The 2021 NFL season has been an exciting one, as underdogs have looked everything but through two weeks. Lamar Jackson got his first win over the Kansas City Chiefs despite not having a healthy team, and Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders have pulled off two straight upsets to start the year.
Week 3 of the regular season figures to be the same as the first two, where it's completely unpredictable. Especially now that we have several starting quarterbacks who are banged up. Could Justin Fields win his first NFL start? Could Matthew Stafford beat Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in L.A.? Let's take out our flamethrower and deliver five hot takes or bold predictions for Week 3 of the NFL season.
Christian McCaffrey scores three TDs on 'TNF'
The Carolina Panthers currently have the No. 1 defense in the league, and they now face off against a rookie quarterback on a short week. It looks like Sam Darnold and Co. have a great chance at moving to 3-0. Christian McCaffrey is back from injury and he's starting to look like his old self. Through two games, he has racked up 324 yards from scrimmage on 59 touches and scored one touchdown. I say he really breaks out in Week 3, with three total touchdowns.
The Houston Texans allowed three touchdowns on the ground last week against the Cleveland Browns, and another to a running back through the air. We saw the Green Bay Packers center their game plan around running back Aaron Jones on "Monday Night Football," as he scored four total touchdowns -- with three coming in the passing game. McCaffrey is an even better receiving back.
The All-Pro weapon has scored three touchdowns in a single game three times in his career. Our bold prediction is that he makes it four on Thursday.
Justin Fields starts, leads Bears to win over Browns
One half of our double bold prediction has already come true, as Fields will start for Andy Dalton in Week 3. The rookie was OK at best in relief of Dalton during the Bears' 20-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. He completed 6 of 13 passes for 60 yards and threw an interception, but also rushed for 31 yards on 10 carries. He was responsible for just three points, as the defense carried Chicago to victory by forcing a fumble and then recording three interceptions on four consecutive drives in the second half. Fields did have some nice passes, but his wideouts dropped a couple balls as well. Plus, the Ohio State product rushed for a first down on third-and-9 to help extend the Bears' last drive of the game and run out the clock.
Rookie quarterbacks historically don't fare well in their first starts, but this Bears defense is great and Fields is a dynamic dual-threat weapon that wants to make the big play down the field. The Browns allowed the Texans to hang around last week, and could do the same in Week 3.
Falcons-Giants goes to overtime
Two 0-2 teams face off this Sunday, with the Atlanta Falcons going to New York to take on the Giants. The Falcons are coming off of a tough loss to the Buccaneers. While the final score was 48-25, Atlanta actually entered the fourth quarter down just three points. Two pick-sixes by Mike Edwards in the final stanza wrapped this one up, however. The Giants are considered the better team in this matchup, but this squad is one that can't get out of their own way.
In their 30-29 loss to Washington on Thursday night, Darius Slayton dropped a touchdown that would have extended New York's lead to double digits in the fourth quarter. Then, the Giants played for a field goal in the red zone instead of a touchdown late in the game, and finally, Dexter Lawrence jumped offsides on the last play of the game, which gave Dustin Hopkins another chance to hit the game-winning field goal. Saying the Giants shot themselves in the foot is an understatement. That's a loss that could be hard to come back from.
On the other side, I think Matt Ryan is mad. The first two weeks of the regular season have been terrible for this Falcons offense, and while it looked like Ryan was orchestrating a comeback in the third quarter last Sunday, it blew up in his face. Our SportsLine simulations predict this game is going to be very close. I'm going to go out on a limb and say it goes to overtime.
Brady's four TDs down Rams in L.A.
The Buccaneers were two-point underdogs to the Rams earlier this week, according to Caesars Sportsbook. Now, they are one-point favorites. I know Falcons-Buccaneers last week wasn't necessarily appointment viewing, but Brady was again fantastic and passed for five touchdowns and zero interceptions. He now leads the NFL in passing touchdowns with nine through two games.
Buccaneers-Rams this Sunday will be the game of the week, as these are two NFC contenders that want to be playing in SoFi Stadium against an AFC opponent come February. This could be a preview of the NFC Championship game, which of course means Brady is probably going to ball out. We got a preview of the eventual NFC Championship game last year in October, when the Bucs hosted the Packers. Brady and the offense went on a 38-0 run after going down 10 in the first quarter on the way to a blowout win. I say Brady tosses four touchdowns as the Buccaneers emerge victorious.
If you think Brady throwing for four touchdowns doesn't qualify as a "bold prediction," I will point out that the Rams defense is one of the best in the league and has allowed just one touchdown through the air in two games.
Quez Watkins explodes on 'MNF'
Many were excited to watch the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2 after they looked pretty explosive against the Falcons, but their offense scored just 11 points against the San Francisco 49ers. Apart from a few Jalen Hurts scrambles, Philly's only explosive play came via Quez Watkins, who had a 91-yard catch.
According to Next Gen Stats, Watkins reached a top speed of 21.62 miles per hour on this play, which is the fastest speed reached by a ball-carrier this season. He also has the sixth-highest receiving PFF grade (82.3) of any wide receiver, and his 79.1 overall PFF grade ranks No. 13 among wideouts in the league. Watkins finished with 117 yards receiving on just two catches last week, and could have a big day against the Dallas Cowboys' pass defense.
The Cowboys have the second-worst pass defense in the league through two games, as they have allowed an average of 346 air yards per game. Watkins is a weapon who specializes in getting behind the defense, and should be able to do just that a couple of times on Monday night. Those who watched the Eagles' first preseason game took notice of Watkins, as he caught a 79-yard touchdown and would have had a 98-yard score if Hurts had thrown an accurate pass downfield. He's due to have an eye-popping game on a national stage. Let's say 150 yards receiving.
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