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Week 3 NFL Picks: A Reality Check

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The contenders begin to separate themselves from the pretenders.

Each week Zac Hirschbeck will look at the betting odds for each NFL game and then share his pick for each matchup. While hopefully it goes without saying, please don’t hold him accountable if you gamble away your retirement savings or child’s college fund based on his picks.

Following a strong 9-6-1 showing in Week 1, Zac stumbled to a 7-9 record in his Week 2 Picks. His season-long record now stands at 16-15-1 heading into Week 3.

After correctly picking the Patriots (+1.5) over the Texans on Thursday night, here are his thoughts on the rest of the Week 3 games.

Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers (-8)

Although the concerns regarding Aaron Rodgers’ decline over the past year have been justified, I think Green Bay wins comfortably against a Lions team that will likely be without its two best defensive players (Ezekiel Ansah and DeAndre Levy).

Pick: Green Bay (-8)

Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers (-7)

While I believe in Stefon Diggs and Mike Zimmer’s defense, I do not believe in Sam Bradford. Though the former No. 1 overall pick had an impressive debut against Green Bay in Week 2, Bradford’s injury history and general mediocrity since coming into the league in 2010 suggests that similar performances shouldn’t be expected. Despite Carolina’s shortcomings in their oddly sloppy blowout win over San Francisco in Week 2, I like them to win by more than seven against the injury-depleted Vikings.

Pick: Carolina (-7)

Washington Redskins at New York Giants (-4.5)

Even though I don’t have anything against Kirk Cousins, I get a certain amount of joy in seeing Dan Snyder fork over nearly $20 million for such a mediocre signal caller. The Giants put up 417 yards of offense against New Orleans’ inept defense last week, but only managed 16 points due to three turnovers. I think New York cleans things up offensively while their much-improved defense continues its strong start to the season.

Pick: New York (-4.5)

Baltimore Ravens (-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars

Following a disappointing 24-point loss to the Keenan Allen-less Chargers in Week 2, the preseason hype surrounding the Jags is already fading. Although the Ravens undefeated start hasn’t been particularly inspiring, I think they move to 3-0 here.

Pick: Baltimore (-1)

Denver Broncos (+3.5) at Cincinnati Bengals

After two home wins to start his NFL career, Trevor Siemian leads the Broncos to Cincinnati for his first road start. Siemian, much like Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler a year ago, merely needs to avoid disaster on a weekly basis to give Denver a legitimate chance at winning. While the loss of DeMarcus Ware certainly hurts, the Broncos still boast one of the league’s top defenses. I think they keep things tight against the Bengals.

Pick: Denver (+3.5)

Cleveland Browns at Miami Dolphins (-10)

Although Miami’s talented defensive line could very well make rookie quarterback Cody Kessler’s first career start a miserable one, this line is far too generous to the Dolphins. While the second-half comeback against New England was encouraging after the team had slept through the new season’s first six quarters, Ryan Tannehill’s supposedly strong week was largely a product of throwing against a Patriots defense that was in prevent while up three touchdowns. The Browns are actively tanking, and Miami is certainly the more talented team on both sides of the ball, but I don’t think they’re deserving of being such a heavy favorite.

Pick: Cleveland (+10)

Arizona Cardinals (-4.5) at Buffalo Bills

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. After incorrectly picking the Bills (and taking the points) to upset the Ravens and the Jets during the first two weeks, I won’t do it again in Week 3. The Cardinals come off of a 33-point home victory over the Bucs in Week 2, and Arizona head coach Bruce Arians wasn’t even thrilled with his team’s performance despite the lopsided score. The Bills’ dismissal of offensive coordinator Greg Roman was curiously timed considering the defense’s terrible showing against Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets’ talented receivers. With the Ryan brothers employing a “hope for an off day” approach defensively against Carson Palmer, the Bills look set to remain winless with 0-4 staring them right in the face.

