The Week 3 NFL slate is stacked with great matchups. Our NFL Nation reporters bring us the keys to every game, a bold prediction for each matchup and final score predictions.
Football Power Index (FPI) goes inside the numbers with a matchup rating (on a scale of 1 to 100) and a game projection. ESPN Fantasy‘s Kyle Soppe and ESPN Chalk‘s Mackenzie Kraemer hand out helpful nuggets as well. It’s all here to help get you ready for a loaded weekend of NFL football.
Thursday: JAX 20-TEN 7
1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 80.3 | Spread: KC -6.5 (52)
What to watch for: The Ravens defended Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs about as well as any opponent did last season. Can Baltimore give Mahomes fits again? The Chiefs, who didn’t score in the second half of their Week 2 game against the Raiders, are depleted, facing the Ravens without wide receiver Tyreek Hill, left tackle Eric Fisher and potentially running back Damien Williams. — Adam Teicher
Bold prediction: Mahomes throws for five touchdowns. Baltimore was able to contain Mahomes last season because of its pass rush, but the Ravens won’t be able to get consistent pressure on Mahomes, who will make Baltimore pay this time. — Jamison Hensley
Stat to know: Ravens QB Lamar Jackson has completed 57% of his passes thrown 15-plus yards downfield, up from 39% last season.
What to know for fantasy: Since 2014, Mahomes (2018) and Jackson (2019) are responsible for two of the four best QB performances through their teams’ first two games. See Week 3 rankings.
Betting nugget: Kansas City has covered nine consecutive September games. Read more.
Hensley’s pick: Chiefs 48, Ravens 41
Teicher’s pick: Chiefs 31, Ravens 27
FPI prediction: KC, 71.8% (by an average of 8.1 points)
1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 62.2 | Spread: IND -1 (47)
What to watch for: All eyes will be on Adam Vinatieri to see if the Colts’ veteran kicker has figured out the “demons” in his head. The NFL’s all-time leading scorer, he has missed seven kicks in the past three games (including a playoff loss to Kansas City last season). He said there’s no added pressure on him Sunday, but the Colts might view that differently, considering they worked out six kickers on Tuesday. — Mike Wells
Bold prediction: Falcons QB Matt Ryan will throw four touchdown passes without an interception — including two to Calvin Ridley — as he silences the talk about him throwing five interceptions over the first two games. — Vaughn McClure
Stat to know: The Colts are 14-2 all time against the Falcons, the best record by one team versus a single opponent in the Super Bowl era (minimum 15 meetings). But the Colts have also lost five consecutive home openers.
Rob Ninkovich expects the Colts will win a close game against the Falcons, but Victor Cruz disagrees.
Betting nugget: Atlanta is 0-11 against the spread (ATS) in its past 11 games against AFC opponents, including Super Bowl LI. And since 2013, Atlanta is 5-20 ATS against AFC teams. Read more.
McClure’s pick: Falcons 28, Colts 17
Wells’ pick: Falcons 27, Colts 20
FPI prediction: IND, 55.8% (by an average of 2.1 points)
Matchup must-reads: Inside Julio Jones’ first NFL touchdown that was almost taken away … Adam Vinatieri: Trying to get ‘demons’ out of my head … Falcons unconcerned with key injuries to NFC South foes
1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating: 56.3 | Spread: PHI -6 (46)
What to watch for: The Eagles are likely to be without top receivers DeSean Jackson (abdominal strain) and Alshon Jeffery (calf), meaning Nelson Agholor steps into the role of lead receiver. Expect the Eagles to lean on Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders and the ground attack more than usual. And look for Detroit’s receivers to have big days against a secondary that has yielded six touchdown passes through two games. — Tim McManus
Bold prediction: Despite that depleted receiving corps, Carson Wentz throws two touchdown passes, including the winner with under five minutes remaining. — Michael Rothstein
Stat to know: The Eagles have allowed 680 yards passing through two games, second most in the NFL. And Matthew Stafford‘s 630 passing yards is the league’s fifth most. His 8.40 yards per pass attempt would be highest in his career.
