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Inside the Matchup

Week 3

By: Andy Swanson | Jason Katz | Nick Caron | HC Green



Sunday Early:

LAC @ KC | BAL @ DET | ATL @ NYG | NO @ NE


Sunday Late:

NYJ @ DEN | MIA @ LV | SEA @ MIN | TB @ LAR | GB @ SF



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

Panthers @ Texans - (Swanson)
Line: CAR -8.0
Total: 43.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Perhaps all Sam Darnold needed was a fresh start and a new coaching staff to help him live up to his early draft capital. Or perhaps he is just the latest in a long string of players who improve once they are no longer under the gravitational pull of Adam Gase and his dreadful play calling.

Whatever it is, you can’t deny the fact that Darnold is playing the best football of his career in the small sample size of two games with the Panthers. The former USC star is completing nearly 70% of his passes with just two turnovers in a pair of wins against the Jets and the New Orleans Saints.

This week Darnold and the passing weapons of the Panthers get a choice matchup against the Texans, and rookie Davis Mills, who is going to start at QB with Tyrod Taylor placed on short-term IR. Mills managed to complete just eight of his 18 passes against the Browns in reserve of Taylor last week, with a touchdown and an interception.

The game script could heavily favor Darnold with the Panther offense benefitting from more than a few short fields, making D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, Terrace Marshall Jr., and especially Christian McCaffrey very strong plays.

On paper, the Texans have only given up the ninth-most points to opposing wide receivers, but those numbers are a bit skewered when you consider the Browns lost Jarvis Landry last week and were already without OBJ which made them an even more run-centered offense.

D.J. Moore continues to be the top receiver and the one you want to play in the Panthers wide receiver corps. Moore posted 80 yards in Week 1 and followed with 79 and a score last week. Robby Anderson has now posted two consecutive games of three or fewer receptions and has just one deep touchdown on the year. If he has another dud game this week, fantasy managers will need to make the adjustment and look elsewhere until further notice.

Not that you need me to tell you to start Christian McCaffrey, but it should be noted that he is on pace for 127 receptions in the 17-game season. He has yet to hit the end zone with one of those receptions, but his volume on the ground and in the passing game make him an elite option. It also doesn’t hurt that despite leaving last week’s game early, he is not listed on the injury report for Monday or Tuesday.

HOU FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.15
HOU FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.7
HOU FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.25
HOU FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.5

Running Game Thoughts: CMC is great and continues to be an elite start in all formats. He was limited to just 71% of the snaps in Week 1, but that was due to some cramping, and he returned to the field to score his first touchdown late against the Saints.

The Texans are a plus-matchup for CMC after giving up the 4th most points on the season to opposing running backs. The Browns lit them up for three touchdowns last week after the Texans did a decent job shutting down Carlos Hyde and the Jags Week 1. The Jags only ran the ball 14 times that game because the Texans jumped out to a big early lead. I don’t think that will be the case in this matchup, and CMC should smash.

To make things even more attractive for the Panthers, starting defensive backs Justin Reid and Terrance Mitchell were DNPs on Tuesday with knee and head injuries, respectively. On a short week, both players are strong possibilities to miss this Thursday Night Matchup.

Value Meter:
QB2: Sam Darnold (High-End)
RB1: Christian McCaffrey (Elite)
WR2: D.J. Moore (High-End)
WR3: Robby Anderson (Low-End)
WR4: Terrace Marshall Jr. (Low-End)
TE2: Dan Arnold (High-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: A thigh injury forced the Texans to put starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor on IR. Instead of making Deshaun Watson active, the team announced that rookie Davis Mills would start at quarterback against an up-and-coming Panthers defense that just shut down the Saints.

Mills looked very much like a rookie quarterback filling in for Taylor in the second half of last week, completing just 8 of his 18 passes for 100 yards and a pick. He did hit Brandin Cooks with a touchdown pass, with Cooks logging an impressive nine catches for 78 yards and a score on 14 targets. You can start Cooks based on his 21 targets over the first two games. Just don’t be surprised if most of it comes in garbage time in a lopsided loss.

The list of who to play in the Texans passing game begins and ends with Cooks. Rookie Nico Collins joined Taylor on IR with a shoulder injury, and Danny Amendola was a DNP on Tuesday with a thigh issue.

If you want to start a pass-catching back for the Texans, David Johnson could be a play in very deep PPR formats, but his six targets in two games are enough to make you vomit in your mouth.

Corey Davis managed to post 5/97/2 against the Panthers in Week 1, but the team responded well by shutting down Marquez Callaway and all of the Saints receivers last week. Rookie Jaycee Horn on Cooks should be an interesting match to watch, with a savvy veteran WR going against a physical young DB.

CAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.26
CAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.31
CAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.28
CAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.26

Running Game Thoughts: The running backs for the Texans have combined to score the third-most fantasy points through two games, trailing only the Browns and the Titans. There are fantasy points to be had on the team (at least when Tyrod Taylor was under center), but they are spread between four veteran running backs.

For two weeks in a row, Mark Ingram was the starter and received the most touches. And for the second week in a row, he underwhelmed with a YPC average of less than 3.4. He salvaged his Week 1 performance with a rushing touchdown, only to burn those chancing the points last week on the road against Cleveland.

Phillip Lindsay is second with 13 carries through two games, and David Johnson leads the team with 40 receiving yards for running backs. Nothing here is impressive and not exactly a team you want to target with a rookie quarterback starting on a short week.

If you have options, it would make sense to avoid starting a Texan running back in this game. The Panthers shut down the ground attacks of both the Jets and the Saints, including limiting Alvin Kamara to five rushing yards on eight carries.

Value Meter:
QB2: Davis Mills (Low-End)
RB3: Mark Ingram (High-End)
RB4: David Johnson / Phillip Lindsay (Low-End)
WR2: Brandin Cooks (Low-End)
TE2: Pharaoh Brown (High-End)

Prediction: Carolina 34, Houston 14 ^ Top

Chargers at Chiefs - (Caron)
Line: KC -7.0
Total: 54.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Justin Herbert has gotten off to a slow start this season as he’s thrown for just 675 passing yards, 2 TD, and 3 INT while adding just a measly 11 rushing yards. This past week’s performance against a mediocre Cowboys defense has to be particularly disheartening as it looked very likely that the game would turn into a shootout between two high-powered offenses and that just didn’t happen. Still, there’s plenty to be hopeful for and he now faces a situation where he’ll likely need to pass quite a bit, on the road against the Chiefs. Kansas City got exposed on the ground by Lamar Jackson in Week 2, but they’ve otherwise held opposing QBs in check for the most part throughout their first two games. Jackson and Baker Mayfield combined for 570 yards and just one passing touchdown, while throwing three interceptions. Of course, the Browns and Ravens are two of the most run-heavy offenses in the league so it makes sense that they’ve done a good job of containing teams through the air. Look for the Chargers to implement a much more pass-heavy offensive strategy in this game.

If the Chargers are going to be passing quite a bit, keep an eye on wide receiver Mike Williams who is currently Los Angeles’ leader with 22 targets, 15 receptions, 173 yards and two touchdowns. He’s scored in each game and has been a surprising breakout player. The Chiefs don’t really have much in the way of big, physical cornerbacks who can match up with him on the perimeter, so this could be another heavy target game for the big man.

As always, fellow wide receiver Keenan Allen remains a consistent PPR beast, having already seen 21 targets, 13 receptions, and 208 yards. He’s been over 100 yards in both games and remains as reliable as ever.

Tight end Jared Cook’s disappointed in what should have been a smash matchup against the Cowboys when he made just three catches for 28 yards. He did have a decent Week 1 and should bounce back a bit in this one, but he’s still unlikely to be a big time contributor at the position this season. Similarly, wide receivers Jalen Guyton, Joshua Palmer and KJ Hill are all nonexistent fantasy contributors so far and shouldn’t be in fantasy lineups.

KC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.9
KC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.3
KC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.23
KC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.9

Running Game Thoughts: Austin Ekeler only carried the ball nine times against the Cowboys, but was effective with a six yards per carry average. Some were a bit worried after Week 1 when he was a non-factor in the passing game, but got back to his PPR stud way in Week 2 against the Cowboys when he caught nine passes for 61 yards. Ekeler is now up to 24 carries, 111 yards and a touchdown on the ground thus far and he’s one of very few backs throughout the league who completely dominates his team’s running back touches both as a runner and as a receiver.

Larry Rountree III and Justin Jackson were both non-factors in Week 2, combining for just six touches. There was some concern that Ekeler’s preseason injury would carry into the regular season, but we now see that this is Ekeler’s backfield without much competition.

The Chiefs defense has given up the third-most fantasy points to opposing running backs thus far, but it’s worth noting that they’ve also faced two of the most run-heavy teams in the league in the Browns and Raiders. Nevertheless, they’ve conceded a total of 260 rushing yards and four touchdowns to opposing backs, along with seven catches for an additional 62 yards. This is a good matchup for Ekeler, who should be in line to take pretty much all of the touches in this contest.

Value Meter:
QB1: Justin Herbert (low-end)
RB1: Austin Ekeler
WR1: Keenan Allen
WR2: Mike Williams (low-end)
TE1: Jared Cook (low-end)
Bench: Larry Rountree III, Justin Jackson, Jalen Guyton, Josh Palmer, K.J. Hill

Passing Game Thoughts: The Chiefs came up just short on the road against the Ravens in Week 2, but fantasy owners of quarterback Patrick Mahomes have to be happy with the results. Mahomes has already thrown for 680 yards and six touchdowns with just one interception, while adding an additional 21 yards and a touchdown as a runner. He remains one of the absolute elite options in all of fantasy football and is capable of putting up week-winning performances in any matchup.

Tyreek Hill was held to just three catches for 14 yards against the Ravens in Week 2 and that can sometimes make it easy to forget that he was coming off of a 15-target, 11-catch, 197-yard performance with a touchdown against the Browns in Week 1. Don’t let this past week’s disappointing performance steer you in the wrong direction - Hill is a bonafide super-stud for fantasy football and needs to be in your lineup even in what is a difficult on-paper matchup for him here in Week 3. Hill was targeted 11 times, catching five of those passes for 99 yards and a touchdown when he most recently faced the Chargers this time last year.

Demarcus Robinson got into the end zone in Week 2, but remains a very low volume option in this Kansas City passing game. He’s been targeted just six times through two games and has been out-snapped by Mecole Hardman thus far in 2021. Hardman’s eight targets against the Ravens in Week 2 was double that of any other Chiefs wide receiver, including Tyreek Hill, but he remains a very risky fantasy play as we just haven’t seen him be consistent with either target volume or production.

