Fitzpatrick smart start in Week 4
The Redskins, Titans and Lions still look like the best teams to exploit in the air. Meanwhile, the Bucs are bucking recent trends. They are proving incredibly physical, and though they've allowed the most passing yards, they've only relinquished four touchdown tosses and have gone from worst (in 2011) to first versus the run. Passers should still have some success moving the ball on them, but don't expect many scores.
No. 2 QUARTERBACKS
1. Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. New England - The math is fairly simple. Fitzpatrick is tied for the league lead with eight passing scores through three weeks. He also has a nice recent history with two games of more than 300 yards versus New England last year. The "improved" Patriots defense was just shredded for more than 500 yards versus the Ravens, including 382 yards and three scores coming from Joe Flacco's right arm. Without C.J. Spiller and with Fred Jackson not 100 percent, if active at all, Fitzpatrick will be a volume quarterback this week as he passes a ton against a Pats defense protecting a lead. Add that all together and it equals a big week.
2. Christian Ponder at Detroit - Ponder will welcome the return of Jerome Simpson to provide another dimension to an already improving passing game. With Simpson adding a deep threat down the sideline and great quickness across the middle, the Lions shoddy secondary will not be able to double Percy Harvin as frequently. Kyle Rudolph's continued progress is just another headache for a defense that has yet to register an interception and just allowed a whopping 378 yards through the air to Jake Locker.
3. Josh Freeman vs. Washington - The Skins gave up more than 300 yards and three scores to Sam Bradford and Andy Dalton in consecutive weeks. Sure, Freeman isn't exactly the most proficient passer out there and plays in a run-first system, but then again, what is Bradford? Until Washington proves it can even remotely stop the pass, starting any quarterback against the Redskins looks like a pretty good idea.
4. Matt Schaub vs. Tennessee - Schaub took an Evander Holyfield-esque licking and he kept on ticking, throwing his fourth touchdown pass last week after having a minor earlobe-ectomy performed via a vicious Joe Mays hit. Up next is a Titans defense that's 30th against the pass and has allowed a league-high 119.0 passer rating with eight scores to just one pick. If you think Arian Foster and Ben Tate set up the play-action well last week, just watch Schaub burn a Tennessee team on which Andre Johnson has historically feasted.
5. Andy Dalton at Jacksonville - The Jaguars may have just given up their first two passing scores of the season, but they also faced two run-first teams in the season's first two weeks. And they gave up those scores to rookie Andrew Luck. Sure, Luck looks more experienced than a rookie at times, but he's still completing 15 percent fewer of his attempts than Dalton. With the likes of Andrew Hawkins and Armon Binns complementing A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham, Dalton has been on a brilliant streak with at least 300 yards and three scores in consecutive games. Here's betting he makes it a third straight big-time performance.
6. Matt Cassel vs. San Diego - Cassel has thrown for more yards than Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton, just to name a few. So even though he won't generate a lot of touchdowns, because of the miserable play of the Chiefs defense and the nice assortment of weapons at his disposal, Cassel should produce consistently in the yardage department. With Jamaal Charles setting up the play action, look for Cassel to become more efficient with the ball and possibly post more scores in the process.
7. Alex Smith at New York Jets - Smith should bounce back from an uncharacteristically sloppy performance in Minnesota (two turnovers), and the absence of Darrelle Revis (ACL) in New York will help considerably. With Revis out with a concussion in Week 2 the Jets defense allowed Ben Roethlisberger to burn it for 275 yards and two scores on 24-of-31 passing. Against an invisible Jets pass rush (three games, three sacks), Smith should comfortably find his targets as they separate from average coverage and return to his usually efficient ways.
No. 2 QB RANKINGS
*Check injury status
13. Andy Dalton CIN at Jac
14. Joe Flacco BAL vs. Cle
15. *Matt Schaub HOU vs. Ten
16. Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF vs. NE
17. Alex Smith SF at NYJ
18. Tony Romo DAL vs. Chi
19. Christian Ponder MIN at Det
20. Carson Palmer OAK at Den
21. Matt Cassel KC vs. SD
22. Jake Locker TEN at Hou
23. Blaine Gabbert JAC vs. Cin
24. Jay Cutler CHI at Dal
25. Mark Sanchez NYJ vs. SF
26. *Kevin Kolb ARZ vs. Mia
27. Russell Wilson SEA at StL
28. Sam Bradford STL vs. Sea
29. Brandon Weeden CLE at Bal
30. Ryan Tannehill MIA at Ari
31. *Shaun Hill DET vs. Min
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