Each week, PFW contributor Ty Schalter will help you plan your weekend of NFL watching with the players and games to watch, and even a game to avoid in 'The Hot Read.'
Matchup to Watch
J.J. Watt semi-miraculously made himself available for the season opener, but he was practically invisible against Chicago in that game. Against Kansas City in Week 2, though, Watt looked much more like the perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate we know and love and fear.
The New England Patriots' offensive line has been a patchwork up until this point, and left tackle Nate Solder was a sight for sore eyes in his Week 2 return. Watt, though, usually lines up against the right side of the offensive line; the Pats' starting right guard (Jonathan Cooper) and right tackle (Sebastian Vollmer) are out injured. Whether fill-ins Shaq Mason and Marcus Cannon can even slow down Watt on his way to No. 3 QB Jacoby Brissett could determine which of these two unbeatens takes their first "L."
Game of the Week
The Minnesota Vikings had their sights set on a Super Bowl before Teddy Bridgewater's knee imploded; the Carolina Panthers were hoping to avoid a repeat of 2004, when they fell from a Super Bowl loss all the way to 7-9.
Sam Bradford's stunning prime-time Week 2 debut restored the buzz around the Vikings, despite Adrian Peterson's knee also imploding. Meanwhile, Cam Newton's led the Panthers to a league-leading 66 points in two games.
Suddenly, two teams known for their defense and ground games are preparing for what could be the shootout of the year … or a defensive slugfest. Or a little of both! Either way, the stakes couldn't be higher in what could be a Week 3 preview of the NFC Championship Game.
Dud of the Week
The Los Angeles Rams continue to play unwatchable football, so once again this space will name 'The Other Dud of the Week.'
The temptation is to go with Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars, but we know Joe Flacco and Blake Bortles will be good for at least one or two beautiful long bombs a piece. No, the dishonor this week goes to the Cleveland Browns at the Miami Dolphins.
The Browns will be without Robert Griffin III, Josh McCown and first-round wideout Corey Coleman, leaving third-round reach Cody Kessler trying to get to his only playmaking threat, converted wideout Terrelle Pryor. Against Ndamukong Suh and the Dolphins' defensive line. Without starting center Cam Erving.
On the other side of the ball, Ryan Tannehill hasn't yet thrown a touchdown pass when the other team was actually worried about stopping him. The best we can hope for in terms of entertainment value is a Dolphins blowout — which has zero entertainment value.
One Unknown Player to Watch
One of the best rivalries in the NFL, the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints, will turn on two veteran quarterbacks' ability to outscore the other. With Drew Brees' ability to spread it around, though, it's likely he won't challenge top Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant too often.
Who's on the other side of the field? Undrafted free agent Brian Poole.
The Florida product, though, has been anything but a target—both Falcons head coach Dan Quinn and charting site Pro Football Focus have been raving about Poole's tight coverage. He doesn't get many balls thrown his way, either; if that continues this weekend Brees won't have many other places to go.
One Burning Question
Which Jameis Winston will show up?
Last week in this space, I suggested the Cardinals would wake up and perform well against Winston and the Buccaneers — and boy, did they. Now, we have to wonder if "four touchdowns, one interception Jameis" or "one touchdown, four interceptions Jameis" will show up for against the Rams' defense. He won't need four scores to win, but he'll probably need more than one. I suspect he gets them.