Last updated: September 22nd at 12:17am ET.
Editor’s note: Game-by-game links can be found on the Matchup’s landing page.
Bengals at Bills
Team Totals: Bills 25, Bengals 19
This is a near-full-fade spot for Cincinnati skill guys with the Bengals’ offensive line in absolute shambles facing a Bills defense that ranks top ten in QB hits (14) and has allowed a league-low 4.6 yards per pass attempt. Just three games on Sunday’s slate have lower totals than Bengals-Bills, rendering Andy Dalton an uninteresting play outside of deep two-quarterback leagues. … Gutting out a low-ankle sprain, Joe Mixon looked more sharp on his Week 2 touches than the box score suggests, losing nearly 50 yards due to holding calls. But the reality is Cincinnati’s front five struggles to block anyone withoutbreaking rules, and Mixon logged just 14 touches on 55% of the snaps versus Giovani Bernard’s seven touches and 39% playing-time clip. At Buffalo, Mixon is a low-floor RB2/flex play as a road-dog RBBC leader in an offense that appears unlikely to score many Week 3 points. In season-long leagues, I wouldn’t be opposed to selling low on Mixon due to his timeshare usage in a situation that probably won’t get much better. No offensive line has created fewer yards before contact per carry (0.1) than Cincinnati two weeks in.
Dalton’s target distribution: Tyler Boyd 21; John Ross 20; Tyler Eifert 11; Mixon and Damion Willis 8; Alex Erickson 7; Bernard 6; C.J. Uzomah 5; Auden Tate and Drew Sample 3. … Second in the NFL in receptions (19), Boyd catches Cincinnati’s softest Week 3 draw versus Buffalo’s zone, which is willing to concede short completions in exchange for restricting long gains. Boyd ran 66% of his Week 2 routes inside, where the Bills are underequipped minus slot CB Taron Johnson (hamstring). Boyd’s monster Week 2 could have been even bigger had he not lost a fourth-quarter TD on OL Billy Price’s hold. … Although Ross’ 4.22 speed and voluminous usage remain worthy of season-long WR3 bets, this is a tough on-paper spot versus Sean McDermott’s strict-disciplined zone. Much of Ross’ Weeks 1-2 success was built on coverage busts and garbage-time sprints. Buffalo has yielded just one completion of 20-plus yards to an enemy wide receiver two games in. … The Bengals’ tight end situation should be ignored until something changes. Uzomah drew five Week 1 targets, then none in Week 2. Eifert scored a Week 2 touchdown but ran just 12 routes as second-round rookie Sample got more involved.
Fresh off last week’s QB7 fantasy result, this is another smash spot for Josh Allen facing a Bengals pass defense previously-struggling Jimmy Garoppolo lit on Week 2 fire for three touchdowns and 297 yards. By Jimmy G and Russell Wilson, Cincinnati has been blowtorched for 11.0 yards per pass attempt – second most behind tanking Miami – as well as a 5:1 TD-to-INT ratio and 69.6% completion rate. Bills OC Brian Daboll’s full embrace of Allen’s rushing utilization supports Allen’s floor and ceiling; only Lamar Jackson (19) has more quarterback carries through two weeks than Allen’s 17, and Allen’s six-yard rushing TD in Week 2 came on a designed sweep. Allen is viable in both DFS cash games and tournaments in this plum draw. … Devin Singletary’s hamstring pull will sideline him for at least one game, thrusting Frank Gore into lead-back duties with T.J. Yeldon behind him. Gore’s typical lack of big-play ability theoretically caps his ceiling, but Daboll showed a willingness to feed him big volume with 21 touches on 61% of last week’s snaps, and this week’s matchup couldn’t get juicier. Fielding the worst linebacker play in the league, Cincinnati was throttled for 56/302/3 (5.39 YPC) rushing by Seahawks and 49ers backs in Weeks 1-2. If Singletary indeed sits, Gore will be an unsexy if awfully tempting RB2/flex play favored at home by nearly a touchdown in this best-case-scenario draw. Yeldon’s role will grow but he has played only five snaps in two games with Buffalo.
Allen’s target distribution: John Brown 18; Cole Beasley 13; Zay Jones 8; Dawson Knox 6; Tommy Sweeney and Patrick DiMarco 3; Gore, Isaiah McKenzie, and Robert Foster 2. … This is a gorgeous matchup for Brown after Cincinnati conceded monster pass plays of 44TD yards (Tyler Lockett), 42 (D.K. Metcalf), 39 (Deebo Samuel), 39 (Raheem Mostert), 38 (Marquise Goodwin), and 36 (George Kittle) in the first two weeks. Ninth in the NFL in Air Yards (243), Brown is again a must-play in DFS-tournament stacks with Allen. … Beasley is Buffalo’s only other fantasy-viable pass catcher, and 51 of his team-high 83 yards last week occurred on an uncovered second-quarter play against the hapless Giants. Beasley still logged only 50% of the Bills’ Week 2 offensive snaps and is a WR3/flex option versus Cincinnati.
Score Prediction: Bills 27, Bengals 17
Dolphins at Cowboys
Team Totals: Cowboys 34.5, Dolphins 12.5
Early MVP candidate Dak Prescott is an easy top-five QB1 play versus the hapless Fins after completing 51-of-62 passes (82.5%) for 674 yards (10.8 YPA), seven touchdowns, and one pick in Weeks 1-2, where Prescott logged fantasy results of QB2 and QB3. Miami was smoked by Lamar Jackson (QB1) and Tom Brady (QB5) in its first two games, showing zero resistance with three combined sacks and five QB hits. Rookie OC Kellen Moore’s dressed-up Dallas offense ranks fifth in the NFL in points (66) and hasn’t shied away from using Dak as a runner. Prescott has 81 rushing yards through two games and broke a career-long 42-yard run on a run-pass option in the second quarter of last week’s win over Washington. The Cowboys also have the highest team total of Week 3. … Cowboys team stacks are Week 3 playable with Ezekiel Elliott near the forefront after his snaps rose from 54% in Week 1 to 77% in Week 2, and his touches spiked from 14 to 25. Tony Pollard nearly vultured a three-yard touchdown, but it was negated by Amari Cooper’s holding flag. Pollard is a handcuff only after managing five touches against the Skins. As a three-score home-favorite bellcow, this is a sensational spot for Elliott facing a tanking Miami team that got trucked for 67/306/3 (4.57 YPC) rushing by Ravens and Patriots backs in Weeks 1-2. Despite being eased in following his training-camp holdout, Elliott already leads the NFC in red-zone carries (8).
