Week Three NFL BluePrint: The Free-Style Preview

Thom Cunningham@ThomBhombCorrespondent ISeptember 25, 2009

TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 01:  Offical Super Bowl XLIII and NFL logo signage is seen prior tothe Arizona Cardinals playing against the Pittsburgh Steelers inSuper Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

This is a free-style preview of what Week Three in the league has to offer us as fans. No research was used to write this preview, it is just simply what goes on in my mind when I see the matchups on paper.

Last Week: (10-6) Season: (22-10)

Washington Redskins (1-1) @ Detroit Lions (0-2) - 1:00/FOX

Washington has been a surprising struggle in my mind so far this season. Detroit has improved by adding some skill players here and there, but the defense and offensive line still needs work.

Stafford showed improvement last week, but Detroit still cannot find a consistent rushing attack. Facing the Washington defense with a one-dimensional offense is probably not the best formula for a victory.

If Detroit can consistently attack the Washington defense with Kevin Smith, then I expect the Lions to keep the game within reach. The Detroit defense is nothing to praise though.

Washington squeaked by with three field goals to defeat arguably the league's worst team. In the league though, a win is a win no matter what. Washington's offense will probably emphasize the run with Portis, throw a few west coast routes, then take some shots deep (preferably with Santana).

The Lions' defense is more than capable of getting torched by a majority of NFL offenses, so Kevin Smith will have to run hard in this game to give the Lions a fighting chance. I just don't see the Detroit defense holding Washington's offense for an entire 60 minute game, regardless of last week's performance.

Pick: WAS

Green Bay Packers (1-1) @ St. Louis Rams (0-2) - 1:00/FOX

The Green Bay Packers will not be a playoff contender unless they find an offensive line. Aaron Rodgers is always under constant pressure and Ryan Grant can't cross the line of scrimmage before being wrapped up.

Good news for Green Bay fans though, the Rams don't have an offensive line either (although it is improving). Bulger played consistently well in last week's game, but Jackson still needs to be the main target in the offense.


For the most part, St. Louis is a one-dimensional offense which could mean easy PICKings for the Green Bay secondary. The Packers will have to stop the run though in order to make Bulger pass a majority of the plays. This worries me, mainly because of the amount of yards the Packers gave up to Benson.

If the Packer defense cannot stop Steven Jackson, then St. Louis should find success every now and then throughout the game. Running Jackson might not be enough to keep up with the amount of points Green Bay can score (I say between 24 and 28), but I don't doubt the defensive plan Spagnuolo has either.

If the Rams can get enough pressure on Rodgers to force turnovers and incomplete passes, then attack with Jackson more times than none, I expect a closer game than what most people anticipate. This game might come down to a field goal or the last score of the game, which would be best case scenario for the Rams.

Overall, if Jackson finds success then Bulger will throw fewer balls making it harder for the Green Bay defense to tally turnovers (which usually results in points for Green Bay). If St. Louis can take away the turnovers the Green Bay defense usually forces, I smell an upset.


Can you believe I had this much to say about a Rams game? Me neither.


Pick: GB




San Francisco 49ers (2-0) @ Minnesota Vikings (2-0) - 1:00/FOX


This is going to be a good game with a fairly simple breakdown. This should be a low-scoring game between two physical, tough, smash-mouth teams. 


It is no secret that both teams will look to their tailbacks as the centerpiece of their offense in Sunday's matchup. Peterson and Gore will both see plenty of touches (assuming Peterson plays despite rumors on his injury), but expect both defenses to be keyed in on their opponents backfield.


Ultimately, Minnesota has more playmakers to win a close and tightly contested game; but I have never doubted what Mike Singletary has done for his team. If San Francisco wins this game, it's because Singletary has his players playing hard, tough, focused football with as much confidence as any other team in the league.


Otherwise, Peterson should find success more times than none, along with the playmakers around him (on offense and defense). Ryan Longwell has been the savior for Minnesota in the past, and week three might call his number again.


Pick: MIN




Atlanta Falcons (2-0) @ New England Patriots (1-1) - 1:00/FOX


As impressive as Atlanta has been these past two weeks, it is very hard to see an upset here. What is interesting (to me) about this game is that both franchises are built around the same philosophy. That is, get an offensive line to protect your quarterback (usually best player on the field) and everything else will fall into place.


Although I (and probably half the nation) give the rushing edge to Atlanta, I don't see either rushing game doing much in this one. Both teams are going to need a successful passing attack along with some creativity in this one.


Both quarterbacks are more than capable of picking apart either team's secondary. It will come down to which quarterback can make consistently accurate throws under pressure.


I expect Tom Brady (of all people) to learn from his mistakes and prepare for a tough home game. No one in Atlanta's secondary matches up with the talent, potential, and skill Darrelle Revis has either. Randy will see plenty of balls his way, deep and short.


