Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: How to set your fantasy lineups for Week 3
It’s time for our weekly stroll across the NFL, sizing up all the start and sit possibilities for every fantasy-relevant player ahead of Week 3's action. Remember, the conditional-start players will depend on your specific roster and league parameters. Use those recommendations in conjunction with our sortable weekly player rankings by position to build your best possible lineup. In the final week for a while in which all 32 teams will play, take note of this week's guide before bye weeks and injuries make your week-to-week decisions a little more simple.
Atlanta Falcons at Dallas Cowboys
Must start: Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, Julio Jones, Jason Witten (ankles)
The Cowboys defense has shut down the Giants and Eagles offenses, but this Falcons group looks like the best of those three to this point. That’s what happens when you have a player like Jones, who is putting up unthinkable numbers. The fifth-year receiver already has 22 catches on 26 targets for 276 yards and a pair of scores. He helps make Ryan an easy weekly play, regardless of matchup. Freeman becomes an intriguing player with Tevin Coleman out a few weeks due to fractured ribs. He hasn’t run that well himself, but he has racked up 22 carries and 12 targets on the year. He’ll have a big role for this high-powered offense on Sunday. As for Witten, make sure he’s able to go despite two sprained ankles. If he’s out there, he should be a target monster with Brandon Weeden under center.
Conditional start: Joseph Randle, Roddy White, Terrance Williams, Falcons DST
Randle and Williams are borderline starters in my book, and can be considered for flex spots against a defense that doesn’t really scare anyone. The problem, however, is Weeden. If the new starter in Dallas struggles, which has basically been the theme of his career, he could torpedo the entire offense. The one saving grace, especially for Randle, is that this Dallas line is still elite. The Cowboys could decide to take the ball out of Weeden’s hands and feed Randle 20-plus times in this one. More likely than not, I’m starting him. White is a WR3 this week after not getting a target against the Giants in Week 2. He’s just barely inside my top 40 at the position. As for the Falcons defense, if you need to stream a group this week, you could do a lot worse than the one that’s facing Weeden. But I wouldn’t drop a good defense, even if it has a bad matchup, for Atlanta.
Sit: Brandon Weeden, Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar, Leonard Hankerson, Cole Beasley, Jacob Tamme, Gavin Escobar
Beasley had a bit of value in deeper leagues after Dez Bryant went down with his foot injury, but now that Weeden is at the helm, you can once again put him on the shelf. The Cowboys may stress the running game this week, but that won’t turn McFadden into a starter, and it could actually be a negative for Dunbar.
Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans
Must start: Andrew Luck, Frank Gore, T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief
The first two weeks of the season couldn’t have possibly gone worse for the Colts, who now face the 2–0 Jets on the road. But don’t let that sway you from getting your Colts active this week. With Moncrief and a fully healthy Hilton on the field, Luck now has the right pair of starting receivers. Andre Johnson belongs in the same No. 3 role that Reggie Wayne inhabited last season. The Titans got beat deep twice by Travis Benjamin last week, and Moncrief and Hilton can give them another dose of that medicine on Sunday. Gore has been terrible in 2015, highlighted by a goal-line fumble last week, but this is a good matchup for him individually, and the team as a whole. Think of him as a low-end RB2.
Conditional start: Marcus Mariota, Bishop Sankey, Kendall Wright, Dwayne Allen
I’m lower on Mariota than most this week, but I do think he’s a worthy QB2 in two-quarterback leagues. The Colts have struggled against Tyrod Taylor and Ryan Fitzpatrick this year, so clearly you don’t need to be Aaron Rodgers to find success against this defense. If Vontae Davis is out, bump Mariota up a few spots in your rankings. Sankey and Wright also came crashing down from Week 1 highs in the loss to the Browns last week. Sankey is an RB3, while Wright rates as a WR3, making both borderline starts. Wright should be fine whether or not Davis plays since Wright does most of his damage out of the slot and Davis is almost always going to line up with an outside receiver. The Colts have done a decent job against running backs, which doesn’t bode well for Sankey. Austin Seferian-Jenkins had a huge game against Tennessee, though it was largely in garbage time. Allen is a decent play if you need to reach, and could be a value in daily leagues.
