The NFL season is finally in full swing as we get into late September. As we try to get a gauge on teams across the league, Week 2 provided us with some answers but plenty more questions.
There are just seven remaining unbeaten teams, with a whopping 18 of 32 teams sitting at 1-1. That leaves seven teams winless through two games, including one 2020 playoff team (Indianapolis Colts). Only two of the undefeated teams made the postseason last year (Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Rams).
Here are some of the top matchups to watch in Week 3 of the NFL season.
Thursday Night Football game: Carolina Panthers vs. Houston Texans
The first two Thursday games of the 2021 NFL season have delivered instant classics, with both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1 and the Washington Football Team in Week 2 winning on game-winning field goals as time expired.
In Week 3, the Carolina Panthers will travel to NRG Stadium in Houston to play the short-handed Texans. The Texans will be without starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who was injured in Houston’s Week 2 loss to the Browns. Rookie third-round pick Davis Mills is expected to start under center as Deshaun Watson remains a healthy scratch for the third straight week.
The Panthers enter Week 3 at 2-0 for the first time since 2017. Quarterback Sam Darnold has thrived after being traded from the New York Jets, throwing for 584 yards, three touchdowns and one interception through two weeks. Running back Christian McCaffrey 324 total yards, 170 rushing and 154 receiving, serving as a catalyst in wins over the Jets and Saints.
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NFL Week 3 Sunday Afternoon Matchups
For the third consecutive week to start the season, there are nine games kicking off at 1 p.m. ET and four kicking off in the 4 p.m. window.
The early slate features a handful of intriguing matchups. The Washington Football Team visits the Buffalo Bills and the Chicago Bears visit the Cleveland Browns in two matchups of 2020 playoff teams. There are also several key divisional matchups, including Colts-Titans in Tennessee, Chargers-Chiefs in Kansas City and Bengals-Steelers in Pittsburgh. The New England Patriots and New York Giants both host NFC South opponents in the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons, respectively.
In the late games, the Miami Dolphins travel to Las Vegas for a date with the 2-0 Raiders, while the New York Jets visit the undefeated Denver Broncos. The headline matchup of the day comes at 4:25 p.m. when Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers visit Matthew Stafford’s Los Angeles Rams.
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Sunday Night Football game: Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers
Fans will be treated to another great Sunday Night Football game on NBC in Week 3 after last week’s thrilling Baltimore Ravens win over the Chiefs. This time it’s an NFC heavyweight matchup between the Green Packers and San Francisco 49ers, a rematch of the 2019 NFC Championship Game.
The 49ers enter this matchup 2-0 after wins over the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles. Jimmy Garoppolo fought off No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance to win the starting quarterback job and he’s been a steadying force through two games, with no turnovers and 504 total passing yards. San Francisco is fighting the injury bug again in 2021, though. The 49ers backfield trio of Elijah Mitchell, Trey Sermon and JaMycal Hasty all suffered injuries in Week 2 after starter Raheem Mostert was lost for the season a week prior.
Green Bay followed up an ugly Week 1 loss to the Saints with a convincing win over the Lions on Monday Night Football. Detroit was ahead 17-14 at the half before the Packers scored 21 unanswered to finish the game. Aaron Rodgers had four touchdowns while completing 22 of 27 passes. Running back Aaron Jones caught three touchdowns and ran in another for a monster performance while playing with a heavy heart.
Monday Night Football game: Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys
Week 3 concludes with an NFC East battle between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys’ home opener at AT&T Stadium is sure to be a packed house as fans return to Arlington in full capacity for the first time this season.
The Eagles followed up their dominant Week 1 road win over the Falcons with a home loss to the 49ers. Philly’s offense struggled, scoring just 11 points and it’s only touchdown coming late in the fourth quarter. Jalen Hurts rushed for 80 yards but completed just 12 of 23 passes for 190 yards in defeat. The Eagles also lost Brandon Brooks and Brandon Graham to injuries, with Graham suffering a ruptured Achilles to end his season.
The Cowboys’ first two games have come down to last-second field goals, losing to the Bucs in Week 1 and beating the Chargers in Week 2. It’s been a tale of two games for the Cowboys -- the passing game dominated against Tampa Bay and the rushing game powered them against Los Angeles. Dallas had 198 rushing yards, including 109 by Tony Pollard and 71 by Ezekiel Elliott. Greg Zuerlein nailed a 56-yard field goal as time expired to seal the victory.