The NFL football season moves into Week 3 with one huge matchup which will get banner-headline treatment. There are several interesting games, but one of them will tower over the rest.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Los Angeles Rams
The Super Bowl will be played in SoFi Stadium in February. This game in Week 3 could be a preview of the NFC Championship Game for the right to play in Super Bowl LVI. The defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been carried by Tom Brady in their first two games.
Brady looks great, far better than he looked in the first few months of his Bucs tenure a year ago, when he was intercepted by the New Orleans Saints and had to adjust to his surroundings. He has a lot of receivers to throw to and quality depth in his offensive backfield. He now feels completely comfortable in coach Bruce Arians’ offense. The Bucs’ offensive line is up to the challenge. Tampa Bay has scored whenever it has needed to in the first few games of the season.
Tampa Bay’s defense hasn’t been dominant in the early stages of this season, but the Bucs’ defensive unit doesn’t have to be spectacular given the way Tom Brady is playing. The Bucs just have to be relatively competent and not give anything away too cheaply or easily.
Standing in their way are the Los Angeles Rams, who are 2-0 after winning against the Colts in Indianapolis. Quarterback Matthew Stafford looks like the real deal for the Rams after escaping the Detroit Lions and being able to compete with great teammates by his side. Stafford has a defense with Aaron Donald which came up huge in the red zone this past weekend against the Colts. One can already tell the Rams are going to be a very tough team this season.
If Stafford develops into an elite quarterback, the Rams would become the best pick to make the Super Bowl. They would be able to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium, just as the Buccaneers themselves were able to play Super Bowl LV in their home stadium (Raymond James Stadium) this past February. The Bucs’ Super Bowl win was the first by an NFL team in its own home stadium.
This game feels like a coin flip. The Rams, however, aren’t coming off a Super Bowl season; the Bucs are. Los Angeles will have that small but essential level of hunger the Bucs lack. This is why defending a Super Bowl championship is extremely hard. Both teams merit respect, but the Rams are likely to play with a little more desperation. Moreover, SoFi Stadium now has fans. The Rams are likely to benefit from their crowd in what will be
Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans
This is very close to a must-win game for the 0-2 Colts, who were terrible in the red zone in Week 2 and therefore lost a very winnable game to the Rams. The Colts played the Rams on fairly even terms but could not finish drives, stumbling multiple times in the red zone. Carson Wentz had a shovel pass intercepted.
Another separate fourth-down play was blown up, leading to a sack and a 12-yard loss. The Colts moved the ball on the Rams’ talented defense but couldn’t make game-defining plays. Wentz also sprained his ankle and had to be replaced by backup quarterback Jacob Eason, who promptly threw an interception after entering the game late in the fourth quarter.
The Colts have to solve Derrick Henry, who rushed for 182 yards against the Seattle Seahawks and popped off a huge 60-yard touchdown run to spearhead a 14-point fourth-quarter rally which enabled the Titans to force overtime. They then defeated the Seahawks in the extra period. The Titans won despite five dropped passes from their receivers and more coverage busts in a weak secondary. The Titans have to make sure to shut down the deep ball on defense. If they do, they should be able to win this game.
Miami Dolphins at Las Vegas Raiders
Odds at FanDuel Sportsbook: Raiders -4
The injury to Tua Tagovailoa will keep him out of this game. Miami will ride with Jacoby Brissett as its quarterback. Brissett is not a terrible backup quarterback – he is actually one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league, having gained ample experience with the Colts when Andrew Luck abruptly retired from football a few years ago. Brissett is a good running quarterback who makes first downs in short-yardage situations.
He can make short-area throws and do well in manageable down-and-distance situations. However, in long-yardage situations, Brissett doesn’t stretch the field well. He doesn’t hit home-run passes to give his offense maximum potency. This is where Brissett and the Dolphins will be operating at a disadvantage against the red-hot Raiders, who have big-play potential thanks to Derek Carr’s rocket arm.
The Raiders have a dynamic offense that outmaneuvered the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1. Their defense is not great, but it has made timely plays this season, especially against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2. This is the Raiders’ game to lose.
Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs
Odds at DraftKings Sportsbook: Chiefs -6.5
The Chargers just lost a very winnable game to the Dallas Cowboys, partly because of the new taunting penalty in the NFL. The taunting rule is a terrible rule, but it is something players have to adjust to, and the Chargers cost themselves dearly against Dallas.
Los Angeles has to pick itself off the canvas and try to turn the page against the Chiefs, who lost in a very annoying way against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football. The Chiefs, trailing by one point with 1:30 left, were driving downfield with relative ease, almost certain to get a go-ahead field goal.
Then, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire lost a fumble with minimal contact from the Ravens’ defense. A soft fumble – on a play in which Patrick Mahomes did not have the ball – cost the Chiefs a likely win. Kansas City finally paid for its tendency to allow games to remain close in the fourth quarter.
The Chiefs were the best team in the AFC last year, but they played a lot of close games and did not cover the large spreads they usually received. Allowing opponents to hang around opens the door to the kind of loss the Chiefs suffered over the weekend. Kansas City will try to start putting teams away earlier rather than later.
Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers (Sunday Night Football)
Odds at BetMGM Sportsbook: 49ers -3.5
The Packers beat the Lions on Monday Night Football, but their defense gave up a lot of yards to a Jared Goff-led offense. That does not bode well for them in San Francisco, even though the 49ers have injuries at running back and wide receiver.
San Francisco has a better offensive line than Detroit does, and the 49ers showed that even when not playing their best, they can still win in the NFL. This will be the Niners’ home opener after two road games to start the season.
Fans could not attend 49er home games last season, and the team relocated to Arizona due to COVID-19. This will be a deafeningly loud crowd, and the Niners should be able to improve their performance from the previous week in Philadelphia.
The matchup the 49ers will really like is their defensive line against the Packers’ offensive line. New Orleans was able to destroy the Packers in Week 1. The 49ers, with a healthy Nick Bosa, should be able to do something similar in Week 3.