NFL Week 3

We are two weeks into the season, and only a quarter of the league is undefeated (even less than that now with New England’s win over Houston last night). We still have 15 weeks to go, but there are some things that are starting to take shape. We can see some teams that are going to be major factors at the end of the season, and some other teams that already look like their seasons are over.

This week, I’ll give my Top-10 teams, I’ll look at which hot takes I’m buying into and which ones I’m selling for now, and I’ll finish it off with a look at who you should start and sit in fantasy this week.

Jay’s Top-10 Teams

1 – New England Patriots
An easy win over Miami with Garoppolo at quarterback, and an even easier win over Houston with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. I think every team in the NFL should be scared due to how New England is performing without its future 1st-ballot Hall of Fame QB. If you didn’t think so before last night, now you know that this is the best team in the league right now.

2 – Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh won a physical, sloppy game over division rival Cincinnati on Sunday. They turned the ball over a few times, but we can chalk that up to the conditions and an above-average Bengals defense. One more week without Le’Veon Bell, but DeAngelo Williams has filled in quite nicely. That will be a hell of a two-headed monster in a couple weeks.

3 – Carolina Panthers
Cam and company took care of business this week in their home opener with a 46-27 win over San Francisco. That’s a lot of points to give up, but when your offense can almost hang 50, you’re going to win most games. A huge matchup with the scary Minnesota Vikings defense comes this week.

4 – Arizona Cardinals
As I expected, Arizona bounced back this week with a statement 40-7 win over the Buccaneers. The entire team was clicking, and with San Fran, Seattle and LA all looking subpar at best, it looks like the Cards could run away with the division this year.

5 – Denver Broncos
We all knew the Broncos defense was good, but, and I know this sounds a little crazy, they might be better than we even thought. They kept Andrew Luck in check and scored twice themselves on Sunday. Von Miller is a machine, and throwing against that secondary cannot be done confidently (I wouldn’t think anyway). With the Chiefs and Raiders having issues, the Broncos appear to be in the AFC West driver’s seat.

6 – Green Bay Packers
The Packers suffered a setback this week in their 17-14 loss to Minnesota, but I wouldn’t worry too much. The offense isn’t really clicking just yet, but it will. Don’t read too much into their struggles through two weeks, they are still a Super Bowl contender.

7 – Minnesota Vikings
It was looking like a great time to get excited about the Vikings’ prospects for this season, and then Adrian Peterson went down with a knee injury. The projected timetable varies anywhere from four days to four weeks to four months, so we’ll have to wait and see on that. But I think this team, even without AP, is a Top-10 team led by their defense, which has looked absolutely fantastic through the first two weeks.

8 – Houston Texans
I’m not ready to give up on the Texans just yet, especially considering the win last Sunday over Kansas City, but my goodness did they look awful in New England last night. I recognize that it was their first road game, but c’mon man. The offense didn’t run a play in NE territory until late in the 3rd quarter, and the defense, which looked so good the first two weeks, couldn’t stop Jacoby Brissett making his first career start. This team isn’t dead yet, but they need to rebound next week.

9 – Kansas City Chiefs
I might have had the Chiefs ranked a little high last week, but I liked what I saw in their comeback against San Diego. That being said, they really flipped the script on me this past week against Houston. Alex Smith looked horrendous, and without a 100% Jamaal Charles, that could spell some trouble for them down the line. They are expected to get Charles back this week against the Jets, but we do not know just how healthy he is yet.

10 – Seattle Seahawks
Alright, now it’s definitely time to panic. The Seahawks offense looks downright anemic, and that’s not to take away from the Rams defense, but man, Pete Carroll has his work cut out for him. The defense is going to have to hold teams to 14 points or less, and that might not even be enough. They are only still in my Top-10 because of their defense.

Next Five Up – New York Giants, Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets, Baltimore Ravens

Buy or Sell

We’re only two weeks into the season, but you’ll see a lot of people taking these small sample sizes and making predictions for the rest of the season. Here are some things I’ve heard from experts and the like, which ones I’m buying into and which ones I think we should hold off on for at least a little while longer.

Buying:

Houston Texans as Super Bowl Contenders
Maybe I’m being a bit premature, but based on what I’ve seen through two weeks, I am on the Texans’ bandwagon. Now granted, their first two games were both at home, one against a terrible Bears team and the other against a Chiefs team playing without Jamaal Charles, who is arguably their best player. That being said, these Texans have the look of a team that can compete for a title. Brock Osweiler has started off nicely in Houston, and he has lots of weapons around him. Lamar Miller has been as advertised, DeAndre Hopkins is probably one of the five best receivers in football, and rookie 2nd Round pick Will Fuller just became the first rookie to start his career with two 100-yard games since DeSean Jackson. Add that to one of the best defenses in the league led by J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, and I think you have the recipe for a team that could make some serious noise in January.

