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Games to Watch – Week 3

Hello fellow Sharks! From now right up through Week 17, we’ll be giving our insight as to which games are the ‘games to watch’ each week. This is a heavy burden, as we know a lot of you have Sunday Ticket, too much free time and an addiction to premium brews like Natty Lite or Yuengling. A lot of you know us from our weekly podcast on this site (the Fantasy PRE-Wind podcast), and our “Side Lines” sport-toon (every Monday, Wednesday and Friday), or maybe one of our posts in the Tank. We’re just like you, though – we love a good football game, no matter who’s playing.

All times Eastern:

Week 3 is upon us, and with several teams at the top of people’s list as Super Bowl contenders starting 0-2, and teams like Kansas City and Tampa Bay starting out 2-0, the entire NFL seems to be spinning out of control – sort of like Lindsay Lohan’s Maserati after an all-night bender. But don’t worry, we’ll help you navigate the busy NFL highway, avoid the accidents waiting to happen and steer you right toward the three best Games to Watch this weekend.
(Apologies to New York Jets and Miami Dolphins fans, your AFC
East showdown would have made our list on any other week.)

@ New Orleans
– Sunday 9/26, 1 p.m.,

If you are reading this and work in an office, congrats – it’s Friday and you’re almost paroled for the weekend. You might even have some kind of routine on Fridays like here at the home office in Quincy, Mass; every Friday, we get to order lunch out on Tony Holm’s dime. It’s a great bonus for all of the staff writers, as Tony shares his generosity with the guys who try to keep you sharks entertained every week (even Vinnie – who on a typical Friday has gambled everything on his five-star plays and can barely afford a Cup O’ Noodles). You would think that everyone would be happy, right? Well, life is rarely that simple. You see, Tony pays for the food, heck – he’s even willing to call in the order, but he’s way to busy to go and get it. So he asks someone on the staff to volunteer for the trip. Suddenly, the office is a blur of activity (mainly people pretending to be hard at work, so they don’t have to go). Because he’s a nice guy, and because the girl at the sandwich shop is pretty cute, Chris typically steps up to the plate and volunteers to get the order. He puts down the back seat in the Jeep, and proceeds to pick up the $250 order (and, yes, there are more size 40 waists at this office than a typical one). It is gestures like this, gestures of faith when no one else seems to step up, that makes us dedicate our first game in the Game of the Week column to Atlanta. Atlanta steps up and challenges their division’s top dog, when the Falcons head to the Superdome to take on the Saints.

This is not to take anything away from the surprising Tampa Bay Buccaneers this year – but honestly, if anyone is going to challenge the Saints in the NFC South, it is the Falcons.
Matt Ryan (477 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT) and the “Dirty Birds” are coming off a great thumping of Arizona and with depth in the backfield with
Jason Snelling (133 yards, 2 TD) behind starter
Michael Turner (117 yards), the Falcon offense is once again turning fantasy heads. With
Roddy White (20 receptions, 189 yards, 1 TD) also in the fold, no defense can take it easy on the team from ‘Hot-lanta.’ Defensively, they’ve given up the fourth-fewest points in the league, and already have four interceptions in two games, with the likes of
Sean Weatherspoon (17 tackles, 1 sack) leading the charge, the Falcons might truly be “flying under the radar” as one of the best teams in the NFL.

From the city that apparently embraces bad grammar (Who ‘Dat?), comes a team that puts up points and has fought through tough games to earn every accolade they have gotten. The New Orleans Saints are the team that you cannot help but love with an undersized quarterback in
Drew Brees (491 yards, 3 TD) and a barely drafted receiver in
Marques Colston (10 receptions, 129 yards). They somehow seem to defy logic and keep doing what they do best, which is win. They fight through distractions like the Reggie Bush saga, and find a resurgent running game in
Pierre Thomas (117 yards, 1 TD – who incidentally leads the team in receptions with 11) behind one of the best offensive lines in the game. And when you bring up defense in the Big Easy, you cannot neglect to mention that the team gives up just over 15 points a game, led by fan favorite
Jonathan Vilma (14 tackles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 INT).

It’s only September, but someone has to challenge the Saints dominance in the NFC South, right? And coming off a short week headed back from California, New Orleans has their work cut out for them. While Atlanta, buoyed by a dominating win last week, might find the Saints ready to be picked. And while we could go on extolling the virtues of these two teams all day, those sandwiches aren’t going to pick themselves up – so while we head to pick up Tony’s order (including his 37 coupons – we said he was generous, but he’s still frugal), you’ll just have to wait for Sunday at 1 p.m. to see things get tough in the Big Easy.

@ Houston
– Sunday 9/26, 1 p.m.,

Every Sunday morning as kids, we would turn the knob on the TV (yes – they had knobs back then kids) past the news shows and televised church services for shut-ins and tune into PBS (we didn’t have cable then either – gasp!) to watch the Lone Ranger followed by a couple westerns. No matter what the issue was, the story always went the same way. One person or group would stake their claim, another person or group would call them “low down dirty snake” or something equally as offensive, and the matter would be settled by an ol’ fashioned shootout. Well, welcome to the Wild West gunfight, NFL style, as two gangs from Texas stake their claim as Texas’ top team, resulting in an epic shootout in the “Battle of the Houston Corral.”

