We are two weeks deep, and we have already seen our share of surprises from this NFL season. Things only look to heat up in Week Three, with several key divisional matchups, as well as a few key conference games that could have an impact on the teams who survive the regular season and live on to fight for a Super Bowl berth.
I'll start off with my Game of the Week pick.
Dallas (2-0) at Green Bay (2-0) Sunday 8:30 PM NBC
Last year, this game was the one that decided home-field advantage on the NFC side of the playoffs. While it was much later in the season when these teams met last year, expect this matchup to provide the same type of atmosphere.
Aaron Rodgers played well against Dallas last year after Favre went down with an injury early in the game, and now he will lead his troops to what will be his second prime-time game in three starts as a Packer.
This is certainly a statement game for the Packers and is a chance for Dallas to distance themselves at the top of the NFC after their wild Week Two win over Philadelphia on Monday Night Football.
Dallas 27, Green Bay 21.
Kansas City (0-2) at Atlanta (1-1) Sunday 1:00 PM CBS
This matchup will be key for Atlanta if they intend on being a true player in the NFC South. With the Panthers starting out 2-0 and sitting atop the division, it is imperative that Atlanta and the other NFC South teams win early to prevent Carolina from stretching out their advantage and forcing everyone to play catch up for the rest of the year.
For the Chiefs, they have to start somewhere, and what better time than against a rebuilding opponent such as Atlanta?
Atlanta 20, Kansas City 13.
Oakland (1-1) at Buffalo (2-0) Sunday 1:00 PM CBS
This is a chance for Buffalo to make the AFC East a two-horse race. New England plays Miami, so it is likely that New England will end up 3-0. The Jets face San Diego on Monday Night Football, making their road to the over-.500 club a little trickier.
Buffalo has emerged as a contender this year, and with a victory against troubled Oakland, they could hear their names mentioned in playoff talk around the league next week.
Buffalo 30, Oakland 17.
Cincinnati (0-2) at New York Giants (2-0) Sunday 1:00 PM CBS
The New York Giants have not missed a step in their defense of their Super Bowl title, winning their first two games convincingly. Eli Manning is in command of an offense that is clicking on all cylinders, and the struggling Bengals should pose no threat to that streak. Carson Palmer and company have some major issues to address if they are going to get anything positive out of this season.
Giants 27, Bengals 10.
Miami (0-2) at New England (2-0) Sunday 1:00 PM CBS
Matt Cassel will look to extend New England's regular-season winning streak Sunday, as they welcome the Dolphins to Foxboro. Cassel was solid but not stellar in his first start replacing league MVP Tom Brady, who is out with torn knee ligaments.
I expect New England to win another low-scoring affair, with Cassel again just doing enough to let their defense stay in control of the game and putting enough points on the board to stick another check in the win column.
New England 17, Miami 10.
Houston (0-1) at Tennessee (2-0) Sunday 1:00 PM CBS
This is a major game for the Titans. With all of the controversy surrounding troubled quarterback Vince Young, including the news that the Titans would stick with backup Kerry Collins as long as the team was performing well, this team needs a victory to silence the distractions and bring to light the fact that they have a realistic chance to win the division this year.
If the Titans continue to win and the Colts continue to falter, then we could be looking at a new AFC South champion for the first time in years. Houston will be looking to provide a boost for their hurricane-ravaged community, and if they can play some solid football coming off of an unexpected bye week, they could possibly sneak by the Titans and steal a win.
Titans 21, Houston 18.
Tampa Bay (1-1) at Chicago (1-1) Sunday 1:00 PM FOX
In a matchup that could have wild-card implications down the road, the Bears will play their first home game in front of fans who have already seen more than they expected from their team.
The Bears, who chose to go with Kyle Orton as their starting quarterback in training camp, and were written off as a team not predicted to do much, stunned Indianapolis in Week One and lost a close battle with Carolina in Week two, raising the expectations of this team.
The Buccaneers rebounded from their Week One loss to New Orleans with a dominating victory over another division rival, Atlanta, in Week Two. This game could go either way, and I think it will be won on defense.
Chicago 20, Tampa Bay 17.
Arizona (2-0) at Washington (1-1) Sunday 1:00 PM FOX
This is a big game for both of these teams, and I think that this could be one of the more exciting matchups of the week. Arizona has a chance to start 3-0 for the first time since 1974 and hold onto their division lead. The NFC West could be experiencing a changing of the guard this year, with Seattle starting out 0-2.
For the Redskins, a disappointing start to the season was remedied last week with a late comeback win over New Orleans. The Redskins will have to continue to win if they are going to keep pace with Dallas, Philadelphia, and New York in the NFC East. This game will come down to the wire and could change the season for both teams.
Washington 24, Arizona 21.
Carolina (2-0) at Minnesota (0-2) Sunday 1:00 PM FOX
The Panthers have started out as one of the surprise teams in the NFL, winning two close games to start the season without star wideout Steve Smith. Smith will rejoin the team for their game in Minnesota; a scary thought for Vikings fans, who have watched their team fail to live up to the preseason hype surrounding them.
This Vikings team was expected to contend for the NFC North title, but after two weeks, they are left with a lot of questions, most notably at quarterback, with Tavaris Jackson continuing to struggle getting the ball to his receivers.
