(Photo credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)
Week 3 NFL capsules
Colts (1-1) at Ravens (2-0): Baltimore digs in for its second game against a rookie starting quarterback in three weeks, but the Colts might hit the field without No. 4 overall pick Anthony Richardson. He spent the week in concussion protocol. Gardner Minshew had a 120.8 passer rating the last time he started against the Ravens (2020 with the Jaguars) and completed 19 of 23 passes off the bench to beat the Houston Texans last week. The Ravens won four of the past five meetings and have limited opponents to 16.5 points and 275 total yards per game in 2023. That has helped ease the transition to a new offense under coordinator Todd Monken. QB Lamar Jackson can get the Ravens to 3-0 for the first time since 2016. He had a career-high 504 total yards (442 passing) in his last game against the Colts.
Titans (1-1) at Browns (1-1): Nick Chubb's season-ending knee injury shifts personnel -- Jerome Ford gets first dibs on the starting role -- but the Browns plan to push forward with a run-first offense. That doesn't spare QB Deshaun Watson from being asked to do more, especially considering the Titans' standing rep as a stout run defense under coach Mike Vrabel. The Titans are holding opponents to 65 rushing yards per game. Watson's 19 TD passes against the Titans, his highest point output against any team, could increase if the Browns can protect him. Watson has been sacked nine times and has a passer rating of 69.0 this season. The Titans are involving explosive rookie Tyjae Spears in the running game alongside Derrick Henry to average 122.5 yards per game on the ground. QB Ryan Tannehill, sacked eight times this season, went over 300 passing yards with three-plus touchdowns in each of his past two starts in this matchup.
Falcons (2-0) at Lions (1-1): Injuries are threatening to short-circuit the Lions' feel-good story. S C.J. Gardner-Johnson (torn pectoral muscle) and DE James Houston (ankle fracture) are on injured reserve and RB David Montgomery (quad bruise) won't play this week, with two starting offensive linemen -- including LT Taylor Decker -- not expected to suit up, either. Rising RB talents should still be on display. The Falcons' Bijan Robinson, the No. 8 overall pick in 2023, rushed for 124 yards in the Falcons' 25-24 win over the Green Bay Packers last Sunday. He also has 10 receptions in his first two games. Lions rookie Jahmyr Gibbs, the No. 12 overall pick, has averaged 4.2 yards per on 14 carries with nine catches. His workload could increase if Montgomery is sidelined.
Saints (2-0) at Packers (1-1): At long last, QB Jordan Love, in his third season and first as the successor to Aaron Rodgers, makes his first start at Lambeau Field. Love is the top-rated passer in the NFL with a rating of 118.8, tied for the league lead with six touchdown passes and has not thrown an interception. The Saints' defense has yielded one touchdown in two games. New Orleans is down another running back -- Jamaal Williams' hamstring injury means he won't face his former team -- with rookie Kendre Miller likely to start in the final week of Pro Bowl RB Alvin Kamara's suspension. New QB Derek Carr has just one TD pass but three productive wide receivers in Chris Olave (14 receptions, 198 yards), Michael Thomas (12 receptions, 116 yards) and Rashid Sheheed (9-152). The Packers are expecting RB Aaron Jones to be back after he missed last week's loss at Atlanta. He averaged 103.6 total yards in nine games at home last season.
Texans (0-2) at Jaguars (1-1): For a franchise with few wins to celebrate, the Texans have enjoyed seeing the Jaguars with nine wins in the past 10 games with their AFC South rival. Houston has produced only 29 points this season and rookie QB C.J. Stroud stares down a stellar defense that limited the Chiefs to 17 points in Week 2. Stroud has 58 completions, second-most by any player in his first two NFL games, with much credit due WR Nico Collins (13 receptions, 226 yards in 2023). Jacksonville is plus-3 in turnover margin with six takeaways. But the Jaguars have had issues inside the 20, including 0-for-3 in red-zone chances last week. Texans CB Derek Stingley (hamstring) and Jaguars WR Zay Jones (knee) are key injuries to monitor. Jones is second in the NFL with five red-zone targets. The Jaguars routed the host Texans 31-3 in Week 17 of last season to snap a nine-game losing streak against Houston.
