Ryan, Cutler safe bets in Week 4
Matthew Stafford’s play was enough to earn his way into the “Exclusions” club for Week 4. His Tweet about Calvin Johnson’s status among elite receivers (calling his shot for another two touchdown hookups with Johnson on Sunday) puts him on the 2011 All-Social Media Team.
Through three weeks of play, there have been 34 300-yard games tossed by quarterbacks ranging from Tom Brady to Jason Campbell. The aerial assaults keep coming in Week 4, led by Manning and Schaub.
Exclude: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Michael Vick, Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, Matthew Stafford
Week 4 Heroes
Eli Manning, NYG at Arizona: Nicks was injured. Manningham was “Out.” Manning still dominated the Philadelphia secondary for 254 passing yards and four touchdowns while making a huge statement.
Nicks is a question mark heading into the weekend, but Manningham has returned to practice. Week 3 star and waiver wire hero Victor Cruz is ready to make an impact downfield against the Arizona pass defense that has allowed 275 net passing yards per game. The Cardinals have generated nine sacks, so the New York offensive line will be pushed. Still, opportunities abound downfield.
Matt Schaub, HOU vs. Pittsburgh: Go back and watch the tape. The Indianapolis quarterbacks had numerous opportunities to make big plays against the Steelers in Week 3. They just flat-out missed them.
I still Troy Polamalu and company will generate a turnover or two, but Schaub will find his spots on the edges. Following a mediocre opening game, Schaub has delivered five touchdowns against one interception in his past two starts.
Jay Cutler, CHI vs. Carolina: Last week’s game against the Packers was problematic on 100 levels. Placing him among the “Heroes” may be seen as overly optimistic. Look at the numbers. Ugliness doesn’t matter in the box score. Three-hundred passing yards and two touchdowns reads the same, no matter how frequently the quarterback is running for his life or the “hit count” is referenced by the broadcast booth.
Cutler has topped 300 passing yards in two of the Bears’ first three games with five passing touchdowns and four turnovers (14 sacks). He opposes a Carolina pass defense (without Beason and Davis) that has allowed 240 net passing yards per game with five passing touchdowns and one interception. It may not look neat and clean, but the results will be there on Monday morning.
Rex Grossman, WAS at St. Louis: Don’t lose faith. Grossman didn’t obliterate the Cowboys, but he wasn’t altogether awful (250 yards with a touchdown and two turnovers). He’s on the board for a big road matchup in St. Louis. The Rams have ceded 252 net passing yards and 2.3 passing touchdowns per game, including Joe Flacco’s explosion in Week 3. The St. Louis secondary has been decimated by injuries (they signed Rod Hood this week) and obviously struggle against the deep ball. Go back and watch the film. Flacco and Smith narrowly missed connecting on several other downfield tosses last week.
Matt Ryan, ARI at Seattle: Following a huge touchdown output in Week 2 (he wasn’t terribly sharp overall, but dominated the Eagles in the red zone), Ryan put forth a solid, albeit unspectacular, effort in Week 3 against the Buccaneers with 330 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Ryan leaves me moderately concerned this week given his road woes and the Seahawks’ early success against the pass. Again, I show no fear. Seattle has allowed 218.3 passing yards per game and just two passing touchdowns through three weeks (San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Arizona).
Ben Roethlisberger, PIT at Houston: Roethlisberger faced pressure off of the edges time and again during the narrow win over Indianapolis in Week 3. He passed for 364 yards with one touchdown and three turnovers while under duress. Roethlisberger’s averaged 314 yards with four touchdowns and seven turnovers to date.
He’ll see more of the same this week against the rush of J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith. Roethlisberger will be up to the task against the Houston secondary (226 net passing yards per game with five total touchdowns).
Ryan Fitzpatrick, BUF at Cincinnati: I love the neck-beard, but he almost slipped under the line and into the “Flop Alerts” section. Fitzpatrick has averaged 280 passing yards, three touchdowns and an interception per game. That level of brilliance warrants another start, even in an uncertain road test.
Do I have too much respect for the Cincinnati defense? The Bengals rank fifth in pass defense (188.3 passing yards with four touchdowns, one interception and three sacks). The Browns, Broncos and 49ers completed 56.8% of their pass attempts.
I know. Colt McCoy, Kyle Orton and Alex Smith don’t get your blood pumping. Three weeks ago, neither did Fitzpatrick. Ride the hot hand.
Joe Flacco, BAL vs. New York Jets: It’s too easy to dismiss Flacco. I understand that he struggled terribly in Week 3 of 2010 against New York. Flacco’s attacking defenses differently this season, and the arrival of Torrey Smith (I almost wrote Holt) changes the complexion of the offense. Lee Evans isn’t ready yet, but Smith spreads the field and opens windows for under routes.
