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Thursday, 18 September 2014

NFL Week 3 Picks 2014 (September 18-22)

After a poor start to the season, it looked like Week 2 was going to produce a big turnaround of fortunes, but the last three picks let me down. It was still a step in the right direction, but I was hoping for an even bigger week and will be looking for Week 3 to help provide that as we have started to get a real feel for how teams are going to perform.

Week 2 Thoughts
Teams Blowing Big Leads: The first two weeks of the season have been strange in teams getting into strong winning positions and then blowing so leads without a real noticeable shift in momentum.

In Week 1 it was the likes of the Denver Broncos, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New Orleans Saints and the Jacksonville Jaguars that all blew double digit leads and were hanging on or losing games.

That trend continued with San Francisco and the Indianapolis Colts both doing the same and you have to wonder whether that is going to be a feature of the season. It is definitely something I will be keeping an eye on over the next two weeks, especially when it comes to handicapping against big numbers.

Key Injuries: Like many NFL fans, I am a Fantasy Football player and it has been a few seasons when I have had a day of injuries like the one that just went past. It wasn't just my team, but Jamaal Charles, AJ Green, Knowshon Moreno, Mark Ingram, Ryan Matthews and Robert Griffin all looking like missing significant time.

That is one of the main reasons I have always said that picking a Super Bowl winner in August is nigh on impossible as some injuries can really take away big parts of a team- can Kansas City really be considered a Play Off contender without Charles and can Cincinnati overcome a long term absence of Green?

Thankfully it seems neither are going to be missing long parts of the season, but it is generally the teams that can get hot towards the end of the season with a decent health about them that are most likely to win the big games.

Adrian Peterson a 'child abuser'? I think the NFL is in a very tough position at the moment after the Ray Rice issue so the last thing they would have wanted to hear was Adrian Peterson had 'admitted' to causing injury to his child while disciplining them.

He has said he did it but didn't mean to cause the lacerations that were inflicted and it does look like he has gone too far despite discipline being fine by me... However, I don't think this big Running Back should be hitting his kid with such force that he cuts them and leaves scars so you can understand the anger in some quarters.

Minnesota really messed up with their handling of the situation as they pulled Peterson from Week 2, but decided to reinstate him for Week 3... Then public pressure and, more importantly, from the sponsors meant the Vikings changed their mind and have effectively pulled the plug on this season for Peterson.

The rumour is now that they will release Peterson at the end of the season and all because this parent couldn't hand out punishments and use discipline methods that perhaps didn't involve beating his kid till he bled.

Teams that have started 0-2 have little chance of reaching the Play Offs: Most of you should have read the statistics- only one of the last 60 teams to begin the season 0-2 have made it to the Play Offs so this has to be a worrying time for the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts.

The Kansas City Chiefs and the New York Giants also sit at that record, but the Saints and Colts were expected to be amongst the best teams in the NFL and both have lost games they should have won.

It can be argued the Saints aren't that far away from being 2-0 with a couple of better breaks, while the Colts had no business losing on Monday night to the Philadelphia Eagles and the chances are only one of those will make it to the Play Offs.

If you gave me the choice of picking which I would believe can overcome the odds, it would be the Colts in the weaker AFC South Division which I still expect they can win. The Saints aren't out of it either, but they could have a much tougher time getting above the Carolina Panthers who have started very well, although it would still not be the biggest surprise if both those teams dig out of the hole they find themselves in.

Top Five
1) Denver Broncos (2-0): They haven't looked themselves up to this point and now travel to Seattle to take on the Seahawks with revenge on their minds.

2) Cincinnati Bengals (2-0): Even without AJ Green, the Cincinnati Bengals battered Atlanta on all sides and look the best team in the AFC North.

3) Carolina Panthers (2-0): No team has won the NFC South back to back times since the realignment in 2002, but the Panthers look like they are desperate to erase that record.

4) Philadelphia Eagles (2-0): They have overcome two big deficits to win games and the Eagles might be the fittest team in the NFL.

5) Arizona Cardinals (2-0): How long can they survive at the top of the NFC West with Drew Stanton behind Center?

Bottom Five
32) Oakland Raiders (0-2): A rookie Quarter Back and a franchise that has struggled for over a decade are getting ready to travel to London. The James Jones double fumble highlights Oakland's ineptitude.

31) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2): The Jaguars should have beaten Philadelphia in Week 1, but were totally outplayed at Washington last week.

30) New York Giants (0-2): New York blew a big chance to win last week against Arizona at home and won't have too many better opportunities than hosting the Houston Texans to get off the mark.

29) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2): Home losses to teams being Quarter Backed by Derek Anderson and Austin Davis doesn't bode well for the Tampa Bay season.

28) New Orleans Saints (0-2)I can't imagine they will stay here for long, but the Saints have been a mess on Defense to the point that Sean Payton was caught hollering at Rob Ryan towards the end of the loss to the Cleveland Browns.

Week 3 Picks
With the top six picks being split 3-3 last week and the two minimum unit picks both coming in, it produced a small winning record for the week, although not enough to turn around the season totals.

I was disappointed in the way the Packers, Broncos and 49ers all blew their chance to cover with stupid mistakes, but I won't ever be disappointed when coming through with a winning week. I just hope to back that up with another decent week this time around too.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons Pick: I did say there would be a big overreaction to results in Week 1 and the Atlanta Falcons were being touted as a dark horse for the Super Bowl after taking advantage of errors made by the New Orleans Saints.

Things came back down to earth for Matt Ryan and the Falcons last week in a defeat to the Cincinnati Bengals which could have been by a much wider margin than the 14 points it ended up being.

There are injuries on the Defensive Line for the Buccaneers which should mean a cleaner pocket for Ryan and wider running lanes for Steven Jackson, the latter who has helped the Falcons move the chains at 5 yards per carry. Ryan might not have Roddy White available on Thursday, but he still has Julio Jones and I expect Atlanta to score at least 28 points.

We then have to shift the questioning to whether Tampa Bay can find enough scoring to keep this competitive and I am not sure Josh McCown is the man to do that- he has struggled against the pass rush generated by the Carolina Panthers and St Louis Rams, but he should have more time in this one.

My concern are the absolutely awful Interceptions McCown has thrown and I don't trust him to make the right plays in this one, even if he should be backed by a decent ground attack even in the absence of Doug Martin. The feeling is that Martin will play anyway so the Buccaneers should keep McCown in a decent position to make plays, but I don't trust him to avoid another terrible Interception that lets Atlanta get away and cover.

The Falcons had a poor season in 2013, but they did beat Tampa Bay while covering the spread at home and Atlanta are now 5-1-1 against the spread in the last 7 of this series. They might just end up with another win by a Touchdown or more in this one.

Dallas Cowboys @ St Louis Rams Pick: This is a big game for two 1-1 teams that have an outside belief that they can make the Play Offs, although I personally think there are doubts about both teams capabilities of doing that.

The problem for St Louis will always be trying to find enough Offense with a back up Quarter Back for the season and I think that is why the Dallas Cowboys will win this game despite their Defense not being the best.

However, that unit has played well in the first two games and it was only the mistakes of the Offense that cost them the game against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1. Last week there was a clear change in game plan from the Cowboys with DeMarco Murray carrying the Offense and I think he can have another strong outing after the Rams have struggled against the run in the first two weeks.

If Murray is running hard, Tony Romo won't have the same level of pressure that he sometimes carries on his shoulders and he should be able to make plays to keep the chains moving from third and manageable situations.

Zak Stacy could have a similar impact as Murray in this one, but the big question will be if Austin Davis can avoid mistakes at Quarter Back and manage the game effectively. I am just not sure he can make enough big plays if the Rams fall behind and I like the Cowboys to make it back to back wins.

The Cowboys aren't a great road favourite under Jason Garrett, but this could be a rare occasion they manage to cover in that spot.

Houston Texans @ New York Giants Pick: There was every chance that the Houston Texans could have been a leading contender for a bounce back season with their Defensive Line, but I am still a little surprised to see them at 2-0. The schedule has been very kind though and I think the New York Giants, despite being a poor 0-2, could be able to overcome them this week.

If it wasn't for a number of turnovers and mistakes from the Wide Receivers, the Giants likely would have beaten the Arizona Cardinals last week. One of the big problems they have had is establishing a ground game, although this is an area where the Houston Defense has struggled and Rashad Jennings might not have a better chance to get going.

There is no guarantee that happens, but the Giants may at least give Eli Manning a chance by getting into third and manageable situations. Anything else could be a problem for Manning who has not been helped by his Receivers nor the Offensive Line, although a few more decent grabs could get this Offense moving.