Tight end Travis Kelce remains at the top of the mountain at the position. He’s now caught 13 passes for 185 yards and three touchdowns through two games. He didn’t play against the Chargers in Week 17 this past season due to the Chiefs sitting their starters, but Kelce beat up the Los Angeles defense for nine catches, 90 yards and a touchdown on a season-high 14 targets. He’s the top tight end option on the board this week, as he is almost every other week.

The Chargers injured Ryan Fitzpatrick early in Week 1, then held Taylor Heinicke to just 122 yards and a single touchdown on the ground. They then contained Dak Prescott, allowing him to throw for just 237 yards. They also held Prescott out of the end zone while intercepting him once. Of course, the Cowboys quarterback did complete 23 of his 27 total passes on the day against the Chargers, but Los Angeles’ defense does appear to be better than some expected it would be. It’s wise to still trust your Chiefs studs here in Week 3, but don’t get greedy by starting non-studs.

LAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.31
LAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.8
LAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.32
LAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.16

Running Game Thoughts: Fantasy owners of Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire had to be frustrated this past week when they saw him come off the field near the goal line, leading to a touchdown for backup Darrel Williams. This type of goal line sniping does happen from time to time and it is extremely frustrating from a fantasy standpoint, but it’s important that we don’t allow a single play to dictate how we feel about a player.

Edwards-Helaire has been disappointing from a fantasy points perspective as he’s now been held to under 50 rushing yards in both contests this season while catching just three passes, and he’s yet to score a touchdown. With that said, his peripheral numbers have actually been fairly good, especially from the standpoint of percentage of team running back touches. Edwards-Helaire has 30 touches through two games, while backups Darrel Williams, Jerick McKinnon and Michael Burton have combined for just seven touches. Sure, we want to see better production out of the touches, but the usage is there and there’s plenty of reason to believe that he should be in line for some positive regression over the next few weeks.

Kansas City has played some tough defenses in Cleveland and Baltimore, but this week they face a Los Angeles defense that has already given up three fantasy-relevant games to running backs Antonio Gibson, Ezekiel Elliott and even Tony Pollard. Sure, Edwards-Helaire hasn’t given us much to be excited about yet, but this is an exploitable matchup for him, especially given that the Chargers pass defense has actually been quite good thus far. Look for Edwards-Helaire to continue to dominate backfield touches in one of the league’s best offenses, making him a mid-level RB2 here in Week 3.

Value Meter:
QB1: Patrick Mahomes
RB2: Clyde Edwards-Helaire
WR1: Tyreek Hill
TE1: Travis Kelce
Bench: Darrel Williams, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, Byron Pringle

Prediction: Chiefs 31, Chargers 24 ^ Top

Ravens @ Lions - (Green)
Line: BAL -8.0
Total: 50.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Winless in three career starts against the Chiefs, Lamar Jackson appeared well on his way to a 0-4 mark early on when two of Baltimore’s first three drives ended in interceptions, the first of which was a pick six. Jackson was able to weather the storm, however, and lead the comeback with two fourth-quarter TD runs and a fourth-down conversion to seal the game. The passing numbers weren’t great (239 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs), but Jackson again showed why he’s one of the league’s most dangerous players with a 16-107-2 line on the ground.

Probably the most encouraging development early on has been the play of third-year wideout Marquise Brown (ankle), who is averaging a 6-91-1 mark over the first two weeks -- that's well up from last season’s 3.6-48-0.5, though obviously across a much smaller sample size. Mark Andrews (5-57-0) continues to maximize his opportunities, catching all five of his targets, but he needs some red-zone work. While Sammy Watkins (4-44-0) serves as a capable tertiary target behind Brown and Andrews (5-57-0), he’s only worth rostering in deeper leagues.

It's been all aboard the struggle bus thus far for the Lions defensively, and an already suspect secondary has been thinned further by losing Jeff Okudah (Achilles) and Ifeatu Melifonwu (thigh) to the IR in consecutive weeks. To date, Detroit has allowed 269 yards (21st) and three TDs (tied-28th) via the air per game. Jackson and Andrews are solid No. 1s at their respective positions, and Brown is playable as a WR3 despite a sore ankle.

DET FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.11
DET FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.2
DET FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.18
DET FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.13

Running Game Thoughts: Even in a game they trailed throughout, the Ravens still ran 41 times compared to 26 passes. Ty’Son Williams (13-77-0) checked in with another solid outing outside of his goal-line fumble that fortuitously bounced to a teammate for six. Latavius Murray (9-36-1) scored for the second time in as many weeks, and veteran Devonta Freeman debuted with a 31-yard scamper. Detroit has held firm against the run, giving up just 3.8 yards per carry, but Williams is still a borderline RB2/RB3 with Murray holding flex value due to his red-zone work.

Value Meter:
QB1: Lamar Jackson
RB2/RB3: Ty'Son Williams
Flex: Latavius Murray
WR3: Marquise Brown (inj-ankle)
TE1: Mark Andrews
Bench: Sammy Watkins

Passing Game Thoughts: For the first half of Monday Night Football, Jared Goff and the Lions moved the ball and took a 17-14 lead into the break. Once the rain started to fall, however, they did a convincing impression of the Wicked Witch of the West. Green Bay decided to ramp up the pressure as well, and Goff responded with a pair of fumbles and an interception. The former Ram finished with 246 yards, 2 TDs and the pick, and while he did lead the team in rushing (46 yards) that’s not his game.

In fairness to Goff, his available options consist of T.J. Hockenson (8-66-1), running backs in the flat, and a mix of unproven youngsters and journeymen. The Lions placed Tyrell Williams (concussion) on IR this week, leaving Quintez Cephus (4-63-1) and rookie Aman-Ra St. Brown (3-18-0) atop the pecking order. To date it’s been Cephus that has shown the most promise with a pair of TD grabs; the Wisconsin product is worth adding if you’re thin at the position.

Baltimore has been torched though the air in 2021, ranking dead last in the NFL in passing yards allowed at 376 per game. Given the strength of the run defense, this is likely where Detroit will try to attack. Hockenson is a stud and is in the conversation for best fantasy TE after Travis Kelce and Darren Waller. Beyond that, you’d be betting the strength of the matchup, not the player with the likes of Goff and Cephus.

BAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.4
BAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.12
BAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.9
BAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.1

Running Game Thoughts: D’Andre Swift had a dozen touches in Week 2, gaining 78 total yards. Jamaal Williams’ return to Lambeau Field was quiet, as he managed 37 yards on a combination of seven carries and three receptions. As noted, the Ravens are tough versus the run (72 yards allowed per game, 3.7 YPC), which figures to limit what Detroit’s backfield tandem can do as runners. Both are accomplished receivers, though, making Swift an RB2 play and Williams as No. 3 back or flex.

Value Meter:
RB2: D'Andre Swift
RB3/Flex: Jamaal Williams
TE1: T.J. Hockenson
Bench: Jared Goff, Quintez Cephus

Prediction: Ravens 34, Lions 20 ^ Top

Falcons at Giants - (Katz)
Line: NYG -3.0
Total: 47.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Matt Ryan was giving out touchdowns like Oprah Winfrey gives out cars. Ryan threw a touchdown to each of Calvin Ridley and Cordarrelle Patterson before throwing two to Mike Edwards. The problem, of course, is that Edwards is not on the Falcons.

The Falcons were passing all game with Ryan attempting 46 passes and throwing for 400 yards. With their defense unable to stop anyone, the Falcons are going to be in constant negative game script and I expect it to be the case again this week.

Ridley isn’t posting the same video game numbers we saw last season, but he’s leading the team in targets and doing what he’s supposed to. Bigger games are ahead.

Kyle Pitts may very well be generational, but he’s still a rookie tight end playing with an ageing quarterback. Pitts’ usage and routes run is encouraging. Five catches for 73 yards is solid, but you drafted him to do more than that. Hopefully for Pitts’ managers, the Giants overcommit to Ridley, which opens up the middle of the field for Pitts.

Russell Gage and Olamide Zaccheaus are not fantasy viable, even if Gage misses this week’s game due to injury.

NYG FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.18
NYG FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.9
NYG FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.13
NYG FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.3

Running Game Thoughts: The Mike Davis passing game usage is keeping him afloat right now. Davis had just 25 yards receiving last week, but caught all seven of his targets. It sure looks like Davis’ ADP tumble over the summer was warranted.

Cordarrelle Patterson looked like the far better player last week. Although he carried the ball seven times for just 11 yards, he found the end zone both on the ground and through the air. Patterson’s usage as a receiver is what I’m most interested in. He caught five of six targets for 58 yards and a touchdown. If he keeps playing well, he will continue to eat into Davis’ usage. If the Giants’ inability to stop J.D. McKissic last week was any indication, it could be another big week for Patterson.

Value Meter:
QB2: Matt Ryan (high end)
WR1: Calvin Ridley (high end)
TE1: Kyle Pitts (mid-range)
Flex: Mike Davis, Cordarrelle Patterson
Bench: Russell Gage

Passing Game Thoughts: I’ve been pretty harsh towards Daniel Jones’ ability to be a starter quarterback in the NFL, but the Giants’ 0-2 start is not on Jones. He played well enough to win last week. His defense did not.

Jones is averaging 25.4 FPts/g through two weeks and he is just now getting to face an easy opponent. This feels like the Giants first win and a week where Jones can really let loose.

I thought Kenny Golladay looked healthy, but just wasn’t separating well. Now I’m not sure. Golladay was described as “extremely limited” in Thursday’s practice and I would consider him legitimately questionable to play, which is very concerning coming off the extended break. Even if Golladay does, play, with Sterling Shepard getting open at will, I’d be surprised if Jones forced anything to Golladay. For now, I prefer Shepard.

Darius Slayton caught a touchdown last week and is making plays downfield, but has caught just three balls in each of the first two games. He’s off the fantasy radar if Golladay plays. If Golladay sits, then Slayton would step in as the starter opposite Shepard in two-receiver sets and become an intriguing flex option.

Evan Engram (calf) practiced this week and looks like he may return. It’s unclear how his presence will throw a wrench into the pass-catching hierarchy. Kyle Rudolph looks completely cooked as an NFL player, though, so Engram will be a welcome sight. I would wait a week before inserting him into lineups.

ATL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.1
ATL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.13
ATL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.11
ATL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.2

Running Game Thoughts: I’ve had this game circled on my calendar since after Week 1. Not because I care some great amount about these two teams. No, I’ve had this game circled as the Saquon Barkley smash game. You can just sense it. In Week 1, Barkley played just 48% of the snaps. In Week 2, even on a short week, he was up to 84%. Now with 10 days to rest, it’s time for the Giants to fully unleash Barkley against a weak opposing defense.

