By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) Yes, it is Bears-Packers week, but believe it or not there are 15 other games to be played this weekend. Here’s my take on how the NFL’s Week 3 will shake out with my predictions, my juggernaut games of the week, and my “juggernot lames of the weak”:
Juggernaut Games of the Week
(Home teams in ALL CAPS)
Packers 34, BEARS 16 – 3:15 PM
Packers versus Bears, part 183. What can be said that hasn’t been said already about this rivalry? This edition features teams heading in two different directions, and if you’re a Bears’ fan you’d prefer a u-turn. The Packers outlasted the Bears in last year’s snoozer of an NFC Championship game on their way to Super Bowl glory, and have firmly entrenched themselves as part of the NFL elite. The Bears seem to have gotten worse. Many wondered if the Bears were even worthy of hosting the NFC Championship game, and their on-field performance justified the criticism. The Bears simply weren’t and aren’t on the same plane of talent and scheme that the Packers are, and on Sunday it will be evident. Bears down, Chicago Bears.
SAINTS 34, Texans 27 – Noon
This game has the potential to be a track meet, featuring two high-octane offenses. Fresh off Week 2 pasting of the Bears, the Saints look to keep it rolling at home against Houston. There’s a lot of attention being paid to the video game-like statistics produced by Tom Brady and Cam Newton, but the level Drew Brees has played at cannot be overlooked. The decision making and accuracy have always been there for Brees, but it looks like he has more zip on his passes this season, which makes him even more dangerous. This will be the first true test for Houston’s defense and I don’t think they’re up for it.
Patriots 38, BILLS 27 – Noon
Who out there thought this would be the only Week 3 game featuring two undefeated teams? Nobody. The New England Patriots may be the Phoenix Suns of the NFL, in that they seem to view playing defense as being optional. With a quarterback like Tom Brady, maybe they’re right. If Buffalo allowed the Raiders to score 35 points and Jason Campbell to throw for over 300 yards, what will Tom Brady and the Patriots do? Hats off to the Bills for scoring a touchdown on every second-half possession last week, including an impressive final 15-play drive, with two fourth-down conversions, for the win. Patriots pick up their second AFC East win and get to 3-0.
Juggernot Lames of the Weak
49ers 17, BENGALS 16 – Noon
I might prefer being locked in a room playing a loop of Nickelback albums for three hours than watch one minute of this game. OK, that’s a lie. I’d prefer the opposite. Alex Smith versus Andy Dalton is a quarterback battle that will surely put butts in seats. 49er head coach Jim Harbaugh came under fire after last week’s game when he chose to forgo first-and-ten from the Dallas 22-yard line, keep three points on the board, and kick-off from the 50. It is hard to take points off the board, especially when your team is up by 10 points at home in the fourth quarter, so I think the criticism was overblown. In the end, it was the 49ers’ poor pass defense that cost them the win. Cincinnati is dealing with their own version of Proposition 19 this week, with the latest problem child being wide receiver Jerome Simpson and his mountain of marijuana. Cincinnati has chronic problems. Next up? A three game suspension for roommate-punching running back Cedric Benson. I like the 49ers to eek out a win in what will be three hours of pure football pain.
TITANS 20, Broncos 17 – Noon
The Titans are still waiting for their ultra-talented and ultra-wealthy running back, Chris Johnson, to justify the contract he inked before the season, this will be the week he gets back on track. With wide receiver Kenny Britt playing at a very high level, there will be running lanes in the Broncos’ run defense for Johnson to exploit. Even with their full compliment of players, the Broncos are a bad football team. It’s like current Broncos’ head coach John Fox went out to dinner with former head coach Josh McDaniels and his staff who ran up a huge bill, only to run out and leave Fox to pay for it. A few more losses and it may be Tebow-time in Denver, which will make them a viable candidate in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.
BROWNS 23, Dolphins 20 – Noon
Want to make your offense look better than it actually is? Schedule a game against the Dolphins. After two weeks, the Dolphins rank dead last in defense, giving up almost 500 yards a game. Granted, they have played two high powered offenses in New England and Houston. But outside of Cameron Wake, this team simply does not generate enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Colt McCoy leads the Browns to their first 2-1 start since 2002.
EAGLES 27, Giants 20 – Noon
It sounds like it’s all system go for bell-rung Eagles quarterback Mike Vick, so we’ll have to wait for game one of the Mike Kafka era. After watching the Eagles reel off 21 straight third-quarter points last week in Atlanta, I was stunned by their fourth-quarter collapse. Vick’s injury didn’t help, but neither did his late second quarter fumble at Atlanta’s four yard-line which led to an Atlanta touchdown before the half. The Giants limp into this game searching for an identity on offense. The Falcons were able to tenderize the Eagles defense with a heavy dose of Michael Turner, so expect a run-heavy game-plan for the Giants. In the end, quarterback Eli Manning doesn’t have enough healthy weapons in the passing game to pull this game out.
