The whole nation tunes in to games during the prime-time slots, and there will be some good matchups to watch for during the big games on Thursday, Sunday and Monday night.
Last week's prime-time games were good, but they weren't nearly as exciting as the games this week likely will be. The Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos all won in convincing fashion, and there was little drama involved in any of the games.
This week should be different.
Here's my full slate of picks, followed by a breakdown of all three prime-time games.
San Francisco 49ers (1-2) at St. Louis Rams (1-2)
Date: Thurs, Sept. 26
Time: 8:25 p.m. ET
TV: NFL Network
Prediction: 24-10, 49ers
Through three games in the NFL season, the San Francisco 49ers are tied for last in the NFC West with the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals.
I don't know of many people who predicted that before the season started.
It seems Colin Kaepernick is human after all, especially when his weapons are missing. Without Vernon Davis in the lineup, the passing game has struggled. The Indianapolis Colts focused on Anquan Boldin and played physically against the rest of the receivers, making it hard for them to get open. The team scored a total of 10 points in its last two games.
The Rams started off the season with a solid win over the Cardinals but then fell in back-to-back games against the Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys. Sam Bradford seems more comfortable in the offense, throwing for 891 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions so far. Having two new weapons in Jared Cook and Tavon Austin has certainly helped.
The front seven for the Rams has looked solid, but the secondary has been a liability, allowing 288 yards through the air per game and ranking 23rd in the league.
This is a revenge game for the 49ers. In the two meetings between these teams last season, the 49ers went 0-1-1, with both games going to overtime. After losing two straight, expect Jim Harbaugh to light a fire under his players, and look for this team to come up with a solid win.
New England Patriots (3-0) at Atlanta Falcons (1-2)
Date: Sunday, Sept. 29
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Prediction: 20-17, Falcons
Without Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola, the Patriots have looked mortal, but they've still started the season undefeated.
The rookie receivers are still trying to feel more comfortable in the offense, but we did see some signs of improvement this past week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Kenbrell Thompkins had three catches for 41 yards and two touchdowns, and Aaron Dobson has seven receptions for 52 yards.
The Patriots defense has helped big in the team's wins, allowing just over 11 points per game to opponents—a mark Tom Brady and this offense can break any game, regardless of who is playing receiver.
Matt Ryan and the Falcons haven't gotten off to the best start. They're already 1-2 and have losses to the New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins. Meanwhile, key players continue to get banged up, including Steven Jackson, Roddy White, Julio Jones and Kroy Biermann.
With the recent injuries on defense, the inexperienced secondary will be even further exposed. Players like Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford will have to step up when called upon, but they haven't looked too good to start the season.
I think this Falcons team, despite being banged up, can handle the Patriots. This will be the first true test for the Patriots this season, and they're going to struggle to get anything going offensively with talented players like Osi Umenyiora and Asante Samuel on the other side of the ball.
Miami Dolphins (3-0) at New Orleans Saints (3-0)
Date: Monday, Sept. 30
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Prediction: 27-20, Saints
Both of these teams have improved since 2012, and one of them will walk away from this game with a quarter of the season in the books and without a single loss.
The Dolphins have been consistent to start the season, scoring 23, 24 and 27 points in their first three games while allowing 10, 20 and 23 points to their opponents. Ryan Tannehill has had a solid start to his sophomore campaign, putting up 827 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions.
The secondary has been the biggest upgrade for the Dolphins from last season. Brent Grimes has done a great job in coverage, and players like Cameron Wake have done a great job getting to the quarterback, with nine sacks for the whole team.
The return of Sean Payton has been huge for the Saints, who are looking to start the season 4-0 after starting the 2012 season at 0-4. Drew Brees has been his usual self, throwing for 1,021 yards and six touchdowns with four interceptions. Jimmy Graham is off to a monster start, recording 358 yards and four touchdowns on 23 receptions.
The Saints defense has improved as well, allowing just 184.3 passing yards per game and holding opponents to an average of just under 13 points.
This is going to be a fun game, but the Dolphins might be a little too overhyped at this point in the season. Brees has dealt with success like this before, and he should be able to lead his team to a win.
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