Welcome to Week 3 of the NFL season, where we are almost certainly going to see a team we expected to make a playoff run fall to 0–3 (the Titans or the Raiders), and the Giants, one of the NFL’s worst teams a year ago, look to climb to 3–0 against a Dak Prescott–less Cowboys team. We’re looking to crown the best team of the early season thus far in a game between the Bills … and the Dolphins. As if we needed another reminder the NFL is a strange place.
So get ready for another crucial week on the NFL schedule.
And to get it kicked off, Albert Breer and Conor Orr will take you through the Sunday and Monday games, noting the best matchups and what they’ll be watching.
We also encourage you to join us Sunday for our live blog, where we can trade notes and discuss what should be a fascinating week.
GAMES OF THE WEEK
Eagles at Commanders, 1 p.m. ET Sunday: It’s hard to imagine the Carson Wentz Bowl as advertised. The most noteworthy aspect of this game may be how many Eagles fans heartlessly rip down Interstate 95 to boo a quarterback who really never did anything wrong to the city of Philadelphia. Sigh. I’ll be watching to see how Ron Rivera defends Jalen Hurts. Last week the Vikings tried to take away the Eagles’ running game, and Hurts had a breakout passing performance in prime time. This week the Commanders will be wary of a stellar all-around skill set. — Conor Orr
Bills at Dolphins, 1 p.m. ET Sunday: Any questions left on the Bills? These two teams go into Sunday’s showdown at Hard Rock Stadium with the same record (2-0) but very different things to prove. For Buffalo, really, what’s left now is showing it can handle being the hunted (seemed to go O.K. for them on Monday night). For the Dolphins, scoring an early win over the Bills would validate their fast start, and what coach Mike McDaniel and the players have built in their first year together. (If the Dolphins win this one, I’d expect it to be on the margins, with good situational play.) — Albert Breer
Ravens at Patriots, 1 p.m. ET Sunday: This has the makings of a disaster for whichever team ends up losing. Ultimately, it’s hard to imagine the Patriots possessing the offensive firepower to score alongside Lamar Jackson, though Bill Belichick has drawn up a few successful defensive game plans in big spots before (you know, the sitting-in-the–Hall of Fame kind). Still, this new offense has had its growing pains. Mac Jones is missing throws and open wide receivers. These are mistakes one cannot make against Baltimore. — C.O.
Packers at Buccaneers, 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday: The Packers’ offense struggled in Week 1 with both its tackles injured. Elgton Jenkins returned in Week 2, and the team rushed for 203 yards, Aaron Rodgers posted a 131.1 passer rating and the Packers won going away. So what happens if David Bakhtiari’s back this week? And what happens when the rookie receivers get their feet underneath them? I haven’t lost any faith in my pick for NFC champion, and this week will be a good test for that. A salty Buccaneers defense has allowed one touchdown, and that came in garbage time. — A.B.
Rams at Cardinals, 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday: It looked like we were getting the big Rams bounceback last week—and then the Falcons came all the way back from, yes, a 28–3 deficit, and had a first-and-10 at the L.A. 21, down six with 2:38 left. Jalen Ramsey came away with a game-clinching pick two plays later, but the Rams clearly have work to do going into Week 3. And their first road trip of the season will be to visit a team that has revenge on its mind, with the memory of last year’s wild-card round rout still relatively fresh for the Cardinals. — A.B.
Cowboys at Giants, 8:30 p.m. ET Monday: This is one of the most important games in recent Giants history. I don’t think this team expected to be in a position to be 3–0 (remember, they have the lowly Bears coming up after this, too) but they are facing a former division rival on Monday Night Football at home for the chance to make a massive statement under new coach Brian Daboll. As I mentioned on the podcast, though, it is not Daboll vs. Mike McCarthy. It’s not Daniel Jones vs. Cooper Rush. It’s the Giants’ protection scheme against Micah Parsons, which is where the game will be decided. — C.O.
What is your one big prediction for Week 3?
Orr: Coming off a near hit in Week 2 of my Jets upset proclamation, I’m trying to keep a hot hand. This week, I set my sights on Los Angeles, where a very, very talented Chargers team will fall on a last-second field goal to the surging Jaguars. It will be a loss L.A. chuckles about when it’s battling for the No. 1 seed in late December.
