Fantasy Football: week three Sunday rundown

Fantasy predictions, breakdowns and player analysis for the upcoming NFL games this week.


Wide receiver Chris Hogan stiff-arms a defender while playing the Miami Dolphins last season. Max Jackson|Staff Photographer

Jacob Kleinberg, Contributing Writer

In this week’s edition of Sunday rundown I’m going to pick a few players from each game and really break down their stats and matchups.


Bengals at Ravens


Tight end Tyler Eifert’s average draft position (ADP) was in the early 14th round this year. Despite this fact, he has performed above fantasy expectations and looks like an every week starter.

Eifert leads the team in targets, receptions, and touchdowns. He should continue that trend for another good week against the Ravens.

AJ Green has been off to a relatively slow start, with eight receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown through two games. Those aren’t bad numbers by any means, but Green is a top 10 wideout and we should see his production begin to increase.

Jeremy Hill owners shouldn’t panic just yet, but I think this backfield is going to look like more and more of a timeshare as the season progresses. Giovani Bernard has too much talent to not eat away at Hill’s touches every week.

On the Ravens, Steve Smith was the most targeted receiver last week, catching 10 passes for 150 yards. I think you can count on him to be a point-per-reception (PPR) monster this season as Joe Flacco doesn’t have many other viable options to throw to. He’s a borderline WR2 with a high ceiling.


Raiders at Browns


Amari Cooper had his coming out party last week against the Ravens. The Raiders 2015 first-round draft pick caught seven balls for 109 yards and a touchdown. Cooper looks as advertised and will be the number one option in the Raider’s offense as the season continues.

Latavius Murray looked impressive throughout the past two games. He has been utilized as a true every-down back; in a game where David Carr had to throw 46 times, Murray still had 15 touches on the ground and added another three in the air. I think he will be good for 10 plus points a week and will have a few dominant games throughout the season.

Isaiah Crowell is the only fantasy-relevant option for the Cleveland Browns, and I’m avoiding starting him anywhere unless I need to. The Browns offense is going to be a rollercoaster with Johnny Manziel starting, and he’s going to be challenged for carries by former Miami Hurricane running back Duke Johnson.


Saints at Panthers


Last week I recommended that you start your Saints players wherever possible. To say they came up flat against the Buccaneers would be generous. Drew Brees injured his shoulder during the game, and the Saints never started anything on offense.

Brees will be out this week, which means Luke McCown will get the start at quarterback for New Orleans. Saints receivers may not be worth the start this week, so be aware.

Mark Ingram’s value could increase with Brees’ absence. He struggled last week, only churning out 3.3 yards per carry against the Buccaneers. Ingram will always be a threat to score, but I worry about how many carries he gets when CJ Spiller returns to full health. Spiller’s upside is sky-high, but I’m not starting him until his health is restored.

For the Panthers, tight end Greg Olsen caught six passes for 70 yards. The more telling number here is that those six receptions came on 13 targets. Olsen is a high end tight end because of his role as the number one option in that offense, but with a 46 percent catch rate against the Texans, he is not the most consistent out there.

Jonathan Stewart is due for a breakout game. Despite his high workload, he’s had only 19 points through two games. His usage alone warrants starting him, but I expect him to feast on this weak Saints defense.


Falcons at Cowboys


The Cowboys are in trouble. Tony Romo and Dez Bryant will both be out for an extended period of time. Brandon Weeden, the Cowboys backup quarterback, drains any value from all remaining options in the Cowboy’s offense. It’s going to be a tough season for Dallas fans.

The Matt Ryan to Julio Jones connection continued to be explosive. The Falcon’s new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan really understands how to use Jones from different spots all over the field. From two games, he has 22 receptions for 276 yards and four touchdowns. He should be fantasy’s best or second best wide receiver by season’s end.

With running back Tevin Coleman out for a few weeks, Devonta Freeman gets his shot as the bellcow back in Atlanta. He’s more of a receiving back, so I don’t think he’s going to necessarily thrive in that role, but he has touchdown upside every week while Coleman’s out, and could be a viable flex option on game day.


Buccaneers at Texans


The big story of this matchup is that Mike Evans put up a goose egg in his first start of the season against the Saints. Much of that is due to him coming off an injury and settling in with new quarterback Jameis Winston. I still think that he will produce this season. Evans makes for a nice “buy low” pick, especially if you need a receiver

Doug Martin struggled last Sunday, averaging only 3.7 yards per carry and fumbling once. He is a premier talent but is running behind one of the more suspect offensive lines in the league. This week he’ll draw the stingy Texans run defense, so I think we’ll see a similar performance.

Austin Seferian Jenkins is dealing with a shoulder injury and I think his production will wane as Mike Evans gets going. He’s a good “sell high” candidate, especially if you need a comparable receiver for your team.

The Texans offense struggled mightily against the Panthers. DeAndre Hopkins went for just five receptions and 53 yards after blowing up in week one. I think he’ll get going again this week against the Buccaneers, but that really depends on how Ryan Mallett performs.


