Top matchup for each Week 3 NFL game

Sep 9, 2018; Carson, CA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) returns a punt for a touchdown during the first quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 9, 2018; Carson, CA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) returns a punt for a touchdown during the first quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Week 3 of the NFL season offers us a ton of games with tremendous matchups. How will Carson Wentz perform against a lackluster Colts defense in his return to the field? Remaining in the NFC, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan are primed for a tremendous early-season shootout.

Meanwhile, we’re really intrigued to see how the 49ers plan to stop what has been a dominating Chiefs offense, stud wide receiver Tyreek Hill included. Does this include shadowing Hill with Richard Sherman.

These are the top matchups for each Week 3 NFL game. Here’s a look at the rest.

New York Jets at Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold vs Browns defense 

The Dolphins gave Darnold a rude wake-up call this past Sunday, picking off the Jets’ rookie twice in a narrow win. Both interceptions had a major impact in the game. The first one resulted in a touchdown for Miami. Meanwhile, Darnold was picked off in the end zone in the second half of what would ultimately be a one-score game.

It’s not going to be much easier going up against a surprising Browns defense in Week 3. Despite still being without a win since New Year’s Eve of 2016, Cleveland’s defense has stepped up against future Hall of Famers Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees over the first two games of the season. All said, the team is yielding an average of 21 points per game.

Buffalo Bills at Minnesota Vikings: Zay Jones vs Trae Waynes 

If you can find a better matchup for this lopsided affair, please let us know. At the time of publication, Minnesota finds itself as 16.5-point home favorites against what might be the worst team in the NFL. There’s not one individual matchup that really stands out here.

But in order for Buffalo to have any chance with rookie Josh Allen under center, Jones is going to have to do work against the weak link of Minnesota’s defense. That comes in the form of a player in Waynes who has been burnt multiple times over the first two weeks. For his part, Jones caught 2-of-3 targets for a team-high 63 yards in last week’s loss to the Chargers.

New York Giants at Houston Texans: Odell Beckham Jr. vs Aaron Colvin

Giants star WR Odell Beckham Jr.

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In a pretty shocking turn of events, Beckham was held to four receptions for 51 yards on nine targets in last week’s loss to the division-rival Dallas Cowboys. Instead of honing in on one of the game’s top receivers, Eli Manning targeted running back Saquon Barkley 16 times for a total of 80 yards. That has to be concerning to the Giants and their fans.

This week sees New York go up against a reeling Texans squad that has lost two consecutive games to open the season against inferior competition. After performing well in the slot last season for the Jaguars, Colvin is taking on a larger role in Houston. The time is now for him to step up and take OBJ out of the game. If so, Houston will come away with its first win of the season.

Green Bay Packers at Washington Redskins: Jordan Reed vs HaHa Clinton-Dix

It’s not a surprise that new Redskins quarterback Alex Smith has been reliant more on running backs and tight ends than wide receivers thus far this season. In two games, Reed has caught 10-of-13 targets for 103 yards with a touchdown. He’s legitimately Smith’s go-to guy in the passing game. While it didn’t translate to a win last week against Indianapolis, we’re seeing a nice little connection here.

Surprisingly, Green Bay has allowed 12-of-19 passes to be completed to tight ends thus far this season. Seeing its cornerback play improve has played a role in that. But it’s an area Smith can certainly attack on Sunday. That’s where Clinton-Dix and his All-Pro ability in coverage will come into play.

San Francisco 49ers at Kansas City Chiefs: Tyreek Hill vs Richard Sherman

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

We get it. Richard Sherman doesn’t shadow the opposing team’s No. 1 wide receiver. He didn’t do it in Seattle and that has not changed in two games with the 49ers. But in order for San Francisco to have any chance against the high-flying Chiefs offense and a record-breaking Patrick Mahomes, that must change this coming Sunday.

