Really? It’s Week 3 already?
The season always flies by once it’s finally here, and this year is no exception. Still, Week 3 is upon us and we have seen a ton of significant fantasy storylines. This is the final week before the byes commence, so who should you be starting and sitting?
Thumbs Up; Quarterbacks
Philip Rivers @ Tennessee Titans: Are we seeing a rejuvenated Rivers? Through two games, he looks like the 2010 version, already tossing seven touchdown passes and 614 yards. His mechanics (which are typically laughable) look much better this year and he isn’t making the same mistakes. The most impressive part of what he is doing is the fact that he is doing it without a ton of talent at the wide receiver position, which may explain Eddie Royal’s five touchdowns. I think he can continue his hot start this week against the Titans, a defense that has surrendered 500 passing yards and four touchdowns through two games. The weakness of this defensive unit is their secondary, so Rivers can take advantage of it. New head coach Mike McCoy, who loves to air the ball out, is working wonders for Rivers thus far.
Alex Smith @ Philadelphia Eagles: I wrote an article yesterday displaying my love for Smith this year, and the love continues in Week 3. Head coach Andy Reid and the Chiefs make the return to Philly to face an Eagles defense that can’t stop anything. This unit has surrendered the 6th-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks thus far, and has allowed 721 passing yards through two games, which is second-most in football. Smith has looked strong through two games, tossing four scores, but he’ll also get you some value with his legs. Smith already has 12 rushed this season, which is more than the likes of Cam Newton, for instance. This is a Thursday night game, which some owners tend to shy away from, but this game has the signs of a shootout, and you know Reid and company want to throw the football around. That won’t change in this game, and Smith can dissect this Eagles secondary.
Matthew Stafford @ Washington Redskins: I have Stafford as high as third in my quarterback rankings this week, and for good reason. Of course, he is still the same old Stafford, averaging almost 40 passing attempts through the first two games. That volume is intriguing by itself, but then you match him up against the worst passing defense in football, and owners begin to salivate. The Redskins have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing signal callers this year and are allowing an average of 311 passing yards per contest. It also looks like Reggie Bush will suit up for this game, which only helps Stafford’s cause. I’d start Stafford over almost every other fantasy quarterback this week.
Jay Cutler @ Pittsburgh Steelers: Cutler was a recommended start from me last week, and he came through. However, I’m not betting on him to produce an encore performance this week against a stout Pittsburgh secondary. The Steelers have only allowed one passing touchdown this year, and that came from a running back, not even a receiver. They are allowing only 199 passing yards per contest, and though Cutler has been a strong QB2 this year, he has turned the ball over four times. The Bears offensive line looks much, much improved, which puts a smile on my face, but I think we will be looking at a very pedestrian stat line when this week is all said and done.
Andy Dalton vs Green Bay Packers: While the matchup is favorable, as the Packers are allowing an average of 26 fantasy points per contest through the first two weeks, I’m not banking on Dalton as a top-15 fantasy signal caller this week. He’s thrown for 280 and 282 yards in his first two games, and he looked terrible on Monday night, posting a QBR of 39.5. Sure, that was against the Steelers, but he just looked mildly inaccurate. While I still like Dalton for the rest of the season, it’s difficult for me to trust him until he begins putting up legitimate fantasy numbers.
Thumbs Up; Running Backs
Joique Bell @ Washington Redskins: As a Reggie Bush owner, I am praying that he is healthy enough to suit up against this atrocious Redskins defense. He’ll be a top-10 back if that’s the case. However, regardless if he does, Bell will be heavily involved either way, which will put him inside my top-15 among running backs. Through two games, the Redskins are allowing an average of 26.85 fantasy points per contest to opposing running backs, and the fact that Bell will catch passes make him even more valuable. As of right now, the Redskins are the worst-ranked run defense in football, allowing slightly over 200 rushing yard per game. Even when Bush was in the lineup, Bell has still seen double-digit touches in both games, so he’ll get enough work to post strong numbers regardless of who is in the backfield.
