Here’s a close look at Sunday’s nine early afternoon games. NFL week 3 brings us: Arizona at Jacksonville, Atlanta at NY Giants, Baltimore at Detroit, Chicago at Cleveland, Cincinnati at Pittsburgh, Indianapolis at Tennessee, LA Chargers at Kansas City, New Orleans at New England, and Washington at Buffalo.
The odds below are provided by DraftKings. All times EDT.
Arizona Cardinals (2-0) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2)
- Time: 1 p.m.
- Line: Cardinals by 7.5 (51.5)
The skinny: Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury, who had three 3-0 starts during his six seasons at Texas Tech, goes for his first in the pros when Arizona crosses three time zones to face Urban Meyer’s Jaguars who are trying to avoid losing their 18th straight game.
Facts: The Cardinals have scored more than 30 points in their two games against Tennessee and Minnesota, a feat matched this season only by last year’s Super teams, Tampa Bay and Kansas City. In 2020, the Cardinals had a stretch of five games with 30-plus point. Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence, the top overall draft pick in 2021, had three INTs in the team’s upset 37-21 loss in Houston in Week 1 and then went only 14-for-33 with two more interceptions last week in a 23-13 home loss to Denver. One of the Jags’ two TDs was on a KO return. The Cardinals traveled acrossthree time zones for this early “jet lag” game. This season, teams out West are 6-0 in this spot, 5-1 ATS.
Analysis: Arizona’s QB Kyle Murray, the top overall pick in the 2019 draft, wound up as the 21st-rated passer his rookie year, then 18th last year and now stands fifth on the charts thanks to his seven TD passes and 344.5 yards a game, both of which are second most in the league. He should thrive against a depleted Jax secondary. But what’s likely going to put the Cardinals over the top here is a defense led by LB Chandler Jones, who has a league-best five sacks. He should add to that total since Lawrence has had issues waiting for his no-so-fleet receivers to get separation.
Forecast: Cardinals 28, Jaguars 14
Atlanta Falcons (0-2) at NY Giants (0-2)
- Time: 1 p.m.
- Line: Giants by 3 (47.5)
The skinny: This is the second straight game for Atlanta against a team off an extended siesta after playing a Thursday night game.
Facts: The Falcons were 1-8 in one-score games last year. They’re 0-0 this season after losses of 26 and 23 points. But there’s hope for the playoffs: In 1989, Pittsburgh lost its first two games 51-0 and 41-10 and still reached the postseason. From 1994-2007. the visiting team in this series won 12 straight meetings, eight times as an underdog. But since then home teams have won five of six. NYG is coming off an excruciating 30-29 loss at Washington, triggered by an offside penalty on a FG try as time expired. That kick was off line, but with a second chance, it was a good 43-yarder.
Analysis: Giants QB Daniel Jones has been lambasted for not protecting the ball, which was true his first 21 starts when he had a turnver in each one. But in four of his past seven games, including last week, he hasn’t had a fumble or INT. Going against a Falcons defense that has caused only one turnover in two games should make for smooth sledding again. Plus, star RB Saquon Barkley (questionable), off his knee injury last year, should benefit from the extended break.
Forecast: Giants 27, Falcons 19
Baltimore Ravens (1-1) at Detroit Lions (0-2)
- Time: 1 p.m.
- Line: Ravens by 8 (50)
The skinny: Baltimore will look for its second straight win after its riveting comeback victory in prime time Sunday against Kansas City.
Facts: A week after the Ravens blew a 14-point lead in a season-opening overtime loss in Las Vegas, they overcame an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Chiefs, 36-35. Detroit also played in prime time last week, falling to the Packers at Lambeau 35-17 on MNF after leading 17-14 at the half. A pair of second-half turnovers in wet conditions were largely blamed for the Lions’ downfall. Detroit has an outlandish 147.6 defensive passer rating with six TDs allowed and no INTs.
Analysis: As long as Ravens QB Lamar Jackson stays healthy — he missed Thursday practice with an illness — Baltimore should thrive. But by enough to cover the number here? These aren’t your older brother’s Ravens, whose stifling defense used to lead the way. Baltimore has given up 33 and 35 points the first two weeks. Also, new Detroit QB Jared Goff is quietly having a nice season and will be operating in a dome, so no slippery balls will come into play. The Lions, despite the short week, should respond to rookie coach Dan Campbell. At least somewhat. One more thing: Last week both teams playing on short rest off a MNF game were upset victors, including Baltimore.