Ahkello Witherspoon was completely out of his element in a win over the Lions last week. He allowed two touchdowns, bit horribly on a play-action and was benched after two fourth quarter penalties. For his part, Sherman has allowed two catches on five targets through two games. Any possibility of a road upset starts with Sherman locking down a receiver in Hill that has already put up a league-high 364 all-purpose yards in two games. Whew.

Oakland Raiders at Miami Dolphins: Derek Carr vs Dolphins pass defense

Carr absolutely tore apart an elite-level Broncos pass defense last week, completing a resounding 29-of-32 passes for 282 yards without an interception. That included Amari Cooper hauling in 10 catches for 116 yards after the two struggled doing anything of substance Week 1 against the Rams.

Sitting at 0-2 on the season, Oakland is in desperate need of a win. It’s certinaly not going to be easy on the road against an undefeated Dolphins team that has yielded one touchdown pass compared to five interceptions through two games. This has been one of the most-surprising units in the league. And if it keeps up Week 3, the Dolphins will remain undefeated.

Indianapolis Colts at Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz vs Colts pass defense

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

He’s back. The Eagles announced on Monday that Wentz will start his first game since suffering a torn ACL last December. It couldn’t come at a better time for a squad that’s coming off a surprising loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and has some major issues on the defensive side of the ball. Just ask Ryan Fitzpatrick all about that.

Philly might now be in a situation where it’s going to have to score a lot of points to win. That’s where Wentz’s playmaking ability and MVP-caliber status certainly comes into play. Taking on a Colts defense that’s yielded a 73.0 completion percentage thus far this season, it is the perfect game for Wentz to return. Then again, he’s facing his former offensive coordinator in Frank Reich. Don’t think for a second the new Colts head coach has not given his defense an idea of Wentz’s tendencies. This should be fun.

Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars: Taylor Lewan vs Calais Campbell

The hope here is that Lewan will be able to go after missing last week’s game against the Texans to a concussion. And in reality, the Titans are going to need it going up against a vastly superior defense. Jacksonville controlled the line of scrimmage in a statement win over New England last week. It has a dominant pass rush to go along with the best secondary in the NFL. That spells trouble for the Titans, even if Lewan is able to go.

Recently handed the richest contract for a tackle in NFL history, Lewan’s presence in front of Marcus Mariota (should he play) or Blaine Gabbert (gasp!) will be absolutely huge. A three-time Pro Bowler, Campbell has put up one sack and four quarterback pressures in two games this season. All things equal, this should be a tremendous individual matchup.

Cincinnati Bengals at Carolina Panthers: Panthers offensive line vs Bengals pass rush

Cincinnati can throw pretty much five elite-level pass rushers at you on a given play. That includes veteran mainstays Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap. But the emergence of rookie Sam Hubbard and second-year stud Carl Lawson has helped take this unit to a completely different level. Cincinnati has racked up six sacks in two games while putting pressure on the quarterback north of 30 percent of the time.

That would normally spell doom for a Panthers team that’s without both starting tackles, Matt Kalil and All-Pro Daryl Williams. Having already been sacked five times in two games, Cam Newton will certainly be under duress here. How he response in front of a makeshift offensive line will tell us whether Cincinnati starts the season 3-0.

Denver Broncos at Baltimore Ravens: John Brown vs Chris Harris

Through the first two games of his Ravens career, it’s rather obvious that Brown has been the team’s most-dynamic offensive player. Hobbled by injury during the latter part of his tenure in Arizona, the electric receiver has caught seven passes for 136 yards and two scores in as many games. He’ll need to continue this production if Baltimore is to rebound from last week’s loss.

Harris is considered one of the best slot corners in the NFL. He allowed just a 54.1 percent completion mark when targeted last season and is now taking on a larger role with Aqib Talib in Los Angeles. If he shuts Brown down, it could be a look day for Flacco and Co.

New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons: Drew Brees vs Matt Ryan

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As much as we want to believe this isn’t a head-to-head matchup, it is. How each of these future Hall of Famers perform in this divisional game will tell us a lot about who comes out on top. For Brees, it’s all about capitalizing on his absurd early-season performance. Through two games, the Saints’ quarterback has accounted for 682 yards and five touchdowns en route to leading his team to an average of 30.5 points per outing.