The one concern with Barkley is the decreased passing game usage. Daniel Jones seems more inclined to take off than check it down. However, I’m hopeful that with Barkley getting closer and closer to 100%, there will be more designed screens for him. Regardless, Barkley should be able to get it done on the ground this week. I advised benching him last week. No such thing in Week 3. We are full steam ahead on Barkley smash week.

Value Meter:
QB1: Daniel Jones (low end)
RB1: Saquon Barkley (mid-range)
WR2: Sterling Shepard (low end)
WR3: Kenny Golladay
Flex: Darius Slayton (if Golladay sits)
Bench: Devontae Booker, Evan Engram, Darius Slayton

Prediction: Giants 30, Falcons 26 ^ Top

Saints at Patriots - (Katz)
Line: NE -3.0
Total: 42.5

Passing Game Thoughts: I sure hope Week 1 Jameis Winston didn’t fool anyone into thinking this version of Winston was any different than the Tampa Bay version. The Saints went on the road against a sneaky tough Carolina defense and got stomped.

There is one primary difference between this Winston and the Bucs version – pass attempts. Old Winston would just air out with reckless abandon. New Winston has just 42 pass attempts through two games. As a result, not a single member of this passing attack is worth starting.

Marquez Callaway led all Saints wide receivers in targets with four. Last week, Corey Davis, who is better than Callaway, managed just two catches for eight yards against this strong Patriots pass defense. Deonte Harris, Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Chris Hogan, and Juwan Johnson all caught one pass each…which is one more pass than Adam Trautman caught. Not a single one of these players is even a must roster, let alone startable.

NE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.29
NE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.23
NE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.26
NE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.31

Running Game Thoughts: Alvin Kamara led the Saints in targets last week with six. We like to see that. He also rushed eight times for five yards. We don’t like that. Kamara will undoubtedly be better this week, but this could be the lowest scoring game of the week. It’s going to play slow and both teams may struggle to move the ball.

The good news is that Kamara is playing the highest rate of snaps of his career. Tony Jones may have won the backup job over Latavius Murray, but he is not getting anywhere near the usage that Murray got. Even in a tough matchup for a player that evidently has an extremely low weekly floor, you are not sitting Kamara.

Value Meter:
RB1: Alvin Kamara (low end)
Bench: Jameis Winston, Marquez Callaway, Adam Trautman, Tony Jones

Passing Game Thoughts: The Patriots’ game plan is very clearly to control the ball and play low-risk football. Mac Jones is being treated like early career Tom Brady. No, I’m not comparing Jones to Brady in terms of talent, but rather just drawing a parallel to the game manager Brady was in the pre-Randy Moss days.

Jones is completing 74% of his passes and not turning it over. He’s thrown just a single touchdown pass. Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor, Jonnu Smith, and Hunter Henry are all worth spots on fantasy rosters. Unfortunately, it’s anyone’s guess as to which one will have the best week on any given week. Last week, it was none of them as the Patriots just dominated on the ground.

The Saints shut down the Packers in Week 1, but had no answer for D.J. Moore in Week 2. This week should be somewhere in the middle, but with the Patriots lacking a clear top target in the passing game, none of their pass catchers are startable.

NO FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.27
NO FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.24
NO FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.17
NO FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.24

Running Game Thoughts: Okay, maybe one pass catcher is startable; he just doesn’t play wide receiver or tight end. James White caught all six of his targets last week for 45 yards and added 20 yards and a touchdown on five carries. He played 50% of the snaps, 9% more than Damien Harris. The Patriots may not have a startable pass catcher, but they have two startable running backs.

White’s passing game usage will keep him PPR viable, while Harris’ throwback ground game makes him an every week touchdown dependent RB2. Harris has 39 carries and three receptions through two games. Through two weeks, the Saints are allowing just 66 rushing yards per game. It’s too early to tell if they have an elite run defense, but early signs are encouraging for them…not so much for Harris. Regardless, I doubt you have a better RB2/Flex option than Harris.

Value Meter:
RB2: Damien Harris (low end)
Flex: James White
Bench: Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor, Jonnu Smith, Mac Jones

Prediction: Patriots 23, Saints 17 ^ Top

Bengals @ Steelers - (Green)
Line: PIT -3.0
Total: 43.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Who knew that if Mark Sanchez refers to you as an “alpha male” on the broadcast that you transform into the “The Sanchize,” much in the same way the Monstars once did in Space Jam? OK, perhaps that isn’t what happened, but Joe Burrow did a damn fine Sanchez impression in Chicago, absorbing five sacks and firing interceptions on three consecutive pass attempts. He salvaged some value with a late rally, throwing two touchdowns in the game’s final five minutes, but ultimately it was a disappointing showing.

Despite Burrows’ struggles, the trio of Tee Higgins (6-60-1), Ja’Marr Chase (2-54-1) and Tyler Boyd (7-73-0) all managed to deliver respectable value. After looking like he might be getting phased out of the offense in Week 1, Boyd bounced back with nine targets, which more than doubled Chase’s four. Higgins led the way with 10 and still feels like the most valuable of Cincy’s wideouts with his combo of reliability and upside. He’s playable as a borderline WR2/WR3. Chase has scored in each of the first two weeks but remains a work in progress. He’s a WR3. Boyd can be played as a flex.

A week after limiting Buffalo’s high-powered offense to 16 points, the Steelers couldn’t keep up with Las Vegas’ aerial attack as Derek Carr threw for 382 yards and two TDs while averaging a whopping 10.3 yards per attempt. The in-game injury to T.J. Watt (groin) didn’t help matters, and it’s unclear if he’ll suit up in Week 3. Despite some encouraging trends, Burrow struggled in his lone meeting with Pittsburgh (213 yards, 1 TD) and is coming off a tough week. Keep him benched if possible.

PIT FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.17
PIT FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.29
PIT FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.8
PIT FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.7

Running Game Thoughts: In something of a statistical rarity, Joe Mixon accounted for all 20 of Cincinnati’s rushing attempts last week, gaining a modest 69 yards (nice). A strong run defense is a tradition in the Steel City, and after two weeks Pittsburgh ranks 10th at 84.5 yards per game on 3.4 yards per carry. Mixon, who missed both of last year’s matchups with the Steelers, retains RB2 value in large due to his high usage.

Value Meter:
RB2: Joe Mixon
WR2/WR3: Tee Higgins
WR3: Ja'Marr Chase
Flex: Tyler Boyd
Bench: Joe Burrow

Passing Game Thoughts: Despite their offseason efforts, the Steelers continue to rely on the arm of Ben Roethlisberger (pectoral), who attempted 40 passes in last Sunday’s loss to Las Vegas. There was slightly more aggression than last season (7.4 yards per attempt in Week 2 versus 6.3 YPA in 2020), but it wasn’t hard to see similarities. Big Ben also picked up a left pec injury in Week 2 and is expected to forego practice to undergo as much treatment as he can. Given Roethlisberger’s toughness you should expect him to be under center against the Bengals, but he could be diminished.

Roethlisberger isn’t the only injury of concern for the Steelers as Diontae Johnson (knee) injured his knee late in Week 2 and hasn’t practiced this week. Johnson has been the team’s top receiver thus far and is a possible WR2 if he can answer the bell. If not, look for more out of the duo of JuJu Smith-Schuster (6-41-0) and Chase Claypool (3-70-0), both of whom are WR3s now but could push toward WR2 territory with Johnson on the sidelines. Eric Ebron, who caught 56 balls a season ago, has just one catch through two games this year and can be dropped in most leagues.

Cincinnati sits ninth in pass defense after authoring two divergent performances to open the season -- Minnesota passed for 362 yards in the opener, but Chicago managed just 116 yards. The Steelers skew closer to the Vikings than the Bears in terms of passing prowess, but there are injury-related question marks surrounding their top receiver and triggerman. As such, this is a difficult matchup to gauge.

CIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.22
CIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.15
CIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.12
CIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.28

Running Game Thoughts: It’s been a rough beginning to an NFL career for Najee Harris, who has carried the ball 26 times for a meager 83 yards (3.2 YPC). At least he showed some spark as a receiver in Week 2, hauling in five passes for 43 yards and a score. He could be relied on more heavily this Sunday if Roethlisberger’s injury requires the team to modify its approach. Even then he’s no more than an RB2 against a Bengals defense that has played well against the run early on (95.0 yards per game, 3.4 YPC).

Value Meter:
QB2: Ben Roethlisberger (inj-pectoral)
RB2: Najee Harris
WR2/WR3: Diontae Johnson (inj-knee)
WR3: JuJu Smith-Schuster
WR3: Chase Claypool

Prediction: Steelers 23, Bengals 20 ^ Top

Colts @ Titans - (Swanson)
Line: TEN -5.5
Total: 48.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Carson Wentz suffered dual sprained ankles against the Rams Week 2 and will likely miss this matchup against the Titans. If he is out, second-year player Jacob Eason, a 4th-round selection in the 2020 draft, or Brett Hundley will get the start.

Not exactly the news head coach Frank Reich and the Colts wanted to share, especially with the Colts taking on their division rival Titans and Derrick Henry.

On a positive note for Eason and the skill position players in the passing game, the Titan secondary is terrible and gives up the second-most points to opposing quarterbacks. But that is somewhat skewed because they played against Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson, two of the best QBs in the league. Eason is nowhere near their level and could struggle this week.

Wentz is not the only Colt in the passing game hurting. Parris Campbell missed last week and is questionable again for this matchup, and T.Y. Hilton is still on injured reserve. That leaves Zach Pascal and Michael Pittman Jr. as the starting WRs, with rookie Mike Stachan also likely to get more reps.

Pascal is not flashy, but he does have nine receptions for 81 yards in two games and is tied for the league lead with three receiving touchdowns. You have to keep riding him until the wheels come off, especially in this matchup that could be a high scoring affair.

Pittman Jr. posted his best game as a pro last week against a potent Rams secondary, with 123 yards on eight catches. He is a good start in this game and should be in most lineups.

According to, Brett Hundley took the majority of snaps on Thursday and could get the start over Eason. Neither option is a great start for fantasy, and Hundley does not have a great history of helping fantasy wide receivers. Should Hundley start, I would downgrade Pittman Jr. and Pascal a notch.

TEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.2
TEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.17
TEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.2
TEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.32

Running Game Thoughts: Jonathan Taylor enters Week 3 as the No.25 running back in half-point PPR scoring. He has yet to reach the end zone and averages 3.3 yards per carry on his first 32 rushes for the season. Not exactly the type of production you wanted from your first-round draft pick, especially considering he failed to produce against the same Seattle defense that Derrick Henry just torched last week for 182 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns.

Taylor has not looked very impressive, and to make matters worse, Marlon Mack was active against the Rams last week and saw five carries. He also saw a decrease in snap percentage from 55% to 45%.

