NFL Nation: 2013 Week 6 QB Watch

QB Watch: Bengals' Andy Dalton

October, 16, 2013
10/16/13
11:15
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Bengals' quarterback play.

Dalton
Dalton
Rewind: For only the fourth time in his career, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton threw for more than 300 yards and passed for three touchdowns, when he led his team to a 27-24 overtime win at Buffalo. The outing drew praise from Dalton's coaches, teammates and most parts of the fan base. Running back Giovani Bernard, who weaved past a pair of defenders at the end of one Dalton shovel pass for a 20-yard touchdown, called Dalton's performance "amazing."

Fast-forward: This weekend, Dalton and the Bengals travel to Detroit for the first time since a preseason game there in his rookie season. The most memorable highlight from a 34-3 Lions rout was when Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh drew a personal foul for picking up a helmet-less Dalton and slamming him to the turf after the quarterback already had gotten rid of a pass. It was an ugly penalty for any game, let alone Dalton's first preseason contest. Cincinnati's offensive line will want to ensure nothing like that happens this time.

Drought ended: With his first-quarter touchdown pass to A.J. Green on Sunday, Dalton ended a passing touchdown drought that spanned nearly three weeks. In all, 140 minutes, 32 seconds of game action had passed between the time Dalton completed a fourth-quarter, 11-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Jones in a Week 3 win over Green Bay and his 18-yard completion to Green.

Prediction: Against Buffalo, Dalton faced a blitz-heavy unit. To counter that, the Bengals dumped off numerous short passes in space to avoid the rush and get their pass-catchers to use their athleticism to pick up big yards. While not quite as good as the Bills when sending pressure, the Lions are still one of the league's toughest teams with five or more rushers. Expect a similar scheme and look for big yard-after-catch production again Sunday.

QB Watch: Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger

October, 16, 2013
10/16/13
11:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback play.

Roethlisberger
Rewind: Ben Roethlisberger easily played his best game of the season in a 19-6 win over the New York Jets, and not just because he was turnover free. Roethlisberger threw for 264 yards and the game’s only touchdown and finished with a robust 113.7 passer rating. The 10-year veteran completed 12 of his final 13 passes in the first half, and his 55-yard scoring strike in the third quarter gave the Steelers their first double-digit lead of the season. Roethlisberger’s best play may have come on the Steelers’ second possession of the game when he escaped a sack that would have given the Jets an early safety.

Fast Forward: Roethlisberger will see a bunch of familiar faces when the Ravens visit the Steelers on Sunday. Two players he won’t have to go against are future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis, who retired after last season, and safety Ed Reed, who is now with the Texans. Roethlisberger will have to keep his eyes on outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, one of the colorful characters who has helped elevate the Steelers-Ravens rivalry. T-Sizzle is still an elite pass-rusher, and he has a seven sacks through the Ravens’ first six games.

Exclusive company: Roethlisberger is nearing a milestone, and he would love nothing more than to throw his 200th career touchdown pass against the team he has tormented at times. Roethlisberger is just three touchdown passes from joining Terry Bradshaw as the only quarterbacks in Steelers' history to accomplish that feat.

Prediction: Roethlisberger has been good against the Ravens, particularly when the Steelers have been able to protect him. He has beaten the Ravens in five of seven previous games at Heinz Field, and Roethlisberger has averaged 220.4 passing yards in those contests. The Ravens’ pass defense has been middling this season (254.3 yards allowed per game), making this a favorable match-up for Roethlisberger -- provided he gets enough time to throw.

QB Watch: Packers' Aaron Rodgers

October, 16, 2013
10/16/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly examination of the Green Bay Packers’ quarterback play.

