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Week 3 NFC North Preview

It’s time for Week 3 already in the NFL season. The NFC North is taking shape with each matchup and it gets more interesting every week. Let’s take a look at the matchups for Week 3. All NFC North teams will be at home.

Pittsburgh (2-0) at Chicago (0-2) 1 PM FOX

Atlanta (2-0) at Detroit (2-0) 1 PM FOX

Tampa Bay (1-0) at Minnesota (1-1) 1 PM FOX

Cincinnati (0-2) at Green Bay (1-1) 4:25 PM ET CBS

Steelers at Bears

The Bears have had a terrible start to the season with injuries to their top two WRS, top two guards and good ILB in Jerrell Freeman and backup Nick Kwiatkowski. Mike Glennon really struggled in Week 2 and the Bears turned it over on their first four possessions against Tampa Bay after a close loss in Week 1 home to Atlanta.

The Steelers defense will not offer any relief in Week 3, though the TJ Watt and Stephen Tuitt injuries will be something to monitor for the Steelers. Pittsburgh has played good defense against the Browns and Vikings so far. James Harrison, Bud Dupree and Watt get after the passer along with Heyward and Tuitt at end. The Steelers run defense has been strong allowing only 3.3 YPC in two weeks. Joe Haden and Artie Burns are a good corner combination and Ryan Shazier wreaks havoc at ILB. The Steelers should be able to shut down the Bears offense.

The Bears only hope will be Jordan Howard getting out of his funk. Howard has only 2.7 YPC on 22 carries this year. Rookie Tarik Cohen came back down to earth against Tampa Bay and fumbled a punt. Glennon notched an 81.2 rating through 2 games with 2 TDs and 2 picks. If Glennon doesn’t get protection, look for another multiple turnover day from the Bears.

The Steelers offense is stacked despite Leveon Bell having some rust (3.2 YPC on 37 carries). Big Ben has 99.9 QB rating with 4 TDs and only 1 pick so far this season. Antonio Brown is always a weapon with 244 yards on 22 targets. Martavis Bryant is back and notched a TD last week against Minnesota. Jesse James emerged some at tight end with 2 TDs so far. Pittsburgh can score.

The Bears defense has been solid given the circumstances of turnovers by the offense and the Freeman injury. We’ll see if Chicago can hold the Steelers offense in check. Pittsburgh scored only 21 against the Browns and 23 at home versus Minnesota. Chicago’s defense could keep them in it unless the Steelers start firing on all cylinders on offense.

In the end, Pittsburgh is just way more talented.

Pittsburgh 27 Chicago 17

Buccaneers at Vikings

The Vikings without Sam Bradford got beat pretty easily by the Steelers last week but crushed the lowly Saints in Week 1 with Bradford. Tampa Bay crushed Chicago in its first game last week at home. This should be a good defensive game and a lot depends on if Sam Bradford can play for the Vikings. If Keenum has to play again, the Bucs should win by two scores.

Bradford had a great day in Week 1 but the Saints defense is awful. Dalvin Cook has run the ball really well at 5.6 YPC as a rookie. The Vikings offensive line looks improved with some protection too. Gerald McCoy, Noah Spence and Robert Ayers will be a great test for the Vikings line. Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander will be roaming but Kyle Rudolph and the receiving backs will have to try to win this matchup against them.

The Bucs held the Bears in check (1.3 YPC) after the Bears ran well on Atlanta. We’ll see if the rookie Dalvin Cook can continue his early season success against a good run defense.

QB Jameis Winston was solid with a 91.5 rating in Week 2 versus Chicago. Winston threw a TD to Mike Evans but more importantly didn’t turn the ball over. Jacquizz Rodgers and Peyton Barber split duties at running back with Doug Martin still suspended. The Bears shut down the Bucs run game last week.

Mike Evans and Desean Jackson are good weapons. Xavier Rhodes did well against Antonio Brown and will have to do the same to Evans. Jackson versus Trae Waynes may be a tough matchup but the Vikings have Harrison Smith roaming deep to double Jackson bombs. The Vikings linebackers and safety Andrew Sendejo/Harrison Smith will have to play well facing Cameron Brate and OJ Howard at tight end. Kendricks and Barr can get the job done there.

Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have started well this season. Vernon Hargreaves, Brent Grimes and TJ Ward in the secondary present a problem for them. If Bradford plays, they can make some plays to point enough points on the board. If Keenum plays, the Vikings will struggle to pass the ball.

The Vikings defensive line is their catalyst on defense. Everson Griffen leads the way with 3 sacks but Hunter and Robison provide pressure as well. Donovan Smith and Demar Dotson will be tested by the Vikings ends. Linval Joseph and Tom Johnson can bring an interior rush as well against Kevin Pamphile, Ali Marpet and JR Sweezy. If Winston gets pressure, he will turn the ball over. The Vikings need turnovers as the key to winning this game.

This game comes down to turnovers and the Bucs run defense against Cook. Eventually, Mike Evans and Jackson break through and Tampa Bay escapes on the road with a victory.

