Here is how The Examiner breaks down this week in the NFL.
WEEK 3 STORY LINES
1. New Orleans overachieved last season in reaching the NFC Championship Game, considering how badly it played defensively. Eight times the Saints allowed an opponent to score at least 24 points, including in two postseason games. So it’s not a surprise that New Orleans has allowed 72 points in two games. But what is surprising is the offensive ineptitude. Quarterback Drew Brees is averaging a paltry 5.32 yards per pass attempt with only one touchdown and three interceptions. Running back Reggie Bush seems to lose as many yards as he gains. The Saints’ best back remains Deuce McAllister, yet he has two fewer carries than Bush.
2. Philadelphia Eagles star Donovan McNabb claims on HBO that he and other black QBs get treated more harshly because of their skin color. Perhaps he forgot he plays in a town where the fans are harsh toward all its top athletes (see Schmidt, Mike). Whether or not it’s really true, McNabb’s problems aren’t race-related, they are arm-related. He has completed 54.4 percent of his throws this season and looks very rusty coming off knee surgery. McNabb and his wideouts have yet to find any rhythm.
3. Ten teams have started 2-0, with a handful considered surprising. The 49ers, Detroit, Green Bay, Washington and Houston all fall into that category — to one degree or another. That could be a sign of how weak the NFC is compared to the AFC, where only Houston isa surprise. Detroit has a chance for its first 3-0 start since 1980, while the Texans are 2-0 for the first time period.
— John Keim
GAME OF THE WEEK: Cowboys (2-0) at Bears (1-1)
Wade Phillips was supposed to fix Dallas’ defense. That hasn’t happened — yet. But it also hasn’t mattered. Not when the offense is as hot as the Cowboys. Dallas has scored 82 points in the first two games as quarterback Tony Romo is showing last year was not a fluke. And
Marion Barber (154 yards, three touchdowns) has provided big runs. But the real test for them comes this week against the NFC’s top-rated defense. One difference for Chicago is the return of defensive tackle Tommie Harris. Somehow, the Bears’ defense did not fall apart without their second-best defender last season. With him, they are allowing just 73.5 yards on the ground.
— John Keim
WEEK 3 PICKS
GIANTS AT REDSKINS Joe Gibbs has started 3-0 four times en route to an average of 11 wins. Redskins 27, Giants 20
CARDINALS AT RAVENS Willis McGahee has yet to energize ground game. He’ll have first big game in this one. Ravens 20, Cards 17
COLTS AT TEXANS Texans QB Matt Schaub averages 9.04 yards per attempt, but top target Andre Johnson is likely out. Colts 23, Texans 16
CHARGERS AT PACKERS Pack coming off blowout win; Bolts coming off blowout loss. L.T. averaging just 1.9 yards per carry. Norvals 17, Favres 14
VIKINGS AT CHIEFS Potential QB passer rating for this game: 100. That’s combined, folks. Enjoy the barbecue. Chiefs 9, Vikings 8
LIONS AT EAGLES ’72 Dolphins can rest easy — Lions will lose once Jon Kitna remembers he’s Jon Kitna. Eagles 17, Lions 14
BILLS AT PATRIOTS In another shocking move, Belichick found guilty of swiping Buffalo’s wings recipe. J.P. leads upset? Ha. Pats 33, Bills 14
DOLPHINS AT JETS Miami’s aging defense off to rocky start and getting hammered on the ground (178 yards per game). Jets 16, Dolphins 12
49ERS AT STEELERS Steelers (195 yards per game) will test Niners’ run defense. Niners’ “O” not good enough for upset. Steelers 20, Niners 13
RAMS AT BUCCANEERS Rams must get Steven Jackson untracked as they start stretch of four road games in five weeks. Yikes. Rams 21, Bucs 17
JAGUARS AT BRONCOS Jags always good for one road upset. World’s luckiest team falls flat. Upset special. Jags 20, Broncos 18
BENGALS AT SEAHAWKS Team meeting clears up confusion; Bengals’ defense thought it was in two-hand touch league. Seahawks 27, Bengals 20
BROWNS AT RAIDERS Game features NFL’s fourth-worst pass defense (Raiders) and NFL’s worst defense (Cleveland). Raiders 24, Browns 22
PANTHERS AT FALCONS Can you believe Joey Harrington is struggling in Atlanta? Boy, that’s hard to believe. Panthers 17, Falcons 10
COWBOYS AT BEARS Seriously, isn’t there anyone better than Grossman in Chicago? Somehow, Bears offense isn’t NFL’s worst. Bears 16, Dallas 14
TITANS AT SAINTS Will returning home solve New Orleans’ problems? 72 points in two games suggest deep problems. Titans 24, Saints 21
— John Keim
PLAYER TO WATCH
Anyone still wonder if Randy Moss is done? After two games with the New England Patriots, Moss is averaging 16.9 yards per catch on 17 receptions. Expect those numbers to increase when he faces a Buffalo defense that has allowed 535 yards passing in two games.