Sunday will mark the end of the NFL season’s first quarter. Keep on enjoying it people because the NFL season takes forever to come around then goes by quicker than you would imagine. One benefit of season progression is the number of marquee games that arises over the course of the year. The tap is full this Sunday with a few games that are must sees. If you’re a fan of any of these teams, a win this weekend will offer you bragging rights for the next few days until the next Sunday rolls around of course. This is the time when contenders begin to separate themselves from the pack. Let the games begin.
New York Jets(3-0) vs New Orleans Saints(3-0)
Both teams come into the game undefeated. Both teams come into the game with rejuvenated defenses and both teams come into the game atop their divisions. What could be better? It’s going to be the third-ranked defense against the top offense in the league. Saints quarterback Drew Brees was shut down last week by an inspired Buffalo Bills defense but his first two games of the season were things that NFL video games are made of. The Jets will arrive in New Orleans after shutting down some of the hottest quarterbacks in the league through the month of September and expect New York to apply the same heavy pressure that they presented Tom Brady with.
Jets rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez is the toast of the town in New York and the USC product has already gone on the road and posted some impressive totals. 18-for-31 and 272 yards against Houston in the opener is nothing to sneeze at. The Superdome will undoubtedly be louder than the road game against the Texans and how Sanchez adjusts to much more hostile crowd may decide the game.
The Saints offense showed last week that it could be contained when they ran up against a defense geared to slow them down. The Jets have a premier cornerback, a premier nose tackle and upper echelon players in their linebackers corps and secondary. This could be a low-scoring game Saints wise that may end in the 20’s range. Anything past that and it will be hard for New York to keep up with a rookie quarterback playing only his second road game. Saints 28-17
Baltimore Ravens(3-0) vs New England Patriots(2-1)
The Ravens have never started out hotter, scoring plus 30 in each of their first three games. Sophomore quarterback Joe Flacco looks fantastic and the Baltimore offensive line might be the best in the league. They’re blowing people off the ball and giving Flacco all day to survey the field and use his big arm to find receivers for big gains. The Ravens defense may have taken a step back but the offense is compensating for any shortcomings. Tom Brady may not be the record-breaking signal caller that he was the last time he played more than a week of football but he’s still one of the best in the league.
The Patriots defense did an admirable job shutting down another sensational sophomore quarterback in Matt Ryan and Atlanta’s offensive attack last week in a 26-10 win that saw running back Fred Taylor rush for over 100 yards. The Patriots are slowly transitioning into an all-around solid team that can beat opponents with the run game, pass game or defense. They’re going to need all three phases this week to slow a hot Baltimore squad.
Keeping Brady comfortable in the pocket will be the key to the game. The Ravens are 3-0 but have feasted on Kansas City and Cleveland and narrowly escaped San Diego with a win against the high scoring Chargers. Phillip Rivers and Vincent Jackson lit the Raven secondary up and Rivers threw for 436 yards. A couple of costly turnovers came back to haunt San Diego in the end but the combo of Brady and Randy Moss might be too much for the Ravens to account for and Brady probably won’t make the same mistakes that Rivers made. Patriots 31-24
Dallas Cowboys(2-1) vs Denver Broncos(3-0)
The Cowboys are taking a page out of Denver’s old playbook where they can just line up any running back and whoever that back is will have a huge day. The Cowboys lead the league at 193.7 rushing yards per contest and that isn’t some fluke number. Saving their best for their toughest competition, the ‘Boys ran up 251 yards against the New York Giants in week 2. Even though they lost the game, Dallas proved that they could run against anybody at anytime. That might prove useful as the ‘Boys take on the top rated defense in the league when they visit Denver on Sunday. The Broncos are giving up a miniscule 5.3 points per game and their new 3-4 scheme is causing havoc for opponents.
Or are they? The Broncos have played Cincinnati, Cleveland and Oakland in the first three weeks of the season. Although Cincinnati is 2-1, starting quarterback Carson Palmer was coming off an ankle injury to start the season and Cleveland and Oakland may have the biggest quarterback problems of any team in the league. The Broncos have yet to face the caliber of rushing attack or quarterback that Dallas will bring to town come Sunday.
Dallas’ defense may not be elite but they can cause all kinds of problems for average NFL offenses and Denver’s attack falls right into that category. Kyle Orton is no Jay Cutler and the Denver running game isn’t what it used to be. Quality of competition might not be a major factor to some but it is over here and Dallas and all of their opponents would all be 3-0 had they played the same opening schedule under the same circumstances that Denver has played. If the Broncos want some respect, they can earn it this weekend but this game is too important to let get away for the Cowboys, who trail Philadelphia and New York in the division. Cowboys 24-13
Green Bay Packers(2-1) vs Minnesota Vikings(3-0)
If ESPN and NFL Network haven’t been all over this game by now, they will be by Monday. The NFL’s only son Brett Favre will run out the tunnel on Monday night to help take down his longtime former team, the Green Bay Packers. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is now the new gunslinger in green and he’s proving his worth. Rodgers has everything going for him to become the next great thing at quarterback in the NFL and Monday will be his opportunity to one-up the guy who kept him on the bench for his first few seasons in Green Bay.
The Vikings are coming off an emotional win against last week’s 2-0 San Francisco 49er team and a last second touchdown pass has the whole town of Minnesota in a Favre frenzy. The Metrodome is a tough place to play on a Monday night but Green Bay will be game. A lot of talk will be made about the battle amongst the student and the teacher between Favre and Rodgers but star tailback Adrian Peterson will probably end up being (get this) the “star” of the game.
The Packers gave up 117 yards to Steven Jackson last week and 141 yards to Cedric Benson the week before that. If you combined both backs they still wouldn’t be as good as Peterson and Green Bay’s leaky run defense and a Monday night showcase might be just the ingredients for an explosive night for AP. Minnesota’s game plan is to run Peterson first and rely on Favre’s arm second. Neither of the last two offensive lines nor the running backs are as good as what Green Bay will face on Monday and if the Packers couldn’t contain the 13th and 14th ranked rushing offenses, it could be a long night in Minnesota. Vikings 31-20