Tuesday, September 20, 2016

NFL Week Three Heightens Expectations

All of Week 2's touchdowns as we count down to Week 3

The NFL enters Week Three amid some genuine shockers but also amid a surprising - and surprisingly sharp - drop in TV ratings; explanations for why have varied between boycotting of Colin Kaepernick, boycotting of Roger Goodell, the absence of Tom Brady, the retirement of Peyton Manning.   Certainly there is likely some element of all involved.   A correction was probably overdue so right now one should not be excessively worried. 

Certainly it's not for lack of competitive games; the first two weeks have been strikingly well-played and competitive, and expectations have thus been heightened for Week Three.   Picks for the week -

Patriots over Texans -  Jacoby Brissett has to start with the out-of-left-field shoulder injury to Jimmy Garappolo and his unplanned foray into the NFL against the Dolphins showed his rawness but also showed there is legitimate ability there.   He will certainly have better preparation knowing he's going onto the field so leading more than two scoring drives should be a given, though one should keep an eye on Stephen Gostkowski after his stunning gag of a makeable late FGA.   They face a Houston team that's clearly on its way to a strong season with Brock Osweiler, a guy clearly not intimidated by facing the Patriots, but with a defensive front led by JJ Watt that isn't any better than the Cardinals and Dolphins fronts the Patriots O-line has manhandled already, plus Watt has been decidedly quiet against the Patriots in the past, notably last season in his own house.  

Cardinals over Bills - The Cardinals showed they mean business by laying 40 on the Bucs and they go to New Era Stadium for a Bills opponent that fired their offensive coordinator but that put up 31 points last time out. The Ryan brothers are buffoons, though, so they will find a way to lose.

Panthers over Vikings - The Vikings are onto something this year after stunning the Packers, but they go to a Panthers team that was stewing over the lost opportunity at Denver and responded by breaking out of a competitive game against the Niners and turning it into a massacre. A key matchup to keep an eye on is Sam Bradford to Stefon Diggs, who exploded against the Packers.     

Broncos over Bengals - This one I think will be tighter than some may expect. Clearly there is no collapse for the Broncos as Trevor Siemian has already proven doubters wrong with poised play, but this is his first road trip and he goes to a Bengals team hitting its home opener. The Bengals got embarrassed last week at Pittsburgh and have the talent to fight back given the opponent, the defending champs, and one recalls the last time the Broncos visited Cincinnati. The matchup to watch is AJ Green vs Aqib Talib.

Lions over Packers - This is an upset pick for me; both teams are 1-1 and both are coming off losses. The Lions, though, face a Packers team that has now lost four of its last five division meetings and hasn't won a home game against the division since 2014. The Packers also have signs of locker room dissension with one of Aaron Rodgers' O-linemen calling him out publically after the loss at Minnesota. Rodgers' inability to lead a comeback when he has to erase a gap of at least two scores showed up again at Minnesota.   

Ravens over Jaguars - Suddenly the Baltimore Ravens are stringing together wins again after a head-shaking 2015, while the Jaguars still have not taken that next step, and looked awful at San Diego last week.  

Dolphins over Browns - Only the Browns.   They go to a shellshocked Dolphins team hitting its home opener with a revamped Joe Robbie Stadium - now sporting sponsorship from Hard Rock - and with a quarterback in Ryan Tannehill playing his way out of the NFL.   But the Browns have bigger problems - they fell apart against the hated Ravens and such collapses usually bode ill for the season. 

NY Giants over Redskins - They didn't do it against the Cowboys and now the Redskins face a 2-0 Giants squad that's eking out grinders of wins.  

Andre Johnson's game-winner at Detroit

Titans over Raiders - This could be the highest-scoring game on this week's slate as Marcos Mariota and Derek Carr lit it up in their preseason matchup and their teams are 1-1; Carr has exploded the Raiders to 63 points scored while Mariota staged a memorable comeback from down two scores to beat the Lions; his touchdown to Andre Johnson was an absolute thing of beauty.   Anyone for a Titans-Raiders playoff meet?

Seahawks over Forty-Niners -  The Seahawks are struggling out of the gate having lost on the road again to the Rams, and they face a Niners squad that Blaine Gabbert has made into a team that's not the joke their backup quarterback has become.   The Seahawks did win their home opener and the Niners come back from the East Coast and Russell Wilson is the kind of quarterback who can start turning things around fast.

Buccaneers over Rams - Tampa Bay's obliteration by the Cardinals was the punch in the face that should motivate them to lash it out against a Rams team traveling from the West Coast to the East and which has shown zero offense.  

Chargers over Colts - There is an ominous sign for the Colts. The opinion has been expressed that the Colts made a fatal mistake signing Chuck Pagano instead of Bruce Arians, but the real warning sign is Andrew Luck may have plateaued in 2012-13 and simply can never be the transcendent quarterback his talent promised he'd be. He lit up the scoreboard at home against the Lions and still lost, then struggled against a Broncos team he'd dominated. San Diego has won six of the last seven meetings with the Colts, and Philip Rivers is 1-0 against Andrew Luck so far.

Chiefs over NY Jets - The Chiefs are smarting after losing to the Houston Texans, and they face a high-scoring NY Jets team that's looking like a team going for the playoffs.   I doubt Andy Reid will let the loss in Houston carry over to this meeting with the Jets, a team Reid has yet to lose to. 

Eagles over Steelers - The Steelers have a potent offense and a proven championship quarterback, but in the Eagles they face a team that's well ahead of expectations and has a quarterback in Carson Wentz who's looking like the real deal.

Cowboys over Bears - Why John Fox keeps Jay Cutler remains baffling as he is a failure, as Dak Prescott steadily proves himself to be one to watch down the road. 

Saints over Falcons - Neither team has proven they're up to a playoff bid, and one should start to be concerned that Drew Brees is no longer the elite competitor.   Matt Ryan certainly is not an elite anything even with a strong win at Oakland.  

So we await Week Three.

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