- Associated Press - Friday, September 19, 2014

Those sputtering machines in New Orleans and Indianapolis had better fire up soon.

Like now.

It’s somewhat stunning that the Saints and Colts, favorites to win their divisions, are 0-2.

At least Indy fell to a pair of top teams, Denver and Philadelphia. The Saints lost at Atlanta, blowing a big lead, and then at Cleveland - both on late field goals.

With Carolina already 2-0 in the NFC South and Houston at 2-0 in the AFC South, well, gentlemen, start your engines.

“We are trying to make sure we uncover every stone and look closely at how we can find ways to make the corrections and hopefully we can get that done this weekend,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “We just have to find a way to play our best game this weekend. It’s important we do that, especially coming home.”

All hope is not lost at 0-2, of course. Last year, the Panthers dropped their first two games and then won the division, even earning a first-round playoff bye. Three teams have won the Super Bowl after going 0-2. And since 1990, 23 teams lost their first two matches and wound up in the postseason.

“You can point out every week if we did this, this and this we’d be 2-0,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “We have 14 games left and the only thing that matters right now is Jacksonville. … The record is the record. We’re not going to sit there and dwell on anything other than Jacksonville.”

Week 3 began with an absolute rout in Atlanta, where the Falcons (2-1) beat Tampa Bay (0-3), 56-14. Matt Ryan threw for 286 yards and three touchdowns, Julio Jones hauled in nine passes for 161 yards and a pair of scores, and Devin Hester set an NFL record with his 20th return for a TD. Hester’s runback of a punt covered 62 yards.

The spotlight game in Week 3, naturally, is the Super Bowl rematch between Denver and Seattle at CenturyLink Field. Bring your ear plugs.

Also Sunday, it’s San Francisco at Arizona, San Diego at Buffalo, Green Bay at Detroit, Pittsburgh at Carolina, Baltimore at Cleveland, Washington at Philadelphia, Tennessee at Cincinnati, Oakland at New England, Houston at the New York Giants, Dallas at St. Louis and Kansas City at Miami.

On Monday night, Chicago is at the New York Jets.

Minnesota (1-1) at New Orleans (0-2)

With Adrian Peterson inactive and the Vikings ranking last in passing offense, the Saints can have some confidence they will get off the schneid. But they need to show their defense can make plays down the stretch; it also ranks last against the pass.

Indianapolis (0-2) at Jacksonville (0-2)

Give Indy credit for being competitive. Now, it must close the deal. To do so, it might turn to Ahmad Bradshaw, who has had some strong moments at running back.

And like the Saints, the Colts struggled stopping the pass. Jacksonville, of course, has the NFL’s lowest-ranked attack, playing directly into Indianapolis’ hands.

Denver (2-0) at Seattle (1-1)

The first redux of the previous Super Bowl since the 1997 regular season and only the sixth ever. Peyton Manning once again is on a hot streak - his four consecutive games with at least three TD passes and no interceptions ties Tom Brady’s mark - and he gets back Wes Welker from a drug suspension.

Denver has had close contests in its first two wins, and gets a Seahawks bunch that was beaten by a super-aggressive San Diego last week. But that was on the road, and no team has a bigger home-field edge than the champs.

San Francisco (1-1) at Arizona (2-0)

A victory by the Cardinals would stamp them as a true contender in the NFL’s toughest division. The Niners have won the past four meetings and nine of 10, but come off blowing a big lead against Chicago and might be without tight end Vernon Davis.

Arizona beat the Giants with backup QB Drew Stanton. The 49ers aren’t the Giants, and Carson Palmer’s status is iffy.

San Diego (1-1) at Buffalo (2-0)

Teams traveling from the West Coast to the east tend to struggle, especially for 1 p.m. ET kickoffs. The one semi-exception is San Diego, which is 17-18 in such scenarios in the past 10 years. The Chargers come off a huge emotional victory against Seattle and tight end Antonio Gates looks unstoppable.

This isn’t the usual visit to Buffalo and come away successful deal, though. The Bills have been more impressive than anyone expected, and with their sale soon to be approved, optimism reigns in Western New York.