Taylor has seen eight goal-to-go carries in two games and has yet to reach the end zone. If he continues to struggle, don’t be surprised to see more Mack in high leverage situations.

The Titans have given up the 13th-most points this season to opposing running backs. No running back has topped 64 yards, but Chase Edmonds and James Conner did combine for 116 in Week 1, and Chris Carson reached the end zone twice last week. By no means is this a matchup to avoid if you are a Taylor owner.

The solid production and surprising carry total that Nyheim Hines saw in Week 1 did not carry over into Week 2 against the Rams, with Hines gardening just one reception for 17 yards and one rush for five. If Wentz is out, I would sit Hines for sure. And even if active, Hines is not someone you can really trust based on what we saw last week.

Value Meter:
QB2: Jacob Eason or Carson Wentz (Low-End)
RB2: Jonathan Taylor (Low-End)
RB4: Nyheim Hines (Low-End)
WR2: Zach Pascal (Low-End)
WR3: Michael Pittman Jr. (High-End)
TE2: Mo Alie-Cox (High-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Although Ryan Tannehill has not done much for fantasy owners over the first few weeks of the season, there were two important developments in the passing game last week that bode well for him going forward. First, he improved on his completion percentage from the week prior, and he posted 347 passing yards. Sure, he did not score a touchdown, but he did come through with a solid passing day and added 27 yards on the ground.

Secondly, Julio Jones was utilized more in week two with 128 yards on eight targets. Jones also had a questionable call reversed on what appeared to be a touchdown. A.J. Brown did have an off game with 3/43, but he should bounce back in this game.

Both Matthew Stafford and Russell Wilson had success against the Colts this season, with the latter throwing for four touchdowns and 254 yards in Week 1. By no means is this defensive secondary one to worry about, especially when the linebackers are so focused on trying to stop Derrick Henry and the running game.

Both Cooper Kupp and Tyler Lockett burned the Indy secondary, including veteran Xavier Rhodes, and it would not surprise us to see Jones and Brown do the same.

Brown was limited in practice on Wednesday and should be fine for the game. Starting tackle Taylor Lewan missed last week’s game vs. Seattle after sustaining a knee injury in pregame warmup. He was listed as a full participant on Wednesday.

Starting cornerback Xavier Rhodes was out on Wednesday with a calf injury. His status is up in the air.

IND FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.13
IND FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.19
IND FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.6
IND FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.20

Running Game Thoughts: After a slow start to the season against the Cardinals, Derrick Henry reminded everyone why his nickname is King Henry, with a performance fit for a royal with over 200 total yards and three touchdowns.

Henry logged two 100-yard games vs. the Colts last season, including 27/178/3 in Week 12. The Colts rang in the middle of the pack in points allowed to running backs, but Chris Carson had a nice day with 117 total yards, and Darrell Henderson scored last week for the Rams.

Start King Henry with confidence and hope that Jacob Eason is QB. If so, the Titans will likely benefit from a positive game script for running and another monster day of production from Henry.

Value Meter:
QB1: Ryan Tannehill (Low-End)
RB1: Derrick Henry (Elite)
RB1: A.J. Brown (Low-End)
WR2: Julio Jones (Low-End)
TE2: Anthony Firkser (inj)

Prediction: Tennessee 34, Indianapolis 21 ^ Top

Football Team at Bills - (Katz)
Line: BUF -7.5
Total: 45.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Taylor Heinicke’s first start went about as well as could be expected. He completed 74% of his passes for 336 yards with two touchdowns and one (admittedly very bad) interception. We learned that Heinicke knows where his bread is buttered as he focused heavily on Terry McLaurin, targeting him 14 times.

Through two games, the Bills have allowed the third fewest passing yards per game, 161. But it’s a small sample size and the Bills faced the corpse of Ben Roethlisberger and the combination of Tua Tagovailoa and Jacoby Brissett. McLaurin will be just fine.

As for Logan Thomas, he’s clearly not going to be the guy he was last year. He’s not the next Darren Waller. He’s a solid back-end TE1 that you hope scores a touchdown.

Dyami Brown’s production hasn’t matched the usage. Brown played on 87% of the offensive snaps last week (93% Week 1). Heinicke probably can’t support a third fantasy-relevant pass catcher, but Brown is at least one to monitor.

Adam Humphries had a solid PPR day last Thursday, but that was more a product of game flow than anything else. He’s going to disappoint more often than not.

BUF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.32
BUF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.30
BUF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.22
BUF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.23

Running Game Thoughts: It’s been a tough start to the season for popular breakout running back Antonio Gibson. He’s averaged just 11.6 FPts/g through the first two weeks, just 1.0 FPts/g more than J.D. McKissic. I wouldn’t panic, though. Gibson’s usage remains excellent and game flow put the Football Team in weird spots where it just made more sense for McKissic to be out there when it would otherwise be Gibson. Better days are ahead, but it may have to wait another week. The Bills have allowed just 73 rushing yards per game thus far. We need Washington to get in position to give Gibson goal line carries. That’s been the main thing missing so far. They will come and you are obviously starting Gibson, but another down week might be in the cards.

Value Meter:
RB2: Antonio Gibson (high end)
WR2: Terry McLaurin (high end)
TE1: Logan Thomas (low end)
Bench: Taylor Heinicke, Dyami Brown, J.D. McKissic

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s been two weeks and Josh Allen quickly reminded everyone why going quarterback early can be risky. Allen has been fine, but nowhere near the top talent he looked like in 2020. The good news is the Washington defense doesn’t seem nearly as imposing as we thought. Justin Herbert and Daniel Jones both posted excellent fantasy days against them. Jones used his mobility to cause a lot of problems last week and I expect Allen to do the same.

Stefon Diggs scored last week, which salvaged an otherwise mediocre outing. It’s only a matter of time before he blows up. Even though Washington contained Kenny Golladay last week, they had no answer for Sterling Shepard. Diggs plays much more like Shepard than Golladay. I’m very excited for Diggs this week.

Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley remain serviceable WR3/4s. They are there. They’re on the field. They won’t get you zero. Occasionally one will find the end zone. That’s the best you’re going to get from these two.

Dawson Knox caught a touchdown last week, which he does from time to time. He’s a random tight end streamer that you hope scores, much like he just did, but far from a reliable weekly option.

WAS FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.12
WAS FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.27
WAS FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.7
WAS FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.18

Running Game Thoughts: Part of why Josh Allen didn’t have a monster game last week was the running backs stealing all the touchdowns. Devin Singletary opened the game with a 40-yard touchdown run. Then in the fourth quarter, Zack Moss stole two touchdowns.

Singletary is the clear lead back, playing 66% of the snaps to Moss’ 28%. Even in a game where the Bills led wire to wire in a 35-0 blowout, they threw 33 times against just 23 non-Allen rushes. Washington completely shut down Saquon Barkley last week and the Bills will be pass-heavy once again so avoid Singletary and Moss.

Value Meter:
QB1: Josh Allen (high end)
WR1: Stefon Diggs (high end)
WR3: Emmanuel Sanders
Flex: Cole Beasley
Bench: Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, Dawson Knox

Prediction: Bills 31, Football Team 20 ^ Top

Cardinals @ Jaguars - (Swanson)
Line: ARI -7.5
Total: 51.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Kyler Murray leads all quarterbacks with 72.7 fantasy points in his first two games, with seven passing touchdowns and two rushing TDs on designed runs. The hope for Murray managers was that he would continue to improve as a passer in his third year and eclipse or come close to 70% completions. While it is certainly a small sample size, Murray has done just that and continues to provide value with his legs.

One way that Murray has improved is by spreading the ball around to his deep corps of receivers. DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, A.J. Green, and rookie Rondale Moore each have at least nine targets so far this season. Moore provides a Deebo Samuel-like weapon in the offense with his running after the catch, while Hopkins continues to be an elite outside option.

From a matchup perspective, the Jags present a plus-plus matchup that should be exploited by Murray and the passing game. Jacksonville ranks 9th in points allowed to QBs and 14th to opposing WRs. The only reason why you may not get the full production in this game from your receiving weapon is a sideways game script created by the Cardinal defense against rookie Trevor Lawrence.

Hopkins missed practice on Wednesday with a rib injury. We think he will play, but he may not put in as many snaps as usual if the Cardinals jump out early. He is a start, but volume may be an issue. Another injury to monitor is starting lineman Kelvin Beachum, who missed Wednesday with a Rib injury as well.

Both of the starting corners for the Jags are listed on their injury report, with CJ Henderson, and Tre Herndon limited with groin and knee ailments. Both are likely to play, but that leaves just Shaquill Griffin as the only fully healthy Jags cornerback going against the best passing offense through two weeks.

JAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.14
JAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.10
JAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.16
JAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.8

Running Game Thoughts: The tandem of Chase Edmonds and James Conner have combined to score the 9th-fewest points by running back units in two games, which is not surprising when you consider Murray has two rushing touchdowns on designed plays in the red zone and the Arizona WRs lead the league in combined fantasy points.

Perhaps this is the game for head coach Kliff Kingsbury to get his running backs going, as the Jags lack playmakers up front, and the Arizona defense should create a game script conducive to running.

If you drafted Edmonds, this is the game to play him. If he doesn’t do well this week, chances are he is not going to live up to his draft capital. Conner is likely going to also get around 12 carries, including goal line touches. However, Murray is the best pure runner on the team and could once again poach a read-option TD run.

QB1: Kyler Murray (Elite)
RB2: Chase Edmonds (Low-End)
RB4: James Conner (High-End)
WR1: DeAndre Hopkins (Low-End)
WR3: Rondale Moore (High-End)
WR3: Christian Kirk (High-End)
TE2: Maxx Williams (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Two games into the Trevor Lawrence experience and the Jags are 0-2. Not surprising, as the Jags were unquestionably the worst team last year and earned the right for the top pick.

From a fantasy perspective, Lawrence has more points than Matt Ryan and just four fewer points than Aaron Rodgers.

As you would expect with a rookie, Lawrence is turning over the ball at a high rate (5 INTs) and completing a subpar number of passes (50%). He is on pace to throw for 3,825 yards, 34 touchdowns, and 42 interceptions.

Obviously, he is not someone you want to start in your fantasy lineup, but he has been effective enough for Jags wide receivers to have value. Through two games, the WR receiving corps ranks 15 in fantasy points scored, ahead of the Steelers, Bills, and Packers, among other top offenses. D.J. Chark and Marvin Jones each scored Week 1 against the Texans, and Jones followed up with another solid game (6/55/1) against the Broncos. Both players are worthy starts in this game in what could be a positive game script for the Jags to pass heavily in catch-up mode.