Rothstein’s pick: Eagles 24, Lions 20
McManus’ pick: Eagles 23, Lions 20
FPI prediction: PHI, 65.1% (by an average of 5.5 points)
Matchup must-reads: Carson Wentz shows he’s up for any style of fight … Lions’ offense is a work in progress, but the signs are pointing up … Eagles are looking into Jalen Ramsey, but there’s much to weigh
1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating: 55.6 | Spread: GB -7.5 (44)
What to watch for: It’s Vic Fangio versus Aaron Rodgers. Fangio is a first-year head coach, but he beat Rodgers all four times he faced him as the 49ers’ defensive coordinator (including two playoff games). However, Rodgers did get the better of him over the past four years that Fangio ran the Bears’ D. While Rodgers is still figuring out new coach Matt LaFleur’s offense, he should have a good idea of what Fangio’s defense will try to do against him. — Rob Demovsky
Bold prediction: Despite having zero sacks or forced turnovers in their first two games — the first time that’s happened since 2007 — the Broncos drop Rodgers at least four times and force two turnovers. The Bears got Rodgers five times in Week 1, and if Denver does that, it’ll have a chance for its first victory of the season. — Jeff Legwold
Stat to know: Rodgers has a 36.1 Total QBR so far this season (24th in the NFL), but he did post 408 passing yards and four touchdowns through the air in his only career home game against Denver (Week 4, 2011).
Betting nugget: Each of the past 10 Denver games has gone under the total. Read more.
Legwold’s pick: Packers 21, Broncos 13
Demovsky’s pick: Packers 27, Broncos 16
FPI prediction: GB, 67.8% (by an average of 6.5 points)
Matchup must-reads: Aaron Jones offers Packers more than one way to cure offensive blahs … Elway calls out OT Garett Bolles for holding penalties … The Smiths go to Green Bay: Preston, Za’Darius thrive with Packers … No sacks or turnovers? Broncos’ defense searching for answers
1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 51.4 | Spread: NE -22 (43.5)
What to watch for: How do the Patriots configure their offensive line without starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn and starting center David Andrews? One possibility is moving left guard Joe Thuney to left tackle, but that could weaken the line in two spots. This is the Jets’ best chance to make it a game, with their strong defensive line winning the matchup up front. — Mike Reiss
Bold prediction: The Jets, with third-string quarterback Luke Falk making his first NFL start, will fail to score a touchdown for the second consecutive game. Truth be told, the offense wasn’t functioning well with Sam Darnold and Trevor Siemian, so it’s unreasonable to expect a former practice-squad QB to provide the spark. Le’Veon Bell will get 30 touches, but coach Bill Belichick won’t let the run game beat him. — Rich Cimini
Stat to know: Bell has just one touchdown in four career games against the Patriots, including the playoffs. Considering New York’s QB situation, the Patriots could become the first team since the 1937 Bears to allow zero touchdowns in each of the first three games of the season, per Elias Sports Bureau research.
Betting nugget: New England is 0-4 ATS in the Belichick era as a favorite of at least 20 points. The most recent such game happened in 2011. Read more.
Cimini’s pick: Patriots 35, Jets 6
Reiss’ pick: Patriots 30, Jets 9
FPI prediction: NE, 90.2% (by an average of 18.1 points)
1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating: 50.9 | Spread: MIN -8 (43.5)
What to watch for: Quarterback Kirk Cousins said his future with the Vikings is on the line after one of the worst performances of his career in Green Bay. Meanwhile, the Raiders’ pass defense gave up 249 yards and a touchdown to Denver in Week 1, and 443 yards and four passing touchdowns to Patrick Mahomes in Week 2. So if there’s a time for Cousins to earn a bounce-back victory, Week 3 presents the best chance. — Courtney Cronin
Bold prediction: Kicker Daniel Carlson, a former Vikings fifth-round draft pick who was cut in 2018, will drill a game winner for the Raiders. Carlson is 19-of-20 on field goal attempts since signing with Oakland last Oct. 23. “That was some tough times, obviously, getting cut early on in my NFL career, but it’s been fun just seeing how it’s all worked out,” Carlson said this week. “I think I’m in a great spot here in Oakland … it’s not some personal vendetta for me.” — Paul Gutierrez
Stat to know: Derek Carr has thrown multiple touchdown passes in just one of his past 15 road games (14 TDs, 15 interceptions in those games). And the Raiders have lost 10 of their past 11 road games.
Victor Cruz is confident in the Vikings winning at home, but Rob Ninkovich isn’t sold and goes with the Raiders.
What to know for fantasy: There were 234 instances in which a quarterback completed at least 23 passes in a game last season. Cousins has completed just 22 combined through two weeks. See Week 3 rankings.
Betting nugget: Mike Zimmer is 30-12-1 ATS at home as Minnesota’s head coach. Read more.
