New starter looks like emerging star
Mahomes’ arm strength fuels Kansas City’s win
Every Wednesday during the NFL season, USA TODAY will be assessing everyone’s favorite topic: the quarterbacks. Who’s hot? Who’s not? Who has the most exciting matchups?
Here’s this week’s QB Hot Sheet:
Five to watch this weekend
1. Tom Brady, Patriots: He’ll face an aggressive Jaguars defense in what should be a thrilling rematch of last season’s AFC Championship Game. But this time Brady will be without three of his leading pass catchers from that day: wide receivers Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola, who caught two fourthquarter touchdowns to complete the comeback, as well as running back Dion Lewis.
2. Aaron Rodgers, Packers: The twotime MVP is awaiting the green light for this week after returning from a left knee injury in the opener, but Rodgers should have his chance to exact revenge against the rival Vikings and linebacker Anthony Barr, who broke his collarbone last year. A showdown between the league’s most electric passer and last season’s top-ranked defense is a must watch.
3. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: He needs to shake off a five-turnover performance in a Week 1 tie against the Browns and an elbow ailment that could limit him in practices. With the highscoring but defensively suspect Chiefs coming to town, a shootout could be on the horizon.
4. Matt Ryan, Falcons: Facing a Panthers team that held the Cowboys to eight points, Ryan and offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian need to solve redzone woes after Atlanta’s passing attack looked very average (21-for-43 for 251 yards and 1 interception) against the Eagles.
5. Dak Prescott, Cowboys: Without a true No. 1 target, Prescott looked uncomfortable in a loss to Carolina. The division-rival Giants loom Sunday night, a matchup that might require Prescott to be the catalyst for some explosive plays.
Three trending up
1. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buccaneers: He exploited a Saints secondary that played soft coverage against speedy DeSean Jackson and one-on-one against the physical Mike Evans, racking up a career-high 417 yards and 4 touchdowns on 21 of 28 passing. Fitzpatrick’s NFLbest 14.9 yards per attempt showed bigplay propensity, and he could build a case to retain the starting role even after Jameis Winston returns from a threegame suspension.
2. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs: His second career start helped validate the Alex Smith trade, as last year’s No. 10 overall pick used arm strength, creative throwing angles (including on a slant to Tyreek Hill on a 58-yard TD) and surprising touch in the Chiefs’ 38-28 victory at the Chargers. If he can continue to generate big plays while limiting turnovers, Mahomes (15-for-27 for 256 yards and 4 TDs) might be on the verge of a breakout season.
3. Joe Flacco, Ravens: Maybe the selection of first-round rookie Lamar Jackson did motivate Flacco, who destroyed the Bills with 236 yards and 3 TDs in a 47-3 victory. A tougher test approaches with a Thursday night tilt against the Bengals, but he’s off to a hot start.
Three trending down
1. Nathan Peterman, Bills: Another start, another dreadful performance (5for-18 for 24 yards and 2 interceptions). Peterman has now been benched in two of his three career starts.
Sean McDermott hasn’t made his call at quarterback yet, but with rookie Josh Allen waiting in the wings, Peterman might be relegated to backup status for the foreseeable future.
2. Matthew Stafford, Lions: Jets defenders said they knew Stafford’s signals, and it showed (27-for-46 for 286 yards, 1 touchdown and 4 interceptions in the 48-17 loss). Could this be the sign of a regression?
3. Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers: The Vikings defense is one of the NFL’s best, but Garoppolo was flustered in the pocket (15-for-33 for 261 yards, 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions) and suffered his first loss as a starter.
In Jimmy G’s seven games as a Niner, he now has thrown the same number of touchdown passes (8) as picks.
1. Fitzpatrick: This almost certainly won’t last, but it’s hard to put anyone above #Fitzmagic after Week 1.
2. Rodgers: Vintage performance (20 of 30 passing for 286 yards and 3 touchdowns in a 24-23 comeback victory over Bears) despite a knee injury only added to his legacy. He looks like an early favorite for MVP.
3. Drew Brees, Saints: He was outgunned by Fitzpatrick but still put up 439 yards and 3 touchdowns.
4. Mahomes: His connection with Tyreek Hill is explosive, but he’ll need to distribute the ball more. Only one other player, Sammy Watkins (three grabs for 21 yards), had more than one catch.
5. Philip Rivers, Chargers: Chasing Mahomes and the Chiefs’ lead helped his stat line (34-for-51 for 424 yards and 3 touchdowns with 1 interception), but the 15th-year veteran still victimized Kansas City’s defense. He can’t expect running backs Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler to contribute the same level of production in the passing game (14 catches for 189 yards) every week.
Patrick Mahomes looks like a star in the making after throwing for 256 yards and four TDs against the Chargers.