Rodgers
Rodgers
Rewind: Aaron Rodgers lost two of his top-three receivers -- Randall Cobb and James Jones -- to first-half injuries on Sunday against the Ravens, leaving the Packers with only two available receivers. That put more pressure on Rodgers to feed the ball to Jordy Nelson. Rodgers completed 4 of 9 passes that he targeted to Nelson with one touchdown and one interception. It was only the second time since the start of the 2012 season that Rodgers failed to connect on at least half of his throws to Nelson in a game, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The result was Rodgers’ lowest completion percentage (53.1 percent on 17-of-32) since Week 9 of last season.

Fast-forward: It might not get any easier for Rodgers and Nelson on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. The Browns have a top-tier cornerback in Joe Haden, who likely will be matched against Nelson.

Force-feeding: Without Cobb and Jones in the second half against the Ravens, Rodgers relied heavily on Nelson and tight end Jermichael Finley. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the pair accounted for nine of Rodgers’ 11 second-half targets. In the first four games, those two accounted for 34 percent of Rodgers’ targets.

Prediction: The Browns have a solid pass defense, ranking eighth in yards allowed per game through the air, and they have allowed just six passing touchdowns in six games. Rodgers hasn’t thrown more than one touchdown in a game since Week 2. So odds are Rodgers will have trouble throwing more than one touchdown. But Rodgers loves when people doubt him, and that’s surely what some will do given that he won’t have his leading receiver, Cobb, and Jones’ status is uncertain. For that reason alone, Rodgers will throw multiple touchdowns this week against the Browns.

QB Watch: Broncos' Peyton Manning

October, 16, 2013
10/16/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly examination of the Denver Broncos' quarterback play.

Manning
Rewind: It is telling what kind of year Peyton Manning is having that when he finishes a game, a 16-point win no less, 28 of 42 passing for 295 yards and two touchdowns, as he did against the Jacksonville Jaguars this past Sunday, people then spend some time asking him what went wrong. It was still a quality outing, but Manning did show some small hints of frustration against Jacksonville’s defensive plan, but not enough to keep him from chugging along at a record pace.

Fast-forward: The Broncos have been a decidedly chuck-it-around offense thus far, but this may be the week to go big and grind it out a bit. The Colts have shown some problems in their run defense, especially through the middle of the formation. The Chargers, with former Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy now the team’s head coach, repeatedly used an inside zone run game to pound out the yardage. The Broncos are always going to throw it, but Manning could have opportunities to keep drives going if he keeps pounding the ball in the middle of the field.

Share the wealth: Manning has been remarkably efficient in his pass distribution this season and opposing defenses are consistently faced with difficult choices because of it. Defensive plans are routinely built on the idea of removing a quarterback’s favorite targets from the equation. But Manning has essentially treated his top four targets equally thus far. Eric Decker and Wes Welker have each been targeted 50 times in six games, Demaryius Thomas has been targeted 49 times and tight end Julius Thomas has been targeted 43 times.

Prediction: Colts coach Chuck Pagano, a longtime defensive assistant in the league, has long talked about keeping an offense’s “game-wreckers" from tipping the scales, but the Broncos' passing game will be his defense’s stiffest test of the season. The Chargers, No. 3 in the league in passing, are the only team the Colts have faced this season with a passing game ranked above 22nd. The Colts can bring the pressure at times -- they have 19 sacks this season -- but in looking at how the Colts have played so far, Manning should find some room to work with the Broncos' tight ends and running backs against Indianapolis linebackers.

QB Watch: Falcons' Matt Ryan

October, 16, 2013
10/16/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Atlanta Falcons' quarterback play.

Ryan
Ryan
Rewind: Matt Ryan and his teammates got a much-needed bye this past weekend after coping with the loss of top receiver Julio Jones to season-ending foot surgery. Ryan remained optimistic about the offense moving forward even with receiver Roddy White (hamstring) banged up. He realizes the Falcons might have to scale back their high-powered attack while remaining effective and efficient. Ryan has thrown 10 touchdowns with three interceptions.