*So I wrote that little blurb on Tuesday of this week, and as I should have expected, they went and laid an egg against the Patriots. I still believe most of what I wrote, but better to disregard it*

Downfall of Seattle
All I keep hearing is that the Seahawks always seem to struggle in September, but they eventually figure it out, and they will again this year. It just seems different this time around though. Don’t get me wrong, the defense is still elite, but even the best defenses need their offenses to contribute at least a little bit. Right now, the Seahawks offense is atrocious. It all starts in the trenches, and even though the O-line wasn’t great when they went to back-to-back Super Bowls, it has gotten progressively worse. Pro Football Focus ranked Seattle’s O-line dead last in the league entering this season, and it shows. Russell Wilson is running for his life (if he even gets a chance to run) and there are no holes for Thomas Rawls or Christine Michael. Remember, Marshawn Lynch created a lot of the holes on his own. Neither Rawls nor Michael are talented enough to do what Beast Mode could do. This team may be able to figure it out and sneak into the playoffs, but they’ll have some rough sledding ahead, and it’ll take a transformation of sorts to get them there.

Kelvin Benjamin as a Top-10 WR
We saw glimpses of greatness from him as a rookie in 2014 when he totaled 73 receptions for 1,008 yards and 9 touchdowns. That’s quite a stat line for a rookie. There was lots of buzz for his second season in Carolina, but he proceeded to suffer a torn ACL during training camp, ending his 2015 season before it could start. Many experts ranked him cautiously given the knee injury, and how it is difficult to project how a player will bounce back. If the small sample size is any indication, Benjamin has responded swimmingly. He has 13 grabs for 199 yards and 3 scores in the first two games of the season, and has picked up right where he left off as Cam Newton’s top target. At 6-5 and 245 pounds, Benjamin is a terror for opposing cornerbacks and safeties, and if he can stay healthy, he is on his way to getting back in the conversation as one of the top wideouts in the league.

Selling:

The Wentz Wagon
Before a bunch of Eagles fans show up at my house with torches and pitchforks, just hear me out. I think that Carson Wentz has looked really good through his first two career games. He has showed nice touch, good accuracy and an ability to move in the pocket and create some plays. I think the future could be bright for him. That being said, it cannot be ignored who he is playing against. The Browns and Bears’ secondaries were ranked 25th and 31st in the league respectively by Pro Football Focus entering this season, and the Eagles have dominated these two mediocre teams to the point where Wentz has yet to be put in a high-pressure situation. He has the tools to succeed in those situations, but we won’t know until we see it. That should come as soon as this Sunday when he faces his first true test against perennial Super Bowl contenders, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Again, I think the future is bright for Carson Wentz, and I am impressed by his performance thus far, but I think everyone needs to pump the brakes a little bit on the Wentz Wagon and wait to see how he performs against much stiffer competition.

Todd Gurley’s Struggles
I don’t really have anything statistical to explain my stance on this (other than Gurley’s stats from last season, which were 1,106 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in just 13 games), but I think it’s too early to worry about Todd Gurley. Yes, he’s had a rough start to the season, totaling 98 yards on 36 carries (2.7 YPC) through the first two games of the season. There are a combination of factors that could explain this though. While the 49ers defense is not strong, the strength of it is the front seven. Also, the Rams were down early in that game, and Gurley did not get much run in the second half of that game. In Week 2, the Rams were facing the always stout Seattle run defense, so rough sledding was to be expected for Gurley. LA’s offensive line is not great, but they should improve as the season wears on. I also expect Jeff Fisher to get the passing game going, whether it’s Keenum or Goff, and that should open up some more running room for Gurley. He’s running against 8-man boxes, and that’s not easy for anybody. Todd Gurley is just way too talented a rusher for these struggles to continue. I think he’s just having a tough time getting it going here in the beginning of the season, and with time will come improvement.

An Improved Jaguars Squad
There was a ton of hype entering the season around this supposedly improved Jacksonville Jaguars team. In fact, I recall Jeff and I sitting at the bar one day during training camp, and two NFL Network analysts went through the Jags schedule. They predicted a 10-6 season. Jeff and I laughed hysterically. If memory serves, we agreed that 8-8 was a realistic goal, but 10-6 was a major stretch, and they were still at least another year away from competing for a playoff spot. And here we are, two weeks into the season, and I think the Jags are clearly the weakest team in the AFC South. Their run game is still virtually inexistent (granted Chris Ivory is yet to make his debut, but I think the O-line is the biggest reason for that), Blake Bortles has yet to take the next step in his development and despite a huge focus on defense in the offseason, they just gave up 38 points to a mediocre Chargers team missing Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead, its two biggest playmakers. A home game against Baltimore this week is a good opportunity for Gus Bradley to start to right the ship. The Ravens are 2-0, but haven’t looked overly impressive in getting there. If the Jags fall to 0-3, the season may already be over.

 

Fantasy Start/Sit

As with last week, and as it will be each week moving forward, you won’t start or sit all of these guys depending on who else you have on your roster. This is more just a look at who is playing well or struggling, and which players have good matchups this week and which ones don’t.

Quarterbacks

Start
Matt Ryan
There’s no better streaming option this week at quarterback than Matt Ryan. He just torched the Raiders’ defense last week, and now gets a matchup with what might be an even worse secondary in New Orleans. If you have Matt Ryan, you start him this week.

