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The Schein Nine

Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills face 'prove it' games in Week 3

Have you checked the slate of games in the NFL this weekend? It's fantastic.

The best part? We're treated to a series of bona fide "prove it" games -- contests that will test (and provide clarity on) numerous teams that have flashed contender potential in the early goings.

Here are nine such squads that can show they're for real in Week 3:

It's one of the most compelling games of the week. Arizona hosts San Francisco, and the Cardinals can prove they should be taken seriously as a division title contender with a win.

Talking to Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton earlier this week on my SiriusXM Radio show, "Schein on Sports," the quarterback totally gets it.

"We are well aware that is a very good football team coming in with a lot of weapons," said Stanton, who's on track to start a second consecutive game in place of the injured Carson Palmer. "They've been very successful ever since (Jim) Harbaugh has been there. Our plate is going to be full. But if you want to be where we want to be, we have to win these types of football games."

He's right. It's a "prove it" spot. And I think Stanton is an upgrade over Palmer. Arizona is primed to win this game and remain atop the NFC West at 3-0.

Cleveland shocked the world with a win over the Saints on Sunday. Cleveland is a few plays away from being 2-0. (Funny, I'm not getting any more tweets claiming I'm nuts for saying Cleveland would win more games than Pittsburgh back in April. But I digress.)

Mike Pettine is a really good coach. Cleveland has a solid defense. And for a day, Brian Hoyerproved me wrong, engineering a game-winning drive against New Orleans.

In August, I picked the Ravens to win the division, thinking they'd go 10-6. This is one of the games I had them losing.

Talking to Pettine on SiriusXM, the coach definitely understands the importance of Sunday's bout.

"We know this is a very good opponent coming to town," Pettine said. "It's a division game that makes it even more important. We are a little behind because they played last Thursday night (and) they have a little more rest. It's a big game for us. But guys still have to execute to our standards and we have to try to keep the opponent nameless and faceless."

Can you imagine how far a win over Baltimore would go in terms of building confidence in that Browns locker room?

How bad are things for the Giants? Houston, a team that went 2-14 last year, has to guard against this being a trap game, because the Giants are simply that inept.

New Texans coach Bill O'Brien won't let it happen. And neither will J.J. Watt. The overmatched Giants offensive line doesn't stand a chance. Neither does Eli Manning.

Arian Foster, who's rejuvenated and leading the AFC in rushing through two weeks of action, will barrel over the Giants' run defense. Houston will showcase its maturity -- and overall legitimacy -- by taking care of business.

Everyone remembers the Seahawks bludgeoning the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. And conventional wisdom says the NFC is much tougher than the AFC.

If the Broncos, who looked shaky in a win over Kansas City last week, want to be thought of as a squad that can beat the NFC rep in the Super Bowl, now would be a good time to show their might.

Quite frankly, I don't even necessarily think Denver needs to win to prove a point, especially with the game taking place in Seattle. Peyton Manning and Co. just need to make sure this is actually a competitive contest.

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With Kirk Cousins replacing an injured Robert Griffin III as Washington's starting quarterback, the Eagles should be able to beat the Redskins and improve to 3-0.

Is it too much for me to ask that Philly play a complete game?

Jacksonville went up 17-0 on the Eagles before Philadelphia came back to win in Week 1. And while you credit the Eagles for another comeback win at Indy in Week 2, they got an assist from the refs. On the Andrew Luck pick deep in Philly territory with just over five minutes to go, Brandon Boykin mugged T.Y. Hilton. Somehow, no flag was thrown. Two plays later, on the ensuing Eagles drive, LaRon Landry was called for a horse-collar tackle. The call was horse-you know what.

I picked Philly to win the NFC East in the preseason, but Nick Foles has to protect the ball better and the Eagles need to start playing four quarters of football if they want to be taken seriously as a contender.

The correct words to describe Jay Cutler's play in Sunday night's comeback win at San Francisco: tough and clutch.

Take that, haters.

Cutler took vicious hits, stood in the pocket and engineered a 21-point fourth quarter to capture a major win.

Chicago has another prime-time road game this week: Monday Night Football against the Jets. Gang Green boasts a solid defense that's highlighted by a great D-line. I predicted 10 wins -- and a playoff berth -- for the Bears in the preseason. A win here would go a long way in making that forecast come true.

Having said that ...

Yes, this is a "prove it" game for both teams.

The Jets almost beat the Packers on Sunday, but New York was doomed when offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg's erroneous call for a timeout erased Geno Smith's would-be game-tying touchdown pass. Rex Ryan's poor control of his sideline -- and inclination to generally act like a defensive coordinator, not a head coach -- will ultimately doom him.

Despite the collapse, there were a lot of positives for the Jets, who jumped out to a stunning 21-3 lead in Green Bay. Geno Smith looks solid.

I'm not a believer in the Jets making the playoffs, but a home win over the Bears would be a huge step in the right direction.

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I wrote a column on Monday detailing the beauty of the Bills' 2-0 start. It's an inspired start, no doubt about it. But we will learn a lot about these Bills over this next four-week stretch:

This week's game is in Buffalo and the Bills are supremely confident. But San Diego, fresh off its win over Seattle, is the more talented team.

I think the Bills can win this one, with the Chargers coming east after riding very high last Sunday. And if Buffalo gets a win over a participant in last year's postseason, the Bills prove they are a major player for this postseason.

If the Packers are going to live up to my expectations and be a true Super Bowl contender, this is the type of game they have to win. Why? They are the superior team.

Both offenses will score. Green Bay's defense will never be confused with the '85 Bears, but it has to be opportunistic and make plays. Julius Peppers needs to be a factor against the Lions' attack.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy told me Thursday on SiriusXM about the challenge facing his team.

"We are talking about a very, very productive quarterback who has done it for years, putting up big numbers," McCarthy said, referring to Matthew Stafford. "Their perimeter is extremely talented. The offensive line has three veterans inside who make that thing go. It's an explosive offense with big-play production with some of the best we've seen in the last couple of years."

Green Bay has to show it is up to the challenge.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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