What I Saw: Thoughts On Every Week 3 Game
Welcome back sports fans. This was a very strange week in fantasy football. It almost felt like we slipped into an alternate dimension where everyone has goatees and is evil. All the ‘experts’ were wrong about everything of course, and Jacksonville’s Mercedes Lewis scored nearly twice as many fantasy points as Rob Gronkowsi. In the midst of such insanity, it may be tempting to throw up your hands and go play fantasy baseball (where surprises never happen), but we must resist that urge. I’ve analyzed every game from week three, and tried to make some sense of the noise. I hope it’s useful.
Note: you may want to use “Ctrl+F” to find specific players.
Rams vs. 49ers
Kicking this week of contradictions off was a Thursday night game between two supposedly bad teams in a stadium so empty that hawkers were selling tickets for a mere $14 (not including the $85 in ‘fees’). Knowing what we do about cosmic irony, it’s easy to see in hindsight that this game was guaranteed to be a barn burner. Cooper Kupp owners are almost certainly feeling left out in a game where nearly every skill player put up exceptional numbers, but if it’s any solace, the Niners clear plan on defense was to take Kupp away and force the team to pass to other players. As a result, Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods each put up over 100 yards. Woods is clearly not a fantasy starter going forward, but is Watkins? He was certainly drafted as one. I would be hesitant to say anything for certain after just this one game, since Kupp is not going away, and this is a team that is only likely to be able to support one viable fantasy receiver. Also, Watkins suffered a concussion in this game, which bears monitoring. Jared Goff, for his part, is starting to look not entirely unlike a competent quarterback, and as such is not the worst candidate in the world for bye week fill-in duties.
Todd Gurley owners are in the awkward position of being happy that he scored 3 touchdowns, yet oddly dissatisfied that he should have easily had two more. This is a good problem to have.
Brian Hoyer (or something that looked like him) came alive on Thursday night. Like a meteor storm or an Aurora Borealis, it was a beautiful spectacle, if not inevitably short lived. Several players not named Pierre Garcon caught passes in this game, but Garcon, and Garcon alone remains the only potentially fantasy viable receiver on this team.
Carlos Hyde was injured early on but was able to return after some sort of vaguely defined ‘heat treatment’ done in the locker room. Maybe it was lasers. Either way, Hyde owners owe science a debt of gratitude, and it allowed their guy to come back in and score two touchdowns. Excelsior!
Ravens vs. Jaguars
London games always seem to turn into blowouts for some reason. I’m not sure if the Ravens had some bad blood pudding, or maybe they were distracted by the British call girl-turned-cheerleaders. Either way, things were grim. The Jacksonville defense was seemingly everywhere, pressuring Flacco immediately on every play, and shutting down the Ravens’ receivers. It was clear the team missed Guard Marshal Yanda something fierce. This game was so lopsided that I’m not sure I have anything of value to write about any of the receivers. Jeremy Maclin’s highlight play of the game was a bobble that resulted in an interception. Mike Wallace was not faster than the CBs guarding him. Ben Watson was the only Raven to escape this massacre, but only thanks to a lucky Chad Henne TD deep into garbage time. Things will get better. Things must get better.
Terrance West and Buck Allen swapped runs early in the game and were shut down hard. Alex Collins stat line clearly bested both of them, but keep in mind that all of his production came late in garbage time. Proceed with caution.
Coming into this game, the fearsome Baltimore defense had accumulated an eye-watering 8 sacks, 8 interceptions, and 2 forced fumbles. This week, they didn’t log so much as a single solitary sack. Worse, they couldn’t even pressure Blake Bortles, who had ample time to throw touchdown after touchdown. Baltimore’s defense was so bad that literally everyone on the Jaguars looked like a superstar. Marquise Lee again looked like the far better receiver, but for the second week in a row, Allen Hurns was the one with the touchdown. If you must own a Jaguars’ receiver, I’d still rather have Lee. Mercedes Lewis caught a touchdown on three of his four catches. That will never, ever happen again.
