This week in: The NFL – Week 3 2012

New England misses a field goal as time expires in their loss to the Cardinals

In week 2 of the 2012 NFL season, six teams moved to 2-0, another half-dozen to 0-2, while the other 20 are even with a win and a loss thus far.  Of the winless teams, only one hails from the NFC and, somewhat surprisingly, that is the New Orleans Saints, who fell to a Cam Newton-inspired Panthers team, 35-27 in Carolina.  The biggest shock of the weekend was the Arizona Cardinals victory in New England against the Patriots, beating last year’s AFC Champions by 20-18 – though Bill Belichick’s side could still have grabbed victory at the death, only to see their kicker, Stephen Gostkowski, shank wide the potential game-winning field goal.

Eli Manning threw three interceptions for the New York Giants, but also gained 510 passing yards and racked up 25 points in the fourth quarter to lead his side to a great comeback win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 41-34.  A lot of the attention of Green Bay’s win against Chicago on Thursday went to a fake field goal attempt they turned into a touchdown, but the real star for them – unusually – was their defense, which held the Bears to 10 points and forced 7 sacks and 4 interceptions.  San Francisco continued to look like an early contender with a comfortable home win over Detroit on Sunday night, while the Chargers also moved to 2-0 with a 38-10 victory at the expense of a poor Titans team.

For the second straight week, the Philadelphia Eagles came from behind to win by a single point, this time their victims were the Baltimore Ravens, who were exasperated by a non-call of intentional grounding by the replacement refs, on the play before Vick’s winning touchdown.  Minnesota thought they had forced overtime against the Colts on Sunday, tying the game at 20 with 30 seconds to go, but rookie QB, Andrew Luck, threw back-to-back 20 yard completions to get Indianapolis in field goal range, and the kick was made by Adam Vinatieri.  Both Dallas and Seattle looked like completely different teams from their first week outings, with the Seahawks comfortably beating the Cowboys at home, 27-10.  There was similar reversal of fortunes from the first round of fixtures for the Steelers and Jets, as Pittsburgh’s 27-10 victory left both teams with a 1-1 record.

Elsewhere, the Bills beat the Chiefs in Buffalo, 35-17; Cincinnati were victorious in the first battle of Ohio of the season, defeating the Cleveland Browns 34-27; RG3 threw a touchdown and rushed for another, but was unable to stop his Redskins team losing to the St. Louis Rams, who got a strong performance from their QB, Sam Bradford.  Miami, who had looked awful in week 1, got a big outing from Reggie Bush, who rushed for 172 yards and 2 touchdowns, which helped them beat the Oakland Raiders 35-13; Houston took care of business in Jacksonville, defeating the Jaguars 27-7; and there was no Monday night magic from Peyton Manning this time around, his Broncos team fell 27-21 to the Atlanta Falcons.

The other big talking point of the week was the bad performance by the replacement refs, with several controversial calls and confrontations between the players escalated.  The regular officials dispute with the league continues over pay, but if this weekend sees another slew of bad decisions or an inability by the stand-ins to keep the players under control, the NFL’s hand might be forced into resolving this lockout as quickly as possible.

Week 3 Predictions

Last week, 12-4; Season, 23-9

Home teams in bold

Thursday

Giants -1.5 over Panthers – The Panthers looked good in beating the Saints last Sunday, but the week before they lost to the Buccaneers, who then fell to the Giants.  As reigning Superbowl champions, I’ll give New York the benefit of the doubt that they can keep Cam Newton at bay and secure a win in Carolina.

Sunday

Bears -7.5 over Rams – Chicago had a tough defeat against the Packers and had a terrible game from Jay Cutler, while St. Louis beat a buoyant Redskins team last week.  Logic would say this should be too many points for the Bears to be giving, but I think Cutler will come out with a point to prove, especially as his team will have had 10 days to prepare for this game.  Also, the Rams might be without their main running back, Steven Jackson, who missed most of their win over Washington with a groin injury.

Browns +2.5 over Bills – Buffalo have been both trick and treat so far this season, so it all depends on which version of the Bills shows up.  Cleveland kept it close in both of their losses against the Bengals and the Eagles, and Trent Richardson looks like a great draft pick at running back.

Cowboys -7.5 over Buccaneers – Dallas will be reeling from their 20 point loss in Seattle last week, while Tampa Bay will be trying to comprehend how they managed to lose their game against the Giants.  This is the Cowboys’ first home fixture of the season and they should be able to put up a lot of points against this Buccaneers team.