Fast-forward: If untested Philadelphia Eagles starter Nick Foles was able to throw three touchdowns and post a 133.3 passer rating against a shoddy Buccaneers defense, Ryan shouldn't have a problem at Tampa Bay on Sunday despite being short-handed. His best QB rating of 146.3 came against Tampa Bay on New Year's Day 2012.

Secret weapon: The expected return of Steven Jackson from a hamstring injury shouldn't make Ryan overlook what he has in the diminutive Jacquizz Rodgers. Maybe Rodgers won’t get that 1 yard up the middle on fourth-and-goal, but he can be dynamic in space against a linebacker. Keeping Rodgers involved in the game plan gives defenses something else to think about. Plus, Rodgers has been solid as a blocker in pass protection.

Prediction: Ryan has engineered two eight-game winning streaks since joining the Falcons in 2008. He might not duplicate the feat this season, but he’ll do enough to get the Falcons above .500. Will that be enough to make the playoffs?

QB Watch: Raiders’ Terrelle Pryor

October, 16, 2013
10/16/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Raiders’ quarterback play.

Pryor
Rewind: What began as another step forward in Terrelle Pryor’s accelerated development as a frontline NFL quarterback -- he started out by completing his first nine passes for 100 yards against Kansas City and had a QB rating of 150.0 -- deteriorated quickly into what his coach called a “learning experience” for the young signal-caller. Pryor threw three interceptions, including a pick-six, and was sacked 10 times, the first Raiders QB to be sacked that many times in a game since Jeff George in 1998. Indeed, this all happened with his offensive line losing two more players to injury. Pryor assumed blame and said the Raiders could still go to the playoffs.

Fast-forward: No rest for the weary? Pryor said he will return to Los Angeles over the four days off the team gets for its bye this week -- Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday -- to work with quarterback guru Tom House, a former big league pitcher who is the pitching coach at USC. Pryor credits House, along with Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson and QB coach John DeFilippo, with his development. House has also worked with the likes of Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Carson Palmer and Tim Tebow.

Pressure packed: The Chiefs brought the pressure on Pryor, sending a defensive back on seven of his 47 dropbacks, per ESPN Stats & Info. He was 0-for-2 with an interception and was sacked five times when a DB blitzed.

Prediction: The big question is how Pryor deals with such a poor showing in Kansas City and if he rebounds. He insists he will, and the bye week gives him time to go back to his source, so to speak. Waiting after the bye? Pryor’s “hometown” Pittsburgh Steelers.

QB Watch: Bills' Thad Lewis

October, 16, 2013
10/16/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly examination of the Buffalo Bills' quarterback play.

Lewis
Rewind: Thad Lewis completed 19 of 32 passes for 216 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in just his second career start. Not too shabby. The Bills went into Sunday's game confident in Lewis' ability to run the offense, and while he didn't light up the scoreboard, it was a solid performance against a typically stingy Bengals defense. His critical mistake, however, came in the third quarter, when he fumbled while trying to scramble on third down. Coach Doug Marrone said Lewis was trying to "do too much" on the play, which led to a Cincinnati touchdown.

Fast-forward: The Bills travel Sunday to face Miami, and two things could be working in Lewis' favor: First, he'll likely have top receiver Stevie Johnson back, giving him another option outside. Second, the Dolphins' defense is middle-of-the-pack and doesn't feature as strong a front seven as the Bengals, who sacked Lewis five times this past Sunday. The Dolphins' best pass-rusher, Cameron Wake, is still working his way back from injury, which should help give Lewis some breathing room in the pocket.

Is there any drop-off? One of the hot topics last week was whether there would be any drop-off in play from E.J. Manuel to Lewis. The early returns suggest there will not be. While Manuel, obviously, is who the Bills want at quarterback in the long term, there are drawbacks to starting a rookie. Those are mostly eliminated with Lewis. The Duke quarterback doesn't have the same physical abilities or ceiling as Manuel, but he appeared more accurate on his throws and was more willing to drive the ball downfield Sunday.

