Welcome to Week 3 in the NFL

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:20 PM ET

FIVE STORYLINES TO WATCH

1. IS THIS HOUSTON TEAM FOR REAL?

OK, they beat up on the leaky Colts and handled the Miami Dolphins rather easily in their building. Now comes the first real test for the Texans and Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defence. It’s the New Orleans Saints who stay home after an impressive win over the Chicago Bears in which the Saints defence got its manhood back after losing it in Week 1 at Lambeau. The Texans have not really been tested this year although Miami made it interesting for a while there. Arian Foster’s early exit on Sunday appears precautionary so expect him, with another week under his belt, to be more effective. The interesting matchup will be to see what Drew Brees, who shredded Chicago in Week 2, does against Phillips’ defence.

2. CAN CAM DO IT AGAIN?

Two consecutive weeks with over 400 yards and now Cam Newton and the Panthers take on Jack Del Rio’s Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 3. Mark Sanchez didn’t exactly have his way with the Jags this past week despite putting up 32 points. But Sanchez has not had the type of start Newton has — team wins notwithstanding. We were sure Newton was going to get schooled by the Packers and he did throw three picks, but with that under his belt it’s going to be interesting to see what just an average defence can do against the rookie who seems to get better every week.

3. PACKING IT ON FOR THE BEARS

The Bears were humbled in Week 2 and they are back home against a tough NFC opponent in Green Bay. The Bears offensive line continues to leak like a sieve with Cutler being sacked six times giving him 10 in the first two games. Last season Cutler led the league in sacks hitting the turf 52 times, 12 more than the next-most-sacked quarterback. Gabe Carimi, the one addition to that porous line, limped off the field just before the half and didn’t return. Frank Omiyale filled in which is bad news as Omiyale was statistically the worst lineman in Chicago last year. Not surprising, five of the six sacks the Saints had came in the fourth quarter. That wet sound you’re hearing is Clay Matthews licking his lips.

4. GET READY FOR A SLUG-FEST!

Will there be a more physical battle than next Sunday’s game when the Jets travel to Oakland to take on the Raiders? The Raiders will still be smarting from the last-minute loss (second-half collapse) they suffered in Buffalo. Despite plenty of injuries, Oakland stayed right with Buffalo to the final gun. Playing at home for the first time this year should give them a boost. The Jets, meanwhile, are 2-0 — but only a Tony Romo brain cramp away from being 1-1. The win over Jacksonville, while statistically impressive, gets downgraded when you take into account the opponent. Rex Ryan has to be feeling at least a little concerned about this game.

5. NO REST FOR THE FALCONS

The Falcons, fresh off a gruelling Sunday night win over Philadelphia, head further south for a date with division rival Tampa Bay. Matt Ryan may need a few days to re-focus after the beating he took courtesy of the Eagles. In Tampa he’ll face a much younger defensive line but a team, like Atlanta, that is on the rise. Josh Freeman, LeGarrette Blount and Mike Williams give the Bucs a strong core. The Falcons appear to be further down the road to success but Tampa’s home field may trump that. In a division with New Orleans and a much-improved Carolina team, every single division game is huge.

ON THE HOT SEAT

Tony Sparano, Miami Dolphins

Todd Haley already has his own bar stool in this saloon but we’ll add a seat this week for Miami head coach Tony Sparano who uttered the fateful words — “I don’t have any answers” — in the wake of a second home defeat for the floundering Fish. Sparano will live to regret those words very likely. If there is a smidgen of hope for Sparano, it is that his third game of the season is in Cleveland against the Browns.

SAY WHAT?

The honour goes to Tom Brady who, for whatever reason, chose to stick up for receiver Chad Ochocinco who opened a whole can of ex-Patriot hate when he tweeted earlier last week how much in awe he was of what Brady and the Pats offence do. Former Patriot Tedy Bruschi took him to task for the on-line observation.

Brady responded in this fashion: “None of those guys have any clue what they’re talking about,” Brady said on WEEI, the same station where Bruschi went off on Ocho.

