- Should you start Marcus Mariota against the Seahawks? What about Dak Prescott in a possible bounce-back game against the Cardinals? We have all of the Week 3 fantasy football start/sit advice you need.
I would sit Lamar Miller this week.
This is admittedly an aggressive sit, and I’d understand if not all Miller owners have the reinforcements that would allow them to bench him this week. If you find my upcoming argument convincing, but would then have to turn to someone like Chris Johnson or Darren Sproles in place of Miller, you’re better off sticking with the latter. If you have the depth at running back that would allow you to plug an RB2/3 type like, say, Tevin Coleman, Chris Carson or Tarik Cohen into your lineup, though, then I would pull the trigger on benching Miller.
All things considered, this does not shape up as a great week to have Miller in your lineup. For one, the inefficiency that plagued him last year is back in full force this year. He has 126 yards on 35 carries, which comes out to 3.6 yards per carry. Houston’s offense has sputtered in its first two games, ranking No. 29 in yards among the 30 teams that have played two games this season. In that same group, only the Giants, 49ers and Bengals have scored fewer than the Texans’ 20 points.
Rarely does the offense find the cure for what ails it in a matchup with the Patriots. Granted, the Patriots defense has looked vulnerable this season. However, they saw veteran Alex Smith and the possibly Super Bowl-caliber Chiefs in Week 1, and then squared off with Drew Brees in New Orleans in Week 2. The Texans won’t have a signal caller that measures up to Smith or Brees under center on Sunday. Deshaun Watson may reach those heights one day, but that day is far into the future. If he struggles, which seems likely, so, too, will the rest of the offense.
Houston has the defensive chops to make things hard on Tom Brady and company, but they’re also very familiar with what this group does. I’ll back Bill Belichick in a game of familiar wits with Bill O’Brien. The Texans are two-touchdown underdogs in this game, and have an implied team total of 15.5 points, the lowest on the board in Week 3. There’s a very real chance Miller is cut out of the game plan if the Patriots can build a multi-score lead early. The only Texan I trust in Week 3 in DeAndre Hopkins, and that’s because of the volume his owners can expect generally, and especially when the Texans are playing from behind all game. Miller is an odd-man out in that entirely likely situation. He’s my RB28 for the week, and even that low ranking rests on him scoring a touchdown before the game gets out of hand.
With that, let’s get to the rest of Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em for Week 3.
Marcus Mariota, Titans (vs. Seahawks)
Seattle’s defense still deserves plenty of respect, but they’re not a group to avoid at all costs. The Titans are favored on Sunday and have an implied team total of 22.75 points, so even if the Seahawks make them work for their points, the oddsmakers expect Mariota and company to get them. The Tennessee passing game has yet to take off, but cut it some slack. It can take longer than expected to work in new weapons, and Mariota appears to still be getting comfortable with Eric Decker. He remains a low-end QB1 this week.
Jameis Winston, Buccaneers (at Vikings)
I was surprised to see Winston as no more than a borderline starter this week, according to his FantasyPros consensus ranking. The only logic is that my fellow rankers are paying deference to the Vikings defense. While it’s unquestionably a strong unit, I want Winston and, by extension, an investment in Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, in my lineup. Don’t worry about Winston’s seemingly pedestrian numbers against the Bears. For one, that defense is better than you likely assume it is, given that the Bears aren’t very good overall. For another, the Buccaneers were in control from start to finish, and didn’t ask Winston to do much in the second half. He’ll likely need to make more plays for the team to win in Minnesota this week, and that’s great news for his fantasy owners.
Jay Cutler, Dolphins (at Jets)
Cutler and Adam Gase picked right up last week where they left off in Chicago at the end of the 2015 season. Cutler completed 24 of his 33 pass attempts for 230 yards, 6.97 yards per attempt and one touchdown without throwing a pick. Those numbers don’t jump off the page, but they portend of good things to come in Miami. Just as importantly, he connected with his top two receivers where they’re at their best. Jarvis Landry caught 13 of his team-leading 15 targets for 78 yards, while DeVante Parker made two big plays down the field, and finished his day with four catches for 85 yards. As Cutler gets more and more comfortable with his weapons, he should start to amass bigger numbers. The Jets pose no threat to him this week.
DeShone Kizer, Browns (at Colts)
The Browns have not held the reins tight on Kizer at the start of his rookie season. Only Carson Wentz has attempted more deep passes than Kizer, and no quarterback in the league has thrown a greater percentage of his passes at least 20 yards in the air than the rookie’s 22.9%. The results haven’t necessarily been great—Kizer has completed five of his 14 deep balls for 135 yards and an interception—but the fact that the Browns are freeing him to take big shots is great for his fantasy value. This week, he gets a Colts defense that surrendered 650 yards, 9.85 YPA and two touchdowns to Jared Goff and Carson Palmer in its first two games. Kizer is a top-20 quarterback play this week, with legitimate QB1 upside.
