Week 3 bold fantasy predictions: Steelers not a wasteland with Mason Rudolph

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Every week, our Yahoo fantasy crew will unveil their boldest predictions for the action ahead. Feel free to keep score of who can tell the future most often or mock us as we go. Now, on to Week 3!

Mason Rudolph gets it done, finishes as a top-12 fantasy QB against Niners

Rudolph was plenty effective when tossed into the fire in Week 2, completing 12 of his 19 throws for 112 yards, two scores, and an interception that was in no way his fault. (Moncrief is a plague.) He’s the guy who gets to throw to JuJu, Vance, Conner, and former collegiate teammate James Washington (see below), so the setup here is appealing. San Francisco’s defense has been stingy against the pass to this point, but some of that is more about Jameis Winston’s brutal opening week. The Niners allowed 35 pass TDs last season. Rudolph has a shot at a three-touchdown performance in his first NFL start. - Andy Behrens

James Washington goes the distance, tops 80 yards with a score in San Francisco

The speedster and elevated backup, Mason Rudolph, have a storied past. During their days in Stillwater, at Oklahoma State, they terrorized opposing Big 12 defenses, connecting frequently on explosive pass plays. That unbreakable bond carried over into NFL Preseason games and, soon, meaningful football. San Francisco's secondary has exceeded expectations, allowing just 6.5 pass yards per attempt, but envisioning Washington breaking loose from Richard Sherman or Ahkello Witherspoon on a long TD seems inevitable. - Brad Evans

Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and receiver James Washington have the rapport to surprise in Week 3. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports
Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and receiver James Washington have the rapport to surprise in Week 3. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Marquise Brown is a top-10 receiver

Brown’s rookie season was expected to start slowly coming off an injury and without much preseason work, but instead, he’s racked up a team-leading 18 targets while leading the NFL in yards per route run by a mile. Moreover, the wideout ranks top-10 in air yards, target share and WOPR, with the latter’s leaderboard looking like this: 1) Keenan Allen 2) DeAndre Hopkins 3) Michael Thomas 4) T.Y. Hilton 5) Marquise Brown 6) Odell Beckham. Brown possesses the biggest speed advantage this week in a highly favorable matchup against Kansas City that sports easily the highest total in Week 3. Hollywood’s ECR is WR28, but he’s top-10 on my board this week. - Dalton Del Don

Carlos Hyde does more than flex in Week 3

Over the past two weeks, Carlos Hyde has seen his snap count (from 37% in Week 1 to 61% in Week 2) and rush attempts (from 10 in Week 1 to 20 in Week 2) grow. The clear favorite on early downs and near the goal line, Hyde has amassed at least 85 yards in back-to-back weeks. He’s also been given three red-zone rushing opportunities. In a dynamic offense that features electric downfield weapons and a dizzyingly mobile QB, the 29 year old has faced light fronts nearly 54 percent of his carries. That’s part of the reason he’s repeatedly ripping off runs over 15 yards and evading numerous tackles (4.5/game).

Expect more of the same this Sunday when he takes on a Chargers defense that Football Outsiders has ranked 23rd in power success percentage and that’s given up the fifth-most rushing yards (297) so far this season. He’s a low-end RB2 for fantasy purposes. - Liz Loza

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Panthers passing offense ends up fine, QB1 clears 18 points

It’s about panic time in Carolina after Cam Newton’s hideous performance in Week 2 followed by news of a setback with his injured foot. All signs point to second-year backup Kyle Allen starting in Week 3. While that’s troubling on the surface, it might not be a death blow to Carolina’s passing game. For starters, the matchup is still right. The Cardinals are pushing the ball through the air and giving up yards on their end, as well. Arizona is allowing 8.0 yards per pass attempt and is the 24th ranked pass defense by Football Outsiders DVOA. Also, Kyle Allen showed well enough in taking out a depleted Saints team in Week 17 last year with a 111.3 passer rating en route to a win. The Cardinals personnel isn’t much better than the unit New Orleans fielded that day.

With the volume both D.J. Moore (27% of the targets) and Curtis Samuel (No. 8 in the NFL with 259 air yards) are getting, they can still pay off with solid fantasy days despite the quarterback change. Both Panthers wide receivers can clear 80 yards and/or score a touchdown while Kyle Allen cashes in with 18-plus points. Either way, it’s good to be a life-long 49ers fan! - Matt Harmon

Ito Smith makes his move

All of last year, I was convinced Ito Smith was the classic JAG, no one to get excited about. He looks like a different back this season. More importantly, Devonta Freeman looks slow, indecisive. And we all know about Freeman’s injury history.

Atlanta’s offensive line could be a problem; the Falcons aimed to improve the unit, but they’ve hit snags. And I can’t promise you Smith will be playable this week. But the goal with FAAB and waivers is to be a week early, to buy at the bottom of the pricing structure, not at the top. And given the bankability of Atlanta’s passing game, I still expect some running back here could be privy to easy yards, as opponents focus on stopping the outside threats.

Bottom line, I’d like to get some Smith stock before the price spikes and the case becomes obvious. Freeman is someone to short. - Scott Pianowski

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