NFL QB Hot Sheet: Aaron Rodgers vs. Tom Brady is rare heavyweight matchup
Every Wednesday during the NFL season, USA TODAY Sports will assess everyone's favorite topic: quarterbacks. Who's hot? Who's not? Who has the most exciting matchups?
Here's this week's QB Hot Sheet:
Five to watch this weekend
1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers: One half of a salivating matchup, Rodgers takes on Tom Brady and the Patriots. At risk of falling further in the NFC North, Green Bay (3-3-1) needs a win more, and this game may come down to which quarterback has the ball last.
2. Brady: This will be just his second meeting with Rodgers; the first was a 26-21 Packers victory in Nov. 2014. Seriously, just make sure you’re tuned in Sunday night and enjoy it.
3. Baker Mayfield, Browns:Coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley were fired Monday, which means Mayfield will work with interim head coach Gregg Williams and OC Freddie Kitchens against the Chiefs. Cleveland’s offense had regressed over the past month, so look for Kitchens to dial up plays to make Mayfield comfortable.
4. Matthew Stafford, Lions:Recently traded receiver Golden Tate commanded 26.6 percent of Stafford’s targets and led the team in catches (44) and receiving yards (517). With Tate now in Philadelphia, there's a substantial role to be filled in Detroit’s passing offense. That places a lot of pressure on Stafford, Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones. A dip in production against the Vikings is possible.
5. Dak Prescott, Cowboys: The opposite of Stafford, this will be Prescott’s first shot this season to show what he can do with a legit No. 1 receiver now that former Raiders pass catcher Amari Cooper had the bye week to assimilate. If Cooper can win one-on-one matchups against the Titans, it should free up other Cowboys receivers.
Three trending up
1. Cam Newton, Panthers: With Norv Turner as offensive coordinator, Newton is taking off plenty – he’s on pace to top his career-high rushing attempts – but is still playing efficiently. Play designs offer him a chance to pitch the ball or throw quickly to keep him upright in the pocket. A career-best 66.4 percent completion rate and career-low 1.68 percent interception rate highlight his efficiency.
2. Russell Wilson, Seahawks: His first perfect passer rating victory against the Lions featured as many TD passes (three) as incompletions. He’s elevating a young and relatively untested crew of skill players and has Seattle contending for a potential wild-card run.
3. Deshaun Watson, Texans: Another player with more touchdowns (five) than incompletions (four) last week, Watson lit up the Dolphins on only 16 completions. The key for Houston was protection. Watson enjoyed a mostly clean pocket and wasn’t sacked at all and was hit only once, season bests, by far. That shows what the offense can do if it can protect their young QB.
Three trending down
1. Jameis Winston, Buccaneers: He was benched after a four-interception day against the Bengals. A day later, coach Dirk Koetter said Ryan Fitzpatrick would start against the Panthers. With 70 turnovers through 49 career games and a list of off-field issues, Winston may be rounding out his time in Tampa.
2. Joe Flacco, Ravens: The Ravens have lost three of their last four, a stretch in which Flacco has a 4:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. In particular, the deep pass – which had been a strength for Baltimore – has been absent. Over the past four games, Flacco is averaging just 5.89 yard per attempt.
3. Brock Osweiler, Dolphins: A discouraging update on starter Ryan Tannehill, who only recently just started throwing a football as he deals with a shoulder injury, indicates that Osweiler is likely to play for the immediate future. After a dud against the Texans in which Osweiler completed 56.8 percent of his throws, didn’t have a TD and tossed a pick, Miami might be in trouble.
1. Patrick Mahomes (last week: 1), Chiefs: Another week, more records. Mahomes leads the NFL in yards (2,526) and TDs (26) and is one of three QBs in history to have 25 or more scores through Week 8, joining Brady and Peyton Manning.
2. Drew Brees (2), Saints: He finally threw his first interception and his lead on the rest of the field hold is thinning, but Brees still paces the NFL in completion rate (77.4 %).
3. Andrew Luck (4), Colts: With TDs to tight ends Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox (as well as Eric Ebron), Luck has now thrown scores to 11 different targets. He also ranks second in the league in TDs (23).
4. Philip Rivers (3), Chargers: He was on bye, so he slides one spot.
5. Newton (NR): A fringe MVP candidate, Newton is reverting back to his 2015 form when he won the honor and carried the Panthers to the Super Bowl.
Dropped: Rodgers (5)
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