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Guide to every Week 3 NFL game: Picks, matchup nuggets, more



The Week 3 NFL schedule is stacked with great matchups. Our NFL Nation reporters bring us the keys to every game, a bold prediction for each matchup and final score picks.

Additionally, ESPN Stats & Information provides a stat to know for each game, and the Football Power Index (FPI) goes inside the numbers with a matchup rating (on a scale of 1 to 100) and a game projection. ESPN Fantasy‘s Kyle Soppe and ESPN Chalk‘s Dave Bearman hand out helpful nuggets as well. It’s all here to help get you ready for a loaded weekend of NFL football.

Let’s get into the full Week 3 slate, including a huge AFC showdown between the reigning MVP and Super Bowl MVP on Monday night.

Jump to a matchup:

Thursday: MIA 31, JAX 13

1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
74.9 | Spread: BUF -2 (47)

What to watch for: Bills quarterback Josh Allen leads the NFL in scramble yards since entering the league in 2018, but Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald ranks second in the league in sacks since 2014. It’s unstoppable force meets immovable object, and something’s got to give. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Bold prediction: Rams running back Darrell Henderson Jr. rushes for 100-plus yards. Yes, the Bills’ defense ranks third in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing an average of 75.5 rushing yards per game, but Henderson gained 121 all-purpose yards in a Week 2 win, and he says he wasn’t even 100 percent with a lingering hamstring injury. Watch for him to find another gear in a breakout performance. — Lindsey Thiry

Stat to know: Stefon Diggs has 239 receiving yards this season, tied for the most in the NFL. The most receiving yards through the first three games of a season in Bills history is 352, by Peerless Price in 2002.

Injuries: Rams | Bills

What to know for fantasy: Two of Allen’s top five fantasy games of his career have come this season, and he’s averaging 65% more points per pass attempt than he did last season. See Week 3 rankings.

Betting nugget: The Rams are 13-5 against the spread (ATS) since the start of last season (2-0 this season). Read more.

Thiry’s pick: Rams 28, Bills 26
Louis-Jacques’ pick: Bills 24, Rams 21
FPI prediction: BUF, 52.9% (by an average of 1.1 points)

Matchup must-reads: Sports psychologist Carrie Hastings has become essential resource for Rams playersPlaymaking WRs led by Diggs have Bills’ passing attack flying highHenderson Jr. emerges as ‘closer’ in Rams’ running back committee

1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
63 | Spread: NE -5.5 (47.5)

What to watch for: How the Patriots plan to cover Raiders tight end Darren Waller (18 receptions) is the game within the game. In Week 1, second-year defensive back Joejuan Williams was primarily assigned to cover Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki, but that’s because the Patriots viewed Gesicki as more of a wide receiver. Waller has a more complete skill set that makes him a true tight end, and the Raiders move him around a lot, even putting him in the backfield at times. So finding and locating Waller is the first challenge. — Mike Reiss

Bold prediction: Patriots quarterback Cam Newton will rush for at least two touchdowns. At an athletic 6-foot-5, 245 pounds, he is bigger than any linebacker or defensive back the Raiders have on their active roster. So you know Newton, called a “power forward” by Raiders coach Jon Gruden, is champing at the bit to run the read-option. — Paul Gutierrez

Stat to know: The Raiders have the second-highest offensive efficiency rating (90.6) in the NFL through Week 2 (Packers, 94.0). They have scored 30-plus points in their first two games but have not done so in three straight games since 2016 (Weeks 7-9), the last season they made the playoffs.

Injuries: Raiders | Patriots

What to know for fantasy: Waller saw a career-high 16 targets in Week 2, and his 24 targets through two weeks are the third most in the NFL. See Week 3 rankings.

Betting nugget: New England is 51-26 ATS after a loss in the Bill Belichick era, including 40-15 ATS since 2003. Read more.

Gutierrez’s pick: Patriots 35, Raiders 34
Reiss’ pick: Patriots 31, Raiders 17
FPI prediction: NE, 63.4% (by an average of 4.8 points)

Matchup must-reads: Bill Belichick: Raiders’ Waller going to be ‘big challenge’ for PatriotsRaiders coach Jon Gruden calls Patriots’ Cam ‘Slam’ Newton a power forward playing quarterbackRunnin’ Rebels, bitten ears and ‘Fan Man’: Top 10 moments in Las Vegas sports historyRandall Cunningham proudly watches Patriots’ Newton tie rushing markPatriots’ Cam Newton: Money, potential extension with Patriots not priorities

1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
50.6 | Spread: TEN -3 (50)

What to watch for: Will the Vikings’ offense be able to keep up with Tennessee’s scoring pace? Minnesota’s defense has struggled to get its opponents off the field, and the lack of opportunities for its offensive playmakers not named Adam Thielen has been noticeable. Is this the week when the offense leans heavily on running back Dalvin Cook, and can quarterback Kirk Cousins finally involve rookie receiver Justin Jefferson and/or tight end Irv Smith Jr.? — Courtney Cronin

Bold prediction: Titans QB Ryan Tannehill will finish with 300-plus passing yards. That might not seem bold, but here’s something to consider: Tannehill has finished with 300 or more passing yards only three times since taking over in Week 7 last season. Defenses are focused on stopping Derrick Henry, which presents one-on-one matchups for the receivers. Tannehill and the passing game should have the advantage against a depleted Vikings secondary in those situations. — Turron Davenport

Stat to know: The Titans are seeking their first 3-0 start since 2008 (started 10-0 and finished 13-3), and the Vikings are trying to avoid their first 0-3 start since 2013 (the last Vikings team to lose 10-plus games).



