Mike Ivcic’s Week 3 NFL Preview and Free Picks [2014]

By Mike Ivcic, UltimateCapper Contributing Writer

I have no interest in commenting on the domestic violence and child abuse stories that have splashed across the headlines for seemingly the last month, save for one important point that I think most people are missing: the well-being of the victims of these crimes is significantly more important than the impact to your fantasy team. Just remember that while you’re watching other people play a sport on Sunday, real people in countless homes across the country are suffering greatly because of unreported cases of violence and abuse of all sorts. That should be our primary focus, and not the effect that the loss of a running back or wide receiver will have on a particular team’s offensive game plan. And with that, on to our week three picks.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons
Thu, 8:25pm, CBS/NFL
Line: Falcons by 6
Road teams are traditionally horrendous on short weeks, and when factoring that into the other two key elements of this game – I think the Falcons are a better team and the Georgia Dome is a very hard place to win as a road team – this becomes an easy pick for me.
Pick: Atlanta 27, Tampa Bay 17

Baltimore Ravens @ Cleveland Browns
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Ravens by 1.5
Mike Pettine, who hails from just about half an hour away from my hometown, definitely earned his first career win last week with a tremendous come-from-behind win over the Saints, and now he has a chance to really make a statement with a visit from the Ravens, who have not impressed through two weeks. Sure, they steamrolled the Steelers, but they also surrendered the division lead in week one at home to the team they had to know would be their biggest competition. I’m taking the Ravens here because I think they’re the better team, but a Browns win would not be shocking in any way.
Pick: Baltimore 24, Cleveland 20

Dallas Cowboys @ St. Louis Rams
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Cowboys by 1.5
I don’t think I’m as down on the Cowboys as most other pundits in this space. Sure, their defense is atrocious and porous, and Tony Romo has too much bad-Brett Favre and not enough good-Brett Favre, but there’s still talent on this roster that’s capable of winning some games – especially when it’s against third-string quarterbacks. Call me crazy, but I see Dallas in a three-way tie for first when this weekend wraps up.
Pick: Dallas 30, St. Louis 17

Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Lions by 2.5
We learned a whole lot more about the Panthers defense than we did about the Lions offense last week in Carolina’s second-half drubbing, but the performance still doesn’t bode well for Detroit. This group has constantly had to fight the stigma of being “soft” and not coming up big in big spots, so perhaps this week they’ll be on notice. The Jets had Green Bay dead to rights midway through the first half, and only with the help of Marty Mornhinweg did the Pack avoid an 0-2 start. The NFC North clearly seems like a division that’s up for grabs (the only one in the league where every team is 1-1) with the odds of a wild card berth at least than 50/50, so the winner of this game – the first inter-division game of the year – will certainly stake their claim as the early-season front-runner.
Pick: Detroit 34, Green Bay 31

Houston Texans @ New York Giants
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Texans by 2
The Texans are not as bad as I thought they were going to be. The Giants are. In fact, they may be worse than I thought they’d be, and I thought 6-10 was their high mark. I’m not picking them to win a game until they actually do.
Pick: Houston 24, New York 13

Indianapolis Colts @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Colts by 6.5
It’s a short week on the road for the Colts, so I’m taking the Jaguars.

Ok, I lied. I just wanted to see how that sentence actually looked written down.
Pick: Indianapolis 38, Jacksonville 16

Minnesota Vikings @ New Orleans Saints
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Saints by 10.5
So… my preseason NFC champ is 0-2. Not good. With everything that’s been swirling around the Vikings this week, this game serves as the perfect opportunity for New Orleans to get back on track – and really, they don’t have much choice. The rest of the conference is too good for the Saints to recover from 0-3, especially if that includes losses to Cleveland and Minnesota. This is a must-win game, and I think Sean Payton knows it, so I’m expecting a bit of a rout.
Pick: New Orleans 37, Minnesota 15

Oakland Raiders @ New England Patriots
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Patriots by 14
Tom Brady’s first home game of the year against a team that just got blown out at home by Ryan Fitzpatrick? Done and done.
Pick: New England 41, Oakland 10

San Diego Chargers @ Buffalo Bills
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Bills by 2.5
The fact that Buffalo is 2-0 actually makes me a little happy, because I do like rooting for underdog teams and underdog towns. They haven’t made the playoffs since 1999 – the only NFL team yet to play a postseason game this millennium – and at this point I just want someone to beat New England in the AFC East (and it won’t be the Jets). But you can still call me a skeptic. I need to see them continue to win in order to by in fully, and after watching the Chargers make Seattle look very average last week, I’m going with a road ‘dog win.
Pick: San Diego 31, Buffalo 23

