BUMPS, BRUISES AND BOWOUTS
C.J. Anderson – Head
Marshawn Lynch – Hamstring
Marquise Lee – Hamstring
Charles Johnson – Ribs
Sammy Watkins – Calf
Ben Roethlisberger – Knee/MCL
Jeff Cumberland – Concussion
Jonathan Stewart – Leg
Juwan Thompson – Neck
Vernon Davis – Knee
Week 3 was all about big scoring games from the running backs and wide receivers while tight ends quietly became the unproductive position again. After three games, there is still a lot of changes to sort through and players to welcome back.
Sorry Antonio, the bell tolls for Le’Veon
Week 3 witnessed the return of Le’Veon Bell and just in time to see Ben Roethlisberger leave for a month or more with a sprained knee. As expected, Bell picked right up from 2014 and turned in 19 carries for 62 yards and one touchdown plus added seven receptions for 70 more yards. But replacing Roethlisberger with Michael Vick is certain to have an impact on the fantasy stars of the Steelers. Antonio Brown already totals 29 catches for 436 yards and two scores after just three weeks. But of the six passes thrown by Vick, he had just one incompletion for Brown. But Big Ben’s absence may actually benefit Bell. Vick threw three completions for 27 yards to him and with less chemistry with the wide receivers, is likely to continue to rely on his running back as a quick outlet.
Consider too that Brown will not have Roethlisberger when he faces the Ravens, Chargers, Cardinals, Chiefs and possibly the Bengals. Brown owners have reason to worry.
E Pluribus Unum
The NFL is rife with running back committees and many fantasy starters cannot meet expectations thanks to being just one of many runners that their team uses. Running backs like Lamar Miller, LeSean McCoy, C.J. Anderson and Alfred Morris were taken as fantasy starters but have seen their values plummet from a lack of carries and catches.
Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen and Andre Williams have taken turns as the Giants’ best fantasy back for the week. The same is true for the Titans who spun through Bishop Sankey, Dexter McCluster and Antonio Andrews as “the guy”. The Redskins churned through Alfred Morris, Matt Jones and Chris Thompson as their weekly best producers as well.
Backfield committees are tough enough when a team is consistent with the distribution of work. 2015 keeps serving up more confusion except for one category – when a running back is injured and they just load up on the “next guy”.
Consider the loss of Tevin Coleman for the Falcons allowed Devonta Freeman to explode in Dallas with 35 touches for 193 yards and three scores. When DeMarco Murray was scratched for the Eagles, Ryan Mathews turned in 27 touches for 128 yards and a touchdown in the win over the Jets. Chris Ivory did not play in that same game so Bilal Powell handled all but two carries and ended with 75 yards on ten rushes and caught seven passes for 44 more yards. Chris Johnson took over when Andre Ellington was injured and comes off a win over the 49ers with 150 total yards and two touchdowns.
Committees are here to stay but injuries often force teams to limit the normally shared workload to one running back. And that’s the guy you want in your lineup.
Le’Veon Bell wasn’t the only player who returned to prominence in Week 3. LeGarrette Blount was little used in Week 2 but reassumes his role as the main rusher for the Patriots. He ran for 78 yards and scored three touchdowns all from the one-yard line. Todd Gurley had an inauspicious debut with only nine yards on six carries and he’ll slowly ramp up his workload. But he’ll come off a Week 6 bye to play in home games against the Browns, 49ers and Bears. Mike Evans also gained 101 yards on seven catches in the loss to the Texans after being blanked in Week 2 when he had a minimal role.
Week 4 may see two more fantasy veterans return. Arian Foster had a smooth recovery from his groin surgery and may be active for the first time. The Texans desperately need the production and balance he brings to the offense. And Victor Cruz has already said he will be suiting up for the Bills game this weekend. He’ll need time to reintegrate and his knee surgery may not allow him to return to the same form. But Cruz offers a complement for Odell Beckham and helps an offense that is slowly improving.
