NFL Week 3 survivor picks: Breaking down the top choices

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Two weeks down, forever to go. The Browns came through for us in Week 2 after an early scare, and while we've relatively cruised through the first fortnight of the NFL season, Week 3 presents a much tougher task.

Because of that, we're going to approach things a little differently here. While there's no clear-cut pick for me - this week has all the makings of a bloodbath - I'll instead be going through all of the top choices, breaking down what I like and what gives me pause about each.

AWAY HOME PICK (CR)
Panthers Texans (+7.5) CAR (8)
Jets Broncos (-10.5) DEN (8)
Ravens Lions (+8) BAL (8)
Washington Bills (-8.5) BUF (7)
Cardinals Jaguars (+7.5) ARI (7)
Colts Titans (-5) TEN (6)
Bears Browns (-7.5) CLE (6)
Chargers Chiefs (-6.5) KC (5)
Bengals Steelers (-4.5) PIT (4)
Falcons Giants (-3) NYG (4)
Saints Patriots (-3) NE (3)
Packers 49ers (-3.5) SF (2)
Dolphins Raiders (-3.5) MIA (1)
Buccaneers Rams (PK) LAR (1)
Seahawks Vikings (+1.5) MIN (1)
Eagles Cowboys (-4) DAL (1)

Confidence rating (CR) is the author's level of trust in picking the winner of each given game

Panthers (@ Texans)

The only reason this isn't a nine on the confidence scale is that it's being played Thursday night. Weird things happen in these games on short rest. Otherwise, all signs point to a lopsided Panthers win. While Sam Darnold and Carolina's offense have impressed, it's the defense that should be turning heads. The unit ranks first through two weeks in both points and yards allowed, as well as yards per play, third-down defense, and sacks.

Now it gets to take on a rookie quarterback in Davis Mills, who's making his first career start. Mills got a taste of the pros last week in relief of the injured Tyrod Taylor and struggled to command the offense, going 8 of 18 for 102 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The short week is terrible timing for Mills, who needs all the reps he can get. I also feel much more comfortable backing Joe Brady with less time to prepare than I do Texans coach David Culley, who doubled down on the most baffling decision of the season so far.

Broncos (vs. Jets)

Although Jets fans are already scouting the 2022 quarterback class, it's not time to hit the panic button just yet. Zach Wilson has really struggled through two starts, but those came against the best defense in football currently and a Bill Belichick team notorious for giving rookie quarterbacks fits. Unfortunately for Wilson, it won't get much easier this week against a suffocating Broncos defense at Mile High.

Denver has impressed on both sides of the ball early in the season with a friendly schedule. It remains favorable in Week 3, with the Broncos raring to go in their first home game of the campaign. The only thing holding us back here is Denver's reputation. The Broncos aren't generally held in the highest regard coming off four straight losing seasons, but this is a really good football team. The defense is legit, while Teddy Bridgewater's ability to command the offense and limit turnovers gives them a very high floor. As a result, their upset potential is smaller, making them an attractive survivor choice this week.

Ravens (@ Lions)

Realistically, this game shouldn't be competitive. However, this is a bit of a scary spot for the Ravens, who are coming off an emotionally thrilling win over the Chiefs on Sunday and facing a suddenly big showdown with the Broncos next week in Denver. It's not like John Harbaugh to take teams lightly, but there's at least a bit of reason to proceed with caution here.

I'd also expect a response from Dan Campbell's prideful Lions team after getting blown out by the Packers on national television. Will it matter? Probably not. Detroit's defense is one of the NFL's worst units, and that was before losing Jeff Okudah for the season. The Lions need to run the ball well to be successful - they can't rely on Jared Goff - but that's Baltimore's strong suit defensively. That should be enough reason to believe the Ravens can walk out of Detroit with a win.

Bills (vs. Washington)

Josh Allen has been really unimpressive thus far, and the accuracy concerns that followed him early in his career are creeping up again. He's completed just 56% of his passes for a paltry 5.3 yards per attempt. Allen's also turned the ball over twice and recorded just three touchdowns.

Now he gets a Washington defense that's been underachieving but can still wreak havoc with its defensive line. Washington is also finding its groove on offense behind Taylor Heinicke, who gives off strong Matt Saracen vibes. I'm staying away here.

Cardinals (@ Jaguars)

Rookie quarterbacks need time to adjust. For as much as Trevor Lawrence has struggled through two weeks, a breakout game is coming. Whether he can find consistency is another question entirely, but there'll be a week he just goes off despite Urban Meyer's complete ineptitude as an NFL head coach.

Why not this week against a Cardinals defense that came crashing down to earth against the Vikings? This unit can be had, and that's enough to steer me in a different direction.

Avoid: Steelers (vs. Bengals)

I probably sound like a broken record by now, but divisional games are survivor kryptonite. The Steelers looked lost offensively in Week 2, and now Ben Roethlisberger and Diontae Johnson are banged up. The Bengals struggled their way through much of last week's loss in Chicago, but this is a team with a ton of offensive weapons and a dangerous quarterback in Joe Burrow. Cincinnati split with Pittsburgh last season and has real upset potential again Sunday.

Alex Moretto is theScore's supervising editor of sports betting. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.

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NFL Week 3 survivor picks: Breaking down the top choices
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