Pick: NE




Tennessee Titans (0-2) @ New York Jets (2-0) - 1:00/CBS


Regardless of what people think of Steve Slaton, I still don't think the Jets have played a true "run first" offense yet. That's not saying the Jets defense won't be able to stop it, just something to consider.


Collins is one of the most accurate quarterbacks when he has protection, so it will be very important for Tennessee's offensive line to pick up blitz packages from the Jets. This game will be won in the trenches. The team who can protect their quarterback and slow the pass rush will find more success on offense.


This will be another hard-fought, physical matchup between two teams fighting for respect. The key to this game will be both of the offensive line's ability to protect their quarterback against very disruptive defenses. Best case scenario for both teams is that their O-line does protect their respected quarterbacks, in which case I take Collins to make the right decisions and better reads in a tight game.


If Tennessee does lose this game and still plays solid for a large part, it will be because of how good the Jets defense truly is (which would be top five in my mind).


Pick: TEN 




Kansas City Chiefs (0-2) @ Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) - 1:00/CBS


Despite all the rumored injuries Philly is facing heading into week three, the Eagles are a much stronger team than the Chiefs.


Philly's defense is much too fast for Kansas City to handle, but the Kansas City defense has been playing better than expected so far.


Having Kolb or Garcia under center for Philly won't make much of a difference. Both quarterbacks are prepared for this game the same way, but the main concern comes from the other skill positions.


Will the fact that DeSean and Westbrook might not play be a determining factor? Probably not for the end result, but it might make a difference on how consistently effective the Philly offense is. The Eagles' defense should be all over the field, making it difficult for Cassel to make good throws.


This game might be a surprise in the aspect of a low-scoring game, but Philly is one of the best teams in putting up points in other ways besides offense. Unless Jamal Charles breaks out, I don't see Kansas City's rushing attack being a factor in this game.


Ultimately, the Chiefs are a one-dimensional offense with a defense that has the potential to keep this game within a ten point spread for a majority of the time. The Philly defense is just too fast, tough and smart to give up as many plays as their own offense is expected to make.


Pick: PHI




New York Giants (2-0) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2) - 1:00/FOX


It seems like we are heading into the simple games of the week. The Giants are filled with injuries heading into this game. I believe Aaron Ross, Chris Canty, Kenny Phillips and Justin Tuck are all out with an injury...but that shouldn't make much of a difference.


Plain and simple, the Giants pass rush is the best in the league and should put tons of pressure on Leftwhich. Senior citizens in a powerized scooter could get to Leftwhich by the time he is halfway in motion to deliver a pass.


As time has proven, it doesn't matter who is at wide receiver for the Giants. They have an offensive line that can both run and pass block like some of the best in the league and a quarterback who can makes the right throws and decisions in the pocket.


There is not much Tampa Bay can do to win this game, mainly because their offense is incapable of keeping up with a majority of NFL teams. They are now facing the toughest defense they have seen all year and an offense that is almost oblivious to any defense thrown their way.


Pick: NYG




Cleveland Browns (0-2) @ Baltimore Ravens (2-0) - 1:00/CBS


We are definitely right in the middle of Week Three's weakest matchups. The Ravens are running the football better than ever, and Flacco is slowly but surely turning into a complete quarterback.


The Browns have not impressed on any side of the football and have yet to find a reliable playmaker (other than Cribbs) on the team. This game could be over before it begins, not much to say about this one.


Pick: BAL




Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2) @ Houston Texans (1-1) - 1:00/CBS


Every AFC South matchup usually produces a very good game for football fans to watch. This could be a back-and-forth game with a few lead changes.


Both Houston and Tennessee's defense surprised me by allowing 60-plus points combined last week. Jacksonville's offense will more than likely go through Maurice Jones-Drew, both in the rushing and receiving game.


Garrard's ability to makes plays with his feet and arm will determine how close Jacksonville will be able to keep this game. Andre (3 Stacks) Johnson has the ability to break out on this Jaguars defense (mainly because Rashean Mathis is not the same corner back he was three years ago).


I still don't expect much from Slaton; but if Jacksonville focuses too much attention on "3 Stacks," then Slaton could really do some damage.


On a side note, Matt Schaub can ball. I've personally witnessed it. I was happy for him but was truly sad when he left Atlanta. This kid has the potential to be great because he has a positive and winning mindset every time he's on the field.


Pick: HOU




Chicago Bears (1-1) @ Seattle Seahawks (1-1) - 4:05/FOX


Forte needs to produce in order for Chicago to be taken as a serious contender. I am starting to lean towards the idea that Seattle has a weak run defense. This game shouldn't be determined with Chicago's running game though.


The Bears' defense might have a field day if Hasselbeck is out. Wallace behind a less-than-average offensive could produce a few turnovers for Chicago, and their defense is more than capable of assisting points.


