Three weeks into the NFL season and teams are already in danger of missing the playoffs. Crazy isn't it? The week kicked off Thursday night in Atlanta as the Falcons destroyed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 56-14. The Falcons' 56 points were the second-most in a single game in team history, just six shy of the team record set against the New Orleans Saints in 1973. It was also the second-largest margin of victory in team history, behind the 55-point win versus the Saints in that same game. As for the Buccaneers, the 56 points allowed are tied for second-most allowed in team history, while the 42-point loss is tied for third-most in team history.
Is the Marcus Mariota watch on in Tampa and are the Falcons really that good. The answer is yes and no respectively. The Bucs will need a franchise QB in the years to come of they are going to compete with Carolina, Atlanta and New Orleans. Somehow, McCown and Glennon just don’t have the ring of Newton, Ryan and Brees.
Under the current playoff format, only three of the 121 teams that started 0-3 have rallied to make the playoffs: the 1998 Bills, 1995 Lions and 1992 Chargers. In fact, the Chargers are the only team under this format to start a season 0-4 and not only make it to the playoffs but win a playoff game.
The Falcons are 2-1 and look better than the team that finished 4-12 in 2013. However, their defense won’t be good enough to be the 12-4 team they were in 2012. Coming into this contest, Atlanta entered Thursday night with the worst defense in the NFL in terms of yards, third worst in the NFC in points allowed and were the only team in the NFL this season without a sack. The streak has spanned 96 dropbacks and 166 minutes and 49 seconds of game time. They did record in Thursdays win. Coming into Thursday, the Falcons had allowed 100-plus rush yards in 15 straight games. That was the longest active streak in the league (the Texans are next with six such games).
The Falcons are a team that will likely struggle on the road and if they don’t win all six of their remaining home games, it’s likely they will be on the outside looking in come playoff time in a tough NFC.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN WEEK 3:
The chances of making the playoffs after a 2-0 start are good but far from a sure thing. Since 1990, when the current playoff format was adopted, 124 of the 196 teams (63.3 percent) to start 2-0 have qualified for the postseason. However, with 14 games remaining, there’s plenty of time to turn things around. Since realignment in 2002, nearly 60 percent of the playoff teams (59.7 percent, 86 of 144) started the season at either 1-1 or 0-2. That includes five of the eight division champions from last year: Carolina (NFC South), Cincinnati (AFC North), Green Bay (NFC North), Indianapolis (AFC South), and Philadelphia (NFC East)
Being 3-0 is no guarantee either but numbers don’t lie. Seven teams are undefeated through the first two weeks of the season – ARIZONA, BUFFALO, CAROLINA, CINCINNATI, DENVER, HOUSTON, and PHILADELPHIA – and hope to move to 3-0 this weekend – 75.2 percent of teams (91 of 121) that started 3-0 since 1990 made the playoffs.
When the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos meet tomorrow, it will be the third time since 1980 — and the first time since 1997 — that the participants from the previous Super Bowl meet the following year in the regular season. On Sept. 12, 1993, the Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys lost to the visiting Buffalo Bills 13-10 in Week 2. The Cowboys had clobbered the Bills 52-17 in the Super Bowl XXVII in January. In the rematch, the Bills took a 10-0 lead before the Cowboys rallied to tie the score in the fourth quarter on a 5-yard touchdown run by Kevin Williams. Bills kicker Steve Christie won the game with a 35-yard field goal to lift the Bills to 2-0.The Cowboys turned the ball over four times. Of course, the Cowboys won the rubber match, which unfortunately for Bills fans happened to be Super Bowl XXVIII.
On Oct. 27, 1997, the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers defeated the host New England Patriots 28-10 in Week 9. The Packers had beaten the Patriots 35-21in Super Bowl XXXI. In the rematch, Brett Favre threw for 239 yards and three touchdowns. Dorsey Levens caught a TD pass and ran for another score. All of the Patriots’ points came in the second quarter. Drew Bledsoe was intercepted three times in the loss.
ATS INFORMATION: As we head into Week 3, here are the hot trends this week:
The Buffalo Bills are 2-22 AGAINST THE SPREAD (ATS) in games after defeating the Miami Dolphins.
The New England Patriots are 2-13 ATS in their last 15 games as double-digit favorites.
Since returning as an expansion team in 1999, the Cleveland Browns are 12-2-1 ATS in their second home game of the season.
The last 14 teams seeking to exact single revenge against Seattle are 1-13 straight up and 2-12 ATS. Single revenge situations are when the team lost only the last meeting between the teams, not two or more games in the series. The San Diego Chargers defeated the Seahawks in this role last week. The Broncos are up next.
MATCHUP OF THE WEEKEND TO WATCH: Courtesy of USA Today
Seahawks secondary vs. Peyton Manning
The skinny: Manning and his weapons have been champing at the bit to atone for their 43-8 Super Bowl humiliation seven months ago. While they have improved pieces from that four-turnover debacle, the Seahawks are a different team playing at CenturyLink Stadium, where they have won 18 of the last 19 games. And it doesn't help Manning and company that Seattle is smarting from last Sunday's road loss to the San Diego Chargers. Expect Manning to target Emmanuel Sanders early against cornerback Richard Sherman. Sanders leads the Broncos in receptions and is tied for fourth in the league with 14 receptions for 185 yards, giving Manning the sleek weapon to open up the field for his other weapons.
