2021 NFL Expert Picks: Week 3

2021 NFL Expert Picks: Week 3

by September 23, 2021 1 comment

Three NFL experts from the Prime Time Sports Talk staff came together to share their picks for Week 3.

These three writers will make their picks for the entire season, earning two points for any correct win-loss outcome and an additional three points for correctly predicting the exact score. (Failure to accurately predict a tie will be treated as a loss.) A cumulative points total and record will be listed at the bottom of every article. An archive of all 18 regular-season and four playoff editions can be found here.

Sam Schneider, Joe Heller, and Andersen Pickard contributed to this article.

Carolina Panthers vs. Houston Texans

Sam: Panthers 27, Texans 13

Not many people thought we’d be sitting here talking about Carolina moving to 3-0, but here we are. The defense has allowed just 21 points through two weeks, including just seven to New Orleans in Week 2. The loss of starting guard Pat Elflein really hurts and they’re banged up on defense, playing without Morgan Fox and Yetur Gross-Matos. Still, Christian McCaffrey keeps rookie Davis Mills and the Houston offense on the sideline in a game that will never be in doubt.

Joe: Panthers 27, Texans 17

The Texans won’t be able to overcome their quarterback situation. The Panthers continue their hot start. Christian McCaffrey will have a big game in primetime.

Andersen: Panthers 21, Texans 17

I talked up Davis Mills throughout the draft process, alleging that if he stayed in college for one more season, he would have been a consensus first-round pick. Instead, he went pro this year and now gets thrust into the Texans’ staring job. While I am confident he can be relevant in the NFL, making your debut against a 2-0 team during primetime while coming off a short week is less than ideal. Carolina gets the edge in this one.

Indianapolis Colts vs. Tennessee Titans

Sam: Titans 27, Colts 20

You ever had two sprained ankles? Me neither. There’s no reason to expect Carson Wentz to start this game for Indianapolis and that might not necessarily be a bad thing. The 23-year-old Jacob Eason, a fourth-round pick out of Washington, looks to make his first start for the Colts. They’ll try to ease the pressure on him with a healthy dose of Jonathan Taylor against a Tennessee defense that has not had a real test on the ground. That opens up play action for Indy, but Tennessee is the far better team and withstands a close call.

Joe: Titans 34, Colts 20

The Titans got back to their winning formula against the Seahawks. Meanwhile, the Colts could be without Carson Wentz (ankles). The Titans’ receivers will have more of an impact this week to complement Derrick Henry. Expect Indianapolis to play from behind all game.

Andersen: Titans 27, Colts 9

If the Titans can beat the Seahawks in Seattle, they should have no problem hosting Jacob Eason for his first career start. An early dose of Derrick Henry will set the tone in this one, allowing Tennessee to chew clock for the entire second half.

Atlanta Falcons vs. New York Giants

Sam: Giants 24, Falcons 23

Home team wins. Something has to give in this game and one of these two clubs absolutely has to win, right? Neither club is surprising us with these starts, and if the Falcons were at home, I’d choose them to break the streak first. With apologies to the newfound usage of Cordarrelle Patterson in Atlanta, the offensive stalling for the Falcons is baffling. The nod goes to the Giants if Danny Dimes can play like he did for most of the game on Thursday when he logged 95 rushing yards, a score, and a 102.2 rating against Washington.

Joe: Falcons 27, Giants 24

Danny Dimes will lose once again. This one will cause many conversations in New York after losing to a team still trying to find its identity. While it won’t be pretty, Falcons coach Arthur Smith will achieve his first career victory.

Andersen: Giants 24, Falcons 23

Sam took the words right out of my mouth: one of these two has to win? I suppose the nod goes to the Giants, who have had extra time to prepare after a narrow loss last Thursday. Still, Atlanta’s offense looked strong towards the end of their clash with the Bucs. This could be a close one, but New York will come out on top.

Los Angeles Chargers vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Sam: Chiefs 34, Chargers 30

It’s showtime in the AFC West and will be “bombs away” for two teams struggling to move the ball on the ground. As advertised, the Los Angeles defense has continued to improve. However, prior to the Chargers beating a Chad Henne– and Darwin Thomson-led Chiefs squad in January, they were 1-12 in their prior 13 tries. A valiant effort from Los Angeles is not enough to turn the corner.

Joe: Chargers 37, Chiefs 34

This matchup will be a shootout. Justin Herbert and company will come out victorious at Arrowhead. The Chiefs will fall under .500 after losing consecutive games, both of which are unfamiliar territory for Andy Reid‘s team.

Andersen: Chiefs 34, Chargers 27

This could be the game of the week. While the Chargers are tempting, they were responsible for 99 penalty yards last week. The Chiefs were responsible for less than half of that (46). Infractions like these will go a long way in giving Kansas City the victory on Sunday.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Sam: Steelers 24, Bengals 17

Pittsburgh comes in loaded with injuries but few of them have been determined the type to greatly affect the lineup. The Bengals come off of an ugly loss in Chicago determined to bounce back. As long as Joe Burrow does not throw three picks on three straight attempts again, this game should stay close. With that said, there is a history here. It’s too soon to expect the fourth-youngest team in the NFL to overcome being under the thumb of the Steel City just yet unless Pittsburgh rolls in sans their starting quarterback.

Joe: Bengals 24, Steelers 20

Joe Burrow will lead his team to the win. The Steelers’ defense could be without T.J. Watt, allowing the Bengals to make big plays. Running back Joe Mixon will score a pair of touchdowns.

Andersen: Bengals 24, Steelers 16

Injuries galore have plagued the Steelers, who could be without top receiver Diontae Johnson and elite defender T.J. Watt. Meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger has a pectoral of his own and could be restricted in this contest. Playing at home helps Pittsburgh’s cause, but they’re too banged-up to prevail against Cincy.

Chicago Bears vs. Cleveland Browns

Sam: Browns 28, Bears 14

Andy Dalton is not walking through that door. And while Bears fans are glad for that, a quick look at Justin Fields’ performance against the Cincinnati Bengals (27.7 rating, one ugly interception, 31 yards rushing) still leaves a little to be desired. Cleveland can be susceptible to designed runs for the former Ohio State star, but Joe Woods is going to dial up a lot of blitz packages and find the sledding a lot easier against Chi-town rather than Kansas City. Patrick Mahomes v2.0, Fields is not… at least, not yet.

Joe: Browns 27, Bears 13

Baker Mayfield and the Browns will study and duplicate what Matthew Stafford and the Rams’ offense did against the Bears in Week 1. Likely without receiver Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt will have more touches in the short passing game. At 1-2, Bears coach Matt Nagy’s seat will start to get a little warm.

Andersen: Browns 17, Bears 7

In a game between the Browns’ talented offense and a young Bears unit led by Justin Fields, the low score of this game could surprise some people. However, Chicago’s defense looked great against the Bengals last week and should have some success slowing down the Browns sans Jarvis Landry. Meanwhile, Cleveland should have a field day when it comes to terrorizing Fields in his first NFL start.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Detroit Lions

Sam: Ravens 27, Lions 23

I suspect it will be a garbage-time touchdown for Detroit that makes this score more respectable. Either way, the result of this game falls squarely on the legs of Lamar Jackson, which is certainly a safe bet. Mark him down for near 150 yards rushing as the Ravens take the early lead and hold off the Lions.

Joe: Ravens 37, Lions 20

Lamar Jackson will continue to play hot after finally defeating the Chiefs. Meanwhile, the Lions will drop to 0-3. This game won’t be close, though a fourth-quarter score could somewhat salvage Detroit’s pride.

Andersen: Ravens 31, Lions 20

The Ravens will win handily in this one. In fact, don’t let a garbage-time score deceive you as this game could be quite one-sided. Look for Lamar Jackson to have an absolute field day against the Lions.

New Orleans Saints vs. New England Patriots

Sam: Saints 21, Patriots 16

The Saints get a bounce-back victory after laying an egg against Carolina in Week 2. They completely shut down Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers in Week 1 only to turn around and get manhandled by Sam Darnold on Sunday. In both contests, they held the running game in check which will be key against Damien Harris (162 rushing yards this season), putting the pressure on Mac Jones. Jones has been good, not great, and New Orleans steals one in Foxborough on the strength of their defense while Alvin Kamara does just enough to run the clock.

Joe: Saints 20, Patriots 10

The Saints will bounce back and beat the Patriots in Foxborough, although not without a bad pick thrown by Jameis Winston. Mac Jones will struggle against the Saints’ defense.

Andersen: Patriots 17, Saints 10

Remember when Sam Darnold saw ghosts while playing against New England? Thanks to his LASIK surgery, Jameis Winston will have the same fortune in Foxborough on Sunday. The Patriots won’t be great, but they’ll play well enough to secure their second consecutive victory.

