2011 NFL Week 3 Preview & Predictions

September 22nd, 2011 by Scott Dargis | Filed under Eagles, Football, General.

With two weeks under the belt, the 2011 NFL season has looked more like a 7 on 7 two hand touch game. That’s not to take away from the great drama that has taken place on the gridiron especially in prime time, but the offensive explosion is just flat out crazy at this point. Tom Brady is on pace for a 7,500 yard season, Cam Newton (CAM NEWTON!) is on pace for just over a 6,800 yard season. Obviously both will come back down to earth, Brady maybe not as quickly, but still we are in store for a memorable and a very unpredictable season. Who would have thunk that the Bills would be 2-0? The Chiefs would have been this unlucky/bad and that the Lions would have lived up to the hype? I’m going to do my best to predict this weeks games.

Carolina Panthers at Jacksonville Jaguars
1:05 pm

The battle of the two expansion teams in 96′ comes full circle as both franchises will be starting rookie QBs. Jaguars QB Blane Gabbert will be making his first NFL start. He saw some action last week in the 4th quarter against the Jets in what was a blowout, so obviously we didn’t get to see what Gabbert had to offer. After a full week of preparation he will be ready to go. This really should be his third start, beginning the season with Luke McCown behind center. The safety valve that is known as Maurice Jones Drew will be used often in the Jags attack, but don’t be surprised to see Gabbert air the ball out early. The Panthers have given up the 7th most yards through the air this season.

Cam Newton gets his chance to try and go for a third consecutive 400 yard game and he might come close. It might be only a small sample, but the Jags have been very tough against the run so far (5th in the NFL) and average against the pass. Carolina has shown that they are obviously not afraid of airing it out and I expect them to do just that early and often. This game will be a fun shootout that will have fantasy football owners buzzing.

I’m taking Carolina 35-27, we have seen that Cam Newton can be a productive passer in the league and that question mark lingers above Gabbert. The Panthers may go down early, but Newton will be able to bail them out.

Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings 1:05 PM

It is still to early to say that the Lions are for real, but this week very well might be the determining factor. This is a game that they have to win, the Vikings are on the skids right now and have given the Lions problems for years. The difference this year is the new confidence that is sweeping through the motor city. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has wowed fans early on with his performances in Tampa Bay and home against Kansas City, but he isn’t the only offensive weapon that has been consistent. I’m talking of course about Jahvid Best.

We all know how good Calvin Johnson can be, but Best has proved early on that he is as good as advertised. A threat in the pass and run game. Best reached pay dirt twice last week, once through the air and the other on the ground. Combine that with the sudden reappearance of Nate Burleson and you realize just how dangerous this Detroit air attack can be. It will be interesting to watch the matchup against the Vikings secondary. Minnesota has shown very good coverage against receivers this season, which means that Best will be that much more valuable this week.

Offensively the Vikings finally got to see Donovan Mcnabb throw the ball down the field. He still does not have a touchdown which is so hard to believe, there just has to be more gas in the tank. With the Lions secondary still looking for an identity, Mcnabb will finally score a touchdown through the air. The x-factor in the game is Adrian Peterson, who has owned the Lions since he came into the league. In eight games against Detroit he has 814 rushing yards and 7 TDs, hard to argue against those numbers.

I’m taking the Vikings 24-20, in what will be a minor upset. The Lions won’t be able to move the ball down the field with the ease that they had last week against the lowly Chiefs. The Vikings know that they cannot afford to fall to 0-3 and I just think that the Lions arn’t quite ready to win a divisional game on the road as a favorite.

San Francisco 49ers at Cincinnati Bengals 1:05 pm

Very quietly last Sunday Bengals rookie QB Andy Dalton threw for over 300 yards, which just doesn’t seem like much this year. There is some potential firepower on that offense between WR AJ Green and TE Jermaine Gresham, but it still takes the arm to get the ball to them. Dalton played the position as good as anyone over his four years at TCU and has the skill set to be successful in this league. The 49ers offer him a chance to have a repeat performance of last week. They have been the best in the league at shutting the run down, which means that Dalton will have to air it out.

