Contributor: Eric is a football fanatic from Montreal Canada. He will be writing a weekly article in which he will discuss his predictions for the upcoming NFL> games. You can find him and his other sports handicappers on Unlocked Sports.com
Overall, the first 3 weeks of this season has given any NFL fan every reason to believe that this will be a season filled with excitement. In week 3 there was no shortage of offense, as there were only 4 games out of 16 that had a total of less than 40 points scored between both teams. The Miami Dolphins completely surprised everyone after they demolished the Pats by a score of 38-13. This was by far the biggest upset of the season as they were a 13 point underdog. Dallas showed everyone that they are truly the number one super bowl contender as they defeated the Packers by a score of 27-16 in a game where many people favored Green Bay to win.
Week 3 was a critical week, as many teams were 0-2 and needed a win more than anything at this point to keep their playoff hopes alive. Other teams are still undefeated and are beginning to make fans believe that they are going to be contenders this year. Unlockedsports.com had a third consecutive winning week and posted its best record thus far, going 9-4 and 24-14-1 overall. This week we will recap the success of the teams that were 0-2 prior to week 3 and those that are still undefeated after week 3.
Teams entering week 3 with 0-2 record: There were several teams that were favored to win their division and even considered to be serious Super Bowl contenders who entered week 3 with a winless record. These teams absolutely needed a win in order to have a shot at the playoffs and rebound from their poor starts. The following teams include;
San Diego Chargers: The Chargers lost to Carolina in the last play of the game in week 1 and were devastated by something completely out of their control as grave mistake by referee Ed Hochuli evidently cost them the game in week 2 in Denver. Although the Chargers did not play like a 0-2 team they had to win against the Jets to keep their playoff hopes alive. They proved to their fans that they were still a dominant force as they demolished the Jets by a score of 48-29. Their win was the product of a phenomenal team effort but a large part of their success was attributed to the turnovers created by their defense. The Chargers forced 3 turnovers and converted 7 points on each one of them. Antonio Cromartie had 2 interceptions and appears to be back on track to his 2007 form. Expect the Chargers to begin to return to their dominant 2007 form where they beat the spread 9 out of their last 9 games and won 8 in a row until they lost to the Pats in the AFC Championship.
Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings were 0-2 mainly due to poor performances from quarterback Tarvaris Jackson who had a rating of 64.8. Before the beginning of the 2008 season, many analysts predicted the Vikings to win the NFC North. Coach Childress decided to go with backup QB Gus Frerotte to shakeup his team and avoid going 0-3. This move appeared to have helped the Vikings as they beat Carolina 20-10. Minnesota definitely needed a change to keep their playoff hopes alive, but many analysts, including myself are not at all convinced that Gus Frerotte is the answer. The Vikings’ main weakness is their lack of depth at the quarterback and wide receiver positions. Unless Tarvaris Jackson begins making headlines for phenomenal plays rather than poor ones, don’t expect the Vikings to make the playoffs this year.
Cleveland Browns: The Browns lost their first two games because they had very poor offensive output, averaging 8 points per game. Many analysts considered them to be a playoff contender and possibly win their division. They sealed their fate by losing to Baltimore by an embarrassing score of 28-10. Romeo Crennel may start Brady Quinn in an effort to spark the offense. Unfortunately, at this point, the Browns are not going to be making the playoffs.
Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jags are considered to be a super bowl contender by many. Unfortunately for the Jags, they have a fairly tough schedule, facing many teams that are expected to make the playoffs this year. They lost their first two games against two teams that currently have a 3-0 record; Tennessee and Buffalo. They lost because of they were banged up and because quarterback David Garrard was playing poorly. The Jags headed to Indianapolis needing a victory to stay in playoff contention. They managed to get the victory they so direly needed winning 23-21 as Josh Scobee managed to kick a 51 yard field goal with 4 seconds remaining in the game. Jacksonville can still be a contender. They are a very defensively aware team and have two outstanding running backs who contributed for 296 yards in the air and on the ground between the two of them last Sunday. Expect David Garrard to pick up his game and for the Jags to continue to focus on running the ball to win games. I have a lot of confidence that the Jags will make the playoffs, but they will most likely be a wild card team.
Teams who are currently undefeated: There are some teams who are surprisingly undefeated after week 3. Two of these teams had losing records last year. It is still early in the season but these teams are in a good position to make the playoffs and possibly even win their divisions. They include;
Buffalo Bills: The Bills were expected to have a better season than their 2007 7-9 campaign. So far they are 3-0 as they defeated the Seahawks, Jaguars and Raiders. Their success thus far this season is impressive but don’t let their record mislead you. The Seahawks and the Jags are both very good teams but both teams were very banged up, missing substantial depth at key positions when they played Buffalo. Seattle was missing their top 3 receivers and Jacksonville was missing 2 starting guards. Buffalo also barely beat Oakland by a score of 24-23 in week 3, kicking a field goal to win the game at the final minute. Expect them to make the playoffs and possibly win the division now as they are currently in first place.
Tennessee Titans: The Titans are in a tough division that includes the likes of Jacksonville and Indianapolis. In order for Tennessee to have a chance at making the playoffs, they would have needed a record of at least 2-1 after 3 games. Starting 3-0 will obviously give them a much better chance at not only making the playoffs but potentially winning the AFC South as Indy and Jacksonville are both 1-2 and Houston is 0-2. Kerry Collins has been carrying the load so far and been performing better than Vince Young who is currently sidelined with injury. Jeff Fisher announced that he will stick with Collins if he keeps winning. The main reason that Tennessee is undefeated is their defense has been phenomenal. They rank third in the league in yards allowed and first in points allowed.
Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens are undefeated but only played 2 games. They defeated Cincinnati and Cleveland; two teams who have underperformed significantly and are currently 0-3. However, the fact that they are 2-0 is still impressive for them as they were 5-11 in 2007 and completely written off as a team that didn’t stand a chance to win anything. Baltimore’s success, just like Tennessee’s, has been related to strong defensive performances. The Ravens rank first in yards allowed and second in points allowed. Additionally, they were forced to start the season with Joe Flacco, their third string quarterback, as starter Kyle Boller is out for the season and Troy Smith is recovering from a virus. We will find out exactly where the Ravens stand after they face the Steelers because they will be facing a strong opponent on the road. If they can at least prove that they can compete with Pittsburgh, then they have the right to be considered a playoff contender.