As we enter a hotly contested Week 3 of the NFL season, I am feeling much more confident about my prediction skills. Last week I was relatively spot on, except for one slight hiccup in the running back department; Jamaal Charles (11 car for 49 yds) should have been flip flopped with Ronnie Brown (13 car for 80 yds), but overall I was solid.
Matt Ryan went and had himself a ball game with 3 touchdown passes, while Eli Manning, with his three turnovers against Indy, once again looked like he needed a juice box on the sideline. He will forever be like that kid on your little league team trying to jam his straw through the bottom of his Capri Sun, pouting. Malcom Floyd proved that he can be the Chargers' big play guy, with 3 catches for 95 yds and a TD. Even Steve Smith wasn’t quite a dud as he produced the Panthers sole TD early on. The unpronounceable Visanthe Shiancoe continues to prove he is one of the most consistent tight ends in the game with another solid 80+ yd contribution, while Jermaine Gresham is still coming terms with the fact that it's hard out there for a rookie.
Week 3 will allow certain outfits, such as the Chiefs, Dolphins, Bears, and Buccaneers to prove that they are for real, while the winless Cowboys, 49ers, and Vikings must show that they are better than their most recent performances have suggested. I hope that the below phrase provides you with some insight into the conundrum that is Week 3 of the NFL fantasy season; Good Night, and Good Luck.
Stud: Tony Romo
In terms of overall performance, the Dallas Cowboys have been a bit of an enigma. While it is clear that they have plenty of talent scattered throughout the skill positions, they just have been unable to put it all together. As it stands right now, the Cowboys and Tony Romo have the 2nd most prolific pass offense in the NFL having thrown for 656 yards (on a league high 98 attempts) in the first two games. Those stats are quite impressive, but it has only resulted in two through the air touchdowns. Romo no longer wants to throw the ball 50 times a game and instead, wants to balance their attack. However, I see that as being kind of an impossibility as they roll into Houston. Yes, Houston is 2-0, but they also sport the worst passing defense in the league, giving up 822 yard. Their opposing QBs have completed 71.6% of their passes in just their first two games. One could argue that these dismal numbers were because of the elite quarterbacks they faced, (Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb) but Romo is no slouch. I see this game being quite the shootout with Romo finally hitting the end zone, and the deep threat this is Miles Austin, multiple times.
Honorable Mention: Matt Schaub, because you know that one of these guys, if not both, is due to go off.
Dud: Kyle Orton
Orton and the Broncos' offense has been one of the major fantasy surprises of the season. So far he has out thrown the likes of McNabb, Palmer, Brady and even Brees, but still has not actually received the kind of attention that typically goes along with such performances. I have a feeling that this week will highlight why. Orton has only preyed upon mid tier teams at this early stage in the season, putting up decent numbers against teams he should be putting up solid numbers, such as Jacksonville (a game they lost) and Seattle. Week 3 should be a different story. This week they face an Indianapolis team that has already slowed down two of the hottest passers in the NFL, Matt Schaub (107 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT in week 1) and Eli Manning (161 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT in week 2). Orton's performance should be no different. Odds are, the Broncos will remain behind for most of the game, fully utilizing their running backs, Correll Buckhalter and whoever’s left (a Laurence Maroney sighting, perhaps?), to keep them in the game and the Indy offense off the field.
Stud: Rashard Mendenhall
So far this season Rashard Mendenhall has been a fantasy underachiever, apart from his break out run in OT against the Falcons. We have all been waiting for him to break out of his shell and with his flux and uncertainty within their offensive unit, become the Steelers' go to guy. Now, more than ever, with Charlie Batch under center, the Steelers need to improve their running game, and furthermore, take over. That will happen this week. The gameplan for the Steelers this week will be conservative. They are going to pound the ball on the ground with Mendenhall as the focal point against a Tampa Bay defense (a defense that gives up 110+ yards per game on the ground as it is). Running focused attacks, using conservative play calling, and throwing in a weaker Tampa defense should formulate a recipe for success for Mendenhall fantasy owners.
