After two divisional matchups last week, three of the AFC North teams play against NFC North opposition in week 3. Quite surprisingly, in divisions including the reigning Super Bowl champions in the Ravens and perennial contenders in the Packers, only one team (the Bears) has a winning record to this point. This week’s games provide some mouth watering matchups, both in real life and fantasy football.
Houston Texans at BALTIMORE RAVENS
Fake Pigskin Exclusive: Join Monkey Knife Fight and Get an Instant 100% Deposit Match PLUS a Free $5 Game!
In week 2, Flacco came down to earth following his huge stat line in week 1. This week, he comes up against the Texans’ defense and All-Universe DE J.J. Watt. Flacco’s supporting cast has been suspect to this point in the season, and now there’s a chance he won’t be able to call on Ray Rice’s services for this game. Normally when a bellcow running back goes down, it bodes well for a fantasy QB, as presumably his passing attempts will go up. However, given the make up of the Ravens’ offense, Rice missing the game could very well hurt Flacco, taking away the threat of check downs and meaning the Texans can focus on the pass offense which doesn’t have a receiver capable of taking over the game. Look for Flacco to put up around 250 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT.
Ray Rice / Bernard Pierce
After suffering a hip injury in the game against Cleveland, Rice is a game time decision. Even if he does play, Pierce looks to see a lot of work. This muddied situation means that neither player can be counted on as more than an RB2, with the Texans around the middle of the pack in rush yards allowed at a hair under 100 per game. If Rice does sit, Pierce will be used as the bellcow and should have over 100 total yards and a TD.
Smith has eclipsed 80 yards in each of his games this season, and has played as a solid WR2. He could struggle for yardage in this game, with the Texans allowing just 156 yards per game through the air, good for 3rd best in the league. This looks to be a low scoring game, and Smith owners shouldn’t expect more than around 80 yards this week.
Brown has been a pleasant surprise for fantasy owners this season, with 110 yards and 2 TDs through 2 games. Although the Texans have a low average yardage allowed through the air, they are tied for second most TDs allowed. With Brown’s size, we like his TD streak to continue this week. He is a viable WR3 in most formats.
Fake Pigskin Exclusive: Join Monkey Knife Fight and Get an Instant 100% Deposit Match PLUS a Free $5 Game!
Ed Dickson / Dallas Clark
Each week there is a chance either of these two will catch a few passes, but they are, at best, bench depth. Neither should be in your starting line up barring bye weeks and injury.
Tucker had an awful week, missing both of his field goal attempts (50 and 44 yards) wide right. However, he is a talented kicker, and without a healthy Rice or threatening TE, the Ravens will not always be able to convert drives into TDs. Tucker remains one of the best kickers in fantasy football.
If you can avoid it, don’t start the Ravens D/ST this week. Houston’s balanced offense means it can move the ball through the air and on the ground, and is more than capable of putting up points. Look to your waiver wire this week.
GREEN BAY PACKERS at CINCINNATTI BENGALS
Dalton struggled against Pittsburgh in week 2, but Dalton always struggles against Pittsburgh. He still has a level of talent around him that would make most QBs in the league weep with envy. The Packers’ defense is giving up an average of 359 yards through the air, the second highest in the league. Dalton should eclipse 300 yards and 2 TDs this week, and is a strong QB2 play.
Cincy has an elite defense, but Rodgers can’t be stopped. His 400+ yard average will be tough to maintain, but outside of Peyton Manning against Oakland, Rodgers is fantasy’s top signal-caller this week.
BJGE has shown so far this season what we all thought – he is a grinder and a plodder, good at what he does (running down the clock), but very little else. His 2.8 yards per carry may be slightly deceiving as he has faced two very good defenses so far, but he is not a dynamic player. His best chance of production this week is a short yardage TD, but as Green Bay has only allowed 1 rushing TD this season, don’t count on that happening.
Bernard is the yang to BJGE’s yin, an electrifying playmaker capable of going the distance every time he touches the ball. This week, Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said the split in carries “should be closer to 50/50”. Bernard retains value as he can be involved in the passing game more effectively even if Cincinnati falls behind. Gio is a high RB3 / low RB2 this week.
Starks came into last week’s game after Eddie Lacy went down and performed admirably, with 20 carries for 132 yards and a TD. However, the Redskins’ defense is giving up more rushing yardage than any other team in the league. Cincy is the 6th best rushing defense, giving up less than one third (!!!!) of the average Washington has. Don’t expect more than 70 total yards for Starks. He is at best a flex this week, and not a strong one at that.
Green had a tough time against Ike Taylor last week, with just 41 yards on 6 catches. On the other hand, he was targeted 12 times for the second week running, and the Packers have given up the 4th most fantasy points to wide receivers. Against an injury depleted Packers secondary, have no hesitation in starting Green as your WR1. He should have better than 100 yards and a score this week.