Free Agent Fizzle
After Week 3, the reality is that there won’t be any hot free agent pickups unless there is an NFL injury that promotes a new player into the starting lineup or a team owner in your league drops a player he should have kept. Both will be happening this season. But those will mostly be related to the size of your league and rosters. And how many unwise owners you have. Pay attention to changes in the NFL for opportunities.
Josh McCown returned for the Browns and he gave tight end Gary Barnridge a career best game of 105 yards and a touchdown. That’s certainly just a freak good game. But what is worth noting is that with Johnny Manziel as the starter, Brian Hartline only totaled two catches over two games. But with McCown, he reeled in five passes for 96 yards. The Browns acquired him to become a possession receiver that Manziel was unable to use.
The Giants also needed someone to step up besides Odell Beckham and made a concerted effort to involve Rueben Randle against the Redskins. He responded with a career best seven catches for 116 yards and one score. Victor Cruz is returning but comes off a significant knee injury. Randle can remain a big weapon and pay off in the future for the Giants. Consider after facing the Bills this week, Randle faces the 49ers, Eagles, Cowboys, Saints and Buccaneers.
Charles Clay also deserves consideration for your tight end depth now that he’s scored in the last two games and comes off a five catch, 82-yard effort in Miami. Granted he was motivated facing his old team but he is a red zone weapon and one of the most targeted receivers for the Bills.
No need to get comfortable yet
After the tight end scoring frenzy in Week 1 that set the NFL record of 22 touchdowns scored, the position is suddenly quiet. Week 3 only witnessed seven scores from six different tight ends and those from Charles Clay, Gary Barnridge and Clay Harbor were not likely in a fantasy lineup. The wide receivers are the fantasy studs again with six different players turning in two touchdowns and at least 110 receiving yards each. Seven different running backs also scored at least twice despite Week 2 only serving up just two rushers with multiple scores. Week 4 is when offenses start to become more predictable.
Bye Week Defenses and Kickers
Smaller rosters often mean carrying just one defense and one kicker. This week the Patriots and Titans are the only teams out and that will affect the many Stephen Gostkowski and Patriots defense owners. Considerations for defenses that are likely still on your waiver wire include the Raiders (at Chicago), Saints (versus Cowboys) and Chargers (versus Browns). For kickers, the better bets are Mike Nugent (versus Chiefs), Graham Gano (at Tampa Bay) and Chandler Cantanzaro (versus Rams).
Rookie Wideout Report
There is little doubt that Amari Cooper is already the best rookie receiver this year. But other wideouts are starting to show up at least enough to suggest that better games are likely just down the road.
DeVante Parker (Dolphins) – After just one pass over the first two weeks, Parker was targeted seven times against the Bills and ended with three catches for 46 yards. That still lagged Rishard Matthews and Jarvis Landry but more importantly he dominated the rotation that includes Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings.
Nelson Agholor (Eagles) – Though targeted as much as any wideouts besides Jordan Matthews, Agholor failed to catch any of his four passes versus the Jets. The Eagles passing offense is struggling under Sam Bradford and there is no positive changes expected soon.
Philip Dorsett (Colts) – He scored his first NFL touchdown in Tennessee but remains locked behind T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and Andre Johnson. He’ll remain too little used to consider for a fantasy start.
Devin Smith (Jets) – The blazing fast speedster from Ohio State had his NFL debut in Week 3 when he turned in three catches for 39 yards. But worth noting here is that he received nine targets in the game. He needs to be on fantasy rosters as depth since the talented rookie will figure in this year.
Dorial Green-Beckham (Titans) – He was dropped from many rosters when he was never thrown a pass in Week 1. But he’s scored in each of the last two games and is already becoming a preferred end zone target with “what push-off?” skills as he uses his 6-5 frame. His yardage remains low but touchdowns always help fantasy value.
