Fantasy football Week 3 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em
Injuries have created a wealth of opportunities, mostly for backup running backs, as well as huge holes in fantasy starting lineups. Last week, Jamaal Charles, A.J. Green, Ryan Mathews and DeSean Jackson were started in about 100 percent of fantasy leagues. All of them left their respective games with injuries, and only Jackson appears likely to start this week. Robert Griffin III, Mark Ingram and Knowshon Moreno are also on the shelf, leaving their owners scrambling to find replacements.
All that tumult makes for a very interesting week of start/sit decisions. Do you immediately trust Knile Davis in Kansas City and Donald Brown in San Diego? Is Khiry Robinson worth a shot against the Vikings this week? Could Mohamed Sanu be a sneaky play if Green is forced to sit because of his foot injury? All of that and more will be answered in SI.com’s recommendations on who to start and who to sit for Week 3.
The following recommendations are based on 12-team leagues that start one quarterback, two running backs, two receivers, one RB/WR flex, one tight end and one defense. However, to accommodate slightly deeper leagues, they extend to 14 quarterbacks and tight ends, 30 running backs and 40 receivers.
San Diego at Buffalo
Chargers: Philip Rivers, Donald Brown, Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates, Chargers DST
Rivers lit up the Seahawks for 284 yards and three touchdowns, all of which went to Gates. Unsurprisingly, they’re both strong plays against the Bills in Week 3. Brown steps right into the void created by Ryan Mathews’ sprained MCL. The Bills have allowed big per-carry numbers to both Matt Forte and Lamar Miller this year. The Cardinals and Seahawks kept Allen quiet, but expect him to bust loose this week.
Bills: C.J. Spiller, Sammy Watkins
Spiller and Fred Jackson split carries right down the middle last week, but the latter got just 24 yards on 12 totes. Spiller needed a 47-yard carry late and a kick return touchdown to put up his big game, but he seems to finally have a step on Jackson in the backfield. Watkins, meanwhile, put up his first huge game in the NFL, and looks like a do-it-all receiver for the Bills. You’re going to start him basically every week.Sit 'em
Chargers: Danny Woodhead, Eddie Royal, Ladarius Green
Woodhead just narrowly missed out on being a starter. Depending on your roster situation, he could be in the mix. He’ll definitely be a guy fantasy owners look at when the bye weeks begin in Week 4. Woodhead should get more touches with Mathews out for the next month. Royal is still getting a surprising number of targets, but he isn’t doing enough with them to warrant consideration.
Bills: EJ Manuel, Fred Jackson, Robert Woods, Mike Williams, Scott Chandler, Bills DST
Recall that Jackson’s strong game Week 1 was against a Bears team that could again be among the worst in the league at stopping the run. It’s still very early in the season, but the Chargers currently rank as the ninth-best run defense in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. It’s hard to see both Spiller and Jackson as fantasy starters this week, and I have more faith in the player with better explosion.
Dallas at St. Louis
Cowboys: Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant
The Cowboys look set to ride Murray behind what appears to be one of the best offensive lines in the league. Murray has already racked up 285 yards on the ground this year, and he should be in for another big day against the Rams. The Romo-to-Bryant connection flourished last week, and there’s more than enough here to make Romo worth starting. The Rams haven’t yet faced a strong passing game, going up against the Vikings and Buccaneers thus far.
Rams: Zac Stacy, Brian Quick, Jared Cook
This Dallas defense looks like it’s going to be a whole lot better than anyone expected. It completely shut down the Titans last week, and did a great job keeping the 49ers in check, especially in the second half. Still, Stacy is an easy start this week. Quick is racking up targets in the St. Louis offense, and is worthy of a spot as a WR3. Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker have torched the Cowboys this year. That makes the tight end Cook a strong play on Sunday.Sit 'em
Cowboys: Terrance Williams, Cole Beasely, Jason Witten, Cowboys DST
Witten simply hasn’t done enough, and there are too many other options at tight end these days to trust him. It does seem foreign to have him as a sit this week, but the performance justifies keeping him on your bench. Same goes for Williams, who had just three targets a week ago. This is Bryant’s passing game. Everyone else is just watching. While the defense has been better than expected and Orlando Scandrick could play, it’s still not quite a fantasy option. Austin Davis looked competent against the Buccaneers a week ago.