Dud: DeAngelo Williams
What everyone was hoping to get from Carolina this season simply has not happened. There was hope when Matt Moore made a surge late last season and the dual headed rushing attack of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart were tearing teams apart, but now? Not so much. Carolina has looked suspect, especially their highly touted running game. Neither guy has been able to step forward and take over a game or assert their will on the opposition. While Williams is their go to guy, he has yet to show that he is truly an every down back. Throughout these last two weeks, he has only amassed 116 yds on 33 carries and ZERO touchdowns. In order for the Panthers to find any success they will need to get this guy going and lead him straight into the end zone. Unfortunately, I don't think this is that kind of week for Williams. Week 3 pits Williams and the Panthers against a tough Bengals D that dominated the Ravens, and last week was able to hold Ray Rice in check (relatively speaking). Williams will need to do something truly special to get out of the Dud hole he dug for himself this coming week.
Stud: Santana Moss
Thus far in 2010, Santana Moss has been one of the most efficient first option receivers in the league. On 22 targets, Moss has hauled in 16 receptions for 166 yards. The only reason that he hasn’t really popped up on any major radar screens is because he has yet to score a touchdown, even in the shootout with Houston. For once, this may be a good thing. The Redskins have looked surprisingly sharp, and for once, have a quarterback (McNabb) that is able to stretch a defense with his arm. The past few years they have been far too complacent, settling instead with short passes. These short and underneath passes have wasted the speed Moss brings to the table. Coming off a big 10 catch day last Sunday, it seems as though Moss and McNabb have found mutual rhythm and will be out for blood after that heart wrenching defeat. Look for Moss to get the ball early, often, and at all different parts of the field. This should make it interesting for a struggling Rams secondary, which just allowed big games from the likes of Louis Murphy (91 yds) and Steve Breaston (132 yds).
Dud: Brandon Marshall
It is a bold statement, but what have we seen from this guy otherwise so far in Miami? Not a whole hell of a lot. Don’t get me wrong he has been solid (12 catches for 124 yards is nothing to scoff at) but he hasn’t been churning out the Pro Bowl type performances everyone was expecting when he landed in Miami. Like Santana mentioned above, Marshall too has yet to reach the end zone. However, Moss is on a pass first squad and his opportunities to get the ball in the red zone are much more frequent, whereas Marshall is on a team that seems to be content to live and die by their running game. Marshall was held to only 4 catches in the opening week game against a tough Bills secondary. Now he faces the Jets and Antonio Cromartie. Antonio Cromartie is coming off a two interception performance against the Patriots where he all but shut down Randy Moss in the second half. Marshall vs. Cromartie will be an entertaining matchup, but one that ultimately will fall in favor of the Jets. Sorry South Beach.
Stud: Antonio Gates
Now, more than ever, the Chargers need their veteran tight end to step up and lead the offense. The wide receiver corps is young and still searching for some sort of identity, but Gates has been their rock on offense ever since he joined the team. He has been having another solid campaign this year and is the Chargers primary option in the red zone. He leads the team with 10 catches, but more importantly in fantasy terms, 3 of those 10 catches have been for touchdowns. Week 3 gives the Chargers a decent test against a schizophrenic Seahawks team whose 26th ranked secondary has been the only consistency. In their opening week game against the 49ers, even though they won, they allowed Vernon Davis to run wild with 8 catches for 73 yards. Against Denver in Week 2 everyone seemed to get in on a piece of the action. The Chargers wide outs are just as diverse as the Broncos’ but when you add a big, strong presence like Gates to the mix, it is only going to make matters worse for the Seahawks (or better if you’re a Gates owner).
Dud: Kellen Winslow
I know I continue to throw this guy under the bus on a relatively consistent basis, mostly out of jest, but this week I really mean it: he is going to be a bust. For realsies. Winslow is Tampa Bay’ s leading receiver, and really their only go to guy down the field. But even with a relatively light early schedule, he has failed to produce a touchdown or, besides one forty yard grab last week, even a relative threat downfield. Now the young Buccaneers face a Pittsburgh team that has already shut down Tony Gonzalez (37 yds) and Bo Scaife (20 yds) and forced a litany of turnovers. Do not expect anything from Winslow this week, or maybe even the next two weeks… @CIN, vs. NO.