NFL Week 3 Preview
Panthers @ Texans
While there are a surplus of phenomenal matchups with playoff indications on this week's slate of games, this game does not count as one of them. Starting the season 2-0, the Panther do have legitimate playoff aspirations while the Texans are in a weird gray area. If the Texans were an NBA team, they'd be tanking the season; however, in the NFL, teams don't tank. The Texans have enough talent on their roster to win a few games, but not enough to make it out of the top ten in the draft this year. With Tyrod Taylor being placed on injured reserve, Davis Mills will be calling the shots in Houston. The Panthers defense has been excellent through two weeks of the season and should be able to fluster Mills. Maybe he'll be seeing ghosts. One player who won't be seeing ghosts is Sam Darnold. Darnold has been proving his haters (me) wrong so far this season and has been extremely decisive with Joe Brady in his ear. DJ Moore and Christian McCaffrey have been virtually unstoppable through two weeks of the season. The Texans don't have the defensive personnel to match up with all of Carolina's weapons. Jeremy Chinn and Justin Reid are two of the best young safeties in the NFL and while it isn't a match up where the two are going against each other directly, they are both players to keep an eye on. The Panthers offense will have their way against Houston's defense and Davis Mills will be swarmed by Brian Burns. The Panthers will remain undefeated after they beat the Texans on their own turf.
What to Watch For: Brian Burns vs Laremy Tunsil
Player of the Game: Jeremy Chinn S Panthers
Final Score: Panthers 31 Texans 17
Falcons @ Giants
Can either the Falcons or the Giants turn it around this week? That's a good question. Arthur Smith doesn't have the personnel to run offense he ran in Tennessee. He needs to adapt his play calling style to the team he has. The Falcons actually put up a fight against the Buccaneers last week until Matt Ryan threw two pick-six's to Mike Edwards. Cordarrelle Patterson showed flashes of greatness in week one and should be able to run on the Giants weak run defense. With that being said, the Giants are coming off of 10 days rest and a game where they were a special teams error away from winning. If Saquon Barkley is going to get going this year, it would be against the Falcons defense. In this game, all of my attention is focused towards two players, Barkley and Kyle Pitts. Both players have had slow starts, but are capable of stardom. If Jason Garrett and Arthur Smith open up their playbooks, both Pitts and Barkley will be able to succeed. I don't expect either of these teams to be playing in late January, but this should be a pretty good game that has big implications on the draft. Daniel Jones should be able to utilize his legs and run on the Falcons defense. This game will be close, but I like the Giants to get their first win at home on Sunday Morning.
What to Watch For: Calvin Ridley vs James Bradberry
Player of the Game: Saquon Barkley RB Giants
Final Score: Falcons 23 Giants 26
Chargers @ Chiefs
This game has major implications on the AFC West, both the Chiefs and Chargers are coming off of losses and are playoff contenders. The Chargers were screwed over by the refs last week. Justin Herbert kept making one insane throw after the other on Sunday, but they kept getting called back because of stupid penalties. This week, Brandon Staley's team will need to be penalty-free. They can't shoot themselves in the foot when facing off against Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid. Last season, Chiefs vs Chargers games were unreal. Justin Herbert entered the big stage in Los Angeles and nearly upset the Chiefs in his first ever start. The Chargers are at a disadvantage for this game. They are flying to Kansas City and have to adapt to the time change. Andy Reid's record is stellar after losses and the Chiefs Kingdom is going to be rowdy. Arrowhead stadium will be rocking come Sunday. The Chiefs need to get Clyde Edwards-Helaire going. Kansas City has virtually no running game and it hurt them last week against the Ravens. Tony Pollard was able to run all over the Chargers defense last week, there will be running lanes open for CEH to run through. I never thought I'd be saying this, but Andy Reid needs to steal some plays from Mike McCarthy's playbook. I expect the Chiefs to win this game, but they need to run the football.
