Hot or Cold: Week 3

One of the most difficult aspects of fantasy football is identifying potential matchups your team faces each week and taking advantage of the situation. It’s what keeps us up at night wondering if we made the right call. The second week of NFL action surprised many considering the disparity we saw in what we all were expecting and what actually played out on the gridiron. The Giants and Saints were supposed to trade blows through the air and put up 30 points each. Instead, the Giants won 16-13 without scoring an offensive touchdown. I was licking my chops knowing the Seahawks were going to pummel the Rams after the putrid performance we saw from Los Angeles last Monday night. Seattle lost 9-3. That is, as the saying goes, “why they play the game.” If everything played out exactly how we thought it would, then there’d be no reason for us all to stay glued to our televisions on Sundays. Let’s take our weekly look around the league to point out some players you’ll want to be keeping an eye on heading into week 3.

Hot:

Quarterbacks:

Matt Ryan – Atlanta Falcons
Week 3 Matchup – New Orleans Saints

Matty Ice is the perfect candidate for an article like this. He’s about as streaky as they come, but when he’s hot you better get out of the kitchen. Ryan’s week one performance drew some attention, but his three touchdowns and 396 yards against the Raiders on Sunday were enough for him to finish as the second highest quarterback going into Monday night. Eight different players caught passes from the former Boston College standout on Sunday, and I expect that streak to continue when Atlanta travels to New Orleans this week. The Saints have one of the worst pass defenses in the league and have given up 687 yards through the air in two games this season. If you’re contemplating inserting Ryan into your lineup this will be the week to do it. After the Saints he’ll have a brutal three week stretch where he will face off against the Panthers, Broncos, and Seahawks defenses.

Ryan Fitzpatrick – New York Jets
Week 3 Matchup – Kansas City Chiefs

Fitzpatrick was talked about frequently in the offseason as he held out with the Jets over his contract. New York was wise to pay the man, because I cannot imagine what this team would look like with Geno Smith under center. The Jets passing attack was extremely efficient Thursday night as Fitz completed 24 passes for 374 yards and a touchdown. Three different pass catchers caught 6 balls and all of them had over 90 receiving yards, so it’s clear The Beard feels comfortable spreading the ball around. The early season emergence of Quincy Enunwa has given the Jets another solid receiving option in addition to Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Fitzpatrick will have a slightly tougher matchup against the Chiefs in week 3. However, Kansas City gave up 27 points to the Chargers in week 1, so they can be scored on. I won’t be surprised if Fitz and Co. keep up their momentum.

Phillip Rivers – San Diego Chargers
Week 3 Matchup – Indianapolis Colts

It’s almost impossible to not appreciate Phillip Rivers from a fantasy perspective. He’s like a girlfriend that you always screw over but keeps taking you back anyway. Rivers again finds himself without his favorite receiver, Keenan Allen. And again, Rivers continues to put up more than serviceable fantasy stats. His low yardage on Sunday was due to San Diego having a commanding 35 point lead in the second half of the game, so they leaned on second year running back Melvin Gordon (more to come on that later). Still, Rivers threw for 4 touchdowns which was enough to place him as the 7th highest scoring QB after the Sunday games were complete. Next up on the slate is a favorable matchup against a Colts defense that has allowed 73 points in the first two games of the season. Indianapolis also gave up 266 yards through the air to Trevor Siemian on Sunday, so Rivers shouldn’t have much trouble surpassing those numbers.

Running Backs:

Matt Forte – New York Jets
Week 3 Matchup – Kansas City Chiefs

Matt Forte has long been one of the most dominant running backs in fantasy football. His ability to run and catch passes out of the backfield has made him an invaluable early draft pick for 9 long years now. The Jets acquired the long time Bear in the offseason, and he has started off 2016 with a bang. So far, the Jets seem determined to feed Forte as much as he can handle. In two games he has accrued 196 yards and three touchdowns on 52 carries. To put his carries into perspective, Forte had 218 carriers during the entire 2015 season. That means he has already accounted for 24% of his carries from last season in two games. He has also added 7 catches 68 yards as well. This obviously raises some injury concern for a 30 year old running back in the National Football League, but Forte could be in for a career year if the Jets continue to utilize him at this rate. The Chiefs will be a tougher defense than the Jets have faced in the first two weeks, but I’m confident Forte will continue to put up big numbers due to the amount of work he’s seeing and his ability to catch passes out of the backfield.

