Thursday Night Football, September 27 8:20 PM ET – TV: NFL Network
Cleveland Browns 0-3 @ Baltimore 2-1
Justin Tucker’s controversial kick against New England was only the beginning and end for the replacement officials. Four days later, the Ravens get to play in the first game with the regular officials as the league struck a deal to bring the real zebra’s back. As far as the game goes, I don’t see anything Cleveland’s defense can do to slow down the Ravens new offensive approach using the no-huddle. We already see the emergence of second year receiver Torrey Smith and third year tight end Dennis Pitta. The Ravens now have an offense that can keep up with the top dogs of this league. Pick: Ravens 27, Browns 10.
Final Score: Ravens (3-1) 23, Browns (0-4) 16
Sunday, September 30
1:00 PM ET
Carolina Panthers 1-2 @ Atlanta Falcons 3-0 – TV: FOX
Does anyone know Matt Ryan is playing better than any quarterback at the moment? He’s completed 72% of his throws with 8-touchdown passes and only 1-interception. Only concern with Atlanta’s offense is the running game. Michael Turner has been silent and he’ll need to get some volume going at some point down the road. Defensively as a unit, they’ve forced 4-fumbles and have 7-interceptions. Taking away the football is vital part of becoming a true contender. The Falcons got it going on and if you were to ask me if they’re a contender or pretender, the answer is contender. Pick: Falcons 31, Panthers 19.
New England Patriots 1-2 @ Buffalo Bills 2-1 – TV: CBS
The Patriots are at risk of losing three straight for the first time since the early stages of the 2002 season. One thing is for sure, Bill Belichick won’t be grabbing or shouting at the top of his lungs at a replacement official. If New England takes Buffalo’s Mario Williams out of this game, a prime focus for the offense to keep Brady from being whacked, the offense will be fine upstate New York. Pick: Patriots 37, Bills 24.
Minnesota Vikings 2-1 @ Detroit Lions 1-2 – TV: FOX
There’s a big reason why the Vikings are 2-1. Quarterback Christian Ponder has completed 70% of his passes and has no interceptions. Running back Adrian Peterson has made a remarkable recovery from a knee injury with 230-yards rushing, a vital part of the Vikings offense to take the weight off the shoulders of Ponder. Detroit’s secondary has allowed big plays and they better be careful this weekend in the motor city. Point being, Ponder has in my opinion the most underrated threat at receiver Percy Harvin who looks more healthy than ever away from his migraine headaches. This will be a better game than advertised and I’m assuming Matthew Stafford plays despite being bothered by a (leg). Don’t forget, Mega-Things like Calvin Johnson do Mega-Stuff when his team can’t afford to lose. Pick: Lions 27, Vikings 21.
San Diego Chargers 2-1 @ Kansas City Chiefs 1-2 – TV: CBS
How can things look so bad and then turnaround in a blink of an eye? Kansas City was 0-2 and trailing New Orleans 24-6 midway through the third quarter until the wheels on Jamaal Charles’ feet turned into a Dale Earnhardt race-car speeding past the Saints defense for 233-yards rushing, helping the Chiefs comeback to win 27-24 in overtime. Next up for Kansas City, the streaky Chargers in their house, a place that thrives the arrowhead faithful into a hostile environment for its visitors. Pick: Chiefs 26, Chargers 23.
Seattle Seahawks 2-1 @ St. Louis Rams 1-2
Yes, having a dominant front defensively can make a subpar secondary look good. You can also have a secondary as good as Seattle’s, the best in the league and make a subpar defensive front play better. It’s scary how good that group really is with Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman. If Green Bay and Dallas’ talented receivers got blanketed by those four, how on earth can St. Louis’ passing game do anything spectacular against them? Pick: Seahawks 24, Rams 13.
San Francisco 49ers 2-1 @ N.Y. Jets 2-1
With the Jets losing Darrelle Revis (torn ACL) for the remainder of the season, the San Francisco offense behind the arm of Alex Smith look to take advantage of the Revisless Jets and rebound after a lack-luster performance only putting up 13-points last week. Turning over the football is something uncharacteristic we saw from a Jim Harbaugh coached team. They’ll get back to the basic’s and ground and pound with Frank Gore and keep it short and simple for Alex Smith on passing downs. Pick: 49ers 26, N.Y. Jets 14.
Tennessee Titans 1-2 @ Houston Texans 3-0
The Titans special teams scored twice in a thrilling win over Detroit, their first win of the season. They’ll need more than that if they have any chance against the Texans who finally let the arm of Matt Schaub rip and bomb away for 3-touchdown passes against the Broncos. I wouldn’t see any reason why they won’t take the same approach against the most dismal pass defense in football, the Titans. Pick: Texans 34, Titans 13.
