Three weeks down and we’re starting to see trends. Player and team identities are developing.
We begin to realize which defenses are for real as the depth of statistical data builds. One team that stands out to me is how well the Buffalo Bills have played against wide receivers. After losing Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby in the offseason, this secondary hasn’t missed a beat. My skepticism remained after the Bills went to work against the New York Jets and then the Carolina Panthers. Most of it was erased versus the Denver Broncos, even though Emmanuel Sanders could have made it look much worse statistically. This week, the Atlanta Falcons will be the perfect test for how good the Bills really can be against fantasy receivers and quarterbacks.
A quick rundown of positional success so far shows we’ve witnessed a swell in receiving productivity, with 14 players in Week 3 topping the 100-yard mark, not including the yet-to-be-played Monday Night Football action. There were only five players with 100 receiving yards in Week 2 and six in Week 1.
100-yard rushing games: In Week 1, five players topped the century mark, followed by three in Week 2 and five in Week 3 prior to MNF.
300-yard passing: Week 1 produced six, the next week went up to seven, and the third slate of the year generated nine before MNF.
Ranked 28th in fantasy points per game: It has been a painfully slow start for Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, as any of his fantasy owners will attest. Losing tight end Greg Olsen was going to be hard to overcome, and we all knew it, but the loss of Kelvin Benjamin further compounded Newton’s woes.
Takeaway: Regardless of how long Benjamin is out, if he is at all, Newton is wholly unplayable at this time. He couldn’t exploit the freakin’ New Orleans Saints. Those same Saints Sam Bradford and Tom Brady thoroughly humiliated in consecutive games to open the year. Up next: Trips to New England and Detroit, then home against Philly and back on the road to Chicago.
20.4 fantasy points per game: No, not Matt Ryan. … Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff! He, rightfully, was the butt of many jokes after his dismal rookie season. His turnaround has been nothing short of impressive under Sean McVay, with Goff throwing five TDs to only one interception, completing nearly 71 percent of his passes.
Takeaway: Goff was the No. 1 pick in 2016 for a reason. Sure, we’d like to see more than five scores in three contests, but one step at a time. Goff is making smarter choices with the ball, and that breeds success. Success leads to confidence. Confidence creates a willingness to push the ball down the field. … All excellent factors in creating a fantasy quarterback. Through three games, we’re looking at the No. 11 fantasy passer, ahead of so many dudes who were actually drafted in fantasy.
Also read: Week 3 fantasy impact
17 touches: Detroit Lions running back Ameer Abdullah has not been particularly effective with his touches, which is understandably notable. The bigger point is that for the third straight game he has seen at least 17 touches and 14 rushes in an offense that has been especially quick to give up on the running game.
Takeaway: Detroit remained committed to giving him the ball. Any running back who gets 14 carries with regularity should be in a fantasy lineup. Bear in mind, the Lions were down their starting center in Week 3, which led to left guard Graham Glasgow shifting to center. Glasgow’s normal backup, Joe Dahl, also was inactive, thrusting Zac Kerin into the starting left guard spot. He signed with the team just three weeks ago. All of this is without left tackle Taylor Decker. Abdullah’s production will rise and match his stable workload.
44: The number of combined offensive touches between Chicago Bears running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen in Week 3.
Takeaway: Both backs were quite productive, although I’ll contend the overtime touchdown by Howard belonged to Cohen. (There was green between his foot and the sideline. I digress.) The purpose of this inclusion is to highlight that the receiver-less Bears realize they must commit to their talented backfield to have any chance of success, and seeing 40 combined touches for these backs will be in play each week.
8: How many targets per game Tennessee Titans WR Rishard Matthews has averaged three weeks into the season.
Takeaway: There is something to be said about Marcus Mariota’s confidence in Matthews. It was readily apparent last year. New weapons Eric Decker and Corey Davis both have battled injuries and failed to gain important chemistry-building time with their quarterback. Tight end Delanie Walker is the only other downfield receiving weapon Mariota regularly targets. Through thick and thin, Matthews should be treated a weekly lineup fixture in all scoring formats.
Minnesota Vikings interim signal-caller Case Keenum was a monster in Week 3, finishing with 369 yards and three scores.