Dak Prescott, Cowboys (at Cardinals)
Prescott’s fantasy ceiling drops considerably any time Dez Bryant is matched up with one of the best corners in the league. The Cowboys don’t have a ton of playmaking talent on the outside, and Prescott can only go so far with Jason Witten and Cole Beasley. This week, Bryant will get a heavy dose of Patrick Peterson. If Peterson can handle Bryant, I have a tough time seeing Prescott do much more than he did against the Broncos last week, when he managed just 4.76 YPA and threw two picks. He salvaged his day with a couple of touchdowns, but those types of scores won’t always be there for a quarterback when he struggles as much as Prescott did last week.
Carson Palmer, Cardinals (vs. Cowboys)
There’s no trusting Palmer for the foreseeable future. Even without David Johnson and John Brown, he should have carved up the Colts defense last week. Instead, he spent the first three quarters mostly spinning his wheels, before saving face in the fourth quarter. His final numbers—322 yards, 9.22 YPA, one touchdown, one interception—look decent enough, but they obscure that a bad defense bottled him up for about 50 minutes of game time. He won’t be able to turn things around quite so quickly against the Cowboys.
Mark Ingram, Saints (at Panthers)
I remain steadfast in my belief that Ingram is easily the best back on the Saints, and that, one of these days, Sean Payton is just going to have to admit it if he wants to keep his job. This is mostly a bet that the Saints are willing to admit the Adrian Peterson signing was a mistake, freeing up more touches for both Ingram and Alvin Kamara. The Panthers did a great job containing LeSean McCoy last week, but Carlos Hyde managed 77 yards on 15 touches amidst a terrible game script against them in Week 1. If the Saints can keep this close, Ingram should put up RB2 numbers.
Ameer Abdullah, Lions (vs. Falcons)
Abdullah looked good in the Lions’ win over the Giants on Monday night, running for 86 yards on 17 carries. He showed what he can do when the team dedicates a significant portion of its game plan to getting him the ball on the ground, softening up the Giants defense before ripping off a couple of big runs in the second half. Game script allowed for that last week, and it might not with the powerful Falcons in Detroit on Sunday. The silver lining, however, is that the Falcons are going on their second straight year of being the friendliest defense to opposing backs as pass-catchers. After leading the league in receptions and receiving yards allowed to backs last season, they’ve surrendered 14 catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns to Tarik Cohen and Ty Montgomery. Theo Riddick is Detroit’s primary pass-catching back, but the team will use Abdullah in this fashion, as well, especially when the matchup demands it.
Theo Riddick, Lions (vs. Falcons)
You read the last few sentences of the Abdullah capsule, right? You own Riddick for matchups like this. Get him into your lineup.
Buck Allen, Ravens (vs. Jaguars in London)
Allen starred in his first game in Danny Woodhead’s role, running for 66 yards on 14 carries, catching five passes for 35 yards, and finding the end zone once in the Ravens’ 24-10 win over the Browns. Terrance West did get a goal-line rushing touchdown, but Allen out-snapped, out-carried and out-touched his backfield mate. It’s safe to say that the backfield belongs to Allen, with West holding down a short-yardage role. That will have Allen in the RB2 discussion more often than not. He’s an easy play against the Jaguars this week.
Christian McCaffrey, Panthers (vs. Saints)
Starting McCaffrey isn’t a tough call for his owners this week, even those who are frustrated with his lack of production through two weeks. I’m here to tell those owners to keep their chins up. First of all, Cam Newton sailed what should have been an easy touchdown over McCaffrey’s head in the fourth quarter last week. If Newton hits that layup of a pass, McCaffrey’s line looks a whole lot better. Second, as I detailed in this week’s Target and Snap Report, McCaffrey has already run 52 routes this season, and is on pace for 104 targets. In other words, the Panthers are using him in exactly the fashion they said they would, which got the fantasy community excited about him in the first place. Good things are bound to happen for a player with his talent getting as many opportunities as he is. They should start happening this week with the atrocious Saints defense on the other side of the ball.
Frank Gore, Colts (vs. Browns)
Gore scored a touchdown last week, and that’s the only way he’s going to deliver for his fantasy owners until and unless Andrew Luck returns. The Colts have the fourth-fewest yards and sixth-fewest points among teams that have played two games this season, and there’s no turnaround in sight. Gore has 88 yards on 24 carries, and has been a non-entity in the passing game. Even in what looks like a fine matchup, there’s no reason to get excited about Gore this week. He’s a touchdown-or-bust player, and you should be able to do better than that at your running back and flex positions.
