Fantasy Football Recap and Takeaways: Week 3
Now that’s more like it. A tedious start to 2017 made way for closer, higher scoring games in a thrilling Week 3 slate.
Starting with an unexpected shootout between the Rams and 49ers, every winning squad scored at least 20 points. Twenty teams registered 24 points or more before Monday night, which meant several big names redeemed disappointing beginnings to 2017.
Let’s run through a high-octane Week 3 to observe the top fantasy results and ramifications.
Los Angeles Rams 41, San Francisco 49ers 39
- Week 3 either started awesome or awful for many fantasy managers. The highest scoring Thursday Night Football game ever featured Todd Gurley going off for 149 total yards and three touchdowns while Carlos Hyde delivered 94 yards and two scores. Gurley’s 28 carries represented a personal high since his third career game in 2015, and Hyde’s 25 handoffs marked his busiest rushing day since opening 2015 with 26 carries. The sky is the limit for both NFC West rushers when their respective offenses are rolling. Gurley particularly looks like the first-round caliber superstar drafters anticipated heading into 2016.
- Nearly every startable skill-position player offered positive returns. Except Cooper Kupp, who caught both of his targets for 17 yards while Robert Woods corralled six of seven targets for 108 yards. Woods, whose preseason buzz fizzled when the Rams acquired Sammy Watkins, played 62 of 67 snaps while Kupp took the field for 40 plays. While Watkins is the only one to start with confidence, Kupp and Woods are both worth owning, as the Rams have already more points this season than in last year’s final nine games.
- After receiving 10 targets for the second time in three weeks, Pierre Garcon has 25 targets on Brian Hoyer‘s 99 pass attempts. He won’t amass 142 yards many more times-he had one 100-yard game last year and none in 2015-but the 32-year-old remains a steady PPR volume play who can chip his way to another 1,000-yard campaign.
Jacksonville Jaguars 44, Baltimore Ravens 7
- Joe Flacco’s final stat line: 8-of-18, 28 yards, and an interception. Jacksonville limited Baltimore to 11 first-half yards, submitted two sacks, and did not allow a completion until late in the second quarter. No respectable fantasy gamer thinks Flacco is elite-or even usable in one-quarterback leagues-but is it time to slap the “E” word on the Jaguars defense? Although the Titans showed they’re not matchup proof, a ferocious pass rush makes the rising unit lethal in the right circumstances. They should easily be considered a top-five fantasy option in a Week 4 bout against the Jets.
- And hey, Jacksonville’s offense wasn’t all that bad either. Blake Bortles, who finished with his highest single-game quarterback rating (128.2) since Dec. 6, 2015, connected with Mercedes Lewis for three of his four touchdowns. While it’s impossible to ignore a tight end after a three-score game, Lewis had three touchdowns in the last three seasons combined and didn’t record a catch in 2017 before partying in London. He’s a deep-dive streamer at best against the Jets, but Bortles will hold some appeal as a risky Week 4 matchup play.
- No Ravens delivered any value in a 44-7 annihilation. Alex Collins‘s team-high nine carries for 82 yards came late in the game, so don’t abandon Buck Allen as a PPR flex option. They’re otherwise looking like a fantasy wasteland entering a rivalry showdown with the Steelers.
Philadelphia Eagles 27, New York Giants 24
- New York’s offense returned from the dead with a 24-point fourth quarter featuring three passing touchdowns from Eli Manning. After missing Week 1 and staying quiet in Week 2, Odell Beckham Jr. snagged two high-difficulty touchdowns in two minutes and finished with 79 yards on nine catches. Finishing with 366 yards, three touchdowns, and two picks, Manning successfully reapplied for streaming consideration.
- Anyone who started Sterling Shepard was fuming at halftime. After having a touchdown overturned because he fell inches shy of the pylon, the wideout caught a ball in the end zone with both feet in bounds on the following play. It was ruled an incomplete pass because he did not maintain control on the ground. It cost the Giants a heartbreaking loss narrowly decided by a 61-yard field goal from rookie Jake Elliott, but at least Shepard gave fantasy investors a happy ending with a 77-yard touchdown. He and Manning could have had an even bigger day with that extra score, but Sunday showed that Shepard, Beckham, and Brandon Marshall can all flourish simultaneously when their one-dimensional offense clicks.
