In the AFC, the two Championship teams from last year (the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots) have started the 2016 season undefeated. … In contrast, the NFC looks wide open. Last season’s Championship game featured the Arizona Cardinals and the Carolina Panthers, both of whom have started 1-2. Today, I’ll look at two top veteran quarterbacks on NFC powerhouses – the same two who battled it out last year in one of the great playoff games of all time.
It was a ‘prove it’ game for the Packers this week. The offense hasn’t looked like the one we’re used to, and much had been made of how poorly Aaron Rodgers has been playing since the middle of last season. Stopping Matt Stafford and the offense for the 1-1 Lions was important, but more than anything the Packers just needed some confidence back.
15-of-24, 205 yards, 4 touchdowns, 0 interceptions
- The first drive was sparked by a typical Rodgers to Randall Cobb play, the quarterback looking to be lost between defenders, but rolling out to his right and improvising to hit the slot receiver. Interestingly though, it was Cobb’s only reception in the game.
- Similarly to the Chargers and their crossing routes, the Packers dominated on quick slants. Once in a while, Davante Adams flashes the potential that had fantasy owners excited in recent years, and he did it this week with an outstanding shake-and-bake move for a 14-yard touchdown.
- The Packers have missed the Rodgers-to-Jordy Nelson combination in a huge way. It was evident how game-changing it can be on the second Packers drive in this game, as Nelson broke free for a 49-yard reception, and followed it up with a 8-yard touchdown a few plays later. These two have a special chemistry.
- Rodgers’ arm strength is still absurd – to start the second quarter, he was rolling to his left and threw the ball effortlessly from his own 30-yard line to the end zone, drawing a pass interference penalty. A 70-yard throw with a simple flick of the wrist.
- After an easy rollout touchdown to tight end Richard Rodgers, the Packers began to feed Eddie Lacy, but Rodgers looked to Nelson again. He hit him on four out of five plays in a row in the fourth touchdown drive, finishing it off with a 17-yarder.
- The shift in offensive philosophy from the first to second half was crazy – after tossing four touchdowns in the first half, Rodgers only had five attempts in the second.
- He converted on a huge third-and-8 with just over three minutes remaining and up 34-27 by running for the first down. The poise and athletic ability are two of the reasons he is one of the greatest in the game.
It was a game of two halves for the Packers’ offense. On one hand, Green Bay put up 34 points, the most they’ve scored since week three of last year. However, it wasn’t as dominant an offensive performance as the box score would suggest. While they closed out the game, they looked perhaps a little too conservative when it might have been more beneficial to ride the wave and try to pile on the points. The Lions will be distraught that the game got away from them so early. It shouldn’t have been this one-sided.
Despite the 34 points, Rodgers still only threw for just over 200 yards. He’s not his storming self right now, but it’s games like these that will propel him back to the top of the fantasy quarterback standings. He still has the potential to be the overall QB1 every week, despite the fact the offense isn’t firing on all cylinders. It’s all good.
One team whose offensive struggles did show up clearly yesterday was the Arizona Cardinals. After starting the season with a 5:0 touchdown-to-interception ratio, Carson Palmer put up a stinker. While our first featured quarterback threw only 24 balls and produced insane efficiency, the man in focus below had twice the volume but amassed an awful stat line.
26-of-50, 287 yards, 0 touchdowns, 4 interceptions
- The Cardinals looked uncomfortable from the start. Their first drive started inside the 40 of the Bills, but one Michael Floyd drop, a David Johnson run, and a Larry Fitzgerald drop (!) later, and they were punting.
- The offense under Bruce Arians has always been predicated on deep throws and stretching defenses. In this game, the Cards just couldn’t seem to connect.
- The playing-from-behind mentality is hard to cope with. Some teams stick to their game plan and execute, while others panic and feel the need to go to the air too soon. It seemed as though Arizona wanted to hit these deep balls, and Palmer had made up his mind he’d throw them whether they were open or not.
- Once down 17-0, it was inevitable that Palmer was going to have a pass-heavy day. However, to reach the end zone for the first time just before the half, the drive involved a heavy dose of David Johnson, slants, screens and checkdowns. This is the type of drive they should have looked to put together early.
- Down 23-7, they had another chance to get back in it, but couldn’t make the push to convert on both a second- and third- down with one yard to go. After a delay of game on fourth-and-two, they had to settle for a kick. However, the ball was snapped right over the holder’s head and returned for a touchdown. This essentially wrapped up the game for Buffalo.
- Palmer was in prime garbage mode at the end of the third quarter. This was the chance to rack up some fantasy points, but instead he managed to throw four picks in just over seven minutes of game time.
- The first was a major miscommunication with John Brown and spectacular takeaway by Stephon Gilmore, but the final three will sting fantasy owners as they all came in the end zone. Palmer forced three balls to men who weren’t open, and they were all taken away.
- As well as the four that were turned over, Palmer threw four other balls that should have been intercepted in the first three quarters. It really was an ugly day.
Should we be worried? Absolutely.
I trust Bruce Arians is a good enough coach to rally this team and they won’t go away easily, but they looked far off the dominant squad from 2015. My expectation before the season was that Palmer could match or improve on his QB7 ADP, but I’m not sure I’d stick by that now. With all of his weapons, he should still be a solid QB2 with a chance at QB1 weeks, but his 2015 season (by far his best) may have been his fantasy peak.
I wouldn’t give up on Palmer at this point, but the schedule has ups-and-downs, and he’s not a must-start. As well as their fierce rivalry games with the Seahawks, Arizona will play the Panthers and Vikings. We will get more of an idea of which Carson Palmer we can expect moving forward after two crucial games against the Rams and 49ers in the next two weeks.
Other Week 3 Quarterback Performances of Note:
As I mentioned last week, any quarterback who starts for the Patriots is worth plugging into your fantasy team. Jacoby Brissett looked awesome. However, with these performances, it’s scary thinking of how good New England will look when Tom Brady returns.
The staunch Minnesota defense has taken care of Cam Newton and Aaron Rodgers in back-to-back weeks. Imagine what they can do against Eli Manning, Brock Osweiler, and Brian Hoyer in three of their next four games?
I simply cannot believe how well my Week One features (Carson Wentz and Trevor Siemian) played this Sunday. Siemian has the weapons, and Wentz is elevating everyone around him. It’s a joy to be a Philadelphia or Denver fan right now. On the other hand, I’m sick and tired of Ryan Tannehill and Blake Bortles. Mediocre quarterbacks can hold back franchises for years (see Jay Cutler). I’m out.
I’d hoped both of the sophomore superstar quarterbacks (Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota) would take a huge step forward this year. It hasn’t been the case. Winston has struggled to lead his team to victories, but has put up the fantasy points, while the Titans signal caller hasn’t thrown for more than 275 yards in any game. Mariota is a strictly matchup-based start until he proves otherwise, whereas Winston is a solid fantasy asset.
The season is really starting to heat up, so enjoy the ride. I frickin’ love football.
Quarterbacks covered so far: