NFL Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Week 3

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For those other decisions still causing you agony, we make sense of the minutia in the Week 3 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em:


• Rams -- Danny Amendola: The ridiculous amount of targets Amendola has been getting will make him a priority for the Bears, but the Rams will find a way to get the ball to their go-to man. As for the Rams as a whole, they're facing their toughest week yet against a rested Bears defense coming off a loss.

• Bears -- Michael Bush, Brandon Marshall, Robbie Gould, Bears D/ST: More than a mere goal-line back now, Bush is now the feature runner, so consider him a solid play in all formats. Marshall will rebound as pass protection and ball control again become a priority for the Bears. Gould is a sleeper kicker, while the Bears D/ST is a much better play at home.


• Rams -- Sam Bradford, Steven Jackson, Daryl Richardson, Brandon Gibson, Steve Smith, Lance Kendricks, Greg Zuerlein, Rams D/ST: Bradford is someone to watch, but not play, outside of two-quarterback formats. The same goes for his secondary targets beyond Amendola. The running game is too much of a question mark after Jackson came down with a phantom groin injury following an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty last Sunday. Richardson is a sleeper pickup off waivers, but merely as Jackson insurance. Even if one back gets a full workload, it will come against a stout Bears run defense. For anyone thinking about taking a shot on a much-improved Rams defense facing the error-prone Jay Cutler and his suspect pass protection, the bet here is that the Bears will look far more potent at home than they did on the road against an underrated Packers defense.

• Bears -- Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Earl Bennett, Alshon Jeffrey, Devin Hester, Kellen Davis: Cutler threw away a lot of his early fantasy mojo with his Week 2 stinker in Green Bay, so neither he nor his secondary targets should be trusted in standard leagues until the quarterback and offensive line show more consistency.


• Bengals -- BenJarvus Green-Ellis, A.J. Green, Mike Nugent: The Redskins lost a pair of defensive starters last week, so the Bengals should benefit offensively. Andy Dalton is a sleeper in a game that figures to be a bit loose. Any Bengals offensive options are viable, but these are the only three certain starts before the bye weeks hit.

• Redskins -- Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris, Pierre Garcon: The Bengals are a better defense than they have shown the first two weeks of the season, but few should sit this trio in any formats right now, assuming Garcon (foot) practices and plays this Sunday.


• Bengals -- Bernard Scott, Andrew Hawkins, Armon Binns, Jermaine Gresham, Bengals D/ST: The Hawkins phenomenon is intriguing in deeper leagues, but it might be wise to save him for when bye weeks necessitate his use. Still, it's hard to ignore Hawkins' big plays every week. Gresham and the D/ST should prove to be viable fantasy options in most weeks going forward, but their slow starts should preclude anyone from trusting them right now.

• Redskins -- Evan Royster, Roy Helu, Josh Morgan, Leonard Hankerson, Aldrick Robinson, Santana Moss, Fred Davis, Billy Cundiff: There is value to be had with this eclectic group, particularly because RGIII is so promising, but the better play is to let playing time and targets sort out before inserting these guys in starting lineups. Davis will eventually emerge as one of the more frequently targeted receivers, but it just hasn't happened yet with the rookie quarterback calling the signals. Moss might elicit interest for hopeful fantasy owners, but he is being limited to the slot receiver spot in three-receiver sets -- apparently because he has lost a step (or several).


• Lions -- Matthew Stafford, Kevin Smith, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Pettigrew, Jason Hansen, Lions D/ST: After a subpar Week 1 and facing the best defense in the NFL in Week 2, this finally rates as a start-all game for Stafford and the Lions. You might even consider Nate Burleson and the quiet Titus Young as stop-gap options in deeper leagues. The Titans have played two good offenses in the Pats and Chargers, but this Lions offense might be the best of the three.

• Titans -- None: Jake Locker will eventually get himself and his top weapons rolling, but asking for that to happen against a solid Lions defense is asking for trouble. Consider this a sit-all game for the Titans.


