Tennessee @ Cleveland
Team Totals: Browns 21.5, Titans 18
Ryan Tannehill runs into a Week 3 buzzsaw against a ferocious Browns pass defense that limited Joe Burrow and Kenny Pickett to the NFL’s second-fewest yards per pass attempt (4.9) while generating the league’s third-highest pressure rate (32%) in Weeks 1-2. Cleveland has knocked down the opposing QB on 23% of dropbacks, by far the best mark in the NFL. Especially with Titans first-round LG Peter Skoronski (illness) sidelined, I’m fading Tannehill and dialing up the Browns’ D/ST. … After Tyjae Spears out-snapped Derrick Henry on Opening Day, The Big Dog commandingly retook Tennessee’s Week 2 playing-time lead (46 to 24 snaps) and out-touched Spears 28 to 10 against the Chargers. Henry’s workload projection is massive so long as this game stays close. The Browns yielded a modest 33/138/0 (4.2 YPC) rushing line to Bengals and Steelers backs in Weeks 1-2. With five catches through two games, Henry’s receiving role has been significant, upping his PPR floor. Even in a rough offensive environment, Henry is a locked-in RB1 starter.
Tannehill’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: DeAndre Hopkins 18; Nick Westbrook-Ikhine 10; Henry and Treylon Burks 7; Spears and Chig Okonkwo 6; Chris Moore 2. … Ostensibly on a snap count against the Bolts after not practicing all week, Hopkins (ankle) figures to be closer to 100% at Cleveland. The Browns have played tight coverage to date; George Pickens is the lone enemy wideout to clear 40 receiving yards against them. I’m approaching Hopkins as a fringe WR2/3 here. … Westbrook-Ikhine is a playing-time pest who does dirty work but has cleared 60 yards in just four of 49 career games. … Burks outran the Chargers’ secondary for a 70-yard bomb in Week 2’s victory, only to be tackled inside the 5-yard line. Burks’ target counts remain underwhelming enough that he profiles as a boom-bust WR3. … After air-balling in Week 1, Okonkwo caught all four of his targets for 35 yards against Los Angeles. I’m valuing Okonkwo as an upside TE2 moving forward. He’s playing a robust 76% of Tennessee’s offensive snaps.
Happy-footed in the pocket and looking generally uncomfortable, Deshaun Watson gets a right-the-ship opportunity at home versus Tennessee’s pass-funnel defense. In Weeks 1-2, Derek Carr and Justin Herbert combined to touch up the Titans for an efficient 50 of 74 passing (68%), 610 yards (8.2 YPA), and a 3:1 TD-to-INT ratio. Especially in the rushing department, HC Kevin Stefanski may also force more onto Watson’s plate following Nick Chubb’s (knee) year-ending loss. … On Tuesday, Stefanski publicly anointed Jerome Ford the Browns’ new “feature back”. Cleveland signed Kareem Hunt on Wednesday, but Hunt is coming off the most inefficient season of his career. Loved by the Browns’ coaching staff, Ford answered the bell after Chubb’s injury in last Monday night’s loss, torching the Steelers for 131 yards and a TD on 19 touches. Ford’s burst and acceleration repeatedly popped off the screen. Box-score expectations need to be checked against Tennessee’s suffocating front, but Ford offers league-winning potential in the Browns’ extremely run-friendly environment. I’m approaching Hunt as a mere handcuff at the moment.
Watson’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Amari Cooper 17; Elijah Moore 16; David Njoku 7; Donovan Peoples-Jones 6; Ford, Chubb, Harrison Bryant, Marquise Goodwin, and David Bell 4; Jordan Akins 2. … Cooper was Watson’s go-to guy late last year and has remained so in 2023. In addition to targets, Amari leads Cleveland in Air Yards share (34%). In Weeks 1-2, fellow WRs Chris Olave (8/112/0), Keenan Allen (8/111/2), Rashid Shaheed (5/89/1), Mike Williams (8/83/0), and Michael Thomas (5/61/0) all met or beat expectations against Tennessee. … Through two games with Cleveland, gadget type Moore has 103 scoreless yards on nine touches. He’s a Curtis Samuel-level player. … I had high hopes for Njoku to start the season after a buzzy camp, but he’s yet to deliver. The Titans have been middle of the pack in fantasy points allowed to tight ends so far. … Peoples-Jones’ six targets have turned into just 19 scoreless yards.
