NFL Week 3 Preview: Five key talking points ahead of the action

PREVIEW

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The 2015 season rolls into Week Three with plenty to look forward to. The action kicks off on Thursday night with an NFC East contest between two great rivals, the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants. Then on Sunday the Baltimore Ravens host the in-form Cincinnati Bengals and the San Francisco 49ers take on the Arizona Cardinals.

Make way for the backup quarterbacks

The importance of having a good backup quarterback will be on show this week when Jimmy Clausen and Brandon Weedon start for the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys respectively.

Regular starters Jay Cutler and Tony Romo pave the way for their understudies after Cutler suffered a strained hamstring against the Arizona Cardinals - ironically by trying to make a tackle after throwing an interception - and Romo breaking his left collarbone in the win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Clausen will be thrown in at the deep end against the Seattle Seahawks. The second-round pick from 2010, who replaced Cutler when the starter was benched last season, has won just one of 11 previous games he’s started.

Weeden has control of the Cowboys offence for at least the next eight weeks, when Romo is eligible to return. Matt Cassel was signed by the team on Tuesday and will step in if needed, but for now Weeden has the chance all backups crave.

His first task is to lead an offence that is without the injured Dez Bryant to victory over the unbeaten Atlanta Falcons.

The New Orleans Saints may also be required to start Luke McCown if Drew Brees fails to fully recover from a shoulder injury in time for Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers.

Chancellor returns

The sight of Kam Chancellor in the Seahawks secondary will be a welcome one for head coach Pete Carroll, who has seen his side surprisingly lose their opening two games.

Chancellor had missed training camp, pre-season and the first two weeks of the regular season after a contract holdout. The safety wanted future money from his four-year, $28million contract paid earlier, but has reportedly lost more than $2m by refusing to play.

He’s now agreed to end the holdout and return to action, with Carroll ready to play the All-Pro safety against the Bears.

On Wednesday he sent a text to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith that read: “Ima [sic] go help my teammates that are understanding of my position and the ones who aren't. God forgives all, why can't i? Time to help us get back to the big dance. I can address business after the season. Me and Marshawn started a mission 2 years ago. I can't let my Dawg down....Real talk”.

Chancellor’s, arguably the best safety in the NFL, return will galvanise a team that has conceded 71 points in its opening two games.

Can the 0-2 teams get their seasons back on track?

Heading into Week three there are nine teams with an 0-2 record. Rather astonishingly, the Seahawks, Eagles, Saints, Indianapolis Colts, Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens are all included in the list of teams yet to record a win.

Since 1990 12 percent of teams that began the season with an 0-2 record have managed to reach the play-offs.

The Colts were in the same position at this stage last year and still managed to reach the AFC Championship game, so all hope is not lost. Still, it makes the challenge of making the playoffs that bit more difficult. Take the Seahawks for example, who are the only team in the NFC West not to have a win and are two wins behind the Cardinals already.

But with a home tie against the Bears, themselves without a win, the Seahawks have the best chance of all the 0-2 teams to notch their first win.

The Eagles offensive struggles could continue in the Meadowlands

Chip Kelly's much-hyped offence has been a huge disappointment so far.

In the pre-season, the Eagles averaged 33.2 points per game and Sam Bradford’s quarterback rating was 149.6. After two weeks of the regular season they have averaged 17 points per game and Bradford’s rating is 72.3.

DeMarco Murray had 1,845 rushing yards last season. Through two games he’s on pace for just 88 rushing yards for the whole of this season.

This week’s matchup against the New York Jets presents an incredibly difficult test for Kelly, whose up-tempo offence worked tremendously while he was head coach at Oregon but is yet to truly thrive in the NFL.

Todd Bowles oversaw a Cardinals defence last season that ranked fifth in points allowed and this year his Jets team has started just as stingy. They’ve given up just 17 points and gave Pro Bowl quarterback Andrew Luck a horrid time on Monday night.

The Jets hit Luck 11 times, intercepted him three times and forced a fumble from the Colts quarterback.

With Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Calvin Pryor in the secondary and Muhammad Wilkerson providing the pass rush, don’t expect a breakout performance from the Eagles offence this week.

It was fun while it lasted, Johnny

Johnny Manziel might have hoped his performance in the Cleveland Browns’ Week Two win against the Tennessee Titans would be enough to earn him the starting job on a permanent basis.

The second-year quarterback wasn’t brilliant. He fumbled the ball twice and only completed 53.3 per cent of his throws. But, most importantly, he led the team to a win.

That Josh McCown will resume as the Browns starter after passing the NFL’s concussion protocol will likely disappoint many Browns fans who believe Manziel is a franchise player in the making.

McCown suffered a concussion in Week One after attempting a John Elway-style helicopter dive into the end zone.

He will start against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday but the pressure is now on the 36-year-old. McCown must do what Manziel did - win.

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