NFL Game Capsules
By Dalton Del Don
RotoWire Staff Writer
Kansas City (+6) at Atlanta, Sunday 1 p.m.
Losers of 11 straight regular season games, the Chiefs enter Week 3 coming off an embarrassing loss at home to the Raiders. In fact, Kansas City has yet to have a lead in either game this season. With the team in rebuild mode, Tyler Thigpen
gets the start at quarterback, which could spell even more trouble in the short-term -- he was downright awful against Oakland. Since setting an NFL record with 416 carries in 2006, Larry Johnson
has averaged 3.4 YPC and is now being removed on all passing downs. He has a nice matchup this week in Atlanta, but his days as a useful fantasy back appear to be finished... Despite the lopsided final score, the Falcons weren't completely overmatched last week in Tampa Bay and look like a much improved team in 2008. Moreover, their 6.0 YPC ranks second best in football, which is bad news for a Chiefs front seven yielding 5.7 YPC, the third-worst mark in the league. Michael Turner
should have a huge game Sunday. Matt Ryan
will remain inconsistent throughout the year, but he has a favorable matchup this week, so look for Roddy White
to get more involved in the offense. John Abraham
has been a beast so far this year.
Predictions: Tyler Thigpen struggles, resulting in Damon Huard replacing him. As a group, the Chiefs passing game posts modest stats, with Dwayne Bowe catching the only touchdown on the day. Larry Johnson's fade continues, as he's held to fewer than 60 yards on the ground. Michael Turner, on the other hand, runs for 130 yards and scores twice, while Matt Ryan finds Roddy White in the end zone, as the home team wins. Falcons 24-13.
Arizona (+3) at Washington, Sunday 1 p.m.
The Redskins bounced back nicely last week, with the offense leading the way. Historically, they have another nice matchup this week against the Cardinals, but Arizona surprisingly comes in with the seventh-rated defense in the league. Jason Campbell
had the best game of his career during the Week 2 win, and a healthy Santana Moss
could help him build off that over the rest of the season... Arizona has been aided by an easy schedule, but this is clearly a different team from years past. Credit is due to the coaching staff, as well as to Kurt Warner
, who hasn't committed a single turnover yet while getting a remarkable 10.3 YPA. If Anquan Boldin
and Larry Fitzgerald
can remain healthy along with Warner, the offense has the upside to go deep into the postseason. The running game is a weakness, and it won't be easy on the road Sunday, but this Cardinals team looks more real than it does mirage.
Predictions: Jason Campbell throws for 240 yards and a TD to Santana Moss, while Clinton Portis adds 100 yards and reaches paydirt. Kurt Warner responds with 250 passing yards and finds Larry Fitzgerald in the end zone, while Edgerrin James contributes 70 total yards. Tim Hightower also adds a goal-line score, as Arizona wins it on a late field goal. Cardinals 23-20.
Houston (+5) at Tennessee, Sunday 1 p.m.
Coming off an odd early-season bye, Houston enters with two weeks of preparation. Unfortunately, just one of those was used toward Tennessee, so it's not the same advantage as usual. It looks like Pittsburgh is a truly elite team this year, so Week 1's drubbing can be forgiven in Houston. Still, the Titans present a very difficult matchup, as their defense currently looks like the best in the league; their 2.7 YPC allowed ranks first, their eight sacks rank second, and their 8.5 ppg allowed ranks first. Houston has a lot of upside in the passing game, but the early season schedule is brutal... Kerry Collins
has opened up the Titans' playbook, and the passing attack gets upgraded as a result. Still, this remains a run-heavy offense, which should have success against the Texans. Albert Haynesworth
is a force, and Chris Johnson
deserves every superlative bestowed upon him. He should have a third straight big game to open his career Sunday.