Chris Thompson, Redskins (vs. Raiders)
There’s a boomlet of support for Thompson as a starter this week, evidenced by his FantasyPros consensus ranking of RB31. I just cannot get on board with that. First and foremost, Rob Kelley hasn’t missed a day of practice, so it appears the rib injury that knocked him out of last week’s win over the Rams won’t stop him from playing this week. You’ll recall that Thompson did nearly all his damage after Kelley left the game. Second, we’ve seen this movie before. Thompson is a known commodity in both Washington and the fantasy community. If he was going to develop into the sort of player who commanded a large role in his offense and was worth starting when you have your full roster available to you, it would have happened by now. Nothing changed last week. Thompson provides the sort of depth that you shouldn’t need to tap into just yet.
Bilal Powell, Jets (vs. Dolphins)
Pretty much everything I said for Gore applies to Powell, with one important caveat. In addition to his offense being predictably terrible, he’s being outplayed by another back on his roster. Powell has 35 rushing yards on 13 carries and 17 receiving yards on five receptions this season. Matt Forte has 69 yards on 15 carries, and seven catches for 58 yards. Forte has played more snaps than Powell both weeks. Against all odds, there’s even less to like about Powell than there is about Gore.
Rashard Higgins, Browns (at Colts)
Higgins stepped up after Corey Coleman broke a bone in his hand last week, catching seven of 11 targets for 95 yards. With Kenny Britt silent during the first two games of the season, it looks like Higgins will be the team’s No. 1 receiver for the foreseeable future. As we discussed earlier with DeShone Kizer, the Browns are throwing the deep ball with regularity this year, and the Colts have been burned in both weeks this season by Cooper Kupp and J.J. Nelson. Kizer is going to take a shot or three down the field to Higgins on Sunday. With that providing an identifiable ceiling and a WR1’s target load securing his floor, Higgins goes from waiver-wire darling right to starting lineups in Week 3.
DeSean Jackson, Buccaneers (at Vikings)
Jackson didn’t do much in his Buccaneers debut, catching three of his seven targets for 39 yards. If you’re looking for a silver lining, you’ll find it with the deep ball. Jameis Winston took multiple shots down the field to Jackson, but they just didn’t connect. According to NFL.com’s Next Gen stats, Jackson averaged 19.3 air yards per target. That’s a fancy way of saying that Jackson’s seven targets traveled an average of 19.3 yards in the air, meaning he and Winston are regularly trying to stretch the field. With Xavier Rhodes likely zeroing in on Mike Evans, Jackson will be a matchup-nightmare for the rest of the Vikings secondary.
Tyrell Williams, Chargers (vs. Chiefs)
Williams hasn’t gotten much going this season, catching nine passes for 108 yards. With Keenan Allen healthy, the No. 1 receiver target share he enjoyed last season simply isn’t in the cards. Still, the Chargers remain a high-value, pass-friendly offense, and Philip Rivers is likely to be hard at work with the 2-0 Chiefs in town this week. Even with a strong defense on the other side of the ball, the Chargers have an implied total of 22 points. Williams has significant touchdown upside this week, and is a good bet for at least six targets. That’s the right formula for a starting fantasy receiver.
Marqise Lee, Jaguars (vs. Ravens in London)
In the Jaguars’ first game of the season where they prepared all week knowing Allen Robinson would be out, Lee led the team with 12 targets, catching seven of them for 76 yards. Allen Hurns was more productive, but it was Lee who garnered more attention from Blake Bortles. While Bortles’s inefficiency precludes his being in a fantasy lineup, Lee and Hurns can both expect to see plenty of volume with the Jaguars heading to London as four-point underdogs against the Ravens. Both are worthy WR3s this week, though I prefer Lee, based on the targets he racked up last week.
T.Y. Hilton, Colts (vs. Browns)
This is going to be hard for Hilton owners to hear, but they need to hear it. Until and unless Andrew Luck returns this season, this is going to be a terrible investment. Through two games, Hilton has seven catches for 106 yards. He has one reception for more than 16 yards. As we discussed earlier with Frank Gore, the Colts have the fourth-fewest yards and sixth-fewest points among teams that have played both weeks this season. The offense is going nowhere fast, and it’s torpedoing the fantasy value of everyone involved. This was the risk associated with Hilton during draft season, and it has come to fruition.
