Who's Hot, Who's Not After NFL Week 3?

Andrew Garda@andrew_gardaFeatured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2013

Who's Hot, Who's Not After NFL Week 3?

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    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

    Week 3 saw the Chicago Bears take total control of the NFC North, the Miami Dolphins prove they are a legitimate force in the AFC East and the NFC East continue its descent into sub. 500 oblivion.

    Trent Richardson scored on his first carry for his new team, while his old team came away with a win with a new quarterback.

    We also saw some of the wider score margins we've seen this year to date.

    Who came out of Week 3 hot, and who was ice cold?

    Let's take a look.

HOT: DeMarco Murray, Running Back, Dallas Cowboys

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    Before Sunday, DeMarco Murray couldn't find the end zone and was having trouble compiling yards. He did not have a touchdown in the first two games and couldn't top 100 yards. 

    That all changed against the St. Louis Rams defense, when he dropped 175 yards and a touchdown. Murray ran hard and had an average of 6.7 yards per carry.

    It didn't hurt that the Cowboys flew out to a big lead early and then depended upon Murray to drain the clock.

    The third-year pro looked better than he had in a long time.

NOT: Josh Freeman, Quarterback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Things haven't been going too well for Josh Freeman this season.

    In his defense, he looked better early in the game Sunday, but then he threw an interception with 11 seconds left in the first half, which the New England Patriots turned into a field goal.

    Yes, the Buccaneers lost Vincent Jackson to bruised ribs, but the Patriots have been without their main passing game targets for the better part of three weeks and are undefeated.

    Meanwhile, Freeman has completed under 50 percent of his passes for three weeks in a row.

    It's brutal down in Tampa, and the clock on Freeman is ticking.

HOT: Josh Gordon, Wide Receiver, Cleveland Browns

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    Coming off a two-game suspension, Josh Gordon was looking to make a splash.

    How's 10 catches for 146 yards and a touchdown?

    After the franchise traded running back Trent Richardson, the fanbase needed something to lift it up. Gordon was a huge part of providing that and contributing to a Browns win.

    Trading a running back who was a first-round pick is a sign you're looking to pass the ball more. Gordon showed the fans (and the team) that he can be a big part of that in the future.

NOT: Eli Manning, Quarterback, New York Giants

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    So on the plus side, Eli Manning had just one interception.

    On the down side—well, there was almost everything else.

    The team is disintegrating around Manning. The offensive line continues to be an issue, and there is nothing resembling a run game.

    That said, Manning continues to press and make bad choices. And while it's admirable that he is trying to make something out of nothing, he needs to be better about protecting the ball and making decisions. 

    We know Manning can rise to the occasion—it's what he does every time the Giants sniff the playoffs.

    Now he needs to do it during the regular season. He just doesn't seem to be able to.

HOT: New York Jets Defensive Line

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    The New York Jets aren't a pretty team, but the defensive line of Muhammad Wilkerson, Damon Harrison and rookie Sheldon Richardson are among the best in the business.

    On Sunday, the Jets sacked Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel eight times and hit him 16. Wilkerson had a pair of sacks and five quarterback hits while Richardson had one sack.

    Right now, Wilkerson has a total of three sacks this year and Richardson has racked up 16 tackles.

    The Jets pass rush—led by the terrible trio up front—held Josh Freeman to 210 yards and Tom Brady to 185. Manuel's 243 yards is the most a quarterback has passed for against New York, and all three opposing quarterbacks were held to a single touchdown each.

    It all starts up front.

NOT: Carson Palmer, Quarterback, Arizona Cardinals

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    After stalling out at 248 yards, one touchdown and one interception last week, Carson Palmer looked downright awful with a 187-yard, two-interception performance.

    Palmer is under constant pressure and just isn't quick enough to get the ball out before he gets hit. He's rushing his reads and progressions, and he is completely unable to scramble when the pocket implodes.

    Without a doubt, he is an upgrade over what passed for quarterbacks in Arizona since Kurt Warner left. But if you were hoping to see Palmer replicate the success Warner had in the desert, you've been sorely disappointed this season.

HOT: Jimmy Graham, Tight End, New Orleans

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    Last week, Jimmy Graham had 10 catches for 179 yards and a touchdown, which he followed up with a nine-catch, 134-yard game with another two touchdowns this weekend.

    Without a doubt, Graham has become quarterback Drew Brees' favorite target in the passing offense, and the super-athletic ex-basketball player has never let him down. Whether he's leaping into the air to make a circus catch or stretching the field on a go route, Graham is a nightmare for the defense to stop on every down. 

NOT: C.J. Spiller, Running Back, Buffalo Bills

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    UPDATE: Monday, September 23 at 2:06 pm. ET

    Spiller suffered a thigh injury against the Bills, but it is not serious and he will likely be in the lineup against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend, according to Adam Schefter and Mike Rodak of ESPN.

    Original Text

    Yes, C.J. Spiller left the Bills-Jets game with a knee injury, but he was playing badly well before he headed to the locker room.

    Spiller ran the ball 10 times for a grand total of nine yards. Week 1 was a frustrating 41-yard affair, while the game against the Carolina Panthers was unsurprising until he ripped off a 46-yard run. On top of that, he has yet to find the end zone.

    Spiller was supposed to take over the heavy lifting on offense while EJ Manuel worked through his rookie season, but the last two games have seen a lot of his carries usurped by Fred Jackson. And Jackson has looked better to boot. It may be because Manuel is in his first season and teams aren't respecting the pass, but are instead stacking against the run.

    Still, the season hasn't been very kind to Spiller, and if the injury is serious, it's about to get even worse.

HOT: Jake Locker, Quarterback, Tennessee Titans

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    Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

    The media has not been incredibly kind to Jake Locker. But truth be told, he hasn't been terribly impressive so far this season.

    That said, on Sunday afternoon against the San Diego Chargers, Locker looked like he could do no wrong.

    The third-year quarterback handled the ball very well, showing good accuracy and making some great runs when the defense took his receivers away. Locker threw for 299 yards and a touchdown while running for another score and 68 yards.

    An improved offensive line kept him relatively clean, while his receiving corps—who were never the most effective bunch—found ways to make plays for him. 

    Locker still may end up as the wrong answer for the Titans at quarterback, but Sunday showed a flash of what the team was hoping for when it drafted him eighth overall back in 2011.

NOT: Colin Kaepernick, Quarterback, San Francisco 49ers

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    As much as we're trying to figure out what has been wrong with Robert Griffin III, the real story of a second-year starter collapsing might be out West.

    For two weeks in a row, Colin Kaepernick has looked like a shell of himself. He's been inaccurate (four interceptions) and looks like he lacks confidence both in passing an running. He's also played poorly overall.

    Some of that is his offensive line not playing well, and some of it is the lack of receiving weapons. (Vernon Davis being out on Sunday merely exacerbated the issue.)

    Ultimately, though, this comes down to Kaepernick going through a rough patch, just like Griffin.

    He should come out of it, but for now, there are few players as ice cold as him.

    Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at Footballguys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.