Through two weeks of the NFL season, we’ve had some good times and bad.
Continuing with the dating analogy — the first two weeks have gone well, right? A connection is beginning to form. But now, texts aren’t being returned in a timely fashion; phone calls are going straight to voicemail; and when they do respond, their replies are short and impersonal.
It’s at this point you realize you’re in “relationship limbo.” Part of you thinks you’re dating, but deep down, you know you’re free to “play the field,” and the reasons are valid. But it makes you feel a certain way because you like the other person and thought there was something there. What could’ve been, you know?
With all of the injuries to some players that we were relying on, whether directly or by proxy, desperate times call for desperate measures. So you start wondering if you should start Ty’Son Williams over Joe Mixon? Or Rondale Moore over Mike Evans? Three weeks ago, these decisions were easy.
But now? Now you’re just trying to make sure what you thought you had was as special as initially believed.
Before diving into my Week 3 picks, a quick recap of last week: a little better with the Plays, finishing 6-10. A one-game improvement is still an improvement! Fades continue to be my strong suit, finishing 11-4-1 (Josh Jacobs being ruled out caused the lone tie). I still finished with 17 wins and remaining above .500 on the week and the season.
A quick reminder of what Play and Fade mean: Play simply means players that I love based on matchups and my expectation that they’ll finish with more points than projected. Fade indicates players that I think will underperform their projections/consensus weekly rankings. It doesn’t mean I’m outright benching them, but I’m likely not rushing to put them in any DFS lineups either. Onto Week 3.
QB Daniel Jones (NYG) vs. ATL – We preached that having a QB with rushing upside was a fantasy football cheat code all off-season. Well, Daniel Jones is third among QBs in rushing yards and is currently QB9 on the season. This week’s opponent, the Falcons, are traditionally abysmal outdoors and have been exceedingly terrible on defense to start the year. They’ve allowed the 4th most fantasy points to QBs and allowed the most passing touchdowns on the year. Jones has only had two or more passing touchdowns in a game once since Week 9 of last year. That changes this week.
Other QBs with good matchups: Derek Carr (LV) vs. MIA and Matthew Stafford (LAR) vs. TB
RB Chase Edmonds (ARI) @ JAX – James Conner may be seeing more carries, but Chase Edmonds has better yards per carry and has seen 100% of the Cardinals’ targets to RBs. The Jaguars are just bad on defense, allowing the 10th most fantasy points to RBs through two weeks. So now is as good a time as any for Edmonds to get his first touchdown on the season.
RB Melvin Gordon (DEN) vs. NYJ – While I also love Javonte Williams, the reason why I lean Gordon in this matchup is due to receiving work. Their snap share is essentially identical, but Gordon is their receiving back on third downs and is the one who has scored a TD on the season. James White abused the Jets through the air last week, and they allow the third-most receptions to backs on the season, a trend going back to the start of last season. Gordon should be a solid RB2 this week just as a receiver.
Other RBs with good matchups: D’Andre Swift (DET) vs. BAL, Ty’Son Williams (BAL) @ DET, and Nyheim Hines (IND) @ TEN
WR Courtland Sutton (DEN) vs. NYJ – Welcome back, Courtland Sutton! After his Week 2 explosion, Sutton now leads the NFL in air yards. QB Teddy Bridgewater is tied with Trevor Lawrence with the most pass attempts 20+ yards down the field and is 2nd behind only Russell Wilson in the percentage of targets downfield. Sutton had double the targets of the 2nd most targeted player on the Broncos in Week 2, accounting for a 35.3% target share. The Jets aren’t slowing down Sutton.
WR Jalen Reagor (PHI) @ DAL – The Dallas defense seems to be hit or miss. They’re giving up yards, but points come and go. Trevon Diggs has been solid, limiting catches to some of the top receivers in the league. That worries me with DeVonta Smith, making Reagor a sneaky play this week. Reagor has run 80% of his routes on the perimeter, which tells me he’ll see a lot of Cowboys CB Anthony Brown, and he’s yielded a touchdown in each game this season. If the Eagles are going to beat the Cowboys, they’ll need to score more than field goals. Reagor should have a good chance at a TD, making him a solid FLEX option.