Score Prediction: Browns 20, Titans 13
Atlanta @ Detroit
Team Totals: Lions 25, Falcons 22
At 46.5 points, I took the over on this game’s total, which pits against each other two of the NFL’s most efficient offenses inside Ford Field’s dome. … Although the Falcons only beat the Packers by one last week, Atlanta nearly doubled Green Bay in total yards (446 to 224) and now faces a Lions defense sans EDGE James Houston (fractured ankle), SS Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (pec, I.R.), and CB Emmanuel Moseley (knee/hamstring). … Desmond Ridder should’ve been picked off three times in last week’s win, while HC Arthur Smith’s offense continued to run through RBs Bijan Robinson (23 touches) and Tyler Allgeier (16). Ridder is a poor fantasy bet even in two-QB leagues with Taylor Heinicke soon breathing down his neck. … The Lions have defended the run well to date but faced shaky running teams Kansas City and Seattle in Weeks 1-2. Robinson remains a top-five RB1 play. Allgeier is fully flex playable after banking touch counts of 18 and 16 in Atlanta’s initial two games. … I’m becoming convinced that Smith simply doesn’t believe in Kyle Pitts, as if Pitts is a finesse tight end who doesn’t fit Atlanta’s smash-mouth mentality. Last week, Pitts was out-targeted by Jonnu Smith six to five. … Over his last 17 games, Drake London’s stat line is 65/773/4 (11.9 YPR). In such a run-dominant offense, London is just a WR3/flex.
David Montgomery’s multi-week thigh injury positions No. 12 overall pick Jahmyr Gibbs to take over as Detroit’s feature back for the foreseeable future. The Lions’ running back alternatives are fifth-year UDFA Craig Reynolds and former Jet Zonovan Knight, signed off Detroit’s practice squad on Tuesday. Reynolds is worth adding in deeper season-long leagues, but Gibbs now offers eruption potential on expanded usage. Even as nothing about his Week 3 matchup stands out, Gibbs is set up for a breakout performance on Ford Field’s fast track in this possible track meet. … O-Line injuries are a legitimate concern for Detroit with LT Taylor Decker (ankle) and RG Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee) hobbled. As Adam Levitan noted this week on X.com, however, Jared Goff is averaging 2.2 touchdown passes per game at Ford Field versus 0.9 touchdowns in away games since joining the Lions. Goff is comfortably at home in this one.
Goff’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Amon-Ra St. Brown 16; Josh Reynolds 13; Gibbs and Sam LaPorta 11; Marvin Jones 6; Kalif Raymond 4; Brock Wright 2; Montgomery and Reynolds 1. … ARSB finished as 2022’s overall PPR WR12 and is 2023’s PPR WR13 two weeks in. Assuming positive health, St. Brown is a lock for over 100 catches. … Reynolds is the Lions’ top vertical weapon until Jameson Williams comes off suspension. Presently Detroit’s clear No. 2 wideout with 33-year-old Marvin Jones on the verge of encouraged retirement, Reynolds leads Detroit in Air Yards share (32%), has history with Goff from their time with the Rams, and has earned serious WR3 consideration in potentially high-scoring environments like this. … With five receptions in each of his first two NFL games, LaPorta is already a borderline TE1/2.
Score Prediction: Falcons 27, Lions 23
New Orleans @ Green Bay
Team Totals: Packers 22, Saints 20.5
Although there is some excitement surrounding the expected debut of third-round rookie Kendre Miller with Jamaal Williams (hamstring) week to week and Alvin Kamara suspended one more game, I expect plodding grinder Tony Jones Jr. and Taysom Hill to handle the majority of Week 3 touches in the Saints’ backfield. Hamstring- and previously knee-hobbled Miller has barely so much as practiced since the spring and needs time to earn coaching staff trust. I do think Miller will mix in for 5-7 carries, enough to render this a three-man RBBC and situation to avoid in fantasy. … Never a big-time box-score producer, Derek Carr managed fantasy finishes of QB15 (vs. TEN) and QB33 (@ CAR) in Weeks 1-2. Carr can play at his absolute peak from an on-field standpoint and still not help. He’s just a two-quarterback-league guy.
