Week 3 is upon us, which means we can finally start to gauge who is who in the NFL. Is the Seattle Seahawks offense really this anemic? Can Joe Flacco really be this bad? Can the Oakland Raiders really be this good? Let’s dive into our weekly bold predictions.
1. Joe Flacco and Blake Bortles combine for less than 400 yards, five turnovers
Flacco has done next to nothing in two Baltimore Ravens wins. Don’t expect that to change against the dynamic Jacksonville pass rush. After accumulating 10 sacks against Houston in Week 1, the Jags totaled another two more last week against Tennessee. Baltimore meanwhile, just lost six-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda – Flacco’s main line of defense – to a fractured ankle. If the Ravens can’t establish a running attack, this will quickly turn into a bloodbath for Flacco.
Bortles meanwhile, has predictably struggled after a woeful preseason. The fourth-year quarterback looks frightened in the pocket, unsure of himself even. His inability to make good decisions is one thing, but his failure to push the ball down the field is another. In two games, Bortles is averaging just 6.33 yards per throw, the 24th worst clip in pro football. He now faces a vicious and confident Ravens defense that will dare him to beat them for 60 minutes. Baltimore has surrendered just 10 points in two games.
Cutler didn’t miss a beat with head coach Adam Gase, who called plays for the Bears in 2015, back when Cutler enjoyed the best season of his career. The 34-year-old quarterback was solid in a 19-17 win over the Chargers, going 24-33 for 230 yards and a touchdown. Cutler is a rhythm player who clearly has a certain level of comfort in the Miami offense, despite having signed with the team in August. The Jets meanwhile, were lit up by Derek Carr and the Raiders for 42 points on Sunday. While I don’t expect a 42 spot at MetLife, I do expect Cutler to have his way with a secondary that can’t cover anyone right now and a pass rush that has been nonexistent since the Sheldon Richardson trade.
Against the Jets in Week 1, McCoy looked fresh, quick and dynamic, per usual. Then came Carolina and McCoy was a totally different player. Denver is a different beast than the Jets – more emblematic of the Panthers rushing defense because of its linebackers. In two games, the Broncos have made two of the league’s premier backs – Melvin Gordon (54 rushing yards) and Ezekiel Elliott (eight yards) – look like practice squad players. The Broncos do an excellent job of tackling and containing the outside, an area where McCoy excels. Keep an eye out for first-year starting outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett. Playing for the injured Shane Ray, Barrett’s speed and playmaking are a key reason why we can expect another rough outing for Shady.
[Watch on Yahoo: Ravens vs. Jaguars live from London Sept. 24]
4. Chris Carson compiles over 100 rushing yards and a touchdown vs. Titans
Seattle’s offense has been anemic through two games. Blame the offensive line and the play-calling. During last Sunday’s 12-9 home win over the 49ers, Russell Wilson threw for just 198 yards. There was however, a silver lining in that Pete Carroll finally found his running back: Rookie seventh rounder Chris Carson ran hard and effectively, amassing 93 yards on 20 carries. A quality ground game – think Marshawn Lynch – has always been the hallmark of Carroll and everything he wants to accomplish offensively. The Seahawks only way to neutralize the pass rush and create more throwing lanes for Wilson (especially in play-action) is to let Carson go to work. Expect a heavy dose of him – and not Eddie Lacy – in Nashville and in turn, an excellent performance. Wilson will be the beneficiary and the Hawks will move to 2-1 as a result.
5. Redskins upset the Raiders
Washington nearly entered this game in a free fall, but survived a Rams comeback last week in LA. Now at 1-1, Kirk Cousins and this offense must produce in a big way against red hot Oakland. Expect the Redskins to lean on the running game. Last week, Robert Kelley was steady and rookie Samaje Perine looked good, as did utility man Chris Thompson, whose game-breaking ability may be the difference in this game. Oakland’s defense is for real, but this feels like a coming out party for Jordan Reed amid an entertaining Washington win Sunday night in D.C.
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