Wall-to-wall ball on Sunday.
The action starts 9:30 a.m. Eastern with the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets facing off in London, and wraps up with an intriguing Sunday night game featuring New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees and his injured rotator cuff trying to avoid a surprising 0-4 start against a Dallas Cowboys teams attempting to stop a tailspin minus QB Tony Romo.
Let’s take a closer look at the action . . .
Carolina Panthers (3-0) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2)
The Carolina Panthers have rushed for 100 yards or more in 14 straight games. This helps Cam Newton, a very good but not elite quarterback, and needs a running game to buttress his skillset.
It also helps sell play-action fakes, which the Panthers should have success with this week. In a win over the Buccaneers last week, Houston Texans quarterback Ryan Mallet was 7 of 7 on plays with a play-action fake. This game is tough to call because it’s in Tampa Bay, and with their conservative approach, most Panthers games play close.
This should be close as well and could go either way.
Cleveland Browns (1-2) at San Diego Chargers (1-2)
If you are an offensive lineman with some ability, you might want to give the Chargers a call.
They play without three starters on their offensive line – left tackle King Dunlap, left guard Orlando Franklin and center Chris Watt. On top of that, right guard D.J. Fluker plays with a bad ankle. What a mess!
This factor should certainly help the Browns’ last-ranked rush defense improve their ranking.
A story on Harvey Levin’s TMZ website claims that three anonymous offensive starters feel quarterback Johnny Manziel gives the Browns a better chance to win than current starter Josh McCown. If the Browns lose this game to the beleaguered Chargers, the ranks of the anonymous might increase.
The game is very hard to call not knowing how the reconfigured Chargers line will function together.
Green Bay Packers (3-0) at San Francisco 49ers (1-2)
The 49ers field an awful secondary, and they face perhaps the game’s best quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. This could get ugly.
In the last two games, the 49ers yielded 43 and 49 points in losses to Pittsburgh and Arizona. It would be an upset of significant proportions if the 49ers win this game.
Houston Texans (1-2) at Atlanta Falcons (3-0)
Atlanta coach Dan Quinn is no dummy.
Several teams expressed interest in the former Seattle defensive coordinator for their heading coaching positions last off-season, and he chose the only opening that boasted a franchise quarterback in his prime – Matt Ryan.
Smart move in a quarterback-driven league. Led by Ryan, the Falcons are currently 3-0, and tied for first place in the NFC South. As for the Texans, they still look for a franchise quarterback, as they try to get by with Ryan Mallett.
It would certainly help Mallett if superstar tailback Arian Foster can return from a groin injury. “It feels great and so yeah, I feel like I’ve got a chance,” Foster said.
If Foster and talented offensive left tackle Duane Brown (broken hand) can suit-up in Atlanta, the Texans have a chance of pulling the upset. Both remain game-time decisions.
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2) at Indianapolis Colts (1-2)
The status of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck for Sunday remains a mystery.
Luck has a shoulder injury, and didn’t practice Friday, but Colts coach Chuck Pagano claims to be “supremely confident” that his star quarterback will play. If he can’t go, the Colts will start 40-year-old Matt Hasselbeck, the brother-in-law of Fox News’ Elizabeth Hasselbeck.
Considering how banged-up the Jaguars are (six starters out), the Colts should be able to win this home game with Luck or Hasselbeck.
Kansas City Chiefs (1-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-0)
One reason the Chiefs struggling is their horrendous third down offense. Chiefs coach Andy Reid was asked what they need to do to improve. “Convert,” Reid said.
There you have it. In order to convert, their struggling offensive line needs to play better, which could be hard this week against a talented Bengals front.
All signs point to Cincinnati in this game, but be careful picking against Reid with his back against the wall. The erudite Chiefs coach burned the midnight oil all week and will have the mother of all game plans on Sunday.
Minnesota Vikings (2-1) at Denver Broncos (3-0)
The Broncos lost their stud left offensive tackle Ryan Clady for the season, and now his replacement, Ty Sambrailo, sits with a shoulder injury. Immobile Peyton Manning behind a third-string backside protector combines for a recipe for disaster.
Manning’s mission this week should to get out of this game in one piece.
Denver should be able to win this game led by their defense, perhaps the best unit in the league. Talented pass rushers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware should give Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater fits, especially sans one of his starting receivers (Charles Johnson).
New York Giants (1-2) at Buffalo Bills (2-1)
The Giants should have a terrific game plan with 10 days to prepare coming off a Thursday night game.
The Bills play without two of their top offensive weapons – tailback LeSean McCoy and wide receiver Sammy Watkins. If the Giants win, it will be on the back of QB Eli Manning, since they can’t run the ball, and that likely won’t change against the Bills’ stout front.
This game could go either way.
New York Jets (2-1) at Miami Dolphins (1-2)
Rumors abound that if the Dolphins get blown out, like last week against Buffalo, Coach Joe Philbin loses his job.
These rumors probably come from somebody in the team’s personnel department, which thinks it’s assembled a great team, which it hasn’t.
The Dolphins will be without starting left tackle Brandon Albert, so expect the Jets’ talented defensive line to exploit his backup, Jason Fox, and keep the Dolphins’ offense off-kilter, and win this game.
Oakland Raiders (2-1) at Chicago Bears (0-3)
The Bears are clearly rebuilding, and the Raiders are now rebuilt.
The Bears’ best hope in this game is a heavy dose of tailback Matt Forte. One of the only positives for the 2015 Bears is Forte, who is second in the NFL in rushing.
And considering the Raiders rank last in the NFL in total defense, Forte could enjoy another big day. While it’s easy to assume that the Raiders will easily win, don’t be surprised if the Bears keep this close, or perhaps pull an upset, since the Oakland defense has a hard time getting off the field.
Philadelphia Eagles (1-2) at Washington Redskins (1-2)
The Washington Redskins host Philadelphia.
We refuse to mention the Philadelphia nickname in this article because it offends birds.
With both starting cornerbacks likely out, the Redskins could use a heavy dose of rain, which they might get from Hurricane Joaquin. If it’s a messy day, it might be hard for Philadelphia to throw as much as they’d like, and help the Redskins win this encounter behind talented tailback duo of Alfred Morris and Matt Jones.
St. Louis Rams (1-2) at Arizona Cardinals (3-0)
The Rams underachieve again.
“You look at those guys’ roster, I don’t know how these guys don’t win the Super Bowl every year,” Cardinals CB Tyrann Mathieu told NBC Sports.
Forget about the Super Bowl, how are they going to win this week traveling to Arizona to face the red-hot Cardinals?
The offensively-challenged Rams, who struggle on third down, face one of the top offenses in football. It will be hard for them to keep up, and the Cardinals should get to 4-0.
Dallas Cowboys (2-1) at New Orleans Saints (0-3)
The Saints will get franchise quarterback Drew Brees back from a bruised rotator cuff for this must-win game.
The Cowboys will start backup Brandon Weeden, who likes to check down to underneath routes too much, according to Cowboys VP Stephen Jones. “I think Brandon is going to have to step up and show he’ll go down field,” Jones said.
Brees is so much better than Weeden, giving the Saints a huge edge at the all-important quarterback position, and this should allow them to get their first win of the season.