Week 3 Starts and Sits
Ryan Fitzpatrick (vs Pittsburgh)
Admittedly, I didn’t buy in to Ryan Fitzpatrick after his colossal week 1 against New Orleans’ defense. However, after proving it against a much more difficult Eagles secondary, I am all aboard the Fitzmagic train in week 3. He draws an ailing Steelers defense in week 3 that is coming off a 6TD Patrick Mahomes performance. While the Steelers are only 19th in the NFL in passing yards against, they rank 13th in average yards per attempt (7.7) and last in the NFL in passing touchdowns allowed (7). Fitzpatrick has been aggressively attacking defenses with the vertical passing game, utilizing the explosive skill of Desean Jackson and Mike Evans. Given the fact that the Buccaneers passing defense isn’t very strong, this could be a high scoring back and forth affair and Fitzpatrick has attempted 28 and 33 passes his first two games. He should be a great play for week 3.
Jimmy Garappolo (at Kansas City)
After a very difficult week 1 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings, Jimmy G rebounded nicely with a 18/26, 206 yard, 2 touchdown performance against a weak Detroit secondary. He spread the ball around well, completing targets to 8 different receivers without arguably the 49ers most explosive offensive weapon (Marquise Goodwin). In week 3, he gets a choice matchup against a Kansas City defense that has the distinction of being the first team to allow over 1,000 total yards of offense (and in only 2 weeks!). Beyond that, they have allowed 860 of those yards through the air, with opponents averaging 7.9 yards per attempt and scoring 6 touchdowns. While the Chargers and Steelers have great weapons in the passing game, those are still terrible numbers. Beyond that, this game script could go negative for San Francisco in a hurry against an explosive Chiefs offense, meaning Garappolo could be throwing the ball in the 2nd half to try and keep the 49ers in the game.
Matthew Stafford (at New England), Matt Ryan (vs New Orleans), Kirk Cousins (vs Buffalo)
After being embarrassed by the Jets on Monday Night Football week 1, Matt Stafford bounced back week 2 against the 49ers, completing 34 of 53 passes for 347 yards and 3 touchdowns to 0 interceptions. In week 3 he draws a Patriots team that got torched in the passing game by Blake Bortles, who threw for 377 yards and 4 touchdowns to 4 different receivers. The Lions gameplan largely rests on the arm of Stafford (46 and 53 pass attempts in the first two weeks), so he is almost a lock to be a QB1 on a weekly basis just based on volume alone. Matt Ryan had a strong bounce back week against the Panthers on Sunday, going 23/28 for 272 yards and 2 passing touchdowns with 1 interception. He also scored two touchdowns rushing. In week 3 he draws a New Orleans defense that hasn’t really figured out how to stop the pass yet, allowing a whopping 11.4 yards per completion (the next worse is 9.8) and 5 touchdowns. Given his weapons, Ryan could find himself in a shootout against a defense that doesn’t have the secondary to contain him. Finally, insert the lock start of whatever QB is playing against Buffalo here. This week’s lucky beneficiary is Kirk Cousins. Cousins has been on fire the past two weeks, torching the Packers defense to the tune of 425 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Bills defense has been a sieve, and the offense can’t help but turn the ball over. Cousins should have every opportunity to build on a hot start in the 2018 season.
Tevin Coleman (at New Orleans)
Tevin Coleman filled the void very well in the absence of Devonta Freeman in week 2 as the Falcons’ lead running back, carrying the ball 16 times for 107 yards (6.7/carry) against a Panthers defense constructed to limit the run game. While the Saints have been strong against the run this season, they also haven’t faced a running game with the explosiveness of the Falcons. Coleman also adds a dimension in the passing game and should have a solid 3 down role against the Saints in week 3.
Kenyan Drake (vs Oakland)
The Miami Dolphins have started the 2018 season strong behind an efficient pass game featuring Ryan Tannehill. In two games, Kenyan Drake is averaging roughly 16 touches per game (12 rushing and 3.5 receptions). Against a solid Jets defense, Drake carried the ball only 11 times for 53 yards (4.8/carry) and a touchdown. Enter the Raiders defense in week 3. The Raiders defense hasn’t been able to stop anyone on the ground in 2018, allowing 5.76 YPC to the Rams and Broncos running backs. Given the fact that the Raiders can’t stop anyone (if only they had one of the top defensive players in the NFL), the Dolphins could end up rushing the ball a lot to try and run the clock in the 2nd half this week.
Giovanni Bernard (at Carolina), Matt Breida (at Kansas City), Sony Michel (at Detroit)
While the workload of Giovanni Bernard is somewhat unknown in the wake of Joe Mixon’s injury, he is the most experienced back left in Cincinnati. Mixon has carried the ball 17 and 21 times the first two games, gaining 95 and 84 yards respectively. While Bernard will probably split those numbers with rookie Mark Walton, he will still see his normal workload as the 3rd down back in addition to getting some of those carries. He is a strong FLEX option for the upcoming week. In week 2, it would seem that the San Francisco backfield got a little more clarity. Matt Breida showed he is the more explosive option in that backfield, carrying the ball 11 times for 138 yards and a touchdown while adding 3 catches for 21 yards. While most of that production came through a 66-yard touchdown run, he still dwarfed Alfred Morris’s 3.4 YPC. Breida would seem to be the stronger play against a Chiefs defense that struggles to stop anyone. The Patriots made a concerted effort to get Sony Michel involved week 2 against the stout Jaguars defense. Michel tallied 10 carries for 34 yards and added a catch for 7 yards. It would seem the Patriots intend to involve their 2018 first round pick. The Lions have been terrible against the running backs, allowing 177 yards and 2 touchdowns to the Jets and 186 yards and a touchdown to the 49ers. While the Patriots have a running back by committee approach, Michel could get a bulk of the work if the Patriots are able to go ahead early in this game.
Quincy Enunwa (at Cleveland)
Through two weeks, it is clear that Enunwa is Sam Darnold’s go to target in the Jets’ offense. He exceeded his stats in week 1, catching 7 out of 11 targets for 92 yards in week 2 against the Dolphins. Given his high volume, Enunwa is progressing toward a solid weekly WR2 option with WR1 upside if he can get into the end zone. The Browns are still searching for their first victory in 2018 but have been victim to top receivers Michael Thomas (12 catches/89 yards/ 2TDs) and Antonio Brown (9 catches/93 yards/1 TD in week 1). While Enunwa isn’t on the talent level of those players, he easily has the target share to find himself similar numbers.
Stefon Diggs (vs Buffalo)
Diggs is coming off a huge week 2 against the Packers, catching 9 of 13 targets for 128 yards and 2 touchdowns. In week 3 he draws the porous Bills defense that may have to move top corner Tre’Davious White between Diggs and Theilen to try and slow down the Vikings passing game. While there is some inherent risk in trying to choose between Adam Theilen and Diggs on a weekly basis, it is clear that both of them have a level of trust with new Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, so if you have either you shouldn’t hesitate to get them in the lineup.
Keelan Cole (vs Tennessee), Ju-Ju Smith Schuster (at Tampa Bay), Antonio Callaway (vs New York Jets)
After a quiet week 1 (3 catches on 4 targets for 54 yards), Keelan Cole exploded week 2 against the Patriots catching 7 of his 8 targets for 116 yards and a touchdown. He also provided the early season favorite for the catch of the year, catching a sideline throw with one hand by the point of the football. Cole is the clear top target in Jacksonville’s passing game this year. He will likely draw Malcolm Butler against the Titans on Sunday, but teams have been picking on Butler this season, which means he may be exploitable. It is always risky putting your faith in the arm of Blake Bortles, but Cole could have the talent to offset that uncertainty. Ju-Ju Smith Schuster has been a revelation in 2018, building upon his rookie season. Thus far, he has converted on 18 or 27 targets for 240 yards and a touchdown through 2 games. In week 3 he draws a matchup against the second worst pass defense in the NFL in the form of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Despite Ju-Ju’s hot start, you’ll be hard pressed to find a secondary in the NFL that would rather limit him over the team’s primary option, Antonio Brown. Keep riding the hot hand in Pittsburgh. In week 2, Antonio Callaway got an opportunity due to the departure of Josh Gordon and he didn’t disappoint. He caught 3 of his 5 targets for 87 yards and a (should have been game-winning) 47-yard touchdown against the Saints. Callaway’s talent is undeniable, but like Gordon, he has his share of off the field issues. It is also clear that the Browns plan to use his big play ability to offset Jarvis Landry’s role in the intermediate routes. I think Callaway has a chance to erupt this week against a Jets defense that has a propensity to give up some big plays.
