Early on in the season, NFL teams are more prone to being upset than at later points in the campaign. This week, three teams are in for a fight against underdog teams with high hopes.
Giants vs. Panthers
Thursday, September 20
8:20 p.m. ET on NFL Network
Eli Manning guided the Giants through stormy second-half seas in a thrilling, come-from-behind victory in Week 2. The G-Men snuck past the Bucaneers 41-34 to rebound to 1-1 after falling to the Cowboys on opening night.
This week, the Giants draw the Thursday game, meaning they have only three full days to practice and prepare for Cam Newton and the Panthers.
Despite Carolina facing the same disadvantage, the Panthers are flexing their muscles a bit after a convincing win over the Saints at home in Week 2. In his second season, Newton will soon begin coming into his own as an NFL quarterback.
Behind their offensive centerpiece and field leader, the Panthers will continue to ride their high confidence at home with a win over the Giants.
The Giants' regular-season mediocrity has become familiar, and this week's matchup is a prime opportunity for the defending champs to slip. Still, Manning and head coach Tom Coughlin will have New York in contention by the end of the season.
Final score prediction: 21-17 in favor of Carolina.
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins
Sunday, September 23
1 p.m. ET on CBS
Reggie Bush exploded last week while the Jets were stumbling against a better Pittsburgh team. Miami and new rookie QB Ryan Tannehill have nothing to lose this season as clear underdogs in the AFC East.
For this reason, the Dolphins should cherish early-season opportunities to make a dent in their opponents' records. At home against the Jets, the Dolphins will lean on Bush as their main source of offense. At the same time, Miami will hope that the Jets' offense once again reverts to preseason form by applying enough defensive pressure.
Years after watching Reggie Bush consistently be the most talented athlete on the field at USC, his most recent performance has me thinking that now is his time to step up.
Rex Ryan and the aggressive Jets defense will surely stack the box to slow him down, and they will mostly succeed. However, in Miami, I think Bush will find enough magic to help the Dolphins sneak by.
Final score prediction: Dolphins 17, Jets 14
Pittsburgh Steelers at Oakland Raiders
Sunday, September 23
4:25 p.m. ET on CBS
The Black Hole has awaited a relevant Raiders team for years. A loss at home to Pittsburgh in Week 3 would give Oakland a very compromising 0-3 start.
They may recover due to the usual traffic in the AFC West standings, but they can gain better ground with an important statement at home.
Darren McFadden is quite obviously the key. To this point, DMC has touched the rock 41 times (26 carries and 15 receptions), amassing 159 total yards. Most importantly, the Raiders' top scoring threat has yet to reach the end zone.
McFadden and the Raiders will turn their season around in front of Raider Nation on Sunday afternoon. Pittsburgh is a tough test, but the Steelers are just not as hungry as Oakland must be this early in the season.
Behind a rebound, multi-score performance from their tailback, the Raiders will stun the Steelers 24-20.