Let’s examine the nine early Sunday afternoon games, with the odds courtesy of FanDuel.
On the weather front, as of Friday morning the forecast calls for a 50% chance of light rain for games in Chicago and New England. All times EDT.
Washington Football Team (1-2) at Atlanta Falcons (1-2)
- Time: 1 p.m.
- Line: Football Team by 1.5 (47.5)
The skinny: Washington backup QB Taylor Heinicke makes third straight start when he faces an Atlanta team fresh off its first victory of the year.
Facts: Both teams earned their lone victory on a last-second field goal against the Giants. Atlanta has won six in a row in this series, its longest current winning streak agianst any team in the league. Its last win over Washington was 38-14 in 2018. Washington’s defense ranks 31st with 432 yards yielded per game. A year ago the unit was second, giving up only 304.6.
Analysis: The home field probably won’t mean much for a Falcons team that was bashed in its dome by Philadelphia in the season opener 32-6. And even though the Football Team’s defense hasn’t produced, it doesn’t mean the players still aren’t supremely talented. It could be a rough day for Atlanta’s ordinary offensive line and greybeard QB Matt Ryan.
Forecast: Football Team 20, Falcons 16
Houston Texans (1-2) at Buffalo Bills (2-1)
- Time: 1 p.m.
- Line: Bills by 17.5 (47)
The skinny: Buffalo, which has a one-game lead over all its rivals in the AFC East, will be looking for its third straight win when it plays host to Houston.
Facts: The Bills know about underdogs pulling colossal upsets. In 2018, they went to Minnesota as a 16.5-point dog and routed Minnesota 27-6. It was QB Josh Allen’s second career start and first victory. Speaking of second starts, that’s the case for Houston’s Davis Mills, whose debut last week was a 24-9 loss on Thursday. Teams having extra rest off a Thursday night game this season have gone 2-2 their next game, including Washington’s 43-21 loss in Buffalo last week.
Analysis: The common NFL refrain of “On any given Sunday” probably doesn’t apply here, but since 2017 teams that have been an underdog of 16 points or more have gone 10-8 ATS and even won outright three times, which makes the money line number of +900 on Houston seem semi-attractive. But no thanks. Also, the Bills and coach Sean McDermott can’t help but look at least a tiny bit ahead to next week’s revenge game against Kansas City. And Buffalo probably won’t want ro run up the score vs. Houston since well-liked rookie coach David Culley used to be on McDermott’s staff and was Allen’s QB coach.
Forecast: Bills 30, Texans 17
Detroit Lions (0-3) at Chicago Bears (1-2)
- Time: 1 p.m.
- Line: Bears by 3 (41.5)
The skinny: A pair of longtime NFC North rivals meet coming off painful losses and trying to stay relevant in the playoff hunt.
Facts: The Bears gave rookie QB Justin Fields his first start and he had 1 yard net passing after being sacked nine times last week in a 26-6 loss at Cleveland. Plus he has a banged up thumb. Detroit was on the verge of upsetting visiting Baltimore last week before giving up the longest FG in league history, a 66-yarder by Jason Tucker in a 19-17 loss. And speaking of 19-17 losses, 51 years ago in New Orleans’ Tulane Stadium Tom Dempsey’s then-record 63-yarder for the Saints as time expired gave the Lions another brutal defeat.
Analysis: Bears coach Matt Nagy said he’s looking for one good man to be this week’s QB. His choice will be between Fields, opening-day starter Andy Dalton, coming off a Week 2 knee injury, and ex-Philly Super Bowl hero Nick Foles, who cashes checks as the third-teamer. The way the offensive line has blocked, the three QBs all probably hope they’re not the choice. Detroit, meanwhile, showed a lot of moxie in almost beating the Ravens and had some punch behind the running of D’Andre Swift. He helps give the Lions a relatively balanced offense behind not-bad-at-all QB Jared Goff who seems to be enjoying his stay in the Motor City.
Forecast: Lions 19, Bears 17
Carolina Panthers (3-0) at Dallas Cowboys (2-1)
- Time: 1 p.m.
- Line: Cowboys by 4.5 (51.5)
The skinny: The Sam Darnold era is off to a rousing start in Carolina, but this week the Panthers will face by far the best QB they’ve seen yet in Dallas’ Dak Prescott.
Facts: There are five unbeaten teams through three weeks, but four of them, including the Panthers, are underdogs this week. … The Cowboys are 3-0 ATS this season, not bad for a team that started 0-8 ATS in 2020 and finished with a league-worst mark of 5-11. … Darnold is completing better than 68 precent of his passes this season. In his 12 starts with the Jets last season, he had only one game with that high a number. … Dallas will be working on short rest after routing Philadelphia 41-21 last wee on MNF. So far, though, teams with that short week are 4-0 ATS their next outing.
Analysis: In two of the Panthers’ victories, they faced a rookie QB making his first career start, first Jax’s Trevor Lawence and last week Houston’s Davis Mills. No wonder the Panthers have the league’s top-rated defense. On offense, Carolina will be operating without standout RB Christian McCaffrey (hamstring), who also missed 13 games last year with an assortment of ailments. In fact, Carolina won its first three games without McCaffrey in 2020, but afterward went into a tailspin. Punishing rookie Chuba Hubbard will attempt to fill his shoes, but probably won’t be able to outdo the suddenly potent one-two RB punch Dallas has in Zeke Elliott and Tony Pollard.
Forecast: Cowboys 27, Panthers 17
Indianapolis Colts (0-3) at Miami Dolphins (1-2)
- Time: 1 p.m.
- Line: Dolphins by 1.5 (42.5)
The skinny: Miami QB Jacoby Brissett, filling for injured Tua Tagovailoa (ribs), will be making a start against a Colts team he played for from 2017-20.