Leonard Fournette’s game had all the spice and zest of a British meal, which is to say, he was bland. Nevertheless, he got his standard 17 carries plus touchdown, so his owners have no cause to complain.
Broncos vs. Bills
After two weeks of dominance, Trevor Siemian came back down to earth this week. It is worth noting that he was under consistent pressure from the Bill’s dominant front seven. Demaryius Thomas may have had the better fantasy stat-line, but it’s starting to look like Emmanuel Sanders may well be the receiver to own in Denver. Sanders was open more often than not and seemed to be Siemian’s first look on most plays. It’s also worth noting that he had a 50+ yard catch negated because the ball wiggled or something when he hit the ground. Through three weeks, Sanders is tied for fourth-most targets in the league, so expect his high-end WR2 pace to continue.
Coming into this game, C.J. Anderson was the only back in the league to have received 20+ carries in each of his first two contests. Seemingly out of nowhere, he was out-carried 9 to 8 by Jamaal Charles. Anderson owners: before you pull the trigger on that bulk-order of Xanax you have in your Amazon cart, let me try and make some sense of what happened. Anderson and Charles actually had a very similar snap split to the first two weeks, with Anderson in for roughly two-thirds of the snaps. The dip in his carries seems to have been a result of a fluky game flow. Charles looked good and ripped off a few nice runs (including his beautiful Td run), but he did not significantly out-play Anderson. Add Charles if you need a flier, but going forward Anderson should continue to see the bulk of the carries and fantasy points.
Tyrod Taylor looked sharp this week against a very tough pass rush and looks like he will again be a low-end QB1 in fantasy. Jordan Matthews had a few nice plays, though he’s inconsistent week to week. Zay Jones continues to struggle with being on the same page as Taylor. Charles Clay continues to be the top receiving option on the team and is an every-week starter at this point.
LeSean McCoy had the most receptions on the team, but he really struggled on the ground. Notably, he nearly split carries 50/50 with human Incan boulder trap Mike Tolbert. This too, was likely a game-flow issue, though it is notable that Tolbert was given back to back goal line touches (he caught a touchdown but tripped on his own feet and dropped the ball as he crossed the goal line.)
Steelers vs. Bears
On the first play of the game, Big Ben Roethlisberger threw a long dime to a wide open Martavis Bryant for what would have been a 70+ yard touchdown. Alas, Bryant couldn’t make the catch. Such is life with the Steeler’s #2 WR. He’ll either have a huge day or a silent day, there’s not much middle ground. Antonio Brown is like some sort of beautiful centaur, only instead of the body of a horse, he has a gazelle’s hindquarters. You already knew that though.
Across America, a sigh of relief went up from Le’Veon Bell owners, as he started rewarding them for their unwavering confidence in him. He’s got some ground to make up, but Bell is still a great bet to finish as a top-3 back this year.
The Bears defense gifted their offense some really nice field positions. The Steeler’s defense allowed the Bears Running game to thrive. The stunted receiving corps was tossed to and fro by the twisted caprices of forces much more powerful than they could ever hope to be. None of them should be owned in standard-sized leagues.
No, the real engine of the Bear’s offense is the Jordan Howard/Tarik Cohen tandem. Howard again showed that he was worthy of an early draft pick, chunking yardage and (surprisingly), leading the team in receptions. Howard is clearly not fully healed from his shoulder injury and was increasingly slow to get up from hard hits. Nevertheless, he should have big games against weak run defenses going forward. Cohen had a decent enough day, though his owners should be extremely upset that he had an 80-yard touchdown truncated because he supposedly stepped out of bounds. Ouch.
