Things are shaping up to get ugly and interesting all at the same time in week three of the NFL regular season. Which teams need a win and which ones will get them?
Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens – Joe Flacco vs. Matt Schaub
Joe Flacco is still having problems keeping his Baltimore Ravens offense on track with injuries taking their toll. Luckily the Houston Texans defense comes in allowing over 24 points per game. The question is can the Ravens defense hold off a rolling Texans offense led by Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and surprising rookie DeAndre Hopkins.
Final score: HOU 27, BAL 23
New York Giants at Carolina Panthers – Eli Manning two-faced
Eli Manning has turned the ball over at a frightening rate for the New York Giants through two weeks. Cam Newton meanwhile has struggled to muster NFL scoring drives for the Carolina Panthers. Still, Manning has the advantage in terms of wide receivers. The question becomes whether the Panthers pass rush can get to him since the Giants can’t run the ball.
Final score: NYG 28, CAR 17
Green Bay Packers at Cincinnati Bengals – Aaron Rodgers assault
There is no secret to this game. It is Aaron Rodgers and his dynamic Green Bay Packers offense against the Cincinnati Bengals defense. The one area of weakness for Rodgers is in his protection. He’s been sacked six times through two games. Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson must use crowd noise to rev up the Bengals pass rush while on offense Andy Dalton can’t afford to play it safe against an aggressive Packers defense.
Final score: GB 26, CIN 20
St. Louis Rams at Dallas Cowboys – Tony Romo up or down
Tony Romo had hoped to get the running game going for the Dallas Cowboys but that hasn’t happened. As for the St. Louis Rams their pass defense certainly isn’t where it should be through two weeks. One of those issues will get exploited in this NFL matchup. Either the Rams pass rush will make life miserable for Romo because the offense can’t run, or he’ll shred their secondary with Dez Bryant and Jason Witten.
Final score: STL 24, DAL 28
Cleveland Browns at Minnesota Vikings – Brian Hoyer?
Losing Brandon Weeden was hard enough, but starting Brian Hoyer and trading Trent Richardson has practically gutted the Cleveland Browns offense. They go into a building the Minnesota Vikings used to make the playoffs last year against a team facing an 0-2 deficit in their division and the desperation that comes with it. This one could get ugly early.
Final score: CLE 10, MIN 34
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New England Patriots – Brady vs. Revis
Tom Brady is familiar with Darrelle Revis. The problem is he no longer has the weapons to work around the All-Pro corner. The New England Patriots offense is overcome with raw rookies and injured veterans while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense is stout. This games defining matchup could be the Bucs shaky offense against the disciplined but vulnerable Patriots defense.
Final score: TB 16, NE 17
Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints – Drew Brees alert
The biggest surprise by far of the 2013 season is the New Orleans Saints defense under Rob Ryan. They more than anything (except Drew Brees) are the reason the team is 2-0. They will host a solid Arizona Cardinals unit featuring Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald with Bruce Arians as the coach. Both defenses are solid, but this one has the feeling of a shootout.
Final score: ARI 28, NO 31
San Diego Chargers at Tennessee Titans – Philip Rivers ready
Mike McCoy deserves tons of credit. Through two weeks it seems he has Philip Rivers back to his Pro Bowl form for the San Diego Chargers. It’s a good thing too because their defense is terrible. They may get a reprieve against the Tennessee Titans, who haven’t gotten a 200-yard passing day yet from Jake Locker. Rivers must make enough plays against a solid Titans defense and keep the mistakes to a minimum.
Final score: SD 21, TEN 17
Detroit Lions at Washington Redskins – Matthew Stafford salivating
Fantasy leagues are exploding with this game. After what Michael Vick and Aaron Rodgers did to the Washington Redskins defense through two weeks, expectations are that Matthew Stafford is poised to do the same. While Washington tries to regroup defensively, they must get a quicker start from Robert Griffin III. A huge key is protecting him from an outstanding Lions defensive front.
Final score: DET 35, WAS 24
Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins – Matt Ryan exposed
Matt Ryan is quickly running out of help. Steven Jackson is out for the next few weeks with an injury and his defense suffered another key blow when linebacker Sean Witherspoon went down. He must now go against former teammate Brent Grimes and solid Miami Dolphins defense while the Falcons wrestle with young gun Ryan Tannehill and his speedy offense.
Final score: ATL 21, MIA 27
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets – E.J. Manuel or Geno Smith?
Two rookie quarterbacks against two good defenses could make for a sloppy afternoon. In terms of comparison, there is no question E.J. Manuel has looked better for the Buffalo Bills than Geno Smith has for the New York Jets. The question becomes can Manuel play against the ever resilient Rex Ryan and his defense and can Smith learn to get the ball out of his hands quickly before Mario Williams eats him alive?
Final score: BUF 14, NYJ 16
Jacksonville Jaguars at Seattle Seahawks – Hold Russell Wilson MVP talk
Russell Wilson has looked uneven at times for the Seattle Seahawks but their defense is humming right out of the gate. After smacking around San Francisco last week, they will want to show former coordinator and Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley what he left behind. With Maurice Jones-Drew in doubt and no direction on offense, this one has beat down written all over it.
Final score: JAC 6, SEA 40
Indianapolis Colts at San Francisco 49ers – Trent Richardson not a factor
Adding Trent Richardson was a daring move that could pay off huge for the Indianapolis Colts down the stretch. Unfortunately it’s too early to expect him to impact a game, especially against what will be an ornery San Francisco 49ers team coming off their latest humiliation up in Seattle. If Richardson plays right away he will get shut down while the 49ers will look to rev up their own ground game against the 28th ranked Colts rush defense.
Final score: IND 17, SF 37
Chicago Bears at Pittsburgh Steelers – Jay Cutler better protected
This game is really difficult to get a bead on. The Chicago Bears have survived some mistakes to beat two pretty good teams. The Pittsburgh Steelers are much worse. At 0-2 their ground game, pass protection and pass rush are all terrible. From a logical standpoint, the Bears are healthier, their defense forces more turnovers and allowed one sack through two games. Pittsburgh is still dangerous, but has their talent level slipped too far?
Final score: CHI 27, PIT 20
Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos – Peyton Manning problem
Terrelle Pryor and the Oakland Raiders deserve lots of credit in the early part of the NFL season. After almost taking down Indianapolis, they cruised to an easy victory over Jacksonville. They may improve upon their 2012 record, but for this week reality will come crashing down. Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos offense will break the game open early and let the defense hold the Raiders off the rest of the way.
Final score: OAK 17, DEN 42