A defensive player has cracked the top five on the Meter for the first time this season. He may not be a household name yet in only his second season, but offenses around the league are getting to know Texans DE J.J. Watt really well, much to their dismay.
He makes Houston’s defense go, and it's one of the league's stingiest, ranked second in yards allowed and third in points allowed. He’s been a stout run defender since entering the league, but he has taken his pass rushing to a new level this season. After getting after Broncos QB Peyton Manning throughout the Texans’ win at Denver Sunday, Watt (5½) is second in sacks to Packers OLB Clay Matthews (six). He also has batted down five passes.
Watt is one of the league’s most well-rounded defensive linemen, and, at the moment, he may be the NFL’s most disruptive.
(Last week’s ranking in parentheses)
1. Falcons QB Matt Ryan (No. 1) — The Falcons-Chargers game in Week Three, a battle between two of the league’s hottest teams, was supposed to be competitive, but Ryan and the Falcons put the Chargers away quickly in San Diego. Ryan is still the league’s highest-rated passer, and Atlanta is 3-0 for the first time since 2004.
2. Giants QB Eli Manning (No. 2) — No late-game heroics were needed from Manning in Week Three. In fact, New York didn’t even need to play a full game. A highly efficient Manning made easy work of Carolina’s defense and helped the Giants — who were without RB Ahmad Bradshaw and WR Hakeem Nicks — to their second straight win Thursday night.
3. Texans DE J.J. Watt (Cusp) — He continued his dominant play in Week Three, sacking Broncos QB Peyton Manning 2½ times, hitting him three times and recording four total tackles for loss as the Texans improved to 3-0 in their first real test of the season. Watt also forced a holding penalty in the third quarter, nullifying a 36-yard gain.
4. Patriots QB Tom Brady (No. 4) — It was not enough to get the Patriots a win, but Brady bounced back with a stronger performance after a rough outing — by his standards — against the Cardinals in Week Two. Compiling a 68.3 completion percentage and racking up 335 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions, as Brady did vs. the Ravens, is not enough to warrant a move down on the Meter.
5. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (No. 3) — A frenetic Seahawks pass rush did not give Rodgers much of a chance to settle in Monday night, but he made one of the biggest plays of the game, scrambling for the yard the Packers needed for a first down in the fourth quarter. His awareness to reach his arm forward as he was being brought down gave Green Bay a fresh set of downs and Cedric Benson plunged into the endzone from one yard out on the next play to give the Packers a late lead in their controversial loss to the Seahawks.
6. Ravens QB Joe Flacco (Cusp) — While Ravens WR Torrey Smith had the most impressive performance of Baltimore’s Sunday-night win over the Patriots given his outstanding showing while dealing with extraordinary personal pain, Flacco’s play in the game earns him a spot in the top 10. He out-dueled Tom Brady after getting off to a shaky start.
7. 49ers QB Alex Smith (No. 5) — The typically ultra-efficient Smith turned the ball over twice in San Francisco’s 11-point loss at Minnesota Sunday.
8. Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (No. 9) — RG3 was sacked six times and was hit by Bengals defenders seven other times in Washington’s Week Three loss, but he was still the main reason the Redskins had a chance to at least tie the score on the final possession of the game.
9. Bills RB C.J. Spiller (No. 8) — Spiller was off to another good start Sunday — he had a 32-yard touchdown catch — against the Browns before suffering a shoulder injury late in the first quarter. He missed the rest of the game, but Spiller is still third in the league in rushing yards.
10. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (Cusp) — A fumble by Antonio Brown and a porous defense did in the Steelers in their loss to the Raiders. Roethlisberger absolutely torched Oakland, though, throwing for 384 yards, four TDs and no interceptions. Only Matt Ryan has a better passer rating than Big Ben.
On the cusp (in alphabetical order): Bengals QB Andy Dalton, Texans RB Arian Foster, Lions WR Calvin Johnson, Broncos QB Peyton Manning, Packers OLB Clay Matthews, Vikings QB Christian Ponder, Ravens RB Ray Rice, Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware.