Two weeks ago, there were zero division games for the first time in NFL history. This week, there are no division games for the second time in NFL history. Just a side effect of the paranoia that rightfully got to schedule-makers during the lockout. Don’t worry, things return to normal next week, and there are still some stellar matchups in Week 4. Here are the top five:
(Team rankings are based on our latest power rankings.)
1. No. 2 Patriots at No. 9 Raiders (Sunday, 4:15 ET on CBS)
The Tuck Rule game was famous enough to earn its own Wikipedia page, but the lingering bad blood hasn’t necessarily carried over to the field. Why? Probably because Oakland has sucked for about eight years now. After falling to the Raiders during the 2002 regular season, New England has easily disposed of the Raiders in their two meetings since. But Oakland is in a groove and at home and the Pats are coming off a shocking loss in Buffalo.
2. No. 13 Steelers at No. 7 Texans (Sunday, 1:00 ET on CBS)
The AFC’s alpha male for much of the last decade has shown cracks in the armor early this season. Now, they travel to Houston with question marks lingering and the conference’s most hyped “team of the future” waiting. Will the baton be forcibly passed Sunday? How many metaphors can I make in one paragraph?
3. No. 3 Lions at No. 14 Cowboys (Sunday, 1:00 ET on Fox)
The Lions want to prove that they’re for real. Winning in Minnesota was impressive, especially considering the deficit they overcame. But winning in Dallas is significantly more difficult. Considering the injuries the Cowboys are dealing with, this is a winnable game for Detroit.
4. No. 10 Jets at No. 5 Ravens (Sunday, 8:20 ET on NBC)
Pretty simple: a matchup between two great defensive teams that should contend for playoff spots in the AFC. Experience vs. Experience. The Ravens won 10-9 in the season opener last year in Jersey.
5. No. 6 Bills at No. 32 Bengals (Sunday, 1:00 ET on CBS)
This isn’t exactly a superb matchup, but it’ll be fun to watch the Bills in their pursuit of a 4-0 start. Will they choke now that they’re getting all of this national attention or will Chan Gailey’s boys rise to the occasion? The Bengals are at home and should have Cedric Benson, so this won’t be a walk in the park. Buffalo can’t get too excited about that huge win over New England or start looking ahead to next week’s challenge with Philadelphia.