Lions -3.5 over Titans – Detroit did not look particularly impressive in their opening win against the Rams, nor were they ever really in their contest with the 49ers, but they are still considerably better than Tennessee and are unlikely to have any difficulties sending the Titans to an 0-3 start.

Jaguars +3.5 over Colts – Andrew Luck performed well in getting his first win as an NFL QB against the Vikings last Sunday, while the Jaguars have lost against Minnesota and Houston in their two contests this season.  Jacksonville’s defense will keep them in games though and I expect this one to be decided by no more than a field goal.

Jets -3.5 over Dolphins – Miami will have gained momentum from their victory over the Raiders, but the Jets defense is strong against the run and will be intent on stopping Reggie Bush from having another big day.  It was against the Dolphins that Tebow performed his first incredible comeback with the Broncos last year, though New York will be hoping they do not need such dramatics to secure a win in Florida on Sunday.

49ers -7.5 over Vikings – Minnesota have a win and a loss and both of their games have been decided by just 3 points, but their opponents in the opening two weeks – Jacksonville and Indianapolis – are not in the same class as San Francisco this year.  Jim Harbaugh has led the 49ers to a 7-2 road record since he took over as head coach in 2011 and they should not have any trouble improving that this weekend.

Chiefs +8.5 over Saints – New Orleans will be looking to prove they are still a force to be reckoned with this season, despite losing both of their first two contests, but they will still be without Sean Payton (suspended for the entire year) and his assistant, Joe Vitt (banned for six games).  Thus far, interim head coach Aaron Kromer has not shown he is capable of delivering a win for the Saints, so the Chiefs will have a good chance of picking up their own first victory of the 2012 season.

Redskins -3.5 over Bengals – Washington lost two key defensive players in their loss to the Rams – Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo – but this will be RG3’s home debut for the Skins and Griffin will be eager to perform well in front of his own fans for the first time.  If a pumped up crowd can provide an advantage for Washington – in the way Seattle’s clearly does for them – then they should have enough to beat the Bengals, whose win over a mediocre Browns team in Cincinnati does not provide enough evidence that they are a force to be reckoned with on the road.

Eagles -4.5 over Cardinals – At some point I will have to accept that Arizona might be better than I gave them credit for before the season began, and maybe their impressive win in New England should be all the proof I need.  However, I’m still not convinced and if the Eagles can stop turning the ball over as regularly as they have been this year (9 turnovers in 2 games), then they could become a very dangerous team that beats their opponents by more than just a single point.

Chargers -2.5 over Falcons – Two good teams who have started the 2012 season well, the once crucial factor – other than San Diego playing at home – could be that Atlanta have a short week, after their Monday Night victory over Peyton Manning and the Broncos.  The Chargers defense looks strong this year and Matt Ryan will have a much tougher time moving the ball than he did against Denver or Kansas City.

Broncos +1.5 over Texans – If Peyton Manning is going to establish the Broncos as a credible threat to advance far into the playoffs next January, then a home game against the Texans – one of the main contenders in the AFC – will provide a good benchmark of their chances.  The loss in Atlanta may have deflated some of the hope and expectations that came from their opening week win against the Steelers, but the Falcons are a very strong home team and better sides than Denver will lose there.  Houston have not been challenged in their two contests so far and will have to cope with Manning’s no-huddle offense in the thin air of Mile High Stadium.

Steelers -4.5 over Raiders – Oakland have not looked good in their two defeats, while Pittsburgh recovered from their loss in Denver to beat the Jets comfortably last Sunday.  The Steelers are a hard team to run against and the Raiders will need Darren McFadden overcome that and get points on the board early, as they do not want to put Carson Palmer in a position where he needs to chase the game.

Ravens -2.5 over Patriots – New England generally play well after a loss, but Baltimore is also coming off a narrow defeat of their own, versus the Eagles.  The Ravens were the victims of some bad calls by the officials, while the Patriots played a sloppy game and ultimately Arizona deserved their victory.  Before the season, I had this down as a Baltimore win and I have not changed my mind from the opening two weeks of play.

Monday

Seahawks +3.5 over Packers – Since the start of the 2011 season, the Seahawks are 8-1 at home, including last weekend’s impressive victory over the Cowboys.  Aaron Rodgers is yet to show the form he displayed in winning the MVP last year, but his Packers team will have a hard time overcoming the home-field advantage that the Seattle fans provide for their team.

 

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