Something’s gotta give – NFL Week 3 Preview

There are eight 2-0 teams left in the league and this week we get two matchups of those 2-0 teams on our screens as well as two divisional matches.

The week kicks off with the Patriots hosting the Texans and ends with and AFC south clash between the Saints and Falcons.

Once again there are five games on Sky. Five Live Sports Extra will have the conclusion of the Lions at Packers from 7.30pm on Sunday before live coverage of the Chargers at the Colts.
Texans at Patriots (Friday 1.30am, Sky Sports)

Last meeting: Patriots 26 Texans 7 (13/12/15)
Overall Record: Texans 1 Patriots 6

Jimmy Garoppolo has looked as good as anybody could hope for through two games but following an injury against the Dolphins, he is expected to be out. Rookie Jacoby Brissett will start instead. Brissett played the second half in week two and completed six of his nine passes for 92 yards. With the fierce Texans’ defence lining up opposite him. It could be a baptism of fire for the young quarterback.

That Texans’ defence leads the league in sacks with nine through two weeks. A key component of that has been the return to health for Jadeveon Clowney. The 2014 first overall pick has had two injury plagued seasons in the league but finally appears to be healthy and ready to show why he was picked ahead of the likes of Khalil Mack.

Houston seems to have found the receiver to play opposite DeAndre Hopkins. Through two games Will Fuller has nine catches for 211 yards and a touchdown. Fuller is one of the early favourites for offensive rookie of the year and if he can keep up his early form, the Texans will be a force in the AFC.

The Texans don’t have a good record against the Patriots with just one win since coming into the league. Gillette Stadium is a place where the Pats just don’t really lose too often but the Texans aren’t going to get a much better chance than facing a quarterback getting his first start.

The Patriots enter this game as an underdog. This will be just the sixth time since 2002 that has happened in a home game. In those five games the Pats have won four times. Even with Brissett at quarterback this game may not be as one-sided as some people think.

Once again this will be a colour rush game with the teams in alternative uniforms.

Redskins at Giants (Sunday 6pm, Sky Sports)

Last meeting: Giants14 Redskins 20 (29/11/15)
Overall Record: Redskins 66 Giants 98 Ties 4

The big story of this game is the Odell Beckham Jr vs Josh Norman rivalry. When Norman was with the Panthers last season, tempers boiled over in the game against the Giants. A fight before the game led to more problems on the field. Norman and Beckham had a number of personal foul penalties against them and a dangerous helmet-to-helmet hit from Beckham on the cornerback led to a one game suspension. Since then Norman has left the Panthers and signed a big contract with the Redskins. It looks as though the two players will see plenty of each other again in this game with Norman set to follow Beckham all over the field. It might not be as brutal as the last clash between the pair, but this could be a great matchup between two rivals who are amongst the best at their respective positions.

When these two teams last met, Kirk Cousins looked like he had done enough to secure his place as the Redskins’ quarterback of the future. It was the start of a run of six consecutive games with a passer rating of over 100. The team couldn’t come to an agreement with Cousins in the offseason on a new contract and instead put the franchise tag on him. It seemed as though it was just a matter of time before a new deal was signed but right now that doesn’t seem so certain. Two losses in the first two weeks put the Redskins in a tough spot and Cousins still needs to prove he is good enough to get the big contract that he desires.

It won’t be easy for Cousins. The Giants spent big in the offseason to improve the defence and it appears to have worked. In 2015 the defence was a huge weakness as the unit was one of the worst in the league. With a potentially very good offence, the defence can now match up and win games if the offence does falter. This Giants team could be ready to make their first playoff appearance since they won the Super Bowl.

Part of that very good offence is the return to health of Victor Cruz. The wide receiver looked like one of the best in the league before injuries ruined two years of his career. Cruz has been key for the Giants in the past two weeks. He scored the game winning touchdown in week one and setting up the winning field goal last week against the Saints. Alongside Odell Beckham Jr and Sterling Shepard, Cruz could be get back to the sort of form he showed from 2011 to 2013 where he had just shy of 4000 yards receiving , 24 touchdowns and was a key part of the Giants’ Super Bowl success.

If the Redskins are going to keep themselves in the division then this is a must win. A win for the Giants could go a long way towards their push for the AFC east title.

Steelers at Eagles (Sunday 9.25pm, Sky Sports)

Last meeting: Eagles 14 Steelers 16
Overall Record: Steelers 28 Eagles 47 Ties 3

If I could pick just one game to watch this week then it would be this one. The Steelers once again look like they could be one of the best teams in the league and the Eagles look like they could be the surprise package in the NFC. This could be the week if we find out if the Eagles are the real deal or if the first two games have just been down to an easy start against the Browns and Bears. The Eagles don’t need to win this one, but they need to show that they can compete with the league’s best.

