Night Football

Sam Darnold's Panthers debut leads to more questions | Charlotte Observer
Photo: Charlotte Observer

Carolina Panthers (2-0) at Houston Texans (1-1)

Line: Carolina Panthers (-8.0)

Sam Darnold and the Panthers may not have been the most likely team to start 2-0, but after wins over the New York Jets and New Orleans Saints, Carolina is riding high. This Thursday night game is an excellent chance to improve to 3-0, as the Texans will start Davis Mills in lieu of the injured Tyrod Taylor. Houston’s offense had been playing well under Taylor, but with Taylor out and the Panthers defense being stout, this probably won’t be a close game.

Panthers win 33-13, Panthers win ATS

Sunday Games

Buffalo Bills: 3 reasons Josh Allen will make the Pro Bowl in 2020
Photo: BuffaLowDown.com

Washington Football Team (1-1) at Buffalo Bills (1-1)

Line: Buffalo Bills (-8.5)

Taylor Heincke was able to lead Washington to victory last Thursday, but truthfully, it wouldn’t have been possible without mental mistakes from the New York Giants. Josh Allen and the Bills are a much better opponent, and are riding high off a 35-0 win over the Miami Dolphins. Washington could keep it close if they play a great game, but it’s hard to pick against Buffalo here.

Bills win 27-20, Washington win ATS

Chicago Bears (1-1) at Cleveland Browns (1-1)

Line: Cleveland Browns (-7.0)

Unless Andy Dalton’s health improves substantially before Sunday, Justin Fields will likely make his first NFL start against the Browns. I’m high on Fields’ future, but he didn’t put up a great performance in relief work against the Bengals last week. Cleveland is a very good team, and even with injuries in their receiving corps (with Jarvis Landry joins Odell Beckham Jr. on the sidelines,) the Browns should be able to take care of Chicago, whose defense might keep things low-scoring.

Browns win 24-18, Bears win ATS

Baltimore Ravens (1-1) at Detroit Lions (0-2)

Line: Baltimore Ravens (-8.0)

Baltimore somehow came out of Sunday Night Football’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs with a victory, after Lamar Jackson had began his career 0-3 against Patrick Mahomes. The Ravens should keep rolling here against a Lions defense that has given up the second-most points in the NFL.

Ravens win 42-23, Ravens win ATS

Atlanta Falcons (0-2) at New York Giants (0-2)

Line: New York Giants (-3.0)

Daniel Jones and the New York Giants have been pretty bad for the last three seasons, but with a dumfounding finish in Washington aside, the offense actually looked pretty good in Week 2 against Washington. This is an extremely rare instance where New York is actually favored. Atlanta has allowed an NFL-high 80 points with a league-worst -49 point differential. I still wouldn’t view this game as a given for the Giants, as the Falcons also see a weaker opponent on their schedule, but New York should be able to squeeze out a win here on the day they retire Eli Manning’s #10 jersey.

Giants win 26-20, Giants win ATS

Indianapolis Colts (0-2) at Tennessee Titans (1-1)

Line: Tennessee Titans (-5.0)

The early season schedule for the Colts hasn’t done Indianapolis any favors, with the Titans representing the third-straight opponent who qualified for the playoffs last season. The Colts dropped their first two games to the Seahawks and Rams, though their 27-24 result against Los Angeles was much closer.

Tennessee looked shell-shocked in a Week 1 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, but followed it up with an impressive overtime victory in Seattle last week. Assuming the Titans are still a powerhouse and Week 1 was just a fluke, this looks like Tennessee’s game for the taking. Carson Wentz’s status is up in the air at time of writing, so with either a less than 100% Wentz or Jacob Eason playing, the Colts may have a disadvantage.

Titans win 31-19, Titans win ATS

Los Angeles Chargers (1-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-1)

Line: Kansas City Chiefs (-6.5)

It’s hard to ever pick against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, and I’m not going to do it this week. But I will entertain the case for Justin Herbert and the Chargers. In last season’s early matchup, Herbert and the Chargers pushed the Chiefs to overtime in a losing effort. Los Angeles overcame the Chiefs in Week 17, but with many Kansas City starters resting. Looking at this season, the Chiefs needed a signature comeback to down the Browns, then lost to the Ravens last Sunday night.

I still have Kansas City as the second-best team in the NFL, but they’re not invincible. I expect a tough fight from the Chargers, but will still pick the Chiefs.

Chiefs win 29-26, Chargers win ATS

New Orleans Saints (1-1) at New England Patriots (1-1)

Line: New England Patriots (-3.0)

Patriots-Saints is one of the most intriguing matchups of Week 3. It’s no longer a matchup of Tom Brady and Drew Brees, but head coaches Bill Bellichick and Sean Payton are both heavyweights in their own right. The biggest question is, which Saints team will show up? The one that beat the Packers 38-3 in Week 1, or the one that put up just seven points in a loss to the Panthers last week? Mac Jones and the Patriots haven’t established an identity yet either after a narrow Week 1 loss to the Dolphins and a strong win over a poor Jets team in Week 2. This game should tell us a lot about each team moving forward.

It’s about as close to a toss-up game as you’ll find this week, with the Patriots understandably getting a few points at home. I’ll go against the grain and predict a bounceback game from Jameis Winston and the Saints offense.

Saints win 26-20, Saints win ATS

Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1)

Line: Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.0)

I’m not really sure why the Steelers are only favored by three points here. Pittsburgh beat a good Bills team in Week 1, and lost to but kept up with a Las Vegas Raiders team that appears to be decent in Week 2. Joe Burrow and the Bengals had a good game against the Vikings in Week 1, but were grounded in a Week 2 loss where Burrow threw three interceptions to the Chicago Bears. Pittsburgh’s stingy defense should be able to keep the Bengals offense to a minimum in this game.