Saints vs. Panthers
Carolina’s defense was a tentative mess this week, and Drew Brees calmly and mercilessly punished them for their mistakes. Michael Thomas finally found the end zone and continues to be the only reliable receiving option on this team. Brandon Coleman was one target away from a goose egg. Ted Ginn caught a long touchdown, and owners should continue to expect a fantasy viable day out of him once every three weeks or so. Good luck guessing which weeks. With Willie Snead coming back next week, Coby Fleener’s usefulness is now at an end, and he can safely be dropped in all formats.
Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara continue to lead this backfield, with Ingram getting the most carries (though not enough to make him a reliable fantasy starter) and Kamara the threat for big plays. Adrian Peterson is the clear third option, and need not be owned. Stop living in the past, man.
Cam Newton has lost his mojo. Have you seen it? It’s about 6’5” and looks a little like this. In any case, we’re well past the point of concern here. I’ve been saying for weeks that Newton is in trouble, and things are getting worse. If you’re still hanging on to him that’s fine, but know that there are precious few positive signs that he’ll turn things around here. Kelvin Benjamin went out with an early injury, leaving Devin Funchess as the only receiver of note on the team.
Christian McCaffrey continues to be the beating heart of the offense, and he’s only getting better. When the inevitable touchdowns start rolling in, he’s going to be a low-end RB1. Jonathan Stewart also continues to find success on the ground, though his volume caps his potential.
Buccaneers vs. Vikings
Jameis Winston is the child in preschool who happily spends the day trying to hammer the square peg into the round hole. Double coverage, triple coverage, it doesn’t matter—he knows who he wants to throw the ball to and he will not be dissuaded by a mere army of defensive backs. DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries are both averaging a healthy 7 targets a game which is intriguing. This is not, however, the kind of team that can support three fantasy-relevant receivers. Jackson’s the guy I’d want to own as a mid-range WR2 who will have the occasional long TD weeks. Mike Evans was shadowed by the venerable Xavier Rhodes. His owners should be content with their 63 yards, given the circumstances.
The once mighty Buccaneers defense was missing five (FIVE!) starters this week, and two more starters were injured during the course of this game. This is what you might call ‘a competitive advantage’. Case Keenum managed to not screw things up, much like a below average NBA player might easily win a stuffed animal for his girlfriend in the little hoop game at a county carnival. As a result, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen both had huge games. Too bad literally every single one of their owners had benched them. I’m not sure what advice to proffer going into next week. Keenum is not a good quarterback, and I would expect most of his starts to look more like week two (167 yards, 0 touchdowns) than this last week (369 yards, 3 touchdowns). On the other hand, nothing is worse than seeing your stud WR go off on the bench to the tune of 30 standard fantasy points. Personally, I’d bite the bullet and start Diggs weekly, but I’d only start Thielen when the matchup looks tasty. Kyle Rudolph is clearly losing work to the running back corps and will be a spotty start going forward.
As with Diggs and Thielen, we saw Dalvin Cook’s floor last week under Keenum, and it’s not great. He performed admirably against a decimated defense, and he is one of the few bell cow backs in the league, but Cook’s production is going to suffer if Bradford tarries long in his return.
Browns vs. Colts
So the big news coming out of last week in Cleveland involved coach Hue Jackson calling nine-year veteran Kenny Britt into his office to tell him if he didn’t step up his game, they were going to replace the word ‘Britt’ on his jersey with the word ‘Effete’. It must have worked (sort of), as Britt was noticeably less terrible this week. He was still terrible, but, you know, noticeably less. I’m not sure what to do with him going forward—the Browns need to throw to someone, and he easily paced the team in targets with Corey Coleman out. Still, he only caught three of those ten targets, dropping several. Deshone Kizer was a lot more harried than his fantasy stat line suggests. Luckily, the Colts have allowed great stat lines on less than stellar play this season. Rashard Higgins was an incredible disappointment after his week two emergence. Again and again, Higgins was targeted on 3rd down, and again and again, he failed to convert. Worse, he had two offensive pass interference calls which negated first downs that his teammates had achieved. This could be growing pains, or it could be something more sinister. If you paid up to get him, you might as well wait another week to find out. David Njoku is reliable in the sense that he;s going to get 4 targets for 2 receptions and 20 yards every week. Now he has added a touchdown to those 20 yards in 2 out of 3 weeks, but this seems fluky to me. Tell you what, if he does it again for two more weeks, we’ll crown him the new Tyler Eifert.
