If there’s one common, yet often undiscussed, mistake made by fantasy owners, it’s overlooking the real-life considerations made by teams and players. Every player, coach and GM in the league is aware that fantasy football exists, but they don’t care about what those of us in the fantasy world want and need. They’re trying to win real games, both now and in the future.
That brings us to Carson Wentz, who would be coming off an MVP award, and possibly a Super Bowl MVP, had he not torn his ACL and LCL last December. As great as Wentz already is, he’s just 25 years old. He may not have been on the field in Minnesota against the Patriots last year, but, make no mistake, he led the Eagles to that Super Bowl title. In Philadelphia’s dream future, Wentz isn’t done leading them to Super Bowls. The window on his rookie deal may close soon, but the window of him as a championship-caliber quarterback is wide open, and the Eagles have every intention of squeezing all possible wins out of it.
That’s why it always made sense for the team to retain Nick Foles and take it easy with Wentz’s recovery from knee surgery. A few games at the start of this season weren't likely to make or break Philadelphia’s 2018 campaign. So long as Wentz could return in September, or, at the very worst, early October, everything they hoped to achieve this season would still be on the table. More importantly, Wentz’s long-term health would not be jeopardized.
In that same vein, that’s why Wentz’s fantasy owners should absolutely have him in their lineups this week. The Eagles are atop the NFC East at 1-1, looking down at a trio of teams that can’t look too threatening after the first two weeks of the season. If anything, the Eagles are a stronger bet to win the division now than they were at the start of the season, and that likely wouldn’t change if Foles started another game or two. Do you really think that after taking the recovery process as cautiously as they have, the Eagles would run Wentz out there before he was ready? Of course they wouldn’t. We know Wentz is cleared medically, and if the Eagles are willing to put him on the field, then chances are he can do everything that had him a couple of games away from an MVP Award last year.
Wentz didn’t come at a discount in fantasy leagues this season, typically going as the sixth quarterback off the board in standard leagues. You didn’t pay that price so you could sit him in his first game back. Wentz will make his season debut for the Eagles this week. He should do the same for 100% of his fantasy owners, as well.
With that, let’s get to the rest of Week 3 Start ’Em, Sit ’Em.
Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers (at Chiefs)
In Week 1, the Chiefs allowed Philip Rivers to throw for to throw for 424 yards, 8.31 YPA and three touchdowns. He should have had five, but Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin both dropped easy scores. Last week, Ben Roethlisberger lit up the Chiefs for 452 yards, 7.53 YPA and three more touchdowns. Until further notice, you’re starting any good quarterback when he plays the Chiefs. Garoppolo qualifies.
Matthew Stafford, Lions (vs. Patriots)
Most Stafford owners are likely starting him, but he has a consensus ranking on FantasyPros of QB10, so I thought he deserved mention here. He’s my No. 6 quarterback for the week, and I think he has a better chance to finish inside the top three than outside the top 10. Stafford bounced back as expected last week, throwing for 347 yards and three scores in a loss to the 49ers. He wasn’t terribly efficient with 6.55 YPA, but he didn’t need to be thanks to 53 pass attempts. Stafford has attempted 99 passes already this year, and the Lions are 6.5-point underdogs against the Patriots in a game with an over/under of 52. There will be some points in this one.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buccaneers (vs. Steelers)
Through two games, the fantasy community needs to come to grips with the fact that the Buccaneers may have a truly explosive passing game. With Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard, the team features four dangerous pass-catchers, all of whom are vertical threats, including a legit No. 1 in Evans. So long as Fitzpatrick is guiding that attack, he’s going to be on the QB1 radar. He’s at the low end of it this week, but playing at home gives him a boost. It’s hard to look at what he has done the first two weeks, what Patrick Mahomes put up against the Steelers in Week 2, and not feel great about Fitzpatrick as a fantasy starter on Monday night.
Andy Dalton, Bengals (at Panthers)
This is not nearly as bad a matchup as suggested on paper. The Panthers held Dak Prescott in check Week 1, which may not prove to be much of an accomplishment, then got shredded by Matt Ryan, even though Julio Jones had just five catches for 64 yards. Dalton has delivered for his fantasy owners in both games this season, totaling 508 yards, 7.26 YPA and six touchdowns against one pick. With Joe Mixon out and Giovani Bernard a dangerous receiver, there will be even more emphasis on the passing game. Dalton is a strong QB2.
