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Sunday, September 22, 2019

VIKINGS VS RAIDERS

Venue: U.S. Bank Stadium | Start: 3:00am AEST

Quarterback Derek Carr leads the Oakland Raiders into a rowdy atmosphere for the latest test of the team’s progress. Carr and Oakland looked to have taken a big leap ahead in Week 1, throttling the Denver Broncos in the unveiling of rookie running back Josh Jacobs. But the Raiders couldn’t keep up with the Kansas City Chiefs last week, and now Carr is expected to be down top wide receiver Tyrell Williams (hip). The Vikings have a strong defense, and cornerback Xavier Rhodes has performed like one of the best in the league. If Williams plays, he’ll get an afternoon in the shadow of Rhodes. Minnesota’s offense has been heavily reliant on running back Dalvin Cook, which is just the way head coach Mike Zimmer likes it. Cook has speed and is standing out as a receiver, but the Vikings also have deep speed to test Oakland’s hyper-aggressive secondary.

Win: Minnesota
Margin: Minnesota 1-13
Line: Oakland +9.5
Total Points: over 43.5

PATRIOTS VS JETS

Venue: Gillette Stadium | Start: 3:00am AEST

With the New York Jets riding a third-string quarterback into Sunday’s game in Foxborough, Mass., the New England Patriots are massive favorites to win their seventh straight in the teams’ series. The Patriots, who have won their first two games by a combined score of 76-3, were 23-point favorites as of Wednesday evening, which would equal the fourth-largest spread in a game since at least 1978. A week ago, New England covered an 18-point spread by 25, trouncing the hapless Miami Dolphins 43-0. The Jets aren’t in much better shape than Miami, though their most recent loss was by a much smaller margin, 23-3 on Monday night against the visiting Cleveland Browns. With starting quarterback Sam Darnold out battling mononucleosis, backup Trevor Siemian was lost in the first half to an ankle injury, which will require surgery and end his season. That sets up Luke Falk, a 2018 sixth-round pick by Tennessee who spent most of his rookie year with current Jets head coach Adam Gase in Miami, for his first career start. Falk went 20 of 25 for 198 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions in relief of Siemian on Monday. He will be the 12th quarterback to start for the Jets against the Patriots since Tom Brady became New England’s starter in 2001. Brady was limited on Wednesday due to a calf injury, but a Boston Herald report said the injury isn’t a major concern.

Win: New England
Margin: New England 14+
Line: NY Jets +23
Total Points: under 44

COWBOYS VS DOLPHINS

Venue: AT&T Stadium | Start: 3:00am AEST

If the Miami Dolphins are going to put a scare into the Dallas Cowboys, something has to change for a defense spending far too much time on the field. Miami’s futile offense remains helmed by Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback but a change could be in the offing. Fitzpatrick has one TD pass, four interceptions and a passer rating lower than his completion percentage (50 to 36.6). Enter the speed-laced defense of the Cowboys and a rugged front five for the Dallas offense and it could be rough sledding again for the Dolphins, who are three-touchdown underdogs. Quarterback Dak Prescott has been money through two games, but a few dings to his WR corps might lend to a greater commitment to the running game and Ezekiel Elliott.

Win: Dallas
Margin: Dallas 14+
Line: Miami +21.5
Total Points: over 43.5

BILLS VS BENGALS

Venue: New Era Field | Start: 3:00am AEST

The Buffalo Bills hope to reach 3-0 for the first time since 2011 in their home opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday in Orchard Park, N.Y. Buffalo started the 2011 season with three straight victories, although that team finished 6-10. The Bills’ only other 3-0 start since 1992 came in 2008, a season they finished 7-9. Buffalo rallied for a 17-16 victory over the New York Jets in Week 1 before returning to MetLife Stadium a week later to handle the Giants 28-14. The Bills’ defense ranks third in the NFL in yards per play allowed (4.5) and first in passing yards per play allowed (4.6). They’ll be favored against an 0-2 Bengals team that lost 21-20 at Seattle in Week 1 before falling apart on defense in a 41-17 home defeat to San Francisco on Sunday. Cincinnati’s 572 yards allowed against the 49ers were the fifth-most in a game in team history. On the bright side, the Bengals’ offense has shown signs of life under new head coach Zac Taylor, who brought his scheme from Sean McVay’s Los Angeles Rams. Cincinnati has just 37 points, but it ranks 11th in total offense (372.5 yards per game) despite a series of injuries along the offensive line. Third-year wideout John Ross finally appears to be blossoming, as he leads the NFL with 270 receiving yards through two weeks.

