By Ken Crippen
Pro Football Researchers' Association

Oakland Raiders’ running back Darren McFadden led all week three rushers using CHFF’s Rusher Rating System with a staggering 154.94 Rusher Rating. His 19 carries for 171 yards (9.0 yards-per-carry) and two touchdowns was by far the best performance of the week and of the season. That also propelled him into the top five rushers of the season, based on Rusher Rating.
Top five rushers of Week 3 (min. 15 attempts) based on Rusher Rating
Player Attempts Yards Yards per Attempt TD Fumbles Rusher Rating
Darren McFadden – OAK 19 171 9.0 2 0 154.94
Joseph Addai – IND 17 86 5.1 1 0 132.17
Ryan Mathews – SD 21 98 4.7 2 0 131.16
Adrian Peterson – MIN 17 78 4.6 1 0 129.59
LeSean McCoy – PHI 24 128 5.3 1 0 118.62

Another solid performance by Buffalo running back Fred Jackson inched him above Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy for the season lead. Jackson’s 140.93 Rusher Rating for the year slightly leads McCoy, who has a 138.77 Rusher Rating for 2011.
Top five rushers of 2011 (min. 45 attempts) based on Rusher Rating
Player Attempts Yards Yards per Attempt TD Fumbles Rusher Rating
Fred Jackson – BUF 47 303 6.4 3 0 140.93
LeSean McCoy – PHI 57 345 6.1 4 0 138.77
Ryan Mathews – SD 45 207 4.6 3 0 130.80
Darren McFadden – OAK 61 393 6.4 3 1 123.47
Adrian Peterson – MIN 58 296 5.1 3 1 117.95

Now let's look at some of the big issues in football this week.

Answers To Five Questions Leading Into Week 3

1. Would Michael Vick play and if so, how well would he play? Vick was cleared to play and took the field against the New York Giants. However, he was battered throughout the game, finally leaving in the fourth quarter with a swollen hand (non-throwing hand). It was originally reported as a broken hand, with him being out three to four weeks, but there is a possibility that he will play against San Francisco this week.
2. How would Tony Romo play with his injuries? Tony Romo was able to drive his team down the field for six field goals. His 22 for 36 for 255 yards was a decent performance. However, the Cowboys were 0-3 in the Red Zone. They also fumbled the ball six times, but were fortunate to have only lost one of the fumbles. The offensive line did a decent job in the first half protecting their quarterback, but struggled in the second half, allowing Romo to get hit hard on several occasions. He is going to have a difficult time recovering as the season progresses.
3. Are the Buffalo Bills legit? Yes. Down 21-0 in the second quarter, the Bills stormed back to take a 34-31 victory and sole possession of first place in the AFC East. This was their first victory against the Patriots in 16 attempts, dating back to 2003. Tom Brady was looking for his third consecutive 400-yard game to set an NFL record. By half-time, it looked as though he would achieve that distinction, but Buffalo’s defense took control and intercepted Brady four times.
4. Would the Houston Texans go 3-0 for the first time in franchise history? No. Battling a tough New Orleans Saints team was definitely a test, but I would not discount the Texans just yet. There are some question marks with the team, and their next two games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders will start to tell the story of this year’s squad.
5. Who would win the battle of the rookies: Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert?
Cam Newton. He has put up impressive performances in the first two games of the season, but his team found a way to lose. However, against the Jaguars, Newton was able to get his first win in his professional career. Newton was also able to get the win without the help of a strong running game. Carolina’s leading rusher was Jonathan Stewart, who racked up 59 yards on 10 carries for a Rusher Rating of 85.15. Jacksonville’s hopes rested on the back of Maurice Jones-Drew, who ran 24 times for 122 yards and an 80.67 Rusher Rating.
Five Questions Leading Into Week 4:
1. How will the 3-0 Buffalo Bills perform?
The Bills are poised for the prototypical letdown game. After the emotional win over division rival New England, they could easily come out flat against the Cincinnati Bengals as they look forward to “The Dream Team” Philadelphia Eagles. The media is playing up a “guarantee” from Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis. Every coach will tell you that they expect to win every week. Non-issue.
2. Will the New England Patriots bounce back?
There is no way Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will allow another bad performance. However, they are playing a confident Oakland Raiders team. Expect both teams to battle in a shootout.
3. What will happen with the Minnesota Vikings?
The Vikings were the first team to lose three games after having a double-digit halftime lead. Adrian Peterson is having a good year, with a Rusher Rating of 117.95. However, there is an outcry for head coach Leslie Frazier to replace quarterback Donovan McNabb with rookie Christian Ponder. If they fall behind, will we see Ponder?
4. Will the Detroit Lions go 4-0? The Lions head to Dallas to take on an injured Tony Romo, whose team has not seen the end zone since week 2. The Lions are averaging 33.7 points-per-game. Dallas needs to step up their game if they expect to win.
5. Will the Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson finally show up? Johnson has rushed 46 times for a total of 98 yards and a mediocre Rusher Rating of 64.47 this season. Tennessee needs a strong running game to relieve the pressure off of Matt Hasselbeck. They travel to Cleveland this week.