Devin Funchess (Panthers) – Though he has arguably the best situation of all rookie wide receivers, Funchess remains well below any fantasy value. He’s been stuck at just one catch per week.
|WAS 21, NYG 32||Kirk Cousins finally threw for 316 yards but only one touchdown. Matt Jones seemed like a hot commodity but he fumbled and suddenly Chris “Freaking” Thompson caught eight passes for 57 yards and one score almost certainly while on the waiver wire in every league in the world. Jordan Reed (6-96) and Pierre Garcon (5-64) had decent games. Eli Manning passed for 279 yards and two scores. The nice part was that Odell Beckham (7-79, TD) and Rueben Randle (7-116, TD) both had good games though the rushing effort for the Giants is a three-headed
|CIN 28, BAL 24||Andy Dalton had a season high 383 yards and three touchdowns while A.J. Green turned in ten catches for 227 yards and two touchdowns. Jeremy Hill (12-21) played this week, sort of, and Giovani Bernard (13-40) came back to earth. The Ravens totaled only 36 rushing yards while Justin Forsett continues to resemble 2009-2013 and not 2014. But Joe Flacco passed for 362 yards and two touchdowns that both went to Steve Smith (13-186, 2 TD) while no other Ravens player mattered. This game was really just Smith vs. Green with Marvin Jones scoring the deciding touchdown.|
|NO 22, CAR 27||Luke McCown threw for a very credible 31-38-310 but had no touchdowns. Every Saints player remained below 50 yards except for Brandin Cooks (7-79). These did look like the Saints (Pre-Brees). The Panthers won thanks to Cam Newton (315 yards, 2 TD) who ran in a score so that Jonathan Stewart (14-52) would remain mediocre. Greg Olsen (8-134, 2 TD) finally had his big game of the year and Ted Ginn (4-93) continues to surprise. Mostly this was about how the Saints are in trouble and apparently it is not about Brees.|
|OAK 27, CLE 20||The Raiders continue to surprise and this time in the right way. Derek Carr passed for 314 yards and two scores and Amari Cooper (8-134) was more than Joe Haden could handle. Michael Crabtree (4-36) had a down game but Latavius Murray (26-139, TD) had one of his best performances so far. Josh McCown threw for 341 yards and two scores but that mostly went to tight end Gary Barnridge (for those fantasy owners who want to grab the flavor the week and then be disappointed). In total, the Browns at home versus the Raiders only rushed for 39 yards on 14 carries. Raiders looking better and Cooper is for real.|
|ATL 39, DAL 28||The Cowboys led 28-17 at the half but never really showed up starting with the third quarter. The rushing effort seemed unstoppable with Joseph Randle (14-87, 3 TD) and Darren McFadden (6-35, TD) looking great in the first half and then almost nothing in the second half. Lance Dunbar (10-100) was the top receiver and even Jason Witten (6-65) played. But no wideout did much and Brandon Weeded only passed for 232 yards and no scores. Matt Ryan threw for 285 yards and two scores that almost entirely went to Julio Jones (12-164, 2 TDs). Devonta Freeman also ran better than ever with Tevin Coleman gone. Freeman covered 141 yards on 30 carries with three touchdowns plus 52 more yards on five catches. The Falcons looked sharp against a good defense but the Cowboys could not make the adjustments after the first half.|
|TB 9, HOU 19||This game was actually better than the score indicated. While Jameis Winston only passed for 261 yards and one touchdown, Mike Evans stepped up to catch seven passes for 101 yards for his first good showing of the year. Ryan Mallett threw for 228 yards and one score but at least DeAndre Hopkins ended with eight catches for 101 yards and the touchdown. Alfred Blue also rushed for 139 yards and a score on 31 carries during the weekly “guess who?” in the Texans backfield that should end with the return of Arian Foster. Low scoring but at least a few nice fantasy performances.|
|SD 14, MIN 31||The Chargers lost control of this game after halftime when it was 7-10 in favor of the Vikings. Teddy Bridgewater only passed for 121 yards and one interception but Adrian Peterson ran for 126 yards and two scores. No Vikings receivers had more than 49 yards. Philip Rivers only managed 246 yards and one touchdown before being yanked at the end of the game for Kellen Clemens. Keenan Allen turned in 12 receptions for 133 yards and two scores but no other Chargers did much including Melvin Gordon (14-51). The Vikes defense is quietly better than most realize but it takes Peterson to come to life for the offense to work.|
