NFL Week 3 Predictions | 2021

NFL DFS predictions post here every Wednesday evening, including projected outcomes and players to watch for every matchup, every week. (We respond to all reader comments so jot them below.)

Thursday, Sept. 23rd

PANTHERS (2-0) AT TEXANS (1-1) — 8:20pm EST NFLN

Favorite: Carolina (-8) O/U: 43

Sam Darnold’s Panthers are flying high after starting 2-0 and defeating their division rival Saints 26-7. Now, Matt Rhule’s squad squares off against a banged up Texans team in week three, one without QB Tyrod Taylor. Rookie Davis Mills gets the start behind center for Houston and few will be risking their bankroll on him. The Texans must find a way to slow down McCaffrey and Darnold if they want their wounded secondary not to be ravaged.

DFS Player to Watch: Mark Ingram II RB | $5,100 DraftKings | $5,900 FanDuel

Christian McCaffrey should feast on the Texans’ lowly run defence. But with Taylor out of commission, we turn our attention to backfield leader Mark Ingram II. The Texans could look to Ingram to take the pressure off a green Davis Mills. Ingram will have low ownership thanks to Carolina limiting star RB Alvin Kamara to just 5 points last week. But is Carolina’s run defense playing slightly over its head? Either way, Ingram has 126 yards and a touchdown through two games. He’ll do what he has to do to cross the 200-yard mark on Thursday.

Sunday, Sept. 26th (Early Slate)


Favorite: Buffalo (-8) O/U: 45

Washington’s defensive line had been hailed by many NFL media as their biggest strength. Watching last Thursday’s thriller against the Giants would seem to dispel that notion. The Giants were able to gash them on the ground and in the air with regularity—despite having a banged up O-line. Washington’s shaky coverage unit needs to tighten up if it hopes to contain Josh Allen and the Bills’ fiery offense. Buffalo comes off a 35-0 demolition of the Miami Dolphins.

DFS Player to Watch: Terry McLaurin | WR | $6,900 DraftKings | $7,200 FanDuel

He’s a player most fantasy owners have already warmed up to. Washington receiver Terry McLaurin racked up 107 yards on 11 receptions and scored a touchdown against the Giants last week. Heinicke will more than likely target the reliable McLaurin early and often, the Bills’ vaunted pass rush notwithstanding. Game flow, a critical factor when choosing a DFS wide receiver, should also play in McLaurin’s favor in the 2nd half — with WFT most likely in catchup mode.

BEARS (1-1) AT BROWNS (1-1) — 1:00pm EST FOX

Favorite: Cleveland (-7) O/U: 46

Justin Fields gets his first NFL start after Andy Dalton left the game against the Bengals with a maimed knee. He’ll have an unpleasant task ahead of him versus the Cleveland Browns on the road. The Baker Mayfield suffered a scare of his own against the Texans but returned to the game shortly after injuring his left shoulder. Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. should make his 2021 debut in this game.

DFS Player to Watch: Nick Chubb | RB | $7,600 DraftKings | $7,800 FanDuel

Nick Chubb figures to get ample carries against the Bears in a positive game script. That’s especially true if Mayfield’s left shoulder is still nagging him. The Bears defense is still formidable up front but look for the Browns’ run blockers (ranked #3 by PFF) to get Chubb the rushing lanes he needs.

RAVENS (1-1) AT LIONS (0-2) — 1:00pm EST CBS

Favorite: Baltimore (-8) O/U: 50

Lamar and the Ravens bounced back from the crushing loss to the Raiders in week 1, squeaking it out against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Lions are now 0-2 and suffering major injury after major injury. The Ravens are trending up and the rebuilding Lions, while far from push-overs, are trending down. This could be a long afternoon for the Lions depleted secondary.

DFS Player to Watch: Lamar Jackson | QB | $7,800 DraftKings | $8,400 FanDuel

Lamar Jackson is one of the easier choices this week. He was a one-man battering ram against the Chiefs and, despite two costly interceptions, he passed for 239 yards and a TD. More impressively, Super-Lamar ran for 107 yards and two additional touchdowns. The Lions defense, in defending the run, should repeatedly leave Lamar’s passing lanes open.

