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Week 3 NFL Picks

The NFL’s newest darling is only 23 and lighting the league on fire. Can Patrick Mahomes maintain this blistering start?  (Photo by Getty Images)

Last Week: 8 – 7 – 1
Season:    18 – 12 – 2

Thursday Recap

Jets 17 at Browns 21
Ten days ago Jets fan were euphoric about their future franchise quarterback. Sam Darnold was the golden child, the one to save the Jets franchise from mediocrity and decades of lousy quarterback play. Since then, Darnold has thrown 4 interceptions to 1 touchdown and lost two games the Jets probably should’ve or, at the very least, could’ve won. On Thursday night Darnold was outclassed by the top overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Baker Mayfield stole the show and brought Cleveland its first victory in nearly two years. From kickoff you could feel the stadium yearning for Mayfield to play. Every misstep by starter Tyrod Taylor was met with unified groaning. When Taylor went out late in the 2nd quarter, Cleveland got its wish. Baker Mayfield delivered. Football is fun again in Cleveland.

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Saints at Falcons
Atlanta’s offense finally put on a display worthy of their potential. I’ll wait another two or three works before I declare they’ve figured things out, though. While we’re here… Jason Garrett is the champion of retaining employment he no longer deserves. Atlanta’s Offensive Coordinator, Steve Sarkisian, is coming for Garrett’s throne. After 19 meaningful games, Sarkisian didn’t have that offense in any kind of rhythm. Before Week 2, I wondered why he didn’t simply run all the plays Kyle Shanahan called in 2016. In fairness to Sarkisian, he certainly earned his employment check this week. The Falcons were 4/4 in the red zone, 6/11 on 3rd down conversions and scored 30+ points for only the 5th time in 20 games (including playoffs) under Sarkisian. For the record, that offense dropped 30 or more points 14 times in 19 games (including playoffs) under Shanahan in 2016. FALCONS If I were Charles Barkley; Falcons -3

49ers at Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes looks amazing through two weeks. Let’s just remember this is the NFL. Who a quarterback is in his first few outings is rarely who he is a few weeks/months/years down the road. Jimmy Garoppolo was the talk of the town as the 2017 season came to a close. He’s had a rough start to the 2018 season, including one pick six and another that was called back by a questionable penalty. DeShaun Watson lit the league on fire last fall and has been anything but spectacular in his return from injury. Robert Griffin III dominated for an entire season and has bounced around as a back up since. Dak Prescott is a hot mess after a dazzling rookie season. I don’t think Mahomes is a bust or a flash in the pan. I’m just reminding you that becoming an elite NFL quarterback is a process. I have a hard time believing Mahomes will be immune to that process. CHIEFS If I were Charles Barkley; Chiefs -7

Raiders at Dolphins
I never once thought hiring Jon Gruden was a good idea. I hoped and prayed the Eagles would stay away when their head coaching position opened up in 2013 and 2016. I can’t say I don’t feel bad for Gruden, though. His team isn’t terrible. They compete and it’s not like that roster is bursting with talent. I know he’s getting roasted for the Khalil Mack trade and he probably deserves that to a certain extent. Let’s look at it from the other direction, though. (I’m just assuming Gruden had power in this situation.) New leadership inherits the mistakes of old leadership. Paying Derek Carr a record-breaking contract was the mistake. Dishing out a second record-breaking contract would have handcuffed the team for years to come. Making decisions without considering past mistakes is an even bigger mistake. Instead, Gruden opted to make the most of the situation and got back a reasonable haul for Mack. It wasn’t ideal, but the Raiders salvaged it as best they could. Well, maybe not as best they could because of that 2nd round pick they sent back to Chicago, but still, you get the point. Let’s just hold off on calling Gruden a complete fool for the rest of his life because the previous regime handcuffed him. RAIDERS If I were Charles Barkley; Raiders +3

