Welcome to Week 3 of the NFL season where we will almost certainly see a team that we expected to drop a playoff run to 0-3 (the Titans or the Raiders) and the Giants, one of the worst teams in the NFL a year ago trying to climb to 3-0 against a Cowboys team without Dak Prescott. We want to crown the best team of preseason so far in a game between the Bills… and the Dolphins. As if we need another reminder, the NFL is a weird place.
So get ready for another pivotal week in the NFL schedule.
And to kick things off, Albert Breer and Conor Orr walk you through Sunday and Monday’s games, noting the best matchups and what they’ll be watching.
We also encourage you to join our live blog on Sunday where we can share 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 picture the Carson Wentz Bowl as advertised. Perhaps the most notable aspect of that game is how many Eagles fans heartlessly tear down Interstate 95 to boo a quarterback who truly never did any harm to the city of Philadelphia. Sigh. I’ll watch Ron Rivera defend Jalen Hurts. Last week the Vikings tried to take the running game away from the Eagles and Hurts had a stellar passing performance in prime time. This week, commanders will be on the lookout for outstanding all-around skills. — Conor Orr
Bills at Dolphins, 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday: Do you still have questions about the invoices? These two teams go into Sunday’s showdown at Hard Rock Stadium with the same record (2-0) but with very different things to prove. What Buffalo really has left now is to show it can handle being chased (seems fine with them Monday night). For the Dolphins, an early win over the Bills would validate their quick start and what Coach Mike McDaniel and the players have built in their first year together. (If the Dolphins win this one, I would expect it to be sideline, with good situational play.) — Albert Breer
Ravens at Patriots, 1 p.m. ET Sunday: This has the makings of a disaster for the team that ends up losing. Ultimately, it’s hard to imagine the Patriots possessing the offensive firepower to score alongside Lamar Jackson, even though Bill Belichick has already charted some successful defensive game plans in big spots (you know, the Hall of Famer kind of sit). . Still, this new offense has had its growing pains. Mac Jones misses throws and open wide receivers. Those are mistakes you can’t make against Baltimore. — CO
Packers at Buccaneers, 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday: The Packers offense struggled in Week 1 with both 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 the race. So what happens when David Bakhtiari is back this week? And what happens when the rookie receivers get their feet under them? I haven’t lost faith in my election as NFC Champion and this week will be a good test of that. A salty Buccaneers defense allowed a touchdown, and that came in garbage time. — AWAY
Rams at Cardinals, 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday: It looked like we got the Rams’ big upswing last week — and then the Falcons came all the way back from, yes, a 28-3 deficit and had a first and a 10 in the LA 21, six with 2: 38 left. Jalen Ramsey walked away with a crucial pick two games 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 plotting revenge with The memory of last year’s wildcard round is relatively fresh for the Cardinals. — AWAY
Cowboys at Giants, Monday 8:30 p.m. ET: This is one of the most important games in the Giants’ recent history. I don’t think this team expected to be able to go 3-0 (remember they have the low bears after that too), but they face a former division rival Monday night soccer at home for a chance to make a massive statement under new coach Brian Daboll. However, as I mentioned on the podcast, it’s not Daboll vs. Mike McCarthy. It’s not Daniel Jones versus Cooper Rush. It’s the Giants’ protection system against Micah Parsons that will decide the game. — CO
What’s your big prediction for week 3?
Or: After a near hit in week 2 of my angry Jets proclamation, I’m trying to keep a hot hand. My sights set on Los Angeles this week, where a very, very talented Chargers team will land a last-second field goal against the up-and-coming Jaguars. It will be a loss that LA will giggle over as it battles for the No. 1 spot at the end of December.
Breeder: I think the Lions go to Minnesota and knock out the Vikings. Lost in all of this Hard hits Hustle is this – Detroit is a more talented team than you think. Even if the lions are unspectacular on the offensive, they are well trained, balanced and, if you look closely, don’t have any big holes. And they have a really promising defensive line anchored by rookie Aidan Hutchinson, who is already showing the potential to be a real spoilsport (three sacks last week), plus Jeff Okudah (finally) rounding into the kind of corner that the Lions thought his. They’re a pretty good team and I think we’ll see this Sunday.
Which team needs a win the most in week 3?
Or: The robbers. The Titans can still drop to 0-3 and fight for a divisional crown. If the Raiders fall into a three-game hole in the AFC West, consider the 2022 campaign a deep sixty.
Breeder: The Bengalis. I think they’ll turn it 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 finished last week, this is one that Cincinnati should win.
Which coach or player is under the most pressure in week 3?
Or: Mike McCarthy…again. As we wrote a week ago, Mike McCarthy did a great job coaching with his heart against the Bengals. The problem is that he has to continue make that. The Giants are beatable, but this game is developing a myth of its own.
Breeder: Ryan Tannehill. The Titans were No. 1 in the AFC a year ago, and now they’re 0-2, their franchise left tackle (Taylor Lewan) is injured, their high-mileage Bellcow jam (Derrick Henry) has just 107 yards on 34 leads through two games and the team is working to fill the void left by AJ Brown. There’s more at Tannehill now than ever. And it’s fair to say he’s not just playing to keep his team in contention at this point. Rather, he plays for his career.
Which team will everyone be talking about after week 3?
Or: The Bengals, for better or for worse. The Jets play good football, and it could be argued that they performed better in the first half against the Ravens than they did when they defeated the Browns. If the Jets somehow pull this off, we’re talking about the team that went 0-3 to the Super Bowl last season.
Breeder: The Colts, for better or for worse. The equation here is simple: either they go into October without a win or they’ve beaten the Chiefs.
Which QB will take their team the furthest this season: Tua Tagovailoa or Jalen Hurts?
Or: Jalen hurts. No offense to Mike McDaniel or Tua Tagovailoa, they’ll be fine. But this Eagles team could go to the Super Bowl.
Breeder: I’m with Conor – it’s about hurts. He simply has the better team and the first trial period with his coaches behind him. I also think McDaniel and Tua will be fine, but they face a tougher road to making the playoffs this year.
Which underdog has the best chance of taking the overall win in week 3?
Or: It’s not a good week for underdogs, but as mentioned above, we’re going to play the Jaguars in Los Angeles. This is a squad full of talented young players who are finally getting proper training. Brandon Staley has the better team, but there are some weeks when a convergence of events creates a vacuum where the better team doesn’t win.
Breeder: I say the Packers just because I’m surprised they’re an underdog. The Buccaneers really need to manage their offensive line’s matchup with Green Bay’s defensive line. I think that’s ultimately where the Packers win the game.
Or: There’s been a lot of talk this week about fan expectations and fan behavior. At one end of the spectrum we have a moron punching Kyler Murray or throwing a bottle to Brown’s owner Jimmy Haslam. On the other hand, Myles Garrett complains about being booed. Somewhere in the middle there’s a sweet spot of behavior. The kind of state of mind where we feel safe expressing our cheer or dissatisfaction while remembering that the people on the field, whether they be billionaires, millionaires, or something far removed, have a beating heart, just like him rest of us. We all make mistakes. Every last one of us Act accordingly and have fun out there.
Breeder: I’m oddly interested in the Texans. You see the quarterback they drafted in the third round in 2021, Davis Mills, versus Justin Fields, who was drafted two rounds higher in the same class. And the Texans should probably be 2-0 by this point after squandering a big lead in the tie with the Colts, and they controlled much of their loss to the Broncos. Are the Jaguars a real challenger in a weakened AFC South? Is Houston also a contender? If the Texans want to fight for the division title, this is the week they need to take out the qualifiers and win.
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