Tampa Bay 20 Minnesota 17

Falcons at Lions

This will be a great battle of 2-0 teams at Ford Field. The Lions are coming off two double digit wins against the Cardinals and at the Giants. Atlanta won at Chicago and opened their stadium with an easy win over the Packers. Both teams will be a big test for each other.

The Lions have had success on defense against two struggling offenses. They have forced five turnovers (2nd in league) and managed to get pressure on the opposing QB. Ziggy Ansah leads the way with 3 sacks and will be battling Jake Matthews. I can’t wait to see this matchup.

The Falcons have an injury at right tackle to monitor with Ryan Schraeder. Cornelius Washington and Anthony Zettel need to bring additional pressure against backup Ty Sambrailo or Schraeder.

The key to stopping Matt Ryan (112.2 QB rating) and most good QBs is pressure from the front four. The Lions DT have been playing well through 2 games. Alex Mack, Wes Scheitzer and Andy Levitre will be their best test. If Ngata and Robinson continue with strong bull rush, Ryan will have nowhere to hide. Rookie Jeremiah Ledbetter has played well too in the rotation.

Ryan has 2 TDs and 0 interceptions on the year but the offense picked up more steam against the Packers in the first half last week. Ryan is the reigning MVP and is always dangerous finding Julio Jones, Taylor Gabriel, Mohammed Sanu, Austin Hooper or his receiving backs.

The Falcons are stacked with weapons and Detroit’s secondary will need a third good game in a row. Slay, Diggs, Quin and Killebrew have played great. DJ Hayden and Nevin Lawson have struggled. The number 2 CB must improve and play well against Sanu and Gabriel.

The Falcons offense can run the ball with Freeman and Coleman as well. The Lions run defense has been stout stopping David Johnson but the Giants always have running problems. If the Lions stop Freeman and Coleman then their run defense is for real.

The concussion to Jarrad Davis is definitely something to monitor as Davis has been the heart of the defense as a rookie at ILB calling the plays. Whitehead has improved moving to OLB but would need to move back inside if Davis can’t play. Tavon Wilson has been strong at strong safety in run defense too and deals with a shoulder injury to monitor too. The Lions must win their gaps on the defensive line and allow the LBs to tackle Freeman and Coleman well.

Matt Stafford has earned that contract so far with 6 TD and 1 interception this season. Stafford notched 114.6 rating so far with 71 percent completion. He has scrambled well too out of pressure and is a great leader for the Lions offense.

Vic Beasley is injured which might/may hurt the Falcons pass rush. Greg Robinson was solid Week 1 but really struggled in Week 2 against Olivier Vernon. Not having to deal with Beasley (hamstring), would be a big boost for Detroit.

Adrian Clayborn, Takk McKinley and Grady Jarrett (DT) are capable pass rushers for Atlanta though. Detroit must keep Stafford clean and allow him to find his weapons with that big arm. There will still be plenty of short stuff to Golden Tate and Abdullah/Riddick with YAC too.

Ameer Abdullah rebounded from Week 1 (2.0 YPC) with 5.1 YPC in Week 2. The Lions run game showed signs of life and Atlanta and is another good matchup. Dontari Poe clogs the lanes and Deion Jones, Devondre Campbell and safety Keanu Neal will be making plays on the second level. Atlanta has had some run D trouble allowing 5.4 YPC against Green Bay and Chicago. We’ll see if Abdullah or Riddick can juke them for any big gainers in Week 3.

This will be a great game. I’m thinking it will be a shoot- out. Captain Clutch Matt Stafford melts Matty Ice with a late score. Maybe a repeat of the London game in 2014, where Prater gets a second shot due to a Lions penalty and nails the second field goal attempt for the win.

Detroit 31 Atlanta 28

Bengals at Packers

Green Bay had an impressive defensive win in Week 1 hosting Seattle but lost at Atlanta pretty badly. The Bengals have really struggled at 0-2 with no offensive TDs against the Ravens or Texans. The Packers can’t match those defenses but have defensive talent. Mike Daniels injury is one to watch along with Davon House and Kentrell Brice. Nick Perry may miss the game after hand surgery which means Matthews, Fackrell and Brooks must step up for a pass rush. The Packers need man power to stop AJ Green. Tyler Eifert may miss the game with back problems which helps Green Bay. John Ross can fly so watch for deep balls to him too. Lafell is a veteran and Tyler Boyd has some talent as well. The Bengals have the talent but just aren’t executing and don’t give Andy Dalton enough time with a new offensive line.

The key will be run defense for Green Bay. Joe Mixon, Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill have really struggled the first two weeks. If they can get going, it will open up the Bengals offense. There will be a new OC this week for them so expect some changes.

Green Bay has a good offense with Aaron Rodgers as always. The Jordy Nelson (quad) injury is something to monitor as the offense struggles without him. The Bengals have a good defense with strong coverage and run defense. If they can stop Montgomery from running efficiently, they have a chance to limit the Packers offense. Front four pressure on Rodgers will be a must led by Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap.

Rodgers only has an 88.8 rating but I expect him to break out in this game at home. Rodgers will toss 4 TDs and beat the Bengals in a rout. Green Bay’s defense has a solid game and shut down the Bengals run games.

Mad Packers 35 Bengals 17

Enjoy the Week 3 matchups!!!