Sit: Dexter McCluster, Andre Johnson, Dorial Green-Beckham, Justin Hunter, Harry Douglas, Coby Fleener, Delanie Walker, Colts DST, Titans DST
The Texans clearly knew something about Johnson when they let him go this off-season. He looks absolutely done. He shouldn’t be anywhere near a starting fantasy roster.
Oakland Raiders at Cleveland Browns
Must start: Latavius Murray, Isaiah Crowell, Amari Cooper, Browns DST
Game flow limited Murray in Week 1, but he still totaled 80 yards from scrimmage on 18 touches, including seven receptions. He carried the ball 15 times for 65 yards and a score last week, and added three more receptions for 22 yards. He might not be flashy, but after two games he feels like a safe weekly RB2. Amari Cooper scored the first touchdown of his career on a 68-yard hookup with Derek Carr. As long as this offense is at least competent, Cooper will also be a weekly starter. Crowell ran for 72 yards and a score on 15 carries last week, and the Raiders have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to running backs this year. If the game script works out in his favor, Crowell will be a top-20 back. The Browns defense is good enough to be considered a must-start unit, even though Murray and Cooper are also strong fantasy starters. Carr may have torched the Ravens a week ago, but he’s still a quarterback you want to target.
Conditional start: Derek Carr, Michael Crabtree, Gary Barnidge, Raiders DST
Carr’s game in Week 2 was the sort of performance that could be the first sign of a young quarterback turning the corner. He threw for 351 yards, 7.63 yards per attempt and three touchdowns in the game, and led a game-winning drive in the final two minutes. The previous drive ended with an interception that may have broken Carr in the past, but not this time. He’s a QB2 against the Browns this week. Part of that is thanks to Crabtree, who already has 24 targets in two games. He’s not going to be a regular starter, but he can be a valuable fantasy backup once the bye weeks hit. If you’re a Jason Witten owner in a deep league and need a late replacement, consider Barnidge. The Raiders have allowed 15 receptions for 200 yards and four touchdowns to tight ends this season.
Sit: Josh McCown, Marcel Reece, Duke Johnson, Travis Benjamin, Brian Hartline, Taylor Gabriel, Dwayne Bowe, Mychal Rivera
Can anyone figure out why Johnny Manziel isn’t starting? McCown shouldn’t be on anyone’s radar. His greatest impact is killing Benjamin’s value and making the Raiders defense a mildly attractive stream option.
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens
Must start: Andy Dalton, Jeremy Hill, Justin Forsett, A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, Bengals DST
Through two games, the Bengals' offense has produced 57 points, and Dalton has been right at the center of it all. The quarterback has 483 yards, 8.05 YPA and five touchdowns against zero interceptions. Derek Carr shredded this Baltimore defense one week ago. Dalton can do the same, even though the Bengals are on the road. Hill and his owners need to just forget about last week. As well as Giovani Bernard played, Hill is still the lead dog in Cincinnati’s backfield and should take advantage of a defense that really misses Terrell Suggs. Three tight ends have hit pay dirt in both weeks this season. Rob Gronkowski is one. Eifert is another. We’ll get to the third a bit later. Forsett is getting the Matt Forte treatment from Marc Trestman, notching 11 targets already this year. Lorenzo Taliaferro could be more involved in the game plan this week, but Forsett still rates as an RB2.
Conditional start: Joe Flacco, Giovani Bernard, Steve Smith, Crockett Gillmore, Ravens DST
It’s going to be hard to believe in Flacco as a QB1 at any point this season with the total lack of outside speed in Baltimore. Unless Smith can find the fountain of youth, and then bathe in those waters for three straight days, Flacco will likely sit in the QB2 dustbin all season. Smith does have six red-zone targets this season, but he could give some of those up to Gillmore. Bernard is just outside the RB2 class this week and a solid flex play regardless of your format. While Hill will get right back into the starter’s chair this week, Bernard likely earned himself a few more touches per game with the show he put on against the Chargers. His pass-catching ability means that the game script will rarely, if ever, get away from him. Did Gillmore beat up a bad defense in Oakland last week, or is he a legitimate TE1 candidate? We’ll get more of an answer to that against Cincinnati. One thing that does play well for him is that lack of speed in Baltimore. This team is desperate for a reliable weapon in the passing game. He can be that guy.