Dak’s target distribution: Michael Gallup 15; Cooper 14; Randall Cobb 11; Jason Witten 8; Zeke and Blake Jarwin 4; Devin Smith 3; Pollard and Tavon Austin 1. … As Gallup leads the Cowboys in targets and Air Yards (193), his 2-4 week knee injury frees up lots of opportunity for other Dallas pass catchers. Even if Cooper draws Dolphins top CB Xavien Howard’s coverage – Howard put Week 2 clamps on Josh Gordon (2/19/0) – fantasy leaguers should focus more on Amari’s likely volume bump than his WR/CB draw. … Gallup had only one catch for eight yards on slot routes, so slot WR Cobb is less likely to benefit from the injury. Still, Sunday’s matchup with Miami’s swiss-cheese defense gives Cobb WR4 and DFS-tournament usability in a game where Dallas should pour on points. … Smith deserves to jump directly into Gallup’s No. 2 seat after earning a roster spot as a training-camp longshot by dominating preseason (14/188/1), then exploding in Week 2 (3/74/1) despite playing only 26% of the Cowboys’ snaps. Smith cooked Josh Norman for his 51-yard touchdown on a well-placed Prescott pass off play action. Especially against an opponent this soft, Smith should be upgraded into boom-bust WR3/flex territory versus the Dolphins. … Playing over 70% of Dallas’ snaps but mostly blocking, Witten is a touchdown-or-bust punt with target counts of 4 and 4. His matchup couldn’t get easier, of course; Dolphins opponents are a perfect 16-of-16 passing for 208 yards (13.0 YPA) and a touchdown when targeting tight ends.
The story remains the same when assessing ways to approach the Dolphins’ offense; you largely ignore their skill players and tee up the defense facing them. The Ravens posted Week 1’s DST7 score against the Fins, before New England’s slate-breaking DST1 result with over 30 fantasy points last week. Dallas’ D/ST is a crucial piece in team stacks. … Only two Dolphins pass catchers have topped 31 yards in a game so far; DeVante Parker’s 3/75/0 outcome in Week 1 and Preston Williams (4/63/0) last week. Parker ranks second in the NFL in Air Yards (310) but has only the 75 real-life yards to show for them. Even at peak to-date inefficiency, I’ve seen worse DFS-tournament plays than Parker would be at JerryWorld. … As a fallout from their utter lack of talent, the Dolphins’ biggest problem has been their inability to sustain drives on offense. Through two weeks, Miami is losing the time-of-possession battle 76.5 to 43.5. … Kenyan Drake got a small something going in last Sunday’s blowout loss to the Pats, managing 48 yards on 11 touches with five catches on 55% of the snaps. Drake has some low-end, PPR-specific flex hope facing a Cowboys defense that has allowed the NFL’s third-most running back catches (16).
Score Prediction: Cowboys 30, Dolphins 10
Broncos at Packers
Team Totals: Packers 25.5, Broncos 17.5
Broncos-Packers is Week 3’s fourth-lowest-totaled affair (43) pitting against each other teams that have combined for lowly point totals of 10 > 16 > 21 > 14 two games in. No. 8 in sacks (6) and No. 3 in QB hits (17), Green Bay’s D/ST is firmly in play at home against statuesque Joe Flacco, whose Weeks 1-2 fantasy outcomes were QB20 and QB17. Broncos LT Garret Bolles committed four holding penalties in last week’s loss to the Bears and has yet to block anyone this year. RT Ja’Wuan James (knee) will not play. DC Mike Pettine’s red-hot Packers defense has already forced five turnovers and held its first two opponents to a combined 51% completion rate and 58.0 passer rating. … Green Bay has been more giving on the ground, coughing up a league-high 18 running back catches and 37/218/2 (5.89 YPC) combined rushing to Bears and Vikings RBs. Unfortunately, Denver’s equal backfield timeshare is severely capping Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman’s individual ceilings. In last week’s two-point loss, Freeman logged 16 touches on 52% of the snaps versus Lindsay’s 17 touches and 48% playing-time clip. Freeman’s rushing efficiency was superior to Lindsay’s in each of the first two games. Freeman has run 42 pass routes; Lindsay 41. Despite the plus matchup, both Broncos backs are low-floor RB2/flex options as road underdogs at Lambeau Field.
Flacco’s target distribution: Emmanuel Sanders 20; Courtland Sutton 15; Lindsay 13; DaeSean Hamilton 10; Freeman and Noah Fant 8; Jeff Heuerman 5. … I’m taking the “L” on Sanders, who I faded in season-long fantasy after last December’s Achilles’ tear. Sanders has looked fantastic and drawn enough volume to warrant every-week WR2 treatment. With that said, Pettine would be silly to not chase him with top CB Jaire Alexander, who has yielded completions on just 6-of-16 targets (37.5%) for 86 scoreless yards (5.4 YPA). … Sutton still leads Denver in Air Yards (177) and has the most big-play potential on the team, notable against a Packers secondary that yielded five completions of 27 or more yards in its first two games. Sutton is a volatile if fairly high-ceiling WR3/flex play. … Hamilton is playing 70% of the Broncos’ offensive snaps but ranks an atrocious 81st among 84 qualified receivers in yards per route run (0.30). He doesn’t belong on season-long rosters. … Fant has little to show for it yet, but he’s sixth among tight ends in total routes run (63) and has room to grow into TE1 value as his rapport with Flacco develops.
Even after he frustratingly lost a first-drive touchdown to Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones took a step forward following his concerning Week 1, out-touching Williams 27 to 12 and out-snapping him 59% to 45% in Green Bay’s Week 2 win over Minnesota. This remains a timeshare backfield, but Jones is the clear leader on a Matt LaFleur-coached team intent on establishing the run. In Week 3, Jones is a high-ceiling RB2 play favored at home facing a Broncos defense that surrendered 253 rushing yards and two rushing TDs in Weeks 1-2. … LaFleur’s offense appeared ready for liftoff when it jumped out to an early 21-0 lead in last week’s win over the Vikings, only to fail to score a single point thereafter. The passing game clearly still a work in progress, Aaron Rodgers has managed fantasy results of QB23 and QB19, and now draws a Vic Fangio-coached Broncos defense that has shown small-sample run-funnel tendencies by checking Derek Carr (QB21) and Mitchell Trubisky (QB31). Fangio, of course, knows Rodgers’ strengths and weaknesses well after coaching against him eight times as Bears defensive coordinator over the past four years. Until we see tangible evidence of Green Bay’s revised offense hitting on all cylinders, Rodgers will merely be a fringe QB1 and contrarian DFS-tournament start.
Rodgers’ Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Davante Adams 19; Marquez Valdes-Scantling 12; Jimmy Graham 8; Jones 7; Williams 6; Geronimo Allison 5; Marcedes Lewis 4; Jake Kumerow and Robert Tonyan 1. … Adams predictably rebounded from his slow opener for last week’s 7/106/0 result versus Minnesota, as Rodgers made it a point to get Adams going early with 81 first-quarter yards. Adams’ last three stat lines against Fangio’s defenses are 8/119/0 > 5/88/1 > 5/90/1. … MVS ranks second on the team in Air Yards (143) behind Adams (190) but has just 71 yards to show for it. Unsurprisingly, Valdes-Scantling popped on Josh Hermsmeyer’s Air Yards Model as a Week 3 buy low. He’s a WR4/flex boom-bust play against Denver. … Allison hit pay dirt on Green Bay’s second drive last week, but lost a second-quarter fumble and has just 16 Air Yards two games in. He’s waiver-wire fodder. … I always feel like I’m too partial to Graham but like him this week as a TE1 streamer nevertheless. He’s No. 6 among NFL tight ends in Air Yards (141), while Denver has allowed the NFL’s sixth-most yards to Graham’s position (143). Graham also checks in as Week 3’s No. 3 buy-low tight end in Josh Hermsmeyer’s predictive Air Yards Model. … Update: We should scratch Graham off any Week 3 sleeper lists; the Packers are concerned enough about a groin injury he picked up that they signed TE Evan Baylis off the practice squad Thursday. Graham’s top backups are Lewis and Tonyan.
