Sep 17, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love (10) passes against the Atlanta Falcons during the first quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Week 3 prop picks: Embrace Jordan Love in first home start

Bye weeks are on the horizon, but with all 32 teams in action this week, another full smorgasbord of prop picks shuffles in along with NFL Week 3.

Newer bettors can be overwhelmed by the almost limitless offerings. Viewing your props as merely a derivative of how you expect the game to unfold is critical.

With that strategy in mind, here are our top five player props for Week 3.

Ryan Tannehill over 197.5 passing yards (-118 at FanDuel)
Per DVOA metrics, the Browns rank second defensively. However, a big part of their ranking involves the three points allowed the Bengals on a wet day in Cleveland.

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow had all sorts of problems during the game, and it’s not a stretch to say that he’s nowhere near fully healthy this season due to a lingering calf injury.

In Week 2, Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett threw for 222 yards.

FanDuel has a projection under 200 passing yards for Tannehill, and that number is short.

It’s worth noting that according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Tannehill ranks seventh in intended air yards per attempt (8.6 per game), whereas Burrow and Pickett rank 23rd and 24th.

Tyler Allgeier over 40.5 rushing yards (-115 at BetMGM)
The Atlanta Falcons are flying high and off to a 2-0 start. A big part of their success has been the running game behind the duo of Allgeier and Bijan Robinson.

Robinson will get the bulk of the headlines as a first-round rookie, but Atlanta head coach Arthur Smith seems committed to getting Allgeier touches, especially near the goal line.

Interestingly, Allgeier (31) has two more carries than Robinson (29) through two games.

And although Atlanta is tied for first (51%) with Dallas in average run rate, their average margin of victory (+7.5) is 22.5 points less than the Cowboys.

Allgeier posted at least 48 rushing yards in his two games against the Panthers (ninth) and Packers (14th), two teams ranked higher in run defense EPA than the Lions.

Look for the Falcons to continue to share the workload with Allgeier rushing for over 40.5 yards.

Jordan Love over 1.5 passing touchdowns (+135 at BetMGM)
Green Bay missed a golden opportunity to stay perfect on the season after blowing a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter against the Falcons.

The 1-1 Packers host New Orleans to take on a Saints team off to a 2-0 start.

New Orleans (+2.0) has the lowest margin of victory of any of the remaining undefeated teams. And according to TeamRankings, the Saints sit third in their luck factor metrics.

We’ve noticed with Green Bay the offense might not always look fluid, but it has been potent inside the red zone — tied for first with an 83.3 percent touchdown conversion rate.

Love ranks fourth (75.2) in the league in Total QBR with six touchdowns on the season and has yet to throw an interception.

Raheem Mostert under 13.5 receiving yards (-110 at BetMGM)
I don’t want to rely on too many overs, which ushers in this play on Mostert receiving yards.

The Dolphins running back had a heavier workload in Week 2, with 18 rushing attempts compared to 10 in the season opener.

Mostert gets the bulk of carries, but Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel will continue to use Mostert sparingly in their passing game.

In Week 1, the Dolphins had 466 receiving yards against a Chargers team that ranks 29th in EPA against the pass, and Mostert still finished with two catches for 13 yards.

Miami already has five players with at least 65 receiving yards, and McDaniel said he’s ready to roll out rookie running back De’Von Achane in a more consistent role starting Sunday.

JuJu Smith-Schuster under 35.5 receiving yards (-115 at PointsBet)
Smith-Schuster signed a three-year deal worth $33 million and signs pointed to the former Steelers and Chiefs receiver playing a major role.

Through two games, he’s averaging just 30.5 receiving yards and has yet to score a touchdown.

A closer look at his NFL Next Gen Stats reveals that Smith-Schuster (-2.1) ranks 97th among 99 players in yards after catch above expectation (YAC +/-) with at least eight targets.

Enter the New York Jets, a team with a strong secondary.

New York ranks 13th in defensive DVOA, and Smith-Schuster will likely line up against Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner.

Per Pro Football Focus, Gardner is tied for 10th in pass coverage with a 79.2 rating.

Despite being tied for second on the team in targets (13), Smith-Schuster is only fifth in total reception yards (61).

Given the matchup with Gardner and this being a divisional game, I like the Patriots wide receiver to stay under 35.5 receiving yards.

–By Michael Nwaneri, Field Level Media

Sep 10, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons (11) celebrates a defensive stop with defensive tackle Neville Gallimore (96) during the first quarter against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Week 3 NFL betting preview

The uncertainty is slowly melting away, and Week 3 is a good time to closely consider some heavy favorites.

Several teams with strong support as Super Bowl contenders are facing seemingly inferior opponents on Sunday and offer significant betting value.

Favorites got off to a strong start on Thursday with the 49ers easily handling the Giants as 10.5-point favorites.

Fans and bookmakers might be factoring too much of that uncertainty into these lines, but just to be sure we are going to make the numbers more palatable and use two games in a parlay.

We have a primary play, along with a pair of bonus bets for Week 2.

THE HEADLINERS

Bears at Chiefs, 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday

Cowboys at Cardinals, 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday

The lines: Cowboys -12.5, Chiefs -13

For all the worry about the Chiefs offensive shortcomings (no dependable receivers outside of Travis Kelce in addition to a stuttering running game), Kansas City has three of the very best players at their respective positions: quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tight end Kelce and defensive tackle Chris Jones.

