Sunday, September 21, 2008

Key Contests Preview: Week 3

Week 3 features a LOT of exciting match-ups around the NFL, and while many of them warrant a closer look, this week's "Key Contests" can only focus on four of them. In Week 3, we'll take a quick look at all three of the Giants' NFC East rivals' games, as well as the Giants' next opponent - the Seattle Seahawks.

After this weekend, the Giants could find themselves in sole possession of first place in the NFC East, if they can do the job against the struggling Cincinnati Bengals. All three of their division rivals square off against tough competition this week, as Washington hosts the Arizona Cardinals, Philadelphia welcomes the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Dallas heads north to Green Bay to take on the Packers. Seattle meanwhile hosts the lowly Rams before their own bye week in Week 4.

Arizona Cardinals @ Washington Redskins

This first Key Contest features two teams coming off of wins in Week 2. Arizona comes in at 2-0, behind an explosive offense that's been putting big points on the board in the last two weeks. The Cardinals defense meanwhile is playing solid football, allowing just 23 points total in the first two games.

The Redskins are now 1-1, after a fourth quarter comeback against a highly-regarded Saints team. Jason Campbell looked like a different quarterback last week, as he had a monster game, and the 'Skins' skill players reemerged after a quiet Week 1 to carry Washington past New Orleans.

Look to see if Washington can continue on last week's success and if the Cardinals can handle some tougher competition. Should be a good game...

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Philadelphia Eagles

Pennsylvania hosts this week's second Key Contest, as Pittsburgh and Philly clash for bragging rights in the Keystone state. This contest is sure to be a physical battle between two aggressive, blitzing defenses, and two versatile, talented offenses.

The Eagles' defense, after allowing only 3 points against the Rams in Week 1, surrendered 41 points against the Cowboys last Monday night. Dallas' behemoth O-line was able to withstand the Philadelphia pass rush and the Eagles' secondary got burned over the middle and on deep balls when their front seven couldn't bring pressure on Tony Romo. Jim Johnson's defense will look to rebound against a weak Steelers' offensive line.

On the other side of the ball, QB Donovan McNabb is looking like his old self after battling injuries for the last few seasons. He will have to contend with a miserly, blitzing 3-4 Steelers defense this week, and will try to counter the Steelers' pressure by spreading the ball to his young wide receivers and dynamic running back, Brian Westbrook.

This promises to be a very physical match-up and an entertaining game. Keep an eye on the Eagles defense to see how they rebound from their 41-point drubbing, and watch McNabb and company to see how they cope Pittsburgh's relentless pass rush.

The final NFC East Key Contest this week features two of the conference's best so far in this young season. Both teams are 2-0 and riding high behind their young, talented quarterbacks. The Cowboys are coming off a big win on Monday night in which they racked up 41 points. The Green Bay offense has been just as beastly.

QB Aaron Rodgers has completed 70% of his passes in his first season as starter in Green Bay, and has 4 touchdowns to go with 0 interceptions. He has a talented runner in the backfield in Ryan Grant, and an explosive corps of wide receivers who can threaten deep, making this Packer offense dangerous from a number of angles. Last week against the Eagles, the Cowboys revealed their secondary is susceptible to the deep threat.

For Rodgers, some of his limited action during the Brett Favre era came last season against the Cowboys. In relief of the injured Favre, Rodgers put up 201 yds and a touchdown on the way to a big win in Big D. He will look to recreate that performance this weekend.

See if the Cowboys can recover from an intense Monday night game in time to face this talented Packers team. It will be interesting to see how the Green Bay offense contends with Dallas' aggressive 3-4 scheme, and how rookie RB Felix Jones can impact the game on Special Teams.

Finally, we turn to the Giants' next opponents, the Seattle Seahawks, in the final Key Contest for this week. It will be a clash of two NFC West teams looking for their first win of the season. The Seahawks, projected by many to win the NFC West this year, are still searching for a "W" before their bye week next week. They are coming off of a tough overtime loss to the 49ers, and have been battling some major injury issues at the wide receiver position with their top four receivers unable to play.

The Rams meanwhile have been absolutely abysmal this season, and honestly, there is little hope in sight. Seattle's tough, pressuring defense and their Pro-bowl QB Matt Hasslebeck should carry them past the Rams this week. The one thing to pay attention to is to see how good they look doing it.

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That will wrap it up for this week's "Key Contests." As always, post your comments and share your thoughts. I want to hear from the people!

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