Tom Brady trying to regain his form against sophomore sensation Matt Ryan. Adrian Peterson heading to the Bay to take on Frank Gore. The Detroit Lions continual insistence that they are, in fact, still an NFL team. It’s week three of the season. Trends are emerging, players are hurt, and you need help. That’s where our exhaustive game-by-game analysis comes in. You won’t find a more robust offering anywhere on the Web.
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Start – Last week the Washington Redskins were 10 point favorites over the St. Louis Rams, yet only scored nine total points. Sure, they won the game, Jason Campbell was reasonably efficient (although in fantasy terms, horribly unproductive) and Clinton Portis had a somewhat respectable 17 rushes for 79 yards. Only problem was, at the end of the day a three field goal performance isn’t getting it done in Fantasyland. After two straight weeks of underachieving, Washington players have the chance to finally redeem themselves against a Detroit Lions team that has lost 19 straight games and surrendered 72 points in their first two losses this season. So, go ahead and start Portis against a team that is giving up 134 rushing yards per game and is dead last in scoring defense. And pencil in Campbell against a secondary that has allowed eight passing touchdowns in their first eight quarters. This is sort of like dropping your kid off at Military school. Last chance to get things right, before being put up for adoption, or on the waiver wires for another parent to pick up. Chris Cooley is a top five fantasy tight end and should be a benefactor.
The Lions, on the other hand, are sort of like the red-headed stepchild that still needs to wear diapers and isn’t allowed to use scissors. Nobody picked any of these players up in the first place or wants them around at Thanksgiving. That is, of course, with the exception of Calvin Johnson, who continues to put up solid fantasy numbers. (On a side note, how awkward do you think Johnson feels every time a reporter asks “So, what’s it like being the only player on this team that anybody has heard of or even respects?” Does it rank with “Mr. Odom, you know you could probably marry a good looking woman?” or “Donte Stallworth, what are your thoughts on Plaxico Burress’ jail time?”) Johnson is averaging over 75 yards and is the only Lions’ receiver to step foot in the end zone this year.
Sit – Campbell only has one touchdown pass this season, which is bad news for Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El owners. None of the Redskins receivers have had great fantasy games, and even against the Lions this week, it’s just too risky to start anyone from this group. Campbell may get a little hotter than usual, but it remains unclear which receiver will benefit the most from it. Conversely, anybody who has any non-Calvin Johnson Lions on your roster (including Kevin Smith) please stop reading this right now. The Skins are pretty tough up front.
Start – So far, Aaron Rodgers has been a fantasy letdown. He looked awful last week against a Cincinnati Bengals defense with more felony convictions than Pro Bowlers. However, this week Rodgers will travel to St. Louis, away from the Lambeau fans still reeling from his week two meltdown, and throw to a group of speedy receivers on the slick Edward Jones Dome turf. And much like it will be for the Redskins, this is a defining week for the Packers’ fantasy hopes. If Rodgers, Donald Driver, and Greg Jennings don’t click against a Rams defense that gave up three passing touchdowns to a similar (if not less talented) Seahawks offense, it may be time to pull out the bust stamp and some red ink to put on Rodgers’ report card. Ryan Grant (one touchdown in each of his first two starts) should also take advantage of this favorable matchup. Start Grant and the trio this week, in what should be a bounce back game in Missouri.
On the Rams side of the ball, Stephen Jackson looked like his old self against a revamped Redskins’ defense, rushing for 104 yards on 17 carries. Jackson (who suffers from the Calvin Johnson complex) should take advantage of the Packers’ 18th ranked rush defense and help the Rams turn what could be a blowout loss, into a respectable “let’s try and see what we can take away from this defeat” one. Definitely get Jackson in your lineup in point-per-reception leagues. He’s a swing pass machine and eventually the Rams’ coaching staff will wake up and realize they’re limiting their best weapon. Laurent Robinson has emerged as Marc Bulger’s go-to guy. If you’re in a pinch and need a third receiver, he’s not a bad option here.
