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Inside the NFL: Week 3


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Inside the NFL: Week 3


By Bryan McGovern

NFL Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Week 2 will be remembered for Jamal Lewis' record-breaking day against the Cleveland Browns. Lewis predicted to a friend on the Browns -- linebacker Andra Davis -- that he would break Corey Dillon's single-game mark for most rushing yards in one game, and he did just that with an amazing 295-yard effort.

Eight teams remain unbeaten after two weeks of play: Buffalo, Carolina, Denver, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Minnesota, Seattle and Washington. After two weeks last year, this bunch combined to go 8-8. The only team that won't get a chance to go 3-0 this week is the Panthers, who have their bye this week.

On the flip side, there are eight winless teams entering Week 3: Arizona, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Diego, Jacksonville, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and the New York Jets. The Eagles and Bears will have to wait until Week 4 to get in the win column since they both have byes this week.

Starting 0-2 isn't necessarily an early ending to a very long season. Last year, there were actually more 0-2 teams to make the playoffs than 2-0 clubs. Carolina, Chicago, Denver, Miami, New England, New Orleans, Oakland and San Diego all opened the 2002 season with consecutive victories, but only the Raiders made the playoffs. However, the Falcons and Steelers both started 0-2 last year and still managed to qualify for the postseason.


New York Jets at New England Patriots: After road games in Buffalo and Philadelphia, the Patriots finally get to play a home game. Tom Brady and the offense hit stride last week against the Eagles and should put up good numbers on Sunday against a New York secondary that will be without CB Donnie Abraham. Vinny Testaverde showed why he's not the problem by passing for nearly 400 yards last week in the loss to Miami. Offensive coordinator Paul Hackett needs to find a way to get Curtis Martin going now. The Jets beat the Pats in New England 30-17 last December.

Predicted Outcome: New England 26, NY Jets 20

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals: Bill Cowher's team lost a wild shootout in Kansas City last week, while the Bengals played their tails off in a three-point loss in Oakland. The big key in this game is the ability of Marvin Lewis' defense to get pressure on Tommy Maddox. Cincy has one sack in its first two games. When Maddox gets time to scan the field, he posts huge passing numbers. Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress have a big advantage over the Bengals' spotty secondary. Pittsburgh should look to take a lot of shots deep down the field.

Predicted Outcome: Pittsburgh 31, Cincinnati 17

Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts: The Colts really made a statement last week with their 33-7 win over the Titans. The powerful three-headed monster of Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison is starting to look better and better after getting held out of the end zone by Cleveland in Week 1. Jack Del Rio has his team fighting hard, but the Jags still have nothing to show for it. The lack of firepower at receiver allows opponents to stack the line against Fred Taylor. Mark Brunell is still the Jags' QB, but Byron Leftwich looked good in limited time last week. The Colts, who are gunning for their first 3-0 start since 1996, have never lost to the Jaguars in four all-time meetings.

Predicted Outcome: Indianapolis 28, Jacksonville 14

Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions: Interceptions were a big problem for Daunte Culpepper last year, but the king-sized QB has thrown five touchdowns and zero interceptions en route to a 2-0 start. Moe Williams has fueled Minny's running attack, and the defense has been stabilized after years of being abused. Steve Mariucci's Lions aren't such a balanced team at this point in the season. Despite the addition of Olandis Gary, Detroit's ground game is 31st in the league. Joey Harrington (four TD passes) has found a nice connection with rookie Charles Rogers, but either Gary or Bryson needs to step up and give the Lions some kind of running attack. The Vikes can attack Detroit's soft defense on the ground or in the air since the Lions are 28th in total defense.

Predicted Outcome: Minnesota 30, Detroit 24

New Orleans Saints at Tennessee Titans: This is an interesting NFC vs. AFC matchup that features two of the most athletic QBs in the league -- Aaron Brooks and Steve McNair. However, McNair is going to gut this one out a week after suffering a dislocated finger on his throwing hand. The Titans' defense also took a big step back last week against Indy. Brooks should be able to make a few big plays in the passing game, while RB Deuce McAllister keeps the chains moving on the ground. Eddie George hasn't bolstered Tennessee's running game much this year, as it ranks 29th in the NFL. The Titans really need George, who has averaged 2.5 yards per carry this season, to step up and take the pressure off McNair.

Predicted Outcome: Tennessee 21, New Orleans 20

Tampa Bay Bucs at Atlanta Falcons: Both teams are coming off heartbreaking losses. The Bucs need to find a better run-pass balance. Brad Johnson was forced to throw the ball a career-high 61 times against Carolina last week. The Bucs ran the ball just nine times in the second half. That needs to change in Atlanta. Doug Johnson will have a hard time limiting turnovers against such a strong opponent. The only way to wear down the big, bad Bucs is to run straight at them. T.J. Duckett, who ran for two TDs last week versus Washington, needs to play a big role in Week 3. The Bucs are the best in the league against the pass, but they allow 146 rushing yards per game (25th). If the Falcons can find a way to beat the Bucs, who lost a divisional game last week, it would really open the landscape in the tough NFC South.

Predicted Outcome: Tampa Bay 24, Atlanta 16

Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Texans: The Texans road show finally comes home in Week 3 after tough contests in Miami and New Orleans. The high-powered Chiefs will present their greatest challenge to date. Houston can usually throw opponents off with its 3-4 defensive alignment, but Trent Green shredded Pittsburgh's 3-4 last week. The only good news for the Texans is that Priest Holmes (ribs) is a little banged up. Houston needs a big effort from its defense and RB Stacey Mack. QB David Carr, who wasn't sacked once in Week 1, was brought down five times by the Saints last week. Kansas City's defense is improved; after two games, the Chiefs are No. 1 in the league against the run. Dante Hall is the best return man in the game.