|JAX 17, NE 51||It was mildly surprising that the Patriots cared enough to score 51 points in a game everyone on the planet knew they would win. Tom Brady passed for 358 yards and two touchdowns though Rob Gronkowski (4-101) did not score. Dion Lewis still turned in 67 total yards and a touchdown but LeGarrette Blount was back and ran for 78 yards and three touchdowns. Blake Bortles passed for 242 yards and two scores but there were no standouts one than Alan Hurns gaining 79 yards and a score on just two catches. This was just the start of the Patriots two week bye.|
|PHI 24, NYJ 17||Every week there are upsets and surprises and the 0-2 Eagles leading 24-7 at the half in New York was not expected. Darren Sproles returned a punt for a score plus ran in one as well. Since DeMarco Murray was inactive, Ryan Mathews ran for 108 yards and scored on a reception as well. But no one else on the Eagles managed more than 50 yards in the game. Sam Bradford finally won and only completed 14 of 18 for 118 yards and one touchdown. Ryan Fitzpatrick passed for 283 yards and two scores but had three interceptions and only Brandon Marshall (10-109, TD) mattered. With no Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell only ran for 31 yards on ten catches but gained 44 yards on seven catches. The Eagles won but it was hardly a domination. The Jets turned the ball over four times and let the Eagles score on special teams.|
|PIT 12, STL 6||This game was a downer for several reasons. First – 18 points in total? Then Ben Roethlisberger injures his knee which as of this writing seems to be a 4-6 week sprain and that’s far better than it looked. Antonio Brown (11-108) already wrapped up yet another great game but on going with Michael Vick? He’ll likely still do well just not as well. The return of Le’Veon Bell produced 62 rushing yards and a score plus seven catches for 70 yards so nothing has changed there. But the rest of the team did nothing and now without Big Ben, the future looks less rosy. Nick Foles only passed for 197 yards and no scores and the only player of any note was Kenny Britt (7-102). The debut of Todd Gurley only produced six carries for nine yards. This was point deficient and then Roethlisberger was hurt. Not a good time.|
|SF 7, ARI 47||The 49ers did not pull Colin Kaepernick but maybe they should have. He only completed 9 of 19 passes for 67 yards and four touchdowns. Carlos Hyde ran for 51 yards on 15 carries. That’s all. The Cardinals had Carson Palmer throwing for 311 yards and two scores that both went to Larry Fitzgerald (9-134, 2 TDs) who has returned to top form now that Palmer is back. C.J. Johnson rushed for 110 yards and two scores and added a 40-yard catch as well. The Cardinals are not only 3-0, only the Packers can be considered an equal in the NFC. The 49ers are looking as bad – maybe even worse – than most feared with all the upheaval in the offseason.|
|BUF 41, MIA 14||The Bills are rather inconsistent so far and spent Sunday “and good again”. Tyrod Taylor passed for 277 yards and three scores. Charles Clay (5-82, TD) was the lead receiver no doubt motivated by meeting his old team. LeSean McCoy scored a touchdown on his only catch but rushed for only 16 yards on 11 carries while once again Karlos Williams (12-110, TD) was the superior runner. Ryan Tannehill threw for 297 yards and two scores but had three interceptions. Rishard Matthews (6-113, 2 TD) turned in a monster game while Jarvis Landry (8-67) had his standard short catch afternoon. Lamar Miller (7-38) continues to struggle and Jonas Gray (9-49) now gives every Miller owner an even bigger headache wondering if this is now a full blown committee. Bottom line – Fins offense still not hitting on all cylinders and the rushing offense is surprisingly bad.|
