Underdogs barked loudly in the second week of the NFL season, winning outright in nine of the first 15 games entering the Monday niter between the Jets and Colts.
Let’s look ahead to Week 3 and see what surprises may be in store in the best 12 matchups:
Pro Football – Thursday
Washington Redskins at NY Giants: New York became the first team in NFL history to start 0-2 despite holding double-digit leads in the fourth quarter. The common denominator in both setbacks is Eli Manning making brutal decisions in the red zone. The Giants will have to contend with emerging rookie running back Matt Jones, a third-round pick who appears to have displaced Alfred Morris as the Washington starter.
Pro Football – Sunday
Pittsburgh Steelers at St. Louis Rams: The physical nature that’s expected to carry the Rams into playoff contention simply wasn’t there against Washington. The Steelers bounced back from their opening night loss in New England by thrashing the 49ers and get Le’Veon Bell back in the fold. The AFC’s top rusher in 2014 could be in line for a big debut.
San Diego Chargers at Minnesota Vikings: Despite a horrible season-opening performance in San Francisco and a short week of preparation, the Vikings mauled Detroit, surviving Adrian Peterson’s fumbling issues as Teddy Bridgewater showed a pulse. The biggest plus was the physical nature they displayed after being blown off the ball by the 49ers. They’ll be expected to replicate that effort at home against a Chargers offensive line dealing with health concerns. San Diego is on the road for a second consecutive week. Teams in that situation in Week 2 went 0-5 SU and ATS.
Philadelphia Eagles at N.Y. Jets: No team appeared more embarrassed in Week 2 than the Eagles, who rightfully drew boos from their home fans in a 20-10 loss to Dallas where they accomplished little other than knocking rival Tony Romo out of action for a couple of months. Their offensive line was physically dominated, which doesn’t bode well when facing a Jets defense whose strength is its imposing front line.
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers: Drew Brees had a miserable afternoon against Tampa Bay and was hit hardest on a play where he appeared to suffer an injured shoulder early in the second quarter, fumbling and never looking like his usual self again. A physical Panthers defense that survived at home without top LB Luke Kuechly should make it difficult for Brees to find a rhythm, especially if he isn’t healthy.
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens: It’s early, but potentially must-win time for the 0-2 Ravens, who make their home debut after a pair of frustrating West Coast setbacks that may have turned out differently if they were able to execute in the red zone. The Bengals could take an early stranglehold on the AFC North if they’re able to move to 3-0 here but face a running back controversy after starter Speedy Giovani Bernard ran for 123 yards on 20 carries.
Oakland Raiders at Cleveland Browns: David Carr shook off a hand injury and lit up Baltimore in a 37-33 upset, throwing for a career-high 351 yards and completing 7-for-9 on the game-winning drive. Considering the Ravens do have a Super Bowl-caliber defense, Carr’s emergence may be the start of something big since he didn’t lock in on any one receiver, completing passes to 10 different players as both Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper topped the 100-yard mark. Browns head coach Mike Pettine confused rookie Marcus Mariota into multiple miscues and utilized his superb secondary well to earn his team their first win, so this should be an intriguing chess match.
Atlanta Falcons at Dallas Cowboys: Staying afloat without Tony Romo begins at home against a Falcons team that has overachieved in opening 2-0. Can Brandon Weeden and a Dez Bryant-less receiving corps do enough to keep pace with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones? Atlanta has defeated its first two NFC East opponents in dramatic fashion, rallying in the fourth quarter and getting key stops when it needed them with what looks like an improved defense.
San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals: Carson Palmer has thrown for seven touchdowns through two games and is the only QB that can be put on Tom Brady’s record-setting level thus far, so this is an opportunity to flex some muscle within the division. The 49ers got carved up in Pittsburgh after a strong opening performance. New head coach Jim Tomsula will look to prevent the Cardinals from a 3-0 start by winning in Glendale for the third time in four years.
Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins: Both defenses looked fearsome in the opening week and got a massive dose of humility in Week 2. The Bills took apart Andrew Luck, but were no match for Brady at home despite getting top defensive lineman Marcell Dareus back from a one-game suspension. The Dolphins stifled Washington with their pressure but failed to record a sack against the Jaguars, who were the most sacked team in the NFL in 2014. Ndamakong Suh will look to be more involved in his home debut.
Denver Broncos at Detroit Lions: The Sunday night game provides another opportunity to dissect Peyton Manning’s game as he faces the most vulnerable defense he’s encountered in 2015 following wins over Baltimore and Kansas City. Counterpart Matthew Stafford can’t be looking forward to seeing Von Miller and Co. come into Ford Field after the beating he took in Minnesota last Sunday. Stafford had to have his chest and ribs x-rayed, but should be healthy enough to start.
Pro Football – Monday
Kansas City Chiefs at Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers will try and extend an NFL-record interception-less streak at home to 19 games against a Chiefs secondary that will look to succeed where the decimated Legion of Boom failed. Despite the absence of top target Jordy Nelson, Rodgers continues to fire on all cylinders, but faces an improved KC defense fortified by emerging rookie corner Marcus Peters. Sack master Justin Houston gets to work against a vulnerable Packers offensive line.
Tony Mejia is a national sports writer and senior contributor at VegasInsider.com. He’s also the owner and operator of Antony Dinero, the most successful documented volume handicapper in the industry. View his analysis daily at VegasInsider.com. Contact Tony at [email protected].