Sit: Lorenzo Taliaferro, Buck Allen, Marvin Jones, Kamar Aiken, Breshad Perriman (knee)
Taliaferro’s role in Baltimore’s offense should continue to increase. He’s a nice player to stash right now. If you’ve got a roster spot to play with, go grab him before you need to deal with the waiver process again next week.
Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots
Must start: Tom Brady, T.J. Yeldon, Dion Lewis, Allen Robinson, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Patriots DST
The Patriots have 68 points in two games, and Tom Brady has seven touchdowns against zero interceptions. It’s going to be a long year for opposing defenses. Gronkowski leads the league with four touchdowns, while Edelman is tied with Julio Jones for the league lead in receptions (22). It would be unfair to call this offense machinelike, because any machine with this sort of efficiency and ruthlessness would surely take over mankind. Lewis is really the most interesting player above. Through two games he has 109 yards on 22 carries, 10 receptions for 149 yards and one touchdown. Most importantly, he has fumbled twice and lived to tell about it. He’s likely going to get Belichick’d in a game at some point this season, but he’s got the look of an RB2 for the balance of the year.
As for the Jaguars, a blowout will be their fantasy owners’ best friend. The Bills put up huge fantasy numbers while trying to catch the Patriots a week ago. The Jaguars can do the same.
Conditional start: Blake Bortles, LeGarrette Blount
I love Bortles as a QB2 in two-quarterback leagues this week. The Patriots have allowed the fifth-most points to quarterbacks in standard-scoring leagues this season. Ben Roethlisberger and Tyrod Taylor have combined for 593 yards, 8.72 YPA, four touchdowns and four interceptions against New England this year. That’s what happens when you try to keep pace with a juggernaut. Blount is a deep-league flex play.
Sit: Brandon Bolden, Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee, Aaron Dobson, Danny Amendola, Clay Harbor, Jaguars DST
Dobson should be on your radar after catching seven of his eight targets for 87 yards last week, but he’s nowhere near being a fantasy starter just yet.
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers
Must start: Cam Newton, Mark Ingram, Jonathan Stewart, Greg Olsen, Panthers DST
Even after Newton’s resurgent Week 2 performance, this is more of a matchup play than anything else. The Saints have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, giving up at least 22 points to both Carson Palmer and Jameis Winston. Newton should be able to follow suit. Olsen got back on track in the yardage department last week, and also racked up 14 targets. Don’t be surprised if he makes his first end zone trip of the season on Sunday. Ingram seems to be doing it with smoke and mirrors this year. He needed a 59-yard reception in Week 1 and a short-yardage touchdown while running for just 53 yards in Week 2 to post consecutive solid games.
Conditional start: C.J. Spiller (knee), Brandin Cooks
Even if Drew Brees is able to play through his bruised rotator cuff, Cooks is no more than a conditional start in Week 3. He has underwhelmed thus far in what many thought would be a breakout season. He’ll be playing on Sunday with either a quarterback incapable of throwing a deep ball or Luke McCown. Neither is all that desirable. As for Spiller, he’d be a low-end flex option if Brees plays, thanks to the frequent check-downs that could come his way.
Sit: Drew Brees (shoulder), Luke McCown, Marques Colston, Brandon Coleman, Corey Brown, Jerricho Cotchery, Devin Funchess, Josh Hill, Ben Watson, Saints DST
For now, we’re going to assume that Brees will sit out this game. Even if he does play, he’d rate as no higher than a QB2. Brees is 36 and there was already reason to believe his arm strength was waning. He’ll definitely be playing at less than 100% if he’s out there and will be going up against a solid defense. I’d rather start the likes of Philip Rivers, Colin Kaepernick, Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles.
