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NFL Week 3 Watchability Rankings: The Giants Defense Can Cure Deshaun Watson

The Texans quarterback lit up the league in his rookie campaign, but through two games this season, he’s been largely overlooked. This week, going up against a soft New York defense, Watson will have a chance to get his shine back. Plus: your NFL Week 3 viewing guide.

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

The NFL has been incredibly entertaining in the past two weeks. Patrick Mahomes II emerged as one of the league’s best players, Fitzmagic is back with the Bucs, the Steelers are performing their own soap opera, and Jon Gruden is Jon Gruden-ing. There has been no shortage of awesome football and intriguing story lines. This stands in stark contrast to where we were at this point last year, when nothing was fun about the NFL … except for Deshaun Watson. Watson threw 19 touchdowns in seven starts and seemed to pull a rabbit out of his helmet every time he took a snap. Then, Watson tore his ACL in practice after Week 8, and everything sucked again.

This season, Watson returned from that injury, but he’s been conspicuously absent from the broader NFL conversation. The Texans are 0-2, their offense has scored just 37 points total, and the spotlight Watson held last year has shifted to the NFL’s new Touchdown God in Kansas City. No one expected Watson to have the same production this season as he did through six games in 2017, but his drop-off from NFL superstar to relative afterthought is jarring.

That could all change very soon. While Houston has had a disappointing start to its season, there were a lot of positives to take away from the team’s 20-17 loss to Tennessee last week. The Texans moved the ball well, picking up 437 yards on offense, and they gashed the Titans through the air (9.69 yards per attempt) and on the ground (5.7 yards per carry). Houston’s major problem was that few of its drives ended with points—the team was forced to punt on a couple of fourth-and-longs, kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn missed a field goal, and Watson threw an interception.

But as Football Outsiders noted this week, the Texans actually thoroughly outplayed the Titans, and Watson went 22-of-32 for 310 yards, two touchdowns, a pick, and a 107.6 passer rating. Check out this perfectly placed touchdown pass to Will Fuller:

Sunday’s game showed that Watson’s magic isn’t gone. On this play, which came late in the second quarter, Watson almost effortlessly avoids the pass rush, and he buys enough time to find a wide-open DeAndre Hopkins for a touchdown:

This week, the Texans take on the Giants. While the watchability scores (see the table below) paint this as the second-least watchable matchup of the week, Watson has the ability turn this game on its head just like he did during the 2017 season.

The Giants’ pass defense currently ranks 14th in DVOA, which isn’t bad, but through the first two weeks of the season, they’ve played two of the most run-heavy teams in football in the Jaguars and Cowboys. Those teams only passed on the Giants a combined 58 times — third-fewest of any defense in football. Plus, Eli Apple, the Giants’ no. 2 corner, missed practice on Wednesday, which brings his status for Sunday into question. Not only that, but New York has also been terrible against the run, and the Texans lead the NFL in rushing. Whether it’s on the ground or through the air, there’s potential for the Texans to carve up New York on Sunday. And that’s especially true if Houston can figure out how to finish drives.

If things break right, we’ll finally get a bounce-back performance from Watson. And though this season has already been wildly entertaining, it could always use a little more magic.

(Now everyone please go find the nearest piece of wood and knock on it).

With that, here are Week 3’s watchability rankings. The overall watchability scores are now weighted 60 percent from 2017’s numbers, and 40 percent from what’s happened this season (the individual category scores show only 2018 numbers):