COLTS (0-2) AT TITANS (1-1) — 1:00pm EST CBS

Favorite: Tennessee (-5.5) O/U: 48

The Colts and Titans are considered to be the class of the AFC South and their first swing at taking the division title away from the other begins this Sunday. The Colts will look to get their first win of the season potentially without Carson Wentz who suffered injuries to both his ankles against the Rams. The Titans will look to carry the momentum from their epic 33-30 OT win against the Seahawks to make it 2-1 on the season.

DFS Player to Watch: A.J. Brown | WR| $6,500 DraftKings | $6,800 FanDuel

A.J. Brown has had a relatively quiet start to this 2021 campaign, managing only one TD and 92 receiving yards. The Colts may overcommit to stopping Derrick Henry up front and have their secondary lock in on Julio Jones. That could leave more opportunities for Brown in a big game against his division rivals.

CHARGERS (1-1) AT CHIEFS (1-1) — 1:00pm EST CBS

Favorite: Kansas City (-6.5) O/U: 55

The Chargers and Chiefs are both coming off of heartbreaking losses. Each will look to sling the ball early, and take a key division win away from the other. The big question is, has QB Justin Herbert and his offense taken enough strides forward to match the explosiveness of Mahomes? The Chiefs’ are much better positioned to win a shootout, but they’ll cough up many points along the way.

DFS Player to Watch: Mike Williams | WR | $6,400 DraftKings | $6,000 FanDuel

Mike Williams should see plenty of action against the Chiefs on Sunday. He is arguably Justin Herbert’s most trusted and reliable target. Williams hasn’t had a 100-yard game yet but with KC’s impotent run-D focusing on Austin Ekeler, things should loosen up for him in the secondary.

SAINTS (1-1) AT PATRIOTS (1-1) — 1:00pm EST FOX

Favorite: New England (-3) O/U: 42

Jameis Winston came crashing back down to earth on the road against a young Panthers D, recording two interceptions and no touchdowns. That’s relevant given Bill Belichick’s defense is still above average overall. If the Saints are to have a shot at beating the Pats in Foxborough, Jameis must: (A) shake off the drubbing he took from the Panthers, and (B) rekindle the audacity he showed against the Packers in week 1.

DFS Player to Watch: Mac Jones | QB | $5,100 DraftKings | $6,500 FanDuel

Mac Jones was solid in his first start (29-39, 281 yards and a touchdown) but his numbers against the porous Jets defense weren’t nearly as impressive. Despite a 25-6 victory, Jones went 22-30, 186 yards and no touchdowns. Jones hasn’t been compelled to throw deep over the middle in his first two games, but that figures to change sooner than later. This could be the game that Josh McDaniels dials up big plays for his first-round quarterback. He’ll need them with the Saints so tough against the run.

FALCONS (0-2) AT GIANTS (0-2) — 1:00pm EST FOX

Favorite: NY Giants (-3) O/U: 48

The Falcons are coming off of two horrendous blowout losses and the Giants are coming off an undisciplined heartbreaker against Washington. The Falcons have talent on the offensive side of the ball but their defense is almost nonexistent. If the Giants can draw up a similar game plan for Daniel Jones as they did against Washington he’ll take advantage of the Falcons missing secondary and get a much-needed NFC East win.

DFS Player to Watch: Daniel Jones | QB | $5,800 DraftKings | $7,400 FanDuel

Daniel Jones was not the reason his team inexplicably lost to Washington last Thursday. It was one of his most productive starts (22-32, 249 yards and 1 touchdown). If Kenny Golladay plays (hip), fantasy owners who want a low-risk lower-priced QB should consider Jones — against one of the worst defenses in the NFL.

