Week 3 is when the NFL season really begins to take shape. In weeks 1 and 2, teams are working off of last season’s film and maybe 1 game of film from this season. Now teams have 2 weeks worth of film for this season and that’s a solid basis to make a gameplan from. Normally, teams work off of 4 weeks worth of film. There is always a chance of upset but now is when the good teams begin to separate themselves.
Green Bay Packers at Cincinnati Bengals
This is one of my favorite matchups this week. It’s strength on strength: Bengals’ defense vs. Green Bay’s offense. This matchup is going to come down to some of the finer details I think. It can also be called either way depending on how heavily you weight certain matchups.
The major advantage that the Packers have is obviously at QB. The reoccurring problem with Aaron Rodgers is holding the ball a little longer than he probably should. He’s gotten away with it at times but against a defensive line like the Bengals, it can be expected that he won’t have the same amount of time. On the other side, Dalton has to be accurate against man coverage.
Rookie RB Gio Bernard had a mini-coming out party last week. He’ll likely continue to share the workload but the run game may be Cincy’s best approach to this game. AJ Green is a matchup problem for any defense and the Packers will put a lot of focus on him. The Bengals’ WR corps is deeper than most realize, I think. Mohammed Sanu and Marvin Jones are good players, and tight ends Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham will put some stress on the linebackers of Green Bay.
I think Green Bay is the better all around team but I think the matchup of their linebackers on the RBs and TEs is an important one. That’s where Cincy could really do some damage. AJ Green will get his looks but I just have a feeling that the Packers pay him a lot of attention. The Packers putting Cincy in nickel a lot will also bring Taylor Mays on to the field too much for my liking. Green Bay should win this one but it should stay within a TD.
Cleveland Browns at Minnesota Vikings
It’s hard for me to explain why I like the trade of Trent Richardson simply because there is so much that goes into it. He wouldn’t have been utilized in this offense the way that he should have been and the Browns got good value out of him. It’s truly a win/win trade and the Browns may actually be better this season because of it (as strange as I know that sounds).
Brian Hoyer is going to start today for the Browns and that’s neither good nor bad for them. He could be an upgrade over Weeden or he could be a total disaster. He wasn’t impressive in Arizona last year in a couple of games but with some time in a Norv Turner offense, Hoyer might just be serviceable. Josh Gordon comes back from suspension and will offer a new dynamic to an offense that needs it. His presence will open up more for Davone Bess and Greg Little.
The matchup to watch in this one is the Browns’ offensive line. I think they’re better than they’ve played but they could have their hands full against a solid Mennesota front seven. If Hoyer doesn’t have time, the Browns don’t have a chance. If he does, the Browns have a very good chance to win this game.
The Browns defense is good and I’m guessing Ray Horton has some interesting wrinkles in the gameplan to keep Adrian Peterson from running all over them. I also think Ray Horton’s design against Christian Ponder spells trouble. He makes too many silly throws and the Browns defense will make him pay dearly for those.
If the Vikings get cute and try to let Ponder start throwing it, this will get ugly quick. If they keep the rock in Peterson’s hands, they have a chance. In a battle of 0-2 teams, it’s all about turnovers and I think the Browns have less of them. Browns take it in an exciting game.
St. Louis Rams at Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys really catch a bad break by having to travel to Kansas City to face a very good Chiefs team and then come home against a better-than-people-realize Rams team. And another problem is that the Rams match up really well in pretty much every facet of this game.
The Rams should be able to run the ball with an improved offensive line. They can attack the safeties of the Cowboys which are the weak link in that defense. Jared Cook could own the seams and the deep middle of the field today.
On offense, the Cowboys have had offensive line issues which will be exacerbated by Chris Long and Robert Quinn. Tight end Jason Witten is really the only matchup advantage the Cowboys have. Dez Bryant and Miles Austin are always trouble but Janoris Jenkins and Courtland Finnegan are two of the better corners they’ll face all year. With a little safety help, those two should be fine.
Dallas has to get a big game out of Demarco Murray to have a shot today. I think he has a solid game but I just don’t think he has enough of a game to win it. Romo has the ability to catch fire and take over a game but I don’t think he gets the time to do that today. Rams win by about 6.
Detroit Lions at Washington Redskins (Updated)
The Lions seem to be a hard team for me to pinpoint this year simply because their play can be very good or very bad and it really depends on how well Matt Stafford plays. His volatility means that this team will react the same way. Washington doesn’t have an answer for Calvin Johnson. He should have a monster game, as well as Reggie Bush.