Philip Rivers
I don’t care that he’s missing his two best playmakers. Playing indoors against the Colts is the perfect recipe for a big game from Mr. Bolo Tie.

Sit
Russell Wilson
Now obviously, depending who else you have on your roster at QB, you’re probably going to start Wilson this week against San Fran. But what I’m telling you is that if you have even a decent second option, start them this week. Until the Seahawks figure out what’s wrong, I wouldn’t feel confident about putting him in my lineup.

Carson Wentz
I know a lot of you are on the hype train, but despite how well he’s played, he hasn’t put up numbers yet to suggest you should be starting him in fantasy. Especially not against the Steelers defense.

Running Backs

Start
Theo Riddick
Ameer Abdullah was placed on injured reserve earlier this week with a foot injury, and that makes Riddick the clear #1 back in Detroit. It’s not a fantastic matchup against Green Bay, but Riddick was already the pass catching back, and now he’s probably also the lead runner. He is a solid RB2 this week, and every week after this as long as Abdullah is on the shelf.

Tevin Coleman
I think that both Coleman and starter Devonta Freeman are solid plays this week against the Saints, but take this suggestion as your glimpse into the future. As this season wears on, Coleman will slowly (but surely) continue to eat into Freeman’s usage share. Freeman had more yards last week against Oakland, but Coleman found the end zone. If you have both, I’d consider starting Coleman over Freeman this week (or start both).

Sit
Spencer Ware
Time is running out for those of you who scooped up Ware when it was announced that Jamaal Charles wouldn’t be ready for the season opener. Charles is expected to make his debut this week, and while that alone takes away value from Ware, they also face the Jets’ very good run defense. This combination of factors means you should probably try your best to avoid starting Ware this week.

Asiata/McKinnon/Whittaker/Artis-Payne
This is the collection of backs that are going to be replacing the injured Adrian Peterson and Jonathan Stewart, and let me be the one to tell you not to start any of them. For one thing, we have no clue how the snaps will be split for any of them. Also, the teams are facing each other, and both the Vikings and Panthers have excellent run defenses. You can be excited if you were able to pick up any of these guys, but don’t start them this week.

Wide Receivers

Start
Jordy Nelson/Randall Cobb
I know you’re probably starting these guys regardless, but I just want to make you feel a little more comfortable about it. I know Aaron Rodgers is struggling, and the offense looks out of sync, but there’s nothing to cure that faster than a matchup with the Lions. Nelson and Cobb are both great plays this week.

Tajae Sharpe
I like to think that the Raiders are going to figure it out defensively at some point this season, but until they do, it’s a good idea to start any receivers you have facing them. This week, that’s Tajae Sharpe of the Titans. He has yet to break out like people thought he might, but there’s a good chance we could see that breakout game this week.

Sit
Sammy Watkins
Rex Ryan says they need to get the ball in Sammy’s hands more often. That’s all well and good, but a guy by the name of Patrick Peterson is most likely going to be shadowing Watkins for the entire game Sunday. That’s not all well and good. Watkins should be fine for the season, but this week, I’d do whatever I could to avoid putting him in your lineup.

John Brown
Poor John Brown. The guy has so much potential, and for whatever reason, he just can’t seem to put it all together. He’s been targeted just seven times through two games, and it seems like Palmer prefers Jaron Brown as a deep threat. Maybe they’re trying to bring him along slowly due to his preseason head injury, but for right now, you just can’t start this guy.

Tight Ends

Start
Jacob Tamme
Who is the second highest scoring tight end so far this year in PPR leagues? That’s right, it’s Jacob Tamme. Despite the presence of Mohamed Sanu, Austin Hooper and Freeman/Coleman, Jacob Tamme has put up solid numbers so far this season. He was targeted EIGHT times last week against Oakland, and could see a similar target share this week against New Orleans. I think Tamme is a must-start this week.

Dennis Pitta
Pitta has 12 receptions through two games (tied with Olsen, Reed and Witten for the most among tight ends), and has easily outperformed Maxx Williams and Crockett Gilmore. Joe Flacco loves his tight ends, and it’s another great matchup this week against Jacksonville. You can do much worse than Pitta.

Sit
Coby Fleener
Jeff touched on this last week, but for the love of God, sit Coby Fleener on your bench. Better yet, drop him from your team. There are options on your waiver wire that will produce more consistently for you than Fleener will (Vance McDonald, Jesse James, Kyle Rudolph just to name a few). Fleener is not worth owning, as he and Drew Brees just do not have any chemistry. One catch Week 1, two catches Week 2. Unless he continues to catch the same number of passes as the week of the game, he’s not worth having on your team.

Trey Burton
I know you’ll probably be tempted to add him to your roster after a nice performance Monday night, but I wouldn’t start him this week against Pittsburgh. The Steelers’ linebackers are very good against tight ends (they shut down CJ Uzomah last week and held Jordan Reed somewhat in check Week 1), and I think the entire Eagles’ passing game could struggle. I’m fine if you want to roster Burton until Zach Ertz returns, but don’t start him this week.

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