BENGALS (1-1) AT STEELERS (1-1) — 1:00pm EST CBS

Favorite: Pittsburgh (-3) O/U: 43.5

If there’s one word that describes this game it would be: redemption. Joe Burrow will look to redeem himself after one of his worst starts efficiency-wise. Against the Bears he went 19-30, throwing for 207 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Big Ben and the Steelers will also seek to redeem their sluggish loss to Vegas last week. It might only be week 3 of the season but divisional games carry twice the weight and magnitude of other games, especially when both teams carry the same record going into the match.

DFS Player to Watch: Joe Mixon | RB | $6,300 DraftKings | $6,700 FanDuel

Joe Mixon had a down week against the Bears (20 carries, 69 yards) compared to his week 1 performance against the Vikings (29 carries, 127 yards and a touchdown). Nonetheless, he’ll see plenty of action against a Steelers defense that is missing some starters.

CARDINALS (2-0) AT JAGUARS (0-2) — 1:00pm EST FOX

Favorite: Arizona (-7) O/U: 52.5

This could be the most lopsided game of week 3. The Cardinals are loaded top to bottom both offensively and defensively while the Jags are in year one of a tear down/rebuild. Jacksonville has limited talent on the roster outside of Trevor Lawrence. The Cardinals are one of those teams where it’s hard to catch up once you fall behind them. Thank the dynamic and unpredictable Kyler Murray for that. The Cards were lucky to survive after a missed Vikings field goal last week. This week they won’t need luck to vanquish the Jags on the road.

DFS Player to Watch: Christian Kirk | WR | $5,400 DraftKings | $5,700 FanDuel

Kirk and Kyler have a bond and the chemistry is undeniable. Yes, there are other players on the Cardinals that will vacuum up targets but this kid is explosive, Murray should throw for 300+ yards, DeAndre Hopkins is questionable and Kirk’s salary is reasonable.

Sunday, Sept. 26th (Aft. Slate)

JETS (0-2) AT BRONCOS (2-0) — 4:05pm EST CBS

Favorite: Denver (-10.5) O/U: 41.5

The Teddy Bridgewater resurgence continues against the suspect Jets defense. John Elway and Broncos head coach Vic Fangio have to be thrilled with how Bridgewater has played through two weeks, despite the lowly opposition they’ve faced (Giants, Jaguars). But that’s the point here. QBs in a new system benefit from having “softer” defenses to play against. That’s how they get into a rhythm that can be sustained for the season. Couple that with the Broncos stingy defense and you have a team that can give anyone fits on a Sunday. And then there’s Zac Wilson. He threw four interceptions against the Patriots. It won’t be surprising if the Broncos defense snags a few of their own. In fact, if you’re looking for the best DFS Defense and Special Teams (DST) this week, this is probably it.

DFS Player to Watch: Teddy Bridgewater | QB | $5,800 DraftKings | $7,300 FanDuel

Bridgewater is a value pick, QB shoppers. He may not be sexy but he’s put up some impressive numbers through two games (54-70, 592 yards, four touchdowns and no picks). The fact that he doesn’t play on an offensive powerhouse keeps his price down. Just be sure to check Bronco injuries on Sunday before the game.

DOLPHINS (1-1) AT RAIDERS (2-0) — 4:05pm EST CBS

Favorite: Las Vegas (-4) O/U: 45

The Dolphins got blown out at home by the Bills 35-0. Meanwhile, the Raiders managed an impressive win on the road against the Steelers. What do both teams have in common despite the different outcomes? Both of their QBs were injured and their availability is in question for this week 3 sin city faceoff. If Carr (ankle) is still hobbling on Sunday, the Raiders’ starter will be Nathan Peterman. That alone would turn off most fantasy players from this game. But it gets worse, as Tua is confirmed out. It will be fill-in Jacoby Brissett taking the brunt of the Raider’s exceptional pass rush.

DFS Player to Watch: Jaylen Waddle | WR | $4,600 DraftKings | $5,500 FanDuel

Jaylen Waddle figures to see plenty of action on Sunday regardless if Brissett is getting harrased, and regardless of WR Will Fuller’s debut. With 8 targets last week, Waddle’s usage shouldn’t be in doubt.

