I’m back. That’s not important. My picks are back. And that is.
Last Week: 13-3
My first Lock was Carolina. I picked the Panthers (minus-3) over New Orleans. Carolina won 27-22.
When Drew Brees officially was ruled out, the line jumped to double figures. On Wednesday, when I begin to make my picks, the line was 3. I wrote that last week. And even if you could wait until the weekend to make your pick, would you? Three points felt like a gift, at least until the game began. Talent and big players finally enabled Carolina to prevail.
My second Lock was Denver. I picked the Broncos (minus-3) over Detroit. Denver won 24-12.
This week’s picks, with the home team in CAPS.
Carolina 21, TAMPA BAY 16: Lovie Smith is in his second season with the Buccaneers. They’ve played nine home games under him. Their record at Raymond James Stadium is 0-9. Their last home victory was on Dec. 8, 2013.
The Buccaneers were unable to run last week in their 19-10 loss to Houston. When you can’t run and you have to entrust your offense to a rookie quarterback, the NFL has a term for it: Not good. Even if the rookie was the No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft, that’s too much to ask.
Tampa Bay’s offensive line is flawed, but it held J.J. Watt without a sack last week. He’d had a sack in the previous seven games.
This is a rivalry. The Buccaneers were abysmal last season, but played the Panthers tough. Carolina won by 6 and by 2.
Because of Cam Newton’s performance last week, it’s reasonable to expect him to be the difference. But I can see a big game for Carolina’s running backs, and I think the maligned pass rush will get to Winston. It won’t be Jared Allen, not today. But other pass rushers will want to show Allen what they can do.
Lock of the week
ARIZONA (minus-6½) 27, St. Louis 17: Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer was the top pick in the 2003 NFL draft. To put that in perspective, Jordan Gross was selected eighth by Carolina. Palmer tore an ACL last season. It’s as if he came back fresh, as if his 35-year-old body turned young again. He’s played exceptionally. Arizona’s secondary. meanwhile, has been superb. The Cardinals lead the league with seven interceptions.
A reason to be wary is that the Rams’ have a great pass rush; they’re tied with New England for the league lead. That’s not enough. The Rams scored only six points last week in their loss to Pittsburgh, and in Week 2, they lost to Washington. How do you know you’re not good? You lose to Washington.
MIAMI 21, New York Jets 19
Oakland 23, CHICAGO 17
ATLANTA 26, Houston 21
BUFFALO 30, New York Giants 24
INDIANAPOLIS 22, Jacksonville 14
CINCINNATI 27, Kansas City 21
Philadelphia 23, WASHINGTON 14
SAN DIEGO 31, Cleveland 26
Green Bay 27, SAN FRANCISCO 19
DENVER 26, Minnesota 20
NEW ORLEANS 24, Dallas 23
SEATTLE 26, Detroit 17