By Week 3, most NFL teams are already well into the swing of things for the season. After figuring out the identity of their team in 2012, the part of the season where teams just play has approached. In a 16-game schedule, every matchup is important. Here’s a look at five of the top games this Sunday, with NFL picks to go with them.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Washington Redskins (1:05 PM, CBS)
When it was announced that both Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker are out with injuries, this Bengals-Redskins matchup just became very interesting. A lot was expected of the Bengals going into the year, but the Redskins have been one of the biggest stories in the NFL thanks to the play of Robert Griffin III. With a depleted team, that could cause some concern.
Expect Griffin to get his numbers, and both teams to score a lot of points. It still looks as though the Redskins are about a touchdown better than the Bengals when they get to play in Washington. The rowdy Redskin fans are back with the excitement around their team.
Pick: Washington Redskins 24-21 (Washington Redskins -2, under 46.5)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Dallas Cowboys (1:00 PM, FOX)
Tampa Bay has proven so far this season that they are not going to be a pushover against anyone. They face a tough task having to go to Dallas and play the Cowboys, one week after having to try and do the same against the Giants. They came up short last week, and unfortunately, it looks like they will suffer the same fate against the Cowboys.
Dallas has impressive this season, even in their loss on the road to the Seattle Seahawks. The Cowboys get a lot of press, but they are a playoff contender who could also catch fire and beat anyone in the NFL.
The Bucs have plenty of talent, and Josh Freeman is finally coming into his own as a legitimate NFL quarterback. The Cowboys just have too many veteran weapons to rely on. Given that they finally get to play in front of the home crowd, and Tony Romo’s team should pick up a solid win to move to 2-1.
Pick: Dallas Cowboys 30-17 (Dallas Cowboys -9, over 45.5)
Philadelphia Eagles @ Arizona Cardinals (4:05 PM, FOX)
Both teams enter this matchup 2-0, however improbable it might have been prior to the season. The Eagles became the first team in NFL history to win their first two games of the season by one point each, while all the Cardinals did was go into New England and beat the Patriots.
Despite the good starts, neither team is really considered a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Both have quarterback issues, and overall they just don’t have the tools according to a lot of experts to compete. As the Giants showed last season, all it takes is to get hot at the right time.
The Cardinals will cause Michael Vick a lot of problems with their excellent secondary. Sure, Arizona might not really have a true quarterback themselves, but they are still scoring enough points to remain competitive. Look for the Cardinals to rely on a surprisingly good defense to notch a close victory at home. It is just impossible at this point of the season to completely trust Vick.
Pick: Arizona Cardinals 21-18 (Arizona Cardinals +5.5, under 44.5)
Atlanta Falcons @ San Diego Chargers (4:05 PM, FOX)
The best games this Sunday are in the afternoon slot, and a pair of 2-0 teams prepare to do battle in San Diego as the Chargers host the Falcons. Atlanta absolutely embarrassed the Denver Broncos at times last week, and the young team looks like they are ahead of schedule. Meanwhile, the Chargers, who have a history of starting out slowly, have picked up a pair of wins and get a to play at home to try and move to 3-0.
The difference for San Diego so far this season has been their defense. They have always been a team that can score with the best of them, but having a defense will be crucial if they have playoff and even Super Bowl aspirations. Their defense will certainly be tested with the balanced attack the Falcons will throw at them.
It is expected that both Ryan Mathews and Antonio Gates will play on Sunday, which is another positive for the Chargers. How effective they will remains to be seen, but it’s hard not to go with the home team in this matchup. Having those two back should provide at the very least a psychological boost, since they are key veteran players on the team. Expect this to possibly be the must-see game of the week.
Pick: San Diego Chargers 31-28 (San Diego Chargers -1.5, over 49)
Houston Texans @ Denver Broncos (4:25 PM, CBS)
Denver continues their rough schedule to start the season with a matchup against a healthy and talented Houston Texans team. Quarterback Peyton Manning knows all about the talent the Texans have on offense, so he can’t afford to put his team in a hole like he did against the Falcons last week.
The Texans bring in arguably the best overall defense in the AFC. Oh yeah, they also have Matt Schaub and Arian Foster to score plenty of points. This is going to be a tough matchup for the Broncos to get through, even if they are at home.
Look for the Texans to try and wear down the Broncos by running the ball a lot, and then relying on the defense to make just enough stops to move to 3-0 on the season. Manning will play much better than last week, but it will not be enough, even at home.
Pick: Houston Texans 28-21 (Houston -3, over 46.5)