It’s time to take our weekly look around the NFL to see which players have the potential to set your roster on fire and which ones seem to be cooling down. I’ll try to avoid the obvious candidates for the players that are heating up, in addition to focusing in on higher profile players that could leave your team on ice this week. I will also be taking a look at their performance from the previous week, as well as what the matchup holds for them heading into Sunday.
DeShone Kizer – Cleveland Browns
Matchup – Cincinnati Bengals
Let’s just pretend that week two didn’t happen for Kizer. The rookie was dealing with a migraine and had to exit the game. He eventually came back in but ended up having a terrible game with 182 passing yards and four turnovers. However, Kizer has been surprisingly solid in the first and third games of his young career. In those two games he threw for 464 yards and five total touchdowns. Turnovers are clearly an issue as the Notre Dame product as given the ball up eight times in three games, but he’s been useful from a fantasy standpoint. It’s hard to endorse this kid as an every week starter, but there are certainly times where he’s worth putting him in your lineup if you have the need. The Bengals defense has been stingy at times this season, but we saw last week that they can be beat through the air. If you’re in need for a quarterback, then I think Kizer is worth a stash. Particularly in dynasty leagues if he’s available.
Deshaun Watson – Houston Texans
Matchup – Tennessee Titans
Watson graced this column in this section last week, but I thought he deserved another shout out. This kid almost beat Tom Brady in Foxboro, and he threw for over 300 yards in the process. I don’t know about you, but that’s impressive to me for a rookie in only his second game as a starting quarterback in the NFL. If you listened to our podcast last week then you’ll know that I was out on Watson heading into his matchup with the Patriots in just about every way. Take away his long touchdown run in week two, and he would’ve had an abysmal game. Well if 301 yards and two touchdowns against arguably the best team in the league doesn’t change your mind, then nothing will. Watson is only owned in 11% of leagues, and he’s absolutely worth adding to your team. He’ll face a Titans defense this week that was demolished by Russell Wilson most recently, so he should put together another solid stat line.
Tyrod Taylor – Buffalo Bills
Matchup – Atlanta Falcons
I’ve said it before, but Tyrod Taylor doesn’t get enough credit as a legitimate quarterback in both fantasy football and the NFL. He’s never going to on the same level as your elite fantasy quarterbacks, but this guy just put up 21 fantasy points against the Broncos and won the game. That’s a pretty impressive feat when you consider the Bills lost both Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins in the offseason. His main targets are Charles Clay, rookie Zay Jones, and Philadelphia reject Jordan Matthews. Considering what he has to work with I think he’s done fairly well. Taylor plays at home this week against a Falcons defense that’s given up at least 20 points in the last two games. Atlanta is a high scoring offense, so I anticipate Buffalo having to turn to the pass to stay in the game. If you’re needing a quarterback that’s going to put up above average numbers, then Tyrod just may be your guy.
Duke Johnson – Cleveland Browns
Matchup – Cincinnati Bengals
It just feels wrong to feature two Cleveland players in this section, but Johnson is a guy I like moving forward in the right situations. Duke Johnson is not going to get many carries at all. In three games this season he has six carries for a touchdown with 44 yards. He does his damage in the passing attack, which the Browns should feature a lot of this season. Let’s face it, Cleveland is not a very good football team. They have pieces, but as a whole there’s not much to get excited about here. Johnson caught six passes out of the backfield for 81 yards and added a rushing touchdown to turn in his best performance of the season so far. Isiah Crowell has been terribly ineffective in the first three games to start the season, which seems to be opening up doors for his counterpart. The Bengals were awful in the first two games of the season and are coming off a deflating loss against the Packers last week. I don’t think Duke is a guy you start, but he’s worth a waiver addition.
Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers
Matchup – New England Patriots
This was the game we’ve all been waiting for. It’s become clear the Jonathan Stewart is once again going to be the running back for the Panthers that’s going to run the ball on first and second down. McCaffrey is their third down/pass catching back out of the backfield. For that reason the rookie will have some very good games. Unfortunately, it also means that he won’t see a starter’s workload while Stewart is around. The Panthers offense once again looked looked sluggish in a game against the Saints that they should have been able to exploit. I’ll start with the obvious problem here. Cam Newton has seemingly lost it. This guy was the MVP two seasons ago, and now he looks like he’d struggle to make an NFL roster. With the loss of both Greg Olsen and now Kelvin Benjamin, Newton was forced to check down to his rookie running back in a comeback effort that didn’t quite happen. McCaffrey will face a hungry Patriots defense this week that will likely make an effort to shut the rookie running back down, especially if Benjamin is banged up. This kid was drafted as an RB2 in most leagues, but facing off against New England scares me. Play him at your own risk.
Carlos Hyde – San Francisco 49ers
Matchup – Arizona Cardinals
Ok, so I realize Hyde isn’t necessarily a lower tier player. I usually try to include guys that are on the lower end of the spectrum in terms of expectations in fantasy football. With that being said, Carlos Hyde has looked like a damn good player over the last two weeks. San Francisco really has two playmakers on the team. One is Pierre Garçon, and the other is Hyde. The veteran running back scored two touchdowns last week and is averaging 104 rushing yards over the last two games. It’s clear that the 49ers want to use Hyde as a workhorse, but his injury concerns caused him to slide in drafts heading into this season. I think Hyde is a special player and could realistically finish as a top ten back if he stays healthy. Unfortunately, San Francisco plays in a tough division and will have to face a stout run defense in the Cardinals this week. I think Hyde is a strong RB2 despite the matchup. He’ll get is touches regardless of who he is facing.
Sterling Shepard – New York Giants
Matchup – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I would’ve thought that if Shepard was going to have a game like we saw last week that it would’ve come while Odell Beckham Jr was banged up and less than 100%. Instead, the second year receiver was targeted ten times by Eli Manning and caught seven of them for 133 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles. While it’s good to see Shepard getting so involved, I don’t think this type of performance is something we see very often moving forward. There are simply too many playmakers on this offense. Beckham, Brandon Marshall, and even rookie Evan Engram are all on the field to draw targets away from Shepard. I think he’s certainly worth having on your team, but he’s not somebody you’re playing very often outside of an injury to one of your other players or a bye week. The Giants will face a Buccaneers defense this week that just gave up 220 rushing yards to Chicago, but only allowed 101 yards passing. Eli Manning is obviously a better quarterback, and this could be a high scoring game between two high powered offenses. Until we see consistent production out of Shepard, however, I’m tempering my expectations.
Chris Hogan – New England Patriots
Matchup – Carolina Panthers
Hogan has emerged as one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets over the last two games, which is what most assumed would happen after Julian Edelman was lost for the season. Outside of a down game to kick off the year, the Patriots offense is clicking on all cylinders. Brady threw for a whopping five touchdowns against the Texans with Hogan catching two of them on four catches and adding 68 yards. Brandin Cooks also had his best game as a a Patriot, and Gronk was Gronk once again. New England struggled to run the ball against a tough Houston defense, and I think that should be the case once again as they face the Panthers this week. Carolina just gave up three touchdowns and 34 points to the Saints, so there’s no reason to think that Brady won’t be able to do the same. Hogan should once again be heavily involved in the passing game.
Davante Parker – Miami Dolphins
Matchup – New Orleans Saints
It’s beginning to look like Davante Parker might be the receiver to own in Miami. While Jarvis Landry is commonly the receiver drafted highest, Parker looks to be the one that’s going to be scoring the touchdowns. Landry is often peppered with targets, but he rarely makes plays downfield. This gives him a safe floor but limits his upside significantly. Parker has been targeted 19 times in two games and is averaging just over 80 yards with one touchdown over that span. The Dolphins have another advantageous matchup this week against the Saints, so Parker could be in line for another solid performance. New Orleans has the ability to score points quickly, which should cause Miami to play catchup. I see Parker as a WR2/WR3 this week.
