Week 3 watch list: Schedule offers Johnson, Gates fantasy elixir

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Week 3 should allow us to separate the contenders from pretenders, the fact from fiction and the fantasy from reality. And are we ever in need of a reality check.

The Redskins, Lions, Bills and Texans are all undefeated first-place teams -- no kidding. Look it up.

Cam Newton is outproducing Aaron Rodgers. Seriously.

And the likes of Ben Tate, Kenny Britt, Steve Smith and Devery Henderson are carrying fantasy teams. Thank goodness someone is taking up the slack for Arian Foster, Jamaal Charles, Chris Johnson, Roddy White, Steven Jackson and Antonio Gates.

Things can look skewed in small sample sizes, but three weeks can get us closer to the mean. Week 3 is chock full of divisional rivalries and potential game-changers, so in this weekend's watch list, let's take a look at whose fortunes are about to change, if only for a day:

It's payback time for ...

• RB Chris Johnson, Titans

You took the chance on the holdout, picking him perhaps even before he signed. We said you scored a steal and then he went out and laid an egg against Jacksonville, not exactly the stiffest of run defenses and was busy, but not productive, in a surprising victory over the Ravens.

As SI's Peter King so eloquently put it: The Titans have the highest paid running back in the NFL ... and the third fewest rushing yards.

Will the real Chris Johnson please stand up?

Yes, he will here.

He gets the Broncos. They have faced Darren McFadden and Cedric Benson, two of the backs most heavily relied upon in their team's offenses. And the Broncos still haven't given up a touchdown in two games.

The Broncos were the worst team in fantasy against RBs a year ago, allowing 21 rushing TDs (tops in the NFL) and five receiving TDs. Running backs against the Broncos basically played like they were Priest Holmes in his prime.

Johnson gets three here and takes off for fantasy owners.

• TE Antonio Gates, Chargers

You plucked him off the board tops at his position, figuring: At least I have a good tight end.

But what you got in Week 2 was a tight zero!

Only Dallas Clark, who misses Peyton Manning as much as his fantasy owners, is more depressing at the position.

The Patriots had the answer for Gates last week, removing the Chargers' and Philip Rivers' No. 1 threat. And now he is missing practices again with that chronic, chronically annoying, foot issue related to his plantar fascia.

Oh, those facetious plants. Or should be blame those fascist planters?

Regardless, let's expect they won't get in the way here. The defenseless Chiefs, reeling from the Charles loss, travel to San Diego to get kicked while they're down by Gates.

Gates has more touchdowns in his future Hall of Fame career against the Chiefs than any other team. He adds to that total, in multiple, this week.

• RB Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers and Shonn Greene, Jets

Who doesn't hate a hangover, except your significant other? They mostly laugh at you.

Mendenhall and Greene owners are going to get the last laugh.

The Super Bowl losers tend to suffer letdowns the year following in the standings and in fantasy. Ben Roethlisberger and Mendenhall certainly took their lumps in Week 2, but we saw them dominate a bottom-feeder in Week 2.

Greene couldn't get out of LaDainian Tomlinson's Hall of Fame shadow in Week 1. Those Jags that nearly blanked C.J. in the season opener then held Greene to just 49 yards on 16 carries. Only a TD kept Greene's owners from looking green in the face.

Mendenhall gets the Colts, a team that has never been good against the run, and Greene gets the Raiders, who made Fred Jackson look like Michael moon walking all over them.

To bring us closer to present day, both are about to get jiggy wit it. The best way to get over a hangover is just keep drinking the Kool-Aid, my friends.

• WR Roddy White, Falcons

White just hasn't proven worthy of being the No. 3 receiver after Andre Johnson or Calvin Johnson. If only you had picked the likes of Britt and Henderson, or even rookie A.J. Green, out-of-nowhere man Eric Decker or Jabar Gaffney.

Now White is dealing with a sore knee and missing practices. You still shouldn't start him over anyone but Larry Fitzgerald and Johnson & Johnson.

No more tears. White is going to show up for you in Tampa this week.

• RB Mark Ingram, Saints

Newton, the Bengals' Green and even the Dolphins' Daniel Thomas look like far better rookie fantasy picks thus far. Ingram is still sharing time with a healthy Pierre Thomas in an offense that still passes first.

