We’re starting to get a firm idea as to who this year’s playoff contenders might be, and we’ll certainly learn a lot more after Week 3 is said and done.
The early window is headlined by an AFC South divisional clash between the Colts and Titans, right alongside a potential playoff preview as the Chargers visit the Chiefs at Arrowhead.
The late window features two NFC Championship favourites, the Bucs and the Rams, squaring off from Los Angeles, followed by a good old-fashioned rivalry game between the Packers and 49ers on primetime.
We’ve reached the point in the season where stats and trends are starting to matter, so find out who we’re backing in our Week 3 NFL Preview here!
The Sam Darnold era in Carolina is off to a fast start as the Panthers find themselves heading to Houston on Friday with a perfect 2-0 record.
It’s tough to read too much into a win against a bad Jets defence and the division rival Saints, but as the market suggests, this is another winnable game for Matt Rhule’s side given Houston’s quarterback dilemma.
Tyrod Taylor has hit the I.L with a hamstring injury he suffered in last week’s loss to the Browns, leaving 22-year-old rookie Davis Mills to fill the void.
Mills actually had a decent senior year at Stanford last season, completing 66% of his passes to go with seven touchdowns in just five games. But how he handles this underrated Panthers defence remains to be seen.
Carolina currently ranks dead last in not only points allowed, but also yards.
If you combine that with the Panthers’ outstanding 7-0 record against the spread in their last seven road games, it’s hard to see Carolina losing this one.
The Titans were one of the most impressive teams to emerge from Week 2 after recording a stunning come-from-behind win over the Seahawks in overtime.
Tennessee trailed by two scores at half-time, only for Derrick Henry to weave his magic on the way to a game-winning, walk-off field goal.
The Colts, on the other hand, find themselves in an 0-2 hole following back-to-back losses to Seattle and Los Angeles.
Indy really took it to the Rams for the better part of four quarters, but the loss was punctuated with Carson Wentz reportedly spraining both ankles.
Wentz remains questionable to play at time of publish, but even if he does start, it’s hard to get on board with the Colts given how awful their defence has looked.
Frank Reich’s side has allowed an average of 27.5 points through the first two games, but on the flip side, Tennessee’s defence really hasn’t been much better.
The Titans rank ninth in total yards allowed, meaning both teams should have no problem moving the ball in this one.
If Wentz starts, I do think there’s value on the Colts as they boast a convincing 5-1 record against the spread in their last six games against Tennessee.
Until we know more though, the Over looks a very safe play.
There’s still plenty of football left to be played, but this shapes as a crucial game for the 0-2 Falcons and Giants.
Atlanta has been just as disappointing as they were last season with two blowout losses to the Eagles and Bucs, while the Giants haven’t fared much better despite some encouraging signs in last week’s lost to Washington.
Like the matchup itself, it’s tough to get excited about betting on this game.
Atlanta’s defence is a mess (again), while the Giants find themselves in the same boat having allowed an average of 413 yards per game.
The bookies have obviously set a high total with that in mind, but I’m having a hard time trusting either offence to really dominate.
Both teams have proven incredibly turnover-prone, while Matt Ryan is yet to prove he’s the same guy that won MVP back in 2016.
Eleven of the last 12 games between the Falcons and Giants have fallen Under the Total, so back that trend to continue.
There’s every chance we’re looking at a potential playoff preview here between the 1-1 Chargers and Chiefs.
Both sides suffered heartbreaking losses late in the fourth quarter last week – the Chiefs blowing a huge third-quarter lead to the Ravens and the Chargers losing on a walk-off field goal to the Cowboys.
Those results will no doubt have both teams fired up, but despite what the market suggests, I really think there’s a case to be made for the Chargers.
It’s a small sample size, but the Chiefs have looked downright awful defensively – mainly on the ground where they’ve allowed the most yards in the league.
Los Angeles’ ground game is yet to get going, but the Chargers do rank fourth in passing yards, meaning they can challenge the Chiefs vertically just like the Ravens did late last week.
The atmosphere at Arrowhead might see the Chiefs over the line, but it’s fair to say this is the most vulnerable Kansas City has looked over the last few years.
With +6.5 to play with, I think Justin Herbert and the rest of the Chargers offence can give this a good shake.
The AFC North comes into focus this week with the Bengals and the Steelers both in search of bounce-back wins.
It was another long day at the office for Joe Burrow against a relentless Chicago Bears pass rush in Week 2, while the Steelers suffered a rare home upset against the red-hot Raiders.
Typically speaking, this fixture has been a guaranteed win for the Steelers over the last five years – or at least that was the case before the Bengals finally snapped their 11-game losing streak last year.
