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Game Capsules: Predictions for Week 3

Luke Hoover

Luke Hoover

Luke Hoover has covered fantasy football for Rotowire.com since 2011 and is most proud of recommending Victor Cruz as a starter in his breakout game against the Eagles. He's a lifelong fan of Notre Dame, the Packers and, unfortunately, the Knicks.

New York Giants (-1) @ Carolina, Thursday 8:20 p.m.

Comments: Eli Manning became just the 13th 500-yard passer in NFL history, overcoming three second-quarter interceptions to post a monstrous 243-yard fourth-quarter comeback versus the Bucs last week. Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz looked unstoppable at times and going forward, this should remain one of the best passing offenses in football. Their ground game, however, took an unexpected turn as Ahmad Bradshaw was knocked out of the game with a sprained neck and in a surprising development, Andre Brown stepped into the backfield instead of first-round pick David Wilson. With the rookie obviously remaining in Tom Coughlin’s doghouse after his Week 1 fumble, Brown turned in an impressive 90 total yards and a touchdown. If Bradshaw can’t play on the short week (he’s not practicing and seems questionable at best), Brown becomes a strong starting option versus a Panthers defense that’s allowed nearly 300 yards rushing over two games... Cam Newton and the Panthers got their ground game in order and rolled the Saints for 219 yards and three scores rushing, led by Newton’s career-high 71 yards. Following the statement win, Carolina finds itself facing another elite passing attack with arguably the best tandem of receivers in the league. However, given their success limiting Drew Brees to just one score and a 72.2 passer rating, one must think they’ll have more success versus Manning than the Bucs did. In the end though, the key for Carolina still figures to be keeping their ground game hot behind the 1-2 punch of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. When they are effective it opens up the field for Cam to make big plays with his arm, so it will be a huge hit if Stewart, who missed Tuesday’s practice with a lingering ankle sprain, can’t suit up.

Predictions: Newton runs away from Giant pass rushers all night en route to 65 rushing yards and 266 passing, with two TD’s going to Brandon LaFell and Greg Olsen. D-Will and Stewart combine for 118 on the ground with Stewart punching in a short one. Manning hits Nicks, Cruz and Martellus Bennett for scores in a 323-yard day, while Brown chips in 88 yards and a TD rushing in a barn burner. Giants 31-27.

St. Louis (+8) @ Chicago, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Comments:
With both defenses playing well and both offensive lines very susceptible to blitzes, this could shape up as a defensive struggle that may be decided by who can run the ball more effectively. The edge in that regard figures to go to the Bears, particularly with Steven Jackson (groin) limited at best and quite possibly out after missing practice all week. Seventh-round pick Daryl Richardson, who admirably carried the load versus Washington to become a must handcuff, may see his first start and has low-end No. 2 potential despite the matchup. In the face of the Bears' pass rush and against their Cover 2 scheme, expect Bradford to continue looking Danny Amendola's way a lot after the reliable slot receiver set the franchise record with 15 grabs in Week 2. Ultimately, Bradford's remarkably efficient start (112.4 passer rating) may hit a wall in Chicago and hold back a scrappy Rams team... Cutler was dreadful versus a Packers defense that put a ton of pressure in his face, but he certainly wasn't alone in fault, as the line blocked nobody (seven sacks, 12 QB hits) and his receivers either couldn't separate from coverage or dropped balls when they did. On top of that, the one offensive player who was producing at all, Matt Forte, had to leave with a sprained ankle in the third quarter. His timetable for return is iffy at best, but he's certainly out this week and Michael Bush will takeover. Against a Rams defense that's allowed a league-worst (tied) 5.5 yards per carry and four scores on the ground (albeit skewed by RGIII), Bush looks like a great No. 2 running back and possibly the difference in this game.

Predictions: Bradford finds Amendola often for 94 yards but is otherwise limited. He does get one score to Lance Kendricks in a 205-yard effort, while Richardson posts 84 total yards and his first career score in Jackson's absence. Cutler throws for 232 with scores to Brandon Marshall and Devin Hester. Bush turns in 108 total yards and the final TD. Bears 24-20.