Green Bay (1-1) at Detroit (1-1)

Detroit went from sensational to awful in a span of a week. Green Bay went the other way - but only after falling into a big hole against the Jets in Game 2. The Pack has won five of the past six meetings and has lost in Detroit only twice in the past decade.

This is the first of three straight division games for Green Bay, a chance to make some real early progress in the NFC North.

Chicago (1-1) at New York Jets (1-1), Monday night

When the Jets let off the gas after a 21-3 lead at Lambeau Field, they probably doomed themselves. Now they get a Bears team coming off an impressive upset win at San Francisco with a rally similar to the Packers’ charge.

Chicago is banged up, but if it can get the right matchups for Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery against New York’s sieve of a secondary, watch out.

New York owns an odd double, leading the league in both rushing offense and rushing defense.

Pittsburgh (1-1) at Carolina (2-0)

The Steel Curtain has moved to Charlotte.

Carolina has yielded 21 points so far, and the way the Panthers shut down the Lions was impressive. Linebacker Luke Kuechly might be the best player in the NFL right now - on either side of the ball.

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has been leaky on D and not nearly as efficient in its speedier offense as it hoped for. Opponents are running at will against the Steelers, which has to make Mean Joe Greene and Jack Lambert shudder.

Baltimore (1-1) at Cleveland (1-1)

The gutsy performance by the Browns, and particularly homegrown QB Brian Hoyer, in last week’s last-second victory over New Orleans drew plenty of attention. A victory in this one would be their second straight over the Ravens following an 11-game slide.

Baltimore knows the specter of the Ray Rice domestic violence case won’t fade for a while. But the Ravens did come through last Thursday in the midst of the turmoil, beating archrival Pittsburgh.

Washington (1-1) at Philadelphia (2-0)

Everyone associated with the Redskins expects WR DeSean Jackson to play, though he left early last week against the Jaguars with a shoulder issue. Jackson certainly doesn’t want to miss a matchup with the team that released him last March. Coach Jay Gruden is hopeful.

“He’s a reckless player, a fast player, and if he’s not 100 percent he’s not worth being out there,” Gruden said. “But he’s a tough kid. I think he’ll get it right.”

Robert Griffin III won’t be around after dislocating his left ankle. Kirk Cousins, strong in relief last week, will start.

Philly has gotten it right in the second half of both its victories, the first team to rally from 14 points behind in each of its first two games to win. Coach Chip Kelly’s emphasis on speed and conditioning has shown.

Tennessee (1-1) at Cincinnati (2-0)

Despite a rash of injuries in Week 2, the Bengals easily handled Atlanta. A key here could be if star receiver A.J. Green is recovered from a toe problem. Andy Dalton has not been sacked and not thrown a pick in back-to-back games for the first time.

The Titans got manhandled by Dallas, and Cincinnati is even more physical. Tennessee must find a way to slow a versatile Bengals running game.

Oakland (0-2) at New England (1-1)

Tally Ho! Well, not quite yet. First the Raiders are heavy underdogs in New England, where they haven’t won in 20 years. Remember the Tuck Rule playoff game in the 2001 season?

Then Oakland heads to London to, uh, host Miami.

The Patriots want to spread the ball more in the passing game. Considering Tom Brady has Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman as his favorite targets, the alternative isn’t bad.

Houston (2-0) at New York Giants (0-2)

The Giants have looked even worse at times in this slow start than they did in going 0-6 a year ago. With an inconsistent offensive line in front of an up-and-down Eli Manning, New York could use more from its running game, defense and special teams. Hasn’t happened so far.

Lots of good things are happening thus far for Houston, but be wary: The Texans were 2-0 in 2013 and then lost 14 straight. They could have a big edge here because of their strong pass rush.

Dallas (1-1) at St. Louis (1-1)

If the Cowboys can run the ball with DeMarco Murray, they’ll keep their mediocre defense off the field and have a chance. It worked great last week at Tennessee.

Injury-ravaged St. Louis is down to third-string QB Austin Davis. But he was solid in beating Tampa Bay.

Kansas City (0-2) at Miami (1-1)

The Chiefs also are dealing with more than their share of injuries, and unlike 2013, they aren’t forcing turnovers - as in zero so far.

Losing Knowshon Moreno could stagnate Miami’s run game, which means more burden on quarterback Ryan Tannehill and an unproductive passing attack.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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