Three weeks into the season and only one game, Minnesota at Denver, is a matchup of teams with winning records.
It’s been 11 years since such an oddity.
The Broncos (3-0) are one of seven spotless teams, and the Vikings (2-1) were impressive in their past two victories after an awful opener at San Francisco.
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A Vikings win sets them up as a legitimate contender in the NFC. Second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater recognizes how difficult coming away victorious from the Mile High City can be.
”We know that those guys play extremely well at home, I believe they were 8-1 last year, the only loss coming in the playoffs,” Bridgewater said. ”Those guys, they’re a tough crowd, tough defense, they’re going to have a lot on their side.”
Of course, Bridgewater will have Adrian Peterson on his side. After missing all but one game in 2014 while his child-abuse case proceeded, Peterson appears in top form this year.
”He’s a huge challenge,” Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall said of Peterson. ”Arguably the best running back in the league and very hard to tackle. He breaks a lot of tackles, he’s fast, he’s quick and explosive. He’s just a guy that we have to swarm tackle. We have to run our feet when we hit him. He’s a guy we have to tackle with a lot of aggression.”
Peyton Manning is 3-0 vs. Minnesota with nine TDs and three interceptions.
The weekend began with visiting Baltimore beating Pittsburgh on Justin Tucker’s 52-yard field goal with 5:08 left in overtime.
Tucker tied it with 3 seconds to go in regulation after Pittsburgh’s Josh Scobee missed a pair of kicks that would have given the Steelers some cushion. Tucker then won it in the extra period after the Steelers failed to convert a pair of fourth downs in Baltimore territory.
Justin Forsett ran for 150 yards for the Ravens (1-3). Michael Vick threw for 124 yards and a score for the Steelers (2-2) while starting in place of injured Ben Roethlisberger.
Off are New England (3-0) and Tennessee (1-2).
New York Jets (2-1) vs. Miami (1-2) at London
Cheerio. Good morning from Wembley.
It’s possible not many Dolphins fans will get up early on Sunday morning (kickoff is 9:30 a.m. EDT) given how the team performed last weekend. Still, it’s the Jets, a fierce AFC East rival, and Miami would fall deep in the division cellar with another loss.
New York had 10 takeaways in its two wins, then turned it over four times in a loss to the Eagles.
This is the first of three games at Wembley this season.
St. Louis (1-2) at Arizona (3-0)
Unless the Rams, who have 13 sacks already, can get consistent pressure on Carson Palmer, the Cardinals could have another romp. They have outscored three weak opponents (combined record of 1-8) by 77 points. Revitalized receiver Larry Fitzgerald leads the NFL with five TD catches; the Rams have a total of five touchdowns.
St. Louis is hopeful top draft pick RB Todd Gurley is ready to make an impact on that struggling offense. The Rams have scored 50 points, Arizona has a league-best 126.
Houston (1-2) at Atlanta (3-0)
Now that the Falcons have completed their romp through the NFC East (wins over the Eagles, Giants, and Cowboys) and set league history as the only team to be 3-0 when trailing in fourth quarter of each game, they get to face J.J. Watt. The 2014 Defensive Player of the Year is off to another strong start.
So is Falcons receiver WR Julio Jones, another record setter. His 34 catches are the most in NFL history through three games. Jones also leads the NFL with 440 yards receiving.
Carolina (3-0) at Tampa Bay (1-2)
Another matchup of Heisman Trophy QBs, Cam Newton (2010) vs. Jameis Winston (2013).
Newton has won four of six starts against the Bucs, throwing for 1,414 yards, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions, but he sat out both victories over Tampa Bay a year ago with injuries.
The Bucs have yet to win at home under coach Lovie Smith (0-9) and have dropped 10 straight regular-season games at Raymond James Stadium overall, dating to December 2013.
Green Bay (3-0) at San Francisco (1-2)
One of the NFL’s top rivalries, but now one team is a Super Bowl contender and the other could be in the race for the top overall draft pick. Yet the 49ers have won the past four meetings.
Green Bay is 9-2 in the regular season in California since 1990, and Aaron Rodgers has 13 touchdowns, three interceptions and a 103.7 passer rating vs. San Francisco.
Niners QB Colin Kaepernick threw four interceptions in a 47-7 loss at Arizona last week, with two pick-6s.
