Here is a look at Thursday’s NFL prime-time game between the NY Giants and Washington, plus early games Sunday involving Cincinnati at Chicago, Houston at Cleveland, the LA Rams at Indianapolis, and Buffalo at Miami.
On the weather front, humid conditions exist across the country, but as of Wednesday, little chance of rain.
(All times are EDT; odds below are furnished by Caesars Sportsbook)
Thursday Night Football
NY Giants (0-1) at Washington Football Team (0-1)
- Time: 8:20 p.m.
- Line: Football Team by 3.5 (40.5)
The skinny: The Giants will be looking for their sixth straight win over the Football Team when the squads meet.
Facts: Washington’s ballyhooed offseason quarterback acquisition, Ryan Fitzpatrick from Miami, lasted 16 snaps before suffering a hip injury in a 20-16 home loss to the LA Chargers that’s expected to sideline him six to eight weeks. Taylor Heinicke, who started last year’s playoff game against Tampa Bay, will take over. Giants QB Daniel Jones, in his third year at No. 1, is 4-0 vs. Washington, but 4-19 against everyone else. NYG star running back Saquon Barkley, coming off a major knee injury last season, had a team-high 10 carries last week but for only 26 yards in a 27-13 home loss to Denver. Washington’s defense allowed 14 third-down conversions to LA, the most by anyone in five years. On one drive that resulted in a FG the Chargers ran 18 plays.
Analysis: Another particularly troubling aspect about Washington’s defense was that it allowed the Chargers to kill off the final 6:43 of the game last week on 15 plays, with LA reaching the D.C. 7 before taking a knee three times. Where’s the pride? Also troubling is that Heinicke will have little time to get in first-team reps. As for the Giants, Barkley, after his first for-real contact, is unlikely to be a factor having to come back with three days’ rest, but the Giants have more than enough weapons in the passing game, especially with WRs Kenny Golladay and Sterling Shepard, who had 116 yards and a TD last week.
Forecast: Giants 23, Football Team 14
Early Sunday Games
Buffalo Bills (0-1) at Miami Dolphins (1-0)
- Time: 1 p.m.
- Line: Bills by 3.5 (47.5)
The skinny: This is a rematch of a Week 17 game last season in Buffalo, when the Bills cost the Dolphins a chance to earn a playoff berth with a 56-26 victory despite Buffalo using some JV guys.
Facts: From 1994-2002, Miami went 17-0 in steamy pre-October home games. Since then, however, the Dolphins have gone 9-19 (9-18-1 ATS), including a 31-28 Week 2 loss to Buffalo last season with a 90-degree reading at kickoff. Buffalo WR Stefon Diggs, who was the NFL leader in receptions and receiving yards last seaosn, averaged only 7.7 yards on his nine catches against Pittsburgh last week. QB comparison: Buffalo QB Josh Allen had the best game of his career last season at Miami (based on passer rating, 146.7). The Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa had the worst of his 10-start career last season in Buffalo (62.5, with three INTs).
Analysis: Buffalo was staggered by Pittsburgh last week, blowing a 10-point second-half lead thanks in large part to a punt-block for a TD. With the Bills perhaps getting off their high horse after 2020’s success and an onslaught of praise all offseason, they might be more grounded here. They’ll also face a Dolphins defense that might be somewhat overrated based on giving up 11 third-down conversions last week in a 17-16 win at New England, which had three 14-play drives.
Forecast: Bills 31, Dolphins 14
Cincinnati Bengals (1-0) at Chicago Bears (0-1)
- Time: 1 p.m.
- Line: Bears -3 (45)
The skinny: Former Bengals star QB Andy Dalton (2011-19), who is Chicago’s starter (for now), gets to face his former team.
