This is the Week 3 “Fire or Flop” series, highlighting my favorite and not-so favorite fantasy football plays of the week. I am not going to mention elite players because you will usually be starting them every week anyways (Def/ST, the exception). I will list five players from each position group (excluding K) that I feel good about each week, followed by others that I don’t. As always, my thoughts are with PPR in mind.
Derek Carr @ Washington Redskins — It’s only Week 3, but Carr has already shown that he is locked in (24.94 FPPG). He gets a decent matchup this week in Washington. Carr, Michael Crabtree (23.15 FPPG) and Amari Cooper (12.25 FPPG) should be relied upon pretty much every week.
Cam Newton vs. New Orleans Saints — Newton hasn’t gotten off to a fast start, which is understandable due to his recovery from shoulder surgery and lack of premium talent at receiver. However, the Saints defense is the cure of all fantasy woes. They allow the most FPPG to QB’s (33.00).
Philip Rivers vs. Kansas City Chiefs — Rivers hasn’t shown his ugly side yet, spreading the ball around to eight different receivers and only throwing 1 interception. The Chargers also haven’t been decimated by injury yet, so Rivers has a mostly full cupboard to throw to, including a strong run game behind him.
Dak Prescott @ Arizona Cardinals — I expect the Cowboys—particularly the offense—to play angry against the Cardinals. If Jacoby Brissett was able to put a respectable game together against them last week (10.88), then Dak certainly can.
Jay Cutler @ New York Jets — For starters, I don’t want to mention Cutler without mentioning this awesome piece on him that came out on Wednesday by Tyler Dunne of Bleacher Report. I love Cutler this week for a handful of reasons. First, he’s facing the Jets, who have allowed the third-most FPPG (24.00) to QB’s. He’s reunited with Adam Gase, who brings out the best version of Cutler. Last, I like Cutler as a regular starter all year. The trio of Cutler, Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker looks primed for a big year.
Russell Wilson @ Tennessee Titans — I’ve already abandoned ship on Wilson in at least one league. We’ve seen this movie before, as his 12.82 FPPG is reminiscent of his slow start to 2016, when he only achieved 20.00 points once in his first seven games. The offensive line is awful, and that’s a problem that can’t be immediately fixed.
Carson Palmer vs. Dallas Cowboys — The Colts did a good job against Palmer last week for the most part, but a few breakdowns in coverage allowed the veteran to pick up some chunk plays. If Dallas can get pressure on Palmer—forcing him to make rushed decisions and therefore, mistakes—then they will do just fine against him.
Todd Gurley @ San Francisco 49ers — Gurley’s involvement in the passing game has been a tremendous asset to the Rams offense. He’s only averaging 64 rushing YPG, but he’s also averaging 52 receiving YPG and has scored 3 total TD’s. This appears to be a fundamental part of LA’s offense that Sean McVay is doing to help Jared Goff. Expect it to continue.
Ty Montgomery vs. Cincinnati Bengals — So far, so good for those that believed in Montgomery and his fourth-round ADP. He is fantasy’s RB2 through the first two weeks, averaging 24.15 FPPG. Like Gurley, Montgomery has been heavily involved in the passing game, but we already knew that would be the case. Montgomery is averaging 101.5 yards from scrimmage and has caught 10-of-11 targets. The Bengals are giving up 24.1 FPPG to RB’s. Advantage: Montgomery.
Carlos Hyde vs. Los Angeles Rams — The 49ers have had a tough start to their season, having to face the Panthers and Seahawks, but Hyde has been steady throughout. The Rams are giving up 30.1 FPPG to RB’s. Hyde hasn’t scored any TD’s yet, but he is being targeted or is carrying 18 times per game.
Jonathan Stewart vs. New Orleans Saints — The popular answer here is Christian McCaffrey. While there’s a pretty good chance that he has a fantasy impact, I’m going to give Stewart credit as well. He is averaging 17.5 touches per game and gets the third-worst Def/ST against RB’s (36.5) this week.
Chris Thompson vs. Oakland Raiders — While Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine are battering rams, Thompson is Washington’s best option at making a big play in the run game. He can do it in the passing game as well. His 25.60 points in Week 2 is a total outlier for him but he did also score in Week 1. Thompson doesn’t get much love on the ground but the Redskins use him as an extension of the run game through the short passing game, targeting him 6 times per game so far.
Leonard Fournette vs. Baltimore Ravens (London) — If he proves me wrong this week then I’m going to stop doubting him altogether, but Fournette’s got a bad matchup this week. This Ravens defense is outstanding and may finish at the top one overall by year’s end. Currently, Baltimore is seventh-best against the run (16.2 FPPG).
Jacquizz Rodgers @ Minnesota Vikings — This is only because of matchup but I don’t like Jacquizz this week. This could be a game where we see more passing than expected, especially if Sam Bradford returns for Minnesota. The Vikings are ninth-best against the run (18.0 FPPG).
Keenan Allen vs. Kansas City Chiefs — Allen is a target magnet, Rivers going Allen’s way 10 times each of the first two weeks. The Chiefs have also been struggling so far against WR’s, allowing 25.00 FPPG to the position so far.
