NFL Week 3 Predictions: Projecting Best, Worst Sunday Performances
We spend the offseason clamoring for football to get here, and time flies when it finally does. Week 3 is already upon us, and we are just about 12 percent through the regular season. Savor it.
Last week's Sunday predictions produced mixed results.
Aaron Rodgers, Pierre Garçon and Mike Wallace went off while Mark Ingram and Brandon Pettigrew were predictably bad, but Knowshon Moreno put up an unexpectedly good line while Eddie Lacy was knocked out of the game after one carry.
As the season moves into Week 3, we can begin to look at trends to refine predictions. Click through to find this week's predictions for Sunday success and failure.
These predictions are based on offensive skill players who are expected to start or garner a significant amount of game action. You wouldn't expect a fourth-string receiver to have a good game—those predictions are implied.
Best at Quarterback
Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
With running back Knowshon Moreno scoring a couple of times last week and his brother channeling George Blanda circa 1962, quarterback Peyton Manning was able to put it in cruise control.
This week figures to be another easy one on offense for the Denver Broncos at home against the Raiders, but Oakland has actually been pretty good against the run thus far. Granted, the level of competition hasn't exactly been otherworldly for the Raiders, but Moreno might not be getting 25-yard touchdowns this week.
Manning figures to land somewhere between Week 1's seven-touchdown explosion and last week's more subdued results.
Prediction: 425 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Washington has the worst pass defense. Until further notice, any quarterback that goes up against that unit will automatically be considered here.
Aside from facing Washington, Matthew Stafford is pretty good in his own right. Having receiver Calvin Johnson helps.
Prediction: 375 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions—20 rushing yards
Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
Last week was abominable for Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers. They seemed overwhelmed by that Seattle defense, backed by that uproarious crowd. The 12th Man was so loud that a 49ers fan actually wrote a newspaper to complain about an unfair advantage.
None of that matters this week as the 49ers are home again, probably itching to put a beatdown on their next opponent. That opponent is the Indianapolis Colts, who do not have a particularly good defense.
Prediction: 300 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception—50 rushing yards, 1 touchdown
Worst at Quarterback
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
The Miami Dolphins came to town and slowed Andrew Luck down enough to beat the Colts last week. He was held to 321 yards and just one touchdown, throwing an interception to boot.
Miami's defense is good, but San Francisco's is better. And the 49ers are at home, likely fuming from their blowout loss to the Seattle Seahawks last week.
All signs point to a tough weekend for the Colts.
Prediction: 275 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions—30 rushing yards, 1 fumble
Chad Henne, Jacksonville Jaguars
Prediction: 150 passing yards, 3 interceptions
Best at Running Back
Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers
Last week was predictably tough sledding for Frank Gore in Seattle, especially as the game got out of hand in the second half.
Much like Lamar Miller after a horrendous Week 1, however, Gore gets to lick his wounds against a mediocre Colts defense. This game figures to get out of hand in favor of the 49ers, which could mean plenty of carries for Gore before he gives way to Kendall Hunter.
Prediction: 125 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns—35 receiving yards
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
The only thing that's going to stop Marshawn Lynch is the score this weekend. Robert Turbin figures to get some playing time in during garbage time, which figures to start sometime in the middle of the second quarter.
Prediction: 95 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns—25 receiving yards
Joique Bell, Detroit Lions
It looks like Reggie Bush will be playing this weekend, but to what effect?
Bush has not exactly played lights out when injured in the past—just look at the string of games he had after he injured his knee last year in Miami. It stands to reason the Detroit Lions will be cautious with him to boot.
With Joique Bell playing well and a soft matchup coming up against Washington, Bell should have a nice game.
Prediction: 110 rushing yards, 1 touchdown—60 receiving yards
Worst at Running Back
Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens
To be honest, it's doubtful Ray Rice even plays. Perhaps that's because he has been given the "doubtful" designation.
There is some hope that he will still be able to get on the field, but to what end? It seems he will be putting himself at risk of further injury, and it's difficult to believe he will have any sort of effectiveness.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars
Prediction: 30 rushing yards—15 receiving yards
Trent Richardson, Indianapolis Colts
Shock waves rippled through the NFL landscape as Trent Richardson was traded to the Colts in a surprise move by the Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis.
Richardson lands on a better team that figures to open things up a bit for him, and he should see an uptick in production and efficiency over the course of the season. But not this Sunday.
