Throughout the season I will focus on who I deem as trustworthy starts and pepper in a few sits for your PPR leagues. You’ll also very likely see some Fantasy Points Per Route Run (FPPRR) updates make it into the post as we continue to build a larger sample size to work from.
Things haven’t gotten off to the best of starts for Big Ben and the Steelers. Since the 2008 season Roethlisberger hasn’t finished a season with stats as bad as his current ones: a completion percentage of 60.4, an interception percentage of 3.6, and an adjusted yards per attempt of 6.7.
He’s also been sacked 10 times already—tied for fourth most in the league—playing behind arguably the league’s most porous offensive line. He also gets absolutely zero help on the ground from the Steeler running backs. Pittsburgh has attempted just 52 rushing plays (third fewest in the league) for 155 yards (second worst in the league to the Giants 133) for a lousy 3.0 yards per attempt.
Due to their inability to run the football, Ben is throwing the ball at an unprecedented pace, attempting an average of 37 throws per game. Playing 16 games (something Ben has only done once over nine years) that equates to 592 passes. He’s thrown over 500 only twice in his career with a high of 513 in 2011.
All of that volume will add up to a quality fantasy game this weekend as the Steelers head inside to play the Vikings. Teams have attempted 136 passes (most in the NFL) against the Vikings through three weeks, allowing quarterbacks to complete 63 percent of those for 7.2 yards per attempt and a league worst nine touchdowns through the air.
For fantasy purposes, all three quarterbacks who have faced the Vikings have finished among the top 12 weekly scorers. All three have thrown for at least 290 yards and multiple scores in the game with at least 18 standard points.
All of that ties right into the fantasy prospects of Antonio Brown, coming off a career high 196 yards and two touchdowns versus the Bears last Sunday night. While the waters of Minnetonka have quenched the fantasy thirst for quarterback scoring, wide receiver scoring has coincided.
The Vikings have allowed two receivers to top 20 points in their three games with four receivers topping six grabs in a single game. Look for Pittsburgh to have to continue to push the ball through the air this weekend and Ben and Brown to build off of their big games from last Sunday.
Bernard Pierce @ BUF
Pierce punched the clock with a blue-collar effort in picking up the shift for the injured Ray Rice (hip). He carried 24 times for 65 yards and a score while adding two catches for seven yards against a stout Texans defense.
Rice will miss his second consecutive game this weekend, and the matchup gets far more favorable for Pierce and the Ravens run game. Buffalo comes into Sunday allowing 155 rushing yards per game (third most in the league) and fresh off of being bludgeoned by Bilal Powell for 149 yards.
Teams have run the ball 107 times against the Bills so far (most in the league) and that doesn’t figure to change at all with Baltimore coming in. In week one, when the Ravens where chasing Peyton Manning touchdown passes, they attempted only 21 runs. But in the two games since, they have run 67 times including 36 last week.
Coby Fleener @ JAC
Another super sub, Fleener will be filling in for the rest of the season for the injured Dwayne Allen. Although the Colts showed last week they can play a very physical game they still will only go as Andrew Luck goes. With Allen down, the Colts will use Fleener more, and when he’s on the field, he’s used in many different ways.
In the two weeks in his expanded role Fleener has run 25 of his 53 routes from the slot. When he’s not outside, he will be matched up in coverage with Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny. Posluzny has had a hard time containing tight ends in coverage, allowing 10 of 12 targets to be completed in his coverage for 135 yards (fifth most of all inside linebackers per Pro Football Focus).
Although the Jags as a team defended the tight end position well through the first two weeks (only 40 yards allowed), they allowed nine of ten targets to be completed for 112 yards and two touchdowns to the Seahawks group last weekend.
Alfred Morris @ OAK
Morris has actually played pretty well so far. He averaging 5.6 yards per attempt and has two scores on the ground. The only thing holding back Morris is the Washington defense and the pass happy nature that their offense has developed even in neutral game flow situations.
Last season, Morris only had two games where he carried 15 or fewer times on the round and averaged nearly 21 rushing attempts per game. So far, he’s carried 15 times or fewer all three weeks. It’s not only because Washington has trailed big twice. This past week they were within a score the entire game until the fourth quarter and they still didn’t lean on him.