Compounding the concern for Chicago Bears backers, this game is in Kansas City and the Bears are working overtime to redefine dysfunctional.

Chicago’s defensive coordinator Alan Williams resigned this week and quarterback Justin Fields has two TD passes and two pick-6s. He has been sacked 10 times and enters the game without starting left tackle Braxton Jones (placed on injured reserve this week).

Mahomes is not satisfied with his team’s progress and aims for a much better showing Sunday.

“You play bad and win, it’s a lot better than playing bad and losing,” Mahomes said. “So I was glad we were able to find a way to get a win at the end of the day, but a lot of stuff that we have to be better at.”

Bears cornerback Josh Blackwell (hamstring) was limited at practice on Wednesday, while safety Eddie Jackson (foot) did not participate.

Granted, this is the NFL, and when it seems certain …

Therefore, we’ll take that 13-point spread and bring it down to 6.5.

Applying a similar logic to the Cowboys-Cardinals game, we see a championship-caliber Dallas defense facing an Arizona offense that ran out of fuel during a Week 2 upset attempt against the New York Giants last Sunday.

Cowboys game planners have plenty of video to parse, assuring that the Cardinals’ offensive wrinkles won’t be able to overcome a vast disparity in talent.

Dallas, with Super Bowl aspirations, can’t afford to let up in the desert, seeking a workmanlike victory similar to its Week 2 throttling of the overmatched New York Jets. Without cornerback Trevon Diggs, who suffered a season-ending knee injury on Thursday, the Cowboys might be in an emotional slumber.

Moving the line from -12.5 down to -6.5 should be enough to carry the parlay.

The pick: Parlay the Cowboys -6.5 and the Chiefs -6.5 at a price of -111 (BetMGM as of Thursday afternoon).

BETTING TRENDS

Fans know that betting luck is a real concept, so why not apply luck as a handicapping tool?

Done.

Proactively wagering on the Action Network luck rankings narrowly beat the spread in nine games that fit their model (4-3-2 against the spread), but that moved unlucky teams to 100-57-6 (63.2%) ATS since the start of 2018.

By the Action Network definition: “Luck percentage represents the win probability swing between a team’s expected winning percentage from their on-field performance and their actual winning percentage.”

BONUS COMBO
A game that fits the luck trend, along with a player prop to consider.

Patriots at Jets, 1 p.m. ET Sunday

The line: Patriots -2.5.

In their Week 1 and 2 defeats, the 0-2 Patriots’ margins were not reflective of the expected outcome, according to the Action Network.

New England was able to move the ball against the Eagles as well as the Dolphins, but breakthrough plays eluded them.

No fewer than six drives into Dolphins territory failed to produce a touchdown, and the Patriots collected only three points from those six opportunities in a 24-17 loss.

The Jets’ luck is awful, of course, given the injury to quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Their luck percentage, however, is rated No. 7, meaning they’re a mediocre team despite being lucky; the Patriots are dead last at No. 32.

The pick: Patriots -2.5.

PROP CORNER
Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa passing yards

Miami took down a pretty good defense in Week 2, solving Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s game plan in a 24-17 road victory.

The Dolphins’ Week 3 opponent, Denver, surrendered 35 points in a home loss to the Washington Commanders and must play in hot, sticky Miami.

Dolphins star wide receiver Tyreek Hill was held to only 40 yards receiving while Tagovailoa still managed 249 yards through the air as the Patriots played three- and four-deep safety looks and invited Miami to run the ball.

All signs point to continued success, and the over/under of 262.5 yards for Tua seems too low.

The pick: Tagovailoa over 262.5 yards passing (available at BetMGM).

–Field Level Media

Sep 14, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) reacts before kick off Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Week 3 NFL capsules

Week 3 NFL capsules

Colts (1-1) at Ravens (2-0): Baltimore digs in for its second game against a rookie starting quarterback in three weeks, but the Colts might hit the field without No. 4 overall pick Anthony Richardson. He spent the week in concussion protocol. Gardner Minshew had a 120.8 passer rating the last time he started against the Ravens (2020 with the Jaguars) and completed 19 of 23 passes off the bench to beat the Houston Texans last week. The Ravens won four of the past five meetings and have limited opponents to 16.5 points and 275 total yards per game in 2023. That has helped ease the transition to a new offense under coordinator Todd Monken. QB Lamar Jackson can get the Ravens to 3-0 for the first time since 2016. He had a career-high 504 total yards (442 passing) in his last game against the Colts.

Titans (1-1) at Browns (1-1): Nick Chubb’s season-ending knee injury shifts personnel — Jerome Ford gets first dibs on the starting role — but the Browns plan to push forward with a run-first offense. That doesn’t spare QB Deshaun Watson from being asked to do more, especially considering the Titans’ standing rep as a stout run defense under coach Mike Vrabel. The Titans are holding opponents to 65 rushing yards per game. Watson’s 19 TD passes against the Titans, his highest point output against any team, could increase if the Browns can protect him. Watson has been sacked nine times and has a passer rating of 69.0 this season. The Titans are involving explosive rookie Tyjae Spears in the running game alongside Derrick Henry to average 122.5 yards per game on the ground. QB Ryan Tannehill, sacked eight times this season, went over 300 passing yards with three-plus touchdowns in each of his past two starts in this matchup.

