Week Three is upon us! After a previous week filled with Tua-to-Tyreek magic, blowouts, and confusing playcalls, who should Patriots fans be cheering for this week? Let’s get started.
In the NFL, no matter how big of a fan you are, your team only represents three percent of the league. With there being 32 teams split into two competitive conferences, most of the games you watch during the span of the regular season will not feature your favorite squad. That is why, as Week 3 is approaching, it is necessary to craft a complete rooting guide for Patriots fans to follow while Mac Jones and the exciting offense are not on the gridiron.
Before We Begin: A Retrospective On Past Games
Steelers vs. Browns
- The Steelers and the Browns duked it out on Thursday night. It was a wonderful sight seeing former Patriots backup Jacoby Brissett pick up a win on national television, but New England would have been fine with any outcome. Both teams fall under lower-tier AFC group, so they pose no threat to the playoff seeding for the Patriots.
Part One: The Obvious Games
These are the games that affect the Patriots the most through divisional rankings.
Patriots vs. Ravens
- Go Pats! The Patriots will be hoping to reach a winning record for the first time this season while the Ravens will aim to bounce back from their crushing loss last week against the Dolphins. Week 2 resulted in a loss for both teams, but they were two different tales. The Patriots dominated their fixture against the Pittsburgh Steelers from start to finish, rarely allowing the opposition get into scoring position. The Ravens, on the other hand, showed domination throughout the first three quarters, but were unable to finish the deal in the end, allowing six passing touchdowns from third-year QB Tua Tagovailoa.
- Standout Player: I said it last week and it was wrong, but I’m not giving up on it: Kendrick Bourne. Bourne is being benched by Bill Belichick because of events that occurred during training camp, but once he sees the field there will be no stopping him. In the limited snaps he has taken up to this point, Bourne has been an impactful player despite what the stats will tell you. I thought it would have been last week, but Bourne will likely be getting full, or close to full, playing time against the Ravens.
Dolphins vs. Bills
- I hate to say it, but go, Bills. Patriots fans are accustomed to rooting against the Bills, but in this scenario, it is more beneficial for the Dolphins to lose. Since the Bills are essentially locked to win division, the Patriots, Dolphins, and Jets will be battling for the second spot. Since this is a divisional game for the Dolphins, a loss here would be substantial for the Patriots ranking highly in the AFC East.
- Standout Player: Whilst the Dolphins have cruised to an impressive 2-0 record at this point, I see them as no match to impede the progress of an Allen-and-Diggs-led offense. For this time only, I’m going to select both Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs as standouts since their success seems to be equally dependent to one another.
Jets vs. Bengals
- Go, Bengals. Not much discussion to be had about this game. The Jets are 1-1, tied with the Patriots. A Jets loss here coupled with a Patriots win would boost New England ahead in the AFC East. The Jets are still missing their second-year QB Zach Wilson, so Joe Flacco will be taking the snaps for the next two games. Despite Flacco’s remarkable showing last week in which he threw for over 300 yards, I don’t see him outplaying Joe Burrow and the Bengals.
- Standout Player: The key to winning football games is limiting turnovers. Since Joe Burrow has thrown four interceptions through his first two games of the season, Zac Taylor will be feeling less obliged to give Burrow an abundance of pass attempts. I would expect Taylor to turn to the run game more than usual for this matchup, opening a wide open door for Joe Mixon to have another forceful showing.
Part Two: NFC Games
These games strictly feature NFC teams. Patriots fans could choose either and it wouldn’t matter; but for the sake of it, I’m going to include the teams I prefer to win.
Saints vs. Panthers
- Go, Panthers! The last few years for Baker Mayfield have been extremely bleak. He’s endured a nasty shoulder problem, an unholy amount of hate, and a bad run of his luck. The Panthers have started out this young season with two losses, and I think most of us want to see Baker get at least one win with his new team. It’s an unlikely occurrence, but a win against the Saints would boost the locker room morale and put a smile on the faces of AFC fans.
- Standout Player: The best players on the Saints are featured on their receiving. The most likely standout option amongst their receivers is Michael Thomas, but I could also see it being Jarvis Landry, Chris Olave, or even Marquez Calloway.
Cowboys vs. Giants
- Go, Giants! Watching Brian Daboll grant this once-troubled team success is one of the greatest coaching achievements we’ve seen this season. I could understand wanting the Cowboys because for Prescott’s sake, but I think everybody wants to see Daniel Jones start out a perfect 3-0.
- Standout Player: Very rarely will we see a defensive player featured in this section, but I think that Trevon Diggs will be the standout for this game. Since the Giants feature a sub-par quarterback and a average receiving core, they will be heavily relying on Saquon Barkley. This will allow Trevon Diggs to relax and play his turnover-heavy game.
Falcons vs. Seahawks
- Either one works. It’s hard to choose between Marcus Mariota and Geno Smith, but I can definitively say that this game will not be an offensively dominated occurrence. Expect a low-scoring, uneventful game for this one.
