Matchups to Watch  

KIA  

Delhomme, Romo face off under the Monday night spotlight

Here's a look at the key matchups to watch in Week 3 action:

1 p.m. ET, FOX Atlanta at New England
Atlanta QB Matt Ryan vs. New England QB Tom Brady
Ryan returns home, where he enjoyed a stellar career at Boston College. Last season he became only the second rookie quarterback in NFL history to start every regular-season game and throw fewer than 15 interceptions. Ryan is an exceptional person, and he's ultra-competitive. He is very accurate when scrambling and he does all the extras to be successful. He has good timing, hitting receivers in stride very well on short passes. The players believe in him as a leader. He has adequate arm strength.

Brady, of course, is one of the all-time great success stories. He worked very hard to develop his upper body after coming to the Patriots as a sixth-round draft pick in 2000. He was not fast before last year's knee injury, and seldom runs. He has great accuracy. He's brought his team from behind in the fourth quarter 29 times. Brady has completed more than 70 percent of his passes in two previous starts versus the Falcons.



1 p.m. ET, CBS Tennessee at N.Y. Jets
Tennessee DT Tony Brown vs. N.Y. Jets RB Thomas Jones
The Jets ended Tennessee's 10-game winning streak in 2008 by scoring 34 points over the Titans' then-top-ranked defense. Led by Jones, the Jets ran for 192 yards in that game.

Brown is a great story. An undrafted free agent in 2003, he sat out of football in 2005, and played in NFL Europe in the spring of 2006. He has very good quickness off the ball, with power and explosion. He can rush the passer and play off blocks against the run. He has a very good arm-over move, and always plays at a high level of intensity.

Jones came into the NFL as the seventh overall pick by Arizona in 2000. Only LaDainian Tomlinson has rushed for more yards over the past four years. Jones ran for 1,312 yards in 2008, and he is only the third back in history to get his first Pro Bowl invite after he reached age 30. He is a strong inside runner and a good receiver (279 receptions coming into this season). Only five backs ran for 100 yards in Week 1 -- he and his brother, Seattle's Julius Jones, were two of them.



1 p.m. ET, CBS Cleveland at Baltimore
CB Eric Wright vs. QB Joe Flacco
Wright is a third-year cornerback with good cover skills. He will make tackles versus the run, and has good recognition. He lacks top speed but makes up for it with good reactions. This is a real tough kid.

Flacco played just two years of college football, starting as a backup in Pittsburgh and then transferred to Delaware for the 2006-07 seasons. The 6-foot-6, 245-pound Flacco is a pocket passer with rare size and arm strength. In last year's playoff game vs. Miami, he threw a 41-yard comeback route that never got more than six feet off the ground. He has very good short accuracy underneath or to the sidelines. He throws a tight spiral, but he has a tendency to hold the ball too long -- he was sacked 32 times in 2008.



1 p.m. ET, FOX Washington at Detroit
Washington LB Brian Orakpo vs. Detroit QB Matt Stafford
Washington has defeated Detroit 18 consecutive times. This is the second year in a row they meet in Detroit; the Redskins won, 25-17, last season.

Orakpo, starting at left outside linebacker, is a rookie who can play with his hands down or standing up. He has good ability to get off blocks, and has good awareness. He has good size and speed for the position, and good strength (31 reps at the combine).

Stafford will be starting his third NFL game. In his first two starts, he has one TD pass, five INTs, and two sacks. In Peyton Manning's first two games as a rookie in 1998, he had two TD passes, six INTs, and six sacks (the Colts scored 21 points in those games; the Lions have scored 40 under Stafford). Stafford can make all the throws with good accuracy, and moves well to avoid the rush. He's sort of a gunslinger, which gets him into trouble when he tries to force throws. This game will be another step forward in his development.



1 p.m. ET, FOX Green Bay at St. Louis
Green Bay WR Greg Jennings vs. St. Louis CB Ron Bartell
Jennings celebrated his 26th birthday earlier this week. He was a first alternate in the Pro Bowl at his position in 2008. Jennings has big-play ability - he led the NFL last year with eight plays of 40 or more yards. He's very strong and explosive, a powerful runner who builds up speed as he goes. He has a good burst out of his routes, averaging nine yards after the catch. His 24 TD receptions in three years is the most by any Green Bay receiver in a three-year span. Jennings went to the same Michigan high school as Derek Jeter.

