Analysis Paralysis: Week 3 Start & Sit
Eddie Royal is on-pace for 40 touchdowns. You and I both have more fantasy points than David Wilson. Philip Rivers is a Top Five fantasy quarterback. If you feel like you’re in a sideways episode of LOST, it’s because you are.
We’re only two weeks into the NFL season, and it’s hard to make sense of what we’ve seen so far. The important part of that sentence, however, is that we’re only two weeks into the NFL season. Two weeks does not win or lose your fantasy season. Two weeks does not indicate a player being an out-of-nowhere stud or a first-round bust. And two weeks does not equal a trend. While there are certainly some things we’ve seen so far that will become trends, the law of averages will soon work its magic and return some order to this crazy little game that we all love so dearly.
If you’re 2-0, don’t book your hotel room for the fantasy playoffs just yet. If you’re 0-2, put away the brown paper bag and stop hyperventilating. It’s a long season and there’s a long way to go.
With that said, let’s try and makes heads and tails of what’s to come in Week 3:
12-Pack of Goodness
(12 players who are primed to outplay their normal value this weekend)
Sam Bradford: Without looking, which quarterback currently has the fifth-most fantasy points? The bolded name in front of that sentence sort of ruins the mystery there, but Sam Bradford is finally living up to his potential (through two weeks, at least). Couple that with the fact that the Cowboys can’t stop anyone through the air (they’ve currently allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks) and you’ve got a recipe for another good day for the former No. 1 pick.
Alex Smith: Chip Kelly’s offense is great for fantasy owners in more ways than you’d originally think. It’s obviously amazing for anyone who owns an Eagles offensive player, but it’s also great for anyone who owns a player going up against the Eagles. With all the plays the Eagles run, it allows for the opposing offense to run more plays than they normally would and put up some extra fantasy points in the process. Smith has been surprisingly good this year (outscoring guys like Matthew Stafford and Colin Kaepernick so far) and has the right matchup to keep the good times rolling in Week 3.
Reggie Bush/Joique Bell: The Redskins literally can’t stop anyone on the ground. It was understandable when it was LeSean McCoy, but James Starks?! The Jaguars and Redskins are only two teams who have allowed more than 283 yards rushing this season, and the Redskins are dead last by a healthy margin with 402. If Bush doesn’t play, Bell is a GREAT play. Even if Bush does play, Bell is a good play. Heck, Mikel Leshoure might even be a good play all the way from the inactive list.
DeMarco Murray: Many are questioning Murray after a subpar Week 2, but the man only saw 12 carries. The Cowboys offense was a bit off last week and now face the Rams, which is part of the worry. However, Murray is one of a handful of workhorse running backs this season, and who else are you going to put in his place? Ahmad Bradshaw? Well... maybe before all of that madness.
Monte Ball. Ronnie Hillman. The last Broncos running back drafting in this year’s fantasy drafts is now looking like the running back we all should have drafted. The former Georgia Bulldog (Bulldawg?) has received almost 47percent of the carries that have gone to the Broncos running back trio and seems to have solidified his role at the top of the pecking order. Moreno is currently the seventh on this year’s list of highest-scoring running backs and has a nice matchup against the Raiders this weekend to try and improve upon that spot.
Dwayne Bowe: The bad news first: Bowe’s touchdown last week was his first in almost a year, and he’s playing in an offense that may be a little too conservative to turn him into a fantasy monster. And now the good news: The Eagles secondary is absolutely atrocious and made Eddie Royal look like Jerry Rice last week. With Andy Reid likely pulling out all the stops against his former team this weekend, I like Bowe to double (and maybe even triple) his 2013 touchdown total Thursday night.
Josh Gordon: It seems weird to have two Browns on a “start” list, but Gordon is back from his two-game suspension and is poised to take advantage of the Vikings (likely) stacking the box to stop whoever is running the ball. After all, who's afraid of Brian Hoyer. That said, I can’t say I have a ton of faith in Hoyer, but Gordon has the speed to get open for a long bomb once or twice, and that’s all he’ll need to be useful for his fantasy owners this week.
DeAndre Hopkins: If Andre Johnson sits out this week, I LOVE Hopkins. If Andre Johnson plays this weekend, I still love Hopkins (albeit not in an all-caps kind of way). After Johnson went out with a concussion against the Titans last weekend, Hopkins looked like the star we all thought he could be on his way to a seven reception, 117 yard, one touchdown performance. The Ravens secondary isn’t exactly reminding anyone of their 2002 defense (they’ve given up the 25th-most passing yards in the NFL to date) and Hopkins should be able to find some holes this weekend.
Antonio Gates: I still have a really tough time trusting Gates (which is strange to say about one of the most dependable fantasy tight ends in the last decade), but he finally looked healthy on his way to posting eight receptions and 124 yards against the Eagles last week. He’ll have another nice matchup against the Titans this weekend and should get plenty of targets due to the fact that Philip Rivers doesn’t really have any great options at wide receiver (no, Eddie Royal doesn’t count).
Tyler Eifert: Eifert is a risky start since he falls in the “everyone else” category in Cincinnati’s “A.J. Green and everyone else” offense, but the former Notre Dame tight end has looked as good as advertised so far this season. Even though he’s been targeted three times less than Jermaine Gresham thus far, Eifert has caught eight of the 10 passes thrown his way and should be able to produce as a low-end TE1 against a Packers defense that has given up the third-most fantasy points to tight ends through two weeks.
