Quick notes on the early games...
San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons - The latest bit of drama in San Francisco centers around safety Michael Lewis asking for his release. According to Pro Football Weekly, the request came after Lewis was told that he would be phased out of the starting lineup in favor of rookie Taylor Mays(notes). That's not ordinarily a big deal, but when you factor in all the stuff that has been going on under head coach Mike Singletary's watch recently, it's a bad time for this 0-3 team to travel across the country and face a Falcons team that is firing on all cylinders.
Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns - Quite a few interesting things to watch here. Will Carson Palmer(notes) continue to be inconsistent, or will he exploit Cleveland's confused pass defense? Can Browns running back Peyton Hillis(notes) continue his hot streak against Cincy's underrated defense? And can starting quarterback Seneca Wallace(notes) combine with Josh Cribbs to provide some interesting option looks?
New York Jets at Buffalo Bills - Are we all getting whiplash jumping back on the Mark Sanchez(notes) bandwagon? After that horrible start against the Ravens, he's thrown for six touchdowns and no interceptions. That's bad news for a Buffalo defense that's just reeling right now, and will undergo trial by fire with their terrible quarterback situation against the Jets' defense.
Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams - Same old Rams? Not really. After they beat the Redskins last Sunday, the team that had won just six games in the prior three seasons looks like a pick-em against the 2-1 Seahawks. Seattle is still trying to get its offense on track - they beat the Chargers last week by virtue of defense and special teams. Philip Rivers(notes) gashed them last week, and Sam Bradford(notes) will be looking for vulnerable spots as well.
Denver Broncos at Tennessee Titans - Kyle Orton(notes) has been one of the NFL's pleasant surprises this year, but he's in for it against a Titans pass defense that nobody saw coming. The question is whether we may see Tim Tebow(notes) as a goal-line threat today. Chris Johnson will be hungry after getting bottled up by the Steelers, and the Denver run defense is far more forgiving.
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers - In past seasons, this trip would be a laugher. The Matt Millen Lions going to Lambeau; well, that was an invitation to a thrashing. But as much as Aaron Rodgers(notes) should still be able to exploit Detroit's secondary, there's a new front four growing up fast in the Motor City. Green Bay's vulnerable offensive line should prepare for a very, very long day against Kyle Vanden Bosch(notes) and Ndamukong Suh(notes). And if the Packers add too actively to their penalty total, an upset is not out of the question. Like the Rams, the Lions are no longer an automatic out.
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers - Ouch! This is smashmouth football, folks. The best rivalry on football features some interesting matchups. Perhaps the one that will decide the game is Pittsburgh's amazing defense against Baltimore's multi-faceted run game. While Pittsburgh will bring all kinds of schemes, the Ravens counter with six-man fronts, run action, and a trio of power backs who can make things happen inside.
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints - Without the safety duo of Harper and Sharper, the Saints would ordinarily be susceptible to the deep pass. But they're facing a rookie quarterback in Jimmy Clausen(notes), and a toothless offensive attack. If the Panthers hope to post an upset, they will have to keep New Orleans' passing attack under wraps. Drew Brees(notes) hasn't been as dynamic so far this season, and Pierre Thomas(notes) won't be a factor.