Predictions: Matt Schaub throws for 225 yards with touchdown tosses to Owen Daniels and Kevin Walter, while Steve Slaton is shut down. Kerry Collins counters with 180 passing yards, but it's the ground game that carries the team. LenDale White runs for 60 yards and a score, while Chris Johnson totals 110 yards and adds a TD of his own, as Tennessee improves to 3-0. Titans 20-17.
Oakland (+10) at Buffalo, Sunday 1 p.m.
A Week 2 win in Kansas City has saved coach Lane Kiffin's job for now, but Oakland will have a tough task repeating Sunday against a Buffalo team that looks much improved. The Raiders' defense isn't a pushover, but the passing game is a disaster, which will become a major problem in games they find themselves down early. JaMarcus Russell
's 2:0 TD:INT ratio is fine, but his 53.5 completion percentage and 5.5 YPA are unacceptable. His receivers are possibly the worst group in the NFL, which is why the team focuses on its ground game. With Justin Fargas
(groin) out, Darren McFadden
(toe) and Michael Bush
will carry the load Sunday. Through the first two weeks of the season, McFadden leads the NFL with four runs of 20 yards or more... All the pieces are in place for Buffalo to make a playoff run this year, with a great special teams, an emerging defense and the league's most improved player, Trent Edwards
, at the helm. Edwards was nothing short of fantastic last week in Jacksonville and has now gotten 8.3 YPA on the year. As long as he avoids throwing Nnamdi Asomugha
's way, he should have another fine game Sunday.
Predictions: JaMarcus Russell struggles, getting just 140 passing yards with two interceptions and no TDs, but Darren McFadden racks up 100 combined yards and a score. Marshawn Lynch answers with a similar line, while Trent Edwards throws for 225 yards and a TD to Robert Royal. Roscoe Parrish also returns a punt to the house, as Buffalo prevails. Bills 27-13.
Tampa Bay (+3) at Chicago, Sunday 1 p.m.
Both teams enter with solid defenses and questionable quarterback play, but Brian Griese
is 1-0 as starter this season for Tampa Bay. Still, he wasn't impressive during that victory, completing just 58.1 percent of his passes for a paltry 5.2 YPA despite a highly favorable home matchup against Atlanta. This week, he'll be missing Joey Galloway
(foot) and faces a stout Bears D in Chicago, so expect an ugly outing... Three weeks into the season, the Bears play their first home game Sunday, and once again, their defense will lead the way. Devin Hester
's (ribs) status is unclear, but he makes a bigger impact on special teams than on offense, despite the team's dearth of talent in the passing game. Chicago is centering its offense around rookie Matt Forte
, as Kyle Orton
is asked to "manage" games and not lose them. Home field figures to be the difference maker Sunday.
Predictions: Brian Griese gets a rude awakening during his return to Chicago, committing two turnovers while throwing for just 160 yards and no touchdowns. Earnest Graham continues to yield touches to Warrick Dunn, but he does score the team's lone TD. Matt Forte fights for 75 combined yards and reaches the end zone, while Kyle Orton adds 170 passing yards and a scoring strike to Greg Olsen, as Chicago comes out on top. Bears 17-13.
Carolina (+3.5) at Minnesota, Sunday 1 p.m.
Despite entering undefeated with Steve Smith
back in the lineup and playing an 0-2 team, the Panthers enter as 3.5-point underdogs, and this is a team that's played better on the road than at home over the past couple of years. Still, Carolina hasn't been overly impressive during its two wins, although the competition wasn't easy either. Smith is the team's best player, so the offense gets a huge boost with his return, and Jonathan Stewart
is clearly the Panthers' best option at running back, though he'll face a brutal matchup this week. Julius Peppers
hasn't recorded a sack since Week 11 last year... Minnesota entered 2008 as some pundits' pick to win the Super Bowl, but after two losses, the team is switching to Gus Frerotte
at quarterback. It seems like an act of desperation, especially since the Vikings' brass has so steadfastly backed Jackson up in the past, but his numbers (50.8%, 5.2 YPA) are tough to ignore. They have faced a difficult schedule, but it's hard not to upgrade Minnesota's passing game with the switch. Adrian Peterson
has missed practice this week with a hamstring issue, which is definitely cause for concern. Still, expect the desperate Vikings to somehow fight their way to victory.
