Originally written on This Given Sunday  |  Last updated 9/24/12

We wrap up the third Sunday of the NFL season by looking at a handful of players who exceeded expectations and a handful who failed to deliver .


Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs: Just when fantasy owners were beginning to wonder if Charles was ever going to regain his 2010 magic, the guy went to town on the Saints' terrible defense. He became only the second player in NFL history to record at least 225 rushing yards and 50 receiving yards in one game, totaling 288 all together. So I guess the knee's OK.

Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings: Against the NFL's scariest defense, Ponder had a superb afternoon in a surprise victory over the 49ers. No picks, no sacks, no fumbles and a pair of touchdowns. He looked good against Jacksonville and Indianapolis to start the season, but few thought he'd keep it going against a team like San Francisco.

Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans: It was a good day for much-maligned second-year quarterbacks, with Locker also avoiding interceptions while posting a 113 passer rating in Tennessee's wild victory over the Detroit Lions. I realize that Detroit's defense isn't exactly stout, but it's shocking to see Locker throw for nearly 400 yards despite receiving no support from Chris Johnson. In fact, Locker led the Titans in rushing, too.

Michael Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals: The four-year veteran had 12.5 sacks in 50 games headed into Sunday's game with the Washington Redskins, but Johnson took Robert Griffin III down three times in a winning effort. The return of Carlos Dunlap -- who was an absolute force on the opposite side -- certainly didn't hurt.

Tashard Choice, Buffalo Bills: Don't act like you knew Choice was on the Bills' roster until Sunday afternoon, when he put up 91 yards on 20 carries in relief of the injured C.J. Spiller. That's enough to get him on the list in a week with few huge individual surprises. He grabs the final spot, just ahead of Detroit's Mikel Leshoure. 


Aldon Smith, San Francisco 49ers: The second-year pass-rushing stud failed to get to Ponder as the entire San Francisco defense delivered a flat performance in Minnesota. To blame for this particularly disappointing performance? The beds at the Marriott, of course.

DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles: A D. Jackson led the Eagles in receiving yardage Sunday, but it was undrafted rookie Damaris, not DeSean. The 25-year-old play-maker failed to make plays in a pathetic performance against Arizona. Michael Vick needed Jackson to step up with the offensive line depleted and Jeremy Maclin hurt, but instead he caught only three passes on 10 targets. 

Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers: Atlanta's defense is good, but Rivers went back to his 2011 ways in an ugly home performance in a loss to the Falcons, throwing two interceptions and posting a passer rating of just 45.2. In a meeting between two borderline-elite quarterbacks, Matt Ryan crushed Rivers in Phil's backyard.

DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys: Pick a Cowboy on offense. Anyone will do. I'll go with Murray over Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, just because I think expectations for him might be higher.

Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Josh Freeman wasn't exactly throwing missiles, but Jackson's getting paid big bucks to make Freeman's life easier and act as an elite receiver in Tampa. Against Dallas Sunday, Jackson followed up a 128-yard performance against the Giants with just a single catch for 29 yards. 

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