Before the picks, some random thoughts and reckless speculation leading up to the Week 3 games…
» Like a lot of other people, I was high on the Cardinals’ chances of making the playoffs this year…until defensive stars Daryl Washington and Darnell Dockett were removed from the equation. Just three weeks into the season, though, Arizona is on precipice of something even the most bright-eyed optimists didn’t foresee: A two-game lead over both Seattle and San Francisco in the NFC West race before the end of September. If the Cards can win at home against the Niners and get some help from Peyton & Co in the C-Link (not likely, but certainly realistic), Arians’ gang would be in the catbird seat…while the defending champs and their arch nemesis from the Bay would be 1-2 apiece. (And if the Rams at home against Dallas, Seattle and San Francisco would share the basement.)
» So far, so great for the Mike Pettine era in Cleveland. Not only did the Browns dump the Saints in Week 2, but — if it weren’t for the Steelers successfully completing a fourth-quarter fake punt while the two teams were tied — Cleveland might 2-0. As it is, the Browns have a great chance to keep the good times rolling ’til Josh Gordon returns after the team’s tenth game. Between now and then, only the game at Cincy seems like a sure loss, while seven other of those games look imminently winnable. This Sunday Cleveland hosts the Ex-Browns themselves (aka The Baltimore Ravens), who may only have staved off the reality of a mediocre roster with an emotional, must-have performance against Pittsburgh two Thursdays ago.
» Make no mistake, though: the Bengals are the best team in the AFC North.
» Matter of fact, the Bengals might be the best team in the AFC period. They certainly have the most talent 1-through-21…but the world will remain cynical until the ginger-haired fella playing the sport’s most important position proves he can do it in January.
» Remember when the Steelers “retired” Bruce Arians back in early 2012? Good thing the fashion maven turned down the gold watch in favor of putting the OC headset on over his Kangol for Indy that fall. Over the last two-and-a-half years, all he’s done is steer the Colts and their rookie QB to the playoffs (while head coach Chuck Pagano dealt with cancer), then nearly got the Cards to January with a double-digit wins, including handing Seattle its only home loss since Russell Wilson got to town. Forgive the hyperbole, but if he completes the feat this year and gets Arizona to the postseason, Arians will deserve — and receive — accolades as one of the game’s top three or four head coaches. Not bad for a retired coordinator.
» Dave’s Told You So from Week 2: As I predicted, the Bears went in to brand-new Levi’s Stadium and acid-washed the Niners. And as I predicted, Jay Cutler led the way with four touchdown passes. Point being, you really oughta be pickin’ up what layin’ down.
» Saints fans shouldn’t be overly concerned about their team’s 0-2 start: Sean Payton’s guys still have eight games left in the SuperDome, where they’re almost as unbeatable as the Hawks are in the C-Link. They oughta be 3-2 (after beating MIN, DAL & TB) when they head to the bye.
» Then again … The Saints might be in some real trouble. After that bye, they enter a rugged, gimme-free stretch of games running over the next 1- weeks: at DET; GB; at CAR; SF; CIN; BAL; at PIT; CAR; at CHI; ATL. Great as they are at home, New Orleans will have to be downright Super in the Dome against three 2013 division winners to go along with four legitimate road tests. Bottom line: These two need to work out their differences A.S.A. and P.
» Sunday’s game in Foxborough features the Tuck Rule rematch … reason enough to offer up this N-if-L about how things might’ve gone for Tom Brady and Co. if the call had gone against that night in the snow.
» Of course Devin Hester belongs in the Hall of Fame. He’s the best return man in the history of the game. But while the voters await his eligibility, they oughta consider the candidacy of Buffalo’s longtime special-teams ace, Steve Tasker … who’s also regularly described as the best ever at his particular area of expertise.
» As apocalyptically embarrassing as everything was for the Bucs on Thursday Night Football, those jersey numbers were still the ugliest part.
Alright, let’s get to the games …
Warning: Do NOT continue reading if you don’t want to know the final scores of the Week 3 games.
(1-0 this week; 8-8 last week; 17-15 on the season)
B. Rainey: 20-110 yds, TD
J. Jones: 7 rec, 130 yds, 2 TDs
H. Nicks: 3 rec, 65 yds, TD
C. Henne: 2 INTs
K. Wright: 5 rec, 84 yds, TD
G. Bernard: 14-88 yds, TD; 5 rec, 65 yds
K. Allen: 4 rec, 90 yds, TD
M. Williams: 3 sacks
A. Rodgers: 28-38, 425 yds, 4 TDs
M. Stafford: 27-39, 400 yds, 3 TDs
J. Flacco: 3 INTs
J. Manziel: 9-yard TD run
A. Johnson: 5 rec, 120 yds, TD
E. Manning: 19-25, 300 yds, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
D. Murray: 16-65 yds, TD
Z. Stacy: 22-130 yds, 2 TDs
D. Jackson: 3 rec, 60 yds
S. McCoy: 18-120 yds, TD; 4 rec, 48 yds, TD
D. McFadden: 15-112, TD
S. Ridley: 14-115, 2 TDs
T. BRIDGEWATER: 7-10, 120 yds
B. COOKS: 8 rec, 130 yds, 2 TDs
D. Bowe: 5 rec, 100 yds, TD
B. Hartline: 6, 80 yds, TD
C. Hyde: 11-90 yds, TD
M. Floyd: 5 rec, 85 yds, TD
P. Manning: 35-45, 360 yds, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
R. Sherman: 65-yd INT TD
L. Bell: 170 yds/scrimmage, TD
K. Benjamin: 4 rec, 75 yds, 2 TDs
B. Marshall: 4 rec, 80 yds, TD
C. Ivory: 16-98 yds, TD
Enjoy the Week 3 games! I hope your team wins (unless they’re playing my team).
Follow Dave Dameshek on Twitter @Dameshek.