The Dallas Cowboys ride into Houston with a reputation as one of the NFL’s fastest guns … err … offenses, but have run into some hard luck lately as they recently got rustled out of two wins by NFC opponents.
Tony Romo (656 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT) has been throwing tons of passes and putting up big yardage totals, but has only found the endzone twice in two games.
Miles Austin (20 receptions, 288 yards, 1 TD) is the focal point of this offense right now, as the Cowboys have been too busy throwing to worry about running the ball much.
Marion Barber (70 yards) and
Felix Jones (45 yards) are splitting the few carries that do go around.
Jason Witten (8 receptions, 78 yards) simply isn’t putting up top tight end numbers anymore, but rookie
Dez Bryant (10 receptions, 108 yards) is finally a suitable No. 2 wide receiver for the Cowboys. As for the Dallas defense, linebackers
Keith Brooking (12 tackles) and
DeMarcus Ware (9 tackles, 1 sack) are the biggest names on an average defense.

The Houston Texans have been trying to move their team to the next level for several years, but have always fallen short of the Indianapolis Colts. But they had the faster draw against Indianapolis in Week 1, and a tough comeback against Washington in week two have the Texans atop the AFC right now. Everyone expected gunslinger
Matt Schaub (604 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT) to be a big part of the Texans rise, but
Arian Foster (300 yards, 3 TD) has been the magic bullet for this team. He’s making people forget all about
Ben Tate’s season-ending injury, and the balance he’s added to this team is the difference between a good offense and a great one.
Andre Johnson (15 receptions, 191 yards, 1 TD) is still one of the NFL’s top wideouts, and the combination of
Kevin Walter (13 receptions, 173 yards, 2 TD) and
Jacoby Jones (8 receptions, 82 yards, 1 TD) make for murderer’s row of receivers the opposition must try and stop. The Houston defense is impressive in its own right, with defensive end
Mario Williams (8 tackles, 4 sacks) leading the team in sacks and seven different players intercepting at least one pass for an impressive total of nine over their first two games – and against two of the least intercepted quarterbacks in the league, in case you didn’t notice.

So this Sunday, we get to see a desperate Dallas team who will be playing for not only their first win, but their pride as well. The Texans are trying to start 3-0 and really send a message to the NFL that the new gunslinger in town just might have the fastest draw this year. When the dust finally settles, and the townsfolk have all gathered for a beer or a sarsaparilla, we’ll know whether the Texans are as good as they seem, and if the Cowboys need to be fitted for a pine box. Don’t forget that bragging rights for Texas hang in the balance. They say everything is bigger in Texas, and we’re expecting the same to be true about this matchup.

Green Bay
@ Chicago
– Monday 9/27, 8:30pm

Listen, we’re not even going to give you the upsell on this one – no back story is necessary, no smart analogies about this game being like a MMA title fight, no cute story somehow related to food and football – just four quick questions that we all want the answers to making this a ‘Game to Watch.’

1) Is Aaron Rogers really the best in the business right now?

2) Will Jay Cutler continue to find opportunities in the “Mike Martz School for quarterbacks”?

3) Which one of these teams wants to be the clear cut leader in the NFC North?

4) Does 180 meetings between two teams mean rivalry or super-rivalry?

The Packers seem like a Jersey Shore cast member in a bar; they seem to be able to score at will.
Aaron Rogers (443 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT) operates an offense that can find
Jermichael Finley (8 receptions, 150 yards,
Greg Jennings (8 receptions, 118 yards, 1 TD), or even the aging
Donald Driver (9 receptions, 68 yards, 2 TD), whenever he needs to. The team simply moves the ball easily. Although now without the services of
Ryan Grant who went down for the season in the season opener,
Brandon Jackson (92 yards, 1 TD) is the main ground option, and is making a name for himself in fantasy lineups everywhere. Defensively,
Clay Matthews (12 tackles, 6 sacks) might be the hottest linebacker in the game right now, and leads a defense that has given up the third-fewest total yards in the entire NFL. Certainly, many have picked this team to go the distance this season, and they are off to a very convincing start.

Jay Cutler (649 yards, 5 TD, 1 INT) isn’t running for his life behind a suspect offensive line, he sure as heck has found enough guys for touchdowns. Under the tutelage of Mike Martz, Cutler has found
Matt Forte (79 rush yards; 188 receiving yards, 3 TD), and
Johnny Knox (7 receptions, 138 yards) in the latest version of the “Greatest Show on
Turf Sod Grass” (eh … does it have a name yet?). In short, the offense might not be doing it as pretty as their division brethren the Packers do, but are getting the job done. Defensively, the team ranks first (yes first) in rushing yards allowed, and at a mere 17 points a game,
Brian Urlacher (16 tackles, 1 sack) and company are holding the line from any team being able to run the ball at them.

Forget the lists, forget the stats. This is a big-time rivalry between two good teams – teams that are not only atop the NFC standing right now, but could meet again come playoff time. So sit back, grab yourself a slice of deep-dish pizza, and kick up your Air Jordans – it doesn’t get much better than undefeated rivals meeting on Monday night.

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