NFL Week 3 Man on Man Matchups

By Joe Valenzuela


Here are my key matchups for the NFL’s week 3 slate of games. This week is a key pivot point for a whole bunch of teams who are searching for their first win of the year and trying desperately to avoid that dreaded 0-3 start. On that note…

Game 1 - Chargers @ Vikings

Let's not start 0-3

The battle of the percentages! All diehard NFL fans know that starting 0-3 is a death wish if you aspire to make the postseason. Since 1990 only 2.5% of teams that started 0-3 made the playoffs, most recently the 2018 Texans. Both the Vikings and Chargers had high hopes this season after playoff appearances last year, but quickly found themselves behind the eight ball. With the season in balance, both teams are desperate for a victory.

Image Credit: NBC Sports

There will be star power all over this field, but the matchup that I believe is the key to this game is Joshua Kelley vs. the Vikings’ run defense. We all know that Herbert is once again thriving statistically but without touchdown machine Austin Ekeler for the second straight week, LA will look to Joshua Kelley to provide a spark on the ground, something he failed to do last week in Nashville.

While Kelley isn’t the most well-known backup, putting up 13 carries for 39 yards isn’t going to cut it. He should have better success against the Vikings who are currently ranked last in run defense already allowing over 300 yards in two weeks including 170 last week to Deandre Swift. I don’t think it will be glamorous, but I see the Chargers leaving with a win and Kelley having a much better game along with a score.

Do either of these teams make the playoffs after 0-3 starts?

Game 2 - Titans @ Browns

Deshaun Watson vs. Karma

Apparently making a deal with the deal isn’t sure a sure thing anymore, just ask Jimmy Haslam. Two years ago Cleveland moved on from Baker Mayfield and sold their soul to the tune of $230 million for former Texans Quarterback, Deshaun Watson.

Arguably one of the best players in the league at the time Cleveland felt that they were an elite QB away from a Super Bowl run, given how much talent the rest of the roster had. After serving a lengthy suspension everyone suspected some from rust from Watson, but nothing to this degree.

Image Credit: AP News

Watson was subpar in the six games he got to play last season finishing with a 3-3 record, eight TDs (one rushing), and five interceptions. Certainly not an elite quarterback, but fans gave him the benefit of the doubt seeing that he hadn’t played for a year and a half.

The consensus was that this season would look much different as he was allowed to participate all off-season and had that much more time to learn the playbook. That has not been the case, and with each passing week, it appears that the Texans’ version of Watson may never return.

In week one Watson didn’t play great but he certainly didn’t play awful. Watson had a modest 200 yards total along with 2 touchdowns and most importantly a win. The game was a division rivalry, and in the rain, so the majority of fans were pleased just to start the season off with a dub.

Last week was essential the straw that broke the camel’s back. Monday Night Football, the Steelers who always play big brother to Cleveland and had a chance to hold onto a share of the division lead. Things started off on the wrong foot as Watson’s first pass went through Harrison Bryant’s hands and Alex Highsmith proceeded to return the interception for a pick 6. As we all saw the Browns’ best players went on to suffer a potentially season-ending knee injury in the second quarter, which was followed by another defensive score by TJ Watt and a 26-22 loss in primetime.

All blame has rightfully been on Watson. The defense and run again have been elite and the only glaring weakness has been QB play. The Chubb injury might be a blessing in disguise as the staff might tailor the offense even more to Watson’s strengths, as opposed to a run-heavy offense with Chubb. It’s not quite a full-on panic, but we are only a few bad games away from the fans calling for Watsons’ head.

At this point, it is fair to say Karma 1 – Deshaun Watson 0

Under the Radar matchup of the week

Zach Wilson's head vs. Zach Wilson’s arm

I can’t believe I’m saying this but last week Zach Wilson didn’t completely embarrass himself last Sunday in Dallas.

Many were expecting, and rightfully so, a truly awful performance from Wilson, but to everyone’s surprise he at times showed glimpses of hope. 12-27 for 170 yards and a touchdown as opposed to 3 interceptions aren’t exactly Marino numbers, but there are plays that you can look at and build upon if you’re the Jets coaching staff. Most notably a 68-yard strike to Garrett Wilson down the middle which resulted in a score.

Wilson was in rhythm, stepped up, and put it in the perfect spot that allowed Wilson to continue stride and outrun the Cowboys’ defense. Wilson is probably never going to be worth the 2nd pick in the draft, but this Jets roster is going to allow the team to stay in games as long as Wilson can trend toward average QB.

With all the arm talent in the world, the Jets need to simply his reads and have a lot of backs and tight ends chip to give Wilson time to make the right throw. While I want to believe in Wilson I just can’t let myself believe the ‘Ole Bill and the Patriots are going to fall to 0-3. My prediction is another sloppy Sunday for the Jets and 17 points coming from the offense.

Feature Image Credit: AP News

Joe Valenzuela

NFL Analyst