Falcons (2-0) at Lions (1-1): Injuries are threatening to short-circuit the Lions’ feel-good story. S C.J. Gardner-Johnson (torn pectoral muscle) and DE James Houston (ankle fracture) are on injured reserve and RB David Montgomery (quad bruise) won’t play this week, with two starting offensive linemen — including LT Taylor Decker — not expected to suit up, either. Rising RB talents should still be on display. The Falcons’ Bijan Robinson, the No. 8 overall pick in 2023, rushed for 124 yards in the Falcons’ 25-24 win over the Green Bay Packers last Sunday. He also has 10 receptions in his first two games. Lions rookie Jahmyr Gibbs, the No. 12 overall pick, has averaged 4.2 yards per on 14 carries with nine catches. His workload could increase if Montgomery is sidelined.

Saints (2-0) at Packers (1-1): At long last, QB Jordan Love, in his third season and first as the successor to Aaron Rodgers, makes his first start at Lambeau Field. Love is the top-rated passer in the NFL with a rating of 118.8, tied for the league lead with six touchdown passes and has not thrown an interception. The Saints’ defense has yielded one touchdown in two games. New Orleans is down another running back — Jamaal Williams’ hamstring injury means he won’t face his former team — with rookie Kendre Miller likely to start in the final week of Pro Bowl RB Alvin Kamara’s suspension. New QB Derek Carr has just one TD pass but three productive wide receivers in Chris Olave (14 receptions, 198 yards), Michael Thomas (12 receptions, 116 yards) and Rashid Sheheed (9-152). The Packers are expecting RB Aaron Jones to be back after he missed last week’s loss at Atlanta. He averaged 103.6 total yards in nine games at home last season.

Texans (0-2) at Jaguars (1-1): For a franchise with few wins to celebrate, the Texans have enjoyed seeing the Jaguars with nine wins in the past 10 games with their AFC South rival. Houston has produced only 29 points this season and rookie QB C.J. Stroud stares down a stellar defense that limited the Chiefs to 17 points in Week 2. Stroud has 58 completions, second-most by any player in his first two NFL games, with much credit due WR Nico Collins (13 receptions, 226 yards in 2023). Jacksonville is plus-3 in turnover margin with six takeaways. But the Jaguars have had issues inside the 20, including 0-for-3 in red-zone chances last week. Texans CB Derek Stingley (hamstring) and Jaguars WR Zay Jones (knee) are key injuries to monitor. Jones is second in the NFL with five red-zone targets. The Jaguars routed the host Texans 31-3 in Week 17 of last season to snap a nine-game losing streak against Houston.

Broncos (0-2) at Dolphins (2-0): Before Mike McDaniel was hired to lead the Dolphins, franchise owner Stephen Ross attempted to woo current Broncos head coach Sean Payton (and friends) to South Beach. Now McDaniel’s Dolphins are following up a playoff appearance with a 2-0 start, flexing the type of prolific offense one might expect from Payton’s teams. Alas, Payton sat out one season — Ross was fined and suspended for tampering with the then-Saints coach — then was hired to revive Russell Wilson and the Broncos. So far, no luck in that department. Wilson has been good enough to win and is one of three quarterbacks with two TD passes and a 100-plus rating in the first two games (Kirk Cousins, Jordan Love). Denver’s defense allowed 52 points in the first two games and faces the Miami machine averaging 30 points per game behind a red-hot start from Tua Tagovailoa. A win puts the Dolphins at 3-0 for the second consecutive season for the first time since 1994-96.

Chargers (0-2) at Vikings (0-2): Chargers coach Brandon Staley reminded anyone who’d listen there are 15 games left in the regular season. His team is on the road and coming off a two-point loss against the Miami Dolphins in Week 1 and a three-point overtime loss against the Tennessee Titans in Week 2. “We lost two really tough games right there at the end. … We’re doing a lot of good things out there,” Staley said this week. “The mistakes that we made out there, we can correct all of them.” The same message resonates with Minnesota, which has also lost each of its first two games by single digits against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Philadelphia Eagles. Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell and Staley were roommates and Rams assistant coaches during the COVID-19 pandemic. One will leave U.S. Bank Stadium 0-3 after going to the playoffs last season. Vikings QB Kirk Cousins is 9-2 with 25 TDs (23 pass, 2 rush), five INTs in his past 11 home starts. But Minnesota has the most turnovers (seven) and the worst turnover ratio (minus-6) of any team in the NFL heading into Week 3.

Patriots (0-2) at Jets (1-1): Bill Belichick is 38-12 against the Jets, including 14 consecutive wins in the regular season. But with points hard to come by (18.5 ppg) and a defense lacking playmakers, the Patriots are in danger of starting a season 0-3 for the first time since Belichick’s debut season in Foxborough. The Jets last beat the Patriots on Dec. 27, 2015, when Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Eric Decker for a touchdown in overtime after Belichick told his captains to kick it away if New England won the coin toss. New York wants to play behind the push of its defense after a 30-10 loss to the Cowboys. The Patriots lead the NFL in pass attempts and have only 164 rushing yards in two games.

