Week 3 NFL predictions: Bet big on Patriots, Packers, Seahawks, Steelers

Here are our NFL Nation reporters' predictions for Week 3:



Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons should benefit from the Cowboys being without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. That doesn’t mean they can relax though. Defensively, the Falcons have to be ready to contend with one of the best offensive lines in the league, meaning the Cowboys could pound the ball on the ground and try to dominate time of possession with quarterback Brandon Weeden -- who has lost eight straight starts. On offense, the Falcons have to at least try and establish their own running game with Devonta Freeman, which would give Julio Jones even more breathing space. There’s no reason to believe the Cowboys will slow down Jones, who has caught 22 of the 27 passes thrown to him by Matt Ryan. Falcons 21, Cowboys 17. -- Vaughn McClure

Dallas Cowboys: Coach Jason Garrett talks about overcoming adversity all of the time. Without Romo and Bryant, the Cowboys cannot be facing a more adverse situation Sunday against the Falcons. However, if the Cowboys want to be viewed as a true contender, these are the games they need to win. The Cowboys have yet to get the running game going -- just 3.4 yards per carry and one rush by a running back of more than 10 yards. Last year, the Cowboys had 10 such runs in the first two games. If the Cowboys' line is as good as everybody says it is, this is the week to prove it. Cowboys 24, Falcons 17. -- Todd Archer


Indianapolis Colts: The Colts haven’t lost an AFC South game since Week 15 of the 2012 season. They’ve beaten the Titans seven consecutive times and 12 of the past 13 times. And, more importantly, the Colts are a team desperately looking for their first victory. Quarterback Andrew Luck, who has a league-high six turnovers, will get it going at some point. Why not Sunday? Colts 28, Titans 17. -- Mike Wells

Tennessee Titans: The Colts have beaten the Titans in 12 of the past 13 meetings, and the one win was not against Peyton Manning nor Luck -- it was against Curtis Painter. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Titans win, but I can’t pick it until after it actually happens. Colts 23, Titans 20. -- Paul Kuharsky


Oakland Raiders: Yes, I know the Raiders have lost 19 of their past 20 road games and they went 0-8 on the road last season. Yes, I know the Raiders have lost 16 consecutive games in the Eastern Time Zone. Yes, I know the Oakland defense has been awful this season, allowing a league-worst 445 yards a game while surrendering 66 points in two games. But the Raiders may be a little better than the Browns, and their offense will make enough plays to give the Raiders a mini-upset in a winnable game. Raiders 27, Browns 20. -- Bill Williamson

Cleveland Browns: When I picked this game in preseason, I thought the Raiders would have one of the more improved defenses in the league. The opposite has happened. Quarterbacks have completed 72 percent on the Raiders' defense for 653 yards, while offenses have scored 66 points. The Browns' offense will be able to score on this group, and the defense will do enough to disrupt Derek Carr. Browns 24, Raiders 19. -- Pat McManamon


Cincinnati Bengals: With a fully upright Andy Dalton through two weeks, the Bengals boast one of the league’s best offensive lines. According to Pro Football Focus, the Ravens have one of the worst O-lines as their league-low pass-blocking grade will attest. Later this year, the Ravens may beat the Bengals in Cincinnati. But not this weekend. The Bengals are riding high thanks to consecutive years of team-wide stability. Baltimore is still trying to overcome key injuries and mesh its offseason acquisitions into the fold. Bengals 23, Ravens 20. -- Coley Harvey

Baltimore Ravens: If there's one team that's happy to be home Sunday, it's the Ravens. After going winless on the West Coast, the Ravens return to M&T Bank Stadium where they are 6-1 in home openers under coach John Harbaugh. Their average margin of victory is 15.8 points. It has been a similar trend of dominance against Dalton. In four career starts in Baltimore, Dalton has thrown seven interceptions and has been sacked 11 times. Ravens 27, Bengals 20. -- Jamison Hensley


Jacksonville Jaguars: There's really only one stat that matters in this matchup: 9. That's the number of starters and key reserves the Jaguars may not have Sunday because of injuries. That includes two offensive linemen (LT Luke Joeckel and RG Brandon Linder). Four of the starters are definitely out (TE Julius Thomas, DT Sen'Derrick Marks, DE Andre Branch, S Johnathan Cyprien). It's tough enough to beat the Patriots at full strength. Doing it with a depleted roster is almost impossible. Patriots 35, Jaguars 17. -- Michael DiRocco

