Predicting studs and duds for NFL Week 3

By Rachel Wold

Week 3 in the NFL will deliver fans some amazing matchups. Nine 0-2 teams will be aiming to save face and put their first win on the board. But, as much as these struggling franchises are trying to win, we expect more performances to continue sabotaging those plans.

There are currently a handful of starting quarterbacks, including two Super Bowl champions, that have scored only one touchdown. We predict this will not change for some of them in Week 3, as star defenders will gain the upper hand.

On the flip side, eight 2-0 teams will be seeking to remain undefeated. Will the efforts of some of the league’s top-tier players be enough to keep the wins rolling in?

Can last year’s leading running back recover from his dumpster-fire, eight-yard performance?

Find out here in our stud and dud predictions for NFL Week 3.

Stud: Kelvin Benjamin, wide receiver, Carolina Panthers 

The New Orleans Saints are following last year’s trend when it comes to featuring a wretched defense giving up receiving yards. This is why Benjamin, at home, should be primed for a monster outing. The Saints have allowed a ridiculous average of 396.5 receiving yards and three touchdowns per game. Tight end Greg Olsen out with broken foot, so look for quarterback Cam Newton to target his 6-foot-5 receiver plenty in Week 3. Stud junior alert here goes to pass-catching running back, Christian McCaffrey.

Dud: LeSean McCoy, running back, Buffalo Bills

Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy

Sadly, McCoy could be just as invisible as he was in his last game. In Week 3, the Bills host the Denver Broncos — the same defense that bottled up Dallas Cowboys rusher Ezekiel Elliott and held him to eight rushing yards on nine attempts. McCoy has older legs and doesn’t have a passing game to help open things up. He is likely to struggle in his attempts to find paths to freedom. We can probably also count on the Bills playing from behind against the Broncos’ newly revamped offense.

Stud: Eric Weddle, safety, Baltimore Ravens

In Week 3, the Baltimore Ravens travel to London to play the Jacksonville Jaguars, which should create nightmare matchups across the board. We will get right to the obvious one here that pits quarterback Blake Bortles, who just tossed two interceptions, against the Ravens defense. Here’s a stat for you: Weddle and his defense have already managed eight interceptions in two games. We see the veteran owning Bortles and making him pay for any passes thrown his way.

Dud: Marcus Mariota, quarterback, Tennessee Titans

Sorry, Mariota fans. The Titans host the Seattle Seahawks, whose defense has allowed only one passing touchdown in 69 passing attempts so far this season. The Seahawks aren’t scoring much on offense these days either, but their defense has been quite relentless. This Week 3 matchup could prove to be another low-scoring contest. Keep in mind, it took Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers until the end of the third quarter to score against Seattle in Week 1.

Stud: Ezekiel Elliott, running back, Dallas Cowboys

Forget Elliott’s atrocious performance against the Denver Broncos when he was stuffed on every attempt. Elliott will make it up to his fans and fantasy football owners in Week 3 on the road agaimst the Arizona Cardinals. This is the same defense that just made Indianapolis Colts running back Frank Gore look 24 again. Gore just rushed for 46 yards and breezed in for a rushing touchdown. Elliott, 12 years younger, stands to double the damage. He will get back on course and take advantage of a Cards’ team that is an absolute mess.

Dud: T.Y. Hilton, wide receiver, Indianapolis Colts

Speaking of the Colts, Hilton’s talents are wasting away while quarterback Andrew Luck sits sidelined. Not much looks to change when the Colts host the Cleveland Browns in Week 3. The Browns have given up only one wide receiver touchdown in their first two games. Do we really believe in quarterback Jacoby Brissett to turn Hilton into an overnight stud under these circumstances? Hilton is a casualty of the team’s backup quarterbacks and has caught only 53.8 percent of any passes thrown his way in two games.

Stud: Geno Atkins, defensive tackle, Cincinnati Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals’ five-time Pro-Bowler is off to a roaring start tabulating sacks. Atkins, who ranks No. 4 among interior defenders, per Pro Football Focus, already has three sacks on the season. He will look to build on that when the Bengals head to Lambeau Field. Sacking Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has not been very difficult so far. The two-time MVP has been sacked seven times in two games. We do not see the Bengals coming out on top, but Atkins might win on a personal level.

Dud: Mark Ingram, running back, New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints will be looking for their first win when they travel to Charlotte to face the Carolina Panthers. This is when we might see the veteran back hit some brick walls. The Panthers have been brutal against opposing running backs throughout two games. So far, they have given up a total of just 131 combined rushing and receiving yards, and zero touchdowns, to opposing backs. We don’t see Ingram or rookie Alvin Kamara getting much accomplished. And forget about Adrian Peterson.

Stud: Jay Cutler, quarterback, Miami Dolphins

One Dolphins game into the season and we predict Cutler will have a huge showing on the road against the New York Jets. The Jets are just that bad — their defense can make any opposing quarterback look elite. Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr just passed for three touchdowns versus the Jets. Cutler has fast and fabulous wide receivers and should destroy a Jets defense that has given up a league-high 33 points on average per contest this season.

