Here are four of the most one-sided matchups in Week 3 of the NFL season.
The most surprising aspect of the first two weeks has been Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offense. With offensive coordinator Todd Monken calling the plays, Fitzpatrick - a journeyman quarterback for most of his career - is performing at an elite level, dicing up defenses with his arm while keeping them honest with his legs.
Fitzpatrick has thrown for over 400 yards and four touchdowns with a completion percentage above 70 in each game to start the season, and there's no reason why that should stop against the Steelers - particularly if he can keep slinging it like this:
The key to Fitzpatrick's hot start has been his quick decision-making. Through two weeks, Fitzpatrick has the fourth-fastest time to throw (2.25 seconds) and has thrown 63.8 percent of his passes in under 2.5 seconds, per Pro Football Focus. This makes it nearly impossible for a pass rush to generate pressure and will really come in handy against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have the fourth-highest adjusted sack rate in the NFL, per Football Outsiders.
The Steelers' defense is known for using a high frequency of zone blitzes to confuse and pressure opposing quarterbacks. However, Fitzpatrick's decisiveness is perfectly suited to expose a defense like Pittsburgh's that relies on pressure to cover up holes in its secondary.
When the Steelers dial up a zone blitz, expect Fitzpatrick to look Mike Evans’ way often:
Evans has recorded 17 catches for 230 yards and two touchdowns in the first two weeks as Fitzpatrick's most reliable target. Fitzpatrick loves to go to him against the blitz and when the offense needs to move the chains; Evans has accounted for 12 (third-most among receivers) first downs this season.
When Fitzpatrick does have time in the pocket, look for him to take advantage of the Steelers' average secondary, which has allowed the sixth-most passes of 15 or more yards (nine) this season.
Secondaries' fear of Tampa's quick passing attack has opened up opportunities in the deep passing game. Fitzpatrick’s favorite deep target is DeSean Jackson, who, despite being nearly 32 years old, still possesses some of the best deep speed in the NFL. Thus far this season, Jackson has been targeted five times on throws of 20-plus yards, and he's caught all five for 232 yards and three touchdowns.
Fitzpatrick can't maintain this level of play forever, but he certainly can keep it going for one more week against a once-vaunted Steelers defense.
Even when the Atlanta Falcons had Keanu Neal and Deion Jones, they struggled to cover running backs in the passing game. Without Neal and Jones, the Falcons stand little chance of slowing down Alvin Kamara, who might be the best receiving back in the NFL.
The New Orleans Saints running back had a tough time on the ground in the first two weeks, rushing for just 75 yards, but he's been a key component of his team's passing attack, recording 15 catches for 165 yards and a touchdown. Here's a sample of what the Falcons should expect:
Not only will the Falcons get a steady diet of Kamara out of the backfield and on screens, but the Saints will also flex Kamara out wide, hoping to spread out the defense and exploit one-on-one matchups with their best athlete in space. With Jones healthy, the Falcons had a player who could challenge Kamara in those situations. Without him, Atlanta will be forced to rely on De’Vondre Campbell and Duke Riley.
Once Kamara gets into the open field, there may not be a player who is tougher to bring down. He leads the league in forced missed tackles on receptions (eight), per Pro Football Focus. Kamara possesses track-like speed that allows him to run away from slower second-level defenders, along with excellent contact balance to absorb and defeat tackle attempts.
Last week, the Falcons had no answer for Christian McCaffrey as he racked up 14 catches for 102 yards. Expect similar output from Kamara this week, and don't be surprised if he takes a short pass for a long touchdown Sunday.
J.J. Watt is off to a slow start, accounting for just eight combined tackles and zero sacks over the first two weeks.
Luckily for him, the Houston Texans are about to play against a New York Giants offensive line that has proven to be the cure for just about any struggling defensive lineman. Through two weeks, the Giants have allowed 26 total pressures, sixth-most in the NFL.
After missing most of last season, the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year has yet to return to his old self, but that doesn't mean he hasn’t been effective:
Watt still possesses a deep repertoire of pass-rush moves to go along with impressive lower-body pliability and the quickness to wrap around the edge on speed rushes. In the above clip, Watt shows that he is still one of the more nuanced rushers in the NFL. Lined up in a wide-nine technique outside the Patriots right tackle, Watt explodes out of his stance for three steps.
Once he gets into range, Watt feints with a two-hand swipe in an attempt to get the tackle to punch with his hands. Once the right tackle looks to latch on to Watt, the Texans defensive end lowers his pad level and executes a violent rip with his inside hand, allowing him to win the edge and flatten to the quarterback.
Playing over 78.2 percent of his snaps on the left edge, here is the player Watt will lock horns with on most snaps:
Ereck Flowers is simply one of the worst right tackles in football, and Watt should be able to take full advantage Sunday. Expect Watt to end his sack-less streak when the Giants come to NRG Stadium.
Mahomes has thrown more touchdowns (10) in Weeks 1 and 2 than any other quarterback in NFL history as the Chiefs posted impressive victories over the Los Angeles Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers.
No matter what coverage the defense has played, Mahomes has carved it up, using his powerful arm and impressive ball placement to take advantage of the holes on opposing secondaries. He's been excellent in the pocket and on the run, demonstrating the ability to make accurate throws off varying platforms. The Chiefs lead the league with 11 explosive pass plays, per Sharp Football Stats (that is, passes accounting for 15 or more yards).
Wide receiver Tyreek Hill has benefited greatly from playing with Mahomes, recording 12 catches for 259 yards and three touchdowns. Hill’s deep speed and suddenness in and out of his cuts make him an impossible cover with Mahomes at QB, as seen here:
Hill's always had the speed to outrun deep coverage, but he never had a quarterback with enough arm strength to get it to him once he gets behind a defense. That's clearly no longer an issue.
This week, Mahomes and Co. face a San Francisco 49ers defense that's allowed nearly 600 passing yards in two games. While Mahomes would be wise to avoid throwing at Richard Sherman, the rest of the 49ers' secondary is ripe to be picked on:
Expect Andy Reid to scheme ways to isolate Hill in one-on-one coverage against Witherspoon on the outside, looking to capitalize on the young cornerback's struggles. Travis Kelce should also be in line for a big game against San Francisco's subpar coverage safeties.
The Chiefs' offense is eventually going to come back to Earth, but don’t expect that to happen this week.
John Owning is a football writer at theScore. He has written for Bleacher Report and Football Insiders. He was also the lead NFL content editor at FanRag Sports. John provides analysis on the Dallas Cowboys for the Dallas Morning News and edits for The Quant Edge. Find him on Twitter @JohnOwning.