Jamison Crowder, Redskins (vs. Raiders)
A funny thing happened with the Redskins pass-catchers during draft season. Everyone loved everyone on this team. Everyone wanted to buy Terrelle Pryor. Everyone wanted to buy Jordan Reed. Everyone wanted to buy Crowder. There was even a time where everyone wanted to take a late-round shot on Josh Doctson. The problem, though, is that no matter how good an offense, it can’t support four pass-catchers all at their draft-day price tags. Someone was always going to fall short. Given the game-breaking abilities of Pryor and Reed, I bet on Crowder to fall short. So far, that has been the case. Now, to be fair, neither Pryor nor Reed has lived up to expectations, either. Still, given Crowder’s skill set, he needs a heavy target load to deliver in the fantasy world with regularity. So long as Pryor and Reed are healthy, he’s not going to get the necessary targets with any consistency.
Kenny Golladay, Lions (vs. Falcons)
The problem with boom-or-bust players like Golladay was on display on Monday. With Golden Tate, Eric Ebron and Marvin Jones hogging the production, the rookie out of Northern Illinois got just three targets, catching one of them for eight yards. Given Atlanta’s deficiencies covering pass-catching backs that we discussed earlier, this matchup plays right into the hands of Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah. Golladay is already swimming upstream when it comes to getting targets, and Riddick and Abdullah are both good bets to be featured more heavily than usual in the passing game this week. Golladay needs the perfect circumstances to be a worthwhile fantasy play, and he doesn’t have them this week.
Ben Watson, Ravens (vs. Jaguars in London)
Watson had a monster game last week, catching all eight of his targets for 91 yards. No offense prioritizes throwing the ball to its backs and tight ends quite like Baltimore’s, and Watson has proved he can still get the job done into his mid-30s. He’s one of the few tight ends in the league who feels safely guaranteed of about six targets per game, and that will always have him on the back end of the TE1 radar.
Eric Ebron, Lions (vs. Falcons)
With that ugly Week 1 matchup against the Cardinals out of the way, Ebron showed what he can do with a meaty role in the Lions passing game. He pulled down all five of his targets for 42 yards and a touchdown in the win over the Giants on Monday. Falcons-Lions is expected to be one of the highest-scoring games of Week 3, with an over/under of 50.5 points. The Lions have an implied total of 23.75 points, and the Falcons have surrendered a combined 13 receptions for 139 yards to the Bears and Packers tight ends in their two games.
Coby Fleener, Saints (at Panthers)
In all three games Fleener has played as a Saint without Willie Snead active, he has scored a touchdown. At this point, why would you bet against the pattern? What’s more, he has 10 targets in the team’s two games this season. Given the state of the tight end position, anyone who’s a good bet to get five targets in an offense as potent as the Saints is worth rolling out there, unless you’re comparing him with someone like Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, Jordan Reed or Zach Ertz. Get beyond those four players, and you’re mostly hunting for touchdown upside. Fleener has plenty of it.
Hunter Henry, Chargers (vs. Chiefs)
We may point to Week 2 of the 2017 season as the long-awaited changing of the guard at the tight end position for the Chargers (you know how much cleaner that sentence would have been if I could’ve written “San Diego” in place of “the Chargers?” Thanks, Dean Spanos). Antonio Gates got his record-breaking No. 112 career touchdown. Henry, meanwhile, was one of the best players on the field for the Chargers. He got seven targets, catching all of them for 80 yards. Now that Gates has his well-deserved record, it would be a welcome development to see him cede a large percentage of snaps and targets to Henry. Whether he does so is merely speculation at this point, but if you need help replacing Greg Olsen or Tyler Eifert this week, Henry is a strong choice.
Jimmy Graham, Seahawks (at Titans)
Graham is dealing with a sore ankle, and it already sounds like, at best, he’ll be playing at less than 100%. It has been a frustrating start to the season for everyone tied to the Seattle passing game, perhaps Graham most of all. He has four receptions for nine yards on 10 targets, and has been a total non-factor in the red zone where, theoretically, he should be a dominant force. He’s in the same rankings neighborhood as the players listed above, but the fact that he’s banged up makes him a worse play than any of those four tight ends.
Evan Engram, Giants (at Eagles)
There’s good reason to be excited about Engram, especially after he caught four of his seven targets for 49 yards and a touchdown in the loss to the Lions on Monday. Keep your expectations in check, though. With Odell Beckham rounding into form and the Giants looking like one of the worst offenses in the league through the first two weeks of the season, we should see Eli Manning feed his best receiver all day against the Eagles. There were already only so many targets to go around before Beckham was at 100%, and now that he’s a full go the Giants are going to try to wake up their offense by getting him the ball as often as possible. Engram is an intriguing player, notably with his role in the Giants offense. He has been on the field for 67 pass plays this year, and has been asked to block only once. Still, this isn’t a great week to have him in a fantasy lineup.