Laviska Shenault was a full participant on both Wednesday and Thursday with a shoulder injury and should be active on Sunday. He has yet to live up to the breakout status many had hoped, but he is still a talented player and a decent flex option.
Starting cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. missed practice with an ankle injury on Thursday and could miss this game, which could open the door for rookie Marco Wilson to start. Look for the Jags to exploit the rookie with a couple of deep passes to Jones and Chark.

An ankle sprain to starting TE James O’Shaughnessy will leave the Jags without their top tight end for three weeks. Jacob Hollister and Chris Manhertz will fill in at the position, but neither is worth a start. Look for an increase in targets to the receivers, including Shenault in short and intermediate routes.

ARI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.16
ARI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.22
ARI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.10
ARI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.29

Running Game Thoughts: Only the Giants have scored fewer points at the running back position through two games than the Jaguars, with Carlos Hyde and James Robinson averaging a pedestrian 13.5 total rushes per game. Head coach Urban Myer continues to use each player in a timeshare with neither option getting enough volume to get into a rhythm. And it is difficult to win any game when you are always behind and averaging 13 carries per game as a team.

This backfield is a mess, and this team is a mess. If you can avoid paying either player this week, and for the time being, it would make sense.

The Cardinals limited Derrick Henry to just 58 yards rushing and no scores and kept Dalvin Cook to 15.8 fantasy points. If both of those players were unable to reach the end zone and deliver fantasy value, it is difficult to see how Robison or Hyde can come through.

QB2: Trevor Lawrence (High-End)
RB3: James Robinson (Low-End)
RB4: Carlos Hyde (High-End)
WR2: Marvin Jones (Low-End)
WR3: D.J. Chark (High-End)
TE2: Jacob Hollister (Low-End)

Prediction: Arizona 34, Jacksonville 14 ^ Top

Bears @ Browns - (Green)
Line: CLE -7.0
Total: 45.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Since the moment Justin Fields was drafted, Bears fans have been anxious to anoint him the savior of a quarterback-starved franchise. Now, with Andy Dalton (knee) out due to a knee injury, Fields will make his first NFL start. No pressure. Fields played more than half of Week 2 in relief of Dalton, completing 6 of 13 passes for 60 yards and an INT. He also ran 10 times for 31 yards. Those are objectively terrible numbers, though being given a full week with first-team reps and a gameplan tailored to Fields’ strengths should certainly help.

With Dalton and Fields combining to throw for 116 yards it was a lean day for the team’s pass catchers with Darnell Mooney (6-66-0) leading the way. Allen Robinson (2-24-1), long the only reliable play in Chicago’s passing game, caught just two passes and has managed 59 yards receiving this season -- a year ago with Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles, Robinson averaged 78 per game. Cole Kmet had one catch for zero yards.

Cleveland is in the lower half of pass defense this season (272 yards per game), but keep in mind that mark is skewed by a Week 1 meeting with Patrick Mahomes. Perhaps the insertion of Fields will change the trajectory of this offense, but for now the only one worth playing is Robinson, and even that’s based on talent and potential rather than production at this juncture.

CLE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.3
CLE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.25
CLE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.14
CLE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.12

Running Game Thoughts: In addition to Fields’ seven rushing attempts (his other three were kneel downs), David Montgomery carried the rock 20 times last Sunday, gaining a hard-earned 61 yards. Cleveland has yielded just 3.0 YPC on the year, and we can expect to see a stacked box in Week 3 with the Browns looking to shut down the run and put the onus on Fields to move the ball. Look for a heavy workload for Montgomery, who checks in as a No. 2 back, and perhaps more involvement from Damien Williams; he had just four touches last week but could be a speculative flex.

Value Meter:
RB2: David Montgomery
Flex: Damien Williams
WR2/WR3: Allen Robinson
Bench: Justin Fields, Darnell Mooney, Cole Kmet

Passing Game Thoughts: It was an efficient day for Baker Mayfield in Week 2 as he completed 19 of 21 passes for 213 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT; he injured his non-throwing shoulder during the interception return but didn’t miss time. This is a formula we’ve seen from the Browns quite a bit since Kevin Stefanski took over with the running game in the spotlight and Mayfield unleashed as needed.

That figures to be Plan A once again in Week 3 with Cleveland battling injury issues at the receiver position. Jarvis Landry (knee) sustained a sprained MCL last Sunday and was placed on IR, meaning he’ll miss at least three games. Odell Beckham Jr. (knee) has missed the first two games as he works his way back from last year’s torn ACL, and while he has practiced in full it’s unclear if he’ll return against Chicago. If both are out you can expect TEs Austin Hooper (5-40-0), David Njoku (2-18-0) and even Harrison Bryant (4-49-0) to see more work along with Rashard Higgins and Donovan Peoples-Jones.

After being torched in Week 1 by the Rams, the Bears bounced back to make life tough on Joe Burrow in their home opener. Burrow was sacked five times and threw three consecutive interceptions at one point, including one that was returned for a score. Look for Cleveland to go after the Bears on the ground with Beckham as the only person of interest here. View OBJ as a WR3 if he suits up.

CHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.19
CHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.28
CHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.4
CHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.25

Running Game Thoughts: The one-two punch of Nick Chubb (11-95-1) and Kareem Hunt (13-51-0) was at it again last weekend as Cleveland controlled the line of scrimmage with the two RBs averaging 6.1 yards per carry as a duo. Run defense has been a Bears strength early on with their 71.5 rushing yards allowed per game ranking fifth in the NFL on an impressive 3.3 yards per rush. The Browns may have the league’s preeminent backfield, though, and Chubb is locked in as an RB1 with Hunt functioning as a low-end No. 2 back or strong No. 3 choice.

Value Meter:
RB1: Nick Chubb
RB2/RB3: Kareem Hunt
WR3: Odell Beckham Jr. (inj-knee)
Bench: Baker Mayfield, Austin Hooper, Jarvis Landry (IR-knee)

Prediction: Browns 27, Bears 17 ^ Top

Jets at Broncos - (Caron)
Line: DEN -10.5
Total: 41.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Week 1’s performance against the Panthers had some pundits falling in love with Jets quarterback Zach Wilson, but things came crashing back to Earth in Week 2 when the rookie was completely destroyed by the Patriots, throwing four interceptions in his first game in front of the fans in New York. While he was somewhat mobile in college, we’ve yet to see Wilson add much on the ground this season. This just isn’t a good enough team to produce a weekly fantasy QB1 without Wilson adding rushing yards and touchdowns.

Corey Davis’ huge debut performance against the Panthers had fantasy owners excited heading into Week 2, but we got a dose of reality when he was held to just two catches for eight yards against the Patriots. While Davis should still be considered the Jets’ top pass catching option, he’s a low-level fantasy option, especially in games like this, which is not expected to be a shootout. He’ll also face one of the league’s top secondaries, so it’s probably wise to sit him this week and wait for a much better matchup against the Titans in Week 4.

Rookie Elijah Moore leads all Jets wide receivers in snap count through two weeks. His eight targets in Week 2 were double what he saw in Week 1, but he still only caught four of them for 47 yards. Moore is an interesting player to keep an eye on, but he shouldn’t be in any fantasy lineups until we see the Jets offense prove it on the field.

While Davis and Moore have been far more talked-about, the player who actually leads the Jets in targets - by a fairly large six target margin - is slot receiver Braxton Berrios. Berrios has quietly been targeted 18 times through two games, converting them for 12 receptions and 123 yards. He hasn’t yet hit the end zone, but he’s been the Jets’ most reliable option and should continue to be an important part of the offense. Fantasy players in deep PPR formats should add Berrios or at least keep an eye on him for better matchups than what he’ll face against the Broncos here in Week 3.

Denver’s defense has been excellent thus far and they should be one of the top defensive plays on the board against a mistake-prone Jets offense. This isn’t an absolute “bench everyone” situation, but it’s close.

DEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.25
DEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.32
DEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.19
DEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.30

Running Game Thoughts: We knew this New York backfield would be a committee to start the season, but the fact that it’s been almost an identical touch distribution split between Tevin Coleman, Ty Johnson and Michael Carter has made it practically impossible to use any of them for fantasy. A three player split is not good in even the best offenses, but a low-volume offense like the one in New York means that this split is simply catastrophic.

If you’re in an absolutely desperate situation and have to start one of these backs, then the one who has seemingly had the most trust from the New York coaching staff is Ty Johnson. Johnson led all Jets backs in snap share in Week 1, doubling that of Carter and Coleman combined, and he also tied with Carter for the most snaps in Week 2. Coleman, meanwhile, saw just seven snaps in Week 2 and appears to be the odd man out for the moment.

These backs should be avoided in Week 3, however, as they’re facing a Broncos defense that has given up the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs so far this season, including holding Saquon Barkley and James Robinson to just 73 combined rushing yards and no touchdowns through two games.

Value Meter:
Flex: Corey Davis
Bench: Zach Wilson, Ty Johnson, Michael Carter, Tevin Coleman, Elijah Moore, Braxton Berrios

Passing Game Thoughts: One of the surprising fantasy performers thus far in 2021 has to be Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. While he narrowly beat out Drew Lock for the starting job, it’s been undeniable that the Broncos offense has looked substantially more efficient under Bridgewater this season than it did under Lock in 2021. Bridgewater has thrown for nearly 600 yards, four touchdowns, and hasn’t thrown an interception yet, allowing him to currently be ranked just outside of QB1 territory for fantasy. While it’s hard to expect that this level of efficiency will continue, Bridgewater is a very safe quarterback and one who should continue to at least allow the other Broncos offensive players to have some value. Bridgewater is more of a mid-to-low-level QB2 most weeks and is probably more on the low end here in Week 3 against a Jets defense that has done a good job of containing opposing quarterbacks.

Week 2 allowed us to see what the Broncos passing offense looks like without Jerry Jeudy and there were three main beneficiaries. First, Tim Patrick made it two straight games with a touchdown when he scored against Jacksonville and he has regained his place as second in the wide receiver pecking order in Denver. He’s a low upside option, but a player who should be owned in deeper formats, who could have some weekly starter appeal against weaker defenses in potential shootouts. That’s not what we have here in Week 3 against the Jets, however, so keep him out of your lineup for now. The other player who saw an increase in playing time was second-year wide receiver KJ Hamler. Hamler finished fourth on the team in WR snaps in Week 1, but played almost as many snaps as any Broncos receiver in Week 2 with Jeudy out. Hamler is a speedster with big play ability, but he’s unreliable for fantasy due to his low target volume. The player who really seemed to benefit from Jeudy’s absence was Courtland Sutton. Sutton missed almost all of the 2020 season and didn’t do much in Week 1 this year, but he reminded us of his potential as an NFL alpha wide receiver in Week 2 when he torched the Jaguars for nine catches for 159 yards on a team-high 12 targets. It’s difficult to imagine a scenario where he’s seeing that many targets on a regular basis in this Denver offense, but Sutton should command the lion’s share of the targets for the Broncos and that makes him a viable WR2 with WR1 upside.