New England Patriots: Tom Brady needs one touchdown pass to hit 400 for his career, and he should have opportunities to hit the mark against an improving Jaguars team that is a heavy underdog. The Patriots also will look to get the running game going more than they have the first two weeks. Patriots 30, Jaguars 17. -- Mike Reiss


New Orleans Saints: Whether or not stars Drew Brees and Luke Kuechly play, this will be a tough matchup for a Saints offense that hasn’t found its rhythm yet this season. The Saints have scored 38 points (their lowest output through two games since 2007). The Panthers' defense is allowing just 13 points per game, which ranks second in the NFL, and is tied for first in the NFL in opponents’ completion percentage (50.0). Eventually the Saints' offense should right the ship, but can they do it in Carolina without Brees at 100 percent? Panthers 23, Saints 19. -- Mike Triplett

Carolina Panthers: With or without Brees, the Saints will be overmatched by Carolina’s fifth-ranked defense. The Saints are averaging only 79 yards rushing a game, and the Panthers are allowing only 78.5. When Carolina makes a team one-dimensional, the defense feasts on pressuring quarterbacks. Panthers 27, Saints 14. -- David Newton


Philadelphia Eagles: It almost seems as if the forces of nature dictate an Eagles victory over the New York Jets. The Eagles can’t be as bad as their 0-2 record suggests, and the Jets are due to stumble from 2-0. But let’s stick with what’s in front of us: The Eagles' offense is dysfunctional, and the Jets' defense is pretty darn good. Jets 17, Eagles 13.. -- Phil Sheridan

New York Jets: The Jets are a banged-up team operating on a short week -- not a good combination when you’re facing a Chip Kelly offense for the first time. The Jets also could have tired legs after a Monday night win on the road, and that could be a factor against the Eagles’ up-tempo offense. The Jets are facing a desperate opponent, and they have a matchup nightmare with speedy running back Darren Sproles. Eagles 24, Jets 21. -- Rich Cimini


Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Will the Bucs’ momentum continue? It’s possible. J.J. Watt will cause trouble, but with a healthier Mike Evans at Jameis Winston’s disposal, Tampa Bay should do enough to improve to 2-1. Bucs 23, Texans 20. -- Andrew Astleford

Houston Texans: The Texans’ offensive line will have to regroup after losing Jeff Adams, who started their first two games, once at right tackle and once at left guard. Arian Foster likely won’t be back, and DeAndre Hopkins’ concussion puts him in question. While the Buccaneers' offense has questions, their defense had four sacks last week, and that kind of pressure will be difficult for a Texans’ offense that could be missing several key players. Buccaneers 19, Texans 17. -- Tania Ganguli


San Diego Chargers: The Chargers are allowing 122 rushing yards per game (No. 21 in the NFL) and face a revitalized Adrian Peterson. Are the Chargers in trouble? Don’t bet on it. San Diego defensive coordinator John Pagano will stack the box and force second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to beat the Chargers through the air. On offense, look for the Bolts to lean on Melvin Gordon and the run game. Chargers 24, Vikings 20. -- Eric D. Williams

Minnesota Vikings: Peterson will face a defense that’s allowed 5.16 yards per carry -- including 3.87 yards before contact -- so far this season. A run defense that porous won’t be able to keep the Vikings from controlling the game, particularly if the Vikings are able to hit Philip Rivers as frequently as they were able to hit Matthew Stafford last Sunday. Behind a solid day from Peterson, the Vikings will get to 2-1. Vikings 24, Chargers 20. -- Ben Goessling


Pittsburgh Steelers: Le’Veon Bell will provide an emotional and physical lift for an already loaded offense. Ben Roethlisberger takes a few sacks against the Rams’ vaunted front but tests St. Louis’ back seven all day. The Steelers' defense played with a better rhythm in Week 2 after getting to Colin Kaepernick. Expect that momentum to continue against Nick Foles, who sometimes struggles picking up blitzes and sensing pressure. The Steelers can disguise pressures to get into the backfield. Steelers 34, Rams 20. -- Jeremy Fowler

St. Louis Rams: Bell will make his season debut, and Rams running back Todd Gurley could potentially make his first career appearance. The Rams struggled against the run last week, allowing 182 rushing yards against Washington's two-headed attack of Alfred Morris and Matt Jones. Bell and DeAngelo Williams is a better combo, and the Steelers have much better complementary pieces on offense than Washington. The Rams' offense won't have the firepower to keep up. Steelers 30, Rams 20. -- Nick Wagoner


