Week 3 Start 'Em or Sit 'Em

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Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is geared toward season-long leagues but can also be used for daily fantasy purposes.

QUARTERBACK

Start of the Week: Josh Allen vs. Washington -- Fantasy’s overall QB18 to this point, Allen’s Week 2 in Miami could have been much different if a silly slide rule wouldn’t have discredited his late rushing touchdown. Instead, the refs said he “gave himself up” at the one-yard line since he slid feet-first into the end zone untouched with nobody around. Zack Moss vultured one of his two short-yardage touchdowns on the very next play. Allen’s prolific deep-ball success from a year ago also has yet to show itself in 2021. After finishing seventh in deep passing at Pro Football Focus last season, Allen is 32nd in PFF’s grades in that department through two weeks, completing just 3-of-13 balls 20-plus yards down the field. But he’s faced Pittsburgh’s elite pass defense and a Miami unit that features one of the best outside cornerback duos in the league. A Week 3 date with Washington looks tougher on paper, but this defense permitted 7.8 yards per attempt on 47 attempts to Justin Herbert in Week 1 and then coughed up 9-95-1 rushing to Daniel Jones last Thursday night. Washington is 30th in PFF’s coverage grades after two contests. Allen will go overlooked in daily fantasy and should be an active buy-low target for season-long players. Buffalo’s implied team total of 26.75 points is seventh-highest this week.

Starts

Justin Herbert at Chiefs -- Like Josh Allen above, Herbert has been one of fantasy’s bigger disappointments through two weeks as the overall QB23. He played really well in Washington Week 1, posting 337/1 on 47 attempts at 7.8 yards per pass, and then answered it with another 338 yards and one touchdown on 41 attempts last week against Dallas, but Herbert tossed two picks and had several big pass plays and touchdowns called back on silly penalties. Herbert’s stats don’t really tell his entire story. New OC Joe Lombardi isn’t afraid to air the ball out, loading Herbert with gaudy yardage and touchdown potential. This looks like a premier get-right spot. The Chiefs are allowing 32.5 points per game through two weeks and surrendered 321 yards to Baker Mayfield in Week 1 before Lamar Jackson ripped them for 346 total yards and three touchdowns last Sunday night. This game’s 54.5-point total is dripping with fantasy upside. In two meetings with the Chiefs as a rookie, Herbert threw for 613 yards and a sparkling 4:1 TD:INT mark, averaging a sterling 9.6 yards per attempt. Herbert should be pasted to lineups.

Daniel Jones vs. Falcons -- Jones is Pro Football Focus’ No. 2-graded passer behind only Tom Brady after two weeks. Raise your hand if you had that one. He’s fantasy’s overall QB5 after two weeks, largely due to his massive 15-122-2 rushing line, but Jones has shown some improvement as a passer. His 63.8% completion rate is higher than his career average, and he’s averaging 7.5 yards per attempt, well above his 6.6 mark from the previous two years. Jones now draws arguably the softest matchup he’ll see all season. The Falcons are dead-last in pass rushing and 27th in coverage at Pro Football Focus. Jalen Hurts went 264/3 passing with 7-62 rushing against Atlanta in Week 1 before Tom Brady carved the Falcons for 276 yards and five touchdowns last Sunday. Jones is an upside QB2 in a sneaky date between two bad teams.

Matthew Stafford vs. Bucs -- Third in the NFL in yards per attempt (10.7) with an overall 599/5 passing line through two contests, Stafford is fantasy’s QB11 and No. 3-graded passer behind Tom Brady and Daniel Jones. He just offers nothing as a rusher, capping his fantasy upside a bit. But this Week 3 date with the Bucs is packed with fantasy potential in a game with a massive 55-point total, the highest of the week. With teams having to keep up with the Tampa Bay offense, it tends to raise the floor of the opposing passing offense. Dak Prescott fired off 58 passes in Week 1 against Tampa, posting 403 yards and three touchdowns as the QB7. Matt Ryan then bounced back against the Bucs in Week 2, posting 300 yards and two touchdowns on 46 attempts. Despite a trio of interceptions, Ryan still posted a top-16 week. This Bucs-Rams game should provide plenty of fireworks, and Tampa Bay will be without EDGE Jason Pierre-Paul (hand) and slot CB Sean Murphy-Bunting (elbow), who is on injured reserve.

