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Row12.com - A Community of Sports Writers and Fans!                                               ***Attention Writers***
 
Football Friday: Week 3 Preview
By Matt Horkman

Matt SchaubHouston Texans at Baltimore Ravens
Prediction: In a matchup of defending division champions, Baltimore and Houston both enter week three with question marks. The Texans probably had no business winning either of their games, but here they sit unbeaten. Meanwhile, a slew of injuries -- including one to running back Ray Rice last week -- have Baltimore on edge. The Ravens’ defense is good enough to hold Houston’s running game in check, but quarterback Matt Schaub has been able to move the ball via the passing game. Even if wide receiver Andre Johnson doesn’t play, the Texans are still getting production from rookie wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and tight end Owen Daniels. If the Ravens were fully healthy, they’d be hard to pick against at home, but it’s hard to win with several key players watching from the sidelines.

Texans 27 Ravens 17

N.Y. Giants at Carolina Panthers
Prediction: Thanks to head coach Ron Rivera, Carolina’s somehow 0-2 after playing good football in back-to-back weeks. Last week, on fourth-and-1 inside Buffalo territory, Rivera opted to kick a field goal instead of finishing the Bills off. He’s not the only questionable coach in this game, though, as the Giants’ Tom Coughlin continues to punish running back David Wilson for fumbles. It’s hard criticizing a two-time Super Bowl champion, but Coughlin owes it to the other 52 guys on the roster to play his best players. Should he bench quarterback Eli Manning for turning the ball over? Of course not and he shouldn’t bench Wilson, either. Even if Wilson gets his shot, the Giants are going to have trouble running on one of football’s best front sevens. In addition, quarterback Cam Newton’s ability to elude pressure from within the pocket should allow him to exploit holes in the Giants’ secondary. Panther fans had just better hope Rivera doesn’t blow this one.

Panthers 24 Giants 21

Green Bay Packers at Cincinnati Bengals
Prediction: In the best of week three‘s early games, Green Bay travels to Cincinnati firing on all cylinders. The Bengals are going to need to pressure quarterback Aaron Rodgers or the latter will pick apart their secondary. I’m not sure the Packers have ever had a better passing game, and yes, that includes their record-breaking campaign of 2011. Not only is Rodgers in the prime of his career, but so are his top three wide receivers and his tight end. The Packers did allow three sacks last week, and the Bengals have the ability to change the game with their pass rush. The key matchup to watch is Green Bay’s interior line going against defensive tackle Geno Atkins. Can offensive guard Josh Sitton slow down the all-pro defensive tackle? Slowing Atkins down is all the Packers need, as Rodgers is already in mid-season form. Because of this, he and Green Bay gets the edge over a well-respected Cincinnati defense.

Packers 34 Bengals 24

Upset of the Week
St. Louis Rams at Dallas Cowboys
Prediction: Teams that can rush the passer with their front four will present problems for Dallas this season. St. Louis’ front four -- led by defensive ends Robert Quinn and Chris Long -- can do just that. The Cowboys did do a good job in week one of neutralizing New York’s pass rush with a short passing game, so they should go back to that game plan. Unlike the Giants, however, the Rams won’t gift wrap this game by turning the ball over six times. The quarterback that protects the ball under pressure will lead his team to victory. I’m taking Sam Bradford over Tony Romo in what I think could be a signature performance for the former No. 1 overall pick.

Rams 20 Cowboys 14

Cleveland Browns at Minnesota Vikings
Prediction: New general manager Mike Lombardi has officially put his stamp on the franchise by trading away running back Trent Richardson. Without Richardson, the Browns don’t have much of an offense, indicating they may be giving up on the 2013 season. I have a hard time believing an NFL locker room would do such a thing, but it’s clear the front office is looking ahead. Last week, NBC’s Peter King reported that Cleveland might have an eye for Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, but I think Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, and UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley are all better prospects than Manziel is. The mere fact this is even worth discussing suggests where the team is heading for the rest of the year.