As far as this one goes though, I’m with the Bengals to cover.
Pittsburgh’s pass rush isn’t nearly as fierce as Chicago’s, and it could potentially be missing star linebacker T.J. Watt.
Offensively, I also think the Bengals have what it takes to really take it to the Steelers.
Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase were electric in Week 1, and it was nice to see Tyler Boyd join in on the action against the Bears.
There are still plenty of questions surrounding the arm strength and the injured pectoral of Ben Roethlisberger, so I like the younger, more talented Bengals to hang around at Heinz Field.
We’ll get a good look at Bears first-round pick Justin Fields this week as he makes his first official start in place of Andy Dalton.
Fields has already flashed potential in the limited snaps he’s seen, but nothing is going to come easy against a Browns defence that has had no trouble rushing opposing quarterbacks and forcing turnovers.
The Browns have some injury concerns to address themselves with Jarvis Landry potentially heading to the I.L, but there could be some good news on the Odell Beckham Jr front with the star wide receiver practicing during the week.
Overall, the Bears have the pieces in place to clog the running lanes and limit Nick Chubb on the ground, but it’s hard to see Chicago going tit-for-tat with the Browns offensively.
The Bears have averaged only 17 points a game so far, so in a rough road environment, I’ll lean the way of the Under.
The Ravens will head to Detroit as -8 favourites following their stunning come-from-behind win over the Chiefs last week.
John Harbaugh’s injury-ravaged side had to take plenty of confidence away from their win over the current AFC favourites, and they now have a chance to make a real statement against what is arguably one of the top five worst teams in the league.
To their credit, the Lions hung tough with the Packers in the first half last week, but it’s already very clear that they just don’t have enough receivers to sustain pace for a full four quarters.
Jared Goff didn’t help matters with two turnovers, while the fact Detroit’s offensive line gave up a sack and six hits to their quarterback is also cause for concern.
On defence, the Lions gave up several big plays to Green Bay, which spells big trouble against a Ravens team that ranks third in total offensive yards.
With Baltimore back on track, this should get ugly.
The Saints and the Patriots found themselves on opposite ends of blowout margins last week.
New England picked up its first win of the season in a 25-6 rout over the Jets, while the Saints were handed a reality check against the division rival Panthers by a very similar scoreline.
As a result, the Patriots will head back home to Foxboro as slim -3 favourites with plenty left to prove.
Mac Jones was helped out enormously last week by running back Damien Harris, but that same game plan won’t fly against a Saints defence that has allowed the third-fewest rushing yards in the league.
On the flip side, Jameis Winston came crashing back down to earth last week with two interceptions against Carolina, making it very hard to trust the turnover-prone pass-thrower here on the road.
All in all, we should learn plenty about both quarterbacks, but with mistakes and turnovers highly likely, you’re best off avoiding head-to-head betting and backing the Under.
The Cardinals are one of only seven teams to have started the season 2-0, and they appear well on their way to remaining undefeated against the struggling Jags on Monday.
Trevor Lawrence has shown off his arm on more than one occasion already, but the No. 1 overall pick is off to a rough start this season in large part due to Jacksonville’s shoddy offensive line.
T-Law has been sacked twice and thrown five interceptions, which is obviously a huge concern against a Cardinals pass rush that has feasted on opposing quarterbacks.
Arizona’s offence, meanwhile, has been electric – as the Vikings found out the hard way last week when Kyler Murray torched them for 400 yards.
Defensively, the Jags are giving up 30 points a game and over 400 yards, so this feels like one of the biggest locks of the week.
The Bills got their wagon back on track last week with a shutout win over the Dolphins as they now return home to Buffalo laying -7.5 against Washington.
Likewise, Ron Rivera’s side also evened their record at 1-1 with a walk-off win over the Giants, but Washington will need to produce a much bigger effort this week against one of the top offences in the league.
To his credit, Taylor Heinicke threw for a lazy 336 yards and two touchdowns against New York, but again, this is a tougher test against a Bills defence that has allowed only 23 points so far this season.
You can’t discount Washington’s defence making a stand though, particularly when you consider they’ve held nine of their last 10 opponents to under 23 points,
Overall, I think the Bills win this game, but I can’t see them putting up a high score like last week.
It’s been smooth sailing for the Broncos with Teddy Bridgewater under centre as Denver now looks to extend its unbeaten start to 3-0.
It’s tough to read too much into a couple of wins over the Giants and Jags, but this is still a vitally important stretch for Denver if they hope to maintain position in the razor-tight AFC West.
