START OR SIT: WEEK 3

Week 3 is upon us my friends, and the player pool is looking grim.  You may have lost a running back for the season and were forced to throw together a scrappy roster and start a low-end RB 3.  Some of you may have cruised to a 2-0 start with depth on your roster, while some of us have fallen to 0-2 with not a decent starter to speak of.

Fantasy football leagues are not won by the players that you draft, but by the players you pick up on the waiver wire.  And when your weekly roster consists of people who went undrafted in your league, matchups become that much more important and starting the right players even more crucial.  Whether your team is stacked and healthy or battered and bruised, everyone needs a little assurance with their lineup decisions.  Here are my Week 3 Recommendations:

START

QUARTERBACKS

JIMMY GAROFOLO, QB San Francisco 49ers @ Kansas City Chiefs
18.9 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS

I’ll be the first to admit that Jimmy GQ isn’t turning out to be what I expected him to be: Elite Level Top 5 QB.  While he does not have his #1 receiver Marquise Goodwin and it is a rather small sample size, the numbers are frightening.

  • 28 Targets to Wide Receivers (32nd in NFL)
  • 57 Total Team Targets (29th in NFL)

George Kittle is leading this team with 13 targets and they are barely throwing to their running backs, which is Shanahan’s calling card.  The 49ers will see the 2-0 Chiefs this weekend in Kansas City. KC is coming in just having surrendered 35 Fantasy Points to Phillip Rivers (34-51, 424 3 TD) and 46 Fantasy Points to Pittsburgh and Ben Roethlisberger (39-60 452 3 TDs) and are averaging 34.0 Fantasy Points to opposing quarterbacks.  Last year, they allowed the 9th most fantasy points to opposing QBs, to the tune of 17.0 fantasy points per game.  The Chiefs pass rush (26th), run defense (31st) and secondary (28th) do not even crack the top 25 worst in the league.

This should be an offensive shoot-out with very little defense.  Roll with Jimmy GQ.

RYAN FITZPATRICK, QB Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
22.8 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS

Strap on for the ride, my friends, because Ryan Fitzpatrick is for real and Jameis Winston is not getting his job back.  Fitz-magic is fresh off a 53 point fantasy performance to the Saints and a 43 point performance to the 3rd best defense in the NFL Philadelphia Eagles.  He will face the Steelers at home Week 3.

The Steelers defense is trying to rebound from last week’s loss to the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes’ 6 touchdown, 52 Fantasy Point outburst.  They currently rank 2nd in the NFL for most Fantasy Points allowed per game with 31.2, but this is not a good depiction of this defense since 84% of the total points allowed occurred in Week 2.  But this defense is still bad, returning the 23rd ranked run defense, the 21st ranked pass rush and the 21st ranked secondary.

Fitz-Magic should thrive Week 3.

ALEX SMITH, QB Washington Redskins vs. Green Bay Packers
21.4 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS

Old Reliable Alex Smith is surprisingly owned in over 75% of Fantasy Leagues.  I guess fantasy owners have finally realized that while Smith has no real upside, he has a very high floor and can be counted on for consistent fantasy production.

He will face the Packers at home Week 3, who are allowing 23.8 Fantasy Points to opposing QBs this season, which is good for 5th most in the league.  They also rank 12th in rushing yards allowed to opposing QBs and Alex Smith is known to run for a few.  In 2017, the Green Bay Packers Defense allowed a total of 288.04 Fantasy Points, or 18.0 Points per Game to opposing QBs, which was good for 6th most in the league.  They also allowed the 9th most yards (4,041) and 2nd most TDs (30) to opposing QBs last season.  Through 2 weeks in 2018, their run defense is graded 32nd, or dead last in the NFL and their pass rush ranks 26th.  While their secondary graded out at a respectable 8th in the league, Alex Smith will find holes in this defense and will keep them off-balance.

Expect 250+ passing yards and 3 TDs.

