NFL Nation: 2013 Week 2 QB Watch NFC

QB Watch: 49ers' Colin Kaepernick

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
1:30
PM ET
A weekly examination of the San Francisco 49ers' quarterback play:

Jones
Kaepernick
Rewind: It’s pretty simple. Colin Kaepernick probably had his worst performance of his 12-game NFL starting career in a 29-3 loss at Seattle on Sunday. He couldn't get anything going against the Seahawks' defense. Kaepernick threw for 127 yards and committed four turnovers; his quarterback rating was 14.0, the lowest of his career. Kaepernick said the 49ers will have no chance to win if he plays that way in the future.

Fast-forward: I smell a bounce-back game. The 49ers host Indianapolis on Sunday. The Colts have a beatable defense which might be able to contain Kaepernick. Young quarterbacks Terrelle Pryor and Ryan Tannehill -- neither of whom is at Kaepernick’s level -- have already had their moments against this defense this season. The Raiders' Pryor had 112 rushing yards against Indy in Week 1, which might spur the 49ers to design their offensive plan around Kaepernick's running ability Sunday.

Getting Boldin going: Kaepernick needs to reconnect with Anquan Boldin. One week after a San Francisco debut in which he had 13 catches for 208 yards, the receiver had just one catch for seven yards against the Seahawks. Boldin doesn’t need to get 13 balls from Kaepernick, but they do need to establish a presence.

Prediction: Kaepernick will go 21-of-31 for 314 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He will run for 71 yards on nine carries.

QB Watch: Rams' Sam Bradford

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
1:30
PM ET
A weekly examination of the St. Louis Rams' quarterback play.

Bradford
Bradford
Rewind: For the second week in a row, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford put up big numbers and kept those with the foresight to start him as their fantasy signal-caller happy in the process.

Bradford threw a career-high 35 passes 5 yards or less down the field, and at first it appeared that number was a bit too high. But after reviewing the film, Bradford really didn't have but a few chances to get the ball downfield on some of the throws he checked down.

Once again, the St. Louis offense really started revving when it went to a no-huddle, two-minute tempo in the second half. We already knew that Bradford is most comfortable in a fast-break style, and his second-half performance of 20-of-34 for 228 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions only served to reinforce that.

Fast-forward: The Rams' Week 3 foe, the Dallas Cowboys, are having issues at cornerback, with Morris Claiborne nursing a bad left shoulder and rookie B.W. Webb not yet ready to contribute. Dallas worked out three corners on Tuesday and clearly has its eyes open for help.

Through two weeks, Dallas is allowing 313.5 passing yards per game. Bradford hasn't been sacked this season, but the biggest obstacle to continued big numbers will come from the best pass rush he's faced yet. With end DeMarcus Ware leading the way, Dallas has seven sacks in two games.

Bad bounces: Bradford has only thrown two interceptions in the first two games, but both have been turned into touchdowns. Neither was the result of a bad decision or even a bad throw. Instead, Bradford's been a victim of bad bounces. Odds are that streak will end sooner than later.

Prediction: Another favorable matchup against a team that has struggled to stop the pass and has done well against the run could lead to a third consecutive big game for Bradford.

QB Watch: Buccaneers Josh Freeman

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
1:30
PM ET
A weekly analysis of the Buccaneers’ quarterback play.

Freeman
Rewind: Josh Freeman had another dismal outing in the 16-14 loss to New Orleans. He completed just nine of 22 passes (40.9 percent) for 125 yards with one touchdown, one interception and one lost fumble.

Fast-forward: Freeman has familiarity with the Patriots’ secondary, including former teammate Aqib Talib. The Bucs and Patriots practiced together for two days this summer and played a preseason game. Freeman also could get a boost because it looks like tight end Tom Crabtree might be ready to return from an ankle injury. Through the first two games, the Bucs have completed only two passes to their tight ends.

The circus continues: The steady stream of reports that Freeman and coach Greg Schiano aren’t on the same page is flowing stronger than ever. There even was a report that Freeman is expected to demand a trade out of Tampa Bay. Freeman has said that’s not true. But it’s pretty obvious that all is not right with Freeman and Schiano.

Prediction: Given the way Freeman has played so far, the swirling controversy and Schiano’s obvious lack of trust in his quarterback, it’s hard to imagine Freeman suddenly getting hot against a good team on the road. He might be lucky to hit 200 yards passing.

QB Watch: Falcons' Matt Ryan

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
1:30
PM ET
A weekly analysis of the Falcons’ quarterback play.