Bartell is a pretty good player, a small-college guy (Howard University),with good height (6-1) and ball skills. He knocks down a lot of passes. According to STATS Inc., he was listed as tops among NFC West cornerbacks in passes defensed. Even though not many people know about him, he's a very solid player on a not-so-solid Rams defense.



Kansas City QB Matt Cassel vs. Philadelphia CB Asante Samuel
Philadelphia is a very tough place to play for a young quarterback. Cassel surprised everyone last year with his performance with the Patriots after Tom Brady went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 1. He can be a productive passer, but seems to have trouble with the pass rush; he was sacked 47 times in 2008. You can be sure he will be blitzed a lot this week by the Eagles.

Samuel knows Cassel from his years in New England. He is not flashy but seems to get a good jump on the ball. He is a good all-around player against both the run and pass, making his share of big plays.



1 p.m. ET, FOX N.Y. Giants at Tampa Bay
N.Y. Giants safeties vs. Tampa Bay TE Kellen Winslow
The Giants return to Tampa, where they started their Super Bowl run in 2007 with a first-round playoff victory over the Bucs -- the first of three straight road playoff wins. The Giants are coming off a big win in Dallas Sunday night, but they might be without their best defensive lineman in Justin Tuck along with Chris Canty -- so Tampa Bay will look to run the ball after watching the Cowboys run successfully on them Sunday night.

This matchup originally was Giants safety Kenny Phillips vs. Winslow. Phillips is a second-year player who was emerging as a key member of the Giants defense, as evidenced by his two interceptions Monday night in Dallas. He makes plays in both the running and passing game and is tough to fool. But the Giants placed him on IR Thursday with a knee injury. Phillips will be a big loss for the Giants the rest of the way, especially when they are facing pass-catching tight ends.

Winslow is a tight end that lines up everywhere and creates tough matchups because of his speed and quickness. He will catch the ball inside or go deep. Despite a history of injuries since entering the league, he seems to be healthy this year.



San Francisco RB Frank Gore vs. Minnesota LB Chad Greenway
Gore spent time prior to training camp running the hills with a truck tire tethered to his torso to get into shape, and his big Week 2 indicates the workouts are paying off. He's the first running back in 49ers history to gain 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons. He's a tough runner out of the backfield and also is a very good blocker. His toughness has shown in that he has overcome many injuries.

Greenway is one of two starters in the NFL from state of South Dakota -- and the other happens to be fellow Vikings LB Ben Leber. Greenway led the team with 150 tackles in 2008, adding 5.5 sacks. He's very productive, with outstanding ability to key and diagnose. He's very good covering backs going vertical, and he can play in space. He's good in zone coverage, has speed to break on the ball, and does a good job reading the quarterback. He's hard to fool.



1 p.m. ET, CBS Jacksonville at Houston
Jacksonville DT John Henderson vs. Houston RB Steve Slaton
These teams have played 14 times, with Houston winning eight of the 14. Losses to Houston in 2004 and 2006 kept the Jaguars out of the playoffs.

Henderson and Albert Haynesworth were starting defensive tackles for the University of Tennessee in 2001 -- imagine trying to run on that line! Henderson's range is deceiving. He can make plays outside the box, is very smart in the screen game. He is good going forward in the pass rush, hard to move and throw passes over. He plays hard and is very athletic. He's had 105 starts and 26 sacks in a seven-year career.

Slaton is coming off a great rookie year (1,200-plus yards rushing and 50 catches). He has struggled early this season, but he has very good hands, good quickness and vision as a runner.



4:05 p.m. ET, FOX Chicago at Seattle
Chicago LB Lance Briggs vs. Seattle RB Julius Jones
Qwest Field is very noisy for an outdoor stadium, one of the reasons it is not very kind to the visiting team. There is also the potential for inclement weather Sunday, similar to the conditions in Seattle last week that helped sink USC against the University of Washington. On the other hand, the Seahawks likely are without quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who was injured in the first half last week against San Francisco.

Briggs, a Pro Bowler, is the Bears' leading tackler. He has good athletic ability, can run to the ball with a burst. He understands the fits in fronts and can take on guards. He has the ability to attack the pocket and avoid blockers.

Jones tied Earl Campbell, becoming only the second player in NFL history to have at least 30 carries in three consecutive games. He has very good quickness and change of direction. He has a natural base. His hands have improved over the past two years in Seattle.



