BOSTON -- Expectations for the Jets have been sky-high since late April. Adding a Hall of Famer to a moderately stacked team will have that effect.
Expectations for the Patriots have been a bit more tempered, sure, but coming off three straight seasons of mediocrity, the belief was that this year's team could and should be a touch better than that.
Yet just two weeks into the season, the Jets have gone from Super Bowl contenders to a potential last-place finisher. And the Patriots ... well, if they don't improve in a hurry, fans may be clamoring for the mediocre days.
A complete collapse for Bill Belichick's team remains unlikely to happen. The defense is more than good enough, the offensive firepower is satisfactory even if underwhelming, and the team remains dangerous on the margins, as evidenced by last weekend's blocked field goal against Miami. (How has nobody ever done that before?)
Still, the record is the record, and while 0-2 can be salvaged, 0-3 -- with a loss to the Aaron Rodgers-less Jets -- may be too much. It's just one game's difference, sure, but for a locker room of men who spent the past six months working toward building something this season, there's a certain level of dispiritedness that would accompany a loss this weekend -- especially with a trip to Dallas to face the behemoth Cowboys lurking in Week 4.
Onlyhave made the playoffs since 1979 after starting 0-3, if you were curious. So that's what's at stake there. (Counterpoint: It was Bill O'Brien's Texans who last made the postseason, finishing 11-5 after the 0-3 start. Maybe that guy just loves himself a massive comeback. We'll see.)
The Jets, meanwhile, do have a win on their ledger. And a good one, too. The joy of that walk-off win over the Bills, though, was washed away pretty thoroughly by the Cowboys last weekend. Dallas controlled play for 60 minutes, won the turnover battle 4-0, held all Jets running backs to single-digit rushing totals (!), and treated Zach Wilson like he's, well, Zach Wilson. It was gnarly.
And for as much as Robert Saleh and the team backed Zach Wilson after the Week 1 win, that's admittedly a lot harder to do when he goes full Zach Wilson. And make no mistake: When Zach Wilson plays against the Patriots, he goes full Zach Wilson.
In four games, he's completed a tick over half of his passes against New England, averaging 6.5 yards per attempt and under 200 yards per game while throwing two touchdowns and seven interceptions. Put it all together and he has a 50.6 passer rating vs. the Patriots, his lowest rating against any opponent he's faced more than once.
In his most recent game against the Patriots, he completed NINE passes for just 77 yards. After the game, he condescendingly told the media that it was windy out. Mac Jones, not exactly known for having a Josh Allen cannon, completed 23 passes for 246 yards in those same windy conditions.
We'll see how Wilson adapts to losing his favorite target in Devin McCourty, but he's coming off a three-interception performance. He may just find a way to throw this one away.
And if he does, all the "this is Zach's team" and the hope that expectations remain the same? That all goes away and lands with a thud.
It's quite the setup for a 1 p.m. game in Week 3, don't you think? It's not at all what we expected or what we hoped to be entertained by when the schedule was released many moons ago. But a little Save Your Season Bowl on a Sunday afternoon? I'll take it.
Let's pick some picks, yeah?
(Home team in CAPS; Wednesday lines)
SAN FRANCISCO (-10) over New York Giants
I desperately want to spitefully pick against the Niners after giving up a field goal to blow last week's cover at the final whistle. But I am a man of reason, and I know that my issue lies with the loser Rams for being losers. I'll save my spite for them.
As for the game, yikes. The Giants look terrible thus far and just lost Saquon Barkley, aka the only chance Daniel Jones has of being an effective NFL quarterback. Ugly stuff right here, folks. (I can't wait to watch every minute, despite the game likely being awful and despite the game being on a streaming platform on which nobody wants to watch football games. Absolutely love having this sickness, baby!)
MINNESOTA (pick 'em) over Los Angeles Chargers
Speaking of Save Your Season Bowls, look at these two high-powered, much-hyped teams that are both sitting at 0-2. One of them will be 0-3 come Sunday afternoon. In the words of the great Brian Fellows, that's crazy!