NFL Watchability Rankings, Week 3

Rk Team TDs Score Big Plays Score Punts Score TOs Score Sacks Score Takeaways Score 2017 Total 2018 Total TOTAL SCORE
Rk Team TDs Score Big Plays Score Punts Score TOs Score Sacks Score Takeaways Score 2017 Total 2018 Total TOTAL SCORE
1 Los Angeles Rams 0.69 0.89 2.48 1.59 -1.33 0.51 5.49 4.84 5.23
2 Kansas City Chiefs 2.45 1.74 1.13 1.59 -1.33 -0.66 3.56 4.92 4.10
3 Los Angeles Chargers 0.69 1.46 0.68 0.84 0.50 -0.66 4.08 3.50 3.85
4 New Orleans Saints 0.69 0.04 1.13 -0.65 -0.87 -1.25 6.80 -0.92 3.71
5 New England Patriots -0.19 -0.53 -0.23 -0.65 -0.87 0.51 5.05 -1.96 2.25
6 Minnesota Vikings 0.69 0.32 -0.68 0.84 0.96 0.51 1.89 2.64 2.19
7 Pittsburgh Steelers 1.13 0.89 -1.13 -2.15 1.41 -0.66 3.98 -0.51 2.18
8 Jacksonville Jaguars 0.25 0.32 -0.23 0.09 -0.41 -0.07 3.55 -0.05 2.11
9 Philadelphia Eagles -0.19 -0.82 -0.68 -0.65 0.50 -0.07 4.37 -1.92 1.86
10 Green Bay Packers -0.19 -0.25 0.23 0.84 0.50 -0.66 2.73 0.46 1.82
11 Detroit Lions -0.19 0.32 0.68 -2.15 1.41 -0.66 3.23 -0.59 1.70
12 Baltimore Ravens 1.57 0.60 0.68 -0.65 0.50 -0.66 0.97 2.03 1.40
13 Atlanta Falcons -0.19 1.17 -0.23 0.84 -0.41 -0.07 1.58 1.11 1.39
14 San Francisco 49ers -0.63 0.32 0.23 -0.65 0.04 -0.66 2.54 -1.36 0.98
15 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2.01 1.46 1.13 0.84 -0.41 0.51 -2.12 5.54 0.94
16 Carolina Panthers -0.19 -0.53 -0.23 0.84 0.50 -0.66 1.33 -0.27 0.69
17 Dallas Cowboys -1.07 -1.67 -0.23 1.59 1.87 -0.66 -0.37 -0.17 -0.29
18 Seattle Seahawks -0.19 -0.25 -1.58 -1.40 -0.87 1.10 1.52 -3.19 -0.36
19 Washington Redskins -1.07 -0.53 0.23 0.84 -0.87 0.51 -0.45 -0.90 -0.63
20 Cincinnati Bengals 1.13 0.32 0.68 0.84 0.50 1.10 -4.41 4.57 -0.82
21 Houston Texans -0.63 0.04 -0.23 0.09 -0.87 -0.07 -0.80 -1.67 -1.15
22 Chicago Bears -0.19 -1.67 0.23 0.09 2.33 0.51 -3.16 1.30 -1.38
23 Tennessee Titans -0.63 -1.39 0.23 0.09 0.04 -0.07 -1.33 -1.73 -1.49
24 New York Jets 0.69 0.60 0.68 -1.40 -0.41 2.28 -4.18 2.44 -1.53
25 Denver Broncos -0.19 1.74 -0.23 -0.65 0.96 -0.07 -4.18 1.55 -1.89
26 Oakland Raiders -1.07 0.60 0.68 0.09 -1.33 -1.25 -3.37 -2.28 -2.93
27 Indianapolis Colts -0.19 -1.39 1.13 -0.65 0.04 -0.07 -4.63 -1.13 -3.23
28 Buffalo Bills -1.51 -0.82 -1.58 -0.65 -0.41 -1.25 -1.35 -6.23 -3.30
29 Cleveland Browns -0.19 0.32 -2.48 0.84 0.96 2.87 -7.09 2.31 -3.33
30 Miami Dolphins 0.25 -0.53 -0.23 -0.65 -0.87 1.69 -5.67 -0.34 -3.54
31 Arizona Cardinals -1.95 -1.67 -1.58 0.09 0.04 -0.66 -2.96 -5.73 -4.07
32 New York Giants -1.51 -1.10 -0.68 0.09 -1.78 -1.25 -6.59 -6.23 -6.45

There are 10 games in the 1 p.m. Eastern time slot this week—that’s the most at any time, in any week, since Week 17 of the 2015 season. The schedule makes virtually no sense. Expect your RedZone channel to be incomprehensible for the first three hours of the day, as action streams in from across the league, and filled with dead air during the afternoon, when there are only three games. To help make sense of the chaos, here’s how this week’s games score in watchability:

NFL Watchability Game Scores, Week 3

NFL Watchability Game Scores, Week 3

Rank Away Team Score Home Day Team Score Time (ET) Home Line GAME SCORE
Rank Away Team Score Home Day Team Score Time (ET) Home Line GAME SCORE
1 Los Angeles Chargers 3.85 Los Angeles Rams Sun 5.23 4:05 PM -7 8.41
2 New Orleans Saints 3.71 Atlanta Falcons Sun 1.39 1:00 PM -3 6.31
3 Pittsburgh Steelers 2.18 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mon 0.94 8:15 PM 1.5 5.28
4 San Francisco 49ers 0.98 Kansas City Chiefs Sun 4.10 1:00 PM -6.5 4.07
5 New England Patriots 2.25 Detroit Lions Sun 1.70 8:20 PM 6.5 2.93
6 Green Bay Packers 1.82 Washington Redskins Sun -0.63 1:00 PM 3 2.40
7 Dallas Cowboys -0.29 Seattle Seahawks Sun -0.36 4:25 PM -1.5 1.50
8 Cincinnati Bengals -0.82 Carolina Panthers Sun 0.69 1:00 PM -3 1.08
9 Tennessee Titans -1.49 Jacksonville Jaguars Sun 2.11 1:00 PM -6.5 -0.39
10 Denver Broncos -1.89 Baltimore Ravens Sun 1.40 1:00 PM -5.5 -0.87
11 Indianapolis Colts -3.23 Philadelphia Eagles Sun 1.86 1:00 PM -6.5 -2.39
12 New York Jets -1.53 Cleveland Browns Thu -3.33 8:20 PM -3 -3.66
13 Oakland Raiders -2.93 Miami Dolphins Sun -3.54 1:00 PM -3 -5.27
14 Chicago Bears -1.38 Arizona Cardinals Sun -4.07 4:25 PM 5.5 -5.82
15 New York Giants -6.45 Houston Texans Sun -1.15 1:00 PM -6 -8.29
16 Buffalo Bills -3.30 Minnesota Vikings Sun 2.19 1:00 PM -16.5 -8.47

Now, let’s take a look at Sunday’s matchups, ordered by their respective watchability scores:

The Best Team in the NFL Faces Its First Test: Chargers at Rams (Plus-8.41)

The Rams rank first in DVOA and DAVE, and they occupy the first or second spot in nearly every power ranking you can find on the internet. They’re the best team in football. Yet some of the hype around the squad may be premature—the Rams’ two wins so far have come against the Raiders and Cardinals, who look like they’ll finish the year as two of the worst teams in the league.

The Chargers, this week’s opponent, are still a bit of a mystery. They lost to the surging Chiefs and thrashed the lowly Bills, which reveals little about the team one way or the other. But the Chargers will certainly be the best team the Rams have faced to this point. Keenan Allen will test the Rams’s new corners, Melvin Gordon can challenge the defensive line, and the Chargers’ defense has more talent on it that most units in football. If the Rams come out slow, there could be cause for concern. Or if they roll to another convincing victory, it’ll indicate that the hype has been justified.

The “battle for Los Angeles” subplot is just an added bonus.

The Twilight Zone Game: Saints at Falcons (Plus-6.31)

If we could travel through time and space and somehow get the 2016 Falcons to play the 2017 Saints, we might see the best game of football ever played. Instead, we live in 2018, and neither of these teams’ current iterations feel like the world-destroyers we expected.

The Falcons’ offensive attack took a huge step backward last season, and this year it didn’t get off to a much better start. They came out slow against the Eagles in Week 1, scoring just 12 points and faltering over and over in the red zone, but they bounced back to put up 442 yards and 31 points in a win over the Panthers. Hopefully that performance is more indicative of how they’ll play this season.