Buffalo (-3) @ Cleveland, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Comments:
Having been down as many as 34 and up as many as 32 within just two games, the Bills are a tough team to gauge given the extremes. The Browns and their enigmatic defense likely won't help to solve the puzzle. With Joe Haden out on suspension, the Browns allowed Andy Dalton to pass all over them last week, but still registered six sacks on the game a week after picking off Michael Vick four times. Ryan Fitzpatrick, the league's leader with five touchdown passes was also the league leader in INT's in 2011 so he could be poised for a three-score, two-pick kind of day. C.J. Spiller meanwhile should continue his torrid start against a defense that allowed both LeSean McCoy and BenJarvus Green-Ellis to top 100 total yards... The Browns young offense made huge strides in production from the first to second weeks, but that's likely more so an indication of the drastic difference between the defenses of the Eagles and Bengals. One week Cinci allowed 430 total yards and 44 points to the Ravens, who then went to Philly and were held to 325 and 23 points. Brandon Weeden, who made a phenomenal improvement from 118 passing yards and four INT's to 322 yards, two scores and no picks, should be solid against a Bills pass D that allowed a combined 567 yards and five scores to Mark Sanchez and Matt Cassel. But for the Browns to register a W, it will need another big week from Trent Richardson-who went off in his second game-and to win the turnover battle with Fitzpatrick.

Predictions: Spiller keeps rolling with 144 total yards and a score, while Fitzpatrick takes advantage of a Haden-less secondary with 212 yards and TD's to Steve Johnson, Scott Chandler and T.J. Graham. Weeden hits Greg Little for a score in an inefficient 238-yard effort that includes two turnovers. Richardson keeps the Browns in it with 128 total yards and a touchdown. Bills 31-23.

Tampa Bay (+7.5) @ Dallas, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Comments:
The Buccaneers badly let one get away from them last week as Eli Manning maintained his reputation as an elite fourth-quarter quarterback. It will be very interesting to see how they respond in Dallas' home-opener with another high-flying passing attack. Josh Freeman may need to continue building a strong rapport with Vincent Jackson, though the level of corner play facing the Bucs is significantly stiffer this week. While the Cowboys have been one of the stingiest against the pass, they've not been nearly as strong slowing the run, as both Ahmad Bradshaw and Marshawn Lynch averaged over 4.5 YPC and scored. It may take a breakout game from Doug Martin to keep Tampa in this one... Facing a defense that has allowed three 100-yard receivers in two games and two others to post at least 65 and a score, this looks like as good a time as any to start all the top Cowboys targets. That means Dez Bryant may finally play up to his potential, Miles Austin is a certain No. 1 option, Jason Witten is once again a must-start TE and Kevin Ogletree is a good flex play. Obviously that means Tony Romo can't be benched and DeMarco Murray may see added opportunities near the goal line to get his first score.

Predictions: Martin gets his second-career touchdown to go along with 91 total yards, while Freeman tosses a score to Dallas Clark in a 226-yard day. Romo slices up the Bucs for 318 yards and scores to Bryant, Ogletree and Murray, as the latter adds 98 total yards to the winning side. Cowboys 27-22.

New York Jets (-3) @ Miami, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Comments:
During the Mark Sanchez/Rex Ryan Era, the Jets are just 2-4 against the Dolphins. Though this is on paper the worst of the Miami teams they will have faced in their four seasons, it's also the worst New York team Ryan and GM Mike Tannenbaum have put together. The Jets aren't particularly strong at any positional unit except the defensive backfield. Their offensive line is below average and it blocks for a run game that is wholly uninspiring. And what Shonn Greene lacks in explosiveness and big-play ability, the passing game certainly does not make up with its core of Sanchez, Santonio Holmes, Dustin Keller and Stephen Hill. A physical, sloppy contest may be looming in South Beach... The Dolphins seemingly weaponless offense exploded last week behind the running of a man out to prove something. Reggie Bush stated his intent in the offseason to lead the league in rushing yards and he's off to a damn good start with 241 through two games. He could be the difference against a Jets defense that struggled badly with a similar slashing speedster in C.J. Spiller in a Week 1 192-total-yard torching. If Ryan Tannehill, who has been better than anticipated, can manage the game efficiently and without mistakes, the Dolphins have a puncher's chance. Even if Tannehill struggles with a confusing defense that may return Darrelle Revis from a concussion (he was cleared for contact), the Miami defense should keep them in the fight after looking dominant against the run in holding Arian Foster, Ben Tate and Darren McFadden to a combined 42 for 107 on the ground.