Rams: Austin Davis, Benny Cunningham, Kenny Britt, Tavon Austin, Austin Pettis, Rams DST
There aren’t any tough decisions here. None of these guys is more than depth, and you have to be in a very deep league to even think about owning any of them. It’s likely you wouldn’t even want to turn to these guys when the bye weeks start next week. Davis did show a steady hand in leading the Rams to a come-from-behind win last week, but there’s still a long road to travel for him to become a fantasy-relevant quarterback.
Washington at Philadelphia
Redskins: Alfred Morris, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Niles Paul
Washington fed Morris last week, and he rewarded them with a pair of scores and 85 yards. He should tear up a Philadelphia defense that just allowed 149 yards combined to Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw. It sounds like Jackson will play despite a shoulder injury, and that makes him a go in fantasy leagues. Garcon also matches up well against the Philadelphia secondary. Paul led the team in targets last week, though that could change if Jackson is out there on Sunday.
Eagles: Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, Zach Ertz
The touchdown numbers were lacking for Foles last week, but he threw for 331 yards and 8.9 yards per attempt. McCoy has had his touches noticeably cut by Darren Sproles, but the latter will not produce this way for the entire season. McCoy should have his best game of the season on Sunday. Maclin is dominating the targets for Philadelphia, and also has eight targets that have traveled at least 20 yards in the air. Ertz has caught five of his six deep targets for 123 yards and a touchdown.
Redskins: Kirk Cousins, Andre Roberts, Redskins DST
It may seem curious that Jackson, Garcon and Paul are all start plays this week, but Cousins is a sit. Don’t forget that he was actually bad as a starter last year, throwing four touchdowns against five interceptions and coming up short of 6.0 yards per attempt. Let’s have him prove it to us before we trust him. The Eagles are not the Jaguars. The Washington defense belongs on the bench, even after it had a ridiculous 10 sacks a week ago.
Eagles: Darren Sproles, Riley Cooper, Jordan Matthews, Eagles DST
Remember, last week was the exception, not the norm for Sproles. Not only would I not start him this week, I’d be looking to trade him while his value is sky high. Cooper and Matthews have been no-shows in the offense this season, and belong firmly attached to your bench until they show something more than a pulse.
Houston at New York Giants
Texans: Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, Texans DST
Foster has been a beast this season, making anyone who passed on him because of concerns over his back look foolish. The Giants present a great matchup for him, as well as Johnson and Hopkins. They allowed a huge day to Matthew Stafford in Week 1, then got carved up by Andre Ellington even with Carson Palmer on the bench. Expect Johnson to visit the end zone for the first time in 2014. With the Giants still struggling to get a hold of their new offense, the Texans defense should feast on Sunday.
Giants: Rashad Jennings, Victor Cruz, Larry Donnell
It hasn’t been pretty, but Jennings has been the No. 12 scorer among running backs in standard-scoring leagues. Volume will do that for a guy. Andre Williams is not a threat to his touches, and Jennings could easily have the ball in his hands 20 times per week. That makes him an easy starter. Cruz is racking up targets despite being completely unproductive. Still, Cruz has too much potential to bench, and the Giants should be throwing the ball a lot in this game. Donnell, meanwhile, has been the only Giant to exceed expectations this year. He should be considered a viable starting option going forward.
Texans: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Garrett Graham, C.J. Fiedorowicz
It’s a little surprising how few fantasy-relevant players the Texans have. You’re going to start Foster and Johnson every week, the defense most weeks, and Hopkins when the matchup is right. Other than that, your entire league might not start another Texan all year, except in case of an injury.