Washington heads to Oakland to face a Raiders team that has played better than expected, but Washington should be able to score too many points on them, leading to a heavy dose of Morris to finish off the Black Hole.
Russell Wilson @ HOU
Wilson’s fantasy season didn’t exactly pick up where he left off in 2012. After being the third highest scoring quarterback in the second half of last season, Wilson started 2013 as QB21 in week one and QB27 in week two. He burst back onto the scene this past weekend, tossing four scores in just over a half of playing time versus the lowly Jaguars.
This week, the Seahawks leave their comfy confines and twelfth man as they head to Houston. The Texans have allowed the second fewest yards passing per game (158) and only a 56.6 completion percentage to start the season. Since the first half of the opener, quarterbacks are 39-69 (56 percent) for only 402 yards (5.8 yards per attempt) and three touchdowns.
With Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung out with a toe injury, the Seattle line will have to contend with putting multiple bodies on J.J. Watt. The best player on defense going for anyone, Watt already has three sacks, seven hurries and four hits on opposing offenses.
Arian Foster vs SEA
Staying in the same game, ironically Foster is another player dealing with the loss of his Pro Bowl left tackle. Duane Brown, Pro Football Focus’ third highest graded tackle a season ago in run blocking is out again with a foot injury.
Foster himself hasn’t really turned it on from a fantasy perspective this year regardless of the loss of Brown. Following a season in 2012 where he posted his lowest career yards per carry (4.1) and yards per reception (5.4), Foster is actually under both to start the 2013 season at 3.9 yards per carry and a lousy 4.6 yards per reception.
The Seattle rush defense has allowed very deceiving numbers to date. They have allowed 285 rushing yards (13th) through three games, but 130 of those yards have been from opposing quarterbacks. Opposing backs have not had much success at all, carrying 54 times for 155 yards (2.9 yards per carry).
Seattle has also only surrendered 10 receptions total backs coming out of the backfield. In a game that could be a physical affair, Foster could have a really hard time getting going at all versus the Seahawks defense.
Chris Johnson vs NYJ
So many bit into the forbidden fruit that is Chris Johnson coming into the season. One 50 yard touchdown run in the preseason against what is currently the worst defense in the NFL (Washington) was all of the confirmation drafters needed. The good days of CJ?K were back in business. Not so fast, as Johnson enters week four as the 29th running back in PPR leagues.
Not all is bad for Johnson, he is seeing a massive amount of volume, and his 69 rushing attempts rank second in the league behind Doug Martin (73). He’s just not breaking off any of the long runs we’re accustomed to seeing from him yet. Of his 69 attempts, 39 (57 percent) have gone three yards or fewer and 28 (41 percent) have gone for only a yard or less. Without any touchdown production, all of the workload means nothing to fantasy owners.
He also has been a complete non entity in the passing game for Tennessee. In three games, he has just two lone receptions for two yards.
This week he will face the best young defensive front in the league in the Jets. Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and company have allowed only 12.4 PPR points to combined backfields per game in the early going this season. They’ve also only allowed nine total receptions from backs and have the best defensive FPPRR allowed (.11) to opposing backs. Without a long touchdown run, Johnson will continue to grind out a RB3 performance.
Julio Jones vs NE
With fellow wideout Roddy White still battling through a high ankle sprain, Jones finally has had a chance to showcase his ability in being the number one option.
He hasn’t disappointed either, after three weeks he’s the highest scoring PPR wide receiver in fantasy. Jones is tied for third in the league in targets (35), tied for first in receptions (27), and leads the league in receiving yards (373) to go with two trips to the end zone.
This week he and the Falcons welcome a Patriots team that has allowed only 50.5 (second lowest in the league) percent of passes to be completed against them and only three passing touchdowns. New England hasn’t exactly faced a murderers row of quarterbacks so far, but one thing they’ve always done is take away a team’s number one offensive weapon. Belichick and the Patriots will make the Falcons find another way to beat them on Sunday Night, devoting resources and schemes into stopping Jones.
Full Disclosure Week 3