Here’s a Ferringo’s-eye view of Week 3 in the National Football League:
New England at Pittsburgh (-3)
Once again, the Patriots are involved in the Game of the Week. They’re dogs entering the Steel City, and are going up against the best team in football right now. Ben Roethlisberger has a ridiculous 153.6 passer rating, which is nearly perfect. He’s also 16-1 as a starter, which is nearly perfect and is looking to avenge the only loss of his pro career – a 41-27 blowout at the hands of the Pats in the AFC Title Game last January.
Pittsburgh is once again the top running team in the league, bruising its way to 170.5 yards per game (without their two best runners) and 4.7 yards per carry. The Steelers also rank fourth on defense, but are just 17th against the run. The Patriots, on the other hand, are only averaging 2.4 yards per carry, and they are the 12th-ranked defense in the NFL. In two games, they’ve yielded 23.5 points a game.
Per usual, Tom Brady will be the key to any upset chance that New England has. Brady’s shoulder is officially listed as probable, and he’ll be looking to avenge his poor performance (69.3 rating) against Carolina last week. That rating was the 17th worst of his 73 starts (in which he is 58-15). However, he’s 10-4 in games following his previous 14 losses and has posted a passer rating close to 95 in those games.
Cincinnati (-3) at Chicago
The Pats and Steelers may be the Game of the Week, but I really think that this is the most intriguing matchup of Week 3. It pits two young, up-and-coming teams – one with a high-powered offense and one with a hard-hitting defense – each trying to make a name for itself among the top teams in their respective conferences.
In this corner, Cincinnati has been the “Best Team That Nobody is Talking About” thus far by demolishing Cleveland and Minnesota. The Bengals and their Big Three – Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson and Rudi Johnson – have led Cincy to the No. 1 offense in the league. They are averaging 462 yards per game, with 157 coming on the ground and 305 through the air. Palmer has been lights out (five TD’s and a 107.8 rating), and is being backed by a defense that has already forced a ridiculous 10 takeaways.
And in this corner, Chicago has been the “Best Team that Everyone Forgot Existed” until they posted a 32-point win last week over the Lions. The Bears have gone back to their roots – run the ball (114 ypg, 4.1 ypc) and playing good defense (7th overall). This is a big spot for a team that’s on the verge of having some confidence. If they can defend their turf they enter their bye week on a 2-1 roll with putrid Cleveland waiting on the other side.
But a win is far from given. Kyle Orton played well for Chicago last weekend (translation: no turnovers) and will again have to protect the ball against the Bengals.
Atlanta at Buffalo (2.5)
There are certainly quarterback issues for both of these teams. Mike Vick is listed as questionable this weekend with a sore hamstring, and J.P. Losman is unofficially questionable after getting benched last week for one drive against Tampa Bay. I would put Vick at about 85 percent to play. Also, Losman will again seize the reigns for Buffalo, and don’t be surprised to see Mike Mularkey dig into his bag-of-tricks and pull out some gimmicks this weekend.
This game will be a slugfest. Atlanta is fifth in the league in rushing (157 ypg, 4.6 ypc) and Buffalo is 15th (100 ypg, 3.8 ypc). The Bills are second in the league in total defense, but are just 30th in rushing after getting rolled by Tampa Bay (191 rush yards) last Sunday. Atlanta, on the other hand, will most likely be without cornerback/kick returner Allen Rossum and defensive end Brady Smith, who are two key cogs. Rossum is particularly important because the Falcons are already without corner Kevin Mathis – leaving the secondary very vulnerable.
New York Giants at San Diego (-5.5)
I hope Eli brings his ear plugs. This will be Manning’s first appearance in San Diego, the city that drafted him first overall in 2004 even though he said he wanted nothing to do with that organization. Also, Manning and the 2-0 G-Men will be rolling into the den of a team that, at 0-2, is desperate for a win.
Yes, the Giants are 2-0. But they are the fraudulent kind of undefeated. They tooled on the Cardinals (who doesn’t?) and then topped an emotionally spent Saints club in a “road” game in Jersey. They have scored 69 points so far. Pretty impressive, right? But they’re 26th in total offense and have run the second fewest plays (104) in the league. They’ve mostly been the beneficiary of special teams flukes and turnovers. Defensively, they’re allowed 370 yards per contest.
San Diego, on the other hand, is playing well until it matters. Drew Brees and Co. were on their way to a crucial road win over Denver last weekend until Drew Brees threw a horrible INT that Champ Bailey returned for a touchdown. The week before, they had benched Antonio Gates and decided to give LaDainian Tomlinson only two touches in the fourth quarter of a four-point loss to Dallas. It’s tough to have must-win games in September, but this is pretty close for the Bolts.
FREE PICK (YTD 0-1): This week I like Indianapolis to cover the 13.5 against the Browns. In 2004 the Colts had one of the Greatest Offenses Football Has Ever Seen. But over their last three games – dating back to the playoff loss in Foxboro – they’ve managed just 12 points per contest. I’m looking for them to break out in a big way at home against a Cleveland team that’s 30th in the NFL against the pass. Also, I think the Brownies are due for a letdown after a tough road win in Lambeau last Sunday.
1) Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0) – It’s really tough to be picky about a team that’s looked so good, but they are allowing the opposition to convert 48 percent of their third downs.
2) Indianapolis Colts (2-0) – This team has the purposeful look of a group on a Mission. It hasn’t been smoke and mirrors, but good ol’ fashioned toughness. Let’s see if they can sustain it.
3) New England Patriots (1-1) – This game at Pittsburgh is part of their Murderer’s Row schedule that has them hosting San Diego, at Atlanta, at Denver, bye, hosting Buffalo and hosting Indianapolis. But hey, according to every guffawing columnist across the country they’re the Best Team Ever so it shouldn’t matter, right?
4) Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) – The Bengals made one of the largest jumps from last week’s Power Rankings (up eight slots from 12). But memo to Chad Johnson: don’t call out Mike Brown (just ask Marcus Pollard). I hope my Bears knocks these guys back into the Dave Shula Days.
5) Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) – Despite their off-field issues, they already have a division road win and are averaging 161.5 yards per game on the ground. However, they are just 1-4 ATS in Denver, where they play on Monday.
6) Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) – McNabb and Owens share the cover on this week’s Sports Illustrated. I don’t buy the love fest. It’s easy to get along when you’re up 42-3 at home, but let’s see what happens when they’re in a tough spot.
7) Carolina Panthers (1-1) – Peter King said that Brees’ interception against the Broncos last week was one of the worst he’s ever seen. My vote goes to Jake Delhomme’s toss to New England’s Mike Vrabel, who returned it for a TD.
8) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) – Losing safety Donovin Darius for the year is a huge blow. Also, Byron Leftwich is on his way to becoming the next Steve McNair – doesn’t practice due to injury then steps up and plays/leads his team on Sunday.
9) Atlanta Falcons (1-1) – Backup QB Matt Schaub has been an All-World Preseason player the last two years, and there are actually some rednecks in Georgia that would love to see him get his own shot. Those same folks have an IQ lower than Vick’s passer rating of 73.4. Atlanta is 2-11 in games that Vick hasn’t started in the last three years.
10) Washington Redskins (2-0) – I really didn’t think Mark Brunell could still throw it that far. I guess Roy Williams didn’t think so either.
11) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0) – They’ve only faced 32 rushing attempts in two games, but the Bucs defense is giving up only 40 yards per game on the ground and 2.5 yards per carry.
12) Dallas Cowboys (1-1) – Blame that loss on whichever linebacker that was that got juked by a 57-year-old Brunell on that 3rd-and-27 scramble.
13) Buffalo Bills (1-1) – Bills fans, this is what you get with a first-year QB. Trust me, I know. I’d be more worried about Willis McGahee dancing in the holes.
14) Seattle Seahawks (1-1) – Seattle is that quiet, shifty guy in the corner booth of the bar. He seems unassuming, but you keep looking over your shoulder because you don’t know if he’s going to snap and kill everyone or just get blasted and stumble home.
15) Chicago Bears (1-1) – Brian Urlacher has 15 solo tackles and three sacks in two games. Now where are all those ass-clowns that said he was overrated? Also, linebacker Lance Briggs has just been wrecking people.
16) Denver Broncos (1-1) – Remember how everyone ripped on them for picking up the Browns front four (worst in the league against the run in ’04)? Well, Denver is currently 22nd against the rush (115 ypg) with K.C. rolling into town.
17) New York Giants (2-0) – If they go on the road and beat San Diego I still won’t jump on the bandwagon – but I’ll be very, very impressed.
18) New Orleans Saints (1-1) – After what they’ve been through and where they’ve been through over the last month (Oakland to Texas to Carolina to New York and now to Minnesota) Jim Haslett has a right to vent. That team just looked worn out in the fourth quarter of that MNF game.
19) New York Jets (1-1) – The good news is that Curtis Martin didn’t tear any knee ligaments (MRI was negative). The bad news is that safety Erik Coleman just had thumb surgery and may not be available.
20) Detroit Lions (1-1) – Monday, Steve Mariucci says that the team has no interest in ex-Buc Shaun King. Tuesday, King and Jeff George worked out for the Lions. Tick-tock, Joey Harrington. Tick-tock.
21) San Diego Chargers (0-2) – This isn’t a bad team at all. However they’ve absolutely given away two games already. Ah, Marty Ball.
22) St. Louis Rams (1-1) – I still don’t think they’re running the ball enough. However, they are third in the league in offensive time of possession (34:07 per game).
23) Oakland Raiders (0-2) – Despite playing two of the best rushing teams in the NFL, the Raiders D is giving up a paltry 3.0 yards per carry. However, they need to start pressuring quarterbacks. Their two sacks are tied for worst in the league.
24) Tennessee Titans (1-1) – Their win over Baltimore last week wasn’t a fluke from the standpoint that while they don’t have the depth to compete this season, they certainly have the talent to jump up and bite an unsuspecting team.
23) Baltimore Ravens (0-2) – Right now their run-pass ratio is almost 3-to-1, but not the way you’d expect. So far they’ve thrown 95 passes to go with only 34 rushes. Unreal.
26) Miami (1-1) – People are already calling Ronnie Brown (34 attempts, 94 yards, 0 TD’s) a bust because he’s not putting up the numbers that Cadillac Williams (54-276-2) is. I think it’s way too early to be making those claims.
27) Minnesota Vikings (0-2) – Just a thought, but maybe it’s not Randy Moss that they miss the most. Maybe it’s former offensive coordinator Scott Linehan (now in Miami).
28) Cleveland Browns (1-1) – As bad as the Packers were, any time you go into Green Bay and get a win it’s an accomplishment.
29) San Francisco 49ers (1-1) – They lost by 39 points, but I had to move them up one slot this week because the teams behind them looked that awful.
30) Arizona Cardinals (0-2) – Kurt Warner got sacked five times last week and was hit six others. If they can’t get the running game going – Marcel Shipp will start this weekend – then they’re going to get Warner killed. Their run-pass ratio is 37 rushes to 98 passes. Not good.
31) Green Bay Packers (0-2) – Wow. This team is a total mess, on all fronts, and shows no signs of improving. They just don’t have the talent on either side of the ball.
32) Houston Texans (0-2) – Jason Babin and Philip Buchanon – a tandem whom the Texans traded a combined five first-day draft picks for the rights to – have both been benched.
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