We're only two games into the season and Drew Brees(notes) already leads the league in touchdown passes by a significant margin. He's thrown for nine scores, while Joe Flacco(notes) and Matt Ryan(notes) are tied for second with five apiece. Brees is averaging 334.5 passing yards per game (second in the NFL) and his quarterback rating is 132.9 (first, easily). In Week 3 he'll face Buffalo, a team that allowed 296 yards and three TDs to Byron Leftwich(notes) last Sunday.
Using my proprietary Leftwich-to-Brees stat conversion system (the L2B 3.0™), we find that the most likely outcome for the Saints' quarterback in Week 3 is 688 passing yards and seven TDs.
Nice…but don't get too excited. We need to modify the conversion due to the possibility of rain in Buffalo this weekend. After weather-related tweaking, the Brees projection drops all the way to 612 yards and six scores. (Precisely. Little possibility of error. These calculations rarely fail. The L2B 3.0™ is state of the art). Brees obviously sits atop the weekly quarterback ranks again. He'll present a minor problem in Week 4 when the Saints host the Jets, but he's the clear No. 1 under normal circumstances.
The full Week 3 Yahoo! staff rankings can be found here. I'm prepared to make a few small adjustments, however, after sifting through the Friday practice reports…
• Brian Westbrook(notes) (ankle) isn't practicing yet, but he also hasn't been ruled out. That's looking like a day-of-game decision. LeSean McCoy(notes) remains higher on my board, considering the opponent (Kansas City) and the likelihood that Westbrook will cede carries. DeSean Jackson(notes) (groin) has reportedly returned to practice. Philly gets a well-timed bye in Week 4.
• Despite the massive (and possibly record-breaking) line that Chris Johnson delivered in Week 2, he's about to face a New York defense that has yet to allow a touchdown, so it's tough to be bullish. Jets linebacker Bart Scott(notes) has already declared, "We might guard [Johnson] on the sideline, just in case."
• Pierre Thomas(notes) (knee) is practicing according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and he figures to be a meaningful part of the running back rotation on Sunday. Lynell Hamilton(notes) has also taken reps with the Saints' first team, but I'm not prepared to recommend him. Mike Bell(notes) reportedly "is expected to miss three to four weeks" due to a knee sprain. Lance Moore(notes) (hamstring) is not expected to face the Bills.
• Marion Barber(notes) has been a limited participant in practice this week, a mild surprise considering his on-field reaction to the quad strain he suffered in Week 2. MBIII is likely to be a game-day call, and he plays (or doesn't play) on Monday Night. Felix Jones(notes) clearly benefits if Barber sits. So too would the widely available Tashard Choice(notes), but to a lesser extent. You'll note that the fantasy guy over at the Dallas Morning News is pushing Felix.
MBIII Rank Update: The bottom line here is that you can't put yourself in a position where you need Barber to get a serious workload on Monday night. He's been downgraded accordingly.
• Derrick Ward(notes) is expected to start against his former team on Sunday because Carnell Williams(notes) is dealing with soreness in one of his surgically repaired parts (knee). Williams may play, but it now seems clear that you should seek out alternatives.
• Wes Welker(notes) has been limited in practice and the Patriots aren't exactly generous with injury information. Be prepared to substitute as needed on Sunday morning. Julian Edelman(notes) (ankle) is no sure thing, either.
Pats Update: Randy Moss(notes) was a surprise addition to the injury report with a back issue of unknown origin and unknown severity. This from the Boston Globe: "Bill Belichick said Welker would likely be a 'game-time' decision, but did not shed any light on Moss's status, as the team released its injury report well after Belichick's news conference."
• Flacco presents a ranking challenge this week, because we all expect the Ravens to simply punish the Browns on the ground. Cleveland has allowed 205.5 rushing yards per game and 5.6 per carry. They've also given up long, highlight-quality runs to Adrian Peterson and Correll Buckhalter(notes).
• Only one team has been worse than Cleveland at defending the run: Houston. The Texans have allowed a remarkable 430 rushing yards thus far. Maurice Jones-Drew(notes) gets to sample that buffet in Week 3.
• After fumbling twice in Week 2, Beanie Wells(notes) has been required to carry around a football with his name on it all week. This from the AP: "Teammates try to sneak up and strip the ball from him. If he drops it, he pays a $200 fine to charity. So far, he said, that hasn’t happened." Wells and Tim Hightower(notes) get the Colts' defense in Week 2; Indy has allowed 176.5 rushing yards per game.
• Here's a sentence we've never written: Dwayne Bowe(notes) has been making the most of his opportunities. Bowe has nine catches and two touchdowns on 10 targets. He's dealing with a hamstring issue, but it doesn't currently sound like the injury will prevent him from playing.
Bowe Update: The Kansas City Star refers to Bowe as "hobbled." Hate that word. Bowe is questionable, so beware. This triggered a small rearrangement of the spreadsheets.
• Knowshon Moreno(notes) carried the ball 17 times against the Browns in Week 2. That's as many carries as Buckhalter, LaMont Jordan(notes) and Peyton Hillis(notes) had combined. Denver gets the Raiders in Week 3.
Moreno Update: Late Friday news from the Denver Post: "Knowshon Moreno did not participate in the Friday practice because of a groin injury. ... Moreno was not previously listed on the injury report so he apparently suffered the groin injury during practice Thursday. Both Moreno and [Brandon] Stokley are listed as questionable for the game Sunday at Oakland." He obviously gets a downgrade in the ranks. Denver and Oakland play a late afternoon game, so your emergency replacement options will be limited.
Seahawks Update: Matt Hasselbeck(notes) (ribs) is "extremely unlikely" to play against the Bears on Sunday, according to head coach Jim Mora. Seneca Wallace(notes) is expected to start at quarterback. Left tackle Walter Jones(notes) is "a wait-and-see proposition," per the Seattle Times. Various Seahawks continue to slide in the ranks. Also note that linebacker Leroy Hill(notes) (groin) is out and Lofa Tatupu(notes) (hamstring) is doubtful; if Matt Forte(notes) can't take advantage, then there really is a problem.
Photos via US Presswire
Last rankings update: Saturday, 1:45 am CT