Arizona Cardinals vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Sam: Cardinals 41, Jaguars 17

It’s a well-known fact that you get a lot more from a team when you’re watching the games and not just checking box scores, so I’m going to do everyone out there a favor. The Jaguars are awful. Like, back-to-back No. 1 picks awful. Urban Meyer looks clueless, Trevor Lawrence is underprepared, and the magic from James Robinson is long gone. They host a fun 2-0 Arizona squad that has playmakers on both sides of the ball and will barely break a sweat in this game.

Joe: Cardinals 38, Jaguars 24

The Cardinals’ hot start continues in a somewhat easy fashion. On the other side, a young Jaguars team led by rookie Trevor Lawrence will have another tough game against Chandler Jones and J.J. Watt.

Andersen: Cardinals 51, Jaguars 13

The Jaguars have looked utterly pathetic against some of the less-talented teams in football. One can only imagine what will happen when they oppose the scorching-hot Cardinals. Yikes.

Washington Football Team vs. Buffalo Bills

Sam: Bills 33, Football Team 20

The Bills haven’t quite looked like the dominant club they were a season ago, but for that matter, neither has the defensive unit in Washington. Remember when Daniel Jones was a “poor man’s Josh Allen”? Well, the poor man just shredded WFT in primetime. While I think Chase Young and Washington’s defense just needs a little time to recapture the magic, this is not the squad to do it against. The 8.5-point spread and 45.5-point total are both too low.

Joe: Bills 24, Football Team 17

Josh Allen and the Bills’ offense righted the ship in Week 2. Although they are going up against one of the better defenses in the league, they will secure the win at home. Taylor Heinicke will play well for Washington, just not well enough to pull out the road win.

Andersen: Football Team 20, Bills 17

This feels like a game where the Football Team, coming off a long week, storms into Buffalo and wins. It should be close and the outcome could go either way. Still, I can’t shake the sense that the Washington defense finally proves that it is the centerpiece of the franchise.

New York Jets vs. Denver Broncos

Sam: Broncos 23, Jets 13

The Broncos aren’t doing anything particularly sexy, but they’re getting the job done with the tools at their disposal. Everyone knew the Defense would be the focal point. Quietly, Terry Bridgewater is up to his old tricks, playing efficient football to the tune of 54-for-70 with just shy of 600 yards and four touchdowns. Melvin Gordon III and Javonte Williams are a sufficient backfield combo, and Denver boasts a reliable wide receiver room. The Jets are already behind the eight-ball with an average score after two games of 22-10. That sounds about right.

Joe: Broncos 27, Jets 13

Jets quarterback Zach Wilson‘s woes continue in Denver. While he won’t play as bad as he did against the Patriots, a mistake or two will cost him in this game. The Broncos will move to 3-0 with the win and maintain a shared spot atop of the AFC West Division.

Andersen: Broncos 21, Jets 13

The Jets (and Zach Wilson, in particular) looked pathetic against a top-tier Patriots defense last week. They should have a bit more success in Denver, but they won’t play well enough to secure their first win. Meanwhile, Denver improves to 3-0, putting them in a tie for the division with the Raiders, just like we all expected.

Miami Dolphins vs. Las Vegas Raiders

Sam: Raiders 24, Dolphins 21

I had no faith in Las Vegas in either of the first two weeks, but the way they played against two AFC North teams combined with an uninspiring performance by Miami in their 35-0 loss to Buffalo has me on the Silver and Black this week. On top of that, Tua Tagovailoa has been ruled out with a rib injury. The Derek Carr to Darren Waller connection continues to be an effective one, and the Raiders take it at home.

Joe: Raiders 31, Dolphins 13

The Raiders will get a victory of the easier variety. Tight end Darren Waller will come up big for Las Vegas this week. The Dolphins will drop their second straight game as the Raiders have a much easier time without having to plan for Tua Tagovailoa (rib).

Andersen: Raiders 28, Dolphins 13

The Raiders should manhandle the Dolphins after Tua Tagovailoa was ruled out with a rib injury. Vegas has looked really good this year, edging out the Ravens and Steelers. They’ll remain undefeated after Week 3.

Seattle Seahawks vs. Minnesota Vikings

Sam: Seahawks 30, Vikings 27

The Seahawks should come out guns blazing in Minnesota after they fell to Tennessee in overtime last week. In that game, Russell Wilson still tallied a 128.8 rating. He has now passed for six touchdowns in his first two games. Unfortunately, they’ve had issues getting the ground game going. Meanwhile, in a close game, they were repeatedly gashed by all-world running back Derrick Henry (237 scrimmage yards, three touchdowns). The Vikings’ Dalvin Cook is likely licking his chops for the opportunity.

