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Inside the Matchup
Week 3
9/20/17; Updated: 9/22/17

By: Andy Swanson | Jason Katz | Nick Caron | Frankie Soler





- Green highllight indicates plus matchup (top eight)
- Red highlight indicates negative matchup (bottom eight)

Rams @ 49ers - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: He’s certainly not looking like an all-pro yet but Jared Goff might finally be coming into his own as an NFL-caliber quarterback. The former No.1 overall pick has thrown for 530 yards and a pair of touchdowns over his first two games which is no great feat but it’s better than what we saw out of him in 2016. While Goff has been improved, it hasn’t exactly translated into fantasy success for his receivers. Even Cooper Kupp, who looked good in his NFL debut in Week 1, saw just six targets in Week 2 and while that led the team, it’s certainly not enough for a possession-type receiver like Kupp to be useful for fantasy purposes. Sammy Watkins, who is still likely learning the offense, was targeted just twice in Week 2, both of which he caught but for only 30 yards. Robert Woods currently leads the Rams receivers in snaps (90) through the first two games but has been targeted just nine times and has not done much with his opportunities. Young tight ends Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee have both had moments but with only six total receptions between the two of them, it’s easy to just completely disregard them in anything other than deep dynasty formats. The Rams offense is simply too low-powered to generate many fantasy opportunities and with Goff spreading the ball around as evenly as he is, the scoring potential just isn’t very high for any receiver in this offense.

This week they’ll be up against a 49ers defense that has held each of their first two opponents to fewer than 200 total passing yards. While Cam Newton and Russell Wilson have both struggled early this season, it’s hard to believe that Jared Goff is suddenly going to break through and air the ball out against this San Francisco defense. Goff threw for just 90 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions in his only game against the 49ers in 2016 and the unit looks to be improved this season. Avoid him unless you’re in deep two-QB or SuperFlex formats.

SF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.21
SF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.15
SF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.14
SF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.30

Running Game Thoughts: It’s been this way since he first broke out as a rookie, but there’s no question right now that the Rams offense is centered around running back Todd Gurley. Gurley has touched the ball 43 times in two games, collecting 232 total yards and three total touchdowns. That type of usage should continue again this week as he goes up against a San Francisco defense that, while improved, is still not spectacular. The 49ers offense has not shown the ability to put points on the board so far this season so that should lead to a positive game script for Gurley who could be in line for another 20-25 touch game with a good opportunity to get into the end zone. Gurley is an RB1 in matchups like this and should continue to be a high-end RB2 at worst even in difficult matchups as long as he continues to touch the ball as often as he is.

Value Meter:
RB1: Todd Gurley
Flex: Sammy Watkins, Cooper Kupp (PPR only)
Bench: Jared Goff, Robert Woods, Tavon Austin, Gerald Everett, Tyler Higbee

Passing Game Thoughts: Coming into the season there was a real reason to believe that a move to Brian Hoyer could be an upgrade for the San Francisco quarterback situation. However, after two games, there are fantasy owners who are already pressing the panic button on Hoyer and the entire San Francisco passing game. Hoyer has been nothing short of terrible, failing to throw a single touchdown in either contest while throwing turning the ball over three times. Granted, one of those games was against the vaunted Seahawks defense in Seattle, but still – this offense is in bad shape right now.

Pierre Garcon is really the only player in this passing game who’s even worth considering for fantasy purposes as he leads the team with 15 targets through two games and has been by far the most efficient pass catcher on the team. However, this week he’ll be up against a Los Angeles Rams secondary that held a much better Washington passing game to just 179 passing yards and a touchdown in Week 2. Garcon is usable in PPR formats but stay away from everyone else for the time being.

LAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.31
LAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.5
LAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.26
LAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.21

Running Game Thoughts: Much like the Rams offense, there is little question that – at least as of now – the 49ers offense will go as their running game goes. Carlos Hyde is the focal point of the offense and has already accumulated 220 total yards in his first two contests. That’s particularly impressive considering that the 49ers have not yet scored a single touchdown this season. Part of the reason for his production has been his increased usage in the passing game. Head coach Kyle Shanahan is well known for using his running backs in the passing game and Hyde is already reaping the benefits. Through two games, Hyde has made nine receptions on 12 targets – a pace of six targets per game. By comparison, he was targeted just over 2.5 times per game in 2016. Needless to say, Hyde’s increased usage will be a huge benefit for those in PPR formats as he now becomes a viable option even in games when the 49ers are likely to fall behind. We should expect this week’s game against the Rams to be a low-scoring affair but Hyde will be a major part of whatever the 49ers decide to do on offense. He’s a low-end RB1 in this matchup and could be the first 49er to get into the end zone this season.

Value Meter:
RB1: Carlos Hyde
Flex: Pierre Garcon
Bench: Brian Hoyer, Kyle Juszczyk, Matt Breida, Marquise Goodwin, Trent Taylor, George Kittle

Prediction: Rams 20, 49ers 17 ^ Top

Chiefs @ Chargers - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: No one would’ve put money on Alex Smith being the top-scoring fantasy football quarterback after the first two weeks of the season, but the “game manager” has been far more so far this season. Smith has been putting up shockingly good numbers on his own, but perhaps more importantly has been his ability to get the ball to his top targets in the passing game. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill (14) and tight end Travis Kelce (17) lead the team by a wide margin in targets and both players have been impressively efficient. It’s not often that both players are going to put up big numbers in what is still a run-first and protect-the-ball offense, but they’re among the most exciting players at their positions and need to be started in almost all formats. With Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett still not practicing, it appears that cornerback Casey Heyward could be assigned to shadow Hill in this contest. Heyward is one of the better lockdown corners in the league which could lead to fewer opportunities for Hill, but his upside is still there. Kelce, on the other hand, figures to be the main target in the passing game this week and could see a 10-plus target game, making him one of the premiere options at the position this week.

LAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.7
LAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.25
LAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.9
LAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.19

Running Game Thoughts: With Alex Smith leading all quarterbacks in scoring, it’d make sense if the Chiefs running game wasn’t particularly effective. However, the reality is actually the complete opposite – the Kansas City rushing attack and running back Kareem Hunt has not only been good, it’s been great. Hunt leads all players in fantasy scoring – including quarterbacks – through two weeks of his rookie season. Hunt has touched the ball 38 times for 355 total yards and a whopping five touchdowns. His efficiency in the passing game has been unsustainably good but the workload and the overall effectiveness of the Kansas City offense is still very inspiring. The Chargers are giving up the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing running backs but both the Broncos and Dolphins ran for well over 100 yards against them. Hunt figures to be heavily involved yet again this week and has to be one of the top running back plays until he proves otherwise.

Value Meter:
QB1: Alex Smith (low-end)
RB1: Kareem Hunt (high-end)
WR2: Tyreek Hill (high-end)
TE1: Travis Kelce
Bench: Charcandrick West, Chris Conley, Albert Wilson

Passing Game Thoughts: With relatively healthy options to pass to for the first time in what seems like years, Philip Rivers has once again established himself as a QB1 for fantasy purposes. Rivers has produced about 17 fantasy points in each of his first two games, including a game against the vaunted “no fly zone” in Denver. Keenan Allen currently leads the team in targets (20), receptions (14) and receiving yards (135), quickly reestablishing himself as the top pass catching option in this offense. Tyrell Williams is off to a bit of a slow start but his 9 receptions on 11 targets and his team-leading 107 snaps at WR does indicate that better days are on the horizon. Tight end Antonio Gates became the NFL’s all-time leading scorer at the tight end position with his touchdown in Week 2, but he actually fell slightly behind Hunter Henry in total snaps in Week 2. Look for that trend to continue throughout the season, but the two players will likely split snaps for the most part in the short term, making them risky options for fantasy purposes.

KC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.6
KC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.8
KC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.10
KC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.15

Running Game Thoughts: Rushing for 13 yards on nine carries is normally a disastrous result for fantasy running backs, but Los Angeles’ Melvin Gordon was able to salvage what was an ugly performance on the ground by getting into the end zone and catching seven passes for 65 yards. Gordon was a good pass catching back in 2016 but his 12 receptions over the first two weeks of the season are making fantasy owners wonder why they didn’t have him ranked even higher this preseason. The overall usage continues to be extremely high as Gordon essentially has no competition whatsoever in the backfield and he’s about as matchup-proof as possible. The Chiefs did do a great job of shutting down the Eagles running backs in Week 2 but they were run over for three touchdowns by Mike Gillislee in Week 1, so there are definitely fantasy points that can be had against this defense.

