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Phinsider Week 3 Game Previews and Predictions

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It’s time for another edition of Justin Hier’s weekly Game Previews and Predictions!

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Week 2 has come and gone and your lovable Phinsider Staff Writer had a pretty good week predicting the winners of each NFL matchup. This time around, there are seems to be much more uncertainty at hand with plenty of close games ahead this Sunday. Unfortunately for our division rival Jets, I don’t see Miami’s game in the Meadowlands being one of those games.

Each week of the NFL season, I’ll be giving you a sneak peak of the action ahead, as well as my own forecast for the outcome of each contest. Feel free to leave your own predictions and opinions in the comments below!

Week 2 prediction record: 14-2

2017 season prediction record: 24-7

Thursday

Los Angeles Rams (1-1) at San Francisco 49ers (0-2) - 8:25 PM ET on NFLN

Talk about an exciting contest to open week 3! No, seriously, the NFL has gotten plenty of flak for their poor matchups that take place during Thursday Night Football, but they were practically asking for criticism on this one. I understand that creating the NFL schedule is a painstaking process that requires the whittling down of millions of possible combinations to the best possible schedule, but there must have been one option that avoided having the Rams and 49ers getting a primetime slot on a Thursday night. Oh well. Let’s hope, at the very least, that Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald make this game watchable.

Score prediction: Los Angeles 20 - San Francisco 10

Sunday

Baltimore Ravens (2-0) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) - 9:30 AM ET on Yahoo

The Ravens and Jaguars will travel to London for the NFL’s first international game of the season for what should be a defense heavy slugfest. Both teams have fearsome defensive lines and capable secondaries that will make life difficult for Joe Flacco and Blake Bortles, so Londoners shouldn’t be surprised if this one turns out to be a low scoring affair. Tennessee found a way to keep Leonard Fournette in check last week, and it will be interesting to see if the Ravens can do the same against the dynamic rookie.

Score prediction: Baltimore 23 - Jacksonville 17

Cleveland Browns (0-2) at Indianapolis Colts (0-2) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

“Ladies and gentleman... put your hands together for... DeShone Kizer v Jacoby Brissett!” Said no one. Ever. A Cleveland Browns at Indianapolis Colts contest may not entice viewers very much when Andrew Luck won’t be involved, but this game may be more impactful than one might think. The Browns have had two very tough matchups against division rivals to open the season and remained relatively competitive in both, so going up against a lackluster Colts squad will be a good measure as to whether or not head coach Hue Jackson is truly making any progress in rebuilding this long snake bitten franchise.

Score prediction: Cleveland 20 - Indianapolis 14

New York Giants (0-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

The Giants’ offense has struggled mightily to get off the ground over the team’s first two games, and unfortunately for Giants fans, the going gets even tougher against a tough Philadelphia defense. New York’s biggest weakness is in their offensive line. Phily’s greatest defensive strength just so happens to be their defensive line. Expect Fletcher Cox and company to harass Eli Manning all day.

Score prediction: Philadelphia 24 - New York 17

Miami Dolphins (1-0) at New York Jets (0-2) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

The Dolphins pulled out a tough win in Los Angeles last week and hit the road again for their first divisional game of the season against the Jets. Jay Cutler got off to a solid start last Sunday, completing 24 of 33 pass attempts for 230 yards and one touchdown for a quarterback rating of 101.8 against a much improved Los Angeles Chargers defense. Facing the Jets this week, Dolfans can expect even more from Cutler and the entire Miami offense. The rebuilding Jets are going to struggle to win any and all games this season, and their match against the Dolphins should be no exception.

Score prediction: Miami 30 - New York 17

Denver Broncos (2-0) at Buffalo Bills (1-1) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

Denver handily defeated the hyped up Dallas Cowboys offense last week, shutting down Ezekiel Elliott to the tune of eight yards on nine carries. That’s right, the Broncos defense held last season’s leading rusher to under 0.9 yards per carry! Buffalo’s rushing attack is nothing to be laughed at, but if the Broncos can corral Elliott, expect them to do the same to LeSean McCoy. I would say Tyrod Taylor will have to win this one through the air, but Denver’s secondary is just as scary as its front seven.

Score prediction: Denver 21 - Buffalo 14

New Orleans Saints (0-2) at Carolina Panthers (2-0) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

The Saints have begun another season of tough sledding for their defense, a unit that has given up a league worst 512.5 yards per game over their first two contests of the season. However, Drew Brees and the offense have put up 386.5 yards per game over that same span, good for third best in the league. It’s that same offense that I believe will help the team get a win against a Carolina offense now missing one of its best weapons with Greg Olsen on IR due to a foot injury. This game should be close, but Sean Peyton’s unit will avoid an 0-3 start.

Score prediction: New Orleans 28 - Carolina 27

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0) at Chicago Bears (0-2) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

Le’Veon Bell has yet to fully burst onto the scene so far this season, but that breakout game should be just over the horizon. This week in Chicago will be a good test for the superstar back, as the Bears’ defense is not a complete pushover, but is by no means elite. If Bell does not find a rhythm in this game, concerns may begin to arise about whether or not he’s truly worth the pay of a number one running back AND a number two receiver, the type of money he is looking for.