This was a bell-weather game for one Mr. Isaiah Crowell. Things don’t look great. Through three games, we’ve seen his carries severely limited, and even those few he has had were largely ineffective. If you have the luxury, it’s probably time to bench him indefinitely. Duke Johnson Jr. on the other hand… This kid looked very Tarik Cohen-y on his first touch of the game, which he took to the house in highlight-reel caliber style. The talent is there, and the usage seems to be increasing. Still, with nine total touches, it’ll be hard to trust Johnson week to week.
Jacoby Brissett is not Scott Tolzien, that’s for dang sure. He’s like the passenger who is able to land the plane after the pilot and co-pilot have both had heart attacks. T.Y. Hilton put up his first non-stinker of the year, though this was in no small part due to the Browns complete inability to stop speedy receivers. He remains a role of the dice until Andrew Luck returns. Some had hoped that Jack Doyle would be a sneaky start after Brissett stared him down on every play last week, but that no longer appears to be the case. All other receivers on this team should be benched or dropped until we have Luck back.
Frank Gore is the human equivalent of that 1979 chevy truck that your dad’s friend has. The one with 400,000 miles, no AC, and no radio that somehow keeps passing emissions. He’ll outlast us all.
Dolphins vs. Jets
If the 2017 New York Jets are the football equivalent of a weeping, open sore, what do we call the team that was blown out by them? This team looked like the herpes simplex at the center of the sore. The phlegm in the cough. The ‘mad’ in the cow disease. Jay Cutler made it obvious through his play that he feels this was a terrible week to have quit smoking (good news, he’s off the wagon as of ten seconds after the game ended). Jarvis Landry’s target share remained encouraging, however, he had a lot of trouble getting open. He’s probably the guy to own in Miami. Devante Parker had a nice fantasy stat-line, but owners should be aware that he was invisible for the entire game, and he entered the fourth quarter with one reception for -1 yard to his name. All of Parker’s production came on the last drive of the game, deep into garbage time. This is not an every-week starter you have here, but more of a boom-bust kind of play.
Jay Ajayi was the literal embodiment of his own trick knee this week. To be fair, hit mediocre fantasy performance was more the result of stacked boxes and poor line play than his own underperformance, but still, through two weeks I’m not sure if Ajayi is a bonafide RB1.
We already know the Jet’s aren’t good, so I don’t need to put much digital ink into explaining Robby Anderson’s stat line (all due to one 69 yard TD). The main question for the receiving corps was whether or not the return of Austin Seferian-Jenkins would affect Jermaine Kearse. The answer appears to be a resounding yes. Kearse was the fourth most targeted on a team that can maybe support one receiver. Speaking of Seferian-Jenkins, his 6 targets were actually quite encouraging, and something to keep an eye on going forward.
8 of Bilal Powell ‘s 15 rushes went for one yard or less. He did score (barely), but owners need to be concerned going forward. You already dropped Matt Forte last week, right? He’s getting a mere handful of carries weekly on the league’s worst offense. Stop being sentimental and send him packing.
Texans vs. Patriots
It’s well known that Patriots coach and dark maester of the football arts Bill Belichick is a fan of the ‘take away the other team’s best player’ school of team defense. In theory, this strategy should be devastating for a team like the Texans, who target one of their receivers on 30% of their plays. Nope! Deshaun Watson proved that not only can he throw the ball only to Deandre Hopkins, he can also throw the ball to not Deandre Hopkins when necessary. Watson actually looked very good for a rookie. The Texans may have something special in him.
