The best one-on-one matchups in every Week 3 NFL game
The third week of the 2016 NFL season is already underway, with the Patriots’ victory over the Texans on Thursday. As the action continues, be sure to watch these key one-on-one matchups in every remaining NFL game.
Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals
Last season, Broncos CB Aqib Talib finished with the 36th-highest overall grade among NFL cornerbacks; already this season, he’s climbed to 22nd through two weeks. He’ll likely be challenged early and often, however, against Andy Dalton’s top target, Bengals WR A.J. Green. In Week 1, Green earned the highest grade among all wide receivers, making PFF’s first Team of the Week of the 2016 season.
Baltimore Ravens at Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville free-agent addition Malik Jackson will square off on Sunday against one of the NFL’s most unsung stars, Ravens RG Marshal Yanda. For the third season in a row, Yanda owns PFF’s highest overall grade among guards (left and right). Through two weeks, he has yet to surrender a QB pressure, joining only T.J. Lang (Packers), Brian Winters (Jets), and Trai Turner (Panthers) in that accomplishment.
Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers
Although Harrison Smith won’t be the primary coverage defender on Panthers TE Greg Olsen every snap, this is certainly a one-on-one matchup to watch when these two do meet. Through two weeks, Olsen is tied with Dennis Pitta (Ravens), Jason Witten (Cowboys), and Jordan Reed (Redskins) with a position-leading 12 receptions each. What sets the Panthers TE apart, though, is his 195 receiving yards this year — the most by 54 yards — with 80 coming after the catch.
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers
Last season, Darius Slay was quietly one of PFF’s top-graded cornerbacks in the league. On Sunday, he’ll face WR Jordy Nelson in just the Packers star’s third game back from injury. Thus far, Aaron Rodgers has targeted Nelson 20 times, the most of any Green Bay wideout this season, so expect Slay to be challenged often.
Washington Redskins at New York Giants
In what has been easily the most-discussed one-on-one matchup of the week, Odell Beckham Jr. and Josh Norman will face off for the first time since their well-documented on-field brawl last season. Despite many criticisms pointed at Norman for not tracking top wideouts Antonio Brown and Dez Bryant for the entirety of their Weeks 1 and 2 meetings — he will track Beckham Jr. on Sunday — the former Panther is playing arguably the best football of his career through two weeks.
Arizona Cardinals at Buffalo Bills
The Cardinals’ pass-rush has shown marked improvement so far this season, currently owning the eighth-highest team pass-rushing grade in the league (finished 30th in this regard last season). A large part of that growth is due to DE Calais Campbell, who currently owns the seventh-best pass-rushing productivity mark among 3-4 defensive ends. This season, Richie Incognito has surrendered just two pressures through two games — one sack and one hurry — making this a matchup to watch.
Oakland Raiders at Tennessee Titans
Clearing concussion protocol on Thursday, the Raiders’ top-performing DB this season will face off against rookie WR Tajae Sharpe when the silver and black travel to Tennessee. Sharpe — QB Marcus Mariota’s most-targeted receiver this season — has hauled in 11 receptions for 109 yards through two games, forcing one missed tackle.
Cleveland Browns at Miami Dolphins
Before injury ended Cameron Wake’s 2015 season in Week 8, the Dolphins defensive end owned the ninth-highest grade among NFL edge defenders, recording seven sacks, two QB hits, and 10 QB hurries. Through two weeks, he’s recorded six QB pressures (one hit, five hurries), but may raise that number quickly on Sunday against rookie QB Cody Kessler and RT Austin Pasztor. Pasztor is currently tied for the 74th-lowest pass-blocking efficiency among offensive tackles this season, surrendering nine pressures on 69 pass-blocking snaps.
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
While the Seattle offensive line has been a major liability to this point, the defensive line has maintained its dominant reputation. Through two weeks, the Seahawks own the league’s seventh-highest pass-rush grade and eighth-highest run-defense grade. On Sunday, however, they’ll face the second-highest graded LT in football through Week 2, Joe Staley. Staley has surrendered just two QB hurries this season — no sacks or QB hits – for the eighth-best pass-blocking efficiency mark in the league.
Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Rams’ offense has been a major disappointment this season, but the ever-talented Todd Gurley is one bright spot Los Angeles fans can point to. Through Week 2, he’s earned the 14th-highest grade at the position, forcing six missed tackles on 36 carries. Despite rushing behind the seventh-lowest graded run-blocking line this season, Gurley has gained 101 yards after first contact, while only having 98 total rushing yards on the stat sheet to show through two games.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Philadelphia Eagles
Through two weeks, Carson Wentz has dominated the storylines in Philadelphia, but defensive end Brandon Graham is also certainly deserving of mention. On 46 pass-rushing snaps, Graham has recorded two sacks, a QB hit, and six QB hurries en route to the highest pass-rushing productivity mark of any 4-3 DE thus far — ahead of players like Frank Clark, Cameron Wake, and Jabaal Sheard.
New York Jets at Kansas City Chiefs
The 1-1 Jets face the 1-1 Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday, as two of the league’s top defensive lines square off. A pleasant surprise for Kansas City this season, however, has come on the offensive in the form of Eric Fisher. Fisher has allowed pressure to reach QB Alex Smith just four times this season on 96 pass-blocking snaps. Challenging him will be Jets DE Sheldon Richardson, who currently owns the eighth-highest grade this season among edge defenders.
San Diego Chargers at Indianapolis Colts
While the Colts’ secondary has been ravaged with injuries, San Diego will feature one of the top coverage CBs of last season in Jason Verrett against Indianapolis WR T.Y. Hilton. Verrett has been thrown at just eight times this season, surrendering four receptions and 45 total yards — 36 coming in Week 1 against the Chiefs — as well a touchdown. The Chargers’ top DB has also notched one pick and one pass defense.
Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys
Playing under the franchise tag, Alshon Jeffery will need to connect with quarterback Brian Hoyer on Sunday as the Bears travel to Dallas. He’ll likely be covered by Cowboys CB Morris Claiborne, who has had 12 targets thrown into his coverage this season, surrendering five catches thus far for 33 yards.
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints
2015’s top-graded right tackle, Ryan Schraeder, will meet divisional foe Cameron Jordan on Monday as the 1-1 Falcons travel to New Orleans. Schraeder has surrendered just two QB hurries this season (no sacks or QB hits) on 79 pass-blocking snaps. If Jordan is hoping to kick start his relatively slow beginning to the year (three total QB pressures), Schraeder may present a tough test.