• Lions -- Mikel LeShoure, Joique Bell: Don't trust LeShoure yet, as he's coming off suspension and still recovering from last year's torn Achilles. The Lions are going to work him in slowly. Bell figures to afford the Lions time as Smith's backup but offers little reliability.

• Titans -- Jake Locker, Chris Johnson, Kenny Britt, Nate Washington, Kendall Wright, Jared Cook: Coming into the season there was a lot of potential in Tennessee. After two weeks, it looks as lost as CJNoK's 2011 campaign. Start him if necessary, but the Lions figure to have at least as tough of a run defense as the Pats and Chargers. We saw how well that worked out. Locker and all of his receivers might improve -- especially as Britt's health improves -- but they have yet to give anyone a reason to trust them.


• Chiefs -- Jamaal Charles, Peyton Hillis, Dwayne Bowe: This is a week to hope for a breakthrough from the Chiefs. The Saints haven't stopped anyone, which makes Matt Cassel a sleeper along with secondary targets Dexter McCluster, Steve Breaston and Jonathan Baldwin. Bowe proved to be a must-start a week ago, while Charles (knee) figures to finally open it up against a Saints run defense that has looked suspect. Hillis, despite fumbling on the goal-line a week ago, will continue to get enough touches to start and he should find the end zone at least once.

• Saints -- Drew Brees, Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram, Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham, Garrett Hartley: Expect the 0-2 Saints to have a good day against a Chiefs defense that hasn't stopped anyone through two weeks. It makes Ingram and perhaps even Pierre Thomas backs to consider. Ingram is the better play between the two because he will get a touchdown or two. If you need a sleeper receiver, Lance Moore figures to rejoin the ranks of viable starts. Devery Henderson should play, but he's not useful just yet.


• Chiefs -- Tony Moeaki, Kevin Boss, Chiefs D/ST: Moeaki and Boss are best considered bye-week replacements, since they each take a chunk out of each other's fantasy values. One or both will be a surprise in some weeks, especially this one, but it can be guesswork to figure which one it will be.

• Saints -- Saints D/ST: Like the Chiefs above, don't start, or own, the Saints D/ST in any format right now. This is a shootout for the offenses on that fast SuperDome turf.


• 49ers -- Alex Smith, Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, David Akers, 49ers D/ST: This is a start-all game for the best team in football. The stout defense will finally get a less-than-elite offense to take advantage of, while Smith and his receivers should have a field day building a passing attack that usually has to take a back seat to the running game. This will be an offensive exhibition for the 49ers, so if you have to start Mario Manningham or backup running back Kendall Hunter, the time is now.

• Vikings -- Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin: Here is the saving grace for the Vikings' top two weapons against that 49ers defense: There are going to be some garbage-time numbers to be had. Peterson might get the let's-save-him treatment, but he will be a factor in the passing game and a finisher if they do get inside the 10. Throwing to the backs in space has been a way to attack the 49ers defense.


• 49ers -- Randy Moss, Brandon Jacobs: These are two 49ers to sit. Yes, they will throw to Moss in the red zone in the limited snaps he gets, but they can blow out the Vikings without him. Jacobs isn't healthy yet, and Gore figures to be the primary goal-line back. Hunter figures to be the better sleeper back if Gore is allowed to shower early.

• Vikings -- Christian Ponder, Toby Gerhart, Michael Jenkins, Kyle Rudolph, Blair Walsh: Never actively seek to start players against the 49ers defense, especially not this marginal group. Rudolph and Walsh are fantasy starters in some matchups, but this could be a shutout week. Roll the dice with some other flavor-of-the-week options instead.


• Jets -- Santonio Holmes, Nick Folk, Jets D/ST: Holmes figures to improve as the Jets' go-to receiver as the weeks go by. He was limited early with a hamstring issue, but his Week 2 touchdown against an elite Steelers defense shows he is ready to contribute more for fantasy owners. The Dolphins defense is a bit better than it is given credit for, so starting any other Jets, save for the defense and kicker (as needed), isn't advisable.