Russell Wilson, Seahawks (vs. Cowboys)
Wilson saved his Week 2 game in Chicago with a strong fourth quarter, during which he threw two touchdowns. One, however, was completely meaningless, and the Bears held the Seahawks to 80 total yards through three quarters. This offense is a mess, and it’s taking Wilson down with it. The over/under on this game is 41.5, which seems comically high for two of the league’s most boring offenses through two weeks. Seattle’s offensive line is a wreck for what seems like the 10th straight year, and Dallas has proved adept at getting after the quarterback this season.
Alex Smith, Redskins (vs. Packers)
Last week proved that Smith isn’t in Kansas City anymore. Smith completed 33 of 46 attempts last week, but had just 292 yards to show for it. He didn’t throw for a touchdown and didn’t make anything meaningful happen with his legs. He simply doesn’t have in Washington the weapons he did with the Chiefs, and that’s going to show up from time to time, despite his best efforts. Smith is a fine QB2 against the Packers this week, but he has crashed back to being a streamer from the heights of high-end QB1 land last year.
Philip Rivers, Chargers (at Rams)
This one is tough for me because I trust Rivers as a top-12, and certainly top-15, quarterback nearly every week. The Rams have looked like the best team in the NFL in the early going this year, and much of that owes to a defense that has completely shut down the Raiders and Cardinals in the first two weeks. Now, to be fair, the Chargers feature a much better offense, and this will be as good a test for the Rams as it is for the visitors. Still, the Charger line has been a mess this season, rating 30th in Pro Football Focus’ rankings, and that’s not the sort of unit you want to bring to a showdown with Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers and Ndamukong Suh. Rivers is fine in a pinch, and I’d play him over Wilson and Smith, but he’s just my No. 16 quarterback this week.
Phillip Lindsay, Broncos (at Ravens)
After Week 1, Lindsay was a player to watch. After Week 2, we have to assume he’s the leader in Denver’s backfield. Lindsay ran for 107 yards on 14 carries last week, playing 12 more snaps and getting six more carries than Royce Freeman. The Ravens present a tough matchup, but Lindsay has worked his way to the top of the depth chart, getting 32 touches in Denver’s first two games this season. Any back with that sort of volume is worth starting, almost regardless of matchup.
Sony Michel, Patriots (at Lions)
This is more a bet on the come than anything else. Michel didn’t do much in his NFL debut last week, running 10 times for 34 yards and catching one pass for seven yards. What’s interesting, though, is that he got 11 touches on 13 snaps, and essentially relegated Rex Burkhead to backup duty. If he can remain in front of Burkhead in the pecking order, there should be enough volume here for him to show up regularly on the RB2 radar. The Patriots have an implied team total of 29.25 points this week, making anyone with a meaningful role with an investment.
Corey Clement, Eagles (vs. Colts)
It looks like Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles will both be out this week, opening the door to a larger role for Clement. That means it's all systems go for the Wisconsin product alongside the returning Carson Wentz. Even if Ajayi is able to play, he’s likely to be at less than 100%, which could help Clement get enough touches to be in the flex mix.
LeSean McCoy, Bills (at Vikings)
The Bills offense has been a total mess this year, and no one has been immune to its ills. McCoy has just 61 yards on 16 carries and five catches for 28 yards. He suffered cracked rib cartilage last week, and while he may still play on Sunday, he would do so wearing a flak jacket and at a greater risk to leave the game early. The matchup is as bad as it can get for a hapless offense, with the Bills going into Minnesota to take on the Vikings. They’re 17-point underdogs and have an implied team total of a laughably low 12 points. It will be another long afternoon for McCoy if he plays.
Jamaal Williams, Packers (at Redskins)
On its face, Green Bay’s backfield is a total stay-away this week. All three backs will suit up with Aaron Jones making his season debut, all three will see the field, and all three are liable to have opportunities to earn a larger role in the offense. That makes this your standard nightmare backfield for fantasy purposes. So why is Jones a start while Williams is an easy sit? It comes down to talent. Jones put up 5.5 yards per carry last year, and did so while playing most of his games without Aaron Rodgers. Jamaal Williams has just 106 yards on 31 carries this season, and ran for 3.6 yards per carry last season. If someone is going to break through in this backfield, it’s going to be Jones.