This is a must win for both teams, but more so for the 49ers. Every win is so valuable in the NFC West because it looks like once again it will be a tossup as to who finishes .500 and wins it. This is likely the last year that QB Alex Smith has the opportunity to lead a team at a division title, so he knows just how important these games are going to be from here on out. Last week they had a golden opportunity to get their first win of the season, but Tony Romo had the comeback that he needed to have after the debacle in week 1.

I expect the 49ers to try and control the clock with Frank Gore. Early on last week Gore tried to pound threw the Cowboys front 7, but he did not have much success. The wideouts have to step up this week. Michael Crabtree has been irrelevant and Ted Ginn Jr. has only been active in the return game.

I’m taking the Bengals 17-10. The 49ers will find a way to turn the ball over just too many times and will give Dalton a short field to work with. I don’t expect much out of Cedric Benson this week, but Frank Gore will do most of the damage for the 49ers.

Miami Dolphins at Cleveland Browns 1:05 pm

My oh my where has Reggie Bush gone. Dolphins head coach Tony Sporano said that he would be splitting carries with rookie Daniel Thomas at a 70-30 split, well Thomas touched the ball 19 times last week, Bush just 7 times. Thomas finished with 107 yards rushing and will likely get the chance to prove that it wasn’t just a one week wonder against the Browns. We have already seen that the Browns can be susceptible to giving up big runs, so I expect a similar performance from Thomas this week.

The real question for the Fins’ is can Chad Hennie manage a game that doesn’t require airing the ball as much as he had to do in week 1. Last week the passing game just seemed off and there is a simple solution to that, target Brandon Marshall as much as possible. This is the best passing attack that the Browns have had to face, so we’ll get to see how well that secondary is at stopping what has potential to be a high flying passing attack.

If you have Peyton Hillis on your fantasy team this will be a week that you’re glad to have him. The Dolphins have a pass rush that can be very disruptive. Cameron Wake and Karlos Dansby will give Colt McCoy fits, which will lead to Hillis having to take the team on his back and attempt to carry them to victory.

I like the Dolphins 20-13, this will be a low scoring game due to the amount of running that will take place. When the Dolphins need to they will be able to air the ball out, but they know that 0-3 in the AFC East all but eliminates them from playoff contention, so expect a much more controlled Miami offense that will confuse the Browns young defense.

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills 1:05 pm

The Bills have certainly been one of the early season surprises in the NFL, but this will be their first division test of the season and it just happens to come against the best team in the league. We will learn a lot about the Bills in this game. They have one of the most balanced attacks in the entire league and will have to use every aspect of their offense if they want to be close in this game. OB Ryan Fitzpatrick has been splendid so far and he seems to have finally found a place that he can find home. He might just very well be the best game managing quarterback in the league.

It helps when you have a guy who just wants to make plays every time he gets his hands on the ball, welcome to the big time Stevie Johnson. For everyone that said you were just a one year fluke you have in a two week time span proved them wrong. Keep this up and you’ll be in the talks of being one of the top receivers in the game. Buffalo’s offense also features the most undervalued player in the entire league in Fred Jackson. Since the end of the 2008 season when he emerged as a starter for this team he has just continued to play good solid football. He rushed for 1,027 yds in 09 and 927 in 10 and missed some time due to injury. He is the glue to the balance of the offense.

Everyone knows how good the Patriots and Tom Brady are there is no need to go over that, but just wait until he can actually use Chad Johnson at his fullest. The offense will only get better, if that is even possible. The reason that the secondary has looked so off in the first couple of weeks is the size differential in receiver to cornerback Devin McCourty. Week 1 Brandon Marshall (6’4″) was his assignment and in week 2 he drew Vincent Jackson (6’5″). This week he gets 6’2″ Stevie Johnson a little bit more his size.

I’m taking the Patriots 42-28, I think the game is close for the first three quarters, but a Ryan Fitzpatrick pick 6 is what turns this game into a borderline blowout. There is just too much firepower for an unproven Bills secondary to stop. The offense for Buffalo will have to try and control the clock as much as possible, but the Patriots know this and have to be game planning for a lot of Fred Jackson. Look for CJ Spiller to be used as a change of pace back and a little more Brad Smith than we have seen in the first two games.

Giants at Eagles, I’ll have my extended preview of this game on Saturday night.

Denver Broncos at Tennessee Titans 1:05 pm

It is time for Chris Johnson to step up. He has been irrelevant the past two weeks and that is being generous. For someone who had so much press in the offseason for his contract holdout, he is the key to the Titans offense that has a blown ignition. It’s a good thing that Matt Hasselbeck had the regular season game of his life against the Ravens. I mean seriously 358 yards who saw that coming? The Broncos secondary has had it’s problems so this could be a very good matchup for Kenny Britt, who really has to be looked at as an up and coming star on that team. If Chris Johnson can get it going the Titans could be onto something with this offense, just beware of Von Miller this week if you’re last name is Hasselbeck.

Kyle Orton only has so many starts left in Denver, as hard as it is to believe he just can’t keep going at this rate. Every loss is magnified in that city because so many fans want Tim Tebow to start. It really is a shame because Orton is a quarterback that you can build your team around in the vertical passing league that is the NFL. The fans in Denver believe that based on a squeaky clean image, Heisman trophy and national championships that this guy is ready to go in the NFL. There is obviously a reason that he fell on the depth chart to number 3, he just isn’t ready to go, give Orton a chance.

I just believe that the pressure has gotten to Orton, he doesn’t look as sharp as he did last year. It doesn’t help when the running back that was drafted to be the next Terrell Davis, has spent more time on the sidelines hurt than he has on the field. With Brandon Lloyd hobbled by injuries and a very old defense besides Von Miller, this is a team in shambles.

For all of the reasons above I’m taking the Titans 30-13.

Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints 1:05 pm

The Saints are coming off of a statement game against the Chicago Bears. Drew Brees looks as sharp as he ever has, but when are we going to find out who the featured back is for the Saints. The roulette wheel of running backs just can’t continue. It looks like early on Mark Ingram is the choice, but he only has 91 yards on 27 carries. Personally I think it should be Pierre Thomas, with sprinkles of Darren Sprolles throughout the game. He might be the best offensive acquisition in the offseason for any team. I might be getting ahead of myself, but that is the fun in watching the NFL, so many things can change so quickly.

The Texans will offer the Saints a tougher test this week because of their ability to stretch the ball down the field with QB Matt Schuab and WRs Andre Johnson and Jacoby Jones. Even with RB Arian Foster potentially out of this game the running aspect of their offense has been saved by Ben Tate who has cracked the 100 yard barrier twice in two games. Running back Steve Slaton may even make an appearance this week.

This game just has shootout written all over it and usually I would take the Saints to win a game like that, but I like the Texans in an upset 35-30. The Texans have a better all around offense and in a game like this that is what it takes to win. Drew Brees is the better QB, but i think he gets disrupted by the 3-4 defense.

Bonus Prediction:
The over/under on spear tackles by Roman Harper is 2.5, I’m taking the over.

New York Jets at Oakland Raiders 4:05 pm

This has all of the makings of a slobberknocker (JR!). Two of the most physical teams in the NFL will be battling each other in what will come down to a last second field goal. This will be a tough game for the Jets, as last week was much more of a formality. This game is going to be square in the hands of QB Mark Sanchez, as the running game won’t offer him much help. Ladainian Tomlinson will be effective in the passing game, but by now everyone knows that he is just not the same as he once was.

Raiders running back Darren Mcfadden tweeted in the beginning of this season that if he stays healthy he will be right up there in the talks with Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson as to who is the best running back in the league, well so far so good. He cruised through the Broncos in week 1 and was very effective not only running the ball, but catching it out of the backfield. He gets a real test this week and if he can pass it then he will be further on his way to proving that he is indeed one of the best in the league. Don’t forget about Michael Bush, aka “The Closer”. When there is a goalline run that is needed his number is going to get called quite a bit this season. He is a huge power running back that is a true change of pace from Mcfadden, even if that pace is slower.

Jason Campbell is going up against a fierce pass defense that just abused Jaguars QB Luke Mccown last week. Those four interceptions doomed the Jags and Campbell will have to be very careful with his throws. Wide receiver Denarius Moore wowed the masses last week with his 148 yard performance, but it will be tough to get open when he’s sinking on Revis island.

In a stunner I’m taking the Raiders 17-14. I think Mcfadden proves this week that he is ready to back up his statement in the offseason and I think Jason Campbell will be smart and won’t turn the ball over. The Jets offense benefited from short fields last week, but I still have questions about what Mark Sanchez can do. Their offense is not a well oiled machine at all.