Gutierrez’s pick: Raiders 23, Vikings 21
Cronin’s pick: Vikings 28, Raiders 17
FPI prediction: MIN, 77.9% (by an average of 10.8 points)
Matchup must-reads: Vikings have ‘utmost confidence’ in struggling Kirk Cousins … Rookie Josh Jacobs: ‘I don’t want to be labeled as a soft back’ … Dalvin Cook carrying Vikings, but challenge is to preserve him for season … Raiders’ in-flux secondary taking positives from torching by Chiefs
1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating: 47.1 | Spread: DAL -22.5 (47.5)
What to watch for: The Cowboys will look to continue their fast start offensively, even without their leading receiver, Michael Gallup. The Dolphins’ defense has allowed 12 touchdowns in two games, while the Cowboys have scored touchdowns on nine of 19 possessions in two games. — Todd Archer
Bold prediction: After scoring just one touchdown through the first two weeks, the Dolphins double up, scoring two to slightly cover the 21.5-point spread. Miami’s offense has been abysmal, but we are getting bold. Even so, Dallas still wins easily. — Cameron Wolfe
Stat to know: Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott is 22-of-24 for 318 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions on play-action passes this season.
Betting nugget: Teams that are underdogs by at least 20 points have covered all five games in the past 15 seasons. Read more.
Wolfe’s pick: Cowboys 38, Dolphins 17
Archer’s pick: Cowboys 33, Dolphins 13
FPI prediction: DAL, 93.7% (by an average of 21.4 points)
Matchup must-reads: How are the Dolphins handling 0-2? ‘Want light at end of tunnel’ … With Robert Quinn’s return, Cowboys’ D-line deeper, stronger … The worst NFL starts ever, and the Dolphins’ chances of going 0-16 … With three first-round draft picks in 2020, pressure is on Dolphins GM
1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 28.4 | Spread: BUF -6 (44)
What to watch for: The Bengals average the second-most passing yards per game in the NFL this season but are dead last in rushing yards. Meanwhile, the Bills’ defense ranks in the top 10 against both the pass and the run. If Cincy can’t get its run game going, it could be a long Sunday in Buffalo’s home opener. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Bold prediction: Joe Mixon will get 75 yards from scrimmage. This doesn’t seem like a bold prediction, but as Marcel pointed out, the Bengals do have the worst ground attack in the NFL, and Mixon has been stifled through two games. Look for the running back to get the ball in various ways against the Bills. — Ben Baby
Stat to know: Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen has at least one passing touchdown and one rushing touchdown in three consecutive games dating back to last season. The only player since the 1970 merger to both rush and pass for a score in four consecutive games was Michael Vick with the Eagles in 2010.
What to know for fantasy: Cincinnati’s John Ross is the only player in football with a 50-plus-yard reception in both weeks this season, but opponents have completed just one deep pass (15-plus air yards) against Buffalo this season. See Week 3 rankings.
Betting nugget: Since 2017, 0-2 teams are 12-4 ATS and 11-2 as underdogs. Read more.
Baby’s pick: Bills 24, Bengals 17
Louis-Jacques’ pick: Bills 28, Bengals 13
FPI prediction: BUF, 67.9% (by an average of 6.5 points)
Matchup must-reads: Bills’ D dominating, but you have to look beyond sack totals … What numbers say about Andy Dalton’s uneven start under Zac Taylor … Bills’ odd schedule provides huge opportunity to build momentum
4:05 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating: 31.5 | Spread: TB -6 (48)
What to watch for: In Week 2, the Bucs held Christian McCaffrey to a career-low 2.9 yards per touch and no touchdowns. But they believe the Giants’ Saquon Barkley is an even bigger test. “They’re on different planets,” Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians said of McCaffrey versus Barkley. “Saquon’s bigger, stronger, faster. He’s got more 50-yard runs than anybody I’ve seen in a long time.” — Jenna Laine
Bold prediction: New Giants starting quarterback Daniel Jones throws for 300-plus yards in his NFL debut. The first-rounder will show that the preseason was not a fluke and that the future isn’t so bleak for the Giants, experiencing more success against the Bucs than most anticipate. — Jordan Raanan
Stat to know: Jones was 7-of-8 with two passing touchdowns on throws 15-plus yards downfield and outside the numbers in the preseason.
Victor Cruz explains why it’s important for the Giants to beat the Buccaneers, but Rob Ninkovich thinks New York has already moved on to next season and likes Tampa Bay to win.
What to know for fantasy: Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans has only 14.9 points this season. He finished 2018 as WR9, and he had a two-game stretch in Weeks 9-10 when he scored just 10.7 points. See Week 3 rankings.
Betting nugget: New York is 7-2 ATS in road games under Pat Shurmur, including 7-0 ATS in games against teams other than Dallas. Read more.