Ryan Clark is worried about the Vikings after their 0-2 start, describing his panic level as Samuel L. Jackson in “Snakes on a Plane”-high.

Injuries: Titans | Vikings

What to know for fantasy: Since 2018, Henry is averaging 54.4% more points per game when his team is favored than when it is the underdog. See Week 3 rankings.

Betting nugget: Minnesota is 7-3 ATS as a home underdog under Mike Zimmer, including the playoffs. Read more.

Davenport’s pick: Titans 28, Vikings 14
Cronin’s pick: Titans 31, Vikings 20
FPI prediction: MIN, 51.5% (by an average of 0.6 points)

Matchup must-reads: Smith is thriving in Titans’ balanced passing attackHave the Vikings hit rock bottom after two weeks?Thielen and then who? Vikings struggling to find another target

1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
48.6 | Spread: PIT -4 (45)

What to watch for: The Steelers have blitzed 64% of the time this season, the most in the NFL by a wide margin, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. And Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson has the second-worst Total QBR against the blitz. Though Watson is the best signal-caller the Steelers have faced this season, look for the defense to still get a ton of pressure on the quarterback — and from everywhere on the field. — Brooke Pryor

Bold prediction: J.J. Watt and T.J. Watt will combine for five sacks. The Watt brothers usually have to check their phones after playing in a game to see how the other pass-rusher did, but on Sunday, they’ll get to play in front of each other. In Week 2, the Watts combined for 4.5 sacks, which was the second most by a set of brothers in a single day in NFL history. They’ll top that on Sunday. — Sarah Barshop

Stat to know: The Steelers have started 2-0 for the seventh time in the Ben Roethlisberger era (since 2004). They went on to make the playoffs in each of the past six instances (2005, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2016 and 2017). The Texans, on the other hand, are off to an 0-2 start for the third time in the past six seasons (2015 and 2018). But they recovered to make the playoffs in each of the previous two instances.

Injuries: Texans | Steelers

What to know for fantasy: Pittsburgh running back James Conner sure looked healthy in Week 2, as he piled up 97.2% of the Steelers’ rushing yards. He was the only running back with a rate north of 85% last week. See Week 3 rankings.

Betting nugget: Pittsburgh is 7-13-2 ATS as a favorite since 2018. Read more.

Barshop’s pick: Steelers 24, Texans 17
Pryor’s pick: Steelers 27, Texans 17
FPI prediction: PIT, 66.3% (by an average of 5.9 points)

Matchup must-reads: Texans’ run defense ‘was bend but don’t break, and we broke’Roethlisberger to set Steelers record for career games playedWatt calls punch by Blacklock ‘stupid, selfish’Texans’ offensive struggles continue as unit searches for identityBlitzburgh is back: Steelers getting after QBs at a championship rate

1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
44.3 | Spread: SF -3.5 (41.5)

What to watch for: Who is playing — and where — for each team? The 49ers are without their top two running backs, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, Defensive Rookie of the Year Nick Bosa and several others. The Giants are missing Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shepard. Who takes their spots? And can they be capable fill-ins? Start with 49ers backup quarterback Nick Mullens and newly signed Giants running back Devonta Freeman. All eyes will be on those two. — Jordan Raanan

Bold prediction: 49ers running back Jerick McKinnon will have his first 100-plus-yard rushing game since 2014 and just the third in his career. With Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman out because of knee sprains, McKinnon will have an expanded role this week, and he gets it against a Giants defense that has been shoddy against the run over the first two weeks and hasn’t seen a rushing attack as dangerous as the Niners’ unit yet. McKinnon will take advantage and reach the end zone for the third time in as many weeks. — Nick Wagoner

Stat to know: Giants quarterback Daniel Jones has nine games with at least two turnovers since 2019, tied with Jameis Winston for the most in the NFL in that span — and that includes three straight dating back to last season.

Injuries: 49ers | Giants

What to know for fantasy: It’s been over 1,000 days since McKinnon (roughly 80% available) has had 15 carries in a game, but with Mostert and Coleman out, the path to volume has been paved. See Week 3 rankings.

Betting nugget: Since 2017, the Giants are 2-14 ATS as a home underdog of less than seven points. Read more.

