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Sunday primer: Week 3


Some coaches often say three constitutes a streak. As we make our way to the third Sunday of the season a handful of teams are streaking toward 3-0 starts, while some big-time teams try to avoid a three-loss streak. These are the things you need to know for all of Sunday's games as kickoff approaches.

Key game-time decisions

Ray Rice, RB (hip -- doubtful) Baltimore Ravens

We begin with the least likely to play this week. Rice hasn't practiced all week and it is "very, very unlikely he plays," NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Saturday. The hope is that Rice will be back next week, according to Rapoport.

Reggie Bush, RB (knee) and Nick Fairley DT (shoulder) Detroit Lions

Bush returned to practice Friday, but NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported on "GameDay First" that the Lions might hold Bush out of the lineup Sunday as a precaution, despite his desire to play, according to sources informed of the injury. Fairley was limited in practice all week after missing Week 2's loss. The Lions listed Fairley as questionable for Sunday's contest.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR (hamstring) Arizona Cardinals

As he did last week, we expect Fitzgerald to give it a go this week against the New Orleans Saints. But he didn't finish the Cardinals' Week 2 game after tweaking the injury. At some point Arizona could decide it's best for everyone to shut Fitz down for a bit.

Mike Wallace, WR (groin) Miami Dolphins

Wallace was placed on the injury report as a limited participant Friday after tweaking the groin injury that kept him out of the Dolphins' first preseason game.

Vernon Davis, TE (hamstring) San Francisco 49ers

Davis sat out of practice all week, but said he plans to play Sunday. Jim Harbaugh called him a game-time decision versus the Indianapolis Colts. It would be a huge loss if Davis couldn't go.

Julio Jones, WR (knee) and Roddy White, WR (ankle) Atlanta Falcons

The duo's weekly designation as questionable continues. We're expecting them to play against the Dolphins on Sunday. Jones hasn't been slowed by his knee; White, on the other hand, hasn't looked like himself, with just five catches through two weeks.

Ed Reed, S (hip) Houston Texans

All signs point to Reed finally making his debut for the Texans. Reed said this week he didn't want his first game to be in Baltimore. But unless something changes right before kickoff it looks like Reed will once again be patrolling the secondary in M&T Bank Stadium.

Maurice Jones-Drew, RB (ankle) Jacksonville Jaguars

MJD returned to practice Friday. Even if he were 100 percent, going up against a healthy Seattle Seahawks defense Sunday would be a tough task.

Eddie Lacy, RB (concussion) Green Bay Packers

Even if Lacy is cleared to play, James Starks will get the start against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Packers have the luxury of being patient with Lacy.

Le'Veon Bell, RB (foot) Pittsburgh Steelers

Heath Miller should be back for the Steelers' offense. The run game desperately needs Bell back as well, but it would be a surprise if it happened this week.

Anthony Spencer, DE (knee) Dallas Cowboys

Spencer said his knee held up in his season debut last week. He missed practices on Wednesday and Friday. If he plays against the St. Louis Rams it could be on a limited basis.

Fred Davis, TE (ankle) Washington Redskins

Davis was a late addition to the injury report after practicing fully the entire week. Davis hasn't performed well the first two weeks as rookie tight end Jordan Reed has taken over.

Rob Gronkowski, TE (back/forearm) New England Patriots

NFL Media's Albert Breer reported Friday that it's highly unlikely that Gronk will play Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Rapoport reiterated that on "NFL GameDay First," adding that Gronk's injured forearm is what's holding him back, not his surgically repaired back.

Key players to watch on teams trying to avoid 0-3

History tells us 0-3 is the death-record for Super Bowl aspirations and puts playoff hopes on life support. So we will look at one player who will be vital to these teams staving off 0-3.

Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III

RGIII's accuracy from the pocket must improve this week against the Lions.

New York Giants: Hakeem Nicks

Nicks should have a field day on the outside against a bad Panthers secondary.

Minnesota Vikings: Christian Ponder

Against a stout Browns defense, Ponder can't continue to make game-killing decisions.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Darrelle Revis

Revis could make some game-changing plays against young receivers -- assuming Tom Brady doesn't just give up on throwing toward his side of the field.

Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton

Let's be honest, it's always about Cam.

Cleveland Browns: Brian Hoyer

Maybe Hoyer can conjure up some Kirk Cousins-magic -- who used to be his backup at Michigan State. Hoyer will get top wide receiver Josh Gordon back from suspension.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger

The Steelers need Big Ben to be perfect. He can't repeat the errant throws he made last week against an opportunistic Bears defense.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Cecil Shorts

Shorts will need to have several long-scoring plays. There is no chance the Jaguars' offense can grind away drives on the Seahawks' defense.

Weather tracking

It looks like we could have some weather trouble down in Florida again this week.