- A week after not touching the ball, LeGarrette Blount ran for 67 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Darren Sproles exiting early also allowed Wendell Smallwood to accrue 71 yards on a dozen handoffs. Philadelphia may have overcompensated after a pass-heavy Week 3 loss, but it also says more about a Giants defense gashed by Detroit on the ground the previous game. Carson Wentz owners should not worry about him totaling 176 passing yards after surpassing 300 yards in the opening weeks. Don’t trust any Eagles running backs just yet.
Atlanta Falcons 30, Detroit Lions 26
- Two Matt’s went head-to-head in an enthralling fantasy frenzy. No, not Ryan and Stafford. Bryant and Prater. Bryant kicked three field goals for Atlanta, and Prater went 4-for-4 with makes of 55 and 57 yards. The Lions kicker now has aced four attempts of 55 yards or more this season. Accuracy, strength, and strong offenses make both elite options.
- The Lions appeared to have orchestrated another fourth-quarter comeback to upset the defending NFC champs, but officials overturned a Golden Tate touchdown. Football of the real and fantasy variety are both maddening games of inches. Although Stafford and Tate connected for an earlier score, the quarterback needed the second touchdown to turn a solid fantasy outing into a strong one. Both remain steady starters despite a tough Week 4 matchup at Minnesota.
- Julio Jones is still searching for his first touchdown of the season. Offseason reports about giving him red-zone looks were empty noise, but Atlanta’s star wideout will eventually erase frustration with some week-winning stat lines.
- Ameer Abdullah, who averaged 8.9 carries per game entering 2017, now has 46 in three contests. Although he has managed just 163 yards on the ground with no touchdowns, the steady workload in a productive offense is nonetheless encouraging.
New Orleans Saints 34, Carolina Panthers 13
- Cam Newton owners can panic now. Facing the Saints usually heals all wounds, but the Panthers quarterback threw for 167 yards, zero touchdowns, and three interceptions in a lopsided loss. Although he scored a rushing touchdown for the first time in eight games, he now has 566 passing yards with more turnovers (four) than touchdowns (three) this season. Even though the Patriots have hemorrhaged huge passing performances this season, gamers now have little choice but to bench Newton until he looks healthy.
- A week after Greg Olsen broke his foot, Kelvin Benjamin limped off the field with a knee injury. NFL Network’s Ian Rapaport said the wide receiver avoided a “major injury,” but the Panthers can hardly afford a minor absence at this point. Devin Funchess has more targets (18) than Benjamin (15) after securing just four of 10 intended passes on Sunday, so he’d be a volume play if their top wideout misses any time.
- Drew Brees posted 220 passing yards, a clip he surpassed in all but two games since the start of 2015. He also completed 22 of 29 passes and tossed three touchdowns in a rout. It’s not often the Saints defense allows them to go run heavy and control the clock. Brees is about as reliable as anyone in the NFL, and he will get Willie Snead back from a suspension in Week 4’s London game against Miami. Ted Ginn finally made the most of his situation by capturing a 40-yard touchdown catch, but his value tumbles with Snead returning.
Minnesota Vikings 34, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17
- So much for Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen needing Sam Bradford. Case Keenum torched Tampa Bay for 369 yards and three touchdowns. Diggs resumed his 2017 breakout by registering 173 yards and his second two-touchdown game. Thielen continues to thrive downfield with a 45-yard reception during his 98-yard Sunday. Beware of a lower floor if Bradford does not return, but start both receivers against the Lions.
- Dalvin Cook also roasted the Buccaneers with 97 rushing yards, 72 receiving yards and a touchdown on 32 touches (27 carries and five catches). Per Pro Football Focus, he earned 82 rushing yards after first contact. He compiled 22 carries and three receptions in Week 1’s win over the Saints, so the rookie appears to be one of the few backs with clear possession of his team’s workload. Cook has quickly marked his territory as a must-start stud.
