Player You Need To Know This Weekend
Tyrann Mathieu, safety, Arizona (No. 32). He’s emerged, as Arizona GM Steve Keim thought he would, as an impact player early, and now he goes home to his birthplace, New Orleans, and his home state, where he has had so much triumph and sorrow, to play the Saints.
In 92 defensive snaps, Mathieu is second on the Cards with 13 tackles, and has a forced fumble (saving a Jared Cook touchdown against the Rams) and a deflected pass. The emotion should be on display Sunday at the Superdome.
Sound Bite of the Week
“We did not bring him here to be the water boy. He’ll be ready to go, as much as he can handle.”
—Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano, who watched Trent Richardson practice Thursday in Indy, 18 hours after the Colts consummated a trade with Cleveland for the third pick in the 2012 draft. Expect Richardson to start at running back at San Francisco Sunday.
Ten Things I’ll Be Watching For This Weekend
1. The putrid Giants pass rush. For the draft currency New York has spent on pass rushers—Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, Jason Pierre-Paul, and the dearly departed Osi Umenyiora—it seems amazing that the Giants are so bad right now in getting to the quarterback. New York has two sacks, and Pro Football Focus has the Giants with seven pressures or quarterback hits in 45 pass drops. That cannot continue if the Giants hope to beat Cam Newton and exit winlessville Sunday in Charlotte.
2. Ray Rice’s health. Sure looked like a serious hip injury Rice suffered last Sunday, though Ravens coach John Harbaugh said several times he expects Rice to play Sunday against Houston. He walked off the field in great discomfort, limping. Rice hasn’t practiced all week. If he plays, how effective will he be in a game the Ravens are going to have to score a lot to win?
3. Ed Reed’s debut. Texans at Ravens. Reed argued to play last week, but was held out with a hip injury. How will Gary Kubiak possibly prevent Reed from playing in the stadium he called home for 11 seasons?
4. RG III’s condition. Another loss—Washington hosts Detroit—and the fans might start calling for Rex Grossman, never mind Kirk Cousins.
5. Rehabber of the Week. Will New England tight end Rob Gronkowski, after five offseason surgeries on his forearm and back, make his season debut Sunday at home against Tampa Bay? Magic 8 Ball says … Looks doubtful. Atlanta next week more likely.
6. An unexpectedly important injury. If you watched the Monday night game, you saw what an impact running back Giovani Bernard is going to be for Cincinnati. He scored once on the ground once with a pass, and made Steelers miss several times in the Bengals’ win. But he was limited with a hamstring injury in practice Thursday, and Cincinnati will need all hands on deck to win an anticipated shootout with Green Bay Sunday.
7. The San Diego offensive line. Tennessee’s defensive front has been impactful in the first two weeks, and the Chargers took a hit at practice Wednesday when starting right tackle D.J. Fluker was concussed. Fluke didn’t practice Thursday. If he can’t play Sunday, backup Mike Harris, a second-year man from UCLA, would go—and the Titans would be pleased.
8. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2013 Cleveland Browns. At quarterback, Brian Hoyer. At running back, Willis McGahee. Yeeesh.
9. Dashon Goldson’s target. The league had its one-game suspension of Goldson, the Tampa Bay safety, for helmet hits overturned, and so Goldson will play against the Patriots Sunday in Foxboro. Whoever plays receiver for New England—that is always a moving target these days—must watch for Goldson for three hours Sunday.
10. The underrated game of the weekend: Atlanta at Miami. The Falcons are beat to heck, and lost two linebackers and a running back last week in the win over St. Louis. Miami (2-0) is trying to ride a top-five defense to the penthouse of the AFC East. Late game Sunday. Dolphins’ home opener. Should be fun.