By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport


I have information that I have to share with you, Dear Reader. Information that may shock you. Make you question everything you have ever believed, even.

I’m wrong sometimes. And in 2023, it appears I was wrong about Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans.

There was reason for skepticism with Evans this year. His ninth straight 1,000-yard receiving season in 2022 was saved by a huge Week 17 effort. And Baker Mayfield’s history with boundary receivers to this point in his career has been—underwhelming.

But two weeks into the season, Evans is fourth in PPR points among wide receivers. He has at least six catches and a touchdown in both games so far. But as he chases a record 10th consecutive 1,000-yard campaign, Evans told reporters he’s doing the same things he always has—working hard and making plays.

"You work your tail off and you hope that it shows up when the games happen," said Evans. "That's when it matters. Hopefully we can continue to build on our connection, the offense can continue to be more explosive and take care of the ball, and help us win more games."

Both Evans and the Buccaneers are off to hot starts—but there’s a bit of difference between facing the Carolina Panthers and Chicago Bears and taking on the Philadelphia Eagles—in part because Evans will be facing Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay.

The pair faced off twice two years ago. In the first meeting, Evans was quiet—just two catches on four targets for 27 yards. But in the playoffs that year, Evans exploded for a 9/117/1 line on 10 targets.

If the Eagles’ secondary was full-strength and James Bradberry was healthy, this might be the matchup that stopped Evans’ scorching start. But Philly has questions at safety and Bradberry may not play—roll out Evans with confidence, even if expecting another huge stat line isn’t especially realistic.




Denver Broncos at Miami Dolphins (Patrick Surtain II vs. Tyreek Hill)


The NFL is replete with transcendent young talents, and nowhere are they more concentrated than at cornerback and wide receiver. Last year, New York Jets cornerback Ahmad Gardner brought home Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, but per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, when NFL coaches and executives were surveyed, it was Surtain who was selected as the league’s gold standard at corner.

"Complete corner: physical, technical, versatile," a high-ranking NFL official said. "He's a true matchup guy vs. the best players. Premium ability on press or off coverage. Outstanding open-field tackler. Solid ball skills. Plays with confidence. Really, really smart. And plays disciplined so he doesn't give anything away."

It would be fantastic to watch arguably the best wide receiver and best cornerback in the league go at it each and every snap, but that won’t happen Sunday—Hill plays in the slot a fair amount of the time, and may do so that much more if Jaylen Waddle (concussion) doesn’t play. You can’t really “downgrade” Tyreek Hill. But between Surtain’s coverage outside and Waddle’s absence potentially leading to bracket coverage, Hill’s going to have to earn his numbers in Week 3.





Tennessee Titans at Cleveland Browns (DeAndre Hopkins vs. Denzel Ward)


Pour one out for the Cleveland Browns, whose season may well have been trashed when running back Nick Chubb tore up his knee Monday night. The Tennessee Titans, on the other hand, may have saved theirs with an overtime win over the Los Angeles Chargers, and Hopkins made it clear so far as he’s concerned that’s just the beginning of the revenge tour he has planned for 2023.

“I’m very grateful for where I am, I think I made the best decision,” he told GQ before the season. “But when you’re a player and some people feel like they’re great without you, and then you see what they have on paper, or you see what they do, you mark those games down, as a competitor. I can't wait to play' em and, honestly, try my best to crush they a**.”

The Browns have been excellent defensively this season—Cleveland leads the AFC in both total defense and pass defense after two games. But while that might sound like bad news for Hopkins, last week Geoge Pickens of the Steelers posted a 4/127/1 line on 10 targets against Ward and the Browns. Given that, Ryan Tannehill is as big a problem for Hopkins as Ward is.





New England Patriots at New York Jets (Christian Gonzalez vs. Garrett Wilson)


If it’s possible to say there’s a front-runner for Defensive Rookie of the Year after two weeks, it has to be Patriots cornerback Christian Gonzalez, who has made big plays in each of his first two NFL games and held his own against Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill of the Dolphins last week. While making his weekly radio appearance on WEEI, longtime Pats corner Ty Law gushed about the maturity and athleticism that Gonzalez has shown.

“Christian Gonzalez, man--that dude. I look at the little things,” Law said. “First of all he was competitive, he wasn’t afraid, and on the interception…He picked it off at its highest point. He didn’t sit there and wait for it to come down…He went up there and did it fundamentally correctly. That is something during the game that a lot of people don’t do. And he’s doing that at such a young age and being competitive and running with guys. He’s not afraid and I like him.”

That isn’t just homerism from Law—Gonzalez has been great over his first two games. That’s an admittedly small sample size, and Wilson is a potentially elite talent (and the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year) who managed to post a decent stat line against the Cowboys last week. However, almost all those numbers came on one play, and the Jets offense is a mess (again) under Zach Wilson. After a summer of folks breathlessly awaiting Wilson’s ascension to the top-five, we’re going to get a fall and winter of hoping he can sneak inside the top-25.





Buffalo Bills at Washington Commanders (Tre’Davious White vs. Terry McLaurin)


You don’t get extra credit in the NFL for style points, and while it may not have been pretty the Washington Commanders are one of three NFC East teams who won their first two games. But Week 3 brings a much stiffer test in the Bills, and while speaking to the media McLaurin said it’s critical the Commanders make the most of their red zone opportunities this week.

“We have to be better in the red zone," McLaurin said. "When we get those opportunities, we got to do a better job of capitalizing when you get those short fields. You have to come away with points. For us as an offense, we want to come away with seven (points) not just three. So I think that’s just on us. Focus on the details and little things."

This is a measuring stick game, both for McLaurin and his team. White appears fully healthy and has held his own in successive weeks against Garrett Wilson of the Jets and Davante Adams of the Las Vegas Raiders. Combine that with McLaurin’s 10 targets in two games, and you have reason for a significant fantasy downgrade.





Dallas Cowboys at Arizona Cardinals (Stephon Gilmore vs. Marquise Brown)


When the Cowboys acquired Gilmore in the offseason, it looked like a savvy move by a contender to bolster an already stout defense. And while Gilmore has been to multiple Pro Bowls and was the first cornerback to be named Defensive Player of the Year in a decade when he won the award in 2019, when he joined the team Gilmore himself told reporters his goal was to be more steadying veteran presence than defensive leader.

“I'm just trying to come in and teach the guys as much as I can and be the player that I know I can be" Gilmore said. "Just trying to take it a day at a time and build a relationship with the guys and be comfortable in the scheme. Take it a day at a time and get better as a team and the brotherhood that we have here."

Well, that was then, and this is now—after Trevon Diggs tore his ACL in practice Thursday, Gilmore will be counted on to anchor the secondary for a defense that was absolutely dominant the first two weeks of the season. That’s going to mean taking on No. 1 receivers from here out, and given the level of performance the 33-year-old has shown to be capable of and the state of Arizona’s 26th-ranked passing offense, that’s bad news in “Hollywood” Brown this week.

The Diggs injury was a crusher. But Dallas won’t feel it just yet.