Atlanta Falcons (+3) at Pittsburgh Steelers
This Sunday, Atlanta heads north to Pittsburgh in a matchup featuring high-scoring offenses, expensive veteran quarterbacks and underwhelming win-loss records. After reaching the divisional round the of the playoffs last year, the Falcons and Steelers both have just one win apiece and sit at last place in their respective divisions. As All-Pro halfback Le’Veon Bell continues to sit out after not receiving a contract extension this offseason, the Steelers rushing attack has faltered and resulted in one-dimensional offense. In its most recent loss to Baltimore, Pittsburgh was unable to sustain long drives, losing time of possession by more than 10 minutes and finishing with just 19 rushing yards. Meanwhile, Matt Ryan started the season excellently after signing a $150 million extension this summer to stay in Atlanta. Yet he has been let down by a porous defense and is 0-2 in the past two weeks despite scoring a combined 73 points. While I don’t expect that trend to change against the Steelers, the Falcons’ losses have come by slim margins, and it looks like the much sharper team.
My pick: Falcons 38, Steelers 31
Green Bay Packers (-1) at Detroit Lions
Since a week one disaster on national TV against the New York Jets, Matthew Stafford and the Lions have played significantly better and have almost nothing to show for it. Sitting at 1-3 and coming off a heartbreaking loss in Dallas, this game is now a must-win for Detroit if it wishes to compete in the toughest division in football, the NFC North. Rookie halfback Kerryon Johnson continues to shine for the Lions team that relied heavily on Stafford in the past, revitalizing a running game that has been effectively nonexistent in recent years. The timing, however, is poor for Detroit, as it faces a Green Bay team that is hitting its stride. Not only has Aaron Rodgers’ health improved following his week one MCL sprain, the Packers defense demonstrated its ability to change the game. I expect the Packers to win comfortably, and Rodgers to exhibit his increased mobility on his way to a big game.
My pick: Green Bay 31, Detroit 17
Minnesota Vikings (+3) at Philadelphia Eagles
In a rematch of last year’s NFC Championship Game, both teams are sporting different starting quarterbacks. In Philadelphia, Carson Wentz has resumed starting QB duties after recovering from the torn ACL that ended his 2017 season, and Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles returned to the bench after a difficult start to the year. Wentz’s playmaking ability was on display last Sunday, including a beautiful downfield strike to recently reacquired wide receiver Jordan Matthews. The Vikings have found enormous success in the team’s passing attack after letting go of all three quarterbacks from last year’s roster and signing Kirk Cousins to a groundbreaking, fully guaranteed contract. Cousins has turned the Vikings into a passing juggernaut, but Dalvin Cook has been unable to find a groove so far this season. The Eagles have yet to allow more than 55 yards to running backs in a game this season, and despite a sluggish start for the defending champs, I predict a close win.
My pick: Vikings 24, Eagles 28
The Washington Football Team (+6.5) at New Orleans Saints
Player A is on pace for 1,100 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns. Player B is headed towards 140 receptions and 1,344 receiving yards. Both of these players are Alvin Kamara, who continues to exceed expectations following a stellar rookie season. The Saints offense has not missed a beat during Mark Ingram’s four-game suspension, and despite allowing some big plays on defense, it remains in definitive control of the NFC South. New acquisitions for Washington include Alex Smith and Adrian Peterson, who have both produced in their first season with the Washington team, but the lack of threats at wide receiver remains an issue. While Washington comes off fresh after a bye week, the Saints offense will shine at home in prime time.
My pick: Washington 27, Saints 37