Breer: I think the Lions go into Minnesota and knock off the Vikings. Lost in all the Hard Knocks hubbub is this—Detroit’s a more talented team than you think. While the Lions may be unspectacular on offense, they’re well coached, balanced and, if you look close, don’t really have any gaping holes. And they have a really promising defensive line anchored by rookie Aidan Hutchinson, who’s already showing potential to be a real game-wrecker (three sacks last week), plus Jeff Okudah (finally) rounding into the kind of corner the Lions thought he’d be. They’re a pretty good team, and I think we’ll see that Sunday.
Which team most needs a win in Week 3?
Orr: The Raiders. The Titans can still fall to 0–3 and fight for a division crown. If the Raiders fall into a three-game hole in the AFC West, consider the 2022 campaign deep-sixed.
Breer: The Bengals. I think they’re gonna get it turned around, but they can’t afford to lose much more ground in the division and conference races. And as much as I like the way the Jets closed out last week, this is one Cincinnati should win.
Which coach or player is most under pressure in Week 3?
Orr: Mike McCarthy … again. As we wrote a week ago, Mike McCarthy did a great job and coached with his heart against the Bengals. The problem is that he has to continue doing that. The Giants are beatable, but this game is developing a mythos of its own right now.
Breer: Ryan Tannehill. The Titans were the AFC’s No. 1 seed a year ago, and now they’re 0–2, their franchise left tackle (Taylor Lewan) is hurt, their high-mileage, bellcow tailback (Derrick Henry) has just 107 yards on 34 carries through two games, and the team is working to fill the void A.J. Brown left. There’s more on Tannehill now than ever. And it’s fair to say, at this point, he’s not just playing to keep his team in the race. Rather, he’s playing for his career.
Which team will everyone be talking about after Week 3?
Orr: The Bengals, for better or worse. The Jets are playing some good football, and one could argue they had a better performance in the first half against the Ravens than they did in a win over the Browns. If the Jets somehow pull this off, we’re talking about the team that reached the Super Bowl last season starting 0–3.
Breer: The Colts, for better or worse. The equation here is simple: Either they’re without a win going into October or they’ve knocked off the Chiefs.
Which QB takes his team the furthest this season: Tua Tagovailoa or Jalen Hurts?
Orr: Jalen Hurts. No offense to Mike McDaniel or Tua Tagovailoa, who will be just fine. But this Eagles team could go to the Super Bowl.
Breer: I’m with Conor on this one—it’s Hurts. He’s simply got the better team and is past the first-year, feeling-out period with his coaches. I also think McDaniel and Tua will be fine, but they face a tougher road to make the playoffs this year.
Which underdog has the best shot to win outright in Week 3?
Orr: This is not a good week for underdogs, but as we mentioned above, we’ll take the Jaguars in Los Angeles. This is a roster full of talented young players who are finally being coached in a sensible manner. Brandon Staley has the better team, but there are some weeks where a convergence of events create a vacuum in which the better team does not win.
Breer: I’ll say the Packers just because I’m surprised they’re an underdog. The Buccaneers are really going to have to manage their offensive line’s matchup with Green Bay’s defensive front. I think that’s ultimately where the Packers win the game.
Orr: A lot of talk this week about fan expectations and fan behavior. On one end of the spectrum, we have some knucklehead taking a swing at Kyler Murray or tossing a bottle at Browns owner Jimmy Haslam. On the other hand, we have Myles Garrett complaining about being booed. Somewhere in the middle, there’s a sweet spot of conduct. The kind of state of mind where we feel secure in expressing our jubilation or dissatisfaction while remembering that the people on the field, be they billionaires, millionaires or something far behind, have a beating heart just like the rest of us. We all make mistakes. Every last one of us. Act accordingly, and have fun out there.
Breer: I’m weirdly interested in the Texans. They get to see the quarterback they drafted in the third round in 2021, Davis Mills, against Justin Fields, who was drafted two rounds higher in the same class. And the Texans probably should be 2–0 at this point, having blown a big lead in the tie with the Colts, and they controlled much of their loss to the Broncos. Are the Jaguars a very real contender in a weakened AFC South? Is Houston a contender, too? If the Texans want to compete for the division title, this is the week where they have to take the qualifiers out, and get a win.
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