- Jameis Winston’s three interceptions marks his ninth career multi-pick game. He also procured 328 passing yards and two scores on 40 pass attempts, his most throws in a game since last year’s Week 3. The turnovers will persist, but so will the yards and scores. Yet look for Tampa Bay to run far more against the Giants.
New York Jets 20, Miami Dolphins 6
- When starting DeVante Parker against the Jets, nobody assumed he would enter the fourth quarter with minus-one yard before depositing 77 garbage-time yards and a last-second touchdown in a 14-point loss. Better late than never. The talented receiver has 12 catches for 161 yards through two games with Jay Cutler and gets a mouth-watering Week 4 matchup against New Orleans.
- Jay Ajayi, on the other hand, did not salvage his day with a late frenzy. A popular DFS play coming off a 126-yard season debut, he mustered 16 yards on 11 carries and nine receiving yards. The Jets allowed 180 rushing yards and three touchdowns to Raiders rushers in Week 2, so the Dolphins back can’t blame the matchup. He could blame a knee injury that caused him to miss practice and enter the weekend listed as questionable, so monitor his status before locking in Week 4’s lineup.
- Josh McCown is ruining things for everyone targeting the Jets for defenses to stream. The journeyman quarterback is now 34-of-47 with three touchdowns and no interceptions in the last two games, both of which the Jets ended with 20 on the scoreboard. Perhaps seeing Gang Green on the schedule alone isn’t enough for an automatic start, but his fortune will likely change against a ravenous Jaguars unit.
Buffalo Bills 26, Denver Broncos 16
- Trevor Siemian fell back to earth with 259 yards, no touchdowns, and a pick, but he still kept Demaryius Thomas (six catches for 98 yards) and Emmanuel Sanders (seven catches for 75 yards) well-fed in a losing effort. On the heels of a two-touchdown outing, Sanders tied Doug Baldwin for a Week 3-best 15 targets. The difference between both Denver wideouts is much smaller than their preseason ADPs, but both are strong No. 2 options against Oakland.
- Following C.J. Anderson’s monstrous outing against the Cowboys, Jamaal Charles stole his thunder. The former fantasy phenom tallied nine carries to Anderson’s eight, but made more of his chances with 56 yards and a touchdown. Before going overboard over Charles’s 5.1 yards per carry this season, it behoove the Broncos to keep limiting his touches so the 30-year-old stays healthy and effective in smaller doses. He will only pay off a flex option when turning one of his 10 touches-he has hit that exact mark in all three games-into a touchdown.
- For the second week in a row, LeSean McCoy generated most of his middling value as a pass-catcher. He recorded 21 yards on 14 carries against a much-improved Broncos run defense, but at least added seven receptions and 48 yards for a PPR consolation prize. Anyone who spent a first-round pick on the Bills star can only hope a sore groin is a short-term impediment rather than something that will keep hampering his ability to run between the tackles.
New England Patriots 36, Houston Texans 34
- This Patriots passing defense is a problem. After yielding 301 passing yards and two touchdowns to rookie DeShaun Watson at home, they have allowed over 300 yards and at least two scores to all three opposing quarterbacks. A reeling Newton may not capitalize, but New England faces Winston, Ryan, and Philip Rivers in October. Even McCown could make an intriguing Week 6 fill-in if these struggles persist.
- Lamar Miller led Houston’s backfield with 14 carries and 56 rushing yards, but D’Onta Foreman instead shined in the passing game with catches of 34 and 31 yards. The rookie posted 90 yards despite playing in 17 of 71 snaps, per Pro Football Focus’s Nathan Jahnke. He’s a shrewd use of a bench stash.
- This Tom Brady guy is pretty good. Probably someone to consider starting. After finding Rob Gronkowski for his second touchdown in as many weeks, he tossed a pair of scores to both Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan. Cooks investors nervous over a quiet game against his former team can exhale following his 131-yard outing. The wideouts starred at the expense of Mike Gillislee and James White, but Brady will spread the wealth and guide them all to strong seasons.