Tight end Noah Fant should continue to be a big part of the Broncos offense, as well. He’s seen 14 targets through two games and has the explosive ability to turn that type of usage into some nice fantasy weeks. He’s been a borderline top five option through two games and he has the ability to stay in that range as long as he remains healthy.

NYJ FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.28
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.5
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.30
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.21

Running Game Thoughts: Most of us expected that the Denver backfield would be an even split between Melvin Gordon and rookie Javonte Williams to start the season and that’s about what we’ve seen. Gordon and Williams played an identical number of snaps in Week 1 and while Gordon out-snapped Williams in Week 2, it wasn’t by a very substantial margin. The touch distribution has also been completely identical, with each back touching the ball exactly 29 times through two games. Gordon has been a bit more effective with his touches, particularly in the passing game, where he’s caught five passes for 55 yards, and he did score the team’s only rushing touchdown thus far, but this is about as close to a complete time split as can possibly be drawn up. With that being the case, it’s hard to trust either of these backs as anything more than a Flex option for fantasy right now. They do, however, have a decent matchup here against the Jets in what could be a very run-heavy game.

The Jets have given up the ninth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs so far this season and while a Week 1 game against Christian McCaffrey sort of skews that, they also gave up a decent fantasy day to both Damien Williams and James White in Week 2. This is a beatable defense on the ground and the Broncos backs are in play for fantasy, especially in deeper leagues.

Value Meter:
QB2: Teddy Bridgewater
RB2: Melvin Gordon (low-end)
WR2: Courtland Sutton
TE1: Noah Fant
Flex: Javonte Williams
Bench: Tim Patrick, KJ Hamler

Prediction: Broncos 24, Jets 13 ^ Top

Dolphins at Raiders - (Caron)
Line: LV -4.0
Total: 44.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Tua Tagovailoa has been ruled out for Sunday’s game, which will lead to Jacoby Brissett making his first start since 2019. Brissett took over for Tua in Week 2 and ended up attempting 40 passes, resulting in just 169 passing yards and zero points scored by the Dolphins. We have to assume that game planning around Brissett’s skill set will lead to an improvement here in Week 2, but this is still likely a low upside offense on the road against the Raiders.

On a positive note, we’ll get to see the debut of free agent acquisition wide receiver Will Fuller. Fuller was the highest-selected Miami pass catcher in fantasy drafts this offseason, so fantasy players should be looking for even more target competition in this already low volume passing attack.

DeVante Parker currently leads the team in targets and yards, while rookie Jaylen Waddle has the reception lead along with being the only Dolphins player who made a touchdown reception so far this season. While Parker and Waddle have both scored some fantasy points, neither player looks like a particularly reliable option this week, especially now that Fuller is back and presumably in line to demand a significant number of snaps and targets.

Tight end is also convoluted in Miami right now, as Mike Gesicki has been splitting snaps with Durham Smythe, Adam Shaheen, Cethan Carter and rookie Hunter Long. While Gesicki has been the only one utilized much in the passing game at all, his lack of total snaps has contributed to him seeing just eight total targets through two games. Gesicki, for the time being, is unplayable in fantasy.

As if this whole Miami passing game wasn’t a crapshoot to begin with, things are only made worse by the reality that the Raiders defense is looking a lot better than most of us thought they would. They held Ben Roethlisberger and Lamar Jackson to just two total touchdowns between them and the average of 265 passing yards per game that they’ve allowed isn’t enough for us to be excited about.

LV FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.20
LV FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.11
LV FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.15
LV FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.27

Running Game Thoughts: Myles Gaskin has been the lead back, having seen the field on just under 60 percent of the Dolphins’ snaps, but we’ve seen enough work coming from backups Salvon Ahmed and Malcolm Brown that we have to be worried about Gaskins’ status as a true workhorse. As of now, the carry distribution breaks down to just 14 for Gaskin, nine for Ahmed and 10 for Brown. Gaskin has been by far the most involved player in the passing game, catching nine of the 10 targets that’ve come his way for 48 yards, but that alone isn’t enough to make him a high quality fantasy asset thus far.

This week the Dolphins backs will face a Raiders defense that has been effective at containing opposing backs on the ground, but they have already given up 87 receiving yards on 10 catches to the position through two games. With Brissett behind center, look for the Dolphins to implement a low average depth of target passing attack, which should benefit the Miami backfield and Gaskin in particular. Still, this isn’t a very good offense overall and it’s probably best to not look at Gaskin as much more than a low-end RB2 or Flex option until we see him demanding a higher share of the touches in this offense.

Value Meter:
RB2: Myles Gaskin (low-end)
Bench: Jacoby Brissett, Salvon Ahmed, Malcolm Brown, Jaylen Waddle, Will Fuller, DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki

Passing Game Thoughts: Very few people would have predicted that we’d be talking about Derek Carr in the early season MVP race, but here we are. The Raiders quarterback has been excellent, having already thrown for 817 yards and four touchdowns with only one interception, having played against two of the league’s best defenses in the Ravens and Steelers. Now we’re looking forward to Carr playing against a less difficult matchup, at home against the Dolphins.

A quick glance at the box score would tell you that the Dolphins defense must have played well this past week when they held Bills quarterback Josh Allen to just 179 yards, but that is missing the context that the game ended up being a 35-0 Bills blowout victory. Buffalo simply did not need their quarterback to make plays once the game was out of reach, so the volume was not there. A better indication of the Dolphins defense might instead be the Week 1 contest against the Patriots, in which they allowed rookie Mac Jones to throw for 281 yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut.

The Raiders aren’t likely to be a huge volume passing attack in most games, but they could choose to pass the ball more heavily in this game than usual in this one, simply because they’re still looking unlikely to have running back Josh Jacobs back in the lineup. Carr himself lacks the rushing ability or high pass attempt numbers to really be a consistent QB1 for fantasy, but he does deliver QB2 numbers fairly regularly and should continue to do enough to provide multiple fantasy-relevant pass catchers in most games.

Tight end Darren Waller notably saw an absurd 19 targets in Week 1, which he took for 105 yards and a touchdown on 10 receptions. His numbers came back down to Earth in Week 2 when caught just five passes for 65 yards and no touchdowns on seven targets. While that sounds like a disappointing game, it’s worth considering that 65 yards per game would be a pace of over 1,100 yards in a 17-game regular season - a number that only elite tight ends ever sniff...and that was considered a “down” game for Waller. He remains by far the best pass catching weapon in Las Vegas and should be in line for another heavy target day here in Week 3.

The real question in Las Vegas is which players, other than Waller, will see targets. So far the most-targeted wide receiver for the Raiders has been slot receiver Hunter Renfrow. Renfrow has actually been targeted 16 times in two games, catching 11 of those passes for 127 yards and no scores. He’s a low-upside PPR option, but he’s someone who does offer a decent floor at the moment if you’re in a pinch in deep PPR formats.

The upside plays remain second-year wide receivers Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards. Those two receivers lead the position group, each having played 100 or more snaps through two games, with Edwards narrowly edging out the former first-rounder in total snaps. The target distribution, however, favors Ruggs, who has seen the ball come his way 12 times to Edwards’ eight. Week 2 saw Ruggs out-target Edwards eight to three, and he delivered on that opportunity, catching five of those passes for 113 yards and a touchdown. It was just the second 100-yard game of Ruggs’ young career and it should give fantasy owners some hope for him going forward, especially if he earned more of the trust from his coaches and quarterback. The Dolphins secondary does have some talented players, so this isn’t an easy matchup by any means, but it’s one where you could look to Ruggs as a deep Flex option, hoping that he’ll be able to build upon his breakout performance from Week 2.

MIA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.24
MIA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.4
MIA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.24
MIA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.14

Running Game Thoughts: The Raiders were without former first round running back Josh Jacobs in Week 2, and they may again be without him here in Week 3 as he continues to deal with foot injuries. Many assumed that Jacobs’ absence would lead to a heavy workload for backup Kenyan Drake, but that surprisingly didn’t happen. While Drake out-snapped him 47 to 19, it was actually between-the-tackles grinder Peyton Barber who out-carried Drake by a margin of 13 to 7. Sure, Drake did have the better fantasy day as he was involved in the passing game where he caught five passes for 46 yards, but this split meant that neither player was particularly useful for fantasy purposes as neither was able to get into the end zone.

Assuming that Jacobs will be out again, look for the Raiders to once again implement a split backfield. Neither Drake nor Barber were efficient as runners in Week 2 so don’t expect much of a shift either way in that regard. Drake should remain the team’s primary passing down back which will allow him to catch some passes and play more total snaps, but he’s still not much more than a PPR Flex in this matchup.

Value Meter:
QB2: Derek Carr
TE1: Darren Waller (high-end)
Flex: Kenyan Drake (if Josh Jacobs is out), Henry Ruggs III (low-end)
Bench: Peyton Barber, Hunter Renfrow, Bryan Edwards

Prediction: Raiders 23, Dolphins 17 ^ Top

Seahawks @ Vikings - (Green)
Line: MIN -1.5
Total: 55.0

Passing Game Thoughts: For the first 30 minutes last Sunday it seemed like Seattle would roll to a 2-0 record. That didn’t happen. The Seahawks went off the rails in all facets, collecting six points and five first downs in the second half and overtime while allowing Tennessee to claim a come-from-behind victory. Russell Wilson still finished with strong numbers (343 yards passing and two TDs), but this wasn’t the first time we’ve seen a Wilson-led offense inexplicably fall apart. We’ll see what kind of answer the veteran has in Week 3 against the Vikings.

Just like last year, it’s Tyler Lockett (8-178-1) that has gotten off to the fast start as he’s currently second in the NFL in both receiving yards (278) and TDs (three). Lockett flamed out after Week 6 last season, topping 70 yards in a game just once over his final 10, so we’ll see if he can better sustain his production this time. DK Metcalf (6-53-0) has taken a backseat so far, but we all know that won’t last as his physicality and talent make him a more sustainable producer than the slightly built Lockett.

Minnesota invested significant resources into overhauling their secondary, but to this point the results have been uninspired. The Vikings rank 26th in passing yards allowed (294 per game), even with a reinvigorated pass rush (eight sacks; tied-2nd). Wilson threw for three TDs against the Vikings last year, with two of them going to Metcalf. Both, along with Lockett, are solid No. 1s at their positions this Sunday.

MIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.5
MIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.16
MIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.3
MIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.17

Running Game Thoughts: Chris Carson (13-31-2) never really got going last week but still delivered for fantasy owners thanks to a pair of short touchdown runs. The bruising back ran for 52 yards and a score against Minnesota in 2020 on just eight carries so we’ll see if Seattle can feed him the ball a bit more often. Through two games, the Vikings are allowing 126 rushing yards on 4.4 yards per carry. Carson has RB1 potential but is better played as your No. 2 back.