Prediction: The wild card here is Lewis' foot injury, which left him in a walking boot following Sunday's game. The Bills feel confident Lewis can play, but watching him walk around the locker room Sunday was painful. He couldn't take a step on his right foot without grimacing. It's hard to believe that will clear up fully by Sunday, so the expectations for Lewis against the Dolphins are lower here. If his mobility and ability to plant off his back foot are hampered, his overall performance will follow suit.

QB Watch: Cowboys' Tony Romo

October, 16, 2013
10/16/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback play:

Romo
Rewind: There is something about the Washington Redskins that has affected the Cowboys’ passing game. Tony Romo completed only 60 percent of his passes (a season low) and threw for a season-low 170 yards against the Redskins. He was intercepted once but had a Romo-like touchdown, escaping trouble and finding Terrance Williams for a 15-yard score. Coming off a 506-yard effort against Denver when he was able to get the ball down the field, Romo’s longest completion against the Redskins was just 17 yards to Dez Bryant. Things started out well with Romo completing four of his first five passes for 50 yards on a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to open the game, but the Redskins' pressure and tight coverage forced him to be slightly off for the first time this season.

Fast-forward: For most of his career, Romo could expect to see a wide variety of blitzes from the Eagles' defense with the influence of former defensive coordinator Jim Johnson still being felt after he stopped coaching. Romo has yet to go against a Bill Davis-led defense in his career, but he has gone against Davis’ influences in the past that have employed similar schemes. He has had some success but also struggled at times against the confusing looks. Philadelphia, however, is allowing 314.5 yards per game through the air, which is 31st in the NFL. Without DeMarco Murray, the Cowboys' running game figures to be limited at least a little, so Romo will have to make plays through the air.

Mixing it around: The Cowboys have had 12 different players catch at least one pass in the first six games. Rookie running back Joseph Randle became the 12th with two catches against Washington. While Jason Witten is the security blanket and Bryant is the big-play receiver, Romo is at his best when he mixes it around. He had six different receivers versus the Redskins. He had eight different receivers two weeks ago against the Denver Broncos. He’s not afraid to go to Williams or Cole Beasley in a tight spot if needed. Six different receivers have caught Romo’s 14 touchdown passes. The ability to spread the ball makes it that much harder for a defense to key in on one or two targets. By going to so many different players, Romo is making his job a little easier.

Prediction: Romo was held to only 130 yards fewer than what I predicted he would get against the Redskins. In his two road games so far -- losses to the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers -- he has thrown for 544 yards. Let’s split it down the middle and say he throws for 272 yards against the Eagles and comes up with two touchdown passes as well. He has yet to throw an interception on the road this year, but that streak will end against Philadelphia. It doesn’t mean the Cowboys will lose though, does it?

QB Watch: Redskins' Robert Griffin III

October, 16, 2013
10/16/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly examination of the Redskins’ quarterback play.

Griffin
Rewind: Robert Griffin III continues to show more of his old self in the running game, carrying the ball nine times for 77 yards against Dallas. He did make one bad decision on the zone read, keeping the ball around the end and losing a couple of yards when a handoff looked like the stronger choice. But overall he looked spry. He even showed, as he has in other games this season, that he’ll keep his eyes downfield as he moves up in the pocket. He did not do this often enough last season; it’s leading to gains and fewer hits on Griffin. But his throwing was mostly bad versus Dallas. Griffin too often sailed his throws and missed open targets. He did not always throw with anticipation, so the Cowboys' tight man coverage had a better chance to win. There were missed opportunities in the passing game. And Griffin needs to be more careful with the ball when he starts scrambling in the pocket. The ball was poked free in one such case.

Fast-forward: Chicago’s pass defense ranks 23rd in the NFL and has had some problems, starting with the inability to pressure the passer. The Bears' defensive tackles have been banged up, and their defensive ends, Julius Peppers and Shea McClellin, have rarely made quarterbacks uncomfortable. Chicago has allowed 29 pass plays of 20 yards or more, second in the NFL.

