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article imageSurprising Cardinals, slumping Saints highlight Week 3 NFL action

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By James Bisson     Sep 22, 2012 in Sports
It's hard to pinpoint which is the bigger surprise heading into the third Sunday of the NFL season - that the Arizona Cardinals have yet to lose, or that the New Orleans Saints are still looking for their first victory.
Both mini-streaks appear tenuous; the Cardinals expect to have their hands full with Michael Vick and the visiting Philadelphia Eagles, while Drew Brees and the Saints welcome the woeful Kansas City Chiefs to town. Here's a brief look at all 14 games slated for Sunday (all times ET):
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) at Dallas Cowboys (1-1), 1 p.m.
Buccaneers rookie running back Doug Martin has impressed in his first two games, and could be in line for a breakout game against a Cowboys defense without defensive end Marcus Spears (knee), nose tackle Jay Ratliff (knee) and linebacker Sean Lee (hip). The Cowboys should be able to make up for it with a formidable pass attack led by quarterback Tony Romo, who is 3-0 with 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions in his career against Tampa Bay.
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St. Louis Rams (1-1) at Chicago Bears (1-1), 1 p.m.
The Bears are facing a minor crisis after quarterback Jay Cutler was criticized by teammates for his actions following last weekend's loss. The Bears will need an offensive boost as they welcome a surprisingly solid Rams team that is already halfway to its win total from a season ago. The Rams have been led by unlikely star receiver Danny Amendola, who exploded for 160 receiving yards and a touchdown in a Week 2 triumph over Washington.
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San Francisco 49ers (2-0) at Minnesota Vikings (1-1), 1 p.m.
The focus will be on 49ers wideout Randy Moss returning to the team that drafted him and watched him blossom into a star. Once the initial boos and cheers subside, all eyes will be on a San Francisco defense that looks like one of the toughest in the league. 49ers quarterback Alex Smith has thrown a franchise-record 216 consecutive passes without being intercepted, but could face resistance from a Vikings team that has played two close games to open the year.
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Detroit Lions (1-1) at Tennessee Titans (0-2), 1 p.m.
The Titans have been saddled with one of the worst offensive showings through the first two weeks, with the majority of blame falling squarely on running back Chris Johnson's shoulders. Johnson has just 21 yards on the ground through the first two games, making it difficult for the passing game to gain any traction. The Lions face their own running back quandary, with rookie Mikel Leshoure now in the mix after serving a two-game suspension.
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Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) at Washington Redskins (1-1), 1 p.m.
So, how about that Robert Griffin III? He wasn't the first quarterback taken in the 2012 draft but he's far and away the best freshman in the league so far, looking like a 10-year veteran as he leads the Redskins offense to back-to-back impressive showings. The Bengals were supposed to be one of the league's better defensive clubs, but they'll have to earn that reputation after surrendering a combined 71 points to Baltimore and Cleveland. Yikes.
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Kansas City Chiefs (0-2) at New Orleans Saints (0-2), 1 p.m.
Their records may be identical, but there isn't much else in common between the awful Chiefs and the underperforming Saints. Brees has looked average in losses to Carolina and Washington - but he should have a much easier time of things against the Chiefs, who have surrendered 75 points in defeats against Buffalo and Atlanta. The Saints' defense hasn't been much better, but gets to face a perennially mediocre Matt Cassel.
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New York Jets (1-1) at Miami Dolphins (1-1), 1 p.m.
With none of the four teams in the AFC East taking control of the division in the first two weeks, this matchup takes on extra importance. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez has been good enough to resist any heat from backup Tim Tebow, but Jets head coach Rex Ryan would like to see him string together consecutive solid performances. The Dolphins' strength has been the ground game, led by resurgent running back Reggie Bush (241 rushing yards, 2 TDs).
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Buffalo Bills (1-1) at Cleveland Browns (0-2), 1 p.m.
Which Bills team will show up this Sunday: the rag-tag group that looked like a Division II college team in the season opener, or the energized club that bounced back with a decisive victory in Week 2? Buffalo's fate may be in the hands of running back C.J. Spiller, who has taken the reins with Fred Johnson on the sidelines and leads the NFL with 292 rushing yards. The Browns were better last Sunday than in Week 1, but are still having problems scoring points.
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Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2) at Indianapolis Colts (1-1), 1 p.m.
Andrew Luck hasn't shown the same pizazz as his draft buddy Griffin, but the first overall selection in 2012 has looked solid through his first eight quarters of NFL action. He'll benefit if Indianapolis can get its running game in gear - and with the Jaguars 31st in the NFL in rushing yards against, things look promising. Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew needs one more rushing TD to set the franchise record.
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Philadelphia Eagles (2-0) at Arizona Cardinals (2-0), 4:05 p.m.
One of these unbeaten teams has looked much better than the other. The Eagles have needed late rallies to win their first two games, while the Cardinals have relied on one of the league's stingiest defenses to knock off Seattle and New England. Arizona has made life rough for opposing quarterbacks so far, and Vick will need to be Pro Bowl-caliber - but as he showed plenty of times last year, he certainly has it in him.
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Atlanta Falcons (2-0) at San Diego Chargers (2-0), 4:05 p.m.
Two of the league's most explosive offenses meet in a game that should provide a stiff test for both teams' backfields. Matt Ryan has thrown for 518 yards and five touchdowns, and has been supported by a Falcons defense that has forced seven turnovers. Philip Rivers has been solid himself, ranked fifth in the NFL in passer rating while racking up 515 yards through the air. The difference could be talented Chargers running back Ryan Mathews, who returns from injury.
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Houston Texans (2-0) at Denver Broncos (1-1), 4:25 p.m.
Peyton Manning's comeback has been an exercise in patience - and it's about to be tested even more this weekend, as he faces a defense that limited Jacksonville to a paltry 117 yards last Sunday. The Texans' rush attack has been relentless, racking up five touchdowns over the first two weeks while chewing up yardage at will. Manning is still struggling to develop a repartee with the Denver wideouts, and threw three interceptions in the first quarter of Monday's loss.
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Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) at Oakland Raiders (0-2), 4:25 p.m.
The Steelers' running back situation is expected to get cloudier in the coming weeks with the imminent return of Rashard Mendenhall, but de facto starter Jonathan Dwyer should feast on an Oakland defense that was torched for more than 250 yards in last week's loss to the Dolphins. The Raiders hope that quarterback Carson Palmer will get to air it out - and he should have his chance with the Steelers missing Troy Polamalu and James Harrison.
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New England Patriots (1-1) at Baltimore Ravens (1-1), 8:20 p.m.
With one of his top weapons on the shelf, Tom Brady will need to get creative as the Patriots face a stiff test in Baltimore. Tight end Aaron Hernandez's high ankle sprain will put added pressure on Brady and top target Rob Gronkowski, who will likely see his share of double coverage. One good omen for the Patriots: Baltimore had no answer for Philadelphia tight end Brent Celek last week, allowing him to catch eight passes for 157 yards.
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