It’s week 3 of the regular season and the dust is finally starting to settle on who’s good and who’s, well let’s just say ‘rebuilding’. What better way to do that than with the NFL Ireland Team of the Week?
Quarterback: Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers
Beating up on the New Orleans Saints D this year isn’t saying much, but Cam was in full Superman mode in Week 3 as he topped 300 passing yards without a pick, including two TDs to Greg Olsen at tight end. He also chipped in a rushing TD for good measure, and all of this with his top wideout being Ted Ginn. TED GINN! Cam has started the season strong and the Panthers will look to extend their unbeaten start with him under centre against a struggling Bucs team next week.
Running Back: Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons
Plenty of competition for our coveted backfield spot this week, with the return to form of Adrian Peterson, the frist big game for Joseph Randle and Alfred Blue doing his best to help the Texans forget about Arian Foster, but scores count for extra and Devonta Freeman bagged 3 of them as the Falcons came from deep behind to gash the Cowboys in Jerrah World. The loss of promising rookie Tevin Coleman wasn’t felt as Freeman ran for over 140 yards and added 52 through the air, proving unstoppable to a porous Cowboys D-line. Freeman’s not giving up this gig without a fight.
Tight End: Greg Olsen – Carolina Panthers
We mentioned him above, but Olsen had a career day against the Saints bagging a pair of scores and connecting with Cam Newton 8 times for a total of 134 yards. He’s always been Newton’s safety blanket in Carolina but even with little help out wide to draw coverage, Olsen continues to be a difference maker for an offense that continues to struggle for balance.
Wide Receiver: AJ Green – Cincinnati Bengals
Welcome back AJ Green. After a season spent dealing with niggling injuries last year and a pair of workmanlike if unspectacular performances to star this year, the Bengals star receiver gave Andy Dalton a whopping 227 yards on ten receptions, and brought two of them home for scores. including this game-winning 80-yard catch and run score. And all this in Baltimore against the division rival Ravens to boot!
Wide Receiver: Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona Cardinals
There’s plenty of buzz around Arizona already this year, and with performances like Fitzgerald’s 134-yard 2 TD romp across the 49ers secondary, it’s easy to see why. The veteran has spent the first three games of the season rolling back the years for a total of 333 yards on 23 catches and 5 scores, and if Carson Palmer keeps looking his way it’s hard to see who’s going to stop them, even if the schedule makers have been kind with their start thus far.
Offensive Line: Oakland Raiders
No, seriously, the Raiders. On the road against what is supposed to be a strong Browns defensive front the Raiders kept Derek Carr completely clean and upright, allowing him to throw for two TDs and top 300 yards, while also creating the holes for Latavius Murray to run riot with 139 yards and a score. Witness the huge hole and second-level blocking for this Murray 54-yard run and you’ll see this is a unit on the up.
Defensive Line: Tennessee Titans
The Titans defensive front continues to be explosive in fits and starts, even in defeat against the Colts. Whatever issues may still dog the team’s defense, the ever-impressive Jurrell Casey and Karl Klug in particular shone against a struggling Colts front line. They alone combined for 2 sacks, 6 tackles and a fumble and kept Andrew Luck and the Colts busy.
Linebackers: Denver Broncos
Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware seemed to spend the whole game camped out in Matthew Stafford’s backfield, hurrying the Lions QB at every opportunity. The consistently impressive Brandon Marshall kept the inside tight as the Lions were limited to less than 30 yards in rushing, and the Broncos linebacker corps are the leaders of what might be the most complete defense in football right now.
Cornerback: Bradley Roby – Denver Broncos
The Broncos can lean on Aqib Talib and Chris Harris in coverage, but the emergence of second-year Bradley Roby in this game can only bolster their already impressive backline. To add to his pick he only allowed one pass into his area of coverage per PFF and he continues to prove he has an eye for the football.
Cornerback: Jonathan Joseph – Houston Texans
I don’t like to overly agree with Pro Football Focus, but the fact is that Joseph was exceptional against a still-learning Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week. He allowed just two passes on twelve attempts, and knocked down a further three. He may not have been everyone’s favourite cornerback on Hard Knocks, but he’s still the best one the Texans have.
Free Safety: Harrison Smith – Minnesota Vikings
Picking up from where he left off last week, Smith continues to be possibly the best safety in the league. He featured regularly in this column last year and while his five solo tackles don’t jump off the stat sheet, watching the game shows just how much of the field he takes away in both coverage and in the run game.
Strong Safety: Tyrann Mathieu – Arizona Cardinals
A pair of picks on Colin Kaepernick elevate Honey Badger onto our Team of the Week even if he hasn’t played as a true Strong Safety with Arizona this season. His five tackles contributed to the 49ers woes as well, but his ability to sniff out highlight reel plays like the pick six here will keep him in the headlines as the Cardinals season progresses.