Bills (1-1) at Commanders (2-0): The Commanders are now 3-0 when Sam Howell starts at quarterback. Once a projected No. 1 overall draft pick who instead fell to the fifth round, Howell won his only start when Washington gave him the reins at the end of 2022. Howell completed 27 of 39 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns against Denver last week. His cause has been helped by Brian Robinson Jr., Washington’s clear No. 1 running back who has gained 146 rushing yards over two games. After a four-turnover showing in a loss to the Jets Week 1, Josh Allen bounced back with a boost from RB James Cook (123 rushing yards) in a 38-10 win last week. The Commanders’ five-star defensive line is “one of the best” in Allen’s estimation.

Panthers (0-2) at Seahawks (1-1): Carolina turns to QB Andy Dalton with No. 1 pick Bryce Young hobbled by an ankle injury. Dalton pilots a Panthers’ scheme averaging 13.5 points and 133 passing yards in the first two games. Seattle can score in bunches (30.5 ppg) and gives opponents fits with a WR corps led by DK Metcalf (nine receptions, 122 yards) and Tyler Lockett, who caught two TDs last week. Rookie WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba is among NFL leaders averaging nearly five yards of separation per route according to NFL Next Gen Stats. The Panthers’ defense is replacing LB Shaq Thompson, who went down with a season-ending injury last week.

Cowboys (2-0) at Cardinals (0-2): All-Pro CB Trevon Diggs tore his ACL in practice on Thursday, dampening the mood in Dallas after a dominant open to the season. The Cowboys outscored the Giants and Jets 70-10 and are trying to break a run of poor luck in the series with Arizona. The Cardinals have won six of the past seven meetings. But the ask of journeyman QB Josh Dobbs isn’t small. A challenge for the offense, which has 44 points in two games, will be finding a way to move the ball while limiting the impact of Dallas pass rusher Micah Parsons. The Cowboys are leading the NFL in multiple defensive categories, yielding 5.0 points per game, collecting 10 sacks and boasting a turnover margin of plus-7. Opponents are converting only 23.1 percent of third downs to first downs (6 of 26).

Bears (0-2) at Chiefs (1-1): It was a week to forget for the Bears what with the resignation of defensive coordinator Alan Williams and quarterback Justin Fields wondering aloud if coaching might have him thinking too much. Noise might be the least of the Bears’ worries at Kansas City. Chicago lost its starting left tackle and another cornerback to injured reserve and takes the field trying to win a game for the first time since Oct. 24, 2022. The Super Bowl champion Chiefs won at Jacksonville and could be looking to this week to get healthy. Chicago enters Sunday with just one sack while allowing opponents to convert 54.8 percent of their third downs, the second-highest rate in the league.

Steelers (1-1) at Raiders (1-1): Pittsburgh has scored just 19 offensive points and has punted 13 times, compared to 24 total first downs. The Steelers posted a 26-22 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Monday night behind defensive touchdowns by Alex Highsmith and T.J. Watt. The Raiders (1-1) are tied for last in points per game (13.5). Star rusher Josh Jacobs is coming off a career-worst minus-2 rushing game (on nine attempts) in a 38-10 loss to the host Buffalo Bills. Jacobs, the NFL’s leading rusher with 1,653 yards last season, has just 46 yards on 28 carries in two games with a long gain of 7. In the loss to Buffalo, the Raiders ran just 13 second-half offensive plays and 39 for the game as the Bills controlled the ball for 40:04.

Eagles (2-0) at Buccaneers (2-0): Baker Mayfield has been the NFL’s best quarterback under pressure, completing more than 70 percent of his passes in that scenario, and the Eagles tend to bring plenty of attacking fronts to test a quarterback’s mettle. Mayfield is 1-4 on Monday Night Football. He’ll square off against another former Oklahoma quarterback, Jalen Hurts, who insists his big contract and smaller stats are no bother as long as Philadelphia keeps winning. With two rushing touchdowns this week, Hurts would tie Cam Newton for the all-time QB record of 10 games with two-plus rushing TDs. WR A.J. Brown would like a few more passes thrown but downplayed a sideline spat with Hurts last week. With CB James Bradberry (concussion) back from a one-week absence, the Eagles pass rush and secondary is better equipped to contend with WR Mike Evans. He’s the only player in the NFL with six-plus catches and a TD in each of the first two weeks of the 2022 season.

Rams (1-1) at Bengals (0-2): Another 0-2 start for Cincinnati, which reached the AFC title game after dropping two in a row to open the 2022 season, might be cause for alarm this time around. QB Joe Burrow (calf) is hurting and without the threat of a deep passing game, defenses are adjusting to sit on shorter underneath throws and zapping the life out of Cincinnati’s scheme. That scheme was partially crafted by Rams coach Sean McVay, who goes head-to-head with former assistant Zac Taylor as part of the MNF doubleheader. Without WR Cooper Kupp (hamstring), the Rams are consistently moving the chains thanks to breakout rookie WR Puka Nacua. McVay said this week he’ll need to throttle back Nacua’s workload to keep him healthy, which invites more targets for shifty slot receiver Tutu Atwell (15.1 yards per catch this season). Bengals Pro Bowl WR Ja’Marr Chase called for more vertical shots to open up Cincy’s attack. He’s averaging just 7.0 yards per catch, down from 18.0 in 2021.

–Field Level Media

Sep 17, 2023; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons (11) stretches on the field before the game against the New York Jets at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Dialed-in Dallas ‘D’ ready to ‘hunt’ Cardinals

Five teams in the Super Bowl era scored 70 or more total points while holding opponents to a combined output of 10 or fewer in the first two games of a season.