Value Meter:
QB1: Philip Rivers (low-end)
RB1: Melvin Gordon
WR1: Keenan Allen
Flex: Tyrell Williams
TE1: Hunter Henry (low-end)
Bench: Travis Benjamin, Antonio Gates

Prediction: Chiefs 27, Chargers 24 ^ Top

Cowboys @ Cardinals - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: For all the Cowboys struggles in Week 2 against the Broncos, quarterback Dak Prescott was still able to give fantasy owners a decent start for the second straight week. His two interceptions were probably fewer than he should have thrown given the circumstances and his two touchdowns were at least somewhat encouraging. What’s concerning going into this weekend’s game against the Cardinals is that Prescott appeared to be rolled up on while being tackled on a run and his ankle has been giving him some problems throughout the week in practice. Prescott is still fully expected to play but limited mobility could also limit Prescott’s fantasy value in what is a difficult matchup on paper. The Cardinals will likely deploy cornerback Patrick Peterson to shadow Dez Bryant in what is yet again an extraordinarily difficult matchup for the receiver. Bryant has had his struggles, including dropped passes, but his target share has been tremendous and he’s one of the NFL’s most heavily-targeted receivers in the end zone which gives him huge upside even in difficult matchups. Perhaps the most surprising player in the entire Cowboys offense has been veteran tight end Jason Witten who actually leads all tight ends in scoring at the moment, and has already made 17 receptions. He should continue to be a consistent source of low-end TE1 fantasy points even against good defenses like Arizona’s.

ARI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.4
ARI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.22
ARI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.5
ARI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.23

Running Game Thoughts: Ezekiel Elliott’s struggles against the Broncos have become a major source of conversation within the fantasy community, but one thing’s for sure – the Cowboys are going to do everything they can to make sure that never happens again. Elliott’s eight rushing yards on nine attempts was by far the worst performance of his career but it’s still just one game, on the road against a very good Denver defense. The Cardinals defense is nothing to overlook but they’ve gone up against two of the worst rushing offenses in the league to start the season in Detroit and Indianapolis, so their numbers are a bit inflated. With Prescott hobbled a bit with an ankle injury, look for the Cowboys to get back to their bread and butter – running the football. It would be surprising if Elliott does not touch the ball 20 times in this game, so he’s a pretty safe option even in what could be a somewhat difficult matchup.

Value Meter:
QB2: Dak Prescott
RB1: Ezekiel Elliott
WR1: Dez Bryant (low-end)
TE1: Jason Witten
Bench: Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Brice Butler

Passing Game Thoughts: Carson Palmer will be one of the hotter streaming options at the quarterback position this week as he goes up against a Dallas Cowboys defense that gave up a ridiculous four touchdown passes to Trevor Siemian in Week 2. The Cowboys looked completely incapable of stopping anything that the Broncos wanted to do and that bodes well for a struggling Cardinals offense that is still looking to find its identity without running back David Johnson. The team has seen some impressive things out of wide receiver J.J. Nelson who has scored in each of the Cardinals’ first two games this season, including an impressive five-catch, 120-yard performance in Week 2 against the Colts. Nelson is one of the top waiver wire additions this week due to his big play ability, but it’s worth noting that he’s seeing about the same number of snaps and targets as Jaron Brown and significantly fewer than Larry Fitzgerald. Nelson will continue to have big plays here and there but his small frame is not exactly designed to withstand a huge target share on a week-to-week basis. Still, in the short-term, this is an excellent matchup for Nelson, Fitzgerald, Brown and the whole Cardinals passing game. The Cowboys secondary is in shambles right now and there’s little reason to believe that they’re suddenly going to make huge improvements.

DAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.12
DAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.6
DAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.12
DAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.17

Running Game Thoughts: We got our first glimpse of the David Johnson-less Cardinals running in Week 2 and unfortunately it appears that we’re in a full blown committee situation. Kerwynn Williams and Chris Johnson split most of the work on rushing downs but it was actually Andre Ellington who led the team with 30 snaps, which he only converted into 11 rushing yards and three receptions for 12 yards. Ellington appears to be the passing down back but with head coach Bruce Arians refusing to name a starter but hinting at a bigger workload for Chris Johnson heading into Week 3, there is belief that CJ?K may have played himself into a bigger role. The Cowboys run defense didn’t look good against the Broncos but they did hold the Giants to 30 rushing yards in Week 1, so chances are that they’re not terrible against the run. Don’t bother with the Arizona backfield until we get a better idea of what they’re going to do going forward.

Value Meter:
QB1: Carson Palmer (low-end)
WR2: Larry Fitzgerald
WR3: J.J. Nelson
Flex: Jaron Brown, Chris Johnson
Bench: Kerwynn Williams, Andre Ellington, Troy Niklas

Prediction: Cowboys 27, Cardinals 20 ^ Top

Falcons @ Lions - (Swanson)

Passing Game Thoughts: The transition from Kyle Shanahan to Steve Sarkisian as offensive coordinator has started off well for an Atlanta Falcons team that ranks eighth in total yards and seventh in total points through the first two weeks of the season. With wins over the Bears Week 1 and a lopsided victory at home against the Green Bay Packers, the Falcons sit tied atop the NFC South with the Carolina Panthers.

From a fantasy perspective, the passing offense for the Falcons has yet to live up to expectations. A negative game script against the Packers fueled by a defensive score forced Atlanta to a run-heavy second half, and the team's success running the ball in the red zone with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman has limited Ryan to just two passing touchdowns this season. Also, the popular narrative of Sarkisian looking to target Julio Jones more in the red zone has yet to translate to touchdowns.

The Detroit pass defense that ranked near the bottom in nearly every statistical category last year has been surprisingly effective in 2017, limiting opposing quarterbacks to just two passing touchdowns, while intercepting four passes. They will face their toughest matchup of the season with the Falcons balanced passing attack, especially Atlanta’s ability to stretch the field with Taylor Gabriel and Julio Jones.

Jones ranks fourth in the league in receiving yards (174) but has yet to score a touchdown while receiving a surprisingly low number of targets (14). Top cornerback Darius Slay will be given the task of shutting down Jones, although Slay does not always shadow the number one wideout of the opposition.

A big reason for the early success of the Lions has been their ability to pressure and sack the quarterback, especially Eli Manning behind a terrible New York Giants offensive line. If the Alex Mack-led offensive line for the Falcons can keep Matt Ryan’s jersey clean, the Falcons should be able to move the ball and score points against Detroit. If Ziggy Ansah and the Lions pass rush creates havoc in the backfield similar to what they have done in their first two games, Ryan and the Falcons could be in for a long day.

DET FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.22
DET FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.21
DET FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.21
DET FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.10

Running Game Thoughts: The tandem of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman is once again a potent 1-2 punch for the Falcons, with Freeman leading the duo in attempts (31), yards (121), and touchdowns (3). Freeman’s 65 red zone touches in the red zone touches since the start of the 2016 season is the second-most in the NFL, making him an elite RB option in all formats.

Despite only 14 carries and six receptions, Coleman is averaging more points per game than Ezekiel Elliott, Mark Ingram, Le’Veon Bell, and Jordan Howard. Before leaving with a wrist injury, David Johnson was held in check by the Lions rush defense to the turn of 23 yards on 11 carries. However, Johnson did have success in the short passing game with six catches for 68 yards, and both Falcons running backs are skilled pass catchers.

Value Meter:
QB1: Matt Ryan (Mid-Range)
RB1: Devonta Freeman (Mid-Range)
WR1: Julio Jones (High-End)
TE2: Austin Hooper (High-End)
Flex: Tevin Coleman (High-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Matthew Stafford is tied with Trevor Siemian for the league lead with six passing touchdowns over the first two games of the year, highlighted by his four-touchdown performance Week 1 against the Cardinals. The addition of rookie Kenny Golladay gives Stafford a second deep threat along with Marvin Jones, and another big red zone threat to target with fades and jump ball throws.

With 14 receptions for 132 yards on 16 targets, Golden Tate continues to be a PPR beast as Stafford’s favorite underneath and short yardage target. Over the past two seasons, the Falcons have been one of the worst teams at defending passes to running backs, and wide receivers like Tate who patrol the short yardage throws, making Tate a nice option along with Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah.

The loss of Vic Beasley to a hamstring tear takes away Atlanta’s top sack specialist, while the revamped Lions offensive line with T.J. Lang and Rick Wagner has done an excellent job of protecting Stafford this season (four sacks allowed in two games). Getting pressure on Stafford will be a key for defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel, who may need to blitz more than usual with the absence of Beasley.