On the other hand, Ryan picked up his performance big time in a huge Week 2 win over Carolina. After struggling against Philadelphia in the season opener, he accounted for four total touchdowns while completing 23-of-28 pass attempts. It’s going to be a titanic matchup, one that we can’t wait for.

Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Rams: Brandin Cooks vs Casey Hayward

Hayward was absolutely brilliant last week against Kelvin Benjamin, allowing just one catch on two targets. Sure that was going up against a rookie in Josh Allen making his first NFL start. But it’s a continuation of what we’ve seen from one of the most-underrated players in the entire league.

Heading into Week 3, Hayward will face his stiffest test of the season in a battle between the two new Los Angles teams. In his first season with the Rams, Cooks has caught 12-of-17 passes for 246 yards in two games. He’s quickly becoming Jared Goff’s favorite target. Both squads have legit Super Bowl aspirations. And in a battle for Southern California bragging rights, this one matchup could play the biggest difference.

Chicago Bears at Arizona Cardinals: Cardinals offense vs Bears defense

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Realistically, this is the only thing we could have looked at here. Arizona’s offense has been absolutely atrocious in two games under new coordinator Mike McCoy. How bad? The team has racked up six points and 250 total yards. Six points and 250 total yards! It ran one play inside the Rams side of the field last week, and that came on the final play of the game. It’s just a matter of time before Sam Bradford is benched in favor of rookie Josh Rosen.

On the other side, Vic Fangio’s defense has been absolutely swarming through two games. This unit racked up six sacks and pressured Russell Wilson on 40 percent of his dropbacks in a big win over Seattle last week. But why is this such a vital matchup? It’s simple. Chicago can move to 2-1 on the season by taking care of business here. On the other hand, Arizona might soon hand its starting job over to Rosen. Another bad performance from Bradford on Sunday will make that inevitable.

Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson vs Cowboys pass rush 

We’re done focusing on the Seahawks’ offensive line. It’s an absolute abomination and doesn’t really deserve our attention. Wilson has been sacked 12 times in two games. Enough said. Instead, it’s all about Wilson himself finding a way to avoid the pressure that’s going to come his way on Sunday. He has no help. He is his best defense. Sadly, it’s that simple.

For the Cowboys, it’s about not holding back. Continue to dial up the pressure and the blitzes. Make Seattle pay with the likes of Demarcus Lawrence and Taco Charlton. Through two games, Dallas has racked up a surprising nine sacks. Continue that on Sunday, and the team will move to 2-1.

New England Patriots at Detroit Lions: Matt Patricia vs former team

We wouldn’t put it past Bill Belichick to attempt to embarrass his former defensive coordinator. That’s just the way the Patriots’ head coach does things. It’s that competitive fire that has led to success we’ve never seen from another head coach in the Super Bowl era. Following a Week 2 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, this is magnified even further.

For his part, Patricia’s first two games as the Lions’ head coach has been an absolute dumpster fire. They lost 48-17 at home against the New York Jets in Week 1 before dropping to the 49ers last week. All said, Patricia’s defense has yielded an average of 39 points per game. Look for the Pats to take advantage.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ryan Fitzpatrick vs Steelers pass defense

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Fitzmagic has not just been great in his first two starts for the Buccaneers this season, he’s been otherworldly. In leading Tampa Bay to a perfect 2-0 record with wins over New Orleans and Philadelphia, the career journeyman has thrown for a league-high 819 yards to go with nine total touchdowns and just one interception. It’s insane how much of a big-play threat Fitzpatrick has proven himself to be thus far.

On the other hand, Pittsburgh’s defense has been quite atrocious through the first two games. It allowed a whopping six touchdown passes to Patrick Mahomes last week. This unit is also yielding a 108.9 passer rating. We’ll find out soon enough if Fitzpatrick’s first two games were a mirage.