• Dolphins -- Reggie Bush: We might have suggested to sit Bush against the Jets run defense, but after his 172-yard outing against the Raiders he clearly is what makes the Dolphins go. Even if he is stuffed in the running game, he will pick up numbers in the passing game.


• Jets -- Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, Shonn Greene, Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley, Dustin Keller: Greene does not have a concussion, despite rumors to the contrary, but he shouldn't be a fantasy start against a Dolphins defense that held Darren McFadden to 22 yards on the ground. The Jets' supporting cast will have value at times this season, but not before Keller's hamstring proves healthy and the bye weeks force you to start consider these fantasy reserves.

• Dolphins -- Ryan Tannehill, Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas, Brian Hartline, Davone Bess, Anthony Fasano, Dan Carpenter, Dolphins D/ST: Other than Bush, ignore the Dolphins on your rosters. They just aren't going to blow out the Jets like they did the Raiders, even if they are at home.


• Bills -- C.J. Spiller, Stevie Johnson: The Bills offense has looked great the past two weeks, but these two are still the only players to trust. Spiller looks like the best running back in fantasy, and Johnson is steady, but the passing game is no certainty from week-to-week.

• Browns -- Trent Richardson, Greg Little: After an unproductive debut, Richardson showed so much in Week 2 he now has to be considered a start in all leagues. He is just too much a part of the Browns offense to bench. Also, assuming Brandon Weeden keeps improving, Little could be a nice option as a third receiver.


• Bills -- Ryan Fitzpatrick, Fred Jackson, Donald Jones, T.J. Graham, Scott Chandler, Rian Lindell, Bills D/ST: Chandler will get a lot of love after scoring touchdowns in back-to-back weeks, but use last season as your guide. He started off hot with the short touchdowns then, too, only to fall off as the season wore on. You are better off with a more regularly targeted tight end. Fitzpatrick is a sleeper in deeper formats, but the Browns made life miserable on a much better quarterback in Michael Vick in Week 1.

• Browns -- Brandon Weeden, Mohamed Massaquoi, Josh Gordon, Ben Watson, Phil Dawson, Browns D/ST: Weeden looked like a whole different player last Sunday, but that doesn't mean we should rush him into fantasy lineups. That uncertainty makes the rest of these options sits on a weekly basis.


• Buccaneers -- Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson: The Bucs opened the offense up against a suspect Giants secondary a week ago, but that won't happen against the Cowboys' corners. Martin has earned must-start status, regardless of the matchup, and Jackson likely did the same last Sunday.

• Cowboys -- Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Dan Bailey, Cowboys D/ST: The Giants' late-game explosion versus the Bucs was a good sign for any owner with players facing Tampa Bay. It is the Cowboys' turn here, and thus a good week for Murray, Bryant and Witten to finally produce like the fantasy superstars they are. Keep them all active. This may be a breakthrough week for the disappointing Bryant against the worst team in fantasy versus receivers through two weeks.


• Buccaneers -- Josh Freeman, Mike Williams, Dallas Clark, Connor Barth, Buccaneers D/ST: Coach Greg Schiano is building something in Tampa Bay, but this figures to be a far thinner week for the Bucs. The Cowboys posted a stinker in Seattle, but they are back home and the Bucs don't figure to be able to move the ball easily through the air against the Cowboys' corners. Williams is a sit in this matchup for that reason. The others are better used down the road as bye-week replacements.

• Cowboys -- Kevin Ogletree, Felix Jones: So much for Ogletree's breakthrough: After the big numbers in Week 1, he managed just one target in Seattle. He just won't get the looks or be included in the game plan with the Cowboys' primary options all healthy. Jones can be cut in all leagues.


• Jaguars -- Maurice Jones-Drew: The good news about the inept Jags is that it means MJD is going to be used heavily in both the running and passing games. The Colts are eighth-worst in fantasy against running backs this season after being third-worst a year ago. This is a great week to expect 120 yards and a touchdown or two, no matter how much MJD doesn't know about the Mike Mularkey offense.

