Week 3 of the fantasy football season is upon us! By now we are starting to get an idea about which of our preseason predictions might be panning out, and which ones might be duds. Legarrette Blount doesn’t appear able to spark a running game in Philadelphia, but Kareem Hunt might be a David Johnson Lite.
If you’re still looking to to make sense of who you should trust in your week 3 fantasy football lineup and who to avoid, look no further. As always, this advice is for standard PPR Leagues.
Quarterback matchups I love:
Derek Carr, Raiders:
Coming of a 45-20 shellacking of the Jets, Carr and the Raiders look to keep their offense rolling against Washington. Prior to holding the Rams and Jared Goff to just 247 passing yards — 28 of which came from punter Johnny Hekker — Washington had allowed a 300-yard passer in seven of their previous nine contests dating back to Week 10 of last year. Carr has been on fire, throwing five touchdowns with no turnovers so far this year. He’s only thrown one interception in his last six games. The only concern with Carr so far this season is his yardage, but that mostly has been due to the Raiders game script. Carr threw three quick touchdowns against the Jets, completing an insane 82.1 percent of his 28 throws. With the Raiders up big, there was no need for Carr to keep throwing. In Week 1 against the Titans, Carr completed 68.8 of his 32 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns. The Raiders once again had a fourth quarter lead they were looking to protect. Last year, Carr had 32 or less attempts on three times in 15 games. Feel confident in starting Carr this Week.
Alex Smith, Chiefs:
Since joining the Chiefs in 2013, Smith has played in six games against the Bolts and in those games he’s averaging 264 yards passing, 1.5 passing touchdowns, .66 interceptions and 22.5 rushing yards. Now those may not be the sexiest numbers, but if you are streaming quarterbacks, you could find a worse option, especially while this Chiefs offense is hot. We’re all waiting for Smith to cool down, but he’s thrown five touchdowns through two games and has yet to turn the ball over. Last year he threw multiple touchdowns in both games against the Chargers and scored a rushing touchdown in each game as well. The Chargers just announced the talented but oft-injured Jason Verrett is heading to the IR once again, meaning rookie Desmond King is likely to take his place. That could prove favorable for Smith, who might be using 2017 to audition for QB needy team if the Chiefs look to transition to the Patrick Mahomes era in 2018.
Other matchups I like: Though Deshone Kizer has yet to have a breakout game — and played a rather ugly game while battling a migraine against a stout Ravens defense — the strong armed and mobile draws the miserable Colts defense this week. If you’re in a deep league and need feel like rolling the dice, the Colts will be a defense worth targeting all season long…. Carson Wentz is a curious case this week. On one hand the sheer volume he will get on a weekly basis is enticing. The Eagles can’t run the ball and excluding Brian Hoyer, who has already played three games, Wentz is tied for fourth in passing attempts this season. He’s eclipsed the 300-yard mark and thrown two touchdowns in each game, and last week he showcased his mobility by picking up 55 yards rushing against the Chiefs. Now on the other hand, Wentz has also thrown a pick in each game and faces a Giants team that held him to 154 passing yards in Week 16 of last year. He did have a 364 yard game against them in Week 9, but he had no touchdowns and two picks. His volume alone should keep him a safe play, but know you’re signing up for wild card… Cam Newton hasn’t looked sharp during his first two starts this year. That isn’t completely unexpected for a guy who hardly threw during the preseason while nursing an injury to his throwing arm. Still, if any team’s defense is tailormade for QB success in fantasy, it’s the Saints.
Quarterback matchups I hate:
Russell Wilson, Seahawks:
The Seahawks have been a mess on offense so far. They have only one touchdown through two games and only managed to put up 12 points at home against a 49ers team that just let the Rams hang 41 on them in San Francisco. The Hawks offensive line somehow looks even worse than last year and Wilson has traditionally been a slow starter in fantasy. I’m not ready to trust him again just yet.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers;
The Steelers have struggled offensively on the road in recent years. They are just simply a different team on the road, and with Le’Veon Bell yet to have a huge game this season, I believe the Steelers will look to feed him in an effort to get him back into top form. The Bears also have been solid at home against quarterbacks. In their last nine home games, the Bears have only allowed seven passing touchdowns.