Also, the Saints have faced two of the stoutest run defenses in the NFL through two weeks, the Packers and the Bears. It doesn't get much tougher than that, unless you have faced the Jets and Steelers.

Ingram is going to find the running easier against the Texans, even if that unit current sits third in the standings against fantasy points allowed to running backs.

Mark it down.

It's raining dollar bills! The world is great. Oh, this can't be true. And it won't be ...

• QB Jason Campbell, Raiders

Maybe Oakland finally figured out how to find a vertical passing game. Just lose all of your starting wide receivers and go to the well on an unheralded rookie, Denarius Moore. It worked against the Bills.

Good luck seeing that work against the Jets.

OK, we get you, this one wasn't worth mentioning. You want us to talk down on a player you actually are considering using in fantasy.

• D/ST Houston, Texans

They were the laughing stock, or at least the team that drew the most smiles last year when your quarterback or wide receivers were facing them. They played track meets and usually made for the most bountiful days for your fantasy players a year ago.

Through two weeks they are one of the elite fantasy units.

Forget that this week. In fact, cut them. They draw Drew Brees and the Saints in the Superdome, a place where the game score should look a lot more like the Texans finals a year ago.

Sure, the Texans are improved, particularly against the pass. And Drew Brees and the Saints aren't as good as they were a few years ago and Marques Colston is out. But Kerry Collins and Chad Henne are no Brees. In fact, they might not even make it through Week 3 as their team's quarterback of choice if things continue going the way it is going for them.

OK, so that was an easy one, too. What defense doesn't struggle against the Saints? Let's try this one on for size ...

• RB LeSean McCoy, Eagles, RB McFadden, Raiders, RB Matt Forte and RB Mike Tolbert, Chargers

These backs have been great early on. McCoy has been the breakthrough of the season and should finish as one of the elite backs in fantasy. McFadden and Forte, too, while Tolbert certainly isn't leading anyone to sit him right now.

All of these players have to start for fantasy owners, but they are headed for tougher days this week against the Giants, Jets, Packers and, uh, Chiefs?

The Packers and Jets obviously have tough run defenses. The Giants are far more vulnerable to Michael Vick and the pass, not to mention they are second-best in fantasy against RBs early on. And Tolbert, well, we just don't trust him as much as all of you do.

From the games we haven't hit on above:

• We will find out if the Lions are for real and whether the Vikings are all for naught. The reality is probably somewhere in between on both teams, so we should probably all expect Adrian Peterson and Donovan McNabb to be their best yet, while Matthew Stafford and the Lions go back to making us question them -- at least some -- all over again.

• Is Andy Dalton really this good? The 49ers' underrated defense should give us a pretty good answer. It will be no, at least not yet, by the way.

• If a Dolphin is sighted in a dawg pound in Cleveland does anyone really care? This has to be one of the most boring games going in, but something tends to happen when people aren't paying attention. Maybe Henne will be more like his Week 1 self. Maybe Reggie Bush might quit stinking. Maybe Colt McCoy's great preseason of promise will finally bear fruit. The latter is most likely.

• How good are the Bills? It should be another interesting week in Western New York. How often is that statement uttered? Ryan Fitzpatrick can make this a game and keep fantasy owners excited about his prospects, if only because Tom Brady is going to make passing records flip by like a slot machine's cherries at Casino Niagara.

• Which Joe Flacco is going to show up, or the Ravens for that matter? The one that looked like world-beaters against Pittsburgh or the one that whipped with an egg-beater against the Titans? Flacco is better than this.

• How bad are the Seahawks, the worst playoff team in NFL postseason history that actually knocked off a defending Super Bowl champ? Wait, the Seahawks were in the playoffs last January? We will be asking that question after this one -- unless Charlie Whitehurst takes over at quarterback and actually makes some of the Seahawks useful again in fantasy.

• And perhaps the most interesting of all, although not best for last, how long can Tony Romo play with a cracked rib and a punctured lung? Can Felix Jones finally break through after getting beat up by the Jets and 49ers' stiff run defenses? Is Rex Grossman really a viable fantasy starter. Can't wait to find those answers Monday night.

Eric Mack writes fantasy for SI.com, including the Start 'em, Sit 'em, the Weekend Fantasy Watch List and his Sunday night staple Fantasy Football Fast Forward. If you need a further clarification on lineups this week hit him up on Twitter. You can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice @EricMackFantasy.