Sit – Quick – name Marc Bulger's back-up…Exactly. And that’s the only reason the West Virginia alum gets to stay in the game with a 50 percent completion rate and one touchdown this season. Don’t put Bulger or the slumping Donnie Avery anywhere near your starting lineup this week. (And for the record, the answer was Kyle Boller)
Start – It isn’t quite Ali vs. Frazier and it doesn’t have the cache’ of a Manning brothers showdown, but Adrian Peterson and Frank Gore in the same game should make for some fantasy fireworks. Both are averaging more than 100 yards and a touchdown per game. Both are the focal points of their offense. And neither of them want to come out on the losing end of this epic battle. Expect huge, and passionate performances from each.
Sit – What may be overshadowed by Gore’s tremendous start, is the impressive play of the 49ers’ defense. In the season opener, the Niners picked off NFC playoff hero Kurt Warner twice, while giving up only one touchdown and followed it up with an even better performance against the Seahawks. This shouldn’t bode well for Brett Favre or any of the Vikings’ young receivers. Favre, while looking serviceable against two very pedestrian opponents, is still searching for his groove – but likely won’t find it this week. Subsequently, Shaun Hill and the Niners’ receiving core (one passing touchdown all season) shouldn’t break out against the vaunted Vikings’ defense. Visanthe Shiancoe caught a TD last week (but did little else), and despite the fact that John Carlson had a big game against the Niners D last week, we would sit Visanthe until he and Favre establish a connection.
Start – Even though nobody in New England is clamoring to get Matt Cassel and his 66.3 quarterback rating back in a Patriots’ uniform, they are wondering whether or not Tom Brady will return to his old self. In two games this year, the former NFL MVP has only had one good quarter of football and is a fumbled kickoff away from an 0-2 start. This week will be Brady’s third game back from injury and a chance for a breakout performance. Along with Randy Moss, Brady should be able to take advantage of a slower Falcons’ secondary that is very susceptible to big plays. Wes Welker is battling non-descript lower body injuries, but it was announced on Thursday morning that he plans on playing. If he does, definitely get him in your lineup. Just be sure to check Sunday morning.
Facing off against Brady will be reigning rookie of the year Matt Ryan (five touchdowns in his first two games) and his dangerous receiving duo of Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. Along with Michael Turner’s 170 yards and one touchdown start, the trio has helped the Falcons begin the year at 2-0 and will be looking to make a statement on the road against one of the NFL’s premiere teams.
Sit – New England has 43 rush attempts this year, which is not that bad until you notice they’ve thrown it 100 times. With Fred Taylor and Laurence Maroney trying their best to look mediocre, it seems as though Bill Belichick has completely abandoned the run (like all great championship teams do) and put everything on Brady’s shoulders. For Atlanta, just in case anybody is still holding onto hope for Michael Jenkins or Jerrious Norwood, Jenkins had three catches last week and Norwood had one carry. Stay away.
Start – In the Titans’ 34-31 loss to the Houston Texans, Matt Schaub threw for 357 yards and four touchdowns. This is the same guy who followed up his injury-riddled 2008 season by opening this year with 166 yards and an interception. The fact is, the Titans’ secondary is hurting and this might be the week to finally start Mark Sanchez if you’re in a league that starts multiple QBs, especially considering how many three-and-outs his defense should hand him. Also give Jerricho Cotchery the nod after two straight 85-plus yard games with Dustin Keller (116 yards and a touchdown this season) as well.
Sit – So far this season the New York Jets have given up 16 total points to the Houston Texans and New England Patriots. What are the chances the Titans are the ones to unlock Rex Ryan’s scheme? Take Kerry Collins, Chris Johnson and any other Tennessee player out of the fantasy rotation this week. Yes, it will be difficult to sit Johnson after his performance last week, but he did it against the Texans, who gave up 100 yards and two TDs to Thomas Jones the week prior. The Jets stole some Ravens defensive players, and now their defense is actually better than the Ravens’. As for the Jets, give Thomas Jones a rest this week. The Titans have held both Willie Parker and Steve Slaton to under 40 yards in their opening two contests.
Start - Not exactly a marquee matchup in the traditional sense of the word, but certainly an intriguing game between two teams in desperate need of a win. Donovan McNabb reportedly won’t play, which means Kevin Kolb will start once again. He put up almost 400 yards passing and two TDs in his debut, so don’t expect a huge dropoff here against the 14th ranked pass defense of the Chiefs. We recommend starting DeSean Jackson and tight end sensation Brent Celek. If you’re not punished for interceptions in your league, Kolb makes an intriguing second QB.
