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After a loathsome lockout, the NFL is back in full swing and we are already in Week 3 in the blink of an eye. Some early season surprises thus far with Detroit, Buffalo, Houston and Washington all unexpectedly at 2-0. Meanwhile, teams like Kansas City, Indianapolis and Seattle, all division winners in 2010, sit at 0-2. Week 3 is loaded with eight division showdowns, so expect several close games.
This early matchup focuses on two teams with vastly different preseason expectations, but both sit tied for their respective division leads. The 49ers (+2.5) hit the road after last week’s heartbreaking 27-24 overtime loss to the Cowboys, while the Bengals return home after an equally gut-wrenching loss to the 24-22 loss to the Broncos. San Francisco is already much improved over last year, but expect the Bengals to play hungry in front of their fans.
Cincinnati 27, San Francisco 21
A huge early season test for the Bills (+9) in what will be a rocking Ralph Wilson Stadium. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s play has Bills’ fans as excited as ever, and Freddy “Boom Boom” Jackson provides a ground threat that they have no possessed in years. New England has more than impressed in a pair of wins, with Tom Brady already a back-to-back AFC Offensive Player of the Week winner. Expect the Bills to hang tough, but the Patriots should pull this one out late.
New England 38, Buffalo 28
The Texans (+4) travel to the Bayou to battle New Orleans in what could be the most important game in Texans history. Meanwhile, the Saints’ defense faces another tough challenge against a potent offense. While Houston is not battle tested thus far, the Saints are after having faced the two NFC Championship representatives in back-to-back weeks. The Texans will fight and claw to the end, but Drew Brees and the Saints are too much to overcome in the Superdome.
New Orleans 28, Houston 24
NFC East confrontations tend to always be exciting, and expect this one to be no different. The Giants (+6), despite being on short rest, have a chip on their shoulder after last year’s monumental collapse at home against these same Eagles. Philadelphia has issues of their own after Mike Vick suffered a concussion in the second-half of Sunday night’s loss to Atlanta. Eli Manning and an inefficient New York offense must turn things around to defeat Philly. I expect the Giants to answer the call however and drop the Eagles to 1-2.
Giants 24, Eagles 20
It took all 60 minutes for the Browns (-2.5) to top Indianapolis last week even though Madden cover-boy Peyton Hillis rushed for 94 yards and a pair of touchdowns versus a dilapidated Colts squad. Miami on the other hand, has gone against two teams without a loss in New England and Houston. Miami finally leaves the unfriendly confines of Landshark Stadium where they are 1-9 the past two seasons. Expect Tony Sparano and the Dolphin’s coaching staff to orchestrate a winning gameplan versus the Browns.
Dolphins 28, Browns 10
Despite cries for Tim Tebow from the Broncos (-7) fan base, Denver QB Kyle Orton has held his own in the opening weeks. Tennessee’s upset victory over Baltimore last week turned some heads, even though the continued poor play of Chris Johnson has upset fantasy owners. Regardless of overall talent or minimal preseason expectations, one of these two squads will be 2-1 after the end of this game. Look for Orton to lead the Broncos to huge road victory and vault them to the top of the AFC West standings.
Broncos 20, Titans 14
The Lions (-3.5) travel to the Metrodome to battle Donovan McNabb and the Vikings in a NFC North showdown that will have season turning implications. The Lions have shown no mercy in a pair of blowout wins over Tampa and Kansas City. The Vikings have had the opposite problem, possessing an inability to hold on to second half leads to fall to 0-2 on the year. Detroit QB Matthew Stafford has led an unstoppable offense that ranks sixth in passing while the Vikings rank 31st. The Lions will go into Minnesota and win convincingly over a rapidly declining Vikings team.