|CHI 0, SEA 26||Nothing unexpected since the Bears were Matt Forte (20-74) and nothing else. Jimmy Clausen only passed for 63 yards but had no interceptions. The Bears only gained 161 total yards. Russell Wilson just passed for 235 yards and one score to Jimmy Graham (7-83, TD) since it was an easy spot in the schedule to stop Graham’s grumbling for at least one week. But Marshawn Lynch only played for five carries and left with a hamstring problem again. The Seahawks went with the rookie Thomas Rawls who only had two carries over the first two weeks but ended with 16 runs for 104 yards. to the dismay of every Fred Jackson (2-13) owner who hoped the game would offer some clean up work. The Bears are understandably overmatched without Jay Cutler and Alshon Jeffery. Throw in one of the weakest defenses and this may take some time to see improvement.|
|DEN 24, DET 12||Maybe it has not been pretty and maybe it has been scary. But regardless, the Broncos are still 3-0 in a division that is not looking that tough this year. Peyton Manning passed for 324 yards and two scores with Demaryius Thomas (9-92, TD) leading the team and Emmanuel Sanders (6-87) still chipping in decent fantasy points. The rushing offense remains a horribly muddle and unproductive mess for a unit that was so good in 2014. Matt Stafford passed for 282 yards and a score but he tossed two interceptions. Calvin Johnson (8-77) settled for a team high workload playing short in front of Aqib Talib. Once again the Lions had nearly no rushing offense and though Ameer Abdullah scored on a 16-yard catch, the Lions still opt for Theo Riddick (8-66) when they throw all those half back passes at the end of games.|
HUDDLE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
A.J. Green – He’s been mostly quiet so far this year but Green blew up for 10 catches for 227 yards and two scores that beat the Ravens in Baltimore. The rushing offense lagged against a good defense but at least Green is at his best when they need him the most.
DRAMA 101 – SOMEBODY HAS TO LAUGH, SOMEBODY HAS TO CRY
|QB||Josh McCown||341||2||QB||Ben Roethlisberger||192||0|
|RB||Chris Thompson||86||1||RB||Marshawn Lynch||23||0|
|RB||Alfred Blue||139||1||RB||C.J. Anderson||27||0|
|WR||Rueben Randle||116||1||WR||Sammy Watkins||39||0|
|WR||Jeremy Kerley||33||1||WR||Terrence Williams||0||0|
|WR||Seth Roberts||56||1||WR||Vincent Jackson||40||0|
|TE||Gary Barnridge||105||1||TE||Tyler Eifert||0||0|
|PK||Chandler Cantanzaro||1 FG, 6 XP||PK||Dan Bailey||4 XP|
|Huddle Fantasy Points = 124||Huddle Fantasy Points = 25|
Sunday’s Couch Commentary
Not as many upsets as Week 2 but there was an odd mixture of very low scoring games and a few point bonanzas. Three weeks in and we have just seven teams that are still undefeated and for that are still searching for their first win. Of 16 teams in the NFC, only six have winning records. The Cardinals and Packers already appear to be the class of the conference while the AFC is juggling the Patriots, Bengals and Broncos as the upper tier.
Colts 35, Titans 33
What a great game!
Andrew Luck still had two interceptions but threw for 260 yards and two scores. Frank Gore finally got into gear and ran for 86 yards and two touchdowns. T.Y. Hilton only caught four passes but gained 94 yards thanks to a 48-yard reception. Donte Moncrief still scored once but had only 43 yards while the rookie Philip Dorsett (2-43, TD) had his first NFL touchdowns. Adam Vinatieri only had five extra points in his quest to end up as the worst kicker that everyone wanted to draft.
Marcus Mariota threw for 367 yards and two scores with Kendall Wright (7-95, TD) and Delaine Walker (7-68) as the best receivers. The two rushing scores of course went to Antonio Andrews (12-49, TD) and little known rookie full back Jalston Fowler (4-9, TD).
The Titans led this 27-14 entering the fourth quarter but Luck engineered two long touchdown drives and an interception was returned to the Titans 11-yard line that led to the Moncrief score. The Colts had a chance to tie but missed the two point conversion.
Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning are back (mostly) and many stars of 2014 are showing up again. The loss of Ben Roethlisberger will be huge for the Steelers and Antonio Brown owners. Injuries mix up fantasy lineups and add a bigger challenge but they also offer opportunities for other players. We are not returning to 2014 but at least we’re starting to understand what 2015 is going to be about. The teams are settling down and offenses becoming either clearer or at least so notoriously confusing and unproductive that there is no temptation to get involved.
And then someone else will get injured and the bad will get better and the good will get worse.
And that is the consistency.
Now get back to work…