The Jets rank sixth in pass defense at 188.7 passing yards per game with two touchdowns against five interceptions. Am I insane? Insane like a fox! Flacco shocks you with 225-250 yards, two touchdowns (I’m sure there’s a turnover in there, too).
New York cornerback Antonio Cromartie was listed on the injury report with multiple ailments.
Week 4 Ninja Alerts
Andy Dalton, CIN vs. Buffalo: Dalton will command an offense that includes Jerome Simpson and Cedric Benson alongside A.J. Green. Dalton has been uneven through three weeks, to say the least. He passed for 332 yards against the Broncos, but produced 81 and 157 yards against the Browns and 49ers, respectively.
The Bills did intercept Tom Brady four times last week to offset his four touchdown passes in the upset win. However, you’re looking at a pass defense that ranks 24th overall (271.7 yards and 2.3 touchdowns per game).
Kyle Orton, DEN at Green Bay: Jay Cutler passed for 302 yards with two touchdowns while absorbing a beating against the Packers in Week 3. It wasn’t pretty, by any means, but you take the stats and run. Overall, the Green Bay pass defense ranks 31st in the NFL (359.3 net passing yards and 1.7 passing touchdowns per game).
Orton has hardly been dominant in 2011 (224 passing yards per game with five touchdowns and five turnovers), but he’ll have his complete complement of receivers and offensive weapons at his disposal this week. Chuck it up and let the receivers make plays.
Mark Sanchez, NYJ at Baltimore: Do you want to roll the dice? The Ravens have yielded 245.3 passing yards and one passing touchdown per game (Pittsburgh, Tennessee and St. Louis). Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson will find running room sparse against Haloti Ngata and the Baltimore front, but I do believe that the revamped New York passing game can find success against the Ravens’ cornerbacks.
Sanchez has thrown multiple touchdowns in three consecutive games with averaging 295.3 passing yards (335, 182 and 369).
Jason Campbell, OAK vs. New England: Why not? The Raiders have two burners ready to sprint downfield in Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford. New England will concentrate its efforts to trip up Darren McFadden on the ground (he’ll be fine if he can avoid Vince Wilfork), thereby leaving Campbell with ample opportunity to exploit the heretofore horrid New England secondary. He’ll obviously need to come out chucking while trying to keep pace with Tom Brady.
Campbell passed for over 300 yards in Week 2, but passed for fewer than 160 passing yards in his other outings. If you are the gambling type, Campbell’s your guy for Week 4.
Week 4 Flop Alerts
Josh Freeman, TB vs. Indianapolis: If we pay attention to the Vegas lines and believe the read on this game, then Freeman should put up a solid effort on Monday night. Seriously, when do these “Flex” things kick in so we don’t have to watch the soliloquies about Peyton Manning?
I’m still not convinced that he surmounts a huge effort this week against the speed-rushing Colts. Indianapolis has allowed 251.7 passing yards and one touchdown per game. Through three weeks, Freeman has averaged 227.3 passing yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions (plus a rushing touchdown). He’s yet to replicate his 2010 magic with Mike Williams, and support from the running game and secondary receiving options has been sporadic.
Kevin Kolb, ARI vs. New York Giants: Kolb opened the season with fine efforts against the Panthers and Redskins. He then fell into the trap and posted an uneven effort against the Seahawks (252 net yards with one touchdown and two interceptions). He’ll look to rebound this week, but the matchup against the vaunted New York front-seven is uninspiring. Larry Fitzgerald will get his shots downfield (they’ll not let him be eliminated as he was in Week 3 again). However, I’m anticipating that the defensive line wreaks havoc.
Cam Newton, CAR at Chicago: It’s difficult not to start Newton after watching his start to 2011 and the struggles of the Chicago secondary. I can’t help but think that Rod Marinelli presents a package to rattle the rookie and that he and Julius Peppers get acquainted early.
Chicago has allowed 277.3 net passing yards and two touchdowns per game to opposing quarterbacks. Remember, the three quarterbacks they faced were Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan. I’m not crushing Newton, so save the hate mail. I’m merely throwing up the caution flag in this road matchup against a team expected to rank among the leaders.
Sam Bradford, STL vs. Washington: Bradford was a preseason sleeper target, but things have not progressed as expected in St. Louis. Through three weeks, Bradford has averaged 228.3 passing yards per game with two touchdowns and four turnovers (three lost fumbles). He’s been pressured constantly, and I fear more of the same with Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo coming to town.