Predictions: Jake Delhomme throws for 240 yards and hits up Steve Smith for a score, but the ground game is held in check. Gus Frerotte has a modest first game as starter, but both Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson record TD runs while also compiling 140 total yards, as Minnesota finally gets into the win column. Vikings 20-16.
Cincinnati (+14) at New York Giants, Sunday 1 p.m.
The opponents have been difficult, but it's safe to say no one expected Cincinnati's passing offense to rank last in the NFL entering Week 3. It doesn't get any easier traveling to New York this week, so more misery should follow. Over his last seven games dating back to last year, Carson Palmer
has thrown just five touchdown passes with eight interceptions. The offensive line is a major problem, but so is Palmer's inaccuracy. Chad Johnson
's injury is clearly limiting him... Coming in riding a six-game winning streak and facing the doormat Bengals, it wouldn't surprise if the Giants had a bit of a letdown. However, the discrepancy in talent between these two franchises is massive, and the physical Giants maintain they aren't overlooking Cincinnati. The defensive front should manhandle the Bengals' O-line, so expect two-to-three forced turnovers by New York. Plaxico Burress
should shred Cincy's secondary, while the three-headed monster in the backfield should absolutely run wild, especially in the second half once the defense is worn down.
Predictions: Carson Palmer struggles yet again, throwing for just 200 yards and two picks. He does, however, find T.J. Houshmandzadeh for a score, but Chris Perry manages only 70 total yards and avoids the end zone. Eli Manning responds with 270 passing yards and finds Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer for scores, while Brandon Jacobs adds 100 rushing yards and a TD as well. Derrick Ward also adds a late touchdown run, as New York wins in a rout. Giants 31-13.
Miami (+13) at New England, Sunday 1 p.m.
Miami is now 1-20 over its last 21 contests, which isn't very good. Chad Pennington
hasn't upgraded the quarterback position all that much, although he doesn't have many weapons to utilize. Thought to be a strength entering the year with Ricky Williams
and Ronnie Brown
in the backfield, the ground game ranks 29th in league, gaining just 60.5 rushing yards per game. The defense is also a major work in progress... New England is going to go about it differently this year with Tom Brady
(knee) gone, but expect plenty of wins like usual. Matt Cassel
l's first start was a mixed bag last week, but he has a highly favorable matchup this week and figures to improve with more work. Last week's 19-10 win on the road against the Jets could have looked a lot more lopsided had the team not gone 1-for-5 inside the red zone. With LaMont Jordan
(foot) and Laurence Maroney
(knee) predictably injured, look for Sammy Morris
to dominate the touches in New England's backfield, which should result in a productive game against the soft Dolphins front seven. Richard Seymour
is healthier than he's been in two years and is back to being one of the most valuable defensive players in football.
Predictions: Chad Pennington watches Chad Henne play for a good portion of the second half, as the passing game struggles as a whole. Ronnie Brown continues the trend of getting more touches than Ricky Williams, but that only results in 50 yards and a TD. Sammy Morris counters with 90 total yards and a score, while Matt Cassell adds 225 passing yards and finds Randy Moss for two scoring strikes, as New England rolls. Patriots 27-10.