Other WRs with good matchups: Chase Claypool (PIT) vs. CIN, Julio Jones (TEN) vs. IND, and Zach Pascal (IND) @ TEN
TE Kyle Pitts (ATL) @ NYG – The Giants have allowed the 4th most fantasy points to TEs through the first two weeks. If we know one thing about Pitts, he isn’t being used as a traditional TE. Does that mean a corner like James Bradberry will be lined up opposite him? Time will tell, but for now, I believe that what little offense the Falcons will muster on Sunday will primarily go the way of Pitts and Bradberry will be lined up on Calvin Ridley. The Unicorn has produced each week, lacking only a touchdown to make him more recognizable. We know good things happen in thirds—Pitts to the moon this week.
Other TEs with good matchups: Tyler Higbee (LAR) vs. TB and Jared Cook (LAC) @ KC
QB Joe Burrow (CIN) @ PIT – A traditionally strong pass defense, the Steelers have been mediocre to begin 2021. Joe Burrow and the Bengals are throwing the ball downfield more, utilizing 1st round pick Ja’Marr Chase as the deep threat they lacked in 2020. But Burrow has been sacked ten times to begin the year and was pressured into three picks last week. The Steelers have no shortage of pass rushers and should be able to pressure Burrow into enough mistakes that he falls outside the top 15 this week.
Other QBs with bad matchups: Trevor Lawrence (JAX) vs. ARI and Taylor Heinicke (WAS) @ BUF
RB Joe Mixon (CIN) @ PIT – The Steelers have allowed only 3.35 yards per carry to RBs on the season. The one thing you can conceivably count on with Mixon is volume, but it only goes so far at 3+ yards a carry. He hasn’t scored a touchdown on Pittsburgh since 2018, and the Steelers have yet to allow a touchdown to a running back this season. Volume could easily keep him in the Top 24 this week, but I would be okay sitting him to chase upside if you have other options.
RB Kareem Hunt (CLE) vs. CHI – Kareem Hunt makes his living on catching passes. Chicago allowed the 8th fewest receptions to RBs a year ago and has allowed a total of three receptions to RBs in two games this year. With Cleveland so short on wide receivers, this could easily blow up in my face, but seeing how the team used Demetric Felton, the rookie from UCLA, last week, I’m okay fading Hunt this week.
Other RBs with bad matchups: J.D. McKissic (WAS) @ BUF, Michael Carter (NYJ) @ DEN, and Damien Harris (NE) vs. NO
WR Deebo Samuel (SF) vs. GB – I’m not going to like this when it inevitably backfires. But with Jaire Alexander looming, I have to imagine that Samuel takes a big step back this week. Alexander has absolutely shut down half the field in back-to-back weeks, and I expect much of the same this week. If Kyle Shanahan ever decides to release George Kittle from his blocking assignments, this is the week to do it, as the Packers have allowed 3 TDs to TEs through the first two weeks. It’s all speculative, but I’m nervous about Samuel this week.
WR Chris Godwin (TB) @ LAR – Chris Godwin has run out of the slot on 70% of his routes to begin 2021. So he’s going to avoid Jalen Ramsey, a traditional outside corner, on Sunday, right? Not so fast. Ramsey has actually covered the slot more in 2021, lining up 54.8% of the time there. Ramsey has allowed six catches on the year and currently has the 5th highest coverage grade among corners, per PFF. If Tampa’s passing game goes wild this week, I’d expect it to be a lot of Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski as a result.
Other WRs with bad matchups: Henry Ruggs (LV) vs. MIA, Sammy Watkins (BAL) @ DET, and Marquez Callaway (NO) @ NE
TE Jack Doyle (IND) @ TEN – The Colts TEs are alive, right? I mean, they finally produced in Week 2! Doyle is 2nd on the team in targets, and with a young QB likely to start in place of Carson Wentz, a TE can be their best friend. I don’t think Tennessee much cares. For as bad as their defense has been this year, they have allowed one catch for 3 yards to TEs this year. And before you say, “They haven’t faced anyone!” — both Gerald Everett (Week 1) and Maxx Williams (Week 2) have topped ten fantasy points in their other matchup this season. Don’t get cute because Doyle was TE6 last week.
Other TEs with bad match-ups: Mike Gesicki (MIA) @ LV and Adam Trautman (NO) @ NE