Score prediction: Pittsburgh 30 - Chicago 20

Atlanta Falcons (2-0) at Detroit Lions (2-0) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

This game has all the makings of a perfect shootout. Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford have both played well to begin the season, and their offenses are already running in high gear. Both teams are coming off impressive wins and will look to make a statement by opening the year with three straight wins. Both teams also have defenses that have performed better than expected thus far. Expect to see the ball aired out plenty in this contest. It’s time for Stafford to show he deserves that bountiful contract.

Score prediction: Atlanta 35 - Detroit 30

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) at Minnesota Vikings (1-1) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

The Buccaneers came out of the gate HOT by steamrolling the Chicago Bears last week. That Tampa Bay front seven was absolutely fearsome and will certainly cause some problems for whoever lines up behind Minnesota’s offensive line. Many pundits had the Bucs pegged to be a playoff team this season, and they certainly showed they have the talent to meet those expectations.

The Vikings, on the other hand, desperately need Sam Bradford to show up healthy and play well in this matchup. Despite Minnesota’s strong defense, Jameis Winston will find a way to get Mike Evans the ball. Bradford needs to do the same with his set of receivers to stand a chance.

Score prediction: Tampa Bay 24 - Minnesota 20

Houston Texans (1-1) at New England Patriots (1-1) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

Well that lasted long. Really though, who thought the Patriots were truly on the decline after losing one game to an extremely talented Kansas City Chiefs team. Yes, we learned that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are not invincible, but they are not going away just yet. We know the key to forcing Brady into making mistakes is by bringing pressure, and that is exactly what J.J. Watt and the rest of Houston’s defense will look to do this Sunday. The Chiefs laid the blueprint for winning in Foxborough. Now, let’s see if Houston can execute it.

Score prediction: New England 28 - Houston 17

Seattle Seahawks (1-1) at Tennessee Titans (1-1) - 4:05 PM ET on FOX

Seattle’s offense seems to sputter at the start of every NFL season, but they better get back on track soon if they want to be a contender this year. Tennessee’s offense, on the other hand, looks to be running at full steam. Derrick Henry has supplanted DeMarco Murray for the time being and is throwing off tacklers left and right. He gets a difficult matchup against Seattle’s vaunted front seven, but if he can gain enough yards on the ground to keep the pressure off of Marcus Mariota, the Titans should be able to steal this game from the visiting Seahawks.

Score prediction: Tennessee 23 - Seattle 20

Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) at Green Bay Packers (1-1) - 4:25 PM ET on CBS

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers could not pull off a magical comeback in Atlanta, but there’s no reason to panic about this Green Bay team. Hardly anyone was able to stop the Atlanta Falcons’ high flying offense last season, an offense that appears to be just as dangerous this year. What could be a true concern is Green Bay’s mounting number of injuries on both sides of the ball. So far, it doesn’t appear that many of them are serious season long ailments, but the Packers better hope they stay healthier than last season. Trotting out the type of secondary that they had last year will not win them a Super Bowl.

Score prediction: Green Bay 28 - Cincinnati 17

Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) at Los Angeles Chargers (0-2) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

Poor Chargers fans. This team had so much potential heading into the season with an offense containing plenty of weapons led by a very capable passer in Philip Rivers and a defense that could get to the opposing team’s quarterback. Now, because of poor special teams play, the Chargers are entering week 3 with an 0-2 record and are about to face a very strong Kansas City Chiefs team.

What’s worse? The Chargers schedule doesn’t lighten up from here. After the Chiefs, Los Angeles will play the Eagles, Giants, Raiders, and Broncos, before traveling to Foxborough to face the Patriots. To save their season from falling to 0-3, the Chargers will need to find some way to control Kareem Hunt and stop a revitalized Alex Smith, a tall order for Anthony Lynn and company.

Score prediction: Kansas City 24 - Los Angeles 21

Oakland Raiders (2-0) at Washington Redskins (1-1) - 1:00 PM ET on NBC

The Raiders are coming off of a beatdown of the Jets in which they got to fully stretch their offensive legs, but are now facing an opponent that can actually score back in Kirk Cousins. Despite losing Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson in free agency, the Redskins still have a bevy of weapons in Jordan Reed (if healthy), Terrelle Pryor, Chris Thompson, and Jamison Crowder.

The real trick to this matchup will be defense. Neither squad has a defensive unit that is truly imposing, and with two offenses that can put up plenty of points, the defense that comes out bending but not breaking by forcing their opposition to kick field goals will come out with a win.

Score prediction: Oakland 30 - Washington 27

Monday

Dallas Cowboys (1-1) at Arizona Cardinals (1-1) - 8:30 PM ET on ESPN

Dallas just got a reality check last week with a 42-17 shellacking by the hands of Vance Joseph and the Denver Broncos, while Arizona just barely squeezed a win against the lifeless Colts. Denver gave the entire league a perfect road map to beating the Cowboys: stop Ezekiel Elliot. While that might be much easier said than done, Arizona has a formidable defense, one that is capable of holding down the fort in the trenches. Their real test will be getting their offense going without David Johnson, something they could not do in Indianapolis.

Score prediction: Dallas 21 - Arizona 16