Mark Andrews (vs Denver)
Despite depth at the tight end position, Mark Andrews has been able to carve a role out for himself in the passing game for Baltimore in Hayden Hurst’s absence. Andrews has drawn 4 targets and 3 catches the past two weeks, getting 31 yards in week 1 and 17 yards with a touchdown in week 2. The Broncos have been generous to opposing tight ends in 2018, allowing Will Dissly to go for 100+ yards and a score in week 1 and Jared Cook to go 5 for 5 for 54 yards in week 2. While Andrews doesn’t seem to have high yardage upside, he remains a threat to score once again this week in the red zone.
O.J. Howard (vs Pittsburgh)
Despite splitting reps with Cameron Brate, it seems that OJ Howard is poised to take the leap that his massive talent suggests in 2018. Howard has caught 5 of 6 targets this season for 150 yards and a touchdown through 2 games and already has 2 receptions over 30 yards for the season. The Steelers got absolutely torched by the Chiefs Travis Kelce in week 2, surrendering 7 receptions for 109 yards and 2 touchdowns in a losing effort. While there are undeniably a lot of mouths to feed in Tampa Bay, recent history suggests that Howard could be the player most likely to attack the Steelers flaws in week 3.
Austin Hooper (vs New Orleans), George Kittle (at Kansas City), Austin Seferian-Jenkins (vs Tennessee)
Despite being in an offense loaded with perimeter weapons, it would seem that Austin Hooper has a more defined role than he did in 2017. Hooper caught all 5 of his targets last week for 59 yards and a touchdown against a Panthers defense that usually prides itself on the ability to restrict tight end production. The Saints have struggled against the pass this season and don’t really boast the linebackers to cover tight ends in the intermediate part of the field. George Kittle definitely had a disappointing 2nd week given an easier matchup against the Lions defense. However, a lot of that can be attributed to a game script designed to take the air out of the ball and keep the clock running. It was also disappointing to see Garrett Celek convert on a red zone target for a touchdown, but these things are going to happen. If the 49ers find themselves down to the Chiefs, it is very possible that Kittle becomes the featured part of the passing offense (like in week 1), so his upside is massive this week. Austin Seferian-Jenkins has had a consistent beginning of the season, catching 6 of his 9 targets for 48 yards and a touchdown. While these aren’t stellar numbers, they do show that he is a part of this Jaguar passing game, especially in the red zone. With Leonard Fournette nursing a hamstring injury, it wouldn’t be shocked to see the Jaguars continue to throw the ball in the red zone to allow him some extra rest, meaning ASJ has continued value for the upcoming week against a Titans defense that hasn’t really been tested by tight ends thus far this season.
Case Keenum (at Baltimore)
Case Keenum really struggled last week against a mediocre Raiders defense, posting a 19/35 line for 222 yards and a 0/1 TD/INT ratio. His fantasy day was somewhat salvaged by a 2nd half rushing touchdown. This week, he draws a fast and aggressive Ravens defense that had a misleading week 2 experience with the Andy Dalton led Bengals team. While it is true Dalton had 4 first-half touchdowns, 3 of them were to AJ Green and he was held to under 300 yards passing and 57% completion. Keenum doesn’t have a receiver of the caliber of AJ Green- so he may struggle to replicate any of Dalton’s numbers from a week ago.
Andrew Luck (at Philadelphia)
Andrew Luck had a very good week 1 against the Bengals. However, week 2 left a lot to be desired. Luck was 21 for 31 for 179 yards and a 2/2 TD/INT ratio. He noticeably struggled at times and once again avoided throwing the ball down the field despite a Colts victory. Enter an Eagles defense that is designed to attack the quarterback off the edges. Not helping matters for Luck is the fact that they are still sorting through their offensive tackles. He could be in store for a rough week in week 3. Use him at your own caution.