New Orleans (+5.5) at Denver, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
The Saints have a very good offense and should contend for the playoffs this year, but they are a finesse team that will struggle with physical squads while playing outdoors, so last week's loss in Washington was no surprise. They face yet another tough matchup Sunday in Denver, but it's a defense that New Orleans should be able to move the ball on. There's talk of getting Deuce McAllister
more involved in the running game, and while Pierre Thomas
makes more sense, the fewer rushing attempts Reggie Bush
(3.3 YPC) receives, the better. It's safe to say the Jonathan Vilma
(25 tackles) acquisition has been a success so far... Denver has an offense capable of winning the Super Bowl. Its defense, however, makes the playoffs no sure bet. For now, the offense outweighs the defensive shortcomings, ranking No. 1 in the NFL. There isn't a better connection in football than Jay Cutler
to Brandon Marshall
, and Tony Scheffler
stretches the defense unlike many tight ends. No one has emerged from Denver's backfield, but the team has gotten 4.9 YPC regardless, which is good for seventh in the league. Rookies Ryan Clady
and Ryan Harris
have been simply fantastic, keeping Cutler's jersey clean. With an unstoppable passing attack playing at home against a weak Saints secondary that's also dealing with plenty of injuries, don't be shocked if Denver drops a 40 burger Sunday.
Predictions: Drew Brees throws for 240 yards and two touchdowns, with David Patten and Jeremy Shockey the recipients. Reggie Bush totals 70 yards, but the ground game struggles. Jay Cutler continues to impress, throwing for 300 yards and tosses touchdowns to Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler, while the rushing attack adds 130 yards and a short TD run by Michael Pittman, as Denver remains undefeated. Broncos 33-23.
Detroit (+4) at San Francisco, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
Coming off seven straight losing seasons, an impressive preseason gave Detroit hope. Instead, they are 0-2 and appear to have one of the very worst defenses in the league. They now travel to San Francisco to play outdoors against a team with Mike Martz and J.T. O'Sullivan
, who both have revenge on their minds. Jon Kitna
should have no problem continuing to rack up nice yardage totals, but his turnovers have been absolute killers, and it's imperative he avoids such terrible mistakes Sunday... Don't look now, but Martz might make this 49ers offense sneaky good. Frank Gore
gives San Francisco a productive running game, and he should have a huge outing against the Lions on Sunday. O'Sullivan is going to take far too many sacks, like all of Martz's QBs, but his 9.9 YPA is an elite mark, and he could even improve upon it against Detroit. Bryant Johnson
could approach 1,200 receiving yards if he stays healthy. Who knows how it will translate to their win/loss record, but this San Francisco team is no longer boring to watch. Expect the scoreboard operator to be busy Sunday.
Predictions: Jon Kitna throws for 250 yards and finds Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson for scores, while Kevin Smith has his best game as a pro, totaling 80 yards with a touchdown. Frank Gore answers with 150 yards combined and two TDs, while J.T. O'Sullivan adds 300 passing yards and connects with Bryant Johnson and Vernon Davis for scores, as San Francisco wins a thriller. 49ers 28-27.
St. Louis (+10) at Seattle, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
If not for a miracle long TD catch that was deflected last week by Torry Holt
, the Rams would still be without a touchdown this season. With a weak offensive line going against a Seahawks squad that leads the NFL in sacks, things won't get much easier Sunday, especially since the Rams always struggle when playing outdoors. After being outscored 79-16 over the first two weeks, it should come as no surprise St. Louis is a double-digit underdog to a winless team. Steven Jackson
will be asked to carry the offense, and with those teammates around him, it's an unenviable task... Seattle is getting criticized for its lack of receiving weapons, and while that's true, the offense did put up 30 points last week; the defense, which has allowed 33.5 ppg so far, deserves its fair share of the blame for the 0-2 start. Julius Jones
is a well below average running back, but he had a good game last week and gets another nice matchup Sunday. You know the WR corps is depleted when Koren Robinson
is asked to be the savior, and Matt Hasselbeck
's 4.9 YPA is a direct result. However, Seattle still has a significant homefield advantage and is too good to start 0-3, whereas St. Louis will be lucky to remain competitive into the second half.