• Colts -- Andrew Luck, Donald Brown, Reggie Wayne, Adam Vinatieri: The Jags are the worst team in fantasy against running backs, having been abused by the Vikes and Texans. Those teams have elite backs, but the Colts will no doubt make Brown and the running game the core of the plan. Brown looked like a breakthrough candidate in the preseason and is going to have a good day this week, but he's not going to dominate the offensive production. Elsewhere, Wayne has re-earned must-start status, while better quarterback play has made Vinatieri a fantasy-viable kicker again. Luck might wind up being a must-start quarterback at home this season (save for a few tough defenses coming to town). Don't worry about the Jags' current standing of second-best in fantasy against quarterbacks.


• Jaguars -- Blaine Gabbert, Rashad Jennings, Laurent Robinson, Justin Blackmon, Marcedes Lewis, Josh Scobee, Jaguars D/ST: Gabbert took a significant step back after his promising Week 1 and preseason, which makes everyone not named MJD a low-end fantasy option before the bye weeks. Watch for a Blackmon coming-out party, though. He is a big-time talent poised to make an impact in fantasy this season. He just needs Gabbert to show some consistency. They should have a better week against the Colts, as opposed to the Texans, who are the No. 1 team in fantasy against quarterbacks.

• Colts -- Donnie Avery, Austin Collie, T.Y. Hilton, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, Colts D/ST: Avery has emerged as a nice sleeper with Collie (concussion) still unable to play, although Avery is probably a better bye-week fill-in than starter until he proves to be a consistent part of the offense. Fleener is a sleeper to use, but he was quiet in his home debut and fellow rookie Allen vultured the goal-line score last Sunday. Watch Luck's targets because the rookie signal-caller can really make some intriguing bye-week options for us in deeper leagues.


• Falcons -- Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, Matt Bryant: This is a short week with a trip to the West Coast, but that might merely mean the Falcons are in for a shootout that never really materialized Monday night. They got ahead early and sat on the ball a bit in the second half against the Broncos. They won't get that luxury this week, so keep all of these Falcons active, including Turner. He should be good for a touchdown, even if he looks like a plodding runner now.

• Chargers -- Philip Rivers, Ryan Mathews, Malcom Floyd, Antonio Gates, Nate Kaeding: Rivers has shown he can still be a consistent fantasy starter, and has cut down on his turnovers and made do with a shaky supporting cast of receivers. He makes Floyd a solid start in all leagues, while Mathews (shoulder) and Gates (ribs) are must-start options, assuming they play.


• Falcons -- Jacquizz Rodgers, Falcons D/ST: The Falcons played well against the Broncos, but this is a road game that figures to light up the scoreboard a bit. Rodgers just hasn't taken a big enough chunk of the touches to date, although Turner's DUI might signal more to come for Rodgers. The Falcons have been looking for a way to squeeze more out of the speedy backup and Turner's indiscretion might lead the team to punish him a bit for a lack of leadership. Until that happens, though, Rodgers is no more than a speculative play. Don't use Rodgers or the D/ST unit this week.

• Chargers -- Jackie Battle, Curtis Brinkley, Ronnie Brown, Dante Rosario, Chargers D/ST: The three Bs for the Chargers take a back seat in fantasy with the expected return of Mathews. If Mathews doesn't return from his broken clavicle, then consider Battle a sleeper in deeper leagues. Rosario is coming off a three-touchdown game, but he goes back to the fantasy waiver wire if Gates is active this Sunday. As for the Chargers D/ST, it might prove to be a sleeper in better matchups -- especially at home -- but facing a potent Falcons aerial assault doesn't qualify.


