MUST WATCH GAMES
Ravens at Steelers/Lions at Seahawks
For the first time in franchise history, the Ravens are off to an 0-3 start.
The Steelers are without Ben Roethlisberger for 4 to 6 weeks due to a sprained MCL and bone bruise on his left knee and will have Michael Vick under center.
Monday night features the Seahawks hosting the Lions. Detroit is coming off a 24-12 loss on Sunday night to the Broncos while Seattle finally hosted their home opener with a 26-0 win over the Bears. Safety Cam Chancellor finally ended his holdout and that helped the Seahawks win their game.
As for 0-3 starts, it is not good. The last team to start 0-3 and make the playoffs was the 1995 Lions. After starting 0-3, Detroit upset defending champion San Francisco (on a Monday night) in their fourth game and beat the Browns who were facing rumors about their future in Cleveland at the time. The Lions then lost 3 of their next four to drop to 3-6. Rumors were circulating that ownership was considering a coaching change, but the Lions rallied to win their last 6 and could have won the then-NFC Central title had Green Bay lost their finale.
Detroit was a hot team despite their 10-6 record and having to open the playoffs on the road in Philadelphia. The Lions lost to the Eagles 58-37; the game was over by halftime.
Jets at Dolphins (London)
This is the first of three games being played in London this year and the first game to involve two teams from the same division.
The Dolphins were stomped at home by Buffalo. After a Week 1 win at Washington, the Dolphins are already in dire straits. This team was believed to make a run at the AFC East and make the playoffs, but a 1-3 record before their bye week and with 5 of their next 7 games on the road including a 3-game stretch against at the Patriots, Bills, and Eagles could have them looking at another 8-8 season.
Speaking of London, I asked this question last season and I ask it again: why is the NFL continuing this London experiment? And again, I think that it has run its course and should stop.
I will probably ask this question again for the next two London games: Week 7 between the Bills and Jaguars and Week 8 between the Lions and Chiefs.
Giants at Bills
The Bills are 2-1 and are averaging 33.3 points per game so far while the Giants got first win of the season over Washington a week ago. Are the Bills for real? Can the Giants take advantage of a weak NFC East?
Eagles at Washington
There are only two reasons why this game is on the must watch list.
1. The Eagles may have discovered their running game while the drama in Washington continues. But enough about Speaker John Boehner’s sudden resignation, Washington’s high hopes were dashed last week in a Thursday night prime time game in New York.
2. Hurricane Joaquin is having an impact on this game. The storm is expected to hit the east coast sometime over the weekend and could strengthen to hurricane status. For now, I have made my pick in the event this game is played. If the game is postponed it would be made up when the two teams are scheduled for their Week 8 bye.
Texans at Falcons/Chiefs at Bengals/Panthers at Buccaneers
6 of the 7 3-0 teams play on Sunday. The Patriots are on the bye week. 3 play in the early Sunday slot: Bengals, Falcons, and Panthers.
The Falcons trailed the Cowboys 28-17 at halftime in Dallas. Atlanta shutout the Cowboys in the second half 22-0 on their way to a 39-28 victory and have already matched their win total from 2014. Wide receiver Julio Jones caught 2 second half touchdowns to go along with his 12 catches for 164 yards. Running back Devonta Freeman rushed for 141 yards and 3 touchdowns.
The Bengals and Ravens traded touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but the Bengals survived and moved to 3-0. Wide receiver AJ Green made fantasy owners who started him pleased catching 10 passes for 227 yards and 2 touchdowns.
On Monday night in Green Bay, a Kansas City wide receiver caught a touchdown pass for the first time in 21 regular season games. And that made me happy because I have Jeremy Maclin on my team.
The Panthers are 3-0 due to their defense allowing 16 points per game which is second best in the league. Fortunately for the Panthers they haven’t faced off against a quality quarterback. Blake Bortles, whoever is under center for Houston (Ryan Mallett, had to look it up), and Luke McCown aren’t exactly world beaters. I expect Carolina will be 4-0 heading into their bye and then afterwards the Panthers defense will be challenged by Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, and Aaron Rodgers in 3 of their next 4 games.