Cutler will have to play like the Pro Bowler he is if the Bears want to have any success on offense this season. Seattle's secondary might be weaker than I anticipated as well. I just have way too many questions concerning how legitimate Seattle is without a healthy Hasselbeck or TJ.


I am not sold on Julius Jones either; so if Chicago's defense can play up to their fullest ability, then Seattle's defense might be on the field for a very long time.


Pick: CHI 




New Orleans Saints (2-0) @ Buffalo Bills (1-1) - 1:00/FOX

This is the most under-rated game of Week Three (in my mind). New Orleans proved last week that they can go on the road, into a climate their not used to, against a very aggressive defense, and dominate the entire game.


Everyone knows football 101: If you dominate the pass game, it opens up the run (and vise versa). Mike Bell has been rushing the ball extremely well; so although Brees is playing MVP status, New Orleans has been running the ball just as successfully.


Buffalo is a well prepared team though. Their defense is under-rated in many aspects, but Fred Jackson has been lighting up the ground game. Buffalo's pass rush may disrupt Brees, and have more than enough capability to produce points.


The Bills offense is good, but they can not produce the amount of points New Orleans is capable of unless their defense forces many three-and-outs. I liked Buffalo to win this game on paper, but I just talked myself out of my original pick.


Buffalo doesn't have the offense to pull away from this game, and Drew Brees will come up more times than none in a close game situation.


Pick: NOR




Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) @ Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) - 4:15/CBS


Surprisingly, this is the toughest game for me to choose this week.


I know what Cincinnati is capable of when Pittsburgh decides to play down to their opponent’s level. Chad Ochocinco is as dangerous as ever, and he has begun having fun by talking trash.


Polamalu out hurts a lot, but our (meaning Pittsburgh) biggest weakness is the offensive line. Our rushing attack is weaker than ever, and Big Ben has no time in the pocket before he is forced to scramble.


The Bengals defense is more than capable of disrupting Roethlisberger, but I expect the entire Steeler team to be much more mentally focused than they were against Chicago.


Don't be surprised if the Bengals win; but if the Steelers made a few plays here and there, they would’ve won that football game. Basically, if Cincinnati is able to keep this game close, I expect a much more aggressive and determined Pittsburgh offense driving down the field.


Pick: PIT




Denver Broncos (2-0) @ Oakland Raiders (1-1) - 4:15/CBS


Denver's defense has been playing well for the most part, but Bush and McFadden (I feel) are a very under-rated running duo. Denver has yet to be tested in the middle of their defense.


I am sold on Denver's secondary however, and JaMarcus will again be the determining factor on Oakland's fate.


The Raider defense is good enough to produce points on the board in a hostile environment. If Oakland's defense can help in some way put points on the board (literally or field position wise), all they need is consistency from McFadden and Bush.


Miller might see many of the few passes Russell completes, but I like Oakland's defense and rushing attack (especially at home and a divisional game).


Quick shout-out to Richard Seymour who is going hard!


Pick: OAK




Miami Dolphins (0-2) @ San Diego Chargers (1-1) - 4:15/CBS


Phillp Rivers has developed into a reliable quarterback in close situations. I pretty much expect the same outcome of this game as Miami's Monday night game.


The Dolphins will look to pressure Rivers with Porter and Taylor, compete on offense, but loose in the secondary.


Rivers should have a field day with Gates and Jackson, regardless of how close Miami keeps this game. I expect this game to be closer than the scoreboard will show.


Pick: SD




Indianapolis Colts (2-0) @ Arizona Cardinals (1-1) - 8:20/NBC


Last week's Monday night went as expected, except the end result. This is another good game with a fairly simple breakdown.


With a weak secondary (due to Sanders' injury), the Arizona offense should produce an efficient amount of points.


I believe the Colts will feel the same amount of pressure that Miami had, but the Cardinals' secondary can actually back up their pass rush.


Indy has the ability to rush the ball, but the Cardinals' front seven are way too athletic and fundamental.


Peyton might be the one turning the ball over in this game, but I still believe Arizona is a top team in the NFC. Despite Peyton playing, Arizona (in my mind) has just way too many weapons on both sides of the football with a coach who will be well prepared.


Pick: ARI




Carolina Panthers (0-2) @ Dallas Cowboys (1-1) - 8:30/ESPN


Marion out of this game will not affect their rushing attack. Jones and Choice are both very capable of producing solid numbers. The Dallas offensive line and secondary are their weakest positions, but the Giants are team that plays well against that lineup.


Carolina will only have success if they can rush the ball, which is one positive that I can point out for Dallas' defense (their run defense). Carolina's pass rush shouldn't affect Romo's comfort level in the pocket. Romo should be successful for a large part of the game, and the rushing game should produce solidly.


The only way I see Dallas loosing this game is if their secondary continues to give up big plays through the air.


Pick: DAL


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