Broncos -3 at Buccaneers
This is a rare 1:05 pm PST start for a western team traveling east, and it's welcome change to help balance that there are SEVEN 10:00 am games. Tampa had this same situation last week hosting L.A., and San Diego got a 1:25 pm game in Indy last week while Oakland has back to back early starts. It seems pretty arbitrary to put certain West Coast teams at that built in disadvantage over others, and selfishly, it puts us viewers in a scramble with so many early games and few options late!
Okay, now that I got that off my chest, I'm going with the surprisingly 3-0 defending champs thanks to the growth of Trevor Siemian, who is starting to let it rip and make better throws in the red zone. Their ferocious defense should be able to contain Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, and Charles Sims, so the inexperienced passer just needs to make enough plays to open up the running game. The Bucs are stout against the run, but they struggled against Case Keenum with top rusher Robert Ayers out.
|The AFC Defensive Player of the Month could feast on TB's tackles.|
Speaking of West Coast teams struggling with early start times, I stayed away from picking Arizona last week given their struggles in the Eastern Time Zone and since it was a must-win game for Buffalo. Now that they're back home against a fluky 2-1 Rams team, I think this is a good spot for them to let out their frustrations. David Johnson has continued to be the dual-threat monster we all expected him to be, averaging nearly 129 yards from scrimmage through three games, and he should be able to get loose for some more big plays to make Carson Palmer's life easier. After last week's struggles, their normally stout run defense will need to stack the box against Todd Gurley, and they should be able to thanks to the quick impact of shrewd pickup Marcus Cooper across from Patrick Peterson, who is an absurd highlight machine.
Chiefs +5.5 at Steelers
I touched on Pittsburgh a bit in the open, and their already underwhelming defense could be really weak down the middle with injuries to inside linebacker Ryan Shazier, nickelback Sean Davis, and strong safety Robert Golden. All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell returns from suspension this week to boost the offense, but Kansas City's defense has been great since halftime of their opener, including last week's SIX interception performance. I would feel a lot better about this game if it was also in Arrowhead, but Alex Smith should be able to find Travis Kelce and Jeremy Maclin for chunk plays. I'd expect Jamaal Charles to be eased into the action in his season debut as a change of pace runner behind the effective Spencer Ware, and that extra spark could put them over the top to win outright.
Vikings -4 versus Giants
In my straight picks pool with family and friends, I was the only one to take Minnesota as road underdogs, and my Super Bowl sleeper came through. Coming off their dominant eight sack game, their elite defense is back at home against New York's overmatched offensive tackles. Eli Manning does a good job of avoiding sacks by getting the ball out quickly, but he'll certainly feel the heat and might force throws into more interceptions due to injuries to running backs Shane Vereen and Rashad Jennings. His quarterback counterpart Sam Bradford has done an impressive job considering the situation, and former Pro Bowl tight end Kyle Rudolph has re-emerged as a reliable target for him. Jerrick McKinnon will have a hard time finding room to run with this struggling offensive line going against a stout front, but if Norv Turner can scheme him into open space, he's capable of running away from NY's linebackers and safeties. Both Darian Thompson and Nat Berhe are out at free safety, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie could join fellow corner Eli Apple on the sidelines injured, meaning breakout receiver Stefon Diggs could find himself in the end zone for the Vikings.
I also like the Raiders +3.5, Patriots -7.5, Jets +2.5, and Panthers -3, but they all have a certain level of uncertainty leading me to shy away.
Last week: 3-2
Season total: 16-11