The first two weeks of the 2011 NFL season was a mixed bag of inconsistent play that was hindered further by newly implemented rules, as well as a few record-setting moments by a pair of rookies in Cam Newton and Ben Tate.
Tate, of the Houston Texans, is not considered a rookie technically because he made the Texans squad last year. He did, however, get hurt in preseason and missed the entire 2010 season, so he is a rookie in my opinion.
Newton has gotten off to a nice start on the suddenly pass-happy Carolina Panthers. He is on his way to being the best quarterback chosen first overall in a draft since Peyton Manning was in 1998, though stars like Matt Stafford, Michael Vick, Sam Bradford, Eli Manning and Matt Ryan may beg to differ.
A lot of long-running rivalries resume this week, headed by such historic confrontations like the Green Bay Packers versus the Chicago Bears. Newer ones, like the Atlanta Falcons against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, are showing great promise because of all of the young and talented players each franchise has on their rosters.
While a few fans may not deem the third week of an NFL season as important as the weeks that will soon follow, the 16-game schedule certainly gives a sense of desperation of winning now. Maybe the NFC West applies even less to this theory, considering they are 2-6 overall right now.
Here is a look at how Week 3 will go, followed by power rankings that will certainly change drastically in just a few days.
I know Cam Newton has a lot of passing yards, but the Panthers don't run the ball anymore. Wondering why the team paid halfback DeAngelo Williams all that cash in the offseason has to be a question many have.
Carolina has given him the ball just 22 times so far. His backup, Jonathan Stewart, ran for 1,133 yards in 2009 and has only 23 touches. Newton leads the team in rushing attempts and yards, besides being the only Panther to run for a score this season so far.
I don't care how good Newton is, it is a questionable strategy offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski is implementing. This team needs to run to win! For all of that passing, the winless Panthers are still only 18th in scoring amongst NFL teams so far.
Their defense is 26th in points allowed, thanks to the fact star middle linebacker Jon Beason was lost for the season after getting hurt in Carolina's first game. They should move up this week after facing a Jaguars team that has one player, Maurice Jones-Drew, who can actually do something with the football.
Jacksonville head coach Jack Del Rio's gamble on cutting David Garrard has looked dumb so far because his replacement, Luke McCown, was horrible. Now Jacksonville is starting their rookie quarterback earlier than expected because of this.
Blaine Gabbert can't do any worse than McCown, but he will most likely feed Jones-Drew the ball 30 times or more. That will be key here.
Prediction: Jaguars 23, Panthers 21.
Detroit is doing just what many all thought they would be doing. This team is for real. Watch them play and see what I mean.
Prediction: Lions 34, Vikings 20.
Not only did the Bengals top receiver, Jerome Simpson, get busted with illegal drugs by the federal government the other day, Cincinnati just found out top running back Cedric Benson is being suspended three games.
I guess Benson can go finish out his jail time now after his appeal either reduces his sentence or gets rejected next Tuesday.
The Niners blew a win last week, but that is because Alex Smith is one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL. I predict Smith is going to be benched within the three weeks. But the 49ers are upset enough over last week to win this one.
Prediction: 49ers 24, Bengals 19.
Buffalo might have success against a beat up New England defense that has given up a ton of yards already, but the undefeated Patriots ride on Brady's abilities.
Prediction: Patriots 37, Bills 27.
Michael Vick completed 43 percent of his passes against a blitzing Giants defense last year. Now he is hurting with a neck injury because his blocking is horrible.
Still, the New York secondary is destroyed by injuries and Eli Manning has been mediocre at best this season. Though he thinks he in a elite NFL quarterback, the question is: Do elite quarterbacks lead a 27th ranked scoring offense with just a 80 quarterback rating?
That rating goes down more against the three Pro Bowl corner backs Philadelphia has, as well as the fact starting wide receiver Mario Manningham will not play and the other starter, Hakeem Nicks, is dinged up.
Prediction: Eagles 30, Giants 21.
The Titans shocked the NFL in Week 2 by beating the Baltimore Ravens handily, despite no running game to speak of. Chris Johnson looks like a guy who didn't go to training camp with his 77 yards on 33 carries.
But the Tennessee defense is the story. They are ranked fourth in the league in points allowed and it is hard to pass the football against them. The Titans already have forced eight turnovers in two games.
Denver needs to run the football well this week. They can't rely on just chucking passes all day, so maybe Tim Tebow will run a few option plays since that is about all he is good for right now.
Prediction: Titans 20, Broncos 10.
Since 1950, only 11 running backs have run for over 100 yards in the first two games of their careers. This list includes Hall of Fame players Earl Campbell and Marshall Faulk.
