A lot of NFL survivor players opted to extend the drama an extra day by taking Green Bay on “Monday Night Football.” With a win in the books for Packers backers, we shift our focus to Week 3.
Last week I talked about the equity in staying alive in Week 1 and then setting up the rest of the season in Week 2. Strategy starts to come into play a little more now as those who have made it past the initial weeks need to start looking more to the future.
But the future can change based on the present. While having a blueprint makes a ton of sense, contingency plans need to be part of the process. We saw a litany of important injuries in Week 2, including Carson Wentz, Tua Tagovailoa, Baker Mayfield, Brandon Brooks, Jarvis Landry, Derek Carr, Andy Dalton, Josey Jewell, T.J. Watt and Tyrod Taylor. Not all of these guys will miss this week’s games, but the ones who won’t are clearly less than 100 percent.
Injuries can throw a wrench into your plans but also can create opportunities to fade teams dealing with significant losses. Keep an eye on those late injury reports. Cluster injuries can really have a significant impact on a game and can be a great angle for your survivor pools.
Most of you are probably still alive in your survivor pools because last week produced no big upsets. The Steelers probably took out a small chunk of the field, but the Browns, Packers and Buccaneers won as the biggest favorites on the board.
The Circa survivor field had 396 losing picks in Week 2, with 252 from the Steelers game. Sixteen entries failed to make a pick. The contest now has 2,985 of the 4,080 entries that started.
Let’s check out the top options for Week 3.
GAMES TO CONSIDER
Carolina Panthers (-7.5) over Houston Texans
We’ll start here because it is the Thursday night game. Davis Mills will step into the spotlight for the Texans on a short week because of Taylor’s injury. Playing as a rookie QB in the NFL is hard enough, but doing it on Thursday in your first NFL start is an altogether different beast.
The Texans also have a first-time head coach in David Culley, who made one of the all-time worst coaching decisions last week against the Browns. On third-and-15, the Texans gained about 13.5 yards, setting up a fourth-and-short. The Browns were flagged for offsides. Culley had the choice between third-and-10 and fourth-and-2. He opted for fourth-and-2 and then punted.
How in the world is this guy going to have his team ready in a short week against a Panthers team that looks to be legitimately solid?
Cleveland Browns (-7.5) over Chicago Bears
I had one hesitation in taking the Browns last week. It was that they would be facing the Bears as the biggest favorite on the board in Week 3. As it turns out, the Browns face a smaller line than the lookahead number of -9, and Cleveland is not the biggest favorite.
Cleveland is still worthy of consideration in this spot, though. The Bears will start an injured Dalton or rookie Justin Fields. Fields was just 6-for-13 for 60 yards, threw an egregious interception, was sacked twice and had only 10 carries for 31 yards. Chicago had 3.4 yards per play overall, and that was with a pretty good stat line from Dalton before he left injured.
Chicago’s defense won the game with four turnovers and held Cincinnati to 4.6 yards per play. The Browns boast a much better offense, including a far more effective running game. Mayfield’s injury is to his non-throwing shoulder, so it shouldn’t be a huge concern.
If you have been looking to take the Browns, you won’t have many more options, as Cleveland is at Minnesota, at the Chargers, home against the Cardinals, Broncos and Steelers and then on the road for two more. The next good opportunity is Nov. 21 against the Lions. You need to be looking at the upcoming schedules before locking in your pick.
Las Vegas Raiders (-4) over Miami Dolphins
This one is a little on the dicey side because of Derek Carr’s ankle injury, but the Raiders have looked pretty potent offensively. It does appear that Tagovailoa might be back for Miami, but the offense hasn’t looked crisp with him in the game anyway.
The spot is really favorable for Las Vegas. Miami just played back-to-back division games at home and now makes the long trek out to Sin City to cross three time zones and take on a Raiders team that played very well in a compromising spot at Pittsburgh. The lookahead line was -1, and the line is up to -4 now. Clearly opinions have changed about these teams, and it isn’t the difference between Tagovailoa and Jacoby Brissett.
The Raiders should take care of business here, but Carr’s injury increases the risk.
Baltimore Ravens (-9) over Detroit Lions
The Lions are on a short week after “Monday Night Football” against the Green Bay Packers. That means one fewer day for a first-time head coach in Dan Campbell to try to be ready for Lamar Jackson. Maybe there is no way to truly be ready for Jackson, no matter how many days to prepare.
The Ravens did celebrate their win over the Chiefs as if it were the Super Bowl. It was a highly emotional game for Baltimore, which got over the hump in an instant classic on “Sunday Night Football.”
It would be tough for the Ravens to match the intensity of that game, but this is a team with 6.6 yards per play thus far. The Ravens also continue to have the best running game in the NFL at 5.9 yards per carry.
San Francisco actually had a lot of success through the air against Detroit in Week 1, but Elijah Mitchell ran for 104 yards on 19 carries. Detroit’s defense is bad. The offense isn’t, so this could be a high-scoring game, but Baltimore seems content to play in that type of environment now.
Against the Packers, the Lions started a 2020 second-round pick, a 2021 third-round pick and two undrafted free agents in the secondary and even lost one of them to injury.
Detroit simply can’t keep up offensively here, and that will be the task because the defense won’t get many stops.
Denver Broncos (-11) over New York Jets
The Broncos are the biggest favorite on the board, but when those spots pop up with middle-of-the-road teams, it can be really hard to pass. There won’t be another spot to take the Broncos as this big a favorite, so using them to save another team makes a lot of sense.
The Jets predictably struggled with the Patriots in Week 2. Bill Belichick has a long-standing history of making rookie QBs look bad, and Zach Wilson looked about as bad as possible with four interceptions. With Wilson at the helm, the Jets have managed just 4.6 yards per play. Their five turnovers are tied for the most in the league.
Denver posts a top-five defense in yards per play allowed, adjusted net yards per pass attempt and points allowed per drive. The Broncos are also historically an excellent team at home early in the season, going 18-3 SU in the home opener over the last 21 seasons. While that stat typically encompasses Weeks 1 and 2, teams still aren’t in midseason shape, and the altitude has been a major factor for the Broncos in those home games.
Along with a quality defense, the Broncos’ offense has played extremely well. Teddy Bridgewater looks great, as the Broncos are second in completion percentage, sixth in adjusted net yards per pass attempt and eighth in points per drive.
The Broncos are 2-0 and have only four touchdowns in nine red-zone trips. That should improve as the season goes along. and it could very well happen with several chances against the Jets.
Pick: Denver Broncos