Week 3 was as exciting as Week 2 was bizarre. The Colts, Falcons, Cardinals, Bills and Patriots all scored at least 35 points, led by the Patriots’ 51. Tom Brady, Andy Dalton, Marcus Mariota, Joe Flacco and Josh McCown (seriously) all had at least 340 yards and two touchdowns. Three different running backs scored three touchdowns, seven receivers made a pair of trips to the end zone, and we saw our first 200-receiving-yard performance of the year.
We recap the most important developments of the day in the Week 3 Sunday Superlatives.
The Premier Running Back Duel
Joseph Randle and Devonta Freeman were both in great spots for their Week 3 meeting, though for different reasons. With Brandon Weeden under center, it was likely that the Cowboys would heavily feature the run, limiting Weeden’s opportunities to make mistakes. An injury to Tevin Coleman opened the door for Freeman in what figured to be a high-scoring game. Below, I present the first six touchdowns scored in the contest.
After a summer dominated by talk of deflated footballs and lawsuits and missing cell phones, Tom Brady hit the field for the 2015 season with a something to prove. And that's been bad news for the rest of the NFL. The 38-year-old quarterback has led the Patriots to a 3-0 start, with the team outscoring its opponents 119-70, including a 51-17 destruction of the Jaguars Sunday.
While New England has a lot to be happy about heading into the bye week, Brady has extra reason to celebrate. A 1-yard pass to Danny Amendola late in the second quarter Sunday was Brady's 400th career touchdown. (He threw number 401 in the third.) He's only the fourth quarterback in NFL history to reach the milestone. The others are Peyton Manning (533), Brett Favre (508) and Dan Marino (420).
There are genuine reasons to be worried about the offenses in Philadelphia, New Orleans and Indianapolis. They all entered the season with different ceilings, but each was expected to be a reliable source of fantasy production. Thanks to injuries and underwhelming performances, though, all have fallen far short of expectations through two weeks. Those offenses are all involved in this week's Risers and Sliders, and the uncertainty within one in particular has created an opportunity for a new fantasy star to emerge.
Donte Moncrief, WR, Colts
Through two games, Moncrief has been just about the only positive fantasy player for the Colts. He received a lot of attention after T.Y. Hilton’s knee injury, and even though Hilton is essentially at 100% now, Moncrief will remain a fixture of our fantasy lives. Why is that? Well, it appears the Texans knew something about Andre Johnson when they let him go this past offseason. Johnson looks like he has nothing left in the tank, a fact that has to be apparent to the Colts by now. Expect Moncrief to supplant Johnson as the No. 2 target in the offense as early as this week. The second-year player out of Ole Miss already has 13 catches for 168 yards and two scores, and didn’t play much in Week 1 until Hilton suffered his injury. We know that Moncrief is a legitimate weapon for Andrew Luck, and this team already has to be searching for answers after an 0–2 start no one predicted. Getting the ball to No. 10 is one of those answers. He has WR2 upside for the remainder of the season.
Tony Romo owners will searching through the waiver wire this week, hoping for a suitable replacement for the Cowboys QB, who's set to miss eight weeks with a broken collarbone. Luckily, there are still a few serviceable quarterbacks who they can get their hands on. Somehow, there is one in particular who has turned in top-10 performances in both weeks this year and yet remains available in far too many leagues. That guy kicks off our look at the players, (quarterbacks and otherwise), to grab off the waiver wire heading into Week 3.
Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals
I don’t feel that I have to spend too much time on this one. Dalton is still available in about 70% of leagues. He already has 483 yards and five touchdowns against zero interceptions this season. He has a cache of weapons nearly any quarterback would trade for in a heartbeat, as well as a line that has played very well through two games. If you just lost Romo, or if you just need another quarterback, Dalton should be right at the top of your list.
Once upon a time, boys and girls, college football was stable. The Big Ten had 10 teams, as did the Pac-10. The Big Eight had eight teams, and the Southwest and Atlantic Coast conferences truly focused on the Southwest and the Atlantic Coast.
But college football has done its best in the last three decades — the last five years specifically — to blow that stability to smithereens.
Conference realignment is the art of conference commissioners sitting down and rearranging college football’s carefully crafted order. And in recent years it has dominated the headlines. It seems to be quieting down, with only two teams (Navy and Charlotte) moving leagues this season. But, just for fun, let’s stroll down memory lane and remember the joy (and sadness) conference realignment brought us.
There are a few weeks in every NFL season that get totally off track and never recover. Week 2 was the first instance of such a week in the 2015 season. The Buccaneers went into New Orleans as 10-point underdogs and were in complete control from start to finish in their win over the Saints. Oakland, Jacksonville and Washington knocked off Baltimore, Miami and St. Louis, respectively, as home underdogs. Johnny Manziel looked like one of the most dangerous deep passers in the league. Jeremy Hill fumbled twice and was benched for Giovani Bernard. DeMarco Murray had negative rushing yards until late in the fourth quarter. Like I said, it was a weird Sunday. Let’s get to some of the most noteworthy performances in the Week 2 Sunday Superlatives.
The Best Connection in the League
Week 2 eventually went off the rails, but it started in a very familiar way. Namely, with Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski making secondaries look helpless. Brown torched the 49ers for nine catches, 195 yards and one touchdown. He entered the week with a 33-game streak with at least five catches and 50 yards. He extended that by the midpoint of the second quarter. Up in Buffalo, Gronkowski did his thing, hauling in seven passes for 113 yards and a score of his own. He’s riding an impressive streak of his own, hitting paydirt in eight straight games, including the Patriots' run to the Super Bowl last season. Brown now has 18 catches for 328 yards and two touchdowns this year, while Gronk is up to 12 receptions for 207 yards and four end zone trips. Brown’s currently on pace for 2,624 yards and 16 touchdowns. Gronk is on pace for a measly 1,656 yards, but 32 touchdowns. They’ll both probably slow down, but it’s always fun to play around with on-pace stats early in the season. Brown and Gronk are unquestionably the best players at their respective positions. The question for us, however, is which connection—Ben Roethlisberger to Brown or Tom Brady to Gronkowski—is more potent?
It took all of one week for the injury bug to bite some of the NFL's most valuable players. The receiver position was hit especially hard, with Dez Bryant (foot), T.Y. Hilton (knee), and DeSean Jackson (hamstring) all set to miss time after suffering injuries last week. Add that to the usual Week 1 surprises, from disappointing no-shows to breakout performances, and the fantasy community is looking at an active week on the waiver wire. Below are the top players you’ll want to target this week.
Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals
Even though one-quarterback leagues are still the norm, it’s surprising that Dalton was so available heading into Week 1. That’s not going to be the case after what he did against the Raiders. Dalton’s numbers—269 yards and two touchdowns—would be enough to catch anyone’s eye. What’s more impressive is that he did it getting a subpar game from A.J. Green. The Bengals' offense is loaded, and Dalton is right at the center of it all. We know he’s going to have a stinker or two at some point, but his owners will be able to live with those games this season. With all the weapons around him in Cincinnati, the good is going to be way more frequent than the bad.