Unless the Vikings experience a turnaround in Week Three, I see Carolina rolling with the return of Smith, which will open up a running game that has already been successful.
Carolina 27, Minnesota 14.
New Orleans (1-1) at Denver (2-0) Sunday 4:05 PM FOX
The Broncos will be riding the coat tails of their thrilling Week Two victory where, after a controversial fumble-ruled-incomplete-pass call, the Broncos decided to go for the win with a two-point conversion rather than kick the extra point and get into overtime.
The decision paid off and puts the Broncos in the driver’s seat of the AFC West, with predicted division champion San Diego starting off the season with two heartbreaking losses; one of them being the above-mentioned game.
New Orleans is coming off of a tough loss in Washington, where they saw the Redskins come back to win their home opener. I don’t think New Orleans will be able to stop the Broncos' offense in Denver with the momentum they have.
Denver 21, New Orleans 13.
Detroit (0-2) at San Francisco (1-1) Sunday 4:05 PM FOX
This game could mean more than it looks like it will on paper by the time all is said and done. The 49ers, no doubt, have tons of questions to be answered before they become a contender in the NFC, but they find themselves in an interesting position. With Seattle’s poor start and St. Louis’ refusing to show up for the season, the 49ers are in second place in the division with another question-mark team, Arizona, in the lead.
This season’s NFC West champion could be decided by who makes the better adjustments through the season between the Cardinals and 49ers, something I never thought I would be saying!
For the Lions, they may be on the quick road to the NFC cellar, with two poor performances to start the year. Jon Kitna and company will need to step it up, and they have a good chance to start that process this Sunday.
San Francisco 28, Detroit 24.
St. Louis (0-2) at Seattle (0-2) Sunday 4:05 PM FOX
It is only Week Three of the NFL season, but this game is just about a must-win for the Seahawks. Seattle has been the only NFC West division champ since the 2004 season, a streak that looks like it may be coming to an end.
St. Louis is not the powerhouse team they once were, either, having slipped to the bottom of the NFC in the last few years. This game holds huge significance on the rest of the year for Seattle, as St. Louis looks to continue their tour of the lower-echelon of the NFC.
The Seahawks have added wide receivers Keary Colbert and Koren Robinson this week to try to give quarterback Matt Hasselbeck some more targets to throw to, in a move to generate some more offense for a team struggling to find its identity this year.
Seattle 28, St. Louis 10.
Pittsburgh (2-0) at Philadelphia (1-1) Sunday 4:15 PM CBS
The battle for Pennsylvania could hold postseason implications, even this early in the year. The Steelers and Eagles have both gotten off to great starts, even though Pittsburgh had to deal with some bad weather conditions against Cleveland in Week Two to get a win.
The question mark over this game is the status of Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s injured shoulder. Head Coach Mike Tomlin says it is not separated, but his throwing was clearly affected by the problem in their win over Cleveland.
Philadelphia is coming off of a great performance in a losing effort in Dallas on Monday Night Football. Donovan McNabb and company are looking like the Eagles of old; a scary thought for NFC opponents. This game is runner up for game of the week and will not disappoint.
Philadelphia 30, Pittsburgh 24.
Cleveland (0-2) at Baltimore (1-0) Sunday 4:15 PM CBS
The Browns have started off the season with arguably the toughest first two games of any team. With losses to the Cowboys and Steelers making them 0-2 to start the year, the Browns are still a good team with a lot to prove.
Derek Anderson is due a big game to return to the form he showed last year. Baltimore has the benefit of an early bye week, with their Week Two matchup with Houston postponed because of Hurricane Ike.
Ravens rookie quarterback Joe Flacco impressed many with his performance in Week One and will look to continue his successful start.
Cleveland 17, Baltimore 16.
Jacksonville (0-2) at Indianapolis (1-1) Sunday 4:15 PM CBS
The Colts had not lost a game in September since 2004 before Week One, and they nearly repeated the feat a in Week Two, winning on a late field goal by Adam Vinatieri in Minnesota.
Indy does not look like the juggernaut out of the gate that they have in recent years, and they need to improve in all departments if they want to continue their reign as AFC South champions.
Jacksonville was expected to challenge for the division title this year but have shown few signs of life in the opening weeks of the season. A trip to the new Lucas Oil Field will probably not help their cause.
Indianapolis 23, Jacksonville 16.
New York Jets (1-1) at San Diego (0-2) Monday 8:30 ESPN
San Diego has lost their first two games in the most dramatic of fashions, with Carolina beating them on a last-second touchdown pass in Week One and Denver winning on a two-point conversion after a botched call by one of the league’s most esteemed officials.
Things won’t get any easier, as Brett Favre and his Jets teammates roll into San Diego with a chip on their shoulder after being chastised for their game plan against the Patriots last week.
The Chargers have a question mark in the backfield, with LaDanian Tomlinson seeing limited action last week with a toe injury. They also have an answer, with Darren Sproles filling in nicely last week. Look for the Chargers to finally get the job done in front of their home crowd.
San Diego 24, New York 17.
As with most predictions, there are going to be those of you out there who disagree! Let’s discuss it!
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