Giants: Eli Manning, Andre Williams, Rueben Randle, Giants DST
Manning is still struggling to get it going this year, but from a fantasy standpoint, he was at least semi-productive last week. He threw for 277 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions against the Cardinals, who do have a pretty strong defense. The Texans should be in his face all day, though, and he does not handle pressure well. Now would be a good time to try to sell Randle, though that is likely easier said than done.
Minnesota at New Orleans
Vikings: Cordarrelle Patterson
Things have gone from terrible to much, much worse in Minnesota with the Adrian Peterson situation and, though these concerns are secondary, that will manifest themselves on the field this week. The only Viking worth starting is Patterson, who should have the ball forced into his hands, given that he’s the team’s one true playmaker with Peterson out. It would be surprising if he had fewer than 10 touches on Sunday.
Saints: Drew Brees, Pierre Thomas, Khiry Robinson, Marques Colston, Brandin Cooks, Jimmy Graham, Saints DST
The 0-2 Saints return home, already trailing the Panthers by two games in the NFC South and desperate for their first win of the year. They welcome in an overmatched foe that is reeling in the wake of off-the-field issues. In other words, expect a huge game out of this offense. Don’t be surprised if Brees looks to get Colston and Cooks involved early, after the duo was nearly shutout against the Browns last week. Pierre Thomas will have to do his damage early, because the Saints will likely turn to Robinson when they are nursing what should be a big second-half lead. Both backs, however, are top-30 options this week. Graham, meanwhile, is getting nearly 29 percent of the Saints’ targets this year.
Vikings: Matt Cassel, Matt Asiata, Jerick McKinnon, Greg Jennings, Kyle Rudolph, Vikings DST
Last week, I said that volume isn’t everything when urging people to sit Asiata. I stand by that again this week. Remember, it took the Patriots defense somehow vacating one entire side of the field on Asiata’s 25-yard touchdown reception to make his day last week. It wasn’t even a screen pass, but simply a play in which he leaked out of the backfield and was one of Cassel’s last reads. Jennings and Rudolph could potentially put up a garbage-time score, but you don’t want to depend on that.
Tennessee at Cincinnati
Titans: Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter, Delanie Walker
The Titans came crashing down last week after flying high against the Chiefs in Week 1, however Wright and Walker are still well worth starting this week. Walker has become a real weapon in the passing game, and the Bengals could be without Vontaze Burfict. Wright’s a PPR monster, and the Titans will need his possession skills to move the chains against the Bengals’ strong run defense. I’m still willing to take a shot on Hunter, given that he gets a few deep targets per game. If he can hit on just one of those, he could be in for a big day.
Bengals: Andy Dalton, Giovani Bernard, A.J. Green, Bengals DST
This is a bit speculative for now, because we don’t yet know Green’s status for this week (he says he'll play if he's "feeling good"). If his foot injury forces him to miss the game, Dalton would be a sit, while Mohamed Sanu would jump up into the start group, No matter what, this is a great matchup for Bernard. You saw what DeMarco Murray did to the Titans last week. They could have the same sort of trouble with Bernard.
Titans: Jake Locker, Shonn Greene, Bishop Sankey, Nate Washington, Titans DST
Locker had a poor first half against the Cowboys a week ago, though a few key drops did him in. He also missed his fair share of open receivers down the field, so he had plenty to do with his own demise. This running game cannot be trusted against a defense like Cincinnati’s.
Bengals: Jeremy Hill, Mohamed Sanu, Brandon Tate, Jermaine Gresham
Hill just barely missed the cut here after what he did last week. However, he’ll likely need last week’s formula to be a guy fantasy owners trust in weeks when they have their full roster at their disposal. That formula calls for a blowout in which the Bengals feed him a lot in the second half. While that could certainly happen here, it’s hard to bet on it with a guy who is likely your fourth or fifth running back, at best.
Baltimore at Cleveland
Ravens: Torrey Smith, Dennis Pitta, Ravens DST
Pitta is the real gem for the Ravens this week. He presents a very tough matchup for the Browns, and is the one real consistent option in the Baltimore passing game. Expect him to get somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 targets. Smith has been a big disappointment through the first two weeks, but I expect Joe Flacco to at least try to hit him deep down the field a few times in this game. The Ravens defense should be able to feast on Brian Hoyer on Sunday, making the group a strong play in nearly all leagues.