Broncos (0-2) at Dolphins (2-0): Before Mike McDaniel was hired to lead the Dolphins, franchise owner Stephen Ross attempted to woo current Broncos head coach Sean Payton (and friends) to South Beach. Now McDaniel's Dolphins are following up a playoff appearance with a 2-0 start, flexing the type of prolific offense one might expect from Payton's teams. Alas, Payton sat out one season -- Ross was fined and suspended for tampering with the then-Saints coach -- then was hired to revive Russell Wilson and the Broncos. So far, no luck in that department. Wilson has been good enough to win and is one of three quarterbacks with two TD passes and a 100-plus rating in the first two games (Kirk Cousins, Jordan Love). Denver's defense allowed 52 points in the first two games and faces the Miami machine averaging 30 points per game behind a red-hot start from Tua Tagovailoa. A win puts the Dolphins at 3-0 for the second consecutive season for the first time since 1994-96.
Chargers (0-2) at Vikings (0-2): Chargers coach Brandon Staley reminded anyone who'd listen there are 15 games left in the regular season. His team is on the road and coming off a two-point loss against the Miami Dolphins in Week 1 and a three-point overtime loss against the Tennessee Titans in Week 2. "We lost two really tough games right there at the end. ... We're doing a lot of good things out there," Staley said this week. "The mistakes that we made out there, we can correct all of them." The same message resonates with Minnesota, which has also lost each of its first two games by single digits against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Philadelphia Eagles. Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell and Staley were roommates and Rams assistant coaches during the COVID-19 pandemic. One will leave U.S. Bank Stadium 0-3 after going to the playoffs last season. Vikings QB Kirk Cousins is 9-2 with 25 TDs (23 pass, 2 rush), five INTs in his past 11 home starts. But Minnesota has the most turnovers (seven) and the worst turnover ratio (minus-6) of any team in the NFL heading into Week 3.
Patriots (0-2) at Jets (1-1): Bill Belichick is 38-12 against the Jets, including 14 consecutive wins in the regular season. But with points hard to come by (18.5 ppg) and a defense lacking playmakers, the Patriots are in danger of starting a season 0-3 for the first time since Belichick's debut season in Foxborough. The Jets last beat the Patriots on Dec. 27, 2015, when Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Eric Decker for a touchdown in overtime after Belichick told his captains to kick it away if New England won the coin toss. New York wants to play behind the push of its defense after a 30-10 loss to the Cowboys. The Patriots lead the NFL in pass attempts and have only 164 rushing yards in two games.
Bills (1-1) at Commanders (2-0): The Commanders are now 3-0 when Sam Howell starts at quarterback. Once a projected No. 1 overall draft pick who instead fell to the fifth round, Howell won his only start when Washington gave him the reins at the end of 2022. Howell completed 27 of 39 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns against Denver last week. His cause has been helped by Brian Robinson Jr., Washington's clear No. 1 running back who has gained 146 rushing yards over two games. After a four-turnover showing in a loss to the Jets Week 1, Josh Allen bounced back with a boost from RB James Cook (123 rushing yards) in a 38-10 win last week. The Commanders' five-star defensive line is "one of the best" in Allen's estimation.
Panthers (0-2) at Seahawks (1-1): Carolina turns to QB Andy Dalton with No. 1 pick Bryce Young hobbled by an ankle injury. Dalton pilots a Panthers' scheme averaging 13.5 points and 133 passing yards in the first two games. Seattle can score in bunches (30.5 ppg) and gives opponents fits with a WR corps led by DK Metcalf (nine receptions, 122 yards) and Tyler Lockett, who caught two TDs last week. Rookie WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba is among NFL leaders averaging nearly five yards of separation per route according to NFL Next Gen Stats. The Panthers' defense is replacing LB Shaq Thompson, who went down with a season-ending injury last week.
