The Los Angeles Rams walk the player tunnel before the...

The Los Angeles Rams walk the player tunnel before the game against the San Francisco 49ers at SoFi Stadium on September 17, 2023. Credit: Getty Images/Sean M. Haffey

The NFL season can get late in a hurry. It’s one thing to start 0-2, but 0-3? Might as well start thinking about winter getaways. According to CBS, since 1979, only six teams have reached the playoffs after starting 0-3, with the Texans being the last to do it in 2018. So, we’re looking at you Arizona, Carolina, Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver, Houston, New England, Minnesota and the L.A. Chargers, the last two facing off this week.

Underdogs went 9-5-2 against the spread (ATS) last week and are 19-11-2 for the season.

My most confident picks ATS this week are Miami, Minnesota and Pittsburgh. Stay away from Houston-Jacksonville and be careful with L.A. Rams-Cincinnati, one of two Monday night games this week.

1 p.m. Games

NEW ENGLAND (0-2) AT JETS (1-1)

TV: CBS, 1 p.m.

New England by 2.5; O/U: 36.5

The last thing I want to do is back Zach Wilson against Bill Belichick’s Patriots, who have won 14 in a row against the Jets. That includes two dreadful defeats last year, which I too was on the wrong side of (you especially remember the bad ones). Wilson is 0-4 vs. New England with two TDs and seven picks. So why am I picking the Jets again to reverse the curse? Because this game isn’t about Wilson. It’s about the Jets’ defense, which couldn’t get off the field at Dallas and then heard about it all week. This is a “first to 17 points wins" kind of game, and I’m banking on that Jets pass rush and elite corner play to shut down a mediocre Patriots offense. Oh, and let’s give Breece Hall more than four carries.

The pick: Jets

LOCK OF THE WEEK

DENVER (0-2) AT MIAMI (2-0)

Miami by 6.5; O/U: 47.5

I can think of about 30 other offenses I’d rather face if I were the Denver defense, which allowed the Commanders to put up 35 points last week in a game the Broncos led 21-3. Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill and Miami’s electric offense can score in bunches. After two close wins on the road, expect an all-out effort in the home opener. Russell Wilson has played well, but former Broncos coach Vic Fangio, now the Dolphins DC, can make him look like the 2022 version.

The pick: Miami

BUFFALO (1-1) AT WASHINGTON (2-0)

Buffalo by 6.5; O/U: 43.5

Josh Allen last week improved to 23-4 when he doesn’t commit a turnover. He will lead another win, but don’t expect a rout. The Commanders, 2-0 for the first time since 2011, showed fight with a huge rally at Denver and will be eager to quiet the doubters. ("Oh, they’re 2-0 against two 0-2 teams.”) They have talented playmakers and a talented play-caller in new OC Eric Bieniemy.

The pick: Washington

TENNESSEE (1-1) AT CLEVELAND (1-1)

Cleveland by 3.5; O/U: 39.5

New rule: When Mike Vrabel’s Titans are getting three or more points, they’re an automatic bet. He is now 24-9-1 ATS in those spots after back-to-back covers (and an OT win last week) to open the season. In a grind-it-out game, Tennessee having Derrick Henry and Cleveland not having Nick Chubb loom large.

The pick: Tennessee

INDIANAPOLIS (1-1) AT BALTIMORE (2-0)

Baltimore by 8.5; O/U: 44.5

It doesn’t matter who starts at quarterback for the Colts as long as Lamar Jackson is on the other side. He’s looking more comfortable in the Ravens’ new offense, and Baltimore will build off last week’s big win at Cincinnati.

The pick: Baltimore

HOUSTON (0-2) AT JACKSONVILLE (1-1)

Jacksonville by 8.5; O/U: 44.5

Houston has won nine of 10 in the series, including five in a row at Jacksonville. The Jaguars have looked off on offense and could be looking ahead to their London excursion: They’ll become the first team to play there in back-to-back weeks.

The pick: Houston

NEW ORLEANS (2-0) AT GREEN BAY (1-1)

TV: Fox

Green Bay by 1.5; O/U: 42.5

Jordan Love makes his home debut after starting with 6 TDs, 0 INTs and an NFL-best 118.8 passer rating. It won’t be easy against a stout Saints defense, but with Aaron Jones and Christian Watson likely returning, we see at least three Lambeau leaps and a close cover.

The pick: Green Bay

ATLANTA (2-0) AT DETROIT (1-1)

Detroit by 3; O/U: 46.5

Both teams could be looking ahead to next week: The Lions are at Green Bay on TNF, and the Falcons travel to London. It figures to be close, with two upstart NFC teams looking to show they’re for real. Give me Detroit to bounce back at home after a tough OT loss.