Another guy is this list is Ben Tate of the Texans.
The Texans rank first in both points and yards allowed so far. This will be the difference as that explosive Texans offense wears down a mediocre Saints defense.
Prediction: Texans 38, Saints 27.
Watching the Raiders blow a win against Buffalo last week was ugly. While Oakland can score points, they cant stop opponents from scoring. The Raiders have scored and given up 58 points, not a formula for success.
The Jets do not let opponents score often. Oakland's rushing attack is their best strength, while the Jets run defense is that squad's best strength.
Plus New York needs to stay on a winning pace with their division rival, the New England Patriots.
Prediction: Jets 34, Raiders 20.
The Chiefs are playing so bad right now, head coach Todd Haley will be lucky to to win five games all year. All of their best players are getting hurt, which doesn't bode well for the rest of the season.
The Chargers' offense is just too powerful for a depleted Kansas City squad. San Diego is also upset over losing last week.
Prediction: Chargers 42, Chiefs 14.
The Ravens got embarrassed last week after embarrassing the Pittsburgh Steelers the week before. Saint Louis is going to attack a suspect Ravens secondary that is ranked 28th in passing yards allowed.
With deep threat Lee Evans out this week, Baltimore will need to rely on the run game and their young tight ends.
Sam Bradford won't have wide receiver Danny Amendola to throw to, so Mike Sims-Walker will need to play big. Even if Rams star halfback Steven Jackson suits up this weekend, he may be best served in the passing attack since Baltimore is stout against the run.
Prediction: Ravens 24, Rams 21.
Game of the Week
This could be a helluva battle! The Bucs rediscovered a run game last week, which hasn't been seen since 2010, and this will help against a mediocre Falcons defense that is 28th in points allowed and 27th in yards allowed.
Tampa Bay cannot lean on the passing game as much as they have the first two weeks.
Matt Ryan has been inconsistent so far, but the quarterback did help Atlanta come back in a thrilling win last week. Pro Bowl halfback Michael "Burner" Turner has been the Falcons' biggest star this year, which is not a good deal for a Buccaneers defense ranked 31st in run defense and 28th in total yards allowed.
The best run game should win this, which is why I am going with Atlanta.
Prediction: Falcons 23, Buccaneers 17.
The last time was in a 2010 NFC Championship Game where the Packers prevailed, 21-14. In the three games the teams played last year, every contest was decided by a one score difference.
The 2011 Bears season is looking a lot like 2010, where the defense is carrying a erratic offense. The Bears' offense needs to step up this week because the Packers have the worst pass defense in the NFL, after giving up 800 yards in the air already.
But the Packers have weapons galore on offense. Plus, they take care of the football by not turning it over. The secondary is the weakness of the Chicago defense, so I expect Aaron Rodgers to pick them apart when he needs it most.
Prediction: Packers 23, Bears 21.
OK, Indianapolis quarterback Kerry Collins is already banged up and hasn't even been in the Colts' system for two months.
This is not a good sign when facing an angry Steelers team still seething after having their butts kicked two weeks ago.
Curtis Painter may be forced in if Collins struggles, and he was less-than-impressive in preseason.
Prediction: Steelers 34, Colts 10.
This rivalry is like all NFL rivalries today: watered down by free agency.
So these battles have A LOT less meaning to the players involved these days.
Dallas is banged up good and the undefeated Redskins are healthy. If Washington offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan doesn't almost blow a win again with his suspect play calling—like forgetting to run the ball in the second half of last week's win after halfback Tim Hightower had dominated the first half—then Washington should get their 39th win in 101 games versus the Cowboys.
Prediction: Redskins 27, Cowboys 24.
1. Green Bay Packers
2. Houston Texans
3. New York Jets
4. New England Patriots
5. Detroit Lions
6. Washington Redskins
7. Buffalo Bills
8. Atlanta Falcons
9. Philadelphia Eagles
10. Baltimore Ravens
11. Pittsburgh Steelers
12. Chicago Bears
13. Tennessee Titans
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
15. New Orleans Saints
16. San Diego Chargers
17. Oakland Raiders
18. New York Giants
19. Dallas Cowboys
20. Cincinnati Bengals
21. Jacksonville Jaguars
22. Arizona Cardinals
23. Minnesota Vikings
24. Miami Dolphins
25. San Francisco 49ers
26. Cleveland Browns
27. Saint Louis Rams
28. Denver Broncos
29. Seattle Seahawks
30. Carolina Panthers
31. Indianapolis Colts
32. Kansas City Chiefs