Wagoner’s pick: 49ers 20, Giants 17
Raanan’s pick: 49ers 22, Giants 20
FPI prediction: SF, 67.3% (by an average of 6.3 points)

Matchup must-reads: 49ers seek peace of mind before returning to turf of terrorGiants sign Pro Bowl running back FreemanAn MCL injury, a baby on the way and matching Jim Brown: Mostert’s wild weekManning content with retirement and helping Giants QB Jones out

1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
42.8 | Spread: ATL -3 (47)

What to watch for: The Falcons are 0-2 in a must-win season for coach Dan Quinn, and a home loss to a subpar Bears team would make Quinn’s hot seat even hotter. The Falcons have to stick to the formula of balance on offense and creating turnovers on defense. A rash of injuries to players such as Julio Jones and Dante Fowler Jr. might be their big obstacle this week, but the game is too critical to use injuries as a crutch. — Vaughn McClure

Bold prediction: Bears running back David Montgomery rushes for 100-plus yards for just the third time in his NFL career. Chicago had one of the worst rushing attacks in 2019, but head coach Matt Nagy entered the season with a renewed determination to run the football. Montgomery gained 82 yards on the ground in 16 carries versus the Giants last Sunday. The former third-round pick, who dealt with a groin injury over the summer, is on the verge of having a breakout performance. — Jeff Dickerson

Stat to know: After catching a pair in each of Atlanta’s first two games of the season, Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley now has 21 career receiving touchdowns, the second most by a Falcons player over his first three seasons (Andre Rison, 22).

Injuries: Bears | Falcons

What to know for fantasy: The Falcons have allowed the top-scoring fantasy QB in each of the first two weeks, and Mitchell Trubisky does have the third-best fantasy quarter by a QB this season (Week 1, fourth quarter). See Week 3 rankings.

Betting nugget: The Falcons are 4-8 as the home favorite in the past three seasons. Read more.

Dickerson’s pick: Falcons 24, Bears 23
McClure’s pick: Falcons 35, Bears 21
FPI prediction: ATL, 54.9 (by an average of 1.8 points)

Matchup must-reads: Bears fans mourn loss of Gale SayersSpecial-teams coach Ben Kotwica takes blame for onside kick fail vs. Dallas CowboysBears’ D suspect despite 2-0 startFalcons must shore up red zone defense fast to avoid repeat of 2019

1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
27.9 | Spread: CLE -7 (45)

What to watch for: Can Browns QB Baker Mayfield and receiver Odell Beckham Jr. build off their breakout performance Week 2? They finally connected on several big plays together, including a 43-yard touchdown. Before that, OBJ had only had four TD grabs since being traded to Cleveland last spring. — Jake Trotter

Bold prediction: Beckham will have his first 100-yard receiving day since Oct. 13 last season. He had 74 yards last week and is now facing a secondary that has allowed too many players to get behind it. Washington will be so focused on stopping running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt that Beckham will benefit off play-action. Beckham has two catches for 59 yards off play-action this season; he’ll add to that total. — John Keim

Stat to know: Washington leads the NFL with 11 sacks over its first two games. And 13.8% of opponent pass attempts have resulted in sacks, the second-highest rate in the NFL behind Indianapolis (15.2%).

Injuries: Washington | Browns

What to know for fantasy: Half of Beckham’s points this season have come on a single catch, but that could work out, as only two teams have allowed more 25-plus-yard receptions than Washington this season. See Week 3 rankings.

Betting nugget: The Browns have failed to cover in their past five games, dating back to last season. Read more.

Keim’s pick: Browns 21, Washington 17
Trotter’s pick: Browns 27, Washington 19
FPI prediction: CLE, 63.4% (by an average of 4.8 points)

Matchup must-reads: Call a game from 2,300 miles away? Washington radio crew gets it doneBrowns duo of Chubb and Hunt punishing NFL defenses

1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
24.9 | Spread: PHI -4.5 (47)

What to watch for: This game will be decided based on whether the Eagles can generate a pass-rush. Rookie Bengals QB Joe Burrow has been sacked six times so far this season, tied for the fifth most in the NFL, while the Eagles’ defense ranks towards the bottom of the league with four sacks generated. With defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (oblique) ailing, the pressure falls to players like Brandon Graham and Malik Jackson to turn up the heat. — Tim McManus

Bold prediction: Eagles running back Miles Sanders will rush for at least 150 yards. The Bengals’ run defense has been woeful through the first two weeks of the season. With defensive tackles Geno Atkins and Mike Daniels potentially out for another week, Sanders could be in for a big day. — Ben Baby

Stat to know: Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz has struggled with accuracy this season. He’s completing just 58.8% of his passes, well below his expected completion percentage of 67.7%, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. That’s the second-worst completion percentage over expectation (minus-8.8%) in the NFL, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, behind Dwayne Haskins (10.6%). And after throwing multiple interceptions two times all of last season, Wentz has thrown two in each of his first two games this year. No Eagles QB has done so in three straight games since Ron Jaworski in 1985.

Injuries: Bengals | Eagles

What to know for fantasy: Burrow’s 61 pass attempts were the highlight of Thursday Night Football, but don’t overlook his 15 rushing attempts this season (fifth most among QBs). See Week 3 rankings.

Betting nugget: The Bengals are 13-0 ATS all-time against the Eagles. Read more.

Baby’s pick: Eagles 27, Bengals 21
McManus’ pick: Eagles 30, Bengals 20
FPI prediction: PHI, 60.4% (by an average of 3.7 points)

Matchup must-reads: What to make of the slow start by Bengals’ GreenEagles coach Doug Pederson sacks questions about Wentz strugglesEagles have introduced QB Hurts into a game; now what?