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Jets
Must start: Chris Ivory, Jordan Matthews, Brandon Marshall, Jets DST
Don’t worry, we’ll get to DeMarco Murray in a second. Ivory has reached must-play status every single week. He dominates the carries out of the Jets' backfield and runs like a man possessed when he gets the ball. The Eagles haven’t looked terrible against the run, but Ivory should turn in another, at worst, top-20 week. If the Jets can build a lead, I like him to put up top-10 production. Matthews has had at least six catches, nine targets and 80 yards in both games this season. Philadelphia’s offense may be struggling, but the volume is always going to be there for him. Don’t fear this tough matchup. Marshall has found the end zone both weeks of the season, the Eagles have surrendered the seventh-most fantasy points to receivers, and Eric Decker could be out on Sunday because of a knee injury. You know what to do.
Conditional start: Sam Bradford, Ryan Fitzpatrick, DeMarco Murray (hamstring), Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Eric Decker (knee)
Murray had to leave practice on Wednesday because of a hamstring injury. There’s no word yet as to its severity, but if he’s out both Mathews and Sproles become intriguing. Mathews would take over as the primary runner, which would make him worthy of RB2 consideration. Keep an eye on Murray’s status as the week progresses. If he plays, you’re starting him, but he could be dealing with significant offensive line troubles against this Jets defense. The Jets have let both Travis Benjamin and Donte Moncrief slip behind them for big plays this season, but they’ve otherwise shut down passing attacks. They’ve given up the 10th-fewest points to quarterbacks this season. Combine that with the struggles of the Eagles’ offense, and Bradford becomes a mid-tier QB2. Fitzpatrick is in that same range, though he’ll get a shot in the arm if Decker can play. If he can’t, consider Fitzpatrick a starter only in two-quarterback leagues. As for Decker himself, he probably won’t be 100% if he can give it a go. I’d rate him as a top-35 receiver if he is able to play.
Sit: Bilal Powell, Nelson Agholor, Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Eagles DST
Agholor is a nice throwaway pick in daily formats this week. No one will be on the Philadelphia offense, but he has that same deep-ball ability that Benjamin and Moncrief used to hit pay dirt against the Jets.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Houston Texans
Must start: Mike Evans (hamstring), Vincent Jackson, DeAndre Hopkins, Texans DST
The quarterbacks in this game may not be worth starting, but the receivers are going to put on a show. I’m on record as believing we get the Evans-is-back game this week. He tested the hamstring last week and reported no ill effects. With Austin Seferian-Jenkins out because of a shoulder injury, both Evans and Jackson should get double-digit targets. When both are healthy, we know who the best receiver is in Tampa Bay. The Texans have allowed the second-most points to quarterbacks this year. Evans is going to feast. Hopkins, too, should find plenty of room to roam against a Buccaneers defense that has surrendered the ninth-most points to receivers.
Conditional start: Jameis Winston, Doug Martin
Alex Smith and Cam Newton have had huge games against the Texans, totaling 438 yards, five passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown. Winston is a solid QB2 this week. Martin hasn’t quite gotten going this season, and game flow was really the only thing working for him last week. If this game is close, unlike last week’s win over the Saints, he could be back in a secondary role in the offense. I wouldn’t be comfortable with him as anything more than a flex starter.
Sit: Ryan Mallett, Charles Sims, Arian Foster (groin), Alfred Blue, Chris Polk, Cecil Shorts, Nate Washington, Garrett Graham, Buccaneers DST
There’s nothing here that should draw the attention of the fantasy community, other than the fact that Foster is out, again highlighting that injury optimism is one of the most foolish feelings you can indulge.
San Diego Chargers at Minnesota Vikings
Must start: Melvin Gordon, Adrian Peterson, Keenan Allen, Ladarius Green
Yes, Danny Woodhead has received far too many red-zone carries for Gordon owners’ comfort. However, you don’t notch three 20-plus-yard runs in one game by accident. Gordon should continue to get more and more involved with the offense as the season progresses. Woodhead isn’t going away, but Gordon is clearly the superior back in San Diego. Peterson turned in a vintage performance last week, running for 134 yards on 26 carries and catching two passes for 58 yards. He has yet to score this season, but that’s a streak that is doomed. After catching 15 passes for 166 yards in Week 1, Allen had two grabs for 16 yards last week. That’s the sort of inconsistency you have to live with when Allen is on your roster. The Vikings have allowed the third-fewest points to receivers in 2015. Allen is a low-end WR2 this week. Green has caught five passes on six targets in both games this year. That’s enough volume to make him a reliable low-end TE1.