Steelers win 30-16, Steelers win ATS

Arizona Cardinals (2-0) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2)

Line: Arizona Cardinals (-7.5)

If I was in a survivor pool, this would probably be my lock of the week. While last week’s win over the Vikings was anything but smooth-sailing, Kyler Murray and the Cardinals (2nd-most points in the NFL) should be able to take care of Trevor Lawrence and an 0-2 Jaguars team that has scored the 4th-least points in the league.

Cardinals win 38-20, Cardinals win ATS

New York Jets (0-2) at Denver Broncos (2-0)

Line: Denver Broncos (-10.5)

Another pick for a heavy lock, especially if you want to save the Cardinals for another week, would be Teddy Bridgewater and the Broncos over Zach Wilson and the Jets. Wilson looked lost in a four-interception performance against the Patriots, while the Broncos have looked stellar in back-to-back weeks against the Giants and Jaguars. I still want to see Denver play some better teams, but with the Jets on the docket in Denver, the Broncos should roll to 3-0.

Broncos win 28-16, Broncos win ATS

Miami Dolphins (1-1) at Las Vegas Raiders (2-0)

Line: No Line

Oddsmakers are hesitant to set a line with Tua Tagovailoa’s injury at time of writing, but it appears he won’t be ready to go for Week 3. That calls in Jacoby Brissett, an extremely serviceable NFL backup quarterback. But between Tua and Brissett, the Dolphins laid a goose egg last week against the Bills. Las Vegas’ defense might not be quite as talented, but coming off wins over the Ravens and Steelers, I don’t see why Derek Carr and the Raiders would falter here.

Raiders win 28-17

Photo: Turf Show Times

Sak Sports Blog Game of the Week: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0) at Los Angeles Rams (2-0)

Line: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-1.5)

The highest-profile game of the week is easily Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers taking on Matthew Stafford and the high-flying Los Angeles Rams. With both teams off to quick 2-0 starts, something has to give in this Week 3 late afternoon matchup.

Coming off a victory over the Atlanta Falcons, Brady will be facing a team he’s previously beat in the Super Bowl for the second week in a row. Stafford is an upgrade over Jared Goff, who started Super Bowl 53, but the defense that held the Patriots to just 13 points in that game is largely still in tact. Last year, the Rams defeated the Buccaneers 27-24 just before Thanksgiving, but Tampa Bay has only lost one more game since then.

This should be a fun one, and perhaps the NFC’s version of the Chiefs-Ravens rivalry. The Buccaneers have scored a league-high 79 points, but the Rams aren’t far behind, fourth in the league with 61 points.

I don’t have an extremely nuanced approach to picking this game, as both teams are great and neither result would surprise me. I’m almost inclined to pick the Rams, due to their strong defense, but after just squeaking by the Colts 27-24 last week, I don’t see this Rams team as invincible. On the other hand, this will be the Buccaneers first road game of the season, and while the final score was a blowout, the Falcons held Tampa Bay to a 28-25 lead through three quarters last week.

Picking either team would be understandable, but personally, I’m going to roll with Brady and the Buccaneers to find a way to pull this one out.

Buccaneers win 30-27, Buccaneers win ATS

Seattle Seahawks (1-1) at Minnesota Vikings (0-2)

Line: Seattle Seahawks (-1.5)

The Seahawks may have forgotten how to play defense in the second half against Derrick Henry and the Titans last week, but Russell Wilson’s offense is putting up 29 points per game through two weeks. The Vikings are actually right with them in that regard, averaging 28.5 points per game, but have been defensively embarrassed by the Bengals and Cardinals.

Personally, I don’t even think this game will be all that close, as the Seahawks are a couple tiers above the Vikings. If Seattle plays down to their opponent, this could become a shoot-out, but in reality, I don’t expect the Vikings to keep up.

Seahawks win 33-26, Seahawks win ATS

Sunday Night Football

Photo: Niner Noise

Green Bay Packers (1-1) at San Francisco 49ers (2-0)

Line: San Francisco 49ers (-3.5)

This isn’t the easiest game to pick, but the result should tell us a lot about the state of both teams’ standing in the NFC. After being embarrassed by the Saints in Week 1, the Packers looked like themselves in a Week 2 Monday Night Football win over the Lions. The 49ers are 2-0, but their matchups with both the Lions and with the Philadelphia Eagles ended closer than they should have been.

I projected San Francisco to be the odd man out in the NFC West this year. I don’t think they’re a bad team, but I also don’t see them returning to the form they had when they went 13-3 and appeared in Super Bowl 54. Assuming the Packers show up to play, this could be a wake-up call for Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers.

Packers win 33-27, Packers win ATS

Monday Night Football

Photo: AP/Michael Ainsworth

Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) at Dallas Cowboys (1-1)

Line: Dallas Cowboys (-3.5)

Jalen Hurts and the Eagles meet up with Dak Prescott and the Cowboys on Monday Night Football for the chance to gain an early leg up in the NFC East race. Games in this rivalry are often hard to predict, as both teams usually bring their best in this classic NFC East clash.

On paper, the Cowboys are the better team through and through. Prescott is the better quarterback, Dallas has better weapons, and the Cowboys defense isn’t too shabby either. But Hurts and the Eagles shouldn’t be completely counted out after keeping it close with the 49ers last week. The only problem is, while Philadelphia only lost by six points, they only scored 11, and will need more than that to overcome Prescott’s high-flying offense.

Cowboys win 24-20, Cowboys win ATS

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