Sit – Kansas City should have all kinds of problems moving the ball on the Eagles. Larry Johnson is a marginal flex start, and the same goes for Dwayne Bowe. Forget everyone else. Kevin Curtis is one of those flash in the pan guys, and despite an impressive performance last week, there’s not enough evidence to start Jason Avant just yet. Brian Westbrook hasn’t broke 75 yards in a game yet this year and he’s playing on a busted wheel. Start him only if you’re in a pinch. Yes, even against the Chiefs. The Eagles were lit up by Drew Brees last week, but don’t expect the same from Matt Cassell.
Start – Plaxico Burress may not be allowed to watch this one from his cell, but if he does, he’ll get to see Eli Manning follow up his 330 yard, three touchdown performance against the Cowboys with an equally great one in Tampa Bay. Now that Mario Manningham and Steve Smith have emerged as top flight receivers, the Giants’ passing game has regained its championship form and should take another step in the right direction against the 27th ranked Buccaneers’ pass defense. Kevin Boss has been mildly disappointing this season, but give him a shot at redemption this week. He will have favorable coverage matchups against the Bucs’ linebacking corps. Despite his awful game against the Cowboys, Brandon Jacobs is also a start given how Tampa Bay let Fred Jackson put up 163 yards last week.
Sit – We’re gonna guess that The G-Men’s poor defensive performance against the Cowboys’ run was more of an aberration than a weakness. Look for them to bounce back by stuffing Cadillac Williams and Derrick Ward. And if Tony Romo can only muster one touchdown and three interceptions against their secondary, Byron Leftwich, Kellen Winslow and company won’t do much better. Ahmad Bradshaw looks like the better back between him and Jacobs, but he’s not getting enough touches.
Start – We may have given Joe Flacco a hard time about his resemblance to a certain Sesame Street character that doesn’t allow cookies in the bed, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t impressed with the gun-slinging quarterback. In his first two games, Flacco has put up five touchdowns in two straight wins thanks to a little help from tight end Todd Heap. Along with a three-headed running game headlined by Willis McGahee, Flacco should be able to score early and often against a Browns’ defense that has given up 30 points per game to start the season. That means good things for Derrick Mason, who should finally have a good game due to injuries to other receivers. McGahee is a red zone threat, but rarely gets the ball otherwise. In TD leagues he’s great, in yardage leagues, sit him.
Sit – Brady Quinn earned the starting job for the Cleveland Browns four weeks ago. Now, less than one Rosh Hashanah later, Quinn is fighting for his job after notching one whole touchdown in the opening two weeks. The Ravens defense has not really looked like the Ravens defense so far, but they will against the lowly Browns. Factor in Jamal Lewis’ 37-yard day against the Broncos and things start to look very grim in Cleveland. For Baltimore, despite the success they’ve had on the ground, Ray Rice has yet to find his way into the end zone because of McGahee’s ruthless vulturing, so start with caution.
Start – If Jack Del Rio wants to stave off unemployment, he’s going to need to walk out of Houston with a division win this Sunday - and the best hope for that to happen is through Maurice Jones-Drew. The diminutive back is averaging over 4.5 yards per carry this season, has banked nine receptions and most importantly, will be facing the league’s worst rush defense in this one. Expect Jones-Drew to put up monster numbers against the Texans. Hell, Del Rio has pretty much bet his job on it.
When the Texans aren’t busy giving up rushing yards to everybody and their grandmother, they usually keep the ball in the hands of Matt Schaub, who is coming off a tremendous four touchdown performance against the Titans. This should carry over into week 3, considering the Jags have the NFL’s 26th ranked pass defense and have lost their last five “Non-Detroit Lion” road games. Andre Johnson had an awful week one, but has kicked off the year with two touchdowns and 184 yards after his impressive performance last week, and should have another superb game along with tight end Owen Daniel – who is becoming a serious threat for the Texans. David Garrard had 282 yards and two TDs last week, and against the Texans who gave up similar numbers last week to Kerry Collins, you should expect the same here.
