Fantasy Football Week 3: Confident Calls on Toughest Lineup Decisions

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistSeptember 21, 2018

Fantasy Football Week 3: Confident Calls on Toughest Lineup Decisions

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    Time flies when you're having fun—or in this case, after a heavy dose of NFL action. It seems like only yesterday that we were running down fantasy draft rankings. Now we're into Week 3, and some fantasy owners may already be scrambling to keep their playoff hopes alive.

    Hopefully, your early draft picks are performing as expected, making it a no-brainer to keep them in your lineup every week. The decisions involving those second-tier players are what generally make or break a fantasy week.

    We're here to help with those decisions. We'll be looking at some of the toughest Week 3 matchups and deciding whether players are worth the start. We'll be analyzing factors like early-season performances, opponent and player health.

    We'll be making our choices based on point-per-reception (PPR) scoring formats.

        

QB Deshaun Watson vs. New York Giants

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    Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson was a popular name during fantasy drafts, but he hasn't been a consistent star thus far this season. He had only 176 passing yards in Week 1 and has three touchdowns, two interceptions and a lost fumble through two games.

    Lighting it up like last year, he is not.

    This week, Watson goes up against a Giants defense that is allowing an average of 301.5 yards per game, sixth-fewest in the NFL. We still like him this week, though.

    Watson looked more like his 2017 self against Tennessee in Week 2 (310 passing yards), and he'll be playing in front of Houston's home crowd Sunday for the first time this season. The Giants defense proved susceptible to big plays last week when it gave up a 64-yard touchdown reception to Tavon Austin.

    Expect Watson to hit a few big plays through the air and to take advantage of his legs regularly. Cowboys QB Dak Prescott rushed for 45 yards against the Giants last week, and Watson should be able to top that number.

    Verdict: Start

    Projection: 295 yards passing, 65 yards rushing, 3 TDs

QB Philip Rivers vs. Los Angeles Rams

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    Get ready to witness battle of Los Angeles this weekend.

    No, not the subpar Aaron Eckhart movie from 2011. Instead, the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers will be dueling Sunday afternoon.

    Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has been superb through two weeks, passing for 680 yards with six touchdowns and only one interception. However, he'll be facing a dominant Rams defense this week, one that has made other quarterbacks look foolish.

    So far, the Rams have allowed 266.0 yards per game, third-fewest in the NFL, and they've come away with four interceptions. They'll be playing at home, where they shut out the Arizona Cardinals a week ago.

    The Rams have given up only 6.5 points per game, so we cannot expect Rivers to be repeatedly throwing into the end zone. Add in their defense's proven ability to create takeaways and Rivers becomes a risky option, even if he does produce plenty of yards between the 20s.

    Verdict: Sit

    Projection: 275 yards passing, 1 TD, 2 INT, 1 fumble

RB Phillip Lindsay vs. Baltimore Ravens

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    Undrafted rookie running back Phillip Lindsay has been one of the NFL's biggest surprises this season. Despite being part of a committee, he has already rushed for 176 yards and has added three receptions for 35 yards and a score.

    However, the Denver Broncos refuse to name Lindsay anything more than part of that committee, which can make things difficult on fantasy owners.

    "To have three guys who are all different is really tough on defenses," head coach Vance Joseph said, per Zack Kelberman of 247Sports. "He can be the [No. 3 RB] and still get 10 touches or 12 or 14."

    If Lindsay gets only a handful of carries in a given week, fantasy owners will pay dearly.

    Don't expect that to happen against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 3. While the Ravens have a stout overall defense (263.0 yards per game allowed), they showed cracks against the Cincinnati Bengals last week.

    Expect Lindsay to be the big-play hitter in a Denver offense that will look to protect quarterback Case Keenum with the ground game.

    Verdict: Start

    Projection: 90 rushing yards, 2 receptions, 25 yards, 1 TD

RB LeSean McCoy vs. Minnesota Vikings

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    Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy has regularly been a fantasy stud over the past few seasons, but he's been a disappointment though the first two weeks of 2018. He has only 61 yards rushing and five receptions for 28 yards.

    Don't expect McCoy to bounce back against the Minnesota Vikings this week.

    Minnesota has an aggressive defense that has allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to running backs, according to FantasyPros. The Vikings will be facing a rookie quarterback in Josh Allen, so they'll most likely spend the entire game daring Allen to beat them.

    On top of a tough matchup, McCoy is also dealing with cracked rib cartilage, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. McCoy is expected to play, but he won't be at 100 percent.

    Being at less than 100 percent against a fast, physical front seven is a recipe for disaster, even for a shifty runner like McCoy.

    Verdict: Sit

    Projection: 55 rushing yards, 2 receptions, 12 yards

RB Christian McCaffrey vs. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey is not a surefire fantasy star in standard-scoring formats. He has only 87 yards rushing through two weeks, and he failed to top the 100-yard mark in combined rushing and receiving yards in Week 1.