D’Onta Foreman is starting to out-produce Lamar Miller on fewer touches. Something’s gotta give. Best case scenario for Miller owners, this will be a 50/50 timeshare in a couple of weeks. Worst case, Foreman might overtake Miller. In any case, Foreman probably needs to be owned in every league.
Even though he had an incredible day, I must admit that Tom Brady’s success seemed more like a product of his incredible receiving weapons as opposed to his own inimitable skill. Put another way, he looked sloppy. Brady absorbed several sacks, notably tripping over his teammate’s shoe for a sack that was nearly a safety. He had three fumbles and one play where he sort of throws the ball straight up as he’s being sacked which was luckily caught by Rob Gronkowski and run for a large gain. Again and again, Gronkowski took little dump-off passes and turned them into large gains by literally picking up the entire Texan’s defense on his surgically enhanced shoulders and carrying them. Brandin Cooks likewise aided Brady by catching balls that would have been impossible for mere mortals like you and I to catch, including the game-winning touchdown. Both these guys are clearly every-week studs. Chris Hogan feels more fluky to me. Both his touchdowns were the result of broken coverage, and not through any particular skill on his part. He’s not getting many targets, and there are too many mouths to feed. I’d sell high if you can find a buyer.
The running game was virtually ignored in a game where New England was consistently trailing. It makes sense that Mike Gillislee would have a down day—he does well when the Pats are leading, but this game should have been a big James White game. Instead, all the traditional ‘White’ targets went to Gronkowski (and to a lesser extent, Dion Lewis who out-targeted White). I’m inclined to call this an anomaly, but who knows with the Patriots.
Falcons vs. Lions
Matt Ryan had three interceptions, but only one-and-a-half were his fault. Julio Jones had three chances for a touchdown—one was overthrown in the red zone, one he caught, but stepped out of bounds, and one he couldn’t catch. Better days are coming. Taylor Gabriel had a decent day, but it was almost all due to one big run. Mohommed Sanu had a decent enough stat line but he had several costly drops including one of Matt Ryan’s interceptions, which he bobbled into the air. Austin Hooper got his standard 2 TRE (Targets Ready to Eat) rations —but you wisely dropped him a week ago, so you don’t care. Jones is the only receiver I trust week to week.
Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are the modern iincarnationsof Romulus and Remus this week, though instead of a she-wolf, they suckled at a Lions’ teat. Freeman in particular looked like he could found an empire. I’d move there. We all would. The guy is on track to be the RB#1 this year and is possibly the most valuable player in fantasy football. Coleman should have had a bigger day, losing out on more than 25 yards in penalties.
Matthew Stafford continued looking like a poor man’s Aaron Rodgers this week, scrambling and throwing guys open. This was a big Golden Tate game (though be wary next week—Minnesota is fearsome against the slot). Tate could have had an even bigger day, but his game winning touchdown catch was ruled down inches away from the goal line. Marvin Jones was heavily targeted in high leverage situations, but couldn’t do much. Kenny Golladay and T.J. Jones fought for targets. I’m a big Golladay believer, but he’s simply not getting the consistent looks he’ll need to be an every week producer. You have my blessing to drop him if needed. Eric Ebron proved that last week was the exception, not the rule, and in classic Ebron style, he emphasized this point with several drops drive-killing drops.
Ameer Abdullah has a bizarre ability to look like a good running back without actually ever producing like a good running back. Here he is, patiently placing a hand on his blocker’s back—he’s waiting for the hole! There it is! He rushes forward, hitting the hole with all he’s got! Three-yard gain. Here’s Abdullah with the ball in the backfield—a defender’s coming! Spin move! Now he’s running, legs churning! Look at him fly! Two-yard gain. Theo Riddick for his part will have the occasional two-TD outburst, but not often, and not this week.
