Welcome to the NFL, a Fortune .500 company, where 18 of 32 teams were 1-1 entering Week 3. Fortunately, we’re doing a bit better, after a nifty 12-4 straight-up in Week 2 and a second straight solid 9-7 against the spread. Hit our second straight Upset of the Week with Cowboys over Chargers, and nailed a second outright upset with Panthers over Saints. Through two weeks were 4 for 6 in outright upset calls. Also had a trio of ‘dogs-with-points last week with covers by Giants, Vikings and Titans. Let’s keep it going! [Note: Thursday night pick was Panthers (-8) over @Texans, 24-10.]
Week 2: 12-4, .750 overall; 9-7, .563 vs. spread.
Season: 20-12, .625 overall; 18-14, .563 vs. spread.
Final 2020: 166-89-1, .651 overall; 130-120-6, .520 vs. spread.
GREG COTE’S NFL WEEK 3 PICKS
GAME OF THE WEEK
BUCCANEERS (2-0) at RAMS (2-0)
Line: TB by 1 1/2.
Cote’s pick: LAR 34-31.
TV: 4:25 p.m., Fox.
Upset! (“Aawwk!”) The week’s only battle of 2-0 teams? Tom Brady vs. the NFL’s best defense? I mean, the Game of the Week panel has seldom had a quicker meeting. In three minutes they were out the door and headed to the Quill ‘N Swill pub. Rams winning at home barely seems like an upset, except Brady losing always feels like one, right? No matter the result, this has the heft of an NFC Championship Game preview. Edge on defense to Aaron Donald’s Rams. Now Matthew Stafford’s arrival has given LAR enough pop to hang on the scoreboard with Brady’s bunch. Un juego delicioso! Eight of past nine Rams home games have gone “under,” but see this is a trend-busting shootout.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
PACKERS (1-1) at 49ers (2-0)
Line: SF by 3.
Cote’s pick: GB 27-24.
TV: 8:20 p.m., NBC.
“AAAWWWK!” emotes the Upset Bird. “Green Baawwk beats San Fraawwk!” We’re 2-0 on Upset of the Week picks so we need you to come through and keep us perfect, Aaron. I mean both Aarons. Rodgers, of course, but it’s Aaron Jones running big against what’s been a leaky SF run D that seems like the key in this matchup fit for the Sunday night stage. Niners’ major injuries at running back foist too much pressure on Jimmy Garoppolo. Side note: San Francisco has lost four in a row and eight of its past nine home games. “It’s like the Tony Bennett song,” notes U-Bird. “I left my loss in San Franciscaaawwwk!”
THE REST OF WEEK 3:
@Bills (1-1, -7 1/2) over Washington (1-1), 27-16: First of six Week 3 matchups of 1-1 teams finds Washers coming in on extra rest after playing last Thursday. And that’s it for the visitor’s advantages in this game. No-Names’ defense has disappointed so far, and Taylor Heinicke won’t outscore Josh Allen.
@Browns (1-1, -7) over Bears (1-1), 23-17: Rookie Justin Fields get first start for Chitown as Andy Dalton nurses a bum knee, and Brownies’ pass rush and tough road venue will present a large challenge. But Bears’ defense and Earthtones missing Jarvis Landry should help keep it inside the bet line. Cleveland has covered only two of past nine as favorite. Ride the trend.
Ravens (1-1, -8) over @Lions (0-2), 38-16: Baltimore faces a letdown after big, dramatic Sunday night win over Kansas City. But consider: Lamar Jackson is 14-0 in regular season when favored by eight or more. Lions defense has given up average of 39.5 points in sits six-game skid dating to last season.
@Titans (1-1, -5) over Colts (0-2), 27-23: The Upset Bird was making noise over this one. Colts played Rams tough last week and are best/most surprising 0-2 team out there. And Indy has won eight of past nine trips to Nashville. But! Carson Wentz is iffy on two tender ankles, and Derrick Henry has bull-rushed 489 yards in past three meetings. Even so, and even with Wentz in question, hunch Nags cover.
@Chiefs (1-1, -6 1/2) over Chargers (1-1), 30-24: KC on a 12-2 series run, but Bolts have played Chiefs tough past three seasons. And Chiefs’ past eight wins overall have been by six points or fewer, because their shaky defense keeps opponents in range. For those reasons I like LAC getting nearly a touch.
@Patriots (1-1, -3) over Saints (1-1), 19-13: The five-TD opener was a mirage. Last week’s back-to-earth crash was not. Jameis Winston is not to be trusted. He is especially not to be trusted to beat Bill Belichick in Foxborough. Sam Darnold had his way with Saints’ defense last week. So will Mac Jones.
@Giants (0-2, -3) over Falcons (0-2), 24-20: The week’s only duel of 0-2 teams finds Atlanta looking the part, with new coach Arthur Smith already feeling heat, while NYG shows signs of life. Matt Ryan proving he ain’t dead yet and leading an upset would not shock, but like Biggies at home, with extra rest, covering the small number.
@Steelers (1-1, -3) over Bengals (1-1), 21-16: Cincy is on a 2-15 skid in division games and on a horrid 1-19-1 run on the road — and has lost of 11 of past 12 to Steelers. So why the get-your-attention-small point spread? Because Ben Roethlisberger (pectoral) and pass rusher T.J. Watt (groin) both are iffy to play. Makes the pick a crapshoot, but I’m hunching Big Ben plays and that’s enough for the small cover.
Cardinals (2-0, -7 1/2) over @Jaguars (0-2), 37-13: Zona is 1-1 but for a missed 36-yard field goal by Vikes at the buzzer last week. Still, Kyler Murray & Co. will be way too much for Jax’s defense to handle. Urban Meyer was 83-9 at Ohio State. Welcome to the NFL. Trevor Lawrence has five picks in two games. Welcome to the NFL.
@Broncos (2-0, -10 1/2) over Jets (0-2), 24-9: Gifted a feather-soft early season schedule, Denver plays its home opener poised for its first 3-0 start since ‘16. Even missing injured LB Bradley Chubb, Broncos’ D should be too much for Zach Wilson.
@Raiders (2-0, -4) over Dolphins (1-1), 23-20: Tua Tagovailoa is out while his ribs heal, so Jacoby Brissett starts for now. Vegas QB Derek Carr (ankle) also was nicked up but should play, but Fins would catch a big break if legit-iffy RB Josh Jacobs (turf toe) sits out again. I haven’t seen enough offense from Miami to go all in on the upset, but this one feels like a field goal’s difference and the consolation of a road cover.
Seahawks (1-1, -1 1/2) over @Vikings (0-2), 34-30: Give Minnesota a very big upset shot in its home opener; this feels pick’ em to me. But Hawks have one clarion edge in this matchup that Vikes cannot handle: Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf vs. an inexperienced, beatable Minn secondary. Kirk Cousins won’t be able to outscore that.
@Cowboys (1-1, -4) over Eagles (1-1), 27-24: Trends that catch the eye: Dallas has lost seven consecutive prime-time games, yet another reason “America’s Team” is long defrocked. And Philly is on a neat little 4-1 run on Monday nights. But in this case I say the trends must end. See a big show by Boys in their home opener, in a battle for first in NFC East. Though Amari Cooper (ribs) is iffy, trusting Dak Prescott in this one, but hedging with a Birds cover.
[Note: Betting lines are courtesy Caesars Sportsbook as of midday Thursday.]©2021 Miami Herald. Visit at miamiherald.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.