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NFL Week 3 game picks: Giants finally win; Bills jump to 3-0

After the news this week, who couldn't use some games?

Ah, games.

Sure is nice to talk football. When the toughest thing to discuss is who's going to win, well ... that's what I'm talking about. And on that note, there are a couple of matchups that are difficult to read this week.

I understand where Zac's coming from on this. What a close one. You'll see where I fell on Ravens-Browns below, but rest assured, there was some waffling. Ditto Chargers-Bills, a rematch of the 1964 and 1965 AFL title games -- and a fine uni showdown, as well. Speaking of rematches, the Vikings and Saints lock up in a replay of the 2009 NFC Championship Game. Of course, unlike the squads that squared off back then, Minnesota and New Orleans today are a combined 1-3, with Matt Cassel doing a whole lot of Brett Favre-style gunslinging for the Vikings, only without all the touchdowns and with a healthy dose of interceptions. Will the Saints' "defense" show up?

You'll find that and all other answers below. If you have a better take, send it along ... @HarrisonNFL is the place. And don't forget to check out the latest edition of the Dave Dameshek Football Program, in which Dave, Handsome Hank and myself discuss our Week 3 predictions.

Elliot Harrison went 10-6 on his predictions for Week 2, giving him a record of 19-13 so far this season. How will he fare in Week 3? His picks are below:

Key matchup: Philip Rivers' pass protection vs. the Bills' pass rush

Have you ever stood amidst a horde of 80,000 barbecue-bellied Buffalonians (full of some tasty beverages, too) screaming their heads off? That's what Philip Rivers will be doing as he tries to run the Chargers' offense. Imagine attempting to audible at the line through the howls of a Bills Mafia with three-dash-oh in its sights. If Buffalo is indeed to stay undefeated, the team must take some shots down the field. Promise was present last week via a couple of EJ Manuel- Sammy Watkins intermediate hookups. Keep in mind, though, that this San Diego defense is no pushover -- the unit did, after all, give Russell Wilson all he could handle in Week 2. #SDvsBUF

Key matchup: The Titans' defensive line vs. Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill

Tennessee was flat-out defeated at the point of attack by the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday. Whether Jake Locker plays like Jake Plummer or Jake from State Farm in Cincinnati, he'll be answering reporters' questions with a somber look on his face if the Titans' defensive line can't get any kind of push in the running lanes. As for the Bengals backs the unit will be facing, Bernard and Hill are coming off an outstanding performance against Atlanta. Hill appears to be every bit as effective -- if not more so -- as Bernard running the football, despite the fact that he's not considered the lead back. Of course, with A.J. Green ailing, Cincy's offensive line will probably have a numbers disadvantage when it comes to run blocking. Those Tennessee safeties will be playing the run plenty. The question is, can they? #TENvsCIN

Key matchup: Joe Flacco vs. Brian Hoyer

Yeah, I get it; Flacco and Hoyer don't actually play directly against one another ... although I would take Flacco in a game of "Clue". You wouldn't know if he'd already figured out it was Col. Mustard in the ballroom with the candlestick or if he had no idea which cards anyone had -- at least not by looking at his face. The Ravens' signal-caller shows nothing; he keeps his cool and makes his throws. Right now, he has better options than Hoyer does, and a defense that is at least as good as the Browns' unit.

That said, Flacco is still trying to figure out his weapons in Steve Smith Sr., Owen Daniels and Justin Forsett, and Hoyer still seems to be playing for his job. If special teams don't decide this one, turnovers likely will -- whoever makes the fewest mistakes in Cleveland will probably win. The Browns will have a harder time running the ball against the Ravens than they did against the Steelers or Saints. #BALvsCLE

Key matchup: Aaron Rodgers vs. the Lions' defense

Simply put, Rodgers has pretty much owned the Lions in Detroit. In five career starts there, he's tossed 10 touchdown passes against just two interceptions while posting a passer rating well north of 100. He lost just one of those starts -- a 2010 game in which he sustained a concussion, leading to Matt Flynn seeing extended action for the first time.

There are two main questions here. First, can the Lions get the kind of pressure on Rodgers that the Seahawks did in Week 1 (three sacks) and the Jets did in Week 2 (four sacks)? Second, how will Detroit's secondary hold up? The unit has faced a struggling Eli Manning, whose Giants offense was still in progress, and a still-limited Cam Newton, whose Panthers' passing attack needed to generate little -- a far cry from Rodgers. #GBvsDET

Key matchup: The Colts' front seven vs. Toby Gerhart and the Jags' offensive line

Perhaps a more appropriate matchup would be "the Colts' team bus vs. the traffic in Jacksonville." How much of a fight this AFC South matchup ends up being depends a great deal on whether the Jaguars' embattled offensive line can compete from stem to stern. Not sure if you've been following Jags "action" lately, but in Washington last week, Gus Bradley's front five allowed quarterback Chad Henne to get sacked 10 times, while Gerhart averaged just a few blades of grass over 1 yard per carry. Yes, after starting the season with two on the road, Jacksonville finally gets to play at home -- but if the O-line can't block anyone, it's not going to matter.

As for the Colts, Andrew Luck must have been disappointed with his late interception and failed third-down conversion in Monday's loss to the Eagles. Even Trent Richardson's fumbling issues won't stop Indy from topping 20 points -- or perhaps 30 -- in this bounceback game. #INDvsJAX

Key matchup: The Patriots' pass rush vs. Derek Carr

Every Wednesday, I go on "NFL Fantasy Live" and "NFL AM" and do my best to tell people who to play on their fantasy football teams. And every week, I get asked whether it's better to start Shane Vereen or Stevan Ridley. Here's the thing: I don't believe the Patriots' own coaches -- Bill Belichick included -- know until each game begins which back is going to get the bulk of the work. I don't think even Ridley knows if he'll be getting 25 carries or standing on the sideline in street clothes for two hours and 25 minutes. So ... onward and upward.

This one comes down to New England's ability to get its hurry on against rookie Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. The host Pats will want to make him uncomfortable and perhaps force a couple of interceptions, the way Houston did last week. Carr can move around, but if he's pressured, mistakes can (and will) be made. Oh, and Run DMC has to pick up more than 3.1 yards per carry. #btwStartVereen #OAKvsNE

Key matchup: The Vikings' ground game vs. the Saints' run defense

 With Adrian Peterson out of the game plan indefinitely, the 
 Vikings will turn to his backup. 
 Matt Asiata has a cool name, and he wears Chuck Foreman's number. Heck, he wears Leroy Hoard's number. (Remember him?) But he's also averaged 3.6 yards per carry for his career. Even with the 
 Saints struggling as much as they have against the run this year (122.5 rushing yards per game and 4.45 yards per rush), Asiata is not scaring anyone. We fully anticipate 
 Drew Brees and Co. taking advantage of the Vikes' back four in New Orleans. 

Key matchup: The Texans' front seven vs. Eli Manning and the Giants' O-line

If they can't run-block or protect Eli, the Giants could fall into the slot of 2014's worst team -- and in front of the home crowd, no less. New York has averaged 2.7 yards per carry thus far, while Manning has been sacked four times ... and that's not counting all of the hurries and pressures and general sleepwalking we saw Week 1 in Detroit. Meanwhile, Houston's defense is rocking like the Scorpions in Budapest. The unit has allowed 20 points in two games, plus a measly 23.8 percent conversion rate on third down. One thing that has worked in the Texans' favor: After opening the season against a struggling Robert Griffin III, they got a rookie in Derek Carr and now face Manning. Still, the flat stomach says the Giants won't lose two in a row at MetLife. #HOUvsNYG

Key matchup: Kirk Cousins vs. the Eagles' secondary

Will Cousins ball out for Washington in Robert Griffin III's stead like he did against Jacksonville last week (22 of 33 for 250 yards and two touchdowns)? That's the question -- of course, it should be noted that the Eagles' defense is a bit better than the Jags' unit. I'm speaking of Bradley Fletcher, Cary Williams, Malcolm Jenkins and Nate Allen. Really, this will be on Fletcher and Williams, who are off to so-so starts thus far, particularly Williams; he's allowed opposing quarterbacks to compile a passer rating of 118-plus against him. Granted, we're dealing with a super-small sample size, but these guys need to hold the fort. If they do, Philly should be fine at home.

Oh, and in case nobody has noticed, Washington's best chance to win comes at the hands -- or feet, to be precise -- of Alfred Morris, who's racked up 176 yards at a clip of 4.9 per carry on this young season. Give him the rock. #WASvsPHI

Key matchup: The Cowboys' running game vs. the Rams' front seven

"How sticky is this duct tape that the Cowboys are kept together with?"

-- A disgruntled Ft. Worth-area TCU grad in the NFL NOW newsroom

Good question. More importantly, has anyone on the Rams ever successfully tackled DeMarco Murray? The first game of Murray's career in which he had significant carries was against St. Louis in 2011 -- and he put up 253 yards. Facing the team again last year, Murray compiled 96 rushing yards in the first half alone, and wound up finishing with 175. That's two games and 428 yards. Will the Rams get even half that kind of ground production from Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham? Because if they don't, and Dallas' defense is close to being as improved as it seemed to be last week, the Rams will lose another home game. #DALvsSTL

Key matchup: The 49ers' receivers vs. the Cardinals' secondary

Yeah, we're aware of the four turnovers Colin Kaepernick posted in the Niners' loss to the Bears last Sunday. He has to protect the ball. Next question.