LeGarrette Blount – New England Patriots
Week 3 Matchup – Houston Texans

Blount is the definition of a power runner in the NFL. Listed at 6’0 tall and 250 pounds, he is a load to bring down once he starts gaining momentum. With third down specialist James White being the only running back on the roster currently that can challenge him for touches. Blount has a hold on the early down work in the New England offense. Averaging nearly 100 yards and a touchdown over the first two games of the season, Blount is a lock to see guaranteed carries for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, the Patriots injury woes continued this week as Jimmy Garoppolo exited the game Sunday with a sprained AC joint. With rookie Jacoby Brissett set to start in week 3, I would think the Patriots will want to take the pressure off of him by running the ball as much as possible against a strong Houston defense.

Melvin Gordon – San Diego Chargers
Week 3 Matchup – Indianapolis Colts

After an atrocious rookie season, Melvin Gordon is off to a much better start this year. He already has three touchdown on the season, whereas he spent the entire 2015 campaign without finding the end zone once. With news breaking that fellow running back Danny Woodhead will miss the rest of the season, Gordon just became a workhorse in what is typically a high powered offense. The only other running backs on the depth chart are Kenneth Farrow, Andre Williams, and newly signed Dexter McCluster. All of which seem unlikely to push Gordon for many carries in the near future. He faces a porous Colts defense in week two that gave up a good chunk of yards to both CJ Anderson and Ameer Abdullah in both of their matchups to start the season. Look for Gordon to have another big day as long as the Chargers don’t fall behind early.

Wide Receivers:

Stefon Diggs – Minnesota Vikings
Week 3 Matchup – Carolina Panthers

Diggs made his professional debut last season during week 4 and immediately turned heads. He cooled off as the season wore on but still finished with over 700 yards receiving. He’s off to a similar start in 2016, which is somewhat surprising considering he lost his starting quarterback before the season began. He surpassed 100 yards receiving for the second straight week despite catching passes from both Shaun Hill and Sam Bradford. There are some out there that actually believe Bradford better suits Diggs’ game much better than Bridgewater. Who lacks the arm strength to make the big throws that complement the speedy second year receiver. Minnesota has a tough matchup against Carolina this week, but Diggs is worth rolling out simply because he’ll be their best offensive weapon with Adrian Peterson likely missing time with a knee injury. Diggs also has some favorable matchups after the Panthers, so don’t be surprised if he’s able to far surpass his season totals from 2015.

Travis Benjamin – San Diego Chargers
Week 3 Matchup – Kansas City Chiefs

One of the biggest questions everyone had coming into week 2 was who was going to slide into Keenan Allen’s role for the Chargers. After only one week it seems pretty clear that Benjamin will be the guy that Rivers looks to early and often moving forward. San Diego only completed 17 passes on Sunday, and 6 of them were hauled in by Benjamin for 115 yards and 2 touchdowns. With Danny Woodhead suffering the same season ending injury as Allen, it’s not crazy to think that Benjamin’s role will only grow. Tyrell Williams and Antonio Gates will likely see an uptick in targets as well, but Travis Benjamin seems to be the one with the most potential moving forward.

Corey Coleman – Cleveland Browns
Week 3 Matchup – Miami Dolphins

Coleman was selected 15th overall in the draft by the Browns this year, and he was expected to make an immediate impact at the wide receiver position. It only took two weeks for him to have a statement game. Coleman was able to pull in 5 catches for 104 yards and 2 touchdowns on 8 targets this past Sunday, and two of those touchdowns came within minutes of each other as the Browns jumped out to a 20-0 lead over the Ravens. Unsurprisingly, Cleveland blew the lead and eventually lost to the Ravens. To make matters worse, the Browns lost their second quarterback in two weeks opening the door for rookie Cody Kessler to make his NFL debut against the Dolphins this week. Hopes are the Coleman and Kessler can get on the same page quickly to help continue the rookie receiver’s upward trend against a beatable Miami defense.