Raanan’s pick: Bucs 26, Giants 23
Laine’s pick: Bucs 24, Giants 13
FPI prediction: TB, 74.1% (by an average of 9.1 points)
Matchup must-reads: Daniel Jones brings new dimensions to Giants’ offense … Bucs need a win at Raymond James before five-game, 49-day, 18,000-mile journey … Eli Manning’s legacy through the eyes of those who know him best
4:05 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating: 23.4 | Spread: ARI -2.5 (43.5)
What to watch for: How the Cardinals perform in the red zone will determine whether they win this game. Quarterback Kyler Murray will continue to pile up yards between the 20s, but this weekend might be different. Coach Kliff Kingsbury has shown he can adapt as a playcaller, and Week 3 will be another chance for him to adjust to the NFL. — Josh Weinfuss
Bold prediction: Undrafted second-year quarterback Kyle Allen— David Newton
Stat to know: The Cardinals have run the fifth-most plays on offense (136) through two games. They average 23.4 seconds per play, the second-fastest time of possession per play behind … the Panthers (23.1 seconds).
Betting nugget: Carolina is 2-8 ATS in its past 10 games (1-9 outright). Read more.
Newton’s pick: Panthers 24, Cardinals 17
Weinfuss’ pick: Cardinals 31, Panthers 17
FPI prediction: ARI, 55.9% (by an average of 2.1 points)
4:25 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 67.6 | Spread: LAC -3 (48)
What to watch for: This game features two of the best receivers in the game in Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins and Los Angeles’ Keenan Allen. Hopkins and Allen are second and third in the NFL in receptions (224 and 215, respectively) since the start of the 2017 season. Hopkins’ fellow Clemson product Mike Williams is averaging an impressive 22.4 yards per reception through two games. — Eric D. Williams
Bold prediction: Deshaun Watson is sacked more than four times. The Chargers have only two sacks through two games, tied for 28th this season. But even though the Houston offensive line played better in Week 2, Watson will still continue to get hit. — Sarah Barshop
Stat to know: Watson is throwing 20.3% of his passes into tight windows, the third-highest rate in the NFL, both according to NFL Next Gen Stats research. And among wide receivers targeted 15-plus times, Hopkins is facing press coverage 35.4% of the time this season (fifth in NFL) to average just 5.2 yards of cushion (seventh least), per NFL Next Gen Stats data.
What to know for fantasy: Austin Ekeler and Le’Veon Bell are the only two players with 50 rushing yards and six receptions in both weeks this season. In 2018, Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliott (twice) and Todd Gurley were the only backs to have consecutive such games. See Week 3 rankings.
Betting nugget: Watson is 8-2 ATS in his career as an underdog, including 7-1 ATS as a road underdog. Read more.
Barshop’s pick: Texans 24, Chargers 21
Williams’ pick: Chargers 27, Texans 24
FPI prediction: LAC, 56.4% (by an average of 2.3 points)
Matchup must-reads: Shoutouts are mandatory for Texans and their ‘fine commissioners’ … Durable Philip Rivers a constant amid Chargers’ injury woes … With Jadeveon Clowney gone, Texans depend on Whitney Mercilus … In video chat, Melvin Gordon says he’ll play ‘somewhere’
4:25 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 65.1 | Spread: SEA -5 (44.5)
What to watch for: Teddy Bridgewater will be trying to keep the Saints’ playoff hopes on track while Drew Brees recovers from thumb surgery expected to sideline him more than a month. Bridgewater’s first start of the season comes against a Seahawks defense expected to have defensive end Ezekiel Ansah making his Seattle debut opposite Jadeveon Clowney. — Brady Henderson
Bold prediction: The Saints will run for 120-plus yards against Seattle’s fourth-ranked run defense. Coach Sean Payton will get creative with his use of Bridgewater and Taysom Hill in Brees’ absence. But he’ll also lean heavily on one of the most loaded offensive lines in football. Payton was hard on his line after the Week 2 loss in L.A., chastising it for getting “whupped” up front by the Rams. He’ll demand it leads the charge this time around. — Mike Triplett
Stat to know: According to ESPN pressure metrics using NFL Next Gen Stats data, the Seahawks’ offensive line has a pass block win rate of 33% this season, the second worst in the NFL. Russell Wilson has been sacked eight times already, tied for third most.
Victor Cruz anticipates the Seahawks topping the Saints because of Drew Brees being on the bench.
Betting nugget: Bridgewater is 12-2 ATS in his career as an underdog. Read more.
