Bears at Lions – Chicago’s defense still has an affinity for scoring off the turnover, and so far that has led to a 3-0 record. Their offense remains pretty pedestrian for having such a strong arm as Jay Cutler lining up behind center.
Detroit comes at you from the other direction, currently fourth in the league in total offense. They move the ball and chains, and score points. Nothing surprising there in an offense featuring Matthew Stafford and Megatron Johnson, but the shock has been the rushing contributions from Reggie Bush and Joique Bell (no relation), the latter of whom seems to have overcome his ball security issues.
He’d better, because Chicago is not the team you want to be facing when you put the ball on the ground (as if there really was such a team), but it’s the Bears’ sputtering offense that forces them to come up short this week.
Seahawks at Texans – Seattle has got the hot hand, a steady and reliable offensive punch, and a defensive secondary that beats the snot out of anyone who dares to catch the ball. While Houston’s defense can keep this one close, Matt Schaub is going to need more than an increasingly wobbly Andre Johnson and a hesitant Arian Foster to make this one close.
Jets at Titans – While Jacksonville fans have been waving the white flag, Gang Green fans have apparently taken to waving a yellow one, just like all the refs at all those New York games so far. They not only lead the league in penalties, but the Jets set a franchise record with 20 last week, at home if you can believe it. The most amazing thing about it was they won anyway.
Meanwhile in Tennessee, penalty flags are flying too. This game may take four hours to finish. Titans’ QB Jake Locker has some decent skills when he’s on the move, but as a pocket passer he is less than average. So the Jets will try to keep him in the pocket where he tends to compound his mistakes with bad decisions.
These two surprising and thus far overachieving 2-1 teams match up pretty evenly across the board, so it’s probably a field goal difference sort of game that I can’t help but give to the homers.
Redskins at Raiders – Oakland’s got the kind of defense Washington can run on. Now that their starting quarterback will be down and may be out following last week’s concussion, the Raiders are handicapped on offense. The Redskins are nobody’s call as a favorite, but the sense of urgency on the Washington side is just too compelling and the holes on the Oakland side are just too big.
Eagles at Broncos – Philadelphia has an interesting half of a team. The half they need to stay in this one is the one that’s mission: defense. Denver is just short of awesome and they are not coming up short against anybody anytime soon.
Cowboys at Chargers – Expecting Dallas to do the same thing two weeks in a row is probably hopeless wishful thinking, but a strong running game is just what the Cowboys need to be competitive against a San Diego defense that’s particularly weak against the pass. Philip Rivers benefits from decent protection behind a solid offensive line, but he doesn’t get any real help from his running game.
Circumstances indicate Dallas should have the advantage of controlling the ball and the clock, but expecting them to play the same way two weeks in a row is what their fans do after a win. The more dispassionate among us just play along with the hunches. They’ll probably do something unexpected, and it’s a guess as to whether it’ll be a regression, but the Cowboys should still get the win because they are better in three of every four matchups.
Patriots at Falcons – Sunday night’s special will be a feast for fans of sterling quarterback play and should be a duel worthy of some prime time. Atlanta has the better corps of receivers and is so very desperate for a win after suffering two last-second losses in the first three weeks.
Not that these numbers really mean anything at all, but the Falcons are on a 12-1 streak in regular season home games, while Tom Brady is 3-0 versus Atlanta. A number that does matter is that Atlanta has not lost back-to-back games since the year Mike Smith became their head coach. He has their attention.
What also matters is that New England still has a Top 10 defense and offensive execution gets better week after week, especially with somebody like Brady getting in your face about it. This is one of those “hump” games Atlanta must still climb over to earn elite status.
Based on their close-but-no-cigar performances so far this year, I’m coming from Missouri on this one because they’re going to have to show me first.
Dolphins at Saints – I am as impressed as anyone regarding Miami’s 3-0 start. New Orleans not only has the same record, their play has been even more impressive. This is a team that’s got its method and mission together. Call them butter because they’re on a roll. Bring the Dolphins some jam because they’re toast.