Score Prediction: Packers 24, Broncos 13
Falcons at Colts
Team Totals: Colts 24, Falcons 23
The Colts maintained their run-first mantra in last week’s two-point win at Tennessee, amassing 34 rushing attempts compared to 28 throws and enter Week 3 with the NFL’s second-most rushing yards (370) on the third-most carries (67). This is Indianapolis’ post-Andrew Luck identity featuring Marlon Mack, whose Week 2 rushing efficiency would’ve looked much better had he not lost a monster first-quarter cutback run to a ticky-tack hold. Back home in what projects as a close game with touch counts of 25 and 22 under his belt, Mack is a fringe RB1 play versus an athletic but undersized Atlanta defense the Colts’ powerful offensive line is capable of pushing around. … Jordan Wilkins got loose for 86 total yards in last week’s victory but logged only six touches on ten snaps and is purely a breather back with Nyheim Hines in the lightly-used change-up role. Through two games, Mack has run 38 routes to Hines’ 19. … Update: Mack missed Wednesday and Thursday’s practices with a calf injury. He did return on Friday, making Mack likelier than not to play. On the off chance he doesn’t, Wilkins would become the run-first Colts’ favorite for carries with Hines maintaining his change-up/passing-back role. Wilkins would be a top-20 running back start and Hines a PPR-specific flex option versus Atlanta. … Jacoby Brissett jammed in three red-zone touchdown passes in last week’s win over the Titans but ranks 25th in the NFL in pass attempts (55) in a low-volume game-manager role. He remains a QB2 only.
Brissett’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: T.Y. Hilton 15; Eric Ebron 7; Hines 6; Jack Doyle 5; Chester Rogers 4; Mack and Deon Cain 3; Parris Campbell and Mo Alie-Cox 2; Wilkins 1. … Living on short TD catches and sitting at a definitively non-T.Y. 56th in the NFL in Air Yards (138), Hilton remains one of fantasy’s most-obvious sell highs on the run-establishment Colts. He’s a WR2/3 play still being valued (and flukily scoring) in the high-end WR2 range. Making matters worse, Hilton was a late addition to Friday’s injury report with a quad ailment. He is listed as questionable. … Ebron scored a Week 2 touchdown but didn’t top 25 yards in either of the Colts’ first two games and ranks an abysmal 27th among tight ends in routes run (35). As Doyle has run nearly the same number of routes (32), they will continue to render each other fantasy non-entities on a ball-control team. … Because the Colts continue to deploy a five-wideout rotation, mining receiving value behind Hilton is going to be difficult regardless of opponent. Although Cain drew the Week 2 start in place of Devin Funchess (collarbone, I.R.), he ran only 21 pass routes behind Hilton’s 33, while Rogers (14 routes), Campbell (11), and Zach Pascal (11) were all involved. Cain’s biggest contribution was drawing an early DPI flag against Titans CB Adoree Jackson to get the Colts inside the ten-yard line. Brissett has shown no tangible affinity for targeting Cain two games in.
Their offense largely back on track in last Sunday night’s win over the Eagles, Matt Ryan’s Falcons catch their third dome game in a row at Lucas Oil Stadium facing a Colts team missing top pass rusher Jabaal Sheard (knee) and All-Pro MLB Darius Leonard (concussion). Struggling Devonta Freeman finally draws a soft matchup after opening against Minnesota and Philly’s mean fronts. Chargers and Titans backs hung a combined 36/205/2 (5.69 YPC) rushing and high-efficiency 10/117/2 (11.7 YPR) receiving line on the Colts in Weeks 1-2, while Freeman flashed his old burst on last week’s 29-yard shovel-pass gain, coming up just shy of pay dirt when he was tackled inside the five. Freeman out-snapped Ito Smith 63% to 37%, out-touched him 14 to 6, and is a quality if limited-ceiling RB2 play as the lead back in Atlanta’s committee. … Indy’s defense was flamed for Week 1’s QB9 result by Philip Rivers, then put predictable Week 2 clamps on Titans game-manager Marcus Mariota (QB20). Especially due to the Colts’ laundry list of injuries, this is a wholly unimposing matchup for Ryan. My one hesitation comes from Indianapolis’ so-far ability to slow games and limit opponent play volume. Only three teams have played fewer defensive snaps than Frank Reich’s Colts.
Ryan’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Julio Jones 21; Calvin Ridley 16; Austin Hooper 15; Mohamed Sanu 13; Freeman 8; Justin Hardy 6; Smith 4; Russell Gage 3. … In a great reminder of the fickle and oft-random nature of touchdown results, formerly end-zone-allergic Julio now has a receiving score in six straight games, the league’s longest-active streak. As Colts DC Matt Eberflus’ zone scheme is designed to force completions underneath, look for a high-volume effort where Falcons OC Dirk Koetter relies on Jones’ run-after-catch ability rather than vertical shots to create big plays. … Ridley capitalized on Philly’s double teams of Julio to pile up seven first-half catches last Sunday night, then managed one grab after the break. Scoring TDs at an above-expectation rate ever since he entered the league, Ridley is a WR3 with WR2 upside each week. … Possession TE Hooper is rarely a high-ceiling start but quietly leads Atlanta in catches (13) and has a playing style that matches up favorably against Eberflus’ zone. Hooper is a low-end TE1 preferable in full-point PPR leagues. … Fourth on the Falcons in both targets and Air Yards (71), Sanu is a low-upside WR5 regardless of opponent.
Score Prediction: Falcons 24, Colts 21
Ravens at Chiefs
Team Totals: Chiefs 31, Ravens 24
Update: There are enough weather concerns in this game — 17-18 MPH winds, flash floods, and thunderstorms — that the total on Chiefs-Ravens has been bet down into the 51-52 point range late in the week after hovering in the 55-56 point range on Tuesday and Wednesday. Adam Levitan and I will discuss these concerns on our Sunday morning pre-game broadcast that leads up until lineup lock. Make sure to check it out.