One of them, the 2023 Dallas Cowboys, sashays into Arizona to challenge the Cardinals (1-1) on Sunday.

First-year Cardinals coach Jonathan Gannon contended with Dak Prescott and company in another capacity previously as defensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles. This week, part of his challenge is convincing a shorthanded team to erase the recent memory of blowing a 21-point second-half lead to lose to the New York Giants, 31-28.

For the sake of comparison, the Arizona result came a week after the Cowboys (2-0) whipped the Giants 40-0.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Gannon said Wednesday.

With Kyler Murray (knee) unavailable, the Cardinals started Joshua Dobbs at quarterback for the first two games. He completed 42 of 61 passes for 360 yards with one touchdown in the first two games. Facing injuries and a decided playmaker deficit, Dobbs said the Cardinals are locking in on finishing.

A challenge for the offense, which has 44 points in two games, will be finding a way to move the ball while limiting the impact of Dallas pass rusher Micah Parsons and cornerback Trevon Diggs. The Cowboys are leading the NFL in multiple defensive categories, yielding 5.0 points per game, collecting 10 sacks and boasting a turnover margin of plus-7. Opponents are converting only 23.1 percent of third downs to first downs (6 of 26).

“My sentiment to the offense has been, when we do execute, when we do what we’re coached to do, we’re a really difficult offense to stop,” said Dobbs, who will start three consecutive games for the first time in his career.

Gannon said the Cardinals are cognizant of not allowing Parsons to wreck the game.

“He’s one of the elite players in the world. Explosive, fast, powerful. He can rush, takes the run away.”

Parsons had 2.0 sacks and a forced fumble last week in a 30-10 win over the host New York Jets. Diggs picked off one pass and shares the NFL lead with 18 interceptions since 2020.

Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence said the Cowboys are focused on the Cardinals while also carrying the mentality that they can’t be stopped if they do their jobs.

“Come back to the lab each and every day and work on our fundamentals,” Lawrence said. “I feel like, times like this, when you’re 2-0 and you’ve got the hype around the team and things can get out of whack. People can let that self-confidence lead them into some things they don’t need to be in.”

“(Doesn’t) matter who’s back there. We’re gonna hunt. I feel like every week, we’ll be facing a running quarterback. … If you’re not a running quarterback, you’re gonna wanna make sure your legs work that week.”

Dallas hasn’t had to flex offensively with Parsons, Lawrence and pals bruising opponents.

The Cowboys have at least six points in all eight quarters this season. Quarterback Dak Prescott has been highly efficient with head coach Mike McCarthy calling plays. They ran 83 offensive plays against the Jets and 55 against the Giants. But Gannon said it’s not about who to stop so much as how to stop the Cowboys because of their numerous skill-position threats.

“They’ve got a lot of weapons, it’s a well-coached scheme and they’ve been together for awhile now,” Gannon said.

Running back Tony Pollard is one player that McCarthy plans to ease up on this week. In the win over the Jets, he had 25 carries and seven receptions, the heaviest single-game toll of his career.

Left guard Tyler Smith (hamstring), wide receiver Brandin Cooks (knee), safety Donovan Wilson (calf) and offensive tackle Chuma Edoga (elbow) practiced on Wednesday, but right guard Zack Martin (ankle) worked with trainers.

–Field Level Media

Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) runs with the ball for a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings during the first quarter of a wild card game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Giants road trip into San Francisco with Saquon Barkley hurting

Daniel Jones tries to win road games in consecutive weeks for the first time on Thursday, when the New York Giants’ traveling party makes its way from Arizona to San Francisco.

The Giants rallied to beat the Cardinals 31-28 on Sunday and got comfortable in the Tempe area for an extra three nights while crossing their fingers running back Saquon Barkley’s health and hotel points balance are restored on a short week.

“I’m not saying that he’s out yet. He’s a quick healer. I’m not saying he’s in, he’s out,” Giants coach Brian Daboll said Tuesday. “We are going to take it all the way up with him to Thursday, but he feels a lot better today. I just talked to him. So, we will see where we are at.”

Barkley injured his ankle in the victory and needed assistance to reach the sideline after scoring a rushing touchdown and catching a 9-yard TD toss from Jones to help New York erase a 28-7 deficit. Barkley led the Giants in rushing (63 yards) and receiving (six receptions, tied with tight end Darren Waller).

“It’s tough,” Giants linebacker Bobby Okereke said. “(Defensive coordinator) Wink (Martindale) will always say he’s our best defensive player because when he’s on the field running the ball, we are on the sideline. Saquon is an incredible leader; this team is going to miss him, but we also have a ‘next man up’ mentality. Everybody has to in this league.”

San Francisco (2-0) knows the next man up at running back rather well. Matt Breida played for the 49ers from 2017-19 before being traded to the Miami Dolphins.

The 49ers have no injury concerns at running back. Christian McCaffrey, the NFL’s rushing leader (268 yards) by 88 yards through two games, is set to take on a Giants defense being hit for 4.6 yards per carry and 136.5 rushing yards per game. Martindale’s inventive fronts, including a two-man line for multiple snaps against the Cardinals, aren’t leading to much success or pressure on the quarterback to date.

