Sunday’s games are an appetizer at best. Even a terrific matchup like the Los Angeles Rams facing the Bills in New York seems like a snoozer when the matchup between Kansas City and Baltimore awaits on Monday night. But the league still plans on playing the other games, and there should be some good ones along the way to get you ready for Monday.
Here is a look at N.F.L. Week 3, with all picks made against the point spread.
Last week’s record: 9-7
Overall record: 17-15
Los Angeles Rams at Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m., Fox
Line: Bills -2 | Total: 47.5
After a 2019 in which everything went wrong, the Rams (2-0) seem to have found some of their 2018 magic, grinding out a win over Dallas in Week 1 before blowing out Philadelphia in Week 2. They’ll face the Bills (2-0), who have dominated even though the team’s prime asset — its defense — has played below its standards. It seems like a waste for such a game to be relegated to a 1 p.m. time slot.
For Buffalo, an explosion of the team’s passing game can be attributed to weak competition, but also to wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Acquired in a trade with Minnesota, Diggs has given the Bills the No. 1 receiver it lacked, which has opened up the entire field for quarterback Josh Allen. The big-armed Allen has responded with a league-leading 729 yards passing and six touchdowns, with no interceptions. And with the team’s running game off to a sluggish start, and its defense still rounding into form, Buffalo actually has quite a bit of room for improvement.
The Bills may need to show that improvement quickly, as the Rams have a lot of options on offense, even with the rookie running back Cam Akers injured. And Los Angeles, while not exactly the Steelers, is not a pushover in pass defense.
The Bills are a narrow favorite at home, and that feels right. Pick: Bills -2
Las Vegas Raiders at New England Patriots, 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Patriots -6 | Total: 47.5
The Raiders (2-0) are off to a nice start to their season and just opened their new home in Las Vegas in style with a huge win over New Orleans. For their trouble, they now get Cam Newton and the Patriots (1-1) in Foxborough, Mass. That hardly seems fair.
Newton opened up the full arsenal of the New England offense against Seattle last week, and if he had been able to run in a goal-line touchdown — something he typically does with ease — the Patriots would have shocked a Super Bowl contender on their turf.
New England’s defense has shown some effects from an off-season spent shedding players, or having them opt out of the season, which could leave open some room for quarterback Derek Carr to put points on the board. But there’s little reason to believe that a red-hot Newton can’t will his team to victory. Pick: Patriots -6
Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints, 8:20 p.m., NBC
Line: Saints -3 | Total: 52
Between how pedestrian the Saints (1-1) looked on Monday night, and how terrifically the Packers (2-0) have played in both of their games, the Saints being favored, even at home, is one of the more surprising decisions of the week by oddsmakers. It could be a matter of the New Orleans defense being the stiffest test that quarterback Aaron Rodgers, running back Aaron Jones and the Packers have faced this year. It might be a belief that Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara are capable of more than they’ve shown. Or it might just be a holdover belief that you have to respect the Saints at home. But based on everything we’ve actually seen, Green Bay should be expected to win. Pick: Packers +3
Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks, 4:25 p.m., Fox
Line: Seahawks -4.5 | Total: 55.5
It would be easier to feel good about the Cowboys (1-1) and their huge comeback victory against Atlanta last week if they had not fallen behind, 29-10, in the first place. There is clearly something amiss for the Dallas defense, and facing Russell Wilson and the Seahawks (2-0) in Seattle is not a good time to work through your issues. Pick: Seahawks -4.5
Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens, 8:15 p.m., ESPN
Line: Ravens -3.5 | Total: 54.5
Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs (2-0). Lamar Jackson and the Ravens (2-0). There are no better quarterbacks in the N.F.L., no better teams and there is no better matchup that the league could have for a prime time game. The hype will reach a peak likely unseen since the epic 2018 clash between the Chiefs and the Rams, which could be setting us up for disappointment, even if the game is a thriller.
This game comes one day short of the one-year anniversary of Baltimore’s last regular-season loss, and it’s not hard to figure out how the Ravens have stayed so consistent thanks to a running game that is the most productive the N.F.L. has ever seen, and a passing attack that is not big on yardage, but is almost ruthlessly efficient. Couple that with a defense that is solid at every level and it’s no wonder that they win so many games in blowouts.
