Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
In 2011, the quarterback trio of Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers enjoyed three of the greatest fantasy seasons ever recorded. The three combined for 130 touchdown passes, 1,212 completions and a whopping 15,354 passing yards.
Rodgers' 122.5 QB rating was the highest ever for a full season. The 5,476 passing yards Brees tallied was also a league record. Brady's 5,235 yards in 2011 ranks second all-time.
Before last year, most people would have laughed at you for suggesting that a quarterback could actually throw for 6,000 yards passing in one season. Now 6,000 yards doesn't seem so out of reach.
Despite their successes last season, our lofty fantasy expectations for Brady, Brees and Rodgers have not been met so far in 2012.
Through two games, Brady has now thrown for 552 yards passing. At this point last season, Brady had already racked up 940 yards through the air.
Last year, Brees led the NFL with a 71.2 percent completion percentage. Two games into this season, his percentage rests at a thoroughly unimpressive 54.5.
Rodgers was picked off just six times in 2011. This year he's on pace to throw a career-high 16 interceptions.
Overall, Brady, Brees and Rodgers have combined for a 62.2 percent completion percentage and 289.7 yards per game this season. Last year they completed 68.5 percent of their throws while averaging 326.7 yards per game.
The Big Three held a combined quarterback rating of 112.2 in 2011. This season, they've been reduced to a rating of 84.1.
Rodgers' tough start isn't hard to figure out. The 2011 NFL MVP has gone up against two of the league's strongest defenses in his first two games. Green Bay's Week 1 opponent, the San Francisco 49ers, allowed the fourth-fewest yards in football last season. The Chicago Bears, though not as dominant as the 49ers were a year ago, boasted the NFL's fifth-stingiest rushing defense in 2011.
Rodgers was also without his best receiver in Week 2, as wideout Greg Jennings sat out with an injured groin.
The receivers that did play didn't do much to help Rodgers out. The Packers' receiving trio of Randall Cobb, Jermichael Finley and Jordy Nelson have already dropped five passes this season. Only the New York Giants have let more passes slip through their finger tips so far in 2012.
Even with all of the dropped passes, Rodgers' completion percentage remains at a solid 68.4 percent. Jennings should be back for Week 3 and the Packers' next three opponents are giving up an average of 258.8 passing yards per game. It looks like good times are ahead for Rodgers.
Brady's situation in New England is a bit murkier. For the first time in years, the Patriots have developed a legitimate running game. So far in 2012, Stevan Ridley has averaged 19.5 carries per game, far more than the 11.3 touches per contest BenJarvus Green-Ellis received as New England's starting halfback last season. This newfound commitment to the running game makes it seem unlikely that Brady will be able to match his yardage total from a season ago.
Aaron Hernandez's ankle injury and Bill Belichick's strange handling of Wes Welker during the team's first two games only make things more complicated for Brady going forward.
It looks like Brees might also be in for a rough season. The 12-year veteran is still racking up tons of yards (332 per game) but his accuracy seems to have gone down the tubes. His 71.6 QB rating is the sixth-worst among NFL starters as is his dreadful 54.5 percent completion percentage. Only Michael Vick and Jay Cutler have been intercepted more often than Brees (four) has in 2012.
Part of the problem is that the Saints have become predictable on offense. Because they've been trailing in both of their games this season, the Saints have been forced to pass the ball on 73.2 percent of their plays. With no running game to speak of (the Saints are 19th in the NFL in rushing yards), defenses are focusing in on the pass and so far that approach has worked: the Saints are now 0-2 for the first time since 2007.
New Orleans is giving up a league-worst 461 yards per game this year, allowing teams to dominate the Saints in time of possession (New Orleans has spent 69 minutes on defense this season compared to 51 minutes on offense). With less time to work with, Brees has been unable to get into any kind of rhythm with his receivers.
The absence of suspended head coach Sean Payton can't be overlooked either. The Saints haven't lost two games in a row since 2009 and the team appears to be in flux on both sides of the football.
Brady, Brees and Rodgers have all underachieved this season, but it's still way too early to hit the panic button. Rodgers should be able to turn things around pretty quickly with Jennings back in the fold and despite his poor completion percentage, Brees remains fourth in the league in yards per game. Brady has plenty of weapons at his disposal even without Hernandez and he too is coming off of a 300-yard performance in Week 2.
I'd still expect all three to finish near the top of the fantasy rankings but if this trio does continue to struggle, it might be wise to beef up your other positions to account for their lack of production.