Unparalleled injuries, COVID-19, and terrible Thursday night games. Only one of those things fit the typical NFL season. Let’s jump into this week’s edition of NFL Breakdown. We focus on three games you have to catch plus all the info that you’ll need ahead of the contests. This week, our attention is on the matchups between the Vikings and Texans, the Patriots and Chiefs, & the Falcons and Packers.
Last week I started making picks against the spread so we’ll start keeping track:
- Last week: 3-0
- All-time: 3-0
Minnesota Vikings vs Houston Texans
- Spread: Texans -4 (-110)
- Point Totals:5 (-110)
First appearance in this column for both teams as both look to break their winless streak. Houston came out hot last week against Pittsburgh but allowed a 25 to 7 run over the final three quarters and did not score in the second half. They also allowed five sacks on the day and managed just 29 rushing yards. Deshaun Watson looked like a quarterback missing his top wide receiver (thanks Bill O’Brien) and only carried the ball once for five yards. Hard to blame him with that Swiss cheese offensive line he’s got there. Week 3 was the closest they’ve come to winning as they’ve been outscored by 38 in the first three games. As a whole, the defense has produced just seven sacks and hasn’t produced near enough turnovers.
Somehow the Minnesota Vikings managed to squander elite-level performances by Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson. Cook rushed 22 times for 181 yards and a touchdown and Jefferson caught 7 of 9 targets for 175 yards and a score. The Vikings, my God the Vikings, watched Ryan Tannehill drive into field goal range leaving 1:48 on the clock. Kirk Cousins then went Beast Mode. Not 2010 Beast Mode. 2020 Beast Mode fiddling around accomplishing nothing. After two incompletions and a scary fumble, on 4th & 24 Cousins threw a desperation heave to get Minnesota into field goal range that was picked off by Amani Hooker. Tennessee kneeled the rest of the game away. Earlier in the game, Captain Kirk failed to connect with Adam Thielen on a 2-point conversion that would end up costing them a chance at overtime.
The Texans may well be a product of their schedule. Their first three games came against the Chiefs, Ravens, and Steelers. Minnesota faced the Packers, Colts, and Titans. Cousins has thrown six interceptions but three of those came against Indianapolis. I firmly expect Dalvin Cook to thrash Houston’s defense, they’ve already allowed two 100-yard rushers so far, but I do not trust Cousins and Company to capitalize. Not to mention Minnesota had to shut facilities down all week due to positive COVID-19 tests among the Titans players and staff. That short week probably will not help Kirk Cousins’s accuracy. Will Fuller V’s status going into this game is worth watching, but if the Texans just show up they’ve got a strong chance to get their first win. Texans, heaven help me, will cover, and I expect a high scoring affair.
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New England Patriots vs Kansas City Chiefs
- Spread: Chiefs -6.5 (-110)
- Point Totals: 53 (-110)
In what I wrongfully assumed would be the early game to watch last week, the Patriots took it to the Raiders. Sony Michel rushed only 9 times but averaged a blistering 13 yards per carry. Rex Burkhead led scored all three of New England’s touchdowns as they led the final 38 minutes of the game. Bill Belichick’s squad has a +21 point differential so far this season. The Patriots defense forced three fumbles and did enough to keep the Raiders from building any momentum. They will definitely have their hands full with Patrick Mahomes and his arsenal this week.
Speaking of Mahomes, he utterly outclassed reigning MVP Lamar Jackson in their Week 3 matchup. He has yet to finish a contest with less than 300 yards or 3 touchdowns. Last week he did both, completing 31 of 42 attempts and 4 touchdowns, adding one on the ground. Mahomes even got offensive tackle Eric Fisher in on the action, hitting him for a two-yard score. How many offensive weapons can one team have? At this point, it feels like Andy Reid is toying with opposing teams.
Cam Newton has thrown for less than 200 yards twice already this season. The Chiefs only allowed 97 yards from Lamar Jackson last week. Newton arguably has fewer weapons and while still relevant, he’s far less explosive than Jackson. New England gave up two sacks last week and Kansas City got four against the Ravens. I do not see the Patriots slowing Patrick Mahomes this week, but I’ve been wrong before and I’ll be wrong again. I still think the Chiefs win by much more than a touchdown, but I don’t know that it’ll be a high scoring contest.
Atlanta Falcons vs Green Bay Packers
- Spread: Packers -7 (-110)
- Point Totals:5 (-110)
Every negative thing I said about the Vikings I echo for the Falcons. This team is an absolute dumpster fire that deserves to be playing on Thursday nights. From unbelievable miscues to allowing 24 unanswered points to the Bears, there is little to be excited about. The last two touchdowns Chicago had last week came from 37 and 28 yards out. They’ve been able to put points on the board, averaging 30 per game, but they cannot stop a leaky faucet. Matt Ryan is going to throw his shoulder out with his 800 passing attempts each week. Atlanta looked to bounce back from their disappointing 7-9 2019 campaign, but it sure doesn’t look like they’ll be any better this year.
In stark contrast, Aaron Rodgers and the packers are 3-0. After division wins over the Vikings and Lions, the Packers did not trail the Saints past the first drive of the second half. Rodgers has yet to throw an interception so far this season and continues to put up top tier numbers. He’s been able to spread the ball around no matter who is suiting up at wide receiver. Aaron Jones (god rest my fantasy soul for trading him for Travis Kelce) is averaging 6 yards per carry so far and has five total touchdowns. They’ve given up plenty of points, but this team looks like the real deal early on.
Both teams come into Monday night’s matchup with lingering injuries. Atlanta will not have kicker Younghoe Koo and may not have Julio Jones at one hundred percent if he gets back on the field at all. Green Bay lost Allen Lazard to a core injury Thursday but should have Davante Adams return to his number one spot. Lazard posted a career game against the Saints, but Rodgers doesn’t seem to care who’s out there catching the ball. This game has all the makings of a shootout and I expect the total to be well into the 60s. The Packers’ only game decided by one score was against the Saints and Todd Gurley is no Alvin Kamara. They’ll cover or I’ll regret this as much as I regret trading Aaron Jones.
*Odds via DraftKings