Sep 24, 2011
Week Three is upon us in the National Football League, and unfortunately, so are a ton of injuries. I will not pretend to know why these have all popped up quickly, even if it is easy to blame the lockout and lack of formal workouts. What I do know is we have sixteen games to look at, so let’s get to it.
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills
Just as you would have expected coming into the season, these undefeated teams will battle for the top spot in the AFC East! Ok, maybe this is a little surprising. Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buffalo offense have been very entertaining to watch, and things may only get better with RB C.J. Spiller expected to see time at receiver. My guy, Fred Jackson has proven once again to be one of the most reliable players in the league and it’s better suited to carry the load than Spiller is, but Spiller dynamic ability needs to be used and the Bills need all the firepower they can get going up against the Patriots. Tom Brady continues to dominate, but will be without what could be his most dangerous weapon in TE Aaron Hernandez. That could open the door for WR Chad Ochocinco to finally make his presence felt in New England, but it all depends on how well he knows the offense.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton has proven a lot of people wrong after throwing for 800+ yards in his first two career starts. As we’ve mentioned a few times during the week, the Panthers appear to be throwing it so much because they’ve fallen in love with Newton’s arm, but that can’t continue, especially at the expense of the running game. RB DeAngelo Williams said he’s not worried about the team’s lack of production on the ground, and expects things to change for the better once defenses start respecting Newton’s ability to make plays down the field. I’m still not sure what to make of RB Jonathan Stewart’s big receiving day last week, but I don’t think it’s something we can rely on just yet. With Jacksonville’s secondary among the worst in the league, we could see a lot more of Newton’s arm in this one. Maurice Jones-Drew is the only Jaguar you can start with any confidence until we see what rookie QB Blaine Gabbert can do.
San Francisco 49ers at Cincinnati Bengals
The 49ers are teetering on the edge of fantasy irrelevance. While I don’t want to write off RB Frank Gore and TE Vernon Davis, the offense is a total mess and will never be any good as long as Alex Smith is under center. The Bengals looked like they might have something to build on after a strong 2nd half in last week’s loss to the Broncos. Unfortunately, WR Jerome Simpson’s issues off the field may keep him out of this one and Cedric Benson’s suspension looms large over the team even though he’ll be allowed to play in this game. We saw flashes of how dangerous WR A.J. Green could be last week, and the 49er secondary is certainly vulnerable, so he could be in line for another nice performance.
Miami Dolphins at Cleveland Browns
After a huge game in Week One, QB Chad Henne came crashing back down to Earth last week and once again proved that his inconsistent play makes him totally untrustworthy as a fantasy option. Even though HC Tony Sparano said he was looking for a 70/30 split in snaps between Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas, Bush ended up being a total non-factor in the game while Thomas impressed in his NFL debut going over 100 yards on the ground. As we’ve been saying, Bush is in no way a lead back no matter how much extra work he’s done to prepare for the role. This is Thomas’ job to lose, and it’s not like they have anyone else to fill the position. If you own any Browns besides Peyton Hillis, and I’m talking about Greg Little here, I ask you to be patient. He’s on the field more than any other Brown WR, but he’s still developing, as is this offense. You can’t expect him to put up reliable fantasy numbers considering his situation.
Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings
Dare I say the Lions are exceeding even my lofty expectations so far? Contributions are coming all over the field and when you have an elite talent like Matthew Stafford running the show, it makes this group look downright unstoppable. Best of all, as we learned from Nate Burleson on SXM Fantasy Football this week, there’s confidence in the QB and the offense as a whole. The Vikings may have done a solid job in the first two weeks on Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, but I expect that trend to end when Calvin Johnson takes the field this weekend. For some reason WR Percy Harvin was on the field for less than half of the team’s snaps last week yet insists he’s not injured. What can the Viking staff possibly be thinking keeping one of their two dangerous weapons off the field? Oh and let the countdown to the Christian Ponder era begin. Donovan McNabb is not fun to watch.
Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints
This game has all the ingredients to resemble an Arena League score by the time it’s over with on Sunday afternoon. Houston’s offense has looked fine, but not nearly as explosive as expected, although they really haven’t been challenged in their first two games. As I said before Week One, Arian Foster shouldn’t be on the field unless he’s healthy, and that’s especially true after how well Ben Tate has performed. There’s no reason to risk further injury with Foster, so I beg of you Gary Kubiak, stop messing with the fantasy owners just once and keep Foster off the field New Orleans hasn’t missed a beat with Marques Colston out of the lineup and rookie RB Mark Ingram hasn’t gotten out of the gate yet. I’m still not fully prepared to trust Darren Sproles as an every-week flex option, but it’s apparent the team will find ways to get him involved in a variety of situations. Jimmy Graham is off to a hot start and what should be a very productive season. I suspect he’ll remain the top option even when Colston returns.
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
The Giants may have taken care of business against the Rams on Monday night, but they looked like a team trying to shake off the cobwebs in a Week Two preseason game in doing so. Their defense is a total mess, especially on the back end and that’s not going to cut it against DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Their LB corps is slow and won’t have an answer for LeSean McCoy, but he looks like an unsolvable puzzle right now anyway. I admit to totally underestimating just how good he is, and it’s scary to think what kind of coverage he gets to see when defenses have to respect the team’s dangerous big-play passing attack. While Michael Vick looks on target to play, he may not need to be on the field more than three quarters as I fully expect the Eagles to have this game well in hand by then.
Denver Broncos at Tennessee Titans
Willis McGahee proved last week he could carry the load, and even with Knowshon Moreno returning this week, the majority of touches should still go to McGahee, although that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s been following that situation since August. Eric Decker’s impressive performance last week made him a hot waiver wire pickup this week, but expectations need to be tempered since this team still plans on using a run-first philosophy. Also, Brandon Lloyd being back in the mix certainly hurts Decker’s value as well. Chris Johnson hasn’t lived up to his lofty contract so far, and a huge red flag went up when HC Mike Munchak talked about Johnson trying to get his confidence back. Johnson’s mental approach to the game seems to be hurting his production on the field, as he continues to look for big plays and doesn’t take what the defense gives him enough of the time. It’s even scarier to see the Titans understand these problems, as they used backup RB Javon Ringer near the end zone last week. Luckily, they still have Kenny Britt, who is probably playing with his best QB in Matt Hasselbeck. If Britt can stay healthy, he’s looking like a great #1 fantasy WR this year.
New York Jets at Oakland Raiders
Mark Sanchez continues to make ugly mistakes, but as we’ve seen throughout his short time in the league, a great defense and good supporting cast can make up for those mistakes, which is why the team sits at 2-0. However, with C Nick Mangold out, it eliminates the team’s best OL and that’s bad news for Sanchez. Oakland’s front seven has down a good job getting pressure in the first two games and without Mangold, Sanchez could be feeling the heat and that’s when he struggles the most. Oakland might have a beatable secondary, but OC Brian Schottenheimer needs to be careful he doesn’t fall in love with the matchup by letting Sanchez throw more than he needs to. Shonn Greene hasn’t been a big enough part of this offense and that needs to change because they are not going to win relying on Sanchez. Denarius Moore’s great performance last week could earn him a beach chair on Revis Island. That’s a quite an accomplishment for the rookie, but obviously diminishes any chance of him putting up big numbers again this week. Darren McFadden has been impressive thus far, but if he can do it against this great Jet defense, I’ll pretend his first two seasons never happened.
Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers
You can stick a fork in the Chiefs. Outside of Jamaal Charles owners needing to grab Dexter McCluster, I’d be staying far, far away from this team and that includes Dwayne Bowe. Unless McCluster proves himself to be as consistently dangerous as Charles, defenses will be able to key in on Bowe and he’s not good enough to handle the extra coverage on a weekly basis. This is where the loss of TE Tony Moeaki really hurts the Chiefs. Even if San Diego is without Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd, they’ve got more than enough weapons to blow the Chiefs out in San Diego. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Patrick Crayton have a nice game in his 2011 debut. He’s a good reach play this week.
Baltimore Ravens at St. Louis Rams
Joe Flacco was so bad last week that I’ve given up any hope of him becoming a reliable fantasy option. He continues to struggle with criticism and I’m wondering if his early success went to his head and made him think he doesn’t have to work any harder to become a better player. Ray Rice had an “off” week against the Titans last Sunday and still managed to find the end zone on an impressive receiving TD. Danario Alexander reminded everyone just how dangerous he could be on Monday night, although I’m pretty sure even Adam Caplan could have hauled in a few receptions against Giant CB Aaron Ross. Unfortunately for the Rams, Alexander is their most explosive weapon right now, but his past knee issues limit how much he can play. We expect the Rams to be throwing a lot in this one since both Steven Jackson and Cadillac Williams could be out.