Conditional start: Philip Rivers, Teddy Bridgewater, Danny Woodhead, Stevie Johnson, Mike Wallace, Kyle Rudolph, Vikings DST
Rivers has been good, especially from a fantasy perspective, in both games this year. His most impressive number is probably his 9.35 YPA, a level of efficiency you love from your quarterback. It wasn’t just his Week 1 403-yard game, either. He had 8.93 YPA in the loss to the Bengals last week. Minnesota does present a tough matchup, but he’s still a high-end QB2. The same goes for Bridgewater, although the fears over his inability to throw the deep ball have come to pass through two games. He’s just 2 for 6 on passes that have traveled at least 20 yards in the air, for a total of 49 yards. Woodhead is an auto-play in full PPR leagues and a solid flex in standard leagues. He’s up to 29 touches on the season and has turned those into a total of 28.6 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues. Johnson has made trips to the end zone in both of San Diego’s games, and while his per-target numbers will have to come down eventually, he is viable WR3.
Sit: Jerick McKinnon, Matt Asiata, Malcom Floyd, Charles Johnson, Chargers DST
Johnson hasn’t done a thing in the Minnesota offense this season, and Wallace, too, has been largely quiet, thanks primarily to the fact that Bridgewater has struggled with deep passes. Until that turns around, neither is more than a low-end WR3.
Pittsburgh Steelers at St. Louis Rams
Must start: Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown
It is altogether fitting (name that speech to me on Twitter, and I’ll give you a hat tip in the next SI.com fantasy football podcast) that the Steelers draw a team that doesn’t have a must-start player in Bell’s first game of the season. That allows us to highlight the most dangerous set of triplets in the game today. Roethlisberger, Bell and Brown could very well be top-five players at their respective positions every single week for the rest of the season. This St. Louis defense is among the best in the league, but the best it can hope to do is just slow down the Pittsburgh machine. The pass rush may be able to get after Roethlisberger, but he’s one of the few quarterbacks in the league who is seemingly impervious to getting hit four or five times. Get ready for a show on Sunday.
Conditional start: Nick Foles, Tre Mason, Markus Wheaton, Kenny Britt, Heath Miller
Just like the Patriots, the Steelers force teams to throw the ball a lot to try to keep up with their offense. That could turn Foles into a second-half superstar this week. He shouldn’t be near your lineup in one-quarterback leagues, but he’s a decent play in two-QB formats. The same logic applies to deploying Britt as a WR3 in deeper leagues. As for Mason, he should get the majority of the carries this week. The Rams’ formula for winning this game is controlling the clock with their rushing attack and keeping Roethlisberger and company off the field. They’ll pursue that strategy diligently as long as they can, which could mean 20-plus carries for Mason if things go well.
Sit: DeAngelo Williams, Benny Cunningham, Todd Gurley (knee), Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Steelers DST, Rams DST
Williams was great for his owners to start the season, but he gives way to Bell this week. You’ll want to keep him around for the time being, but there’s a decent chance you won’t ever start him again this year. We saw a lot of good real-life defenses get lit up last week. As good as the Rams are, and they’re one of the best, you don’t want to go up against the Steelers with your fantasy defense.
San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals
Must start: Carson Palmer, Carlos Hyde, Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals DST
Palmer has been one of the superstars of the first two weeks, racking up 492 yards, 8.79 yards per attempt and seven touchdowns. To be fair, he has played the Saints and Bears in those two games. He gets a much tougher test this week, but he's still an easy QB1. Part of that is thanks to Fitzgerald, who seems to be in the midst of a resurgent 2015 campaign. He hit pay dirt three times in one game last week for the first time in his career and is atop the depth chart at receiver for Arizona. That makes him a strong WR2 against a 49ers defense that has allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to the position. Hyde came crashing down last week after a monster season debut. Such is life in the NFL. The Cardinals have allowed 335 total yards and a touchdown to running backs thus far. Hyde will be just fine on Sunday.
