To borrow some baseball speak, Joe Torre used to say that Game 3 was always the most important game of a playoff series - it either swings the momentum of an even 1-1 series, brings the outcome back into question if it goes from 2-0 to 2-1, or pretty much solidifies things if it ends up making it a 3-0 series either way. Week 3 of the NFL season is quite similar. A 2-0 team can start thinking about big things if it gets to 3-0 or can start doubting itself if it goes to 2-1. A 1-1 team gets a much better idea of who it is, and an 0-2 team either starts to breathe life back into its season or digs itself firmly into its division basement. As always, home teams in CAPS and all spreads provided by covers.com.
BALTIMORE (-10.5) over Cleveland
Even with the Ravens' lackluster 1-1 start to the season, how could you possibly put money on Cleveland? It really says something about your franchise when your starting QB (Jake Delhomme) is ruled out and the line actually moves 1/2 point in your favor - this happened last week when the Browns went from a 2-point favorite to 2.5-point favorite after Seneca Wallace was named the starter vs. the Chiefs (of course, they lost outright). Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, et al should have a stat-padding afternoon, and I'd be surprised to see Cleveland even crack double digit points here.
Tennessee (+3) over NY GIANTS
The Giants are one of those 1-1 teams who will find out a great deal about themselves in Week 3. Are they the team who shadow boxed with god-awful Carolina for 3 quarters before turning the switch on, or are they the team that got its doors blown off by Indy last week? The Giants offensive line, for years its unquestioned strength, is looking old and slow, and the Titans boast one of the league's best pass defenses. Sure, Tennessee has quarterback issues of its own, but they should only come into play if the Giants stop Chris Johnson like Pittsburgh did last week, which is asking a whole lot.
Detroit (+11.5) over MINNESOTA
Give the Lions some credit - they have fight in them. The touchdown-that-was-but-then-wasn't in Week 1 robbed them of a thrilling victory in Chicago, and they led a ferocious comeback in the fourth quarter against the Eagles last week before running out of bullets. Brett Favre looked about 55 years old last week in turning the ball over four times, all seemingly right near one of the goal lines. Add that to the fact that Favre's top target in this game may be Greg Camarillo, and you have what looks to be a pretty low-scoring affair. Give me 11.5 points all day.
Oakland (+4.5) over ARIZONA
The Cardinals shouldn't be more than a 3-point favorite to anybody right now. Not to mention, the Raiders are once again riding the Bruce Gradkowski train that took them to a respectable 2-2 record with him under center last year. If Nnamdi Asomugha can neutralize Larry Fitzgerald, please tell me where Arizona has any real edge in this game, especially with Beanie Wells still out. If the Raiders make me look like an idiot by laying an egg here, I vow not to take them again until their annual late-season victory over Denver.
MIAMI (-2.5) over NY Jets
I think the Dolphins enjoy the anonymity they have in their own division. The Jets are the headline-hogging motormouths, the Patriots will command a ton of attention as long as Brady and Belichick are still in town, and the Bills are so flat-out bad that you can't not marvel at them. Meanwhile, the Fish are a sneaky 2-0 and have the classic look of a team rebuilt by Bill Parcells. The impressive rapport growing between Jets QB Mark Sanchez and TE Dustin Keller is enough to make you think "hmm, maybe these guys can move the ball a little bit after all," but in a game like this, give me the less mistake-prone team at home. (see - I didn't mention Braylon Edwards! Don't worry, that's on its way.)
Last Week: 3-2-0