Sits

Aaron Rodgers at 49ers -- After a forgettable Week 1 against the Saints, Rodgers bounced back with four touchdowns versus Detroit last Monday night, finishing as Week 2’s QB5. The 49ers have allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks through two weeks, but a large chunk of that was fueled by Jared Goff’s fourth-quarter, garbage-time barrage in Week 1 and Jalen Hurts’ 10-82-1 as a rusher last week. The Niners went to Philly and shut down Hurts as a passer last Sunday; he completed just 12-of-23 passes for 190 yards through the air. Rodgers doesn’t offer any rushing upside, and the Packers play at a molasses-slow pace. Both the Niners and Packers are bottom-nine in offensive pace. This game’s 50.5-point total feels like a good bet to hit the under with both teams wanting to control the clock and run the ball. Rodgers is more than fine for two-QB leagues, of course, but this doesn’t look like a ceiling game for him.

Teddy Bridgewater vs. Jets -- Facing the Giants and Jaguars the first two weeks, Bridgewater heads into Week 3 as fantasy’s overall QB12. The Broncos are 2-0, and Bridgewater is doing exactly what coach Vic Fangio wants as a game manager who doesn’t turn the ball over with a 4:0 TD:INT mark. He’s actually pushing the ball down the field, too, with a league-high 13 attempts of 20-plus yards, even if Bridgewater has completed just four of those. Bridgewater is second to Baker Mayfield in completion percentage (77.1%) and top-10 in yards per attempt. Robert Saleh’s Jets defense is playing above its head, checking in at 19th in PFF’s coverage grades while allowing the sixth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks. Mac Jones averaged a pitiful 6.2 yards per attempt with no touchdowns on 30 passes against the Jets last week after Sam Darnold went 279/1 on 35 attempts versus Gang Green in the opener. Denver is playing at the fifth-slowest offensive pace and should be able to run all over this New York defense. Bridgewater could easily find his way into three touchdown passes Sunday, but I’m not actively looking to start a quarterback in a slow offense in a game with a 42-point total, the lowest of Week 3. Bridgewater is fine for two-QB leagues, but there are better options in one-QB formats.

Baker Mayfield vs. Bears -- Fantasy’s QB20 through two weeks, Mayfield leads the league in completion percentage (81.6%) but has fired off just 49 passes, “good” for 28th in football. He’s now playing without Jarvis Landry (knee, I.R.) and will be welcoming back a less-than-100% Odell Beckham for his season debut this Sunday. And both the Bears and Browns are bottom-eight in offensive pace while both teams prefer to run the ball and play defense. Not a recipe for fantasy success as a quarterback, even if Mayfield has been ultra-efficient. This game’s 45.5-point total is the fourth-lowest of Week 3. Look for Cleveland to run its offense through Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt on the ground. Mayfield is a bottom-barrel QB2 play.

RUNNING BACK

Start of the Week: Ty’Son Williams at Lions -- The overall RB16 in half-PPR points per game, Williams continues to get the starts in the Baltimore backfield and is producing with his opportunities, but he did fumble at the goal line last Sunday night, though teammate Devin Duvernay recovered it for a touchdown. Still, this is a four-headed rushing offense, and Lamar Jackson is third in the NFL in rushing following his 107 yards and two touchdowns in Week 2. The Ravens are giving snaps and touches to veterans Latavius Murray and Devonta Freeman. And Jackson leads the team with four red-zone carries and two scores in that area while Murray has made both of his inside-the-10 totes count for touchdowns. It’s frustrating for Williams’ fantasy managers, but this offense runs it enough that the committee approach is still allowing Williams to be a rock-solid RB2. He’s also chipped in with five catches on six targets in the passing game, raising his floor. This looks like a potential ceiling game in Detroit, though. The Lions are 25th in run defense at Pro Football Focus and have yielded the second-most fantasy points to running backs after Elijah Mitchell (19-104-1) and Aaron Jones (17-67-1 and 6-48-3 as a receiver) ran roughshod through Detroit’s defense Weeks 1 and 2. Williams likely won’t see 20 carries, but 15 and 3-5 targets in the passing game would be more than enough to return top-15 numbers. The Ravens are favored by 7.5 with an implied team total of 28.75 points.

