If you were to name an MVP for Week 3, you’d have a lot of worthy candidates. Seven players scored more than 30 points in a basic PPR system, two more than in Weeks 1 and 2 combined.
But my candidate didn’t touch the ball. What Bengals offensive coordinator Bill Lazor did do in his first game since replacing Ken Zampese was bring order to the team’s muddled backfield and hope to Bengals owners everywhere.
Rookie Joe Mixon was the clear lead running back with 21 touches (18 rushes), which he turned into 101 yards. His 34 snaps were well ahead of Jeremy Hill (14) and Giovani Bernard (13). In the first two games, Mixon had 21 touches for 65 yards.
Mixon still figures to be affected by Bernard and Hill. Bernard is a talented runner and a threat as a receiver, and Hill entered the year with 29 touchdowns in three seasons. Mixon clearly is better than Hill, yet the veteran has started all three games and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
But it’s a great sign that one of Lazor’s first acts since being promoted from quarterbacks coach was to feature the highly touted rookie. Mixon will face tough run defenses the next two weeks in the Browns and Bills, but his newfound volume puts him in the RB2 discussion.
Lazor also breathed life into wide receiver A.J. Green, who caught as many passes in Week 3 (10) as he did in the first two games. He also had 111 yards and a touchdown, the Bengals’ first of the season.
Without tight end Tyler Eifert (back, knee) and receiver John Ross (knee), Green was targeted 13 times, tied for the second-most of all receivers in the week. Don’t worry about the lack of a proven target opposite Green. He was on pace for a career high in yards last season in the same situation before going out with a hamstring injury.
The Bengals’ offense isn’t out of the woods yet. The offensive line remains an issue. Veteran Andre Smith went back and forth at the tackle spots to fill in for struggling youngsters Jake Fisher on the right and Cedric Ogbuehi on the left.
But even that’s a good sign for the offense under Lazor. He’s being proactive to spark the unit, which is tied with a league-low two touchdowns and ranks second-to-last in yards per game. The talent is there, and it starts with Mixon, who figures to join the lengthy list of rookie running backs playing starring roles.
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It appears the Bengals’ Joe Mixon will have the chance to join fellow rookie rushers among the league leaders. Of the top 17 rushers, five are in their first year.
Rank Player Rush yards
1 Kareem Hunt, KC 401
2 Dalvin Cook, Min 288
7 Leonard Fournette, Jax 199
14 Chris Carson, Sea 166
17 Tarik Cohen, BEARS 157
36 Joe Mixon, Cin 107
WEEK 4 PICKS
Cardinals QB Carson Palmer: After what Rams QB Jared Goff did to the 49ers, Palmer could have a field day. He’s third in the league in passing yards (925).
Dolphins RB Jay Ajayi: Coach Adam Gase called the Dolphins’ offense “garbage” against the Jets. Expect this Jay to clean up against the Saints.
Chargers WR Keenan Allen: The Eagles have a young, up-and-coming secondary, but it’s not there yet.
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger: In nine career games at the Ravens, he has thrown more than one TD pass twice and has averaged 236 yards.
Texans RB Lamar Miller: He hasn’t rushed for more than 65 yards in a game, and D’Onta Foreman has had double-digit touches in the last two games.
Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill: Lower your expectations for the third-highest scorer at the position. The Redskins have allowed the third-fewest PPR points to wideouts.
WEEK 3 PICKS
Cam Newton: 167 yards, 3 INTs, TD run
Isaiah Crowell: 12 carries, 44 yards
A.J. Green: 10 catches, 111 yards, TD
Russell Wilson: 373 yards, 4 TD passes
LeSean McCoy: 14-21 rushing, 7-48 receiving
Jaguars WRs: Allen Hurns, 3-20-1; Marqise Lee, 4-65