First-half troubles: Griffin continues to have issues in the opening two quarters. In the first five games, he has thrown no touchdown passes and three interceptions in the first half. His passer rating in the first half of games is 58.86. Last season, his first-half passer rating was 113.4.

Prediction: Like everyone else, I keep waiting for Griffin to have “that game,” one that puts him back on track. I thought he was going to have that against Dallas, although I felt it would stem from the Redskins' ability to run, setting him up for play-action looks. Griffin’s running ability will help create more opportunities, but he remains an inconsistent passer. I do think he’ll have success with Jordan Reed. I also think the Bears will put up points, forcing Washington to keep pace. Griffin will throw for 250 yards and run for 50.

QB Watch: Ravens' Joe Flacco

October, 16, 2013
10/16/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly examination of the Baltimore Ravens' quarterback play:

Flacco
Rewind: It was another slow start for Joe Flacco. He was 13-of-26 for 201 yards through the first three quarters, and he was 7-of-8 for 141 yards in the fourth quarter. As Flacco put it, the impressive finish was "too little, too late." The big problem for Flacco was the third-and-longs. He converted first downs on only 2 of 9 third-down passes and was sacked three times on third down. For the second straight week, he was stripped from behind after his left tackle was beaten badly. Flacco finished with 342 yards passing, but the Ravens are 0-3 this season when Flacco throws for more than 300 yards.

Fast-forward: Flacco has won three of his past four meetings with the rival Steelers. Both of his performances last season were average at best. Flacco was held under 190 yards passing each time and made a costly turnover in the last meeting. He had the ball stripped away by James Harrison in the fourth quarter, which led to a game-tying touchdown.

Rough road: It's been tough going for Flacco away from Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium. In three road games, he has completed 54.2 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and eight interceptions. His quarterback rating on the road is 61.6, which is significantly lower than his rating at home (99.3). Flacco has thrown an interception in each of his three road games this season. Last year, he was picked off a total of five times on the road.

Prediction: The Steelers have had a disappointing season, but their pass defense remains one of the best statistically. Pittsburgh has allowed 196 yards passing per game and has given up four touchdown passes, tied for fewest in the NFL. The odds are against Flacco having a strong game at Pittsburgh.

QB Watch: Dolphins' Ryan Tannehill

October, 16, 2013
10/16/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly examination of the Miami Dolphins' quarterback play.

Tannehill
Rewind: Quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins enjoyed their bye week. It was a chance to rest, recuperate and make some tweaks to Miami's offense. Tannehill is playing relatively well this season. However, his running game and offensive line have fallen apart around him. Tannehill has been sacked 24 times in five games this season. Miami’s running game also is ranked among the bottom teams in the NFL. Both issues need to be fixed for Tannehill's sake. He is the biggest thing holding the Dolphins' offense afloat.

Fast-forward: After playing two very tough defenses (New Orleans Saints, Baltimore Ravens) in back-to-back weeks, Tannehill gets an easier matchup Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. The Bills have struggled at times this year stopping both the run and the pass. The Dolphins had plenty of time to prepare for the Bills and should have the edge at home. The biggest concern is pass protection. Buffalo’s biggest strength is blitzing and defensive end Mario Williams is one of the NFL’s most dangerous pass-rushers. Keeping Williams off Tannehill will be key.

Same page: The growing rapport between Tannehill and new No. 1 receiver Mike Wallace has been a storyline all season. Some weeks, both players look dynamic and are on the same page. Other weeks, not so much. Wallace is coming off one of his better games two weeks ago against the Ravens. He had seven receptions for 105 yards in the 26-23 loss. It was another good step in the right direction for Wallace and Tannehill. Both players need to be productive for Miami’s offense to reach its full potential after the bye.