Royce Freeman, Broncos (at Ravens)
Freeman investors have to be concerned after what Phillip Lindsay has done the first two weeks. Sure, they could wave away Week 1, especially with Freeman running for the exact same 71 yards on the exact same 15 carries. After Lindsay out-snapped, out-touched, and clearly out-played Freeman last week, though, there have to be rising bust fears among his owners. With Lindsay locked into a 15-touch-or-so role and the tough Baltimore defense on the other side of the ball, this would be a good week to sit down Freeman.
Chris Carson, Seahawks (vs. Cowboys)
Carson owners, too, are going through a playing-time crisis with Freeman owners, though they can at least take solace in the fact that they didn’t spend a third- or fourth-round pick on their sudden backup. Carson played one fewer snap than Rashaad Penny in Seattle’s 24-17 loss to Chicago last week. Carson ran the ball six times, while Penny ran it 10. Carson got one target, and Penny got two. Neither back did much, and that is also a problem. The Seahawks’ offensive line has been terrible, yet again, to start the season, creating little room for either back to run. This looks like a pure timeshare, on which Carson has been on the short end thus far, and it won’t produce much value if the line plays this poorly all season.
Cooper Kupp, Rams (vs. Chargers)
Kupp doesn’t have WR1 upside, perhaps even from week to week, but he makes the most of his opportunity every single week. In Week 1, that meant five catches for 52 yards and a touchdown. Last week, he pulled down all six of his targets for 63 yards. The presence of Brandin Cooks curbs his upside compared with last season, but Kupp is going to get his six to nine targets per game, and he is going to make them count. Put a guy like that in an offense like this, and he’s going to project as no worse than a WR3 every week.
Sammy Watkins, Chiefs (vs. 49ers)
Watkins came alive last week, catching six passes for 100 yards, and adding a 31-yard carry to his bottom line. It was an encouraging performance after he caught three passes for 21 yards in Week 1. There’s almost no bad way to invest in the Chiefs offense right now, with Patrick Mahomes leading the team to 80 points and 811 total yards in two games. Watkins has to contend with Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt, but he’s still worth starting most weeks. The over/under on this game is a robust 56.5 points, and the Chiefs have an implied team total of 31.5 points.
Michael Crabtree, Ravens (vs. Broncos)
The Ravens are five-point favorites at home against the Broncos this week, carrying an implied team total of 24.25 points. Whether they can cover isn’t really our concern, but the implied total suggests that they will make a couple of trips to the end zone. For reasons that will be fully explained shortly, I like Crabtree better than John Brown between Baltimore’s top-two receivers this week. Crabtree was relatively quiet last week, catching five passes for 56 yards, but he racked up 10 targets. This game sets up best for him among Baltimore’s pass-catchers.
Kenny Stills, Dolphins (vs. Raiders)
The Jets shut down Stills entirely last week, holding him to two catches for 17 yards. What’s more concerning is the fact that he got just three targets in the game, and now has eight on the year. Still, this appears to be a game in which he can bounce back. The Raiders got carved up by the Rams’ triumvirate of Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods in Week 1, then surrendered a four-catch, 96-yard line to Emmanuel Sanders last week. An early, East Coast kick is always tough for West Coast teams, and the Dolphins are rightfully favored, though only by a field goal, at home. Stills should get back on track this week.
Tyler Boyd, Bengals (at Panthers)
I broke down Boyd’s big Week 2 game against the Ravens in this week’s Target and Snap Report. You should click the link for an in-depth look at what he did so well in that game, but one of the main takeaways is that he, and not John Ross, is the No. 2 receiver in Cincinnati’s offense. With Joe Mixon out this week, the Bengals will likely place a greater emphasis on the pass. Boyd already has 14 targets this season and has played 80.9% of the team’s snaps. The Panthers, meanwhile, did a good job against Julio Jones last week, but let Calvin Ridley get loose for four catches, 64 yards and a score.
