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Quick Hits: Week 3

A look at the league’s most important position

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

While two weeks makes for a small sample size, some quarterbacks have flourished early and others have looked flustered to start off the season. Who has surprised? Who has disappointed? Who has recovered?

Surprise performers

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Fitzpatrick

At the start of the year, many in Tampa Bay lamented the position Jameis Winston’s suspension placed the team in. The hope was that Fitzpatrick could simply float the franchise until Winston’s return, understanding the veteran backup would likely struggle. Instead, Fitzpatrick has completed 78.7 percent of his passes, thrown eight touchdowns to just one interception and has a 151.5 passer rating, which is 56.2 points higher than the career-high rating he achieve in 2014 with the Houston Texans. With his seventh NFL team, Fitzpatrick has propelled the Buccaneers offense to new, unexpected heights against formidable foes in the New Orleans Saints and the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles.

He faces a drama-filled Steelers squad on Monday Night Football, where he will look to continue his Cinderella story.

Patrick Mahomes

Chiefs fans have been waiting patiently for the Mahomes era to begin, after Kansas City drafted him out of Texas Tech with the 10th overall pick in 2017. Few could have foreseen how successful he would be this early on his career, as he has emerged as one of the way too early front runners for league MVP. Through two weeks, he has a staggering 143.3 passer rating, zero interceptions and 10 touchdowns, torching the Chargers and Steelers defenses.

In Week 3, Mahomes will arrive for the home opener at Arrowhead Stadium in front of a famously loud home crowd, where he will look to shred the 49ers defense, which is ranked 23rd through their first two games.

Blake Bortles

As the third pick in the 2014 draft, Jacksonville’s quarterback is no stranger to criticism. Even after taking the Jaguars to the AFC Championship game last season, few expected he would have the kind of outing he produced in the Week 2 rematch against the Patriots. Often labeled as a ‘game manager’ quarterback, Bortles posted a 111 passer rating, completed 64.4 of his passes and threw four touchdowns. His performance last Sunday was a drastic improvement from the season opener, where finished the day with a 67.2 passer rating and had a 1:1 touchdown to interception ratio in a win over the Giants.

He heads to Nashville in Week 3, where he will look to build on his rapport with sophomore receiver Keelan Cole, who burst onto the scene against New England with 116 receiving yards and a score.

Disappointing starts

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Ben Roethlisberger

The Steelers will enter their Monday night game as the only AFC North team without a victory, as Cleveland secured their first win since December 2016 on Thursday. This is certainly unfamiliar territory for a team that is annually an odds favorite for the Super Bowl. Back in August, the Steelers were listed at 10-1 along with the Eagles, Rams and Vikings behind the Patriots at 6-1 favorites to win Super Bowl LIII. As of September 18, Pittsburgh is +1600 according to Odds Shark, with the Jaguars, Chiefs and Packers leaping ahead. While Big Ben rebounded in a lost shoot out with Mahomes in Week 2, he threw a shocking three interceptions against the Browns and had a passer rating of just 60.5 in the season opener.

He faces another high flying offense in Fitzpatrick’s Buccaneers this week. Steelers fans will hope he can produce a little of his own magic and that Antonio Brown reaches the end zone. Otherwise, a desperate team in a historically physical rivalry will await the Ravens for their prime time matchup in Week 4 at Heinz Field.

Sam Bradford

The Arizona Cardinals have been comically ineffective in their first two contests, and Sam Bradford’s latest attempt to become an NFL success is off to an abysmal start. With a lengthy injury history, Bradford has never been able to validate his first overall selection in the 2010 draft. The Cardinals have picked up just 19 first downs, while opponents have 54. Arizona is converting on just 20 percent of third downs, and Bradford is averaging a mere 3.98 yards per pass attempt with no touchdowns on the year. The Cardinals were outscored by the Redskins and Rams 58-6, after being shut out in Los Angeles.

With Khalil Mack and the Bears coming to University of Phoenix Stadium, there is certainly no rest for the weary in Week 3.

Eli Manning

Any of the good will and optimism that the Giants were able to conjure up this offseason has faded fast in 2018. Despite resigning elite receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and drafting one of the strongest athletes in the 2018 draft class in Saquon Barkley, New York has continued the mediocrity from their 3-13 record in 2017. At 37 years old and in his 15th season, Manning is certainly not the franchise’s future, regardless of performance. However, his lackluster start has made his “weapons obsolete” according to Jordan Raanan of ESPN:

All these shiny offensive weapons don’t mean a thing for the New York Giants when they can’t protect the quarterback and when the QB can’t make plays when he does have time.

It’s as if the Ferrari, Lamborghini and Aston Martin are locked in the garage. Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley aren’t able to make plays with the Giants’ other offensive problems.

Manning will hope he can stop the skid against the Houston Texans, who are also looking for their first victory of the season. Having already faced the Jaguars seventh ranked defense and the fourth best defense in Dallas, the Texans 12th ranked unit is still little relief for the struggling veteran.

Comeback kids

NFL: Miami Dolphins at New York Jets Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Tannehill

After missing all of 2017 due to an ACL injury, Tannehill has Miami sitting atop of the AFC East with a 2-0 record. Dolphins fans have been searching for this version of the Texas A&M product since the team took him with the eighth pick in the 2012 draft. Through two weeks, Tannehill is posting a career-high passer rating of 104.9, and if he continues at his current pace of two touchdowns per game, he will surpass his 2014 record of 27 touchdowns by five scores. With Jarvis Landry now in Ohio, Kenny Stills has emerged as one of Tannehill’s most reliable targets, catching six of eight passes on the year and reaching the end zone twice against the Titans.

With Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore building a successful ground game, Dowell Loggains’ multi-dimensional offense will look to carry their momentum to a 3-0 start when they host the winless Raiders.

Andrew Luck

Luck’s return to the Colts generated buzz all offseason, with some questioning if the quarterback would ever fully heal from his shoulder injury. In Week 3, he will face off against Carson Wentz, another signal caller looking to make a healthy return to the field after tearing his ACL in December.

While Luck has not experienced quite the same level of prosperity as Tannehill, the Colts are 1-1 after defeating the Redskins in Week 2. In a loss to the Bengals, Luck still threw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns. However, he continues to be turnover prone, averaging 1.5 interception per game in 2018. While his passer rating is not eye popping, a .500 start shows some promise for an Indianapolis team that finished 4-12 last season.