NFL Week 3 Previews


By Jim Hurley:

History tells us that the Dallas Cowboys have not started off an NFL season at 0-2 since 2001- and that year the 'Boys actually began the campaign 0-4 en route to a sickly 5-11 season.

Way back then there wasn't all that much expected of the 2001 Cowboys team- after all, they were just beginning their post-Troy Aikman days and things figured to be rocky (and they were!).

Fast forward to the here-and-now- the 2010 NFL season -- and here's what we all know:

Plenty was expected from this Cowboys team- like a Super Bowl berth with the big game held in their own backyard!- but here sits Dallas on the verge of going 0-and-3 as it heads into Houston this Sunday and the football universe has been tossed into a real tizzy.

Right, what were the odds this past summer that Dallas would be 0-2 and the Texans would be 2-0 at this point following Houston's high-profile wins against Indianapolis and last weekend in overtime at Washington- but that's reality, folks, and no NFL team in recent memory has played more of a Week #3 "must-win"game than these Cowboys while a Houston "W"here could be signature stuff ... like maybe the Texans are the 2009 version of the New Orleans Saints.

Ya never know!

Much more on this Lone Star State showdown in just a moment plus there's other NFL Week #3 Key Previews including Atlanta at New Orleans and the Sunday Night tilt between the New York Jets at Miami.



Already 2 For 2 Outright In NFL Upset Plays
Going For #3 On Sunday

Week 1: Texans (+2) over Colts 34-24      
Week 2: Buccaneers (+3) over Panthers 20-7

We also crushed Vegas with last year's week-three Upset-Blowout, when the Bengals (+3½) upset the Steelers 23-20. This week's game looked just as ripe for an upset as that one, so I even had wise guys and friends checking in with me. Had I spotted the mistake? Was I moving on it?  I did and I am! Vegas took a strictly numbers approach to a certain game without asking HOW the players matched up man to man. Result: we're getting a ton of points all to ourselves because the squares don't have a clue! We're really getting the best of it so don't miss out.
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DALLAS (0-2) at HOUSTON (2-0)- 1 p.m. ET, Fox
You know the saying: Everything's bigger in Texas.

Now, we're about to find out whether the desperate Dallas Cowboys can deliver a big win ... or else.

Or maybe you look at it from the other side and wonder whether this will be the Texans' biggest franchise win since, well, the season-opening 34-24 triumph over arch-nemesis Indianapolis.

One thing everyone knows heading into this clash at Reliant Stadium is that the Texans lead the NFL in points (64) and total yards (881) and QB Matt Schaub comes off one of the most astounding statistical days in recent memory with his 497-yards passing game in Landover that included 3 touchdowns and featuring that 34-yard scoring heave to WR Andre Johnson on a 4th-and-10 play with 2:03 remaining in regulation before a 35-yard FG by PK Neil Rackers won it in overtime 30-27.

Schaub was sacked five times last Sunday in D.C. and that's critical here because the Dallas pass rush figures to be the single-most important aspect of this game: If the 'Boys are not able to put Houston into a batch of third-and-long plays here, than the NFC East crew will be in for a long day. No doubt Texans RB Arian Foster (see 231-yard rushing game against the Colts in Week #1) will be seeing the ball on an array of traps, draws and screen passes but Dallas' team speed on "D"should keep him contained- it's the pressure (or lack thereof) on Schaub that will tell the tale.

Plus, Dallas must sport a better yards-to-points ratio here: In last Sunday's terribly disappointing 27-20 home loss against Chicago, the Cowboys rolled up 410 offensive yards (374 via the air waves) and yet managed to score only one offensive TD- a one-yard scoring flip by QB Tony Romo.

It's put-up or shut-time for "America's Team"- it's the season on the brink on a September afternoon- while the Texans claim they're ready to rise to the occasion.

The drum roll, please!  

Spread Notes- Dallas is 7-14 ATS (against the spread) away since the middle of the 2007 season and note the Cowboys have failed to cover six of their last seven games played against AFC competition. On the flip side, Houston is 6-10-2 versus the vig as betting favorites since the start of 2008 and the Texans were just 2-4-1 spreadwise as home favorites a year ago.

ATLANTA (1-1) at NEW ORLEANS (2-0)- 1 p.m. ET, Fox
The numbers don't lie and they say that the N'Orleans Saints have won seven of their eight matchups SU (straightup) versus the Atlanta Falcons since the Sean Payton/Drew Brees Era began in the Crescent City (see 2006).

The head coach and quarterback, respectively, of the defending Super Bowl champs both know that these 2010 Saints have not always looked picture-perfect while copping season-opening prime-time wins against Minnesota and San Francisco but no matter. New Orleans is one of only eight NFL teams still without a loss and now they head into this NFC South clash without the ultra-versatile Reggie Bush who broke his leg in last Monday's dicey 25-22 non-cover road win against the 49ers and so expect Brees (491 yards passing with 3 TDs and 0 INTs) to possibly look long/deep for some "home run"plays here.

Don't be surprised if WR Marques Colston (10 catches and averaging 12.9 yards a grab) is sent on some "go"routes against a Falcons secondary that has answered the call so far in games against Pittsburgh and Arizona.

P.S. note that the Saints are 22-3 SU the past two-plus seasons when they intercept at least one pass- Atlanta QB Matt Ryan (477 yards passing with 3 TDs and 1 INT) must not get fooled when Saints LBs drop back into coverage- or he'll pay dearly.