Giants vs. Eagles
It’s no coincidence that he Giants looked like a completely different team with Odell Beckham Jr. finally healthy. Beckham made up for lost time with his two beautiful touchdowns. Unfortunately, his play was to be overshadowed by that bizarre touchdown celebration which was probably meant as a protest or something but uh, thoroughly missed the mark. Evan Engram is starting to look like he may have a 40 yard floor which is intriguing for a tight end. Brandon Marshal received a metric butt-ton of targets, but did little with them, and Sterling Shepard will not 100 yards again this year. I guarantee it.
Most teams hire professional athletes to be their running-backs. The Giants have taken a different strategy, instead bringing in Paul Perkins and Orleans Darqwa. This is the worst RBBC in the league, stay far away.
It turns out that Zach Ertz is an elite TE in 2017. Huh. Alshon Jeffrey had a down game in a week where the Eagles were finding incredible success on the ground. He’s still an integral part of this offense going forward. Carson Wentz is still a low end QB1 type. His fantasy output left a lot to be desired, but this was due to the strange game script and the Giant’s utter inability to stop the run.
Darren Sproles was hit so hard that he travelled back in time. He also broke his wrist and tore his ACL, leaving the running game open for the likes of LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood, and Corey Clement. Clement seems to be the odd man out, touchdown be damned. Blount had a decent game for the second time this season, but then again he was given zero carries last week, so he feels like a trap. Smallwood likewise has done little to distinguish himself. I guess what I’m trying to say is we will need another week or two of production to have any clarity at all here.
Seahawks vs. Titans
Russell Wilson went all super saiyan this week. As goes Wilson, so goes Doug Baldwin, whose 15 targets were the most he’s ever had in his 8 years in the league. I’ve mentioned Wilson’s early/late season splits before, and this fact paired with Tennessee’s generous pass defense (they’re the only team defense to have allowed a top-12 fantasy receiver in every game this season), means that this uptick in usefulness for Wilson and Baldwin may not stick. I still like both as top tier options at their respective positions, but we may have a few more clunkers before they become reliable weekly options. Jimmy Graham for his part also had his best game of the year. It wasn’t perfect, but he is still getting consistent red-zone targets, so he’s likely to be a weekly fantasy contributor soon enough.
Chris Carson appears to be ‘the guy’ in the backfield, with Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy not even logging a carry in this game. Still, with the league’s worst offensive line, and having now found success with a pass-heavy scheme, reliable fantasy points may be hard to come by for Carson. I actually like C.J. Prosise, the passing down back as a better bet for season-long production.
Marcus Mariota is finally starting to settle into his groove, and is probably a reliable QB1 going forward. Suprisingly, given the talent around him, Rishard Matthews is the clear #1 receiver on the team, and is likely a mid-range WR2 going forward. Delanie Walker is the clear #2 receiving option, and is also a valuable asset in a league where many stud tight ends have struggled to produce or stay healthy. Two receivers is about all this offense can support, which means Eric Decker and Corey Davis are nothing more than bye week fill-in types.
Despite still being limited by his mysterious hamstring injury, DeMarco Murray got the start in this game. He was largely ineffective at first, and Derrick Henry was quickly subbed in. Fortunately for Murray owners, Henry fared even worse than Murray had, entering the half with negative yards. As the game wore on, Murray began to find success, looking like the same dominant player he was last year. Still, things are not all sunshine and roses. Murray and Henry split carries almost 50-50, and without a third quarter 75-yard touchdown, Murray’s stat line would have looked virtually identical to Henry’s. this is looking very much like a perfectly split backfield going forward, and it’s likely that both backs will trade big games for the rest of the season.
Chiefs vs Chargers
Alex Smith is white rice—the game manager of foods. It’s filling enough at first, but you always seem to find yourself wanting more later. The chiefs went up early in this game, despite a surprisingly stout Chargers defense. Tyreek Hill continued his annoying trend of being consistently wide open and after three weeks I feel that it’s probably time for me to eat crow and accept that he’s a top WR option in Fantasy. There’s nothing fluky about his production and it should continue all year (barring injury of course). Travis Kelce had a quiet day fantasy-wise, but he got plenty of real life action as a blocker. Expect Kelce to have quiet fantasy days against strong front sevens going forward.