Frank Gore vs Indianapolis Colts: It’s been a bit maddening to watch Gore run the football thus far, averaging a dismal 2.0 yards per clip. However, he has faced two pretty tough run defenses, so expect his fortunes to change in Week 3 against a Colts defense that is allowing 4.5 yards per carry to running backs. I think the 49ers as a unit bounce back in a big way this week, and if they get up in this game, expect Gore to get plenty of work. The Colts are surrendering an average of 136 rushing yards per contest, and have watched three running backs cross the goal line against them. Gore will flirt with top-10 status this week.
DeAngelo Williams vs New York Giants: You see? This is what happens when Williams actually gets a strong workload. Through the first two weeks, Williams has seen at least 20 touches in both of them, and as a result, is averaging a solid 4.4 yards per carry. I’m not saying he is set to return to his 2008 status as the number one fantasy back, but as long as he is the main guy in the backfield, he is worth a start as an RB2 or flex. Meanwhile, the Giants are a middle-of-the-road run defense, but as long as Williams is getting this workload, he still has the talent to produce.
Maurice Jones-Drew @ Seattle Seahawks: While Jones-Drew is expected to play on Sunday after suffering a foot sprain in Week 2, I’m staying far away from any of the Jaguars players. I don’t believe MJD will be 100 percent, and even if he was, the Seahawks defense is obviously one of the best in football, allowing just the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs through two games. The Seahawks are the most difficult team to play at home, and considering the Jaguars will likely be down throughout the entire game, they will have to abandon the run early, which means less touches for Jones-Drew. I have him outside of my top-35 this week, and I’d be shocked if he posted a strong stat-line this week.
David Wilson @ Carolina Panthers: Wilson continues to work his way out of the doghouse, but it won’t be easy. One game after being diagnosed with fumble-itis, Wilson only carried the ball seven times on Sunday, while recently signed Brandon Jacobs found the end zone in his first game back. Of course, you’d be blind not to see that Wilson is by far the most talented back in New York, and provides them the best opportunity to win games. However, I’m not starting him until he reasserts himself as that lead back, The Panthers have a very strong front seven and are allowing just 3.7 yards per carry to opposing backs. I’m staying away from Wilson for the time being, but I’d still look to buy-low.
Thumbs Up; Wide Receivers
Pierre Garcon vs Detroit Lions: After being targeted 24 times over the first two weeks, it’s blatantly obvious that Garcon is the number one target in this Redskins passing game. He’s already caught 15 balls for 207 yards and a score, and has greatly benefited from the Redskins poor play, as quarterback Robert Griffin III has been forced to throw the ball a ton (89 attempts). Because their defense is so bad, the Redskins could be down in this contest as well, which means Garcon will get plenty of looks against a bad Detroit pass defense that has allowed over 500 receiving yards already. Garcon has massive upside for Week 3, as well as the rest of the season.
Dwayne Bowe @ Philadelphia Eagles: I was very high on Bowe coming into the season, and while he hasn’t been bad, the Chiefs passing attack has been an intermediate, conservative one. Bowe has just eight catches in two games, but he could catch that many om Thursday night alone against an Eagles secondary that is allowing a ridiculous 39 fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts. Bowe has the combination of size and speed to dominate the Eagles weak corners, and you know his head coach wants to throw the ball. This game (unless the Thursday night curse continues) could be a very high scoring affair, which would see Bowe benefit.
Mike Wallace vs Atlanta Falcons: After being shut down by Joe Haden in Week 1, Wallace bounced back in a big way on Sunday, catching nine balls for 115 yards and a score, while seeing 11 targets. It was a much-needed game for Wallace’s fantasy owners, and I think those owners need to keep Wallace in their lineup in Week 3. The Falcons continue to see injuries to their defensive unit, and are currently allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts thus far. This secondary was torched by the Rams receivers on Sunday, allowing 245 yards and three scores. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is throwing the ball quite a bit thus far, posting 34 and 38 attempts in two games. The Dolphins should have to throw to keep up with the Falcons, so I foresee another 100-yard performance from Wallace this week.
