We didn’t necessarily perform too well with our upset picks last week, going 0-3 after a solid 3-1 performance to open the season. It didn’t help that our article was published mere hours before the Adrian Peterson news. But I digress.
Week 3 offers up a nice slate of action with some division rivals going up against one another in early-season impact games. There will also be two pretty good teams going up against one another in the Pacific Northwest in a rematch of the Super Bowl from this past February.
Looking at the schedule, we decided to pick four games that will end with the underdog sitting atop the scoreboard. Remember, these upset picks are based off current Las Vegas lines. This means that while some won’t view Green Bay defeating the Lions as an upset, it actually is in the grand scheme of things.
San Diego Chargers (+2.5) at Buffalo Bills
This is an interesting point spread right here. Fresh off a great all-around performance against the Super Bowl champions, San Diego travels cross country to Western New York to take on an undefeated Bills team.
While west coast teams tend to have issues traveling east, the Chargers are a better all-around team here. Philip Rivers was lights out last week, throwing three touchdowns compared to zero interceptions for a ridiculous 124.2 quarterback rating against the Legion of Boom, meanwhile tight end Antonio Gates hauled in three touchdown passes of his own.
Even without Ryan Mathews, who will be sidelined for some time, San Diego has the necessary offense to get the job done against a vastly improved Bills defense. That’s magnified by the fact that Rivers has been sacked a total of one time in 74 drop backs on the year.
For Buffalo, it’s all going to be about maintaining balance on offense with second-year quarterback EJ Manuel, who has performed at a relatively high level through two games. He’s managing the game and hasn’t turned the ball over much, two things that Doug Marrone’s squad needs if the team is going to be successful moving forward.
Buffalo lost five of six games against playoff teams as season ago. I expect this trend to continue and the Chargers to come away with a hard-fought victory.
Houston Texans at New York Giants (+2.5)
The Texans may be 2-0 on the season, but it’s important to note that those two victories came against teams who are a combined 8-28 since the start of the 2013 season. Ryan Fitzpatrick has done well not to turn the ball over in two games, and that’s the primary reason that Houston has matched its win total from a season ago.
The issue here is that Houston must now travel to New York and take on a Giants team that is in must-win mode after opening the season with two consecutive losses. Sure Eli Manning is playing horrible football right now, but he hasn’t received help from a disastrous offensive line and questionable receiver group. If those two units step up in this one, the Giants should earn their first victory of the 2014 campaign. Anything short of this, and Tom Coughlin’s seat will be incredibly hot heading into Week 4. That’s reason enough to believe that his team will play much better than we saw over the first two weeks.
Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns (+1.5)
Both Baltimore and Cleveland are coming off impressive Week 2 victories. For the Ravens, it was all about overcoming the off-field obstacles that came with the Ray Rice situation and defeating a division rival in the Pittsburgh Steelers soundly on Thursday Night Football. Finding more balance on offense, Joe Flacco was able to avoid the misakes that have plagued him since winning the Super Bowl back in February of 2013.
It’s with this newfound balance on offense that Baltimore looks to go into Cleveland and take care of a Browns team that is coming off a stunning late-game victory over the New Orleans Saints last week. Surprisingly, it’s not the Browns defense that has played well this season. That unit ranks dead last in the NFL in total yards against. Instead, Brian Hoyer and Cleveland’s offense has performed pretty well. It ranks fifth in the NFL in scoring offense (26.5) and fifth in rushing at 156.5 points per game. Now playing its second consecutive home game against what many consider to be a superior team, Cleveland could very well improve to 2-1.
Green Bay Packers (+2) at Detroit Lions
This is a great early-season matchup between two teams that are looking to rebound from what can be considered questionable early-season performances.
Green Bay heads to Detroit fresh off a less-than-stellar 31-24 victory over the New York Jets last week. That came on the heels of a blowout loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 1. One of the primary issues with Green Bay has been pass protection in front of Aaron Rodgers, who has been sacked seven times on the year. Green Bay must do a better job keeping him upright, especially considering it will be taking on a solid Lions defensive front. If that happens, the likes of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb will eat the Lions secondary alive.
In addition to that, I fully expect to see the Packers pass rush find a way to get to Matthew Stafford in this one. Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers have one sack between the two of them. Considering the talent level here, that’s hardly sustainable moving forward. And we know very well how much Stafford struggles when faced with pressure. That’s what I am banking on here in projecting a mild upset.
Photo: USA Today