ATL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.10
ATL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.3
ATL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.17
ATL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.16

Running Game Thoughts: The Bears and Packers proved with four touchdowns and 166 yards on 31 carries that you can run the ball and score touchdowns against the Falcons. Only the Patriots and Jets have allowed more points to opposing running backs this year, making Ameer Abdulla a viable No.2 RB start Week 3. Abdullah struggled to find running room against the Cardinals Week 1, but he set a career high with 86 yards on 17 carries Week 2 against a tough Giants run defense. Look for Abdulla to reach pay dirt this weekend with close to 100 combined rushing and receiving yards.

A positive game script fueled by a high-scoring Atlanta offense could mean more receptions out of the backfield for Theo Riddick, the most polished receiving back in the Detroit backfield. Although the former Norte Dame golden domer managed just three catches for 17 years against the Giants Week 2, a stat line similar to his six receptions for 27 yards and a score against Arizona is not out of the question.

Value Meter:
QB1: Matthew Stafford (High-End)
RB2: Ameer Abdullah (Low-End)
WR2: Golden Tate (High-End)
WR3: Kenny Golladay (Mid-Range)
WR3: Marvin Jones (Low-End)
TE1: Eric Ebron (Mid-Range)
Flex: Theo Riddick (High-End)

Prediction: Falcons 28, Lions 24 ^ Top

Benglas @ Packers - (Swanson)

Passing Game Thoughts: Two home games without an offensive touchdown and a start wide receiver unhappy with play calling is a recipe for an offensive coordinator change. With Ken Zampese out and quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor taking the reins of the Bengal offense, there is hope in Cinci that the Andy Dalton led offense will finally start to click in 2017.

Lazor has been a part of numerous NFL coaching staffs, including a stint as the OC in Miami and a member of Chip Kelly’s offensive staff in Philly. Playing a fast paced style of offense like Kelly’s is not going to gel with Marvin Lewis’ old-school smash-mouth philosophy. But one thing is clear, look for Lazor to simplify the offense and actively target A.J. Green in the passing game. Green was an outspoken critic of Zampese’s scheme and one of the main catalysts for the alleged “mutiny” in the Bengals locker room that forced Lewis to make a change. I would be shocked if Green did not receive at least ten targets on Sunday against the Packers.

The question is will the offensive line given Dalton enough time to stretch the field and connect with Green on those targets. The Bengals lost their two starting tackles to free agency over the offseason and newly acquired Cedric Ogbuehi, and Jake Fisher have been dreadful this season.

CIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.28
CIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.9
CIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.31
CIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.32

Running Game Thoughts: Many fantasy owners are wondering if the change in offensive coordinator will lead to a change in running back scheme, with hyper-touted rookie Joe Mixon getting the lion’s share of carries. The carry distribution through two games is split nearly evenly between Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard, and Mixon, with Mixon receiving five more touches than his backfield mates, yet posting the least amount of success with 45 yards on 17 carries for a 2.6 YPC average.

Lewis is an old school coach who likes to lean on his trusted players, making it difficult for a rookie like Mixon to become a bell cow over vets like Bernard and Hill. Regardless of who gets the carries, the Bengals will need to run the ball to keep the football out of Aaron Rodgers’ hands, while giving Dalton balance and keeping the Packers’ pass rush in check. Seattle struggled to run the ball Week 1, but the Falcons were much more successful, with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combining for 126 yards and three total touchdowns out of the backfield.

Value Meter:
QB2: Andy Dalton (Mid-Range)
RB2: Joe Mixon (Low-End)
RB3: Giovani Bernard (Mid-Range)
WR1: A.J. Green (Elite)
WR4: Brandon LaFell (Low-End)
TE3: Tyler Eifert (Mid-Range) - Injury

Passing Game Thoughts: Injuries to tackles Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari have severely limited Aaron Rodgers’ ability to read the defense and make plays down the field. The leaky offensive line has allowed seven sacks on Rodgers in the first two games and countless hard hits to the franchise quarterback, including a brutal sack-fumble caused by Vic Beasley that led to a Falcons defensive touchdown last week.

In addition to offensive line injuries, a quad injury to top receiver Jody Nelson has a direct effect on Rodgers and the Packer offense struggling to move the ball last week against Atlanta. On a positive note, Nelson participated in full in practice on Wednesday and Bulaga appears to be on track to play against the Bengals.

Through two games, the Bengals have allowed the fifth-fewest points to opposing quarterbacks and just one passing touchdown. That stat should be taken with a grain of salt, as Joe Flacco threw a career-low 17 pass attempts in a lopsided Week 1 game that was filled with turnovers by Andy Dalton, and rookie Deshaun Watson and the Texans are a struggling young offense looking for an identity.

Two key matchups in this game are the Bengals defensive line against the turnstile Packers offensive line and cornerback Adam Jones outside against Jordy Nelson. Although the Bengals have struggled to score a touchdown this season on offense, the defensive unit is tied for third in the league with eight sacks.

GB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.27
GB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.10
GB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.15
GB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.31

Running Game Thoughts: As the clear bell cow running back for the Packers, Ty Montgomery ranks third in the league in fantasy points with just over 19 points per game. Although the former Stanford Cardinal is averaging a pedestrian 3.1 yards per carry, his usage in the passing game and his ability to get red zone touches makes him an elite play this week against a Bengals team that allowed over 100 yards rushing in both games this season.

Michael Cohen of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote on Wednesday that the Packers will likely begin to start limiting Montgomery’s snaps in hopes of keeping him healthy and fresh for the long season. Montgomery leads all running backs in snaps this season, a whopping 15 more than second place Ezekiel Elliott, who has 123 snaps through two games.

Limiting Montgomery would not be the worst thing in the world for fantasy owners, as fewer touches between the 30’s could keep Monty spry for the entire season while giving him more burst and energy for the all-important red zone touches.

Value Meter:
QB1: Aaron Rodgers (Elite)
RB1: Ty Montgomery (Low-End)
WR1: Davante Adams (Mid-Range)
WR3: Jordy Nelson (Mid-Range) - Injury Concern
WR3: Randall Cobb (High-End)
TE1: Martellus Bennett (Mid-Range)

Prediction: Green Bay 27, Cincinnati 10 ^ Top

Buccaneers @ Vikings - (Swanson)

Passing Game Thoughts: A Week 2 cakewalk at home over the Bears was an easy start for a Bucs team that missed their opening week game against the Dolphins due to hurricane Irma. A Week 3 road matchup against a tough Vikings defense in front of a loud crowd at US Bank Field will be a much more difficult challenge for Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay offense. The Vikings held Drew Brees and the Saints to one garbage touchdown late in the fourth quarter, salvaging what could have been a dreadful day for Brees fantasy owners.

A matchup to watch is Xavier Rhodes on Mike Evans on the outside, as Rhodes limited Antonio Brown to five catches for 62 yards last week and Michael Thomas to five catches for 52 yards Week 1. This could be a big game for free agent acquisition DeSean Jackson, who may have better success stretching the field behind a Harrison Smith, a fairly aggressive safety who excels in run support.

The success of Jacquizz Rodgers and the run game is a key for Jameis Winston in the passing game, as you can beat Minnesota’s linebackers on seam routes off of play action. If Rodgers and Charles Simms can provide enough of a threat on the ground to get Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks to bit on the play action, Winston should be able to test corners Trae Waynes and Terrence Newman.

MIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.16
MIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.27
MIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.8
MIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.14

Running Game Thoughts: Running against the Vikings has been an exercise in futility in 2017, with the trio of Saints running backs combining for 53 yards on 19 carries for a sub-three YPC average, and Le’Veon Bell managing just 87 yards on 27 carries Week 2. With Bell managing just 3.2 yards per attempt at home with a talented run-blocking offensive line in Pittsburgh, it begs the question, how will the Bucs have success this week on the road in Minnesota?

Perhaps Rodgers will have success catching the ball out of the backfield similar to the Saints, who managed 74 yards on nine catches to their tailbacks. But that passing back success did not carry over to Bell, who posted his second-worst regular season receiving total of his career at just four yards on four receptions.

Regardless of how Rodgers gets his touches, he does not project well to having a strong performance in Week 3, and fantasy owners may want to look elsewhere.

Value Meter:
QB2: Jameis Winston (High-End)
RB2: Jacquizz Rodgers (Low-End)
WR1: Mike Evans (High-End)
WR2: DeSean Jackson (Mid-Range)
TE2: Cameron Brate (Mid-Range)

Passing Game Thoughts: Case Keenum and his pedestrian 167 yards and zero touchdowns on 20-of-37 passing proved just how vital Sam Bradford is to the Vikings and the overall success of the skill position players in both the passing and run game for Minnesota. After a massive 7/93/2 game against the Saints on Monday Night Football to kick off the year, Stefon Diggs was held to just two catches for 27 yards on six targets. Adam Theilen also saw his production fall off the cliff from 9/157/0 Week 1 to just five catches for 44 yards against the Steelers. Part of the decrease in production for Diggs and Theilen can be attributed to a more challenging matchup on the road against Pittsburgh, but the loss of Bradford, a far more accurate and talented quarterback that Keenum, drastically hurt the value of all skill position players on the Vikings.

As of Thursday, Bradford has been a limited participant in practice despite telling reporters on Wednesday that he is optimistic about his chances for playing Sunday. If Bradford is active, Diggs, Theilen, and tight end Kyle Rudolph will all get a bump in their respective rankings. If Keenum is under center, all Vikings skill position players should be downgraded against a good, but not great Tampa Bay defense that held Chicago scoreless for most of the game Week 2.

Kyle Rudolph could be in line for bounce-back game after posting a disappointing 3/26/0 line last week against the Steelers. Over the past 16 games, the Bucs have been stingy at allowing receiving touchdowns to opposing tight ends, but they have allowed impressive yardage and catch totals to Kelce (7/108), Witten (10/81), and Olsen (9/181).

TB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.17
TB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.32
TB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.6
TB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.25

Running Game Thoughts: The Buccaneers held Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard to a combined 20 yards on 11 carries last week, with Howard managing just seven yards on nine attempts before leaving early with an injury. Using stats from this game to project rookie Dalvin Cook’s stats this week is a poor measuring tool due the lopsided game script, but the Bucs did have success against the run last year by allowing only two back to rush for more than 100 yards in a game, including Ezekiel Elliott’s impressive 23/159/1 game Week 15.

Cook will be heavily utilized in this game in both the passing and ground game and may see paydirt for the first time in his young career. Despite Keenum’s inability to move the ball in the air and sustain drives, Cook played well with 64 yards on 12 carries for a 5.3 YPC average. For the Vikings to be successful and pull out the victory with Keenum under center, Cook and the rushing game will need to be a focal point of their attack.

Value Meter:
QB3: Case Keenum (Low-End)
RB2: Dalvin Cook (High-End)
WR2: Stefon Diggs (Mid-Range)
WR3: Adam Thielen (High-End)
TE1: Kyle Rudolph (Low-End)

Prediction: Tampa Bay 21, Minnesota 7 ^ Top

Steelers @ Bears - (Swanson)

Passing Game Thoughts: Season-ending injuries to linebackers Jerrell Freeman and Kick Kwiatkoski are significant blows to a defense that allowed the 24th-most points in 2016. The Bears are off to another poor start by allowing 321 yards and a touchdown to Matt Ryan and 204 yards and a score in just over a half of action to Jameis Winston Week 2.

The Ben Roethlisberger home vs. away split has been talked about ad nauseam over the past four seasons in the fantasy community, but a plus-10 point average at home vs. on the road is eye-opening and should be considered. But not this week against a Bears team that will give numerous short fields due to turnovers and terrible play by a Mike Glennon-led offense that cannot sustain drives or protect the ball.

All Steeler skill position players should be started with confidence in this game, although defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s scheme has done a decent job in limiting monster games from opposing No.1 wideouts. Antonio Brown should be started in all formats, but a monster game from No. 84 may not be in the cards.

The loss of two starting linebackers and Big Ben’s comfort level in Jessie James could make James a sneaky start in standard formats. James will not get enough target volume to make him a viable start in PPR leagues, but a touchdown throw to the outlaw could be in line this week against the Bears.

CHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.20
CHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.17
CHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.16
CHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.6

Running Game Thoughts: The volume one would expect for Le’Veon Bell returned last week after the Steelers eased in their superstar running back Week 1 against the Browns. The results were not there, however, with Bell managing just 87 yards on 27 carries against a difficult Minnesota rush defense. Look for that to change this week against the Bears, with Bell converting 25-plus touches into at least 100 combined yards and a score.

Vegas has an implied total for the Steelers at 27 points, which considering Big Ben’s road woes, it appears that even the sharps project for Bell to have a big day on Sunday. The Bears have allowed a touchdown to an opposing running back in each of their first two games, with Jacquizz Rodgers and Peyton Barber combining to top the century mark last week. All signs point to Bell having a strong week, and he is a must-start in all formats.

Value Meter:
QB1: Ben Roethlisberger (Low-End)
RB1: Le’Veon Bell (Elite)
WR1: Antonio Brown (Elite)
WR2: Martavis Bryant (Low-End)
TE3: Jesse James (High-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Most people scoffed when the Bears offered Mike Glennon a 3-year, $45 million contract this past offseason, as it seemed a bit extreme to give a career-backup QB with mediocre stats a sizable contract. Glennon has done nothing to prove his detractors wrong, completing 57 of his first 85 passes for 514 yards and two scores in his first two games. His QBR rating of 32.4 is seventh-worst in the league, behind Case Keenum and Jared Goff.

In Glennon’s defense, he lost his two starting wide receivers in Kevin White and Cam Meredith, and the ragtag collection of wide receivers left on the roster have not helped him out with a league-worst six dropped passes in two games.

Obviously, Glennon is not worthy of a start in anything but deep two-quarterback leagues, and the wide receiving tandem of Kendall Wright, Josh Bellamy, and Deonte Thompson should be avoided as well. Over the past 18 games, the Steelers have given up the 15th-most points to opposing tight ends, making Zach Miller a consideration in deeper leagues. But the only Bear you can start with confidence in the passing game is running back Tarik Cohen, who continues to be a PPR monster and a focal point of the offense.

PIT FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.23
PIT FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.24
PIT FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.25
PIT FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.20

Running Game Thoughts: A shoulder injury, a diminished workload, and a negative game script make 2016 darling Jordan Howard a red flag play this week against the Steelers. Although Dalvin Cook managed over five-yards per carry last week, Howard will be lucky to get the 16 carries Cook managed in that game, with rookie sensation Tarik Cohen pilfering Howard’s work in the passing game. Of the two backs, Cohen is the play here regardless of format, but exponentially more in PPR formats where Cohen leads all running backs in targets (21) so far this season.

Value Meter:
QB3: Mike Glennon (Low-End)
RB2: Tarik Cohen (High-End)
RB 3: Jordan Howard (Mid-Range)
WR3: Kendall Wright (Low-End)
TE2: Zach Miller (Mid-Range)

Prediction: Steelers 34, Bears 10 ^ Top

Seahawks at Titans - (Soler)

Passing Game Thoughts: With Seattle struggling mightily to start the year, it’s easy to dismiss the team’s offensive hopes on the road in Tennessee. Still, the connection between quarterback Russell Wilson and receiver Doug Baldwin is one with proven success. Even with Paul Richardson (12 targets) becoming more involved in the offense, Baldwin leads the team with 13. Expect Wilson to lean on his top target against a Titans team surrendering the third most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. Jimmy Graham has yet to practice due to an ankle injury, hindering his chances of playing on Sunday. Graham has been a total non-factor through two games, hauling in just four receptions for 10 yards. Luke Wilson and Nick Vannett would step in if Graham can’t go which would make this a tight end situation one to avoid. Things may look dire for the Seahawks, specifically due to the offensive line, but a nice matchup in Week 3 puts them in a spot to bounce back. As a Baldwin owner myself, I’m breathing easy.... you should too.

TEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.13
TEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.19
TEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.7
TEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.28

Running Game Thoughts: Eddie Lacy’s move from Green Bay to Seattle is already fading away from fantasy relevance. A healthy scratch this past week, Lacy is a non-factor in Week 3. Instead, it’s rookie Chris Carson who fills the void on the ground. He will still need to compete with Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise for touches but he’s really the only one you can justify using at this point. Carson leads the team at 26 touches while Prosise is filling in as the primary pass-catching option. Prosise has six targets out of the backfield, a facet of the game Carson won’t be viable in. That leaves Rawls, a back who is still being eased into the offense after returning from injury. If it sounds like a mess, that’s because it kind of is. Carson is a usable flex piece this week with the potential for more in the future.