Sit – Garrard’s top targets, Marcedes Lewis and Torry Holt are too inconsistent to start at this point. Neither have played consistently well. Troy Williamson is banged up, so don’t look that direction, either. For the Texans, it looks as though Steve Slaton is suffering from a sophomore slump. After being a high draft pick in many fantasy leagues, Slaton has amassed just over 50 yards on 26 carries this year while repeatedly fumbling the ball. To say he’s been a disappointment is putting it mildly and he was mentioned as one of the biggest busts of the season in this week’s Breitman vs Chowderhead article.
Start – How bout this phrase… After coming off of an impressive, well-executed win over the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau field, the Bengals return home to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers looking to avenge a sloppy loss to the Chicago Bears. True story! In theory, the Bengals are the hotter team coming into this game, but they will need to stop Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward from adding to their already impressive starts. Both receivers (Ward in particular) have traditionally played well against Cincy. The Steelers’ defense is only allowing 13 points per game this year and will be taking on a Bengals offense that couldn’t break 10 points against them in two tries last year. Of course, that was without Carson Palmer, who usually has success against the Steelers...in Pittsburgh. Jay Cutler put up over 200 yards and two TDs against them last week and they’ll still be without Troy Polamalu. He’s an emergency start in deep leagues along with Chad Ochocinco.
Sit - Ben Roethlisberger won’t have it easy. Despite getting a tremendous amount of help from his two talented receivers, the two-time Super Bowl champ is getting zero support from running back Willie Parker (66 total yards in two starts) and will likely see a lot of double coverage against a Bengals’ secondary that effectively shut down Aaron Rodgers last week. That’s no small feat. He’ll be spending a lot of time on his back so start with caution. Laveranues Coles has been a bust thus far in Cincy, but Palmer used to abuse the Steelers with TJ Houshmandzadeh, so look for a bounce back game here, just don’t start him yet.
Start – The Seahawks have given up few passing yards this year, but that’s only because teams have been able to run the ball down their throats. This means that Matt Forte (an early candidate for bust of the year) is finally primed for a big game. Considering what Frank Gore did to Seattle last week, patient Forte owners are finally going to be rewarded.
Sit - The Seahawks do have an intimidating home field advantage that should shake up Jay Cutler (three interceptions in his two west coast road games last year). The Seahawks will likely be without Matt Hasselbeck after he fractured a rib 10 quarters into his first action since missing most of the 2008 campaign. Julius Jones has looked good so far, but with Chicago stacking the box against his replacement, Seneca Wallace, he shouldn’t be able to see much daylight in this one. We also recommend sitting the Seahawks receivers. John Carlson has been an early season surprise, but that was with Hasselbeck at the helm. With so many good tight ends in the league this year you should have better matchup options.
Start – Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter what the Bills have done on defense or what type of game plan they put together. Drew Brees is playing on a different planet right now (nine touchdowns in two games) and is leading a Saints offense that is essentially unstoppable. Marques Colston, Devery Henderson and Jeremy Shockey have accounted for six touchdowns in two games, and will likely offer fantasy owners similar numbers against the Bills’ 31st ranked passing defense. It could get ugly. Look for Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas to help make up for an injured Mike Bell on the ground.
For Buffalo, believe it or not – this may be the time to start Trent Edwards. The Bills will likely be playing catch-up for most of the game, meaning Edwards will have to air it out. This should be fine with the Bills, because Edwards has banked two touchdowns in each of his starts this year with only one interception. Fred Jackson will also be a nice start, as the rejuvenated back is coming off a 163 yard day against the Buccaneers and needs to leave a lasting impression before Marshawn Lynch returns in week four. Might be the time to offer a trade for Jackson to the biggest idiot in your league.
Sit – Henderson seems to have established himself as the third option in New Orleans, meaning Robert Meachem and Lance Moore will see less and less receptions as the weeks go on. It’s a shame too because Moore was the leading receiver for the Saints last year, leading a lot of people to draft him high. And speaking of less and less effective, Terrell Owens is quickly becoming a B-Level receiver. Neither he nor Lee Evans have broken 55 yards in a game this year, and you should expect around that number from both of them against the Saints.