Forecast: Ravens 28, Lions 24
Chicago Bears (1-1) at Cleveland Browns (1-1)
- Time: 1 p.m.
- Line: Browns by 7.5 (45)
The skinny: Chicago rookie QB Justin Fields, who starred at Ohio State, will make his starting debut in place of injured Andy Dalton when the Bears play the Browns in the Dawg Pound.
Facts: There were three QBs who threw at least 10 passes last week and had a completion percentage of below 50% — all rookies — and Fields was one of them, going 6-for-13 with an INT. His passer rating of 27.7 was worse than any reading Dalton put up the past four seasons. Rookie QBs have gone 0-4 SU/0-4 ATS in their starting debuts this year, including Houston’s Davis Mills on Thursday night. Cleveland QB Baker Mayfield is hitting an astonishing 81.6% of his throws (40-for-49) but ranks only 11th on the passer chart thanks to having only one TD throw against two INTs. Although he jarred his left (non-passing) shoulder last week, he didn’t miss a snap and is not listed on the injury report
Analysis: The Browns have been a relative disappointment this season, even struggling against Houston last week until QB Tyrod Taylor got hurt, but have too much talent on a reworked defense to allow a first-time QB starter to cause them much trouble. Plus, the Bears’ are widely known to be getting crummy play from their offensive tackles. As for Mayfield, this week he’ll be without star WR Jarvis Landry (knee) but likely will be getting back WR Odell Beckham Jr., who’s had two full practices this week coming off last year’s knee injury. And if he can’t play, there’s always that super ground game led by Nick Chubb.
Forecast: Browns 31, Bears 13
Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1)
- Time: 1 p.m.
- Line: Steelers by 3 (43)
The skinny: A pair of teams coming off Week 2 defeats meet in Pittsburgh, with the Steelers’ overflowing injury list getting much of the attention.
Facts: Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger (left pectoral) was a full go in practice Thursday and would appear to be ready to start Sunday. He was hit 10 times in a home loss to Las Vegas last week. In Week 15 last season, the host Bengals, without injured QB Joe Burrow, beat the Steelers 27-17 as a 14.5-point underdog. It was the NFL’s second biggest upset victory of the year. … Pittsburgh had only 39 rushing yards against the Raiders, the lowest by any team in a game this year. During last year’s season-ending fade, Pittsburgh twice had games with less than 25 ground yards.
Analysis: Maybe this is the week the Steelers’ rushing game can at least be mediocre, going against a Bengals team that’s not particularly intimidating along the defensive line or at linebacker. And for Pittsburgh defensively, although last year’s sack leader T.J. Watt left Sunday’s game with a groin injury and is questionable here, Cincinnati’s offensive line has had trouble keeping Burrow upright, resulting in him absorbing 10 sacks, tied for the league high. That’s not good for a QB coming off a major knee injury. And, FYI, just in case: Big Ben’s backup, Mason Rudolph, has had plenty of starting experience the past two years.
Forecast: Steelers 30, Bengals 17
Indianapolis Colts (0-2) at Tennessee Titans (1-1)
- Time: 1 p.m.
- Line: Titans by 5.5 (47.5)
The skinny: In the preseason this had the looks of an early heavyweight AFC South battle, but not so much anymore.
Facts: The visiting team in this series has won the past five games. That would seem to be appropriate for these teams, who are a combined 0-3 at home this season. The question of who’s going to start at QB for the Colts is the big question. Starter Carson Wentz was battered in last week’s loss to the Rams and injured both ankles. He’s questionable. His backup, second-year Jacob Eason, is questionable as a passer, having thrown only five times during his two-year career — all in last week’s game. Included was an interception. Titans QB Ryan Tannehill continues to take the hits as well, getting sacked three times last week after going down six the week before in a brutal 38-13 home loss to Arizona that wasn’t as close as the score might indicate.
Analysis: Titans RB Derrick Henry had a dynamic outing last week in a 33-30 overtime win at Seattle, gaining 182 rush yards and totaling a career-high 42 touches. But history indicates that’s not going to cause the Titans to back off on his workload. His production coincided with Tannehill and newly acquired standout WR Julio Jones getting to know each other better, teaming for six receptions and 128 yards last week. Anyway, it’s hard to trust Wentz even when healthy and certainly not Eason.
Forecast: Titans 35, Colts 17
LA Chargers (1-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-1)
- Time: 1 p.m.
