NORMAN VS. BECKHAM TOP WEEK 3 MATCHUP
Here they go again. Josh Norman vs. Odell Beckham Jr.
In much-hyped boxing matches, the sequel often doesn’t come close to matching the thrill of the original encounter. Maybe that will be the case Sunday at MetLife Stadium, when the matchup between Norman and Beckham, two of the NFL’s best — with hot history and months of trash-talking hype — headlines the game pitting the undefeated New York Giants (2-0) against winless Washington (0-2).
When they last matched up in December, mayhem broke out.
In the end, it was advantage Norman, who was then a member of the Carolina Panthers. Carolina won the game and also got inside Beckham’s head like something awful. The star receiver became unhinged, and the needling from the all-pro cornerback helped send him over the edge.
Although neither player was ejected from a game marred by repeated scuffling, Beckham was penalized three times and ultimately suspended for a game for a malicious hit — he peeled back and went head-first at Norman during one retaliatory act.
Norman was penalized twice during the game and then fined $26,044 for his two flagrant fouls.
Now Norman’s in Washington, thanks to a $75 million free agent deal that lets him face Beckham twice a year in NFC East games.
Although both players tried to downplay their matchup this week, it’s too late for that. During the offseason, they constantly exchanged barbs in a war of words.
Ramifications from the last encounter were significant:
uAdmonishment of the officiating crew headed by referee Terry McAulay, which let the game get out of hand.
uA new rule prohibiting teams from bringing non-football-related props to the field, as the Panthers were said to incite Beckham by waving a black baseball bat at him as they trashtalked in a threatening tone during pregame warmups.
uA new rule that automatically ejects players who draw two flagrant personal foul penalties.
It sets quite the stage for Sunday, with warnings firmly in place and heightened scrutiny on referee John Hussey and his crew, too.
The presence of Giants veteran wideout Victor Cruz might also be a factor. Cruz was injured and not in uniform for the brouhaha in December. But he’s back as a mentor type who can help calm OBJ down, if need be.
Although a report surfaced during the week saying Washington would align Norman to play Beckham one-on-one all over the field, it remains to be seen if it plays out that way. In the ultraparanoid NFL, strategical leaks from inside the building can often turn out to be smokescreen gamesmanship.
And, of course, rematches rarely live up to the hype. Also of note in Week 3:
Who’s hot: Ben Roethlisberger. The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback heads to Philadelphia for the Keystone State battle against the Eagles with a pretty good flow. Pittsburgh is scoring 31 points per game, and Big Ben leads the NFL with six TD passes. He’s also dishing out advice, suggesting Eagles rookie Carson Wentz needs to do a better job of protecting himself when given the chance to preserve his body.
Rookie watch: Cody Kessler. He will become the fourth rookie quarterback to start this season when the Cleveland Browns visit the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. Kessler was supposed to be a long-term developmental project. Then injuries sidelined Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown. Rookie passers are 4-1 this season, but Kessler opens against a defense that brings so much heat with Ndamukong Suh.
Stat’s the fact: The Panthers carry an NFL-longest, 14-game home winning streak into Sunday’s game against the battered Minnesota Vikings. Dating to last season, they have scored at least 37 points in each of their past five home games. The 1952-53 Detroit Lions were the last team to do that.
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