It’s still only preseason, but the third weekend of games typically gives us a better look at what to expect with teams this upcoming season. It’s unlikely that starters will play the entire game, but we’ll likely see many key players get more reps then they have in the previous two games. Here is a look at the games for preseason Week 3 and some key implications we’re keeping our eyes on.
Panthers vs. Patriots
The Panthers are 1-1 this preseason, losing narrowly in their opening game to Buffalo and winning last weekend against Kansas City. This weekend, they’ll be going up against a Patriots team that has the same record after losing to Washington and then winning against Philadelphia last weekend.
Tom Brady sat out the first game, but played last weekend as he went 8/10 for 81 yards. He did have a touchdown, but he also gave up an interception that was returned by the Eagles’ Cary Williams. This weekend, Brady is expected to get more reps with the first stringers against Carolina. Aside from Brady, keep an eye out for Dominique Easley. The first round pick from Florida has had to step up in place of Michael Buchanan and Will Smith, as the Pat’s defense hasn’t looked impressive thus far.
As for the Panthers, they decided to play their starters for significant minutes last weekend, which means they may not get as many reps against New England. However, Cam Newton was just 4/9 for 65 yards last weekend, so he may need a few more reps as he comes back from an ankle surgery this offseason. The Panthers were rated a few weeks ago by ESPN to be the least likely team to go from first to worst in their division, and they sit at 68/1 odds to win the Super Bowl in 2015. This weekend should give them a good idea of how they stack up against a team like the Patriots, who are tied for the second best odds at 8/1.
Giants vs. Jets
In a battle for New York, both the Giants and the Jets will hope to remain flawless in the preseason. The Giants have amassed wins against Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis; while the Jets are 3-0 win wins over Indianapolis and Cincinnati. However, we may want to wait before we assume that either of these teams looks completely ready for the regular season. The Jets are still trying to determine whether it’s Geno Smith or Michael Vick that will be under center, though most indications lead to it being the second-year quarterback out of West Virginia. Last weekend, Smith went 10/13 for 98 yards and had an interception, while Vick was 5/9 for 70 yards and a touchdown. The good news for the Jets may be that Chris Johnson ran for 63 yards on just 10 touches.
The Giants have gone undefeated, though it may be in a way that many didn’t quite expect. Eli Manning hasn’t looked very effective, going just 1/7 for 6 yards last weekend and didn’t complete a pass at all during four series two weeks ago. Another concern may be the fact that their top pick in this years draft, Odell Beckham Jr., hasn’t played a single game during the preseason.
The Giants currently sit at 50/1 odds, but they’ll certainly need Manning to start getting into a groove before the regular season starts againt Detroit on September 8th. The Jets sit at 85/1, and hopefully the next few games will give them a better idea of who is ready to lead this team as quarterback.
Jaguars vs. Lions
One of the most-watched players this preseason has been Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles. Despite losing last weekend to Chicago, both Bortles and Chad Henne have looked great, which may just show how much these two are pushing one another. While Bortles was the third overall pick in the draft, many wonder if the Jags have enough around him to risk throwing him into the fire. And if Henne keeps playing the way he has, they may not have to just quite yet.
The Lions were able to get a win in their first preseason game against Cleveland, though they followed it up with a loss last weekend against Oakland. There is no surprising what you are getting when you play Detroit, as Matthew Stafford is going to look to Calvin Johnson, and he’ll be sure to look his way often. Stafford also has a new target to sling to, as Eric Ebron has proved to be a valuable rookie in his first two games.
Detroit had an epic collapse last season and ended up falling to the second-to-last spot in the division. However, this year they’ll hope to avoid that from happening, despite the fact that the NFC North is going to be no cakewalk. The Lions currently sit at 40/1, while Jacksonville has a league-worst 250/1 odds. That said, watching the Jag on Saturday will be a great opportunity to see Bortles and whether or not he can go against a staunch Detroit defense.
Raiders vs. Packers
The Raiders have the second worst odds in the league at 200/1, but they will be hoping to follow up their win from last weekend against Detroit as they face another NFC North foe. The Packers find themselves on the other end of the spectrum at 14/1 odds, which is third best in the league.
The Raiders will hope to see something more from Matt Schaub, who has yet to be the leader that Oakland was hoping for. They’ll also expect new additions Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley to apply more pressure on defense, as neither has yet to get a sack in the preseason.
