Matchups to Watch  

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Newman-Johnson one of Week 3's key matchups

Cowboys CB Terence Newman vs. Texans WR Andre Johnson

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, FOX

This is a battle for turf in Texas and is important for marketing. These two teams split their first two meetings. A loss here would inflict serious damage on a Cowboys team that has Super Bowl expectations. As for the Texans, they need to win to show their fans this team is for real, and it helps their credibility within the state.

I look for the Texans to start the game trying to run, but eventually resorting to the pass.

Newman was the fifth overall pick in the 2003 draft. He has very good speed and is a consistent performer, who will at times be assigned to the opponent's top receiver.

He is a very good tackler and is very good at reaching around the receiver to break up passes. He has 23 career interceptions, and would have more if he had better hands.

Johnson is an elite playmaker. Check the tape on his game-tying catch against the Redskins last week and you can see his immense talent.

He does not like to be pressed and struggles some when he does not have free access. That said, he is strong enough to get off the press and is an excellent threat on slants and deep routes. He is an outstanding receiver and seems to play better indoors.

Bonus matchup: Cowboys LB Anthony Spencer vs. Texans OT Eric Winston

Spencer is a very underrated player, who plays mostly on the left side but can wreak havoc all over the field. The Texans like to run right, and count on Winston to pull and open holes for Arian Foster in the running game.

Jets RB LaDainian Tomlinson vs. Dolphins RB Ronnie Brown

Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC

The teams have played two games every year since 1966. This is a very good rivalry between two very successful franchises. One of the things that makes this a very good rivalry is all the ex-New Yorkers who live in Miami.

Both Tomlinson and Brown have something to prove after last year's performance. LT because he was ineffective in San Diego and Brown because he got hurt.

Tomlinson needs three receiving yards to become the fifth player in NFL history with 12,000 rushing yards and 4,000 receiving yards.

He looks lighter and quicker than he has in the past couple seasons. He will most likely not get more than 12 carries, but he is a very dangerous receiver and is skilled at throwing the halfback option pass.

Brown is coming off a foot injury that cost him the final seven games of last season. He's a strong runner with speed, who can also pass. He's very good in the Wildcat formation, but can do everything as a great blocker and receiver.

Bonus matchup: Jets CB Antonio Cromartie vs. Dolphins WR Brandon Marshall

The Dolphins passed just 44 percent of the time in their first two games, but that figures to change against the Jets' stout run defense, and Marshall should see plenty of targets with Cromartie covering him.

Packers LB Clay Matthews vs. Bears QB Jay Cutler

Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Matthews led the team with 10 sacks last year and already has six this season. He's the first Packer ever to have three sacks in back-to-back games. He lines up all over the place in the team's 3-4 defense and will play with his hand in the ground in the nickel package. In one of the Packers' sub packages, they play one defensive lineman and five linebackers, and there is no telling where he will line up in that defense.

He has outstanding ability to get off at the snap and close on the quarterback. He ran under 1.50 in the 10-yard dash at the combine -- an extraordinary time. He is physical and plays with intensity, and he can also drop and play in space. His father, Clay, played 19 years in the NFL (278 games).


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Jay Cutler was the 11th overall pick in the 2006 draft, but until this year has not lived up to the potential people have seen in him. He threw 26 interceptions last year as the Bears finished 7-9. Under new offensive coordinator Mike Martz, he is 2-0 this year. He leads the NFL with a 121.2 passer rating. When he has a 100 or better passer rating he is 17-0. He possesses excellent size and athletic ability for the position, which is really important when you play in the wind at Chicago. His quick release and rocket arm give him a physical advantage, and now that he is making better decisions, he is tough to stop (check out the play on Sunday vs. Dallas when he audibled out of a blitz and threw a TD to Greg Olsen).

Bonus matchup: Packers LB Nick Barnett vs. Bears RB Matt Forte

Forte is being used by Martz in the same way Marshall Faulk was employed in St. Louis. This should be a high-scoring game.

Browns OT Joe Thomas vs. Ravens LB Terrell Suggs

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

Joe Thomas is a fourth-year player who has never missed an offensive snap in his career. He is an excellent athlete, who set the University of Wisconsin's shot put record. He was only the fourth rookie left tackle to be named to the Pro Bowl.

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Thomas has great feet, long arms and does a great job of redirecting pass rushers. His hand placement is outstanding, and he also has the smarts to match his physical talents.

Suggs was a dominating pass rusher in college and has translated that to the NFL. He has great quickness and burst off the edge and excels in space. He has 11 career sacks vs. Cleveland, the most against any team.

Bonus matchup: Ravens RB Ray Rice vs. Browns S T.J. Ward

Ward has been outstanding on defense for the Browns, and he will have to be at his best to keep the talented Rice from running free once he gets to the second level.

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