After so many unexpected results through the first two weeks of the 2013 NFL schedule, Sunday of Week 3 should prove to be something of a moving day for teams across the league.
There have been teams, initially thought to be average, that have gone 2-0. On the other hand, there have been potential postseason contenders that have stumbled their way to 2-0. And there is also a heap of teams that are stuck at 1-1, so this weekend's slate of games should provide us with some clarity as to which teams are actually capable of making noise this winter.
With 14 games on tap for Sept. 22, here's a look at how each of Sunday's biggest clashes will end up.
|Kansas City at Philadelphia||Chiefs|
|Green Bay at Cincinnati||Packers|
|St. Louis at Dallas||Rams|
|San Diego at Tennessee||Chargers|
|Cleveland at Minnesota||Vikings|
|Tampa Bay at New England||Buccaneers|
|Arizona at New Orleans||Saints|
|Detroit at Washington||Redskins|
|New York Giants at Carolina||Giants|
|Houston at Baltimore||Texans|
|Atlanta at Miami||Falcons|
|Indianapolis at San Francisco||49ers|
|Buffalo at New York Jets||Bills|
|Jacksonville at Seattle||Seahawks|
|Chicago at Pittsburgh||Bears|
|Oakland at Denver||Broncos|
Indianapolis Colts at San Francisco 49ers
In a very intriguing tilt featuring two teams that earned postseason berths last season, the 49ers and Colts will both be looking for redemption after tough Week 2 losses.
For San Francisco, this game is an absolute must-win, because the embarrassing defeat the Seahawks handed Jim Harbaugh's team was a humbling result for a team that once again entered the season with Super Bowl aspirations.
But at the other end of the field, Andrew Luck will be hungry to avoid going 1-2, especially after being stopped cold by Miami's defense in the dying moments of Indy's loss to the Dolphins.
While Luck is a special player—one that's always capable of lifting his Colts to victory with a standout performance—the odds are stacked heavily against Chuck Pagano's boys.
One major factor working against them is their lack of success defending the run thus far, so Colin Kaepernick should be able to continue marching down the field with relative ease, and Frank Gore may be due for a bounce-back performance after two disappointing showings.
One has to assume that Kaepernick will rebound from his three-interception, 13-of-28 passing performance against Seattle. And if he does, the Colts will be in trouble.
Prediction: 49ers 34, Colts 21
Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens
When the 2-0 Texans head to M&T Bank Stadium to face the defending Super Bowl champs, both teams will be looking to send a message to a fellow AFC power, so it should be a very emotional contest.
That'll be especially true if Ed Reed takes the field for Houston, as the longtime Baltimore star will be looking to prove to his former team that they were wrong for letting him leave following the Ravens' championship parade.
Both Joe Flacco and Matt Schaub are more than capable of putting on a show offensively, but the two quarterbacks could be without key targets if Ravens running back Ray Rice and Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson are unable to go on Sunday.
Last season, the Texans handed the Ravens an embarrassing 43-13 defeat in Houston, so John Harbaugh will have his team fired up for this game.
If Johnson and Rice are out, both teams have relatively capable replacements in DeAndre Hopkins and Bernard Pierce, respectively, so it may not make much of a difference in terms of the game's outcome.
But ultimately, the Ravens' 26th-ranked pass defense won't be enough to contain Schaub, Hopkins, Owen Daniels and, potentially, Johnson, so the Texans will steal one on the road.
Prediction: Texans 31, Ravens 23
Detroit Lions at Washington Redskins
The only reason this is an important game is simple: if Robert Griffin III and the Redskins can't rebound against the Lions, a loss at home against Detroit might as well be the final nail in the coffin on Washington's season.
Through the first two weeks of the season, the Redskins have looked nothing like the 10-6 team that reeled off seven-straight wins to win the NFC East crown last year.
And for the Lions, this game represents an opportunity to continue to build momentum going into a pair of vital games against NFC North opponents (Chicago and Green Bay), especially after last weekend's disappointing loss to Arizona.
If the Redskins can manage to not play their way out of the game by halftime, RG3, Alfred Morris and Pierre Garcon have a chance at keeping pace with Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and the Lions' attack, especially if Reggie Bush is unable to go.
Either way, this game is far more important to Washington than it is to the Lions, so anything less than a win at FedEx Field is unacceptable. My guess is that they'll rebound to squeak one out against Detroit's struggling run defense.
Prediction: Redskins 24, Lions 23
Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins
Before the season began, Miami would have been considered a heavy underdog against Matt Ryan and the mighty Atlanta Falcons because the Dolphins seemed to be stuck in rebuilding mode.
However, after wins over the Colts and Browns to start the year, the Dolphins enter Sunday's home game against Atlanta at 2-0. However, this week's tilt will easily be their toughest contest yet.
Yes, Ryan Tannehill's growth as a starting quarterback has been undeniable, especially after outplaying (or at least keeping pace) with Andrew Luck in Week 2. But is anyone really confident that he'll be able to put more points on the board than Matty Ice, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez, even if Roddy White continues to be hampered by an ankle injury?
Tannehill and Wallace finally managed to put up big numbers together against Indy, and they'll have to do the same on Sunday if this offense is going to outgun the Falcons. The X-factor for the Dolphins may be whether Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas can exploit Atlanta's less-than-stellar defense against the run.
Prediction: Falcons 27, Dolphins 20