4:05 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
36 | Spread: IND -11.5 (44)

What to watch for: What will the Colts’ defense do against a banged-up Jets offense? The Colts are coming off a game with three sacks against the Vikings, and the Jets will likely be without their starting running back, center, right tackle and top three receivers. Indianapolis should be able to keep its status as the NFL’s best defense by the end of Sunday. — Mike Wells

Bold prediction: Colts defensive end Justin Houston and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner will combine for at least three sacks against the Jets’ banged-up offensive line, which likely will be without center Connor McGovern and right tackle George Fant. Houston usually lines up over the left tackle, but he could flip sides. Rookie left tackle Mekhi Becton is the Jets’ best lineman at the moment. — Rich Cimini

Stat to know: Indianapolis receiver T.Y. Hilton now has 13 consecutive games with fewer than 100 receiving yards, dating back to 2018 — the longest streak of his career. And he has seven consecutive games without a receiving TD, tied for the second-longest such streak of his career and his longest since 2015-16 (also seven straight).

Injuries: Jets | Colts

What to know for fantasy: In his first career start, Jonathan Taylor was one of two backs to carry the ball 20 times and rack up over 100 rushing yards in Week 2. Since 2015, teams playing with a lead run the ball 46.6% of the time (30.9% when trailing), and the Colts are the biggest favorite of Week 3. See Week 3 rankings.

Betting nugget: The Jets are one of three teams to lose both games by double digits this season. Read more.

Cimini’s pick: Colts 27, Jets 13
Wells’ pick: Colts 31, Jets 13
FPI prediction: IND, 65.8% (by an average of 5.7 points)

Matchup must-reads: Darnold isn’t a bust, but Colts-Jets 2018 trade now feels one-sidedBad handoff: Colts’ Leonard gives fan his gloves with wedding ring insideJets safety McDougald, LB Williamson question ‘slow’ practices amid 0-2 startColts put Campbell, Hooker on injured reserveJets need fresh legs on offense; it’s time for rookie PerineColts laid out blueprint for success with game plan vs. Vikings

4:05 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
30.8 | Spread: LAC -6.5 (43.5)

What to watch for: Will Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert be even better after working all week with the starters? He drew praise from his coaches after stepping into the starting lineup in Week 2 just minutes before kickoff. Now they’ve had a week to work with him. Coach Anthony Lynn says he’s as shy on the field as off it, but he looked sharp in his debut for the most part. — Shelley Smith

Bold prediction: The Panthers will get a sack and two QB pressures. Not bold? Consider that the Panthers still have no sacks through two games and only six pressures. But with the tendency of rookie quarterbacks to hold on to the ball too long trying to make a play, this feels like the game the sack-less streak ends. — David Newton

Stat to know: The Chargers have called a designed rush on 54% of their offensive plays this season, the second-highest rate in the NFL behind only the Rams (55%), after being ranked 25th in the NFL in designed rush percentage last season (36%).

Injuries: Panthers | Chargers

What to know for fantasy: Los Angeles receiver Mike Williams‘ target share dropped from 33.3% in Week 1 to 12.9% in Week 2 with Herbert under center. See Week 3 rankings.

Betting nugget: The over is 11-4 in Carolina’s past 15 games. Read more.

Newton’s pick: Chargers 23, Panthers 17
Smith’s pick: Chargers 24, Panthers 17
FPI prediction: LAC, 63.4% (by an average of 4.8 points)

Matchup must-reads: McCaffrey injury gives Panthers’ Bridgewater an opportunityChargers QB Taylor’s lung punctured by team doctor before Chiefs gamePanthers believe in Davis with McCaffrey injuredMcCaffrey out 4-6 weeks with high ankle sprain

4:25 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
74.7 | Spread: SEA -5 (56.5)

What to watch for: Russell Wilson and the Seahawks’ passing game have a favorable matchup against Dallas’ banged-up defense. The Seahawks have leaned more on Wilson over the first two games, and he has delivered, including a five-touchdown performance last week against New England’s strong secondary. Now he faces a Cowboys defense that won’t have cornerback Chidobe Awuzie or linebacker Leighton Vander Esch. With Seattle dealing with defensive issues of its own, this game has shootout potential. — Brady Henderson

Bold prediction: Wilson will throw for more than 300 yards. Yes, he has thrown for 610 yards with nine touchdowns and just 11 incompletions in the first two games, but before you question my boldness, consider this: In five games against the Cowboys for his career, Wilson is averaging just 154.4 yards through the air. He has completed 78 of 125 passes for 772 yards in five games. — Todd Archer

Stat to know: Wilson has completed 52 of 63 passes this season (82.5%) for the highest completion percentage in NFL history by a QB with at least 50 pass attempts through two games. And now he is looking to become just the fifth player ever to throw four pass touchdowns in three consecutive games (Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Patrick Mahomes and Drew Brees).

Injuries: Cowboys | Seahawks

What to know for fantasy: Both Wilson and Dak Prescott are top-five QBs through two weeks, but Seattle has a pair of top-15 wide receivers, while the Cowboys don’t have even one. See Week 3 rankings.