What to Watch For: The Chiefs running game
Player of the Game: Chris Jones DT Chiefs
Final Score: Chargers 31 Chiefs 34
Cardinals @ Jaguars
While it is for different reasons, this game is extremely important for both teams. The Cardinals are in the position where they are stacking wins. Their schedule is going to get very difficult with the 49ers, Rams, and Seahawks all in their division, so the Cardinals need to steal their wins where they can. This is an early season "must win" for Arizona. For the Jaguars, it's all about experience. Both Trevor Lawrence and Urban Meyer are still getting their feet under them as both an NFL quarterback and NFL head coach. The Jaguars are still in the "growing pains" phase. What is important for the two is that they don't make the same mistakes twice. The Cardinals defense looked like the best in the league in week one and fell off a bit in week two. They need a "pick me up" this week. Chandler Jones needs to get to the quarterback and force turnovers. The Cardinals have had the most explosive offense through two weeks and the Jaguars defense doesn't have the bodies to slow them down. This game could be foreshadowing Josh Allen's career. Allen, the defensive end for the Jaguars, has showed why he was a top ten pick through the first two weeks of the season. A phenomenal trajectory for his career would be Chandler Jones who is playing for the Cardinals. Arizona should win this game in a dominant fashion, but it is important for Jacksonville that Trevor Lawrence shows growth and progress in week three.
What to Watch For: Trevor Lawrence's Decision Making
Player of the Game: Budda Baker FS Cardinals
Final Score: Cardinals 31 Jaguars 23
Saints @ Patriots
The Saints and Patriots are two franchises that are in similar spots of their franchise's history. They both lost two of the best quarterbacks in NFL history, but have enough talent where they aren't in "rebuild" mode. The Saints are still figuring out if either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill can be "that guy". The Patriots on the other hand are getting their franchise quarterback acclimated to the speed of the NFL. Through two weeks, Mac Jones has done exactly what we thought he would be doing. His biggest strength is his intelligence, he's been moving the defense with his eyes and finding tight windows to throw the ball into. Jones has been good, not great. He averages the league's shortest yards per attempt and needs to take more shots downfield. The Saints defense will give him some trouble. Payton Turner has shown a lot of promise and Cam Jordan is known for terrorizing the quarterback. As for the Saints offense, Jameis Winston needs to get the ball into Alvin Kamara's hands. That was the problem for New Orleans last week, he only had 12 touches. Kamara is far and away the best player on the Saints offense and needs the ball at least 20 times per game. If Sean Payton can get their workhorse the ball, the Saints are going to score a lot of points. With Mac Jones facilitating the offense, the Patriots won't be able to keep up against Marcus Williams and the Saints defense.
What to Watch For: Mac Jones' ability to throw the ball downfield
Player of the Game: Marcus Williams FS Saints
Final Score: Saints 27 Patriots 20
Ravens @ Lions
While the Lions haven't won any games yet this season, they have actually looked pretty good. Having faced off against the 49ers and Packers, the Lions showed some promise. Unfortunately, are playing three playoff teams in the first three weeks of the season. Detroit is definitely capable of pulling together some wins this season, but their first three games are and will continue to be grueling. I am a fan of what Dan Campbell is building and I like the foundation in Detroit. With that being said, the Ravens should be able to have their way this week. Lamar Jackson is dynamite in dome games, and he should be able to run all over this defense. I like Latavius Murray to have a big game as well. Elijah Mitchell and Aaron Jones both dominated against Detroit, Murray will do the same. Marquise Brown is extremely banged up right now, "I didn't think I was going to play this week." Brown said after the Chiefs game last Sunday. If he is extremely bruised up, this would be the week to give him either the day off or a much more limited workload. With that being said, the Ravens can't take their foot off the gas against the Lions or they will get gassed. After big time thriller wins, teams tend to get off to a slow start the following weeks. While the Ravens may get off to a slow start, I expect them to get right back on track in the second or third quarter. The Lions are a good team, but they just aren't there yet. Detroit's offense isn't going to suffice against Marlon Humphrey, Patrick Queen, and the Ravens defense. Idafe Oweh has been a stud through two weeks and I expect him to be in Jared Goff's ear all game long.