Rewind: Matt Ryan completed 33 of 43 passes for 374 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in a 31-24 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.

Ryan
Ryan
Fast-forward: The Dolphins are off to a 2-0 start and are allowing an average of only 15 points per game. This is a big game for Miami as it tries to keep pace with New England in the AFC East. But it also is a big game for Atlanta, which is a game behind New Orleans in the NFC South.

Reunion time: Miami cornerback Brent Grimes began his career with Atlanta and knows receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones well. That knowledge may be helpful to Grimes. But the flip side is that the Falcons also know Grimes’ strengths and weaknesses. Grimes is undersized and doesn’t match up well with White and Jones. The Falcons will try to exploit the size advantage.

Prediction: Although Miami’s defense is playing well, I foresee a big day for Ryan. White and Jones have been slowed a bit by injuries, but they’re getting healthy now. Fantasy players should start Ryan if they have him because he should be good for at least 300 yards and two touchdowns.

QB Watch: Packers' Aaron Rodgers

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
1:30
PM ET
A weekly analysis of the Green Bay Packers’ quarterback play.

Rodgers
Rewind: Maybe Aaron Rodgers should wake up with a stiff neck on game day more often. After getting an adjustment from a local chiropractor and some treatment from the Packers’ trainers, Rodgers had one of the best statistical performances in team history in Sunday’s 38-20 win over the Washington Redskins. He tied the franchise record for passing yards in a game with 480, while completing 34-of-42 passes. He threw four touchdown passes without an interception and had a passer rating of 146.0. Rodgers took advantage of the Redskins’ soft zone defense and used a variety of short throws that allowed his receivers to run after the catch.

Fast-forward: It’s a safe bet that Rodgers is taking the Cincinnati Bengals seriously. In facing the Bengals on Sunday, Rodgers revisits a team that gave him all kinds of trouble in their last meeting, which came in Week 2 of the 2009 season. Rodgers was sacked six times and completed just 53.8 percent of his passes (the eighth-lowest percentage since he became a starter in 2008) in the Packers’ 31-24 loss at Lambeau Field.

More milestones: Rodgers’ 480-yard passing performance against the Redskins was the third 400-yard passing game of his career in the regular season. Previously, he threw for 408 yards on Dec. 2, 2011, against Denver and 404 yards on Dec. 26, 2010, against the New York Giants. No other quarterback in team history has more than one 400-yard passing game. Rodgers also had one in the playoffs, a 423-yard day against Arizona in a wild-card game on Jan 10, 2010.

Prediction: Don’t expect another 400-yard day. But Rodgers has bettered the 300-yard passing mark in each of his last four regular-season games, dating to last season. Even that number might be tough for him to reach against a Bengals defense that ranked seventh against the pass last season, so put Rodgers down for 299 yards this week.

QB Watch: Giants' Eli Manning

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
1:30
PM ET
A weekly analysis of the New York Giants' quarterback play.

Manning
Rewind: After throwing three interceptions in the season-opening loss to the Cowboys, Eli Manning topped that with four in the Week 2 defeat by the Broncos. So while he's second in the league by a single yard to Aaron Rodgers with 812 passing yards, he's the league leader by three in interceptions. Sunday got out of hand in the second half when the Giants fell way behind, but Manning looked out of sorts and made some poor decisions when the game was still within reach.

Fast-forward: This week's opponent, Carolina, ranks 22nd in the league with 587 passing yards allowed through two weeks, with only one interception and three sacks. The Panthers allowed Seattle's Russell Wilson and Buffalo's EJ Manuel to post a combined 101.4 passer rating against them in their first two games. And they have injuries in the secondary. Manning was 27-for-35 for 288 yards against Carolina last season in a Week 3 victory dominated by Andre Brown and the Giants' run game.

Target practice: This post from ESPN Stats & Information says that only one of Manning's seven interceptions has come on a pass targeted for Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks or tight end Brandon Myers, and that four have come on passes intended for Rueben Randle. Manning needs to develop a greater comfort level overall, and specifically with the pass-catchers with whom he has the least experience.

Prediction: Carolina lost one of its starting safeties to a season-ending injury in Week 2 and could be without two other starters in the secondary Sunday. New York's starting offensive line will be together for the second week in a row and can only improve in the run game, which would ease the pressure on Manning. I think he picks apart the Panthers and has a big statistical day, well over 300 yards with only one interception.