Sanu has posted 9 catches this season, but for just 59 yards. He is a WR4 in PPR leagues, and has no value in standard leagues.
Cobb comes into week 3 as the third leading receiver in yardage. He should extend his 100-yard streak this week, and is a threat to score again as Rodgers continues to utilise his main threat. Cobb is a solid WR1 for the foreseeable future as teams cannot focus on stopping just one weapon in Green Bay’s offense.
Nelson scored 2 TDs last week, and had another rubbed out by penalty. He is back to his playmaking best, and is Rodgers’ favourite target in the red zone. He is a must start every week.
Jones’ first two weeks perfectly encapsulate his fantasy career – 0 catches week 1, 11 catches for 178 yards week 2. His combination of inconsistency and upside mean he can’t be played as anything more than a WR3, but he will post games with WR1 numbers. If you aren’t favoured to win your matchup this week, swing for the fences and start Jones.
Jermaine Gresham / Tyler Eifert
As we alluded to last week, these two players will perform each week, but are more valuable to their real life team than your fantasy squad right now. Gresham had 6 catches for 66 yards, Eifert 3 for 66, with most of that coming on a 61-yard scamper down the seam. Without an injury, look for the two players to put up similar numbers, unless one starts to garner the lion’s share of red zone targets. For the minute, both are TE2s, and 60-yard stat lines should be their average.
Whisper it quietly – could Jermichael finally be finding some consistency? Through the first two weeks, he has had at least 5 catches, 50 yards and a TD, and he’s looked good doing it (with last week’s TD being a particular highlight). Nobody has ever doubted his physical ability, and if he can master the mental aspect, the sky is the limit. Unfortunately for him, this has been said many times before. For now, he is a low-end TE1, but we like him to post closer to 100 yards this week.
Nugent has had a slow start to the season, but plays on a team with as much explosive ability as almost any in the league. His chances will come.
Crosby’s points have almost exclusively come from extra points this season. With Cincy’s stout defense, he may have more chances for field goals this week, but don’t expect more than 2-3 attempts.
Normally one of the safest D/ST options in the league, the Bengals will struggle to contain the Packers this week. They should get 3+ sacks, but the points scored against make them a huge risk. Start at your own peril.
This has been a disappointing unit to this point of the season, and face an offense with multiple playmakers. Avoid this week.
CLEVELAND BROWNS at MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Gordon is a WR3 this week at best.
Cameron is the only Brown you should be starting this week, as he will provide a safety valve for Brian Hoyer. Don’t be too confident about him producing at the same level as he has to start the season.
A low-end starting D/ST this week, the Browns have been impressive against the run, but haven’t faced Adrian Peterson yet, who has vowed to improve his production. A risky play.
ALL OTHER BROWNS
With Weeden being injured and the Trent Richardson trade, it’s next to impossible to get behind the Browns, who seem to have given up hope on the season. Perhaps Brian Hoyer and Willis Mcgahee / Chris Ogbnnaya / Bobby Rainey will prove to be a revelation, but until that happens, don’t hold your breath.
Ponder is averaging 230 yards per game and 2 INTs. He faces one of the most underrated front 7s in football. Avoid, avoid, avoid.
As alluded to above, All Day isn’t happy with his production so far this season. He is on pace for over 1,500 rushing yards, a figure most backs could only dream of. The frightening thing is, nobody doubts Peterson when he says he’s going to do better. Even against a good Browns defense, Peterson should have a big week. Look for over 120 yards and not one, but two scores.
Greg Jennings / Jerome Simpson / Cordarrelle Patterson
As expected, Simpson came back to earth after his week 1 explosion, with just 49 yards on 2 catches last week. Jennings had a better week, with 5 catches for 84 yards in week 2, but that feels closer to his ceiling than his floor in this offense. Patterson has exceptional big play ability, but is at best 4th in the pecking order for targets on a run-first offense. Ideally, you won’t have to start any of the three this week. Jennings is the “safest” start, with low-end flex upside. An ugly situation.
As we pointed out last week, Rudolph’s value is entirely dependent on red zone usage. He caught a TD last week, which salvaged his fantasy value. The same should be true this week, and as a result he remains a risky play. A low end TE1 from here on out, mainly due to the shakiness of Minnesota’s offense.
As per usual, start Walsh with confidence. Kickers with his accuracy and leg strength don’t grow on trees.
A huge upside play, Minny’s D/ST could legitimately be the #1 scoring unit this week, going up against Hoyer, Mcgahee and co. Start them with the utmost confidence.
DETROIT LIONS at Washington Redskins
Stafford is a bona fide QB1 this week, facing a soft Redskins defense. He has weapons at his disposal, and will have volume in the passing game. He has started the season well, averaging over 300 yards and 2 TDs per game. Look for numbers better than that in week 3.
