Just three weeks into the NFL season and it takes some searching to find matchups between unbeaten teams.
Look hard enough and you'll find them: Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay — yes, Tampa Bay — and Green Bay at Chicago — yes, Chicago.
These two games figure to play out in entirely different manners. Steelers at Buccaneers will have a defensive emphasis, particularly on Pittsburgh's part. That D has a classic Steel Curtain look.
The Monday night game in Chicago will feature a lot more scoring, especially if the Bears can keep their roll going.
Victories by the Buccaneers and Bears will stamp them as surprise contenders in the NFC. Wins by the Steelers and Packers will further stamp them as Super Bowl candidates.
After shutting down Atlanta and Tennessee, teams that managed big offensive outputs in their other two games, the Steelers are just 2½-point favorites at Tampa. The reason is their uncertainty at quarterback, where either a preseason fourth-stringer (Charlie Batch) or a QB who was cut on the weekend, then re-signed Monday (Byron Leftwich) will start. Plus, the Bucs seem to be maturing on both sides of the ball.
Still, wins over Cleveland and Carolina don't provide enough evidence that the Bucs are ready for James Harrison, Troy Polamalu and company. ... STEELERS, 15-3
Oakland (plus 4) at Arizona — Time for the Cardinals to clean up the mess of the first two weeks. A hard week of practice will work wonders. ... BEST BET: CARDINALS, 20-10
Tennessee (plus 3½) at N.Y. Giants — Vince Young was befuddled by the Steelers. New York's defense is befuddling — to Giants coaches, not to opponents. ... UPSET SPECIAL: TITANS, 20-17
Dallas (plus 2) at Houston — Texans have been second citizens in the state — third if you count the Longhorns — throughout their existence. Here's a chance to grab headlines and Lone Star State fans. ... TEXANS, 27-21
N.Y. Jets (plus 1½) at Miami — Two teams coming off huge, impressive victories. The winner stakes early claim to AFC East supremacy. Miami's home debut will be a success. ... DOLPHINS, 17-13
Buffalo (plus 11) at New England — Wouldn't want to be a Patriot this week after that horrendous second half in the Meadowlands. Lucky for New England, the awful Bills are in town. ... PATRIOTS, 28-10
Cleveland (plus 10) at Baltimore — Baltimore's offense is far too good to be struggling like this. The lack of scoring has come against very good defenses. The Browns merely are OK on D. ... RAVENS, 23-7
Cincinnati (minus 3½) at Carolina — Panthers are playing like their coach is a lame duck. Unfortunately, John Fox is. ... BENGALS, 23-17
Atlanta (plus 4½) at New Orleans — Saints aren't clicking completely with the ball, but that defense has been mostly impressive. Falcons could make a big statement with an upset. ... SAINTS, 24-23
San Francisco (minus 1) at Kansas City — Niners blew it on Monday night with all their turnovers. They are NFC-worst minus-5 in that category. If they hold onto the ball, they should get first win of 2009. ... 49ERS, 19-16
Detroit (plus 10) at Minnesota — Vikings looked dazed and confused against Miami. Lions are playing teams close, then reverting to form and losing late in games. Wake up, Vikes! ... VIKINGS, 27-16
Washington (minus 5) at St. Louis — Redskins can't afford a slip-up here with Eagles, Packers and Colts up next. ... REDSKINS, 21-13
Philadelphia (minus 3) at Jacksonville — Jaguars fans flocked to see a left-handed QB visit in season opener, averting a blackout. That was local hero Tim Tebow. Another lefty, Michael Vick, comes into town without nearly that much of a following. ... EAGLES, 23-21
Indianapolis (minus 5½) at Denver — After manhandling the Giants, will the Colts have a letdown in the Mile High City? Uh, no. ... COLTS, 31-17
San Diego (minus 4½) at Seattle — After manhandling Jaguars, will Chargers have a letdown in the Pacific Northwest. Uh, somewhat. ... CHARGERS, 21-20
Green Bay (minus 3) at Chicago (Monday night) — Chicago has done some sweet things on offense under new coordinator Mike Martz, who seems to have reached QB Jay Cutler. Watch the Packers, with 10 sacks already — six by LB Clay Matthews — reach Cutler plenty in prime time. ... PACKERS, 27-13
RECORD: Versus spread, 10-5 (overall 20-11); Straight up, 11-5 (overall 21-11)
Best Bet: 2-0
Upset Special: 2-0