Colts at Titans


Andrew Luck was highest drafted quarterback in all of fantasy football, and so far has failed to live up to his draft position. Turnovers and sloppy play have haunted Luck this season against two tough defenses

Things should turn around in a major way this week against the Titans. Luck and company are 6-0 against the Titans, scoring an average of 27 points per game against them. I expect mistake-free football from Luck and the Colts’ offense.

Start TY Hilton, who was clearly not 100 percent versus the Jets, but still saw seven targets anyway. Donte Moncrief looks like he has a legitimate shot to become the number two option in that offense over Andre Johnson. He put on a dominant performance, catching seven passes for 122 yards and a touchdown. He’s a must start against the Titans.

Frank Gore looked spry against the Jets typically dominant run defense, and although he didn’t score, he’s a safe start in this matchup as well.

In Tennessee, the only option I trust week to week is tight end Delanie Walker. He is an underrated talent, a red zone option, and rookie quarterbacks love throwing to tight ends. If he’s healthy, start him.


Jaguars at Patriots

Allen Robinson absolutely blew up against the Dolphins last week with six receptions on 12 targets for 155 yards and two touchdowns. Most of his production came in the first half.  Blake Bortles and the Jaguars offense look mightily improved.

On that same note, Jaguars’ rookie running back T.J. Yeldon is earning his stripes. He rushed for an astonishing 25 times and was involved in the passing game (three receptions on four targets for 13 yards). He only was able to gain 2.8 yards per carry, but that is due to Ndamukong Suh and the rest of Miami’s stout front line. The yards per carry number is a concern, but the usage isn’t. Start him and expect RB2 numbers with RB1 upside based on usage alone.

The Patriots offense proved me wrong. I should know better than to doubt Tom Brady and company. Tom Brady threw for three touchdowns and 466 yards against what I expect will be an elite defense.

Julian Edelman now has the most targets of any wide receiver through two games with 31. Ordinarily I don’t think that number would be sustainable, but there are only three viable targets in that offense (Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, and running back Dion Lewis) and Brady is on fire in the passing game. I like Edelman as an every week WR1.

Dion Lewis looks like a must-start regardless of matchup, at least in PPR leagues. LaGarrette Blount will get his usage, but Lewis will be the one to own in that backfield with his versatility .


Chargers at Vikings


Keenan Allen had 15 receptions in week one, and then only had two the next week. It’s hard to predict what will happen with Keenan, but you could do much worse in your WR3 spot.

The other San Diego receiver worth a look is Stevie Johnson. He’s had 11 receptions for 127 yards and two touchdowns in each game. Philip Rivers seems to like to hit him on screens or short routes and he’s been one of their primary options in the redzone. I think his role will remain the same in this capacity until tight end Antonio Gates returns from suspension in week five.

I think the Chargers offense can sustain two running backs. Danny Woodhead is the definition of a “passing back”, a running back who’s often utilized as a receiver out of the backfield. Melvin Gordon has looked impressive, averaging 4.6 yards a carry and about 70 yards per game. As a rookie, you can only assume his role will grow.  

Rivers will continue to be the middle-of-the-pack QB1 that he always is in fantasy. I don’t see anything that suggests he will have a better or worse year than any year he’s had in the past.

For the Vikings, Adrian Peterson showed up and received 20 points in PPR leagues. He didn’t see the end zone but was effective in both the passing game and running game. 20 points for Peterson should be the norm more than the exception.

Unfortunately for the Vikings, none of their other fantasy-relevant players have gotten going. I’m high on Charles Johnson to breakout at some point, but Teddy Bridgewater is having a little bit of trouble in his second year and as a result, the Viking’s playbook is limited.


Eagles at Jets


The only option I’m a fan of on the Eagles is Jordan Matthews, the de facto number one wideout for lack of a better option. I suppose Darren Sproles has flex/RB3 value in PPR leagues. Outside of those two, I’m avoiding Eagles players until that Chip Kelly offense begins to click.

The Jets are surprisingly off to a strong start. They announced that Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the starter going forward, even after Geno Smith returns to full health.

I’m a big fan of both Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker for this upcoming matchup. Marshall and Decker each had a touchdown in last week’s game. Decker will likely be out this week with a PCL sprain, so I like Marshall for a big night.

Chris Ivory was bottled up for the most part against an underrated Colts defensive line, but he was less than 100 percent in terms of his health. He only scored eight fantasy points, which I think is his floor. I like him this week against the Eagles leaky defense.


Steelers at Rams


The Steelers offense got going against the 49ers last week. Antonio Brown is the best fantasy wide receiver there is, and he once again demonstrated that fact by catching nine passes for 195 yards and a touchdown. Start him every week.

Le’Veon Bell returns this week as well, so remember to take DeAngelo Williams out of your lineup. There are murmurs that they may share the backfield, but the Steelers offense has improved with Bell in the game. He’ll get the majority of snaps.

The Rams are another one of those teams who just don’t have great fantasy players. Jared Cook seems to be the only reliable pass catcher on the Rams offense, and even he’s been streaky in past seasons. Still, I like Jared Cook as a streaming tight end option, because of scarcity at the tight end position.