Betting nugget: Dallas has covered eight of its past 10 as an underdog. Read more.

Archer’s pick: Seahawks 35, Cowboys 31
Henderson’s pick: Seahawks 34, Cowboys 28
FPI prediction: SEA, 60.6% (by an average of 3.8 points)

Matchup must-reads: With Seahawks up next, Cowboys need to find winning ways on the roadSeahawks’ Metcalf projects greatness with performance vs. GilmoreHow come-from-behind wins have altered Cowboys’ past seasonsSeahawks’ defense comes up big late against Patriots, but questions remainWhy did the Cowboys go for 2 down 9 points? It’s all about knowing the future

4:25 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
54.8 | Spread: TB -5.5 (42)

What to watch for: C’mon, it’s Tom Brady. Now that he’s moved to the NFC, this might be his last game in Denver, where Brady faces a statistical quirk in his storied career — the Broncos are the only team he does not have a winning record against. He has faced the Broncos 17 times in his career and is 8-9 overall against them (7-6 in the regular season, 1-3 in the playoffs). It will be a struggle for the injury-ravaged Broncos to keep Brady from getting back to .500, but to have any shot at stopping him, they will have to find a way to generate more of a pass rush. Denver cranked up five-man rush packages just four times against the Steelers last week and surrendered touchdowns on two of those plays. — Jeff Legwold

Bold prediction: The Buccaneers will notch five more sacks this week, with three coming from Shaquil Barrett. Champing at the bit for his first sack of 2020 and returning to Mile High as the 2019 sack champion, the former Bronco has been primarily rushing from the left side this year, and right tackle Elijah Wilkinson has had 4.0 sacks against attributed to him in two games — more than any other player in the league. — Jenna Laine

Stat to know: Denver tight end Noah Fant is averaging 14.3 yards per reception since entering NFL in 2019, a rate that ranks second among tight ends in that time (Jared Cook, 16.0). He could become the first Broncos player with a receiving TD in three straight games since Demaryius Thomas did it in 2017.

Injuries: Buccaneers | Broncos

What to know for fantasy: The Buccaneers D/ST ranks eighth in fantasy points this season, and the Broncos are allowing pressure at the third-highest rate. See Week 3 rankings.

Betting nugget: The over has hit in 14 of the past 16 Buccaneers games. Read more.

Laine’s pick: Buccaneers 31, Broncos 18
Legwold’s pick: Buccaneers 24, Broncos 16
FPI prediction: TB, 57.8% (by an average of 2.8 points)

Matchup must-reads: Gronkowski’s ultimate Florida road trip: A guided tour with festivals, mermaids and manateesBroncos challenged by injuries just 19 days removed from optimismGodwin clears concussion protocol; no RB changeWho is new Broncos starting quarterback Driskel?

4:25 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
39.1 | Spread: ARI -5.5 (55.5)

What to watch for: The Cardinals’ offense keeps getting better every week, while the Lions have given up 27 and 42 points in the first two weeks, respectively. That doesn’t bold well for Detroit taming Arizona, which should put on another offensive show and, perhaps, announce its arrival as one of the NFL’s teams to watch this season. — Josh Weinfuss

Bold prediction: Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray will have a 100-yard rushing and 250-yard passing day against the Lions. Detroit’s defense has struggled against both the run and the pass this season, a large part of the Lions’ 0-2 start. Considering Detroit’s inability to create a pass rush with its defensive line (one sack, one quarterback hit), Murray might have the option to either take off or sit back and watch. Watch for him to take advantage of it over and over again Sunday. — Michael Rothstein

Stat to know: The Lions have lost 11 straight games, the longest active losing streak in the NFL and the team’s longest since it dropped 19 in a row over the 2007-09 seasons. The Lions have also lost four straight games dating back to last season in which they led by 10-plus points at some point, and according to the Elias Sports Bureau, they’re the first team in NFL history to blow a double-digit lead in four straight games.



Ryan Clark recognizes Kyler Murray’s talent, but doesn’t see him as a top-10 player in the NFL just yet.

Injuries: Lions | Cardinals

What to know for fantasy: The list of active wide receivers with more touchdown receptions than Marvin Jones Jr. since 2017 is short: DeAndre Hopkins, Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill. See Week 3 rankings.

Betting nugget: The Lions have failed to cover in their past six road games. Read more.

Rothstein’s pick: Cardinals 31, Lions 23
Weinfuss’ pick: Cardinals 38, Lions 21
FPI prediction: ARI, 67.7% (by an average of 6.5 points)

Matchup must-reads: Can Sheila Ford Hamp’s lifetime of experience turn around the Detroit Lions? … Vacuum the floor? Workout at 5 a.m.? Cardinals’ bolder Murray stays humbleLions keep losing double-digit leadsCardinals laud Murray’s mobility through 2-0 start

8:20 p.m. ET | NBC
Matchup rating:
78.5 | Spread: NO -3 (53)