Phillip Rivers (at LA Rams), Marcus Mariota (at Jacksonville), Sam Darnold (at Cleveland)
There is a chance Phillip Rivers registers a ton of passes this week, as there is a strong chance the Chargers are playing from behind. However, the Rams secondary has been absolutely suffocating and the pass rush has been devastating. If you have a solid second option for Rivers this week, it may be the time to roll that out for a week. Marcus Mariota didn’t get any run last week against the Texans as he works his way back from an elbow injury that is inhibiting his ability to feel the football. If another week does the trick and he is able to play, he gets a Jacksonville defense that effectively shut down the Patriots offense a week ago. Mariota still has a chance to be a strong quarterback this year, this week isn’t the one to test it out though. Sam Darnold finally showed his rookie form in week 2 after a solid performance in his debut against the Lions. The Dolphins aren’t a stellar defense, so a lot of people may have been disappointed if they figured to stream Darnold in week 2. The Browns have been a solid defense the first two weeks, coming within a few minutes and a couple kicks of a 2-0 record. Darnold is a risky play this week.
LeSean McCoy (at Minnesota)
Poor Shady McCoy is struggling. Granted, the matchups (Baltimore week 1 and the Chargers week 2) have been brutal, but he is clearly the only talented skill player on the Bills offense and everyone knows it. Through 2 games, he has 16 carries for 61 yards (3.8/carry) and 5 catches for 28 yards. He doesn’t have a touchdown, but he does have some busted rib cartilage. The brutal run defense tour continues this week as a draws a matchup with the Minnesota Vikings. Running backs are only averaging 3.8 YPC against Minnesota this year. They have 0 touchdowns. Avoid an ailing McCoy this week.
Royce Freeman (at Baltimore)
Royce Freeman has had a decent, yet unspectacular first two games of his rookie year. It is clear he has a role in the Denver offense with 23 carries for 99 yards (4.3/carry) and a touchdown in the first two weeks. However, he has been massively overshadowed by another rookie, Phillip Lindsay. Lindsay has burst on the scene as the change of pace back, carrying the ball 29 times for 178 yards (6.1/carry) while also adding 3 catches for 35 yards and a touchdown. Baltimore has a stout run defense that could stifle a traditional back such as Freeman, so Lindsay may get even more touches than usual if the Broncos attempt to attack the edges.
Chris Carson (vs Dallas), Isaiah Crowell (at Cleveland), Alex Collins (vs Denver)
Thus far in 2018, Chris Carson has been the most effective back in Seattle’s backfield. However, the Seahawks haven’t been very good, so he has been losing work in the 4th quarters in favor of Rashaad Penny, who the Seahawks seem to favor as the receiving back. Dallas’s offense isn’t great, but with their overpowering secondary and Zeke Elliott, they have the ability to get ahead and force the ball out of Carson’s hand again. While the Isaiah Crowell revenge game may seem appealing, he really took a hit last week coming off a 100 yard, 2TD performance in week 1. Against a weakened Miami defensive front, Crowell was able to muster 35 yards on 12 attempts. The Browns front 7 is much more stout than the current iteration of the Dolphins, so he may find himself in a tough sledding matchup again. Finally, the Baltimore backfield has been strange this year, and Alex Collins has gotten the worst of that split. Collins has only 16 carries for 48 yards this season with one touchdown. He’s also added 4 carries on 61 yards. However, the more concerning trend is the fact that he is losing redzone reps and 3rd down targets to Buck Allen. This was a trend that was apparent last season, but has really shown with the strange game scripts Baltimore has seen this season (they were up huge week 1 against Buffalo and down big against Cincinnati week 2). It is possible a closer game yields more work for Collins, but we won’t know until we see it.
A Chargers receiver not named Keenan Allen (@ LA Rams)
Keenan Allen is a weekly must-start just based on volume alone. However, with Travis Benjamin ailing, Antonio Gates on the cusp of filing for AARP, and Mike Williams still developing, there may be difficulty getting much going in the passing game. The Rams defense still hasn’t allowed a passing touchdown in the 2018 season, and they have more than enough to take away any option that isn’t named Keenan Allen in this matchup.