Bush is actually the key to the Lions offense. Defenses now have to respect something other than Calvin and it really stresses the linebackers and safeties to remain disciplined and not cheat towards one or the other. The Redskins only hope to contain this offense is to terrorize Stafford in the pocket. If they can get pressure in his face, he’s sure to cough the ball up 2 or 3 times.
On defense, the Lions are still not very good in the back seven and that’s a critical issue in today’s NFL. The front four has been able to hide the back seven a bit because of how disruptive they are and how they can fly all over the field. Robert Griffin III has spread the ball around well but his favorite target is Pierre Garcon. Garcon has great speed and is a better route runner than he gets credit for. He’s a solid all around receiver. If Fred Davis plays he could have a big game.
I’m really torn on this game. The Lions are a team I can’t get a good feel for. What this week comes down to is that I don’t trust the coaching staff to have a good gameplan against the very multiple run game of Washington. RG3 should have plenty of opportunities to run do to undisciplined play by the Lions defense. This could all be rendered moot if Washington can’t stop Calvin or Reggie. I think Washington wins in a shootout.
One final note: RG3 has looked shaky at times on that knee. If Fairley/Suh get their licks in on Griffin, he could lose all confidence the Lions could win going away.
Update: Reggie Bush has been ruled out. That’s a massive blow to the Lions hopes. I still think this is a shootout but the Lions will rely more on Calvin. Joique Bell will get most of the touches in the Lions backfield and though he’s not physically superior, he still provides a good rushing/receiving combo for the Lions. Washington will now allow their LBs to roam a little more instead of having to focus on Bush. This makes some smaller windows for Stafford and creates more of an opportunity for a turnover. Stafford might throw for 400 yards and 4 TDs, but could have 3-4 turnovers, too.
San Diego Chargers at Tennessee Titans
I’m not going to say the Chargers are a team that will vie for the playoffs, but they certainly are a team that people should be noticing. Mike McCoy has these guys playing their tails off. They’re disciplined and smart. I’m most impressed that they’ve held up against two very different teams. They lost on a late FG to the Texans but traveled across the country and beat an Eagles team that is very hard to prepare for.
The Titans’ defense is solid. They play a physical style of football and can cause problems for teams who can’t match that physicality. The Chargers offensive line is slightly above average and seem to matchup well against the Titans offensive line. The Chargers have lived off of a rejuvenated Eddie Royal, but that’s mostly in part because Mike McCoy has done a remarkable job of using him to his strengths. I think the Titans’ pass defense has looked good against weak passing opponents. They’ll certainly get tested today and that will be interesting to see.
On offense, the Titans have a running game and that’s about it. Wide receivers are getting benched and tweeting they’re unhappy. The quarterback is a runner trying to throw the ball. I just don’t believe in this offense against a defense that employs All-Pro safety Eric Weddle.
I think the Titans are better than we give them credit for as a team, but as long as Locker is under center, I can’t consciously pick them to win over solid teams. Chargers win.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New England Patriots
This should seem like an easy pick. The Patriots seem like the more put together team right now. But that’s the beauty of the NFL, it’s all about matchups. And in this game, the matchups actually make this a very interesting game.
Tom Brady has had chemistry issues with his young and new wide receivers. If not for Julian Edelman, the Patriots could very well be 0-2. Not having the tight ends that they’re used to having lately has hurt them. It also doesn’t help that Stevan Ridley has suddenly developed butter fingers when the football is in his hands. But it’s interesting to me that people are saying this offense is dead. Drops, fumbles, and chemistry are all things that can be fixed. The personnel is there, it’s just getting all the pieces glued together.
The Bucs defense has the personnel to matchup. Lavonte David is one of the best defensive players in the NFL. He’s a name everyone should know by now. He’s so instinctive and plugs the run and is incredible at getting to the QB in a hurry when asked to do so. The Bucs keep running stunts on the front line like it’s going out of style. That’s not very creative and teams have blocked them well. The Bucs need to add in a LB or a nickel back into those concepts to really create confusion and free up a rusher. The Bucs still have issues getting on the same page at times which makes them vulnerable to big shots or big plays. Brady has missed on a lot of those already this year but it only takes one to sting.