Win: Buffalo
Margin: Buffalo 1-13
Line: Cincinnati +6
Total Points: under 44

PACKERS VS BRONCOS

Venue: Lambeau Field | Start: 3:00am AEST

The host Green Bay Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers will see a familiar defense on Sunday, even though they haven’t faced the Denver Broncos since 2015. New Broncos head coach Vic Fangio spent four years as the Chicago Bears’ defensive coordinator, with his top-ranked 2018 unit helping him land the job in Denver. However, Rodgers didn’t have much trouble against Fangio’s Chicago defenses, throwing for 1,708 yards, 14 touchdowns and two interceptions in seven games (five wins), good for a 99.2 rating. Of course, Green Bay’s system is new under new head coach Matt LaFleur, and the results have been mixed so far. The Packers managed just 10 points in a Week 1 win over the Bears, then scored three straight touchdowns to open Week 2’s game against Minnesota before hanging on for a 21-16 victory. Fangio is still looking for his first win, which he appeared to have Sunday against his former team before the Bears’ game-winning drive in the final seconds. The Broncos had taken the lead with a two-point conversion with 31 seconds remaining, but a controversial roughing-the-passer penalty and fourth-and-10 conversion helped the Bears hit a 53-yard field goal, despite Denver’s pleas that time had run out first. The last time the teams met, the Broncos held Rodgers to just 77 yards on 14-of-22 passing, his lowest total in any career start (min. 12 attempts), in a 29-10 victory in 2015.

Win: Green Bay
Margin: Green Bay 1-13
Line: Denver +8
Total Points: under 42.5

EAGLES VS LIONS

Venue: Lincoln Financial Field | Start: 3:00am AEST

After losing more than a game on Sunday night in Atlanta, the Philadelphia Eagles limp home to host the Detroit Lions on Sunday with a lineup that could be quite short-handed. Top wideouts DeSean Jackson (groin) and Alshon Jeffery (calf) both left the 24-20 loss to the Falcons with injuries and were listed as non-participants for Wednesday’s walkthrough, which the team held in lieu of a scheduled practice due to the wealth of injuries. Also sitting out Wednesday were tight end Dallas Goedert (calf), defensive tackle Tim Jernigan (foot) and running back Corey Clement (shoulder). Jernigan is expected to miss some time, as is Clement, while Jackson reportedly will miss two weeks. That could put second-round rookie JJ Arcega-Whiteside in an expanded role. The Lions, meanwhile, could be getting healthier, with linebacker Jarrad Davis (ankle) and defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand (elbow) nearing their season debuts after missing the first two weeks. Left tackle Taylor Decker (back), who was hurt in Sunday’s 13-10 win over the Los Angeles Chargers, joined Davis and Hand in getting in a limited practice Wednesday. Detroit narrowly missed a 2-0 start after blowing an 18-point fourth-quarter lead in Week 1’s tie against the Arizona Cardinals.

Win: Philadelphia
Margin: Philadelphia 1-13
Line: Detroit +6.5
Total Points: over 47

CHIEFS VS RAVENS

Venue: Arrowhead Stadium | Start: 3:00am AEST

Lamar Jackson could be the biggest threat to the MVP throne Patrick Mahomes achieved last season. The Baltimore Ravens’ surprising 2-0 start is a product of big contributions all around the roster, including newcomers in free safety Earl Thomas and running back Mark Ingram. But Jackson’s no-sweat showings against the Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals have propelled the second-year quarterback into the national spotlight. He nearly took down Mahomes and the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium last December, when an injury helped keep Baltimore from the upset in a 27-24 decision. Mahomes hasn’t skipped a beat this season without Tyreek Hill — injured Week 1 at Jacksonville — and tossed four TD passes in the second quarter alone last week at Oakland. The Chiefs are shorthanded at running back this week, with Damien Williams (knee) out Wednesday and LeSean McCoy (ankle) less than full strength. That could clear the runway for Mahomes, whose cat-and-mouse game with Thomas should be pure entertainment.