What to watch for: This one features two of the greatest QBs in NFL history, and both are still on a quest for that elusive second Super Bowl. This could be Drew Brees’ last season at age 41, and he should be extra motivated to silence those predicting his demise after a slow start to the season. On the flip side, Aaron Rodgers is off to a great start, so we haven’t heard any hot takes about rookie Jordan Love waiting in the wings to replace him. “It’s like when Peyton [Manning] and Tom [Brady] used to play,” says NBC analyst Tony Dungy. “It’s a team game, but they understood they were gonna have to be on top of their game for their team to win.” — Mike Triplett

Bold prediction: I’ve got this one soaring past the over with 60-plus points. This is the fifth meeting between Rodgers and Brees, and the average combined point total in those games was 69.5, the highest-scoring quarterback matchup in the Super Bowl era, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The Packers have scored 40-plus in each of their first two games, and even though Brees & Co. have struggled, it’s not like they’re facing a defensive juggernaut in Green Bay’s unit. — Rob Demovsky

Stat to know: The Packers lead the NFL in offensive efficiency rating (94.0) and are one of four teams to record 500-plus passing yards and 400-plus rushing yards through their first two games of a season since the merger in 1970. The previous three — 2019 Ravens, 1998 49ers, and 1978 Cowboys — all went on to make the playoffs.

Injuries: Packers | Saints

What to know for fantasy: Brees has scored under 15 fantasy points in consecutive games, something he didn’t do in 2019. His upside is limited, given that he is averaging 4.8 air yards per throw this season. See Week 3 rankings.

Betting nugget: New Orleans is playing its second straight prime-time game. Teams playing their second straight prime-time game are 16-26-1 ATS in the past three seasons, and 106-126-3 ATS in the past 20 seasons. Read more.

Demovsky’s pick: Packers 37, Saints 33
Triplett’s pick: Packers 27, Saints 26
FPI prediction: NO, 53.2% (by an average of 1.2 points)

Matchup must-reads: Who says Packers don’t need Adams? He does (jokingly)Brees remains confident, feels ‘borderline great’Come for Rodgers-Brees, but stay for Jones-KamaraBrees laughs off talk of decline, says out-of-sync Saints ‘not even close’ to full capability

8:15 p.m. ET | ESPN
Matchup rating:
94.7 | Spread: BAL -3.5 (54)

What to watch for: Can the Ravens jump out to another early lead? Since Lamar Jackson took over as Baltimore’s starter midway through the 2018 season, the Ravens are an NFL-best 19-0 when leading at halftime and 0-5 (including the playoffs) when trailing after two quarters. The Ravens haven’t trailed at any point in the second half in their past 12 games, which is the third-best streak in league history. — Jamison Hensley

Bold prediction: The Chiefs and Ravens will combine for 900-plus yards and at least 60 points. Both teams are in the top 10 in points allowed, but don’t look for a defensive battle. This game will be similar to the one from Week 3 last season, when the meeting produced 955 yards and 61 points. — Adam Teicher

Stat to know: The Ravens have won 14 straight regular-season games, and the Chiefs have won eight straight — the two longest active win streaks in the NFL. The last time two teams on 8-plus-game win streaks met was 1969, when the Rams (11 straight) hosted the Vikings (10 straight). This also marks the fifth QB matchup between the reigning MVP (Jackson) and Super Bowl MVP (Patrick Mahomes). The Super Bowl MVP won the previous four matchups.

Injuries: Chiefs | Ravens

What to know for fantasy: The quarterbacks will get the headlines, but when these two teams met in Week 3 last season, there were three running backs who reached double-figure point totals. See Week 3 rankings.

Betting nugget: In the past 20 seasons, reigning Super Bowl champions are 11-1 ATS as underdogs within the first three weeks of the season. And Mahomes is 10-2 ATS in September games with 28 passing TDs and zero interceptions. Read more.

Teicher’s pick: Ravens 34, Chiefs 31
Hensley’s pick: Ravens 31, Chiefs 30
FPI prediction: BAL, 59.6% (by an average of 3.4 points)

Matchup must-reads: Ravens’ Jackson downplays matchup vs. ChiefsFormer Ravens OL Urschel left NFL for MITChiefs’ Watkins placed in concussion protocolRavens karate kick away doubts they can’t win without Lamar


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Toronto FC hoping to make MLS Cup run having spent much of 2020 far from home



On a recent Thursday in Hartford, Conn., Toronto FC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg pondered the dichotomy of wanting to reach MLS Cup on Dec. 12, but also desiring to see his family again. Meanwhile, Jim Liston, the team’s director of sports science, was planning a trip to Lowe’s to buy 15 garbage cans so players could have an ice bath after training. As for manager Greg Vanney, he was fretting about his team’s health and the lack of practice time their schedule was affording.

Such is the life of a team as it attempts to not only navigate its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, but has been forced to do it away from home.

Due to travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada, TFC — like the league’s other two Canadian teams, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps — set up a “home” base in the U.S. for the remainder of the season; Toronto were stationed in Hartford. (Vancouver Whitecaps took roost in Portland, ground-sharing with Timbers, while Montreal Impact split use of New York Red Bulls’ facilities in Harrison, N.J.) This was on top of nearly every team spending nearly a month inside a bubble back in July at the MLS is Back Tournament outside Orlando, Florida.