Julian Edelman vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Edelman was a PPR monster on Thursday night, catching 13 balls on a whopping 18 targets. With Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski still expected to be sidelined, Edelman will likely serve as the Patriots best receiver. Guess what? That’s bad news for fantasy owners because what does shutdown Darrelle Revis usually do? That’s right, blanket opposing team’s top receiving threat. The Buccaneers defense as a whole is very good, allowing the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing receivers. After being arguably the top waiver wire add a week ago, I’m staying away from Edelman this week.
Cecil Shorts @ Seattle Seahawks: What do you get when you combine arguably the worst team in football with the best defense in football? Trouble, that’s what. Shorts will struggle heavily this week, as those massive, physical corners will shut down the smaller Shorts. You could make the case that Richard Sherman is the best defensive player in football lately, and he will not let Shorts breathe. Seattle is the toughest place to play in the league, and I’m sitting all of my Jaguars players, which is like, two.
Thumbs Up; Tight Ends
Owen Daniels @ Baltimore Ravens: Daniels has been one of the most productive fantasy tight ends this season, hauling in seven balls for 91 yards and three scores. He has ran 43 passing routes thus far, and we know how much quarterback Matt Schaub loves to target his tight ends in the red zone, as Daniels has scored three times, while fellow tight end Garrett Graham has found the end zone twice already. Daniels saw a solid 12 red zone targets last season, and if he keeps this up, he may eclipse that. The matchup this week is favorable against a Ravens defense that has allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. This unit welcomed Julius Thomas to fantasy relevance on opening night, and Jordan Cameron had a strong outing against them last week. I like Daniels as a top-five guy this week.
Charles Clay vs Atlanta Falcons: Clay continues to be a huge part of the Dolphins offense, hauling in five balls in both games this season. The versatile H-Back even scored on his first career NFL carry. I don’t think he is a fluke, as Clay is reminding me a lot of Marcel Reece from the Raiders. A guy that can do a little bit of everything, and when you have someone who provides that upside, you want to continue to involve him in your offense. Meanwhile, the Falcons linebacking corp took a hit recently, as Sean Weatherspoon will be sidelined for the foreseeable future. Clay will continue to be a mismatch for opposing defenses, but especially Atlanta this week, and is deserving of a top-20 rank this week.
Fred Davis vs Detroit Lions: Davis needs to be dropped in almost all formats right now. He only has three catches through two games, and even though the Redskins rarely feature the tight end very much in their offense, impressive rookie Jordan Reed has more catches, targets and touchdowns than the veteran. Reed has obviously been the better player, and he even took over for Davis during Sunday’s game, and quite honestly, Reed could continue to surpass him in playing time. And if Davis wasn’t already ugly enough as a fantasy tight end, the Lions have allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends. Bench him, drop him.
Brent Celek vs Kansas City Chiefs: Many people may be inclined to start all of their Eagles, but Celek needs to be benched. Despite running routes on over 60 percent of snaps last week, Celek only saw one target, and quarterback Michael Vick has been inconsistent in targeting his tight ends during his time in Philadelphia. Guys like Zach Ertz are still in the mix as well, which could take a bit away from Celek a bit. Besides, the Chiefs defense has been absolutely stellar thus far, ranking as one of the top fantasy defenses. They are allowing the ninth-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends, as well.
Thumbs Up; D/ST
Vikings defense vs Cleveland Browns: The Vikings defensive unit exploded in Week 2, posting 21 fantasy points, which included a 105-yard kick return, a scoop and score and a few interceptions against the Bears. Having a threat like Cordarrelle Patterson always makes them an intriguing option, but matching up against the Brian Hoyer-led Browns is really all that needs to be said. The Browns are letting opposing defenses score the third-most fantasy points this year, and I have Minnesota in my top-five this week.
Bengals defense vs Green Bay Packers: It’s not everyday that you recommend sitting your choice to be the league’s best defense, but in this case, we can make an exception. And that exception goes by the name of Aaron Rodgers. The Packers offense has been on a tear to start the season, and even with running back Eddie Lacy sidelined with a concussion, the passing game of Green Bay is so much in sync right now that it’d be hard to expect a very strong fantasy outing from the Bengals defense this week.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.