Bet On It: Predictions for NFL Week 3
Last week: 4-4; Season: 10-6
Heading into Week 3 of the NFL season, we’re starting to get a feel for some absolute truths: The NFC West isn’t very good, Indianapolis cannot contend without Peyton Manning and the Patriots and Packers can score points pretty much whenever they want.
But not everything’s so obvious — which is where the explanation for last week’s 4-4 mark in “Bet On It” comes in. The goal, of course, is to improve as the season goes on, though Week 1′s 6-2 record didn’t leave a ton of wiggle room.
So, without further adieu, predictions for Week 3 that will absolutely, definitely (probably not) be 100-percent correct:
• Chad Ochocinco will catch a touchdown pass
So far as a Patriot, Ochocinco has three catches for 59 yards and has yet to find the end zone. Instead, Tom Brady has looked to Deion Branch, Wes Welker and his tight ends — Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
Hernandez won’t play for the next few weeks, though, after injuring his knee in Week 2. That means the Patriots need another player to step up in the red zone, preferably one who doesn’t mind stretching the middle of the field. Ochocinco fits the bill.
With Brady’s other weapons drawing extra attention, Ochocinco will get on the board in Buffalo.
• Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton will combine for at least 600 passing yards
This assumes two things: 1. Newton will continue to air it out with a great deal of success.
2. Gabbert won’t totally bomb in his NFL debut.
Newton has topped the 400-yard passing mark in each of his first two starts. He should have another solid day against the Jaguars’ secondary, though Carolina will try to establish its run more than in Weeks 1 and 2. Gabbert, meanwhile, gets to debut against a Panthers’ secondary giving up nearly 300 passing yards per game.
If the Panthers get out to an early lead, Gabbert won’t have any choice but to drop back.
• St. Louis will not score a red-zone touchdown (again)
The Rams have just one TD in five red-zone trips this season and went 0-for-3 in that regard Monday against the Giants. Week 3 doesn’t figure to be any easier.
Baltimore’s defense, despite what happened against Tennessee, is one of the better units in the league. The Ravens will make things tough on Sam Bradford, especially the deeper into Baltimore territory Bradford marches. And with Steven Jackson and Cadillac Williams dealing with injuries, the Rams might have to lean on Jerious Norwood, who hasn’t scored a rushing TD since 2008.
• The Eagles will force at least three turnovers
Philadelphia’s managed just three total turnovers in two games this season, but two of those came on interceptions of Matt Ryan in Week 2.
We all know Eli Manning isn’t the most careful with the ball, and the losses of Domenik Hixon and potentially Mario Manningham to injury means he’ll have to work harder to find open targets. That’s in addition to an Eagles pass rush which figures to bring plenty of pressure.
It could be a tough day at the office for Manning.
• Josh Cribbs will return a kick for a touchdown
Knowing how sports betting usually works, this prop — easily the most unlikely to occur — will be correct and the other seven will be wrong.
Cribbs is averaging a dazzling 34.2 yards in five kickoff returns this season and had a 43-yard punt return against the Colts last week. Miami will do its best to keep the ball out of Cribbs’ hands, but Cleveland’s do-everything weapon seems to be in top form early in the 2011 season.
He’s bound to break one sooner or later. And I’m banking on sooner.
• Antonio Gates will catch multiple touchdown passes
The Patriots focused most of their pass defense on stopping Gates — and it worked, with the San Diego tight end catching no passes last Sunday. The poor performance has led to speculation that Gates is suffering from a lingering foot injury, which could limit him again against the Chiefs.
Forget it. Gates hasn’t had a two-TD performance since Week 4 last year and last Sunday’s shutout was the first time in 34 games Gates had gone without a catch.
He’ll be eager to rebound Sunday, and Kansas City’s porous defense provides a perfect opportunity. Detroit shredded the Chiefs in Week 2, with tight end Tony Scheffler splitting the seam for a long TD catch. Gates should find some openings and Philip Rivers will be looking for him.
(Update, Sept. 25: OK, well this one’s my bad. Gates isn’t in the lineup against the Chiefs — that foot injury is apparently the real deal.)
• Rashard Mendenhall will rush for 150 yards against the Colts
It’s been a slow start to the 2011 season for Mendenhall — 45 yards in Week 1 against Baltimore, 66 in a Week 2 win over Seattle. He’ll break loose Sunday night against an Indianapolis defense that can’t stop the run (or the pass).
Peyton Hillis put up 94 yards and two TDs against Indy last week; the Steelers got back to physically-imposing football against the Seahawks. They should be able to do the same Sunday night, without exposing Ben Roethlisberger too much. That will mean a lot of Mendenhall and the ground game.
• DeMarco Murray will lead Dallas in rushing Monday night
Tony Romo’s rib injury figures to get almost all of the attention around Dallas leading up to Monday’s key showdown with the Redskins. But the Cowboys’ struggling run game should be of equal concern.
Dallas is averaging just 54.5 yards rushing per game, second worst in the league, ahead of only Seattle. To take some heat off a banged-up Romo, Dallas will need to get its ground game going. The problem there is that No. 1 back Felix Jones is dealing with a shoulder injury and No. 2 back Tashard Choice hasn’t done anything in two games. The door is wide open for Murray, the rookie out of Oklahoma, to step through and become a featured player.