Saturday, September 25, 2010
NFL Week 3 Picks: San Francisco 49ers Finally Get in Win Column
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
If a team goes 0-2 to start the season they have dug quite a hole for themselves. However, it is still a young season and there is time to recover. In 2006 the Giants started off 2-0 and looked miserable to start the season, but the recouped, made a run, and wound up in the Super Bowl where they upset the then-undefeated New England Patriots.
However, history says is if you start 0-3 there is no coming back. The last time a team started the season 0-3 but still made the playoffs was the Buffalo Bills in 1998 (interesting enough Wade Phillips, now the head coach of the 0-2 Dallas Cowboys, was the coach of that team).
So this weekend is big for Dallas, the Minnesota Vikings, and San Francisco 49ers, teams that not only had playoff aspirations, but Super Bowl hopes as well.
Team character will be tested. Can these teams pull it together?
Tennessee (1-1) at New York Giants (1-1)
Eli Manning has become a turnover machine. He threw three picks against Carolina and against the Colts he lost two fumbles and threw another interception.
The Titans knew a little something about turnovers themselves, as they gave the ball away seven times against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The two teams both won in Week 1 and suffered a setback in Week 2, but while Jeff Fischer has backed Vince Young as the starting quarterback, Brandon Jacobs threw a helmet into the stands he was so frustrated. He will be a concern for the Giants.
The Giants are susceptible against the run, and Chris Johnson will be looking to get back on pace to his goal of 2,500 yards after a rough week against a good Steelers defense.
Pittsburgh (2-0) at Tampa Bay (2-0)
Without their starting quarterback, the Steelers have gone back to the ways of Steelers teams from the past, playing smash mouth football. They run the ball well (249 yards in the first two games) and have played stellar defense, allowing only 20 points and 104 yards rushing (including holding Chris Johnson to only 34 yards last week). They also forced seven turnovers against the Titans.
The Steelers lost Dennis Dixon though and will now have to move on to Charlie Batch. The focus of the team will remain with its strengths of defense and running the ball.
The Buccaneers are surprisingly 2-0, but they have not been challenged yet by a team like the Steelers.
Cincinnati (1-1) at Carolina (0-2)
Jimmy Clausen will get his first start with the Panthers, but he'll have his hands full with the Bengals defense.
Against the Ravens and their new receiving threats of Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh the Bengals forced four interceptions. They'll look to really get after Clausen.
The Panthers gave up 20 points to the young Buccaneers offense. An experienced Bengals team should be able to pick them apart with its slew of weapons.
Cleveland (0-2) at Baltimore (1-1)
The Ravens have struggled mightily on offense in their first two games, but their defense has been very good. While it would be a good game for the Ravens offense to right the ship, this matchup will most be about the defense getting after Seneca Wallace.
Cleveland hasn't scored more than two touchdowns in either game and they also haven't played a defense of the Ravens' caliber.
Dallas (0-2) at Houston (2-0)
The Cowboys are 0-2 and desperate for a win.
The Texans have a glaring hole in their pass coverage, allowing over 400 yards per game in the air. Passing is the Cowboys' strength as they've gained 687 yards in two games by passing the ball, and receiver Miles Austin has caught 10 passes in both games for over 140 yards.
What is key here is the running game.
Thanks in large part to Arian Foster's eye opening Week 1 game, the Texans rank first in rushing in the NFL. The Cowboys defense against the run has been good, but the Texans also boast the second-best run defense in the league, while Dallas cannot get its run game going, averaging a shade under 70 rushing yards a game, good (or bad) enough for 28th in the league.
San Francisco (0-2) at Kansas City (2-0)
The 49ers showed improvement last week against the Saints. They still made some mistakes with their play calling and turning the ball over, but they were not laughable like in the season opener.
The passing game will determine how this matchup goes, and the 49ers have the edge on both sides of the ball here.
The Niners, and surprisingly Alex Smith, are tenth in the league in passing yards per game, while the Chiefs are toward the bottom of the barrel at 25th in passing yards allowed per game.
On the other end Matt Cassel has been dreadful thus far, and Kansas City ranks 30th in yards thrown per game.
San Francisco is in the top half of the league against the pass, weathering the storm against Drew Brees last week.
If the rush defense can contain Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones, then the passing game should be able to beat Kansas City.
San Francisco wins.
Detroit (0-2) at Minnesota (0-2)
The Vikings have been out of sorts, but this is the game where we see what they’re made of. In Week 1, it was difficult to go to New Orleans and play after the championship banner had been raised. That’s a lot of emotion.
Then they faced a Miami team with a strong defense that made more big plays.
But now, they get a redo at home against not only another 0-2 team, but a team that has been the doormat for the entire division for a number of seasons now.
The Lions cannot stop anybody on defense. They are 30th in opponents passing yards per game, and 27th in opponents rushing yards per game.
Adrian Peterson will break lose this game. The Vikings just need to keep composure in the red zone so they can punch it in for six points more often.
Now is the time.
Buffalo (0-2) at New England (1-1)
New England was pretty much embarrassed on the road last week. They usually come back with a vengeance the following week, looking to make up for poor performances. And the winless Bills provide the perfect punching bag.
