NFL Preseason Studs Who Already Look to Be in Midseason Form

Alessandro MiglioFeatured ColumnistAugust 18, 2012

NFL Preseason Studs Who Already Look to Be in Midseason Form

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    We are midway through the second full week of the NFL preseason, and there have already been some eye-opening performances. We are not talking about some third-string running back rattling off a bunch of yardage against a third-string team.

    It's only the preseason, but there are already some big names who look like they are playing for keeps.

Matt Ryan

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    The man is on a mission.

    After three one-and-done postseason appearances in four seasons, Matt Ryan looks to lead his team higher. He certainly looks the part thus far in the preseason, playing lights out for the most part during his relatively brief time on the field.

    His sizzling preseason has his average draft position (ADP) in fantasy football rising with the heat.

    This is just the preseason, but Ryan has completed a ridiculous 79.4 percent of his passes thus far. Starting a game with 11 straight completions helps. His 114.3 rating is second only to Andrew Luck, though the latter has yet to play his second game.

    All this will be for naught if he does not lead the Falcons past the first game of the playoffs, but he sure looks like he is ready.

NFL Replacement Officials

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    These guys (and gal) are already flashing their midseason form, so much so that you can barely tell they are replacement officials! No wonder the NFL is planning on retaining them going into the season.

    I mean, if we had not known they were "replacements," would the blunder where they called a touchback on a punt that had actually never crossed the 4-yard line even have registered? The awkward pauses, the on-field puking and the horrified screaming are nothing to worry about—just the referees getting the jitters out from being in the limelight for the first time.

    Is that call any worse than the forward pass from Michael Vick that officials ruled backward? What about the lovely tug Cliff Avril gave to Joe Webb's facemask that was never called in Week 14?

    Blown calls are a staple of NFL officiating, and it looks like they are in top form already this preseason despite performing under the pressure of the "replacement" tag.

A.J. Green

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    The man behind Andy Dalton is showing why he was the top receiver picked in the 2011 draft.

    A.J. Green and his friendly draft rival, Julio Jones, both strutted their stuff in a head-to-head matchup, foreshadowing great things for their respective teams. They did not disappoint.

    Green seemed like he was always open against the Falcons, ultimately hauling in a 50-yard touchdown pass the series after Andy Dalton overthrew him for another.

    The Bengals are out to show they are no fluke, and Green will be a key cog in doing so. So far, so good.

Christian Ponder

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    Christian Ponder is the future for Minnesota, but he may be showing that the future is closer than it appears.

    A week after a modest outing against the 49ers, the second-year quarterback went 10-of-13 for 136 yards and a touchdown against the vaunted Bills defensive line, perhaps sending a message that the Vikings did the right thing when they took him in the first round of the 2011 draft.

    Ponder believes the Vikings can contend immediately. If he has more nights like this, he will not be far off.

Charles Johnson

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    The Panthers did not have a particularly good defensive game in their first preseason matchup against the Texans. That was remedied against the Dolphins, and Charles Johnson led the charge.

    Ron Rivera was not happy about his team's defensive effort during the first week of the preseason, and it showed in their game against the Dolphins. The defense harassed starting rookie Ryan Tannehill all first half long, starting with Johnson.

    The big defensive end abused rookie Jonathan Martin along the right side of the offensive line. Whether it was a pass deflection, a sack, a tackle for loss or just putting pressure on the quarterback, Johnson was all over the field in dominating fashion.

    He looks like he is ready for the regular season.

Matthew Stafford

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    Matthew Stafford was simply surgical against the Ravens. Having Calvin Johnson helps, but the 24-year-old veteran put on a clinical performance against Baltimore, tossing for 184 yards and two touchdowns in less than a half of action.

    The fourth-year quarterback simply picked up where he left off last year, when he threw for over 5,000 yards to join Drew Brees and Tom Brady. He has no shortage of weapons in Detroit, and it looks like he will have another huge season.

Julio Jones

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    This is going to be a fun season to watch the Falcons play, and Julio Jones has shown why he will be a big reason for that already this preseason. 

    While his duel with Green in Atlanta's second game was won by his peer, Jones and Ryan seem to be in lockstep this preseason. Jones has been a frequent target for Ryan, hauling in nine passes for 150 yards and a touchdown in limited playing time thus far.

    Atlanta looks to join the likes of New England, Detroit and Green Bay as a high-octane offense this season. Jones looks every bit worth what the Falcons paid to get him.

    These two will be lighting up the league for a while, and they already have a head start.

Chris Johnson

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    Chris Johnson ran wild against the Buccaneers once again, rushing for 46 yards and two touchdowns against a defense he dominated last season.

    This could be credited to an offseason where he rededicated himself to being an elite running back. Johnson has fallen off in recent seasons—offensive line woes and a preseason holdout derailed him for the most part—but he looks like he could be back to form.

    With the passing game in a bit of flux, the Titans could lean on Johnson quite a bit this season.Fantasy owners take note: CJ2K might already be back.

Aaron Rodgers

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    Never mind that Green Bay is 0-2 and has generally looked terrible in the preseason. The Packers' main man has done his part in his short stints.

    The reigning MVP looks to pick up where he left off, dominating the league with ninja-like efficiency. He has not been quite the monster that he was in 2011 yet, but he looked just fine against the Browns. Perhaps losing Joe Philbin was a bigger deal than most thought, but Rodgers looks comfortable nonetheless.

    All right, if he was really in midseason form he would have tossed three touchdowns while beating up a gang of miscreants led by a masked marauder while wearing a blindfold, but Rodgers looks just fine.

Calvin Johnson

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    Megatron has shown no ill effects from the Madden curse thus far this preseason. On the contrary, he looks better than ever.

    The Lions need not tempt fate by keeping Calvin Johnson in games for too long, but against the Ravens he showed why nobody can cover him at any time of the year.

    It is only natural that a second elite quarterback-wide receiver duo is already in sync this preseason. Johnson and Stafford both showed why the Lions will be a force again if both can stay healthy this season.

    The Madden curse does not affect robots.

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