Predictions: Tannehill looks like a rookie with no scores and two picks in a 184-yard day, but Bush keeps right on sprinting through defenses for 129 total yards and a touchdown. Sanchez throws for 248 and a TD to Jeremy Kerley, while also running one in himself. Greene can't find much breathing room in a 46-yard effort, but the Jets survive the slugfest. Jets 20-16.

San Francisco (-7) @ Minnesota, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Comments:
The 49ers defense is the single best unit in football. It can stop any offense and the less-than-stellar Vikings should not pose much of a threat, especially when considering the disappointing 327 yards of offense the Vikes turned in against the Colts. Offensively, the ultra-efficient Alex Smith looks to have an easy time with a Vikings secondary that has allowed Blaine Gabbert and Andrew Luck to throw on them with little resistance or difficulty. The Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter tandem also figure to tear up another defense as they are quietly the second-best running back duo in the league behind Arian Foster and Ben Tate and have the benefit of one of the most physical lines opening holes for them... It's hard to bench an Adrian Peterson, but if ever there were a week to do it, this would be it. Even elite backs Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy combined for just 77 yards on 30 carries last year versus San Fran. And AP, at still less than 100%, struggled to only 60 rushing yards on a toothless Indy defense last week. View him as a low-end No. 2 this week and consider Percy Harvin about the only unbenchable Viking, with Kyle Rudolph having some potential as a No. 2 tight end as Christian Ponder's security blanket.

Predictions: Smith tosses for 241 yards and touchdowns to Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss, while Gore and Hunter combine for 160 total yards and a score each. Ponder puts one in the end zone to Michael Jenkins in a 216-yard effort. Harvin totals 96 yards while Peterson is held to 58 rushing in the loss. 49ers 34-16.

Kansas City (+9) @ New Orleans, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Comments:
Finally, the Saints defense gets a reprieve from the quarterback position after facing back-to-back Heisman-winning dual-threat studs. All those hyphens racked up some serious yardage and scores, as the Saints have had the league's worst total defense, particularly against the run (186 ground yards allowed per game). Fortunately for Drew Brees and Co., the Chiefs are tied with New Orleans for the worst scoring defense, so all those wonderful Saints skill players look like strong starting options in what could be a high-scoring affair... The only team to allow a better passer rating to opposing QB's than the Chiefs' 130.2 allowed is the 135.5 that the Saints have relinquished. That means Matt Cassel is a high-end No. 2 option this week and Dwayne Bowe is a must start. Jon Baldwin and to a lesser extent Dexter McCluster could even be decent flexes in deeper leagues. But unless it gets ugly early (the Chiefs were down 21-0 to Buffalo so it could happen), Kansas City might try to pound the ball and keep Brees off the field. Jamaal Charles experienced soreness in his surgically repaired knee last week but is expected to be fine and Peyton Hillis got going with 66 yards on 11 carries, so exploiting the Saints' dead last run defense figures to be priority numero uno for the Chiefs.

Predictions: Cassel throws for 248 yards and scores to Bowe and Baldwin, while Charles and Hillis combine for 132 total yards with a TD going to the latter. Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas get in the ground act with 119 rushing yards and a score for Ingram. In a must win, Brees does as he pitches it all over for 349 yards and scores to Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston and Darren Sproles. Saints 31-24.