Triplett’s pick: Seahawks 23, Saints 20
Henderson’s pick: Seahawks 27, Saints 20
FPI prediction: SEA, 55.4% (by an average of 2.0 points)
4:25 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 50.6 | Spread: SF -6.5 (43)
What to watch for: How will Mason Rudolph perform replacing an injured Ben Roethlisberger as the Steelers’ starting quarterback? And will the 49ers find a capable fill-in for stalwart left tackle Joe Staley? Stepping in for Roethlisberger or Staley is no easy task, and the team that does a better job coming up with solutions likely will be the one to come away with the victory. — Nick Wagoner
Bold prediction: James Washington will score two touchdowns. The wide receiver was one of Rudolph’s favorite targets in college, and he’ll be a solid safety blanket for Rudolph’s first NFL start. Washington hasn’t been very involved in the Steelers’ offense and has only one NFL touchdown, but everything changes with Rudolph as QB1. — Brooke Pryor
Stat to know: Matt Breida has averaged 5.4 yards per rush since start of 2018, the most among running backs, and he has nine rushes reaching 15-plus mph this season — third in the NFL — per NFL Next Gen Stats data.
What to know for fantasy: Thirty-two of Washington’s 39 collegiate touchdown receptions came from Rudolph. See Week 3 rankings.
Betting nugget: San Francisco is 1-12-1 ATS in its past 14 games as a favorite (5-9 outright), including 0-4 ATS last season (1-3 outright). It is also 0-11-1 ATS in its past 12 games as a home favorite. Read more.
Pryor’s pick: 49ers 23, Steelers 20
Wagoner’s pick: 49ers 23, Steelers 17
FPI prediction: SF, 79.8% (by an average of 11.7 points)
Matchup must-reads: George Kittle is solid, but do the 49ers have other credible fantasy options? … What Steelers’ offense looks like with ‘mad man’ Rudolph … Kyle Shanahan’s creative playcalling accelerates Jimmy Garoppolo’s progress
8:20 p.m. ET | NBC
Matchup rating: 69.6 | Spread: LAR -3 (47.5)
What to watch for: Can Cleveland’s beleaguered offensive line protect Baker Mayfield facing off against Aaron Donald and a ferocious Rams front? Only two other quarterbacks have held the ball longer on average through two weeks than Mayfield, according to NFL Next Gen Stats research. — Jake Trotter
Bold prediction: Donald sacks Mayfield at least twice. The two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year has zero sacks through two weeks. That spells trouble for Mayfield behind a Browns offensive line that has been less than stellar. The Rams’ pass rush has been solid from the edges, but on Sunday, it will be Donald who dominates. — Lindsey Thiry
Stat to know: Over the first two games, the Rams have scored just 19 of their 57 points in the first half after ranking second in the league last season with an average of 17.4 points per first half.
What to know for fantasy: Mayfield has failed to throw for multiple scores in each of his first two games this season, but he has never had three consecutive such games. See Week 3 rankings.
Betting nugget: Los Angeles has covered six of its past seven games, with the only exception being Super Bowl LIII, and the Rams have covered all five games as a favorite in that span. Read more.
Thiry’s pick: Rams 28, Browns 21
Trotter’s pick: Rams 28, Browns 24
FPI prediction: LAR, 61.0% (by an average of 4.0 points)
Matchup must-reads: Note to OBJ: No divas in the Rams’ receiving room … Mayfield and the new world of expectations in Cleveland … Fan gets OBJ autograph tattooed after MNF … Aaron Donald making his presence felt with or without sacks
What to watch for: It’s a matchup between a struggling quarterback (Mitchell Trubisky) and a struggling defense (Washington ranks 30th in yards per game allowed and has just two sacks in 72 pass attempts). The Redskins’ offense will want to get the ball down the middle of the field to receiver Terry McLaurin, but that could be tough against this Chicago defense. — John Keim
Bold prediction: Bears rookie David Montgomery rushes for more than 150 yards. Chicago coach Matt Nagy is expected to ride the hot hand Monday night, and that probably won’t be Trubisky. The Bears believe Montgomery only scratched the surface with his performance last weekend in Denver (18 carries, 62 yards and a touchdown). — Jeff Dickerson
Stat to know: McLaurin had at least 60 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown in each of his first two career games. He is the first player to accomplish that feat since Calvin Johnson in 2007, and if McLaurin posts those numbers Monday night, he would be the second player since the 1970 merger to do so in each of his first three career games (Louis Lipps in 1984).
What to know for fantasy: Montgomery had just 18 rushing yards in his NFL debut, but in Week 2, he had 18 carries. See Week 3 rankings.
Betting nugget: Since 2015, Washington is 0-6 outright and ATS in Monday Night Football games. Read more.
Dickerson’s pick: Bears 19, Redskins 7
Keim’s pick: Bears 13, Redskins 10
FPI prediction: CHI, 57.4% (by an average of 2.7 points)