QB Watch: Saints’ Drew Brees

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
1:30
PM ET
A weekly analysis of the Saints’ quarterback play:

Brees
Rewind: Are you only as good as your last game, or your last possession? Brees didn’t have a great day overall in Sunday’s 16-14 victory at Tampa Bay, but he was in vintage form on the final drive as he quickly led the team downfield for a game-winning field goal. Brees completed three straight passes for 54 yards in less than a minute to engineer his 22nd game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime since joining the Saints in 2006. Overall, Brees completed 26 of 46 passes for 322 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions. The last one was particularly ugly – when he threw the ball straight to linebacker Mason Foster under pressure in the fourth quarter and Foster returned it 85 yards for a touchdown in a disastrous momentum shift.

Fast-forward: Despite the inconsistency at Tampa Bay, Brees appears to be close to peak form early this season. He's a very deserving No. 2 on Dan Graziano's MVP Watch, where he moved up three spots this week. All of Brees' favorite weapons (Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, Darren Sproles, Lance Moore, et al.) are also off to strong starts. So, Brees and this passing offense could easily explode at any time – especially inside their comfort zone in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where the Saints will play the next two weeks, against the Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins. Arizona might have to be prepared to win a shootout Sunday.

Brees vs. Brees: Brees has practically rewritten an entire chapter in the NFL record book over the past few years. It’s gotten to the point that he’s actually threatening his own records. Brees has thrown for 300 yards in seven consecutive games, which ranks second in NFL history. The longest streak is nine games -- set by Brees from 2011 to 2012.

Prediction: That streak will climb to eight games as Brees strikes early and often against the Cardinals on Sunday and forces them to play catch-up.

QB Watch: Vikings' Christian Ponder

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
1:30
PM ET
A weekly analysis of the Minnesota Vikings' quarterback play:

Rewind: Christian Ponder rebounded from an ugly first half in Chicago last week, going 10-for-16 for 146 yards after throwing an interception that Tim Jennings returned for a touchdown in the first half. Coach Leslie Frazier said he never thought about benching Ponder after the quarterback went 6-for-14 in the first half, and Ponder rewarded the coach's continued patience, directing three scoring drives and making a number of plays with his feet. Ponder looked more self-assured in the second half, though it didn't hurt that the Vikings' offensive line finally gave him time to throw after struggling for the first game-and-a-half of the season.

Ponder
Ponder
Fast-forward: Ponder has never faced the Cleveland Browns, but this weekend might present him an opportunity to build some consistency on offense. The Browns have been stout against the run, allowing just 119 yards in two games, so if the Vikings struggle to get Adrian Peterson going -- something hard to believe -- Ponder could get more opportunities against a pass defense that gave up an average of 285.5 yards per game in its first two losses. He also should benefit from playing at home, where he posted a 64.3 QBR last season (compared to 39.8 on the road).

Looking for consistency: Ponder's had a knack for turning in his best play when criticism of him is at its highest, and what he did on Sunday was no different. That, of course, begs the question: Why isn't Ponder able to be more consistent? "A lot of guys in our sport are like that: When you tell them they can't do something, they raise up and show you they can," Frazier said this week. Still, it would help Ponder's case going forward if he's able to build on what he did last week and turn in some complete performances during a three-game stretch -- against the Browns, Steelers and Panthers -- that should be one of the softest on the Vikings' schedule.

Prediction: Ponder will be at home, having created some optimism in the second half last week, and he could benefit from Frazier's calls to get rookie Cordarrelle Patterson more involved in the passing game. Look for him to throw about 230 to 240 yards and a couple of touchdowns as the Vikings get their first win.

QB Watch: Cardinals' Carson Palmer

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
1:30
PM ET
A weekly analysis of the Arizona Cardinals' quarterback play:

Rewind: Carson Palmer put his veteran leadership on display against the Lions with his 14th fourth-quarter comeback. Yet Palmer’s best pass on that game-winning drive didn’t even count. Knowing the Lions liked to face guard, Palmer threw the ball perfectly so Andre Roberts had to backtrack a step and was able to draw a pass interference penalty. Palmer also struggled on third down, going 1-for-11. He finished with 248 yards on 22-of-39 passing.

Palmer
I predicted Palmer would turn in the same type of game in Week 2 as he did in Week 1 if he was given the time, and I think he came up a tad short. He was missing players high and wide, but he led the Cardinals to a win.

Fast-forward: Palmer and Cardinals coach Bruce Arians will see their closest match in Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. He’s creative, like Arians, and will devise a scheme to confuse Palmer. He already has thrown a few curveballs this season, such as not lining up any down linemen. Palmer also can expect to see four or more safeties more often than he has this season, which may open up the underneath pass out of the slot.