Indianapolis Colts 31, Cleveland Browns 28
- Only Brady, Russell Wilson, and Keenum produced more fantasy points at quarterback than Jacoby Brissett, who went a methodical 17-of-24 for 259 passing yards, one passing touchdown, and two rushing scores. While he’s only relevant in two-quarterback formats-and barely so in a Week 4 game at Seattle-his breakout performance is more noteworthy for panicked T.Y. Hilton investors. The wideout looked trapped in mediocrity without Andrew Luck before burning the Browns for 153 yards and a touchdown on seven catches. A boom-or-bust play even with Luck, he’s still more of a No. 3 option with Brissett. But Week 3’s breakout puts him back on the map.
- Isaiah Crowell is getting no signal on his Google Maps search for the end zone. DeShone Kizer instead scooped up his second rushing score of the season, leaving Cleveland’s starting running back with 157 total yards and 2.9 yards per carry in 2017. The Colts also stuffed Gurley in Week 1, but it’s getting tougher to envision Crowell validating the RB No. 2 sticker price.
- Analysts had the right intentions when touting Rashard Higgins as a Week 3 sleeper. It didn’t pan out, as he secured two of six targets for a measly 10 yards. Kenny Britt instead starred in Corey Coleman‘s absence, recording 54 yards and a touchdown on a team-high 10 targets. Don’t expect any clarity from a fluid situation, but Britt is at least coming off a 1,000-yard season in a similar spot as the Rams’ de-facto top receiver.
Chicago Bears 23, Pittsburgh Steelers 17 (OT)
- In an upset few saw coming, Jordan Howard regained his expected status as the Bears’ head honcho. Those who kept the high pick in the starting lineup were rewarded with 164 yards and two rushing touchdowns, including a walk-off score in overtime. It was especially impressive considering Rapoport reported before the game that he’s playing through a sprained AC joint. Howard’s bounce-back outing did not spell doom for Tarik Cohen, who still pieced together 102 total yards on 16 touches. Chicago has a dismal passing game, so it should instead look to lean on its dynamic backfield duo.
- Le’Veon Bell finished with the game’s third-most rushing yards (61), but at least he scored his first touchdown of 2017 while averaging 4.1 yards per rush. While the consensus No. 1 or 2 pick has yet to break a run longer than 15 yards, he also started 2016 slow before submitting 1,125 yards over the final seven games. It seems unlikely anyone would sell the superstar for below market value, but it may be worth asking.
- While the Steelers lost possession on both of their fumbles, the Bears were fortunate to recover four of their five loose balls. Those breaks were necessary to steal a game where Antonio Brown had more receiving yards (110) than Chicago’s entire offense (101).
Kansas City Chiefs 21, Los Angeles Chargers 10
- Kareem Hunt did it again. Closing the game with a 69-yard touchdown run, the rookie has a touchdown play of over 50 yards in every game. According to ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, he already has the most 50-yard plays-he didn’t score on a 58-yard run in Week 1-in a season by any running back since 2012. With 538 yards and five touchdowns on the season, he’s September’s fantasy (and maybe real-life) MVP by a mile. A long score every game is not sustainable, but his many 3-0 fantasy backers should sit back and enjoy the ride.
- Alex Smith now has a 77.4 completion percentage through three games. Bradford set the single-season record at 71.6 last year. The accuracy has also come with 9.2 yards per pass attempt, seven touchdowns, and no interceptions. He’s worth another look in next Monday night’s game against Washington.
- While Smith finished with five incompletions, Rivers surrendered three interceptions. Dating back to last year’s disastrous finish, he now has 20 over his last dozen games. The Eagles nevertheless make him a decent Week 4 matchup play after summoning the Giants’ offensive revival.
- Where did the tight ends go? Following a dominant display against the Eagles, Travis Kelce picked up one yard against the Chargers. One more than Hunter Henry, who wasn’t targeted once for the second time this season. Don’t sour on Kelce because of one quiet game, but nobody can trust Henry until he stops vanishing every other week.