Value Meter:
QB1: Russell Wilson (low-end)
WR1: Doug Baldwin (low-end)
Flex: Chris Carson
TE1: Jimmy Graham (low-end, if he plays)
Bench: Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls, C.J. Prosise, Paul Richardson

Passing Game Thoughts: Third year passer Marcus Mariota has made the Tennessee offense exciting to watch. Unfortunately, a tough matchup with the Seattle defense puts a temporary damper on the hype. The Seahawks already held Aaron Rodgers largely in check in Green Bay, so a homefield advantage doesn’t factor in for Mariota. Having said that, the Titans do have the weapons to put pressure on the secondary. Corey Davis has already been ruled out due to a lingering hamstring injury, leaving Rishard Matthews, Eric Decker, and Delanie Walker at Mariota’s disposal. The target share among them has been evenly distributed thus far. Davis, Decker, and Walker all have 13 a piece while Matthews barely edges them out at 14. It’s unclear where those empty targets will go with Davis out, but the safe money is on a continued even split. If anything, Walker should be able to pad his lead as the team’s top receiving option. He has 11 receptions for 137 yards through two weeks and remains a strong TE1. He’s the only player in the passing game you can count on this week.

SEA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.29
SEA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.16
SEA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.19
SEA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.26

Running Game Thoughts: Derrick Henry took over for a banged up DeMarco Murray (hamstring) in Week 2, a storyline that weighs heavy on Sunday’s game against the Seahawks. Effectiveness aside, Murray’s health could easily dictate how much Henry is involved going forward. Whoever gets the upcoming start will have the unfortunate burden of running up against a tough Seattle defense. The numbers don’t tell us much here. It’s all about Murray’s hamstring and the matchup. This could be anything from an even split to one guy dominating the other in snaps. Even if Murray sits, Henry isn’t the slam-dunk RB1 you might think. If both play, you’d be wise to avoid the situation if you can.

Value Meter:
QB2: Marcus Mariota (high-end)
RB2: DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry (low-end, murky situation)
FLEX: Rishard Matthews, Eric Decker
TE1: Delanie Walker (even stronger play in PPR)

Prediction: Seattle 20, Tennessee 17 ^ Top

Browns at Colts - (Soler)

Passing Game Thoughts: DeShone Kizer is in a prime spot for what could be a breakout game against a cupcake defense in Indianapolis. The Colts are in desperate need of their top cornerback in Vontae Davis who remains out with a groin injury although he could suit up this week. His absence would allow for Kizer to lean on newly established No. 1 receiver Rashard Higgins. Higgins is coming off an impressive outing against the Ravens in which he haualed in seven caches for 95 yards. Perhaps more importantly is that he was on the field for 12 more snaps than Kenny Britt, who seems to be lacking motivation. Higgins is locked in to the top spot and has WR3/flex appeal in Week 3.

IND FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.11
IND FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.20
IND FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.2
IND FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.18

Running Game Thoughts: Isaiah Crowell has been open in expressing his desire to be more involved in the offense. Head coach Hue Jackson does love himself some ground and pound so there’s reason to believe this turns out to be more than background noise. Crowell hasn’t been able to do much at just 2.6 YPC, but he does have strong RB2 potential. That’s especially true with the Colts on deck. Indy’s weakness may through the air, but they’re no juggernaut defending the run. Look for a steady balance of run and pass, keeping Crowell involved enough to contribute for fantasy. Lastly, Duke Johnson was once a PPR darling but has since evaporated to the tune of nine touches over two games. The snap count (87) is there, the production is not.

Value Meter:
QB2: DeShone Kizer (mid-range)
RB2: Isaiah Crowell
WR3: Rashard Higgins
Bench: Duke Johnson, Kenny Britt

Passing Game Thoughts: Poor T.Y. Hilton has been subjected to quarterbacks Scott Tolzien and Jacoby Brissett to start the year. WIth an Andrew Luck return nowhere in sight, Hilton’s fantasy stock is plummeting. He hasn’t even established the bulk of the target share either. He may have the most (13), but Donte Moncrief, Kamar Aiken, and tight end Jack Doyle all have 11 each. Without Luck, I’d recommend making other plans at wide receiver. Shockingly, Jack Doyle has been able to return low-end TE1 value despite not having a superstar quarterback throwing to him. He’s the true top pass-catcher on the team right now and Brissett should be able to keep Doyle heavily involved.

CLE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.15
CLE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.14
CLE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.22
CLE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.2

Running Game Thoughts: I’ve been a fan of Frank Gore for the entirety of his NFL career. Super underrated, always a fantasy asset. This year, however, the Colts have been featuring Robert Turbin and Marlon Mack consistently, putting a dent in Gore’s stock. He does remain the back you want, especially facing a Browns team that gave up the second most yards on the ground in 2016. For as bad as the Colts are right now, Gore represents a small sliver of hope for the team’s immediate fantasy production and should be considered a strong Flex play with the highest probability of any Colts player to find the endzone.

UPDATE: RB Marlon Mack has been ruled out. Matt Jones has been promoted from the practice squad. Expect Turbin to fill the No.2 role.

Value Meter:
WR3: T.Y. Hilton (hard to bench, low expectations)
FLEX: Frank Gore
TE1: Jack Doyle (low-end)
Bench: Donte Moncrief (unusable until Luck returns)

Prediction: Browns 24, Colts 14 ^ Top

Ravens at Jaguars (London) - (Soler)

Passing Game Thoughts: The split between receivers Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin is far greater than anticipated. Wallace has been invisible netting two receptions on four targets through two games. Maclin however, has gone six of nine, establishing himself as Joe Flacco’s top option at wide receiver. As far as Flacco is concerned, he’ll need to pick up his production if he’s going to be considered anything more than a bye-week filler. He currently ranks 26th among fantasy quarterbacks with just 338 passing yards through two games and the Ravens rank dead last in pass attempts (51) among teams that have played two games.

The Ravens draw a much improved Jacksonville defense this week in a game that could be low scoring (39.5 total). The biggest defensive storyline is that Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey could miss this game, opening things up in the secondary. Mike Wallace could benefit from Ramsey being out, but you’d have to desperate to roll him out there. Maclin is certainly usable given his newfound usage. Speaking of usage, Ben Watson is starting to be featured in the passing game as well. Coming off of a game in which he converted eight of nine targets for 91 yards, Watson is a sneaky add for owners hurting at the tight end position this week.

JAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.24
JAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.11
JAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.27
JAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.3

Running Game Thoughts: Terrance West was enjoying a nice start to the year before leaving Week 2 with a thigh injury. Now the lead dog by default, Javorius Allen is a decent play against a soft Jacksonville front. The Ravens are committed to running the ball, especially given their lack of true firepower. Allen and West were on pace to essentially splitting the workload. Allen’s 35 attempts compared to West’s 27 aren’t that far apart yet they’d be even closer if West hadn’t gotten hurt. If West is indeed ruled out, Alex Collins would step in as the change of pace back. That alone should put Collins in flex consideration in deeper PPR leagues. Part of the key to Baltimore’s success out of the backfield is their ability to feature multiple backs at once by virtue of involving them in the passing game. Both West and Allen will be usable while healthy. As far as this week is concerned, Allen has a fairly high floor.

Value Meter:
QB2: Joe Flacco
RB2: Javorius Allen (stronger play if West is out)
FLEX: Jeremy Maclin, Terrance West (if active, Alex Collins if not)
TE2: Ben Watson (deep league play)
Bench: Mike Wallace

Passing Game Thoughts: The loss of Allen Robinson paved the way for Marqise Lee to see 12 targets against the Titans last week. As expected, Allen Hurns was involved as well with seven looks of his own. This figures to be a situation where each receiver will eat into the other, limiting their fantasy upside. Facing a potent Baltimore defense won’t do them any favors this week. Blake Bortles is likely going to be slinging it wildly ad nauseam as he typically does, playing right into the Ravens ability to force turnovers. There’s a real possibility the Jaguars offense doesn’t see the field enough to have a ton of passing attempts. We’ve seen the Jags produce multiple fantasy receivers simultaneously, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that both Lee and Hurns can contribute. For this week, though, they’re deep flex plays.

BAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.25
BAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.26
BAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.29
BAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.11

Running Game Thoughts: Leonard Fournette is turning out to be the beast he was hyped up to be. Dominating rushing attempts (40), Fournette is not threatened by Chris Ivory or T.J. Yeldon. Sure, Ivory is still involved, but he’s nowhere close to hindering Fournette’s usage. Fournette is a true RB1 who will face his toughest challenge of the season when the Jags host the Ravens in London. Again, the Baltimore-D is legit, but Fournette is talented enough to produce. He’s looking like one of those matchup proof rushers who you can easily set and forget.

