Ravens at Steelers, Thursday, 8:25PM
Summary: Without Big Ben, the Steelers turn to Michael Vick against a struggling Baltimore defense. Vick is a terrible quarterback, but has Antonio Brown to throw to and Le’Veon Bell commands attention. Baltimore has struggled offensively as well and will be without tight end Crocket Gillmore.
Key Matchup: Le’Veon Bell versus the Raven’s defensive front. Vick isn’t a threat through the air and Pittsburgh will lean on Bell in this game. If Bell is able to get running lanes, he has the ability to run away with this game.
The Pick: Ravens. I don’t trust Michael Vick in a starting role, simple as that. When in doubt, go with the better quarterback and that’s Joe Flacco.
Jets at Dolphins (in London), Sunday, 9:30AM
Summary: Miami was supposed to be a dark horse playoff contender with the acquisition of Ndamukong Suh in free agency. Ryan Tannehill has struggled as well and Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie won’t make his job any easier. For the Jets, Ryan Fitzpatrick needs to develop a rhythm with Brandon Marshall early in this game.
Key Matchup: Jets defensive line versus the Dolphins offensive line. The Jets have a nasty defensive front and if they’re able to get consistent pressure on Tannehill, this game will be over fast.
The Pick: Jets. They have one of the best defenses in football and Miami has struggled offensively. As long as Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t turn it over a bunch, Jets should run away with this one.
Giants at Bills, 1:00PM
Summary: Rex Ryan, Tyrod Taylor and the Bills are a dangerous team this year. They have a nasty defense and their offense is finding it’s mentality as well. For New York, Odell Beckham Jr. is always dangerous and, so far, Eli Manning is having a pretty solid season.
Key Matchup: Odell Beckham Jr versus the Bills secondary. Buffalo is going to get pressure on Eli and he’ll be looking for OBJ down the field for quick passes. If OBJ is able to exploit this secondary and get open, it will make Eli’s job that much easier.
The Pick: Bills. Tyrod Taylor and emerging star Karlos Williams are quietly building a very good offense and I don’t think the Giants will be able to keep up with them, especially against this nasty Bills defense.
Panthers at Buccaneers, 1:00PM
Summary: Cam Newton really might be Superman. His best wide receiver is Ted Ginn and Cam’s still having a good year through the air. Tampa’s offensive line was able to keep Jameis Winston upright against Houston, but they struggled to run the ball and this Carolina defense might be even better at stopping the run.
Key Matchup: Mike Evans versus Josh Norman. Norman might be the most underrated cornerback in the NFL and if he’s able to lock down Mike Evans, that’ll only make Winston’s day tougher.
The Pick: Carolina. Cam should have a field day with this Tampa defense, both through the air and with his legs.
Raiders at Bears, 1:00PM
Summary: Derek Carr and Amari Cooper are developing a rhythm that should scare defenses all over the league and Latavius Murray is having a good year on the ground. On defense, Khalil Mack is an absolute monster and the move to defensive end is really paying off. Jimmy Clausen is set to start again and, with Alshon Jeffrey injured, he could have a rough day.
Key Matchup: Matt Forte versus the Oakland defensive front. Chicago will lean on Matt Forte and, honestly, he might be their entire game plan. Not a good strategy for a Chicago team that seems to have mailed it in already.
The Pick: Raiders. You have to love how well Amari Cooper has transitioned into the league. He’s a star in the making and Derek Carr is definitely improving along with him.
Chiefs at Bengals, 1:00PM
Summary: The Chiefs finally passed a touchdown to a wide receiver, but were torched by the Packers last week. Unfortunately for them, Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati offense is ranked #2 in the NFL with 414.3 yards/game. Dalton is having a very good year and A.J. Green is always electric on the outside.
Key Matchup: Justin Houston versus the Bengals offensive line. If Kansas City wants to win this game, they’ll need a huge day from Justin Houston. He needs to consistently pressure Andy Dalton, because so far he’s been able to pick apart defenses at will.
The Pick: Bengals. Andy Dalton will have a tougher test against Marcus Peters and this Chiefs secondary, but I’ll take this Bengals offense in this matchup.
Texans at Falcons, 1:00PM
Summary: Julio Jones is lighting up the scoreboard and is definitely making his case for the best wide receiver in football. Devonta Freeman had a huge day on the ground versus the Cowboys and, defensively, Vic Beasley looks as good as advertised as a pass rusher. J.J. Watt is still one of the best players in football, but the Texans have struggled offensively.
Key Matchup: Julio Jones versus the Houston secondary. The Texans haven’t faced a receiver like Jones yet this season. They currently rank #12 in the NFL in pass yards/game, but that might go down after this game.
The Pick: Falcons. The Falcons have one of the most balanced offenses in football and, simply put, I don’t think the Texans will be able to keep up with them
Jaguars at Colts, 1:00PM
Summary: The Jags gave up 51 points to New England last week and face a Colts offense that certainly has the capability of scoring that many points if it wants to. Andrew Luck has struggled this season, but faces a Jags secondary that gives up 282.7 passing yards/game.
Key Matchup: Allen Robinson versus Vontae Davis. If the Jags have any shot at winning this, Blake Bortles needs to find Allen Robinson early and often. Vontae Davis might make that difficult to do.
