The first two weeks of the NFL season have flown right by and here we are, just 24 short hours away from kickoff in week three. Like we do each weekend here at the BASJ, we'll preview a little bit of the 49ers and Raiders games as well as check out a few other top games this weekend.
First off, as always, we start with the 49ers, who are coming off an embarrassing home performance a week ago in which they were torched by a punctured and wounded Tony Romo in a game they were really controlling up until the 4th quarter. The big decision that the media was focused on all week was Harbough's decision to keep the 3 points on David Akers 50 yard field goal, rather than the 1st-and-10 in Dallas territory. That move right there showed you how little faith Harbough has in his offense, and that was in a game in which Alex Smith was throwing the ball pretty well. Smith had 2 TD's through the air and finished with a QB rating of 99 despite throwing for just 179 yards. The problem for the 49ers vs. Dallas was their lack of pass defense, and their inability to get a running game established. Surprisingly, that's now 2 weeks in a row now that Frank Gore has yet to get going, as he hasn't even hit 100 yards for the season after two weeks. The 49ers face a much less daunting task the Tony Romo-led Cowboy's offense, but Andy Dalton and A.J. Green showed you last week that they too are a competent passing duo and will likely look to expose the 49ers pass defense again. So, the two big keys to the game for the 49ers in order to win this contest, which is very doable even with it being in Cinci, are to stop Dalton and the passing attack, and keep their own offense on the field by getting Frank Gore going and over the 100-yard mark for the 1st time in 2011. I see this one coming down to the final minutes of regulation. Prediction: Bengals 21, 49ers 17
The Raiders are coming off a week that saw their offense break out in all facets, but also saw their defense break down when the game was on the line. The Raiders were in line to start the year 2-0 with a late lead in Buffalo last week, but Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson showed why they are two of the most underrated skill players in all the NFL with their late comeback victory. The Raiders offense actually looks like it's going to be a pretty good one, and probably the best this team has had since the days of Rich Gannon, but they need to get that defense right. They looked good against Denver in week one, but were shredded by Buffalo in week 2, in both the passing game and rushing attack. This week, they get another tough test in the New York Jets, who, believe it or not, probably don't have quite as good an offense as the Bills, but their defense is one of the best in the NFL. Darren McFadden has looked like a top-3 back in the first two weeks, but this week will be the real measuring stick for him and the Raider offense. With it being a home game, that should help the Silver and Black a bit. I want to see them pressure Sanchez and rattle him early. Make New York try and run the football, which they've failed to do so far. If the Raiders execute on D like they did in week 1 with last weeks offense, they'll be tough to beat, but that's a tough assumption to make. Prediction: Jets 27, Raiders 23.
Other Game To Watch: Houston vs. New Orleans- The Saints have been bitten a little by the injury bug, and have yet to get their running game really going, but that hasn't stopped Drew Brees from continuing his brilliance. Houston also has been dealing with a key injury to their starting tailback and 2010 rushing champ, Arian Foster, who once again will likely be sidelined or limited by his hamstring problem. Still, these two teams are amongst the top in their respective leagues, and there's an outside chance we're getting a Super Bowl preview here. I'll go with the home team, because I think these teams are very evenly matched, but I'm really liking the way Houston's defense is taking shape, and they appear to be a much better unit than NO's bunch. This game has premium match-up written all over it and I'm surprised it wasn't scheduled as one of Week 3's night affairs. Prediction: Saints 31, Texans 27.