Conditional start: Colin Kaepernick, David Johnson, Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, John Brown, Vernon Davis
In Week 1, with the 49ers nursing a big lead, Kaepernick played it close to the vest and handed the ball to Hyde 26 times. In Week 2, with the Niners needing a miracle to erase a huge deficit against the Steelers, Kaepernick threw for 335 yards and two touchdowns. He has that club in his bag if the team asks him to use it. Kaepernick is my No. 14 quarterback this week. Remember, Jay Cutler was 8 for 8 for 120 yards and a touchdown before he threw the pick-six on which he suffered the injury that ended his afternoon against Arizona last week. The rookie David Johnson is clearly a better running back than the veteran Chris Johnson, but he may not get enough touches to warrant starting consideration for another week. Boldin and Smith both found the end zone last week after quiet games in Week 1. Both are worthy of WR2/3 consideration on Sunday. Brown, meanwhile, has just nine catches for 91 yards in Arizona’s two games. He has drawn a number of pass interference calls, and those are eventually going to turn into long receptions. Still, with Fitzgerald back on top, he’s no more than a WR3.
Sit: Chris Johnson, Andre Ellington (knee), Michael Floyd, 49ers DST
Johnson could very well lead the Cardinals in carries again this week, but he looked totally cooked against the Bears in Week 2. This may be the game in which the Cardinals turn to David Johnson as their primary back.
Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins
Must start: Ryan Tannehill, LeSean McCoy (hamstring), Sammy Watkins, Jarvis Landry, Jordan Cameron, Bills DST, Dolphins DST
Tannehill carved up the Jaguars last week, throwing for 359 yards and a pair of touchdowns while getting nothing from the run game. He may be dealing with that again this week, given Lamar Miller’s ankle injury. Tannehill isn’t Tom Brady, and the Dolphins aren’t the Patriots, but we saw last week that the Buffalo defense can be susceptible to the pass. McCoy could very well deal with hamstring issues all season, but it didn’t slow him down when he picked up 89 yards on 15 carries and 27 more yards on three receptions a week ago. His owners have to live with the fact that he cedes goal-line carries, but he’s an easy RB2 against Miami. Watkins’s life got a whole lot easier once he got away from Vontae Davis, catching six balls for 60 yards and a score a week ago. Both he and Landry are strong WR2 plays in this AFC East clash. Cameron has been a consistent weapon for Tannehill, going for four catches and 73 yards in Week 1 and three grabs for 62 yards last week. He’s a TE1 every week.
Conditional start: Tyrod Taylor, Lamar Miller (ankle)
Taylor has turned in a couple of great fantasy games this season but still shouldn’t be trusted as a starter in one-quarterback formats. He has, however, placed himself on solid ground as a two-QB league starter. As for Miller, keep an eye on his practice status the rest of the week. You’ll want to hear good news before getting him into your starting lineup.
Sit: Karlos Williams, Boobie Dixon, Damien Williams, Percy Harvin, Robert Woods, Greg Jennings, DeVante Parker, Charles Clay
Even if Miller is out, Damien Williams wouldn’t be worth starting. The burden would fall almost entirely on Tannehill’s right arm. Karlos Williams, meanwhile, should be rostered, but he has had just six carries in both of Buffalo’s games this season. That’s someone you reach for as a starter when you’re looking for injury and bye-week replacements, not someone you turn to when you have your entire roster available to you.
Chicago Bears at Seattle Seahawks
Must start: Russell Wilson, Matt Forte, Marshawn Lynch, Alshon Jeffery (hamstring), Martellus Bennett, Jimmy Graham, Seahawks DST
If any Week 3 game gets ugly, this will be it. The Bears defense couldn’t possibly match up worse with Seattle’s offense. Wilson should feast on a unit that doesn’t yet have a sack this year. Lynch has been a bit of a disappointment this year, but he’ll make up for that on Sunday. In two weeks, the Bears have allowed the sixth-most points to quarterbacks, as well as 204 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground. They’ll have little chance to slow down Wilson or Lynch. Forte, Jeffery and Bennett may not be very efficient this week, and there’s a chance their owners will be upset at halftime, but they could all cash in on the garbage time that seems almost inevitable in this game.
Conditional start: Eddie Royal (hip, back), Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Tyler Lockett
The Bears have allowed the second-most points to receivers this year. The Seahawks don’t have anyone quite like Randall Cobb, Larry Fitzgerald, or, for that matter, James Jones, but it stands to reason that at least one Seattle receiver will have a big game on Sunday. Baldwin is the best bet, but Kearse and Lockett are both potential starters in deeper leagues. Royal is worth a start as a WR3 if he is able to go and Jeffery sits with his hamstring injury.