Facts: Miami had the best ATS win of Week 3. As a 4.5-point underdog, Brissett capped an 82-yard drive in Vegas in the final seconds with a 1-yard QB keeper and ensuing 2-point conversion to force overtime. Miami was a loser 31-28, but not to folks holding a Dolphins ticket with the points. … Colts QB Carson Wentz went the whole way last week with his injured ankle but Indy wound up a 25-16 loser to its AFC chief rival, Tennessee. Dating to last season with Philly, Wentz has lost his last seven starts and been sacked 26 times.
Analysis: The Colts have a banged up QB, an offensive line littered with injured guys and and a defense that has only five sacks. Not good. Miami has plenty of issues, too, including its center out this week. But that sticky Dolphins secondary should have Wentz looking helpless in the pocket with no one to throw to and little ability to scramble. Last season the Colts gave up only 21 sacks, second fewest in the league. Now they’re tied for seventh worst with eight yielded.
Forecast: Miami 23, Colts 13
Cleveland Browns (2-1) at Minnesota Vikings (1-2)
- Time: 1 p.m.
- Line: Browns by 2.5 (51.5)
The skinny: Both teams had their best games of the season in Week 3 and will be looking to keep their mojo percolating in this interconference game.
Facts: Last week Myles Garrett got a franchise-record 4.5 sacks last week vs. Chicago in a 26-6 win. His teammates teamed for another 4.5. Minnesota was down by 10 to Seattle before rallying to win 30-17 and avoid their second consecutive 0-3 start. The Browns were amid their winless 2017 season when the teams last met, in London. Minnesota won 33-16 as an 11-point choice.
Analysis: The Browns’ edge will be their ground game, which has generated a league-best eight touchdowns behind Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. And they’ll be going against a defense that’s allowing 4.8 yards a carry, fourth worst in the NFL. And might Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski, a former QB coach and offensive coordinator for the Vikings when QB Kirk Cousins was there, know anything fun to do that will make Cousins struggle?
Forecast: Browns 28, Vikings 20
NY Giants (0-3) at New Orleans Saints (2-1)
- Time: 1 p.m.
- Line: Saints by 7 (41.5)
The skinny: New Orleans will play its first home game of the season when it returns to town after Hurricane Ida caused catastrophic damage in southeast Louisiana in late August.
Facts: The Saints’ journeys through three weeks have taken them to Jacksonville for a home game, then to Carolina and then to New England. … Flashback: In the teams’ 2015 meeting in the Dome, the Saints won 52-49 with New Orleans’ Drew Brees tying an NFL record with seven TD passes and NYG’s Eli Manning having six, the most combined in a game in league history. FYI: …This is the first time since last year that both New York teams have started 0-3.
Analysis: The Superdome wlll be hopping for the Saints’ return — certainly not as much as for their post-Katrina game against Atlanta in prime time 15 years ago, but good enough to cause plenty of false starts for the enemy. What’s also going to hurt the Giants is that WRs Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton can’t seem to shake their hamstring ailments. This is the kind of game that will benefit Saints QB Jameis Winston, because he won’t have to think he’s in a shootout and can play small-ball..
Forecast: Saints 28, Giants 13
Tennessee Titans (2-1) at NY Jets (0-3)
- Time: 1 p.m.
- Line: Titans by 6.5 (44.5)
The skinny: The Titans continue on their three-week run against winless teams (Indy, NYJ, Jacksonville) when it takes on rookie coach Robert Saleh’s Jets.
Facts: Through three weeks, New York has more punts (14) and giveaways (7) than they have points (a league-low 20). The Titans will face the Jaguars next week in London. The last time Tennessee went to England was in 2018. The week before the Titans were 21-0 losers to Baltimore as a 2-point underdog. …
Analysis: The Titans, behind two-time rushing champion Derrick Henry, would seem a slam dunk at these odds, but if WRs Julio Jones (leg) and A.J. Brown (hamstring), both questionable, can’t go or are limited, that will enable to Jets to play extra-close attention to the guy wearing No. 22. On the other side, Jets rookie QB Zach Wilson likely won’t do enough to get this team a win, but should provide Tennessee an embarrassing scare — kind of like the Lions did to the Ravens last week.
Forecast: Titans 20, Jets 17
Kansas City Chiefs (1-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-2)
- Time: 1 p.m.
- Line: Chiefs by 7 (54.5)
The skinny: Ex-Eagles coach Andy Reid makes his second return visit to Philly as KC’s sideline boss since getting the heave-by Birds management after the 2012 season.
Facts: From 1973-1991 these teams never faced each other, a 19-year drought between meetings that is is the longest between any two teams in league history. The Eagles have been slowed by 35 penalties, which is seven more than anyone else through three games. In the Chiefs’ 30-24 home loss to the Chargers last week, they were victimized by a minus-4 turnover differential, the worst by anyone in the league this year. The Eagles’ attempt to become the seventh worst-to-first team the past decade in the NFC East took a hit Monday night in their 41-21 loss to Dallas.
Analysis: The Eagles’ offensive line is in disarray, QB Jalen Hurts appears to be losing his confidence and the team continues to shoot itself in both feet and arms with all the infractions that have provided their foes with four free first downs a game. Chiefs TE Travis Kelce should have big numbers based on the fact San Fran’s George Kittle caught 19 of 19 targeted throws his past two games against Philly. And with the home fans already grumpy in the wake of the Phillies’ late-season baseball collapse, the Eagles had better give them something to cheer about or this one could get ugly.
Forecast: Chiefs 31, Eagles 27
Last week: 11-5 ATS, 11-5 SU
Season total: 30-17-1 (.638) ATS; 33-15 (.688) SU