Dud: Tarik Cohen, running back, Chicago Bears 

Cohen’s production came crashing down to earth in Week 2 when he tallied a total of 68 yards and zero scores. The young rookie might have trouble once again when he and the Bears host the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3. Pittsburgh’s defense has been quite handy against opposing running backs, yielding only 126 rushing yards and 71 receiving yards in the past two weeks. Since the compact rusher’s specialty is catching passes, he might struggle. The Steelers have yet to allow a running back to score in two games.

Stud: Anthony Brown, cornerback, Dallas Cowboys

Any defensive back playing against poor old Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer is slated for a field day. It could be Brown’s lucky night when the Cowboys travel to face the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football. In two games, Palmer has been intercepted four times. It just so happens that Brown has three defended passes and already has one interception on record. Palmer is struggling, with or without running back David Johnson. Brown should have quite the evening thwarting the efforts of a quarterback that has completed only 54.8 percent of his passes.

Dud: Chris Thompson, running back, Washington Redskins

Jan 1, 2017; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins running back Chris Thompson (25) rushes the ball against the New York Giants during the second half at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Thompson swooped in and stole the show with a two-touchdown performance after fellow running back Rob Kelley was injured last week. But it’s time to pump the brakes in Week 3 against the Oakland Raiders.

“We don’t want him to get 20-25 carries a game and get a lot of pounding on that body,” head coach Jay Gruden said, per ESPN’s  John Keim. “So we’ll try to expand his role a little bit, but we don’t want to go too crazy with him.”

Washington will host a Raiders defense that hasn’t given up a running back touchdown this season.

Stud: DeAndre Hopkins, wide receiver, Houston Texans

We are not sure what is up with the New England Patriots defense, but it will be the breeding ground for Hopkins to explode in Week 3. To date, New England has allowed 724 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns. Do we see Hopkins completely exploiting it? Heck, yes. Hopkins is the second-most targeted player in the league. He has averaged 14.5 passes thrown his way per game this year. The Texans may not beat the Patriots, but that does not mean that Hopkins won’t tally up a boatload of yards and score (maybe twice).

Dud: Mike Evans, wide receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Evans is typically a stud once that ball lands in his hands. He caught seven passes for 93 yards and a score in his 2017 debut. In Week 3 however, he will likely be shadowed by Minnesota Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes. In Weeks 1 and 2, Rhodes held New Orleans Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers receivers, Michael Thomas and Antonio Brown, to just five catches for 50 yards and no touchdowns. Evans’ numbers could take a dip when the Bucs play in Minnesota Sunday

Stud: Carlos Hyde, running back, San Francisco 49ers

Ride Hyde while he is healthy and hot. Hyde is coming off of a 143-yard performance running and receiving against the Seattle Seahawks. He should light it up again, at home against the Los Angeles Rams, in Week 3. The Rams have struggled to defend running backs this year, allowing 295 rushing yards and three rushing scores in two games (5.09 yards per carry). We see Hyde going to town under these more than optimal conditions.

Dud: A.J. Green, wide receiver, Cincinnati Bengals

Poor Green. The Cincinnati Bengals as a unit have yet to scrape up one single touchdown in two games. Now the Bengals travel to Lambeau Field to take on a Green Packers unit that has only allowed one receiving touchdown. Quarterback Andy Dalton has been a disaster, completing just 54.5 percent of his passes. Do we suddenly see him shining in Week 3 and turning Green into a star? Nope. This especially could be the case if the Packers have cornerback Davon House covering Green. House currently leads the league in coverage, according to Pro Football Focus.

Stud: Khalil Mack, defensive end, Oakland Raiders

Khalil Mack

We are thinking that Mack could have some fun harassing Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins in Week 3. Captain Kirk is not flying with both engines so far this season. He has endured six sacks and has passed for only two touchdown along with an interception. Mack could easily gain the upper hand and pressure Cousins into more bumbling mistakes. After all, the two-time All Pro finished his 2016 season as the fourth-rated edge defender. Cousins could easily be Mack’s chew toy this week.

Dud: Brandon Marshall, wide receiver, New York Giants

The Brandon Marshall to the Giants experiment is failing before our eyes. It could be old age, miscommunication with quarterback Eli Manning, or a combination of both that has Marshall looking nearly invisible these days. When we do see him, he’s dropping passes (like this). In two games, Marshall has been targeted nine times but has just two catches for 27 yards. Fantasy football owners likely have tossed him to the curb by now. In Week 3, Marshall hits the road to face the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles have yet to allow a receiving touchdown, which doesn’t bode well.

Stud: Von Miller, linebacker, Denver Broncos

It’s easy to pick Miller to have a big performance on the road at the Buffalo Bills in Week 3. The Bills’ passing offense is a disaster, and quarterback Tyrod Taylor has already been sacked five times in two games. Keep in mind, Miller just made life miserable for Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, sacking him twice in Week 2. We do not envision Taylor faring well against the Super Bowl MVP, who is going to enjoy pestering him all game long.

Dud: Russell Wilson, quarterback, Seattle Seahawks

After two games, Wilson ranks 22nd overall in passing yards with 356. He’s noticeably struggling, though it is his offensive line’s fault. Wilson has scored only one touchdown, and that finally came in the fourth quarter of his Week 2 game. He has also endured six sacks, and more could come against the Tennessee Titans. They sacked and intercepted Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles twice last Sunday. The Seahawks’ defense might manage a win. But this east-coast road tilt is not likely the one that sees Wilson suddenly snap out of his funk.