Man oh man, what a crazy Week 3. You know something’s different when Case Keenum, Brian Hoyer, Jared Goff and Blake Bortles all score above 24 fantasy points in the same week. Last week we found plenty of hits with Captain Kirk Cousins, Christian McCaffrey, DeSean Jackson and *gulp* Jared Cook, and even nailed some sleepers like DeShone Kizer and Joe Mixon (buy low here if you still can). But of course, everyone remembers the failures like TY Hilton and Jordan Howard who I felt pretty confident about. So it goes.
Remember, fantasy is a game of probabilities. I won’t always be right. But as you’ll see with my hit rates below, the goal is to lead you to the correct fantasy lineup decision as often as possible each and every week, and I’m confident that’ll be the case. With that said, let’s take a walk down fantasy lane and look at players with exciting matchups and those better left as bench fodder.
Starts Record: 24/38 (63.2%)
Sits Record: 21/33 (63.6%)
Sleeper Record: 3/9 (33.3%)
*Note: These statistics do not include injured players or players who are essentially a wash and did not really help you or hurt you if you started them.
Start: Andy Dalton @ Cleveland
Dalton performed admirably as a recommended sleeper last week (16.3 points) and now gets to travel to Cleveland for a get-right matchup against the Browns. Cincy enters the game 0-3 and in desperate need of a win. With the defense getting to the opposing quarterback relentlessly and a rookie quarterback on the other side of the ball, Dalton figures to have the ball in his hands a lot. Crucially, this entire offense looked much better last week with newly-installed Bill Lazor calling the offense. Lazor has skewed pass-heavy in his years as an offensive coordinator and clearly made an effort to get the ball in the hands of AJ Green and Joe Mixon last week. Dalton should have his confidence back up against a Cleveland defense allowing the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks after allowing a mind-blowing 28 points to Jacoby Brissett last week. Dalton also offers sneaky rushing upside after rushing for a combined 11 rushing touchdowns over the last three seasons. I like the Dalton/Green stack for daily fantasy and will likely have AJ Green in every lineup again this week. It should be noted this is more of a floor play considering Tyler Eifert is out and John Ross isn’t practicing at the moment.
Start: Trevor Siemian vs. Oakland
Maybe it doesn’t feel like going out on a limb to suggest starting the overall QB9 through three weeks, but how many of you are truly running out to start Trevor Siemian? It turns out last week was a trap game for Denver, traveling across the country for an early start in Buffalo where it’s notoriously difficult to play road games. Now Siemian gets to play back in the comforting confines of Mile High Stadium where he’s averaged 23.65 points per game so far this year. Even better for the Broncos, Oakland and its fifth-worst passing defense are coming to town fresh off an absolute shredding by Kirk Cousins in Washington. Siemian averaged 15.5 points per game against Oakland last year, so he already has a steady floor if you’re looking for a safe play. Adding to his floor is Siemian’s new-found rushing ability; after averaging a measly 0.4 rushing points per game last year (and not even attempting a run in four games) Siemian is averaging 3.5 rushing points per game this year. Turns out his ceiling is higher than you think, too.
Other Recommended Starts:
-Marcus Mariota at Houston: Houston has actually allowed the ninth-most points to opposing quarterbacks so far this year and is still very injured at cornerback. Mariota is the QB10 despite already facing Jacksonville and Seattle this season and is averaging a nice 25 rushing yards per game.
-Jay Cutler vs. New Orleans (London game): Cutler flopped here last week but I’m going back to the well in the ideal matchup for a quarterback who loves to take deep shots. This game has the highest over/under of the week so far (49.5).
Sit: Derek Carr @ Denver
Outside of Jared Cook (I told you to start him so obviously you did), the Raiders offense was a total mess in a good matchup on Sunday night. Now they play another road game against arguably the best defense in football. I’ll be fading pretty much the entire cache of Oakland offensive weapons this week as Denver is now performing just as admirably against the run than it is against the pass. Carr missed the second meeting with Denver last year, but in their first matchup he threw for 184 yards and zero touchdowns on 31 pass attempts and ended with his third-lowest passer rating of the season. And that was at home! Denver has looked slightly more susceptible this year with defensive wizard Wade Phillips now calling the shots for the Rams, but this is still an incredibly talented defense that has two cornerbacks perfectly designed to match up with Oakland’s stud receivers. There are likely better options available at such a replaceable fantasy position.