Carson Wentz has surprised many. Even the biggest Wentz fan could not have expected such a good start to his NFL career. Pro Football Focus rates Wentz as the best quarterback in the league. Obviously it’s too small of a sample size to base any real opinions on, but it shows that Wentz is more ready for the NFL than many expected.

The Steelers defence will provide a bigger test for Wentz than the Browns or Bears have done in his first two starts. With players like Ryan Shazier looking like he has made a big step forward, the Steelers defence looks a lot more like the team’s defences of old.

This game will be the last before running back Le’Veon Bell returns from suspension. DeAngelo Williams has once again proven to be a great back up to Bell. In his absence Williams has racked up over 100 yards per game rushing as well as 10 receptions. Many teams would collapse when they lose the likes of Bell and wide receiver Martavis Bryant but the Steelers still look like one of, if not the best offence in the league without arguably the league’s best running back. The Eagles defence has looked good at the start of the season and in what could be Williams’ last game as a starter, he could be key for the Steelers in getting a win.

Bears at Cowboys (Monday 1.30am, Sky Sports)

Last meeting: Cowboys 41 Bears 28
Overall Record: Bears 11 Cowboys 14

Week two saw the return to form of Dez Bryant. It looked there was a strong effort from the Cowboys to get the ball in the hands of their star receiver. This was the first time Bryant had more than five receptions in a game since the end of the 2014 regular season. If the Cowboys are going to have a shot in the division when Tony Romo returns from injury then they will need more games like last week’s 102 yards on 7 catches from Bryant.

Another Cowboys player under a bit of pressure is Ezekiel Elliot. 83 yards on 21 carries against Washington isn’t bad for the rookie running back, but the two fumbles are. Elliot’s place in the line up isn’t under immediate threat but he will need to work on his ball security if he doesn’t want to lose carries to Alfred Morris.

With the Bears already looking like they are going to struggle this season, it could be the perfect game for Bryant and Elliot to really kick-start their seasons.

As well as a loss in week two, Jay Cutler also picked up an injury and Brian Hoyer is expected to start this weekend. Hoyer has plenty of experience in the league over the past few seasons, but has shown that he will turn the ball over too often. Alshon Jeffrey is struggling with an injury and has missed practice this week. He is officially listed as questionable and looks likely to play. But if he isn’t 100% then the task gets even tougher for Hoyer and the Bears’ offence.

Last season the Bears were tipped to be one of the worst teams in the league and surprised a lot of people by being competitive in many of their games and getting to six wins. If anything, the team appears to be worse and could well be picking right at the top of the 2017 draft.

The recent history favours the Bears with three wins in the past four meetings between the teams.

Falcons at Saints (Tuesday 1.30am, Sky Sports)

Last meeting: Saints 20 Falcons 17
Overall Record: Falcons 49 Saints 45

It wasn’t too long ago that this game was seen as one of the deciders in the NFC. Both teams have fallen down the pecking order in the conference since then but this could still be a very good match.

The Saints have started 0-2 while the Falcons are 1-1. Both teams look a long way short of the Panthers in the division and look to be struggling to secure a spot in the postseason already but this could be the start of a run for either team to get into the hunt for a wild card spot.

Julio Jones is undoubtedly the star on the Falcons offence. However, the receiver has yet to receive a single red zone target so far this season. Obviously teams will pay more attention to Jones, freeing up the likes of Mohamed Sanu but the Falcons need to get the ball to Jones as often as possible if they are going to do anything this season.

Last season Devonta Freeman was one of the best backs in the league,breaking the 1000 yard barrier despite missing time through injury. This year though, Tevin Coleman looks like he is playing his way into a bigger role in the offence. In week two the pair split snaps almost evenly with Freeman on the field for just four more snaps. It may not be good news for Freeman’s numbers, but for the Falcons it could mean that with effectively two starting running backs. This could allow them to keep them both fresh and if, and it’s a big if, they are going to mount a push towards the playoffs, the tandem of running backs could be key.

In recent seasons it has been the defence that has cost the Saints but against the Giants they held their own. They got three turnovers but the offence managed just 13 points. The run defence in particular looked good for New Orleans, giving up just 64 yards at 2 yards per carry. The team will need to carry that into week three if they are to stop the Falcons’ dangerous rushing attack.

The Saints are 31st in the league through two weeks on rushing attempts. In 2015 Mark Ingram was one of the team’s most consistent performers before an injury late in the season. Ingram averaged 4.6 yards per carry and opened up the passing game for Drew Brees and the
receivers. It can’t be long until the Saints realise they need to get back to running the ball consistently and Ingram could be in for a bigger role in week three.
Follow Author Dave Gray on twitter at djg23

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