Top matchups for NFL Week 3

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Week 3 around the NFL is important for pretty much every team. However, there are several squads that are in must-win mode. Only six teams that have started the season 0-3 since 1980 went on to make the playoffs that season.

It’s in this that individual matchups will loom large for squads facing an early end to their playoff aspirations. That includes JuJu Smith-Schuster and the Pittsburgh Steelers as well as Bradley Chubb and the Denver Broncos. How will they fair in difficult individual matchups?

On the other end of the spectrum, both Kirk Cousins and Mitchell Trubisky have easier matchups after struggling big time to start the season. How will Week 3 look for them?

Here, we check out the top 10 individual matchups for Week 3 of the 2019 NFL season.

Kirk Cousins vs Raiders pass defense

This could very well be a matchup that dictates where these two teams are at heading into Week 4. As we already know, Cousins was absolutely atrocious in his Vikings loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. He threw two interceptions, including one in the end zone with the game on the line in a narrow loss at Lambeau Field.

On the other hand, Oakland’s pass defense has been pretty good with the exception of one ridiculous quarter from reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes. In fact, Oakland has allowed one passing touchdown in seven other quarters this season. In what could be a get-right game for Cousins, we’re intrigued to see if he bounces back.

Lamar Jackson vs Chiefs pass defense

Jackson has been downright amazing through the first two games of his sophomore campaign. Here’s a dude that’s accounted for 722 yards with seven touchdowns and zero picks. He’s leading the league in touchdown percentage and quarterback rating en route to helping Baltimore boast the NFL’s top total offense and top scoring offense.

It gets better for Jackson in Week 3. Despite picking off Raiders quarterback Derek Carr two times last week, the Chiefs’ pass defense is suspect. Remember, it allowed rookie Gardner Minshew to complete 22-of-25 passes for 275 yards in his NFL debut back in Week 1. In a big AFC battle, how Jackson performs will be telling.

DeAndre Hopkins vs Casey Hayward

Hopkins was surprisingly shut down by Jalen Ramsey last week. He caught just 4-of-7 targets for 27 yards against the Pro Bowler. Seeing Hopkins average just 3.9 yards per target is not something we’ve become accustomed to. This also came one week after Hopkins hauled in eight passes for 111 yards and two scores in a narrow loss to the Saints.

Hopkins will have to be at the top of his game this week against a Chargers team looking to rebound from a disheartening loss this past Sunday. The good news for Los Angeles is that Hayward continues to be among the best corners in the NFL. He had a great interception last week and is yielding a sub 50 percent catch rate through two weeks.

JuJu Smith-Schuster vs Richard Sherman

Notice a theme here? There are some absolutely tremendous matchups between wide receiver and cornerbacks this week. Now that he’s going to have to catch passes from Mason Rudolph for the remainder of the season, Smith-Schuster is in a situation where he needs to step up big time. The third-year receiver has hauled in 11-of-16 targets for 162 yards through two games.

On the other end sits a cornerback in Richard Sheman who is spearheading a 49ers pass defense that has yielded an opposing 69.7 quarterback rating. With Ahkello Witherspoon locked in on the other side, Rudolph will have to target Sherman. Ask Jameis Winston how that turned out in Week 1.

Dallas Cowboys vs point spread

Let it be known from this point forward that any team taking on the Dolphins is not really facing an NFL squad. Miami has been outscored 102-10 over the first two games of the season. It’s been a complete and utter embarrassment in South Beach. Meanwhile, Dallas finds itself at 2-0 and is averaging 33 points per game. It’s not hard to do the math from there.

Vegas currently has the Cowboys as 21.5-point favorites. It’s their largest spread in north of 30 years. The biggest matchup here will be Jason Garrett’s squad versus oddsmakers. Who will come out on top? We’re banking on the Cowboys to win by 30-plus, easily covering the mammoth spread.

David Bakhtiari vs Bradley Chubb

Here’s one crazy stat. Led by Chubb and former Super Bowl MVP Von Miller, the Broncos’ pass rush has generated exactly zero sacks and two quarterback hits during their 0-2 start to the season. That’s an abject failure for defensive-minded first-year head coach Vic Fangio. It also has Denver on the brink heading into a Week 3 game against the Packers in Green Bay.

Fangio and Co. are hoping that this is a get-right game from that perspective. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been sacked seven times and hit on 23 percent of his drop backs this season. If the Broncos can find consistent pressure in Week 3, the team could very well earn an upset and avoid an 0-3 start. It starts against a robust Packers left tackle that has acted as the anchor of Green Bay’s offensive line.

John Ross vs Tre’Davious White

What a difference coaching makes. Ross had compiled a grand total of 21 receptions in his first two seasons after the Bengals made him a top-10 pick back in 2017. With Zac Taylor now calling the shots in Cincinnati, the speedster has broken out big time. Through two games, Ross has put up 11 receptions for a league-leading 270 yards and three touchdowns (also tops among NFL wide receivers).

Ross will face another difficult task this week after taking on Richard Sherman in a blowout loss last Sunday. White has proven to be among the best and most underrated cornerbacks in the NFL. He yielded a sub 65.0 passer rating when targeted last season and has picked up this year where he left off. With Buffalo looking to go 3-0 for the first time in eons, this one matchup could tell us the real story.

Odell Beckham Jr. vs Marcus Peters

A trash-talk fest. That’s what we can expect as a backdrop between these two boisterous players as the Browns and Rams do battle on “Sunday Night Football”. Beckham is coming off a eye-opening 161-yard performance against the Jets last week. He’s been the one constant on an otherwise struggling Browns offense through two weeks.

On the other side, Peters helped the Rams shut down Saints receiver Michael Thomas last week with backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater tossing him the rock. It won’t be as easy with Baker Mayfield under center Sunday night in Cleveland.

Bears offense vs Redskins defense

It’s ugly in the Windy City. Really ugly. Led by offensive-minded head coach Matt Nagy, the Bears head into Week 3 ranked 30th in total offense, 31st in scoring and 28th in passing offense. This all comes with the team expecting third-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky to take that next step to elite status. It obviously has not happened.

Chicago faces a solid overall matchup against the Redskins this week. Specifically, the Bears will want to focus on struggling Skins veteran cornerback Josh Norman. Washington has yielded six touchdowns compared to one interception for a 124.8 opposing passer rating through two games. If the Bears can’t get this straightened out, it will tell us a lot about their offense moving forward.

Travis Kelce vs Earl Thomas

This should be really fun. Baltimore signed Thomas after the future Hall of Famer proved himself to be among the best free safeties in NFL history during a tremendous stint with the Seattle Seahawks. He has not disappointed in two games with the Ravens. Here’s a pass defense that’s yielded a mere 72.6 quarterback rating through two games.

Thomas now gets to go up against one of the game’s best receiving tight ends in the most difficult matchup of his young Ravens career. Kelce is averaging 19.5 yards on 10 catches this season. For their part, the Ravens have given up four catches for 58 yards on nine targets to tight ends this season.