Reggie Bush / Joique Bell
Washington is surrendering more yards to running backs than any other team in the league. If Bush is fully fit, he’ll be a top-3 RB this week. If he doesn’t suit up for the game, Bell is a top-10 option. If Bush just plays in a limited capacity, look to Bell as a high-end RB2. He should post over 100 total yards and a TD. If Bush plays fully, Bell falls to a lower-end RB2. That’s a whole bunch of “ifs”, but the underlying theme is there are points to be had playing against Washington, no matter who plays.
Calvin got back to his old ways in week 2 with over 100 yards and 2 scores. We like him for a similar stat line against the Redskins this week. Fantasy football’s #1 wide receiver, just like always.
Nate Burleson / Ryan Broyles
Burleson has been active in the passing game, but not particularly effective. That will be a recurring theme for the season, with his role exclusively as a posession receiver. Broyles will be a game-time decision, and even if he does play, he likely won’t contribute much this week, but he is a player to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.
Brandon Pettigrew / Joseph Fauria
Fauria is another player whose value to his real life team will not correlate to the fantasy realm. He will get occasional scores, but not consistently enough to contribute to a fantasy team. Pettigrew will mostly be the same, but against this Redskins defense, he has as good a chance to score as he ever will. Bold prediction – Pettigrew goes for over 70 yards and a score in this game.
Akers had a rough outing last week, and this weak Redskins defense means the Lions shouldn’t be attempting many field goals this week as they should get into the end zone regularly. There should be a better option on your waiver wire.
While the Lions’ D/ST can get pressure up front, a few sacks is not enough production from a fantasy standpoint. In addition, RG3 looked better last week than in week 1, and should continue to improve. The Lions are not a strong play this week.
CHICAGO BEARS at PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Poor play calling, no run game to take pressure off, shaky offensive line, no red zone targets, facing an elite defense. Ben should not be starting for your team this week. Look for a stat line of under 250 yards, 1 TD and multiple picks.
While the Steelers’ offense is a shambles, the defense is still respectable. They could provide problems for Cutler, who has struggled against them in the past. Cutler is a QB2 this week, and should finish as the 17th-20th best QB of the week.
As this column has advocated to this point in the season, avoid starting any Steelers running backs in any capacity. That might change when Le’Veon Bell comes back (potentially next week), but until that point don’t consider starting anyone from this backfield.
Against the Bengals last week the Steelers uncharacteristically struggled against the running backs, with Gio Bernard in particular causing problems with 65 yards and 2 TDs on just 9 touches. Forte is like a better Bernard. He should have a monster game both rushing and catching passes from the backfield. A top-5 RB option this week.
Bush has been very quiet this season, but he has a good chance of punching in a short-yardage TD this week. Call it a hunch from a disheartened Steelers fan.
Antonio Brown / Emmanuel Sanders
Brown and Sanders have combined for 23 catches through 2 games, but have failed to make them count in a significant way. Either is a threat to take a short pass the distance, but that will be difficult this week against two All-Pro corners. Neither is a realistic possibility to go beyond their average for the season of 5 targets and 70 yards. Of the two, Brown has a better chance to score.
Marshall has recently said that the last time he faced Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor, he took his opponent too lightly, and that he won’t make the same mistake this time around. In each of his two games so far, Marshall has at least 7 catches, 100 yards and a TD. He might not quite reach those levels, but you’ll be starting him regardless.
Alshon has been a disappointment so far this season, after being pegged as a sleeper. He is no more than a WR3 for this game, and shouldn’t have more than 4 catches for 50 yards.
Another big AVOID for this week. There is talk of Heath Miller returning, but even if he does, he’ll have a lot of rust to shake off. David Paulson did have 3 catches for 49 yards last week, but there are players with more upside out there.
Bennett has had a great start to the season with 125 yards and 3 TDs in 2 games. As we pointed out last week, he already has Cutler’s trust, and that will only be further enhanced by his ridiculous red zone catch last week. As evidenced by the Bengals TE’s 11 catches last week, the Steelers can struggle with tight ends. Bennett should have 80+ yards and a TD in this game, and is a top-10 TE option for the week.
“Sushi” simply isn’t getting opportunities due to Pittsburgh’s anaemic offense. There will be a better option on the waiver wire.
Gould could get a few opportunities if the Steelers’ defense manages to stifle the Bears’ offense. However, Heinz Field is notoriously difficult to kick in. Gould is a middle-of-the-road option in week 3.
1 sack, 0 turnovers this season. AVOID.
This unit remains one of the elite in the league, and should have a field day against Ben Roethlisberger and a shaky Steelers offensive line. Multiple sacks, turnovers and possible pick-sixes are there for the taking, making the Bears D/ST a top-3 option this week.