Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:02 AM

Essentials - Week 3

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Indianapolis at Philadelphia (-7/46), 1 p.m. ET, FOX: : Carson Wentz is back. The 2017 Fed Ex Air Player of the Year didn’t get to finish what he started but had his team at 11-2 when he was injured, helping rack up 390.5 yards per game of total offense and a scoring average of 31.1. We should see an increase in Zach Ertz production since he’s Wentz’s preferred security blanket and there aren’t a lot of options to throw to. Outside of Nelson Agholor, a collection of guys who haven’t really been playing out there will be counted on to support Wentz injuries to Alshon Jeffery and Mike Wallace. Second-year WR Shelton Gibson is making his season debut and has two career catches, former Eagle Jordan Matthews was just signed a few days ago and Kamar Aiken has been around all camp but was originally released at the beginning of the month before being brought back. Running back is also potentially a problem spot if Corey Clement isn’t ready to play the bulk of the snaps. He’s been nursing a quad injury, as has LT Jason Peters, but both are expected to go. Regulars Jay Ajayi (back) and Darren Sproles (hamstring) won’t participate, so Wendell Smallwood should see more touches behind Clement.

New Colts head coach Frank Reich won’t get a warm reception in Philly since that’s not how the NFL works and not really how the City of Brotherly Love gets down, but last year’s offensive coordinator played a large role in Wentz’s development, Foles’ adjustment and the eventual Super Bowl run. He comes off his first win in Indy thanks to a 21-9 road win over Washington but will also be operating short-handed. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo, TE Jack Doyle, RB Marlon Mack, DT/DE Denico Autry and safety Clayton Geathers, all starters, have been ruled out. Top WR T.Y. Hilton will gut it out through a quad injury that kept him out of practice this week, while rookie RB Jordan Wilkins and TE Eric Ebron, a new addition, will be asked to step up for Andrew Luck, who has looked rather rusty. The Colts have dropped eight straight games after a win. Rainy conditions are a possibility.

Cincinnati at Carolina (-3/44), 1 p.m. ET, CBS: A.J. Green went quiet after his three first-quarter touchdowns against Baltimore, drawing attention that allowed Tyler Boyd to have a breakout game. The Bengals are looking for an unlikely 3-0 start given the early suspension top LB Vontaze Burfict and the fact new coordinator Teryl Austin is still feeling things out. Cincinnati will be the more rested team since they opened Week 2 with a Thursday night win, but that hasn’t meant it is immune from the injury bug. RB Joe Mixon revealed he had a slight ligament tear in his knee that will cost him a few weeks and thrusts Giovani Bernard back into the limelight. Center Billy Price has been dealing with a foot injury and has been ruled out. Linebackers Preston Brown and Michael Johnson are considered questionable and would be huge losses against a Panthers offense that likes to attack the middle of the field.

Carolina must get creative in order to overcome all their attrition up front. Guard Trae Turner is out with a concussion so we’ll see Cam Newton give different looks and likely be more decisive since there’s fewer bodies he trusts offering protection. Norv Turner should put together a run-heavy attack to play to the strengths of Newton running the read option and Christian McCaffrey being joined by C.J. Anderson. Safety Da’Norris Searcy is dealing with a concussion and will miss this contest, so Andy Dalton could take advantage of fresh meant back there as he attempts to snap the Panthers’ six-game home winning streak.

Tennessee at Jacksonville (-9.5/40), 1 p.m. ET, CBS: Blaine Gabbert found a way to get the Titans past the Texans last week and should get a crack at his former team here. Although Marcus Mariota’s nerve problem affecting his elbow is considered a week-to-week issue, he hasn’t made enough progress to start and likely won't play unless it's absolutely necessary. Tennessee will aim to hang around behind a defense that has given up a few big plays but has largely been solid. Gabbert has a better chance of staying up right than he did last week since top tackle Taylor Lewan has cleared concussion protocol and will take part, but the defense will again be missing safety Kendrick Lewis and will be without LB Kamalei Correa, who has been a major asset thus far due to his motor and the constant pressure he’s created.

It’s going to be difficult to dent Blake Bortles’ confidence coming off a tremendous day in the red zone against the Patriots last week, cashing in with some great throws to help produce a statement win. Leonard Fournette’s availability has yet to be determined but T.J. Yeldon is again ready to go if he can’t swing it. Corner Jalen Ramsey is a go after dealing with an ankle issues all week, so he’ll be available to make Gabbert’s return to Jacksonville even more difficult. Tennessee has won three of four in this series.