Value Meter:
QB1: Russell Wilson
RB1/RB2: Chris Carson
WR1: Tyler Lockett
WR1: DK Metcalf
Bench: Gerald Everett

Passing Game Thoughts: A week ago, Minnesota’s offense was balanced and efficient, averaging 7.0 yards per play and avoiding the turnover bug completely... and they still fell short. Kirk Cousins, who was plagued by interceptions last season, has thrown for 595 yards and five TDs without a pick. Knowing Mike Zimmer, it feels like an adjustment must be coming, and it could resemble what the Vikings did against Seattle last year when they ran 41 times and possessed the ball for almost 40 minutes with Cousins working underneath routes (27 completions for 249 yards).

Easily the biggest surprise for Minnesota this season is the play of K.J. Osborn, who hauled in five passes for 91 yards and a score in Week 2 -- he currently leads the team in receiving on the year (12-167-1) ahead of Adam Thielen (15-131-1) and Justin Jefferson (11-136-1). I’d still advise proceeding with caution, though for Week 3 you could play Osborn as your flex with his presence dropping Jefferson and Thielen to WR2s. As for Cousins, he could fill a spot in two-QB formats.

Thus far the Seahawks have allowed a lot of yards through the air (271.5 per game; 26th) but few scores (two TDs; tied-8th). Their six sacks are tied for fifth in the NFL, but they’re one of seven teams without an interception. There should be opportunities here if needed, but it feels like the gameplan may center on running the football, particularly after what Derrick Henry did against Seattle in Week 2.

SEA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.21
SEA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.1
SEA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.21
SEA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.22

Running Game Thoughts: Watching Dalvin Cook (22-131-0) lie face down on the field last Sunday with a stinger, and then later be removed from the game with an ankle issue, one wonders just how much his body can take. At 26, Cook isn’t old, but he has endured heavy usage in his career and his latest ankle sprain is keeping him out of practice this week. They’ll need Cook on Sunday, as the Seahawks are currently 31st in run defense at 162.5 yards per game. Cook should be played as an RB1 barring a change in his condition with Alexander Mattison (20-112-0 vs SEA in ’20) on standby.

Value Meter:
QB2: Kirk Cousins
RB1: Dalvin Cook (inj-ankle)
WR2: Adam Thielen
WR2: Justin Jefferson
Flex: K.J. Osborn
Bench: Alexander Mattison

Prediction: Seahawks 31, Vikings 27 ^ Top

Buccaneers at Rams - (Caron)
Line: TB -1.5
Total: 55.5

Passing Game Thoughts: It doesn’t seem fair, but 44-year-old quarterback continues to dominate the NFL, having already thrown for a league-leading nine touchdown passes. No other quarterback has more than seven. His ability to distribute the ball to multiple weapons has been on display once again, as he’s provided effective fantasy days for all three of his top receivers with Chris Godwin, Mike Evans and Antonio Brown, as well as veteran tight end Rob Gronkowski who has already scored four times in two games.

The Buccaneers did, however, face some pretty weak defensive competition in Weeks 1 and 2 as they were at home against the Cowboys and Falcons. Things get much tougher here in Week 3 as the team heads on the road to face a very good Rams defense. The Rams completely dominated the Bears back in Week 1 when they held Andy Dalton to just 206 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. They then followed it up by punishing Carson Wentz and eventually backup Jacob Eason, both of whom threw an interception. Certainly Brady is a far superior quarterback to anyone the Rams have faced thus far, but it’s worth considering that this is not likely to be as easy for the Bucs as things were in Weeks 1 and 2. One player who may specifically be in line for a tough day is wide receiver Mike Evans. Evans, who primarily plays on the outside in the Bucs offense, is likely to see plenty of attention from elite cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey has been one of the best defensive backs in the league for years now and it’s tough to expect much out of any receiver who goes up against him. Evans turned in a monster, two-touchdown performance against the Falcons in Week 2 so it’s understandable that he’ll be in most lineups, but don’t expect a huge game from him in this one.

Adding to what looks to be a difficult matchup is a COVID-19 situation at wide receiver, specifically Antonio Brown. Brown is unlikely to play on Sunday due to this and that should mean more playing time for Scotty Miller, and potentially Tyler Johnson. Neither player should be on fantasy radars in this difficult matchup, however.

If there’s a receiver who could see an uptick in usage due to the Brown COVID situation and the Ramsey factor on the outside, it’s Chris Godwin. Godwin plays out of the slot on about 60 percent of his snaps - one of the highest rates in the league. This typically allows him to avoid opposing teams’ top cornerbacks, who typically play outside. Godwin has exploited this matchup in each of the two games he’s played against the Rams over the past two seasons. He saw his highest target number of the 2020 regular season against the Rams when the Bucs played them in Week 11, when he caught seven of his 10 targets for 53 yards and a touchdown. Then in 2019, he had one of the biggest games of his career when he was targeted 14 times, catching 12 of those passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns. Godwin should see a higher target share in general with Brown being out, but this is a quietly good matchup for him and one that fantasy owners should take advantage of in what could be an otherwise difficult day for the Buccaneers passing game.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski also looks like a must-start in this one as the future Hall of Famer remains Tom Brady’s go-to receiver in the red zone.

LAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.23
LAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.20
LAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.20
LAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.15

Running Game Thoughts: The Buccaneers backfield remains one to avoid for fantasy purposes at the moment, but at least for now, things appear to still be leaning in the favor of Leonard Fournette. Fournette has now out-carried Ronald Jones by a total of 20 carries to 10 through two games, but more importantly than that is that he’s out-targeted Jones by a margin of 11 to 3. Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians was asked about Jones’ role in the passing game by a reporter this week and responded by saying that Jones is not where he should be in that area. This just doesn’t bode well for Jones’ fantasy value going forward and he hasn’t done enough on the ground to justify giving him more carries either. Meanwhile, Fournette has low upside in what has been a very pass-heavy Buccaneers offense, but he has at least turned in back-to-back double-digit PPR fantasy performances, anchored in large part by nine catches. Fournette is a decent receiver out of the backfield and appears to be far more trusted as a pass protector so he’s likely to continue to hold the starting job here in Tampa for the time being.

Either way, this isn’t a great backfield to target for fantasy purposes. The Rams are a very good defense overall and, with the exception of a 41-yard run by David Montgomery in Week 1, they’ve held opposing backs in check. This past week they held Jonathan Taylor to just 51 yards on the ground on 15 carries. All of this lends itself to the idea that both Jones and Fournette should be on most fantasy benches, but Fournette is someone who could be used as a very low-end RB2 or Flex if you’re in a tough spot.

Value Meter:
QB1: Tom Brady
WR2: Chris Godwin (high-end), Mike Evans (low-end)
TE1: Rob Gronkowski
Flex: Leonard Fournette (PPR only)
Bench: Ronald Jones, Scotty Miller, Tyler Johnson

Passing Game Thoughts: The Rams have now passed for nearly 600 yards in two games with Matthew Stafford having thrown for five touchdowns in two Los Angeles victories. While he isn’t likely to reach MVP level from a fantasy standpoint, there’s little question that he has been a huge upgrade from Jared Goff and the Rams appear to be legitimate contenders in the NFC. They do have their first real test of the season here in Week 3.

While they’re considered by most to be a good defense, Tampa Bay has already given up 703 passing yards and five touchdowns through two games. They have forced four interceptions so it hasn’t all been bad, but there is definitely some potential for a shootout, and that should interest fantasy owners, especially those invested in the passing games for these teams.

Los Angeles’ top two pass catchers continue to be Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, with Kupp currently ranked as the top PPR wide receiver in fantasy football. He’s already been targeted 21 times, catching 16 of those passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns. Meanwhile, things have been quiet for Woods on the outside, who has caught eight of the 13 passes that have come his way, for 91 yards and a touchdown. He hasn’t delivered any boom weeks yet, but Woods has at least delivered double-digit PPR points in each game. Both Kupp and Woods remain must-starts for fantasy right now, with Kupp being a low-end WR1 and Woods being a low-end WR2.

While the target consolidation to Kupp and Woods remains good for those two players, it has certainly not been good for other wide receivers in Los Angeles. DeSean Jackson and Van Jefferson are the only other wide receivers who have even seen a single target this season, and they only have eight between the two of them. That low volume just isn’t enough to make them viable for fantasy.

Tight end Tyler Higbee is the only other fantasy-relevant pass catcher here in Los Angeles, but we saw in Week 2 that he remains a fairly volatile option, as he was targeted just once against the Colts. Tight end is such a difficult position to find fantasy production from anyway, though, so it’s not surprising that Higbee is going to give you some dud weeks from time to time. We did see that he can produce some decent fantasy numbers, as he caught five passes for 68 yards in Week 1 against the Bears. This week he’ll be against a Buccaneers defense that hasn’t given up a touchdown to a tight end yet, but they have given up 19 total catches to the position through two games. Look for him to have some opportunities in this game, and he should be in most lineups as a low-end TE1.

TB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.7
TB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.26
TB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.1
TB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.10

Running Game Thoughts: Darrell Henderson dominated the snaps and touches in the Los Angeles backfield for the second straight week prior to suffering a rib cartilage injury which allowed backup Sony Michel to see a spike in playing time and touches in Week 2. The Rams sound hopeful that they’ll have Henderson in Week 3, but that hasn’t been confirmed yet and there’s a chance that his playing time will be limited even if he’s available. This ambiguous situation makes it tough to trust either Henderson or Michel, as long as Henderson is active, especially considering that this is a late-afternoon game and we may not learn about Henderson’s availability until it’s too late.

If we do find out that Henderson is going to be active in advance, then we can probably assume that he’s a low-end RB2 in this matchup against a good Buccaneers defense. If we find out that he’s inactive, then Michel would bump up into the low-end RB2 range.

Value Meter:
QB1: Matthew Stafford (low-end)
WR1: Cooper Kupp (low-end)
WR2: Robert Woods
TE1: Tyler Higbee (low-end)
Flex: Darrell Henderson, Sony Michel (if Henderson is out)
Bench: Michel (if Henderson is active), Van Jefferson, DeSean Jackson

Prediction: Buccaneers 28, Rams 27 ^ Top

Packers at 49ers - (Caron)
Line: SF -3.0
Total: 50.0

Passing Game Thoughts: The Packers got things back on track with a dominant victory over the Lions in Week 2, and reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers lit up the scoreboard with four touchdowns. While not everything was perfect, particularly in the first half, it was good to see Green Bay bounce back from what was a disastrous start to the season in Week 1 when they got blown out by New Orleans.