Predictions: Marc Bulger's demise continues, as he throws for just 180 yards and no TDs while taking numerous sacks. Steven Jackson totals 75 yards with a score, but Julius Jones counters with 90 rushing yards and a TD of his own. Matt Hasselbeck has his best performance of the year, throwing for 230 yards and touchdown tosses to John Carlson and Courtney Taylor, as Seattle wins handily. Seahawks 30-13.
Cleveland (+2) at Baltimore, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Last season's high-powered offense has generated just one touchdown through two weeks, as Cleveland has been one of the league's bigger disappointments so far. The schedule (and wind) has been a big reason why, but unfortunately, it doesn't ease up this week, as the team travels to face a physical Baltimore squad that's well-rested after a rare Week 2 bye. Jamal Lewis
hasn't been able to get on track after he missed a big chunk of the preseason with a hamstring injury, and it doesn't figure to happen Sunday against a stout Ravens defensive interior. Braylon Edwards
has more drops than catches this season, but he's likely to bounce back soon enough. His matchup with Chris McAllister should be a good one this week. Over his last 10 games, Derek Anderson
has gotten just 6.0 YPA... Despite playing a poor Cleveland defense Sunday, the Ravens will likely rely on defense and their running game this week. The two weeks of rest should have done plenty of good for Willis McGahee
(knee) and Todd Heap
(back), who are Baltimore's two best weapons on offense and should be featured heavily Sunday. The Ravens are just too physical for the Browns, and homefield proves the difference.
Predictions: Derek Anderson throws for only 210 yards, but he does find Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow for scores. Jamal Lewis is limited to just 50 yards, while Willis McGahee gains 80 yards with a TD run. Joe Flacco adds 180 passing yards and connects with Todd Heap for a touchdown, as Baltimore triumphs. Ravens 20-14.
Pittsburgh (+3) at Philadelphia, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
If the first two weeks of the season were any indication, this Eagles team is going to be a major contender. They have the No. 1 ranked passing offense in the NFL and have scored 37.5 ppg so far. Despite his gaffe Monday night, DeSean Jackson
looks like the real deal, and the receiving corps gets healthier with the return of Reggie Brown
(hamstring) this week. Donovan McNabb
looks terrific and tough to tackle again, and when he's slippery in the pocket, the passing game is deadly... The Steelers have won with strong defensive play this season, holding two good offenses, Cleveland and Houston, to just 23 total points so far. The 25th ranked passing attack is misleading, since last week involved heavy winds, and Ben Roethlisberger
has been extremely productive on a per play basis, getting a superb 9.8 YPA. Playing a high-powered Eagles offense Sunday, expect Pittsburgh to open up the passing game. Besides, the team needs to avoid overworking Willie Parker
, whose 53 carries lead the NFL. The Steelers are a perfect 6-of-6 scoring TDs while in the red zone this year. Philadelphia has the homefield advantage between two seemingly even teams, but they also have the shorter week to prepare, and Pittsburgh has a few more weapons on offense, giving them the slight edge.
Predictions: Donovan McNabb continues to play well, throwing for 240 yards with TD strikes to DeSean Jackson and Brian Westbrook, who also adds 100 total yards and a score on the ground. Ben Roethlisberger answers with 280 passing yards and three touchdowns, with Heath Miller, Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward the recipients, as Pittsburgh comes out on top. Steelers 24-21.
Jacksonville (+5.5) at Indianapolis, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Both teams enter with disappointing starts to the season, but at least the Colts were able to squeak out a win last week, something the Jaguars have yet to do. The normally potent rushing attack has felt the losses on the interior line, ranking 28th in the league while getting just 3.0 YPC. David Garrard
has already thrown as many interceptions this year (three) as he did all of last season, and his YPA has dropped significantly (6.0) as well. Jacksonville catches a break with Bob Sanders
(ankle) out for Indianapolis, and they almost always play their division rivals tough... Peyton Manning
is still clearly hobbled by his knee injury, and it might be affecting the ground game as much as the passing offense, as it limits their ability to call the team's patented stretch plays. As a result, Indy's 2.3 YPC ranks last in the NFL by a wide margin. Still, the passing attack remains potent and will get Dallas Clark
(knee) back this week. Anthony Gonzalez
currently looks like the superior receiver to Marvin Harrison
, and he'll continue to be a big part of the offense moving forward.