New Orleans at Atlanta (-2/54) 1 p.m. ET, FOX: One of the league’s most entertaining divisional rivalries over the past decade will put the loser in a hole with a losing record through three games, potentially landing them sole possession of the NFC North cellar. The divisional tie-in, to me, gives it the edge on Dallas/Seattle as the most important game of Week 3 since neither team here wants to fall behind. The Falcons are banged up, having lost superb LB Deion Jones and talented safety Keanu Neal for the season already. This week, DEs Takkarist McKinley and Derrick Shelby won’t play, so it remains to be seen if this unit can hang with the talented, versatile Saints while shorthanded. Offensively, Atlanta will use Tevin Coleman as its feature back in place of the injured Devonta Freeman. It lost key guard Andy Levitre in the first half last week but saw Wes Schweitzer step into help the offense rack up 170 rushing yards in Carolina while not allowing a sack.

New Orleans WR Michael Thomas leads the NFL with 28 receptions on just 30 targets through two weeks and Alvin Kamara may indeed be the league’s most dangerous, versatile back, so it’s a little scary that the results haven’t been there. After losing to Tampa Bay, the Saints barely hung on to drop Cleveland, so it’s time for the light bulb to turn on for this group. RB Mark Ingram will miss one more game due to suspension and will provide another weapon once he returns, but there’s more than enough to win a second straight game against Carolina. The Falcons won 11 of 13 in this series from 2006-12 but have most recently dropped three of four.

Denver at Baltimore (-6/46), 1 p.m. ET, CBS: The Broncos rallied in the fourth against the Raiders to improve to 2-0, dropping old rivals Seattle and Oakland on last field goals. It hasn’t looked very pretty, but Vance Joseph has nevertheless gotten results that he looked incapable of achieving from the head seat last season. They’ll look to remain perfect by going on the road for the first time in Baltimore. Case Keenum has to solve his turnover issues but is by far the team’s best option at quarterback, averaging 275.5 yards passing through the first two games. He’ll play despite missing practice with knee soreness earlier in the week, which bodes well for all the young talent on the roster that is set to take the field for their first road game. Philip Lindsay, the hero in last week’s comeback, Week 1 starter Royce Freeman and WRs Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton will all be counted on to produce against a veteran Ravens defense. Denver has won and covered only one of its last 10 road games, so maybe the kids will have a positive influence.

Baltimore hopes to see CJ Mosley make it though pre-game warmups after leaving the field with a knee injury early in the Thursday night loss. He’s got a bone bruise in his knee. Although there are some other backups unlikely to suit up, offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley will play and DT Michael Pierce has a chance to, so John Harbaugh’s team has an opportunity to rebound quickly as they continue enjoying a rare run of prosperity health-wise. The Ravens have lost three of their last four meetings against the Broncos, giving up an average of 35 points per game. Rain is in the forecast and should present issues for both teams throughout the day..

N.Y. Giants at Houston (-6/44) 1 p.m. ET, FOX: The threat of thunderstorms could impact this key contest between teams coming off bitterly disappointing losses. The loser slips to 0-3, stomping out the high hopes they came into the season with. Texans QB Deshaun Watson is healthy but hasn’t look like himself yet, while Giants rookie RB Saquon Barkley has put together a few highlights already but fits right in with his new teammates in being sabotaged by one of the league’s worst offensive lines. Center Jon Halapaio broke his ankle on Sunday night while Ereck Flowers has been a turnstile up at right tackle and will be benched today, replaced by Chad Wheeler. Odell Beckham Jr. comes off a rough Sunday night against Dallas, which held him in check in part because Eli Manning didn’t have much time to let plays develop downfield. New York’s defense has held its own in losses to the Jags and Cowboys but will again be without top DE Olivier Vernon and CB Eli Apple, who looked much improved in the season opener.

The Texans managed to lose to a Gabbert-led team by falling in an immediate 14-0 hole in the first quarter. Tennessee proved willing to pull out all the stops by having safety Kevin Byard throw for a score on a fake and held up defensively because Watson still hasn’t found a groove. Dealing with Beckham could be a chore since corners Kevin Johnson (concussion) and Kayvon Webster (achilles), remain out. It will help that Jadeveon Clowney’s back has healed up enough to play since the defense will need him to get some heat on Manning to provide some relief for the secondary.

