Week 3 could end up being one of the most entertaining weeks on the NFL schedule this year, as it’s loaded with great matchups, including plenty of inter-conference games. Let’s take a closer look at all of the marquee games involving NFC teams:
Green Bay at Cincinnati – This game could end up being the best of the weekend. Both teams are loaded offensively, and if the game turns into a shootout, it would definitely favor Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, as Andy Dalton could struggle to keep up after not looking so sharp Monday night against the Steelers. The Cincinnati defense will have to do its part and put pressure on Rodgers, who could really slice up the Bengal’s secondary if he gets time in the pocket.
St. Louis at Dallas – It’s still too soon to judge either one of these teams with much conviction, so this game should tell us a lot about both. Dallas hasn’t been so good at running the ball or stopping the pass, while St. Louis has been real good at stopping the run on defense and throwing the ball on offense, which would seem to favor the Rams. However, if their offensive line holds up, the Cowboys have the kind of passing attack that can keep up with Sam Bradford and the Rams, so this game should be closely contested.
Cleveland at Minnesota – This is the first of two matchups this week between two teams still seeking their first win of the season. Minnesota hasn’t looked all that bad for a 0-2 team, but they certainly need more efficient quarterback play out of Christian Ponder, as the Browns have played well defensively this season, especially against the run, and they’ll certainly be trying to take away Adrian Peterson and make Ponder beat them. Offensively, Cleveland is going with Brian Hoyer at quarterback for the injured Brandon Weeden, and with Trent Richardson no longer around, the Browns could be hard pressed to find any offense at all.
Tampa Bay at New England – The Bucs aren’t far from being 2-0 after close losses in their first two games, while the Patriots should consider themselves lucky to have won their first two games. Tom Brady has been quite frustrated with his receivers, and that’s unlikely to change against Tampa Bay’s talented secondary, which could make it hard for the Patriots to score points. Just like Tampa’s first two games, this game figures to be low scoring, meaning the opportunity is there to get a win if Josh Freeman can do a better job of getting the ball to his playmakers, instead of completing just 45% of his passes, which is what he’s done so far this year.
Arizona at New Orleans – Arizona has been impressive over the first two weeks, but they can really make a statement by winning in New Orleans. The Saint’s defense has been surprisingly good the first two weeks under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, but the Cardinals will be a big test for them, as Arizona has a quarterback that can get the ball down field and three talented wide receivers. We know New Orleans can move the ball and score points, so if their defense plays well they should win, but if not, the Cardinals could knock them off.
Detroit at Washington – The Redskins need a win bad, and to do so they’ll have to figure out a way to play 60 minutes of football, after getting blown out in the first half of their first two games and being unable to complete a comeback in the second half each time. Robert Griffin III needs to be consistent throwing the ball since he’s clearly not the running threat he was last season and doesn’t appear to be completely healthy just yet. Washington has also struggled defensively this season, especially the secondary, which will get a tough test on Sunday against a Lion’s passing game that can get up and down the field in a hurray.
New York Giants at Carolina – The winner of this game between a pair of 0-2 teams will breathe a sigh of relief while the loser will be 0-3 and in panic mode. Cam Newton hasn’t done much as a passer this season, but he’ll have a chance to change that against the Giant’s troublesome secondary. Meanwhile, Eli Manning has struggled with turnovers this season, and if he can put a stop to that, the Giants should have no trouble scoring points, even with a running game that has been a huge disappointment. If Manning can avoid turnovers, Newton and the Panthers could have a hard time keeping up, so once again it’ll be up to the Carolina defense to keep them in the game and give them a chance.
Atlanta at Miami – Miami is off to a 2-0 start with two road wins, and now they have a chance to make a big statement with a win over one of the NFC’s top teams. Atlanta has struggled to stop the pass the first two weeks, which could open the door for Ryan Tannehill to have a big day, especially with Mike Wallace having a breakout game with his new team last week. Of course, the Dolphin’s secondary will be challenged as well against the wide receiver combination of Julio Jones and Roddy White. This should be a high scoring game, as well as a telling game for both teams.
Indianapolis at San Francisco – Jim Harbaugh must be hopping mad after his team’s performance last week, and fans should expect an inspired effort out of the 49ers this week, although that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be able to steamroll the Colts. Andrew Luck has one more weapon at his disposal with the addition of Trent Richardson, and that will help him in his showdown against Colin Kaepernick, in a matchup of two of the top young quarterbacks in the NFL. Defensively, San Francisco should have an advantage, but that doesn’t mean Luck won’t be able to trade blows with Kaepernick and keep the game close.
Jacksonville at Seattle – This game is a joke. Jacksonville hasn’t been able to score against average defenses, much less score against Seattle’s defense. Unless something cataclysmic happens, the Seahawks should win this game easily, although it will give their offense a chance to get going after looking sluggish the first two weeks.
Chicago at Pittsburgh – The Steelers have quite a challenge on their hands Sunday night to avoid going 0-3. Pittsburgh is desperate for answers on the offensive side of the ball and they’ll need to find some quickly if they’re going to outscore Jay Cutler, who has looked sharp the first two weeks of the season. The Bears are hoping that for once they’ll be able to win a game without needing a 4th quarter comeback, but they could have a tough time of pulling away from a Pittsburgh defense that has played well and kept games close the first two weeks of the season.