Scully’s Week 3 NFL picks: Fading backup QBs, AFC South

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September 20th, 2019

Pittsburgh and New Orleans each had offensive questions even before they lost their franchise quarterbacks to injury, and with backups taking over in Week 3, both have as much chance at success as the Jets did last week. We also will play against a couple marginal teams from the weak AFC South and take a stand on this week’s marquee game featuring the Ravens and Chiefs (all games Sunday).

Pittsburgh Steelers at San Francisco 49ers (-6.5), 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS

San Francisco successfully navigated a tricky two-game road stretch and coach Kyle Shanahan has showed his chops early in his third season. He completely out-scheming a young Cincinnati coaching squad last week and the 49ers are trending upward, with more offensive fireworks expected against the reeling Steelers.

The Niners are a viable playoff team behind quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who looked back in form with 297 yards passing and three touchdowns last week.  The offense started slowly in San Francisco's opener but has been dynamite over the last six quarters, where it has outscored opponents 66-27. The Niners allowed only 25 yards rushing last week (1.3 yards per carry) and an opportunistic defense (four interceptions) is gaining confidence.
Pittsburgh lacks playmakers outside of Juju Smith-Schuster, and while Mason Rudolph did some good things when he took over for Ben Roethlisberger off the bench, he can’t carry a team that lacks a rushing attack. James Conner is banged up and the ground game has gone from bad to worse quickly in Pittsburgh. The Steelers defense surrendered 61 points in two games, and while newly acquired Micah Fitzpatrick can eventually help a beleaguered secondary, it will continue to feel the absence of safety Sean Davis.

Pick: San Francisco -6.5 (best bet)

New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks (-4), 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS

Seattle enters on the upswing, with Russell Wilson surgical (29-for-35), the ground game bruising (151 rushing yards) and defense formidable (allowed only 261 total yards) in last week’s road win over Pittsburgh. New Orleans is deflated and on the back end of difficult back-to-back away games with a punchless offense. This one will get ugly for the road team.

New Orleans committed 11 penalties and offensive holding negated several completions last week. The offensive line is certainly trending downward. Guard Andrus Peat left the Rams game with an ankle injury, and the Saints lacked an effective ground game last week (only 59 yards rushing). They must rely on defense, but gave up 180 rushing yards to Houston in Week 1 and lost starting middle linebacker Alex Anzalone to the IR last week. Seattle could gain more than 200 rushing yards Sunday.

Expect Seattle to own an enormous time-of-possession advantage and points will be difficult to come by against its inspired defense.

Scully’s Pick: Seattle -4

Atlanta Falcons at Indianapolis Colts (-1), 1 p.m. ET, CBS

After injuries sabotaged last season, Atlanta’s defense has its mojo back. The Falcons battered and bruised Philadelphia last week and made a key fourth-quarter stop to preserve the win. Atlanta really needed it after it opened the year flat in Minnesota, and with a high-powered offense, the Falcons can make it two straight Sunday.

We're not buying Indianapolis or any AFC South teams. It is a weak division with the potential for an 8-8 winner. Indianapolis got a late touchdown to exceed 20 points in its opener but scored only 19 in an ugly win over Tennessee last week. The kicking game is a mess, and Jacoby Brissett has a pedestrian 293 net passing yards, as the Colts rely on a run-heavy offense that plays to the strength of an improving Atlanta defense. The Falcons held Philadelphia to only 49 yards rushing (2.3 yards per play), and forced three turnovers and three sacks while they harassed quarterback Carson Wentz throughout.

Indianapolis will miss outstanding linebacker Darius Leonard, who recorded 10 tackles and a sack before he was knocked out of last week’s game and put in concussion protocol, and top cornerback Pierre Desir is now with an injury. The Colts will face a stiff challenge against Matt Ryan, who has thrown for 592 yards and five TDs in two games against well-regarded defenses, and Atlanta just needs to clean up the interceptions (five).

Pick: Atlanta +1

Houston Texans at Los Angeles Chargers (-3), 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS

The Chargers are off to another slow start for bettors (0-2 ATS) but are poised to change the narrative in Week 3. The Bolts will be motivated to get the offense rolling after they easily outgained Detroit but had multiple touchdowns negated by questionable penalties last week. They're one of the best after a straight-up loss, with a 5-1-1 ATS record in their last seven attempts.

We love playing against Houston in this spot. The Texans are fortunate to be 1-1 after they nearly coughed up a 13-3 lead late in third quarter and allowed Jacksonville to outgain them 281-263 (total yards) in an ugly offensive display. It’s the same old stirt for a low-rated offensive line, which has allowed 10 sacks this season. Deshaun Watson is in for another long afternoon against pass rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, and Houston will break in a new punter on the road.

The Texans are 1-6 ATS in their last seven road games after a divisional win, and the Chargers will be much better offensively, with Phillip Rivers (597 passing yards) a constant and an effective ground game (262 rushing yards total). There are too many weaknesses for Houston in this matchup.

Pick: Los Angeles Chargers -3

Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs (-6.5), 1 p.m. ET, CBS

Kansas City is laying a ridiculous amount against arguably the AFC’s third-best team. The Chiefs beat up on opponents like Oakland and Jacksonville all the time, but their last four regular-season games against quality rivals (the Chargers, Ravens, Rams and Patriots) were decided by three points or less. Considering Tyreek Hill is still out for a few more weeks and the Chiefs may be without an offensive line stalwart (left tackle Eric Fisher recently sustained a groin injury), Kansas City is hobbled early in the season.

Baltimore is fundamentally sound in every area and no team is a better road dog, as the Ravens have covered four straight away from home. The offense continues to evolve, and Lamar Jackson has developed into an elite quarterback who can beat teams with his arm and legs. The Ravens will move the ball on Kansas City’s defense, and while there's no guarantee they can outscore Patrick Mahomes, expect them to keep it interesting.

Kansas City’s defense is right where it left off last year. It has allowed teams to run and pass for big yardage, and the Chiefs enter on a 1-4 ATS run at home. We’ll cash in playing against the Super Bowl favorites this week.

Pick: Baltimore +6

James Scully's 2019 NFL record ATS on BetAmerica heading into Week 2: 6-4 (4-1 last week)