NFL picks Week 3: Colts and Titans kick off divisional play, Chicago is desperate and 3-0 Raiders host struggling Dolphins

4 keys to Raiders victory
Sep 19, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Las Vegas Raiders running back Kenyan Drake (23) and defensive end Maxx Crosby (98) and quarterback Derek Carr (4) lead the Raiders onto the field to play the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Week 3 of the 2021 NFL season, and NFL picks at the betting window, carries with it some intriguing matchups as we start to learn more about where some teams are at this early point of the season.

In the case of Indianapolis, they need a win if they want to get to the playoffs in 2021. Since 1980, only 3.4% of teams that started 0-3 made the playoffs.

Conversely, for the Las Vegas Raiders, if they can beat the Miami Dolphins Sunday and move to 3-0 teams since 1980, those teams have made the playoffs 76% of the time. While many might say “it’s early,” teams generally show you who they are by the end of Week 3 of the regular season.

That also makes the NFL picks this week even more intriguing and gives us some insight into who might put it all on the line to keep their season dreams alive. Here are my NFL picks for Week 3:

NFL Picks #1: Indianapolis Colts vs Tennessee Titans

NFL picks Titans Derrick Henry
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) pulls away from Seattle Seahawks linebacker Jordyn Brooks (56) during the first half at Lumen Field Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Seattle, Wash. Nas Titans Seahawks 002

When it comes to NFL picks this week, the Indianapolis Colts may be tempting due to the desperation mentioned above. The Colt have started 0-2 for the first time since 2017 after a heartbreaking loss to the Rams last Sunday. This will be both the Titans’ and Colts’ first divisional matchup of the season, with the road team winning the last five contests. Derrick Henry had a field day against Seattle as he ran for 182 yards and scored three TDs en route to an overtime upset. How the Colts defense responds to a Henry attack will be crucial, especially when their defense only mustered one sack against Matthew Stafford in their previous game against the Rams. With Carson Wentz injured, Jon Taylor will likely get ample opportunities to carry the ball against a Tennessee defense that held the Rams to 101 rushing yards. With Tennessee playing at home for the first time this season and coming off a huge win against Seattle, expect to see Tennessee carry that momentum into this week.

Prediction: Tennessee Titans -5

NFL Picks #2: Chicago Bears vs Cleveland Browns

NFL picks Chicago Bears Khalil Mack
On September 19, 2021, Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack (52) practices before the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland and Chicago both rebounded with a win after a grueling Week 1 loss. The tandem of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt was too much for the Houston defense and Chicago doesn’t have the front seven to deal with them either. Baker Mayfield completed over 90% of his passes last Sunday, but he was sacked twice and pressured to throw a pick. It won’t be much easier for him when he faces Khalil Mack, who picked up his first sack of the season last Sunday and has been facing questions about his productivity after two games. Chicago was desperate to get in the win column and their defense did just enough against Cincinnati. As far as NFL picks go this week, I like this one perhaps the best. The Bears’ defense will need another big game against Cleveland to at least keep it close.

Prediction: Bears +7.5

NFL Picks #3: Miami Dolphins vs Las Vegas Raiders

NFL picks Derek Carr Las Vegas Raiders
Sep 19, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr throws a 61-yard touchdown as the Pittsburgh Steelers Tre Norwood applies pressure during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The Raiders won 26-17. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Of course, our final round of NFL picks has to include the hometown Las Vegas Raiders. Many questions are surrounding both teams coming into Sunday’s game when it comes to injuries. Tua Tagovailoa is sidelined for Miami which paves the way for Jacoby Brissett to get the start. On the Raiders side of the ball, Gruden says Josh Jacobs is “very questionable.” Last Sunday, the Las Vegas defense frustrated Pittsburgh and carried Las Vegas to a statement road win against the defending AFC North Champions. Derek Carr has thrown for over 375 yards and 2 TDs in each of the first two games, joining Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Drew Bledsoe, and Frank Tripucka as the only QBs ever to accomplish such a feat. The Dolphins will have to figure out a way to contain Maxx Crosby as he’s recorded 2 of the 5 sacks for the Raiders this season on a defense that was able to frustrate Ben Roethlisberger for much of last Sunday’s game. The Dolphins couldn’t get anything going on either side of the ball in a 35-0 shutout against the Bills at home after Tagovailoa was injured early. With Derek Carr confirming he’s “good to go” this Sunday, Miami’s defense will need to put pressure on Carr early, or things could get out of hand.

Prediction: Las Vegas Raiders -3.5