Bills at Vikings
Josh Allen wasn’t awful last week. I was even mildly impressed. Sure, he threw two interceptions and made a handful of dumb decisions. He’s a rookie; that should be expected. What impressed me was the way he handled himself. He never panicked under pressure. He demonstrated good mobility in escaping pressure and his arm appears decent enough. I don’t get all the naysaying about his future after only 6 months in the league. Best of all, he wasn’t afraid. Carson Wentz demonstrated this in his rookie season. Whatever was thrown at him, he took it and ran with it. Sometimes he failed, sometimes he succeeded; but he wasn’t afraid. After one game, Allen demonstrated that same confidence. Speaking of quarterbacks, Kirk Cousins was a bad call away from looking like a lowercase goat last week. If not for a controversial roughing the passer call on Clay Matthews, Cousins would have thrown interceptions on back-to-back drives. Green Bay would have clinched the win as a result. Instead, Cousins turned into a hero and we forget all about his failure in clutch moments. VIKINGS If I were Charles Barkley; Vikings -17

Colts at Eagles
THE REAL 2017 NFL MVP IS BACK AND I COULDN’T BE MORE EXCITED. THAT IS ALL. EAGLES If I were Charles Barkley; Eagles -7

Packers at Redskins
Why does Mike McCarthy still have a job? Did you see Green Bay last season without Aaron Rodgers? Did you see Green Bay without Aaron Rodgers in Week 1? Did you see Green Bay with a hobbled Aaron Rodgers in Week 2? That franchise has failed him. He hasn’t been on a good team since 2014. Look at the Eagles last season. Carson Wentz is no Rodgers (yet), but a backup QB came in and led a deep and well-coached team to a Super Bowl. It’d be fun to see Rodgers on a team with a competent coach is all. Speaking of competent coaches, I’ve been a believer in Jay Gruden for too long. It’s time to defect. I don’t want to take either of these teams. Rodgers looked very uncomfortable last week and the Washington offense continually stalled against the Colts. Of their final six drives, five went for 38 yards or more. Washington only had three points to show for those five drives. REDSKINS If I were Charles Barkley; Redskins +3

Bengals at Panthers
Though it’s only been two weeks, I haven’t enjoyed Norv Turner’s offense as much as I expected. Throwing the football to CJ Anderson in the 4th quarter of a tight division game last week seemed unwise, at least to anyone that’s seen CJ Anderson try to catch a football over the last five years. Carolina is also really banged up right now. The Bengals are playing well and coming off 10 days of rest. The Panthers are staring at a bye week. I’m not giving up on the Panthers, but I’m going to give them some space until they go on an inevitable 7-3 run out of the bye. Talk soon, Carolina. BENGALS If I were Charles Barkley; Bengals +3

Titans at Jaguars
The Jaguars choked away the AFC Championship and every NFL writer, fan, and talking head spent the next seven months convincing themselves the Titans or Texans would win the AFC South. Whoops. JAGUARS If I were Charles Barkley; No Line Yet

Broncos at Ravens
Whatever relationship John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco have will surely be tested over the coming weeks. Harbaugh’s job is on the line this season. Flacco was pretty much a disaster last Thursday night. Harbaugh could probably buy himself an extra year by inserting rookie Lamar Jackson and selling ownership on some more time to develop his franchise quarterback. Whatever he does to try to save his job, it’s becoming clear Flacco isn’t the solution. BRONCOS If I were Charles Barkley; Broncos +5

Giants at Texans
September declarations about the destiny of NFL teams is a recipe for embarrassment. Yes, I have already and will continue to make foolish declarations, but I also still drink soda. My life is full of dumb decisions despite already knowing the consequences. Anyway, don’t abandon the Texans just yet. Their next three are against the Colts, Cowboys and Bills. It’s likely Houston is 3-3 or even 4-2 by mid-October. The real question is whether or not Bill O’Brien survives that long. A loss Sunday against a lowly Giants team could earn O’Brien the boot. TEXANS If I were Charles Barkley; Texans -6