Prediction: Buffalo defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will look to confuse Tannehill with various blitz packages. But with two weeks to prepare and get everyone healthy, the advantage goes to Tannehill and Miami’s offense. Buffalo’s secondary has been banged-up all season. If Miami’s offense can have at least an average game, Tannehill should be in good shape.

QB Watch: Saints' Drew Brees

October, 16, 2013
10/16/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly examination of the New Orleans Saints' quarterback play.

Rewind: Drew Brees had an up-and-down performance in the Saints’ 30-27 loss to the New England Patriots. He was frustrated early by how well the Patriots’ defensive backs blanketed his favorite targets. But he rallied with some strong drives in the second half and threw a clutch 34-yard touchdown pass to receiver Kenny Stills late in the fourth quarter that almost turned out to be the game winner (until Tom Brady one-upped him with five seconds left).

Brees
Brees completed only 17 of 36 passes for 236 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. It was the first time he failed to complete 20 passes in a game since 2009, snapping his NFL-record streak at 57 straight games.

No fear of copycats: Brees insisted he’s not worried that other teams will try to replicate what the Patriots did by shadowing his favorite target, tight end Jimmy Graham, with their top cornerback Aqib Talib. For one thing, not all teams have players talented enough to do that. For another, Brees said he’s happy to spread the ball around to the rest of his weapons if defenses sell out to stop Graham.

Normally, Brees thrives with that mentality. But he struggled to find those open receivers in the first half at New England before improving in the second half. Brees said the opportunities were there -- he just didn’t execute well enough to take advantage.

Fast-forward: The Saints have a bye this week before returning to host the Buffalo Bills in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in Week 8. Brees would love for the extra week to give his injured weapons Graham (foot) and Lance Moore (hand) a chance to heal as quickly as possible.

Prediction: Brees will still have a few more Offensive Player of the Week-worthy performances as this season goes on -- starting with a home date against the Bills in Week 8. An extra week of rest, plus some added motivation from his first loss this season, should serve Brees well.

QB Watch: Browns' Brandon Weeden

October, 16, 2013
10/16/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Browns' quarterback play:

Weeden
Rewind: Brandon Weeden played well for half a game Sunday against Detroit. Unfortunately for the Browns the other half was really bad, punctuated by a comical moment with his underhand, backhand flip that resulted in a fourth-quarter interception. But his struggles were about more than one play. The Browns did not have a first down in the third quarter and had only three first downs overall before the famous flip. Weeden did little to quell growing unrest about his future.

Fast-forward: The good news for Weeden is that the Packers are beat up and missing Clay Matthews Jr. and Nick Perry, both strong outside rush guys. The bad news: That won't stop the Packers from sending waves of folks after him. Dom Capers is an original zone-blitz guy, and he loves to pressure the passer. If the Browns had a consistent, dependable running game, that would help Weeden. But they don't, and Green Bay doesn't allow teams to run on them either. It's the same story as the Lions game: Weeden has to get rid of the ball, and he has to avoid sacks. He also can't be trying any more backhand flips.

Considering confidence (again): Same topic as a week ago, different prism from which to view the issue. Weeden needed to be confident in his return as the starter. He was for a half -- but how he reacts to the famous flip could define the rest of the season. If he uses it to make himself stronger, it could be a turning point. If he doesn't ... well, the end of that story is not tough to figure.

Team confidence: The Browns will deny it when asked, but that flip had to affect the psyche of every player on the team. For two games, the Browns saw that with good quarterback play they had the talent to win. They just needed smart, aggressive, quick-thinking play from the guy under center. The flip was none of the above, and it had to have the other 52 players wondering if they are able to win with him. Weeden not only has to find his confidence, he has to regain -- or perhaps reinforce -- the confidence of the players around him.