Ravens-Chiefs is a game to aggressively lean toward in lineup decisions with Week 3’s highest total (55) featuring the NFL’s Nos. 1- and 4-scoring offenses. Although Kansas City has allowed the league’s tenth-fewest points (36), DC Steve Spagnuolo’s unit has yet to be truly tested after facing Nick Foles/Gardner Minshew and Derek Carr. Now 8-1 as an NFL starter, Lamar Jackson also hasn’t faced a competent defense in 2019, although the diversity and multiplicity of OC Greg Roman’s personnel and scheme should keep Baltimore’s offense near-matchup proof. After throwing for a career-high five touchdowns in Week 1, Jackson rushed for a career-high 120 yards in Week 2. … Kansas City’s run defense is annually soft – it yielded 31/184/0 (5.94 YPC) rushing to Jaguars and Raiders backs in Weeks 1-2 – and Mark Ingram promisingly took over as Baltimore’s clear lead back in last Sunday’s one-score win over Arizona, dominating touches (15) and snaps (58%) over Gus Edwards (3, 21%) and Justice Hill (2, 19%) after the Ravens deployed a three-man RBBC in their Week 1 blowout of Miami. As Baltimore is a seven-point road dog at Arrowhead, Ingram should again handle featured duties as a locked-in RB2. Edwards is an RB4 hold with potential flex-play usefulness in better game-script scenarios. Hill is just an RB5/6 stash.
Jackson’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Marquise Brown 18; Mark Andrews 16; Hayden Hurst, Nick Boyle, and Miles Boykin 4; Willie Snead 3; Ingram, Hill, and Patrick Ricard 2. … Brown took a massive Week 2 step forward following his light-usage opener, spiking his snaps from 18% to 65% and targets from 5 to 13. Top ten in the NFL in Air Yards (243), Brown has already graduated to WR2 value facing a Chiefs secondary that’s been creamed by D.J. Chark (4/146/1), Chris Conley (6/97/0), Tyrell Williams (5/46/1), and Dede Westbrook (5/30/1). … My biggest pre-season regret is foolishly souring on Andrews in the two weeks leading up to the heart of draft season after loving him all spring and early summer. Andrews leads all tight ends in target share (28%), topped 100 yards and hit pay dirt in consecutive games to begin the season, and should be viewed as a top-five TE1 every week. Only two tight ends (Zach Ertz, Greg Olsen) have more Air Yards than Andrews’ 169, while tight ends facing Kansas City have so far caught 17-of-21 targets (81%) for 145 yards. … Although Hurst, Boykin, and Snead make sporadic contributions, Baltimore’s lopsided target allotment renders only Brown and Andrews fantasy viable.
Particularly after Kyler Murray flamed Baltimore for 349 yards at 8.7 yards per attempt in his second NFL start, Patrick Mahomes is a no-fear Week 3 play against the Ravens’ injury-depleted secondary. Already without slot CB Tavon Young (neck, I.R.) and badly missing RCB Jimmy Smith (MCL), Baltimore has been torched for chunk-yardage catches by Larry Fitzgerald (40, 54), DeVante Parker(49), Christian Kirk (34), KeeSean Johnson (31), Mike Gesicki (26), Allen Hurns (22), and Maxx Williams (21). Only two teams have allowed more 20-plus-yard completions than the Ravens (10). Chunk-yardage passes just so happen to be Mahomes’ thing. Per Next Gen Stats, Mahomes has a 12:1 TD-to-INT ratio against the blitz since the beginning of 2018. The 2019 Ravens have blitzed at the NFL’s third-highest rate (44%). … Baltimore is an extreme pass-funnel team, eliminating Cardinals and Dolphins running backs to the tune of 18/28/1 (1.6 YPC) rushing in Weeks 1-2. Making matters worse, Kansas City’s backfield lacks Week 3 clarity. Damien Williams (knee) was ruled out on Friday, but LeSean McCoy (ankle) is expected to give it a go with exciting rookie Darwin Thompson and fourth-string thumper Darrel Williams behind him. Thompson should be added in any season-long leagues where he was dropped, but Chiefs running back usage is murky in a rough matchup. I’ll cautiously project 14 touches for McCoy, 7 for Thompson, and 3 for Williams at Baltimore.
Mahomes’ Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Sammy Watkins 24; Travis Kelce 17; Williams 11; Demarcus Robinson 8; Mecole Hardman 7; McCoy 4; Thompson 1. … Although Watkins’ Week 2 didn’t meet expectations (6/49/0), he now ranks third in the NFL in targets and top 12 in Air Yards (238), and remains locked in as Mahomes’ No. 1 wideout facing a Ravens defense that is hemorrhaging big pass plays. Watkins runs roughly 75% of his routes in the slot, where Kirk (6/114/0) and Fitz (5/104/0) did almost all of their Week 2 damage at Baltimore. … Fresh off predictably shredding the Raiders (7/107/1), Kelce is once again this week’s top TE1 play against a Ravens defense upon which he dropped 7/77/1 receiving last Week 14. … Usually a block-first role player and possession receiver, Robinson capitalized on Tyreek Hill’s Week 2 absence most by playing 91% of Kansas City’s snaps, recording a career-best 6/172/2 receiving line, and leading the Chiefs in Air Yards (152) against Oakland. Robinson would have sailed over 200 yards had he not lost another long catch to penalty. Betting on any Chiefs pass catcher is good process, especially against a pass-funnel defense like Baltimore’s. Robinson is Week 3’s top waiver add and warrants an immediate upgrade to WR3 value. … Hardman operated as Kansas City’s No. 3 wideout against the Raiders, logging a 73% playing-time clip and paying fantasy dividends (4/61/1) despite losing a 72-yard TD on a third-quarter holding penalty. Jimmy Smith fill-in Anthony Averetthas been clocked for 13 completions on 20 targets (65%), 187 yards (9.4 YPA), and Dolphins UDFA rookie Preston Williams’ Week 1 score. As both drew the same number of Week 2 targets (6), Hardman is neck and neck with Robinson as WR3s versus the Ravens. De’Anthony Thomas played four Week 2 snaps.
Score Prediction: Chiefs 28, Ravens 24
Raiders at Vikings
Team Totals: Vikings 26, Raiders 17.5
As forewarned in Week 2 Matchups, Josh Jacobs was all but scripted out of last week’s 28-10 home-game defeat, his snap rate nose diving from 73% in positive-script Week 1 to 42% versus Kansas City with nine combined touches lost to Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington. Although the Vikings’ run defense isn’t impenetrable – Falcons and Packers backs tagged it for an above-par 46/194/1 (4.22 YPC) rushing line in Weeks 1-2 – Jacobs’ Week 3 outlook remains concerning as a two-score road dog with just one target in two games. Dealing with a groin injury and ominously having revealed on Twitter that he’s lost ten pounds due to an illness, Jacobs is a worrisome flex option at Minnesota. … Checkdown-machine Derek Carr’s lack of downfield aggressiveness and nonexistent rushing floor will continue to put him at weekly trap-play risk, even in plus draws. Carr’s lowly fantasy results are QB21 and QB28, while Mike Zimmer’s unit has checked Matt Ryan (QB14) and Aaron Rodgers (QB19), holding the former MVPs to an anemic 6.41 yards per attempt. Carr now has 30-plus pass attempts and fewer than 200 yards in 21-of-80 starts. He’s a low-floor, low-upside QB2 whose matchup will further worsen if RT Trent Brown(knee) isn’t available to block Vikings LE Danielle Hunter.