Joe: Seahawks 34, Vikings 31

For the third straight week, the Vikings will come up just short in yet another shoot-out. Pete Carroll’s team will narrowly secure the victory, which is something they were unable to do last week against the Titans.

Andersen: Seahawks 31, Vikings 27

I’m not sure what to expect other than the fact that we are in for a treat on Sunday afternoon in Minnesota. Seattle looked great last week but was unable to hold off a remarkable Derrick Henry-led effort. Meanwhile, the Vikings narrowly lost to the Cardinals. Seattle gets a slight edge due to Russell Wilson’s talent and a respectable defensive unit, but this is really a toss-up.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Los Angeles Rams

Sam: Rams 31, Buccaneers 23

Upset special for Tampa Bay’s first road game of the young season. They’ve put up a whopping 79 points in two games, but the defenses of the Cowboys and Falcons are not that of Los Angeles. Tom Brady is going to face a lot more harassment up front while his counterpart Matthew Stafford should have a few plays to get the ball down the field. Cooper Kupp versus Chris Godwin is a fun comparison, and this potential early-season playoff preview should be the game of the week.

Joe: Buccaneers 27, Rams 20

Tom Brady will continue his hot start just one week prior to his return to New England. The Rams’ offense will exploit the holes in Tampa’s defense to keep the game close before falling just short.

Andersen: Rams 28, Buccaneers 24

Tom Brady is now going to face off against Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey after opening the season with below-average defenses (Cowboys and Falcons). Meanwhile, that Matthew Stafford to Cooper Kupp connection might be one of the best and most powerful in the league. Tampa Bay could certainly prove me wrong, but I still feel comfortable taking the Rams at home.

Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers

Sam: Packers 26, 49ers 20

The spread in this game is leaning toward San Francisco and I’m not buying it. Green Bay showed they are beatable by a good defensive game plan in Week 1 against the Saints, but after what we just saw on Monday night, I’m not sure it would have made much of a difference. If Rodgers and Aaron Jones are on their game again, San Francisco won’t have an answer. The banged-up Niners take one on the chin at home and the Packers are off and rolling.

Joe: 49ers 24, Packers 20

The 49ers’ defense has been a rough one for Aaron Rodgers to figure out in the past. On Sunday night matchup, much like the last primetime matchup between these two teams, the 49ers will hold on to win. With a battered backfield, Jimmy Garoppolo will be forced to throw more than he and head coach Kyle Shanahan would prefer.

Andersen: Packers 34, 49ers 21

Either Aaron Rodgers was triggered after I picked the Lions to win last week, or he’s an elite quarterback that continues to be slept on. The former could be true, but the latter seems much more likely. Long story short, the Packers are still a high-powered force to be reckoned with and Week 1 was a fluke. Without a doubt, Green Bay wins by two scores.

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys

Sam: Cowboys 28, Eagles 23

I’m convinced that we are going to go all season not being able to tell how Philadelphia will perform on offense during any given week, but one thing is for sure: if there’s a team to put points up against, it’s Dallas, regardless of what the Chargers did in Week 2. On the opposite side, Philadelphia has allowed 23 points total through two games. Jalen Hurts has a solid performance on the road, but that’s not enough to top Dak Prescott and (gasp!) Tony Pollard in a divisional home tilt. 

Joe: Eagles 27, Cowboys 24

Andersen: Cowboys 24, Eagles 21

In case you can’t find the trend here, all three of us feel very confident that this will follow the traditional style of a primetime rivalry. Translation: back and forth, back and forth, back and forth—until a pivotal moment tips the scales in the waning minutes. The Cowboys are the team to pick here after stringing together two solid performances against very good teams.

Point Totals

Sam: 34
Joe: 40
Andersen: 42


Sam: 17-15
Joe: 20-12
Andersen: 21-11

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Sam Schneider on Twitter @BuyAndSellYou
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Andersen is a teenage sportswriter and reporter whose articles have appeared across the Prime Time Sports Talk, Sports Illustrated Kids, FantasyPros, and SB Nation platforms. He has also received credit from RotoWorld, CBS Sports, ESPN, Bleacher Report, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, The Athletic, SB Nation, NBC Sports, NY Post, and dozens of other sports sites for his reporting work.

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