ELI MANNING, QB New York Giants @ Houston Texans
17.90 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS

I hate to say it, but I think Ben Mcadoo was right.  Eli has to go.  Manning has all these elite tools at his disposal (Top 5 RB, Top 3 WR, Top 3 TE) and continues to be a well below average regular season quarterback.  Get him to the post season and he is the best QB on the planet.  But those years are long gone and the blame continues to fall on the offensive line with Eric Flowers allowing free passes to the QB at an alarming clip (seriously, cut him).  But if there was any time they were going to right the ship, it would be Week 3 on the road against the Texans.  2017 Houston Texans Defense against opposing QBs:

  • 3,971 Yards Against (10th most in NFL)
  • 30 TDs Against (3rd most in NFL)
  • 5 Fantasy Points Allowed Per Game (2nd most in NFL)

Their defense has been pretty stingy through 2 weeks, but they played a declining Patriots offense and a Blaine Gabbert led Tennessee Titans.  Eli Manning has a terrific matchup Week 3, but it is all dependent on his offensive line.  If they can give him time, he may go for 250+ yards and 2 TDs.

RUNNING BACK

ALVIN KAMARA, RB New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons
20.15 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS

I know you are starting him anyway.  This is more of a DFS play and a strongly recommendation that you get him in your lineup.  Atlanta Falcons 2017 Defense against Pass Catching Running Backs:

  • 139 Targets Allowed (Most in NFL)
  • 110 Receptions Allowed (Most in NFL)
  • 814 Receiving Yards (4th Most in NFL)
  • 4 Receiving TDs (10th Most in NFL)

Alvin Kamara is a better pass catcher than he is a bellcow running back.  Christian McCaffrey, who is the same mold of running back, hauled in 14 passes on 15 targets for 102 yards and 20 total fantasy points in Week 2 against the Falcons Defense.  This is a pristine matchup for Kamara’s skill set and he should be featured early and often.

It’s sad that Sean Payton doesn’t get more credit for how well he has developed this offense.  We all know that Alvin Kamara would never hold up outside of this Saints offense as a bellcow running back, but we continue to view him as 40 point potential every week with good reason.  I think you can easily expect 150+ total yards and 2 TDs, with the potential for even more.  But you already knew that.

JORDAN HOWARD, RB Chicago Bears @ Arizona Cardinals
11.60 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS

The Arizona Cardinals appear to be the worst team in the NFL and it’s only week 3.  They continue to keep David Johnson in the backfield and not allow him to run routes, which was the main contributor to his successful 2016 campaign.  Their defense was considered to be a Top 10 unit coming into the season, but has largely disappointed thus far.

Through 2 games in 2018, they have allowed a total of 76 Fantasy Points to opposing running backs, which is 38.0 Fantasy Points per Game and good for most in the league.  They allowed 24 Fantasy Points to ageless wonder Adrian Peterson in Week 1 and 30 Fantasy Points to All-Planet Running Back Todd Gurley in Week 2.  We know the Rams offense is good, but the Jury is still out on the Washington Redskins.  Jordan Howard continues to be a big part of this Chicago Bears offense and has seen 72% of the Bears offensive snaps this season, which is 10th most among running backs this season.

The Cardinals defense was pretty solid last season against the run, allowing only 15.6 points to opposing running backs, which was 4th least in the league.  Where they struggled was against pass catching running backs:

  • 123 Targets Against (9th most in NFL)
  • 95 Receptions Against (7th in NFL)
  • 764 Yards Against (13th in NFL)

Howard was only targeted 32 times last season (2.0 targets per game), but already has 9 targets in 2 games (4.5 targets per game).  Matt Nagy has been vocal about getting Howard more involved in the passing game, which has resulted in him staying on the field in 3rd down situations.  He is also getting a heavy workload in the run game with 29 carries, which is Top 12 in the league.  Jordan Howard should get back on track this week as this should be a run heavy game.  I think 125+ total yards and 1 TD are very possible.