Houston have also been struggling on Offense with scores being produced by the Defense forcing turnovers or the Special Teams units. Both of those units could have strong games again this week, but Arian Foster may be missing and the Giants have actually controlled the rush Offense pretty effectively so far.

That means Ryan Fitzpatrick needing to make plays and I can't say I have a lot of faith in the former Buffalo Bill Quarter Back even if he has avoided the mistakes that have plagued him previously. Fitzpatrick might find more holes against this Secondary, especially if the Offensive Line continues to protect him, but he can't be put in a position where he has to force things as that is when his problems mount.

I am a little concerned that the Giants have to play Washington on Thursday night football this week, but this is a 'must win' game and I think New York takes it.

Minnesota Vikings @ New Orleans Saints Pick: The Adrian Peterson issue continues to dominate the headlines at the Minnesota Vikings and his absence could be seriously felt in this game at the New Orleans Saints. Matt Cassel will be relied on to make more plays in this one a week after combusting in a loss to the New England Patriots and I think it will be another tough day for Cassel.

As poor as the Saints Defense has played, I think they have underachieved and this is the kind of game that should play into Rob Ryan's hands, especially if the Offense can build another big lead. While the Saints have blown coverages, they should be able to get more pressure on Cassel against this Offensive Line and the mistakes made by the Quarter Back could rear their head in this one too.

I have little doubt that the New Orleans Saints will be able to move the ball effectively at home, especially with an Offense that has played well in the first two games. Drew Brees to Jimmy Graham remains close to indefensible, while the speed of Brandin Cooks and Kenny Stills should stretch the field effectively.

New Orleans have a very strong 15-0-1 record against the spread in their last 16 home games as the favourites under Sean Payton and this is a team that can score lots of points at the Superdome. They are also 10-3 against the spread coming off a straight up loss under Payton and I think the Saints are going to win this one going away.

Baltimore Ravens @ Cleveland Browns Pick: The Cleveland Browns have impressed with their performances over the last game and a half and they will be looking forward to the visit of the Baltimore Ravens, a team they reserve a special hatred for.

The Ravens have the benefit of an additional three days of preparation for this game, while Cleveland are coming off an emotional win over the New Orleans Saints a week after only narrowly falling short against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Baltimore did see their 11 win sequence in this series come to an end on their last visit here, but I like them to back up their win over the Steelers by moving above 0.500 for the first time.

Despite the release of Ray Rice, Baltimore are clearly very focused and they have been able to run the ball fairly effectively in the first two weeks of the season. That in turn has made life a little easier for Joe Flacco, although the Quarter Back could certainly be sharper than he has been.

The Offense in general should have a decent shout of producing strong numbers in this game, even if Bernard Pierce is out of the line up, because the Browns Defense hasn't been that effective. The Baltimore Defense will also feel they are ready for what the surprising Browns have done the first two weeks of the season, especially as they will have more game tape to view and found a pass rush last week.

If they can keep Brian Hoyer under some sort of pressure, the Ravens may just hold the key to ensuring they move to 2-1 in their Divisional games and start putting the sorry Ray Rice saga behind them.

Been a busy last couple of days so the rest of the picks have been put down without the explanation this time around. You can see them in the 'MY PICKS' section below.

0 Unit Selections: San Diego Chargers + 2.5 Points, Philadelphia Eagles - 5 Points, Tennessee Titans + 7 Points, Arizona Cardinals + 3 Points, Seattle Seahawks - 4 Points, Chicago Bears + 2.5 Points

MY PICKS: Atlanta Falcons - 6 Points @ 1.95 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Dallas Cowboys - 1.5 Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (2 Units)
New York Giants - 1 Point @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
New Orleans Saints - 10 Points @ 2.10 BWin (2 Units)
Baltimore Ravens - 1.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Green Bay Packers + 1 Point @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Indianapolis Colts - 7 Points @ 2.00 Coral (2 Units)
New England Patriots - 14 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Kansas City Chiefs + 4 Points @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Pittsburgh Steelers + 3 Points @ 2.04 Pinnacle (1 Unit)

Week 2: 5-3, + 1.50 Units
Week 13-6, - 3.18 Units

Season 20148-9, - 1.68 Units
Season 201386-70-2, + 22.27 Units
Season 2012- 4.78 Units

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