Meanwhile the Saints were picked apart by Fitzpatrick and the Bucs in the opener, and barely edged out the Browns in Week 2. The loss to Tampa Bay doesn’t look so bad after the Bucs lit up the Eagles last week, but the Browns game was concerning—the Saints were the most watchable team in the league in 2017 but have been far from that this year. At least their slow start is typical—New Orleans opened the season 0-2 in each of the previous three years.

If these two teams can somehow find a way to look like their former selves on Sunday, this will be the game of the week. If they play more like they have recently, it could be a disappointment.

Big 12-Like Scoring Potential: 49ers at Chiefs (Plus-4.07)

You’re probably aware that the Chiefs have the best offense in the NFL. But are you aware that they also have the worst defense?

Through two games, Kansas City’s defense is last in DVOA, last in yards allowed, fourth-to-last in points allowed, and second-to-last in yards per play. In a given week, the only quarterback in the league who can keep pace with Mahomes is whichever one is playing the Chiefs.

Enter Jimmy Garoppolo. The 49ers’ quarterback had a rough outing against Minnesota in Week 1, but he bounced back against Detroit and threw for 206 yards and two touchdowns and recorded a 118.4 passer rating. In Kansas City, he’ll face the softest defense in the NFL, and he’ll likely spend most of the game chucking the ball all over the gridiron to keep up with Mahomes and the K.C. offense.

A Legend on One Leg: Packers at Redskins (Plus-2.40)

All eyes will continue to be on Aaron Rodgers and his left knee until it’s clear that he’s healthy. Earlier this week Rodgers only added to the concern, saying the sprain could actually get worse if he continues to play on it. Rodgers wore a large brace against Minnesota last week and clearly favored his left leg throughout the game. But he was able to get the ball out quickly, did most of his work from inside the pocket, and completed 30 of 42 passes for 281 yards, a touchdown, and a 97.4 passer rating against one of the most loaded defenses in the league. It would have been awe-inspiring had the game not ended in a deflating tie.

There’s something magical about watching Rodgers play with an important aspect of his game —his mobility—taken away from him. It’s like if LeBron James played basketball in weighted shoes, or if Rafael Nadal played tennis solely on grass and hard courts. Rodgers without the ability to scramble sounds like a worse viewing experience in theory, but in the last 90 minutes of game time, it’s proven to be strangely entrancing.

The Panic Button Team: Cowboys at Seahawks (Plus-1.50)

When the Rams smashed the Seahawks 42-7 in Week 15 last year, it seemed like a changing-of-the-guard moment. The Rams firmly cemented themselves as the class of the NFC West, and the once-formidable Seahawks looked like a JV squad. This past offseason, the Legion of Boom dissolved, and now with the team sitting at 0-2, it feels like the door is officially shut on the Seahawks becoming a perennial Super Bowl contender.

Seattle hasn’t started a season 0-3 since 2002. If they lose to the Cowboys this week, the wheels will really feel like they’re falling off—and Pete Carroll’s seat could begin to heat up.

Is Cincinnati an AFC Contender?: Bengals at Panthers (Plus-1.08)

The Bengals have quietly been one of the most impressive teams in the league this season. They knocked off the Colts and the Ravens (each by a score of 34-23), and currently rank fourth in DVOA. The defense is above average, the running game (which will be without Joe Mixon for at least next couple of weeks as he recovers from a meniscus tear) is efficient, Andy Dalton has quietly looked like a Pro Bowler, and A.J. Green leads the league in touchdown receptions.

My colleague Danny Kelly called this in the offseason when he wrote that Cincinnati was one of the NFL’s most likely surprise contenders. Still, the Bengals haven’t gotten a lot of respect so far this season—they’re three-point underdogs this week to the 1-1 Panthers. A convincing win would make the team’s early success impossible to ignore.

A Surprise Revenge Game: Titans at Jaguars (Minus-0.39)

This is an AFC South matchup, so there’s bound to be a bit of bad blood between divisional foes. But, as we found out this week, the rivalry apparently goes deeper than that. Jacksonville lost both of its games to the Titans last year, including a 37-16 Week 2 blowout, and now the Jags want revenge. They should be in a good place to do it, because despite their 1-1 record, the Titans haven’t looked great this year. They needed a trick play to to help them edge the Texans:

And then later in the game, Blaine Gabbert, who took over for Marcus Mariota as he was sidelined with an elbow injury, threw two passes that went nowhere on one play:

Mariota appears to have the inside track on the starting job for Sunday, but the Jags defense may feast no matter which QB starts.

A Potential Fantasy Star in the Making: Broncos at Ravens (Minus-0.87)

Where did Phillip Lindsay come from? The Broncos’ running back is third in the NFL in rushing and 11th in standard scoring fantasy points among running backs despite not having a single touchdown. Can this last?

One thing that’s helped Lindsay so far is that he’s gone up against softer defenses. The Seahawks are roughly league average in defensive DVOA, and the Raiders are last in the league in rush defense. This week, Lindsay will face a far tougher squad. The Ravens’ typically vaunted defense has once again impressed this season, ranking fifth in DVOA and sixth against the run. That number may be inflated some by the team’s demolition of the Bills in Week 1, but there’s no doubt that Baltimore will be the toughest defense Lindsay has faced to this point. If he can thrive against the Ravens, it’ll be a good indicator that his production is here to stay.

Wentz Back: Colts at Eagles (Minus-2.39)

Any showdown between Andrew Luck and Carson Wentz should rank much higher in watchability than this, but the Eagles’ offense has been fairly boring this year under Nick Foles, and the Colts haven’t exactly blown the wheels off with Luck back under center. That’s OK—sometimes we know better than the numbers.

Wentz’s return towers over every other story line in this game, and nearly every other one in all of football. The Philly QB was an MVP-level player last year, and whether he can return to form after a late-season ACL tear will have repercussions for the rest of the league. Foles may have been last year’s Super Bowl MVP, but the Eagles have looked downright mortal with him under center this season. With a healthy, productive Wentz leading the charge, Philly could vault back to being Super Bowl favorites.

Oakland Is Looking for a Pass Rusher: Raiders at Dolphins (Minus-5.27)

Jon Gruden cannot stop talking about the Raiders’ pass rush. Here he is after the Raiders’ Week 1 loss to the Rams:

And here he is after their Week 2 loss to the Broncos:

And this week:

Oakland’s 3.2 percent adjusted sack rate on defense ranks 29th in the NFL, while Chicago, at 13.9 percent, ranks second. Maybe this will finally be the week where the Raiders put some pressure on an opposing QB, as Miami’s offensive line currently sits at 25th in adjusted sack rate (which includes intentional grounding penalties). But if the Raiders fail to generate pressure again, trading pass rusher Khalil Mack will only get more and more hilarious.

Please Give Us Another Rookie QB to Watch: Bears at Cardinals (Minus-5.82)

In this video, Josh Rosen looks like everyone who’s been forced to watch the Cardinals offense during the last two weeks.

Through two games, Arizona has 350 yards of total offense and just six points. Last week against the Rams they were shut out, didn’t move the ball past midfield until the second-to-last play of the game, and gained just five first downs—tied for the fewest in a game since 2008.

Switching from Sam Bradford to Rosen wouldn’t fix the Cardinals’ issues—a change at QB still doesn’t explain why the team is sending David Johnson straight into a brick wall on nearly every rush—but it would at least give this team a story line worth paying attention to. That said, I can understand why the Cardinals don’t want to throw Rosen up against Mack, who has two sacks, an interception, a touchdown, and two forced fumbles in two games.

The Alabama-vs.-an-FCS-School Special: Bills at Vikings (Minus-8.47)

Minnesota is favored by 16.5 points over Buffalo, a spread so large that a team has been favored by that much or more only 15 times in the past 10 seasons. Going back to 1940, the favored team in such games are 57-4, so something wild would have to happen to make this a close finish. Even though the Vikings are one of the league’s more watchable teams, this matchup is lopsided enough to earn the lowest watchability score of the week.

That may have its own kind of charm, though. If you want to watch a game that has the highest chance of turning into a one-sided disaster, this is the one for you.