We're going to cover fantasy football all season long here at Birds' Nest by answering five questions every week about various fantasy-related topics. Let's roll.
1. Will Trent Richardson have success against the Ravens' D Thursday night? Trent Richardson, the Browns' first-rounder last April, spent much of the first few months of his NFL existence responding to criticisms of his abilities from division rivals like Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga (expected) to former Browns great and Hall of Famer Jim Brown (unexpected). Richardson chose to let his play do the talking and through three weeks his detractors have disappeared. He'll face his biggest test Thursday when he faces the Ravens in Baltimore. That defense may not be what it once was but it's still among the league's best. Any chance the Browns will have to successfully establish a running game will be contingent on rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden. And while he's improved this month it likely won't make much difference against the Ray Lewis All-Stars. Which is all a long way of saying: Richardson will have his work cut out for him.
2. Is Cam Newton going to continue this sophomore slump? It's cliched and maybe even lazy to suggest that Newton is a victim of the sophomore slump but the reality is this: he's looked nothing like the 2011 Offensive Rookie of the Year. Instead he's been frustrated, inconsistent and, well, a second-year quarterback trying to make his way in the NFL. If you had designs on finally starting Newton, this probably isn't the week: the Panthers face the Falcons in Atlanta and after what they did to the Peyton Manning Broncos two weeks ago -- and the Chargers last Sunday -- this defense isn't to be trifled with.
3. Is Maurice Jones-Drew back? There was a lot of arm-waving about MJD only hurting himself by sitting out training camp and the entire preseason but maybe the break away from the game did him some good. Sure, he had to learn an new offense with new coaches but apparently he's a quick study because he went off on a decidedly awful Colts' defense last Sunday, rushing for 177 yards on 28 carries. This week, the Jags host the Bengals, an outfit that isn't afraid to give up yards in large chunks. Expect MJD to have another solid afternoon.
4. Is the Cardinals' D for real? We've been asking this question every week and every week the answer comes back: "Yeah, it seems so." But no one's really certain, even after wins over the Seahawks, Pats and Eagles. To continue the cliche motif, this Sunday's get-together with the Dolphins has the makings of a trap game although we don't see it happening. Miami has a rookie quarterback with no real receiving threats and running back Reggie Bush is battling a knee injury.
5. Which Eagles player should I start in Week 4? The Giants look very much like the team that got hot late last season and made another Super Bowl run, right down to the injuries in the secondary. Translation: if you have DeSean Jackson start him. If you don't have him, trade for him … and start him. According to Football Outsiders, the Giants' secondary rank dead last in the league at stopping No. 1 receivers. They fare well against the second and third options, and even the tight ends. Another option if you don't have Jackson: LeSean McCoy. New York is 18th in the league against pass-catching running backs.