The day after his team rallied from a 20-point deficit to beat the Vikings, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz met with the Detroit media. He took questions on the performance of his team's poor first half, its brilliant second half and PK Jason Hanson's game-winning field goal in overtime. Then somebody asked about where WR Calvin Johnson, who had his third consecutive two-touchdown game in the win, ranked among the NFL's best receivers.
"He's pretty good," Schwartz said.
Really coach? Calling Johnson "pretty good" is like saying HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm is "sometimes" funny or that sitting in rush-hour traffic "kind of" stinks. Not only does Johnson have to be considered among the NFL's best wideouts, he is in the conversation for the league's best players, period. Through three games he already has a league-high six touchdowns and is well on his way to a second consecutive Pro Bowl appearance.
His performance also has him climbing the MVP Meter. With two spotlight games ahead — at Dallas this Sunday and vs. the Bears on "Monday Night Football" in Week Five, which will be Johnson's first-ever primetime game as a pro, this "pretty good" receiver has a chance to catch not only touchdowns, but a lot of attention as well.
(Last week's ranking in parentheses)
1. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (No. 2) — Though he's moved up to No. 1 on our rankings, three was the lucky number for Rodgers last Sunday. He threw three touchdowns to TE Jermichael Finley to help the Packers improve to 3-0 on the season while beating the rival Bears for the third time in the past nine months.
2. Saints QB Drew Brees (No. 3) — Interceptions were an issue for Brees last season — he threw a career-high 22 — and those problems arose again in Week Three, as Texans defenders picked off two of his passes. Saints head coach Sean Payton can likely live with the interceptions when his QB also throws for 370 yards, three TDs and helps the team win its second consecutive game.
3. Patriots QB Tom Brady (No. 1) — At halftime of the Patriots' Week Three game vs. the Bills, it appeared Brady was going to hold down the No. 1 spot on the Meter, throwing for 222 yards and three TDs in the first 30 minutes. His second-half performance, however, altered those plans, with Brady throwing three interceptions (four total in the game), leading to New England's first loss of the season. This marks the first MVP Meter since Week 10 of last season that Brady was not in the top spot.
4. Raiders RB Darren McFadden (NR) — Facing the Jets and their vaunted run defense in Week Three, McFadden had no problems whatsoever, rushing for 171 yards and two scores in a big Raiders win. The NFL's leading rusher by nearly 50 yards, McFadden has a chance to post more big numbers this week against the Patriots, who allow a league-high 468.7 yards per game.
5. Lions QB Matthew Stafford (No. 5) — Stafford, who played high school ball in Dallas, will compete in his hometown for the first time as a professional this Sunday when the Lions take on the Cowboys. He can return with pride. He's been one of the league's most productive quarterbacks this season, and, most importantly, the Lions are unbeaten after three games.
6. Lions WR Calvin Johnson (No. 7) — The ability to make the extraordinary seem routine is the mark of an amazing player. That's what Johnson does. He made a leaping touchdown catch, jumping to make the play over a defender on Sunday, and hauled in a 40-yard pass along the sideline in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal for the Lions. Just another Sunday for Megatron.
7. Ravens RB Ray Rice (No. 4) — Fourth in the league in yards from scrimmage (407), Rice quietly is the player that makes the Ravens' offense go. Though he didn't score a touchdown in Week Three, the back made plays all over the field, averaging 11.7 yards per touch against the Rams.
8. Bills RB Fred Jackson (Cusp) — Regarded mainly as a between-the-tackles runner, Jackson showed his breakaway speed in Week Three against the Patriots. With less than two minutes remaining in a tie game, Jackson caught a swing pass at the Patriots' 35-yard line and took off through the New England defense, outrunning CB Leigh Bodden and S Sergio Brown before being tripped up at the 1-yard line. That play set up Rian Lindell's game-winning field goal to put the Bills alone in first place in the AFC East.
9. Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (No. 10) — Fitzpatrick started slow against the Patriots, throwing two interceptions on the Buffalo's first two possessions, but he recovered. He threw for 369 yards and two touchdowns, helping the Bills come back from a 21-point deficit to upset the Patriots in Week Three and remain atop the AFC East.
10. Texans WR Andre Johnson (NR) — On Sunday vs. the Saints, the Texans' star wideout made seven catches for the third straight week and gained 128 yards, averaging 18.3 yards per catch. He did most of his damage in the first half, though, and Houston came up short in its attempt to knock off New Orleans in the Superdome.
Five on the cusp (In alphabetical order) — Giants QB Eli Manning, Eagles RB LeSean McCoy, Chargers QB Philip Rivers, Cowboys QB Tony Romo, Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware.
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