NFL Talkboard and Pick Six week three: Bills look to check Chargers
Just two rounds of games have been played, but already this NFL season has thrown up some almighty upsets on the field (not to mention off it). In a season when the Saints sit at 0-2 while the Bills are 2-0, it should perhaps come as no surprise to learn that contestants in our Pick Six game are struggling with their predictions. Not one person nailed all six picks in week two.
Still, there’s plenty of time to make amends. I’ll have the overall standings up below the line shortly but until then, here are this week’s games.
San Diego Chargers @ Buffalo Bills
Sunday 1pm ET/6pm BST
Bills fans are used to being let down. Almost 15 years have passed since their team last made the playoffs and they have witnessed plenty of false dawns. As recently as 2011, Buffalo opened the season with three wins, reached November with a 5-2 record, and then lost eight of their last nine to finish bottom of the AFC East. But if those memories should stop us from getting carried away with this year’s fast start, that does not mean dismissing this team altogether. Buffalo’s defense was impressively robust against Miami, sacking Ryan Tannehill four times and preventing the Dolphins’ offense from crossing the 50-yard line until the third quarter. Nobody is doubting San Diego’s quality after they knocked off the reigning champion Seahawks, but this is a cross-country trip, in an early time slot, to play in a stadium that got pretty loud last weekend.
Bills to win
Baltimore Ravens @ Cleveland Browns
Sunday 1pm ET/6pm BST
Even by the “any given Sunday” standards of the , Cleveland’s win over the Saints was an almighty shock. The downtrodden Browns had not won a home opener in a decade, much less done so against opponents who were among the preseason favourites for the Super Bowl. So will Cleveland be celebrating again this weekend? It is not as unlikely as it might once have appeared. Under Mike Pettine the Browns have built an effective running game and most importantly done a good job protecting the football; they are one of only three teams without a turnover this season. They beat Baltimore in Cleveland last November to end an 11-game losing streak against their divisional foes. Repeating that victory would really put the cat among the pigeons in the AFC North.
Browns to win
Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions
Sunday 1pm ET/6pm BST
The NFL’s longest continuously-running rivalry has not been much of a rivalry lately. The Packers have lost to the Lions just twice since Aaron Rodgers became their starting quarterback in 2008 – once when he was knocked out of the game with a second-quarter concussion, once when he missed the game altogether. Given that No12 is good to go this weekend, can we take another Green Bay win for granted? Not necessarily. The Packers, for all their explosiveness on offense, could easily have been 0-2 if it weren’t for the New York Jets’ . Then again, if this does turn out to be a tight game, the Lions may find themselves relying on a rookie kicker who has converted just two of five field-goal attempts so far.
Packers to win
San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals
Sunday 4.05pm ET/9.05pm BST
Barely three weeks into the season, Arizona have an opportunity to put some daylight between themselves and a major rival in the NFC West. The 49ers were among the great disappointments of week two, , and Colin Kaepernick’s struggles against the Bears’ defense have provoked some significant concern. His passer rating on plays when Chicago did not blitz was a measly 46.2. Arizona’s secondary is quite capable of giving him another long day, but the Cardinals might also have their back-up quarterback, Drew Stanton, taking snaps for a second week running. Back-up running back Jonathan Dwyer has also been deactivated after he was in connection with domestic abuse allegations – denying them a useful short-yardage option.
49ers to win
Denver Broncos @ Seattle Seahawks
Sunday 4.25pm ET/9.25pm BST
There was a 35-point gulf between the Broncos and Seahawks when they met . So why should things be any different this weekend, when they square off in front of 67,000 raucous Seattle fans at CenturyLink Field? There is at least the potential here for another blow-out, but Denver will draw encouragement from their opponents’ loss to the Chargers last weekend. Richard Sherman et al looked a whole lot less intimidating by the time Philip Rivers was done dicing up the Seahawks’ secondary for 284 yards and three touchdowns. Still, that was in San Diego. Seattle have lost just one home game in two seasons, and that was against a Cardinals team who smothered them with a relentless and brilliant defensive performance. The Broncos have improved on D since the Super Bowl, adding Aqib Talib and getting Von Miller back from injury, but not enough to bridge the gap … in my view.
Seahawks to win
Chicago Bears @ New York Jets
Sunday 8.30pm ET/Monday 1.30am BST
One moment Chicago appeared to be spiraling towards disaster, down 17-0 to the 49ers having lost their home opener to the Bills. The next, Jay Cutler began channeling Joe Montana, throwing three touchdowns as he led the Bears to a dramatic comeback win. The Jets have moved in the opposite direction, beating Oakland before blowing an 18-point lead against Green Bay. Predictions are never straightforward when dealing with two such inconsistent teams, but I like the chances of Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery against an inexperienced Jets secondary.
Bears to win
And the rest
Here are the rest of this weekend’s games. These are not included in the Pick Six, but feel free to post your winners for these as well. If you do so, please keep them separate from your Pick Six predictions, as it will make life a lot easier when adding up your scores.