Detroit (-3) @ Tennessee, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Comments:
Tennessee is 30th in both rushing yards and points allowed per game, so a big week could be coming for Kevin Smith, who admirably topped 50 yards on the ground versus San Fran. Mikel Leshoure will return from suspension this week and figures to eat into Smith's touches, though the latter still remains a must start, with Leshoure a solid risk/reward flex given his potential for goal line touches. In the passing game, Tennessee has allowed opposing QB's to average 118.5 rating, so Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson may also light up the scoreboard. Moreover, Brandon Pettigrew looks set for one of his best weeks as the Titans pass defense has given up all five of their passing scores and 227 combined yards to tight ends... CJ no K is no longer deserving of any moniker, even ones that poke fun. He's back to just Chris Johnson, speedster out of East Carolina University. Except now he's known for dancing too much, running tentative when there is no hole and generally looking like a dreadful NFL running back. The problems of course go much deeper than Johnson, as Jake Locker certainly didn't do his part in a 15-for-30 passing day last week and the defense is one of the worst groups in football at basics like covering and tackling. And of course there's the o-line that cannot run block. Perhaps the return of Kenny Britt will help open things up for the entire offense, but for now, head coach Mike Munchak intends to stick with Locker and Johnson, so fantasy owners can either ride out the CJ storm and hope their ship doesn't capsize or bench him until a "K" justifiably re-enters his initials.

Predictions: One CJ scores but it's not Chris. Megatron posts 134 and a touch with Stafford going for 315 yards and two other scores to Smith and Pettigrew. Leshoure nabs a goal line plunge while Smith leads the combo with 110 total yards. Locker throws for 231 and a touchdown to Jared Cook and runs in another himself. Johnson totals 62 yards. Lions 31-20.

Jacksonville (+3) @ Indianapolis, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Comments:
Blaine Gabbert's miserable regression in Week 2 (7-of-19 for just 53 yards) was a combination of him still battling a learning curve and the huge differential between the passing defenses of Minnesota and Houston. A strained glute added injury to insult for Gabbert, though he's still expected to start in Indy. The silver lining though for Gabbert and an offense that's dead last in total yards and 30th in scoring is that the second-year QB has yet to throw a pick and Maurice Jones-Drew, who averaged 5.0 yards per carry versus Houston, appears rust-free after a long holdout. If fifth overall draft pick Justin Blackmon can get going against a Colts defense allowing 273 pass yards per game, MJD will make sure the Jags stay close... With the first win of the Andrew Luck Era in the books, the key for the Colts to getting a second is slowing Jones-Drew down as much as they did Adrian Peterson (16 carries for 60 yards). That's a tall order given that "Pocket Hercules" has had at least 150 total yards or a touchdown (12 total scores) in all but one of his 12 career games versus Indy. Getting Donald Brown going more against a Jags defense that's 31st in rushing yards allowed and tied for last in ground scores should help keep the defense fresh to stop MJD, but as will be the case for most Colts games, it will come down to Luck's arm. Reggie Wayne remains a must-start as his top target and Donnie Avery (18 targets in two games) is now an interesting flex as the team's No. 2 receiver.

Predictions: Gabbert goes for 197 yards and a score to Marcedes Lewis, while Jones-Drew gets his with 104 rushing and a goal line dive. Brown has his best outing so far with 102 total yards and a TD. Luck throws for 284 yards and touchdowns to Wayne and Coby Fleener as the Colts stay perfect at home. Colts 21-14.

