We’re back for Week Three of the NFL as we start to find out who will be challenging for top honours and who faces another long hard season in the trenches.
Seven teams have perfect 2-0 records, the Carolina Panthers moved to 3-0 on Thursday night, and they’re joined by defending champions and divisional rivals the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and three teams in the powerful NFC West.
The Rams, 49ers and Cardinals all look like play-off teams, while even the Seahawks only just lost out to the Titans to slip to 1-1 but still look a force. Two surprising unbeaten sides are the Raiders and Broncos who now lead the Kansas City Chiefs after they lost in Baltimore.
Although there have been some mismatches, the overriding theme so far has been close games being decided late on – with 10 games in two weeks settled by three points or less. The NFL record is 11.
We had seven games decided by a field goal or less last week so be careful on your handicap bets are a lot of the teams look more closely matched this season.
We’ve got so more huge contests coming up this week with the Rams and Buccaneers and the Packers and 49ers giving us some possible play-off previews, the Chiefs looking to bounce back against the Chargers and the Raiders eyeing a 3-0 start against Miami.
With plenty of action to get stuck into in the early kick-offs, here’s my best picks for another NFL red zone on Sunday.
Cardinals @ Jaguars
Arizona and their former No.1 overall pick Kyler Murray have been one of the stand-out sides so far with their quarterback slicing and dicing using both his arm and his legs – throwing seven TD passes and running in two more as part of the league’s second top scorers so far with 72 points.
Jacksonville have scored 34 and have been ripped apart by middle of the road QBs Teddy Bridgewater and Tyrod Taylor to the tune of 619 yards and four passing TDs – they’re massively outmatched and this is a fill your boots game for Murray and co.
Murray has thrown a pick six among his three interceptions but the Jags haven’t created a turnover yet so the pressure will be at a minimum. With Jacksonville having lost 17 straight games, this is a fixture where Arizona can explode and get the respect they deserve.
A nine-point win at Evens seems solid enough given the big gap in quality.
Best bet: Arizona Cardinals -9.5pts to win on the handicap – 20/21
Bengals @ Steelers
A fascinating AFC North battle here with both sides 1-1 after coming off tough losses and it’s not often the Steelers are only 3.5pt favourites against the Bengals at home at Heinz Field.
QB Ben Roethlisberger is hurt though, as is star defender TJ Watt along with a few other members of the defence that shackled the Bills but couldn’t contain the big-play ability of the Raiders – and the Bengals certainly have big-play ability to bring to the table.
Joe Burrow had an awful time in Chicago with three interceptions while he was sacked five times, but this really has potential to be a bounce back game against a Pittsburgh team that’s really struggling on offence and has gone 2-6 in their last eight games.
In Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins the Bengals have two playmaking receivers that Burrow is building a nice rapport with and who can make those big plays to break open what should be a tight, reasonably low-scoring game.
It’ll be bruising but if the Bengals cut out the mistakes they made last week then they can take advantage of Pittsburgh’s struggles to grab a first win at Heinz Field for six years.
Best bet: Bengals to beat Steelers at 13/8
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Saints @ Patriots
There’s a hint of going back to the well here but just like last week the New England Patriots are prime candidates for both our field goals bet and also the unders on points as they host the New Orleans Saints at Foxborough.
The Pats’ stuttering offence is so bad and converting possession and territory that it even struggled to put points up on the Jets last week – while the Saints struggled with everything in a 26-7 divisional beatdown at the hands of the Panthers.
New Orleans mustered just 128 yards last week and Bill Belichick’s defence is another tough one as it ranks in the top five for both points and yards allowed. Much will depend on the two running games in this one, but even that limits the chances of points being plentiful.
This has potential to be another under 40-point affair and I’d go low on most prop bets and scoreline bets here, apart from Alvin Kamara who could finally have a big game at running back for the Saints.
The bookies still haven’t cottoned on to the fact that the Patriots will have plenty of but seem to be allergic to the end zone, while the Saints will take any points going early on in this one, so we’re rolling over again on them being forced to use the boots of their kickers.
Best bet: Over 3.5 field goals at 13/10
Ravens @ Lions
Baltimore are riding high after beating the Chiefs last week and they make the trip to Detroit looking to build up some momentum, while being careful to avoid this becoming a trap game.
Detroit have been fighting, they got in a huge hole against the 49ers before battling back and then started brightly bit faded against Green Bay – on a shorter week though they’ll struggle to match these hard-hitting Ravens.
It’ll be the usual dose of pass-rushing menace and tough downhill running in Baltimore’s trademark brand of smashmouth football that will swamp the Lions here.
Baltimore have had 100 rushing yards in 41 straight games and that’ll continue here, while they’ve made life a misery for Jared Goff before when he was with the Rams – a much better team than he has here in Detroit.
Lamar Jackson can have another big game but the run game should shine after San Francisco ran over Detroit before Aaron Jones scored four TDs for the Packers – although three of them were receiving scores.
Baltimore have a league-leading 440-yards rushing this season, 116 yards more than anyone else and this Detroit defensive front is not the one to stop then. Both running back Ty’Son Williams and QB Jackson can find the end zone on Red Zone this week.
Best bet: Bet Builder double on Lamar Jackson & Ty’Son Williams to score TDs at 19/5
Rookie receiver Ja’Marr Chase can become just the second man in NFL history to have three 40-plus yard receiving TDs in his first three career games with another big score here. While we’re not betting on the length of his TD, he does have the speed to find the end zone again against a Steelers defence that couldn’t stop the big throws against the Raiders last week.
Rondale Moore looked electric last week against the Vikings and now gets a soft match-up with the Jags. Arizona have plenty of receiving threats but Moore should get his share and has too much ability for Jacksonville to stop him.
Ja’Marr Chase & Rondale Moore to score at 13/2