Start – Not a lot of start potential in this game. Both defenses are playing well and neither team has a weapon capable of transcending it. Start both defenses and that’s about it.
Sit – One of the biggest surprises so far this year has been the Denver Broncos defense. They’re giving up a meager 183 passing yards per game, while allowing 13 total points. This impressive play may continue into week three, when the Oakland Raiders and their 29th ranked offense take the field. So far, JaMarcus Russell has looked terrible, the rushing game has been mediocre, and their inability to put points on the board was painfully apparent against a less-than-talented Chiefs squad in week two.
Denver, on the other hand, hasn’t been much better offensively. Kyle Orton has yet to put up multiple touchdowns in any game, while the once-feared Broncos’ rushing attack is barely clicking. Knowshon Moreno was a hot name leading into the season, but Correll Buckhalter gained the same amount of yardage as him last week with half the carries. Things are definitely staring to look muddy in the backfield, so stay away until it’s sorted out.
Start – Phillip Rivers is coming off a 436 yard performance against a Baltimore Ravens’ defense with the same basic skill level that the Dolphins will offer this week. Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates have both had hot starts and should continue their success against a Dolphins’ defense that surrendered 300 yards to Peyton Manning and the Colts on Monday night - not to mention the effort expected from Darren Sproles, now that he will be getting the lion’s share of the backfield workload with Ladanian Tomlinson out.
For Miami, the offense will likely run through Ronnie Brown after his 136 yard game against Indianapolis. Brown has averaged over four yards per carry in each of his first two games, and should be able to do some damage against a Chargers’ squad that’s allowed more than 250 yards on the ground this season. He is the only Dolphin worth starting.
Sit – Miami sure had the ball a lot on Monday night, yet Chad Pennington only managed 183 yards. That’s not good. Ted Ginn Jr. had 10 catches for 108 yards. He’s not so great in a yardage league this week, but if you get points-per-reception he’s a solid number three.
Start – Reigning NFL MVP Peyton Manning has looked outstanding in his first two weeks, with two straight 300 yard performances. Along with Dallas Clark (222 yards and one touchdown this season) and Reggie Wayne, one of the league’s top receivers, Manning should be able to set the pace for what will be an exciting Sunday night game.
People close to Kurt Warner will tell you that he has a large chip on his shoulder (which he currently claims is no longer sore). He wants to be regarded as one of the best to have ever played, and will likely try to prove that he belongs in the “elite quarterback conversation” when he takes the field on primetime television. With a little help from Larry Fitzgerald, Tim Hightower, and Anquan Boldin (who have 35 receptions between them in two games this year), Warner should be able to put points on the board early and help NBC turn this game into the offensive showdown they pray it will become.
Sit – While Donald Brown has shown flashes of brilliance this year, the rookie back still hasn’t received more than 11 carries in either of his starts. He’s a great player that may one day be the fantasy stud people assumed Joseph Adai might become, but until he gets more touches he isn’t quite a starter. For Arizona, Steve Breaston is coming off an outstanding week two performance, but still battling a leg injury and may see limited action in this one after skipping Wednesday’s practice.
Start – With Marion Barber likely out of the lineup for Dallas, this should be a coming out party of sorts for Felix Jones. In his first two games this season, the second year back is averaging nearly 10 yards per carry and should do some serious damage against the NFL’s 27th ranked rush defense. So far, DeAngelo Williams has been one of the lone bright spots for the Carolina Panthers, but he still hasn’t lived up to preseason billing. He has scored touchdowns in each of his first two games and has also put up over 175 total yards of offense. Along with Jonathan Stewart, look for Williams to exploit a Cowboys defense that has given up over 135 rushing yards per game this year in a high scoring affair. Only use Stewart as a flex start, mind you. You have to start Jason Witten every week no matter who he’s playing. He’s due for a big game, too.
Sit – After narrowly losing to the New York Giants on national television last Monday the Dallas Cowboys will be looking for revenge against the 0-2 Panthers. The only problem is they’ll be relying on Tony Romo to throw a bit more than he used to against a Panthers’ secondary that’s only given up 150 passing yards per game. Take Romo out of the lineup and put his receivers ( Roy Williams and Patrick Crayton) on the shelf too.