The Reds spent about seven weeks back in Toronto as they played a series of matches against Canadian teams. In mid-September, the remainder of the regular season — and the temporary move to Hartford — beckoned. The vagabond nature of the campaign is what led Liston to joke that he was willing to discuss “whatever five seasons” the team has been through so far. But for Vanney and the players, the campaign has required a special kind of focus.

“A lot of what we’ve done here, and what we try to preach here is just control the controllables, and don’t get too drawn into the things you can’t,” Vanney told ESPN. “Roll with it, and make the best out of whatever the situation is.”

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Toronto has largely succeeded in spite of its odyssey. While there was disappointment at missing out on the Supporters’ Shield to the Philadelphia Union, TFC went 7-3-2 during its Hartford sojourn and finished with the second-best record in the league. But the challenges have still been immense. Simply being out of one’s home environment is difficult enough, but the time spent away from family and loved ones weighs heavy on the psyche, even as Vanney has given players the occasional trip back to Toronto — under quarantine — to reconnect with loved ones.

“It’s just very different, very challenging and emotionally exhausting,” Westberg said of his experience while based in Hartford.

Westberg has arguably had it tougher than most. The TFC goalkeeper is married with four children, including a baby girl who was born in June. For that reason, Westberg and his wife, Ania, made the decision at the end of September that it would be better for her and their kids to head back to his native France so they could be surrounded by family. Westberg called it “the least bad decision,” but there are difficulties nonetheless.

“I’m a very even person, and this year has challenged me a lot,” he said. “I’m still pretty even, but I keep a lot to myself and for sure there’s some difficult days, seeing your family [struggle] from your absence.”

The inability to be home has affected the players and staff in other ways. In Toronto, there are ways of disengaging from the game. Being with friends, loved ones or even in familiar surroundings can be the best medicine in terms of forgetting a bad game or training session. But in Hartford, at the team’s hotel, that escape is nearly impossible even as players try to distract themselves by reading or taking online classes.

“You don’t really unplug,” Westberg said. “You FaceTime family, or this or that, but it’s too short. You’re 100 percent focused on your soccer, and your whole day basically relies on being ready for whatever soccer activity that you have next, whether it’s practice or game. It’s good for your physique, it’s optimal for the way you eat and the way you [train]. But mentally, you’re not as fresh as your body.”

That isn’t to say there are only negatives to the separation. There is also an us-against-the-world mentality that Toronto has adopted, given that their players and personnel are experiencing the season in a way that is vastly different than most other teams. The team staff has done what it can to make their surroundings a home away from home, whether it’s personalizing the locker rooms at Rentschler Field or having hotel staff brand the surroundings in TFC colors. The hotel went so far as to bring in a barista who could consistently give the players their coffee fix. Supporters groups have even sent down banners in a bid to convey the fact that the players are remembered.

The care that TFC takes for players has extended to families back home, with the club supplying meals to loved ones three times a week.

On the logistical side, Liston made sure that one of the gyms used at MLS is Back was brought to TFC’s hotel in Hartford, and he remarked that the food at the hotel is “arguably the best we’ve ever had on the road.”

There have also been efforts to create new routines. Assistant coach Jason Bent, aka DJ Soops, has been in charge of the pregame music selection for the past 18 months — no easy feat for a squad that has a considerable international presence. In Hartford, Bent has set aside Thursday nights to spin music in one area of the hotel. He’ll even go live on Instagram or Twitch for those who prefer to relax in their rooms.

“[We] opened it to players and staff and basically anyone that’s part of our bubble to come relax, listen to music and just enjoy each other’s company,” Bent said. “I enjoy making people happy so if it’s helping everyone even in the slightest, I have no problem arranging the set and spinning.”

For Vanney, the pandemic and operating outside of the team’s home market has meant any number of challenges. He said the team has used three different training facilities in Hartford, with varying field conditions. He recognizes that the trips home are vital for the mental health of his players and staff, but any breaks also mean less time spent on the practice field. The compressed schedule, which at times involved games every three or four days, has had an impact as well. Even the best-laid plans in terms of squad rotation were impacted as minor injuries began popping up.

“We end up with a lot of guys in different positions because they need special kinds of treatment or care to help them get fit and back to health,” Vanney said. “So it ends up being a lot of different things kind of going on all at once, and that’s been the challenge of it.”

Recovery from matches has been complicated by the fact that TFC doesn’t have access to the same level of facilities that it does at home — hence Liston’s emergency trip to Lowe’s to fashion impromptu ice baths for the players. Then there are the different ways the players occupy themselves on the road as compared to home, especially amid the pandemic.

“There’s really no life outside of the hotel,” Liston said. “[At home], you may go walk the dog in the afternoon or go for a walk with your wife or friend or girlfriend or family and you’re out and about. The recommendation [here] is to kind of stay put. So you’ve got a really active population and pro athletes, who we’re asking them to be sedentary the rest of the time, kind of stay in the hotel from a COVID and safety standpoint. That’s not optimal for recovery either.”

There are also the creature comforts of home that are no longer available on the road, which can impact sleep.