Kareem Hunt is currently the #1 running-back in fantasy football, and it’s not particularly close. To put things into perspective, the difference in standard fantasy points between Hunt and #2 Todd Gurley is more than the total amount of points that Isaiah Crowell has scored all season. I had an idea this week for a business selling little Kareem Hunt voodoo dolls. I figure there is likely to be a robust demand from the 90% of you who don’t own him. I’m taking orders now if you’re interested.
Philip Rivers led the league in interceptions last year, and through two weeks he had only thrown one. It turns out he was saving them all for the Chiefs. Rivers was lucky to escape with only three picks, as he should have been picked off at least two more times by my reckoning. Keenan Allen did not score, but it’s notable that even on a day where Rivers was clearly phoning it in, Allen still had 9 targets. Through three weeks, only Deandre Hopkins, Antonio Brown, and A.J. Green have more targets. Get him if you can, better days are ahead. Travis Benjamin is good for the occasional long bomb to pad his stats like he caught this week, but if he doesn’t catch one, you’re likely looking at 2 catches for 20 yards. After a promising week two, Hunter Henry put up his second target-less game of the season. He’s a good player, but I don’t see a path to consistent production as long as Antonio Gates is still around.
Did you ever hear that cutesy story about the Philip Rivers on the beach? There’s one set of footprints in the sand where the team played Kansas City, and Rivers turns to Melvin Gordon who is next to him and asks why there is only one set of footprints when there are two of them and Gordon smiles winsomely and says, “That’s where I carried you, Phil. That’s where I carried you.” Gordon looked every bit a top-5 back this week. He did tweak his leg late in the game which may be a situation to monitor, but all other things equal, the guy was the only bright spot in a very dark day in LA.
Bengals vs. Packers
After two weeks of abject failure, the Bengals fired their offensive coordinator. The new coordinator (and Bond Villain) Bill Lazor wisely pursued a strategy that better suits the Bengals talent and skillset: Throw to A.J. Green more, and stop splitting running back carries three ways. With Tyler Eifert out indefinitely, look for Green to continue getting double digit targets, though his production could suffer if a decent WR2 doesn’t emerge to draw some pass defense.
Joe Mixon got bell cow carries this week, way ahead of schedule. This is great for his owners, though the terrible offensive line and the fact that Mixon hasn’t looked significantly more talented than Jeremy Hill cap his ceiling. Giovanni Bernard continues to be a sneaky play. Going forward, he’s likely to become the team’s default WR2 in the same vein as Tarik Cohen or Duke Johnson Jr., which makes him a decent low end RB2 week to week.
Watching Aaron Rodgers play may be disorienting for first time fantasy managers. He looks bad, constantly under pressure, constantly going three and out. You turn off the TV out of frustration only to come back later and find out he was one of the highest scoring quarterbacks of the week. Jordy Nelson is a beautiful griffon of a man, half eagle, and half touchdown scoring dynamo. Going back to last year, Geronimo Allison has performed at a high level whenever Randall Cobb has been out. He may be someone to keep an eye on should Cobb miss more time. Davante Adams should be good for a score about every other week, so look for one next week, and far from stepping up in the absence of Cobb, Martellus Bennett took a big step back, dropping one of his four targets and killing a drive.
In a game where Green bay had several plays at the goal line, Ty Montgomery certainly did have a worrying lack of carries within 15 yards of the goal (3, all on the same drive). Nelson’s two touchdowns came from the 1 yard line and the 3 yard line. This trend mirror’s previous years’ running back usage for this team, and it could severely cap Montgomery’s ceiling if it continues.