Starts

Melvin Gordon vs. Jets -- Gordon (59%) out-snapped rookie teammate Javonte Williams (41%) in the Week 2 win after Gordon’s 70-yard touchdown run against the Giants sealed the Week 1 victory, but Gordon went out and turned 13 carries into 31 yards against the Jaguars, though he did out-target Williams 2-1. With the slight playing time edge and the pass-game snaps, Gordon looks like the better play of the two in a favorable matchup. The Jets are 28th in Pro Football Focus’ run defense grades and have surrendered the fifth-most fantasy points to the position. Damien Harris and James White combined for 21-82-2 with 7-47 through the air against the Jets last week after Christian McCaffrey totaled 187 yards on 30 touches in Week 1. Gordon is a passable RB2 in one of the easier matchups he’ll see all year with Denver installed as massive 10.5-point home favorites. Williams is even a playable RB3/FLEX.

Mike Davis at Giants -- Drafted as a middle-round RB2/3 over the summer, Davis checks in as the overall RB34 in half-PPR points per game after two weeks. He’s turned 24 carries into 87 empty yards as a runner (3.6 YPC) but is getting by with his receiving ability. Davis has been targeted 13 times by Matt Ryan, catching 10 of those for 48 yards. Davis’ all-around skill set is his calling card. But he’s starting to lose work and money touches near the goal line to Cordarrelle Patterson. It’s concerning for Davis’ floor and ceiling, but he still holds a distinct playing-time edge, out-snapping Patterson 2:1 on the year. This is a plus spot against a Giants unit that is 20th in PFF’s run defense grades and has allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to running backs. Antonio Gibson (13-69) averaged 5.3 YPC against the G-Men in Week 2, and teammate J.D. McKissic posted a 5-83 receiving line with a goal-line touchdown run. Melvin Gordon hung an 11-101-1 with 3-17 receiving on the Giants in the opener. Davis doesn’t instill excitement, but he’s a solid option who should see five-plus targets and double-digit carries.

Chase Edmonds at Jaguars -- Edmonds is hanging on as a back-end RB2, checking in as the overall RB24 in half-PPR points per game after two weeks. This is a 1A/1B backfield, with Edmonds remaining the preferred fantasy play of the duo over James Conner thanks to his upside as a receiver. Edmonds has seen all nine backfield targets through two weeks, securing all nine of them. But Kyler Murray is always going to be a threat close to the end zone, as we’ve seen with rushing scores in back-to-back games to open the year. Edmonds is unlikely to score many times as a runner, so catching passes is his pathway to fantasy points. The Jaguars have surrendered the eighth-most fantasy points to running backs through two weeks. This game has big-time scoring potential with a Jaguars offense that is fourth in pace and an Arizona group that wants to play fast and run a whole lot of plays. Cardinals-Jaguars has a 51.5-point total, and Arizona’s implied team total of 29.25 points is the week’s second-highest behind the Chiefs.

Sits

Zack Moss vs. Washington -- After being a healthy scratch in Week 1, Moss played 28% of the Week 2 snaps against Miami and scored a pair of short touchdowns late en route to 8-26-2 on the ground and the week’s RB16 finish. Singletary continues to dominate the snaps inside the 20-yard lines, however, giving way to Allen and Moss in the scoring area. Allen leads the team with seven red-zone carries. Fantasy players should actively be trying to acquire Allen after a pair of down weeks. Singletary is an RB3, and Moss is an RB4 in an offense that has no real interest in running the ball. Moss is a clear sell-high coming off his two-TD effort. He offers nothing in the pass game. Washington has allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to RBs.

Myles Gaskin at Raiders -- The Dolphins don’t seem to want to commit to Gaskin after he battled some injuries last season in an expanded role. But Gaskin at least appears to be the preferred option in the passing game, as he caught five balls against New England in Week 1 and saw another five targets in Week 2. Still, Malcolm Brown and Salvon Ahmed are going to be thorns in Gaskin’s side. All three running backs are playing significant enough snaps to make this a backfield to avoid. Brown is the coaching staff’s preferred goal-line back. Gaskin is the overall RB40 in half-PPR points per game after two weeks. A three-man backfield in an offense that will be quarterbacked by Jacoby Brissett is a situation to avoid at all costs.

