1. Washington Redskins:
It might seem ridiculous to place a team that just lost its franchise quarterback on the hot list, but realistically, the future of the Redskins looks brighter than it did last week. This is RGIII’s second major lower body injury, and he looked horrendous even when playing healthy in Week 1. Kirk Cousins has looked great in nearly every chance he’s gotten at the NFL level, and his more conventional style of play means he has a much better chance of staying on the field and uninjured. With an improved passing game, running back Alfred Morris was able to find more open space in Week 2. Cousins might also be able to better utilize offseason acquisition DeSean Jackson, which could give the Redskins a formidable offense. If I were a Redskins fan, I would be optimistic. I think that Cousins will play well enough to win the starting job permanently, and that RGIII might find himself still watching from the sidelines once he has recovered.
2. Demarco Murray:
It appears that the Cowboys have finally realized that their best offensive weapon may not be Dez Bryant or Tony Romo. In Week 1, the Cowboys seemed to forget that they had a running back who was averaging over five yards per carry and instead allowed Tony Romo to blow the game. This week, Murray touched the ball 30 total times and rewarded the Cowboys with 173 yards and a touchdown. Murray has now 285 rushing yards in 2 weeks and shows no signs of slowing down. If Murray can stay healthy, he seems like a lock for the league rushing title. Nobody would appreciate that more than Tony Romo, as a successful running game would lift a considerable burden from his shoulders.
3. Jordy Nelson:
Nobody missed Aaron Rodgers more during his injury recovery last season than Nelson, who recorded over 200 receiving yards Sunday against the Jets, capped by an 80 yard touchdown reception that essentially won the game for the Packers. Nelson probably isn’t the first receiver that comes to mind when you think of dominant NFL pass-catchers. However, Nelson has a sneaky combination of speed, size, and smarts that allows him to thrive in combination with Aaron Rodgers. Now that his quarterback has returned, look for Nelson to drop more big numbers as the season progresses, even in a crowded offense.
1. New Orleans Saints:
The Saints lost their opener in Atlanta, which wasn’t a huge concern. Slipping to 0-2 against the lowly Cleveland Browns presents a larger issue. The Saints have always been a much better team in New Orleans than away from home (as they were in their first two games) but these home/away splits have become troubling. Dominance at home might carry the Saints into the playoffs, but they will have to win away from the Superdome in order to contend for the Super Bowl. The loss of an emerging Mark Ingram could further the slide for the Saints, who head home in desperate need of a convincing win in Week 3.
2. Eli Manning:
Eli Manning is not the greatest quarterback, and had an especially poor Week 1. But Eli lands on the cold list because although he actually played well in this week’s loss to the Cardinals, he will undoubtedly still be blamed for the Giants’ woes. Eli’s lone interception came on a ball that was tipped at the line, otherwise he played very well. Rashad Jennings literally gave the ball away in the redzone on one possession, and then the Giants allowed a punt return for a touchdown before fumbling a kickoff return giving the Cardinals excellent field position. To add to all that, Victor Cruz dropped several balls thrown his way on the day, leaving Manning out to dry. Eli certainly isn’t playing like an elite quarterback, but he is going to get far more hate than he deserves for the Giants 0-2 start.
3. Fantasy Owners:
Injuries happen in the NFL. However this week was particularly brutal for players who are relevant in fantasy football. AJ Green, Mark Ingram, Ryan Matthews, Jamaal Charles, Eric Decker, Knowshon Moreno, RGIII, DeSean Jackson, and Vernon Davis headline the list of big-name fantasy players who were hurt on Sunday. While the first concern is obviously the health and well being of these real life people, fantasy leagues across the nation will rue the loss of some of the more valuable players in the game. Just like with actual football, fantasy football is best when outcomes aren’t determined by injury luck. Hopefully most of these players have a quick recovery, both for their own good and for the good of all of our fantasy teams.