Green Bay (-1/47.5) at Washington, 1 p.m. ET, FOX: The ‘Skins couldn’t run the ball at all against Indianapolis and constantly put themselves in bad situations as Alex Smith’s home debut went terribly wrong. Indianapolis shut down their zone blocking scheme and kept the passing game from finding a rhythm, which makes this game against the visiting Packers an important one for the offense to get back on track. Rain could, um, rain on that parade. A steady downpour is expected to factor in throughout, which means both teams will have to adjust.

Although he’s still not saying what broke or snapped or simply got sprained, strained or partially torn, there’s little dispute that Aaron Rodgers isn’t going to be 100 percent here. He can move, but would prefer to sit in the pocket at the moment and will face a pass rush that can get after quarterbacks without blitzing, which could make for a difficult day in inclement weather.

Buffalo at Minnesota (-16.5/41), 1 p.m. ET, CBS: This is the largest spread of the young season but will probably hold up as the biggest number for at least another month, probably two. The Bills visit Green Bay next week but shouldn't be getting 17 no matter how ugly this game winds up being. The possibility that this goes horribly exists since LeSean McCoy is now not expected to play after suffering injured ribs. At this point, with Josh Allen learning on the job and one of the league's fiercest defenses lining up against them, there's no point in exposing Shady to further injury.

The Vikings are exercising caution themselves, sitting DE Everson Griffen (knee), RB Dalvin Cook (knee) and backup corner Marcus Sherels (chest). Latavius Murray should get the bulk of the carries with Cook out, while Kirk Cousins can continue building chemistry with his receiving corps with little pressure on him. Minnesota has covered 18 of its last 25 games as a favorite, though it didn't cover its largest number last season, beating Chicago 23-10 after closing s a 13.5-point favorite last New Year's Eve.

San Francisco at Kansas City (-6.5/55), 1 p.m. ET, FOX: Patrick Mahomes hopes to build on his touchdown pass collection, currently at 10 on the season after a blistering start that has answered all questions as to why Andy Reid and the Chiefs were ready to move from Alex Smith. He’s punishing teams with simple reads thanks to a strong accurate arm that’s allowing the advantages that athletic marvels Tyreke Hill, Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce help create regularly. The return of LB Reuben Foster from suspension gives the 49ers a boost, especially with LB Malcolm Smith and CB Richard Sherman also upgraded to “probable.” Kansas City remains without veteran safety Eric Berry, who is starting to turn the corner as he looks to work his way back from a heel injury. The Chiefs are averaging 40 points per game and finally get to see Mahomes start a regular-season game at Arrowhead for the first time.

San Francisco’s Matt Breida leads the NFL in rushing yards (184) and yards per rush (8.36), so the expectation is that he’ll get plenty of carries to try and keep Kansas City’s offense off the field as much as possible. He only got 11 carries last week and still ended up with 138 yards, so we’ll see how he responds to more work as he gets back on the road behind a new-look offensive line. Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers barely held on against Detroit but he didn’t have the most impressive outing, holding the ball too long. Still, following a three-interception game that contributed to the loss in Minnesota with a pick-free day was progress, even though he got bailed out of an enormous late turnover thanks to a Lions penalty. Attempting to keep pace with Mahomes should be a great test for his maturity. San Francisco has only one road conquest against teams with winning records over its last 10 tries.

Chicago (-6/38.5) at Arizona, 4:25 p.m. ET, FOX: The Bears are one masterful and improbable Aaron Rodgers-led comeback from a 2-0 record and people are tripping over themselves to crown Khalil Mack as the early MVP. He’s certainly been disruptive and has participated more than most anticipated he would upon being moved from Oakland to Chicago just before the season started, but getting his conditioning up and feeling more comfortable with the Bears’ schemes will likely yield even more impressive play than we’ve seen to date. Backup defensive backs Marcus Cooper (hamstring) and DeAndre Houston-Carson (forearm) won’t play, so secondary depth will be thin. The Bears should be able to pressure Arizona up front and will run into the starting QB with the lowest rating through two games, veteran Sam Bradford.

Arizona has been dreadful so far with Sam Bradford owning the league's worst QB rating among those who have started two games and the offensive line depleted by injury. It hasn't helped that Larry Fitzgerald has been hobbled by a hamstring issue that has kept him from helping Bradford find a rhythm, but time is running out for the veteran to make a dent and keep first-round pick Josh Rosen from seeing the field. Despite Chicago being 2-15 in its last 17 road games, oddsmakers have made the team the second-largest road favorite behind only New England, who is visiting Detroit. Arizona has scored an NFL-low six points.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA or e-mail him at [email protected]

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