The pick: Detroit

L.A. CHARGERS (0-2) AT MINNESOTA (0-2)

Minnesota by 1.5; O/U: 53.5

Kirk Cousins (708 yards, 6 TDs) and Justin Herbert (534 yards, 3 TDs) lead high-powered offenses, so how is it that the loser will be 0-3? For Minnesota, it’s seven turnovers. For Los Angeles, it’s bad defense and bad . . . luck? Just look at this stat from CBS Sports: The Chargers are the 33rd team in the Super Bowl era to have 50-plus points and 0 turnovers through two games. They’re also the only one of those 33 teams to start 0-2. They just always find ways to lose close games. Cousins and Justin Jefferson light it up in the highest-scoring game of the week as Minnesota, 0-2 in one-score games this year after going 11-0 in 2022, gets back on track.

The pick: Minnesota

4 p.m. Games

DALLAS (2-0) AT ARIZONA (0-2)

Dallas by 12.5; O/U: 42.5

Anyone know what the record is for biggest margin of victory for the first three weeks? After the Cowboys outscored the Giants and Jets by a combined 70-10, we may be Googling that question at 7 p.m. Sunday. 

The pick: Dallas

CHICAGO (0-2) AT KANSAS CITY (1-1)

TV: Fox

Kansas City by 12.5; O/U: 48.5

The only thing that looks worse than Chicago's offense is my Bears playoff pick. Still, this is a huge number, Kansas City's offense is still figuring things out and the backdoor cover likely will be in play.

The pick: Chicago 

CAROLINA (0-2) AT SEATTLE (1-1)

Seattle by 6.5; O/U: 42

Seattle is off a narrative-changing OT win at Detroit and Carolina can’t get anything going on offense. This is a bad spot for the Panthers, as the Seahawks will be focused after their home-opener dud in Week 1. Also, Carolina stole one on the road there last year.

The pick: Seattle

SUNDAY NIGHT

PITTSBURGH (1-1) AT LAS VEGAS (1-1)

TV: NBC, 8:20 p.m.

Las Vegas by 2.5; O/U: 43

The Steelers (two defensive TDs) beat the Browns on MNF despite the offense never entering the red zone. They’ll rebound with an all-around effort. The huge coaching mismatch and having all that Black & Gold invade the Black & Silver in the stands will help, too.  

The pick: Pittsburgh 

MONDAY NIGHT

PHILADELPHIA (2-0) AT TAMPA BAY (2-0)

TV: ABC, ESPN+, 7:15 p.m.

Philadelphia by 4.5; O/U: 46

The Eagles won the first two weeks without playing a complete game. I think we’ll get that here in prime time as they’re on extra-extra rest (TNF to MNF). You’re not buying the Bucs either, right?

The pick: Philadelphia

L.A. RAMS (1-1) AT CINCINNATI (0-2)

TV: ESPN, ESPN2, 8:15 p.m.

Cincinnati by 3; O/U: 43.5

This Super Bowl rematch from two years ago has taken on more intrigue with Joe Burrow’s lingering calf injury. Will he play? And if he does, will one hard hit from Aaron Donald knock him out? The Bengals righted the ship after last year’s 0-2 start, but this feels different. The offense is a mess. The Rams crushed the Seahawks and then gave the 49ers a fight.

The pick: L.A. Rams

STAFF STANDINGS AND PICKS

(best bets in bold)

JOE MANNIELLO

Record: 14-16-2 overall, 0-2 best bets

Last week: 7-7-2

Giants Jets Miami Buffalo

Tennessee Baltimore Houston Green Bay

Detroit Minnesota Dallas Chicago

Seattle Pittsburgh Philadelphia L.A. Rams

TOM ROCK

12-18-2, 1-1

Last week: 6-8-2

49ers Jets Miami Buffalo

Cleveland Baltimore Jacksonville New Orleans

Detroit LA Chargers Dallas Chicago

Seattle Pittsburgh Philadelphia Cincinnati

AL IANNAZZONE

11-19-2, 1-1

Last week: 5-9-2

49ers Jets Miami Buffalo

Cleveland Baltimore Houston Green Bay

Detroit Minnesota Dallas Kansas City

Seattle Pittsburgh Philadelphia Cincinnati

KIMBERLY JONES

10-20-2, 1-1

Last week: 5-9-2

49ers Jets Denver Buffalo

Tennessee Baltimore Houston New Orleans

Detroit LA Chargers Dallas Kansas City

Seattle Pittsburgh Philadelphia Cincinnati

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