Packers at 49ers/Vikings at Broncos/Rams at Cardinals
The next 3 3-0 teams play in the late Sunday slot: Broncos, Cardinals, and Packers.
The consensus in Denver is that a compromise has been reached in coach Gary Kubiak’s offensive scheme. Quarterback Peyton Manning obviously operates better when he is not under center.
Though in the first three games, the Denver defense has been the story. A game clinching interception secured victory against the Ravens in Week 1. In Week 2, a fumble was recovered for a game winning touchdown. Last week, the Broncos secondary was able to contain Lions receiver Calvin Johnson and intercept two passes; one resulted in a touchdown pass from Manning to tight end Owen Daniels for a 24-12 win (and made me happy because I have Manning on my team).
Denver’s defense will again have to be up to task in trying to contain running back Adrian Peterson who is starting to look like Peterson of old having rushed for 126 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Chargers last Sunday in Minneapolis.
The Cardinals are off to a 3-0 start and are leading the NFC West. As long as quarterback Carson Palmer remains healthy and plays well, Arizona could be a force to be reckoned with come the playoffs. Remember it was injuries at the quarterback position that led to the Cardinals to be one-and-done in the playoffs last season.
Even though the final score showed a Packers 10-point win over the Chiefs on Monday night, the game was not really that close. Green Bay was up 31-7 before the Chiefs made the game more respectable. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers might be on his way to his second consecutive MVP award having thrown for 333 yards and 5 touchdowns last Monday. So far this season Rodgers has completed 73.6% of his passes, 771 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions.
And the Packers have played two home games so far this season, so the streak of no interceptions continues.
After an impressive defensive performance against the Vikings in Week 1, the 49ers have given up 90 points in their last two games - 43 at Pittsburgh and 47 at Arizona - while scoring 25 in those two games. In Week 1, the 49ers recorded a 20-3 win.
Even though quarterback Colin Kaepernick has had success against the Packers with his two playoff wins, I cannot see him duplicating that given the lack of supporting cast and his last game. Kaepernick’s passing stat line at Arizona last week: 9-19, 67 yards, 4 interceptions – where two were returned for touchdowns. By the start of the second quarter, per Pro Football Reference, Arizona was leading 14-0 and had a 98.4% chance of winning.
Cowboys at Saints
When the NFL schedule came out in April, NBC got this matchup for Sunday night on the basis of the quarterbacks: Cowboys Tony Romo against Saints Drew Brees.
Injuries have caused this matchup to change. It is now Cowboys Brandon Weeden against (possibly) Saints Luke McCown.
NBC might be in trouble after all…
McCown wanted to get his chance to show that the backup can play.
Weeden didn’t play too terribly last week. The Cowboys run game gained 127 yards and scored 4 touchdowns while running back Lance Dunbar caught 10 passes for 100 yards. The problem was that, as I mentioned with the Falcons previously, Julio Jones tore through the Dallas secondary. To put it bluntly, the Dallas defense shat the bed.
And now the picks.
Kickoff times are Mountain Time
Sunday afternoon games airing in Denver are noted by (DEN)
Picks are in BOLD
THURSDAY NIGHT, CBS/NFL 6PM
Ravens at Steelers
LONDON, CBS 7:30AM
Jets at Dolphins
Giants at Bills (DEN)
Eagles at Washington
Panthers at Buccaneers
Chiefs at Bengals (DEN)
Jaguars at Colts
Raiders at Bears
Texans at Falcons
Vikings at Broncos (DEN)
Packers at 49ers
Rams at Cardinals
Browns at Chargers
SUNDAY NIGHT, NBC 6:30 PM
Cowboys at Saints
MONDAY NIGHT, ESPN 6:30 PM
Lions at Seahawks