It's easy to pass off strong performances in weeks one and two as flukes. If a player or team can string three good (or bad) performances together in a row, it's much harder to over look. Thats what's at stake this week in the NFL. Who is for real, and who has just been pretending?
Will all the rookie quarterbacks build on their strong showings in week two, or will the come back to reality? Will a young defensive back help turn around a struggling defense in Tampa Bay? Will a late round pick in Cleveland earn a full time starting role? We'll be much closer to finding out once week three is in the books.
Match-ups to Watch
Tampa Bay WR Vincent Jackson vs. Dallas Cowboys’ Secondary
Two of the biggest moves during this past offseason was the Buccaneers’ move to get Vincent Jackson, and the Cowboys’ acquisitions of Brandon Carr and rookie Morris Claiborne. Both teams made substantial investments in an attempt to correct some of their biggest problems in 2011. Week three will provide an early season test to find out whether their investments were worth the cost.
Jackson is coming off a strong week two performance where he recorded 128 yards and one touchdown. Slowing him down will be a small task for whoever lines up across from him, regardless of if it’s Carr or Claiborne. Both corners have had a quiet but solid start to the season, and if they can shut Jackson down the Cowboys should be able to add another W to their 2012 campaign.
Chicago RT Gabe Carimi vs. St Louis DE Chris Long
Since his dreadful Thursday night performance in week two, there’s been a lot of talk dedicated to trying to figure out Jay Cutler. And while attempts to analyze his personality and leadership make for good television, the way to get a good game out of Cutler is simple: keep the pass rush away from him, and more often than not he’ll play well.
That means that this game will likely be decided in the match-up between RT Gabe Carimi and DE Chris Long. On paper Chicago should win this game easily, but Long, who has the 2nd most QB hurries in the league, could change all that. An erratic Cutler would be the great equalizer in this game, and Carimi’s poor performance through two weeks will have Long eager to take the field Sunday. Will Long’s pass rushing turn the game in favor of the Rams?
Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson vs. San Francisco’s Run Defense
Adrian Peterson created a small stir among San Francisco fans Friday morning when he said that the 49ers defense had yet to face a rushing offense like the Vikings’ ground attack. In a way the comments were amusing, since the two teams have faced off in the past, and it was Peterson and the Vikings who didn’t have an answer for San Francisco’s stellar defense.
2012 poses an even more difficult match-up for Minnesota. The 49ers defense is as strong as it’s ever been, and Peterson didn’t look like his knee is totally recovered from the ACL tear of last season. A big factor will be rookie left tackle Matt Kalil, who will have the tough task of dealing with Justin Smith in his face and Aldon Smith rushing alongside him. The Vikings would be wise to stick to running to the right side of the line in this game to avoid the Smiths, but they’ll still have to contend with Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman on the next level.
Previewing the Rookie QB’s Week Three Match-ups
Following an opening week in which most rookie quarterbacks struggled, week two saw all of the youngest new stars in the league bounce back quite nicely. Will week three see even more improvement, or will the rookies come back down to earth?
The number one overall pick Andrew Luck will have a pretty favorable match up when the Colts welcome the Jaguars to Indianapolis. Jacksonville’s top cornerback Derek Cox most likely missing the game due to injury, Aaron Ross will have to take larger role in the Jaguars’ defense, and he’ll have to play better than he has in the first two weeks. Look for Luck to get the ball to newcomer Donnie Avery again early and often.
Brandon Weeden and the Browns won’t have the benefit of taking on a defense without their best pass defender. Instead, they’re facing a Bills’ defense that played an outstanding game after getting destroyed by the Jets in week one. The success Weeden has will likely depend on how fellow rookie Trent Richardson plays. If he exceeds expectations and is able to get yards against the league’s #2 ranked run defense, Weeden has a chance to play well. If Buffalo stops Richardson, however, it’s likely that Weeden will struggle too.
The game between Ryan Tannehill’s Dolphins and the Jets could prove to be one of the most intriguing on week three. It will most certainly be the toughest test any rookie quarterback faces in week three. The Jets’ lock down corner Darrelle Revis gives veteran passers fits, and those struggles will only be magnified for a guy making his third career start. Assuming that Revis takes away Tannehill’s favorite option in Brian Hartline, will Tannehill be able to have success with his other, limited options?
Robert Griffin III felt that the Rams’ defense was a dirty one after the Redskins’ week two loss to St. Louis. There’s a good chance he’ll be in much better spirits this Sunday night following his game against Cincinnati. The Bengals’ defense has been simply awful early in the season. They’ve given up over 600 passing yards and over 400 total yards a game. The match-up for the Redskins is extremely promising, provided that Josh Morgan can keep his head on straight in late game situations.
Russell Wilson led the Seahawks to a surprising victory over Dallas in week two. It’ll take an even stronger showing Monday Night if Seattle is going to upset Green Bay. The Packer’s defense will likely focus on pressuring Wilson, something the rookie struggled to handle in week one. The best way for Seattle to win will be with a strong running game, but at some point during the game Wilson will have to make plays through the air. Will he be up to the task?
Tampa Bay S Mark Barron
He hasn’t garnered as much attention as many other rookies, but it’s hard to find a rookie on the defensive side of the ball off to a better start than Mark Barron. He’s broken up four passes, recorded 13 tackles, and made some crushing hits in just two weeks. He’s performed well in the passing game as well as provided strong support against the run, and given the Buccaneers some much needed youth and athleticism in a secondary that’s struggled in recent years.
He’ll have to play the best game of his career if Tampa Bay wants to upset Dallas on Sunday. Barron will be splitting his time between watching Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, all the while making sure DeMarco Murray doesn’t have a break out game. It’s a tall order for a rookie, but if anyone can handle it, Barron is the guy.
Cleveland DT Billy Wynn
The Browns were dealt a big blow when they lost DT Phil Taylor to a torn pectoral for the first six games of the season. However, sixth round pick Billy Wynn has made that loss manageable, and he just might earn a full time starting job if he continues to play at the level he’s shown in the first two weeks.
Wynn’s next chance to prove himself will be when he matches up against the pretty solid offensive line of the Bengals. Wynn has helped the Browns’ rushing defense allow only 115 yards a game, down from 150 in 2011. Will he be able to carry that into week three?
Fantasy Quick Hits
- Baltimore tight end Dennis Pitta has officially passed Ed Dickson on the depth chart and is now the Ravens’ top tight end. He’s also getting the majority of targets from Joe Flacco. He hasn’t turned that into much of a fantasy impact yet, but he will. If you have a disappointing TE on your roster now (like Fred Davis) don’t pass up the chance to get Pitta instead.
- With two weeks of game tape to look at, it’s clear that it’s time to sit Chris Johnson. Regardless of the blame falls at the feet of CJ?K or the Titans’ offensive line (in reality I think it’s both), the running game is going nowhere. Until we see otherwise, there’s no reason for CJ to be in your starting line up.
- Maurice Jones Drew has averaged 144 yards and a touchdown in his last three games against the Colts. He should never be out of your line up anyway, but expect a big showing from him Sunday.
- Darren McFadden has gotten off to a slow start, and doesn’t look comfortable yet in Oakland’s new offense. His owners shouldn’t panic just yet, however. He’s seeing a ton of targets and it’s obvious they want him to be the key player in that offense. Given time, McFadden should put up some big numbers.