Lions 35, Vikings 14
Rookie QB Cam Newton has been sensational in his first two games, passing for 422 and 432 yards to open his career. Unfortunately for the Auburn alum, the Panthers’ (-3.5) porous defense has spoiled those two outings by surrendering leads to both Arizona and Green Bay. Jaguars’ QB Luke McCown looked foolish against the Jets, but Jacksonville’s defense is better than you think. Jack Del Rio will have his team ready to play Sunday and Maurine Jones-Drew will finally awaken for a big outing
Jaguars 31, Panthers 17
No team has been hammered by the injury bug more than the Chiefs (+14.5), who have lost a pair of young superstars in safety Eric Berry and RB Jamaal Charles for the season. San Diego returns home after a tough, mistake-filled loss to the Patriots in which a quartet of turnovers decided the game. Phil Rivers and the Chargers get back on track while putting the Chiefs in the AFC West cellar and in the driver’s seat in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.
Chargers 45, Chiefs 10
The Jets are flying high after an improbable Week 1 win over the Cowboys and a massacring of the Jaguars last Sunday, while Oakland is certainly steaming after blowing a 21-3 halftime lead over Buffalo to fall to 1-1. The Raiders offense is receiving contributions from Darren McFadden, Michael Bush and Jason Campbell, who have all looked solid to begin the year. Meanwhile, Mark Sanchez and the Jets offense continues to struggle to find a rhythm. Having said that, New York, as always, will find a way to squeak out a narrow victory.
Jets 24, Raiders 23
The Ravens (-3.5) inexplicably lost to the Titans 26-13 after the blowout of Pittsburgh in Week 1. St. Louis has their own problems with Stephen Jackson out, mediocre play from Sam Bradford, and a defense that can’t make big plays. There is no way a Ray Lewis defense loses back-to-back games to the dregs of the NFL, so expect the Ravens to win this easily.
Ravens 28, Rams 10
The Falcons (+1.5) fourth quarter performance against Philadelphia last Sunday night might have been the wake up call last year’s NFC #1 seed needed. Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman had his own inspiring comeback as well, but to an inferior opponent in Minnesota. Both teams were surprise blow out victims in Week 1 as well. Atlanta has superior coaching, talent and a veteran presence, which will vault them to a key NFC South win over the young Tampa Bay team.
Atlanta 24, Tampa Bay 20
Kevin Kolb and the Cardinals (-3.5) will look to take a stranglehold on the NFC West when they travel to Seattle to take on the Seahawks. Seattle is coming off a pair of road losses and travel home for their first game. The Seahawks always play better at home, as evidenced by last year’s upset NFC Wildcard win over New Orleans. Arizona is just too superior however, especially at the Head Coaching position for Seattle to hang tough. Look for Arizona to win big, regardless of homefield advantage.
Cardinals 31, Seattle 13
The marquee game of the week is another clash between these two rivals. While Green Bay (-3.5) sits at 2-0, their defense has struggled in allowing over 400 yards to both Drew Brees and Cam Newton. Chicago shocked the NFL with a trouncing of Atlanta in Week 1, but regressed in a major fashion in a blowout loss to the Saints. This game is a lot more even than people think, and with Chicago playing at home and possession of superior special teams, expect the Bears to sneak away with a gigantic division win.
Bears 20, Packers 17
The Kerry Collins experiment in Indianapolis is going as planned…terribly. With losses against Houston and Cleveland, the Colts (+10.5) are 0-2 and appear to have no prospects for improvement. The defense has struggled, the offense can’t move or score, and the team has a difficult schedule. Pittsburgh survived a scare last week after Ben Roethlisberger suffered a knee injury that removed him temporarily, but he returned in time for the Steelers to cruise over Seattle. Despite homefield, Indianapolis doesn’t have a chance in this one. Expect another blowout loss for the Colts.
Steelers 35, Colts 10
Week 3 is capped off with a good old fashion hate-filled rivalry. A rejuvenated Rex Grossman has silenced critics en route to a 2-0 Redskins (+5) start, including a come-from-behind victory last Sunday. Dallas had a comeback of their own, rallying from a 14-point deficit after Tony Romo returned with cracked ribs and a punctured lung. The Cowboys have a serious injury problem thus far, as both wide outs Dez Bryant and Miles Austin are nursing injuries. The Redskins are tough and here to stay, but Monday night is the Cowboys night playing in front of the home town fans.
Cowboys 27, Redskins 20