Carr’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Chris Olave 21; Michael Thomas 17; Rashid Shaheed 10; Juwan Johnson 7; Hill 3; Jones, Williams, Foster Moreau, and Keith Kirkwood 2. … Olave enters Week 3 ranked No. 12 in the NFL in both yards per route run (2.79) and Air Yards share (39.9%). Nothing stands out positively about his matchup here, but Olave’s on-field chemistry with Carr and big-play opportunities lock him in as a fringe WR1/2. … Thomas has been a chain-moving machine early with 12 receptions two games in. In last Monday night’s win over Carolina, I have no idea why Thomas’ long catch down the right sideline was ruled incomplete when his butt landed fully in bounds. In PPR leagues, Thomas is a solid WR3/flex play here. … Shaheed has been an efficiency machine, quietly emerging as one of the NFL’s most dynamic after-catch threats. But the Saints value him too much as a return specialist to force a ton onto Shaheed’s receiving plate. He’s only playing 51% of New Orleans’ offensive snaps. … Johnson is playing nearly 80% of the snaps but so far is failing to earn targets with Carr locked on his wideouts. With Thomas back as the Saints’ go-to receiver in the middle of the field, Johnson has been an afterthought.
After lighting up Chicago and Atlanta to the extent that he leads the NFL in passer rating (118.8), Jordan Love will finally face an above-par defense in the Saints, whose defense has allowed 20 points or fewer in 10 straight games and — albeit against Ryan Tannehill and Bryce Young — yielded the NFL’s fourth-fewest fantasy quarterback points in Weeks 1-2. It does look like Aaron Jones (hamstring), Christian Watson (hamstring), and LT David Bakhtiari (knee) are all going to play. I’m leaning away from deeming Love a legitimate QB1 option here. … Jones’ return would be more than welcomed after A.J. Dillon stunk up the place in Weeks 1-2. He was buried by the Bears’ Swiss-cheese defense for 13/19/0 rushing in the opener, then touched the ball 16 times against the Falcons and didn’t gain more than eight yards on any of them. Dillon also lost passing-down action to Patrick Taylor last Sunday. Assuming he’s active, I will be locking Jones back in as an upside RB2. The Saints have played middling run defense so far this season.
Watson and Jones’ returns would scuttle the meaningfulness of Love’s to-date target distribution and throw a wrench into the predictability regarding the roles of Green Bay’s other pass catchers. … Watson would presumably draw white-hot Saints CB Marshon Lattimore’s Week 3 coverage. Lattimore has let up a minuscule 3.2 yards per target and a 2.5 passer rating when thrown at. … Jayden Reed leads Green Bay in yards per route run (2.24) and Air Yards share (32%) but ran only 18 routes in Week 2’s loss to Atlanta and played just one more snap than Dontayvion Wicks. Romeo Doubs had the most participation among Packers wide receivers. Samori Toure operated as Green Bay’s No. 4. All of their usage rates will go up in the air with Watson and Jones tentatively due back. … Luke Musgrave has the safest role among Green Bay pass catchers. It’s obviously early, but the Saints have yielded the fewest fantasy TE points in the NFL.
Score Prediction: Packers 23, Saints 20
Denver @ Miami
Team Totals: Dolphins 27.5, Broncos 20.5
I’m more interested in Miami’s D/ST than Russell Wilson here after Wilson played a low-aDOT game-manager role in Week 1, then saw his Week 2 box-score stats vastly inflated by a late-fourth-quarter 50-yard Hail Mary touchdown caught off deflections by Brandon Johnson. Against the Commanders last week, Wilson took a whopping seven sacks and 14 QB hits. … Denver’s RBBC continued in Week 2’s defeat, as Samaje Perine out-snapped Javonte Williams 33 to 30 and Jaleel McLaughlin’s lone touch vultured a first-quarter 5-yard touchdown. Williams did out-touch Perine 14 to four. Dolphins DC Vic Fangio’s defense got creamed on the ground by Chargers backs in Week 1, although Los Angeles’ run-game production largely came via Fangio’s soft-front, coverage-first game plan. The Fins held Patriots RBs to 20/63/1 (3.2 YPC) rushing last week. Williams is an RB2/flex play. I’m not considering Perine playable. Keep in mind this is
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