Along with not having much on the defensive end, the Raiders secondary has been equally as bad in their first two games. After being scorched by Matt Cassel and Matthew Stafford, the Raiders will have their toughest challenge yet against Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers looked great last weekend against St. Louis, throwing for 128 yards and a touchdown on 11/13 passing,
If the Packers can stay healthy this year, they’ll certainly be a threat to make a Super Bowl run. Be sure to check in with sportspicks.com Million Dollar Challenge if you think the Packers are going to win the Super Bowl, or if you have a better idea as to who will hoist the Lombardi Trophy at years-end.
Bears vs. Seahawks
After losing their first preseason game to the Broncos, the Seahawks came out and pummeled San Diego last weekend in a 41-14 victory. This weekend, they’ll match up against a Bears team that is 2-0 thus far.
Jay Cutler and his offense have looked impressive in the first two games against Philadelphia and Jacksonville, but matching up against the Boom Squad will be a serious challenge that will help us gauge where the Bears truly are at.
The Seahawks have looked equally as impressive on their side of the ball, as Russell Wilson went 11/13 for 121 yards, while also rushing for 31 yards last weekend against San Diego. The team had 243 yards on the ground and five touchdowns, so we’ll look to see if they plan to continue pounding the ball with Marshawn Lynch, Wilson and company this weekend as well.
The Seahawks are tied with Denver at 6/1, while the Bears are at 20/1 odds to win the Super Bowl.
Buccaneers vs. Bills
Tampa Bay finds themselves at 0-2 so far after three weeks, while the Bills are 1-2 and coming off a loss against Pittsburgh. However, while the Bucs still look to be rebuilding, the Bills may were ranked by ESPN to have the best odds for going from worst to first in their respective division. Sure, it’s going to take a lot to usurp the Patriots, and they’ll probably even have a hard time getting past Miami or New York. However, Sammy Watkins has proven himself to be a serious contender for Rookie Of The Year honors, and EJ Manual has another year of experience under his belt.
As for the Bucs, the last thing they want to do is start the season like they did last year, in which they didn’t get their first win till their ninth game of the season. Tampa is still hoping to get more from Mike Evans, who was the seventh overall pick as a wide receiver out of Texas A&M. If Evans can start to turn it on like some of the other rookie receivers, that could free things up for Bobby Rainey and Doug Martin in the backfield.
Cowboys vs. Dolphins
If there is any team that really needs to get a win this weekend, it’s the Dallas Cowboys. So far this preseason, they’ve gone 0-2 with losses against San Diego and Baltimore. What may be even worse is that Dallas was outscored last weekend against the Ravens 27-10 during the first half. There is no denying the pressure that is put on Dallas year-in and year-out, so they’ll need to have some glimmers of hope this weekend if they want to avoid unnecessary scrutiny before the regular season even begins.
The Dolphins are 1-1, with a loss to Atlanta in their first game and a win over Tampa Bay last weekend. The key to look out for with the Dolphins is going to be their quarterbacks. Ryan Tannehill is expected to be the starter, though Matt Moore looked impressive during his time on the field last weekend. They also have Brady Quinn on the roster, and he may get extended playing time against the Cowboys.
Titans vs. Falcons
The Falcons were one of the most disappointing teams in the league last year, so they’ll want to heat things up during the preseason to avoid any concerns of another lackluster season. They still have Matt Ryan, Roddy White, and Julio Jones, but they’ll hope to get more out of Steven Jackson in his second year in the system. The Falcons are currently at 60/1 odds, and they are stuck in a tough NFC South division with the Saints and Panthers both vying for the top spot.
The Titans have the third worst odds in the league at 140/1 to win the Super Bowl this season. This year is going to be huge for Jake Locker, so he’ll want to prove that he can do well against a Falcons defense that ranked in the bottom half of the league last year. The Titans will also be focusing on Bishop Stankey in the backfield, who was their second pick in this years draft.
Redskins vs. Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens missed the playoffs last season after winning the Super Bowl the year before. This preseason, they’ve started 2-0 with wins over San Francisco and Dallas. Joe Flacco isn’t going anywhere as the starting quarterback, but the Ravens hope to get more production from backups Tyrod Taylor and Keith Wenning. Last weekend, Flacco threw for 113 yards and a touchdown, while the two backups combined for just 67 yards and no touchdowns.