Why it matters: This is the biggest chance yet for Manning and the Broncos to show they are much improved from their Super Bowl meltdown. Left tackle Ryan Clady is back after missing all but two games last season due to a Lisfranc injury. The hope is that Manning won't feel as if he's operating inside a phone booth as he did under Super Bowl siege. The Broncos need to stick with the running game and get Montee Ball going since one of Seattle's weaknesses is its front four stopping the run since losing left end Red Bryant to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Who has the edge? Seahawks. This is the right time for the Broncos to be getting Wes Welker back from his suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing policy at a time when the Seahawks are down two nickel cornerbacks. The Broncos got tougher on both sides of the ball this offseason. But this is still not a good matchup for Manning and his weapons. Bobby Wagner is one of the best cover linebackers in the game and can run with tight end Julius Thomas, who leads the Broncos with four touchdowns when safety Kam Chancellor doesn't. Marshawn Lynch, Christine Michael and Robert Turbin can keep Manning off the field with methodical drives. Even with payback driving them, it's hard to see the Broncos going to the league's loudest cauldron and coming away with a win. Earl Thomas is the best free safety in football, and with his range and ball skills allowing the Seahawks to play single high, the Seahawks "Legion of Boom" secondary in effect shrinks the field, taking away the deep ball and again causing Manning to feel as if he's operating in the red zone most of the game.
Baltimore Ravens running back Bernard Pierce (thigh) is questionable, but he practiced fully. He should play
Cleveland Browns tight end Jordan Cameron (shoulder) was limited in practice all week and is listed as questionable. Running back Ben Tate (knee) is out again
49ers TE Vernon Davis has been deemed a game-time decision for the 49ers first divisional game of the season at Arizona.
The Chargers Melvin Ingram’s injury comes at an unfortunate time. The 25-year-old played maybe the best game of his young career against Seattle, picking up a sack and six QB hurries. Ingram is also a good run defender, and the Chargers will miss that going up against a team the leans heavily on its run game.
The Bengals listed linebacker Vontaze Burfict as doubtful, but two concussions in two weeks may make that a hopeful designation. Guard Kevin Zeitler (calf) is also doubtful, but things are looking good for wide receiver A.J. Green (toe) after a full practice on Friday.
In New England, running back Shane Vereen (shoulder) and linebacker Jamie Collins (thigh) are the biggest names among six questionable Patriots while tight end Rob Gronkowski (knee) and wide receiver Julian Edelman (back) are probable.
The Redskins and Eagles contest could be affected as wide receiver DeSean Jackson’s return to Philly (shoulder) is questionable since being released by the Eagles. If he doesn’t play, he’ll join tight end Jordan Reed (hamstring), linebacker Akeem Jordan (knee) and cornerback Tracy Porter (hamstring) on the sideline. Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks (calf) won’t play and safety Earl Wolff (knee) is questionable after missing Friday’s practice.
TOP 10 POWER POLL:
In my humble opinion, these are the ten best teams in the NFL heading into Week 3.
1 BENGALS- For the first time in eight years, the Bengals are off to a 2-0 start, and they’ve done it in convincing fashion. After upending the division rival Baltimore Ravens in the season opener, on the road, Cincinnati had another impressive display by holding the Atlanta Falcons to 10 points—the same Falcons that just scored 56.
2 SEAHAWKS- the San Diego Chargers showed Sunday that the Seahawks are not invincible, especially on the road, where QB Russell Wilson’s record is 9-8 after San Diego’s 30-21 victory. Seattle’s defense allowed 377 yards on 75 plays, and the Chargers converted 10 of 17 third-down plays Sunday. That resulted in San Diego controlling the ball for 42:15, defense yet to prove worth.
3 PANTHERS- You don’t have to like it or believe but the whole country is about to find out how good the Panthers are in 2014.
4 EAGLES: Chip Kelly might just be the best head coach in the NFL. With a big Monday Night win on the road in Indianapolis, the Eagles announced they are contenders in the NFC.
5 BRONCOS- I’m not afraid to put them here. Their second half defense is horrible and there is a clear cut formula to beat them and several teams in the league will be able to execute it. Besides, history doesn’t lie. The last Super Bowl runner up to win the big game the following season was the 17-0 Miami Dolphins. If they lose big in Seattle tomorrow, will anybody really care what they do for the rest of the season?
6 PATRIOTS- DE Chandler Jones (two sacks, 58-yard TD off FG he blocked) might have officially arrived as a dominant force. If the Pats are indeed a Top 5 defense, as the stats indicate (4), then they will likely be one of two teams left standing in Arizona in February
7 CARDINALS- Beat the Giants in New Jersey last Sunday coming off a Monday night game—and did so with a backup QB. Defense is missing a lot of star players from 2013, but it sure doesn't seem to be missing a beat.
8 49ers- The 49ers lack the depth that carried them to three straight NFC Championship games. Following four turnovers last Sunday night, it isn’t a stretch to say Colin Kaepernick is regressing.
9 PACKERS- More dangerous combo: Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson or Matthew Stafford to Megatron?
10 CHARGERS- San Diego and Philip Rivers are playing solid, consistent football and it isn’t even December yet.
Enjoy your Sunday!