The Patriots have won their past 10 home games and the Bills offense has sputtered coming out of the gates.
The Patriots running game and secondary need to make major improvements, but they won’t be exposed this weekend. It could get ugly.
New England wins.
Atlanta (1-1) at New Orleans (2-0)
New Orleans is getting the job done, and until they slip up it’s tough to pick against them.
Drew Brees is in the top five in quarterback rating and has truly led this team to victory.
They will need a boost from the running game, the current weak link of the team. Not having Reggie Bush doesn’t help their case. The Falcons defense is weak against the run, so this game would be the time for someone to step up and help Brees out.
New Orleans wins.
Washington (1-1) at St. Louis (0-2)
Washington was an amazing Andre Johnson-touchdown catch away from coming away with a victory, and had a chance to win it in overtime. They threw the ball with ease against the Texans, amassing 403 yards in the air.
Rams rookie Sam Bradford improved last week, but there isn't enough here for them to keep pace, on either side of the ball.
Philadelphia (1-1) at Jacksonville (1-1)
Jacksonville was taken to town by San Diego last week. They were lit up for 477 yards, 38 points, and four interceptions.
Maurice Jones-Drew was also held to only 31 yards rushing.
The Eagles, however, with Michael Vick rolled on offense. He has a 105.5 quarterback rating, is completing almost 64 percent of his passes, 459 passing yards, three touchdowns, 140 yards rushing, and the most important stat, zero turnovers.
He’s played very well the first two games of the season and he’s getting a lot of help from wide receiver DeSean Jackson and running back LeSean McCoy. Both are looking like Vick in the sense that they are playing fast.
The offensive line may be shaky, but these three are playmakers and are lighting up the field.
Oakland (1-1) at Arizona (1-1)
Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell lost his job to Bruce Gradkowski. Cardinals quarterback Derek Anderson is dangerously close to also being replaced but he has one last shot, and he will make the most of it this weekend.
First, they need to keep Tim Hightower going at a strong rate. The Raiders are 29th in the league in rushing yards allowed per game. He has scored in both games and last week ran for an impressive 115 yards, even with the Cardinals experiencing a beat down.
Hightower running in top gear would keep the defense honest and allow Anderson to target Larry Fitzgerald, who hasn’t really broken out yet, more efficiently.
San Diego (1-1) at Seattle (1-1)
Seattle couldn’t handle one AFC West team last week and it’s tough to believe that will change this weekend.
The Seahawks run defense is solid, but the Chargers rely on the passing game anyway, and if Kyle Orton can torch Seattle for 304 yards and zero turnovers, it should be a big day for Philip Rivers.
Top targets Antonio Gates and Malcolm Floyd should find themselves open a lot and making big plays.
San Diego wins.
Indianapolis (1-1) at Denver (1-1)
Indy's biggest weakness on defense is against the run. The Broncos may have a hard time exposing them though, as an already depleted unit gets further decimated with starter Knowshon Moreno out for the game.
Peyton Manning was on top of his game last week, going 20-26 for 255 yards and three touchdowns.
He should lead the attack once again, but look for big games from Joseph Addai and Donald Brown as the Broncos have been outrushed in both games this season, The Colts will look to exploit the Broncos rushing defense and keep them guessing with Manning.
New York Jets (1-1) at Miami (2-0)
When hearing that Braylon Edwards was pulled over at 4:47 a.m. and was double over the legal drinking limit, I couldn't help but think to the episode of Hard Knocks when the defense, while warming up for a scrimmage, was devouring bags of hamburgers on the field.
This team thinks way too much of themselves and are not disciplined. They win one game and some guys are out partying until five in the morning? And Edwards doesn't learn from his mistakes, as he was out with Donte Stallworth when Stallworth was driving drunk and killed a person.
The whole situation is pretty disturbing.
The Dolphins defense has allowed only 20 points the first two games and were impressive last week, forcing four turnovers against Brett Favre and company and coming up with key stops, namely the fourth and goal in the fourth quarter, at big moments in the game.
The Chad Henne-Brandon Marshall connection had another week to gel and is also quietly making improvements. It should be a good week for the two as the Jets are without Darrelle Revis.
The Dolphins will look to make a big statement to the AFC East in their home opener.
Green Bay (2-0) at Chicago (2-0)
No turnovers from Jay Cutler last week? Has offensive coordinator Mike Martz helped him turn the corner?
Expect a setback when he faces the Green Bay Packers defense. Last year they lead the league in interceptions. So far this year, they lead the league in sacks, with Clay Matthews leading the way with six.
Matthews flies around the field and makes his presence known on every play. He gets after the quarterback and will force Cutler to make mistakes. And the Green Bay secondary will be licking their chops.
The Bears rush defense should hold backup Brandon Jackson in place, but they haven’t done nearly as good in the passing game, where Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers excel.
The Packers have enough firepower to make up for any problems the running game should face and they will force Cutler into making costly mistakes, which will make the difference in this one.
Green Bay wins.
Last week: 12-4