The Pick: Colts. Andrew Luck and the Colts offense has been surprisingly pedestrian so far this season, but should be able to regain their mojo against this terrible Jags defense.
Eagles at Redskins, 1:00PM
Summary: The Redskins were supposed to be bad, and they are. The Eagles were supposed to be good, and they’re bad. Sam Bradford and Demarco Murray have not been as good as advertised. Meanwhile, Kirk Cousins still starts for Washington. This game could get ugly fast.
Key Matchup: Eagles offensive line versus Washington’s defensive front. Sam Bradford looks lost at quarterback, so it’s up to the running game that averages a terrible 64.3 yards/game to step up. If the Eagle’s offensive line can open holes for the running game, it’ll help relieve pressure on Bradford.
The Pick: Eagles. It’s hard picking between two terrible teams, so I’ll pick the one that’s not as terrible as the other.
Browns at Chargers, 4:05PM
Summary: By starting Josh McCown over Johnny Manziel, Cleveland has shown that it’s practically given up on this season already. They’re trying to get the #1 overall pick in next year’s draft and it’s pretty obvious. The Chargers have struggled offensively, but should have a very good day against this Browns defense that got torched by Derek Carr last week.
Key Matchup: Keenan Allen versus Joe Haden. Haden was beat badly by rookie Amari Cooper last week and he doesn’t have it any easier against Keenan Allen this week.
The Pick: Chargers. One step closer to the #1 pick for the Browns.
Vikings at Broncos, 4:25PM
Summary: The Broncos are off to a fast start and have the best defense in the league. Peyton Manning is still upright (so far) and Demaryius Thomas is living up to his new contract. Meanwhile, the Vikings offense is definitely benefiting from the return of Adrian Peterson, but they need Teddy Bridgewater to continue to develop.
Key Matchup: DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller versus the Viking’s offensive line. If the Vikings want any shot at winning this game, they need to keep Teddy upright. That’ll be difficult against the best pair of pass rushers in the league.
The Pick: Broncos. I wanted to pick the Vikings here, but the Broncos have been too good on both sides of the ball.
Packers at 49ers, 4:25PM
Summary: It’s a tale of two cities. Aaron Rodgers is drawing comparisons to Michael Jordan for his play, while Colin Kaepernick tossed four interceptions last week. Green Bay looks to be on track to make a serious Super Bowl run while the 49ers look on track for a Top 5 draft pick. This game couldn’t be between two more different teams.
Key Matchup: Colin Kaepernick versus the Green Bay pass rush. Kaepernick tossed four interceptions last week and looked lost under Arizona’s pressure. If he isn’t able to withstand the Green Bay pass rush, things could get ugly.
The Pick: Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers is playing like the best quarterback in the league and, against a rebuilding 49ers team, he could put up another impressive stat line. We have come a long way from Kaepernick running all over the Packers in the 2013 playoffs.
Rams at Cardinals, 4:25PM
Summary: Arizona has been the surprise team of the league with their aging veterans playing like younger versions of themselves. Carson Palmer is healthy and slinging the ball well and Larry Fitzgerald is thriving in his new slot role. Unfortunately, they have to go against the Rams and their impressive defensive line, which leads the league in sacks.
Key Matchup: Rams receivers versus the Cardinal secondary. This Cardinals secondary might be the best in the league with Patrick Peterson locking down receivers and Tyrann Mathieu patrolling the backfield. If the Rams have any shot of winning this game, they need to get receivers open. Tavon Austin is an incredible athlete, but has yet to live up to his potential.
The Pick: Arizona. The Rams upset the Seahawks in week one, but haven’t posted a win yet. Arizona’s veterans are playing out of their minds. This is a no brainer.
Cowboys at Saints, 8:30PM
Summary: No Tony Romo. Possibly no Drew Brees as well? Brees sat out last week, but looks to be back for this matchup. If he’s back, that means trouble for this Cowboys defense that was destroyed by Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman last week. Brandon Weeden, Terrance Williams and Joseph Randle have to get something going if the Cowboys want to win this one.
Key Matchup: Morris Claiborne versus Brandin Cooks. This time last year, Claiborne was riding the bench. Now he’s playing better than ever, but will face tough competition in the electric Cooks. Whoever is playing quarterback for the Saints will be targeting Cooks.
The Pick: Saints. No Tony Romo and no Dez Bryant hurts big time. Jason Witten is also injured. When Brandon Weeden’s your best option at quarterback, things aren’t looking good. I think the Saints will win even if Brees doesn’t play.
Lions at Seahawks, Monday, 8:30
Summary: This matchup looked a lot more exciting in the preseason. Now, the Lions are 0-3 and the Seahawks are 1-2. Matt Stafford is struggling in Detroit and the Jimmy Graham trade in Seattle hasn’t panned out so far. Seattle’s offense is struggling as a whole and Beast Mode hasn’t seemed to have found his rhythm yet.
Key Matchup: Richard Sherman versus Calvin Johnson. Two of the best in the game. Stafford will be looking for Megatron this whole game and if Sherman is able to lock him down (easier said than done), it’ll make the rest of the defense’s job easier.
The Pick: Seahawks. I don’t believe in Detroit’s offense against this Seattle defense, which is still among the league’s best. Kam Chancellor’s presence certainly helped the defense last week and I think they’ll have an impressive showing on Monday night.
BYE: Titans, Patriots