Notes From Around The League

The Tom Brady Record Watch: Even though Tom Brady did not set an NFL record with three consecutive 400-yard games, he is still on pace to break a few passing records. Below, you will see Brady’s projected statistics, as well as the NFL records:

  Att Comp Yards TD INT
Tom Brady Projected
2011 Totals
709 496 7,077 58 26
NFL Records within reach:
Attempts: 691 – Drew Bledsoe (1994)
Completions: 450 – Peyton Manning (2010)
Yards: 5,084 – Dan Marino (1984)
Touchdowns: 50 – Tom Brady (2007)
Head Coaches on the Hot Seat: Tony Sparano of the Miami Dolphins was to be replaced in the off-season, but the Dolphins failed to reach an agreement with Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh (who went to San Francisco). His 0-3 start is not helping his case to remain as head coach beyond this season. Todd Haley of the Kansas City Chiefs is also struggling. In his third year as head coach, his team is also 0-3 to start the season and the Chiefs have been blown out in two of their three contests.
McNabb vs. Ponder: Minnesota has had a double-digit lead in all three of their games this season. They have also lost all three of their games this season. The blame does not entirely rest on the quarterback, and head coach Leslie Frazier has expressed confidence in his leader. However, there will still be pressure to do something to create a spark in his team. Adrian Peterson has a Rusher Rating of 117.95, which places him as the fifth-highest running back for the season. They need to balance their attack in order to take pressure off Peterson.

Historical Note Of The Week: The first Packers-Bears Game

The Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears met for the 183rd time this week. The Packers won, 27-17 in Chicago. It's a perfect time to look back at their first meeting: November 27, 1921.
Three-thousand spectators saw the Chicago Staleys (now the Bears) beat the visiting Green Bay Packers 20-0. In the first quarter, Curley Lambeau was twice able to drive the Packers to within field goal range, but both attempts were blocked by the home team. Early in the second quarter, Chicago back Pete Stinchcomb broke off-tackle and ran 45 yards for the first score of the game.

Before the end of the half, back Dutch Sternaman took the Staleys close to the Packer goal when he ran 40 yards after catching a pass. Quarterback Pard Pearce took the ball over a few plays later. End George Halas caught the final touchdown pass from wingback Chic Harley to secure the victory. The Staleys went on to win the 1921 championship with a 9-1-1 record.

Crippen's Top 10

1. Green Bay Packers (3-0): The Super Bowl champions continue their winning ways, beating division-rival Chicago. With two of their wins being on the road, there is no reason to drop them off the perch. Next two opponents: Home against Denver, At Atlanta.

2. Baltimore Ravens (2-1): Their win against Pittsburgh to start the season was impressive, as well as their dismantling of the St. Louis Rams. However, they struggled against Tennessee, who is still trying to find their way. I temporarily have them ahead of the Buffalo Bills, but Buffalo is making a strong case to swap positions. Next two opponents: Home against New York Jets, BYE.

3. Buffalo Bills (3-0): The team is showing confidence and swagger. They do not get flustered when trailing and never give up. Fred Jackson leads all rushers for the season with a 140.93 Rusher Rating and the Bills’ offense is averaging 37.7 points-per-game, which leads the league. Next two opponents: At Cincinnati, Home against Philadelphia.

4. New England Patriots (2-1): Tom Brady was on a tear the first two games of the season, but a terrible second half against Buffalo drops the team in the overall standings. The team goes as Brady goes. You need a balanced attack and the Patriots need to take the pressure off Brady. With their loss to the Bills, I cannot put them higher in the standings. Next two opponents: At Oakland, Home against New York Jets.

5. Oakland Raiders (2-1): Darren McFadden is making a case for MVP this year. His 6.4 yards-per-carry and 123.47 Rusher Rating has pushed the Raiders to lead the league in rushing yards-per game. Their 30.7 points-per-game is good, but not compared to giving up 27.3 points-per-game. Their defense needs to improve to give Oakland a better chance at moving up in the standings. Next two opponents: Home against New England, At Houston.

6. New Orleans Saints (2-1): It took a 370-yard performance and three second-half touchdowns from Drew Brees to help rally the New Orleans Saints past the Texans in week 3. Bouncing back after their week 1 loss to the Packers to get two wins against decent opponents keeps them near the top of the board. Next two opponents: At Jacksonville, At Carolina.

7. Houston Texans (2-1): Strong performances against Indianapolis and Miami were outshined by a 40-33 loss to the New Orleans Saints. With a weaker division this year, the Texans should do well. However, they need to beat teams like the Saints before I can move them up in the standings. Their next two games will tell a lot about this team. Next two opponents: Home against Pittsburgh, Home against Oakland.

8. Detroit Lions (3-0): Their win over Tampa Bay in week 1 is what is helping the Lions in the rankings. How they perform over the next two weeks will go a long way to see where the Lions are this year. They will not overtake the Packers for the division title, but they can still make a strong showing for a playoff berth. Next two opponents: At Dallas, Home against Chicago.

9. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1): I am not sure what to make of this Steelers team. The offensive line is struggling. Their rushing game is in the bottom half of the league. They have yet to beat a quality opponent. They will be tested next week against the Texans. Next two opponents: At Houston, Home against Tennessee.

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1): A close win over Atlanta this week helps to negate the close win over Minnesota the previous week. Still, at 2-1 for the season, Tampa Bay is looking for a direction. Their defense is able to hold opponents, but the offense is not showing the form that impressed everyone last year. Beating the next two opponents in impressive fashion will help silence the detractors. Next two opponents: Home against Indianapolis, At San Francisco.