The Packers wide receiver group remains thin, with really only Davante Adams having any sort of weekly appeal at the moment. Adams delivered a respectable five catch, 56-yard day even in a down week for the Packers in Week 1, but he bounced back in a big way in Week 2 with an eight catch, 121 yard day in Week 2. While he hasn’t yet scored a touchdown, expect that to correct itself as Adams remains one of the top pass catchers in the sport and an every week must-start.

Wide receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb are simply not involved enough to be viable fantasy options at the moment, but it’s worth noting that Cobb has played just 27 total snaps through two games, with Lazard and Valdes-Scantling both playing about three times that many snaps.

Tight end Robert Tonyan is really the only other viable fantasy option in this passing game, and even he is only a potential starter because he plays such a thin position. His borderline elite year-ending fantasy total from 2020 was heavily carried by an extremely high touchdown rate which was unlikely to continue here in 2021, but we’ll need him to see more than the seven targets he’s seen over the first two weeks of the season if he’s going to be a locked-in fantasy starter.

The 49ers defense gave up productive fantasy days to both Jared Goff and Jalen Hurts this season, so Aaron Rodgers and the Packers shouldn’t be in line for too difficult of a matchup on Sunday night.

SF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.10
SF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.6
SF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.29
SF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.11

Running Game Thoughts: A horrendous Week 1 had some fantasy owners worried, but Aaron Jones bounced back in a huge way in Week 2 as he destroyed the Lions for over 100 total yards and four total touchdowns. Certainly a multiple-touchdown day isn’t something that we should be expecting on a regular basis, but Jones remains one of the better fantasy backs in the league and is a must-start in really any matchup.

While the 49ers defense has mostly contained opposing running backs on the ground thus far, they’ve already given up 19 receptions to opposing backs through two games. Of course, the Lions seemed intent on specifically targeting their tight ends and running backs against the 49ers back in Week 1, so those numbers are a bit skewed, but it’s worth noting that this is a potentially exploitable matchup for the Packers and Aaron Jones via the passing game.

Value Meter:
QB1: Aaron Rodgers
RB1: Aaron Jones
WR1: Davante Adams (high-end)
TE1: Robert Tonyan (low-end)
Bench: AJ Dillon, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb

Passing Game Thoughts: Two straight victories have the 49ers quarterback situation looking pretty safe in the hands of Jimmy Garoppolo. Garoppolo’s 503 yards and two touchdowns via the air and one on the ground have him ranked as about a mid-level QB2 right now, and unfortunately that’s about all that we can expect from him as a fantasy contributor, given the 49ers’ tendency to run the ball.

This week he’ll face a Packers defense that got absolutely torched for five touchdowns by Jameis Winston in Week 1, and even allowed Jared Goff to throw a pair of touchdowns in Week 2, but they’ve actually only allowed a total of 397 passing yards through two games.

Jaire Alexander remains one of the top cornerbacks in all of football and he’s likely to match up quite a bit with wide receiver Deebo Samuel, who has been crushing early in 2021. Samuel has been targeted 20 times already this season, catching 15 of those passes for 282 yards and a touchdown. He’s been by far the most valuable pass catcher in San Francisco and he’s the only wide receiver on the team who’s even been targeted more than four times. Assuming that the Packers have identified the 49ers’ offensive scheme thus far, it would make sense that Alexander lines up against Samuel on most snaps, which could mean a lower-than-expected target share. Samuel could, however, avoid Alexander, depending on how the 49ers move him around on the field, and that makes him someone who can still be in your fantasy lineup here in Week 3 - just understand that there is some downside in this matchup, and he might drop an egg.

While Trent Sherfield and Jauan Jennings have each caught touchdown passes, neither of those players should do much for fantasy owners. The only other wide receiver we care about is 2020 first round pick Brandon Aiyuk, who seems to have found himself in the dog house early in the season. Aiyuk has played the second-most snaps among 49ers wide receivers, but he’s still far behind Samuel in snap share and he’s only been targeted twice on the season. For now he has to be on fantasy benches until we see him break out of this bizarre situation.

Tight end George Kittle has gotten off to a slow start, but there’s little reason to believe that he won’t get back to being at least a top five tight end. This week he’ll face a Packers defense that has been giving up huge production to opposing tight ends. They got beat for a pair of touchdowns by Saints tight end Juwan Johnson in Week 1, before conceding eight catches for 66 yards and a touchdown to T.J. Hockenson in Week 2. It’s not panic time quite yet for Kittle if he doesn’t light up the scoreboard, but this is certainly a good matchup and one that we should be expecting good things from Kittle in.

GB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.8
GB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.14
GB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.27
GB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.4

Running Game Thoughts: It’s hard to imagine a team being more snake-bitten by injuries at the running back position than the 49ers have been over the past few seasons, but if there’s one thing that’s undeniable, it’s that they’ve always been able to bounce back and get the most out of whatever players are active in the backfield on game day. This week the 49ers will be without JaMychal Hasty who suffered a high ankle sprain, and they may also be without rookie Trey Sermon who suffered a concussion in the 49ers’ Week 2 victory over the Eagles. Sermon hasn’t been cleared to play yet, but he is practicing in a no-contact jersey and Kyle Shanahan has said that it looks like Sermon is trending in the right direction. Meanwhile, the team’s Week 2 starter, Elijah Mitchell, has missed practice with a shoulder injury.

This whole situation is made worse by the reality that the 49ers and Packers are playing on Sunday night, which makes it increasingly likely that we won’t have a clear picture as to who will and won’t be active by the time we need to make lineup decisions on Sunday morning. As such, unless you own more than one 49ers back, or someone like Tony Pollard who plays on Monday night and could get subbed in if your starter is inactive, it’s probably wise to avoid starting any of these 49ers backs here in Week 3. Of course, for the purposes of this article, we’ll rank Mitchell the highest for now, as he’s likely to be the starter again if all of the players are active, but this is an extremely volatile situation that could even end in Kerryon Johnson being elevated from the practice squad and shoved into a prominent role.

Value Meter:
QB2: Jimmy Garoppolo
WR2: Deebo Samuel (low-end)
TE1: George Kittle
Flex: Elijah Mitchell, Trey Sermon (if Mitchell is out)
Bench: Sermon (if Mitchell is active), Brandon Aiyuk, Trent Sherfield, Mohamed Sanu

Prediction: Packers 27, 49ers 23 ^ Top

Eagles at Cowboys - (Katz)
Line: DAL -3.5
Total: 51.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Last week, Hurts regressed considerably from Week 1, throwing for just 190 yards, but he still managed QB1 numbers due to his rushing ability. In his one career start against the Cowboys, Jalen Hurts threw for 342 yards while rushing for 69 more on nine carries. Hurts is an every week must start.

DeVonta Smith splashed in Week 1, but disappeared along with Hurts in Week 2. The Cowboys gave up nearly 200 receiving yards to Keenan Allen and Mike Williams last week. Fire up Smith with confidence.

Beyond Smith, the only other potentially startable option is Dallas Goedert with Zach Ertz currently on the Covid list. If he can’t get cleared for Monday night, then Goedert might actually play a full complement of snaps. Goedert averages 8.5 FPts/g with Ertz in the lineup against 11.9 FPts/g with Ertz out.

Jalen Reagor remains the Eagles’ WR2, but he’s not a fantasy option. Quez Watkins is a name to keep an eye on, but you’re not starting him just yet.

DAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.6
DAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.18
DAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.5
DAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.6

Running Game Thoughts: Miles Sanders has underwhelmed from a fantasy standpoint through two games, but I’m actually encouraged by what he’s done. Sanders is the clear lead back, playing 67% of the offensive snaps. He touched the ball 19 times in Week 1 and 14 times in Week 2. If Sanders had been able to find the end zone, the perception on him would be much different. I have a feeling he punches one in this week.

Kenny Gainwell deserves to be on fantasy rosters, too. He’s the clear RB2, playing about 33% of the snaps. Gainwel had 11 touches in Week 1 and eight in Week 2. That’s enough usage to at least know you can throw him in your lineup in a pinch and not get zero

Value Meter:
QB1: Jalen Hurts (mid-range)
RB2: Miles Sanders (mid-range)
WR3: DeVonta Smith
TE1: Dallas Goedert (low end)
Bench: Jalen Reagor, Kenneth Gainwell, Quez Watkins, Zach Ertz

Passing Game Thoughts: After completely abandoning the run in Week 1, the Cowboys had a different plan to beat the Chargers in Week 2. That resulted in Dak Prescott throwing for just 237 yards despite completing 85% of his passes. Expect Prescott to throw a couple touchdowns in this one.

The bigger concern is Amari Cooper’s ribs. Jerry Jones is hopeful Cooper will play, but it’s unlikely we have an answer prior to you having to set lineups on Sunday. That puts fantasy owners in a difficult predicament. If Cooper’s status remains uncertain, you need to do one of two things. Either bench him if you have a solid replacement or pickup Cedrick Wilson so you have a plug-n-play option in the event Cooper doesn’t play. The good news is Cooper was limited at Thursday’s practice, as opposed to out. My early gut call is that he plays.

Regardless of Cooper’s status, CeeDee Lamb is ready to smash as the best wide receiver on the Cowboys. Even though the Eagles only allow 162.5 passing yards per game, that’s more of a product of their opponents than anything else. This defense is definitely improved, but they haven’t faced an offense like Dallas.

At tight end, Blake Jarwin is the preferred fantasy option over Dalton Schultz, but the two are splitting time relatively evenly, which makes neither a recommended option.

PHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.30
PHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.21
PHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.31
PHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.19

Running Game Thoughts: Mike McCarthy and Kellen Moore are shockingly embracing the fact that Tony Pollard is immensely more talented than Ezekiel Elliott. Zeke is still the lead back as he totaled 97 yards of offense with a touchdown last week, but no one watching that game would come away thinking he was better than Pollard. The “backup” touched the ball 16 times and racked up 140 yards of offense with a touchdown.

Unfortunately, I’m still not sure if Pollard can be trusted given that he played on just 34% of the snaps. If the Cowboys aren’t as run-heavy as they were, the touches would likely come at Pollard’s expense. The Eagles allow 120.5 rushing yards per game, so hopefully both Zeke and Pollard can eat. For those who watched Pollard smash on their bench last week, I would try and refrain from point chasing and see how things play out before declaring Pollard an every week starter.

Value Meter:
QB1: Dak Prescott (mid-range)
RB1: Ezekiel Elliott (low end)
WR1: CeeDee Lamb (low end)
WR2: Amari Cooper (mid-range)
Flex: Tony Pollard, Cedrick Wilson (if Cooper sits)
Bench: Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz

Prediction: Cowboys 27 Eagles 24 ^ Top