Running back matchups I love:
Kareem Hunt, Chiefs:
Are you seriously going to sit Hunt after the start he’s had? Of course not. In his first two career games Hunt has shown he is gifted as both a runner and receiver. The knock on Hunt out of college was he didn’t have plus athleticism and scouts wondered if he could provide explosive plays at the next level. I’d say Hunt has answered that question and then some, scoring touchdowns of 50-plus yards in consecutive weeks. While I don’t expect that to continue, the mere threat of it paired with his volume makes him a must start every week. This week he gets a Chargers team that just surrendered 122 yards to Jay Ajayi and 121 yards in a 30-carry split between CJ Anderson and Jamaal Charles in Week 1. Start Hunt and rest easy with his safe floor.
Ameer Abduhllah/Theo Riddick, Lions:
If you have either of the Lions’ running backs, I would consider them worth flex plays these week against Atlanta. Abdullah has the safest floor thanks to the Lions insistence and patience with the running game. However, Riddick warrants a look this week too. As I said last week with Ty Montgomery, the Falcons are a team to exploit if you have a running back that plays well in the passing game. Since last seasons the Falcons have allowed the most receptions and receiving touchdowns to running backs, while also allowing the second most receiving yards.
Others I like:
Javorius Allen continues to out touch Terrance West in Baltimore’s offense. They face a tough Jaguars defense, but one that just allowed 92 yards and a long touchdown to Derrick Henry. Though obviously a different type of player than Henry, Allen should have a favorable game script Sunday. He has filled in for Danny Woodhead in a passing game that features the running backs and if the Ravens continue to play stellar defense they should be able to build a lead a look to ice the game late against the Jags… Speaking of Henry, I know he faces Seattle and we aren’t certain of Demarco Murray’s status. That said, the Titans have been slowly increasing Henry’s role and he has been efficient with his opportunities thus far in his career. He’s looked like the better runner this year and the Seahawks allowed both Carlos Hyde and Matt Breida to average over eight yards a carry last week. If Henry gets his opportunities to run and the Seahawks offense continues to leave their defense on the field for long stretches of time, I think Henry can capitalize… The Browns have been using Duke Johnson Jr. as a receiver this season as well as a third-down back. With Corey Coleman out, Johnson is now the active leader in targets and in targets 15-yards or more downfield. The Browns play a Colts team that is among the league worst in defending the deep pass… The Cardinals play a Dallas team that isn’t the most stout and was just abused by CJ Anderson. This play is more of a gamble, but I believe the Cowboys could fall victim to a CJ two weeks in a row if the Cardinals give Chris Johnson more touches this week like Bruce Arians was hinting.
Matchups I hate:
Jordan Howard/Tarik Cohen, Bears:
Howard is slowly ceding more and more touches to Cohen, and that is bad for his fantasy value. Regardless of who gets the most touches Sunday, the Steelers are a top-10 unit against the run in terms of yard per carry, and have been so since halfway through last year. If the Steelers manage to build a lead that just spells more trouble for Chicago’s running game.
Dalvin Cook, Vikings:
This is less of an indictment of Cook and more of of prediction based on how this game will likely pan out. Cook actually managed 5.3 YPC against the Steelers like week, but unfortunately for his fantasy owners, the game script limited him to just 12 carries. I don’t see that changing much while the Vikings are forced to start Case Keenum in Sam Bradford’s absence. They Vikings face a Buccaneers team that that allowed Howard and Cohen to gain just 20 yards on 16 carries last week. Cook didn’t have a reception last week, so if the Vikings fail to include him in the passing again this week, Cook’s output could be heavily touchdown dependent. If Bradford misses extended time, this will put a heavy cap on Cook and the Vikings’ potential this season. It’s hard news for a Vikings offense that looked to have a lot of potential. If only there was a young, unemployed quarterback with previous Super Bowl experience just waiting around for a job.
Wide receiver matchups I love:
Golden Tate, Lions:
I fully expect the Lions matchup with the Falcons to be a track meet. Tate is easily the Lions best receiver and this week that is an added bonus since Tate frequently plays in the slot. The Falcons have allowed 110 yards to slot receivers per game since last season. The Lions want to run more, but they will need to pass to keep up with the potent Falcons offense.
Benjamin was quiet last week against the 49ers after a solid Week 1 performance. The Panthers also suffered a blow last week when Greg Olsen broke his foot, landing him on the IR. That leaves Benjamin as Cam Newton’s top target. As I mentioned early the Panthers face the Saints. If he can’t produce against them, then when will he?
