All the turmoil caused by the way officials called roughing the passer last week and the upheaval at the quarterback position make Week 3 very interesting. There are seven home teams predicted to lose by many experts and there are more than a few quarterbacks that need to play well or the heat will be on them before you know it.
Here are 10 things I'll be keeping my eye on in Week 3:
1. These guys need to produce
This year, there's more early season pressure on quarterbacks than I can ever recall. In the first two weeks, guys have been benched in Oakland, Buffalo, Carolina, Tennessee, Jacksonville and Philadelphia.
These quarterbacks might not be headed for the bench this week, but they sure need to play better: Joe Flacco (41.2 rating through two games), Derek Anderson (66.8), David Garrard (85.7, but 62.7 in Week 2 loss), Brett Favre (56.1), Matt Cassel (55.8), Vince Young (91.6, but 48.3 in week 2 before getting benched) and Matt Hasselbeck (74.1, but 51.3 in Week 2 loss).
2. Winning without stars
3. Not buying it
Not many things bother teams more than being seen as underdogs at home this early in the season. Keep a close eye on the Seahawks hosting the Chargers, the Broncos facing the Colts in Denver and the Bears welcoming the Packers. Week 1 provided a similar scenario when Seattle hosted San Francisco. The 49ers were supposedly going to destroy the Seahawks. It didn't happen. Now Seattle is supposed to get rolled by San Diego. We'll see what happens.
4. Vick in the driver's seat
Michael Vick gets the call to start this week, and as one NFC coach told me, "Sure he's been sacked eight times but if that was Kevin Kolb out there, he would have been sacked 15 times." It will be interesting to watch Vick operate against Jacksonville. With Donovan McNabb and the Redskins coming to Philly next week, the Eagles might be looking past the Jaguars. If so, watch out.
5. Leader of the sack
Clay Mathews already has six sacks, which projects to 48 for the season. Of course that won't happen, but another big day and he will be close to 10 sacks in three games. Chicago's offensive line is average at best, and with Matthews standing up in a 3-4 scheme, he can rush from anywhere. He has an excellent feel for the delayed blitz inside, has the speed to rush the edge outside, and defensive coordinator Dom Capers has turned him loose. Not bad for a walk-on at USC.
6. Suspensions taking a toll
7. Third-down backs taking a beating
The modern NFL offense relies heavily on running backs that can catch out of the backfield and recognize all the exotic blitzes and zone dogs defenses use, especially on third down.
Last week was a tough one for those types of special players. Kevin Faulk, Reggie Bush and Jerious Norwood all got hurt in Week 2, this after the Packers lost Ryan Grant for the season in week 1. The injuries really complicate things for the offensive coordinators and quarterbacks. Keep a close eye on how these teams handle the situations.
8. My favorite matchups
This week has some great one-on-one battles in the trenches, including:
9. Lion in the weeds
Last season, there were nine teams that were 0-2 and seven fell to 0-3. Jacksonville and, of all teams, Detroit were the only two to come away with victories. No one saw the Lions' win over the Redskins coming a year ago. Which 0-2 team is in position to get its first victory? Could it be Detroit again as the Lions march into Minnesota?
10. Will officials lighten up?
The questionable calls against Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs on Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer got Ravens coach John Harbaugh so infuriated he had to write a check for $15,000. The questionable call on Fred Robbins frustrated Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo. I have a feeling the officials took a long hard look at those calls and realized they might have been overprotective of the quarterbacks. However, the shot Vince Young took when he was thrown on his head was no love tap.
I think we're going to see some hits this week that aren't going to be called for roughing the passer, and some observers will scratch their heads wondering why not after last week.