COREY CLEMENT, RB Philadelphia Eagles vs. Indianapolis Colts
14.4 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS

Jay Ajayi is inactive, and while he has looked quick and elusive so far this season, I think this may be that time where Clement secures a starting job and runs away with it.  Corey Clement is a big dude and one you would think of as a bruiser, but he continues to show great athleticism and an ability to find the hole.  He has the size to wear down a defense and possesses the footwork to avoid defenders.

Philadelphia will face the Colts at home Week 3.  In 2017, the Colts allowed 319.80 Total Fantasy Points, or 20.0 Fantasy Points to opposing running backs, which was the 7th most in the NFL.  They allowed the 7th most yards (1,682) and the 7th most rushing TDs (12) to opposing running backs.  I would expect 15 total touches, 100+ yards from scrimmage and 1 TD this week.

MATT BREIDA, RB San Francisco 49ers @ Kansas City Chiefs
10.4 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS

The backfield situation in San Francisco is looking grim.  Kyle Shanahan’s offense is based around pass catching running backs and their prized off-season acquisition, Jerick McKinnon, was lost for the season before the season even began.  Matt Breida has filled in admirably, with an 11 carry 138 yard 1 TD effort last week against the Lions.  He also had 3 receptions on 4 targets for 21 yards.  If Breida can prove to be a trustworthy pass catcher, he may find himself as RB1 for the rest of the season.

Alfred Morris appears to be out-snapping Matt Breida so far this season, with Morris on the field in 50% of their offensive snaps to Breida’s 42%.  However, Breida is far exceeding Morris in production and is more involved in the pass game.  The Kansas City Defense is also being gashed by pass catching running backs in 2018:

  • 25 Targets Against (3rd Most in NFL)
  • 21 Catches Against (4th Most in NFL)
  • 261 Yards Against (1st Most in NFL)

Breida is not your prototypical pass catching running back, but his usage in the passing game is trending upward and he could be very useful in a Flex spot this week.  He should see 20 total touches, 100+ Total Yards and 1 TD.

WIDE RECEIVER

MARQUISE GOODWIN, WR San Francisco 49ers @ Kansas City Chiefs
5.80 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS

Here is another Rule of Thumb: Always start Wide Receivers against the Chiefs Defense.  2017 Kansas City Chiefs Defense Against Opposing Receivers:

  • 363 Targets Against (1st most in NFL)
  • 208 Receptions Against (3rd most in NFL)
  • 2,836 Yards Allowed (2nd most in NFL)
  • 18 TDs Allowed (3rd most in NFL)
  • 5 Fantasy Points Per Game (2nd most in NFL)

2018 Kansas City Chiefs Defense Against Opposing Receivers:

  • 70 Targets Against (3rd most in NFL)
  • 40 Receptions Against (3rd most in NFL)
  • 414 Yards Against (8th most in NFL)
  • 4 TDs allowed (4th most in NFL)
  • 9 Fantasy Points per Game (4th most in NFL)

Goodwin was inactive in Week 2 and is currently questionable, but he was limited in practice this week and I think he should give it a go.  This is a perfect matchup to get his season started on the right foot.  Goodwin was a target monster last season after the arrival of Jimmy GQ in San Fran, averaging 9.7 targets per game from Week 12 to Week 15.

Even if he is inactive, start Pierre Garcon, or start Dante Pettis.  Start anyone against this Chiefs secondary because they are historically bad.  If Goodwin suits up, he should be good for 75+ Receiving Yards and 1 TD.

KEELAN COLE/DEDE WESTBROOK, WR Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Tennessee Titans
9.2 / 8.8 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS

There was clearly an imposter last week in Jacksonville as someone posing as Blake Bortles threw for 376 Yards and 4 TDs, good for 43 Fantasy Points.  Flake Fortles, as we will call this imposter, has targeted Keelan Cole (12 Total Targets) and Dede Westbrook (11 Total Targets) on 56% of the total Wide Receiver targets this season and they should continue to get a similar workload in Week 3 at home against the Titans.  2017 Tennessee Titans Defense Against Opposing Wide Receivers:

  • 329 Targets Allowed (7th most in NFL)
  • 193 Receptions Against (9th most in NFL)
  • 17 TDs Allowed (5th most in NFL)
  • 9 Fantasy Points Allowed per Game (12th most in NFL)

2018 Tennessee Titans Defense Against Opposing Wide Receivers:

  • 33 Receptions Allowed (9th most in NFL)
  • 469 Yards Allowed (4th most in NFL)
  • 4 TDs Allowed (2nd in NFL)
  • 8 Fantasy Points Allowed per Game (2nd most in NFL)

I like Westbrook more this week.  Dede Westbrook has run 77% of his snaps out of the slot and the Titans defense ranked 17th last season against slot receivers.  Start them both this week.  I would expect 75+ receiving yards out of both players with 1 TD for Westbrook.

SAMMY WATKINS, WR Kansas City Chiefs vs. San Francisco 49ers
7.45 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS

We have all done it – drafted Sammy Watkins with an early round pick only to see him bust year after year, team after team.  Many different coaching staffs have tried to bring his talents out and many have failed.  But we saw something in Sammy Watkins in Week 2 against the Steelers where he caught 6 balls on 7 targets for 100 yards and 20 fantasy points.

He is running 38% of his routes out of the slot this season, while he has never run more than 25% of his routes from the slot position.  This reminds me of Nelson Agholor in Philly, who was a 1st round draft pick out of college and was unable to put together a productive season in the NFL.  Only when Doug Pederson decided to throw him in the slot in Philly did he come alive and reinvent himself as an elite slot receiver.

The 49ers 2018 Defense Against Opposing Wide Receivers:

  • 53 Targets Against (5th most in NFL)
  • 415 Yard Allowed (7th most in NFL)
  • 6 Fantasy Points per Game (9th most in NFL)

Sammy Watkins has the talent and this could be his path.  He is currently on the field for 86% of the Chiefs offensive snaps, while Tyreek Hill only sees 80% of the snaps.  If his slot usage continues to trend upward, it is only a matter of time before he starts to consistently produce.  He should top 75+ receiving yard and may score 1 TD.

TIGHT END

JARED COOK, TE Oakland Raiders @ Miami Dolphins
7.0 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS

Jared Cook carved up a tough Rams defense Week 1 for 9 receptions on 12 targets for 180 yards and 24 Fantasy Points.  He will face a very Tight End-Friendly matchup this week on the road at the Miami Dolphins.  2017 Miami Dolphins Defense Against Opposing Tight Ends:

  • 135 Targets Against (2nd most in NFL)
  • 94 Receptions Allowed (1st most in NFL)
  • 1,034 Yards Allowed (2nd most in NFL)
  • 10 TDs Allowed (2nd most in NFL)
  • 2 Fantasy Points Allowed per Game (1st most in NFL)

Jared Cook should feast this week.  Start him in all leagues and expect 5 receptions and 75+ receiving yards.

EVAN ENGRAM, TE New York Giants @ Houston Texans
7.8 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS

Even though the offensive line is a dumpster fire and can’t give Eli any time, this is still a no brainer.  Engram had 7 catches on 7 targets for 67 yards and a touchdown Week 2 against the Cowboys.  Even though most of this production came in garbage time, this performance was encouraging being that he had a 55% catch rate last season.  2017 Houston Texans Defense Against Opposing Tight Ends:

  • 81 Receptions Allowed (6th most in NFL)
  • 922 Yards Allowed (6th most in NFL)
  • 9 TDs (5th most in NFL)
  • 1 Fantasy Points per Game (5th most in NFL)

Engram has only been targeted 12 times this season, which is tied for 8th in the NFL among Tight Ends.  I expect that is about and this game should get his season started.  Start him with confidence.  He should be a candidate for 100+ receiving yards and 1 TD.