Prediction: Going to Green Bay after a win is tough. Going there after a demoralizing loss is tougher still. Especially when the Packers do two things that will badly hurt the Browns: rush the passer and defend the run. This is not a good matchup for Weeden, and anything he provides will be a positive. Asking him to provide more than 220 yards and a touchdown is a lot, and expecting him to take fewer than four sacks is even more.

QB Watch: Panthers' Cam Newton

October, 16, 2013
10/16/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly examination of the Panthers' quarterback play.

Newton
Newton
Rewind: Carolina coach Ron Rivera wouldn't call Cam Newton's performance against Minnesota the best of the quarterback's career, saying only it was top two or three. I'll go ahead and say it was No. 1. It goes beyond Newton's career-best passer rating of 143.4. It goes beyond that he passed for three touchdowns and ran for another. It has more to do with the little things. Like, on the 79-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, Brandon LaFell was Newton's third read. Like, on third down, he was 5-for-5 for 119 yards. Like, on two undesigned scrambles, he made a first down, including one that went for a touchdown. He was 18-for-21 on passes of 10 or fewer yards, and had only six incompletions all day. He was nearly flawless, and he looked as comfortable in the pocket as I've seen him.

Fast-forward: I circled St. Louis' No. 31 rank against the run not because I believe Newton will run rampant against the Rams but because Carolina's running game will open up the passing game. When Newton has time, as he did Sunday at Minnesota, he's been able to pick apart defenses, particularly average to bad ones like the one he'll face this week. If the Rams don't find a way to slow the league's eighth-best running game, Newton could have another field day.

Consistent Cam: Newton hasn't put together consecutive passer ratings of more than 100.0 since games 12 and 13 last season. He has done it only four times in his career. He has never done it in the first six games of the season. The last stat is the most significant if the Panthers hope to win two in a row in the first six weeks for the first time since 2009.

Prediction: In Carolina's two wins against the Giants and Vikings, Newton has six touchdown passes and two touchdown runs. He has thrown only one interception. The stage is set for another of that type of performance against a Rams defense ranked 22nd in the league.

QB Watch: Seahawks' Russell Wilson

October, 16, 2013
10/16/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Seattle Seahawks' quarterback play.

Wilson
Rewind: On a day when the Seahawks made a bundle of crazy mistakes, <a href="http://espn.go.com/nfl/player/_/id/14881/russell-wilson">Russell Wilson</a> managed to right the ship and play another exceptional game in leading the team to a 20-13 victory over the overmatched Tennessee Titans. Wilson completed 23 of 31 passes for 257 yards and didn’t throw an interception. He also rushed for 61 yards on 10 carries.

Fast-forward: The Seahawks will play their third game in 11 days Thursday night, traveling to Phoenix to face the 3-3 Arizona Cardinals. Wilson is 0-1 in University of Phoenix Stadium (losing his first NFL start in the season opener last year) and 2-5 in his NFL career in domed stadiums. But he is 1-1 in domes this year, having led the Seahawks to a come-from-behind 23-20 victory at Houston before losing 34-28 one week later when he rushed for a career-best 102 yards at Indianapolis.

Shortstop play: The Seahawks had five fumbles Sunday, but lost only two, and Wilson was responsible for saving the day on one by Marshawn Lynch in the fourth quarter. Seattle had a first-and-goal at the Titans' 2-yard line when Lynch was caught in the backfield and coughed up the ball. It was rolling around and easily could have ended up in the hands of a Tennessee defender, who might have run it back for a touchdown. But the ball bounced up near Wilson and he quickly grabbed it and fell on it in what was a pretty impressive athletic move. “I felt like I was back in my baseball days playing shortstop,” he said. “I saw the big hop and I went for it.”

Prediction: Wilson’s play should continue to shine as more starters return to the offense. Max Unger was back at center against the Titans and tight end Zach Miller is expected to return against Arizona. So Wilson’s pass protection will continue to improve, which should be more than enough for him to lead the Seahawks to a victory over the Cardinals.

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