Believe it or not, it’s week three already in the National Football League and the real winners and losers of the season are beginning to show their real colors.
Yes, the Vikings are 1-1, but we all know that won’t last long as they get into the meat of their schedule. The 49ers are 2-0 and showing they have what it takes to make a push for a Super Bowl title.
That’s just one of the 16 games this week and one that’s probably pretty easy to pick the winner. However, like every week in the NFL there are surprises. The Niners versus the Vikings won’t be one of them.
So, without any further delay, here are all the games and my projected winners and losers. Ok, we’ll start with that SF vs. Minnesota game while we’re on the topic.
• San Francisco 27 Vikings 10: Christian Ponder is the league’s most accurate passer, but he won’t be after today. The Niners’ defense will be the difference in this one. While Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson will be an interesting matchup against the Niners’ defense, in the end San Francisco contains the elusive one and get after Ponder. The Niners also get at least one turnover that they turn into a score in this route.
• Tennessee 23 Detroit 21: The Lions sit at 1-1, but come into Tennessee looking more like the Paper Lions. I see this as one of the upsets of the week. Chris Johnson has a breakout game and Detroit shows why their lack of a run game and their inconsistency will be their downfall this season.
• Buffalo 28 Cleveland 14: The Buffalo defense will have its day with Cleveland rookie QB Brandon Weeden, but will also have to stop Trent Richardson. On the other side of the ball, Buffalo’s C.J. Spiller (yes, he’s the league’s leading rusher) will have his way with the Cleveland defense.
• Pittsburgh 24 Oakland 16: The Pittsburgh defense showed last week why they will carry this team to many wins this season by shutting down the New York Jets. They will do the same today against the so-far-pathetic Oakland Raiders.
• Indianapolis 17 Jacksonville 12: Yes, the Colts move to 2-1 as they get by the hapless Jaguars. In this sleeper, Maurice Jones-Drew will be all that Jacksonville will offer in offense for the Jags, while Indy rookie QB Andrew Luck does just enough to give his team an ugly win.
• Cincinnati 26 Washington 20: This is an intriguing game not because of Robert Griffin III, but because of the loss of two of the Redskins’ top defensive players, Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo. Cincinnati will look to exploit their losses and will probably be successful in that effort. Griffin will have his second straight week of inconsistency.
• St. Louis 20 Chicago 17: St. Louis has shown some moxie in the early going and have had some decent games from QB Sam Bradford. Chicago is still reeling from its bad showing in Green Bay last week and lack of leadership from Jay Cutler. The trend in the Windy City continues as the St. Louis defense picks up where the Packers left off and Bradford brings his A game in a close game.
• New York Jets 31 Miami 23: The Jets come back to life after their drubbing at the hands of the Steelers last week, but only because they are playing a not-so-good Dolphins team. In this game that doesn’t bring much excitement for anyone outside the New York and Miami area codes, the Jets will put together some offense today, while Miami’s Reggie Bush will have a tough time running against the New York defense.
• New Orleans 33 Kansas City 20: I can’t imagine that a Drew Brees-led Saints team is going to go 0-3, especially when they are playing at home. Kansas City isn’t built for a shoot-out and the Saints won’t be denied points in the Super Dome. I see Brees throwing for huge yardage today and Matt Cassell struggling for the most part.
• Tampa Bay 23 Dallas 21: This will be a knock down, drag out type of game at Dallas, but I feel Tampa Bay’s off-season improvements have been a bit more than those made by Dallas. The Cowboys’ beating at Seattle last week showed some ugly warts and even thought the Bucs gave up miles of yardage to Eli Manning and the Giants in the second half of their loss last week, I feel the Josh Freeman-led Bucs will get out of Texas with a close win today.
• Atlanta 24 San Diego 20: Neither of these teams has been overly impressive while going 2-0. There are just too many questions surrounding their fast starts. While the Falcons showed they can take the ball away with their treatment of Peyton Manning last week, their offense has been sluggish. The Chargers get running back Ryan Mathews back this week, but is he really ready to play? I think Matt Ryan and the Falcons get a couple of turnovers in this one to make the difference.
• Houston 27 Denver 23: The Peyton Manning love-fest takes another dive today as he loses at home against the Arian Foster-led Texans who will get their first win over a competitive team. Manning’s turnovers last week raised a few eyebrows and it won’t get any easier for the veteran whose arm strength has come into question. On the other side, Foster takes over games with his legs. Today won’t be any different.
• Philadelphia 28 Arizona 26: This battle of the unbeatens will be closer than most are predicting, with the Eagles coming back once again, despite turnovers, to find a way to win. Arizona is for real, as are the Eagles. The difference in this one will be the Eagles’ ability to get after their former QB Kevin Kolb. The Cardinals make a game of it, but somehow the Michael Vick-led Eagles find a way to win.
• New England 23 Baltimore 17: Many are thinking this is the game of the week … and I get the feeling these two teams won’t disappoint. There will be hitting, there will be some trash talking, but when it comes down to the end, it will be Patriots’ QB Tom Brady who shows why he’s one of the best in the league. The older Baltimore defense isn’t showing the teeth it once did and Brady will find ways to exploit. For the Ravens, they will discover that Joe Flacco’s inconsistency in the passing game will hurt them once again. For the second straight week, they don’t utilize Ray Rice enough and the Patriots will use turnovers to their advantage.
Packers 31 Seahawks 17: This Monday Night matchup will have some intrigue, but when it comes down to the end, it will be a resurgent Packers offense with WR Greg Jennings back in the mix that will be the difference. The 12th Man in Seattle and the Seahawks defense will slow the Packers to start, but when Green Bay’s defense closes down Seattle’s running game and forces the pass with rookie Russell Wilson, the former Wisconsin star will make mistakes. The Packers will get enough of a running game to allow Aaron Rodgers to pick apart the Seattle defensive backfield. Though the Packers start slowly in this one, it will be over by the fourth quarter as Rodgers rolls in the second and third quarters. Heck, they may even call over to the Seahawks’ sideline to see if former backup QB Matt Flynn wants to go in for Rodgers …