- Standout Player: Geno Smith beat Russel Wilson in Week 1; I see no reason for why he can’t do the same against the Falcons. Smith was rightfully placed into MVP odds following his Week One upset, but he’s settled down since. I’m expecting a yard-heavy game with one or two touchdowns on the side.
Packers vs. Buccaneers
- For any exclusively-NFC game that features the Bucs, I will almost always select the Bucs. Tom Brady, Patriots legend, will be squaring off against the legendary Aaron Rodgers. Both teams have elite players on both sides of the ball, but the Packers lack of talent at the receiving end may prove to be their demise for this game and for the future. Since this is going to be a highly-anticipated game, I would expect the final score to fall within ten points.
- Standout Player: Tom Brady hasn’t had an outstanding performance through the first couple of weeks, but I can see him having one against the Packers. With Cole Beasley just being added to the Buccaneers group of receivers, Brady will have another dynamic weapon to throw to. Even though the Packers feature one of the best cornerback rooms in the league, they are no match for what the Buccaneers bring. Tom Brady will be leading Tampa to a statement win.
Rams vs. Cardinals
- Go, Rams (it doesn’t really matter)! Kyler Murray was just recently signed to a mega-extension that grants him an AAS (average annual salary) of nearly $50 million a year. Mac Jones’ upcoming extension will be nowhere near that of Murray’s, but if Murray underperforms this year it could help the Patriots front office confidently set a ballpark figure of how much they should – or shouldn’t – pay Mac. This definitely is a stretch, but it’s the only reasoning I can think of for why Patriots fans should remotely care about this game.
- Standout Player: Cooper Kupp. He’s already averaging 118 yards and 1.5 touchdowns per game, and the Cardinals defense – which is considered one of the worst in the league – will have no names to prevent him from exploding.
Lions vs. Vikings
- Go, Vikings! The Patriots will be playing the Lions in two weeks. A loss here for Detriot may give the Patriots a slight psychological edge heading into their mid-season matchup. If the Vikings can successfully dominate the Lions on offense or defense, then Belichick could use that as advice to craft his own gameplan.
- Standout Player: Justin Jefferson is Justin Jefferson. He had some troubles against Darius Slay last week against Philadelphia, but I expect him to turn it around. Dan Campbell is one of the smartest coaches in the game, but he can only do so much to stop the future OPOY.
Part Three: AFC Games
These games strictly feature AFC teams. They will affect the Patriots through conference seeding.
Raiders vs. Titans
- Go, Titans! The Raiders, the Patriots, and several other teams will be battling for low-seed placement in the playoffs. The Titans may be in that mix, but they aren’t as much of a threat as Las Vegas is. The twist to this is that the Raiders are pretty much the ‘Patriots of the West’, having featured twelve roster ties with New England at the beginning of preseason. Even if this makes the Raiders more appealing to fans watching up north, seeding is significantly more important.
- Standout Player: Derrick Henry has had a hard time getting started this season. The Raiders defense will be hard to break-through, but he’s Derrick Henry. If all goes well on the line, Henry will be ending the talks of his uncharacteristic struggles.
Chiefs vs. Colts
- Chiefs! This is a similar Titans/Raiders situation. The Chiefs are a lock for high-seed placement in the playoffs, while the Colts are fighting for low-seed placement in the playoffs. The Colts upsetting the Chiefs would be bad news for Patriots fans.
- Standout Player: Patrick Mahomes. Not much needs to be explained. He is – arguably – the best quarterback in the league. The Colts should be no issue for him and his team.
Jaguars vs. Chargers
- Bolt Up! This is another high-seed lock vs. a low-seed competitor. This will be interesting to watch because Justin Herbert is not guaranteed to play, according to multiple league reports. His availability will be a game-time decision. This will open up the door for the Jaguars, who will either be playing a banged-up Justin Herbert or the backup Chase Daniel.
- Standout Player: Trevor Lawrence loves to come through at the most random times. Even if Herbert plays, it is unclear if he will be able to have full playing capacity. This will certainly give Lawrence the psychological edge, but it is unclear whether that will transfer to the playing field.
Part Four: AFC/NFC Games
These games feature teams from both divisions. Spoiler alert: Patriots fans should be rooting for the NFC team every time, so the standout player will just be included.
Texans (AFC) vs. Bears (NFC)
- Standout Player: The Bears have proven that they don’t like passing the ball. Unless they suddenly have more faith in shaky Justin Fields, they will continue force-feeding David Montgomery. His explosion in touches will be an easy way for him to pickup over 100 yards.
49ers (NFC) vs. Broncos (AFC)
- Standout Player: Jimmy Garoppolo is taking the rock for the rest of the season for the 49ers, but I see somebody else making headlines this game. For the first time in Gillette Gazette Rooting Guide history, an offensive lineman will make the selection. Trent Williams. If we’re talking from a skill-to-position basis, Williams may be the best player in the NFL. He’s going to lay out some pancakes today and be the biggest factor for a 9ers win.
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