Week 3 of the NFL schedule features plenty of interesting contests, including two teams going in opposite directions meeting in Houston.
Andre Johnson's late heroics helped the upstart Texans defeat the Redskins Sunday afternoon in Washington D.C., setting up the possibility of improving to 3-0 with a win over the struggling Cowboys this week.
Here's a closer look at the 10 most important games of Week 3 in the NFL.
Why It's Important: It's only Week 3, but both teams find themselves at a crossroads Sunday at Seattle. After struggling against the Chiefs in the opener, the Chargers racked up 477 yards of total offense in the 38-13 win over the Jaguars Sunday. San Diego can't afford to fall further behind the 2-0 Chiefs in the standings by letting a winnable game slip away in Seattle.
Keys to the Game: The Chargers need to move the ball on the ground and slowly take the frenzied Seahawks crowd out of the game. The Chargers got an unexpected boost from Mike Tolbert against the Jaguars and should get considerable production from the running game again this week, even if rookie Ryan Mathews misses the game while dealing with his ankle injury. Seattle should play well offensively at home and be able to keep up with San Diego's powerful offense.
Prediction: San Diego 31, Seattle 20
Seattle should be able to score Sunday, but the Chargers just have too much firepower.
Why This Game is Important: Don't look now, but those Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 2-0 with the Steelers coming to town. What looked like a easy win for Pittsburgh suddenly becomes a huge challenge, especially if the team is forced to start Charlie Batch in place of the injured Dennis Dixon at quarterback Sunday. Meanwhile, Josh Freeman has proven to be an excellent game manager early in his second season.
Keys to the Game: Tampa's defense has been a huge surprise this season and completely shut down the potent Panthers rushing attack in Sunday's win at Carolina. That could spell trouble for the Steelers, who will need to run the ball to have a chance to win regardless of who is playing quarterback. If Tampa Bay can limit turnovers and continue to get the ball to sensational rookie Mike Williams, the Bucs could suddenly find themselves at 3-0.
Prediction: Tampa Bay 13, Pittsburgh 10
There's nothing like a good ole' fashioned slugfest. Tampa Bay wins in an ugly affair by doing a little bit more than Pittsburgh on offense.
Why This Game is Important: Both teams are 1-1 and coming off brutal losses. The Titans committed seven turnovers in a shocking home loss to Pittsburgh, while the Giants looked awful in Sunday night's loss at the Colts. Vince Young once again finds himself on a short leash after failing to show improvement so far this season.
Keys to the Game: After the Texans gashed the Colts on the ground in Week 1, the Giants never got things going in the running game Sunday night. Unless New York finds a running game, it will be on Eli Manning to lift his team over the tough Tennessee defense. Meanwhile, Vince Young and Chris Johnson will need to atone for poor performances in the loss to Pittsburgh.
Prediction: New York 21, Tennessee 19
The Giants rally late behind Manning, and talk of Young being benched yet again intensifies in Nashville.
Why This Game is Important: Michael Vick's first start in nearly four years helped the Lions avoid a television blackout last week in Detroit. If Vick gets the nod again, could the same thing happen in Jacksonville? The Jaguars ownership might be hoping No. 7 gets the start to boost ticket sales. Meanwhile, the Eagles quarterback situation will once again be under the microscope as the team takes on another mediocre opponent on the road.
Keys to the Game: The Jaguars need to run the ball, and that means Maurice Jones-Drew. If Vick gets the nod with Kevin Kolb continuing to recover from his concussion, the Eagles figure to give Jacksonville's defense headaches.
Prediction: Philadelphia 27, Jacksonville 14
The Eagles have a powerful offense regardless of who is playing quarterback, and the Jaguars don't. It's that simple.
Why This Game is Important: The Lions and the Vikings have the same record, but the Lions have to be feeling better about themselves after suffering two close losses to start the season. Meanwhile, the Vikings have gotten more bad than good from Brett Favre this season and could be without injury-prone Percy Harvin against the Lions. Minnesota simply cannot afford to start the season with three losses.
Keys to the Game: The Lions have quickly become Jahvid Best's team in the absence of Matthew Stafford. The electric rookie tormented the Eagles and figures to cause match-up problems for the Vikings. Minnesota will once again lean heavily on Adrian Peterson as Favre tries to find his way.