Cincinnati (+3.5) @ Washington, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Comments:
Andy Dalton had a career day last week with his first game topping 300 yards with three TD's. Facing a Redskins defense that is tied for 30th in passing yards allowed and is the only to have given up six scores through the air, Dalton should carry over his strong play another week. The Skins just lost arguably their best pass rusher in Brian Orakpo (torn pectoral) and starting defensive end Adam Carriker (quadriceps) for the season. With A.J. Green opening up the passing game for dynamic slot receiver Andrew Hawkins and outside targets Armon Binns and Brandon Tate, not to mention Jermaine Gresham, Dalton suddenly has a lot of talented targets in a very favorable matchup. Hawkins in particular could go off this week considering the Skins have so far allowed 21 catches, 280 yards and two scores to slot receivers Lance Moore and Danny Amendola. While Washington has been burned by the pass, their run defense hasn't been much better as they've allowed 4.9 per carry, so BenJarvus Green-Ellis figures to continue his strong play... Josh Morgan may have blown his chance to solidify his spot as the No. 2 receiver in Washington. With Pierre Garcon (foot) out, Morgan led the Skins in catches last week but his bonehead unsportsmanlike conduct penalty cost his team dearly and likely put him in Mike Shanahan's doghouse. Speaking of Shanahan's favor, it certainly seemed to stay with Alfred Morris as Evan Royster saw just one measly carry to Morris' 16. Shanahan could still flip flop, but Morris looks like a true feature back at this point. With the Bengals defense being tied for last in yards per carry allowing 5.5, Morris and Robert Griffin III figure to have a big ground day coming. RGIII could also badly burn a Cinci secondary that just gave up 322 yards and two scores to Brandon Weeden, though with Garcon doubtful to play that becomes more difficult.

Predictions: Without Garcon, RGIII relies more on his legs than his arm, throwing for just 210 yards and a score to Santana Moss while rushing for 94 yards and a TD. Morris gets a score on the ground to go with his first 100-yard effort, but is upstaged by BJGE's two TD's and 85 yards. Dalton throws for 308 yards and scores to Green and Hawkins to ruin RGIII's home debut. Bengals 28-24.

Philadelphia (-4) @ Arizona, Sunday 4:05 p.m.

Comments:
Michael Vick resurrected his fantasy hopes after a dismal four interceptions in Week 1 had many of his believers switching sides. He still had three turnovers but his efficient 371 yards passing against a vicious Ravens defense was eye-opening and he's currently second only to Eli Manning in passing yards. The Cardinals will present another stiff test for Vick, as they limited Tom Brady to just one score and a 79.6 passer rating, and with Jeremy Maclin (hip) out, the Eagles high-flying air attack may get caught in the desert quicksand. The hyper-active Philly defense will have to keep up its dominance to come out on top of this battle of the unbeaten... The Cardinals shocked the league by putting the hammer down on a potent Patriots offense and stealing a victory in Foxboro. Their defense flies to the ball and tackles nearly as well as any team outside of the 49ers. They could cause fits for a turnover-prone Vick, as they did last year in Philly by holding him to 128 yards passing with no scores and two picks. That game was won though by the arm of John Skelton and the hands of Larry Fitzgerald. With Kevin Kolb likely to remain at the reigns while Skelton is injured and the Cards are winning, Fitz, who had just four pathetic yards last week on five targets, figures to struggle mightily. And a matchup against Nnamdi Asomugha and the Eagles likely won't solve the woes of his owners.

Predictions: Kolb checkdowns his way to 168 yards and one touchdown to Early Doucet, while Beanie Wells rushes for 62 yards. Vick throws for 239 yards and a TD to Brent Celek but tosses two more INT's. He has his best rushing day though with 66 on the ground, while McCoy adds 90 of his own and a score on the wrong end of another tight one. Cardinals 16-14.

Atlanta (+3) @ San Diego, Sunday 4:05 p.m.