Browns: Terrance West, Andrew Hawkins, Jordan Cameron
West scored his first career touchdown last week, racking up 90 total yards in the win over the Saints. He should be able to put up at least RB2 numbers getting the majority of the touches out of the backfield with Ben Tate still nursing a knee injury. Hawkins is going to rack up targets all year, and would be an even better play if Cameron has to sit again. It does sound like the tight end will be able to go after missing one game with a shoulder injury. If healthy, he's a guy you want to get right back in your lineup this week.
Ravens: Joe Flacco, Bernard Pierce, Justin Forsett, Steve Smith
Smith has racked up 25 targets this year, but I’m skeptical the production will be there in a tough matchup against the Browns. Forsett remains no more than a change-of-pace back, while Pierce needed a few big carries late in the win over the Steelers to get north of four yards per carry. The bet here remains that no Ravens running back finishes the season in the top 30 at the position.
Browns: Brian Hoyer, Isaiah Crowell, Miles Austin, Browns DST
These are all pretty academic. Crowell doesn’t do much more than give West a breather, and Austin is lightly owned in fantasy leagues for a reason. Hoyer has been a fine steward of the Cleveland offense, but good stewardship doesn’t light up the scoreboard for fantasy owners. On top of that, this is a bad matchup for him.
Green Bay at Detroit
Packers: Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb
Rodgers, Lacy, Nelson and Cobb aren’t just worth starting this week. All four are in the top 10 at their respective positions. Rodgers is my No. 1 quarterback, Lacy is my No. 5 running back and Nelson is my No. 2 receiver. This game has an over/under of 53, and there’s a great chance both teams get into the 30s. As is always the case with the Packers, it’s easy to identify the starters. Expect big things from this quartet on Sunday.
Lions: Matthew Stafford, Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate
While the Packers have a strong quartet of starters, the Lions do them one better, adding a second running back to give them a healthy quintet. Stafford and Johnson are no-brainers. Bush has had a rough start to the season, but the Packers present a great matchup. Not only can he take advantage of this defense, but the Lions will likely need to score 30 points to win, and that means a bit more of Bush and less of Bell. The latter is still worth starting however, given the chances of a shootout here.
Packers: James Starks, Davante Adams, Jarrett Boykin, Andrew Quarless, Packers DST
You aren’t sitting any Packer that you would normally start. Keep an eye on Adams, however. With byes beginning next week, he could be a very intriguing player in the coming weeks. He has clearly surpassed Boykin as the No. 3 receiver on the depth chart.
Lions: The Tight End Triumvirate, Lions DST
If only two of these tight ends would go away, the one left behind would likely be worth at least a flier in fantasy leagues. The ceiling remains highest for Eric Ebron, but as long as Joseph Fauria and Brandon Pettigrew are in town, he won’t be worth considering in fantasy leagues.
Indianapolis at Jacksonville
Colts: Andrew Luck, Ahmad Bradshaw, T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne
One area of concern for Luck is definitely his yards per attempt. He’s getting just 6.23 YPA this year, and that’s going to have to come up as the season progresses. He has hit on just 1-of-5 pass attempts that have traveled at least 20 yards in the air. Still, this is a great matchup with the Jaguars on Sunday. Bradshaw once again outperformed Trent Richardson, running for 70 yards on 13 carries and catching two touchdown passes. This is the week to get him in your starting lineup. Hilton is dealing with a hamstring injury. Right now, it isn’t expected to keep him out on Sunday.
Jaguars: Toby Gerhart, Marqise Lee
It’s not time to lose all faith in Gerhart just yet. He has run terribly this year, but we can give him at least a bit of a pass last week. Washington completely shut down the Jaguars, as they ran just 48 plays. Gerhart only got seven carries, so he really didn’t have much of a chance a week ago. This week should be better, though there are concerns that this game will get away from the Jags. I have him as more of a flex than an RB2. Lee, meanwhile, still leads this team in targets, both overall and in the red zone, and would benefit him if the game degenerates into a blowout.