Carr’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Darren Waller 15; Tyrell Williams 14; Hunter Renfrow 11; Ryan Grant 9; Derek Carrier 5; Jalen Richard 3; Washington and Foster Moreau 2; Jacobs 1. … Leading the Raiders in catches (13) and top five among NFL tight ends in target share (24%), Waller has earned every-week TE1 treatment as Carr’s safety blanket in a narrow Raiders passing-game distribution, even against a Vikings defense that didn’t allow a single catch to Packers tight ends last week. (Minnesota did give up nine Week 1 grabs to Austin Hooper.) … Likely to command Xavier Rhodes’ shadow coverage, Williams is a volume-based WR3 option after hitting pay dirt in each of Oakland’s first two games. Not the “Rhodes Closed” shutdown force he once was, Rhodes surrendered completions on 11-of-13 targets (85%) for 135 yards (10.4 YPA) in Weeks 1-2. Williams’ floor is lowered by a hip pointer sustained against the Chiefs, but the Raiders expect him to start. … Renfrow led Oakland in Week 2 targets (8) but is still rotating with Grant. Waller and Williams are Oakland’s only fantasy-viable pass catchers at this point.
Following last week’s letdown loss at Lambeau, the Vikings return home to catch a Raiders team going east for a 1pm ET affair after playing each of its first two games in Oakland. The Raiders are 1-7 with an abominable -117 point differential in their last eight road contests; on average, they’ve been outscored by 14.6 points in away games under Jon Gruden. Especially after Kirk Cousins’ three Week 2 turnovers in Minnesota’s critical loss to Green Bay, expect Zimmer and offensive overseer Gary Kubiak to place an even greater emphasis on riding NFL rushing leader Dalvin Cook, who enters Week 3 with touch counts of 23 and 23 and rushed for a career-high 154 yards against the Pack. As a home-favorite bellcow with 25-touch upside, Cook is a top-five RB1 play in this spot. Per Sports Info Solutions, the Raiders have stacked the box with eight-plus defenders on just 6.7% of their defensive plays, the fourth-lowest mark in football. … Cousins attempted 32 passes in Week 2 only because Minnesota fell behind 21-0 early. Cousins’ 42 pass attempts rank 31st in the league, and this game’s projected script suggests the Vikings will be able to successfully keep the air out of the ball.
Cousins’ Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Adam Thielen 11; Stefon Diggs 9; Cook and Kyle Rudolph 5; Chad Beebe 3; Irv Smith 2. … Despite passing-pie shortages, Thielen and Diggs remain high-floor WR2 plays due to Minnesota’s target concentration. Thielen and Diggs’ Week 3 ceilings are raised by this juicy matchup; Oakland’s Johnathan Abram-less secondary has already been torched for wideout lines of 6/172/2 (Demarcus Robinson), 7/120/0 (Courtland Sutton), 5/86/1 (Emmanuel Sanders), and 4/61/1 (Mecole Hardman). Diggs caught just 1-of-7 targets in last week’s loss, losing a short touchdown catch on offensive pass interference but making his lone reception count for a 49-yard scoring bomb over the top of Green Bay’s secondary. Even as Thielen leads the Vikings in receiving, Diggs has some positive regression coming with a team-high 190 Air Yards. Update: The Raiders added slot CB Lamarcus Joyner (groin) to Friday’s injury report as questionable. His absence would improve the matchups for both Vikings receivers, as each sees ample playing time in the slot. … Rudolph’s route total spiked from 9 in Week 1 to 34 in Week 2 as game scripts reversed, but he managed nine yards on five targets and lacks TE1 appeal.
Score Prediction: Vikings 27, Raiders 10
Jets at Patriots
Team Totals: Patriots 33, Jets 10.5
The Luke Falk-quarterbacked Jets’ 10.5-point team total tells you all you need to know about the near-term prospects of this offense. Fire up the white-hot Patriots’ D/ST. … With noodle-armed Falk under center and Stephon Gilmore eliminating Robby Anderson, slot man Jamison Crowder looks like the Jets’ only remotely playable pass catcher for PPR-specific fantasy leaguers willing to bank on a flurry of checkdowns in comeback mode. … Le’Veon Bell should also pay PPR dividends on volume alone, even if his touchdown outlook is poor. Bell led the Jets in Week 2 targets from Falk, finishing with a team-high ten. New England has allowed the NFL’s tenth-most running back catches (12) two games in. … From a longer-term-thinking standpoint, I’d just like to note that the season isn’t over yet for Jets skill-position players. You’re going to have to exercise some patience, but Sam Darnold (mononucleosis) sounds confident about a Week 5 comeback, and Chris Herndon is due back in Week 6. The Jets’ schedule also lightens up considerably in the second half of the season after a brutal start. I’m still stashing Herndon and Ty Montgomery in all deep-bench leagues. Le’Veon is running into 25-30 car crashes per game, already needed an MRI on his shoulder, and averaged nearly four missed games per season with the Steelers. And there is nowhere for the trajectory of this offense to go but up once Darnold returns.
Week 1’s fantasy QB7 and Week 2’s QB5, Tom Brady should continue his roaring start with a monster Week 3 team total in a game where New England is likely to impose its offensive will. The Jets’ pass defense is in such bad condition that they already benched high-priced CB Trumaine Johnson and pulled stud SS Jamal Adams out of last week’s blowout loss to Cleveland, while neither OLB Jordan Jenkins (calf), ILB C.J. Mosley (groin), and DT Quinnen Williams will all miss Sunday’s game. There’s really no need to overthink this; Brady should light up all-talk, no-walk Jets DC Gregg Williams’ unit. … Historically a pass-funnel defense, the Jets have struggled to stop the run early this year, conceding a combined 35/160/1 (4.57 YPC) rushing line to Bills and Browns backs. Capitalizing on positive game script in last week’s massacre at Miami, Sony Michel rebounded from his Week 1 dud for a 21/83/1 performance and should see similar usage here. Already second in the NFL in red-zone carries (8), Michel is a multi-touchdown candidate in a game the Patriots won’t struggle to control. … James White’s touch counts are just 9 and 6 two games in, rendering him bench fodder until the Patriots catch a competitive opponent. (Traveling to Buffalo may provide that next week.) … Rex Burkhead’s touch counts are 13 and 7. He’s a better real-life than fantasy player at the moment. … Rookie Damien Harris was a healthy scratch in Weeks 1 and 2.
Brady’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Julian Edelman 15; White 11; Burkhead 10; Josh Gordon 9; Antonio Brown 8; Phillip Dorsett 7; Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo 2; Jakobi Meyers 1. … Brown’s debut wasn’t to blame for Edelman’s Week 2 dud (4/51/0), which had more to do with Brady needing only 28 attempts to down the lowly Fins. Similar game script is likely here, but Edelman should only be slightly downgraded as Brady’s most-trusted target in a cupcake draw with a very high likelihood of passing-game efficiency. Edelman still leads the Pats in targets, catches (10), and Air Yards (117). … The Dolphins stuck top CB Xavien Howard on Gordon in Week 2, so Brady picked them apart with everyone else. Not a single Jets cornerback could hold Howard’s jock. Variance should be expected from Gordon in a stacked wideout corps, but he’s got WR1 upside every week with immense individual talent playing 79% of New England’s offensive snaps. The Jets have been clocked by fellow perimeter WRs Odell Beckham(6/161/1) and John Brown (7/123/1). … The Patriots did go out of their way to feed Brown early in last week’s win over the Fins; he piled up three catches for 36 yards on their opening drive, drew a holding flag in the end zone to set up Michel’s one-yard TD, received a first-quarter jet sweep, and beat helpless CB Jomal Wiltz for a 20-yard back-shoulder touchdown catch. Brown drew a team-high eight targets despite playing only 25-of-70 snaps (36%) and should rise above 50% in Week 3, pushing Dorsett down.