• Eagles -- Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Brent Celek, Alex Henery, Eagles D/ST: The Cardinals held up well against an elite quarterback in New England, but Vick earned must-start status in handling the Ravens defense a week ago. Save for injury, there is no good reason to sit your primary Eagles in the desert. And injuries to others have made Celek a huge part of the offense -- and a fantasy starter -- right now.

• Cardinals -- Larry Fitzgerald: It is hard to imagine a guy who caught one pass for four yards as the lone Cardinal to trust. Ken Whisenhunt said Bill Belichick took away Fitzgerald -- it wasn't a lack of mojo with the quarterback, supposedly -- and Whiz vows to get Fitz more involved. Keep him active because of his ceiling, even if he is going to match up against Nnamdi Asomugha. Fitz is a type who gets up for such a worthy opponent.


• Eagles -- Jeremy Maclin, Damaris Johnson, Jason Avant, Clay Harbor: Maclin (hip) looks like he will have to sit this one out. His replacement starter, Johnson, is a non-entity in fantasy, as is the Eagles' third receiver, Avant, and the backup tight end. The Cardinals defense is playing pretty well thus far.

• Cardinals -- Kevin Kolb, Beanie Wells, Ryan Williams, Andre Roberts, Todd Heap, Jay Feely, Cardinals D/ST: The Eagles defense looks nothing like the one that started slow last season. The unit does a great job against quarterbacks (third) and receivers (fifth) in fantasy. Williams is likely in the doghouse after his late fumble against the Pats, but Wells isn't intriguing enough to consider starting against the Eagles front either. Roberts might be the most interesting of the Cardinals' stop-gap pieces. He has caught a pair of short touchdowns from Kolb and has a decent rapport with the quarterback. Use him if you're desperate.


• Steelers -- Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Heath Miller, Shaun Suisham, Steelers D/ST: Save for the questions with the fleet of banged-up backs, this is a start-all game for the Steelers. The Raiders have looked like the worst team in the NFL, getting smoked in the second half against one of the previous candidates for that lowly status (Miami). Wallace looks full-go after his holdout and Big Ben is targeting Miller as his short-yardage touchdown guy through two weeks. The lack of certainty in the running game can make Big Ben one of the most productive quarterbacks in fantasy this week.

• Raiders -- Darren McFadden, Sebastian Janikowski: These are the two Raiders potentially immune to the awful matchup the Steelers defense presents. But even that is no sure thing. McFadden couldn't run against the Chargers or the Dolphins, but he is going to be heavily involved in the offense through the passing game when things get out of hand. That should help the Raiders move the ball as they trade touchdowns for field goals.


• Steelers -- Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer, Rashard Mendenhall, Emmanuel Sanders: Dwyer would be a start if he wasn't dealing with turf toe. Mendenhall would be a start if he wasn't going to be held out through the bye in Week 4. Redman would be a start if he proved healthy or productive to date. Alas, Redman is only an option if you're desperate. This is his easiest matchup yet, though; the Raiders were gashed by Bush last weekend.

• Raiders -- Carson Palmer, Mike Goodson, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore, Rod Streater, Brandon Myers, Raiders D/ST: You shouldn't be starting a Raider if you can help it, especially against the Steelers. Palmer has shown some potential, making surprises out of Goodson and Myers last week, but he won't be a steady fantasy option until he develops something consistent with DHB and Moore. Don't count on any of that happening against Mike Tomlin's mean mothers.


• Texans -- Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, Shayne Graham, Texans D/ST: The ground game got rolling last week, but the Broncos pose a much greater challenge, particularly in Denver. This quartet has earned must-start status, regardless of the matchup. Keep them and only them active.

• Broncos -- Willis McGahee, Demaryius Thomas: The Texans defense doesn't quite get enough credit. It is good enough to shut down McGahee, but the veteran back is a workhorse in a still run-heavy offense. A John Fox team won't ever get far from the running game, so keep McGahee active for the potential of 60 yards and a short touchdown. Thomas, meanwhile, has looked like a game-breaker, particularly since the other receivers have struggled to get the same separation.