Kansas City’s formula is even simpler: Mahomes. At no point in any game that he’s playing, no matter the score, can the Chiefs be counted out, and that helps hide any deficiencies the team might have in overall defensive depth. That they’ve surrounded Mahomes with a group of ultrafast and reliable receivers, while retaining Harrison Butker as one of the game’s elite long-distance kickers, pays dividends regularly, including last week’s come-from-behind overtime victory against the Chargers in a game Kansas City absolutely should have lost.
Between home-field advantage and the team’s superior defense, Baltimore is a rightful favorite. But even if it’s 35-3 at halftime, you’ll want to keep watching, just in case. Pick: Ravens -3.5
Miami Dolphins at Jacksonville Jaguars, 8:20 p.m., NFL Network
Line: Jaguars -3 | Total: 47
There’s no reason to believe the Jaguars (1-1) are a fundamentally better team than anyone assumed coming into the season, but they have certainly shown a knack for taking advantage of any gifts their competition gives them. In Week 1, that meant scoring 14 points off turnovers. In Week 2, it meant making up a ton of ground against Tennessee even after quarterback Ryan Tannehill got his team off to a hot start.
Jacksonville appears to be settling in as a flawed team that will try hard from week to week, which is also a decent description of the Dolphins (0-2). But considering how well quarterback Gardner Minshew and running back James Robinson have been playing, and that Miami’s defense will take a huge blow if cornerback Byron Jones is unable to play through a groin injury, this seems like an excellent opportunity for Jacksonville to get off to a 2-0 start at home. Pick: Jaguars -3
Sunday’s Other Games
Houston Texans at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Steelers -3.5 | Total: 45
The Texans (0-2) opened the season with games against the N.F.L.’s two best teams (Kansas City and Baltimore), and did an excellent job of not standing in either team’s way. Things have been particularly brutal in terms of run defense, where they’ve allowed an average of 198 yards a game. That should be music to James Conner’s ears, as Pittsburgh loves to focus on the run and would be more than content to let him carry them to a win at home. Pittsburgh’s stellar defense, meanwhile, is likely smarting after allowing a combined 37 points against weak competition in the Giants and Broncos, and they should be amped up for a challenge from Houston’s Deshaun Watson. Pick: Steelers -3.5
Tennessee Titans at Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Titans -2.5 | Total: 47.5
The Titans (2-0) put most of their energy into preserving the team’s offense this off-season and that is showing up in the results so far, with quarterback Ryan Tannehill (six passing touchdowns, no interceptions) and running back Derrick Henry (200 yards rushing) doing their thing. But the team’s defense keeps things so close that both games have come down to a last-minute field goal by Stephen Gostkowski. Their offense should meet very little resistance from the woeful defense of the Vikings (0-2), but if Tennessee can barely slow down Denver or Jacksonville, it could be in for a world of hurt against Kirk Cousins and Minnesota. Pick: Vikings +2.5
Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals, 4:25 p.m., Fox
Line: Cardinals -5.5 | Total: 54.5
Any football game can go sideways, so this should be taken with a fairly large grain of salt, but the path to a 5-0 start seems to be cleared for the Cardinals (2-0), who are red-hot and have their next three games against the Lions (0-2), the Panthers (0-2) and the Jets (0-2). Things get decidedly more difficult beyond that, with games against Dallas and Seattle ahead of Arizona’s Week 8 bye, but so far Arizona seems like a team that can beat up on the league’s lesser teams at the very least. Pick: Cardinals -5.5
San Francisco 49ers at Giants, 1 p.m., Fox
Line: 49ers -4.5 | Total: 40.5
The 49ers (1-1) will definitely be without defensive ends Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas, cornerback Richard Sherman, center Weston Richburg and running back Tevin Coleman. They’ll likely be without quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, running back Raheem Mostert and tight end George Kittle. And they’re favored by 4.5 points on the road. The Giants (0-2) stink. Pick: 49ers -4.5
Carolina Panthers at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 p.m., CBS
Line: Chargers -6.5 | Total: 43.5
The circumstances of Tyrod Taylor’s late scratch last week — it has been reported by ESPN that his lung was punctured by a team doctor during treatment for injured ribs — are terrifying and upsetting. The veteran quarterback may miss multiple games as a result, adding yet another obstacle to a career in which Taylor has often been far better than his own teams seem to realize. Complicating matters for Taylor, whenever he does return, is the phenomenal performance the rookie Justin Herbert turned in during an overtime loss to Kansas City last week.