Vikings 24 Browns 6

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New England Patriots
Prediction: Because of his three Super Bowl championships, the media has given New England head coach Bill Belichick a pass on some of his bone-headed decisions. They consistently praise him every year for accumulating draft picks, but they often miss on many of them. Does anyone remember Ron Brace, Darius Butler, Chad Jackson, Taylor Price, and Ras-I Dowling? Yeah, I thought so. Some of these misses are coming home to roost, especially at receiver, where the Patriots have been unable to find a young target for quarterback Tom Brady. It really showed up last week and I wouldn’t doubt it happens this week against an improving Tampa Bay secondary. They’ll escape with a win, but despite a potential 3-0 star, this isn’t the same old Patriots.

Patriots 21 Buccaneers 16

Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints
Prediction: Over the first two weeks, New Orleans has allowed 17 and 14 points, respectively. Last year, they allowed 28.4 points per game. I still have reservations about the defense, but if they could somehow sustain this level of play, then consider New Orleans the favorites in the NFC South.

Saints 31 Cardinals 14

San Diego Chargers at Tennessee Titans
Prediction: A potential resurgence in the AFC West is coming. The Broncos are obviously Super Bowl contenders and the Chiefs are 3-0 under new head coach Andy Reid. Because of head coach Mike McCoy, the Chargers aren’t far off. He has quarterback Philip Rivers playing like it is 2009 again. Rivers has seven touchdown passes to just one interception. In addition, he’s coming off a 419-yard performance against the Eagles. As long as he avoids turnovers, he’ll lead San Diego to victory over an overrated Tennessee team.

Chargers 28 Titans 17

Detroit Lions at Washington
Prediction: Talk of benching quarterback Robert Griffin III is misguided. That ship sailed when Washington decided to open the season with RG3 under center. Despite his statistics, he hasn’t played well, but he’s hardly the biggest problem looming in Washington. No, I’m not talking about partisan bickering between democrats and republicans, either. It’s Jim Haslett’s defense. They’ve allowed 1,000-plus yards of offense in just two games this season. They’re on pace to allow over 8,000 total yards. How in the world is Washington’s secondary going to contain Detroit’s passing attack? The Lions should pour it on this Sunday, even if running back Reggie Bush sits.

Lions 35 Washington 27

Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins
Prediction: After back-to-back road wins, people are excited about Miami’s prospects in the AFC. The wins came against Cleveland and Indianapolis, though, so I’m not sure how much stock to put in them. The Falcons are their first test. They win this game, then it‘s time to starting taking Miami seriously. Consider me a skeptic heading into Sunday.

Falcons 30 Dolphins 21

Buffalo Bills at N.Y. Jets
Prediction: An underrated defense has Buffalo on the rise. Defensive end Mario Williams had 4.5 sacks last week. He should eat quarterback Geno Smith alive. I also trust Buffalo quarterback E.J. Manuel more than I do Smith. The Bills win a defensive struggle. 

Bills 20 Jets 6

Game of the Week
Indianapolis Colts at San Francisco 49ers
Prediction: Acquiring Richardson adds just another layer to this game. I’m not sure how much he’ll play, but I like the move long-term in Indianapolis. The Colts want to run the ball and pairing Richardson with quarterback Andrew Luck solidifies their backfield for the near future. They’re not beating San Francisco, though. Head coach Jim Harbaugh will have his team ready after last week’s debacle in Seattle. He recruited Luck at Stanford, so he him as well as anyone does. Don’t think he’s not giving his defense tips on how to defend him. On defense, the Colts don’t have the secondary or physicality to stop San Francisco’s offense. They may hang around for a bit, but the 49ers will pull away in the second half.

49ers 34 Colts 17

Lock of the Week
Jacksonville Jaguars at Seattle Seahawks
Prediction: The only question here is whether the 19.5 points Seattle’s favored by is too small. 

Seahawks 45 Jaguars 13

Chicago Bears at Pittsburgh Steelers
Prediction: Aside from New England, Chicago’s 2-0 record might be the most fraudulent in football. While the Bears are heading in the right direction, there were times quarterback Jay Cutler reverted to old ways against Minnesota. He’s always had troubles with exotic defense, hence his struggles against Dom Capers in Green Bay. The Steelers play a similar style, so I suspect Cutler’s in for a tough night.

Steelers 13 Bears 10

Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos
Prediction: Expecting the Raiders to keep this close in Oakland would be a stretch. In Denver, it’s a near impossible task. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor is doing some interesting things, but this is the best Denver’s looked with Peyton Manning under center.

Broncos 38 Raiders 17

Last Week: 10-6
Season Record: 18-14

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