Win: Kansas City
Margin: Kansas City 1-13
Line: Baltimore +7
Total Points: over 53

COLTS VS FALCONS

Venue: Lucas Oil Stadium | Start: 3:00am AEST

After both teams avoided the dreaded 0-2 hole in Week 2, the Atlanta Falcons visit the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday in a fight to get above .500. The Colts used a touchdown from T.Y. Hilton with 4:38 remaining last week to beat the Tennessee Titans 19-17 in Nashville, hanging on despite 46-year-old kicker Adam Vinatieri missing two extra points. Vinatieri, who has now missed seven kicks over his last three games, dismissed speculation about his potential retirement, and he has head coach Frank Reich’s support for now. The Falcons were staring 0-2 in the face when a quick screen to Julio Jones on fourth-and-3 turned into a 54-yard touchdown with 2:10 remaining against the Philadelphia Eagles. Atlanta stopped the Eagles on fourth-and-10 in the red zone to preserve the win. Playing their second of four road games across the first six weeks, the Falcons are tied atop the NFC South at 1-1 with the rival Saints (Drew Brees, thumb) and Panthers (Cam Newton, foot) battling injuries to their Pro Bowl quarterbacks. The Colts are level with Tennessee and Houston atop the AFC South entering their home opener. Jacoby Brissett has thrown for 336 yards, five touchdowns and one interception through two starts since Andrew Luck’s sudden retirement. Indianapolis could be without running back Marlon Mack (calf) and All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard, who was concussed against Tennessee.

Win: Atlanta
Margin: Atlanta 1-13
Line: Atlanta +1.5
Total Points: under 47.5

CARDINALS VS PANTHERS

Venue: State Farm Stadium | Start: 6:05am AEST

The buildup will no doubt focus on a potential showdown between former No. 1 overall picks Cam Newton and Kyler Murray, but the team that hopes to collect its first win of the 2019 NFL is likely to be the one that does the best job opening running room for Christian McCaffrey and David Johnson. The Panthers will have an even tougher time doing so if a foot injury keeps Newton – who was in a walking boot Wednesday — from playing. Second-year backup Kyle Allen would be in position to start. Allen, an undrafted rookie from Houston, played well in Newton’s place last year, guiding a Panthers squad that had lost seven consecutive games to a Week 17 win over New Orleans with the only two touchdowns of his short NFL career. McCaffrey becomes even more critical for Carolina if Newton is down. Johnson is another legitimate workhorse. But the duo combined for just 51 rushing yards on 23 attempts (2.2 yards per carry average) last week. The normally-stout Panthers defense currently ranks 12th in the NFL in overall defense but has quietly surrendered 50 points – same as the Cardinals. Arizona sits behind only the lowly Miami Dolphins in yardage allowed this season, surrendering 458.5 per game so far.

Win: Carolina
Margin: Carolina 1-13
Line: Arizona +2.5
Total Points: under 46.5

BUCCANEERS VS GIANTS

Venue: Raymond James Stadium | Start: 6:05am AEST

The New York Giants will officially transition to the Daniel Jones era when the rookie makes his first career start Sunday at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Head coach Pat Shurmur announced Tuesday that Eli Manning, the 38-year-old who has started 232 games and won two Super Bowls for the Giants, would be benched in favor of Jones, the sixth overall pick in April’s draft. Jones had a terrific preseason, going 29 of 34 for 416 yards and two touchdowns in foru games. He made his NFL debut in Week 1, going 3 of 4 for 17 yards with a lost fumble in mop-up duty of a 35-17 loss at Dallas. The rookie will be tasked with turning around the Giants, who fell to 0-2 with a 28-14 loss on Sunday at Buffalo. New York is trying to avoid its second 0-3 start in two years. Opposing Jones will be an improving Buccaneers defense, which has allowed just 31 points to opposing offenses — 14 points against Tampa Bay have come via defensive touchdowns — through two weeks under new coordinator Todd Bowles. Free agent signee Shaquil Barrett earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his three-sack outing in last Thursday’s 20-14 victory over Carolina, which improved the Bucs to 1-1.

Win: Tampa Bay
Margin: Tampa Bay 1-13
Line: NY Giants +6.5
Total Points: over 48

SEAHAWKS VS SAINTS

Venue: CenturyLink Field | Start: 6:25am AEST

A highly anticipated rematch of the famous “Beast Quake” 2010 NFC Divisional playoff game took on a new look with Drew Brees undergoing surgery Wednesday to repair a torn ligament in his throwing thumb. Instead, the Saints are expected to start Teddy Bridgewater, even though New Orleans head coach Sean Payton refused to name his starter, leading to speculation of a greater role for dual-threat Taysom Hill. Bridgewater, in his sixth NFL season, has 29 career starts, including in the Saints’ regular-season finale a year ago when Payton opted to rest Brees and his starters prior to the playoffs. His smarts and accuracy appear to be a good fit in Payton’s offense and the Saints can support him with elite playmakers in Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas. Led by All-Pro Bobby Wagner and flanked by veterans KJ Wright and Mychal Kendricks, Seattle’s linebacker corps is better suited than most to keep up with Kamara but the secondary is young and prone to mistakes, making the anticipated debut of pass rusher Ziggy Ansah for the Seahawks a storyline to watch. While Seattle’s defense is not as stout as in previous years, quarterback Russell Wilson and the offense have flashed true explosiveness. Tyler Lockett and rookie DK Metcalf are ideal vertical threats to complement a rushing attack more talented than the one which led the NFL a year ago.

