Why We Watch: All eyes on Wentz in Keystone State litmus test
(Ben Roethlisberger photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Steelers)
(Carson Wentz cover photo courtesy of Philadelphia Eagles)
GOLD JACKET GAME OF THE WEEK
PITTSBURGH @ PHILADELPHIA, 4:25 p.m. (Eastern)
The line: Steelers by 3-1/2
The weather: Sunny, high of 72
The story: Doug Pederson has said he sees "a little bit" of Ben Roethlisberger in Carson Wentz. What he hopes he doesn't see, of course, is a lot of Ben Roethlisberger, period. Wentz has been this season's feel-good story, with two more wins than turnovers, and that’s great. But give the guy a chance to breathe, for crying out loud. Big Ben won two Super Bowls. Wentz won two games. I have no doubt Roethlisberger and the Steelers poke holes in an Eagles' defense that has forced four turnovers and allowed just 24 points. What I wonder is how ... or if ... Wentz continues to take the hits he absorbed the first two weeks.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: With a victory, Wentz would join Mark Sanchez (2009) as the only rookie quarterback to start and win his team's first three games of the season.
THREE OTHERS SUITABLE FOR HALL-OF-FRAMING
(Cam Newton photo courtesy of Carolina Panthers)
MINNESOTA @ CAROLINA, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Carolina by 7
The weather: Partly cloudy, high of 85
The story: Both teams are on a Super Bowl trajectory, with Carolina winning its last 14 at home (including the playoffs) and Cam Newton showing flashes of MVP form. So maybe this is a dress rehearsal for a playoff game, I don’t know. What I do know is that the Vikings can win without Adrian Peterson … because they did it last week, and they did it in the season opener when he had 31 yards rushing. The question, of course, is: How does the injury-prone Sam Bradford hold up vs. the Carolina defense? That, people, is why we watch.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: In Newton's past five starts at home, he has 20 TDs (17 passes and 3 rushes).
DENVER @ CINCINNATI, 1 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Cincinnati by 3-1/2
The weather: Sunny, high of 85
The story: Denver hasn’t lost, and Cincinnati is coming off a resounding defeat in Pittsburgh. So why are the Bengals favored? Good question. Denver has an elite defense, and cornerback Aqib Talib says this year's offense is "10 times better" than last year's unit when Peyton Manning was running it. So let's try this again: Why are the Bengals favored? Answer: Because nobody really trusts Trevor Siemian. Or to put it another way: They trust Andy Dalton more than the rookie.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: Gary Kubiak is 4-0 in his career vs. the Bengals.
N.Y. JETS @ KANSAS CITY, 4:25 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Chiefs by 3
The weather: Thunderstorms, high of 73
The story: This is the start of a brutal five-game stretch for the Jets, who looked mighty good vs. Buffalo and are coming off a nine-day furlough. That’s the good news. The bad: They're in Arrowhead where Kansas City won its last seven starts. Nevertheless, the Chiefs should’ve lost their season opener and did lose last week. There's something wrong with the Chiefs, and it extends beyond the absence of Jamaal Charles. Consider this their chance to prove they can … and will … be playoff worthy.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: In 2015-16, Chiefs' cornerback Marcus Peters leads the league in interceptions with 10, including two this year, and in passes defended with 31.
MONDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
(Drew Brees photo courtesy of New Orleans Saints)
ATLANTA @ NEW ORLEANS, 8:30 p.m. (EDT)
The line: Saints by 2-1/2
The weather: Dome
The story: The game commemorates the 10th reopening of the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina, a contest also played on Monday Night which featured Steve Gleason's blocked punt for a touchdown, and look for a lot of points. The Falcons couldn’t stop Jameis Winston. And virtually nobody outside of the Giants last week stops Drew Brees. The Saints' defense leaks like the S. S. Minnow, and expect Matt Ryan – the leagues leading passer – to take advantage.