Predictions: David Garrard throws for 190 yards, runs for another 30 and finds Matt Jones for a score. Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor combine for 100 rushing yards, with Jones-Drew punching one in at the goal line. Joseph Addai rebounds and gains 80 yards with a TD, while Peyton Manning adds 250 passing yards with touchdown tosses to Anthony Gonzalez and Dallas Clark, as Indy puts Jacksonville in an 0-3 hole. Colts 21-17.
Dallas (-3) at Green Bay, Sunday 8:15 p.m.
The Packers won a wild game last week against the Lions, as they let a 21-0 lead turn into a deficit, only to ultimately win easily 48-25. One thing has become clear, and that's Aaron Rodgers
is capable of playing the quarterback position at a Pro Bowl level. And if last week told us anything, it's that this Cowboys secondary is beatable. The fact Ryan Grant
(hamstring) isn't 100 percent hurts, and Green Bay's own defense will certainly have its hands full as well in what figures to be a shootout... The Cowboys have converted an amazing 66.7 percent of their third down conversions this season, which is significantly better than the next best team. Unfortunately, Dallas also leads the NFL in penalty yardage, and coincidentally, Green Bay has racked up the second most. While both teams have solid defenses, expect the superior offenses to take the limelight Sunday, and there might not be a better unit in football than the Tony Romo
-led Cowboys. It's huge that Jason Witten
is tough enough to play through a separated shoulder, because he is absolutely vital to the offense. Marion Barber
remains the heavy favorite to lead the league in touchdowns in 2008.
Predictions: Aaron Rodgers throws for 250 yards and finds Donald Driver and James Jones for scoring strikes, while Ryan Grant adds 70 yards and a TD. Tony Romo responds with 320 passing yards and tosses touchdowns to Terrell Owens and Patrick Crayton, while Marion Barber adds 80 yards and two short scores, as Dallas covers on the road. Cowboys 31-27.
New York Jets (+10) at San Diego, Monday 8:30 p.m.
So maybe Week 1's road win in Miami doesn't look so impressive in hindsight. The Jets lost by nine points to the Patriots last week, but they were dominated worse than the score indicates and now have the difficult task of traveling across the country to play an angry 0-2 Chargers team determined to get into the win column. Brett Favre
has played well for his new team, and it's clear San Diego's defense isn't what many projected, but it's doubtful the Jets' offense can counter what the high-powered Chargers will put on the board... It's official; Philip Rivers
has taken the leap. After getting a pedestrian 6.9 YPA during the regular season last year, that number jumped to 8.9 during the playoffs and all the way to 9.9 so far this year. It's like the knee surgery never took place. With a 63.3 completion percentage, 6:1 TD:INT ratio and just two sacks taken, Rivers has been one of the NFL's most valuable players in the early going. Chris Chambers
has turned five receptions into three touchdowns, and Vincent Jackson
is becoming a legit option through the air. LaDainian Tomlinson
's status is murky due to a turf toe injury that is going to linger for some time, but the team loses little if he's forced to miss the game. Darren Sproles
is the far more explosive option at this stage of their careers.
Predictions: Brett Favre throws for 240 yards and finds Jerricho Cotchery and Chansi Stuckey for scores, while Thomas Jones adds 80 yards but is held out of the end zone. Philip Rivers continues to excel, throwing for 280 yards with TD strikes to Vincent Jackson (twice) and Antonio Gates, while Darren Sproles totals 120 yards and reaches paydirt, as San Diego wins convincingly. Chargers 31-17.
Article first appeared 9/19/08