Score Prediction: Patriots 30, Jets 10
Update: The Patriots released Antonio Brown on Friday and will resume leaning on Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, and Phillip Dorsett in three-receiver sets. Dorsett is the biggest beneficiary here; he played 76% of New England’s pre-A.B. offensive snaps in Week 1, catching 4-of-4 targets for 95 yards and two touchdowns at Pittsburgh. Although Dorsett has lacked career-long consistency, he should be a spiked-week player for the Patriots and is worth rostering in all season-long leagues as an upside WR4. The fact that New England lacks target-commanding presences at tight end boosts the usage projections for their wideout corps. Brown’s release should also help stabilize Edelman and Gordon’s weekly floors.
Lions at Eagles
Team Totals: Eagles 26.5, Lions 19.5
An assumption of rational coaching on behalf of the Lions in Week 3 would dictate OC Darrell Bevelland Matt Patricia scrapping their stone-age run-first mantra in favor of attacking Philadelphia’s bumbling pass defense. Eagles DC Jim Schwartz’s unit was cooked for Week 1’s QB6 result by journeyman Case Keenum and last week’s QB8 finish by Matt Ryan as both cleared 320 yards and threw three touchdown passes apiece. The Eagles are without two of their three biggest interior defensive line pieces in Malik Jackson (foot) and Timmy Jernigan (foot), and knee-hobbled top CB Ronald Darby is getting lit up. If the Lions play their cards right – and we’re dealing in assumptions here – Stafford-to-Kenny Golladay stacks should win folks some DFS money. … C.J. Anderson’s release enhances Kerryon Johnson’s outlook after the Lions wasted 25% of their Weeks 1-2 offensive snaps, 13 pass routes, and 16 carries on the oversized plodder. Dynamic rookie Ty Johnson is now Detroit’s clear No. 2 back and should be rostered in all 12-team leagues. Although Philly has defended the run stoutly early on, Jackson and Jernigan’s losses will be felt, and a potential increase of 3-5 touches per game would do wonders for Kerryon’s RB2 reliability.
Stafford’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Golladay 19; Danny Amendola 14; T.J. Hockenson 12; Marvin Jones 10; Kerryon and Jesse James 5; Ty Johnson and J.D. McKissic 2. … This is a true eruption spot for Golladay after he took Chargers All-Pro CB Casey Hayward to task on last week’s game-winning 31-yard touchdown catch. Per Sports Info Solutions, Philadelphia has allowed league highs in catches (19), yards (327), and touchdowns (4) to perimeter receivers, while Golladay has lined up outside on a team-high 70% of his snaps. The Lions have thrown 15 passes to outside receivers; Golladay has been the recipient of 12 of them (80%). Golladay also ranks fourth in the NFL in Air Yards. … As discussed in last week’s Matchups column, Amendola’s big Week 1 was a predictable, overtime-inflated fluke against Arizona, the fastest-paced team in the league. Amendola finished catch-less in Week 2 and lacks fantasy value beyond the deepest of PPR leagues. … Teams targeting tight ends against the Eagles have completed 10-of-15 targets (67%) for 105 yards and a touchdown. While we may have jumped the gun on Hockenson as an automatic TE1 following his big opener, this is a definite bounce-back spot in a game where the Lions should dial up more passes than usual. … Jones’ matchup is obviously appealing, but his usage remains concerning with the fourth-most targets and third-most Air Yards on a run-first Lions team.
Minus DeSean Jackson (groin) and potentially Alshon Jeffery (calf) and Dallas Goedert (calf), Carson Wentz is at risk of going to Week 3 battle with what amounts to a second-string pass-catcher corps. Wentz was also beat to hell himself in last Sunday night’s loss at Atlanta. As the Lions have yet to allow a top-12 fantasy quarterback week – they’ve faced Kyler Murray (QB13) and Philip Rivers (QB26) – I’d be quite willing to entertain streaming options over Wentz. … Although Miles Sanders continues to operate as the Eagles’ lead back, it’s fair to question their commitment to him with 53 yards on 21 carries (2.5 YPC) and 11 yards on six targets. OC Mike Groh noted Thursday that Sanders is bouncing too many inside runs to the outside, and he’s not finishing through final contact. Sanders ranks an abominable 44th among 47 qualified running backs in PFF’s Elusive Rating. Combine Sanders’ ineffectiveness and inability to fully separate from Jordan Howard with whispers of the Eagles pursing Melvin Gordon, and season-long leaguers may want to explore packaging Sanders with another player in exchange for a more-bankable RB2/flex.
Wentz’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Zach Ertz 23; Nelson Agholor 16; D-Jax 9; Mack Hollins 8; Jeffery 7; Sanders and Darren Sproles 6; Howard 4; J.J. Arcega-Whiteclaw 4; Goedert 3. … Quiet in Week 1, Ertz parlayed Philly’s Week 2 rash of wideout injuries into an otherworldly 16 targets while vaulting to the NFL lead in Air Yards among tight ends (181). Ertz’s eight red-zone targets through two games are nearly double those of the next tight end (Mark Andrews, 5). No tight end on the Week 3 slate has a higher opportunity projection than Ertz, putting him squarely in DFS crosshairs. … Agholor dropped last week’s potential game-winning TD but did capitalize on Jackson and Jeffery’s injuries for 8/107/1 receiving on 11 targets. Agholor runs 82% of his routes in the slot, where Larry Fitzgerald (8/113/1) and Keenan Allen (8/98/0) have eaten against the Lions. Agholor will be an upside WR3 play until D-Jax and Alshon return. … Plus sized (6’4/221) and fast enough (4.53), Hollins replaced Jackson as the Eagles’ Week 2 deep threat and logged 5/50/0 receiving on eight targets. Cheaply priced and popping as this week’s No. 4 buy-low receiver in Josh Hermsmeyer’s Air Yards Model, Hollins is a tempting DFS-tournament play. … Whereas Hollins is the direct backup to D-Jax, Arcega-Whiteside backs up Jeffery and played 93% of Philly’s Week 2 offensive snaps. The second-round pick stunk up the joint with four yards on four targets but was the best contested-catch receiver in 2018 college football. Update: Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Friday that Jeffery “might” play against the Lions. After he lasted only six snaps in last week’s loss, Jeffery should not touch fantasy starting lineups. But his activity would throw a wrench into Arcega-Whiteside’s usability.