Marcedes Lewis – Jacksonville Jaguars
Matchup – New York Jets
What in the hell happened in London? Joe Flacco threw for only 28 yards, Blake Bortles looked like a competent quarterback, and Marcedes Lewis caught three touchdowns. How do you only throw for 28 yards in an entire game? I just can’t get over that. Anyway let’s call this what it is, an extreme outlier. Heading into Sunday Lewis hadn’t recorded a catch in the first two games and was only targeted four times. In fact, the veteran tight end had only 36 catches and one touchdown in the last 28 games of his career. While impressive, I don’t think believe Lewis has suddenly turned into a viable fantasy tight end. I don’t even think he’s worth picking up at this point, but if he puts together another decent game against the Jets this week perhaps I’ll change my mind.
Ryan Griffin – Houston Texans
Matchup – with Tennessee Titans
I’m a little surprised that Deshaun Watson targeted Griffin as often as he did last week, considering it was the first time the two of them have played together. The big tight end made his season debut after dealing with a concussion that left him sidelined for the first two weeks and acted as a dependable target for his young quarterback. Griffin finished the day with five catches for 61 yards and a touchdown and should be an active contributor for the Texans until CJ Fiedorowicz comes back from injured reserve. Houston is a team that utilizes their tight ends often, so Griffin could be in line for a heavy workload moving forward. He’s got a chance to put up similar numbers against a Titans defense that gave up seven catches and over 70 yards to Jimmy Graham last week.
Charles Clay – Buffalo Bills
Matchup – Atlanta Falcons
I have a feeling the Bills are going to be a frustrating team to have stock in this season. They are severely limited at wide receiver, and Tyrod Taylor has been inconsistent. That being said, Charles Clay seems to have his quarterback’s trust as a familiar target. Clay caught all of his targets for only 39 receiving yards but added a touchdown to boost his fantasy production. Until Taylor can string together two games in a row Charles Clay will have his ups and downs. However, the Bills will have their hands full with an explosive Atlanta offense this week. Expect Buffalo to have to throw to stay in the game, and watch for Clay to get a lot of attention from his quarterback.
Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers
Matchup – New England Patriots
Cam Newton is dead to me, and it’s going to be a while before he’ll regain my trust as a viable fantasy option. I realize he’s battled injuries in the offseason, but this guy just got shut down by the Saints. It also doesn’t help that Newton’s two favorite targets, Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin, were both unavailable last week, but if you’re an NFL quarterback you find a way to get the ball to other players on your team. Newton now has thrown for two touchdowns compared to four interceptions in three games. Those numbers are less than ideal. If I’m a Cam owner I’m hitting the panic button and trying to pick up or trade for a different quarterback. I don’t see things improving this week against New England.
Joe Flacco – Baltimore Ravens
Matchup – Pittsburgh Steelers
I typically try to find higher tier players to include in this section each week, so I realize that Flacco isn’t necessarily a player you’re putting into your lineups all the often. I just couldn’t believe how epically horrendous he was in London against the Jaguars last week. How in the hell do you complete eight passes for 28 yards as a starting quarterback in the NFL? It’d be different if we were talking about someone like Mike Glennon, but Joe Flacco is one of the highest paid quarterbacks in the league. To make matters worse he also threw two interceptions, which caused him to finish with -3 fantasy points. Surely there’s no way he puts on this kind of performance against the Steelers this week, but I’d still keep my distance. After all, Flacco only threw for 3.5 yards per completion against Jacksonville. That’s mind blowing-ly bad.
