Week 3 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Breaking Down Biggest Fantasy Football Studs and Duds

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistSeptember 21, 2013

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 16:  Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals throws a pass before the NFL game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium on September 16, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

With Thursday night's game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs now a thing of the past, fantasy football owners are finalizing their lineups in an effort to either make up for or build upon the production that they have already received.

There are plenty of intriguing matchups on the NFL slate this weekend that will have a major impact on fantasy decisions. There is a lot to take into consideration this week, as injuries are starting to wreak havoc, and some players are performing well below expectations. So last-minute lineup decisions are going to be absolutely crucial.

Here is a breakdown of which players will be studs and which will be duds for your fantasy football team in Week 3.


Start: Andy Dalton (CIN)

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Dalton is a borderline starter in deeper fantasy leagues, but he has an ideal matchup to do some damage this week.

Dalton has dealt with some extremely tough defenses over the first two weeks of the season, but he is averaging 281 passing yards per game and has thrown three touchdowns. Having gotten past the Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers, Dalton should have a much easier time against the Green Bay Packers.

The Packers were picked apart by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in Week 1, and Washington Redskins signal-caller Robert Griffin III put up big numbers in garbage time last week. Since the Bengals will likely be trying to keep up with Green Bay's high-octane offense, Dalton will throw more than usual.

Projection: 323 passing yards, three touchdowns, one interception, 12 rushing yards

Sit: Andrew Luck (IND)

Most probably view Luck as a must-start fantasy quarterback no matter what, but that isn't the case this week. The Colts have to deal with a San Francisco 49ers defense that can't possibly be happy after getting schooled by the Seattle Seahawks last week.

Add in a cross-country trip for Indy, and Luck is probably in line for a rough day.

The 49ers are allowing just 220 passing yards per game, and while the Colts are generally a pass-first team, that may not be the case in Week 3. Newly acquired running back Trent Richardson is still getting acclimated to the system, but the Colts will want to try out their new toy.

All of that points toward a down week for Luck, so look elsewhere, if possible.

Projection: 210 passing yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, 25 rushing yards

Running Backs

Start: Rashard Mendenhall (ARI)

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 15:  Running back Rashard Mendenhall #28 of the Arizona Cardinals  carries the ball prior to the start of the game against the Detroit Lions at University of Phoenix Stadium on September 15, 2013 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by J
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The Cardinals are best known for their passing game as quarterback Carson Palmer has a trio of solid receivers in Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd to throw to, but they now boast a serviceable rushing attack as well, thanks to Mendenhall.

Although Mendenhall's tenure with the Steelers didn't end ideally, he is back with former Steelers offensive coordinator and current Arizona head coach Bruce Arians, and he has looked solid over the season's first two weeks.

Mendenhall is questionable for Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints with a toe injury, according to the Associated Press, but he should be in line for plenty of work assuming he suits up. The Saints are allowing 124 rushing yards per game and better than five yards per carry this season.

With the Cards looking to keep Drew Brees off the field as much as possible, Mendenhall will be a key part of the game plan.

Projection: 85 rushing yards, one touchdown, two receptions for 23 yards

Sit: DeMarco Murray (DAL)

The Cowboys have long been a pass-oriented team, but all of the talk heading into this season focused on Murray receiving more work in the running game. After getting 20 totes in Week 1, though, Murray carried just 12 times for 25 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2, as quarterback Tony Romo took the reins of the offense.

Look for that to be the case once again this week against the St. Louis Rams.

St. Louis is among the best teams in the league against the run, having given up just 61 yards per game on the ground. However, the Rams are getting gashed through the air to the tune of more than 330 yards per contest. That is music to the ears of Romo, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, but it will limit Murray's productivity on Sunday.

Projection: 53 rushing yards, three receptions for 28 yards

Wide Receivers

Start: Brian Hartline (MIA)

After busting out for nine catches, 114 yards and a touchdown in Week 1 and seemingly rendering Mike Wallace moot, Hartline took a step back in Week 2.

Hartline still ended up with 68 yards on five receptions, and he is still a favorite target of quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Wallace's breakout performance in Week 2 means plenty of attention will be rolled to his side, which should give Hartline a good deal of single coverage.

The Dolphins are facing the high-flying Atlanta Falcons this week in a game that could easily develop into a shootout. The Falcons are third-worst in the league against the pass, allowing more than 346 yards per game, so Hartline is a sensible flex in Week 3, especially in point-per-reception leagues.

Projection: Six receptions for 92 yards and one touchdown

Sit: Greg Jennings (MIN)

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 15:  Greg Jennings #15 of the Minnesota Vikings runs a pass pattern against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on September 15, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Vikings 31-30.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Image
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

When the Vikings signed Jennings this offseason he was supposed to be quarterback Christian Ponder's go-to weapon, and he was supposed to be a suitable replacement for Percy Harvin as well.

Neither of those things have been true through the first two games of 2013. Jennings is averaging fewer than 60 receiving yards per game, and Ponder has looked in Jerome Simpson's direction far more often than Jennings'.

Even if Ponder wants to get the ball to Jennings this week, though, it won't be easy. The Cleveland Browns have allowed just 226 passing yards per game to this point, and shutdown cornerback Joe Haden figures to be shadowing Jennings all game long.

Running back Adrian Peterson is always the Vikings' focal point anyway, but that will be even truer this week.

Projection: Three receptions for 37 yards

Tight Ends

Start: Jordan Cameron (CLE)

As one of the top fantasy tight ends in football through two weeks, it may seem like a no-brainer to start Cameron this week.

The fact that Richardson is now a Colt and Brian Hoyer is starting at quarterback complicates things, though. Even so, the Browns are facing a Vikings defense that is allowing better than 320 yards per game, so there will be some openings for Cameron in Minnesota's leaky secondary.

Hoyer may not be anything special, but it isn't as if Brandon Weeden is a particularly good quarterback either. The Browns need some source of offense, and the running game figures to be nonexistent. Cameron will be a solid safety valve for Hoyer, so he should excel in point-per-reception leagues.

Projection: Seven receptions for 74 yards and one touchdown

Sit: Martellus Bennett (CHI)

Bennett has adjusted well to life in Chicago, but his run of good luck figures to run out this week. Bennett has established a nice connection with quarterback Jay Cutler and has three touchdown catches through the Bears' first two games

However, the sledding will be much tougher on Monday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

While the Steelers have struggled as a team this season, their defense has been fine. Pittsburgh is allowing under 200 passing yards per game, and since Brandon Marshall remains Cutler's primary target, there won't be much left to go around for Bennett.

It's possible that Bennett could be the beneficiary of a short, red-zone touchdown, but that is too difficult to predict, and it's unlikely that he'll do much in terms of yardage.

Projection: Three receptions for 27 yards

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