Score Prediction: Eagles 23, Lions 21
Panthers at Cardinals
Team Totals: Panthers 24.5, Cardinals 22
1-9 in their last ten and winless in 2019 despite opening with consecutive home games, the Panthers visit the desert in desperation mode on a long week following last Thursday night’s gross loss in Tampa Bay. As Cam Newton (foot) appears to be in danger of missing multiple weeks, second-year UDFA Kyle Allenis next man up against an Arizona defense that was creamed for Weeks 1-2 fantasy results of QB4 (Matthew Stafford) and QB2 (Lamar Jackson), badly missing starting CBs Patrick Peterson (suspension) and Robert Alford (broken leg). A former five-star high school recruit, Allen shined in a spot start last Week 17, going 16-of-27 for 228 yards and two touchdowns with an additional 5/19/1 rushing line against the Saints. He’s a two-QB-league starter in this plus draw. … Even as Christian McCaffrey was up in Week 1 (209 yards) and down in Week 2 (53 yards), he remains an elite RB1 play at Arizona, which has allowed the NFL’s fourth-most rushing yards (298). Playing 100% of Carolina’s snaps, McCaffrey maintains 30-plus-touch upside as the locked-in centerpiece of the Panthers’ post-Cam offense.
Allen’s 2018 target distribution: D.J. Moore and Ian Thomas 6; Curtis Samuel and Jarius Wright 5; McCaffrey 3. … Moore parlayed his team-high six targets from Allen into 72 yards and maintains WR2 value even without Newton, who was playing poorly before reinjuring his foot. As Cam completed just 56.2% of his Weeks 1-2 attempts with a miserable 34% un-catch-able pass rate, it’s not unreasonable to think Allen could be an upgrade for Carolina’s pass catchers based solely on his superior ball location. Although Moore has yet to rip any truly big plays, he ranks third in the NFL in targets (24) and fifth in catches (16) playing the voluminous Michael Irvin role under ex-Cowboys OC Norv Turner. Without both starting cornerbacks, Arizona has let up productive stat lines to Danny Amendola (7/104/1), Marquise Brown (8/86/0), Marvin Jones (4/56/0), and Kenny Golladay (4/42/1). Just a 69% player as a rookie, Moore is up to 94% in year two. … Greg Olsen was sidelined with a foot injury during Allen’s Week 17 spot start, giving way to heavily-targeted Thomas. 34-year-old Olsen never feels like a sexy play, but his usage is TE1 caliber. He ranks No. 3 among tight ends in Air Yards (176), No. 4 in targets, and plays 88% of Carolina’s snaps. The Cardinals have been rocked by rookie T.J. Hockenson (6/131/1) and Ravens TE Mark Andrews (8/112/1). … Even as Samuel’s consistency has lacked, his 259 Air Yards and 15.2-yard aDOT easily lead the team. In the Alvin Harper role under Turner, Samuel will lack consistency but mix in spiked weeks. Based on matchup and to-date usage, this game sets up for a Week 3 Samuel explosion. Samuel parlayed his five Allen targets into three catches for 81 yards and a touchdown last season and just so happens to be atop Josh Hermsmeyer’s predictive Air Yards Buy Low Model. Giddy. Up.
The Cardinals return to the desert with fantasy results of QB13 (vs. Lions) and QB18 (@ Ravens) under Kyler Murray’s belt to face a dangerous Panthers defense that held Jared Goff and Jameis Winston to QB28 and QB21 fantasy finishes in Weeks 1-2. There are reasons to believe this could be Murray’s breakout game, however. Murray is the first quarterback since Cam Newton to begin his career with consecutive 300-yard passing games and is due for positive-touchdown regression after managing a 2.1% TD Rate in Weeks 1-2. Murray has shredded zone coverage (Sports Info Solutions) to the tune of 12.3 yards per attempt versus just 4.5 YPA versus man; Ron Rivera’s defense plays 82% zone. This game also pits against each other offenses that presently rank No. 1 (Arizona) and No. 2 (Carolina) in pace, which projects to enhanced opportunity. … The Panthers’ run defense was touched up for 53/239/3 (4.51 YPC) rushing by Rams and Bucs backs in the first two games and may be without top DT Kawann Short (shoulder), who did not practice all week. Although David Johnson was a Week 2 fantasy bust due to an in-game wrist injury, he wound up returning, practiced fully this week, and is an RB1 play worthy of team-stack inclusion in a Cardinals offense that has eruption potential versus the Panthers. From a sports-betting standpoint, I love the over on this game and Arizona as a side.
Kyler’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Larry Fitzgerald 24; Christian Kirk 20; Damiere Byrd 14; KeeSean Johnson 12; David Johnson 8; Chase Edmonds, Charles Clay, and Michael Crabtree 3; Maxx Williams2. … Fitzgerald is a legitimate top-ten WR1 play with the NFL’s third-most targets and sixth-most Air Yards (273) facing a Panthers defense that submitted 7/46/0 to fellow slot WR Cooper Kupp in Week 1 and 8/121/1 to Bucs slot WR Chris Godwin in Week 2. Fitzgerald opened the year with back-to-back 100-yard games and showed his ageless explosiveness on gains of 40 and 54 in last week’s loss at Baltimore. … Kirk is not far behind Fitzgerald in either usage category and gets an even better Week 3 draw as Arizona’s team leader in target share versus zone coverage (27%). … This is a “revenge game” for ex-Panthers preseason star Byrd, who continues to operate as the Cardinals’ top perimeter receiver at a 90% playing-time rate. KeeSean took the biggest Week 2 hit from Crabtree’s activation, his snaps diving to 32%. The Panthers have more stingily covered outside wideouts than inside ones, notably checking Mike Evans (4/61/0), Brandin Cooks (2/39/0), and Breshad Perriman (0/0 on 4 targets) in Weeks 1-2.
Score Prediction: Cardinals 28, Panthers 24
Giants at Bucs
Team Totals: Bucs 27.5, Giants 20.5
With the Eli Manning era mercifully brought to an end, Daniel Jones will make his first NFL start on the road against Bucs DC Todd Bowles’ overachieving defense, which held Jimmy Garoppolo to Week 1’s QB29 finish and Cam Newton to last week’s QB23 result via improvements in discipline and tackling. Per PFF, only the Patriots have missed tackles (3%) at a lower rate than Bucs defenders (8%) two weeks in. Although Jones is only trustworthy in two-quarterback leagues initially, his superior arm talent and athleticism to Eli’s petrified remains should upgrade fantasy outlooks for skill players around him. And I wouldn’t write off Jones as a DFS-tournament play in stacks with Saquon Barkley and/or Evan Engram. The No. 2 SPARQ-rated quarterback in this year’s draft, Jones averaged 36 rushing yards per start and scored 17 rushing TDs as a three-year starter at Duke. … Volume and big-play ability make Barkley one of fantasy’s most matchup-proof commodities, but Tampa Bay’s run-defense dominance is notable after holding Panthers and 49ers backs to 46/107/0 (2.33 YPC) combined rushing in Weeks 1-2. The Bucs are without top-five-pick ILB Devin Smith (MCL), however, and Barkley is a 30-touch candidate so long as this game stays close. With Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara diminished by quarterback woes, it’s fair to say Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott would be the top-two season-long picks if we re-drafted today.