Cowboys (2-0) at Cardinals (0-2): All-Pro CB Trevon Diggs tore his ACL in practice on Thursday, dampening the mood in Dallas after a dominant open to the season. The Cowboys outscored the Giants and Jets 70-10 and are trying to break a run of poor luck in the series with Arizona. The Cardinals have won six of the past seven meetings. But the ask of journeyman QB Josh Dobbs isn't small. A challenge for the offense, which has 44 points in two games, will be finding a way to move the ball while limiting the impact of Dallas pass rusher Micah Parsons. The Cowboys are leading the NFL in multiple defensive categories, yielding 5.0 points per game, collecting 10 sacks and boasting a turnover margin of plus-7. Opponents are converting only 23.1 percent of third downs to first downs (6 of 26).
Bears (0-2) at Chiefs (1-1): It was a week to forget for the Bears what with the resignation of defensive coordinator Alan Williams and quarterback Justin Fields wondering aloud if coaching might have him thinking too much. Noise might be the least of the Bears' worries at Kansas City. Chicago lost its starting left tackle and another cornerback to injured reserve and takes the field trying to win a game for the first time since Oct. 24, 2022. The Super Bowl champion Chiefs won at Jacksonville and could be looking to this week to get healthy. Chicago enters Sunday with just one sack while allowing opponents to convert 54.8 percent of their third downs, the second-highest rate in the league.
Steelers (1-1) at Raiders (1-1): Pittsburgh has scored just 19 offensive points and has punted 13 times, compared to 24 total first downs. The Steelers posted a 26-22 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Monday night behind defensive touchdowns by Alex Highsmith and T.J. Watt. The Raiders (1-1) are tied for last in points per game (13.5). Star rusher Josh Jacobs is coming off a career-worst minus-2 rushing game (on nine attempts) in a 38-10 loss to the host Buffalo Bills. Jacobs, the NFL's leading rusher with 1,653 yards last season, has just 46 yards on 28 carries in two games with a long gain of 7. In the loss to Buffalo, the Raiders ran just 13 second-half offensive plays and 39 for the game as the Bills controlled the ball for 40:04.
Eagles (2-0) at Buccaneers (2-0): Baker Mayfield has been the NFL's best quarterback under pressure, completing more than 70 percent of his passes in that scenario, and the Eagles tend to bring plenty of attacking fronts to test a quarterback's mettle. Mayfield is 1-4 on Monday Night Football. He'll square off against another former Oklahoma quarterback, Jalen Hurts, who insists his big contract and smaller stats are no bother as long as Philadelphia keeps winning. With two rushing touchdowns this week, Hurts would tie Cam Newton for the all-time QB record of 10 games with two-plus rushing TDs. WR A.J. Brown would like a few more passes thrown but downplayed a sideline spat with Hurts last week. With CB James Bradberry (concussion) back from a one-week absence, the Eagles pass rush and secondary is better equipped to contend with WR Mike Evans. He's the only player in the NFL with six-plus catches and a TD in each of the first two weeks of the 2022 season.
Rams (1-1) at Bengals (0-2): Another 0-2 start for Cincinnati, which reached the AFC title game after dropping two in a row to open the 2022 season, might be cause for alarm this time around. QB Joe Burrow (calf) is hurting and without the threat of a deep passing game, defenses are adjusting to sit on shorter underneath throws and zapping the life out of Cincinnati's scheme. That scheme was partially crafted by Rams coach Sean McVay, who goes head-to-head with former assistant Zac Taylor as part of the MNF doubleheader. Without WR Cooper Kupp (hamstring), the Rams are consistently moving the chains thanks to breakout rookie WR Puka Nacua. McVay said this week he'll need to throttle back Nacua's workload to keep him healthy, which invites more targets for shifty slot receiver Tutu Atwell (15.1 yards per catch this season). Bengals Pro Bowl WR Ja'Marr Chase called for more vertical shots to open up Cincy's attack. He's averaging just 7.0 yards per catch, down from 18.0 in 2021.
--Field Level Media