    But in PPR formats, McCaffrey is a viable starter even against stingy defenses, like the one he'll face Sunday. The Cincinnati Bengals have allowed an average of 70.5 rushing yards per game so far, third-fewest in the NFL. They held Ravens RB Alex Collins to a mere 35 rushing yards and three receptions in Week 2.

    However, McCaffrey is going to get you points even if he doesn't rack up the yards. He had a whopping 14 catches against the Atlanta Falcons last week, and while repeating that number is unrealistic, McCaffrey should still be able to put up a half-dozen receptions against Cincinnati.

    McCaffrey should be a safe start based on receiving volume alone.

    Verdict: Start

    Projection: 40 rushing yards, 6 receptions, 45 yards receiving, 1 TD

RB Derrick Henry vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Unlike McCaffrey, Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry holds more value in standard formats than in PPR. The bruising runner shares a backfield with Dion Lewis, who is unquestionably Tennessee's receiving back.

    Lewis' presence has prevented Henry from becoming the breakout star some expected him to be. Lewis has picked up right where DeMarco Murray left off last year, keeping Henry's production in check.

    Through two weeks, Henry has only 82 rushing yards on 28 carries and one reception, although he did throw an eight-yard pass last week. Don't expect Henry to suddenly break out against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who allowed a miniscule 82 yards rushing a week ago.

    If Henry was more of a receiving threat, he might be worth a start. The Titans are going to look for ways to protect their quarterback, whoever it may beMarcus Mariota is still dealing with a hand injury—against Jacksonville's pass rush with quick passes.

    Since Lewis is Tennessee's receiving back, Henry is purely bench fodder.

    Verdict: Sit

    Projection: 60 rushing yards

WR Emmanuel Sanders vs Baltimore Ravens

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    The Broncos will likely try to limit Case Keenum's exposure to Baltimore's defense—the Ravens have six sacks and two interceptions this season, while Keenum has thrown four picks—by utilizing the running game. However, this doesn't mean Keenum won't be passing at all in Week 3.

    Keenum's favorite target, Emmanuel Sanders, is still a safe start. Sanders has racked up 14 receptions already this season, 10 in Week 1. He also has 231 yards and a touchdown.

    Sanders will have a favorable matchup working out of the slot. According to Rich Hribar of Rotoworld, Ravens slot corner Tavon Young surrendered six catches for 80 yards and two touchdowns last week.

    Keenum clearly trusts Sanders, so if the Ravens pass rush does start getting to him, he's likely to start looking to Sanders as a first read. Don't be surprised if Sanders grabs at least a half-dozen balls Sunday.

    Verdict: Start

    Projection: 7 receptions, 85 yards, 1 TD

WR Randall Cobb vs. Washington Redskins

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    Green Bay Packers WR Randall Cobb became a popular name in fantasy after amassing nine receptions, 142 yards and a touchdown in Week 1. He also happens to catch passes from Aaron Rodgers, which tends to be a good thing in fantasy.

    However, Cobb fell off in Week 2, finishing with only 30 yards and fumbling once. This week, he faces another tough matchup, as the Washington Redskins have allowed 161.0 passing yards per game, fewest in the NFL.

    Rodgers is also still dealing with the knee injury he suffered in Week 1, and he admitted he's concerned about doing further damage.

    "Yeah, obviously that's a concern," Rodgers told reporters Wednesday. "Hopefully it goes the other way, though."

    An inconsistent receiver, a tough defense and a damaged quarterback? It's hard to see Cobb as a reliable option this week.

    Verdict: Sit

    Projection: 4 receptions, 45 yards

TE Jared Cook vs. Miami Dolphins

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    Oakland Raiders tight end Jared Cook had a stellar Week 1 (nine receptions, 180 yards) before cooling off with an average Week 2 (four receptions, 49 yards). So, where will he fall against the Miami Dolphins in Week 3?

    Likely somewhere in between.

    The Dolphins have an underrated defense that has allowed only 16.0 points per game. That means fantasy owners shouldn't count on Cook to cross the goal line (he hasn't yet). However, Miami has surrendered an average of 270.0 passing yards per game, 24th in the NFL, and has only three sacks.

    That suggests quarterback Derek Carr should be able to get going.

    When Carr is playing well, it behooves Cook, who has become a major piece of the Raiders offense this season. Expect Carr to look for his tight end early and often.

    Verdict: Start

    Projection: 5 receptions, 85 yards

Falcons D/ST vs. New Orleans Saints

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    The New Orleans Saints offense had a rough outing last week against the Cleveland Browns, totaling only 21 points and losing two fumbles. Does that make the Atlanta Falcons D/ST a solid streaming option at home?

    The short answer is no.

    While the Falcons defense does have its merits—it has two interceptions, four sacks and has allowed an average of 21.0 points per game—the Saints are a familiar foe that will be looking to rebound in a big way.

    Don't be shocked if Drew Brees and Co. get back on track in a game that could easily turn into a shootout.

    Verdict: Sit

    Projection: 31 points allowed, two sacks, 1 INT 

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