Tight Ends:

Dennis Pitta – Baltimore Ravens
Week 3 Matchup – Jacksonville Jaguars

Dennis Pitta was once a serviceable fantasy tight end, but injuries have kept him sidelined since 2014. Joe Flacco threw him a welcome home party on Sunday day as he targeted his tight end 12 times, and the Ravens made their comeback against the Browns. Pitta finished the day with 9 catches and 102 yards, instantly making him a strong waiver wire consideration heading into Week 3. The Ravens are a pretty frustrating offensive group for fantasy purposes this season. Their running back situation is a mess, and they lack a true playmaker at the wide receiver position. Baltimore will face a Jacksonville defense this week that should be better this season on paper, but they were just roasted by the Chargers on Sunday. If Pitta can continue to build on his already existing rapport with Flacco, then he could be in line for another big day.

Jacob Tamme – Atlanta Falcons
Week 3 Matchup – New Orleans Saints

At 31 years old, Jacob Tamme is considered an old man in the NFL. After spending time catching passes from Peyton Manning it seemed as if his best years were behind him when he joined the Falcons in 2015. However, Tamme is off to a solid start this season due to Matt Ryan playing at a very high level. Some of his success can be attributed to Julio Jones and Mohammed Sanu being banged up, but the veteran tight end still saw 8 targets come his way against the Raiders on Sunday which he turned into 5 catches for 75 yards and a touchdown. The Falcons square off against one of the worst defenses in the league this week in the Saints before a tough three game stretch, so now is the time to play Tamme if you need a little help from the tight end position.

Clive Walford – Oakland Raiders
Week 3 Matchup – Tennessee Titans

At only 24 years old, Walford still has the potential to emerge as a solid tight end for fantasy football purposes. He’s been plagued by injuries but is in a great situation with a young Raiders offense that likes to throw the ball around. Clive was on a few sleeper picks this offseason, and it appears some of that hype may not have been unfounded. He turned 7 targets into 6 catches for 50 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons on Sunday. In week one he earned a target on over 20% of his routes run, so it’s clear that he’s at least in Carr’s mind when he’s running through his progressions. Oakland plays Tennessee in week three, who have been surprisingly decent on defense this season. Walford isn’t someone I’m reaching for unless I need help at the position, but he’s certainly a player to keep your eye on.

Cold:

Quarterbacks:

Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks
Week 3 Matchup – San Francisco 49ers

If you own Russell Wilson this season it more than likely means that you spent a pick on him within the first 5 rounds of your draft. That also means if you own Russell Wilson you’re more than likely freaking out as you’re reading this. In two games to start the season Wilson is averaging 13 points. What’s more frightening is those points were put up against the Miami Dolphins and the Los Angeles Rams, which are two teams that he very well should have dominated. Granted, he’s playing with a sprained ankle. Nobody can predict injuries, but the Seattle offense as a whole looks completely lackluster. One of the aspects of Wilson’s game that makes him so valued is his ability to scramble and create additional yardage on the ground. That’s quite simply hard to do with a bum ankle. Thankfully, the Seahawks have an early bye week this year, so hopefully Wilson can use that time in two weeks to get healthy. However, until Wilson is healthy it’ll be tough to trust him on a weekly basis.