James White vs. Saints -- After Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson both fumbled in the Week 1 opening loss, White paced the backfield in snaps (50%), edging out Harris (41%), though Harris remained the Patriots’ preferred ball-carrier. He out-carried White 16-5, as both scored touchdowns on the ground. White isn’t going to find many of those this season and will have to continue to accrue fantasy points as a pass-catcher. He has 12 catches for 94 yards on 13 targets to this point and looks like Mac Jones’ second-favorite option behind Jakobi Meyers. But it’s tough to get by as a pure pass-catcher in an offense that has no desire to push the pace. And this Saints-Patriots tilt looks like one of Week 3’s biggest slogs. New Orleans is 31st in offensive pace and is top-10 in fantasy points allowed to running backs. This game’s 42.5-point total is the lowest of the week. White is likely going to have to score a TD to be a top-30 play.

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WIDE RECEIVER

Start of the Week: Robert Woods vs. Bucs -- Teammate Cooper Kupp has out-targeted Woods 21-13 and is fantasy’s WR1 compared to Woods at WR40. Kupp also holds the slight edge in the red zone with four targets to Woods’ three. Matthew Stafford and Kupp obviously have a strong connection, but Woods shouldn’t be written off. He played 98% of the snaps last week against the Colts and drew nine targets. I’ve been sending out trade proposals in fantasy leagues where I don’t have Woods. He’s a buy-low candidate ahead of a Week 3 showdown with the Bucs. Tampa Bay is 31st in fantasy points allowed to wideouts through two weeks. Any receiver playing essentially every snap in a Matthew Stafford-led offense coached by Sean McVay should be stapled to fantasy lineups. This game has a massive 55-point total, the highest of Week 3 and looks like a possible NFC Championship game preview in September.

Starts

Cole Beasley vs. Washington -- After playing 91% of the snaps and seeing 13 targets in Week 1 against the Steelers, Beasley’s snap rate dipped to 60% against the Dolphins in Week 2 when he saw just four targets. We’re going to chalk that up to the Bills stomping the daylight out of Miami in a 35-0 shutout. Most weeks, we can count on Beasley being a heavy-snap player, even if he’s going to lose some of that to Emmanuel Sanders, who played 77% of the Week 2 snaps. This Buffalo offense runs three- and four-wide sets as much as anyone. There’s enough to go around. Slot receivers have also torn up Washington in the opening two weeks after Keenan Allen (9-100) and Sterling Shepard (9-94) each caught nine balls. Beasley isn’t going to score many touchdowns, but he should be taken seriously as a WR3 play in PPR formats.

Sterling Shepard vs. Falcons -- Fantasy’s WR11 after two weeks, Shepard holds a commanding 19-14 targets lead over Kenny Golladay. Shepard has a definite chemistry with Daniel Jones and has posted 7-113-1 and 9-94 stat lines to open the year on target counts of nine and 10. The Falcons have already surrendered strong fantasy weeks to WRs Mike Evans (5-75-2), Chris Godwin (4-62-1), DeVonta Smith (6-71-1), and Jalen Reagor (6-49-1) to open the year. We should be treating Shepard as a strong, volume-driven WR2 every week. With Jones as one of the week’s top projected QB streamers, it only makes sense to start Shepard.

Marvin Jones vs. Cardinals -- 31-year-old Jones is fantasy’s WR15 through Week 2 with a touchdown in back-to-back games to open the year. He’s drawn nine and 11 targets each of the first two weeks and paces the Jaguars in targets (20), catches (11), receiving yards (132), and touchdowns (2) as Trevor Lawrence’s top wideout after the two developed summer chemistry with D.J. Chark missing all of camp with a broken finger. Jones is also well-versed in the offense after following OC Darrell Bevell to Jacksonville from Detroit. The Jaguars are going to have to remain aggressive to keep up with Kyler Murray and the Cardinals. Arizona is 22nd in fantasy points allowed to opposing wideouts. Jones should remain glued to lineups as a WR2 in a game with a 51.5-point total. Jacksonville currently checks in at fourth in offensive pace.