Kansas City (1-2) at Cincinnati (3-0)
The Chiefs looked inept at times on Monday night at Green Bay, but the Packers’ offense in particular can make any opponents appear clueless. If Kansas City doesn’t at least try some more daring plays with the ball early on, it could find itself in a big hole against the Bengals, who surely will go deep with A.J. Green (18.6 yards per catch, 3 TDs) and Marvin Jones (17.9, 2).
KC has allowed an NFL-high 14 sacks and has lost three straight to Cincinnati.
Detroit (0-3) at Seattle (1-2), Monday night
Not quite the matchup ESPN was expecting with the Lions bringing back memories of 2008 – you know, 0-16 – and the Seahawks hardly resembling two-time conference champs.
Detroit’s defense clearly misses tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. Its running game is the league’s worst, and the Lions have eight giveaways, most in the NFC.
Seattle’s Legion of Boom has no picks, but the defense has been stingy, as usual, against the pass.
Dallas (2-1) at New Orleans (0-3)
Tony Romo won’t be behind center for Dallas, Drew Brees (right rotator cuff) probably will be for New Orleans. But it could wind up Brandon Weeden vs. Luke McCown to stir the juices in the Big Easy.
Brees needs two TD passes to become the fifth QB in NFL history with 400.
This is an intriguing matchup because the Cowboys want to avoid a freefall without Romo, Dez Bryant and some of their other missing parts. New Orleans, meanwhile, is in a freefall, plagued by an awful defense and some strange coaching decisions.
Dallas can set a franchise record for consecutive regular-season road victories with 11.
Oakland (2-1) at Chicago (0-3)
Raiders coach Jack Del Rio worked in both Carolina and Denver for head coach John Fox, who is now in charge in Chicago.
”I wish it could be him and I wrestling on the 50, but that’s not going to come down,” Del Rio said. ”I think `Foxy’ might still take me, he’s a pretty tough guy.”
His team is not. The Bears already are in fire sale mode: They traded pass-rush specialist Jared Allen to Carolina, dealt LB Jonathan Bostic to New England, and cut S Brock Vereen this week.
New York Giants (1-2) at Buffalo (2-1)
Buffalo’s defense did a number on Miami, and the Giants have an inconsistent offensive line.
Tom Coughlin is 7-1 against AFC East opponents as Giants coach. With 165 career regular-season wins, he’s one short of tying Hall of Famer Paul Brown for 12th on NFL list.
The Giants recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of their Super Bowl victory over the Bills – remember Scott Norwood and wide right? With Buffalo in revival mode, the fan base isn’t looking back to that first of four straight Super Bowl losses in the glory days. It’s looking ahead, although this week injuries on offense could limit the Bills.
Philadelphia (1-2) at Washington (1-2)
Chip Kelly’s crew came alive against the Jets even though RB DeMarco Murray was sidelined. Having Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles dominate against a strong defense bodes well in this matchup for Philadelphia. But the Eagles need to get rusty QB Sam Bradford on track.
Injury-ravaged Washington has had a long rest since its Thursday night loss to the Giants. Its defense ranks second overall, and one area it has an edge on Philly is pass protection. The Redskins have allowed only four sacks, and the Eagles have produced five.
Jacksonville (1-2) at Indianapolis (1-2)
After Tom Brady torched the Jaguars without mercy, Colts QB Andrew Luck must be extra eager to get after the young, mistake-prone Jacksonville defense. Luck engineered a strong second-half comeback at Tennessee, but the fact the Colts have started so slowly in all three games is worrisome, as are 10 giveaways.
The Jaguars seem to have some nice tools for the passing game, though QB Blake Bortles and his receivers need to mature. Indy can be vulnerable in its pass defense, but has won five in a row in this series and a win Sunday would give the Colts 15 straight against the AFC South, tying an NFL record Miami set from 1972-73.
Cleveland (1-2) at San Diego (1-2)
Following two weak road performances, the Chargers return home searching better ball protection and a run defense. Philip Rivers has made some bad passing decisions in those games, but he was outstanding in San Diego’s only game at Qualcomm Stadium, the opening win over Detroit. Home cooking could be huge.
The Browns have the NFL’s worst rushing defense, and they don’t rush the ball very well themselves on offense. Their most effective rushers so far have been QBs Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel.
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