Week 2 of the NFL season provided some surprises as the Minnesota Vikings proved themselves a top team in the league, and some not-so-big-surprises as the Steelers continued their dominance on both sides of the ball. To say other positions in our Power 12 are constantly in flux, however, would be a massive understatement. Still, it’s time to look forward at a strong slate of weekend games in the NFL. Our voters this week were James Lofton, Bruce Murray, Brady Quinn, Jim Miller and Pat Kirwan.
Minnesota Vikings (2-0)
Week 3 opponent: @ Carolina Panthers, Sunday 1 p.m. ET (Sirius 136, Internet 818)
The Minnesota Vikings defense terrorized Aaron Rodgers last Sunday in a matchup between NFC North rivals. Not to mention, newly signed Sam Bradford looked like a new man as he threw for 286 yards and two touchdowns. If the defense can continue to dominate the way they have over the first two games (they have seven recorded sacks and are +5 in turnover ratio), the Vikings have a legitimate chance of surprising everyone come playoff time. Of course, that’s a long ways off. Relying on Bradford to stay healthy all season and to do it without an injured Adrian Peterson will be a huge test for Minnesota moving forward.
Carolina Panthers (1-1)
Week 3 opponent: Minnesota Vikings , Sunday 1 p.m. ET (Sirius 83, XM 226/Internet 804)
After a rough Week 1 against the Denver Broncos, Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers looked like their old selves as they put up 46 against the 49ers last weekend. Newton threw for 350 yards and four touchdowns, and the defense is starting to rack up interceptions and sacks as we’ve come to expect. They’ll have another tough task this week as they face another formidable defense, this time belonging to the Vikings.
Arizona Cardinals (1-1)
Week 3 opponent: @ Buffalo Bills, Sunday 1 p.m. ET (Sirius 98, Internet 800)
Larry Fitzgerald has proven time and time again that he’s always ready for the big moment. He pulled in five receptions last weekend against Tampa Bay, and that included a 25-yard gain and a touchdown. Running back David Johnson is also doing his part, averaging nearly 5 yards per carry and racking up some solid reception stats as well. Their rout of the Bucs was a perfect mix of their potent offense and punishing defense. Things may be coming together for the BirdGang.
New York Giants (2-0)
Week 3 opponent: Washington Redskins, Sunday 1 p.m. ET (Sirius 134, Internet 831)
In the NFL you don’t get extra points for winning pretty, just ask the New York Giants. Through two games they’ve survived by a combined 4 points. Even still, the offensive weapons for the Giants can’t be overstated (or contained). Odell Beckham, Victor Cruz and rookie standout Sterling Shepard all provide threats down the field. Shane Vereen and Rashad Jennings have been holding it down on the rushing end.
Green Bay Packers (1-1)
Week 3 opponent: Detroit Lions, Sunday 1 p.m. ET (Sirius 84, XM 227/Internet 811)
Sure, the Packers were punched in the mouth against Minnesota in Week 2, but it’s not time to panic in Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers hasn’t produced his typical, virtuosic numbers so far in 2016, yet Green Bay still has a win under their belt and was never out of the game against Minnesota.
Philadelphia Eagles (2-0)
Week 3 opponent: Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET (Sirius 82, XM 82/Internet 824)
Is Carson Wentz destined for greatness? It may be too early to tell, but he’s off to a promising start after leading the Eagles to a 2-0 record, and maybe most impressively, avoiding throwing a single interception so far in his early pro career. It helps when the defense is playing near the top of the league when it comes to yards and points allowed per game. They’ll face a much larger task this weekend when they go up against the offensive firepower of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Co.
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0)
Week 3 opponent: @ Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET (Sirius 132, Internet 825)
The Steelers mightily handled their AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals with a 24-16 win. Despite Antonio Brown being held in-check with just four catches and 39 yards, Ben Roethlisberger still managed to air it out for three touchdowns while the Pittsburgh defense held Cincinnati to just 46 yards on the ground. The Steelers are rolling and will look to establish Pennsylvania supremacy against their in-state rival Philadelphia Eagles.
New England Patriots (3-0)
Week 3 opponent: Houston Texans, Thursday 8:25 p.m. ET (Sirius 81, XM 225/Internet 819)
The wizardry of Bill Belichick was on full display on Thursday as the Patriots marched over the Texans, 27-0. Even with rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who started the season as the third-string quarterback, New England still managed to dominate and look like the well-oiled machine we’re used to seeing with Tom Brady under center. LeGarrette Blount ran for 105 yards and two touchdowns. With “Tom Terrific” chomping at the bit to return to action, it’s as if the Pats don’t even need him at this point.
Denver Broncos (2-0)
Week 3 opponent: @ Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday 1 p.m. ET (Sirius 112, Internet 809)
Andrew Luck may still be having nightmares about the Broncos defense. Von Miller and company looked as scary as ever, putting five sacks and 12 QB hits on Luck, picking him off for a touchdown and forcing him to fumble, which also resulted in a touchdown. The Bengals will likely present a tougher challenge, but as long as that defense is intact Trevor Siemian can continue doing his best “game-manager” impression and riding the wave of victory.
Houston Texans (2-1)
Week 3 opponent: @ New England Patriots, Thursday 8:25 p.m. ET (Sirius 83, XM 226/Internet 812)
Houston took a knockout punch from New England on Thursday, but there aren’t many teams that can withstand Bill Belichick’s dark powers. The Texans are still in good shape, provided the Brock Osweiler-DeAndre Hopkins connection can figure out a way to bounce back. Thanks to being in the “cake division” a.k.a. the AFC South, there’s no reason to panic in Houston.
Cincinnati Bengals (1-1)
Week 3 opponent: Denver Broncos, Sunday 1 p.m. ET (Sirius 82, XM 82/Internet 806)
Following up a loss to the Steelers with a matchup against the Broncos doesn’t bode well for the Bengals, but Cincinnati garnered enough votes to remain in the Power 12. Without a semblance of a running game, Andy Dalton was forced to make 54 pass attempts, completing 31 of them for 366 yards and a touchdown. Weirdly enough, only two of those passes went to A.J. Green, so you have to figure that he will be looking to have a bounce-back game. That is a tall task against the Denver defense.
New York Jets (1-1)
Week 3 opponent: @ Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET (Sirius 133, Internet 822)
The Jets are in the Power 12 for the first time this season after a nice display of offensive firepower in a 37-31 win over Buffalo. That win was crucial for New York, which now enters a brutal stretch of four straight games against teams that made the playoffs last season. However, with Matt Forte as the workhorse and Ryan Fitzpatrick making smarter decisions with the football, the Jets are primed for takeoff. How they perform over these next four weeks will determine whether they’re ready to challenge the Patriots for the AFC East throne.