- Line: Chiefs by 6.5 (54.5)
The skinny: These two teams were the preseason choices to joust for the AFC West title, but now the loser here will wind up in the division cellar.
Facts: The Chiefs are yielding 202 rushing yards a game after facing Cleveland Baltimore, two of the stoutest rushing team. The worst defensive norm over the course of a season the past 30 years was the 173.0 rush yards yielded by the 2006 Colts, who still won that season’s Super Bowl. In the Chargers’ 20-17 loss to Dallas last week, they saw two apparent touchdowns negated by penalties. Both possession ended without a TD. KC lost at Baltimore 36-35 in Week 2 on Sunday night after leading by 11 in the fourth quarter. In last season’s Week 2, the Chiefs overcame an 11-point hole to beat the Chargers in LA, 23-20 in OT.
Analysis: Both teams have star power at QB, with KC’s Patrick Mahomes unrivaled these days. But if the Chiefs can’t stop the running game, the Chargers should flourish behind fleet RB Austin Ekeler and passing of Justin Herbert. They helped lead the Chargers on five straight drives of 10-plus plays against Dallas last week, and now going against a relatively weaker defensive have the potential to wear down their foe. But Herbert needs to cut down on INTs in enemy territory. He has a league-high three. The bad news for LA is on defense: Will sackmaster Joey Bosa play (foot/ankle, questionable)? Oh, and those penalties. Note to Chargers: Obey the rules.
Forecast: Chargers 34, Chiefs 31
New Orleans Saints (1-1) at New England Patriots (1-1)
- Time: 1 p.m.
- Line: Patriots by 3 (43)
The skinny: Saints QB Jameis Winston, coming off the worst game of his career (based on passer rating, 26.9) goes against NE rookie QB Mac Jones in the first game between these teams since 2005 without Tom Brady and Drew Brees dueling.
Facts: The Saints take their Hurricane ida-induced traveling show to New England, coming off a 26-7 loss at Carolina in which they had only 128 yards of total offense, the worst for coach Sean Payton since joning the team in 2006. Winston averaged 3 yards a pass and had two INTs. Speaking of interceptions, in the Patriots’ 25-6 road win vs. the Jets last week, they intercepted Zach Wilson four times, the most by any team in a game this year. Looking ahead maybe? New England’s next game is at home against Tampa Bay and the Patriots’ former QB, Tom Brady. The only rookie QB to win in a start this season has been Jones against NYJ. But then again, he was going against another rookie.
Analysis: Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s team will be facing a team missing key defenders in DE Marcus Davenport and CB Marshon Lattimore, plus center Erik McCoy, who didn’t play last week when the Saints totaled six first downs. Chances are Belichick won’t be coming up with anything extra clever when going against Winston, who is perfectly capable of self-destructing without anyone’s help as his 30 INT season in 2019 shows. Belichick will be saving the tricky stuff for the next week when he plays mental chess with his old QB.
Forecast: Patriots 20, Saints 14
Washington Football Team (1-1) at Buffalo Bills (1-1)
- Time: 1 p.m.
- Line: Bills by 7.5 (45.5)
The skinny: Washington hits the road for the first time when it faces Buffalo, which lost in its only home appearance, 23-16 to Pittsburgh in the season opener.
Facts: In their last meeting, in Buffalo in 2019, the Bills prevailed against the then-Redskins 24-9, who hadn’t yet given up on Dwayne Haskins at QB. Football Team’s QB, Taylor Heinicke, is completing almost 74 percent of his passes since taking over for season-opening starter Ryan Fitzpatrick (IR, hip). Buffalo is coming off the biggest wipeout of Week 2, a 35-0 victory over host Miami. But that doesn’t necessarily translate to success the next week based on New Orleans’ loss to Carolina last week after ripping Green Bay, 38-3, in Week1.
Analysis: Buffalo showed off a decent running game last week in drubbing the Dolphins, but if Devin Singletary’s 46-yard burst is discarded, he averaged only 3 yards a carry. But he’s not likely to be the biggest running threat, anyway, against a Washington defense that allowed Giants QB Daniel Jones to run for 95 yards last week in Football Team’s close-call 30-29 win. Bills QB Josh Allen is a bigger threat on the ground than Jones and has one of the league’s top receivers in Stefon Diggs. Yet, this is too many points to give.
Forecast: Bills 35, Football Team 30
Last week: 9-6-1 ATS, 10-6 SU
Season total: 19-12-1 (.613) ATS, 22-10 (.688) SU