What to Watch For: Idafe Oweh's consistency as a pass rusher
Player of the Game: Lamar Jackson QB Ravens
Final Score: Ravens 36 Lions 23
Colts @ Titans
This is where "the boys" get their groove. That is a Bussin' with the Boys reference for those who didn't get it. BWTB is a Titans podcast hosted by Titans left tackle, Taylor Lewan, and free agent linebacker, Will Compton. With Carson Wentz playing on two sprained ankles, I don't see the Colts having a chance in this game. Wentz will be static in the pocket and is legitimately a safety hazard. While the Titans defense has struggled in both the start of this season and all of last season, Bud Dupree and Jeffery Simmons are two elite defensive lineman. They are going to wreck havoc for Wentz. Derrick Henry looked unstoppable last week against the Seahawks and the Colts defense will need to go all out in stopping him in week 3. Even if Deforest Buckner and Darious Leonard are able to contain him, that leaves AJ Brown and Julio Jones with one on one matchups. In order for the Colts to pull off the upset, they will need to feed their three headed monster. Jonathan Taylor, Marlon Mack, and Nyheim Hines are capable of slicing this defense up, Frank Reich just needs to call the right game. The Colts playbook will be limited due to Wentz's health. The Colts won't be able to upset the Titans with a limited playbook. The Boys will officially find their groove this week.
What to Watch For: How Carson Wentz's injury affects him
Player of the Game: Bud Dupree EDGE Titans
Final Score: Colts 20 Titans 27
Bengals @ Steelers
This could be one of those old school classic Bengals vs Steelers rivalry games. Both teams are 1-1 and have shown both promise and reasons to be hesitant. Led by Joe Burrow, the Bengals are one of those teams that can change the entire games trajectory with just one play. Whether it's Ja'Marr Chase or Joe Mixon lighting the spark, the Bengals are a team that should not be counted out. With TJ Watt being inactive, someone else on the Steelers defensive line will need to step up. Melvin Ingram has shown break out potential and I believe he'll make his presence felt in Watt's absence. Offensively for the Steelers, Matt Canada should have his way against the Bengals defense. Najee Harris needs to be fed. He has workhorse potential, he just needs to be on the right diet (metaphorically not literally). With Diontae Johnson also injured, Chase Claypool has found his time to shine. The targets will be split between him and JuJu Smith-Schuster, but this is the first time in his career where he can be the true number one for the Steelers offense. While Cincinnati's foundation is filled with potential, Minkah Fitzpatrick and the Steelers defense will be hard to score on. The Steelers should win this game in a close one despite being battered and bruised up.
What to Watch For: Does Chase Claypool step up in Diontae Johnson's absence?
Player of the Game: Chase Claypool WR Steelers
Final Score: Bengals 23 Steelers 24
Washington Football Team (WFT) @ Bills
Coming off of ten days rest and a thrilling division win, the Washington Football shouldn't be counted out. Chase Young is still a menace, despite his slight drop off from year one, and the entire defense is filled with dogs. Extremely well rounded, Terry McLaurin is arguably a top five receiver in the NFL and Dyami Brown is on the cusp of a breakout game. With that being said, this is a pivotal game in the Bills schedule. Buffalo is coming off of a 35-0 shutout win against their division rival and need to keep their momentum going. The Bills have a shot at dethroning the Chiefs, but they can't be dropping home games they should win in the beginning of the season. While Taylor Heinicke has shown signs that he can consistently be a starting quarterback in the NFL, he's still inexperienced. The Bills defense, led by Tre'Davious White, will give him some troubles. Despite having extra rest time, I can't see Heinicke pulling off this upset. I expect Josh Allen to have a modest game, but one good enough to beat the WFT. This is going to be a matchup of defensive prowess, but the Bills will end up on top.
What to Watch For: Can Chase Young get to the quarterback?