Prediction: Minnesota 24, Detroit 13
The Vikings know they need to win, and simply won't have it any other way. Shaun Hill struggles and Minnesota's defense keeps Best in check as Peterson runs wild.
Why This Game is Important: After the 49ers' last-second defeat against the Saints on Monday night, the Chiefs-49ers Week 3 meeting features two teams heading in opposite directions. Kansas City has pulled out two wins to start the season, while Mike Singletary's team still has considerable healing to do after a brutal loss to the Seahawks and a gut-wrenching one to the Saints.
Keys to the Game: Alex Smith doesn't always get it done, but Frank Gore is Mr. Reliable. San Francisco's defense is good enough to stop the Chiefs' speedy running backs and frustrate Matt Cassel, who has yet to show he has what it takes to play quarterback for Charlie Weis. Kansas City just needs to make plays and find a way to pull out the win.
Prediction: San Francisco 20, Kansas City 10
Unless Cassel finally demonstrates the ability to get the ball to the receivers, Kansas City has little chance to defeat the 49ers, even at Arrowhead.
Why This Game is Important: A pivotal NFC South game in New Orleans will provide plenty of fireworks. Matt Ryan and the Falcons' offense found itself in the rout over Arizona, while the Saints look to improve to 2-0 with a win over the 49ers tonight.
Keys to the Game: Atlanta needs to keep Drew Brees on the sideline, and that means giving the Saints a heavy dose of Michael Turner and Jason Snelling. After a quiet performance in the season opener against Pittsburgh, Turner rushed for 75 yards on nine carries before leaving with a minor groin injury in the Falcons 41-7 win. The bruising Snelling stole the show, totaling 129 yards rushing, 57 yards receiving and scoring three touchdowns. The Saints have much more firepower than the Falcons and just need to play their game to win.
Prediction: New Orleans 31, Atlanta 17
Atlanta gets involved in a shootout with New Orleans, and Matt Ryan simply can't do enough to produce the upset.
Why This Game is Important: After pulling off a big win Sunday in Dallas, Jay Cutler and the Bears could suddenly find themselves in the driver's seat in the NFC North with a win over their rivals. The Packers toyed with the Bills before pulling away late in the game to improve to 2-0.
Keys to the Game: Without Ryan Grant, the Packers will have to rely on the pass against the Bears Cover 2 defense. Green Bay's strength is Chicago's weakness, and Aaron Rodgers should have a big night. Meanwhile, Chicago's offensive line rebounded from a brutal start against the Cowboys and finally started to protect Jay Cutler. The unit will be tested again Monday against Clay Matthews and the Packers' blitzing defense.
Prediction: Green Bay 24, Chicago 20
Anything can happen in the Bears-Packers rivalry, but the tough defensive front gives Green Bay a big edge in this particular meeting.
Why This Game is Important: Very quietly, the Dolphins have won two games on the road to start the season and look like the class of the division. Rex Ryan and the Jets bring their talents to Miami looking to ride the momentum after the big win over the Patriots Sunday.
Keys to the Game: The teams are fairly evenly matched, so the play of the opposing quarterbacks becomes the key. Nothing seems to rattle Chad Henne, while Mark Sanchez is coming off the best game of his career against the woeful Patriots secondary. Henne should be able to lean on Brandon Marshall and his running game against New York. Sanchez might revert to his inconsistent ways against Karlos Dansby and one of the more underrated defensive units in the NFL.
Prediction: Miami 16, New York 13
Don't expect much offense in this one. Miami figures out a way to scrap and claw for a huge home win and won't be flying under the radar any longer.
Why This Game is Important: The Texans are flying high after two huge wins to start the season, while the Cowboys are reeling and apparently unwilling to run the ball. A win over its famed intrastate opponent would place Houston squarely in the NFL spotlight. Meanwhile, the Cowboys look like a team is disarray and need to find answers on offense.
Keys to the Game: The notion Tony Romo and a talented cast of skill players can simply outscore all comers has proven to be false. That means Dallas will need to try another tactic Sunday, perhaps turning to Felix Jones in an effort to keep the Texans off the field. If Matt Schaub gets protection from his offensive line, there's no reason the Texans can't exceed the 30-point mark again.
Prediction: Houston 31, Dallas 20
The days of the Texans remaining on the brink of being a playoff team appear to be over. Tony Romo starts getting some heat after the Cowboys once again struggle to move the ball.