Tennessee Titans @ Cincinnati Bengals
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Bengals by 6.5
Talk about a tale of two weeks – Tennessee looked stellar in dismantling Kansas City on the road, then came home in week two and flopped against what most consider a weak Cowboys teams. Neither of those teams are Cincinnati, though, so the Titans will have to play much better than either game if they want to pull out a second road win. The Bengals will miss A.J. Green, but they should have enough to move to 3-0 – especially on defense.
Pick: Cincinnati 27, Tennessee 13

Washington Redskins @ Philadelphia Eagles
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Eagles by 6.5
All week long I’ve been hearing how good the Eagles have been in the second half, and how Chip Kelly’s offense is wearing down other teams, and how clutch the team has been through two weeks, and how good the players and coaches have been at making adjustments. I will grant all of those points, but I have yet to hear anyone go back through the annals of history and find me a Super Bowl winner that has been outscored 34-6 in the first half through two weeks. That’s a dangerous game to play – they rallied nicely against Jacksonville and dominated, but they lose in week two if the Colts play callers had a clue or the officials understood the rules of football. It’s just not a sustainable model for winning in the NFL. All of which says I like the Redskins in the upset of the week here, and Kirk Cousins continues to earn himself a large payday this offseason.
Pick: Washington 27, Philadelphia 24

San Francisco 49’ers @ Arizona Cardinals
Sun, 4:05pm, FOX
Line: 49’ers by 3
Ok, Arizona, here’s your opportunity to prove that you belong in the NFC West conversation. The first two weeks were fine and dandy – a good home win against the Chargers and taking care of business after a cross-country road trip to the Meadowlands – but it’s imperative that teams hoping to make “the leap” win home games against divisional opponents. Win here and I’ll rescind all of the negative things I said in the last two preseason previews. Lose here and I’ll still consider you a pretender in the grand playoff scheme. Arizona Cardinals – you’re on the clock.
Pick: San Francisco 24, Arizona 17

Denver Broncos @ Seattle Seahawks
Sun, 4:25pm, CBS
Line: Seahawks by 5
This game won’t be close. That much I know. The issue is that I’m not sure which team will be the one doing the blowing out of the other. I can see a rerun of the Super Bowl just as easily and I can see a revenge game, and neither of these two have looked impressive through two weeks. I guess I’ll take the safe play by taking the home crowd and grabbing the points. Consider it a hedge – and if you’re actually betting real money, consider doing it on a different game because this one could be anywhere on the map.
Pick: Seattle 28, Denver 24

Kansas City Chiefs @ Miami Dolphins
Sun, 4:25pm, CBS
Line: Dolphins by 4.5
It would appear that we have an early “leader in the clubhouse” for this year’s regression team. The Chiefs were 9-0 heading into their week 11 showdown with Denver last year and since then have gone 2-8, including the crushing playoff loss to the Colts. Their defense is not nearly as dominant as they were at the start of last season, and the offense hasn’t done nearly enough to keep up with the rest of the league to warrant consideration as a legitimate playoff team. Miami, meanwhile, needs to win these types of games to move into the upper tier of the AFC, and to do that they need better play from Ryan Tannehill and the offense. Ten points against the Bills isn’t going to cut it for a passing offense than ranks 24th in yards after two weeks. This is a chance to get back on track, but I don’t think they run away and hide so I’ll put the money on KC.
Pick: Miami 23, Kansas City 20

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Carolina Panthers
Sun, 8:30pm, NBC
Line: Panthers by 3.5
This isn’t your father’s Pittsburgh Steelers. Their defense is old and slow, and the offense can’t run the ball with any level of consistency. It almost seems like an alternate universe writing that sentence. But you know who looks a whole lot like the Pittsburgh Steelers of old? The Carolina Panthers. They have a stellar defense (maybe the best in the game now that San Diego hung 30 on the Seahawks) and should see continued improvement in the running game as Cam Newton gets healthier. I honestly don’t understand how this is only a 3.5 point line, unless Vegas thinks Newton will still be a question mark with the rib injury and the Greg Hardy incident will serve as a distraction. Still, even those two issues wouldn’t make me feel any less confident take the Panthers at this line.
Pick: Carolina 28, Pittsburgh 10

Chicago Bears @ New York Jets
Mon, 8:30pm, ESPN
Line: Jets by 3
For the first time in NFL history, a team that overcame a 17-point deficit will face a team that blew a 17-point lead the prior week. My team was the one on the wrong side of that equation – and as much as it pains me to say this, I think they’ll be on the wrong side of this one, too. That’s what happens in a pass-happy league when there are zero competent defensive backs on the roster.
Pick: Chicago 30, New York 21

Last Week
Straight-Up: 9-7
Against Spread: 9-7

Straight Up: 18-14
Against Spread: 15-17