4:05 PM ET
Cincinnati Bengals 2-1 @ Jacksonville Jaguars 1-2 – TV: CBS
Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer better get this defense ready to gang tackle Maurice Jones-Drew, otherwise his defense that ranks last in the league against the run gets smash-mouthed by the Jags. The good thing for Zimmer here is that he has only Jones-Drew to worry about for the simple fact of knowing the Jaguars offense is all about him. Jacksonville needs to start trusting second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert enough to let him win a game with his arm. Pick: Bengals 23, Jaguars 17.
Miami Dolphins 1-2 @ Arizona Cardinals 3-0 – TV: FOX
Reggie Bush (left knee) is expected to play for Miami against a Cardinals defense that has been fantastic, and to add more sugar to the punch, Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson (ankle) could return to the lineup as the Cardinals look for their first 4-0 start since 1974. Miami will need Reggie Bush to get a heavy workload if they have any chance out west. I’m not sure how effective he’ll be, and if he can’t run the ball effectively, how can Miami keep rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill out of third and long situations against a hostile crowd? Pick: Cardinals 20, Dolphins 10.
Oakland Raiders 1-2 @ Denver Broncos 1-2 – TV: CBS
37 year old Keith Brooking looks to take the spot of the suspended Joe Mays at middle linebacker. That being said, Denver’s defensive front better keep Oakland’s Darren McFadden from getting through or we can see him take it to the house. The team that actually wants to keep the offense off the field is Denver by playing ball control football offensively, keeping Denver’s defense off the field away from McFadden who has a major advantage. Don’t expect Peyton Manning to throw the ball a million times because of that factor. Pick: Broncos 24, Raiders 17.
4:25 PM ET
New Orleans Saints 0-3 @ Green Bay Packers 1-2 – TV: FOX
We get both teams that have a grudged on the league. One, the New Orleans Saints that have been angry at the league for the suspensions handed towards them for the bounty scandal, and the Packers who plain and simply got screwed by the replacement officials in their loss to Seattle on Monday. One team has a major advantage for having a much better defense, Green Bay. Without the suspended Jonathan Vilma, the Saints defense is getting ambushed on the ground and flat-out scorched in the air. It won’t get much easier for New Orleans’ defense against a Packers offense that will finally have a breakout game and take their frustrations out on a weak Saints defense. It’ll be a big day for fantasy owners of Aaron Rodgers. Pick: Packers 37, Saints 20.
Washington Redskins 1-2 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1-2 – TV: FOX
Without Brian Orakpo, the Redskins defense has no pass-rush or anybody that can provide anything positive on the outside. I see Tampa gashing the Redskins defense with some stretch runs with Doug Martin and then going play-action hitting the secondary over the top with Vincent Jackson. Pick: Buccaneers 29, Redskins 22.
Sunday Night Football in America 8:20 PM ET – TV: NBC
N.Y. Giants 2-1 @ Philadelphia Eagles 2-1
Good news for a struggling Eagles offense that’s turned over the football twelve times, Jeremy Maclin (hip) is probable. As for New York, Hakeem Nicks is still bothered by a (foot/knee) and his status is doubtful for NBC’s divisional showcase showdown. With right tackle David Diehl (knee) to miss his second consecutive game, rumor hitting the New York media wave-lengths is can time possibly be running out on Diehl, a veteran tackle that’s helped New York in both recent title runs? Sean Locklear has moved over to right tackle while Will Beatty has moved over to left. I understand the recent impressive performance by Locklear and Beatty on the line against a dismal Carolina defensive line doesn’t standout much, but the offensive line has been outstanding ever since the comeback win over Tampa Bay in week 2. We’ll see how they both do against one of the better pass-rushing units the Eagles sport with Jason Babin and Trent Cole. It’ll be a battle of field position, special teams and turnovers. Ultimately, until Michael Vick proves to me that he can play mistake free football, how can I go with his hand better than Eli Manning’s that is smoking hot with whoever is out on the field running routes for him. So prove me wrong. Pick: N.Y. Giants 33, Eagles 24.
Monday Night Football, October 1 8:30 PM ET – TV: ESPN
Chicago Bears 2-1 @ Dallas Cowboys 2-1
This is the ultimate contender or pretender game so far in the early stages of the season. No one really knows how good both of these squads really are. Dallas and Chicago have lots of talent at the skilled positions, but issues on the offensive line. Doug Free is becoming a liability at right tackle for Tony Romo and Chicago’s J’Marcus Webb is one of the less talented left tackles in the game. Webb will definitely need help trying to keep Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware, the games best standup outside-rusher from making Jay Cutler’s night miserable. Here’s the big difference between these two teams, Dallas signing Brandon Carr and drafting Morris Claiborne is already cashing in for defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s defense that’s ranked 1st in the league and hasn’t allowed a receiver to reach the end zone, just tight ends against the pass. That will be the difference in a slobber-knocker defensive battle. Pick: Cowboys 20, Bears 16.
Bye: Indianapolis 1-2, Pittsburgh 1-2