Deep bound and down: Palmer was 1-for-6 on passes of 20 yards or longer, according to Pro Football Focus, which is the bread and butter of the Cardinals’ offense. Arians has six deep plays to use every game. The Saints are vulnerable deep down the middle and on the right side, where they gave up all three passes that direction this season for 76 yards.

Prediction: Palmer will find the seams in Ryan’s defense and spread the ball around to a host of receivers to distract the Saints from Larry Fitzgerald. Palmer will throw for 300 yards again and three touchdowns.

QB Watch: Cowboys' Tony Romo

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
1:30
PM ET
A weekly analysis of the Cowboys’ quarterback play:

Rewind: Tony Romo completed 30 of 42 passes for 298 yards in the Cowboys’ 17-16 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2 with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant, who had 141 receiving yards for the game. The numbers speak to an accurate day for Romo, but after a fourth-quarter scramble in which he was hit by defensive tackle Dontari Poe, he completed 6 of 13 passes and was unable to deliver a game-winning drive. Romo said his bruised ribs were not an issue, but he did take a pain-killing injection before the game and could get one this week if needed. If Romo wasn’t getting the ball down the field to Bryant, he wasn’t getting the ball down the field at all, and Bryant made a couple of great catches on throws not on the money.

Romo
Fast-forward: The talk around the Cowboys the first two games has been the lack of a running game, but the Rams enter the game allowing 330 passing yards a game after allowing Arizona’s Carson Palmer and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan to throw for more than 300 yards in both games. The Rams' strength is their front four with Chris Long and Robert Quinn providing pressure, but the Cowboys’ protection has been solid considering how many times Romo has thrown it in two games.

Fast start a must: Romo has thrown a Cowboys-record 180 touchdown passes in his career, but he has only 27 of them in the first quarter. Slow starts have been an issue for the Cowboys in the past, but they have scored field goals on their opening drives in each of the first two games. With a fan base wondering whether this is the same old team, Romo has to establish a tone early. He has had success against the Rams. In two starts (both wins), he has completed 35 of 57 passes for 505 yards with five touchdowns and one interception.

Prediction: Last week I said Romo would finish with close to 300 yards against the Chiefs, and he did, but he finished a touchdown short of the prediction. He will be close to 300 yards again Sunday but this time he will have more big plays down the field to Bryant and Miles Austin.

QB Watch: Bears' Jay Cutler

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
1:30
PM ET
A weekly analysis of the Bears’ quarterback play:

Rewind: Jay Cutler started much faster this week, completing as many passes (19) in the first half as he had thrown through the first two quarters of the opener against Cincinnati (19), while generating a passer rating of 106. Cutler fumbled on a sack from Jared Allen, and the loose ball was returned for a touchdown. Cutler also forced a pass on the goal line that was tipped by Everson Griffen and intercepted. Still, Cutler shook off the mistakes to rally the Bears to their second come-from-behind victory, firing the game-winning TD to Martellus Bennett with 10 seconds remaining. Cutler finished with two touchdown passes and a rating of 97.2.

Cutler
Fast-forward: Pittsburgh’s 3-4 front presents a challenge the offensive line hasn’t yet seen. So Cutler needs to be patient and maintain confidence in the unit if it struggles early. The Steelers failed to get to Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton on Monday night, and could possibly experience similar struggles against Chicago’s revamped offensive line. If that happens, expect a confident Cutler to light up the Steelers. Pittsburgh struggled against Cincinnati’s tight ends, so Cutler should be looking Bennett’s way often on Sunday.

Reduce the turnovers: Cutler was responsible for three turnovers: two interceptions and a fumble returned for a touchdown. He needs to practice better judgment and ball security. Cutler needlessly forced a pass (although I have no problem with him taking that chance) on the goal line, and another of his picks came as the result of a miscommunication with Brandon Marshall.

Prediction: Cutler’s passer rating should be in the high 90s to low 100s, and he’ll reduce the turnovers, too. He’ll get Marshall another 100-yard receiving day, but expect the main targets to be Bennett and Matt Forte.

QB Watch: Seahawks' Russell Wilson

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
1:30
PM ET
A weekly analysis of the Seattle Seahawks' quarterback play.