Raiders vs. Redskins
This was a lackadaisical effort across the board on the Raiders’ part. Amari Cooper got Josh Norman’d, and might as well have not even come to work on Sunday. Derek Carr looked sloppy and disorganized. Michael Crabtree was injured early on, leaving Jared Cook and Cordarelle Patterson as the only pass catchers of note. These are not the kind of guys who are going to carry a team.
In a game where Oakland was immediately and consistently playing from behind, the Raiders barely even tried to rush. As such, Marshawn Lynch did very little running (or dancing). Going forward, I’d fade Lynch hard in games where the Raiders are not favored. DeAndre Washington and continue to be afterthoughts.
Kirk Cousins looks like he’s finally building a rapport with some of his receivers. Unfortunately, one of them is not Terelle Pryor, who continues to look like a fan who walked through the wrong door at the stadium and found himself on the field. After three weeks, there continues to be precious little encouraging signs that Pryor can or will turn things around. Despite catching all his targets, Jamison Crowder’s role on the team doesn’t appear to be central enough to warrant starting him weekly in fantasy. Vernon Davis and Josh Doctson looked good, though you’re going to want to see more than 2 targets before feeling comfortable with Doctson, and Davis could easily be a one-week-wonder type of play.
The real star this week was Chris Thompson, who is quietly the number three RB overall through the first three weeks of the season, ahead of even Emperor Freeman. Thompson is essentially the team’s top wide receiver who also is a consistent threat to rip off a long run to the house. His relative lack of carries is concerning, but I’m not convinced that his success has been fluky in any way. I predict Thompson will be an RB1 season-long, and an incredible bargain for those who were able to snag him. Samaje Perine (pronounced Pee-Rhine, apparently.) looked terrible last week and this week. Rob Kelley should have no trouble appropriating the ‘big back’ role upon his return.
Cowboys vs. Cardinals
Dak Prescott got his first rushing touchdown of the season in this game—a beautiful little improvised tumble over the top of the defense. The Cardinals defense sold out to shut down Dez Bryant. His touchdown was a gift to fantasy owners, and he literally pushed a pile of players nearly ten yards in a show of pure will. Jason Witten has a precipitous drop in targets and production, the Cardinals did a phenomenal job shutting him down—I still trust him next week against the Rams. Brice Butler is a bom-bust type, as is Terrance Williams. Neither need be owned in most leagues.
Ezekiel Elliott was thoroughly contained early in the game, but his style lends itself to late gains, and by the end of the game he was consistently ripping off long runs. This game was a needed pick-me-up for Elliott, after being utterly destroyed by Denver’s front seven.
Carson Palmer continued to look much better than his fantasy stats suggest. Unfortunately, Arizona’s pass blocking is some of the worst in the league, and Palmer was under constant harassment. It’s impressive that Palmer was able to absorb six sacks without a single interception or fumble. Larry Fitzgerald was able to shake off some of his early season struggles to put up a typical early-season stat line. And yes, I’m not exaggerating, going back through 2015, Fitzgerald has averaged 91 yards and 1.3 touchdowns a game in September. This might be a great week to sell high if you can, as Fitzgerald is a lock to fall off as the season wears on. Week two hero J.J. Nelson went 0 for 3 this week. As a player who relies on long passes, Nelson will be severely limited in weeks where Palmer is under pressure, making him a weekly dart throw. Jaron Brown had a big game which should have been even bigger (he had a second touchdown called back). Still, he’s not receiving enough volume to justify starting him in any given week. So, if Fitz is bount to decline, and Nelson/Brown are inconsistent, who do we trust to catch the ball week to week? Well, the answer may well be…
Andre Mothaflipping Ellington. Ellington looked great in the short passing game, and with the pass blocking as poor as it is, I expect his usage to increase going forward. Ellington should be available in most leagues, and could be a sneaky be-week fill in, especially in PPR leagues. Chris Johnson is the main rushing back, but that role may not be worth much on this team. He was utterly shut down by a middling Dallas front seven.