Week Three features a Keystone State battle between undefeateds, a Protest Bowl between two teams staging demonstrations during the national anthem, and a marquee matchup in Charlotte between the Panthers and Vikings that should temporarily distract from recent troubles in the Queen City.
Here’s the preview…
San Francisco 49ers (1-1) at Seattle Seahawks (1-1)
This contest features a pair of two teams at the forefront of the national anthem protest movement.
After they get their anthem protests out of the way, the Seahawks should win this game. They are the better team, and almost unbeatable at home.
Arizona Cardinals (1-1) at Buffalo Bills (0-2)
The Buffalo Bills fired their offensive coordinator Greg Roman last week, and promoted running backs coach Anthony Lynn to take his place.
What changes should we expect?
“The main thing is getting the ball to our play-makers,” said Bills QB Tyrod Taylor.
So Roman wasn’t trying to get the ball to play-makers? That seems hard to believe.
This game is a toss-up.
Minnesota Vikings (2-0) at Carolina Panthers (1-1)
Following a week of rioting and looting after a black police officer shot an armed black man in a city with a black police commissioner, a football game should be a good diversion for the people of Charlotte.
While they are coming off an impressive win over Green Bay, the Vikings enter this game with major issues.
They lost future Hall-of-Fame tailback Adrian Peterson and left tackle Matt Kalil to serious injuries. And keep in mind their quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is already out for the year with a knee injury.
The Panthers should win this home game.
Denver Broncos (2-0) and Cincinnati Bengals (1-1)
While first-year starting quarterback Trevor Siemian has helped the Broncos win their first two games, he’s still a major work-in-progress. The Broncos have struggled offensively in the red zone and Siemian hasn’t thrown any touchdowns to receivers.
The Broncos will be down three starters – right tackle Donald Stevenson, tight end Virgil Green, and outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware.
Don’t be shocked if the Bengals win this game.
Detroit Lions (1-1) at Green Bay Packers (1-1)
Some are starting to question Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers who has been good but not great since the middle of last season.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy claims nothing has changed with his star QB.
“Aaron is still Aaron,” MacCarthy said.
The Lions travel to Green Bay devoid of perhaps their top two defensive players, defensive end Ezekial Ansah and linebacker DeAndre Levy. Also talented tailback Ameer Abdullah went on injured reserve.
The Packers should win their home opener.
Baltimore Ravens (2-0) and Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2)
This was supposed to be the year the Jaguars turned things around.
It’s not going well so far. And if this continues, coach Gus Bradley could be looking for work after this season.
This is a must-win for Jacksonville.
In the first two games, their running game was anemic. So getting back tailback Chris Ivory, a high-priced free agent addition, who missed the first two games, should give a jolt to their offense.
Ivory might be the NFL’s most violent runner; he breaks tackles with regularity. His toughness fires up teammates.
His return gives the Jaguars a decent chance to get in the win column.
Cleveland Browns (0-2) at Miami Dolphins (0-2)
The Cleveland Browns are a mess. In their first two games, they lost their top two quarterbacks, Robert Griffin and Josh McCown, to serious injuries.
So they are forced to start rookie Cody Kessler against Miami.
On top of that, they play without several other starters, including safety Ibraham Campbell, defensive end Carl Nassib, wide receiver Corey Coleman, and center Cam Erving.
Miami will be without starting tailback/activist Arian Foster, who refuses to stand for the national anthem and sits with yet another groin injury (he had this problem with the Houston Texans).
The Dolphins should win their home opener.
Washington Redskins (0-2) at New York Giants (2-0)
The Redskins defense played poorly in the first two games, allowing 815 yards and 65 points. On offense, they struggle in the red zone.
The Giants spent a fortune on defensive players this offseason, and so far the investment has paid off. They did a great job shutting down Saints QB Drew Brees last week.
The Redskins possess a lot of talent, and desperately want to avoid 0-3. This should be a close game that could go either way.
Oakland Raiders (1-1) at Tennessee Titans (1-1)
The Raiders defense has been historically bad so far. They are the first team since the NFL/AFL merger to allow over 500 yards of offense in each of their first two games.
Defensive coordinator Ken Norton, the son of the famous boxer by the same name, blames himself.
If the Raiders defense is going to get going, this is a good week to do it. The Tennessee offense is pedestrian.
This game is a toss-up.
Los Angeles Rams (1-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1)
The Rams need to get their star running back Todd Gurley going – he has just 98 yards on 36 carries through two weeks.
This could be the week to do it. The Buccaneers miss three key defensive starters – linebacker Lavonte David and defensive ends Robert Ayers and Jacquies Smith
The Buccaneers were exposed in a blowout loss to Arizona last week.
This game is too close to call.
San Diego Chargers (1-1) at Indianapolis Colts (0-2)
Injuries have left the Chargers without several key offensive weapons, including perhaps their two best receivers (Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson) on injured reserve. They also lost all-purpose back Danny Woodhead for the season. And they could be without starting tight end Antonio Gates this week.
The Colts face some injury issues as well, but they get back two defensive starters from the injured list – cornerback Vontae Davis and defensive end Henry Anderson.
Expect the desperate Colts to figure out a way to avoid 0-3.
New York Jets (1-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-1)
The Chiefs have a problem – a shortage of offensive guards.
Starter Parker Ehinger is out, and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is very iffy with a high ankle sprain; backup guard Jah Reid is out.
And the strength of the Jets is their interior defensive line, featuring Mo Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and Leonard Williams.
Normally, this game would favor the Chiefs, but these injuries, combined with the Jets’ strength, make this game a toss-up.
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0) at Philadelphia Eagles (2-0)
This battle of the Keystone State should be quite entertaining.
Hotshot rookie quarterback Carson Wentz of the Eagles faces one of the games better signal-callers, Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger.
In his first two starts, Wentz has thrown three touchdowns and no interceptions.
But he faced two weak opponents – Cleveland and Chicago. The Steelers are a step-up in competition and their defense in recent years has been very tough on rookie quarterbacks.
Expect the road team to win this game.
Chicago Bears (0-2) at Dallas Cowboys (1-1)
Bears QB Jay Cutler will be out a few weeks with a thumb injury, and will be replaced by Brian Hoyer.
You could make an argument it’s not a dropoff.
The Cowboys have lost eight straight home games.
This game could go either way.