San Francisco 49ers: The Cardinals just dropped 48 points on the Bears in Chicago. The 49ers just gave up 43 points in Pittsburgh. Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer has yet to get sacked through two games, and the 49ers have only one defensive lineman or linebacker on the roster with a positive pass-rush grade in Aaron Lynch, per PFF. San Francisco has no business winning this game. And yet, division rivalry games are always a toss-up, so let’s go with the gut here. Besides, Colin Kaepernick is 4-1 against the Cardinals with nine touchdown passes, his most against any opponent. 49ers 27, Cardinals 26. -- Paul Gutierrez

Arizona Cardinals: Expect Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer to take out his frustration in never having beaten the 49ers. The Cardinals’ offense looks like a locomotive, leading the NFL with 79 points scored and a point differential of 37. After allowing three points in Week 1 to Minnesota, the Niners allowed 43 to the Steelers last week. Arizona is poised to put up as many again. Cardinals 37, 49ers 10. -- Josh Weinfuss


Buffalo Bills: FiveThirtyEight pegs this game as the hardest to predict of Week 3, giving the Dolphins a 51 percent chance of winning compared to Buffalo's 49 percent chance. Ryan Tannehill has struggled both against the Bills' defense (21.4 QBR since 2013) and against Rex Ryan's defense (42.1 QBR against the Jets since 2013), but Tyrod Taylor is a complete unknown on the road as a starting NFL quarterback. He'll need to prove it before I can give the Bills the nod. Dolphins 21, Bills 17. -- Mike Rodak

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins are 30th in rushing and 27th stopping the run. That’s an awful combination. Add in the fact Buffalo has beaten Miami in four of its past six meetings, and this points toward the Bills winning on the road. Bills 20, Dolphins 17. -- James Walker


Chicago Bears: Jimmy Clausen is starting Sunday. I repeat, Jimmy Clausen is the new Bears starting quarterback. Clausen is 1-10 lifetime as a starter. Seattle is one of the toughest venues in the league for road teams. The Seahawks are 0-2. They’re angry. This doesn’t look good. Seahawks 40 Bears 10. -- Jeff Dickerson

Seattle Seahawks: Despite the final result, the Seahawks actually improved in their Week 2 loss against the Packers. They pass-protected better, Russell Wilson looked like his old self and there were fewer communication issues in the secondary. Now the Seahawks get Kam Chancellor back in their first home game of the season. This one has blowout written all over it with the Seahawks going up against Clausen and a Bears' defense that has allowed a league-high seven touchdown passes. Seahawks 31, Bears 10. -- Sheil Kapadia


Denver Broncos: Coach Gary Kubiak has pointed out the team’s run-game scheme is proven and “we believe in what we’re doing.’’ But the Broncos haven’t seen the results with a 2.8-yards-per-carry average as a team and no rushing attempts longer than 16 yards. But the Detroit Lions are No. 29 against the run in the season’s early going. In the end, that means the Broncos will try to kick-start their run game in Ford Field, and if they do they’ll get the win. Broncos 24, Lions 13. -- Jeff Legwold

Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford appears to be healthy enough to play Sunday, but he still needs to be protected and that’s something the Lions have not done well at all this season. The offensive line has struggled throughout the season, and the cure for that is definitely not Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and Denver’s No. 2-rated pass defense. The Lions will play better -- they always seem to in prime-time games at Ford Field – but between the offensive line’s struggles and the defensive line’s inability to create a consistent pass rush to harass Peyton Manning, it won’t be a happy homecoming for Detroit. Broncos 27, Lions 20. -- Michael Rothstein



Kansas City Chiefs: Chiefs rookie cornerback Marcus Peters has an interception in each of his first two NFL games, including a pick-six against Peyton Manning last week. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers hasn’t thrown an interception in his past 545 passes at Lambeau Field. Peters might get his interception, but Rodgers will make enough plays to win the bigger battle. Packers 27, Chiefs 17. -- Adam Teicher

Green Bay Packers: The idea of playing Jamaal Charles shouldn’t scare the Packers after they held Marshawn Lynch to just 41 yards on 15 carries last week. B.J. Raji has been a force in the middle of the defense, and that should help neutralize Charles and the Chiefs’ running game. The Packers should extend their home winning streak, the longest in the league, to 11 games. Packers 24, Chiefs 14. -- Rob Demovsky