Wilson
Rewind: A mixed bag for Russell Wilson. He led the Seahawks to an emotional 29-3 victory over the West Coast-rival San Francisco 49ers, but it wasn’t an impressive statistical performance. Wilson completed 8 of 19 throws for 142 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. For the second consecutive week, he got off to a slow start, completing only one of his first nine passes and uncharacteristically missing on easy throws. But Wilson has a knack for finding ways to get it done when the team needs it. He completed a 51-yard pass to Doug Baldwin in the third quarter on a third-and-12 at the Seattle 29 that led to the Seahawks' first touchdown.

Fast-forward: Wilson gets a chance to really show his stuff Sunday, when the Seahawks are 20-point favorites over the Jacksonville Jaguars at CenturyLink Field. However, Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley knows Wilson’s tendencies as well as anyone; Bradley was Seahawks defensive coordinator before taking the Jacksonville job this season. Bradley won’t underestimate Wilson’s capabilities, and might have a few tricks up his sleeve that he learned when his defense faced Wilson every day in practice last season.

Home perfection: Wilson still hasn't lost a home game in his NFL career, a perfect 9-0 so far. He has led the Seahawks to seven victories in their past eight regular-season games.

Second-half Russ: Wilson always seems to play better when the game is on the line. Indeed, he has played much better in the second half than the first over this season's first two games. Wilson has completed 20 of 27 throws for 294 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the second half.

Prediction: It would be shocking if Wilson plays poorly in this one. Look for him to have his best game so far against the struggling Jaguars. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is placing a major emphasis this week on the offense cutting down on penalties and careless mistakes. Wilson will benefit immensely if the players around him stop hurting themselves with undisciplined errors.

QB Watch: Panthers' Cam Newton

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
1:30
PM ET
A weekly analysis of the Panthers' quarterback play.

Newton
Newton
Rewind: You can't criticize Cam Newton for not going deep in a 24-23 loss at Buffalo. You can criticize his accuracy. After throwing only three passes of more than 10 yards in Week 1, he threw more than a dozen against the Bills. He connected for two touchdowns. He also overshot his first four deep passes and had 11 incompletions. To be fair, two that could have gone for touchdowns went through the arms of the receiver. But his biggest problem was protection. The Bills had six sacks.

Fast-forward: Scary thought for Newton: his counterpart on Sunday, Eli Manning, leads the league in interceptions (7) and is more highly regarded. Way more. The good news is the Giants are struggling to get to the quarterback. They didn't have a sack on Sunday and have only five in their past seven games. The bad news is nobody has stepped forward to be a solid No. 2 receiver. Newton can't make a living on Steve Smith alone.

Missing in action: Or I should say inaction. Domenik Hixon probably is wondering why he left the Giants to come to Carolina to catch passes from Newton. He was inactive for one game and didn't have a catch in the other a year after starting three games and catching 39 passes.

Prediction: I was way off in predicting Newton would beat Buffalo with his legs. He rushed four times for 15 yards and couldn't avoid the Buffalo pass rush. This week, Newton WILL score a rushing touchdown and rush for at least 40 yards. That may not be enough, though.

QB Watch: Lions' Matthew Stafford

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
1:30
PM ET
A weekly analysis of the Lions’ quarterback play:

Rewind: Matthew Stafford continued his accurate, strong play by completing 24 of 36 passes for 278 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Here’s why those numbers are skewed a little bit: His receivers have been struggling to hold on to the ball. Through two games, Detroit receivers have dropped eight passes, including at least four against Arizona on Sunday in a 25-21 loss.

Stafford
Stafford
Fast-forward: Things could look really good for Stafford in Week 3, as he may have one of the top matchups in the NFL facing Washington. The Redskins have yet to intercept a pass, allowing opponents to complete 73.1 percent of their passes at 10.19 yards an attempt. Considering the plethora of options Stafford has at receiver -- including Calvin Johnson -- a couple of them could have a huge day for Detroit.

Pass protected: An underrated part of Stafford’s success this season comes from the five -- or six, if you include tight end Brandon Pettigrew -- guys blocking for him. After Sunday’s loss at Arizona, Stafford told his offensive linemen they have done a good job keeping him clean, and they have. Through two games, he’s been sacked once. Granted, Stafford has been blitzed on only 23.2 percent of his drop-backs so far this season, the third-lowest percentage in the NFL, but he uses that well. He’s been sacked on only 1.2 percent of his drop-backs. Detroit would take that percentage all year for a player who is more of a pocket passer than a scrambler.

Prediction: Another big week from Stafford, who will top 350 yards, find Johnson for 125 yards and two touchdowns. Don’t be surprised if this ends up being his best game all season. Washington is just struggling against the pass right now.

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