Sit: Ben Roethlisberger @ Baltimore
Roethlisberger is notorious for his ghastly home-road splits and we were reminded of that by his 12-point stinker at Chicago last weekend. Now he faces a much, much tougher defense that will be looking to get back on its feet after a tough showing against Jacksonville in Week 3. Baltimore still ranks ninth in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks despite allowing Blake Bortles to have a good game they clearly were not expecting. Per Rotoworld’s Brandon Funston, Baltimore’s two boundary corners both rank in the top-three in passer rating allowed. Baltimore held Big Ben to a 67.3 Passer Rating and only allowed him to complete 51.1% of his passes when Pittsburgh traveled there last season, sacking him twice and forcing two fumbles the Steelers were fortunate to fall on. Big Ben is at best a high-end QB2 this week.
Other Recommended Sits:
-Jameis Winston vs. New York Giants: The Giants haven’t allowed a top-12 fantasy quarterback this year despite facing Dak Prescott, Matthew Stafford and Carson Wentz. Jameis struggled against a similarly-strong defense last week with another shutdown corner, so I’m not expecting QB1 numbers here.-
-Matthew Stafford @ Minnesota: Minnesota shut down Jameis in this same spot last week while Stafford couldn’t deliver at home in a much better matchup.
-Deshaun Watson vs. Tennessee: Watson will likely be a popular DFS tournament stack with Hopkins which makes sense. Coming off best game of his career, at home, against a defense that ranks third-worst in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. This game has sneaky shootout potential and Watson’s floor is elevated by his legs (124 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground so far this year).
-Tyrod Taylor @ Atlanta: Tough to trust in your lineup because Tyrod has been much worse on the road, but Buffalo’s passing volume will likely surge as eight-point underdogs. This game has a high implied point total (48.5) and Tyrod is now the best in the business at floating bad games with his rushing yards.
-Jared Goff @ Dallas: Goff is the QB11 (!) so far this season and coming off the best game of his career. Dallas is a bottom-half pass defense with banged up cornerbacks and figures to build a lead that will force Goff to throw more than usual.
Start: DeAndre Hopkins vs. Tennessee
Granted you’re probably already starting Hopkins coming off nearly identical seven catch, 70+ yard performances over the last two weeks. But if you’re on the fence he’s an absolute must-start this week and is someone I’ll have in almost every DFS lineup I fill out. Pretty much the lone ranger in the Texans passing offense, Hopkins leads the league in targets through the first three weeks of the season. Volume is king in fantasy football and especially so in daily fantasy, and now we should have a stronger opinion on Deshaun Watson after his impressive appearance on the road against New England last week. Houston’s week four opponent Tennessee comes to town sporting the 24th-ranked pass defense per Football Outsiders all-encompassing DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average)) metric.
Start: Emmanuel Sanders vs. Oakland
This goes hand in hand with the Siemian recommendation above. In my mind, Sanders has entered must-start fantasy territory as a yearly WR2 (WR18 in PPR points per game last year) who is currently the WR16 on the season, ahead of his running mate Demaryius Thomas (another obvious start). Thomas might get all the glory, but Sanders has actually slightly outscored Thomas this year and is currently eighth in the league with 9.7 targets per game. That’s a ton! He’s averaging more targets than bonified number one receivers Dez Bryant, Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate, Jordy Nelson, Michael Thomas and Julio Jones. Oakland ranks 24th in DVOA at defending #2 receivers.
Other Recommended Starts:
-Larry Fitzgerald: Of course the one week I don’t recommend them, Fitz and Palmer go absolutely nuclear. Fitz is a must-start in a gorgeous matchup against a San Francisco D that just got shredded by Jared Goff, Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods. Palmer is clearly much better at home.
-DeSean Jackson: Nailed it with him last week and expecting a similar outcome this week if Janoris Jenkins shadows Mike Evans which would open up opportunities for D-Jax against Eli Apple, New York’s weakest cornerback link.
Sit: Alshon Jeffery @ Los Angeles Chargers
If you’re an Alshon owner and you’ve been following along, then you’ve probably made it out okay. He was a recommended sit in this column in Week 1 and Week 3. His resulting lines were 3/38/0 and 4/56/0 which aren’t good enough numbers from your number two receiver. In those weeks he had to match up with two shutdown cornerbacks in Josh Norman and Janoris Jenkins, then he exploded for 7/92/1 in week two when he wasn’t facing a stud shadow corner. This is just a hunch that Charger Casey Hayward is going to shadow Jeffery throughout the game, reducing him from a high-end WR2 to a more low-end WR3. It’s worth noting this game has a solid implied point total (47) and should be close, so Alshon is still better than your bench fodder.
Sit: Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper @ Denver
This one’s pretty obvious. I’m still very high on both players’ season-long outputs (I happily just bought low on Cooper), but they’re tough to trust on the road against the No Fly Zone that is Denver’s secondary. Cooper has never topped 60 yards against them in his career, while Crabtree averaged 3.5 catches and 37 yards against the Broncos last year. I would personally like to see this entire offense prove it can play well on the road before inserting these two into lineups this week.
