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Week 3 NFL Games Should Teach Us Plenty About State of Affairs in both Conferences

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Each and every week is entertaining in the National Football League. That's just the way it goes, even when the slate of games some weeks are less exciting than others. I might qualify last week as one of those 'less interesting' weeks. There were thrilling games, don't get me wrong. And there were more impressive individual performances to marvel at. Nevertheless, compared to what's on tap for Week 3, there's a distinct possibility that this weekend proves to be vastly more interesting, informative and entertaining for fans.

I'll share my Week 3 picks soon enough. They're going up on SB Nation Pittsburgh soon like they do each week. But for now, here's an overview of al the games that I would put into one of two categories -- the first being games with high national interest and/or sub-plots galore worth keeping an eye on; the second being slightly less impactful and intriguing on a national scene, but still worth a mention for this or that reason. Let's take a look.

New England (2-0) at Buffalo (2-0)

  • How good are the Patriots? How for real are the Bills? I'm inclined to believe we'll receive unfortunate news Sunday afternoon in the form of New England thumping Buffalo. But who knows? New England's defense really wasn't all that great last week; the Chargers offense was moving the ball at will, but ultimately left points on the table with a few untimely mistakes. 

Houston (2-0) at New Orleans (1-1)

  • I am aware that most of Steeler Nation will choose to watch the upstart Bills take on the Patriots in the early-games while we wait for the Steelers to play on Sunday Night Football. But it's this game that we should probably keep a closer eye on. The Texans are Pittsburgh's Week 4 opponent after all. And following games against uninspiring opponents in Weeks 2 and 3, it will be exciting to again face a quality opponent in Week 4. I think Houston is a smidge overvalued at this stage in the game. I believe they are now -800 favorites to win the AFC South. For those of you who don't know that that means, let's just say that they're essentially considered as likely to win the division as a No. 1 is to win its first round game over a No. 16 seed in March Madness. They are the favorites, but don't forget about the Tennessee Titans. Great value to take them before this weekend when the Texans lose and the Titans most likely win. Should be a good game down in the Super Dome. The Saints have to protect Drew Brees well to win.

New York Giants (1-1) at Philadelphia (1-1)

  • I personally don't care two licks about this one, but no denying that it's a great rivalry game that millions of fans will be fired up for. Lots at stake here for both teams. The Giants already have a division loss on their record (Wk 1 vs. WAS); the Eagles are coming off a conference loss to the Falcons. Not sure who I like here, but I would probably lean towards New York were they not coming off a Monday Night Football game in Week 2. As is, I just don't know. And like I said, I won't even be watching carefully to find out. It's a great Week 3 matchup for plenty of fans though. 

Green Bay (2-0 at Chicago (1-1)

  • Couldn't care less, and perfectly happy admitting that I won't watch a minute of this one, unless it's a late-game-look-in to see if Chicago can knock off the defending champion Packers. Great rivalry; hopefully fans who care are treated to a good one. I think they wiill be.

Washington (2-0) at Dallas (1-1)

  • This game really belongs in Tier 2, but I suppose both teams should be 2-0, and though it's a joke, we'll acknowledge the fact that Dallas has cachet on a national and international scale like no other team. Hopefully Tony Romo is healthy enough to play so one of the two team's fanbases can get way ahead of itself when their team wins. All joking aside, both teams are actually built in a way that should allow them to flirt with 9 or 10 wins in this year's NFC, which I believe is deep, but neither  excessively top-heavy NFC nor devoid of awful teams that should allow for an handful of easy wins for the middle-of-the-road teams like the 'Skins. Dallas has more upside of course, but unless Tony Romo is healthy and playing at the very top of his game, they too won't amount too much other than yet another NFC team that's in contention for a playoff berth but no real threat to challenge the top dogs in the conference come playoff time.
TIER 2 Games (interesting story-lines, even if not games of huge significance or national interest)

New York Jets (2-0) at Oakland (1-1

  • This could be a snoozer in the Jets' favor, but it could also be a very intriguing game that illuminates a number of realities about both teams. How good is the Jets' defense? The Steelers did after all take it to Rex Ryan's squad with the running game in last year's AFC Championship Game. As for Oakland, can they put the devastating Week 2 road loss to Buffalo behind them? I'm not sure they will be able to -- giving up 35 second half points to blow an easy win could be hard to overcome mentally. Will enough fans finally shell out the dough to attend the game in Oakland so the game is not blacked out in that market yet again? The Raiders would certainly benefit from a legit home-field crowd this week. If the Jets handle the Raiders easily, I'd caution anybody from overlooking them as anything but serious contenders in the AFC this year. If the Raiders win? The conclusions won't be quite as dramatic. But it would certainly indicate that they're not the type of team you want to meet on the road later in the season in desperate need of a road win.

Atlanta (1-1) at Tampa Bay (1-1)

  • I'm not a huge believer in Atlanta's chances to survive in the cold weather and in the playoffs against the league's best teams, but I think they're being sold short a bit too early by many fans and scribes. I think this is the week that they announce they belong back in the conversation of the conference's top teams. Josh Freeman and the Bucs can't continue pulling late-game comebacks out of thin air, can they?

There's also a few games that Steelers fans should keep an eye on beginning with the AFC North teams obviously. Baltimore travels to St. Louis; Cleveland hosts Miami; and Cincinnati hosts San Francisco. All three should win. I'll keep an eye as well on how Tennessee does against Denver. Not a monumentally important clash to say the least, but I'm watching this next few weeks to see if Tennessee is better than people think and capable of giving Houston a run for its money in the AFC South, or perhaps even challenging for a Wild Card.

Thoughts on Week 3?