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NFL 2012 Season — Week Three Preview

2012 NFL Week 3
Jared Wickerham, Patrick Smith / Getty Images

Two battles between unbeaten teams and a rematch of last season’s AFC title game highlight the Week 3 NFL schedule. Here’s a preview of all of the week’s action:

Thursday, Sept. 20

NY Giants at Carolina Panthers — 8:20 p.m.

Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
After rallying to a win behind Eli Manning’s 510 passing yards, the Giants (1-1) face a short week of preparation for Carolina (1-1) and their versatile quarterback, Cam Newton. Expect New York to pressure Newton and respect the Panthers’ solid running attack. Though Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks was ailing after last Sunday’s win, he should be in uniform on Thursday. New York running back Ahmad Bradshaw is less likely to play.

Sunday, Sept. 23

St. Louis Rams at Chicago Bears — 1:00 PM

Soldier Field, Chicago, Ill.
The Bears (1-1) offense looked dreadful against the Packers last week. Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked seven times, later confronting offensive lineman J’Marcus Webb in frustration. Bears running back Matt Forte should be cleared to play after injuring his ankle last week. The Rams (1-1) received great production from quarterback Sam Bradford and receiver Danny Amendola in last week’s win over Washington. If St. Louis can get running back Steven Jackson going, they could put pressure on the Bears’ defense.

Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns — 1:00 PM

Cleveland Browns Stadium, Cleveland, Oh.
The Bills (1-1) will likely use current NFL rushing leader C.J. Spiller as the focus of their offense until a team shows it can stop him. The Browns (0-2) will need to account for Spiller and try to force Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick into mistakes. Defensive end Mario Williams leads the Buffalo defense against Cleveland rookie duo Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson, who could be a great foundation for the Browns offense of the future.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys — 1:00 PM

Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Tex.
The Buccaneers (1-1) let what seemed to be a sure win slip away in a loss to the Giants last week. After giving up 510 passing yards to Eli Manning, the Tampa Bay secondary will be tested again, this time by Dallas quarterback Tony Romo. The Cowboys (1-1) never seemed comfortable during their loss to Seattle, as the offense sputtered and the defense was unable to stop the run.

Detroit Lions at Tennessee Titans — 1:00 PM

LP Field, Nashville, Tenn.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford leads the Lions (1-1) into Tennessee with the hopes of getting the team back on track offensively. The Titans (0-2) have allowed the third-most points in the league. They must slow the Detroit offensive assault. The Lions defense may tee off against Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker and a leaky offensive line. Titans running back Chris Johnson must provide more than the 10.5 rushing yards per game he has averaged thus far.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts — 1:00 PM

Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind.
Other than running back Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jaguars (0-2) haven’t shown much offensive firepower in 2012. With quarterback Blaine Gabbert possibly out due to a gluteus maximus injury, Chad Henne could get the start this week. The Colts (1-1) seem to be gaining confidence around rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, who was very poised in last week’s win over the Vikings.

NY Jets at Miami Dolphins — 1:00 PM

Sun Life Stadium, Miami, Fla.
The Jets (1-1) did little on offense against the Steelers last week. Quarterback Mark Sanchez was terrible after the opening drive. He is likely to see a constant pass rush from Miami. The Dolphins (1-1) relied heavily on running back Reggie Bush in last week’s rout of the Raiders. Bush must continue to draw attention away from rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, so the first-year pro can develop. New York’s veteran defense will look to confuse Tannehill.

San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings — 1:00 PM

Mall of America Field, Minneapolis, Minn.
After convincing victories over the Lions and Saints, the 49ers (2-0) could be the early favorite in the NFC. San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith will need some protection against the Minnesota pass rush, but he should be able to find Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree downfield. The Vikings (1-1) know San Francisco will key on star running back Adrian Peterson, so quarterback Christian Ponder has to be an additional threat, especially against a defense as good as the 49ers.

Kansas City Chiefs at New Orleans Saints — 1:00 PM

Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La.
After two lackluster losses, the Chiefs (0-2) travel to face a New Orleans team looking to prove it still has some greatness left. Kansas City will have running back Jamaal Charles ready after he missed most of last week’s loss to Buffalo. The Saints (0-2) shaky defense was expected, but quarterback Drew Brees’ four interceptions were not. If Brees can return to form, New Orleans should have too many weapons for the Chiefs on Sunday.

Cincinnati Bengals at Washington Redskins — 1:00 PM

FedEx Field, Landover, Md.
The Bengals (1-1) have one of the league’s worst defenses, ranking 29th in points allowed and 30th in total yards yielded. On Sunday, Cincinnati faces versatile Washington rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, who could put up big numbers in the vertical passing game. The Redskins (1-1) have their own defensive issues, with outside linebacker Brian Orakpo and left end Adam Carriker both out with season-ending injuries suffered in last week’s loss to the Rams.

Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals — 4:05 PM

University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Az.
The Eagles (2-0) have won each of their first two games by a single point. The Arizona defense could give Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick problems, especially with Eagles center Jason Kelce out for the season after tearing knee ligaments. Vick has already had seven turnovers this season. The Cardinals (2-0) will likely start former Eagle Kevin Kolb at quarterback again this week. Kolb played for the injured John Skelton last week. The Arizona offensive line will be under pressure to stop the aggressive Philadelphia pass rush.

Atlanta Falcons at San Diego Chargers — 4:05 PM

Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, Ca.
A battle of unbeaten teams finds the Falcons (2-0) traveling to San Diego. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan has a solid receiving corps, but the status of running back Michael Turner is uncertain after he was jailed on charges of drunken driving and speeding early Tuesday. The Chargers (2-0) have used solid defense and an efficient offense to beat Oakland and Tennessee, but they’ll be more challenged by the Falcons’ talent.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Oakland Raiders — 4:25 PM

O.co Coliseum, Oakland, Ca.
The Steelers (1-1) were relentless while stopping the Jets offense last week. They could create problems for Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer and under performing running back Darren McFadden. The Raiders (0-2) must find a way to improve their defense. Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could have a big day, even without much of a running game behind him.

Houston Texans at Denver Broncos — 4:25 PM

Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colo.
The Texans (2-0) have looked impressive thus far in 2012, with a stingy defense and a running attack led by Arian Foster and Ben Tate . The Broncos (1-1) need quarterback Peyton Manning to have a better first quarter than he did against Atlanta, when three interceptions all but sealed Denver’s fate.

New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens — 8:20 PM

M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Md.
A rematch of the franchises that met in last year’s AFC Championship Game will play out in the spotlight of Sunday night. New England (1-1) is still recovering from a missed Stephen Gostkowski field goal that would have won last week’s game against Arizona, but they’ll have to recover quickly against the Baltimore defense led by Haloti Ngata. The Ravens (1-1) need quarterback Joe Flacco not to regress after a great start to 2012.

Monday, Sept. 24

Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks — 8:30 PM

CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
The Packers (1-1) looked like a team capable of getting back to the Super Bowl while dominating the Bears last week. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers had extra time to game plan against the formidable Seattle defense. The Seahawks (1-1) need rookie quarterback Russell Wilson to help keep the Packers defense from keying on running back Marshawn Lynch.

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