Others I like: I know the Bengals offense has looked putrid — did you hear they haven’t scored any touchdowns yet? — but AJ Green is still a stud. The Packers are still susceptible to the deep ball and Green remains one of the best at going up and getting those. Besides, the Bengals will likely find themselves in a whole against the Packers meaning Green should have plenty of opportunities for those sweet, sweet, garbage-time points… So I’ll admit that Jarvis Landry surprised me last week. Landry has always been a safe option in PPR, albeit one who never scores a lot of touchdowns. Talk out of Miami’s camp was the Dolphins were potentially looking to trade him and that Cutler favored DeVante Parker. Plus did any of us have any certainty of which version of Smokin’ Jay Cutler we were gonna get? Well Landry went off for 13 catches on 15 targets. He still didn’t score a touchdown, and his yards per catch remained low at just 6.0, but clearly any notions that he would be targeted less with Cutler at QB were severely overblown. This week he gets the Jets who, uh, aren’t good and struggle against defending the slot… If you have either Amari Cooper or Michael Crabtree, start them this week against Washington. As I mentioned before there is yardage to be had. Washington’s top corner Josh Norman won’t be able to cover both Cooper and Crabtree, and is unlikely to follow one over the other the entire game… Facing the Colts, the Browns new top receiver appears to be Rashard Higgins. He’s worth a flex play.
Wide receiver matchups I hate:
Dez Bryant, Cowboys:
There was a time Dez Bryant was a must have WR1. While Dez remains a talented real life football player, I no longer view him as that same dominant force he was just a few season ago. The Cowboys have become a run-first team and after getting waxed by the Broncos last week, I don’t think it is much of a stretch to assume Dallas will try to reestablish that identity. Dez has become a touchdown dependent player — he hasn’t had a 100-yard day since Week 10 of last year (excluding the playoffs) — and has only three such games since 2015. With Patrick Peterson matching up against him this week, Dez will have his work cut out for him this week.
Alshon Jeffery, Eagles:
This might come back to bite me. Last week, I wrote about how Jeffery’s matchup against against Marcus Peters and his still developing chemistry with Wentz would limit him. Well, he put a seven catch, 92 yards and a touchdown-sized egg on my face. I’ll own that. That said, he will face his third straight cornerback matchup, this time against Janoris Jenkins, who is expected to play despite being on the injury report this week. Jenkins shut down Dez Bryant in Week 1 and has been dominant since joining the Giants. Jeffery could make me look foolish again this week, but the odds are against him.
Tight end matchups I love:
I might as well just rename this part of the column “Start Zach Ertz.” I love the volume Ertz gets on this Eagles team that, as we discussed above, loves to throw the ball. Ertz remains Wentz most familiar and reliable target. The Giants let Eric “Consistent Bummer” Ebron snag five catches and a touchdown last week. In Week 1 they let Jason Witten grab seven receptions and a touchdown. Ertz meanwhile has been targeted 18 times and has two 90-plus yard games. He’s a good bet to get his first touchdown of the season this week.
Others I like:
After putting him on my hate list two weeks in a row, Jack Doyle may have convinced he me he can survive without Luck, as long as Jacoby Brissett is throwing him the ball. Last week Doyle was heavily targeted and came away with seven catches for 79 yards. Brissett gives the Colts a pulse, even if it is a little one, that they didn’t have with Scott Tolzien at QB… The Titans have a tough matchup with a Seahawks team that likely will be playing angry knowing they are tasked with carrying their team until the offense decides to show up. I expect Mariota to be under pressure all day. That means he is likely to seek out his favorite target, Delanie Walker… It’s pretty clear that Travis Kelce is an integral part of the Chiefs offense. I am especially encouraged that in the first two weeks, Andy Reid has designed plays where Kelce receives a few shovel passes, meaning they want to put the ball in the hands of one of their best playmakers. Kelce has never scored a touchdown against the Chargers, however.
Tight end matchups I hate:
Martellus Bennett, Packers:
Heading into the season, everyone was salivating at the idea of Aaron Rodgers having an elite tight end. Bennett is no doubt a versatile player, able to be used as blocker and a receiver. The problem is, in fantasy you don’t get points for being a good blocker. Bennett has eight catches for 90 yards through two games. Those aren’t the worst numbers for a tight end, but with no touchdowns, those performances aren’t winning you any games. To make matters worse, Bennett and Rodgers haven’t looked in sync thus far.