By Danny Cox
The 2016 NFL season rolls into Week 3 with a big Thursday Night Football matchup between the Houston Texans and New England Patriots. The AFC action continues in a stellar Sunday doubleheader featuring the Denver Broncos squaring off against the Cincinnati Bengals followed by the New York Jets landing in Kansas City to play the Chiefs. The Pittsburgh Steelers play the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Diego Chargers play the Indianapolis Colts in other late matchups.
But everything kicks off Thursday night, when all eyes will be on the quarterbacks. Brock Osweiler leads the Texans into Foxborough, where they’ll face a Patriots team likely fronted by rookie Jacoby Brissett.
CBS Sports’ NFL analyst Trent Green spent time with four different teams throughout his long NFL career, and he knows what it’s like to be a team’s new leader. The former quarterback gave his thoughts on three big AFC contests in Week 3 and weighed in on the quarterback situation in New England.
Houston Texans vs. New England Patriots – Sept. 22, 8:25 p.m. ET – CBS
CBS Local Sports: Should the Patriots stick with Jacoby Brissett for two more games before Tom Brady returns, or would it be better for them to search for a veteran free agent?
Trent Green: They stick with Jacoby Brissett at this point in time. They’re not going to be able to go out and find a veteran who can learn everything, who knows the system. Brady will be back in a couple of weeks, not to mention that this is a short week and a new quarterback coming in can’t adjust that quickly.
The Patriots will go with Jimmy Garoppolo next week if he can return, and if not, they will still go with Brissett then, too. There are no outside players who can come in, with that amount of time, and have everything work right.
CBS Local Sports: Do you think J.J. Watt and the Texans defense is going to simply tee off on the rookie QB?
Green: J.J. Watt and the Texans want to tee off on everybody. Romeo Crennel, the defensive coordinator for Houston, knows the Patriots offense. He’s dialed into it more than anyone else can possibly be. He’s going to have them going after the quarterback and doing what needs to be done.
This week we’re going to see a lot of what we saw last week from the Patriots. There will be a lot of LeGarrette Blount and play-action. Last week Brissett didn’t really push the ball down the field, but went with mostly screens and quick throws.
The Texans will catch onto that quickly, and there will need to be something to break it up.
CBS Local Sports: Do you feel as if Brock Osweiler is the quarterback the Texans have been searching for?
Green: What we have so far is a small sample size with just two games, but he’s done well and done what they have asked him to do. They’re not asking him to put up 30 or 40 points a game, and he doesn’t need to do that.
The Texans feel good about their defense and have a good balance on offense. At some point in time, he will need to push the ball more, but the way the Texans are playing football now, they’re better all around. Osweiler certainly is in position to be “the guy” in Houston.
Denver Broncos vs. Cincinnati Bengals – Sept. 25, 1 p.m. ET – CBS
CBS Local Sports: Trevor Siemian is certainly doing a good job of leading the Denver Broncos so far… how far do you feel he can take them this season?
Green: If the defense continues playing the way they are with a lot of sacks and scoring on turnovers… If this defense is the defense it was a year ago, then Trevor Siemian just needs to be a game manager. He doesn’t have a lot of touchdowns, and his interceptions are up. But he has a very high completion percentage, and he’s doing what is asked of him.
Siemian needs to cut down on the interceptions, but he does some really good things out there. With the defense playing the way they are and the running game… it’s different with him in the game. It is similar to the running game when Brock Osweiler was in for Peyton Manning for a stint last year.
He can take them far. If he improves upon a few things — which he will — then he can lead the Broncos.
CBS Local Sports: How much does Cincy’s running game have to get in gear in order to give further support to Andy Dalton and the offense?
Green: It’s always an important thing to have balance in an offense. Andy has been taking way too many hits. Yes, it’s early, and he will be fine, but the Bengals have to take the focus off of him with the offense.
I’m a firm believer that balance in an offense helps every aspect of a team. It helps the quarterback, the running backs, the offensive line and even the defense.. .and that’s what the Bengals need to find for the good of the team.
New York Jets vs. Kansas City Chiefs – Sept. 25, 4:25 p.m. ET – CBS
CBS Local Sports: It may be early, but do the Jets look like legitimate contenders in the AFC?
Green: You do have to say that they look like legit contenders. It’s still early, but the offensive output shown last week is more indicative of what people expected due to the weapons they have. Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Matt Forte… offensively, good things are expected.
Defensively, they are stout everywhere. It’s impressive what they have. They’re a little banged up in the secondary, but that will get better with time.
CBS Local Sports: What is the first thing Kansas City’s offense needs to do to improve things after its performance last week against the Texans?
Green: The running game. They abandoned it a little too quickly last week and threw more than they wanted. Last year, there were issues with fumbles and turnovers, but the running game was used more by Kansas City.
Last week, they rushed for more than 100 yards in not many attempts, but the problem with that is that you want to run the ball. The problem this week is that the Jets’ run defense is hard to do that against.
Danny Cox has been covering the NFL for the past decade and has been watching it for two more. From injury reports to playoff races, he follows every single team and longs for the months of July to February.