Texans at Ravens --72 degrees F/clear

Giants at Panthers -- 76 degrees F/chance of rain

Packers at Bengals -- 65 degrees F/clear

Rams at Cowboys -- 79 degrees F/clear

Browns at Vikings -- 65 degrees F/clear (dome)

Buccaneers at Patriots -- 68 degrees F/chance of rain

Cardinals at Saints -- 79 degrees F/chance of thunderstorm (dome)

Chargers at Titans -- 72 degrees F/clear

Lions at Redskins -- 74 degrees F/clear

Falcons at Dolphins -- 90 degrees F/chance of thunderstorm

Bills at Jets -- 68 degrees F/partly cloudy

Jaguars at Seahawks -- 61 degrees F/rain

Colts at 49ers -- 63 degrees F/clear

Bears at Steelers -- 56 degrees F/partly cloudy

Did you know?

»Weeks 1 and 2 of the 2013 season have featured the No. 1 and No. 2 passing yard totals in a single week in NFL history: Week 1: 8,710 yards; Week 2: 8,691 yards

»The Redskins have run exactly one offensive play when winning or tied this season. It was an Alfred Morris fumble in Week 1.

Sunday's storylines

Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens

With or without Reed, I'm watching the Texans' secondary. Houston's stifling front is rounding into form and the Ravens will attack the edges.

How the Ravens' defense, particularly Terrell Suggs, exploits Duane Brown's replacement at left tackle will be an important determinant in the matchup.

New York Giants at Carolina Panthers

The Giants' dismal run game faces a suffocating front seven. I'm expecting Eli Manning to air it out a ton against a shaky, banged-up Panthers secondary.

Cam Newton's early season struggles with a limited offense will continue if he has to match points with Manning.

Green Bay Packers at Cincinnati Bengals

Giovani Bernard is expected to see the field more Sunday. If the Bengals can get him in space, the rookie running back could be a game-changer against the Packers' defense.

If the Packers' offensive line slows down Geno Atkins and the Bengals' front four, Aaron Rodgers will have another huge day against a secondary that hasn't allowed a 300-yard passer in 16 consecutive games.

St. Louis Rams at Dallas Cowboys

The Rams looked much better in the no-huddle last week. I'd expect them to use it more, especially if their remade offensive line can't slow down the Cowboys' pass rush.

How much will the Cowboys run the ball? We've heard the talk about focusing on the ground game before, but it hasn't stuck in the past.

Cleveland Browns at Minnesota Vikings

Starting a backup quarterback and breaking in a new running back aren't good recipes for success on the road. How the Browns respond after their big mid-week trade will speak a lot about the team's leadership.

Adrian Peterson will try to get back on track against a very stout Browns defensive front, so we could see more Christian Ponder than Vikings fans can stomach.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New England Patriots

Tom Brady talked up his young receivers this week after his frustration boiled over in Week 2. We'll see how Brady reacts if his receivers struggle against a very good defense.

The Bucs can't afford to beat themselves as they have the first two weeks. Pre-snap penalties and mental mistakes could short-circuit any chance for a road upset.

Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints

Patrick Peterson will be a fun player to keep an eye on in this game. He will be key in attempting to slow down the Saints' offense. With Fitzgerald not 100 percent, I'm wondering if we'll see Peterson on offense a bit more this week as a decoy or otherwise.

The Saints' defense is visibly improved and could have another good week against Carson Palmer.

San Diego Chargers at Tennessee Titans

Philip Rivers looks rejuvenated spreading the ball around, but will he find Eddie Royal for another multi-touchdown game?

I'm expecting the Titans' defense to control this game and put its offense in a position to win, it's on Jake Locker to close the deal.

Detroit Lions at Washington Redskins

Will Robert Griffin III run more this week? He'll need to make sure he gets by a nasty Lions front four before he takes off.

The Redskins' defense has been run on the first two weeks. It's not a Lions strength, so it will be interesting to see if offensive coordinator Scott Linehan sticks with the run, especially with a banged up Reggie Bush.

Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins

Without Steven Jackson, I'm expecting Matt Ryan to attack Miami's secondary similar to Andrew Luck's plan last week.

A big game from Ryan Tannehill finally could vault him into the national conversation about great young quarterbacks, where we believe he belongs.

Buffalo Bills at New York Jets

Two rookie quarterbacks (EJ Manuel and Geno Smith) against two tough defenses. This could be a mistake-filled game.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Seattle Seahawks

Losing offensive tackle Russell Okung to an injury could be an issue for the Seahawks, but probably not this week against a bad Jacksonville pass rush.

After watching rookie offensive tackles Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson struggle Thursday night, I'm interested to see how Luke Joeckel handles himself against a devastating -- and finally healthy -- Seahawks D.

Indianapolis Colts at San Francisco 49ers

Trent Richardson's arrival has somewhat overshadowed Andrew Luck matching wits with his old college coach, Jim Harbaugh. While Richardson will play, the Colts' chances remain dependent on Luck's ability to pick apart defensive secondaries.

Niners pass rusher Aldon Smith is making headlines for the wrong reasons, but he and his defensive teammates could make them for the right ones Sunday. The Colts' offensive line has struggled and the 49ers defenders should hit Luck a lot in this game.

Chicago Bears at Pittsburgh Steelers

Jay Cutler has been sacked just once this season. The Steelers' defense has recorded just one sack. The amount of pressure on the Bears quarterback will be key.

Heath Miller's return could be a boon for Roethlisberger. Big Ben's clearly missed his security blanket when he extends the play.

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