Baltimore Ravens at St. Louis Rams 4:15 pm

It is not quite desperation time if you’re the St.Louis Rams just because of their division. Being 0-3 in the NFC West means that you are just saving yourself for the stretch run, which will be much easier than this just brutal schedule to begin the season. The Rams proved that they can move the ball down the field against the Giants on Monday night, they just couldn’t do anything with it once they got in the redzone. Three Josh Brown field goals arn’t going to win you games in this league and it certainly won’t against a now potent Ravens offense, that will be looking to rebound after an off week in Tennessee.

Both sides of the ball for the Ravnes looked like they were having a week 1 hangover, which is okay early in the season. Remember its a marathon not a sprint. Ray Rice, who I believe is the best running back in the league right now, will have a big game against a Rams defense that struggles against RBs who can catch the ball out of the backfield. Ahmad Bradshaw caught 6 passes and he isn’t in the same league as Ray Rice is in that department. The Ravens front seven will feast all day on a weak offensive line that has halted the growth of QB Sam Bradford and the rest of the Rams offense.

I’m taking the Ravens to put the Rams away 24-14 . Just too much offense for the Rams to stop and Bradford will get picked off twice giving the Ravens a short field to work with.

Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers 4:15 pm

It just will keep getting worse for the Chiefs. They come into this game as the undisputed worst team in the league and will face a Chargers team that is hungry after losing not only to the Patriots last week, but the division to the Chiefs last season. I don’t see anyway that the Chiefs can be effective in this game, QB Matt Cassel will be better, but he just has to be right? I’m looking forward to see how Dexter McCluster is phased into the offense with Jamaal Charles now out for the year. The guy was an absolute stud at Ole Miss and has game braking speed.

The Chargers are just way too good to lose this game, even if they give up a kickoff or punt return. The offense will score enough points to blow the Chiefs out. What I am watching for is the amount that running back Ryan Matthews is used. Mike Tolbert the other Chargers running back made some questionable decisions against the Patriots that ultimately cost the Chargers the game. Matthews has shown so far that he is dangerous not only running the ball, but catching it out of the backfield. Who will get the goalline carries this week remains to be seen.

For the reasons above I’m taking the Chargers 38-10 in the blowout of the week.

Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4:15 pm

This is a huge battle between two NFC South rivals that will go down as the best game of week 3. The Falcons are coming off of a huge comeback win on Sunday night against the Eagles. It will be interesting to watch how the first quarter unfolds, because there is a tendency to have a hangover after a win like that. Roddy White will finally break out and have a big game this week after being held in check by the stingy Eagles secondary. Michael Turner has averaged 84 yards against the Bucs so he has had success running the football.

Lets not forget about the Bucs who had a comeback win of their own and it was on the road to boot. Granted the Vikings are not the Eagles, but still it was a big win for a young team that has playoff aspirations this season. They just cannot hope to repeat their performance from last week because Josh Freeman won’t be able to guide a comeback against the Falcons defense. This will be a game that Legarrette Blount has to step up. The offense cannot become one dimensional and Blount is needed to restore some balance to what can be a potent air attack with WR Mike Williams.

In what is somewhat of a tossup pick I’m taking the Falcons 20-14. I think that Matt Ryan will be able to guide the offense to a divisional victory that has to be had to help restore their dominance in the South. This game will be a close contest throughout.

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks 4:15 PM

What a tough draw for the Seattle Seahawks, even though the 49ers and the Cardinals are not the Patriots and the Packers, this will be Seattle’s second divisional game in three weeks. This will likely be Tavarius Jackson’s last chance to show that he is capable of running the offense, as the Cardinals have one of the worst secondaries in the league. Even without Sidney Rice, Jackson still is going to have to find a way to make their offense vertical, if not Charlie Whitehurst will be under center either next week or in the second half of this one.

The Cardinals had a chance to be 2-0, but a late fumble against the Redskins crushed those chances. I’m not sure if there is a happier player out West than Larry Fitzgerald. He finally has a quarterback that can get him the ball. Quarterback Kevin Kolb has a QB rating of 110 through the first two games, even though his yardage is only 560, he has shown that he can be pretty accurate. With the Seattle run defense being as tough as it has been it will be tough for Beanie Wells to have any big production. This game will come down to Kevin Kolb vs the Seattle secondary, which is a matchup that he has to like.

