It may be early to say this weekend will be a defining moment in the 2008 NFL season, but with a number of teams still winless and others unexpectedly fielding a losing record many squads are scrambling to avoid more than two losses on their record.
That fact will translate into a very entertaining and intense weekend of NFL action.
As usual there are 15 games on tap for Sunday plus one on Monday and almost all have some significance.
With so much at stake so early it’s worth taking a peak at some of the storylines for each game.
When Atlanta take on Carolina, look out for offensive units aiming for respect. Or to be more precise throwing for some. Whoever has the best passing attack and can stop the run should come out on top.
Expect a high scoring game when Cleveland tangle with the Bengals. Cincinnati are too talented on offense to be winless but only the Browns secondary will decide if they can get their first win.
The Texans are a team with bad luck as they now run into the Jaguars.
Jacksonville want to start a winning streak while Houston aim to give their defense a rest.
Kansas City is a squad in turmoil and facing the Broncos won’t help that.
The game’s key factor will be poise: Cutler needs to prove Denver are an unheralded beast in the AFC while the Chiefs want to give whoever is under centre room to work.
The Niners are a squad on a high after starting out 2-1. The Saints are looking for a positive with their 1-2 record. Whoever can translate those feelings into an offensive outburst should come out a winner.
The Jets are a beleaguered squad after Monday night’s rout by San Diego.
New York will need serious help from the run game to slow down the Cardinals explosive offense.
Aaron Rodgers has unusual poise in Green Bay.
Even after losing to Dallas he was optimistic. That optimism will need to translate into resilience in the pocket if he is to outlast the blitzing assault of Tampa Bay.
Tennessee are one of the AFC’s lone unbeaten teams. Meanwhile, Minnesota are off to a shaky start. Both will look to work their offenses and show that they’re for real.
Who would have guessed Oakland would be ahead of the Chargers in the standings? The key for them has been the running game.
Look for an interesting match up between rookie Darren McFadden and San Diego’s defense.
The Rams don’t have anything going for them. Their defense has already allowed 116 points and the offense has only scored 29 points.
But if the Bills play down to them like they did to Oakland last week St. Louis could play spoiler.
The NFC East is a fearsome division. Every team has a winning record and a tough-nosed defense.
Dallas and Washington can and will put up points but the difference will be made by the linebackers.
Philadelphia has the potential to score 40 points on anyone and keep squads to under 10 points.
Chicago are a gritty team that have a grind-out, smash-mouth style. Whoever has the stamina to move the chains through four gruelling quarters should win.
The schedulers are simply doing an awesome job as always. Proof of that is Monday’s night unexpectedly meaningful showdown between the Steelers and the Ravens.
Pittsburgh were simply outplayed and out-hustled last week while the Ravens have quietly snagged three wins out of nowhere.
Expect a low score and a clash of defenses eager to put their mark on the AFC.
Even the teams with byes deserve attention. Be sure to keep track of how the likes of Detroit, Seattle and Indianapolis intend to change their game plans for more wins.
Look for two teams to handle the bye very differently in Miami and New England.
If the Dolphins play it right they could easily be the next surprise team to rattle off a winning streak.
The Patriots are a humiliated squad that have serious second doubts about Matt Cassel.
New England should be swamped in controversy as they seek to acquire a legitimate second-string quarterback or prepare to minimize the impact of more teams bringing the rush like Miami.
Meanwhile, look for the defending Super Bowl Champions New York Giants to relax and enjoy their NFC East rivals endure some tough games.
In the end, this season will produce many games with huge implications. NFL fans can only watch with glee as so many of them are coming at a very early stage.