Comments:
We interrupt this regularly scheduled Game Capsule to issue an A.P.B. for a missing person, one Julio Jones. The disappearance of Jones has to be one of the bigger shocks of the past fantasy week (unlike Larry Fitzgerald he has a terrific QB), particularly after his scintillating Week 1 showing. A dropped touchdown and M.I.A. MNF performance had to leave owners wondering if Roddy White is still the top receiver in Atlanta, but let it be known, he's not. Every stud slips up. Jones is still a young player so hopefully his focus remains solid, as he, White and the All-World Tony Gonzalez combine with Matt Ryan to form arguably the best fantasy passing game, which should continue to soar despite a revamped San Diego defense. Michael "The Glacier" Turner on the other hand, figures to remain decidedly grounded against the Chargers' top ranked run defense... So far the Chargers offense has bullied the pathetic Titans defense and barely scraped by against an almost equally inept Raiders' unit, so it's difficult to gauge how much firepower remains with Philip Rivers and Co. One thing that's still clear: they badly need Ryan Mathews back. Jackie Battle ran it down the Titans' throats, but that's the worst run defense in football, plain and simple. Against a real defense like Atlanta's the Bolts will need Mathews' burst, and by all accounts, unless he suffers a setback in practice, he'll be good to go. How much work that means is anyone's guess but if it's expected to be a full workload, he's a No. 1 RB versus a defense that let Willis McGahee look 25 again. And if Antonio Gates (ribs) returns with Mathews, a shootout could be in the works.

Predictions: Turner runs for 28 yards but is forgotten before the end of the first quarter as Ryan pitches it for 288 yards and three scores going to Jones, Gonzalez and Harry Douglas. Rivers responds with TD's to Gates and Floyd in a 260-yard day while Mathews returns in good form and totals 104 yards and a rushing score. Chargers 27-24.

Houston (-1) @ Denver, Sunday 4:25 p.m.

Comments:
The Texans model is simple. Play smothering defense and run the ball down the opponent's throat. Conveniently, they have the ideal personnel to do both. An exceedingly soft schedule through two games however hasn't hurt things. So while Houston would love nothing more than to again pound Arian Foster and Ben Tate a combined 40 times for 184 yards and three touchdowns, playing in the thin Denver air against a defense that's allowed just 2.6 per carry and 71 rushing yards per game isn't exactly conducive to winning on the ground. And if Peyton Manning's no-huddle can hit hot routes and move the ball against the Texans blitz-heavy D, Matt Schaub will have to warm up his right arm and get Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels much more involved than they've been so far... Denver suffered four first quarter turnovers, got themselves down 27-7 going into the fourth and still had a chance for a W if they could have just forced one more three-and-out in Atlanta. Coming back home, Manning will be highly motivated to get himself and his team back on the winning track and Willis McGahee (4.7 YPC in two games) and Demaryius Thomas (two huge TD's in two games) are poised to provide major help.

Predictions: Foster grinds his way to 84 yards and a score, but Champ Bailey limits Johnson to just 72 receiving. Schaub, who throws for 224 with a pick and a touchdown to Daniels, cannot outduel Manning, as the 4-time MVP goes for 302 yards and TD's to Eric Decker and Jacob Tamme. McGahee chips in 74 yards in a field goal difference. Broncos 20-17.

Pittsburgh (-4.5) @ Oakland, Sunday 4:25 p.m.

Comments:
One of the biggest questions facing the Steelers in this young season is when and if they'll get the running game going. So far they've totaled just 141 yards on the ground (30th in the league) at a measly 2.6 yards per carry and have questions with all three of their runners. Fortunately for them, the Raiders have actually been worse with less than half that total at a dead-last 2.0 YPC. And what's even better, Oakland is almost equally inept stopping the run, having just let Miami rack up a whopping 263 yards and four scores rushing. While Isaac Redman is far from the explosive weapon Reggie Bush is, he could be in line for his best week with Jonathan Dwyer suffering from turf toe and Rashard Mendenhall's return still uncertain. Meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger figures to have little trouble against a defense that let Ryan Tannehill throw his first score and post a 91.0 passer rating... After getting dismantled by a Dolphins team with a severe lack of overall talent, the Raiders are looking like a mess. Darren McFadden has been every bit as bad on the ground as Chris Johnson and whether that's an issue with his offensive line or not, he doesn't have the look of a No. 1 RB versus a Steelers defense that's been very stingy against the run. Carson Palmer figures to be throwing it another 45+ times if Run DMC can't get going and/or the Steelers jump out to a lead, so Brandon Myers may continue to be a sneaky PPR play and Darrius Heyward-Bey may finally start doing something.