Value Meter:
QB2: Blake Bortles
RB1: Leonard Fournette
Flex: Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns

Prediction: Ravens 17, Jaguars 10 ^ Top

Saints at Panthers - (Soler)

Passing Game Thoughts: Always notorious for spreading the ball around, quarterback Drew Brees has managed to make every receiver not named Michael Thomas moot. Ted Ginn Jr., Brandon Coleman, Coby Fleener, Mark Ingram, and Alvin Kamara are all flirting around 10 targets give or take. The receivers out of that group, Ginn and Coleman, aren’t doing enough to warrant using in any capacity. The answer to the question of “who is the No. 2 in New Orleans?” seems to be Fleener. Fleener has been great thus far, hauling in eight grabs for 87 yards and two scores. Given the current state of the tight end position, that’s superstar status through two weeks. Looking at Sunday’s game in Carolina, the Saints will likely struggle on the road the way they usually do, limiting upside across the board. Given Carolina’s first two opponents in the 49ers and Bills, it’s difficult to gauge whether or not their defense is any good. Your best bet is to start who you normally would in Brees, Thomas, and Fleener while ignoring the rest.

CAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.32
CAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.31
CAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.32
CAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.29

Running Game Thoughts: Ingram and Kamara are joined by Adrian Peterson in a backfield that’s kind of an enigma. Ingram has been the most productive by far, especially considering his contributions in the passing game. It’s for that reason that he’s the only one of this group you can lean on against the Panthers. Peterson has just as many carries as Ingram at 14, but there’s no telling how many snaps he’ll even be on the field for at any given time. Ingram qualifies as a flex this week with a bump up in PPR. His seven receptions out of the backfield ranks seventh among running backs to start the year. Kamara needs to be owned everywhere. The upside is there especially in PPR leagues but he’s too much of an unknown to consider him as a viable fantasy starter right now.

Value Meter:
QB1: Drew Brees
WR1: Michael Thomas
TE1: Coby Fleener
FLEX: Mark Ingram (bumps up to an RB2 in PPR)
Bench: Ted Ginn Jr., Brandon Coleman, Alvin Kamara, Adrian Peterson

Passing Game Thoughts: Greg Olsen going down with a foot injury leaves a huge hole in Carolina’s passing game. The most obvious scenario is that Kelvin Benjamin will become more heavily involved. Hey, just because it’s obvious doesn’t make it any less true. Benjamin has shown he can be a fantasy contributor when his usage is consistent. Already his team’s receiving leader in both targets (13) and yards (102), Benjamin is in line for an uptick in fantasy points over the next few weeks. As an added bonus, Benjamin’s first outing post-Greg Olsen injury is against the Saints. The Saints may very well have the worst defense in the league, a notion that will easily play into Benjamin’s hands. In fact, New Orleans has allowed the most fantasy points to both opposing wide receivers and quarterbacks making Newton a viable QB1 this week. The big question for Newton is can he still get it done with his legs? Devin Funchess is another candidate for higher usage and should be considered as Flex options with Olsen out of the picture. We’re looking at a Panthers team that is poised for a ton of fantasy contribution in Week 3.

NO FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.1
NO FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.4
NO FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.1
NO FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.4

Running Game Thoughts: Given how many owners drafted Christian McCaffrey as early as the second round, his lack of both production and usage is disheartening. With 21 rushing attempts to Jonathan Stewart’s 33, this is much more of a “hot hand” approach than anything else. As expected, McCaffrey does have more value in PPR leagues than Stewart even though Stewart has the lone receiving TD between them. We’ve established that this week’s matchup against the Saints is a dream scenario. The combination of offensive philosophy and opponent make the Panthers one of the rare breed of teams where you can start more than one running back any given week. Both McCaffrey and Stewart should be viewed as RB2s with McCaffrey getting the edge in PPR, Stewart in standard.

Value Meter:
QB1: Cam Newton (top five play this week)
RB2: Christian McCaffrey, Jonathan Stewart
WR2: Kelvin Benjamin (high-end)
Flex: Devin Funchess (deeper play)

Prediction: Panthers 30, Saints 24 ^ Top

Broncos at Bills - (Katz)

Passing Game Thoughts: Two weeks into the 2017 season and Trevor Siemian leads the NFL in passing touchdowns. We all saw that one coming. As has been the case since Emmanuel Sanders signed in Denver, the Broncos only have two relevant pass catchers: Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. Each saw eight targets last week and each caught six, combining for 133 yards. Sanders was the one who found the end zone twice. Thomas was drafted about two rounds ahead of Sanders, but the reality is both of them are low end WR2s that become WR1s if they score. Siemian has emerged into a viable streaming option and while the Bills have opened the season with two strong defensive efforts, one was against the Jets and the other was against Cam Newton. Yes, I mean that in a disparaging sense. This is not an imposing matchup for the Broncos and Siemian could return decent value if your shaky at the QB position.

BUF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.26
BUF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.30
BUF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.28
BUF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.22

Running Game Thoughts: Jamaal Charles looks really good. He looks like Jamaal Charles. He has elite RB1 upside in this offense for as long as he can stay healthy…if CJ Anderson were to get hurt. Until that happens, Charles is merely one of the best handcuffs in the league. Anderson looked as good as I’ve ever seen him against the Cowboys’ typically staunch run defense. He was making decisive cuts and more impressively, was exceedingly difficult to tackle. If he doesn’t get hurt, he could end up being a league winning pick. This is a game the Broncos should control defensively so Anderson is a near lock for 20+ touches. He could again return RB1 numbers.

Value Meter:
QB1: Trevor Siemian (low end, but I’m giving him the respect he’s earned thus far)
RB2: C.J. Anderson (high end)
WR2: Demaryius Thomas
WR2: Emmanuel Sanders
Bench: Jamaal Charles

Passing Game Thoughts: Tyrod Taylor is no longer capable of generating any fantasy relevant pass catchers. He displayed his own fantasy floor last week by still reaching double digits due to his rushing numbers. He is always just a touchdown away from pushing into QB1 territory, but he’s totaled just 349 passing yards through two games. LeSean McCoy currently leads the team in receptions (11) while Jordan Matthews and Zay Jones have just 8 combined receptions in two games. They are good players, but the volume just isn’t there. Facing arguably the best pass defense in the NFL this week is not going to help. The Broncos just steamrolled the Cowboys and all signs point to the Bills struggling to move the ball in the air.

DEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.5
DEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.29
DEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.11
DEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.13

Running Game Thoughts: LeSean McCoy had an abysmal Week 2, somehow managing to have more carries (12) than yards (nine). He does have 11 receptions on the year and it appears as though the reports that he may lead the Bills in catches may come to fruition. Mike Tolbert (15 carries) is operating as McCoy’s backup but isn’t a threat to McCoy’s workload. It’s another terrible matchup for the Bills running game after the Brocons somehow held Ezekiel Elliott to fewer rushing yards than McCoy had. However, Shady’s volume is not going anywhere. Absent injury, there is a 100% chance he touches the ball at least 15 times and he really can’t run the ball worse than he did last week. The touchdown upside isn’t there anymore, but Shady is still a volume based PPR RB1 and a high end RB2 in standard.

Value Meter:
RB2: LeSean McCoy (high end)
Bench: All other Bills

Prediction: Broncos 20, Bills 17 ^ Top

Dolphins at Jets - (Katz)

Passing Game Thoughts: After the always popular Week 1 bye, the Dolphins began their season with a cross country trip to Los Angeles where the Chargers did typical Chargers things, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. It appears that talks of Jay Cutler only launching the ball downfield to DeVante Parker were overstated. He peppered Jarvis Landry with target after target, 15 to be exact, to the tune of 78 yards. Landry will be what he’s been his entire career – mediocre in standard and great in PPR. The fact that Cutler was looking Landry’s way a lot is encouraging. As for Parker, he saw nine targets of his own. While he only caught four, the majority of his targets were downfield, which is to be expected for a guy Cutler compared to Alshon Jeffery. This receiving corps is a two-man show, but one you definitely are excited to be a part of as they face the hapless Jets that just gave up three touchdowns to Derek Carr and Michael Crabtree. Everyone gets a bump when they face the Jets.