Win: Seattle 1-13
Margin: Seattle 1-13
Line: New Orleans +4.5
Total Points: under 44.5

49ERS VS STEELERS

Venue: Levi’s Stadium | Start: 6:25am AEST

After thoroughly dominating a Bengals squad in Cincinnati that took NFC West rival Seattle to the brink in Week One, the San Francisco 49ers return to Levi’s Stadium hoping to start the season 3-0 for the first time since 1998. Ben Roethlisberger suffered an elbow injury that has thrust second-year pro Mason Rudolph into the starting lineup and pushed San Francisco into the position of heavy favorite. Rudolph played quite well in Roethlisberger’s place, showing mettle, accuracy and arm strength. He threw both of Pittsburgh’s touchdowns with his only interception coming off an accurate pass that went through the hands of intended receiver Donte Moncrief. Pittsburgh’s offensive line provided steady protection in Week 2 but the 49ers are a significant challenge, ranking among league leaders in sacks (seven), interceptions (four) and defensive scores (two) – and that is with prized rookie Nick Bosa still hobbled with a sore ankle. In an attempt to rally around Rudolph and fix a perennially leaking secondary, the Steelers traded multiple drafts picks to the Miami Dolphins for defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick. His insertion into the lineup may slow Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers passing game but it won’t matter much if San Francisco dominates this AFC North opponent in the ground game like they did the Bengals last week, out-rushing Cincinnati 259-25.

Win: San Francisco
Margin: San Francisco 1-13
Line: Pittsburgh +6.5
Total Points: over 43.5

CHARGERS VS TEXANS

Venue: Dignity Health Sports Park | Start: 6:25am AEST

The Houston Texans will visit the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday in Carson, Calif., for a battle of two AFC contenders looking to get to 2-1. Both have been involved in a pair of tight games through two weeks. The Texans took a lead with 37 seconds left in New Orleans in Week 1 only to lose 30-28 on a last-second field goal, then survived a last-second two-point-conversion attempt at home against Jacksonville last week to win 14-13. The Chargers, meanwhile, shook off a late tying touchdown at home against Indianapolis in Week 1 to win 30-24 in overtime, then lost 13-10 at Detroit on Sunday on a fourth-quarter Lions touchdown. In four second-half possessions, Los Angeles lost a fumble at the goal line, missed field-goal attempts of 39 and 41 yards and threw an interception in the end zone. The already banged-up chargers lost safety Adrian Phillips, who was starting for injured All-Pro Derwin James, to a broken forearm. Wideout Keenan Allen (knee) was limited in practice on Wednesday, while tight end Hunter Henry (knee), left tackle Russell Okung (lungs) and running back Melvin Gordon (holdout) remain unavailable. Despite offensive-line upgrades, Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has been sacked 10 times through two games. He was limited to 159 yards and no touchdowns against Jacksonville, though the running game managed 126 yards on 30 carries. Newly acquired starter Carlos Hyde has 173 yards on 30 carries (5.8 average) through two games.

Win: LA Chargers
Margin: LA Chargers 1-13
Line: Houston +3
Total Points: under 48

BROWNS VS RAMS

Venue: FirstEnergy Stadium | Start: 10:20am AEST

Following a humbling 43-13 drubbing at home to the Tennessee Titans to abruptly silence an offseason of hype, Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham and the Cleveland Browns left the New York Jets on the tarmac in Week 2 with an impressive 23-3 win. Now comes a second consecutive primetime affair. The NFC-defending champion Los Angeles Rams (2-0) are a much more formidable opponent than the Jets, who lacked top pilot Sam Darnold and could not stretch the field. That won’t likely be the case for the Rams and their explosive offense. Defensive enthusiasts will want to tune in, as well, with superstars – Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Browns defensive end Myles Garrett — capable of stealing the spotlight. With rain and blustery winds in the forecast, this game could turn into more of a slugfest than a track meet. That would normally favor the home team. It will likely will take a Heisman-like performance from Mayfield to prove the Browns truly belong among the NFL’s power players Thus far, it has been feast or famine on offense, with Cleveland ranking behind only Kansas City and Baltimore with 11 plays of 20-plus yards but also tied for 25th in the league with eight sacks allowed. The steady Rams rank 7th in scoring, averaging 28.5 points per game.

Win: LA Rams
Margin: LA Rams 1-13
Line: Cleveland +3
Total Points: under 49