Phillip Rivers – San Diego Chargers
Matchup – Philadelphia Eagles
Well now we know what Phillip River’s Joe Flacco impersonation looks like. I thought the veteran would at least put up respectable numbers despite facing a tough Chiefs defense. Instead he threw three interceptions and only had 237 yards passing. Rivers had very little time in the pocket, which forced poorly thrown passes and bad decisions. He has the weapons at his disposal to be an above average fantasy quarterback, so this appears to just be a bad day at the office. He’ll look to bounce back against an Eagles defense that’s given up an average of over 25 points in the last two games.
Isiah Crowell – Cleveland Browns
Matchup – Cincinnati Bengals
You’ve got to be regretting your decision to draft Isiah Crowell at this point. He was generally taken as a top ten to twelve running back but has not looked the part over the first three games. Crowell is only averaging 38 yards per game and 2.9 yards per carry. At this point you have to consider benching him, especially after we saw Duke Johnson go off for 19 fantasy points. Crowell is going to continue to struggle mostly due to the way the game script unfolds. Cleveland is going to be playing from behind often this season, which does not bode well for their starting running back’s fantasy prospects. He’ll face the Bengals this week, who still have a decent defense. I’d be nervous about Crowell until he shows us he can put up some points.
Ty Montgomery – Green Bay Packers
Matchup – Chicago Bears
It may not seem fair to put Montgomery here after one subpar game. There were certainly worse fantasy performances this week. However, I wanted to point out what I’ve feared about the wide receiver turned running back that came to fruition against the Bengals. Montgomery simply isn’t a very explosive runner. His value and effectiveness comes in the passing game, so if he gets shut down in that department it’s hard for him to put up many points. He’s averaging a little more than 13 carries a game for 41 yards, which is right at 3.2 yards per carry. That’s not great for an NFL running back. I’m not saying don’t play the man, but I don’t think I’m out of line in thinking that this won’t be the last time we see Montgomery put up the types of numbers we saw last week. He should bounce back this week against a shaky Bears team.
Mike Gillislee – New England Patriots
Matchup – Carolina Panthers
I referred to Mike Gillislee as the new LeGarrette Blount for New England after his three touchdown debut in a Patriots uniform. Unfortunately, that designation doesn’t apply only when he plays well. When you’re a touchdown dependent player, it only makes sense that there will be days where you won’t find pay dirt. That’s what we saw with Gillislee last week after he ran the ball only 12 times for 31 yards. The biggest issue with he former Bill running back is how one dimensional he is in this offense. Through three games he has yet to log a catch, which is where his counterpart, James White, excels. I think we see a similar game out of Gillislee this week against a Panthers defense that has been able to slow down the running game but is vulnerable through the air. You’re essentially praying for a touchdown if you play him.
Terrelle Pryor – Washington Redskins
Matchup – Kansas City Chiefs
Remember when Terrelle Pryor was one of last season’s biggest surprises? It was the former quarterback’s first legit year as a wide receiver, and he became the focal point of the Browns passing attack. Well now Pryor is looking like one of this season’s biggest disappointments. His debut as a Redskin wasn’t awful as he finished the first game with six catches and 66 yards. However, Pryor has only four catches for an average of 40.5 yards and no touchdowns over the last two games. Some of that is due to Kirk Cousins struggling, but there was no excuse Sunday night when the under appreciated quarterback finally broke out and threw for 365 yards and three touchdowns. It’s hard to feel confident in Pryor moving forward until we see something out of him. I think we’ll have to wait at least one more week due to a tough matchup on the road against the Chiefs.
Michael Crabtree – Oakland Raiders
Matchup – Denver Broncos
Man, what a terrifically terrible game for the Raiders offense as a whole last week. I actually liked Derek Carr a ton heading into this game, but he turned out his worst game this young season by far. He only threw for 118 yards and struggled to get the ball to either of his big play making wide receivers. Both Crabtree and Amari Cooper combined for a paltry 13 yards on two receptions. While Cooper has struggled early on, this is particularly surprising to see from Crabtree. The veteran had been great in both games to open the season, so this stat line caught me off guard. I realize most of his struggles can be blamed on Carr, but it’s still no fun watching a top tier player put up a horrendous game. Unfortunately, the Raiders will have to travel to Denver this week, so I don’t see this being the situation where any Raiders player has a redemption game. At this point you’re likely playing Crabtree and Cooper if you have them, but I wouldn’t expect big numbers.