4:15 p.m. ET, FOX New Orleans at Buffalo
New Orleans QB Drew Brees vs. Buffalo S Donte Whitner
Brees and the Saints offense are playing well, both running and passing. They lead the NFL in points and total yards. Brees is only a tad over 6 feet tall, but he is very smart and aware. He has a quick release and throws the deep ball well. Most come after a three-step drop. He is very good at beating the blitz. He has good work habits and learning skills. The record for touchdown passes in the first three weeks is 10, most recently achieved by Tom Brady in 2007. Drew Brees needs to throw only two touchdowns this week to surpass Brady and set a new mark.

Whitner is a very good coverage safety, and the best tackler on the team. He is smart, lining up his defensive teammates, and has very good recognition. Another player to watch in terms of stopping Brees: Bills defensive end Aaron Schobel, who has great intensity to go with pass rush skills.



4:15 p.m. ET, CBS Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger vs. Cincinnati DE Antwan Odom
The Steelers seem to have become a passing team, throwing 63 percent of the time in their first two games. Roethlisberger seems to be in good health, has a very easy throwing motion with good arm strength. When given time to throw, he has good intermediate and deep accuracy. He is a deceptive running threat, with the ability to improvise and create plays. Sometimes he holds the ball in the pocket too long, and can be too loose with the ball.

Odom had a field day last week with five sacks on Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, normally a hard QB to sack. He is athletic with long arms and big hands. It is hard to throw over him. Odom has more power than you think, and makes good use of his quickness to make plays. He is playing at a high level after injuries in 2008. He has seven sacks in two games. The record for sacks through three games is eight, by former Jet Mark Gastineau in 1984. With two sacks this Sunday, Odom will set a new mark.



4:15 p.m. ET, CBS Miami at San Diego
Miami CB Will Allen vs. San Diego WR Vincent Jackson
This will be a tough game for Miami, traveling 2,200 miles through three time zones after a Monday night game.

Allen was a first-round pick of the Giants in 2005. He has very good speed (4.4 coming out of Syracuse), good quickness, and will support against run. He had three interceptions in 2008.

Jackson is a 6-5, 230-pounder who has a rare size-speed combination for a receiver. He came to the Chargers in 2005 needing lots of work. Last year was a breakout year, with 59 catches, and three games with 100-plus yards. Last week against Baltimore, he caught six passes for 141 yards and a score.



4:15 p.m. ET, CBS Denver at Oakland
Denver QB Kyle Orton vs. Oakland CB Chris Johnson
Orton had a stellar 16-2 (88.2 percent) record as a starter at home for the Bears, where he played in more of a three-step passing offense. In Denver, he'll have more time to identify receivers. Orton makes all the throws, is very smart and knows the offense well. He should do well against the Raiders defense.

Because of Pro Bowler Nnamdi Asomugha on the other side, teams will throw a lot against Johnson, who is tall and athletic and has been making some good plays. He has quickness and great speed, and he more than holds his own in man coverage. Denver will test him early, but he is a tough-minded player who won't be fazed.



Indianapolis DE Dwight Freeney vs. Arizona OT Mike Gandy
This could be a tough spot for the Colts, who have a short week due to the Monday night game and now face their second straight road game.

Freeney is a very disruptive player who has speed and quickness to rush the passer. He uses his speed on the edge, to go with a low shoulder move and a power move. Freeney had 10.5 sacks in 2008 and made another Pro Bowl appearance. He used to come out on third-and-short situations, but that's no longer the case.

Gandy is a ninth-year player who has started every game the last four years. His forte is toughness. He has good strength to go with an outstanding work ethic. Gandy needs to win this battle in order for Kurt Warner to succeed.



8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN (Monday) Carolina at Dallas
Carolina QB Jake Delhomme vs. Dallas QB Tony Romo
Both teams came into this season with high expectations and have been hurt by inconsistent play from their quarterbacks.

Delhomme was an undrafted free agent out of college who played a season in NFL Europe. He has a strong arm, even after Tommy John surgery in 2007. The Panthers are a run-first team that had fewer pass attempts last season than Arizona had completions. After his poor outing in last year's playoff loss to Arizona, Delhomme was given a new contract in offseason with $20 million guaranteed. Despite the negatives, Delhomme also is the first NFL quarterback to win four consecutive road playoff games.

Romo also was an undrafted free agent, and he's since been to two Pro Bowls (2006-07). He has good arm strength and accuracy with a quick release. Coming into this season, he's thrown 81 TD passes in three years. He was very good in Week 1 versus Tampa, very average in Week 2 versus the Giants, with three interceptions.

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