Blake Bortles – Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 3 Matchup – Baltimore Ravens

Bortles sneakily finished the 2015 season as a top 5 fantasy quarterback. Most of his production came late in games with his team trailing (aka garbage time.) All of the offseason talk about the Jags was mostly surrounding their improved defense. As a result, most analysts were projecting a decline from Bortles this season. Jacksonville is starting 2016 0-2 largely due to poor defensive play. While Bortles has been decent, he’s likely been leaving you wanting more through the first two games this season. What’s more alarming the how quiet Allen Robinson has been. Bottom line is if you drafted Bortles as a top 5 QB, then that is not what you are seeing to this point. Bortles has a very favorable schedule for the next 4-5 weeks of the season, so he could very well bounce back. I’m a little hesitant to roll him out at this point unless the team as a whole can perform to a higher level.

Eli Manning – New York Giants
Week 3 Matchup – Washington Redskins

I’ll be completely honest here. I have never been an Eli Manning fan. Ever. It could be the memes of his trademark perplexed expressions. It could be the fact that he’s always played in his older brother’s shadow. I just can’t put my finger on it. In my opinion, in terms of fantasy football he’s just always been sort of…meh for me. This holds true in what should have been a game against the Saints in which he excelled and made me reconsider everything I just wrote. Instead, the Giants didn’t score a single offensive touchdown on Sunday against a Saints team that has been criticized as having one of the worst defenses against the pass. Yes, he threw for 368 yards. Yes, the Giants won. Manning has more than capable weapons at his disposal each and every week to rip defenses to shreds. He just doesn’t. He’ll face off against a Redskins defense this week that acquired Josh Norman in the offseason but has given up 65 points in the first two weeks of the season. The Giants should do well in Week 3. I’ll be watching Eli to see if he proves me wrong.

Running Backs:

Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints
Week 3 Matchup – Atlanta Falcons

We keep waiting for Mark Ingram to truly breakout each season. It’s not that he’s a bad player. He’s a strong runner that just happens to play on a team with a terrible defense. Through the first two weeks of the season Ingram only has 21 carries, which puts him tied at 27th in the league at the running back position. Sure, the Saints found themselves in a passing battle with the Raiders to start the season. The real head scratcher is the fact he only received 9 carries in a game against the Giants that was close throughout. New Orleans clearly feels comfortable putting the team on the future Hall of Fame quarterback’s shoulders, and for good reason. I find it hard to see Ingram emerging as a top tier running back option if the defense continues to struggle and Brees remains healthy. The matchup against the Falcons this week could easily turn into another high scoring game with Matt Ryan playing at a high level, so expect more of the same from Ingram.

Todd Gurley – St Louis Rams
Week 3 Matchup – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

If you want to see panic in its most pure form simply look into the eyes of any Todd Gurley owner after the first two weeks of the season. Gurley was a consensus top 5 pick in drafts this year, and owners have not been very well rewarded for their investment to this point. Most of the problem is the lack of respect defenses have for the rest of the Rams’ offense. Opposing teams are putting 8 guys in the box and forcing Case Keenum to beat them through the air. The other aspect holding Gurley back is the quality of the defenses he has been playing against. Over the last two weeks he is averaging a measly 2.7 yards per carry. St Louis has a more favorable matchup this week against Tampa Bay but travel to Arizona the week after. I’m not implying Gurley won’t have some good games. However, he could continue to struggle if the quarterback situation doesn’t improve.

Carlos Hyde – San Francisco 49ers
Week 3 Matchup – Seattle Seahawks

Hyde had a huge game against the Rams to start the season but quickly fell back down to earth this week against a more formidable Panthers defense. He struggled to get anything going and rushed for only 34 yards on 14 carries. He also surrendered work to backup Shaun Draughn after losing a fumble. Hyde has the ability to be a capable fantasy running back. The biggest challenge he faces is the lack of talent the 49ers possess on offense. Blaine Gabbert hasn’t been terrible to this point, but it seems opposing defenses are focused on slowing down Hyde in an effort to make his quarterback beat them through the air. Things will most likely get worse before they get better for the 49ers as they play both Seattle and Arizona two out of the next three weeks. You’d be wise to temper expectations on Hyde over his next few outings.

