NFL Analysis: The Week 3 Undercard

TheSportsNotebook has already previewed the four big national TV games of Week 3, including late Sunday afternoon (Indy-San Francisco), Sunday Night (Chicago-Pittsburgh) and Monday Night (Oakland-Denver). Now let’s look at the 12 games on the Week 3 undercard.

There are some pretty good games here, probably better than the ones were getting stuck for the national fare. All games are picked on the moneyline, noted for each team in parentheses, with visiting team listed first. TheSportsNotebook’s NFL analysis is at (+157) coming into the week.

Green Bay (-150) Cincinnati (+130): This is a tough matchup for the Packers—on the road against a team whose pass rush can abuse the weak Green Bay offensive front, and do it right up the gut with Geno Atkins, meaning you can’t roll the pocket away from the rush. But while it’s a tough matchup, this is still Aaron Rodgers, and Cincinnati is dealing with injuries on the corners, and the Packer defense has played well early. Take the Pack.

Houston (-135) Baltimore (+115): Each team had a notable injury last week with Houston receiver Andre Johnson and Baltimore running back Ray Rice. The former will likely play, while the latter probably won’t. That might account for the team that won the Super Bowl in 2012 being a slight home underdog against an opponent who’s gone to the wire against San Diego and Tennessee. I like Bernard Pierce, the other Raven running back, even more than Rice and think Baltimore wins it at home.

St. Louis (+170) Dallas (-200): This is a game I can picture going about any way possible, as is usually the case with Dallas. But I’m going to pick the road underdog here, because I think the Ram pass rush can get after Tony Romo effectively, I like the way Sam Bradford is throwing the football and ultimately I just like this Ram team. You can never rule out the Romo-Coaster going crazy for a big game, but if it’s tight, St. Louis pulls it out.

Arizona (+280) New Orleans (-360): While I think the Saints are going to win this game at home, that’s a moneyline that really gives me pause. Arizona’s defense is better than Tampa Bay’s, and the latter gave New Orleans fits last week. Carson Palmer looks pretty good and he and Larry Fitzgerald can hook up for a few big plays. I’m not prepared to risk that much on the moneyline in what I think is going to be a good game in any event. The Cards are worth a flyer.

Atlanta (+110) Miami (-130): Two teams coming from opposite ends of the spectrum—one as an established contender, the other an up-and-comer—and each with question marks. Atlanta’s got pass protection concerns and Miami’s Cameron Wake is someone who can exploit those. The Falcons are also missing Stephen Jackson with a thigh injury.

But even if the Falcon offense gets slowed, a now-healthy Roddy White will be back alongside Julio Jones and they’ll put at least a little pressure on the Miami offense And I don’t think the Dolphins are up to snuff. This looks like a good game, and I lean Atlanta’s way.

San Diego (+140) Tennessee (-160): Two also-rans from last year have looked feisty in the first couple weeks. Charger receiver Malcolm Floyd will miss this one. I’m torn here, but the Chargers are still undervalued in the line—this game should be in the (-125) range. Philip Rivers’ arm strength is back and his team offers value at (+140).

Detroit (-105) Washington (-115): My beloved Redskins look completely adrift defensively. They can run the ball with Alfred Morris and I’d look for RG3 to run a little more this week, as he gradually gains steam. I just don’t feel good about this game. The secondary can’t tackle and now Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush are coming to town. This has 0-3 written all over it, but I refuse to profit—even hypothetically—by picking against my own team, so I’ll just pass.

NY Giants (-125) Carolina (+105): The Giants have looked terrible in going 0-2, and committing ten turnovers. Carolina has looked decent in going 0-2 and losing on the last drive twice. I just can’t see this New York team going 0-3 and turnovers are something they can clean up reasonably quickly. I’ll take Big Blue.

Buffalo (+115) NY Jets (-135): A lot to like about both teams so far, but I think Geno Smith is catching too much heat for his three interceptions in the fourth quarter last Thursday night in New England. I like the way Smith looks and the way he’s competing as a rookie quarterback and while Buffalo has impressed, this is just not enough value for me to pick them in their first road game with rookie E.J. Manuel at quarterback. The Jet defense has played two straight really good games and Rex’s boys get him a win here.

Tampa Bay (+270) New England (-340): It’s looking like the reports of Rob Gronkowski’s return were greatly exaggerated, at least this week, but I still wouldn’t be shocked to see the Patriot tight end on the field. Tampa Bay played well defensively against Drew Brees last week when his weapons were healthy. There’s no reason to think they can’t do so against Tom Brady, whose supporting cast is not. I’m still taking the Pats—their own defense has played pretty well early on, and now they can tee off on Josh Freeman.

Cleveland (+260) Minnesota (-320): The Browns traded Trent Richardson to Indianapolis and in giving up the #3 pick in last year’s draft for what will, barring a disaster, be a much lower pick this coming spring, the Browns have signaled that they’re mailing in the season. If Minnesota can’t win their first home game of the young season against this team, the Vikings need to fold the franchise.

Jacksonville (+2000) Seattle (-4500): Do you have any idea how hard it is to make up (-4500) on a moneyline if you lose? The fact that I’m aware of this and am still picking Seattle here tells you how bad Jacksonville is.