Carolina Panthers at Chicago Bears
The “must win” cliché is tossed around in the NFL about as much as marriage proposals at a Justin Bieber concert. But Da Bear Necessities reminds us that the clichè seems pretty appropriate for a Bears team that’s been embarrassed in two straight losses against powerhouse, playoff-caliber NFC teams. Despite Cam Newton’s presence it’s still easy to overlook the Panthers, especially when Chicago beat Carolina 23-6 on the road last year with Todd Collins starting at quarterback.
Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals
The Bills should break from their conservative defensive mold to bring pressure today against an efficient but still inexperienced rookie quarterback. If they don’t, the primary pass-rushing spotlight will turn to Shawne Marriman and his matchup against Andrew Whitworth.
Tennessee Titans at Cleveland Browns
It’s cold and windy in Cleveland today, and Lake Erie is angry. That’s dangerous for the Titans because kickoffs and punts will possibly be knocked down in the stiff breeze, giving Josh Cribbs an opportunity to showcase his speed in the return game.
Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys
The Lions’ offensive line was doing a good job of impersonating a line that hasn’t been responsible for Matthew Stafford missing 16 games in his first two seasons. Then Stafford was sacked five times last week by the Vikings, and now DeMarcus Ware looms large today.
Succeeding against that pressure will help Calvin Johnson in his bid to silence Cris Carter by tying his record for multiple receiving touchdown games in consecutive weeks.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Houston Texans
Rashard Mendenhall is averaging 16.4 carries per game, which is about four carries lower than his average workload last season. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians confirmed a strategy to limited the pounding Mendenhall is exposed to and keep him healthy for later in the season.
New Orleans Saints at Jacksonville Jaguars
After three weeks Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune thinks this is the most intelligent Saints team of the Sean Payton era.
Minnesota Vikings at Kansas City Chiefs
Sure, injuries to Eric Berry and Jamaal Charles have clearly been crushing, but let’s not forget about the still woefully pathetic passing game that’s averaging a league-worst 7.9 yards per pass.
San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles
Michael Vick is a fashion trend-setter. If he returns to being his normal electrifying self today and actually makes it through a full game, every quarterback will be wearing a kevlar glove next week, perhaps even a full kevlar suit.
This is a game filled with hobbled key players on both sidelines. For San Francisco the injury concerns center around Frank Gore as usual, with the running back receiving extensive attention during warm-ups. But don’t worry, Gore fantasy owners, he’s still starting. [UPDATE: Actually, he isn't. So worry.]
Washington Redskins at St. Louis rams
The Washington football team has a nickname that’s not exactly popular among Native Americans, and the defense for the Washington football team will be chasing after the only NFL player with Native American blood today. Naturally, Mike Wise of the Washington Post met a lot of Rams fans–or at least Rams fans for a day–at the Native Museum of the American Indian earlier this week.
New York Giants at Arizona Cardinals
The Giants’ offensive exodus during free agency left a void to be filled at tight end when Kevin Boss bolted to the Bay Area. One man’s departure is another man’s tight end job, or something, so young Travis Beckum was New York’s starting tight end by default. So far there’s been nothing but disappointment for Beckum.
On the other side of the ball, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora made the trip to Arizona, and both previously said they wouldn’t waste their air miles if they weren’t playing. Turns out Tuck is a dirty air miles waster, and reportedly won’t play.
Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks
Ray Edwards has been pretty silent through three weeks, taking on more of a run-stuffing role while Falcons fans wait for signs of the 16.5 sacks he had over the past two seasons. The Falcoholic hopes that wait ends today.
Denver Broncos at Green Bay Packers
Brandon Lloyd has missed one game and has been relatively quiet overall, but a matchup against the league’s second-worst pass defense could change that quickly.
New England Patriots at Oakland Raiders
There’s no Bodden today guys, with the Patriots cornerback out due to a groin injury. An already weak secondary that’s given up a quadruple take-inducing 377 passing yards per game will now rely on Kyle Arrington to play opposite Devin McCourty. Ian Rapoport of the Boston Globe still doesn’t think many blitzes will be called to alleviate pressure on a vulnerable area of the New England defense since the Raiders only have seven plays for 20 yards or more.
Miami Dolphins at San Diego Chargers
Yesterday an anticipated but still feared result to Daniel Thomas’ mid-week hamstring flare-up was finalized, with Thomas officially declared out. The rookie missed Week 1 with the same injury, but has rushed for 202 yards in just two games. Now the task of replacing Thomas goes to Reggie Bush, who has just 69 yards on 27 carries through three weeks, and is dealing with the distraction of returning to his hometown and being reminded of a time when he was still a superstar.
New York Jets at Baltimore Ravens
There’s some kind of twisted mind game opposing coaches play between their quarterbacks, the media, and the Ravens defense, and it always involves safety Ed Reed. In Part One of NFL Network’s recent profile of Bill Belichick we saw the Patriots coach heap endless praise on Reed prior to a New England win in 2009. Now Rex Ryan is using a similar strategy, perhaps because the Reed voodoo doll isn’t nearly as effective as the Polamalu doll.