Colts: Trent Richardson, Hakeem Nicks, Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, Colts DST
On the surface Richardson had a productive game last week, picking up 79 yards on the ground and catching one pass for 16 yards. However, it took him 21 carries to get those 79 yards, and he fumbled twice, losing one of them. Even if the Colts cruise to a victory here, he’s not getting 21 carries again this week. He’s a borderline flex play depending on your roster composition, but he’s outside my top-30 running backs for Week 3. Allen also rides the bench after his disappearance last week.
Jaguars: Chad Henne, Allen Hurns, Allen Robinson, Cecil Shorts, Jaguars DST
We’re just one more bad Henne half away from our first Blake Bortles sighting of the season. The whole Jacksonville offense would likely be better for it. After Lee, there could be a game of musical chairs of sorts among the Jacksonville receivers. It’s hard to trust any of them other than the rookie out of USC.
Oakland at New England
Raiders: Again, no one
Darren McFadden and James Jones are close, but they just can’t quite get over the hump. The only argument for McFadden is volume, but he did nothing with the 14 touches he got last week. He only got 12 carries in what proved to be a blowout, and there’s little reason to expect anything different against the Patriots this week. James Jones has been a garbage-time darling this year, but you can’t bank on that in your starting lineup, especially when every receiver on your roster is available to you.
Patriots: Tom Brady, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Patriots DST
On the other side, the Patriots provide the fantasy community with a bevy of starters this week. We’ll remember Week 3 of the 2014 season as the week when Brady finally got on track. The Raiders have yet to face a passing offense like New England’s this year, and don’t seem to have the pass rush to take advantage of the Patriots’ suspect offensive line. Vereen should get more than the two targets he had a week ago, but the Patriots could also be salting away a big lead late, just the kind of game in which Ridley excels. Meanwhile, Edelman and Gronkowski are every-week starters, and they should thrive against the Raiders on Sunday.
Raiders: Again, everyone
McFadden and James Jones nearly helped the Raiders avoid the ignominy of two straight weeks without a fantasy starter, but they’re just not good enough to do it. Perhaps next week will be their time, when six teams are on byes.
Patriots: Aaron Dobson, Danny Amendola, Brandon LaFell, Kenbrell Thompkins
Or, as I like to call them, the Quartet of Miscellany. Dobson is the only one even worth rostering at this point. He’s a decent guy to keep around for depth purposes, but will likely only crack a fantasy starting lineup because of bye-week or injury considerations.
San Francisco at Arizona
49ers: Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, 49ers DST
Gore has been very productive this season, running for 129 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries. The Cardinals should get John Abraham back this week, but he’s more of a pass rusher than run stopper. Gore is a top-10 running back for Week 3. If the 49ers want to cure what ails the offense, they’ll get the ball to Crabtree more often. Eli Manning had a decent game against the Cardinals last week, so this team can definitely be thrown on. Davis should be good to go despite suffering an ankle injury late in the 49ers' loss to the Bears a week ago.
Cardinals: Andre Ellington, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Cardinals DST
Ellington looked great against the Giants last week, running for 91 yards on 15 carries. Whatever worries owners had about his foot before the start of the season should be safely put to bed by now. The 49ers held Matt Forte in check last week, but Ellington is still an RB2 for Week 3. Fitzgerald and Floyd would obviously be much better off with Carson Palmer, but even if it’s Drew Stanton starting, they’re both worth playing as WR2s. Fitz already has four red-zone targets this year. The reports of his demise were far too premature.
49ers: Colin Kaepernick, Carlos Hyde, Anquan Boldin, Steve Johnson
There are some big names here, so allow me to explain. The Cardinals did a great job against Philip Rivers in Week 1, and Kaepernick has really struggled against Dallas and Chicago, two defenses that most people figured would rank toward the bottom of the league. It’s very hard to trust him as a starter when there are so many other strong options at the position. Having said that, he would move into my starting class if A.J. Green is out, forcing Dalton to the fantasy bench. Kaepernick takes Boldin with him to the bench, as well. The Cardinals present a very tough matchup for receivers, as Keenan Allen and Victor Cruz already discovered this season.