Minnesota D/ST: I still stand by Josh Gordon putting up a good fantasy performance, but that doesn’t mean that the Vikings defense can’t take advantage of the fact that Brian Hoyer is starting this weekend. The Browns have been fantasy candy to opposing defenses (allowing 17 and 11 fantasy points to the Dolphins and Ravens defenses, respectively) and should make the Vikings a borderline Top 10 option this weekend.
Buffalo Bills: While I normally wouldn’t even think of starting the Bills defense, they’ve actually been somewhat decent this season and more importantly, the Jets offense stinks. Geno Smith’s next touchdown past will be the first of his NFL career and his next interception will be his fourth. If the fact that the Jets are toying with the idea of starting Matt Simms at quarterback doesn’t convince you of their offensive ineptitude, I don’t know what else to tell you.
6-Pack of Sorrow
(Six players you should think about benching if you have better options)
Andrew Luck: Luck has looked great so far this season, but I think he’s about to run into a buzzsaw in San Francisco this weekend. The 49ers are coming off a thorough beating in Seattle and will be looking to avenge that loss against Jim Harbaugh’s former college quarterback. There is a chance that Luck could put up some garbage points in this one, but I’d look towards other options (like Sam Bradford, for instance) if you can.
David Wilson: On paper, Wilson has a nice matchup against the Panthers this weekend. That said, do we even know that Wilson will be the Giants running back to take advantage of that matchup? He basically split carries with Brandon Jacobs and Da’Rel Scott last week, and as I mentioned above, he’s still in the red when it comes to fantasy points this season. Don’t drop him, but don’t start him.
Stevan Ridley: There are a lot of things to not like about playing Ridley this week. The Buccaneers have allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to running backs this season, Ridley is still getting over a case of fumble-itis and he’s yet to break the 50-yard mark through two weeks. I think he’ll be a big piece of the Patriots offense this season, but this is the week to bench him if you’re a Ridley owner (and next week will be the week to take advantage of his owners hitting the panic button and buy-low if you’re not).
Greg Jennings: Jennings was actually pretty good last week after going MIA in Week 1, but he has an extremely tough matchup against Joe Haden and the Browns this weekend. Plus, he has Christian Ponder throwing the ball to him. If you give me the option of a wide receiver who has Ponder as his quarterback versus a wide receiver who has pretty much anyone else throwing to him, I’ll probably go with “pretty much anyone else throwing to him” 99 times out of 100.
Brandon Pettigrew: Is Pettigrew even in the league anymore? I still get people asking about starting him and I’m not sure why he’s even an option right now. There are 44 tight ends who have put up more points than Pettigrew through the first two weeks of the season and his whopping five targets per game don’t give me very high hopes. Pettigrew may still end up being productive this season, but let him produce on your bench (or waiver-wire) before you risk starting him.
Tampa Bay D/ST: It might be tempting to look at the fact that the Bucs are currently the fifth-highest scoring defense in fantasy and think that they’re a great start against a Tom Brady-led Patriots team that is completely devoid of non-Julian Edelman receiving options. I’d look at the flip side of the coin and worry that the Patriots had 10 days to prepare their offense for this game and aren’t likely to post back-to-back stinkers.
Your Questions. My Answers.
@Albano_Brian: Bernard Pierce, Gio Bernard, or Bowe at flex?
Nick: Pierce would be an interesting option if Ray Rice is out, but I’m going to assume he’s playing for now, so Pierce is out. While Gio is another interesting option, I worry that the Bengals won’t use him as much as we’d all like so I’d sit him too. I’d go with Dwayne Bowe here for the reasons I outlined above.
@WFANAudio: Moreno, Steve Smith or Tavon Austin. (.5 PPR flex)?
Nick: I think Smith and Austin will both have good weeks, but wide receivers are also a little bit more of a volatile play than running backs, and I think Knowshon Moreno should have a great game against the Raiders this weekend.
@Nickinabox: Spiller or Miller? Spiller has kind of been disappointing so far.
Nick: I see what you’re saying about C.J. Spiller, but Lamar Miller hasn’t exactly been a model of consistency either. I’m guessing you spent something like the sixth overall pick on Spiller, so I’m not sure benching him should really be an option, to be honest. It will get better.
@bgeary8: Pick three for this week, standard scoring: Gore, J. Bell, Colston, Edelman. Thanks!
Nick: I think Frank Gore is a must-start against the Colts, so he’s in. I’d also find it really hard to sit Drew Brees’ best receiver despite the tough matchup, so Marques Colston is in too. I’d like Joique Bell and Julian Edelman better if it was PPR, but I’d have to go with Bell here. It’s honestly a bit of a toss-up, but I think the Lions will limit Reggie Bush (if he even plays).
@TheRealMKP: with R. White still not 100% who should get my second Wr spot. James Jones, Baldwin, or decker ?
Nick: I like the thought to sit Roddy White. He doesn’t seem like anything more than a decoy at this point. I’d stay away from Doug Baldwin (one of these things is not like the other), so it’s really between Eric Decker and Jones for me. Both are very hit-or-miss, but I’d have to shade towards Jones. I feel like the Broncos will go up big on the Raiders and won’t pass as much, while you might actually get a full 60 minutes of the Packers passing game.