Second among NFL tight ends in targets (22), Evan Engram should see more big-play chances via Jones’ stronger arm. The Bucs have been most vulnerable in tight end coverage, yielding 8/54/0 receiving with two touchdowns called back to George Kittle in Week 1 and 6/110/0 to Greg Olsen last Thursday night. Eli’s short-area passing style limited Engram to an anemic 6.0-yard aDOT in Weeks 1-2; he should jump into the 8.0-yard range alongside Kittle and Zach Ertz. … No. 2 WR Cody Latimer (concussion) won’t play, and No. 3 Bennie Fowler (hamstring) is expected to gut out a hamstring strain. Jones did flash on-field rapport with next-man-up T.J. Jones this preseason. … Sterling Shepard is the Giants’ third-best Week 3 fantasy option behind Barkley and Engram. Due back from his concussion, Shepard caught 6-of-7 targets in New York’s opener and offers fringe WR3 viability in PPR leagues against Tampa’s unimposing slot coverage.
Back home after last Thursday night’s upset win at Carolina, the Bucs host a Giants “defense” that gave up Week 1’s QB2 finish to Dak Prescott and Week 2’s QB7 result to Josh Allen with a top-ten blitz rate that isn’t getting home under DC James Bettcher. Patient and poised in Week 2 after his trainwreck opener, Jameis Winston committed zero turnovers at the Panthers and offers Week 3 DFS-tournament appeal versus a nonexistent Giants pass rush that finished second to last in 2018 sacks and ranks 27th in sacks two games in. … Coach Bruce Arians has made it clear he will rely on a “hot-hand” strategy when determining week-to-week running back playing time. Even though Ronald Jones was Tampa’s most-efficient Week 1 runner, Jones managed four touches on a backfield-low 12% of last week’s offensive snaps. Peyton Barber controlled the position group with 24 touches on a 67% playing-time clip, and Dare Ogunbowale remained Tampa Bay’s lightly-used third-down specialist. This is clearly a backfield to avoid whenever possible, but Week 2’s usage shift and Week 3’s projected game script with the Bucs favored at home support Barber as a flex option. Jones and Ogunbowale are season-long RB5/6s at best.
Winston’s target distribution: Chris Godwin 15; Mike Evans 13; Breshad Perriman 9; Ogunbowale 7; Barber and O.J. Howard 5; Cameron Brate 4; Jones 1. … Godwin’s year-three breakout is in full motion. He’s played 93% of Tampa’s offensive snaps, run 53% of his routes inside, and on Sunday draws a Giants defense relying on diminutive second-year UDFA Grant Haley (5’9/190) at slot corner to handle plus-sized Godwin (6’1/209). Cowboys slot WR Randall Cobb beat Week 1 expectations (4/69/1) against the G-Men, and Bills receivers piled up 9/89/1 receiving on slot routes versus New York last week. … His Week 1 sabotaged by the stomach flu, Evans rebounded for eight Week 2 targets and popped in Josh Hermsmeyer’s Air Yards Model as Week 3’s No. 4 buy low. Evans is also among season-long fantasy’s most-obvious buy lows entering a Week 3 date with the Giants, who’ve already been touched up by fellow perimeter WRs Michael Gallup (7/158/0), Amari Cooper (6/106/1), and John Brown (7/72/0). Brown’s Week 2 would have been much bigger had Josh Allen not missed him for a wide-open 52-yard TD. … Following last Thursday’s ugly win at Carolina, Arians and OC Byron Leftwich had extra days to evaluate Howard’s usage coming off a game where Howard’s lone target was nullified by his own offensive pass-interference penalty. Howard also allowed a sack in pass protection after losing a Week 1 end-zone fumble and dropping a pass that became a Jameis pick. Howard has played 85% of Tampa Bay’s offensive snaps but deservedly lacks the coaching staff’s trust. Arians did make it sound this week like Howard may receive squeaky-wheel treatment, although his short-term floor has obviously lowered.
Score Prediction: Bucs 28, Giants 23
Texans at Chargers
Team Totals: Chargers 25.5, Texans 22.5
The 1-1 Texans visit L.A. as field-goal dogs after Chargers DC Gus Bradley’s defense held Jacoby Brissett(QB18) and Matthew Stafford (QB14) below fantasy start-worthy thresholds in Weeks 1-2. Deshaun Watson is a different animal, of course, with a matchup bettered by SS Derwin James’ (foot) absence, James fill-in Adrian Phillips’ broken forearm, and the Bolts’ musical chairs at No. 2 corner, unsuccessfully manned by 2018 UDFA Brandon Facyson thus far. Coming off a slow Week 2, Watson’s DFS ownership is likely to be depressed in this road test. As we’ve hammered home all summer, Watson tends to perform better when trialing, and the Texans project to trail here. … Working in Carlos Hyde’s Week 3 favor is the Chargers’ run-defense deficiency; Bradley’s unit was creamed for 53/268/1 (5.06 YPC) rushing by Colts and Lions backs in its first two games. Working against Hyde is Houston’s road-dog status and Hyde’s lack of passing-game involvement with 17 routes run versus Duke Johnson’s 37. As both Texans backs are game-script dependent, I’m approaching each as fringe low-end RB2/flex plays. It does help Johnson that Houston projects to play from behind, and Bradley’s defense historically funnels passing-game production to Duke’s position. No team allowed more receiving yards to running backs last year.
Watson’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: DeAndre Hopkins 21; Will Fuller 10; Johnson and Kenny Stills6; Jordan Akins 5; Keke Coutee 4; Darren Fells 3; Hyde 1. … Watson-to-Hopkins DFS stacks will be contrarian for a variety of reasons, but they’re attractive on paper when you consider the Bolts were consecutively dusted by enemy No. 1 WRs T.Y. Hilton (8/87/2) and Kenny Golladay (8/117/2) to begin the year. … Even as his results have underwhelmed, Fuller’s usage is optimal playing 94% of the Texans’ offensive snaps and ranking 11th in the NFL in Air Yards (243). If the Chargers try shadowing Hopkins with top CB Casey Hayward, 4.32 burner Fuller will have a multiple-foot speed advantage over Facyson (4.53). Fuller’s 23.8-yard average depth of target is highest in the league through two weeks. He’s also popping in Week 3’s Buy Low Air Yards Model. … Stills and Coutee shared third-receiver work in Coutee’s Week 2 debut, rendering both fantasy non factors from a short-term view. … The Texans continue to get negligible production at tight end.
Dial up another smash spot for early-season week-winner Austin Ekeler facing a cross-country-traveling Texans defense that was rocked for 34/187/1 (5.50 YPC) rushing and 13/116/0 (8.92 YPR) receiving by enemy backs in Weeks 1-2. Much to Can’t Carry The Load Twitter’s chagrin, Ekeler out-touched Justin Jackson 23 to 8 and out-snapped him 74% to 26% in last week’s loss to Detroit. Ekeler should continue to hover in the 20-touch range while Jackson settles into 8-10 each week. The Chargers lined up Ekeler at wideout in the first quarter last week, and he promptly whipped Lions S Tracy Walker for a 35-yard catch. … Jackson did lose a 59-yard touchdown on Dontrelle