Key Matchups for Each NFC North Week 3 Game

Tennessee Titans (2-0) @ Minnesota Vikings (0-2) (Sun. 1:00 PM EST, CBS)

Cousins, passing game needs to get rolling

There are a lot of reasons for Minnesota’s winless start to the season. One happens to be Kirk Cousins and the passing game. The Vikings currently rank last in the NFL in passing yards per game. 

Minnesota wants to run the ball, it proved that last season. However, the current state of the Vikings defense doesn’t let you believe Minnesota will be playing with many leads this season. Cousins and company will pass more this season, and it needs to be better. 

Through two games, Cousins has thrown four interceptions. That simply can’t happen anymore. For the Vikings to salvage the 2020 season, he needs to be more careful with the ball. The more possessions Minnesota can maintain the better rhythm the offense will get into. As the year continues, his chemistry with Justin Jefferson and Irv Smith will get better, but the pair needs to start assuming bigger roles for the offense to get back on track. 

Tennessee enters Week 3 with PFF’s 28th ranked pass-rush grade. Minnesota should be able to give Cousins time this week for the most part. It’ll be up to him to use it to the best of his abilities. 

Chicago Bears (2-0) @ Atlanta Falcons (0-2) (Sun. 1:00 PM EST, FOX)

Taking advantage of a lackluster Atlanta defense

The Falcons currently rank last in points per game against allowing 38 and 40 points in their first two weeks. The Seahawks and Cowboys took advantage of the Atlanta secondary quite easily, which is what makes the Bears/Falcons one of the NFL Best Bets this weekend.

Mitch Trubisky and the Chicago passing game need to attack the Falcons’ weakness as well. Trubisky isn’t Russell Wilson or Dak Prescott, but he doesn’t need to be. Allen Robinson has seen nine targets each of the past two weeks, he should get closer to 12 or 13 on Sunday. Robinson has the star talent to have an incredible day for Chicago if given the opportunity. 

It doesn’t stop there. The Bears have played a lot of 12 personnel thus far this season. They shouldn’t limit themselves. Chicago’s game plan needs to have more three-wide receiver sets with Anthony Miller out of the slot and Darnell Mooney on the outside. David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen are playmakers as receivers from the backfield. The Falcons defense generally brings out the best in passing offenses, and the Bears shouldn’t be any different. 

Detroit Lions (0-2) @ Arizona Cardinals (2-0) (Sun. 4:25 PM EST, FOX)

Lions using the middle of the field

T.J. Hockenson came onto the NFL stage last season with his stellar professional debut against these same Arizona Cardinals. The Lions need to use him in a similar way this upcoming Sunday. The Cardinals haven’t been as bad against tight ends as they were last season. However, Arizona has only seen one half of George Kittle, followed by Logan Thomas seeing nine targets but only caught four of them due to inaccuracy from Dwayne Haskins. 

The Lions appear to be getting Kenny Golladay back for this matchup. Golladay draws up enough attention by himself on the outside, especially against a cornerback group. That will help bring less attention to the middle of the field as well. 

In this clip from the Cardinals’ Week 1 win over the 49ers, they used a lot of zone. Kittle, one of the best tight ends in the league, was able to find the soft spots in the middle field for significant yardage. Arizona’s Isaiah Simmons plan to fix the middle of the field coverage hasn’t worked just yet. 

Hockenson and D’Andre Swift, a very good receiving running back, should be able to exploit the middle of the field as well. 

Green Bay Packers (2-0) @ New Orleans (1-1) (Sun. 8:20 PM EST, NBC)

Finding production from their non-star skill position players

Don’t let the Saints’ Monday night loss to the Las Vegas Raiders fool you, New Orleans still has a good defense. The Packers don’t have the players to expose the weakness of the Saints like Darren Waller and the Raiders did. 

Aaron Jones is really good and might have to be the primary runner and receiver if Davante Adams — “probably doubtful,’ per coach Matt LaFleur — doesn’t suit up. Even if Adams does play, he won’t be 100 percent and against the Saints’ top cornerback Marshon Lattimore. Packers will need to try to control the ground game, let Jones and Jamaal Williams get their carries. 

The biggest impact will be from how much Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling can separate and create their own plays. At the end of the day, the most important factor might be Aaron Rodgers continuing to play well and trying to take over the game himself for the Packers to reach 3-0.