Michael Crabtree @ Washington Redskins — Crabtree is fantasy’s WR1 so far, so this should come as no surprise. With all of the love that Cooper receives, Crabtree is really’s Carr’s go-to guy. Crab has caught 6 passes in each game and has also hit at least 80 yards in both.
Davante Adams vs. Cincinnati Bengals — Whether or not Jordy Nelson makes a full return this week, I still like Adams. They may not always connect but Aaron Rodgers gets the ball to Adams frequently, averaging 8.5 targets per game so far.
DeVante Parker @ New York Jets — If you ask me, we’re finally seeing the welcoming party of Parker’s stardom. Cutler loves him, calling him “a faster Alshon Jeffery,” and it shows. Cutler may have targeted Landry 15 times last Sunday, but he targeted Parker 9. He also throws the ball downfield to Parker, which gives his fantasy prospects a huge boost.
T.Y. Hilton vs. Cleveland Browns — This may be wishful thinking more than anything, but I want to see a determined, pissed-off TY Hilton on Sunday. Both his and Donte Moncrief’s toughness and character have been called into question after a slow start. In the past, Hilton has taken things personally and translates it to the football field in dominant fashion. I don’t care if Brissett is the QB right now and not Andrew Luck—Hilton should demand the ball this week against the Browns.
Jeremy Maclin @ Jacksonville Jaguars (London) — Maclin has started off with a TD in each game so far, but he faces his toughest secondary to date. Maclin’s fantasy status has been very TD-dependent, as he averages only 5.85 FPPG without them.
Rashard Higgins @ Indianapolis Colts — Starting players against the Colts defense is en vogue right now, but beware. The Colts are at home, which helps. The Browns tote a rookie QB in DeShone Kizer. And, the Colts are getting good play out of several members of their defense, particularly CB Rashaan Melvin, who was Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded CB in the entire league in Week 2. Defensive backs Malik Hooker, Quincy Wilson and Nate Hairston are also getting better every week.
Zach Ertz vs. New York Giants — Assuming he follows the lead of Jason Witten and Eric Ebron and does work against the Giants Def/ST, this will probably be Ertz’s last appearance in the “Fire” column, as he should be a starter every week. New York hasn’t done well against TE’s (sixth-worst, 17.7 FPPG) and Ertz is doing well (16.00 FPPG).
Jason Witten @ Arizona Cardinals — The old man is on a roll. He is fantasy’s TE1 right now and is getting 11 targets per game. He’s caught 17 of those targets and has scored twice. Last week, Colts TE Jack Doyle caught 8-of-8 targets against Arizona for 79 yards.
Jack Doyle vs. Cleveland Browns — The Browns are giving up 23.7 FPPG to TE’s, and Doyle is the apple of Brissett’s eye. Doyle has been the most consistent Colts offensive player so far with 11.00 FPPG.
Austin Hooper @ Detroit Lions — I predicted Hooper would come back down to earth last week after his 20-point outburst in Week 1. However, I think he is ripe for another score this week. He has only received 2 targets each of the first two games, which poses a challenge. However, the Lions suffer some mental lapses in covering TE’s, which should work in Hooper’s benefit in the red zone.
Julius Thomas @ New York Jets — Thomas caught all 3 targets last week, but none were in the red zone. Both Cutler and Gase know that they can utilize Thomas in the red zone, so that should change this week.
Coby Fleener @ Carolina Panthers — I don’t see Fleener doing much against Carolina. He has a TD in each game, but how long will that continue? Especially since both came in beatdowns. This is also a great group of LB’s that Fleener will be up against.
Tyler Eifert @ Green Bay Packers — This is a product of how bad the Bengals offense has been, but it is obviously affecting the production of players like A.J. Green and Eifert. The latter has just 8.60 points through two games. The Packers are the second-best Def/ST against TE’s, allowing just 4.3 FPPG.
*UPDATE: Eifert (back, knee) has not practiced this week, leading to an OUT designation. So, definitely don’t start.
Baltimore Ravens @ Jacksonville Jaguars (London) — The Baltimore Def/ST has been outstanding so far. They are in the top 15 overall in scoring, including offensive positions. This week, they face the great Blake Bortles.
Los Angeles Rams @ San Francisco 49ers — The 49ers don’t have enough offensive weapons to really have their way with LA’s Def/ST. They also have not been getting good enough production out of QB Brian Hoyer.
Miami Dolphins @ New York Jets — It’s your weekly play against the Jets.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Cleveland Browns — The Browns offense has given up 10 sacks and turned the ball over a league-worst 6 times already. Although people would like you to believe that the Colts’ defense is awful, it isn’t. They’ll add to Cleveland’s sack and turnover totals this week.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — This does not mean that the Vikings actual defense will have a bad game. But remember, points and yards against are killers in fantasy, especially if they’re not doing something to counter it, like getting sacks and/or takeaways. The Vikings are allowing 22.5 PPG, have only 3 sacks and 0 takeaways.
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