New starter looks like emerg­ing star

Ma­homes’ arm strength fu­els Kansas City’s win

USA TODAY International Edition - - SPORTS | NFL - Lorenzo Reyes

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.

Season rank­ings

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.

JAKE ROTH/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Pa­trick Ma­homes looks like a star in the mak­ing af­ter throw­ing for 256 yards and four TDs against the Charg­ers.

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