The Giants are still looking for their first sack and takeaway this season. There is optimism from Daboll entering Thursday. The 49ers allowed 15 pressures Week 1 at Pittsburgh, but brought that number down to just six in Week 2, according to Pro Football Focus.

But it hasn’t helped that New York was outscored 46-0 in the first half by the Cowboys and Cardinals, all but erasing risk-taking from either offense. Dallas pitched a 40-0 shutout in Week 1.

While McCaffrey is a sure thing on Thursday night, the 49ers are planning to work Elijah Mitchell into the game plan. If nothing else, coach Kyle Shanahan said he wants to get McCaffrey more rest. He’s on pace for nearly 1,000 snaps in the regular season.

Shanahan expects defensive end Nick Bosa to continue making an impact — he had three pressures of Matthew Stafford in the 30-23 win over the Rams — even if it isn’t showing up on the stat sheet every week.

“He’s getting back into football shape, getting back into his groove,” Shanahan said. “He got better and stronger throughout the game, similar to last week in that aspect. He finished the game really strong and took a step forward from Pittsburgh.”

The Giants have allowed 10 sacks in two games and left tackle Andrew Thomas (hamstring) will be a game-time decision, Daboll said. While Bosa isn’t yet on the board, second-year defensive end Drake Jackson leads the team with three sacks.

49ers co-leader in receptions Brandon Aiyuk (shoulder) was among players dinged for San Francisco last week along with cornerbacks Ambry Thomas (knee) and Deommodore Lenoir (head). Aiyuk was limited Tuesday and is a game-time decision, Shanahan said.

–Field Level Media

Oct 31, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) passes the ball against the Buffalo Bills during the second half at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Just the Tua us: New-look Dolphins meet Bills in AFC East showdown

As NFL proving grounds go, Tua Tagovailoa and the Miami Dolphins might not get a more tailor-made opportunity to legitimize their fast start than this one.

Undefeated AFC East rivals collide in Miami Gardens, Fla., when the Buffalo Bills roll into Hard Rock Stadium after wrecking the Los Angeles Rams and Tennessee Titans in primetime pummelings by a combined score of 72-17.

The Dolphins are also 2-0, averaging 31 points per game with an offensive arsenal that believes it could be ready to measure up with Bills quarterback Josh Allen.

“We’ve all been witnesses to, he’s steadily become one of the best players in the National Football League,” Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel said of Allen. “(You could) easily argue he’s the best one. And it’s not because he’s God’s gift. It’s because he’s unbelievably talented. But it’s because you can tell more than that, it’s because he works at his craft. He’s developing every time he’s on the field. He’s a really, really good player that you’ll never, I don’t think, see him stopped necessarily. It’s about minimizing and containing all together.”

The Dolphins have a seven-game home winning streak and enter with one of the more improbable wins in recent memory, rallying from a 35-14 deficit entering the fourth quarter at Baltimore to beat the Ravens 42-38. Tagovailoa, who threw a pair of first-half interceptions, finished with six touchdown passes and wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle each had 11 receptions and two touchdowns with a combined 361 yards through the air.

Checking Hill, the NFL’s leading receiver, and Waddle could fall to a pair of rookies for the Bills because Dane Jackson (neck) is uncertain and Tre White is on the PUP list.

“They do a great job — their receivers — with yards after catch. So our ability to be able to tackle and get guys running to the football is going to be very, very important,” Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said.

McDaniel said he’ll mention keeping emotions in check with Tagovailoa but not dwell on it. He said they re-lived his second interception against the Ravens and boiled it down to pressing. The critical test in McDaniel’s mind is how quickly a quarterback rebounds from errors.

“If he feels himself pressing, like he did when he threw that second pick, how fast can you get out of that yourself and utilize that whole experience for confidence moving forward,” McDaniel said.

Buffalo packs a streak of their own for the trip to Florida. They’ve won the past seven meetings with the Dolphins and have surrendered just 8.5 points per game this season.

Lost in the blazing start by Allen and wide receiver Stefon Diggs — 20 receptions, four touchdowns — has been the smothering defense that Miami knows all too well. With pass rusher Von Miller added to the mix, Buffalo can squeeze teams shoved into comeback mode by the Bills’ high-octane offense.

“Regardless if it works or not, you’re going see outside zone. They’re going to play unbelievable strenuous defense,” McDaniel said. “They’re going to play hard and run to the ball. And they’re going to force you into mistakes because they can get home with their four-man rush.”

Buffalo could be without the cornerbacks mentioned above and tight end Dawson Knox, who didn’t practice Wednesday due to a foot injury.

Miami’s injury concerns include left tackle Terron Armstead (toe), cornerback Xavien Howard (groin), linebacker Melvin Ingram (rest) and tight ends Cethan Carter (concussion) and Hunter Long (ankle). Armstrong played at Baltimore with the same injury. Howard is new to the injury report this week.

–Field Level Media

Sep 13, 2020; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) hands the ball off to  running back Josh Jacobs (28) in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Patriots, Newton prepped for revved-up Raiders

Cam Newton knows there’s no sense in ever trying to fill Tom Brady’s legendary shoes. The former NFL MVP plans to focus on making an impact on the Patriots as they enter Sunday’s home game against the Las Vegas Raiders.

Newton has completed 71.4 percent of his passes for 552 yards but is making even more noise as a runner with 122 yards and four touchdowns through his first two games for New England (1-1). He’s well ahead of his MVP pace of 2015.

The four rushing scores are the most in NFL history for a quarterback through two games and perhaps the total could have been one higher if Newton wasn’t stopped at the 2-yard line on the final play of Sunday night’s 35-30 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Newton, the former Carolina Panthers star, is still exerting himself as a leader with his new team, but quickly took responsibility for the decisive play not working.

“We just have to execute. And I could have bounced it,” Newton said of the play. “I just have to do better. I just have to do better here at the end. We put ourselves in a position to win and when you do that, you just have to finish and we didn’t do that.”

Overall, there are few complaints about Newton as he assimilates his style into the existing and well-established Patriot Way.

New England coach Bill Belichick feels Newton is quickly picking up the game plan and adding just the right amount of spice.

“Each week’s a new challenge, but Cam understands what we want to do,” Belichick said. “He has a good grasp. He’s got a lot of playing experience and is a very instinctive player, and when things come up in the game, he’s very quick to identify the differences from what we’ve prepared for and or what the team has shown in the past based on the last two weeks. But, we’ll continue to work together on that.”

Raiders coach Jon Gruden has Las Vegas at 2-0 after taking down the Saints on Monday night. He fears Newton’s combination of strength and size, as well as his prowess throwing the ball.

“I haven’t seen many guys walk through my doors that look like Cam,” Gruden said. “I call him ‘Slam.’ Slam Newton. That was the nickname. He’s a power forward playing quarterback.”

Newton, who has one touchdown pass and one interception, also has quickly built a strong rapport with veteran receiver Julian Edelman, who had eight receptions for a career-high 179 yards against Seattle. Overall, Edelman has 13 receptions for 236 yards.

The Raiders scored 34 points in both of their wins — by four over the Carolina Panthers and an impressive 10-point margin in Monday night’s win over New Orleans in their first game in Las Vegas.

Quarterback Derek Carr has completed 73.5 percent of his passes for 521 yards and four touchdowns without being intercepted. He takes aim at a New England defense torched for five touchdown passes by Russell Wilson last week.

Carr is looking for a strong rebound season after hearing chatter in the offseason that the Raiders would be better off moving on from him despite the fact he passed for more than 4,000 yards in each of the past two seasons.

“This organization has stuck behind me through some hard times,” Carr said. “Through some times when our team struggled, there’s no doubt about it, but when you can get on the other side of things and be 2-0 as the Las Vegas Raiders, that’s a pretty cool thing.”

The Raiders have emerging star Josh Jacobs (181 rushing, three touchdowns) in the backfield and tight end Darren Waller (18 receptions) off to a strong start for an offense that ranks fourth in scoring, which was a problem area — specifically in the red zone — in 2019.

The defense could use improvement and is allowing 27 points and 406 yards per game. Las Vegas has just one sack and the failure to pressure quarterbacks could be exploited by a dynamic player like Newton.

Las Vegas is hurting on the offensive line after placing guard Richie Incognito (Achilles) on injured reserve on Wednesday. Others missing practice were Jacobs (hip), Waller (knee), offensive tackle Trent Brown (calf), guard/tackle Denzelle Good (thumb/illness), linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski (pectoral) and defensive end Carl Nassib (illness).

New England center David Andrews (hand) was the only player to miss Wednesday’s practice due to injury. Running back James White was also absent as he deals with a family tragedy. His father was killed and his mother injured in an auto accident in Florida on Sunday.

–Field Level Media

Sep 20, 2020; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) runs the ball in the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Winless Vikings to pound the rock, not panic button, against Titans

The Minnesota Vikings are 0-2 to begin the season for the first time since 2013.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins believes he has a pulse on the way to spark a turnaround when the Vikings welcome the 2-0 Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

“The urgency is there every week, but what we certainly need to improve on in addition to just having urgency is to have production,” Cousins said. “That’s where my focus is. The urgency is there, but we need the production to go with it.”

Cousins admitted he needs to improve. Minnesota lost its season opener 43-34 to Green Bay, falling behind with Cousins playing a bit part in the first half, and dropped its Week 2 game at Indianapolis 28-11.

A Pro Bowler in 2019 after throwing for 3,603 yards with 26 touchdowns, six interceptions and a career-best 107.4 passer rating, Cousins has struggled to begin 2020. His passer rating was 0.0 late in the third quarter at Indianapolis, but Cousins ultimately raised it — to a sparse 15.9 — after finishing 11-of-26 for 113 yards and three interceptions.

To keep heat off of Cousins, the Vikings are looking to establish the ground game and take a page out of the Titans’ book with multiple tight ends plowing on an eight-man line on occasion. Dalvin Cook brings big-play flair but cutback lanes have been clogged as defenses dare the Vikings to push the ball downfield.

Cousins has been sacked in the end zone for a safety in consecutive games. According to Pro Football Reference, Minnesota has allowed safeties in back-to-back games only one other time in franchise history, in December 2007.

Now comes a quick Tennessee front seven that includes defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, a late addition to the team who is looking to make his mark with the Titans.

“Clowney, they move [him] around quite a bit,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “Sometimes he’s on the right, sometimes he’s on the left, sometimes he lines up over the center. So, they move him around. Identification will be big for us.”