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears
The Cardinals should be calling the Packers to ask about James Jones. With all the weapons Green Bay has, it’s almost a waste to have Jones and from a fantasy perspective, his value would rise significantly with a move to Arizona. The Bears typically give the Packers tough games, but with injuries to both starting safeties, it might be tough for Chicago to limit the downfield passes, as they like to do against Green Bay. James Starks could have a rough go of it against this stout Bear run defense, but as we’ve seen, the Packers aren’t afraid to get him involved in the passing game, so he could still produce as a fine flex option. I’d put the Packer receiving corps pecking order at: 1. Jermichael Finley, 1a. Greg Jennings, 2. (or is it 3?) Jordy Nelson, and then it really doesn’t matter. Jay Cutler may not make it through this entire game at the rate he’s being hit, and he hasn’t faced a defense on the level of the Packers yet. Matt Forte will have a tough test, and I expect his production to come almost exclusively as a receiver.
Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks
As I’ve said, you can forget starting any Seahawks and I’m sticking to it, even if the returning Sidney Rice has a great matchup against this bad Cardinal defense. Do you want to rely on Tarvaris Jackson? I sure don’t. Beanie Wells has run well so far, but this hamstring issue is coming at a bad time, especially since the Seahawks have done a pretty good job stopping the run. I suspect we’ll see some of Chester Taylor in this one, even if Wells is good to go. You want to know the best part about the Kevin Kolb-Larry Fitzgerald connection? There’s a chance we could hear this every week.
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cris Collinsworth called last week’s victory over the Eagles a “signature win” for Matt Ryan. Really? He played poorly for three quarters and Michael Vick missed the entire 4th quarter. The Eagles were a Jeremy Maclin dropped pass from continuing a possible game-winning drive with third-stringer Mike Kafka at the helm. I’m not convinced Ryan is all that good and his physical tools aren’t good enough to make up for any mistakes he makes. To beat the elite teams, he has to be damn near perfect. The Falcons have made it clear they want to throw more, especially downfield, this year, but I’m not sure Ryan is the one who can execute what they want to do. Having said that, Tampa Bay isn’t elite and they’ve gone through struggles of their own on offense. We’re still waiting for one of their secondary receivers to emerge and give Josh Freeman another reliable target besides Mike Williams and Kellen Winslow. I have a feeling this game will be all about the RBs, as both Michael Turner and LeGarrette Blount should get enough touches to perform well.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts
The Colts are already done. They’re not built to play without a high-efficiency offense, and now their flaws on the OL, running game, and defense are coming out. Many have second-guessed the team’s decision to not develop a QB behind Peyton Manning, but they knew that no one compares to Manning, so even a reliable backup may not have made much of a difference over the unretired Kerry Collins. Pittsburgh should run at will in this one, and that means Rashard Mendenhall should be in line for his first big fantasy performance of the year. The Steelers might have a nice receiving corps, but after the great Mike Wallace, no one commands the football, so Wallace is the only one you can start with confidence.
Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys
The Redskins may be that team this year that looks like they should finish at .500, but end up with 10+ wins because of a favorable schedule. They catch a break this week with Dallas possibly playing without WRs Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, Felix Jones playing injured if he plays at all, and Tony Romo needing protection from a Kevlar vest. The Redskins may have a vulnerable secondary, but we doubt they’re scared of Kevin “More Olgetree Please” and Jessie Holliday. Dallas’ secondary isn’t much better, but we’re not buying into the Rex Grossman hype. The numbers might look good, but he’s the same bad-decision maker with an overrated arm that we’ve seen since his days in Chicago. At least he’s getting the ball to Santana Moss and Fred Davis. Washington will continue to run it plenty with Tim Hightower, but rookie Roy Helu made his presence known last week and I could see him taking Hightower’s job at some point this season.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section or get me on Twitter @TheMattCamp. Thanks for reading and good luck in Week Three!