Takeaway: There is a lot of tape on Keenum and plenty of statistical evidence to back up the notion this was uncharacteristic of the former collegiate ‘slinger from a prolific Houston Red Raiders passing system. In the NFL, Keenum has attempted at least 22 passes in 25 games. Only three times has he eclipsed the 300-yard barrier, including this contest, and only four times has he tossed at least three TDs in a game, also including Week 3. He has been unable to top 205 yards in 52 percent of his games to date, and Keenum failed to throw more than one TD in 72 percent of those 25 games.
5: The number of receptions allowed through three games by Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey, a rising star on the defense.
Takeaway: Consider this when starting low-end receivers against Jacksonville. They faced several uninspiring passing attacks in Tennessee, Houston, and Baltimore — don’t overweight this data when Ramsey lines up against established veterans.
Baltimore Ravens running back Alex Collins totaled 82 yards on nine totes in Week 3’s blowout loss to the Jaguars.
Takeaway: Fantasy gamers may be inclined to add Collins after Terrance West, who entered the game on the mend, was ineffective and fumbled. There isn’t anything wrong with the speculative add, but it must come with the notice of this was garbage-time production for the former Seattle Seahawk. Jacksonville was playing mostly off-coverage and allowing the Ravens to run with impunity.
Staying in that Ravens-Jaguars matchup, Jacksonville tight end Marcedes Lewis obliterated Baltimore to the tune of three touchdowns.
Takeaway: This is as much of a fluke as possible … (insert dramatic pause here). However … the offense is down Allen Robinson, severely lacks wideout depth, doesn’t really have a third-down back, and Lewis is the face of the tight end position. He may not score three more times in 2017, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have some fantasy utility with the right matchup or via an increased receptions volume for PPR players.
Green Bay Packers running back Ty Montgomery amazingly caught eight passes for a mere 15 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3. How does that even happen?!
Takeaway: It was the product of several elemental factors. The Packers couldn’t effectively run the ball inside, which led to Mike McCarthy calling designed passes to get Montgomery in open space. Much of this happened because Green Bay was without starting left tackle David Bakhtiari and, eventually, right tackle Brian Bulaga. Credit also goes to Cincinnati for tackling well.
Gut check: With the electric offerings from Alvin Kamara and steady play by Mark Ingram, Adrian Peterson needs to be cast from all fantasy rosters at this point. Even with his highest workload of 2017 in Week 3, he was unbearably awful. It is sad to watch greatness founder. At this point, I believe $3.5 million in dead cap space is preventing Peterson from being released, because no team will trade for him.
Here’s a thought: WR Trent Taylor could become something with a regular role in San Francisco’s offense. He logged a healthy 39 snaps (47.5%), primarily from the slot, in Week 3. The rookie receiver is a complementary weapon who functions well underneath. This offense could utilize a safety blanket for Brian Hoyer, particularly since there isn’t a tight end of note on the roster. PPR gamers should stash Taylor if the opportunity isn’t taxing on positional depth.
I want to believe: DeShone Kizer‘s moxie justifies a fantasy roster spot. He has a big arm and isn’t afraid to use it. This attribute gets him into trouble, which means gamers must tolerate mistakes, so he isn’t for everyone. Kizer is adept at making plays with his legs, and there are so many bad fantasy quarterback situations right now. Kizer is worth owning for a bye week plug-in, even more so if the likes of Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Philip Rivers, Tyrod Taylor, etc. have let you down.
Book it: Three weeks in and there’s no doubt in my mind Carson Wentz’s BFF Zach Ertz will be the TE1 this season. I will contend only his own or Rob Gronkowski’s health could prevent Ertz from accomplishing this feat. I’ll side with history and suggest Gronk misses time in 2017. Even a game or two would be all the difference.
It sure seems like: the Denver Broncos need to involve Jamaal Charles more in the passing game. He looks spry and capable of doing damage in limited doses. The NFL’s all-time leader in rushing average has just two grabs against 28 rushes in three games. Charles has averaged nearly three receptions per game in his career and has scored 20 times through the air, making it curious as to why Denver won’t employ every resource available.
I feel: Wide receiver Bruce Ellington could carve out a meaningful role in the Houston Texans offense. Will Fuller is week-to-week and hasn’t been able to build much of a rapport with Deshaun Watson. Ellington, operating under a clean slate in Houston, flashed in San Francisco several times but couldn’t stay on the field. Perhaps it amounts to nothing, but Houston is in dire need of someone opposite DeAndre Hopkins to step up.