It's never easy to watch NFL stars struggle.
But for various reasons, stars do underperform on a yearly basis in every professional sport. This year is no different in the NFL, but struggles can be rectified every Sunday (or Thursday or Monday, depending on the schedule).
"Struggling" is a word that we think of when players aren't recording any stats, but missing key throws in big moments, only performing well in garbage time and failing to make an impact against good teams are also components of what we will be discussing.
Without further ado, here are three players who have struggled—for whatever reason—through six weeks of the NFL season and are poised to turn things around in the days to come.
QB Tom Brady, New England Patriots (at New York Jets)
There's nothing like a game-winning drive to get a player off the schneid.
Rhyming aside, Tom Brady looked like his old self as the Patriots secured a come-from-behind victory over the previously undefeated New Orleans Saints in Week 6. His last-second throw to Kenbrell Thompkins in the left corner of the end zone was a thing of beauty.
While his stats (1,480 yards, eight TDs, four INTs, 56.9 percent completion rate) have him ranked in the middle of the pack when it comes to QBs in 2013, Sunday proved Brady can be as dangerous as ever if his receivers continue to grow.
Who wins the AFC East?
Facing the New York Jets in Week 7, Brady will try to tackle another fierce test. Not only are the Jets a division rival, but he completed less than 50 percent of his passes in a 185-yard, one-touchdown performance the first time these teams met in 2013. The Pats won, 13-10.
New York boasts an above-average pass defense, but a closer look yields the fact that the Jets are the worst team in the NFL at getting the QB to throw an interception; they only have one on the season.
Although New England will have to cope with road demons and finding enough adrenaline after last weekend's events, I like Brady to have a solid, turnover-free day and find the end zone at least twice.
Projected Stat Line: 24-of-33 passing, 288 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs
WR Victor Cruz, New York Giants (vs. Minnesota Vikings)
Cruz isn't your typical struggling star.
Just check this tweet from ESPN's NFL Twitter account:
NFL receiving yardage leaders: 1 Jimmy Graham 593 2 DeSean Jackson 589 3 Julio Jones 580 4 Torrey Smith 568 5 Victor Cruz 541— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) October 16, 2013
Still one of the most prolific receivers in the game, the salsa-dancing fiend is like every other Giant on the roster now—saddled with the reality that another loss would push the winless streak in town to seven.
It isn't often that receivers start getting the blame when their quarterback leads the league in interceptions, but that's exactly what head coach Tom Coughlin has done, per this tweet from USA Today's Tom Pelissero:
Following that information, it isn't out of the realm to place Cruz among those who are struggling. Without his three-touchdown performance against Dallas, the Giants wideout has been relatively quiet for most of the season.
Hakeem Nicks, the running game and injuries deserve plenty of blame too, but when you're a star like Cruz, you take the weight of expectations and criticism well on. It might be unfair, but that's life, and Cruz knows he needs to step his game up to make up for shortcomings elsewhere on the roster.
Against Minnesota in Week 7, Cruz will have a huge day. The Vikings allow over 300 yards through the air per game through six weeks and have yielded 13 touchdowns to opposing receivers.
Mark down Cruz for two TDs and even more receptions as his efforts help the Giants get win No. 1 in 2013.
Projected Stat Line: 11 receptions, 153 yards, 2 TDs
RB Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins (vs. Buffalo Bills)
Miller hasn't had more than 14 carries in five games this year, but I expect the Dolphins to finally let him loose against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. He's earned it, and the matchup dictates a strong running game.
The former Hurricane star has a respectable 4.2 yard-per-carry average, but so far, Miami has not leaned heavily on the run during its 3-2 start.
Coming off a bye week, it would be foolish to not try to establish the run against the Bills.
Buffalo is giving up only 3.9 yards per carry but are allowing over 124 yards per game this season, and Miller is a prime candidate to earn a big chunk of that action this week. After all, he did have a big game against the Bills last season, per Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald:
Dolphins RB Lamar Miller averaged 7.3 YPC (10 ATT for 73 YDS) against the Buffalo Bills the last game the teams played.— Armando Salguero (@ArmandoSalguero) October 16, 2013
Daniel Thomas has siphoned off some of Miller's production, but you get the feeling that with two weeks of preparation and a chance to kick-start the offensive line in practice, this is the week Miller stands out. Look for a day worthy of both fantasy and real-life praise.
Projected Stat Line: 18 carries, 121 yards, 1 TD
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