Pick: Arizona (-4.5)

Oakland Raiders (+1) at Tennessee Titans

Following their thrilling last-second win over the Saints in Week 1, the buzz surrounding the Raiders was tempered by a home loss to the Falcons in Week 2. Oakland’s defense has surrendered an average of 517.5 yards per game through two weeks, which is especially worrying considering the front office invested heavily on that side of the ball during the offseason. Meanwhile, the Titans defense has impressed as they’ve only allowed a single offensive touchdown thus far. Despite that success, I like Oakland to win here. After failing to record a sack in the season’s first two games, I think Khalil Mack shows up in a big way on Sunday, much to the chagrin of Tennessee.

Pick: Oakland (+1)

San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks (-9)

With just 15 points through two weeks, Seattle’s offense has raised legitimate concerns for one the NFC’s most dominant teams over the past five years. However, Russell Wilson’s nagging ankle injury and a worrisome offensive line won’t prevent the Seahawks from dominating the 49ers on Sunday. While the 49ers have managed to put up 27.5 points per game in 2016, San Francisco’s offense will take a significant step back against the Seahawks.

Pick: Seattle (-9)

Los Angeles Rams (+5.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

While Los Angeles’ defense keyed their 9-3 win over Seattle in Week 2, the Rams offense continued to look terrible against the Seahawks. If you’re a Rams fan, you have to think No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff couldn’t do worse than Case Keenum’s pathetic showing to date. Although Tampa’s 33-point loss to Arizona gives me pause, I think Jameis Winston and the Bucs bounce back with a double-digit win at home in Week 3.

Pick: Tampa Bay (-5.5)

Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.5) at Philadelphia Eagles

After being thrust into the starting lineup following Philadelphia’s trading of Sam Bradford, Carson Wentz has looked plenty competent as he’s led the Eagles to a 2-0 start this season. While the rookie’s play is encouraging, I think he takes a step back against the Steelers in Week 3. Pittsburgh is far better than Cleveland and Chicago (Philadelphia’s first two opponents), and I envision Wentz struggling to keep pace with the Steelers’ high-scoring offense.

Pick: Pittsburgh (-3.5)

San Diego Chargers (+3) at Indianapolis Colts

Much like 2015, the injuries just keep piling up for San Diego. After losing Keenan Allen for the season in Week 1, Danny Woodhead tore his ACL in Week 2 and will also miss the rest of the season. On top of that, 36-year-old tight end Antonio Gates is also doubtful to play against Indianapolis due to a hamstring ailment. While Philip Rivers could still dink-and-dunk his way to a productive day against the Colts porous defense, I like Andrew Luck to lead Indianapolis to their first win of the season.

Pick: Indianapolis (-3)

New York Jets (+3) at Kansas City Chiefs

This line is a curious one. The Jets come off a 37-31 win over the Bills in Week 2, which saw New York’s offense put forth a dominant performance. Meanwhile, Kansas City struggled to a 19-12 defeat on the road in Houston. The Chiefs remain pretty banged up. Jamaal Charles is doubtful to make his season debut, and Kansas City could be without three of its starting offensive lineman. Likewise, Chiefs starting cornerback Philip Gaines is listed as questionable with a knee injury. The Jets’ talented front seven should take advantage of the backups on Kansas City’s offensive line, and Fitzpatrick should find favorable matchups for his strong collection of wide receivers.

Pick: New York (+3)

Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys (-7)

With Brian Hoyer likely to step in at quarterback for the injured Jay Cutler, Chicago is hoping the veteran backup can spark a Bears offense that’s had a slow start to the new season. I don’t see that happening. Although the line seems a bit too generous to a rookie quarterback, Dak Prescott has looked effective despite not having thrown a touchdown pass yet. I see the Cowboys taking advantage of an equally banged up Bears defense (Danny Trevathan and Eddie Goldman are likely to be out) on their way to a big win in primetime.

Pick: Dallas (-7)

Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints (-3)

With a number of key contributors already out (Terron Armstead, Delvin Breaux) or listed as questionable (Cameron Jordan, Willie Snead, Kenny Vaccaro), the Saints will be hard-pressed to score their first win of 2016 against their NFC South counterparts. Atlanta comes off a Week 2 win over the Raiders that saw Matt Ryan shred the Oakland secondary for 396 yards and three touchdowns. While I think Ryan plays well and leads the Falcons offense to another big day, I like Drew Brees to win a shootout at home on Monday night.

Pick: New Orleans (-3)