Predicted Outcome: Kansas City 29, Houston 17


New York Giants at Washington Redskins: The Giants started three rookie offensive linemen against Dallas, and at least two will be in the lineup again on Sunday. The lack of protection for QB Kerry Collins made the Giants' offense sputter until a second half resurgence. New York must protect Collins against the Redskins' tough front seven. Washington is sixth in the NFL against the pass. Patrick Ramsey has excelled this season, throwing three TD passes in his team's two wins. Steve Spurrier has adapted his coaching style this year, and the offense is better for it. The Redskins need to continue to run the football to keep opponents honest. Laveranues Coles has been worth the $13 million signing bonus since he had 100-yard games in Weeks 1 and 2. Washington hasn't started a season 3-0 since its 1991 Super Bowl campaign. This battle is for first place in the NFC East.

Predicted Outcome: NY Giants 27, Washington 24

Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals: The Packers bounced back with a solid win over Detroit last week, while the Cardinals were shut out by Seattle in their home opener. QB Jeff Blake (bruised heel) was knocked out of last week's game and might not play or be very effective come Sunday. Arizona's defense has just one sack in two games. If the Cards can't generate pressure on Brett Favre, the Packers will roll to a second consecutive victory. Ahman Green is coming off a huge effort against Detroit and will find the holes against a porous Arizona D this week.

Predicted Outcome: Green Bay 33, Arizona 13

St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks: All Marc Bulger does is win. He did it again last week at home against the 49ers to get the Rams their first win of the season. Bulger is Mike Martz's quarterback "for the immediate future." Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck has put together a nice little streak for himself, too, winning five straight starts dating back to last season. Which young QB will lead his team to victory in this key NFC West matchup? Both clubs have star running backs (Marshall Faulk and Shaun Alexander) and talented receivers, so this one will likely come down to which defense can stop the opposing offense. Seattle's defense has improved under Ray Rhodes, while the Rams are giving up nearly 150 rushing yards per game.

Predicted Outcome: Seattle 32, St. Louis 24

Baltimore Ravens at San Diego Chargers: Jamal Lewis could be poised for another huge game; San Diego is 29th against the run (164 yards per game). After last week's record-setting performance by Lewis, the Ravens have the No. 1 ground attack in the NFL. But rookie QB Kyle Boller has led the passing game to a league-worst 96.5 yards per game. Something has to give on Sunday because the Chargers' secondary is still learning the ropes. LaDainian Tomlinson is due for a breakout game, but it will be difficult for him to have great success against Baltimore's great linebacking corps, led by MLB Ray Lewis. David Boston hasn't improved the Bolts' passing game much.

Predicted Outcome: San Diego 24, Baltimore 19

Cleveland Browns at San Francisco 49ers: The Browns' hopes of returning to the playoffs are in serious jeopardy unless they find a way to turn it around this weekend in San Francisco. QB Kelly Holcomb has thrown four interceptions and just one TD pass in the first two games. Butch Davis might have to re-consider his decision to start Holcomb over Tim Couch unless the offense gets moving. Cleveland's offense is 31st in total yards and the team is averaging 9.5 points per game. The Niners should have had a shot at a potential game-winning FG at the end of regulation last week in St. Louis if not for Cedrick Wilson's bonehead play. This is a game where Dennis Erickson must show discipline and run the ball more than he passes it. The Browns' run defense is struggling and the Niners have capable backs in Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow. RB William Green needs to be a big factor for the Browns.

Predicted Outcome: Cleveland 34, San Francisco 31


Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins: The stage is set for a great prime-time matchup between these AFC East foes. The Bills are flying high after season-opening wins against New England and Jacksonville, while the Dolphins rebounded from their disastrous Week 1 loss to Houston with a nice performance against the Jets. The two big keys to this game revolve around the potential of the two defenses. The Bills (18th in run defense) must lock down Ricky Williams. On the flip side, the Dolphins' pass defense, once the strength of the unit, is the worst in the league (316 yards per game). That doesn't bode well for a matchup with Drew Bledsoe, who chooses his weapons wisely. The Dolphins can't afford to fall into a 1-2 hole. A Buffalo victory would put the rest of the division on notice. Buffalo swept the season series last year.

Predicted Outcome: Miami 27, Buffalo 23


Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos: Fitting that the premier matchup of the week will be on the Monday night telecast, but it will be tough to top the drama of last week's Cowboys win over the Giants. The Broncos are off to a great start even if Jake Plummer isn't. A pair of road victories set the Broncos up for a big home opener against the Raiders. Oakland's offense was anemic against Cincinnati last week. Mike Shanahan is always fired up to face his former boss, Al Davis. However, Denver will take aim at Oakland with a banged-up Plummer and Clinton Portis. The Raiders need to atone for the loss of downfield threat Jerry Porter by staying aggressive against a suspect Denver secondary. Rich Gannon needs to lift the vaunted offense out of the lower half of the rankings. Turnovers, miscues and special teams play are important aspects to big games like this one. Steve Beuerlein might have to tow the line if Plummer's shoulder isn't better.

Predicted Outcome: Oakland 27, Denver 24

Week 2 straight up: 10-6

Season-to-date straight up: 23-9 (.719)

Week 2 ATS: 8-7-1

Season-to-date ATS: 18-12-2 (.594)

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