NYJ FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.3
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.2
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.3
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.12

Running Game Thoughts: Jay Ajayi was a very polarizing player heading into this year’s drafts. We know the talent is there, but he was very dependent on the health of his offensive line and his production in 2016 was centered around his three 200-yard rushing games. Ajayi exploded out of the gate last Sunday and legitimately looked good running the ball. He had a bounce in his step and was eluding would be tacklers like a top end running back. He didn’t score, but he did break 100 yards and most importantly, he dominated carries. Kenyan Drake only touched the ball once compared to Ajayi’s 30 touches (including his two receptions).

The Jets gave up a 43-yard rushing TD to Cordarrelle Patterson last week as well as a 52-yard rushing TD to Jalen Richard. Ajayi is going to have a big week if he plays. His knee injury is reported as minor, but he didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday, so just be sure to check his status. Drake would form an undesirable committee with Damien Williams if Ajayi were unable to play.

Value Meter:
QB1: Jay Cutler (everyone is a QB1 against the Jets)
RB1: Jay Ajayi (high end)
WR2: Jarvis Landry
WR2: DeVante Parker
Bench: Julius Thomas, Kenny Stills, Kenyan Drake

Passing Game Thoughts: The nicest thing I can say about Josh McCown is that he didn’t throw an interception last week. Apparently Jermaine Kearse is a real thing and should be owned in all fantasy leagues. I don’t know how you can confidently start anyone on the Jets, but Kearse has quickly developed a rapport with McCown and four catches for 64 yards isn’t terrible. When you add in the two TDs, you have a WR1 performance. That’s unlikely to repeat itself, but Kearse could be a WR3 if McCown continues to treat him like the Jets best wide receiver. Robby Anderson was a popular late-round flier after Quincy Enunwa went down, but he has yet to materialize into anything useful. He only saw four targets against the Raiders. Austin Seferian-Jenkins returns this week from his two-game suspension and given the state of the TE in 2017, he’s worth a flier on your roster, but you can’t start him just yet. Word is he’s out of shape anyway. On the rare occasion the Jets do find themselves in the red zone, ASJ could emerge as McCown’s go to guy. If you’re a Tyler Eifert or Jimmy Graham owner, ASJ is a no-risk gamble.

MIA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.8
MIA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.18
MIA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.18
MIA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.1

Running Game Thoughts: I spent the majority of the off-season on the Bilal Powell train. I hopped off just before drafts. I am glad I did. Not only is Matt Forte not going away, but Elijah McGuire is firmly in the rotation as well. Forte led the backfield with nine carries last week, while Powell and McGuire saw six each. Powell was the least effective of the bunch, averaging just 2.2 ypc. He also didn’t catch a pass. Powell is bordering on droppable in all formats despite the fact that neither Forte nor McGuire are worth owning either. The Jets are just a fantasy wasteland. The caliber of the opposing defense does not matter much – you just can’t start anyone in this backfield.

Value Meter:
Flex: Jermaine Kearse
Bench: All other Jets

Prediction: Dolphins 20, Jets 16 ^ Top

Texans at Patriots - (Katz)

Passing Game Thoughts: DeAndre Hopkins is going to get all the targets but many of the targets are trash. Deshaun Watson seems incapable of throwing the ball more than 10 yards downfield. His average depth of attempt is just 8.8 yards and he also leads the NFL with 17 interceptable passes despite having played two fewer quarters than the other starting QBs. In Watson’s first full start against a terrible Bengals defense, he failed to generate anything through the air, throwing for just 125 yards. Watson can do enough to make Hopkins a volume based WR2 with WR1 upside if he can find the end zone. However, Watson’s own fantasy value is capped. He is quite adept when he tucks the ball to run and is one of the more elusive running QBs, but his problem is he looks at his first read (usually Hopkins) and if that’s not there, he looks to run. He needs a ton of development in order to become an above average NFL QB and a viable weekly fantasy starter.

The Patriots were angry last week and took out their anger on the Saints, essentially holding them to 13 points before a garbage time TD pushed it to 20. If the Patriots can contain the Saints in the Superdome, what hope do the Texans have to move the ball effectively in Foxboro?

NE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.2
NE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.1
NE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.4
NE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.5

Running Game Thoughts: Bill O’Brien is finally accepting the reality that Lamar Miller isn’t particularly good at football. After dominating carries in Week 1, Miller split with D’Onta Foreman 18-12 in Week 2. Although their yards per carry averages were virtually identical, Foreman looked like the superior player. This is going to become a full blown timeshare sooner rather than later and it wouldn’t surprise me if the scales tipped in Foreman’s favor before season’s end. Miller is nothing more than a weekly RB2 hopeful with limited touchdown potential. He is still the primary receiving back, which will help him retain some value, but there’s no scenario where he provides a positive return on investment. There could be a lot of garbage time this week, but there’s no guarantee it won’t be Foreman in the game to benefit.

Value Meter:
WR3: DeAndre Hopkins (Belichick will take away Texans’ best weapon)
Flex: Lamar Miller
Bench: Deshaun Watson, D’Onta Foreman

Passing Game Thoughts: I wasn’t sure last week. I am now. Tom Brady is once again angry. He took out his anger on the Saints to the tune of 447 yards and three touchdowns, which easily could’ve been four or five. The Patriots came out of the gates firing on all cylinders with Brady leading the aerial assault as the running game took a backseat until it was time to kill the clock. Rob Gronkowski was uncoverable and Chris Hogan had a nice game as well. A quick note on Gronk’s groin tweak: He did not practice Wednesday, but was limited on Thursday. I think he will be ready to go on Sunday.

There are two big talking points from this game. The first: Tom Brady is most definitely not done. In fact, I’ll go on record to predict he’ll finish as the overall QB1 in fantasy this season. The second, is Brandin Cooks. In a game where Brady threw 39 passes, Cooks only saw four targets. That’s not encouraging. Cooks looks fine on the field and he’s getting open, but Brady is not zeroing in on him like I expected. Cooks should’ve had a touchdown in last week’s game, which would’ve made the final line look better, but the reality is, all the fears of the anti Cooks people are coming to fruition – there are just too many mouths to feed. Obviously Cooks can take the top off at any moment and he is going to have his games, but it does not look like the consistency will suddenly appear in New England.

Additionally, Danny Amendola returned to practice Wednesday and will likely play this week. His presence forces a downgrade of Chris Hogan. The Texans have a very good defense, but their offense’s inability to move the ball is going to put the defense in bad situations, which Brady will be able to exploit. I would not downgrade any Patriots because of the matchup.

HOU FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.30
HOU FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.12
HOU FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.30
HOU FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.27

Running Game Thoughts: Mike Gillislee is probably going to score 15 touchdowns this season. If you have him, you have to start him every week because he has the highest probability of scoring out of any RB. The problem of course, is if he doesn’t score, you’re getting RB3 numbers at best. James White is listed at RB, but we all know he doesn’t actually run the ball. White caught all eight of his targets against the Saints and looks every bit like an extremely high floor PPR RB2. With all of the team’s injuries at WR, White’s role is one of the most secure on the team.

Rex Burkhead looked very good last week and caught a beautiful over the top touchdown, but we didn’t see much more from him after he suffered a rib injury. He did not practice Wednesday or Thursday and given his usage thus far, he appears to be nothing more than a situational player for the Patriots. He won’t have fantasy value unless Gillislee or White goes down. The Texans completely shut down the Bengals run game last week, but the Patriots are a different animal. Gillislee and White can be deployed as usual.

Value Meter:
QB1: Tom Brady (top three option as always)
RB2: Mike Gillislee (TD or bust), James White (PPR only)
WR2: Brandin Cooks
Flex: Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan
TE1: Rob Gronkowski (the top option)
Bench: Rex Burkhead, Phillip Dorsett, Dion Lewis

Prediction: Patriots 30, Texans 10 ^ Top

Giants at Eagles - (Katz)

Passing Game Thoughts: Ben McAdoo indicated he could give up play calling duties this week. There’s no way that could possibly hurt the Giants, but it won’t solve Eli Manning’s problem of holding onto the ball too long. Manning’s offensive line is terrible, but even when he was given time, he refused to let go of the ball. I guess I got what I deserved for actually defending Manning last week.