BUCCANEERS (2-0) AT RAMS (2-0) — 4:25pm EST FOX

Favorite: Tampa Bay (-1) O/U: 55

It’s a sin that this game wasn’t scheduled for prime time. Brady and the red-hot Bucs will travel across the country to take on Matt Stafford and his Rams. The line and total say it all. This is a heavyweight bout between two elite NFC contenders. Steer clear of Rams rushers, given a stingy Tampa line that’s allowed no more than 38 yards to any RB thus far. Fun fact: This will be Brady’s first NFL game in Los Angeles. It’s a safe bet that both he and his Buc-mates will make it a memorable one, likely heading back to Florida with a 3-0 record.

DFS Player to Watch: Rob Gronkowski | TE | $5,500 DraftKings | $6,500 FanDuel

We’re going back to the well on this one. Rob Gronkowski has 6 TDs in his last three games and remains a matchup mismatch for opposing defenses—even for the #1 defense that is the Rams. He and Brady are clicking again and Brady will have to get rid of the ball quick against the Rams pass rush. Look for them to link up 5+ times in the game.

SEAHAWKS (1-1) AT VIKINGS (0-2) 4:25pm EST FOX

Favorite: Seattle (-1.5) O/U: 55.5

The Seahawks and Vikings both suffered devastating defeats on Sunday, losses that could haunt them for the season. The Seahawks allowed the Titans to battle back from 24-9 at half-time to win 33-30 in OT. Meanwhile, the Vikings lost to the Cardinals by one point on a shanked 37-yard field goal from Greg Joseph. Neither team can afford a loss here. The Seahawks can’t afford to fall to 1-2 with the division’s other three teams undefeated. Nor can the Vikings fall into an 0-3 abyss. That could easily end their playoff hopes in the loaded NFC.

DFS Player to Watch: Kirk Cousins | QB | $6,300 DraftKings | $7,700 FanDuel

Kirk Cousins, despite the Vikings being 0-2, has played well enough. He’s averaging over 25 fantasy points so far. Through week two, Cousins has a stat line of 58-81, 595 yards, five touchdowns and no picks. Seeing as how the Seahawks secondary was dissected by both Carson Wentz and Ryan Tannehill, Cousins could do the same.

Sunday, Sept. 26th (Late Slate)

PACKERS (1-1) AT 49ERS (2-0) 8:20pm EST NBC

Favorite: San Francisco (-3.5) O/U: 49.5

Levi’s stadium has become a house of horrors for the Packers in recent years. Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers will look to make their record 3-0 against a Packers defense that struggles mightily against the run. Rushing is exactly what the 49ers offense prides themselves on. The question is, which Packers team is going to show up Sunday Night? The one that was humiliated against the Saints or the one that demolished the Lions during Monday’s 2nd half?

DFS Player to Watch: Deebo Samuel| WR | $6,700 DraftKings | $6,600 FanDuel

Deebo Samuel is the NFL leader in receiving yards (282) and YAC (155) after 2 weeks. Look for Jimmy Garoppolo’s favorite connection to Hoover up targets against a beatable secondary.

Monday, Sept. 27th

EAGLES (1-1) AT COWBOYS (1-1) — 8:15pm EST ESPN

Favorite: Dallas (-3.5) O/U: 51.5

Another NFC East showdown hits the primetime airwaves. Dak and the Cowboys did just enough to eek out a win against the Chargers on the road, despite Mike McCarthy forgetting how to manage the clock. As for Jalen Hurts, he’ll have his hands full against an improved Cowboys defense under new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Pressure will be on both teams to avoid falling into a 1-2 hole in the bunched-up NFC East.

DFS Player to Watch: Amari Cooper | WR | $6,300 DraftKings | $7,300 FanDuel

Amari Cooper and Dak have developed a solid connection in the last 2.5 years. Despite the emergence of CeeDee Lamb, that chemistry continues to be strong and reliable. What’s more, Cooper is under the radar this week after a meager 5.4-yard performance against the Chargers.

About the Author: Steven A. Cravens has been a professional sports better and analyst for over a decade. As a former Fox Sports NFL researcher and data logger, he specialized in player profiling and performance statistics.

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