Hall-of-Fame worthy: Drew Brees has thrown for 300 or more yards and three TDs in four of his last five Monday Night starts.
OUR BEST BETS
Rick Gosselin. Atlanta +2-1/2. The Saints were 0-4 in August and now 0-2 in September. They’ve forgotten how to win. The Falcons remembered last weekend in Atlanta.
Clark Judge: San Francisco +9-1/2. The Seahawks scored 15 points all season, for crying out loud. How are they going to beat the 49ers by 10 when they couldn’t find the end zone vs. the Rams? Answer: They won't.
Ron Borges: Baltimore --1. Anytime I can get points and the Ravens against the Jags, even on the road, I'll take it.
THE WATCH LIST
(Larry Fitzgerald photo courtesy of Arizona Cardinals)
ARIZONA WR LARRY FITZGERALD. He has at least one catch in 181 straight games, the longest active streak in the NFL. The only game he didn’t have a catch was his one stop in … yep, Buffalo.
N.Y. Giants WR ODELL BECKHAM JR. – In three games vs. Washington, he has five touchdowns and averages 121.3 yards per. That’s why Josh Norman will be on him in a Ali-Frazier II.
Tennessee QB MARCUS MARIOTA. He had three touchdown passes the last time he faced Oakland, and the Raiders have the league's worst defense now.
L.A. coach JEFF FISHER. He's 8-1 vs. Tampa Bay.
Kansas city quarterback ALEX SMITH. He needs 28 completions to become the fourth quarterback in Chiefs' history to produce 1,000 for his career. The others are Len Dawson, Trent Green and Bill Kenney.
THIS WEEKEND'S HALL OF FAMOUS
(Tyrod Taylor photo courtesy of Buffalo Bills)
Buffalo QB TYROD TAYLOR. In his past five starts at home, he has a 110.3 passer rating, with nine TDs (7 passing, 2 rushing).
Denver LB VON MILLER. Over his last three games (including the playoffs), he has nine sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception.
Green Bay QB AARON RODGERS. He's 11-3 vs. Detroit, with 26 touchdown passes, six interceptions and a 105.9 passer rating.
N.Y. Giants QB ELI MANNING. He has a passer rating of 100 or better in three of his last four games vs. Washington.
Seattle QB RUSSELL WILSON – He's 6-2 vs. San Francisco and has a passer rating of 100 or better in five of his last six starts at home.
N.Y. JETS WR BRANDON MARSHALL. He aims for his sixth straight game vs. Kansas City with a touchdown catch. He has seven in the last five.
ATLANTA QB MATT RYAN. He aims for his fifth straight game vs. New Orleans with a passer rating of 100 or better.
HALL OF NOTES-WORTHY
Arizona won its last five road games of 2015. With a win in Buffalo the Cards would run their streak to six for the first time since the 1975-76 season.
Of all the teams that started the season 3-0 since the current playoff system was adopted in 1990, 75.6 percent of them made the playoffs.
Doug Pederson is the first Eagles' coach in the Super Bowl era to win his first two games. The last one to do it was Nick Skorich in 1961.
Since the current playoff format started in 1990, 26 teams that started 0-2 made the playoffs – including Houston and Seattle last season.
Quarterbacks have completed an average of 63.2 percent of their passes this year, the third-highest percentage through the first two weeks.
With 63 yards rushing, the Steelers' DeAngelo Williams ((33) would surpass Walter Payton (32) as the oldest player to rush for 300 yards through the first three weeks of the season.
Alex Smith is unbeaten, with a quarterback rating of 96.9, in his last seven starts at Arrowhead.
Twenty-seven of the first 33 games have been within one score in the fourth quarter, the most through the first two weeks of the season.
Dating back to 2014, the Baltimore Ravens have blocked the most kicks (extra points, field goals, punts) in the NFL with nine. Miami, Oakland and Philadelphia are tied for second with seven.
Since 2014 Philadelphia is 8-1 vs. the AFC, the best inter-conference record during that time.