Cardinals: Drew Stanton, John Brown, John Carlson
Not a whole lot of intrigue here. Stanton, Brown and Carlson simply are not fantasy options at this point, regardless of matchup. If Carson Palmer starts, he could enter the starting discussion.
Denver at Seattle
Broncos: Peyton Manning, Montee Ball, Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Wes Welker, Julius Thomas
Don’t get cute here. The Broncos may be playing against the Seahawks in Seattle, but this is the best offense in the league. You want all your Broncos active, just like you would in any other week. That includes Welker, who should make his 2014 regular-season debut after his suspension was lifted earlier this week. You may not see video game numbers from this unit, but they all remain easy starters this week. In fact, I expect them to get the tiniest measure of revenge for the Super Bowl by pulling off the upset victory on Sunday with Manning leading the charge.
Seahawks: Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Percy Harvin, Seahawks DST
The Seahawks have their own version of “don’t get too cute.” Even though the mighty Broncos are visiting, you want to start their defense. You used a high draft pick on them; you're going to start them in Week 3. They’re a completely different beast at home. They likely won’t shut down the Broncos, but they should do enough to start. The Seahawks' best gameplan may be to limit the total possessions, and that would call for a heavy dose of Lynch. Andrew Luck had a lot of fantasy success against the Broncos in Week 1, and Wilson can follow that blueprint. Expect the Seahawks to get the ball in Harvin’s hands at least 10 times. The fact that he was so lightly used a week ago should only create a greater sense of urgency.
Broncos: Broncos DST
The Seahawks generally do a good job of taking care of the ball, and they’ll likely take even fewer chances with the Broncos in town. You should be able to find a better option for Week 3.
Seahawks: Robert Turbin, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Zach Miller
Baldwin actually leads the team with 11 targets, but he hasn’t done a whole lot with them. The volume was expected and it’s why he’s worth having around for depth, but he’s not the sort of guy you should be starting this week. Turbin is clearly the backup to Lynch, and that would make him a very intriguing guy if the starter ever went down. Lynch is dealing with a back injury, so now might be the time to speculate on Turbin if you have the roster space.
Kansas City at Miami
Chiefs: Knile Davis, Travis Kelce
Davis takes over as the starting running back in Kansas City with Jamaal Charles out because of a high ankle sprain. Davis will almost certainly be worth starting every week he’s in there in place of Charles. He ran for 79 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries, and brings enough to the table that the Chiefs won’t have to change the offense to account for their big loss from last week. He’s a borderline RB1 against the Dolphins. Kelce got more involved in the offense last week, and caught four passes for 81 yards. His breakout game is coming this week.
Dolphins: Lamar Miller, Mike Wallace, Dolphins DST
With Knowshon Moreno out because of a dislocated elbow, Miller immediately becomes a player worth starting in fantasy leagues. Forget about the nasty taste he left in your mouth after falling flat last year. He already has 105 yards on 22 carries this season, and has caught six of his 10 targets. What’s more, four of those targets have been in the red zone. He’s easily a flex player this week, especially with all the injuries for the Chiefs on defense. Wallace has been one of the best receivers in the league in the young season. He could wreak havoc on the secondary if Eric Berry’s sprained ankle keeps him from playing.
Chiefs: Alex Smith, Dwayne Bowe, Donnie Avery, Chiefs DST
Smith has had a rough go of it in the first two games of the season, throwing for 457 yards, 5.94 YPA, one touchdown and three interceptions. He cannot be trusted against what is at least a decent defense in Miami. Bowe caught three of his six targets in his first game of the season last week, but he’s on the back nine of his career and is really no more than a WR4 at this point. He needs a good matchup to be considered a starter in fantasy leagues, and he doesn’t have that this week.
Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, Damien Williams, Brian Hartline, Charles Clay
The numbers just haven’t been there for Tannehill this year. He got just 4.92 YPA last week, throwing for 241 yards on 49 attempts against a Bills team that had just surrendered nearly 350 yards passing to Jay Cutler. Of course, the Dolphins don’t have nearly the weapons the Bears do, but it was still a disappointing performance from Tannehill. He’s 1-for-7 with two interceptions on passes that travel at least 20 yards in the air, though his receivers have dropped two such passes.
Pittsburgh at Carolina
Steelers: Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton
The Panthers present a tough matchup for opposing runners, but Bell appears to have jumped a level this season. You don’t bench him in any matchup. Not only is he central to everything the Steelers do on offense, but he seems to be shiftier this season than he was a year ago. Even in a terrible game for the Pittsburgh offense in Baltimore, Brown had seven catches on 12 targets for 90 yards. He’s a very hard guy to keep completely quiet, and that’s why he’s such a rock-solid WR1. Wheaton only had 38 yards last week, but he got eight more targets. He’s a strong play given that Ben Roethlisberger could have 35 or more dropbacks.
Panthers: Cam Newton, Kelvin Benjamin, Greg Olsen, Panthers DST
Newton looked great in his first game of the season, throwing for 281 yards, 8.3 YPA and one touchdown. He may still be taking it easy on the ground to protect his ribs, but it seems he’ll be more willing to run this week if he has the chance. Olsen and Benjamin once again paced the Panthers with eight targets apiece. Benjamin only caught two balls last week, but both went for more than 20 yards. He can be that big-play guy in this offense. Expect Newton to try to hit him for a few plays down the field on Sunday night.
Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger, LeGarrette Blount, Heath Miller, Steelers DST
Roethlisberger had a terrible game in Baltimore and now he faces another tough test against a strong defense on the road. The Panthers kept Matthew Stafford relatively quiet, holding him to 291 yards, 6.1 YPA and one touchdown while picking him off once. They also sacked him four times. Blount, Miller and the Steelers defense simply are not fantasy options at this point of the season.
Panthers: DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant
Williams is expected to be back this week after missing the win over the Lions with a hip injury. His presence means that neither he nor Stewart is worth starting. They will likely split the touches, and neither has been productive enough on his own to think about starting when they’re both in the backfield. Stay away from this messy situation.
Chicago at New York Jets
Bears: Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett
The Jets have been very good against the run this year, but Forte does so much as a receiver that he can still have a big game even if he gets shut down on the ground. Expect the Bears to focus on the pass this week, getting Cutler somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 pass attempts. Marshall and Jeffery both played through injury last week, and both look good to go for Monday night. We should get more clarity on both of them later in the week since the Bears don’t have their first practice until Thursday, but both of them should start against the Jets. Bennett has been a rock for Cutler this year, catching 15 passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns.
Jets: Chris Johnson, Chris Ivory
As expected, Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore torched the Bears on the ground last week, combining for 127 yards on 22 carries. After what C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and EJ Manuel did the to the Bears in Week 1, Johnson and Ivory owners should be very confident this week. Both are well worth starting in Week 3. Johnson looks like an RB2, while Ivory has an RB2 ceiling, but is certainly a strong flex option.
Bears: Santonio Holmes, Bears DST
Holmes flirted with potential starting status a week ago, but with Marshall and Jeffery in the lineup, he’s no more than a depth receiver in deeper leagues. The Bears defense did well against Kaepernick and company in the second half, but the Jets figure to play it a bit smarter, and the Bears cannot be trusted against a team that runs the ball as well as the Jets do.
Jets: Geno Smith, Eric Decker (likely out), Jeremy Kerley, Jeff Cumberland, Jets DST
Decker’s hamstring injury is creating headaches for his owners this week. He would definitely be worth starting if he played, but given that it’s Monday night, you probably won’t be able to wait around to find out. Unless the Jets make a declarative statement on his status before Sunday’s action, you’ll have to go without him. Smith has been efficient this year, but he shouldn’t be anywhere near a fantasy starting lineup with Decker likely out.