Player of the Gmae: Tre'Davious White CB Bills
Final Score: WFT 22 Bills 27
Bears @ Browns
Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached the beginning of the Justin Fields era. This is something that the city of Chicago has been waiting for, for a long time. Fields is a true franchise quarterback, but unfortunately he has to face a stellar defense with two number one overall picks on their defensive line. I'm looking for Fields to be able to zoom through his progressions cleanly and deliver accurate balls with defenders in his face. He also needs to be decisive and confident with everything he does. Rookies lose confidence when they second guess their decision making. Against Myles Garrett, there can't be any hesitancy. Fields needs to sling the rock and have an internal clock because Garrett will be coming. While Fields will show out in Cleveland, the Browns are still one of the best teams in the NFL. Odell Beckham Jr. is making his return to football and the Browns have arguably the best run game in the NFL. The Bears defense is still really strong and Roquan Smith is arguably the best linebacker in the NFL when it comes to defending the run. Stars are born in this game and believe it or not, I'm picking Fields to pull off in his first career start. I might just be "drinking the Kool Aid", but I genuinely believe Fields is going to be special. This will be the best game in the morning slate and possibly the game of the week.
What to Watch For: How does Justin Fields operate in his first start?
Player of the Game: Justin Fields QB Bears
Final Score: Bears 27 Browns 24
Jets @ Broncos
While this may not be the most important game when it comes to playoff implications, I'm still fascinated by both of these teams. For the Jets, I'm curious about how Zach Wilson bounces back from a terrible game. All of Wilson's momentum is falling downhill, can he pivot? It will be difficult against Patrick Surtain and the Broncos defense. Even with Bradley Chubb out, Denver's defense will still cause Wilson problems. As for the Broncos offense, I expect Courtland Sutton to be an absolute stud. There is nobody in the Jets secondary who can hang with Sutton. I am fully expecting Sutton to repeat his success and have over 100 receiving yards in back-to-back weeks. Could this be the game where Javonte Williams finally gets going? He is facing off against his college compadre, Michael Carter, but Williams needs to steal the show. He is a guy that's on the cusp of becoming a workhorse. The Jets defense is one that he should be able to run all over. Teddy Bridgewater has been cooking in the start of the season and his success will continue against Robert Saleh's defense . The Jets just won't have the bodies to keep up with the Broncos offense.
What to Watch For: How does Zach Wilson bounce back?
Player of the Game: Courtland Sutton WR Broncos
Final Score: Jets 20 Broncos 30
Dolphins @ Raiders
Last season, the Dolphins vs Raiders game was arguably the game of the year. This season, I expect it to be a blowout. The Dolphins are playing without their starting quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa, and the Raiders look amazing. Derek Carr has been taking more risks downfield and has actually been letting the ball fly. The only way to let Henry Ruggs be Henry Ruggs is to take shots, and that is exactly what Carr is doing. Darren Waller is still a mismatch for any linebacker on the field and should have at least 15 targets this week. As for the Raiders defense, I expect Maxx Crosby to be all over Jacoby Brissett. Crosby has been unstoppable in the first two weeks of the season and is now 16 months sober. He accredits his success to his sobriety and you can tell he's doing something right. While the Dolphins have talent on their roster, something just isn't clicking this year. They barely beat Mac Jones and the Patriots in week one and got embarrassed by the Bills in week two. Without Tagovailoa in the line up, it will be difficult for the Dolphins to pull off this win. The Raiders look awesome this year and the Dolphins won't be able to contain Derek Carr, Henry Ruggs, and Darren Waller.