Well, I guess you didn't actually ask, but here's the answer: San Francisco's receivers have to make plays for Kaepernick in the same way that Chicago's Brandon Marshall did for Jay Cutler that night. Michael Crabtree can't be getting creative on his routes and hanging his quarterback out to dry. Anquan Boldin has to be ready to compensate for Vernon Davis, who will likely be out or severely limited. Too many times on Sunday, Kaepernick was pulling the ball down because guys couldn't get open.

Of course, if Drew Stanton ends up starting for the Cardinals in the desert, it will be similarly incumbent upon Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald to make life easier for their signal-caller. Ultimately, though, methinks Arizona's hopes rest on running back Andre Ellington having a sizeable day. #SFvsAZ

Key matchup: The Chiefs' 10 offensive starters not named Alex Smith vs. the Dolphins' defense

Sometimes, when I play "Star Wars: Battlefront" on my Playstation, I will try to lead the Empire in a battle on Hoth or Yavin. Inevitably, one of my fellow stormtroopers will throw a thermal detonator that hits a tree five feet in front of us, caroms back and blows us 90 feet in the air. I've pondered if this is how Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith feels. Yes, Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce made some nice catches in Denver last week, but the wideouts simply have to produce. And with Jamaal Charles banged up, Knile Davis must be more than the "next man up." Don't even get us started on the offensive line (OK, OK; it was improved against the Broncos).

As for Miami, the beleaguered host team must regroup from Week 2's loss, or the phrase "the same old Dolphins" will be heard more often on Sundays than the soundtrack to a Cialis commercial -- and that's saying something. Ryan Tannehill must make plays down the field. On passes that travel more than 15 yards in the air, he is 1-of-11 for no touchdowns and a pick. That's a 1.7 passer rating, for those of you scoring the Marlins game. #KCvsMIA

Key matchup: Peyton Manning vs. CenturyLink Field

 *You* try running an NFL offense, barking signals at your right tackle eight feet away when you can't even hear somebody screaming directly in your ear. In Seattle, it will be imperative that a) the 
 Broncos run a silent count and utilize mostly hand signals, and b) Manning is cautious about changing the play or even his cadence. Imagine if this game starts out like 
 Super Bowl XLVIII, when Denver's center 
 snapped the ball clear to Hoboken. 

Of course, the defending champs will be fired up to play better than they did in last week's loss to the Chargers; the best term for the Seahawks' performance in that one is, uh, "sloppy." Here's guessing Marshawn Lynch quintuples the six carries he had in that defeat, or gets damn close to it. If the Seattle linebackers who were caught in limbo last Sunday thought stopping the Bolts' No. 85 was tough going, wait until they see No. 80 in Denver duds. #DENvsSEA

Key matchup: Le'Veon Bell vs. the Panthers' run defense

 *Nobody* is running on Carolina, which has faced just 35 rushing attempts through two games. Excepting one fluky 
 54-yard gallop by Bucs fullback 
 Jorvorskie Lane 
 in Week 1, the 
 Panthers have allowed just 118 yards on 34 carries this season. The 
 Steelers, meanwhile, can't continue relying on 
 Ben Roethlisberger to streetball them to victory. Pittsburgh has thrown the football 72 times and run it just 47 thus far; that won't cut it on the road against the pressure the Carolina defensive line will bring. 

Key matchup: The Bears' wideouts vs. the Jets' secondary

How healthy are Bears receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery? If they're close to 100 percent, this is a bad matchup for the Jets. Sure, Chicago's defense has had its struggles, and corner Charles Tillman is now on injured reserve. One thing that unit did well in San Francisco last Sunday was create turnovers -- this is particularly true of rookie Kyle Fuller, who picked off two passes.

At any rate, while the general feeling might still be that the Bears' secondary is a weakness, New York quarterback Geno Smith has not shown a propensity for burning opponents all Tecmo style. And even if he does that on Monday, Michael Vick will call a timeout from the sidelines. Kidding, kidding. We saw what Aaron Rodgers did to Rex Ryan's secondary in Green Bay. Hopefully, that group did the appropriate work in the film room to prevent another second-half (or even first-half) meltdown. #CHIvsNYJ


Key matchup: Josh McCown vs. the Falcons' pass defense

McCown has to start making some plays for the Buccaneers. Remember all those Negative Nancys in the spring who obnoxiously tried to remind everyone that the only reason the quarterback succeeded so swimmingly in Chicago last year was because of the presence of Marc Trestman and the Bears' huge wide receivers? Those jerks.

Actually, if McCown is to prove his naysayers wrong, Thursday in Atlanta is the time. The Falcons' secondary can be had, considering what little pass rush the team can provide, and play-action off the run should be there. On the other side, expecting 340 passing yards and three touchdowns from Matt Ryan. #TBvsATL

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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