The Patriots’ defense has done a good job of holding up the offense while it finds it’s groove. Chandler Jones still hesitates pass rushing which is frustrating. This defense isn’t flashy but it’s very well coached. They understand the concept of team defense and that’s always a good thing. This creates a problem for a QB like Josh Freeman who likes to take chances with the football. Vince Wilfork is still one of the best defensive tackles in the league and if Carl Nicks plays, we’ll find out really quickly if he’s really game ready or not.
The Bucs have the chance to hold the Patriots offense at bay. The problem is that Leonard Johnson is going to be a target for Tom Brady. When I think about matchups, I just can’t fathom that the Bucs would put Leonard Johnson on Julian Edelman. That would be a monster mismatch that the Patriots will torch the Bucs on. If logic wins out, Revis would spend most of his time trailing Edelman and making Brady beat that secondary with Thompkins/Dobson/Boyce.
Either way, I still think this matchup isn’t about personnel. It’s about the difference in coaching and discipline. The Patriots have proven they have it. The Bucs haven’t. The Patriots win by 10. (And yes, I know I said this could be an interesting matchup.)
Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints
Unfortunately, the Cardinals are a team that I haven’t been able to get a lot of film study on. I’ve seen a little but there just isn’t enough time for me to watch every team every week.
The Saints have had issues along the offensive line and it’s really inhibiting Drew Brees’ effectiveness. He’s having to do too much in the pocket and that makes it harder for him when delivering the football. The Cardinals’ defense could prove a tough matchup based on this principle.
I’m also not a believer that the Saints defense is as good as it has played. Now that cornerback Patrick Robinson is out, this makes it even harder on the Saints to compete. Carson Palmer is an upgrade and that has benefited those receivers – namely Larry Fitzgerald. They can put up points in a hurry now and Rashard Mendenhall have proven to be effective in that offense.
This is a game where I want to put the Saints on upset alert. The Cardinals are still a good team on defense and have an offense that is getting better. It’s still hard for me to pick Palmer over Brees. This is a very tight game that’s won on a field goal in the 4th quarter. It’s really a 50/50 game. I’ll take the Saints’ coaching and QB over everything else for the Cardinals.
New York Giants at Carolina Panthers
I don’t know what the over/under is for this game, but I really don’t care. This game might reach 100 points. The worst thing you can have in the NFL is a trouble stopping the pass. Both of these teams have that issue and these are two very good quarterbacks.
The interesting part of this matchup is the difference in play makers. Both defensive front fours are superb. The Panthers have a solid advantage at LB. The Giants have a major advantage at WR. And at this point running backs are pretty much a wash, though I like David Wilson more than any of the others.
When in doubt, I always comeback to coaching and quarterback play. I don’t think there’s a massive difference in QBs (both teams will not like to hear that). However, the coaching clearly goes to the Giants. This is a shootout that ends with the Giants getting a W but the score should be within a touchdown.
Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens have has some serious issues in being able to move the football, but to be fair they’ve played some very good defenses. That doesn’t change in facing the Texans this week. Whether Ed Reed plays or not is pretty irrelevant. He doesn’t change that defense too much, but his knowledge of the Ravens’ could help the Texans gameplan better for this game.
Houston is a very good team but watching them play makes me worry about their long term prospects. They can’t keep playing the way they’ve played. They have to get the running game going and can’t rely on the passing game so much. Matt Schaub isn’t the type of QB to put a team on his back and carry them – though DeAndre Hopkins sure made him look like it last week. The Ravens will roll with Bernard Pierce at RB today, and while he has a different style than Ray Rice, Pierce is a very good running back. Marlon Brown could prove important as a playmaker. He should be in line for a deep ball today at some point that could go for a touchdown.
The Texans’ defense is legit. There’s talent laced all throughout the defense and they’re well coached. Watt should cause problems on the right side of that offensive line for the Ravens. Flacco will need to stay aware of him. Look for the Ravens to run max protection on much of their deep shots today. If the Texans don’t tackle well, this could turn into a 30 point showing for the Texans.
I just don’t see that happening. The Ravens have lacked an identity on offense and the defense has had problems in the secondary. Against Hopkins and Andre Johnson, that’s a problem. Matt Elam is starting for Michael Huff at safety so that might help. This is likely to be a low scoring game where a special teams play makes a big impact. That advantage goes to Baltimore. Baltimore wins a low scoring and close game based on their defense and special teams.by