By Dan Durkin
(CBS) The league-wide air raid continues. There have been 23 individual 300-yard performances through two weeks, tying an NFL record.
Here’s my take on how Week 3 will play out.
(Home team in all CAPS)
VIKINGS 24, Browns 13 – Noon
Losing in the waning moments of a road game against a divisional opponent due to a coverage bust in the secondary made for a painful week in Minnesota. Fortunately, the Browns – the NFL equivalent of Oxycontin – are in town. Apparently, the Browns have opted to not participate in the 2013 season, trading 2012 first-round pick Trent Richardson to the Colts. With Richardson gone and Weeden a bust, the Browns are pushing reset. But what’s less than zero? Brian Hoyer? Willis McGahee? Cleveland’s already talking draft in Week 3.
PATRIOTS 24, Bucs 17 – Noon
Even though they’re 2-0, the Patriots are out of sorts. They’ve barely squeaked out wins against AFC East cellar dwellers. Tom Brady is visibly frustrated with the options he has to work with in the passing game. His receivers aren’t where he expects them to be and drop the ball when they are. Luckily, the Bucs are in even worse shape. Tampa’s suffered back-to-back late game collapses and their coach and quarterback are feuding. Give me the Pats.
Texans 24, RAVENS 21 – Noon
Despite several missed scoring opportunities, the Ravens pulled out their first win of the season against the downtrodden Browns. Baltimore’s playing with more tempo on offense and is turning up the heat defensively. The Texans have earned their 2-0 mark by pulling off two late-game comebacks. Rookie DeAndre Hopkins looks to be the complementary receiver to Andre Johnson they’ve sorely lacked, so the Ravens secondary must be sound in coverage. Tough to win on the road, but with Ray Rice iffy to play, I like the Texans.
COWBOYS 27, Rams 23 – Noon
Both of these teams are hoping to strike a better balance on offense. For the Cowboys, it’s a matter of quarterback longevity, as Tony Romo is already taking pain injection shots to play. For the Rams, it’s a matter of getting out to a lead, as through two games, they’ve found themselves playing from behind. The Rams young defensive line is relentless and will press the pocket, but their secondary has had coverage breakdowns. Dez Bryant and company will be the difference.
Chargers 23, TITANS 20 – Noon
The two biggest surprises of the young 2013 season square off in Tennessee. These teams also share the misfortune of losing late leads to the Texans. Last week, the Chargers went against the odds, traveling coast-to-coast for a noon kickoff after a tough Monday night loss and beat the Eagles. They spread Philadelphia out and Philip Rivers found the voids in their pass defense. While the Titans have made defensive improvements, the Chargers are the more talented team.
SAINTS 30, Cardinals 23 – Noon
It hasn’t been pretty, but the Saints are 2-0, division wins nonetheless. The scary part is their offense has yet to click. For the Cardinals, they could easily be winless or undefeated, so their 1-1 record is fitting. The Cardinals have been very stingy against the run, which plays into the pass-happy Saints hands. The Brees-to-Graham connection was in full effect, putting pressure up the vertical seam of the defense. More of the same this weekend in Nola.
Lions 31, REDSKINS 27 – Noon
Can the Redskins defense stop anybody? They’re giving up over 500 yards and 35 points a game. After watching Aaron Rodgers slice up their secondary, Matt Stafford is ecstatic to be next in line. Offensively, the Redskins are putting up numbers, but that’s been a byproduct of playing from behind. The Redskins have trailed by no less than 19 points at halftime of their first two games, and their offense has yet to score a first-half touchdown. I had concerns about the Redskins before the season started and my doubts have since doubled.
Packers 34, BENGALS 24 – Noon
With Aaron Rodgers – coming off a career-high 480 passing yard performance – and the juggernaut Packers passing attack in town, it’s a bad week for the Bengals secondary to be banged up. Offensively, the Bengals sputtered against the Steelers and will have their hands full with Clay Matthews. For two weeks, the Packers have chased around two of the most mobile quarterbacks in the league, but get a reprieve this week with Andy Dalton. After facing three 2012 playoff teams to start the season, the Packers will feel good heading into their bye week at 2-1.
Giants 24, PANTHERS 20 – Noon
Can you smell the desperation in Charlotte? Two winless teams look to get off the schneid. Historically, the Giants have been in this position before and rebounded well. In 2007, they started 0-2, yet hoisted the Lombardi hardware at season’s end. The Panthers, on the other hand, may be playing their last game with Ron Rivera at the helm. Under Rivera, the Panthers have lost 10 of 21 games in which they held a fourth quarter lead. Despite his high turnover totals, Eli Manning will dissect an injury-riddled Panthers secondary.
Falcons 23, DOLPHINS 21 – 3:05 PM
Even with an undefeated record, as of Wednesday, there were still tickets available for the Dolphins home opener. Step up, Miami sport fans. Perhaps they’re still dubious of the 2-0 record? As they should be. Yes, the Dolphins snapped the Colts seven-game home win streak last week, but now comes a real test. Without the services of running back Steven Jackson, the Falcons will be more reliant on the pass. Will their protection hold up against the dynamic Dolphins front? In what should be a great game, I’m giving a slight edge to the more experience Falcons.
49ERS 31, Colts 20 – 3:25 PM
Despite losing at home last week to the Dolphins, the Colts made the biggest headline this week, trading a 2014 first-round pick for Browns running back Trent Richardson. In a suspect AFC – outside of the Broncos – this was a shrewd move by the Colts, particularly over the long-term. Richardson will force teams to drop a safety into the box, opening up passing lanes for Andrew Luck. The 49ers were completely shut down by the Seahawks, mustering a meager three points. A salty group of 49ers is bad news for the Colts this weekend.
SEAHAWKS 31, Jaguars 10 – 3:25 PM
The NFL’s (arguably) best team faces undeniably the NFL’s worst team. Safely assuming you can guess which one is which. What plausible argument can be made for the Jaguars in this game? Perhaps pity points from Pete Carroll against his former defensive coordinator Gus Bradley? Not bloody likely. This game is already over. Seriously.
Bills 20, JETS 16 – 3:25 PM
The top two quarterbacks of the 2013 draft face off for third place in the AFC East. It’s pretty clear after two games why EJ Manuel was drafted before Geno Smith. Despite accuracy issues, Manuel’s the superior physical prospect and plays with poise in the pocket. Smith has shown the same major flaw that plagued him coming out of college, a lack of pocket awareness. Three fourth quarter interceptions against the Pats – one on a potential game tying drive – doomed the Jets. I like the Bills on the road.
Bears 20, STEELERS 17 – 7:30 PM
It’s only Week 3, yet the Steelers are in a must-win situation. Defensively, they still have enough talent to compete. Offensively, they’re out of sorts. A misfit offensive coordinator, porous offensive line, no running game, and limited passing threats. Outside of Antonio Brown, the Steelers won’t put enough pressure over the top of the Bears Cover-2. I’m anticipating a close game, but like the Bears pick up a road win en route to 3-0.
BRONCOS 37, Raiders 16 – 7:40 PM Monday Night
This game is the silver medalist on the Week 3 lopsided matchup podium. Peyton Manning versus Terrelle Pryor, need I say more? The Raiders are getting to the quarterback, but they’re using their secondary to do so. The Broncos love to spread teams out, so blitzing Peyton Manning is asking to be beat deep. The only part of this game the Raiders have a chance of winning in the coin toss.
Season Record (22-11)
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