NFL Predictions Week 3: What to Look for

Chris McduffyContributor ISeptember 22, 2011

If Mcnabb struggles rookie Christian Ponder could get his first regular season action on Sunday
If Mcnabb struggles rookie Christian Ponder could get his first regular season action on SundayHannah Foslien/Getty Images

Week 3 has a host of division matchups that will set the barometer as to who is for real and who is not.  Four games that I will be watching closely will be the Vikings vs. the Lions, the Patriots vs. the Bills, the Eagles vs. Giants and the Falcons vs. the Bucs.

This week, the Detroit Lions face the Minnesota Vikings.  I will be looking to see how Donavan Mcnabb handles the best defensive line in the league.  The Vikings came into the season with high hopes after acquiring McNabb. Along with the veteran quarterback, and a Pro Bowler in Adrien Peterson, the Vikes felt confident.  However, after a disappointing 0-2 start, some fans are starting to question whether McNabb is washed up.  Look for Detroit to test the Vikings' secondary early and often.  Detroit 28, Minnesota 17.

Buffalo will face their barometer test this Sunday when they match up against the hot New England Patriots.  Buffalo will have the advantage of the 12th man when they face the Patriots at their home stadium (Ralph Wilson Stadium).  This will be a great test for the young Bills, and this will also let the NFL analysts from around the country know whether or not they need to jump on or off the Bills' bandwagon.  In a high-scoring game, I think the Bills surprise America and stun the Patriots.  Buffalo 35, New England 32.

In a game not lacking in storylines, the Philadelphia Eagles' home opener will feature a shaky New York Giants squad rattled with injuries.  Last year, the Eagles beat the Giants twice, one game in which the Eagles won on the last play of the game after three lackluster quarters.  Last week, Michael Vick sustained a mild concussion against the Atlanta Falcons (a concussion that happened while in the pocket), making his status as of right now uncertain for the game Sunday.  At this point, with many missing parts on offense and defense, the Giants may not be able to fake enough injuries to beat the Eagles, this with or without Michael Vick.  Eagles 28, Giants 10.

Lastly, the Atlanta Falcons face the young and hungry Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Both teams are 1-1 and looking to make a statement early in the season.  The Falcons are searching for their identity.  Will they be a running team looking to control the clock, or will they use the weapons they have acquired in Julio Jones, Roddy White and Harry Douglas, making their offense more explosive?  Tampa Bay is looking to show everyone that last year's success was not a fluke and even though they did not make a lot of moves in the offseason, they are still a threat in the NFC South.  I would look for the Falcons to showcase their two wideout weapons in White and Jones to overpower the young Bucs.  Atlanta 24, Tampa 14.