GEORGE KITTLE, TE San Francisco 49ers @ Kansas City Chiefs
8.0 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS

George Kittle is quietly becoming Jimmy Garopolo’s favorite target.  He has seen more targets this season than any wide receiver on the 49ers and really produced Week 1 to the tune of 5 receptions on 9 targets for 90 yards and 11 Fantasy Points.  The Kansas City Chiefs Defense is currently getting abused against opposing Tight Ends:

  • 12 Receptions Allowed (8th most in NFL)
  • 201 Receiving Yards Allowed (3rd most in NFL)
  • 1 Fantasy Points Per Game (2nd most in NFL)

He was held in check Week 2 against the Detroit Lions, who tend to play opposing Tight Ends pretty well.  He should find plenty of holes in the middle of the field against a defense who allowed 23 Fantasy Points last week to Jesse James and the Pittsburgh Steelers, who do not tend to target their Tight Ends very often.  Start him with confidence for 75+ Receiving yards and 1 TD

SIT

QUARTERBACK

BEN ROETHLISBURGER, QB Pittsburgh Steelers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
23.6 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS

Big Ben on the road is a no no.  In 8 road games last season Roethlisburger averaged 18.0 Fantasy Points per game, compared to 30.0 Fantasy Points per game in 7 home starts.  That is a pretty significant split and one that I don’t trust, even playing a Tampa Bay secondary that was gashed for 37 Fantasy Points by Drew Brees in Week 1 and 20 Fantasy Points to Nick Foles in Week 2.  They are currently allowing 31.2 Fantasy points per game to opposing QBs, which is 2nd most in the NFL and 7 passing TDs, which is 1st most in the NFL.  Even with these numbers, you still shouldn’t trust Big Ben on the road.  Go with another option.

PHILLIP RIVERS, QB Los Angeles Chargers @ Los Angeles Rams
17.20 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS

The Los Angeles Rams have only allowed 393 Passing Yards (4th least in NFL), 0 TDs (1st least in NFL) and 4 interceptions (5th most in NFL) to opposing quarterbacks this season.  They are the only team in the NFL to not allow a passing TD to an opposing quarterback.  If you have other options this week, I would look elsewhere.

JARED GOFF, QB Los Angeles Rams vs. Los Angeles Chargers
20.1 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS

Jared Goff is finding his stride and has eclipsed at least 20 Fantasy Points in both of his starts this season.  In week 3, they will square off against cross town rivals the LA Chargers at home.  The 2017 Chargers Defense was very tough against opposing quarterbacks:

  • 3,417 Yards Allowed (4th least in the NFL)
  • 17 TDs Allowed (4th least in the NFL)
  • 12.3 Fantasy Points Allowed per Game (4th lowest in the NFL)

I wouldn’t recommend starting Goff this week.  If you have better options, look elsewhere.

RUNNING BACK

LESEAN MCCOY, RB Buffalo Bills @ Minnesota Vikings
7.9 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS

The Bills are a very bad team and come into Week 3 surrendering 47 points to the Baltimore Ravens and 31 points to the Los Angeles Chargers.  They are also unable to score on offense, forcing them to abandon the run early, which limits Shady’s production.  2017 Buffalo Bills Defense Against Opposing Running Backs:

  • 1,095 Yards Allowed (2nd least in the NFL)
  • 77 Receptions Allowed (6th least in the NFL)
  • 494 Receiving Yards (2nd least in NFL)
  • 12.8 Fantasy Points per Game (1st least in NFL)

Don’t start him.  This is not the week for him to get going.

GIOVANNI BERNARD, RB Cincinnati Bengals @ Carolina Panthers
11.8 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS

Joe Mixon is out with a knee injury and Bernard steps into a starting role with a touch task in Week 3. The Carolina Panthers were pretty stout against the run last season:

  • 1,154 Yard Allowed (4th least in NFL)
  • 7 TDs Allowed (8th least in NFL)
  • 0 Fantasy Points per Game to opposing Running Backs (3rd least in NFL)

The Panthers Defense held Ezekiel Elliot in check Week 1 to only 15 Fantasy Points and Tevin Coleman found some room Week 2 with 18 fantasy points.  Bernard is not the same cailber of runner and should struggle Week 3.  Look elsewhere.