Corey Davis (at Jacksonville)
Corey Davis is the clear top option in Tennessee given the injuries to Delanie Walker and Rashad Matthews in the early season. He’s caught 11 of 20 targets for 117 yards (10.6/reception). However, this means that Jacksonville will likely key on him this week. Drawing a matchup of Jalen Ramsey or AJ Bouye is rough enough, but when you’re the only weapon for them to focus on life is going to be downright miserable. There will be better weeks for Davis than this one.
Demaryius Thomas (at Baltimore), Nelson Agholor (vs Indianapolis), Allen Robinson (at Arizona)
The targets have been there for Demaryius Thomas so far in 2018 (he has 21 in 2 games), but the production is still lacking. He rolls into week 3 with 11 catches and a touchdown, especially struggling with Oakland’s secondary. Based on alignment, he will probably run into a healthy amount of Brandon Carr in the Ravens’ secondary this week, which means he is getting work against the only corner who didn’t get torched by AJ Green in week 2. Nelson Agholor is on the surface a decent play in week 3. He gets a weak Colts secondary. Mike Wallace is injured and won’t be able to play. Carson Wentz is returning. However, I think we need to give it a week or 2 before we pencil him into ridiculous production. The Eagles can feed the ball the Zach Ertz and rely more on their pass catching backs until Wentz gets back into a flow of NFL competition. Through 2 weeks it is clear that Mitch Trubisky prefers targeting Allen Robinson of all his weapons. Robinson has 14 catches on 21 targets for 144 yards against the Packers and Seahawks. While that production has been great thus far this year, it also means that the defensive game plan will match Patrick Peterson on him in week 3. The Cardinals will force Trubisky to throw to other weapons, which may mean decoy status for Robinson in week 3.
David Njoku (vs New York Jets)
The potential of David Njoku is absolutely tantalizing. The Browns coaches know it as evidenced by the 14 targets he’s received in two weeks. The problem is the simple fact that Njoku has been incapable of capitalizing on these opportunities, registering only 7 catches for a paltry 33 yards. The strength of the Jets secondary lies in their safeties, so it is entirely possible that Njoku is left with a lot of targets and no production for the 3rd straight week.
Charles Clay (at Minnesota)
Clay has been one of the most consistent options in the Buffalo passing game for years now, but like McCoy, he is not finding much room to operate in 2018. Through two games he has 2 catches on 5 targets for 29 yards. Nathan Peterman couldn’t get him the ball in week 1 against Baltimore and he was essentially registered ineffective against the Chargers as well. This trend probably won’t change in week 3 as the Vikings boast the linebackers and safeties to remove Clay as a safety blanket and force Josh Allen to try and beat them downfield.
Tyler Eifert (at Carolina), Ricky Seals-Jones (vs Chicago), Jack Doyle (at Philadelphia)
It would seem that Andy Dalton has plenty of weapons at his fingertips and that Tyler Eifert has taken a backseat as his preferred target. Eifert has 5 catches on 7 targets for 67 yards through two games. Tight ends have only been targeted 11 times (9 catches) for 87 yards and one touchdown against the Panthers this season (thank Shaq Thompson and Luke Kuechly for that), so it seems unlikely that Eifert will be a focal point again this week. I really thought Ricky Seals-Jones had an opportunity to get the ball going last week against the Rams, but I underestimated how truly awful that offense is. Seals-Jones did garner 6 targets and had 4 catches, but was only able to muster 17 yards. Outside of David Johnson, that offense is unplayable, especially against a resurgent Bears defense that will get to Sam Bradford quickly with the backend support of the linebackers and safeties. For the longest time, Jack Doyle was the leader of the tight end pack in Indianapolis. This year he is contending with Eric Ebron for impactful targets. While Doyle leads the Colts tight ends in targets (15 to 9) and receptions (9 to 7), and yardage (80 to 77), Ebron has the only 2 touchdowns out of the Colts tight ends. Doyle has limited upside as a receiver outside of PPR leagues, and really is more of a TE2 if he doesn’t start finding his way into the end zone on a more consistent basis.