John Brown, Ravens (vs. Broncos)
Brown has paid immediate dividends for the Ravens this season, catching seven passes for 136 yards and two scores. He had a third slip through his hands, but we can even draw something positive from that one. It came on a play that started inside the 10-yard line and was an end-zone target, the most lucrative type of look a receiver can get. If Brown is a consistent red-zone threat, in addition to getting a couple of shots per game on the deep ball, he’s going to be a consistent fantasy starter. So why is he on the wrong side of the coin this week? He has a brutal matchup with elite slot corner Chris Harris, and as good as he has been this season, he’s unliely to turn in a start-worthy performance every week. This will be one of the few bad ones.
Corey Davis, Titans (at Jaguars)
Odell Beckham torched the elite Jacksonville secondary in Week 1, catching 11 passes for 111 yards. Corey Davis is not Odell Beckham. Furthermore, with the quarterback uncertainty in Tennessee, it’s hard to have much confidence in any of their passing-game options this week. Davis is making some strides in the early going this season, catching 11 passes for 117 yards, but this is just a very bad spot for him.
Josh Gordon, Patriots (at Lions)
I broke down the Gordon trade from a fantasy perspective in full earlier this week. Put simply, I think now is the time to trade him. With Rob Gronkowski entrenched as the No. 1 option in the passing game, the volume that people dreaming of a Randy Moss redux need just won’t be there, and the Patriots have too many established options to introduce a new target hog into the offense. That, however, is a long-term question. In the short term, Gordon is an easy fade this week. It isn’t often you see a receiver join a team on Wednesday and star for it on Sunday, no matter how talented he is.
Jamison Crowder, Redskins (vs. Packers)
As we discussed in the quarterback section of this column, there’s reason to be worried about Washington’s passing game. Part of that owes to the fact that Crowder just hasn’t showed up this season. He has five catches for 40 yards, registering as a total non-factor in his first two games with Alex Smith. Crowder has plenty of time to get right with his new quarterback, but we’re still talking about a guy with a WR2 ceiling. Even his strongest backers couldn’t have expected more than a 65-800-6 line this season, and nothing he has shown in the first two games suggests he will get there. Make him prove it to you first before you put him back in your starting lineup.
Eric Ebron, Colts (at Eagles)
With Jack Doyle out this week, Ebron becomes an automatic start. He has played well alongside Doyle, catching seven passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns. Ryan Hewitt is expected to assume most of Doyle's blocking responsibilities, with Ebron seeing an uptick in targets. This is as easy a play as there is this week.
O.J. Howard, Buccaneers (vs. Steelers)
Hey, speaking of Howard, I think you have to run him back this week. He rode a 75-yard touchdown to a big game last week, finishing with three catches for 96 yards and the score. The Buccaneers and Steelers are expected to play one of the most exciting, high-scoring games of the week, with the Steelers favored by one point and a game total of 53.5. That means both teams have implied totals north of 26 points, which could produce the week’s top shootout. If that comes to fruition, you’ll want to be invested in it.
Will Dissly, Seahawks (vs. Cowboys)
Dissly’s touchdown in Week 2 came in garbage time, but the fact that Russell Wilson looked his way when the team got inside the 10-yard line is what should catch your eye. In two weeks, the rookie out of Washington has six catches for 147 yards and two touchdowns, and has been one of the few consistent weapons in Seattle’s passing game, along with Tyler Lockett. That should keep him in Russell Wilson’s good graces, and that, in turn, keeps him on the fantasy start radar in most leagues.
Tyler Eifert, Bengals (at Panthers)
Eifert’s been mostly quiet this season, catching five of seven targets for 67 yards. He has stayed healthy thus far, which is great, but part of that is because he’s ceding snaps to both C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Kroft. With Tyler Boyd emerging as another option in the passing game alongside A.J. Green, the volume we typically assume Eifert will get when healthy hasn’t been there. Until it is, he’s a hard player to trust in fantasy leagues.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jaguars (at Titans)
Seferian-Jenkins is entirely touchdown dependent, and with Leonard Fournette seemingly on the road to recovery this week, those short-yardage plays on which he depends may not be there. He scored last week on a four-yard pass from Blake Bortles. What are the odds that doesn’t end up in Fournette’s hands if the Jaguars are in a similar situation this week? Even at the tight end position, you don’t want to lean on touchdown-dependent players if you don’t have to. I’d play Ebron and Eifert over Seferian-Jenkins, as well as Kyle Rudolph and Ben Watson.