Sit: Jimmy Clausen, Jay Cutler (hamstring), Marquess Wilson, Bears DST
Clausen faces off with a motivated, angry Seattle defense that welcomes back Kam Chancellor and is at home for the first time this season. Again, this is going to get ugly.
Denver Broncos at Detroit Lions
Must start: Peyton Manning, C.J. Anderson, Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Calvin Johnson, Eric Ebron, Broncos DST
Manning put to rest most concerns about his decline with his second-half performance against the Chiefs last week. He may not be able to throw the deep ball with the same effectiveness as he used to, but he’s still deadly accurate and can carve up defenses if he gets it out of his hands quickly. That’s good news for both Thomas and Sanders, who rate as their usual WR1 and WR2, respectively, this week. Anderson has had a miserable start to the season, but Ronnie Hillman isn’t going to usurp his throne. He still has a key role in one of the league’s better offenses. Any fantasy owner who has him on his roster should be starting him on Sunday night.
Johnson got going last week, catching 10 of his 17 targets for 83 yards and a touchdown. At the same time, the fact that he got fewer than five yards per target is a major red flag. Matthew Stafford is dealing with rib and elbow injuries, and while he should be able to start Sunday, he’s not going to be playing at 100%. The fact that he’ll struggle with the deep ball significantly curbs Johnson’s value. You’re definitely starting him, but don’t expect more than WR2 production. Ebron’s role in the offense makes him an easy play at tight end, regardless of Stafford’s status.
Conditional start: Matthew Stafford (ribs, elbow), Ameer Abdullah, Golden Tate
Stafford should be able to play this week, but owners in two-quarterback leagues will want to be sure to monitor his practice participation for the rest of the week. If he starts, he’ll still be a top-20 option. As for Abdullah, his role is simply too circumstantial to count on him every week. Given the matchup with a strong defense, Abdullah should be thought of as an RB3 this week. Tate’s value is down this week because of the matchup with Denver’s secondary. Consider him a WR3 and low-end flex play.
Sit: Ronnie Hillman, Joique Bell, Owen Daniels, Lions DST
For all the attention Hillman is getting, he has just 75 yards on 21 carries. Bell has been even worse, picking up 16 yards on 10 carries. Both of these backs need to prove to their owners they're worth it before being considered as starters.
Kansas City Chiefs at Green Bay Packers
Must start: Aaron Rodgers, Jamaal Charles, Eddie Lacy (ankle), Jeremy Maclin, Randall Cobb, Travis Kelce
Lacy is the toughest player to judge in Week 3. There’s a good chance he’ll play on Monday night, but his owners will likely have to make their lineup decisions before they know whether he’ll be on the field. If we get word before Monday that he’ll for sure play, he’s worth deploying as normal. If he is eventually listed as questionable or a game-time decision, his fantasy owners should go in another direction. Even if he ends up playing, it might not be worth it to roll the dice. Rodgers has had his way against one bad defense (Chicago) and one good one (Seattle). He’s the best player in the league. Charles can replicate what Matt Forte did against this defense in Week 1 when he racked up 141 yards on the ground and 25 yards on five catches.
Conditional start: Alex Smith, James Starks, James Jones, Davante Adams, Packers DST
The Packers have allowed the 12th-most points to quarterbacks and force teams put the ball in the air to try to keep up with Rodgers’s exploits. That’s great news for Smith, who had three touchdowns against the Texans in Week 1. At the very least, he’s worth starting in two-quarterback leagues. If Lacy has to sit out because of his ankle injury, Starks is an easy RB2 in all formats. Both Jones and Adams should be thought of as WR3s this week. The fact that Jones has been dominating the red-zone targets for the Packers has to be concerning for Adams owners. If Jones continues to get those Jordy Nelson targets, Adams will prove to be one of the most over-drafted players in the league.
Sit: Richard Rodgers, Chiefs DST
As good as Kansas City’s defense is, you don’t want your fantasy defense going up against Aaron Rodgers.