What to Watch For: Tua Tagovailoa's presence (or lack there of one)
Player of the Game: Maxx Crosby DE Raiders
Final Score: Dolphins 16 Raiders 33
Seahawks @ Vikings
The Seahawks vs Vikings is one of my favorite conference rivalries in the NFL. While the two teams are not in the same division, their games are always heated. The Seahawks got away from their foundation last week. The Titans, more specifically, Derrick Henry torched this defense. With Dalvin Cook hobbled, Alexander Mattison will have to carry the load. Even though Mattison is filled with potential, I don't think he can carry the Vikings on his back. Kirk Cousins doesn't have the guns to hang with Russell Wilson. Coming off losses, Wilson is an untamed animal. There is a euphoric feeling in watching him play. He's so calm at every moment, he finds stillness in chaos. Even with Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen running at him full speed, Wilson never panics. Patrick Peterson, who has struggled this season, needs to run with both Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. That is a recipe for disaster. The Seahawks are playing with a chip on their shoulder, the Vikings won't have the firepower to keep up with Seattle's high scoring offense. If I was a betting man, I'd pick the Seahawks to cover the spread as my lock of the week.
What to Watch For: Can Alexander Mattison handle the load?
Player of the Game: Russell Wilson QB Seahawks
Final Score: Seahawks 34 Vikings 24
Buccaneers @ Rams
This game very may well be a preview of the NFC championship. These two teams have looked like the best two teams in the NFL through two weeks of the 2021 season. Tom Brady leads the NFL in touchdown passes and the Rams offense has looked electric. Two players who have looked like older versions of themselves are Cooper Kupp and Rob Gronkowski. While Kupp is still very young, he is playing like how he played in his first two seasons. As for Gronkowski, he has just been unstoppable in the red zone. The Rams don't have a dominant linebacker who can match up with Gronk, so I could see him having another big day. One player who has struggled in Raheem Morris' defense so far is Darious Williams. Williams will be matched up on Chris Godwin which is a mismatch that Tom Brady will exploit. The two best matchups in this game both involve the Buccaneers offense and the Rams defense. It's the GOAT (Brady) vs another future hall of famer in Aaron Donald. The other matchup is Mike Evans vs Jalen Ramsey. Two players that are at the top of their positions and are extremely physical. This is an old school matchup that the refs should not interfere with. There will undoubtedly be a lot of hand fighting, and the refs should just let them play it out. On paper, this is the game of the week, and in reality, I couldn't be more excited for it. I believe the Buccaneers are going to control the clock and make Sean McVay coach from behind. The Rams offense will become too one-dimensional, which is favorable for the Buccaneers defense. I like Tampa Bay to win this game in a thriller.
What to Watch for: Mike Evans vs Jalen Ramsey, Tom Brady vs Aaron Donald
Player of the Game: Chris Godwin WR Buccaneers
Final Score: Buccaneers 34 Rams 31
Packers @ 49ers
This is another one of those conference rivalries with two teams that have a ton of history together. This year the 49ers and Packers are dealing with a lot of injuries to one position. However, the Packers injuries are much more worrisome than the 49ers. The Packers will be playing without their left tackle Elgton Jenkins. This season, Nick Bosa has 3 sacks in two games and the 49ers defensive line is arguably the best in the NFL. Aaron Rodgers will have to get the ball out fast against the 49ers d-line. The 49ers big injury concerns comes at the running back position. San Francisco will be without Raheem Mostert, Elijah Mitchell, and Jamychal Hasty, the three running backs who were active in week one. Trey Sermon will handle the load for the 49ers. With all of their injuries, the 49ers will most look to throw the ball against Green Bay’s defense. The Packers will most likely run a lot of soft coverage, so I’m expecting a high volume of the Trey Lance package. As for the Packers offense, expect a high dosage of Davante Adams targets. Adams will be lined up against rookie corner, Deommodore Lenoir (who has actually played great through two games) but that will definitely be a matchup that Rodgers leans to. Coming off of his four touchdown performance, one of the best matchups in this game will be Aaron Jones vs Fred Warner. Rodgers has a lot of respect for Warner, so I only expect him to test the matchup if Jones is wide open. This game should be amazing, but Rodgers isn’t going to have any time to throw. The 49ers defensive line will be dominant against the Packers backups.
What to Watch For: Aaron Jones vs Fred Warner
Player of the Game: Dee Ford EDGE 49ers
Final Score: Packers 27 49ers 30