Other Recommended Sits:
-TY Hilton @ Seattle: I was wrong here last week, but expect much tougher sledding on the road against a hungry Seattle pass defense known for shutting down number one receivers.
-Jeremy Maclin vs. Pittsburgh: Maclin is only averaging 4.7 targets per game and now faces the toughest defense in fantasy against receivers so far this year. Flacco was dreadful last week.
–Kenny Stills vs. New Orleans (London game): Cutler hasn’t been afraid to throw deep and New Orleans is a golden matchup having allowed the second-most 20+ yard pass completions on the year
Start: Chris Carson vs. Indianapolis
Despite both being active last week, Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy played one total snap combined. One. CJ Prosise got most of the passing down work but now he is expected to miss Sunday’s game with an ankle injury. This is pretty clearly Chris Carson’s backfield now after he ran 11 times for 34 yards and chipped in a touchdown catch last week. Even given Seattle’s offensive line struggles, the workhorse back has value in an offense this good, especially playing at home. Carson should have plenty of rushing opportunities against Indianapolis considering Seattle enters the game as the heaviest favorite on the week (11.5 points). Consider Carson a solid RB2 this week with Seattle’s offense getting back on track and locked-in volume.
Start: Christian McCaffrey @ New England
McCaffrey was a smash hit from this column last week as he racked up nine catches and 117 yards from scrimmage. Now he faces the Patriots defense which has given up the most points allowed to opposing running backs. Per Rich Hribar’s excellent Rotoworld Worksheet, McCaffrey has accounted for 29.7% of Carolina’s receiving yards – league-lead among running backs – and the Patriots have allowed the second-most receiving yards to opposing backs so far this season. Missing Greg Olsen and with Kelvin Benjamin banged up, I expect Carolina to lean on the rookie a ton. There aren’t even many other options to throw to in this somewhat broken offense. Also working in CMC’s favor is the high point total (48) and the fact the Panthers are expected to play from behind as nine-point underdogs.
Other Recommended Starts:
-Joe Mixon @ Cleveland: Recommended him last week as I had a feeling he would become the starter. New OC Bill Lazor upped his snap count by 20% and fed him a career-high 21 touches and he finally enters a game as a favorite with a good matchup.
-Bilal Powell vs. Jacksonville: Despite an intimidating matchup the Jags have allowed 4.8 yards per carry while Powell scored a touchdown last week. Most importantly, Matt Forte will sit this one out with a toe injury. Related:
Sit: Marshawn Lynch @ Denver
Here are the numbers the Denver defense has allowed to the first three running backs it’s faced:
-Melvin Gordon: 18 carries/54 yards/3.0 YPC; 5 catches/25 yards/1 receiving touchdown
-Ezekiel Elliott: 9 carries/career-low 8 yards/1.13 YPC; 4 catches/14 yards
-LeSean McCoy: 14 carries/21 yards/1.5 YPC; 7 catches/48 yards
Noticing a trend here? Denver has absolutely shut down three of the best running backs in the league, all of whom are bona fide fantasy RB1s. The other trend is that all three running backs found the most success through the air, which is not something Lynch profiles to do having only caught one pass in each game so far this season. Merely the RB33 so far on the year (.5 PPR), Lynch has averaged 3.9 yards per carry despite running behind an elite offensive line and having three above-average fantasy matchups. He will sink your lineup if he doesn’t find pay dirt on Sunday.
Sit: Ameer Abdullah @ Minnesota
Per Rotoworld’s Brandon Funston, Abdullah has only scored two touchdowns in his last 18 games. He has never rushed for 100 yards in a game in the NFL, loses receiving down work to Theo Riddick and loses goal line work to plodders Zach Zenner and Dwayne Washington. What is there to like here? Now he travels to Minnesota to face a front seven that has allowed the fewest fantasy points to running backs this season. If anything, you’d need to offer reasons why you should start Abdullah as opposed to benching him. Hard pass.
Other Recommended Sits:
-Duke Johnson vs. Cincinnati: Cincy is a defense to attack for pass-catching backs and Duke finally has a role as a hybrid running back/receiver on a team that’s likely to face negative game script. Arguably the most effective and healthy offensive skill player on the Browns right now.
-Wendell Smallwood @ Los Angeles Chargers: Favorite to take over the Sproles role in a pass-first offense playing in a potential shootout. It helps that the Chargers have been forgiving to opposing running backs so far.