These are the games that will make Arizona realize that they made the right move in trading for Kolb, as they will win this game 21-10 Last year this game would have been more of a tossup with maybe the arrow tipping towards the Seahawks, but with Kolb it puts the Cardinals over the top.

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears 4:15

Early on in the season we get a rematch of last years NFC championship contest. In a surprise the Packers were down to the Carolina Panthers, but the win was never really in doubt. In a league that has transformed into a pass dominant league, the Packers are overflowing with talent that allows them to stretch the field like no other in the league. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers appears to have gotten better in the offseason, the only thing that we have yet to find out about the Packers is who is the starting running back. Ryan Grant and James Starks have been interchangeable early on, but some point soon James Starks will take over the starting gig full time.

The other aspect of the Packers that has been noted after the first two weeks is the problems that the defense has had in giving up yards. They have given up the most yards in the entire league, due in part to the ineffectiveness of the pass rush. Cam Newton could have had 500 yards if not for Charles Woodson making plays, even if one of those was an errant throw by the rookie. Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz loves to spread the field out and expect to see three or four wide receiver sets all day against the Packers. Jay Cutler will have a much better game than what he had on Sunday against the Saints.

Just because this game is at Soldier Field I’m going to take the Bears 27-21. The Packers will face a defense that will bend, but not break. The Bears will keep exposing the Packers as a defense that needs figure out its problems quickly.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts 8:20 pm

The nightcap on Sunday features what would have been a premier matchup between Ben Roethlisburger and Peyton Manning, now it features Ben Roethlisburger against a Colts team that will need a miracle to be close not only in this game, but to be relevant this season. It had to be scary for Colts fans to watch last week as the Browns were able to come in and not steal one away from the Colts, but control the flow of the game in the second half. Peyton Hillis shut the Colts chances down of a come back and this week the Colts run defense gets an even tougher task in stopping Rashard Mendenhall. He is primed for a big week.

Kerry Collins will have to make quick decisions because he will have constant pressure in his face. His best bet is to try and make some quick throws early that will make the defense back off, because if they gain confidence on the pass rush you can forget about this one. This is just a really tough matchup for the Colts with their current state and I foresee the Steelers airing the ball out early and controlling the clock with the run late.

For the reasons above I’m taking the Steelers 32-14.

Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys, Monday 8:30 pm

In what will close a weekend dominated by divisional games, the NFC East will be on display Monday night. The Redskins have the opportunity to go on the road to a place where they typically play well and improve to 3-0 for only the second time since 1991, the other time was 2005. Rex Grossman has looked like the right choice early on to play quarterback, but the new and improved Dallas defense will prove to be a tough test. The Giants and the Cardinals both have secondaries that leave something to be desired, Dallas does not. That is why the Skins’ rushing game will be the x-factor if they want to leave the Jerry Jones coliseum with a win, both Roy Relu (74) and Tim Hightower (96) had good yardage on the ground against the Cardinals.

The big question will be if Tony Romo can suit up and be ready to go come Monday night. I expect him to play and be the effective playmaker that we know he can be. Yes he will make a mistake here or there, but he can a special ability that few in this league possess. He will have to gain trust in some targets that he isn’t used to, such as Kevin Ogletree. The third year wide receiver will get plenty of targets if Dez Bryant can’t go. Felix Jones (separated shoulder) and Miles Austin (hamstring) are also on injury watch this week. I don’t expect either of those two to play, which means that rookie RB Demarco Murray and RB Tashard Choice will split carries. I expect Jason Witten to have a huge week.

I’m picking the Cowboys 17-13 in what will be an ugly game because of all the injuries that the Cowboys have. Rob Ryan’s defense will give the Redskins pass offense fits all night and Tony Romo will do just enough for the Boys to pull a win out in the end.

So to recap I’m taking the Panthers, Vikings, Bengals, Dolphins, Patriots, Titans, Texans, Raiders, Ravens, Chargers, Falcons, Cardinals, Bears, Steelers, Cowboys.

What are your predictions for week 3 in the NFL? Tweet me your guesses @scottdargis. Enjoy Football!

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One Response to “2011 NFL Week 3 Preview & Predictions”

  1. I really appreciate what you post. You have a new subscriber now.