The Redskins are also hoping for a better performance after a letdown last season. Entering his third season, Robert Griffin III is adjusting to a new coaching staff, and there have been rumors of the offense going a bit more traditional and depending less on the option. The Redskins are also 2-0 this preseason, getting wins over New England and Cleveland in the last two weeks.
Odds-makers seem to think that Baltimore will have better chances of turning things around this season, as they sit at 37/1 odds; while Washington is at 75/1.
Saints vs. Colts
It’s just the preseason, but this matchup may be one of the more entertaining on the weekend. The Colts are 0-2 to start their preseason, but nobody expects that trend to keep up as we transition into the regular season. However, Andrew Luck will want to get things going more efficiently on offense, especially against an NFC powerhouse like New Orleans.
The Saints are undefeated in two games, getting wins over St. Louis and Tennessee. In this game, look for Drew Brees to continue to acclimate himself to receiver Brandon Cooks. Cooks was drafted 20th overall last April. Cooks had just one reception last weekend, but he was targeted on four separate occasions.
These teams are both likely to be in the conversation come January, as the Saints are at 15/1 odds and the Colts are at 20/1.
Rams vs. Browns
The Cleveland Browns may be the most talked about team in the NFL right now, but that hasn’t stopped them from dropping their first two games of the preseason to Detroit and Washington. There is no denying that all eyes will still be on the quarterback battle between Bryan Hoyer and Johnny Manzel, though the distractions of Johnny Football may be proving to be trouble for this locker room. They’ll hope to answer more questions against a St. Louis team that is also 0-2 thus far this preseason.
The Rams still have a solid core, especially if Sam Bradford can stay healthy. They currently have 60/1 odds, though they find themselves in the toughest division in all of football. The Browns, on the other hand, are at 80/1 and seem to have plenty more to figure out.
Vikings vs. Chiefs
Both the Vikings and the Chiefs ended up being a bit of surprise last season, though it’s likely for different reasons. The Vikings had a terrible year, while the Chiefs turned things around and made the playoffs. So far this preseason, the Vikings are 2-0 and Teddy Bridgewater has looked impressive as a rookie. Last weekend against Arizona, Bridgewater was 16/20 for 177 yards, and he also had two touchdowns.
Kansas City has started the preseason 1-1, with a win over Cincinnati followed by a loss to Carolina. The Chiefs still have a perennial offense with Alex Smith, Dwayne Bowe, and Jamaal Charles, though they hope rookie Dee Ford can add to a defense that ranked 25th in passing yards against and 22nd in rushing yards against last season.
The Chiefs currently sit at 60/1 odds, and the Vikings are at 125/1. However, be sure to check back with sportspicks.com insiders to see if Bridgewater can turn the tides for Minnesota this season and keep up the success that they’ve had in the preseason.
Texans vs. Broncos
One of the best players in the preseason thus far has arguably been Peyton Manning, though that shouldn’t come as any surprise. Manning has been influential in two big wins over NFC West powerhouses Seattle and San Francisco in back-to-back weeks. The Broncos are still trying to find out a few other key pieces, such as who will fill the running back role, and whether or not they can stay healthy as the regular season inches closer. The Broncos are tied with a league best 6/1 odds, and so far things have gone as expected.
The Texans begin their rebuilding process with a variety of new key pieces. Matt Schaub is gone, so Ryan Fitzpatrick will be expected to lead things with Case Keenum backing him up. Luckily, Arian Foster looks to be back healthy, and Andre Johnson remains a vital option out wide. However, where the Texans can expect to put their eggs this year is in their defensive basket. They ranked third in the league last year with just 195 yards passing against, and they now have Jadaveon Clowney to add to a bolstered defensive lineup. The Texans currently sit with a host of other teams at 60/1 odds to win the Super Bowl, and a lot of that may depend on whether or not Fitzpatrick can step it up behind center.
Chargers vs. 49ers
The California showdown between San Diego and San Francisco should be an entertaining one, as both teams are coming off loses last weekend. The 49ers were blown out by Denver, and they’ve only scored three total points in two games. San Diego opened up with a win against Dallas, but then were dismantled by Seattle last weekend.
Odds makers don’t seem to be too concerned with San Francisco’s lackluster start, as they still sit at 8/1 odds to win the Super Bowl this year. However, they’ll want to show something this weekend, which they have yet to do thus far. As for San Diego, they are at 42/1 odds, and there is no surprise that their entire focus will be on Philip Rivers and an offense that ranked fourth in the league in passing yards last year.