Lions 30, VIKINGS 20 – Noon
I called it bum-stomping last week when I predicted the Lions would walk all over a pathetic Kansas City team, so this week I’ll upgrade it to transient-trampling when they beat the Vikings. Make no mistake about it, I like what the Lions are building. I said in my NFC North preview that if the Lions can keep quarterback Matthew Stafford upright, we could be looking at the genesis of best quarterback-wide receiver (Calvin Johnson) combination for years to come. If the Lions have four wins after week five, then I’ll start determining how I would like my crow to be prepared. In the meantime, dismiss all the boo-yah blather about how great the 3-0 Lions are.
PANTHERS 23, Jaguars 13 – Noon
Back in April, nine picks separated Carolina quarterback Cam Newton and Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert in the draft, but I think the separation will look much wider this Sunday. The only thing missing from Cam Newton’s impressive first start was a victory. Objective observers looked at it with a cynical eye, given it came against the Cardinals. But following that game up with a 422-yard performance against the defending Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers may have changed some opinions. Should Jaguar fans expect the same type of performance from Gabbert? No. No, they should not. Sir Cam Newton picks up the first win of his NFL career against a dismal Jacksonville team.
Jets 27, RAIDERS 16 – 3:05 PM
Go West, young Mark. Jets GQ QB, Mark Sanchez, heads back to his home state for a battle in the bay against the Oakland Raiders. Jets head coach Rex Ryan likes to call his philosophy “ground and pound” but seeing how stagnant the rushing attack has been, it’s more apt to call it “pass and smash.” Sanchez has had to carry the load for the Jets offense so far, and he should light up a bad Raiders’ pass defense. Jets defense feasted on a floundering Jaguars attack last weekend, and now they get a second serving of dessert in Oakland.
CHARGERS 34, Chiefs 10 – 3:05 PM
If you’re looking for a sure thing this weekend the Chargers are it. In fact, moving forward, anyone who is playing the Chiefs can be considered a sure thing. The Chiefs do nothing well, except punt. In a matter of two weeks, they’ve lost their best defensive player, safety Eric Berry, and their best offensive player, running back Jamaal Charles, for the season. Chiefs head coach Todd Haley is sitting on the hot seat, but former New England Patriot front office “prodigy” and current Chiefs’ general manager, Scott Pioli, deserves as much, if not more, of the blame as Haley for hitching the Chiefs’ wagon to Matt Cassell. This game will be over before it starts.
Ravens 31, RAMS 13 – 3:05 PM
What happened to Baltimore last week? It was Super Bowl or bust for Baltimore after their Week 1 pasting of Pittsburgh, only to get doubled-up last week in Tennessee. Talk about bust. I’ve always said that Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco is good enough to break your heart, and games like last week help prove that argument. What more does he need to succeed? He has a suffocating defense, a dynamic running back, and very capable wide receivers, so he’s out of excuses. Luckily this week they play St. Louis. Pre-season expectations were high in the “Lou”, and now this team is dealing with the very realistic possibility of starting the season 0-7.
Cardinals 24, SEAHAWKS 13 – 3:15 PM
This game came dangerously close to being a lame of the weak, but I have the feeling every game involving Seattle this year will be that way. Apparently it was a package deal when Seattle hired offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell from Minnesota, as he brought quarterback Tarvaris Jackson along with him. I think Seattle might want a re-do on half of that decision. Even though Seattle is a tough venue for visiting teams, their offense is dreadful, and will not take advantage of a soft Arizona pass defense. Arizona is no prize pig either, but in a game where points matter, they’ll score more of them.
Falcons 27, BUCCANEERS 20 – 3:15 PM
Other than being the home team, I’m not quite sure how the Bucs are favorites in this game considering how they’ve played thus far. The Falcons are fresh off a thrilling comeback victory against Mike Vick’s Eagles, spoiling his Atlanta homecoming. Once the Atlanta offense got rolling in the second half of the game it was impressive to watch. Look for the Falcons to notch their first divisional win of the season with a steady dose of Michael Turner against a soft Tampa Bay run defense.
Steelers 31, COLTS 6 – 7:20 PM
Prior to the season this looked like a game worthy of prime-time featuring two AFC powerhouses. Now? Not so much. Could a rogue MVP-voter put in a ballot for Peyton Manning in jest? Based on how poorly the Colts have played without him, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. The Colts went from AFC South favorite to Andrew Luck candidate with one neck injury. The Steelers defense on turf against a toothless Colts attack could bear the first Curtis Painter sighting of 2011. This game will be over by halftime, allowing everyone to tuck in early and be fresh for work on Monday.
Last Week: 12-4 / Overall 21-11
Dan Durkin joined The Score’s columnist community after finishing runner-up in the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he was a member of the men’s football team (despite his best efforts to join the women’s team). Dan is a longtime Scorehead, known as Dan in Wicker Park – even though he no longer resides in Wicker Park – who will be sharing NFL analysis and opinions. You can follow Dan on Twitter @djdurkin. To read more of Dan’s blogs click here.