Herbert was just the third quarterback to ever have 300-plus passing yards and a rushing touchdown in his first N.F.L. game (Otto Graham and Cam Newton are the others), and if he follows up that performance with a win over the Christian McCaffrey-less Panthers (0-2), it may be very hard to unseat him from the starting job. That win is certainly possible, but giving a rookie a spread of nearly a touchdown is overly generous. Pick: Panthers +6.5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Denver Broncos, 4:25 p.m., Fox
Line: Buccaneers -6 | Total: 43
When Tom Brady chose the Buccaneers (1-1) it was likely based on the team’s terrific defense and its depth at wide receiver. Having running back Leonard Fournette fall into the team’s lap was icing on the cake, and things seemed to be running at full speed in a Week 2 win over Carolina. The Panthers weren’t the toughest competition, and neither are the Broncos (0-2) — especially with quarterback Drew Lock and wide receiver Courtland Sutton both out — but at this point, getting Fournette into a rhythm and developing chemistry between Brady and his receivers is an important step for when Tampa Bay does face someone good. Pick: Buccaneers -6
Jets at Indianapolis Colts, 4:05 p.m., CBS
Line: Colts -10.5 | Total: 43
As 49ers players dropped like flies last week, the Jets (0-2) never even made things close. They were playing backups, and backups to backups, for much of the game, and they got blown out. Now the team faces the Colts (1-1), who shook off an opening week letdown against Jacksonville by looking strong on both sides of the ball last week.
The Jets were leaving open running lanes last week, so a huge day from Jonathan Taylor, the Colts’ rookie running back, may be in order. There’s no reason to expect a Jets victory, but banking on Indianapolis to keep its foot on the gas long enough to justify a double-digit point spread is unrealistic. Pick: Jets +10.5
Chicago Bears at Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m., Fox
Line: Falcons -3.5 | Total: 47.5
The Falcons (0-2) came into the season believing some additions to the team’s offense could put them back on the playoff map. Through two weeks, their defense has allowed 953 total yards and 78 points, so even if they found a way to sneak the Ravens offense onto the field they’d still be in trouble. Now Atlanta faces an interesting challenge in the Bears (2-0) who have a little momentum to start their season (with the extremely large caveat that their wins came against the Lions and the Giants).
Matt Ryan has enough options at his disposal that he absolutely should be able to out-duel Mitchell Trubisky at home, but this game is largely a tossup based on Atlanta’s defense and the psychological impact of last week’s collapse against Dallas. Pick: Falcons -3.5
Cincinnati Bengals at Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Eagles -6 | Total: 46
He may not have a win yet, but Joe Burrow of the Bengals (0-2) is impressing a lot of people. The top pick in this year’s draft had an exciting touchdown run in Week 1 and threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns in Week 2. Week 3 against the Eagles (0-2) seems like an excellent opportunity for him to get his first career win, though his chances swing heavily on the health of Philadelphia’s offensive line. Pick: Bengals +6
Washington Football Team at Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m., Fox
Line: Browns -7 | Total: 43.5
The Footballers (1-1) crashed to Earth a bit in Week 2, though there’s no shame in losing to the Cardinals. If there’s a glimmer of hope in a road game where they’re a sizable underdog, it’s that the Browns (1-1) have allowed 64 points through two games, which could give this game shootout, rather than blowout, potential. Cleveland is a much more talented team, but if they’re going to let Cincinnati play them close, there’s reason to believe they’ll do the same with Washington. Pick: Footballers +7
How Betting Lines Work
A quick primer for those who are not familiar with betting lines: Favorites are listed next to a negative number that represents how many points they must win by to cover the spread. Seahawks -4.5, for example, means that Seattle must beat Dallas by at least five points for its backers to win their bet. Gamblers can also bet on the total score, or whether the teams’ combined score in the game is over or under a preselected number of points.
All times are Eastern.