Start: Cameron Brate vs. New York Giants
One of the heavy themes this year is going to be streaming tight ends against the Giants. New York’s defense has allowed each tight end it’s faced to score at least ten points, one of whom was Eric Ebron. New York has subsequently allowed the fourth-most points to tight ends this year after ranking bottom-ten in the same metric last year. Brate has known chemistry with Jameis Winston which he flashed en route to a solid 4/33/1 line in a much tougher matchup against Minnesota on the road. We want to chase touchdown-scoring tight ends playing at home in fantasy and Brate easily checks both boxes after tying for the position lead with eight scores last year. He’s a cheap way to hunt for touchdowns in DFS, too.
Start: Charles Clay @ Atlanta
Clay has the second-highest target share on the team behind running back LeSean McCoy, so he’s a safe-ish streamer based on volume alone. Although Tyrod has struggled on the road in his career, it’s likely Buffalo will be forced to pass to keep up with Atlanta who enter as eight-point favorites. I touched on this last week, but Atlanta struggled to defend tight ends last year and has continued to this year. Although Eric Ebron failed in a similar spot last week, he did garner seven targets but simply couldn’t put it all together to make use of them. Clay, the TE5 so far this year, has the strongest rapport with Tyrod of all Buffalo pass catchers and this game currently has the second-highest implied point total of the week at 48.5.
Sit: Jordan Reed @ Kansas City
Tight end is such a landmine right now that there are very few players I feel confident projecting on a weekly basis. Reed is one of many disappoint owners at the position after posting mediocre fantasy scores through the first two weeks and sitting on the sidelines last Sunday night. The matchup is already tough for tight ends as Kansas City has allowed the ninth-fewest fantasy points to the position despite losing stud safety Eric Berry and then facing Zach Ertz, Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry. At the moment Reed is considered day-to-day and will likely be questionable up until game time. The issue is that Washington plays on Monday night against the Chiefs so there will be nobody for you to pivot to if Reed can’t suit up. Unless you can grab Vernon Davis and stow him on your bench (highly recommended), then the safer move is to play someone who you know is at least playing snaps on Sunday.
Other Recommended Sit:
-Jack Doyle @ Seattle: Do you really trust him here?
-Austin Sefarian-Jenkins vs. Jacksonville: Can’t believe I’ve recommended starting two Jets in the same column but ASJ saw six targets in his first game as a Jet and is playing at home. Jacksonville’s shutdown perimeter corners funnel targets to the middle of the field which is why they rank third-worst in fantasy points allowed to tight ends.
Start: Cincinnati Defense @ Cleveland
Pretty straightforward here. Even though I love Kizer as a prospect he leads the league in turnovers and is sack-prone because he holds onto the ball for too long. Cincinnati ranks tied for sixth in the league with 10 sacks and should force Kizer to air it out if the Browns are losing. This game has a very low implied point total of 40 points.
Start: Jacksonville Defense @ New York Jets
I don’t love starting defenses on the road, but this Jaguars defense is simply too good not to start right now. Currently the second-best fantasy defense, the Jags recently made Joe Flacco forget how to play football and are leading the NFL with 13 sacks on the year. Miami flopped in this same spot last week and still managed to score five fantasy points, and that defense can’t even sniff the talent Jacksonville has at all three levels. The Jets may be missing Matt Forte on Sunday, while this game has the lowest implied point total (39.5) of the week.
Other Recommended Starts: Seattle vs. Indianapolis (Jacoby Brissett traveling across the country to face a hungry Seattle defense. Where do I sign?)
Sit: Houston vs. Tennessee
It’s always risky to recommend sitting a home defense as talented as Houston, but there are a ton of red flags here. Houston gave me a loss in the sit column last week, but that was only because Tom Brady had a rushed pass slip out of his hands directly into Jadaveon Clowney’s mitts for an easy pick-six. Tennesse comes in allowing the fewest fantasy points in the league to opposing defenses despite having played against Seattle and at Jacksonville. Tennessee has an elite offensive line that creates running lanes for a two-headed backfield monster, which creates play-action opportunities for turnover-averse Marcus Mariota. I much prefer Cincy, Jacksonville and even Atlanta this week.
Other Recommended Sits:
-Carolina @ New England: Do I really need to spell this one out?
–Los Angeles Rams @ Dallas: The Rams reminded you of their low floor after allowing 39 points to the Niners last week while Dallas rarely allows sacks or turns the ball over.
Hate me for ruining your fantasy week? Love me for winning it? Tell me on Twitter @eweiner_bball
Statistics courtesy of nfl.com, rotoworld.com, footballdb.com, Yahoo!, fantasylabs.com, footballguys.com, footballoutsiders.com, and pro-football-reference.com