For the record, Ocho doubled his pass-catching totals from Week 1 to Week 2 hauling in two passes for 45 yards against the San Diego Chargers.

HYPE WE ARE BUYING

The Detroit Lions are playoff bound. Yeah, it has been a while but these Lions are making believers out of us. Obviously the schedule has been favourable and all bets are completely off if Matthew Stafford goes down, but a solid opening-season win over Tampa in Tampa followed by an as-expected romp over the injury-riddled and just-not-good-enough Chiefs gives every indication that this team is for real. The fact that they are very young only suggests they should get better before they get worse.

HYPE WE ARE NOT

Sorry Rex. Even at 2-0 you’re still Rex Grossman and you’re still playing for the Redskins. Mike Shanahan may bring credibility but against the bad karma that surrounds any team owned by Daniel Snyder that’s just a wash. Eventually these Redskins will return to form and it wouldn’t surprise us in the least if it’s this Monday night in Dallas. Big props for the Tim Hightower acquisition — but at the end of the day, Snyder teams lose.

STOCK RISING

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buffalo Bills

How can you not like this guy? He’s humble, he’s fearless and he has the Buffalo Bills believing they can beat anyone. The Harvard grad’s second half against the Oakland Raiders was a thing of beauty. Watching that you start to wonder if the long, long search for the first consistent quarterback since the Jim Kelly days is finally coming to an end. Here’s hoping the Bills feel that way too and re-up this guy long term.

STOCK FALLING

Kerry Collins, QB, Indianapolis Colts

Stepping into Peyton Manning’s shoes wouldn’t be easy for anyone. Kerry Collins is finding that out. Two games into his Indy stay, Collins is already hearing the city’s lead columnist publicly suggesting the team reach out to Brett Favre. To make that leap you don’t have to even look at Collins’ numbers. You know they are bad. We’d suggest Carson Palmer might be a more realistic target.

DAN BILICKI’S FANTASY TIDBITS

DREAM MATCHUP

Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers

Now that the Chiefs have lost their two best players (Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry) for the season, it’s probably safe to write off these mid-westerners. Throw in the fact that they have also lost their first two games by a combined score of 89-10 and you have a pretty ripe matchup to start basically anybody against. The Chargers are good plays against almost any team, but they could run rampant at home this Sunday.

NIGHTMARE TIME

Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts

The poor Colts, who are looking older than ever, now have to host the defending AFC champions.

Kerry Collins has looked like a guy who went back into retirement before Week 1 but failed to tell anyone — and the rushing game isn’t doing much better.

Facing a team that is coming off a shutout victory and has a defence that ranks fifth overall against the pass, I wouldn’t be starting too many — if any — of your Colts this week.

RANDLE’S RANTS

With a 4-point lead and having stopped the Eagles on downs with 1:19 to play on the Atlanta 20, the Falcons just needed to kill the clock. All they had to do was have QB Matt Ryan do the five-second jig on a couple of snaps. Instead, he took a quick knee on each snap, forcing the Falcons to punt with 15 seconds to go. That set up a hail mary to the end zone that had Atlanta backers doing the infamous couch squirm, for no reason at all. Chuckleheads.

— Those that still had hopes of a ’Skins cover, spotting 3˝ points, were happy but that doesn’t excuse Washington coach Mike Shanahan’s poor clock management at the end of game. With 1:23 to go, trailing by 2, the ’Skins at the Cardinals 16-yard line with a 3rd and 4 upcoming, Shanahan elects to pass, stopping the clock. Oh yeah, Arizona is also out of timeouts. Running the ball keeps the clock moving, giving the Cards just 48 seconds instead of 1:23 to mount a comeback. Duh!

— How does it take 9 minutes to review Oakland’s hail mary that was ruled an interception? If overturned, players would have found out on drive home. This review of every TD is becoming a bit much.

— Bill Belichick may be an icon but going on 4th and 4 at midfield, up 6, with nearly 12 minutes to play is simply arrogant.

— To those that took the Cowboys laying 3, calm down! A) you didn’t lose. B) kicking the field goal from the one-yard line was the right move!


Videos

Photos