I'm honestly not even sure where you go with this one. The spread ranges from the Chargers getting 1.5 points to the Chargers giving a point, so the oddsmakers clearly can't tell what to do, either.
I'll ultimately go with the home team that has Justin Jefferson over the road team that (probably) doesn't have Austin Ekeler. Tell you what, though: National shows will be having some fiery HOT SEAT conversations on Monday morning for either Kevin O'Connell or Brandon Staley. That's a guarantee.
Tennessee (+3) over CLEVELAND
Watching Deshaun Watson on Monday night, it seems apparent that in his mind, he's still at the peak of his powers. He'll see some daylight and make a run for it ... only to get caught from behind. He's been sacked nine times, including a game-losing strip-sack by Alex Highsmith on Monday. Watson was then sacked on third-and-7 on the desperation drive that followed. It was Watson's sixth sack of the night.
That's all to say, I like the Tennessee Titans on the road in Cleveland this weekend.
I'd also add that I have no idea why the NFL simply allowed Watson to shove an official during the game. That's usually frowned upon.
JACKSONVILLE (-9) over Houston
I was open to the idea of Houston being respectable this year. I suppose I still am open to that possibility ... but I'm not banking on it. They look just as bad as they have for the past three years.
New England (-2.5) over NEW YORK JETS
I made my feelings on Zach Wilson quite clear in the intro to this story. I have applied a deep level of thought to this game, like Dr. Strange envisioning millions of possible scenarios, and I don't see one single way that Wilson doesn't throw this game away for the Jets.
I don't anticipate many offensive points in this game, but the Patriots should honestly get enough on defense to secure that first victory of the year.
GREEN BAY (-2) over New Orleans
Denver (+6.5) over MIAMI
Buffalo (-6.5) over WASHINGTON
DETROIT (-3.5) over Atlanta
BALTIMORE (-7.5) over Indianapolis
SEATTLE (-6) over Carolina
Dallas (-12) over ARIZONA
Look, it's a long season. It's only Week 3. Do you want a novel for every single game? Or do you just want some rock-solid*, super-reliable**, extremely-expert-like*** picks? You're welcome, but no thanks are necessary.
KANSAS CITY (-12.5) over Chicago
The Chiefs of 2023 are clearly not quite yet the Chiefs of 2018-22. They'll probably get there, though. Great quarterbacks have that effect. Maybe it won't happen for a while, if at all.
But if you saw this collection of tweets (sorry, X's?) on Wednesday then you know that the Bears are on the brink of a total collapse from top to bottom.
Turns out, Williams resigned. Probably could have been handled better. Seems like a situation that is ... strange?
Fun fact: The Bears are 1-9 against the spread in their last 10 games. That includes games where they were getting 8.5 points, 8 points and 6.5 points. None of those involved 12.5-point spreads, but they also didn't involve Patrick Mahomes.
LAS VEGAS (-2.5) over Pittsburgh
The Steelers' offense is one of the most uninspiring units I have ever seen. Coming from someone who watches every snap of New England Patriots football, that is really saying something.
At least we get to see them in another prime-time game. Yay. Fun. Neat.
(Maybe the Steelers will win another game with two defensive touchdowns, but that's a hard way to live.)
Philadelphia (-5) over TAMPA BAY
Not really buying the 2-0 Bucs, unfortunately.
Los Angeles Rams (+2.5) over CINCINNATI
I can't even utilize my spite! Curses!
For one, we don't know about Joe Burrow. If he plays, he could reinjure that calf and leave early. If he doesn't play, then ... Jake Browning? He's a guy, I guess. Feel like the Bengals could have done a bit more work on the backup QB position.
Anyway, even with Burrow, do you know the Bengals haven't covered a spread as favorites since Christmas Eve last year? And even that one required a Rhamondre Stevenson fumble when the Patriots were making what looked to be an incredible comeback. Surely, they're due to be great again ... but this might not be the week for it.
Last week: 6-7-3 (gross!)
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