• Texans -- Matt Schaub, Ben Tate, Kevin Walter, Owen Daniels: In favorable matchups or during bye weeks, these guys are options, if not must-starts. Against a decent Denver defense that can jam up the line of scrimmage, it's probably best not to trust these guys. Tate got a bigger piece of the offense last week, but this game is not going to get out of hand in the same way. Daniels might be the closest to someone worth considering as a starter. Consider him the 13th-best tight end option this week, a sit in a 12-team or smaller league.

• Broncos -- Peyton Manning, Knowshon Moreno, Lance Ball, Eric Decker, Jacob Tamme, Matt Prater, Broncos D/ST: Manning was enough of a disappointment Monday night that we have to be wary of him against another elite defense. The Texans might limit Manning even more than the Steelers did that first Sunday night. Moreno fumbled away his chance at early season fantasy value, giving way to Ball now, while Decker and Tamme just are not getting open enough for Manning (or fantasy owners) to trust them against an elite Texans defense. You probably can find better options than Prater or the Broncos defense, too.


• Patriots -- Tom Brady, Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Stephen Gostkowski: After what the Pats did at home against the Cardinals, they can't be trusted against the Ravens on the road in prime time. Still, there aren't many fantasy teams who can afford to sit the leading lights of the Patriots offense.

• Ravens -- Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, Justin Tucker, Ravens D/ST: Don't worry about any of your Ravens options against the Pats, even if New England's defense is improved. This still figures to be a higher scoring contest than Ravens-Eagles was a week ago. This quartet represents the sure things, but consider Joe Flacco, Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta as needed. This can wind up being a shootout late.


• Patriots -- Stevan Ridley, Deion Branch, Aaron Hernandez, Kellen Winslow, Patriots D/ST: Ridley is not quite immune to a bad matchup yet, even if the Hernandez (ankle) loss might lead the Pats to lean more on the run. Branch and Winslow aren't big enough parts of the offense after signing this week, while the Pats defense is more of a streaming option than a regular starter before bye weeks.

• Ravens -- Jacoby Jones, Ed Dickson: Jones reeled in a touchdown and should have had a second (it was called back because of offensive pass interference), but he is more of a bye-week replacement at this point. Dickson should have been getting the looks Pitta has gotten, but an injury-plagued start has him too far down the list to own right now, much less start.


• Packers -- Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley, Mason Crosby, Packers D/ST: The Seahawks showed Dallas how good they can be with their 12th Man in effect in Seattle. In prime time, the fans will be ultra tough. That adds a layer of worry for the Packer stalwarts. Jennings has had plenty of time to heal, so he is fine to trust after missing Week 2 on a short week.

• Seahawks -- Marshawn Lynch: The Packers made prime time mince meat of the veteran Cutler and a solid Bears D/ST in Week 2, so the Seahawks aren't a safe bet in this one. Lynch is facing an elite run defense, but he has fantasy matchup immunity when healthy.


• Packers -- Cedric Benson, Randall Cobb, James Jones: Benson saw more carries and performed admirably against the Bears, but this Seahawks run defense is just too tough to consider Benson more than a low-end flex option. Cobb and Jones ruined their Week 1 promise last week, so considering them as Jennings returns is not a great idea, especially in this matchup.

• Seahawks -- Russell Wilson, Robert Turbin, Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin, Braylon Edwards, Golden Tate, Zach Miller, Steven Hauschka, Seahawks D/ST: This is easily Wilson's and the Seahawks' toughest test to date, and they have already played two tough opponents. These guys haven't been great fantasy options yet, so expecting them to start being that against a rested Packers team isn't advisable either.

QB -- Tony Romo

RB -- Trent Richardson

RB -- Mark Ingram

WR -- Julio Jones

WR -- Brandon Marshall

Flex -- Reggie Wayne

TE -- Brandon Pettigrew

K -- Dan Bailey

D/ST -- 49ers D/ST

Think you can do better than that lineup? Hit me up on Twitter @EricMackFantasy.