Tennessee is 2-0 for the first time since 2008 and rolling behind efficient quarterback play from Ryan Tannehill as well as clutch heroics from placekicker Stephen Gostkowski, who has hit game-winning field goals against Denver and Jacksonville. Gostkowski has all but erased memories of his four missed field goals at Denver.

“We’re 2-0 and you would think in this locker room that we’re 0-2 with the way we’re focused, which I think is different than I’ve seen in past years,” Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan said. “Guys are definitely like, ‘We know how much better we can be.’”

Tannehill completed 18-of-24 passes for 239 yards in a 33-30 home win against Jacksonville. He had four touchdowns and zero interceptions. It marked the third time Tannehill had four touchdown passes in a game in his career and first since Oct. 25, 2015, when he led the Miami Dolphins past the Houston Texans.

Titans coach Mike Vrabel said the run game has experienced too many plays halted at or behind the line of scrimmage, but running back Derrick Henry remains second in the league with 200 rush yards.

Tennessee cornerback Johnathan Joseph suffered a calf injury in the second half Sunday and did not return, but was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice. Cornerbacks Malcolm Butler (quad) and Chris Jackson (hamstring) didn’t practice, and neither did receiver A.J. Brown (knee).

Four-time Minnesota Pro Bowl linebacker Anthony Barr was placed on injured reserve Monday with a torn pectoral muscle and will miss the rest of the season. Barr sustained the injury in the first half at Indianapolis and didn’t return.

“AB is a beast,” Vikings linebacker Eric Wilson said. “He’s very good at a lot of things. … He calls the plays for our defense, so we’ve got to make adjustments there.”

Cornerbacks Cameron Dantzler (rib) and Mike Hughes (neck) missed Wednesday’s practice for Minnesota, as did running back Mike Boone (concussion) and linebacker Troy Dye (ankle). Offensive tackle Riley Reiff was limited with an ankle injury.

–Field Level Media

Sep 20, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) is helped off of the field after suffering an injury during the second quarter against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Week 3 waiver wire targets

Week 2 was the first sign attrition might win the 2020 NFL season.

Season-ending injuries and other major dents and bruises resulted from the second full week of regular-season games.

Gone for the year are popular first-round fantasy football pick Saquon Barkley (torn ACL) and trendy breakout wide receiver Courtland Sutton.

A player many fantasy football teams drafted No. 1 overall prior to the season, Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, is out for up to six weeks.

Multiple-week injuries are expected for 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and his backfield mate Raheem Mostert, Broncos quarterback Drew Lock, Colts quarterback Parris Campbell and Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas, who didn’t play in Week 2.

Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins (concussion) and Chargers quarterback Tyrod Taylor could be back this week.

If you need to fill an immediate vacancy in your roster, here are some players to consider:

Free agent RB Devonta Freeman
The former Atlanta Falcons running back is an option to replace Barkley with the New York Giants. He met with the team Monday. But given the ineffectiveness of the offensive line in losses to the Steelers and Bears, Freeman might be only a spot-use type of addition. That’s not to mention Dion Lewis could be a better fit for a team that has played from behind for most of the first two weeks of the season.

49ers TE Jordan Reed
We are making the grand presumption that Titans tight end Jonnu Smith is no longer on the waiver wire after two strong weeks (three TDs).

Injuries, namely concussions, ushered Reed out of Washington. With George Kittle (knee) uncertain for Week 3 after sitting last week, Reed could again be the top target of San Francisco’s passing game. However, eight targets and two touchdowns should not be the expectation if Garoppolo doesn’t play.

Panthers RB Mike Davis
Davis, 27, is going to get his chance to carry the load for Carolina. Head coach Matt Rhule said Davis is definitely “a starting running back in the National Football League” but he logged only one carry after McCaffrey went out at Tampa. Temper expectations but he’s worth a look for RB-needy teams.

Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky
Need a one-week sub for Jimmy G.? Give Mitch a shot, the matchup works out perfectly with the Bears rolling into Atlanta. The Falcons have been bludgeoned by the Seahawks and Cowboys at a rate of more than 35 fantasy points per game to their quarterbacks. Not to suggest Mitchell T. is in the same stratosphere of Russell Wilson and Dak Prescott. However, the Falcons defense has been so user-friendly, this sets up as a winning proposition.

49ers RB Jerick McKinnon
Mostert and Tevin Coleman, the top two backs on the 49ers’ depth chart, are both injured. McKinnon stands to get a heavy workload if one or both can’t play against the Giants, an 0-2 team looking to establish any type of identity on both sides of the ball.

–Field Level Media

Nov 10, 2019; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay addresses the crowd in a ceremony to honor former Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney being inducted into the Indianapolis Colts Ring of Honor at halftime of a game against the Miami Dolphins at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Colts to host 7,500 fans in Week 3 game vs. Jets

The Indianapolis Colts will host a maximum of 7,500 fans for their Week 3 game against the New York Jets, the team announced Thursday.

Colts owner Jim Irsay and COO Pete Ward cited the approval of the Marion County Department of Health in announcing that total for the Sept. 27 game. Lucas Oil Stadium has a capacity of 67,000 fans.

Ward said, per the Indianapolis Star, that the hope remains that even more fans will be allowed for future home games.

The Colts (0-1) will have a crowd of 2,500 for Sunday’s game versus the visiting Minnesota Vikings (0-1). Kickoff is at 1 p.m. ET.

–Field Level Media