The Broncos have won four of their last five games over the Jets, while you have to rewind all the way back to 2010 to find New York’s last win at Mile High.
Zach Wilson suffered big time at the hands of the Patriots last week, and although that’s to be expected from the rookie, it’s hard to see the Jets and their awful offensive line buying him much time against a top-notch Denver pass rush.
Providing Teddy Bridgewater can keep taking care of the football, the Broncos should be winning this one.
Is it safe to buy into the Raiders?
Vegas is off to a 2-0 start to the season with impressive wins over Baltimore and Pittsburgh, and it is no surprise to find them as -4 favourites against a Dolphins side that laid a goose egg last week against Buffalo.
Derek Carr has been the catalyst for Vegas’ red-hot start, especially last week where he stepped up to make some clutch throws with the running game failing to fire.
The Raiders’ offensive line is still a big concern, but they should be winning this game now that we know Tua Tagovailoa has been ruled out with a fractured rib.
That said, former Colts starter Jacoby Brissett is no slouch, and he does have what it takes to handle a rowdy road environment.
Perhaps more importantly, the Dolphins are 6-0 against the spread coming off a loss, and 4-0 after failing to score 15 points in their previous game.
Miami’s defence was enormous two weeks ago against New England, so I think there’s a chance they can limit the Vegas ground game and at least keep this close.
It’s only early days, but another loss could prove crucial to both teams this week.
The Vikings are already staring down an 0-2 hole following two crushing late defeats to the Bengals and Cardinals, while the Seahawks are looking to bounce-back from their own overtime loss to the Titans.
Minnesota’s offence has looked just fine as Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook continue to lead the way, but the defence is a massive area of concern for coach Mike Zimmer, who now finds himself on a bit of a hot seat.
The Vikes were shredded by Rondale Moore and Kyler Murray last week, and that obviously doesn’t bode well given how impressive Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett have looked this season.
Seattle’s defence is just as suspect, but you have to think they’ll bounce-back here given their strong 11-4 record after a loss since 2018.
Pete Carroll’s side knows how important a win is in the highly competitive NFC West, and while I expect this to be somewhat of a close game, I think Seattle has the edge on the road.
This one has all the makings of an instant classic.
The defending champs travel to SoFi Stadium to visit the 2-0 Rams in a matchup most are describing as a potential NFC Championship Game preview.
Matt Stafford has looked super impressive in a Rams uniform so far, which comes as no surprise given the brilliance of Sean McVay.
Stats and numbers aside, this is a huge litmus test for the Rams and their new quarterback, but I think it’s one they can pass given how questionable Tampa Bay’s secondary has looked so far.
The Bucs have allowed the third-most yards in the air this season, while I also have a few question marks on how their offensive line will handle Aaron Donald.
These blockbuster games are always tough to call, but I really think this one will come down to one or two crucial plays late in the fourth quarter.
So far, Stafford has stayed cool and calm when the pressure hits, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of big completions to Cooper Kupp decide this one.
We’re about to learn everything we need to know about the Packers this week.
After a disastrous start to the season against New Orleans, Matt LaFleur’s side bounced back with a less-than-convincing win over Detroit last week at Lambeau.
During the first half, it looked as though the Packers might be facing an 0-2 start, but some brilliant throws from Aaron Rodgers and a five-touchdown game from Aaron Jones eventually did the trick.
You can’t read too much into a big win over Detroit though, which makes this week’s trip to Santa Clara all the more interesting.
Aside from last year’s win over an injury-depleted side, trips to San Francisco to face the Niners have largely been a night for the Packers over the last decade.
To make matters worse, San Francisco is off to a 2-0 start to the season, but at the same time, it’s just as hard to read into a pair of cheap wins over the Lions and Eagles.
If Rodgers is on like he was last week, the Packers look enormous value to walk away with a win here.
Nobody would blame you for feeling less-than confident in their defence, but with San Francisco’s running back stocks depleted, it’s hard to ignore the value on offer for Green Bay at the line.
The NFC East is just as wild as it was last season, and this battle between the Eagles and Cowboys on Monday Night Football should go a long way to deciding the outcome.
The Eagles were handed a reality check last week against the Niners, while the Cowboys overcame a long list of injuries to win on a last-second field goal against the Chargers.
Neither side has really shown enough yet to make me lean one way or the other, but I do think the total is set way too high.
Games between these two sides tend to fall somewhere in the 40s, while I’m still having a tough time believing in Philly’s offence after they struggled to put up points against San Francisco last week.
You can’t write off Dak Prescott picking apart this Eagles in the Cowboys’ home-opener, but 52 points still feels too high.