Head coaches of NFL teams that are winless through two weeks face a difficult task. Although it's certainly too soon to push the panic button, they know each passing loss will make it exponentially more difficult to reach the playoffs.
Some teams, like the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns, were expected to struggle. But for all the 0-2 teams that were hoping to challenge for the playoffs, they are digging a worrisome early hole. The good news is a victory in Week 3 can begin the turnaround.
With that in mind, let's examine three teams that should start to eliminate some of those early concerns with victories in key turning-point games this week. For a complete look at the slate for the third week of action, visit the league's official site.
Minnesota Vikings (vs. Cleveland Browns)
Last season, the Vikings rode Adrian Peterson's monster season to the playoffs. Now, with Peterson averaging less than 100 yards per game in the early going, the rest of the team's weaknesses have been exposed by the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears.
Both opponents put up more than 30 points on the Minnesota defense, and the Vikings aren't built to win high-scoring games with Christian Ponder under center. Luckily for them, a meeting with the Browns should give them a chance to get things sorted out.
Cleveland is also 0-2, but has shown even less explosiveness than the Vikings. Trent Richardson is averaging just over three yards per carry, and Brandon Weeden wasn't able to build off a strong preseason, taking the Brown back to square one offensively.
The struggling unit will be a welcome reprieve for the Vikings defense, and Peterson should take care of the rest to lead Minnesota to its first win of 2013.
Prediction: Vikings 20, Browns 13
Washington Redskins (vs. Detroit Lions)
Robert Griffin III hasn't been himself so far. He's become the latest example showing not every player can return from injury with the same type of success as Peterson did last season for the Vikings. For many, it takes time to rediscover peak performance.
The Redskins were also unlucky to play the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers right out of the gate. Both teams play at a quick pace on offense, and Washington would have needed a full-strength Griffin to come out on top.
Detroit poses a more reasonable challenge. Even with their potent passing game, the Lions are beatable due to continued struggles on the ground and a mediocre defense. It will also be their second straight road game after a loss to the Arizona Cardinals last week.
Aside from Griffin, the other signs from the Redskins offense have been positive. So as he continues to make steady progress, the Redskins should find a comfort zone, likely starting in Week 3.
Prediction: Redskins 27, Lions 21
New York Giants (at Carolina Panthers)
The Giants are another team that didn't get any help from the schedule-makers. They had to open on the road against a division rival before dealing with the hoopla of a Manning Bowl in Week 2. The result was two frustrating defeats.
New York's biggest problem is the lack of a rushing attack. It ranks last in the league in rushing, racking up less than 40 yards per game. While Eli Manning is averaging nearly 400 yards passing, the increased number of attempts has also led to seven interceptions.
David Wilson is the vital element. He's the most talented running back on the Giants' roster, but fumbling issues have held him back. He needs to get back on track against the Panthers, who are giving up nearly 110 rushing yards per game.
The Giants feature enough talent to win the NFC East, which hasn't put its best foot forward as a division through two weeks. It comes down to striking the right balance on offense beginning on Sunday.
Prediction: Giants 24, Panthers 17
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