“Sleep is the number one tool for recovery, and that’s definitely been a challenge,” Liston said. “We do well-being questionnaires and the scores on quality of sleep, and hours of sleep, just drop.”



Tom Barlow and Brian White seal Toronto’s fate in a 2-1 win for New York Red Bulls. Watch MLS on ESPN+.

Another change has been same-day travel, which has drawn mixed reactions from the TFC players and staff. Vanney and Westberg are generally in favor, saying it reminds them of when they each played in France. Flying back the same night also means a training day isn’t lost. Liston has a different perspective in that he prefers arriving the day before, and then leaving the same day.

“I think [same-day travel] makes for a really long day,” he said. “And there’s definitely a negative impact on performance, taking three bus rides and a plane ride before your game. You’re getting home — it can be 12:30, but it could also be 1:30 in the morning, and that’s where you know our well-being scores and sleep hours and quality just disappear. When you have so many games in succession, you can’t make up the sleep.”

With the playoffs set to begin for TFC on Nov. 24, the end is in sight, even as it makes for a complex — and even conflicting — set of emotions.

“This is the tricky part. I miss them a lot,” Westberg said of his family. “But in a way I want to see them as [late] as possible in December, because obviously, there’s this idea that we want to do well in the playoffs and we want to keep going. TFC has a history of setting high standards and high expectations. It’s a heavy load to carry but also an exciting one.”

Win or lose, it’s a season they’ll never forget.


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Bettman: NHL is mulling temporary realignment



The NHL is considering a temporary realignment of its teams for the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, according to commissioner Gary Bettman.

Bettman said Tuesday that restrictions on travel across the Canadian border, as well as “limitations in terms of quarantining when you go from certain states to other states” within the United States, could mean the NHL creates a more regionalized alignment for its upcoming season.

“As it relates to the travel issue, which is obviously the great unknown, we may have to temporarily realign to deal with geography, because having some of our teams travel from Florida to California may not make sense. It may be that we’re better off — particularly if we’re playing a reduced schedule, which we’re contemplating — keeping it geographically centric and more divisional-based; and realigning, again on a temporary basis, to deal with the travel issues,” Bettman said during a 2020 Paley International Council Summit panel with fellow commissioners Adam Silver of the NBA and Rob Manfred of MLB.

The NHL board of governors has a meeting scheduled for Thursday which will provide a progress report and possible recommendations for a season format, based on talks between the league and the NHL Players’ Association. The target date for starting next season remains Jan. 1.

Bettman said the league is considering a few scheduling options for the 2020-21 season. Something that’s off the table: playing the entire season in the kind of bubbles the NHL had in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, to complete last season. But Bettman said teams opening in their own arenas is a possibility, along with a modified bubble.

“We are exploring the possibility of playing in our own buildings without fans [or] fans where you can, which is going to be an arena-by-arena issue. But we’re also exploring the possibility of a hub. You’ll come in. You’ll play for 10 to 12 days. You’ll play a bunch of games without traveling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We’ll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need,” he said.

Bettman also indicated that the NHL is exploring “a hybrid, where some teams are in a bubble, some teams play at home and you move in and out.”

The NBA’s board of governors unanimously approved a deal with the players’ union that sets the stage for a season that will open on Dec. 22 and with a reduced schedule of 72 games. Silver said that the commissioners are in communication on COVID-19-related issues, especially the NBA and the NHL, since the two leagues’ teams share arenas and, in some cases, team owners.

Silver said he senses that the NBA will have fans in many of its buildings this season.

“We’re probably going to start one way, where we’re maybe a little bit more conservative than many of the jurisdictions allow,” he said. “What we’ve said to our teams is that we’ll continue to work with public health authorities. Arena issues are different than outdoor stadium issues. There will be certain standards for air filtration and air circulation. There may be a different standard for a suite than there will be for fans spaced in seats.”

Silver said there will be standardized protocols that are consistent from arena to arena, such as proximity between players and fans: “In certain cases, for seats near the floor, we’re going to be putting in testing programs, where fans will certify that they’ve been tested — some within 48 hours, some within day of game.” While Silver supported a continued expansion of the NBA postseason through its play-in tournament, Bettman said that he’s not in favor of expanded playoffs or “playing with the fundamentals of the game.” The NHL had 24 teams in its postseason last summer.


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The Battleground States Where We’ve Seen Some Movement In The Polls



With apologies to The Raconteurs, the presidential race continues to be “steady as she goes,” with little sign of tightening despite a plethora of new polls. FiveThirtyEight’s presidential forecast gives Joe Biden an 89 in 100 shot at winning the election, while President Trump has just an 11 in 100 chance. This makes Biden the favorite, but still leaves open a narrow path to victory for Trump, for whom a reelection win would be surprising — but not utterly shocking.

At the same time, we also have fewer polls from live-caller surveys, which have historically been more accurate and have shown slightly better numbers for Biden, than polls that use other methodologies, such as polls conducted primarily online or through automated telephone calls. Nevertheless, while the overall picture has shifted only a little in recent days, a few battleground states have seen at least some movement in their polls, which has slightly altered the odds Biden or Trump wins in each of those places.

What election stories need to get more coverage | FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast


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