Week 3's games have their work cut out for them to live up to the NFL's first two weeks. Cam Newton is re-writing the rookie record books, Tom Brady is chasing Dan Marino's record and the Buffalo Bills (the Bills!!!) won Week 2's game of the week and may be featured in Week 3's best game.
All 32 teams are in the fold. The NFC North holds the season's first four-way bloodbath, as the Bears take on the Packers and the Lions try to extend their winning streak against the Vikings.
Here is a look at one writer's favorites for all 16 games, including the final scores.
The Houston Texans go to New Orleans in a cross-conference battle featuring two teams chasing division championships. The teams are bringing a lot of firepower into the SuperDome, and it will prove to be an exciting battle.
Andre Johnson might be the most feared receiver in the league, while Matt Schaub is working on another 4,000-yard season. Arian Foster may be ready to go, but Ben Tate has impressed just in case.
Drew Brees’ decision-making and pinpoint accuracy makes all of his teammates more dangerous, and the loss of Marques Colston won’t hurt as much as you would think. Mario Williams impressed with two sacks and a fumble against the Indianapolis Colts, but expect Brees to expose the 290-lb. freak playing only his third game at linebacker.
The teams are very evenly matched, so expect it to come down to which team plays the mistake-free football. In that case, I have to go with the 2009 Super Bowl Champs.
Pick: New Orleans Saints 31-24
The New York Giants have been a walking IR unit in 2011. Now, add Domenik Hixon and Mario Manningham to the list of no-gos against the Iggles. Eli Manning will be missing some serious firepower against a team that has plenty of it.
The Eagles need to do two things to win this game: contain the Giants’ passing game and stop Justin Tuck and company from delivering any big hits to Michael Vick. I think they are just good enough at both to move to 2-1.
Pick: Philadelphia Eagles 21-17
Blaine Gabbert will be making his first career start against rookie sensation Cam Newton. Newton has lit up the box score with 925 total yards in his first two NFL games. Still, he remains winless after a couple of close losses.
Gabbert can’t possibly do any worse than Luke McCown, who threw four picks in Week 2. Expect Newton to capture his first professional win, while it is a tough debut for Gabbert.
Pick: Carolina Panthers 24-10
The Buffalo Bills are trying to defeat the New England Patriots for the first time since 2003. Ryan Fitzpatrick leads a suddenly explosive Bills’ offense against a Tom Brady unit that has been on fire.
Neither team has showcased much defense thus far, and don’t expect that to change in Week 3. The Bills in two straight games of the week? Believe it.
Pick: New England Patriots 41-38
The Miami Dolphins come into Cleveland searching for their first win of the season. The team impressed in hanging with the New England Patriots, but laid an egg against the Houston Texans.
The defense was supposed to be there for Miami, while the offense was supposed to be the question mark. However, it is the Miami defense that ranks in the bottom 10, with the offense carrying the team in the top 10.
Colt McCoy should have plenty of room to build on his solid Week 2 against a D that is devoid of play makers.
Pick: Cleveland Browns 17-14
Could this finally be the year the San Francisco 49ers take the winnable NFC West? The team is an overtime loss from being 2-0 as Alex Smith is limiting the turnovers that have plagued his career.
The Bengals have been surprisingly competitive, and are two points from being 2-0 themselves. One of these teams will leave no worse than a tie for their respective division lead. Andy Dalton broke the 300-yard mark, and the team may be looking at its last week with Cedric Benson for awhile, as he is facing a suspension.
Still, I like the 49ers' D to prevail in this one.
Pick: 49ers 21-17
Chris Johnson has been bottled up and is due for a huge game. Enter the Denver Broncos’ 28th-ranked rush defense. The Denver D is still without Elvis Dumervil, so there is no relief in sight.
The Titans’ D has been impressive. Now it looks like they have the matchup for CJ2K and the offense to catch up. You have to root for Tim Tebow to have even a small impact at wide receiver, just for fun.
Pick: Titans 24-17
This NFC North showdown pits two teams going in very different directions. The Detroit Lions are the NFL’s rising team, while the Minnesota Vikings might be the final resting place for Donavan McNabb.
Adrian Peterson is always a huge threat, but the Vikings' offensive line will have their hands full with Ndamakong "Chaos En" Suh. Expect another huge day from Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson en route to a big divisional win.
Pick: Lions 35-21
The St. Louis Rams might be the NFL’s biggest disappointment, sitting at the bottom of the NFC West at 0-2. Things do not get any easier, as they take on a Baltimore Ravens’ squad that will be furious after their performance against the Tennessee Titans.
Pick: Ravens 24-13
The Jets are 2-0 and seem poised for another Super Bowl run, while the Oakland Raiders are a late-game collapse from joining them in the undefeated circle.
The Raiders should be furious for letting one slip away and will play tough. However, they simply do not have the manpower to hang with the Jets.
Pick: Jets 24-17
In two weeks, the Kansas City Chiefs have said goodbye to their two best players in Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry. Things do not get any easier as they open their division schedule against a San Diego Chargers’ team coming off a loss.
Expect another ugly loss for the Chiefs.
Pick: Chargers 31-13
Kevin Kolb enters his first divisional game with his new team. Kolb has anchored a Cardinals’ passing offense that has been the team’s best unit in his first season as a starter.
The Seattle Seahawks will not be competitive until they finally give up on Tarvaris Jackson and put in Charlie Whitehurst. I almost wonder if Whitehurst insulted Pete Carroll's mother. What other reason could the Seahawks' coach have for sticking with Jackson?
Pick: Cardinals 28-17
In arguably the NFL’s most competitive division, the Tampa Bay Bucs and Atlanta Falcons will be battling for the upper hand in the season's first NFC South matchup.
The evenly matched squads feature young star quarterbacks, big bruising backs and defenses that have been suspect thus far. I have to take the team with slightly more firepower in Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez on the outside.
Pick: Falcons 34-31
The NFL’s most historic rivalry will write a new chapter on Sunday, as the Green Bay Packers travel back to Chicago, where they ended the Bears’ season in the NFC Championship game.
The Bears were Super Bowl favorites, then a disaster waiting to happen in successive weeks. I’ll give them the revenge factor and they will be back to a favorite on Monday.
Pick: Bears 17-14
The Steelers took their frustration out on the over-matched Seattle Seahawks in Week 2. Expect more of the same against the Peyton Manning-less Indianapolis Colts in Week 3.
Pick: Steelers 31-10
Needless to say, this game hinges on the availability and effectiveness of Tony Romo. I expect this to be a close game regardless of Romo’s health and a tough one to pick.
Dallas is also without top possession receiver Miles Austin and Dez Bryant finally returned to practice Friday. The team welcomes back top corner Terrence Newman for this Monday Night matchup.
Have to go with the healthier team in a tough battle. Cue the Super Bowl hype in the nation's capital.
Pick: Redskins 24-21
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