Week 3 is upon us, and we’re back with more Thursday Night Football picks. Week 2 was an exciting game but it wasn’t kind to our picks, resulting in a 1-3 showing. The over got close but Justin Herbert’s ribs couldn’t take the heat, and Travis Kelce was quiet in the second half as Los Angeles’ defense made him the focal point of their coverage. Marquez Valdez-Scantling got us our only W with a quiet night, and Gerald Everett’s only end zone target resulted in a pick-six the other way.
Season Record: 3-5, -2.3 units
If you’re new here, each week for the Thursday game I’ll be giving out four picks:
- One game line pick (Spread or Over/Under)
- One player prop OVER via PrizePicks
- One player prop UNDER via PrizePicks
- One TD scorer
Week 3 kicks off with another divisional matchup, this one in the AFC North with the 1-1 Browns heading to Pittsburgh to face the 1-1 Steelers. With both teams coming off a loss in Week 2, the Browns are sitting at 4.5-point favorites, while Vegas is predicting a defensive battle with an over/under of 38.
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Game Total: Over 38
Just looking at a total as low as 38 makes it tempting to hammer the over, despite the lack of offensive firepower in this matchup. But a deeper dive into each team’s defensive situation makes it a bit more justified.
Pittsburgh’s defense was incredible in their Week 1 win over Cincinnati, forcing five turnovers and wreaking havoc on Joe Burrow and company. But TJ Watt suffered a pectoral injury in the win, and his absence was felt heavily in Week 2 as the Steelers failed to get any pressure on Mac Jones, recording zero sacks and giving New England’s QB all day to throw. Alex Highsmith had three sacks himself against the Bengals, but it doesn’t appear that he can handle getting the opposition’s full attention. Minkah Fitzpatrick and the Pittsburgh secondary remain a strong unit, but with no pass rush, Cleveland’s pass catchers will have ample time to get open for Jacoby Brissett.
Cleveland’s defense has been the opposite through two weeks — their pass rush remains strong behind Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney, but their secondary was just torched by Joe Flacco of all people to the tune of 307 yards, four touchdowns, and a massive fourth-quarter collapse vs. the Jets. Mitch Trubisky hasn’t shown much over the first couple of games but should have plenty of open receivers to make his life a bit easier.
Kareem Hunt Over 17.5 Receiving Yards
Kareem Hunt slowed down in Week 2 (58 rush yards, two receptions for 16 yards) after playing a huge part in Cleveland’s Week 1 win with 70 total yards and two TDs, including one receiving. I’m expecting Hunt to get back involved in the passing game in this one, and this over/under is set a few yards below his per-game average so far in 2022.
As I mentioned above, Pittsburgh’s defense has been strong in the back behind Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, and others, while their pass rush was nonexistent without Watt in the picture. This not only means that Brissett may want to cut down on the number of times he challenges this secondary downfield, but also that Cleveland’s offensive line should be able to handle the pass rush without much help in the blocking game. This allows Hunt to release for a high-percentage completion, and once he has the ball in his hands, he’s one of the more dynamic players in the NFL. This scenario may only happen a few times throughout the contest, but with Hunt’s YAC ability and a very low total on this prop, I’m liking the over.
Diontae Johnson Under 5.5 Receptions
Diontae Johnson has been the Steelers’ top offensive weapon so far in 2022, but that isn’t saying too much. Johnson leads the team in targets (22), receptions (13), and receiving yards (112), although he hasn’t found the end zone or even gotten a target in the red zone through two games. Despite this, Chase Claypool actually leads Pittsburgh’s WR group in routes run with 77 (Johnson has 76), and Trubisky has emphasized this week the need to get George Pickens going (more on this in a minute).
With all this in mind, Johnson will be the focal point of a Cleveland secondary that’s trying to get back on track, but he may not necessarily be the focal point of Pittsburgh’s passing game plan. Cleveland’s propensity for giving up chunk plays in the passing game was on full display last week against the Jets, and Johnson could certainly see a few of those, but 6+ receptions seem like a stretch.
Anytime Touchdown Scorer: George Pickens +550
Is this finally the week that we see the preseason OROY favorite Pickens break out? I’m starting to think so.
Pickens was the talk of the preseason and was being touted as a potential mid-round steal for fantasy managers, but through two games has been targeted just six times, resulting in two catches for 26 yards. But Mitch Trubisky appears to be listening to the talk around his offense, emphasizing the need to open up the passing attack and look Pickens’ way more.
“I think I could look for 14 more often, George,” Trubisky said. “He’s doing a great job for us, and I’ve just got to get these playmakers the football, whether it’s whatever out there running, I’ve just got to get them the ball. It really comes down to me making better decisions, being aggressive, and putting ourselves in that position.”
It’s becoming clear from recent comments like these by Trubisky and Mike Tomlin that they hear the noise and know something needs to change. This likely means trying to get Pickens involved early, which should create opportunities for other members of the offense as well. Pickens is a big body at 6’3″, and if Cleveland’s secondary makes the mistake of forgetting about him in the red zone, Trubisky appears willing and ready to make them pay.
Do you disagree with one of my picks, or have a better one of your own? Of course, you do. Feel free to let us know @RotoStJournal on Twitter or @Rotostreetjournal on Instagram, or hit me up @Seankeegs16 on Twitter.