As for Manning’s pass catchers, it’s evident he is missing Odell Beckham. Beckham made his return Monday night, but won’t be 100% for another few weeks as he continues to recover from his high ankle sprain. Without Beckham at full strength, Manning spread the ball around. He completed 22 passes against the Lions to ten different receivers. Beckham and Evan Engram led the team with four receptions each. Engram caught his first career touchdown on broken coverage where he was wide open up the seam despite Manning making Engram leap up to corral the throw. In a year where there are very few relevant fantasy TEs, Engram is as good of a bet as any to emerge. He is without question the second most talented pass catcher the Giants have. Engram was surprisingly placed in the concussion protocol Wednesday, but done so as a precaution. Concussions are tricky so there’s no way of knowing what this will mean, but right now, given he practiced on Thursday, it looks as if Engram will play.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Brandon Marshall’s 84% ownership rate compels me to remind everyone that Brandon Marshall is done. He no longer possesses the ability to play wide receiver in the NFL. The Eagles have done a good job containing number one receivers this season, limiting Terrelle Pryor in Week 1 and Tyreek Hill in Week 2, but they were shredded by Travis Kelce last week. This could be a good spot for Engram as Beckham should be better, but not yet himself.

PHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.18
PHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.13
PHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.24
PHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.9

Running Game Thoughts: I’ve written over a dozen analyses on the Giants running game over the past season and change. They all sound the same. The Giants are completely incapable of running the ball. It’s been that way for a while now. Orleans Darkwa did manage 17 yards on his three carries and Shane Vereen totaled 28 yards on his six carries. However, Ben McAdoo is irrationally infatuated with the worst starting RB in the NFL, Paul Perkins. He only carried the ball seven times, which is an improvement, but in addition to his pathetic rushing total of 10 yards, he missed a number of blocking assignments on passing plays. He led the Giants backfield with as many snaps (28) as Vereen (17) and Darkwa (11) combined. Vereen is the only member of this backfield worth owning based on his PPR floor and the possibility McAdoo makes a change in personnel at the position.

Value Meter:
QB2: Eli Manning
WR2: Odell Beckham Jr. (low end until he gets healthy)
TE1: Evan Engram (low end with touchdown upside)
Bench: Paul Perkins, Shane Vereen, Brandon Marshall

Passing Game Thoughts: Carson Wentz has been a top three fantasy QB through the first two weeks of 2017. In no simpler terms, it is a fluke. In Week 1, he had the fluky long TD to Nelson Agholor. In Week 2, he had the fluky long completion to Zach Ertz at the end of the first half as well as 55 rushing yards.

Alshon Jeffery saw 13 targets last week, catching seven for 92 yards and a score. Zach Ertz caught half of his 10 targets for 97 yards. Ertz is a top five, maybe even top three option at TE. He has a great matchup against the Giants. Jeffery, on the other hand, may not. It all depends on whether Janoris Jenkins plays. For all the Giants failures, their defense is still very good and Jenkins is a shutdown corner when he plays. Torrey Smith had a decent game last week, but he is still not a fantasy factor. Agholor, as I predicted, faded into the background. He did catch a touchdown, so anyone who made the error of picking him up at least got that, but that was his only reception of the game. Jeffery and Ertz are the only names to concern yourself with and both should be in lineups this week.

NYG FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.19
NYG FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.23
NYG FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.23
NYG FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.7

Running Game Thoughts: How many carries did you, fine reader, have last Sunday in professional football games? That’s the same amount of carries LeGarrette Blount saw as well. He should never have been drafted and he should not be owned anymore. Darren Sproles is the only Eagles back worth owning. He is good for 10-15 touches a game. He carried the ball 10 times last week and caught two passes. His ceiling is low, but he won’t get you zero. Think of him as a slightly better version of Shane Vereen. Wendell Smallwood (4 touches) barely played. The Giants haven’t allowed a rushing TD over the first two weeks and excel at stopping the run. Sproles will be fine, but isn’t an appealing option.

Value Meter:
QB2: Carson Wentz
WR2: Alshon Jeffery (low end if Jenkins plays)
TE1: Zach Ertz (high end)
Bench: Darren Sproles, LeGarrette Blount, Nelson Agholor, Torrey Smith

Prediction: Giants 24, Eagles 22 ^ Top

Raiders at Redskins - (Katz)

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s admittedly hard to take anything a team does against the Jets seriously, but Derek Carr is just really good at football. I thought he would be more real life good than fantasy good, but so far, he’s been both. Carr only threw for 230 yards last week, mainly because the Jets were completely noncompetitive, but he did throw for three touchdowns, all going to Michael Crabtree. I’d like to take a moment to officially declare the Amari Cooper elite WR1 movement dead. He’s a good player but he hasn’t matched the high expectations many cast on him coming out of college. Crabtree is the top guy in Oakland while Cooper is the WR2. The sooner we accept that truth, the sooner we can stop being disappointed by Cooper’s fantasy output. Josh Norman may not shadow Cooper in this game but the two should see plenty of each other, making Crabtree the better bet for fantasy production. The Redskins have been kind to opposing offenses thus far so we could be in for a shootout in Washington. Carr, Crabtree, and Cooper are all strong plays.

WAS FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.14
WAS FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.7
WAS FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.20
WAS FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.8

Running Game Thoughts: Marshawn Lynch is exactly what we thought he’d be – a two down back that needs a touchdown to be useful. He’s essentially Mike Gillislee west. Lynch handled just 12 carries last week because that’s all he needed. With the game out of reach, Jack Del Rio smartly burned the clock with Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington. This week’s game should be more competitive, keeping Lynch involved for the duration of the game, but in what could turn into a passing fest, Lynch’s upside is capped. Of course, there’s no telling how often the Raiders will find themselves inside the five yard line, where you know Lynch is getting the ball. Todd Gurley spent last Sunday terrorizing the Redskins, but he did a lot of damage in the passing game, something Lynch certainly will not do. You’re starting Lynch and hoping the high projected point total leads to at least a touchdown. Unfortunately, without one, Lynch just isn’t seeing enough snaps to produce RB numbers.

Value Meter:
QB1: Derek Carr (mid range)
RB2: Marshawn Lynch (mid-range, TD dependent)
WR1: Michael Crabtree (low end)
WR2: Amari Cooper (mid-range)
TE2: Jared Cook
Bench: DeAndre Washington, Jalen Richard

Passing Game Thoughts: Through two weeks, Kirk Cousins has not looked particularly good. He did enough to secure a win last week, but his play will have to improve significantly if he intends to compete with the Raiders. Cousins will have to rely heavily on Terrelle Pryor this week as I do not anticipate Jordan Reed being able to suit up. When your coach comes out and says, “he’s not healthy right now,” that’s never a good sign. Reed was already playing through a broken toe and now has a sprained SC joint, which, while he could play through it, would be incredibly painful. This early in the season it makes too much sense to give Reed at least a week off to get healthy. It’s entirely possible Reed plays, I just wouldn’t count on it.

Pryor only saw four targets last week and does not seem to be on the same page with Cousins, but that could change at any moment. Pryor is still an elite physical talent and Cousins, presumably, didn’t just forget how to play quarterback. If Trumaine Johnson were unable to go as a result of his leg injury from last week, that would be a huge boost for Pryor. Jamison Crowder (hip) has also underperformed thus far, but that can also be attributed to Cousins. He’s caught just seven balls on the year. Oakland’s generous pass defense could be just what he needs to get going as well.

OAK FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.9
OAK FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.28
OAK FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.13
OAK FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.24

Running Game Thoughts: Rob Kelley actually played alright last week, at least by Rob Kelley standards. Unfortunately, he was knocked out of the game due to a rib injury. When he departed, he had amassed 78 yards on 12 carries. As it turns out, it was just a bruise so the Samaje Perine takeover will have to wait a bit longer. Kelley still isn’t suddenly a good running back, but he’s getting volume on a good offense. The biggest concern for Kelley this week would be his injury compelling Jay Gruden to give Perine some more work. Kelley needs volume to succeed and he’s already losing some of it to Chris Thompson, who is not a viable fantasy starter despite his three touchdowns on the season. Thompson touched the ball seven times in Week 1 and six times in Week 2. He is not going to break a big play for a touchdown every week. Kelley remains viable for as long as he is the starter, but I do believe his days are numbered. That could start as soon as this week. For now, hold steady with Kelley as a touchdown dependent RB2.

Value Meter:
QB1: Kirk Cousins (low end)
WR2: Terrelle Pryor (I think this is the week)
Flex: Jamison Crowder, Rob Kelley
Bench: Samaje Perine, Chris Thompson, Josh Doctson, Jordan Reed (but if he plays, you start him as a TE1)

Prediction: Redskins 34, Raiders 31 ^ Top