Martavis Bryant – Pittsburgh Steelers
Matchup – Baltimore Ravens
The hype for Martvis Bryant’s triumphant return to the NFL was palpable this offseason, and I think his draft stock reflected that. I wasn’t nearly as high on him for the exact reason of what we’ve seen over the first three games of the year. Bryant is a true boom or bust player. Imagine a less talented Desean Jackson in his prime, and that’s what we have in Martavis Bryant. He’s not the type of receiver that’s going to consistently put up big numbers on a weekly basis, but he has the ability to explode in any given game. That has been evident in the first three games of the season. In week two he had three catches for 91 yards and a touchdown. Bryant was only able to reel in four catches for 44 yards in the other two games and has yet to have more than three receptions in a game. After last week in London, who really knows what’s going to happen when the Steelers face the Ravens. There’s no way Joe Flacco puts up the same numbers he did last week, so this could turn out to be a competitive game. Your only hope for Martavis Bryant is that he gets open for a big touchdown pass or two. Otherwise I think we’re looking at another subpar game from an overhyped receiver.
Martellus Bennett – Green Bay Packers
Matchup – Chicago Bears
Remember last season when we were all pumped about Bennett being apart of the Patriots offense? Remember once again the excitement you felt when Green Bay snagged him? Yeah, what a let down. The simple truth here is that the Packers just don’t utilize their tight ends very often. Look at Jared Cook last season. The hype around him wasn’t as high as Bennett, but we still believed he would thrive in this offense. Now he’s an Oakland Raider. Martellus Bennett is averaging just over 3.5 catches per game for 34 yards. I understand wanting to hold on to him, but the former Patriot seems droppable at this point. Green Bay has a fantasy friendly matchup against Chicago this week, but Bennett is a total pipe dream until he proves otherwise.
Hunter Henry – Los Angeles Chargers
Matchup – Philadelphia Eagles
Week one: zero targets, zero catches, zero yards. Week two: seven targets, seven catches, 80 yards. Week three: zero targets, zero catches, zero yards. I have no clue how to interpret Henry’s value moving forward. This kid is a special talent at the tight end position but is buried in an offense with multiple playmakers on offense. Henry was all the rage heading into this season and was a sleeper to develop into a viable fantasy tight end. Obviously, the numbers say otherwise. This isn’t the sort of production we anticipated from the second year product out of Arkansas, but what you see is what you get in some cases. What I’m seeing is a virtual non factor in an offense that likes to throw the ball. If I own Hunter Henry I’m selling, checking waivers, or trading for a better tight end. As my buddy Derk most eloquently said it, fire sale on Hunter Henry.
Kyle Rudolph – Minnesota Vikings
Matchup – Detroit Lions
Kyle Rudolph needs Sam Bradford to come back immediately. Bradford utilized his tight end often last season and came out of the gates swinging this year throwing for 346 yards and three touchdowns. Sadly, we haven’t seen Bradford in the two games since while he’s been dealing with a knee injury. Rudolph was a popular target in the red zone last year for the Vikings, but it’s clear that Case Keenum doesn’t have the same affection for his tight end that Bradford does. The veteran has five catches for 49 yards in the last two games without his quarterback, which is not conducive with you winning your fantasy football matchup. If Bradford plays this week against the Lions, then Kyle Rudolph scores a touchdown at the very least. If Minnesota’s quarterback sits out again, then Rudolph rides the pine.
As always, please feel free to give us a shout on Twitter @No_HuddleFFB if you have any questions or concerns regarding your lineup or just want to chat about fantasy football. Best of luck this week!