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Chargers at Rams
Last week I went back and watched the Chiefs/Chargers game from Week 1. It was an interesting watch because the Chargers dropped at least five passes of 25 yards or more. Three of them would’ve been touchdowns. I know the scoreboard made it appear a blowout, but the Chargers beat themselves as much as Kansas City did. I say this because is it possible we’re overrating one Los Angeles team while underrating the other? The Rams are a legitimate title contender, no question. However, they’ve beaten up on the Raiders and Cardinals, whom undoubtedly qualify as two of the worst 10 to 12 teams in the league. Can we slow down on anointing them the best team in the NFL? RAMS If I were Charles Barkley; Chargers +7

Bears at Cardinals
The Bears offense looks like one of the best in the NFL right up until their 12-15 scripted plays run out. After that they’re pretty much a disaster. In Week 1, Chicago opened the game with an 86 yard touchdown drive and followed that up with a 60 yard drive resulting in a field goal. Their next six drives went for 4 yards, -3 yards, 5 yards, 60 yards, 8 yards and 9 yards, respectively. Against Seattle, the Bears marched 96 yards for a touchdown on their first possession. After that, they went for 16 yards, 0 yards, 11 yards, 44 yards, 6 yards, and 27 yards on their next six possessions. I wouldn’t be thrilled about Mitch Trubisky being the future of my franchise either. He can’t throw downfield, can’t hit open receivers in stride, and worst of all; his pocket presence is garbage. What’s worse, Chicago gave up two 3rd round picks and a 4th to move up one spot to draft him. On the other hand, I do like Matt Nagy and wouldn’t rule out him rescuing Trubisky from a lackluster career. I mean, things could be worse. Sam Bradford could be your quarterback. BEARS If I were Charles Barkley; Bears -5.5

Cowboys at Seahawks
My favorite part of Week 2 was Dallas beating a dreadful Giants team and their fans strutting around like they just went 16-0. Add losses by the Eagles and Redskins to the mix and you’d think the Cowboys just cured cancer. I’ll give them credit, Dallas’ defense is legit, but that offense? Woooof. The Cowboys are the 3rd worst offense in the league and are currently tied for the 3rd worst scoring output. Remember when Dak Prescott was the next great thing? Remember when all my Dallas friends said no one would trade Dak for Carson Wentz? Those were good times. We’re a few years from Prescott being someone’s backup. SEAHAWKS If I were Charles Barkley; Seahawks -1.5

Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)

Patriots at Lions
I’m in the minority here, but I don’t see how Josh Gordon solves New England’s offensive struggles. Tom Brady has had a legendary career and most of that was done without a premiere receiver. The Patriots lack an explosive running game. Dion Lewis leaving for Tennessee was a big loss to an offense that relied heavily on his play-making ability last season. Rex Burkead is fine, but he’s not going to turn two yards into a 20 yard scamper. James White is equal to Lewis in the passing game but isn’t close to Lewis as a runner. Perhaps rookie Sony Michel will grow into that role as the season continues, but for now, the offense lacks a certain punch out of the backfield. A talented wide receiver with years of baggage won’t solve too many problems. PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley; Lions +7

Monday Night (8:15PM ET)

Steelers at Buccaneers
I have no idea what to make of Tampa Bay after they steam-rolled New Orleans and Philadelphia. Everyone picked the Buccaneers to be a playoff team heading into last season. Maybe they’re reaching that potential a year later under a savvier quarterback. I’m not convinced the Ryan Fitzpatrick magic will run out in the near future. That offensive line gave Fitzpatrick plenty of time last week against one of the NFL’s premiere pass rushes. DeSean Jackson is healthy enough to keep the back end of defenses on their toes and Chris Godwin, OJ Howard and Mike Evans make up one of the deepest receiving corps the league has to offer. I’m not buying Tampa as a real contender and I would still be shocked if they made playoffs, especially in such a deep division, but they’re good. They’ll light you up if you give Fitzpatrick too much time. The Steeler defense will have its hands full. While it seems strange to say in Week 3, this could be a must win for Pittsburgh. That team is falling apart from within and only winning solves those problems. At this point I don’t even see how they bring Le’Veon Bell back into the fold. BUCCANEERS If I were Charles Barkley; Buccaneers +1.5

*****

If I were Charles Barkley;
Last Week: 7 – 9 – 0
Season:   17 – 14 – 1

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