49ers at Cardinals


Colin Kaepernick showed remnants of his old fantasy-relevant self last Sunday, completing 33 passes for 335 yards and two touchdowns. He’ll have tougher sledding against the Cardinals, but if the 49ers are letting him run the ball again, he’ll have a low floor and a high ceiling.

Carlos Hyde has huge RB1 upside, but it’s unclear if he’ll play after being concussed last week. If he plays, temper your expectations against a great defense in Arizona.

The Cardinals are off to an explosive start this season. Larry Fitzgerald is having a field day with Carson Palmer back at quarterback, catching 14 passes for 199 yards. He had three touchdowns last week against the Bears as well.

That won’t happen every week, but Fitzgerald has WR2 upside every week after having a slow season last year. John Brown is a streaky WR3. The deep threat has caught nine passes for 91 yards and a touchdown after two games. Play him in your flex or as a risk-reward option in your WR2 or three spot.


Bills at Dolphins


Tyrod Taylor was a top five quarterback last week. Most people were concerned about the Bill’s offense, but they put up 402 total yards against the Patriots. I like both Sammy Watkins and Percy Harvin as decent WR3 options from here on out. Harvin looks good simply because they are getting him the ball on the ground and through the air.

Watkins will get consistent targets as the number one option in that offense. After being shut down in week one by Vontae Davis, Watkins bounced back for six catches, 60 yards and one touchdown.

Ryan Tannehill looked great against Jacksonville, completing 30 passes for 359 yards and two touchdowns. He also led the team in rushes with three attempts for 17 yards.

Lamar Miller is hurt and hasn’t produced much through two games. I like Miller a lot this year, but it’s taken him a while to get going. Miami is handing him the ball enough for him to really break away, but it’s up to him to produce.

Jarvis Landry looks like a legitimate WR2 with WR1 upside every week. Through two games he’s caught 16 passes for 163 yards and one touchdown. He’s Tannehill’s favorite option, and he’ll post similar numbers every week. He’s a must-start.


Bears at Seahawks


I’m struggling with the Bears this weekend. Jimmy Clausen is the starting quarterback. I’m not sure if that helps or hurts anyone’s value. If you drafted Matt Forte, you have to start him.

But expect an already stout run defense to stack the box against Forte, challenging Clausen to throw the ball. I think this is a massacre in favor of the Seahawks.

Seattle is off to a rough start at 0-2 but they’ll turn it around this week. I love Lynch in this game, and even Fred Jackson if you’re desperate. Russell Wilson is always a safe quarterback play because of his capabilities. I don’t like any of the Hawks’ pass catchers this week. They just won’t be throwing much.


Broncos at Lions


This is a game with a ton of fantasy potential. Peyton Manning showed that he can still put up great fantasy numbers (256 yards, three touchdowns and one interception) even though he’s throwing wobbly passes. I like Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders receiving potential all season long.

The running backs for Denver have not performed. C.J. Anderson has been banged up and ineffective, and Ronnie Hillman hasn’t looked great either. The Broncos offensive line has been weak and they haven’t gotten the ground game going. Still, if you drafted C.J. Anderson, it was likely in the first two rounds, so start your “stud”.

The Lions looked good fantasy-wise last week. Stafford completed 32 passes for 286 passes and two touchdowns and one interception. That’s about what you should expect from him week in and week out.

Wide receiver Calvin Johnson caught ten passes for 83 yards and one touchdown, and an injured Golden Tate caught six passes for 80 yards. Calvin is a WR1 and Tate is a WR2/3.

Ameer Abdullah and Joique Bell were worthless, but the Lions threw 52 times. Abdullah will bounce back and post RB2 numbers with RB1 upside this week. The jury is out on Bell.


Chiefs at Packers


The Chiefs looked great last Thursday, but unfortunately found a way to lose in late. Jamaal Charles was partly responsible, with two fumbles in key situations during the game. Other than the turnovers, Charles looked like his elite self, amassing 126 total yards. He’s in for a huge night against the Packers’ questionable run defense.

Jeremy Maclin’s numbers have been less-than-stellar. In PPR format, the receiver is just shy of 20 points through two games. I’m hoping that this is closer to his floor than his ceiling, but Alex Smith loves to throw to the tight ends and running backs.

Travis Kelce caught four of five targets for 58 yards. This was a down game for him and he still earned owners close to ten points in PPR. This is his ceiling. He should see many more targets week in and week out.

Green Bay is coming into this game banged up. Davante Adams left the game for a short period of time and came back into the game clearly less than 100 percent. James Starks will start in place of Eddie Lacy.

Starks may be the most talented backup running back in the league, but Kansas City has been stout in run defense this year. Both the Texans and the Broncos struggled to move the ball. He’s a good handcuff, but temper your expectations.

Randall Cobb and Aaron Rodgers may be the only surefire plays here. Cobb saw 11 targets last week, catching eight of them for 116 yards. With Adams banged up and Lacey out of the game, I expect Cobb will once again see 10 or more targets.

 Jacob Kleinberg is a contributing writer with the University Press. To contact him on this or other articles, email him at [email protected].