Wide Receivers:

Golden Tate – Detroit Lions
Week 3 Matchup – Green Bay Packers

Most people were expecting Golden Tate to take a huge leap forward this year after Calvin Johnson retired at the end of last season. Others were pinning Marvin Jones to be main beneficiary of the additional targets in the offense. Through the first two weeks of 2016 it appears that the latter may have called it correctly. Tate has historically been a short to medium range pass catcher capable of moving the chains and racking up points in PPR leagues. His game doesn’t really fit what the Lions lost in Calvin Johnson. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a useful option in fantasy. I just don’t see him living up to the expectations some had when they drafted him. Detroit has some decent matchups over the next several weeks, but I think Golden Tate is a WR3 or flex play moving forward.

Allen Robinson – Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 3 Matchup – Baltimore Ravens

There was much speculation in the offseason regarding the Jaguars. Last season the Jags offense was great from a fantasy perspective. They had to play from behind often, which resulted in Bortles and Robinson padding their stats with garbage time yards. Jacksonville added some depth on the defense in the draft, but that side of the ball is still struggling to begin the season and has given up 65 points in two weeks. What’s most surprising is the slow start Robinson has gotten off to. He’s racked up 126 yards over two weeks, which isn’t necessarily terrible. What has me scratching my head is the fact that he’s been targeting 20 times and only has 9 catches to show for it. Robinson currently ranks as the 52nd receiver in standard scoring leagues, so he has quite a ways to go before he gets back to the level he performed at last season.

Sammy Watkins – Buffalo Bills
Week 3 Matchup – Arizona Cardinals

Fantasy owners knew what they were getting into if they selected Watkins in their drafts this season. He’s a special talent but has missed significant time in his young career due to injuries. The same foot he injured last season has flared up again, which is causing him visible pain when he’s on the field. Watkins, however, seems determined to play through the discomfort so he should be an option if you need him. Adding to his troubles through the first two games is the shaky play of Tyrod Taylor as well. Buffalo has a tough matchup against the Cardinals this, so roll him out at your own risk.

Tight Ends:

Dwayne Allen – Indianapolis Colts
Week 3 Matchup – San Diego Chargers

The planets aligned for Allen to have a breakout season this year. Coby Fleener was shipped off to New Orleans and Andrew Luck is healthy to begin the season. What we didn’t see coming was the emergence of Jack Doyle in the passing game. After catching two touchdown passes in what seemed like a fluke, Doyle followed up his week one performance with 4 catches for 47 yards against Denver. While these numbers aren’t mind boggling, it’s important to note the targets he’s taking away from Allen. He’s gone from what many assumed to be a sure thing at tight end to possibly being stuck in the same frustrating time share he had with Fleener last season. It’ll be worth monitoring over the next couple of weeks to see how much of an impact Doyle has on Allen’s production.

Charles Clay – Buffalo Bills
Week 3 Matchup – Arizona Cardinals

Charles Clay has always offered up serviceable fantasy numbers but has never really been more of an afterthought in the passing game. The offseason hype of Tyrod Taylor caused many to place the sleeper tag on Clay, but that designation has yet to come to fruition. He was targeted 7 times and was able to catch 5 passes against the Jets but only accounted for 27 yards. I would look elsewhere for fantasy production this week as the Bills face a stout Arizona defense that just destroyed Tampa Bay last weekend.

Gary Barnidge – Cleveland Browns
Week 3 Matchup – Miami Dolphins

After putting up a goose egg in week one I was willing to give Barnidge another shot this week after he was set to reunite with Josh McCown. While he was targeted more often this week than last, he still wasn’t a very impactful part of an offense that went on a scoring tear early against the Ravens. To make matters worse, Josh McCown is questionable for week 3. If he can’t go rookie Cody Kessler will get his first NFL start. This can only further hamper Barnidge’s fantasy prospects, because I do not believe the Browns will want a rookie throwing more than he has to in his first start in the league.

We’re off to an odd start to the season, but this is what makes fantasy football so intriguing. I hope this article helps you address some of the question marks in your lineups this week. As always, please feel free to give us a shout @No_HuddleFFB for your start/sit questions. We appreciate your support!

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