• Counting down the top five games of Week 3, including a showdown of early MVP candidates, Ezekiel Elliott next test and a rookie coach’s first gut-check
By Albert Breer
September 21, 2017

All times Eastern.

5. Cowboys at Cardinals, Monday, 8:30 pm, ESPN: This is about one player: Ezekiel Elliott. The last time Elliott faced the kind of on-field controversy he has this past week was at Ohio State in 2015, when he criticized the play-calling in a desultory loss to Michigan State. He responded big-time, using the only defeat over his final 26 games as a Buckeye as a springboard to a monster effort (30 carries, 214 yards) in a blowout of Michigan. And as it was then, this week he gets a national stage—Monday Night Football—to pursue redemption.

4. Giants at Eagles, Sunday 1 pm, Fox: Calling this an elimination game may be a bit strong, but it certainly is a litmus test of where Ben McAdoo’s program is after an offseason that was off-kilter. It, too, gives Odell Beckham a chance to deliver for his teammates in a big spot—with the Giants at a division rival and staring down an 0-3 start.

3. Texans at Patriots, Sunday 1 pm, CBS: Tom Brady looked like Tom Brady last week, but how much of that was a young, shaky Saints defense? We should find out on Sunday, with a multiple Texans defense led by a New England-bred staff that proved a difficult matchup for the Patriots in the playoffs. If the Patriots can produce again, it would be a better sign that they’ve moved past the Julian Edelman injury and the Week 1 debacle than anything that happened in New Orleans.

2. Chiefs at Chargers, Sunday 4 pm, CBS: The Chiefs are the consensus No. 1 team in the NFL after a pair of convincing wins over contenders, and so rising expectations adjust the dynamic just a little bit for Andy Reid’s crew. And then you have a desperate and talented Chargers team coming off two heartbreakers—the first real gut-check of the Anthony Lynn era.

1. Falcons at Lions, Sunday 1PM, Fox: Absolutely love this game—last year’s MVP, Matt Ryan, against a guy I believe will contend for MVP honors this year, Matt Stafford, and a matchup that could conceivably affect playoff seeding down the line. Both quarterbacks are in their prime, with weapons around them, and each defense has looked fast and aggressive through two weeks. Can’t wait for this one.

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