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NFL Week 3 - Five Games To Watch

Jeremy Bergman, Aaron Fischman, Michael Katz, Danny Lee |
September 23, 2011 | 4:26 a.m. PDT

Sports Staff

Ryan Fitzpatrick may have a rude awakening coming his way. (Wikimedia Commons)
Ryan Fitzpatrick may have a rude awakening coming his way. (Wikimedia Commons)
After two weeks of high-flying action, there are far more questions than answers surrounding the NFL landscape.

Are the Bills for real? Can Jay Cutler make it through the entire season behind that porous Bears offensive line?

These five games, including multiple divisional showdowns, promise to provide answers to these questions and a whole lot more.

(All picks without scores are straight up. Lines merely for informational purposes)

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (8.5)

Jeremy Bergman: New England

The surprise team of the year so far is certainly the Buffalo Bills - 2-0 for the first time in eight years. But standing in their way of a 3-0 start are the currently unstoppable division rival Patriots. While Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buffalo offense have been impressive so far, their defense - which gave up 35 points to Oakland at home - will have a big problem trying to stop Tom Brady from continuing his streak of 400-yard passing games.

Aaron Fischman: New England 37, Buffalo 24

First off, congratulations to Buffalo on its strong 2-0 start! Now, to the matter at hand: Ryan Fitzpatrick went to Harvard, so I’m sure he can wrap his mind around this: Buffalo has NO chance on Sunday!

Michael Katz: Buffalo

UPSET ALERT! Never did I think any game involving Ryan Fitzpatrick would keep me glued to my seat, but this game could be great. I’m going with the Bills at home; they have an air of confidence Buffalo hasn’t had since, well….Jim Kelly was there. This game could define the Bills season.

Danny Lee: Patriots 37, Bills 23

After notching wins over a pair of AFC West teams en route to a 2-0 start, Buffalo will face its toughest test to date. The Bills are capable of putting up points against New England, but don’t have an answer to stop the Pats on D. Another 400-plus yard passing performance for Tom Brady could be in the forecast.

New York Giants (+8) at Philadelphia Eagles

Bergman: Philadelphia

The last time these two teams faced each other, the Eagles made a furious 28-point fourth-quarter comeback to snatch the division and the playoffs away from New York’s grasp. The Giants still haven’t recovered, having lost three of their last four regular season games. Now they have to face a hot Eagles offense with a depleted and injury-stricken defense in Philly’s home opener.

Fischman: Philadelphia 31, New York 17

Although the sample size is small (just two games played so far), it’s important to note that the Giants have converted less than 25% of their third down conversions. If this trend continues against Philadelphia (and I expect it to), the Giants will not be able to keep up with the Eagles.

Katz: Philadelphia

If Michael Vick doesn’t play, the Eagles truly have no chance. Desean Jackson is banged up, and with Mike Kafka looking like he is going to start, the Giants' sack-happy defense could have a feast.

Lee: New York 27, Philadelphia 21

Atlanta exposed weaknesses in Philadelphia’s run defense in its Week 2 win over the Eagles. Through two games, only the Raiders have allowed more yards per carry than Philly, who’s giving up 5.3 per attempt. This could be the game where either Ahmad Bradshaw or Brandon Jacobs finally comes alive for New York.

Houston Texans (+4) at New Orleans Saints

Bergman: Houston

Don’t look now but Houston’s defense is for real. The additions of CB Johnathon Joseph and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips have already paid dividends for a typically anemic Texans' D. Their first big test comes this Sunday in the Big Easy; expect Phillips - who, when head coach of the Cowboys, ended the Saints’ perfect season in 2009 - to draw up a stifling game plan and lead Houston to an upset win.

Fischman: New Orleans 31, Houston 28

Last season, Houston ranked 32nd in pass defense, but so far this season, they’re tied for first in that department. Despite Houston’s much-improved defense and well-balanced offensive attack, the Saints are the more experienced team and will probably win in dramatic fashion. Make no mistake about it though: these Texans are for real!

Katz: New Orleans

The Texans look pretty good right now, but the Saints just don’t lose at the Super Dome. There should be points aplenty, but I expect the Saints to score more.

Lee: New Orleans 31, Houston 23

Thanks to a defense that tops the league in total defense, pass defense and points allowed, Houston has gone 2-0 despite limited usage of running back Arian Foster. But the Saints’ attack will be a step up in weight class compared to the Dolphins and Peyton Manning-less Colts that the Texans have feasted on.

Atlanta Falcons (+1.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bergman: Tampa Bay

The NFC South is incredibly unpredictable right now - a division that features four game-changing quarterbacks. As they go, these teams go. Both the Falcons and Bucs are coming off big comeback wins and have great momentum and confidence. This one’s tough to call... So ties go to the home team.

Fischman: Atlanta 20, Tampa Bay 17

After such an exhausting, emotional win on Sunday night, I expect the Falcons to come out flat. Matt Ryan won’t do anything remarkable, but he’ll likely manage to win a tight game for his team. Last year, the Falcons swept the Buccaneers and went 5-1 against AFC South opponents.

Katz: Atlanta

The Bucs have gotten off to a sluggish start this season. Meanwhile, the Falcons are coming off a hard fought win against Philadelphia. Matty Ice looked pretty solid Monday night, and, again, the Bucs don’t look impressive right now.

Lee: Atlanta 30, Tampa Bay 21

Having a balanced offense like Atlanta’s going against an undersized defensive line like Tampa Bay’s is a recipe for disaster if you’re the Bucs. Look for the Falcons to have a huge day on the ground in this key NFC South encounter.

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears (+3.5)

Bergman: Green Bay

This isn’t last year’s Packer defense; lucky for the Pack, this isn’t last year’s Bears D either. Both teams were embarrassed on the road last week - the Bears got smashed by New Orleans and Green Bay got shown up by rookie Cam Newton. But the Packers are used to this type of adversity and they will exploit Chicago’s holes in its O-line on its way to another victory against its fiercest NFC North rival.

Fischman: Green Bay 27, Chicago 17

Last year, the Bears defeated the Packers 20-17, primarily because the Packers beat themselves. The Pack committed 18 penalties for more than 150 yards. This time, however, the Packers return to Soldier Field as defending champions, who should know better than to get caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Expect Green Bay to play a more disciplined brand of football. Also keep an eye on the Jay Cutler frustration meter, which seems to be increasing each and every week.

Katz: Green Bay

The last time we saw these teams play was in the NFC Championship when Jay Cutler left the game with an apparent injury. If he thought last year’s game was painful…he could be in for a rude awakening. Cutler has already been sacked 11 times through two games; the Packers know how to pressure the quarterback. Cutler could spend a lot of time on the ground this weekend.

Lee: Green Bay 34, Chicago 24

Neither team’s secondary has looked overwhelming this year so expect plenty of offense to come through the air. Translation: advantage Green Bay. The Packers might have the league’s worst rated pass defense through two games, but they should catch a break against the Bears’ pedestrian receiving corps. 

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