Previewing the NFL’s Week 3 primetime matchups
Matthew DeMille, Sports Editor
The 2023-24 NFL season has already brought us some incredibly entertaining primetime matchups — and it’s only been two weeks.
From the Detroit Lions upset over the Kansas Chiefs in the opening game of the season, to the New York Jets coming from behind to beat the Buffalo Bills in overtime following a heartbreaking Achilles tendon injury to their quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, the start of the season has already been memorable.
Luckily, we’re just getting started.
Here is how the primetime matchups in Week 3 are shaping up.
Thursday night football: New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers
A matchup of two playoff teams from last season is bound to be good, right?
The Giants, led by reigning coach of the year, Brian Daboll, pride themselves on taking advantage of their opponents’ mistakes, whilst minimizing their own. The 49ers, meanwhile, boast one of the deepest rosters in the league and arguably the best defence overall, led by stars Nick Bosa and Fred Warner.
Both teams started the year very differently. Led by strong play on both sides of the ball, the 49ers got off to a hot start with a convincing win in Pittsburgh. The Giants, on the other hand, had a week to forget after getting shut out and obliterated, 40-0.
Heading into this game, the 49ers have a very clearly outlined goal: contain Giants running back, Saquon Barkley. The Giants offence runs through him and they don’t have the personnel to consistently move the ball when he isn’t carrying a significant load. The 49ers should be able to move the ball offensively with the gluttony of talent at each skill position. They just need their top-ranked defence to stop the ground game.
Sunday night football: Pittsburgh Steelers at Las Vegas Raiders
In somewhat of a lackluster matchup, the Steelers will travel to Las Vegas to take on the Raiders on Sunday Night Football. These are two teams that aren’t necessarily flashy, but each brings a couple superstars to the field that elevate the team around them.
For the Steelers, that’s edge rusher, T.J. Watt. Always in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation, Watt is one of the best edge players in the league. He can be counted on to produce 15 or more sacks a season, when healthy, and is excellent against the run.
For the Raiders, wide receiver, Davante Adams, remains a top-three receiver in the league. His expert route running and ability to create separation from defenders makes him a quarterback’s best friend on the field.
Similar to the 49ers and Giants matchup, this is a game in which a stellar defence is going to be tasked with shutting down a couple weapons on the opposing offence. The Raiders don’t have the depth to grind out a close game when their top players don’t contribute in meaningful ways. They will need their superstars to step up under the bright lights.
Monday night football: Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The first of two Monday Night Football matchups sees a rematch of the wildcard weekend between the Eagles and Buccaneers from 2021. Of course, back then, the Buccaneers still had Tom Brady and one of the better rosters in the league. Now, the shoe is on the other foot, as the Eagles boast depth across the board; depth that is only rivaled by San Francisco, of course.
Tampa Bay still has remnants of their Super Bowl caliber roster from a few seasons ago. Namely, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Vita Vea, and Lavonte David. The core is getting older, but they are still good players. Unfortunately, Philadelphia possesses more talent at pretty much every position.
This game projects to be fairly one sided. However, there is a scenario in which Baker Mayfield has a great game and can get the ball to his talented receivers. That being said, the more likely scenario is Tampa Bay struggles to move the ball and eventually loses a battle of attrition.
Monday night football: Los Angeles Rams at Cincinnati Bengals
In a Super Bowl LVI rematch, the Rams travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals.
These teams each entered the year with completely different expectations. First, the Rams are coming off a disappointing and injury-riddled season, while the Bengals continue to have championship aspirations. Yet, they opened the season in opposite fashions. Led by a vintage performance from quarterback, Matthew Stafford, the Rams walked into Seattle and dominated the Seahawks. Meanwhile, the Bengals got completely outclassed by their Ohio rivals in Cleveland.
In this matchup, the star power favours the Bengals — and significantly. Yet, for some reason there is lingering hope that Stafford can do what he did for so many years. Drag a mediocre team to being competitive. With two great quarterbacks on the field, there certainly is a potential for fireworks.
Yet, it’s also difficult to pick against the talent of the Bengals. This isn’t the same Rams team that beat them in the Super Bowl, and Cincinnati has more talent on the defensive side of the ball to try and keep Stafford and the Rams offence in check. The only question is whether Stafford can overcome the odds — a question he’s used to being asked.