Prediction: 45 rushing yards—20 receiving yards
Best at Wide Receiver
Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
There are plenty of Detroit Lions predicted to be among the best performers this week. That's because they're going up against a Washington defense that looks like it's putting nine men on the field half the time.
Prediction: 9 receptions, 175 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns
A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
Surprise, surprise—the two best receivers in the NFL are going to have nice games this weekend. We might as well just leave them here all season.
In all seriousness, not only is Green arguably the second-best receiver in the game, he is going up against a Green Bay defense that was shredded by Anquan Boldin and Pierre Garcon in each of the past two weeks, respectively.
Prediction: 8 receptions, 150 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys
Green is arguably the second-best receiver in the league because Dez Bryant can stake claim to that title as well. He has been dealing with injuries over the past couple of weeks, but he should be good to go against the St. Louis Rams.
Whether it's Cortland Finnegan or Janoris Jenkins, top receivers have toasted the St. Louis secondary in the first two weeks of the season. This week should be no different.
Prediction: 10 receptions, 145 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos
See: Peyton Manning, slide No. 1.
Prediction: 6 receptions, 125 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
Pierre Garcon, Washington
As long as that Washington defense is among the worst in the league—and there is no indication that will change anytime soon—the offense will be playing catch-up in shootouts. That benefits guys like Pierre Garcon, who will be a garbage-time star for the foreseeable future.
Not to mention, Detroit's defense isn't terribly good.
Prediction: 7 receptions, 100 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
Worst at Wide Receiver
Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns
Josh Gordon makes his triumphant return from a two-game suspension this week. His reward? Brian Hoyer at quarterback.
Gordon is good enough that he might get lucky on a deep ball, but this figures to be a lost weekend for the Browns.
Prediction: 4 receptions, 55 yards
Julian Edelman, New England Patriots
He had a rather productive Week 2 despite not getting into the end zone, but Julian Edelman could be in for a tough time this week.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers haven't given up much to opposing receivers, including those on that vaunted New Orleans offense. Darrelle Revis isn't quite the dominant guy he was in New York—not yet at least—and he could draw an assignment against Edelman.
Edelman became quarterback Tom Brady's favorite target after all the injuries the offense suffered, and the Bucs know it. They will probably try to take Edelman away as often as possible.
Prediction: 6 receptions, 50 yards
Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville Jaguars
Not only have the Jaguars put up just 12 points through two weeks, this week they go up against arguably the league's best defense—a case that is almost certainly true when the Seahawks are at home.
Richard Sherman is a part of that defense, and the league's best cover cornerback will likely spend his time shadowing Cecil Shorts.
Poor Shorts. Poor Jacksonville.
Prediction: 2 receptions, 15 yards
Best at Tight End
Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons face the Dolphins this week in what has become a game of attrition, given all the injuries on both sides of the ball.
Given the state of that Atlanta offensive line, Matt Ryan could be running for his life often this week. Enter Tony Gonzalez, who will be Ryan's safety blanket.
Miami has had trouble with opposing tight ends thus far—Jordan Cameron and Coby Fleener both had nice games, and neither is as good as Gonzalez still is—and the Falcons could be forced to pass a lot this week because of Steven Jackson's injury and potentially getting behind in the game early.
Prediction: 6 receptions, 85 yards, 1 touchdown
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
Who is going to cover Jimmy Graham? None of Arizona's linebackers are particularly good in coverage, and Graham remains the best healthy tight end in the game.
It should be another nice day for him.
Prediction: 7 receptions, 110 yards, 1 touchdown
Worst at Tight End
Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts
The Dolphins are generous to opposing to tight ends, hence Fleener's breakout performance last week. The 49ers won't be in a giving mood against the Colts.
Prediction: 4 receptions, 45 yards
Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins
It was a breakout performance for Charles Clay last week, who went over 100 yards receiving and rushed the ball for a touchdown. But don't buy into that performance as a trend.
Most of that yardage came on a busted coverage over the middle when Clay got behind the Colts secondary and raced down the sideline. Odds are that won't happen again, let alone another rushing touchdown.
Prediction: 5 receptions, 45 yards
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots sorely need Rob Gronkowski. He has been progressing toward game action throughout the preseason and first two weeks, and he was upgraded to "questionable" heading into this Sunday's matchup, via Doug Kyed of NESN.com.
Considering Tampa Bay has been terrible defending tight ends thus far, this would seem like a match made in heaven. Indeed, Gronkowski would be in for a big game if he could play.
But don't expect him for one more week.
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