NFL Match-Up Mania: Week 3

After a solid pair of opening weeks, football fans enjoyed a superior season start proudly perusing pigskin play. Unfortunately, Week 3′s slot leaves us a lot less to like . However, more like Clay Matthews and less like Ndamukong Suh, we’ll give schedule writers the benefit of the doubt before we punish them. After all, there’s still solid showdowns to be seen according to The Student of the Game’s NFL Week 3 Match-Up Mania.

Ravens vs. Texans

I understand if people ask me if I’m obsessed with the Ravens. They were belted senseless in the season opener by a 7 TD performance. While they won in Week 2, it was over an unimpressive Browns squad. Yet, despite apparent mediocrity, they are the only team who has been in all 3 Match-Up Mania pieces so far. Why on Earth will this game matter?

Brian Cushing
Brian Cushing

It is a litmus test for the defending Super Bowl Champions that gives fans an opportunity to see they are still a force . . . if they beat the Texans. While the defending AFC South Champions represent a tougher challenge for Baltimore, limping past both the Chargers and Titans by 3 points leaves me thoroughly unimpressed. I’m not prepared to call Houston proven in 2013.

Nonetheless, I don’t envy any offense that has to face D-lineman JJ (S)Watt and LB Brian Cushing, much less one whose starting OT (in this case, Michael Oher) is nagged with injury. Making matters worse, former Raven and future Hall of Fame Safety Ed Reed is now a Texan. While Reed may only see limited time at best in this contest due to injury, the insight of practicing against Baltimore QB Joe Flacco for years is certainly an advantage.

QB Matt Schaub and the Houston offense will have their own share of challenges. The Ravens’ defense has a vicious front featuring LB Terrell Suggs and DT Haloti Gnata. With this presence in place, RBs Arian Foster and Ben Tate will have a difficult challenge to contend with.

The difference in this game will be which passing plan produces more prolifically. While Schaub doesn’t have the pageantry of a Super Bowl ring or a big contract extension as Flacco does, he has more weapons and better protection. That leaves me leaning towards Houston heroism getting the win. Regardless of the victor, the lesson to be learned lies in if either of these teams can handle themselves against playoff caliber competition

Packers vs. Bengals

This game, in my mind, represents an important early stepping stone for both teams in the season. In the case of the Bengals, going 1-1 after giving a game away to the Bears and beating a declining Steeler squad leaves fans wondering if they’re a legitimate contender. Conversely Green Bay, my prediction for the NFC in the Super Bowl, represents arguably the toughest opponent Cincinnati will face from that conference this season.

Aaron-Rodgers 2 350x350
Packers Aaron Rodgers

Packer QB Aaron Rodgers is a formidable field general who wields receiving weapons with grace while running and scrambling to mask a less than elite O-line. With that in mind, DT Geno Atkins and the rest of the Cincinnati defense will face a more agile offense than they’ve faced to this point. Despite WRs Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and TE Jermichael Finley in the Packer passing attack, I’m convinced that the Bengal front 7 on “D” is more central to the outcome than the secondary. Atkins and company bringing heavy pressure on Rodgers will do more to slow the “Cheese head” offense than the best coverage possible ever could.

Another point is that the Packers are facing their third 2012 playoff team in as many weeks. QB Andy Dalton may not be as talented as Rodgers, but the hype of the stripe that comes with WR AJ Green as well as TEs Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert has produced well in the first 2 weeks. The Bengals still have an eye on being a Super Bowl contender. How seriously that’s taken will depend on their performance against top tier teams like the Lords of Lambeau.

The X-factor in this game is Cincinnati’s ability to match the Packers on the scoreboard against a Green Bay defense that shut down RG3 last week. Until I see Rodgers fail, I’m not brave enough to pick the Bengals in this match-up. Cincinnati may be the best 1-2 team in the league if I’ve picked correct.

Honorable Mention

Bears vs. Steelers

The Bears have a chance to go 3-0 while the Steelers are looking to prevent 0-3. Chicago will be trying to keep pace with Green Bay in the NFC North while the Steelers try to re-ascend in the AFC North. Both teams need this game for different reasons, but it’s obvious the Steelers need it more.

Going 0-3 in a division where even the lowly Cleveland Browns seem to be more of an obstruction on defense then a curtain of steel is an ominous option, but I don’t see any way the Steelers muster an effort that stops Chicago. That being said, the Bears only managed to crawl past the Vikings in a 1 point game last week.


Jets vs. Bills

Bills EJ Manuel 350 350 DZ
Bills EJ Manuel
Photo Derek Zeller

The top 2 QB rookies who were also the first 2 signal callers taken in the 2013 NFL Draft are currently starting for 2 teams in the AFC East. Both opening at 1-1, Buffalo’s EJ Manuel and New York’s Geno Smith will battle for the opportunity to gain a divisional record advantage over the other.

Both QBs have kept it close playing against NFL elite QB Tom Brady and the Patriots losing by only 2 and 3 points respectively. Yet, I believe the result of this game and their upcoming midseason bout in Week 11 will have a major implication upon who takes home the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award for 2013.

Regardless of their respectable starts to their seasons, the Bills have a slightly better supporting cast and I see them winning the day. But then, the Bucs had a slight advantage on paper in Week 1 themselves and the Jets saw to it I picked that game wrong.



Written By:

Kyle Nash — @TheSoTG on Twitter

Founder and host of The Student of the Game show

VP of Operations and Editor for The National Gridiron Network

NFL Contributor for The Sports Chronicles

Special Contributor for Pro Player Insiders.

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