ALEX COLLINS, RB Baltimore Ravens vs. Denver Broncos
10.1 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS

There’s not much you can do here this week.  The Broncos held opposing running backs to 16.8 fantasy points per game last season, which was 8th least in the NFL. They also allowed 1,289 rushing yards, which was 7th least in the NFL.  This season, they are only allowing 13.8 fantasy points per game to running to running backs, which is good for 9th least in the NFL.  The Ravens offensive line is struggling in run blocking and is the 2 worst rated unit for run blocking in the league.  Bench him if you have other alternatives.

WIDE RECEIVER

AMARI COOPER, WR Oakland Raiders @ Miami Dolphins
8.95 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS

We finally saw Amari Cooper get started last week to the tune of 10 receptions on 10 targets for 116 yards and 16 fantasy points.  Don’t expect similar results this week, as the Miami defense were pretty solid against opposing Wide Receivers in 2017:

  • 251 Targets Against (1st least in NFL)
  • 145 Receptions Allowed (3rd least in NFL)
  • 2,029 Yards Allowed (5th least in NFL)
  • 16.8 Fantasy Points Allowed per Game (4th least in the NFL)

So far in 2018, the Dolphins secondary is allowing 13.1 fantasy points per game to opposing receivers, which is the 5th lowest in the NFL.  On top of that, the Dolphins defense is yet to allow a TD to an opposing WR.  This is surprising to me as well, but if you find a replacement, I wouldn’t start Cooper this week.

KEENAN ALLEN, WR Los Angeles Chargers @ Los Angeles Rams
12.0 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS

This one could go either way.  Keenan Allen could flourish in the passing game by seeing heavy target volume and red zone looks early, or the Rams could shut him down like they have every other opposing Wide Receiver so far this season.

The 2018 Rams secondary has held opposing WRs to 12 receptions (1st least in NFL), 98 receiving yards (1st least in NFL) and 0 TDs (tied for 1st least in NFL).  They are yet to allow a TD to an opposing WR and have only allowed 5.4 fantasy points per game to opposing WRs, which is the least in the NFL.  It’s tough to bench a player that you invested early draft capital on this season, but if you have better options, it may be worth keeping Allen on your bench.

TIGHT END

JESSE JAMES, TE Pittsburgh Steelers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
5.15 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS

My brother asked me last week if he should start Jesse James against the Chiefs defense.  I told him not to because the Steelers don’t target their tight ends enough and he would underperform.  He didn’t start him and he went off for 5 catches on 5 targets for 138 yards and a score.  This game should be the exception for James going forward and not the rule.

The Bucs are allowing 10.5 fantasy points to opposing Tight Ends this season, which is 6th most in the NFL.  The Bucs defense was great against opposing Tight Ends last season, only allowing 647 receiving yards (5th least in NFL) and 5.0 fantasy points per game (1st least in NFL).  And let’s be real.  This is Big Ben on the road and we know how that goes.  Sit Jesse James this week.

OJ HOWARD, TE Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
8.40 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS

The Steelers defense is allowing 12.7 fantasy points to opposing Tight Ends this season, but the other stats are pretty decent.  In 2017, their defense allowed 5.6 fantasy points per game to opposing Tight Ends, which was good for 3rd least in the NFL.  OJ Howard scored on a 75 yard touchdown catch last week against the Eagles.  Take that away and he had 2 receptions on 3 targets for 21 yards and 3.5 fantasy points.  Howard will be TE 1 in this offense for the rest of the season, but I would find other options this week.  Bench him if you can.

 

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Matt Bishop

Written by 

Matt Bishop is a graduate of Rider University and currently works as a Project Manager for an Electrical Supply Distributor. He lives in North NJ with his wife and 2 children and is a die-hard Philadelphia Eagles and Philadelphia Phillies fan. He has been playing Fantasy Football since 1997 and Fantasy Baseball since 2003. He recently discovered Fangraphs and his obsession for baseball metrics and how they can be used to draft a championship caliber team.

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