We're all going to owe some teams an apology after Week 3.
It's easy to pile up on someone after one or two bad games, but a poor start is hardly the end of the world with 15 matches remaining. The league's hierarchy shifts weekly at this juncture of the season, so one poor outing is never the end of the world.
These teams have had their status as top contenders questioned with an ugly loss or boring win that poked some flaws in the squad. After this Sunday, those worries will vanish.
Don't bet against these guys this weekend.
San Francisco 49ers (vs. Indianapolis Colts)
Are the Colts the 11-win team from last year, or are they the same one that finished with a minus-30 scoring differential?
Just as their buzz subsided, they whipped everyone into a frenzy again by acquiring Trent Richardson from the Cleveland Browns. That rapidly shifted the talk from "Will the Colts make the playoffs?" to "Are the Colts a dynasty in the making?"
Unfortunately for the 49ers, they made no blockbuster move to divert everyone's attention from their humiliating defeat against the Seattle Seahawks. Colin Kaepernick followed a masterful three-touchdown outing with a grotesque three-interception performance to hand the 49ers a devastating 26-point loss.
Before kicking them down the power rankings, give the 49ers a chance to amend their unfortunate showing at home against the Colts.
Maybe they're just allergic to something in Seattle, because they were outscored 42-13 last year during Week 16. San Francisco bounced back just fine, advancing to the Super Bowl.
That game said more about Seattle than it did about San Francisco. Expect a major rebound this Sunday.
Prediction: 49ers 20, Colts 10
New England Patriots (vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Can a 2-0 team look any worse?
No longer a merciless scoring machine, the Patriots have slipped past two inferior division opponents with narrow victories. They escaped past the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills by a combined five points, scoring a combined 36 points after averaging 34.8 points per game last season.
Tom Brady has a very un-Brady-like 52.7 completion percentage and 74.1 quarterback rating. Zach Sudfeld was armed with a cool nickname (and "Studfeld") and a life-time supply of fantasy sleeper endorsements, but he has yet to catch one pass in Rob Gronkowski's absence.
While Brady has developed no rapport with anybody other than Julian Edelman, a long week of preparation should help Brady and Bill Belichick figure things out this weekend at Foxborough.
And for all the fear of New England's sinking offense, the vastly improved defense has become an afterthought. The Achilles heel of past years is now keeping the team intact, already generating six turnovers and ranking 11th in yards allowed.
Even if the defense has not been truly tested yet, Tampa Bay also isn't much of a challenge with the league's most impotent passing offense.
The Patriots will calm down some worried fans by winning in stronger fashion than the previous two weeks.
Prediction: Patriots 23, Buccaneers 13
Dallas Cowboys (vs. St. Louis Rams)
The same people who would be drooling over the 2-0 Cowboys quickly grew bored of them after losing by one point to the Kansas City Chiefs.
As the Chiefs continued to prove on Thursday night, they're a really good football team. Aside from their narrow win against the Cowboys, they have claimed their other two victories by a combined 36 points.
Dallas came just a tad short against a team yet to lose. Now it'll play another 1-1 squad also stuck in NFL limbo. The Rams can actually throw the ball now, but they're not a threat to dethrone the Seahawks or 49ers.
The Cowboys, on the other hand, snatch sole possession of first place with a victory on Sunday. If Tony Romo continues to pass with pinpoint accuracy against a defense that allowed 374 passing yards to Matt Ryan last weekend, they should be get the job done.
This is the perfect year for the Cowboys to ride a 9-7 record to a division title and allow Romo a chance to shatter his reputation with his best Eli Manning playoff impression.
Prediction: Cowboys 24, Rams 20
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