Tennessee Titans 33, Seattle Seahawks 27
- Fantasy owners everywhere will like to welcome the Seahawks to the 2017 season. Russell Wilson, who accrued 356 passing yards and a score in the opening two contests, exploding for 373 passing yards and four touchdowns in a loss to the Titans. Jimmy Graham didn’t cross the pylon, but 72 yards is better than Week 1’s eight yards or Week 2’s three inches. After toiling in two advantageous matchups, Doug Baldwin produced like a top-10 wideout with 10 catches (matching his previous total) for 105 yards and a score before suffering a groin injury. This unit has high expectations, but a malleable offensive line makes them prone to vexing lows. A Sunday night tilt with the Colts looks like a good spot to carry over Week 3’s success.
- Following two weeks of annoyingly equal pass distributions, Marcus Mariota favored Rishard Matthews. He converted 10 targets into six catches, 87 yards, and his first touchdown of the season. Matthews remains the most explosive vertical threat of the bunch, but is no more than a fringe WR No. 3 or flex play versus the Texans.
- Last week, a DeMarco Murray injury cleared the way for Derrick Henry. The roles reversed in Week 3, when Henry suffered a thigh bruise early in a shootout with Seattle, per ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe. The older back exceeded his combined rushing tallies from Weeks 1 and 2 with a 75-yard touchdown run in the second half. Fantasy shareholders must wait another week to see how the Titans allocate touches when both backs are healthy for 60 minutes.
Green Bay Packers 27, Cincinnati Bengals 24 (OT)
- Per Jahnke, Ty Montgomery leads all running back in snaps this season. Volume did not yield another big day, as he turned 12 targets into 15 receiving yards and a dozen handoffs into 35 yards. It still beats seeing a top pick standing on the sideline, a pain finally lifted for Joe Mixon investors. The rookie secured a career-high 101 yards on 18 touches in Cincinnati’s first game since appointing Bill Lazor as the new offensive coordinator. After diverging starts, both backs are strong options going forward.
- With Randall Cobb sidelined, Geronimo Allison led the Packers with 122 receiving yards, mostly fueled by a 72-yard strike. He’s only relevant if Cobb misses another game, and even then the 23-year-old wideout is a high-risk, high-reward flex option on Thursday night. Davante Adams didn’t do as much as opportunistic gamers would have hoped, but he is elevating his floor as Aaron Rodgers’s No. 2 target behind Jordy Nelson.
- Andy Dalton struggled in bad matchups. Given an easier opponent and new personnel, he went 21-of-27 with 212 yards and touchdowns to A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard. These three weeks have only confirmed that he’s the quintessential matchup play, so look his way this Sunday at Cleveland. But then turn elsewhere for a quarterback streamer, as he faces the Bills in Week 5 and the Steelers after a Week 6 bye.
Washington Redskins 27, Oakland Raiders 10
- Samaje Perine received 17 carries with Rob Kelley inactive, but turned a heavy workload into just 49 yards. After coughing up a fumble, he left with an apparent hand injury and watched Mack Brown gain 27 yards on six handoffs. Perine sat out Week 1 after a preseason fumble, so healthy or not the rookie may return to the doghouse when Kelley comes back. Chris Thompson, meanwhile, had his second huge week with 38 rushing yards, 150 receiving yards and a touchdown. Start taking him seriously as a major PPR asset.
- In five games with Jordan Reed sidelined, Vernon Davis has amassed 247 yards and two touchdowns. He’s a viable matchup play when the oft-injured starter can’t suit up, especially since Terrelle Pryor now has 10 catches and 116 yards this season. If Pryor and Crowder don’t make a dent when Kirk Cousins goes 25-of-30 for 365 yards and three touchdowns, it’s tough to see either elevating to starter-caliber value in standard leagues.
- Michael Crabtree caught three touchdowns last week and one catch on Sunday night. With seven yards, he gained one more than Amari Cooper. Marshawn Lynch recorded 26 yards, and Derek Carr tossed two interceptions with a microscopic 3.8 yards per pass attempt. Even if it was just a one-off misstep, Oakland must follow a disastrous week by going to Denver. The Broncos have limited McCoy, Melvin Gordon, and Ezekiel Elliott to 83 combined rushing yards, so deactivate Beast Mode if rostering a respectable alternative. Carr can also take a seat, but Cooper and Crabtree are tougher to bench.