Week 3 NFL Preview: It’s Never Too Early for Conference-Title-Game Hype
The Week 3 NFL schedule is teeming with potentially great games, including two contests that could be previews of the AFC & NFC championships. Or not. Here’s what to expect this weekend:
Thursday, September 22
Julian Edelman Could Be the Patriots' QB
Houston at New England | Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass.; 8:25 p.m. (ET) on CBS
The Patriots are trolling the NFL at this point, right? Already without future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady because of his ‘Deflategate’ suspension, New England (2–0) lost second-string QB Jimmy Garoppolo to a sprained shoulder on Sunday…and beat the Dolphins anyway with rookie Jacoby Brissett under center.
If Garoppolo’s shoulder isn’t better by Thursday, Brissett will get the start against Houston (2–0) and its take-no-prisoners defense led by J.J. Watt. So what happens if/when Watt flattens Brissett? Receiver Julian Edelman will quarterback the team. Really. Edelman was a quarterback at Kent State in 2008, so he does have a little experience. Also, Patriots radio broadcaster Scott Zolak is available. If the Pats can win this one, the league may just want to hand them the AFC title.
Sunday, September 25
It’s Never Too Early to Hype Potential Conference Championship Previews
Denver at Cincinnati | Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Minnesota at Carolina | Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.; 1 p.m. (ET) on Fox
The NFL schedule-makers know how to keep our attention. Look at these two incredible inter-divisional matchups in Week 3.
In a (hype-alert) possible AFC Championship Game preview, the Broncos travel to Ohio to face the Bengals. Powered by their defense, Denver (2–0) looks like they are more than capable of defending their AFC and NFL titles this season. This might be the closest Cincinnati (1–1) comes to the AFC Championship, seeing how it's been 25 years since the Bengals last won a playoff game. Cincy’s Andy Dalton and A.J. Green will test the Broncos defense if Dalton has time to throw. Remember, these teams played an overtime thriller last December.
The defending NFC champions, the Panthers, host the upstart Vikings in another possible title-game preview on Sunday. It’s very early to assume both Carolina (1–1) and Minnesota (2–0) can win their respective divisions and meet with a Super Bowl trip on the line, but both teams have the talent to make it so. With the loss of running back Adrian Peterson, quarterback Sam Bradford will try to pass the Vikes past the Panthers defense. Carolina needs Cam Newton to fare better against the Minnesota defense than Aaron Rodgers did on Sunday night.
Once Is a Fluke. Twice Is Coincidence. Three Times Is a Pattern.
Oakland at Tennessee | Nissan Stadium, Nashville; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Washington at N.Y. Giants | MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.; 1 p.m. (ET) on Fox
San Francisco at Seattle | CenturyLink Field, Seattle; 4:05 p.m. (ET) on Fox
Any team can have a good/bad week in the NFL. Two, even. But three? That’s a trend. This week should determine answers to the following questions:
• Is the Raiders’ defense that bad? Oakland (1–1) has given up the most yards and second-most points of any NFL team thus far this season. Not good for a team that expected to contend for a playoff spot. Maybe it was just running into Drew Brees and Matt Ryan on consecutive weeks, or maybe Marcus Mariota and Tennessee (1–1) will light up the scoreboard, too.
• Does Kirk Cousins suck again? And how good are the Giants? Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins was a juggernaut under center during his team’s march to the NFC East title last season. Despite back-to-back 300-yard passing games, Cousins has the league’s 27th-best QB rating in 2016, placing him with the Shaun Hills and Brock Osweilers of the league. That’s not going to get Washington (0–2) back to the playoffs. Maybe he can turn up against the Giants’ defense. New York (2–0) is undefeated after two games for the first time since 2009, but they’ve only beaten the crappy Cowboys and crappier Saints. Calling the Redskins a "test" is setting the bar low, but they are the defending division champs.
• What's wrong with the Seattle offense? The Seahawks aren’t exactly in, um, Beast Mode. Seattle (1–1) has just one touchdown and 15 points in eight quarters this seasons. While Russell Wilson often uses magic, voodoo or Jedi mind tricks to beat teams, he will need to get the ball across the goal line from time to time. San Francisco (1–1) looked great in Week 1 and awful in Week 2. It’s hard not to think that they’ll continue that inconsistent play for the rest of this season.
The Battle of Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh at Philadelphia | Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia; 4:25 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Who ya got: Ben-sylvania or Wentz-sylvania? This battle of undefeated teams will get the citizens of the commonwealth riled up enough to argue for this whole week and beyond. The Eagles have been flying high thus far in 2016 with (hype alert) franchise savior Carson Wentz quarterbacking as if he was Norm Van Brocklin. Philadelphia (2–0) must protect Wentz while their defense tries to derail the prolific offense of Pittsburgh (2–0). Being at home will help Philly, but the Steelers should rule in this Keystone State Civil War.
Sunday, September 25
Arizona at Buffalo | New Era Field, Buffalo; 1 p.m. (ET) on Fox
Cleveland at Miami | Hard Rock Stadium, Miami; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Baltimore at Jacksonville | EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Fla.; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Detroit at Green Bay | Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis.; 1 p.m. (ET) on Fox
Los Angeles at Tampa Bay | Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.; 4 p.m. (ET) on Fox
N.Y. Jets at Kansas City | Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.; 4:25 p.m. (ET) on CBS
San Diego at Indianapolis | Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis; 4:25 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Chicago at Dallas | AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas; 8:30 p.m. (ET) on NBC
Monday, September 26
Atlanta at New Orleans | Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans; 8:30 p.m. (ET) on ESPN