Spread Notes- Believe it or not, New Orleans is a money-torching 4-10-1 against the odds dating back to mid-to-late last year. The Saints failed to cover the Las Vegas price tag in both 2009 meetings with archrival Atlanta- a 35-27 non-cover win as 11-point home favorites and a 26-23 non-cover win as 10-point road favs. The Falcons, meanwhile, have covered 12 of their last 20 games when placed in the underdog role.
PITTSBURGH (2-0) at TAMPA BAY (2-0)- 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Believe it or not this is the only NFL Week #3 Sunday matchup that will pit unbeaten teams against one another- now who would have guessed it would be a Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers team against a Bucs bunch that last year won three games all year long?- as Packers at Bears on MNF will be another battle of 2-and-oh teams but the irony here is that Pittsburgh's failed to score an offensive TD in regulation play in 2010 while Tampa Bay's second-year QB Josh Freeman has thrown just one pick so far after hurling 13 INTs in his final five games a year ago.

Note that Pittsburgh is a plus 6 in turnovers so far; Tampa Bay is a plus 4.

Spread Notes - Pittsburgh's covered both of its early-season games as the Steelers won outright as a 1-point home underdog versus Atlanta and as a 5-point road pup in Tennessee but did you know last year this AFC North crew compiled a shabby 4-10-1 ATS log when in the favorite's role? Tampa Bay failed to cover seven of its eight home games last season but the Bucs "pushed"its Week 1 game at Raymond James Stadium this year with that 17-14 triumph over Cleveland. Overall, T-Bay is 1-6 vig-wise when playing AFC teams since early in the 2008 season.
PHILADELPHIA (1-1) at JACKSONVILLE (1-1)- 4:05 p.m. ET, Fox
No doubt that way too much has been about the flip-flopping ways of Eagles head coach Andy Reid:

Hey, isn't it more important that he's finally settled on Michael Vick as his club's quarterback following his rock-solid showings in early-season games against Green Bay and Detroit?

Last week's hang-on 35-32 non-cover win in Motown featured more Vick magic (see a 45-yard scoring strike to WR DeSean Jackson in the first quarter) as the lefty threw for 284 yards and rushed for 37 yards and directed an offense that did not commit a single turnover.

On the flip side, Jacksonville only wishes last week's ball security would have been so good: The Jaguars were responsible for six turnovers overall including four INTs of always up-and-down QB David Garrard and a pair of fumbles and the $64,000 question here is will J'ville finally get RB Maurice Jones-Drew involved here (see 12-carry, 31-yard rushing game last weekend in that ugly 38-13 loss in San Diego)?

Spread Notes- Philadelphia is actually 0-5 ATS in its last five games dating back to late last year but the Eagles are a decent 17-11 spreadwise as betting favorites the past two-plus seasons. Meanwhile, Jacksonville is a rotten 10-24 ATS overall since the start of the '08 campaign and that includes a 4-12 spread log at home.

On Sunday Nite, it's ...
NEW YORK JETS (1-1) at MIAMI (2-0)- 8:25 p.m. ET, NBC
Now that the 2010 Jets have become the NFL's official version of the "Dead End Kids", the question is whether or not Rex Ryan's club can beat Miami.

Once upon a time the Jets dominated this AFC East rivalry but the Fish snagged a pair of wins last year- a 31-27 home triumph was followed up a couple of weeks later by a 30-25 win at the Meadowlands- and so revenge has been in the Jets' vocabulary this week when they haven't been busy defending jerk WR Braylon Edwards who was picked up on DWI charges early Tuesday morning in New York City.

Obviously, that subject has dominated the air waves on New York sport talk radio- Edwards won't start but will play (and hasn't that been some controversial decision!) and wouldn't it be proper karma if Edwards dropped a touchdown pass here that would cost NYJ the game ... hmmm.

Meanwhile, not enough's been said about this cat-quick start by Miami- the Dolphins beat Buffalo 15-10 in the season opener and then last weekend made life hellish on Minnesota QB Brett Favre (three INTs and one lost fumble that was pounced on for a Miami TD)- and CB Vontae Davis has stepped up big-time and now enters this clash as the best cover-corner on the field- yes, there's no CB Darrell Revis (hamstring) for the Jets here.

Spread Notes- Miami is 13-21-2 ATS when playing fellow AFC East opponents the past six-plus seasons. The Dolphins do own a current three-game spread winning streak against the J-E-T-S and that follows on the heels of NYJ going 9-0-1 against the odds in the 10 prior showdowns. Note that the Jets covered seven of their 11 away games last year including outright playoff wins at 2 ½-point favorite Cincinnati and at 9-point fav San Diego.


Here's some around-the-league pointpsread facts/figures regarding more NFL Week #3 games:

  • The Arizona Cardinals are 13-7 at home since late in the 2007 season.
  • The Cincinnati Bengals are just 3-9 when facing non-AFC North foes since the start of last year.
  • The Minnesota Vikings are 9-5-1 as home favorites against fellow NFC North clubs the past six-plus years.
  • The New England Patriots are a sound 41-24 versus fellow AFC East squads since the start of the 2000 season.
  • The St. Louis Rams have failed to cover 17 of their last 25 home games.
  • And the Tennessee Titans are 20-13 away the past four-plus seasons.

NOTE: Get our NFL Monday Night Football Preview- that's the Green Bay Packers at the Chicago Bears- plus all the weekend roundups in the next edition of Jim Sez.


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