Predictions: Roethlisberger hits Antonio Brown (2) and Emmanuel Sanders for three total scores in a 287-yard day, while Redman rumbles for 77 yards and hits paydirt. McFadden improves to 62 rushing yards but fails to score as Palmer provides the only TD to Myers in posting 242 yards. Steelers 31-13.

New England (-2.5) @ Baltimore, Sunday 8:20 p.m.

Comments:
A rematch of last year's epic AFC Championship game pits two teams coming off brutally disappointing losses. The Ravens let a big road win slip away and the Pats ended a demoralizing home loss with Stephen Gostkowski doing his best Billy Cundiff impression. Adding injury to insult for New England, they lost Aaron Hernandez for at least a few weeks with an ankle sprain. They signed veterans Deion Branch and Kellen Winslow to help pick up the slack, but the biggest beneficiary figures to be Wes Welker who should resume getting targeted a ton by Tom Brady. To beat the Ravens in Baltimore however, where Joe Flacco is 29-5 as a starter, the Patriots will need a strong performance from Stevan Ridley to balance out an offense that looked very vulnerable last week behind a shaky line... The thirst the Ravens have to avenge their stolen Super Bowl trip from last season may be palpable in the Maryland night air as Ray Lewis and Ray Rice prepare to punch the Pats from both sides of the ball. An improved defensive front seven that's allowed just 2.6 yards per carry may make that tough on Rice, but a still susceptible secondary figures to see a heavy dose of Flacco's no-huddle and Torrey Smith's outside speed to set up the run. If the Ravens can take advantage of an inexperienced line to get after Brady, they will likely push Flacco's scintillating record to 30-5.

Predictions: Rice finds room on his way to 115 rushing and a touchdown, while Flacco burns Patriots corners with scores to Smith and Anquan Boldin. Ridley runs hard for 92 yards but loses a costly fumble. The pressure slows Brady to just 254 yards, but he manages scoring strikes to Rob Gronkowski and Brandon Lloyd. Ravens 27-20.

Green Bay (-3) @ Seattle, Monday 8:30 p.m.

Comments:
Both the Packers and Seahawks are coming off dominant defensive performances that should lead to two highly confident teams smacking each other in the mouth on Monday Night Football. Fortunately for the Packers, reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers can be smack-proof. Coming off his first game producing just one touchdown since the 2010 NFC Championship, Rodgers figures to be hungry for a bounce back performance, and Greg Jennings' return from the groin injury that sidelined him versus Chicago should aid that pursuit. For as good as the Seahawks secondary is in covering the pass, their front seven has done little to put pressure on opposing QB's (two games, two sacks), even though they've faced the awful Cardinals and Cowboys offensive lines in their first two games. This certainly plays to Rodgers' benefit. If he can sit back with any kind of time he'll shred even the stingiest coverages, so Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley could also have big weeks coming. Cedric Benson may find tough sledding though against the league's second ranked run D... What was supposed to be the Packers' ALL-TIME single-game leader for passing yards and touchdowns (that's right, Matt Flynn) squaring off with his former team and MVP mentor has somehow become about an intriguing rookie signal-caller defying odds and facing an elite pass rush and ball-hawking secondary. Russell Wilson's role so far as the Seattle QB has been to manage games and limit mistakes, but against a defense that forces so many, he'll need to be the playmaker that popped in the preseason to give the Hawks a chance. Marshawn Lynch doing his whole Beast Mode Skittles thing against a Packers defense allowing 5.1 yards per carry will take some pressure off the rook, but it won't be enough to win it.

Predictions: Wilson flashes his speed, adding 48 rushing yards to go with his 199 passing, but he throws two picks-one housed-as he faces constant pressure. Lynch eats Skittles twice to keep things interesting in a 119-yard beastly effort, but Rodgers' arm takes the night with 325 passing yards and three scores going to Nelson, Jennings and James Jones. Benson chips 44 yards into the win. Packers 28-20.