Facts: Dalton, who left for Dallas last season after the Bengals drafted Joe Burrow to take over at QB, had his best game of 2020 in a 30-7 win in Cincinnati as a 3-point choice. The Bears allowed the Rams to gain 11.6 yards a pass in their 34-14 prime-time loss in LA on Sunday. The Bengals had a 101-yard advantage in penalty yards in their 27-24 OT win last week over Minnesota, the third biggest gap in the league the past two seasons. In their last meeting, in 2017, the Bears routed Dalton and the Bengals 33-7, the Bears’ second most lopsided road win the past nine years.
Analysis: The Bears were skewered by TV analysts this week for their lack of effort against the Rams, enabling QB Matt Stafford to have the best game of his 13-year career (156.1 passer rating). Also, Bears coach Matt Nagy was ripped for not playing first-round draft choice Justin Fields instead of a 33-year-old quarterback who has never won a playoff games. The Bengals’ Burrow rates a a big edge here, combined with the running of Joe Mixon, who was the workhorse RB in the league last week, with 29 carries for 127 yards.
Forecast: Bengals 28, Bears 24
Houston Texans (1-0) at Cleveland Browns (0-1)
- Time: 1 p.m.
- Line: Browns by 12.5 (48)
The skinny: The Browns will look to rebound from squandering a 12-point second-half lead in their 33-29 road loss to KC last week. (Only the second 33-29 game in league history, according to Pro Football Reference).
Facts: In Cleveland’s 10-7 home win over Houston last midseason in the rain and wind, Browns RB Nick Chubb had 126 rushing yards and Kareem Hunt 104, one of two times in 2020 a team had multiple 100-yard ground gainers in a game. Double-digit favorites were 12-14-1 ATS last season, losing outright four times. All nine of the Browns’ possessions started at their 25-yard line or worse at KC last week. Overall, their average launch point was their 21. KC’s was its 35. Houston, 31st in rushing last sesaon, had a Week 1-high 41 rushes, for 160 yards, in its 37-21 win over Jacksonville. The Texans also intercepted Trevor Lawrence three times.
Analysis: For the second straight season the schedule maker gave the Browns a Week 1 atomic wedgy, pitting them on the road against a team that went 14-2 a year earlier before making it to them the next week. This week Cleveland welcomes in Houston, which despite its resounding victory last week, has the lowest preseason estimated win total in the league. The Browns’ ground game should again flourish against a relatively weak Texans defense, not to mention QB Baker Mayfield having the benefit of big play-action opportunities.
Forecast: Browns 35, Texans 9
LA Rams (1-0) at Indianapolis Colts (0-1)
- Time: 1 p.m.
- Line: Rams by 4 (47.5)
The skinny: A couple of teams with newly acquired veteran QBs meet when the Rams make the first of their three Eastern Time Zone trips this season.
Facts: All three West Coast teams playing back East last week — and in the early Sunday time slot — were victors SU/ATS. New Rams QB Matt Stafford, who endured 12 years in Detroit, is coming off the best game of his 13-year career, as mentioned earlier. He had three TDs, with no INTs, vs. Chicago. Indy’s Carson Wentz, meanwhile, can be warmly applauded for not heaving an INT in a 28-16 home loss to Seattle, but took three sacks and lost a fumble. Four midgame three-and-outs didn’t make him any new friends with his defensive teammates, either. … In the teams’ last meeting, in 2017, the Rams were 46-9 winners in the LA Coliseum.
Analysis: If the Colts are going to be successful and make Wentz more comfortable in the pocket they’re going to need more from their RBs than what they got last week, with a norm of 3.5 yards on 26 carries against Seattle. It will help when they get OLT Eric Fisher off IR next month. But second-year RB Jonathan Taylor (1,169 rush yards, 5.0/carry last year) usually isn’t contained two games in a row. As for the Rams, they made it look easy last week on national TV, and with a home game against defending champion Tampa Bay next week, they could be ripe for a letdown.
Forecast: Colts 26, Rams 21
Last week/season total: 10-6 ATS, 12-4 SU.
Up next: New England at NY Jets, San Francisco at Philadelphia, Las Vegas at Pittsburgh, New Orleans at Carolina, and Denver at Jacksonville. All are early Sunday games.