Sits

Michael Pittman at Titans -- Pittman posted the WR14 week last week against the Rams, turning 12 targets into an 8-123 line as the engine of the passing offense with Parris Campbell out. But the Colts will now turn to either Brett Hundley, Jacob Eason, or some combination of both against the Titans with Carson Wentz ruled out with dual sprained ankles. Eason threw a horrid interception on his first pass in relief of Wentz late in the fourth quarter last week, prompting the promotion of Hundley from the practice squad. Hundley has taken the bulk of the first-team reps in practice ahead of Sunday’s divisional tilt. Hundley hasn’t started a game since 2017 and has just nine career touchdowns on 337 pass attempts. Volume could keep Pittman afloat, but the Colts are going to struggle to put up points in this one, even against a bad defense. Pittman is a passable WR3/4, but the floor is low and the ceiling isn’t much higher.

Corey Davis at Broncos -- After building on his summer chemistry with Zach Wilson in Week 1 when he posted a 5-97-2 line on seven targets in the opener, Davis cracked back to Earth with Wilson in the Week 2 loss to the Patriots. Davis’ five targets were a distant third on the team behind both Braxton Berrios (12) and Elijah Moore (8) while Berrios holds a sizable targets edge with 18 through two contests as the Jets’ slot man. Davis was looking like an every-week WR2 coming off his strong summer and Week 1, but Wilson’s struggles coupled with the tough Week 3 date with Denver has moved Davis to WR3/4 territory after the Broncos eliminate perimeter WRs Kenny Golladay (4-64), Darius Slayton (3-65), and D.J. Chark (1-19) Weeks 1-2. The Jets are implied to score a Week 3-low 15.75 points as 10.5-point road underdogs.

Henry Ruggs vs. Dolphins -- Ruggs came out of nowhere and had one of his blowup games with 5-113-1 on seven targets last week in Pittsburgh, finishing the week as the WR8. It’s really promising to see from the 2020 first-rounder, and Derek Carr is attempting to play more aggressively through two weeks, but I still want to see it happen more often before we start trusting Ruggs as a fantasy starter. He can run by any cornerback in the league, but Week 3 presents a stiff test against the Dolphins’ outside cornerback duo of Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. Miami is Pro Football Focus’ top-graded cover unit through two weeks and has surrendered the ninth-fewest fantasy points to wideouts. Ruggs is a DeSean Jackson-ian boom-or-bust WR4 with a basement-level floor. This game also sports a low 44-point total.

TIGHT END

Start of the Week: Mark Andrews at Lions -- After landing his big-money extension just ahead of Week 1, Andrews has started the season slowly with a combined 8-77 receiving line on 10 targets through two games. He’s third on the Ravens in targets behind both Marquise Brown (16) and Sammy Watkins (15), and Andrews has drawn zero looks in the red zone while Brown has three and backup TE Josh Oliver has two. But this has the look of a get-right spot for Andrews after the Lions conceded 7-130-1 to George Kittle and Robert Tonyan across Weeks 1-2 with Tonyan scoring from 22 yards out last Monday night. Andrews is currently fantasy’s TE18 but should be featured in this one. Baltimore is implied to score 28.75 points Sunday.

Starts

Jared Cook at Chiefs -- Fantasy’s TE15 after two weeks, Cook has been in on 59% of the Chargers’ offensive snaps and is third on the team with three red-zone targets while Donald Parham has seen just one on 49% of the snaps. Cook also had a touchdown taken away last week against the Cowboys on a weak penalty. The Chiefs have allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to tight ends. Cook has drawn target counts of eight and five the first two weeks. In an on-paper projected shootout with the Chiefs (54.5-point total), Cook is a viable TE1 streamer.

Tyler Higbee vs. Bucs -- Higbee is an every-snap player for the Rams now that Gerald Everett is out of town. After his Week 2 air ball against the Colts, Higbee will likely go overlooked in daily fantasy formats, but he should remain stapled to season-long lineups and is in a prime bounce-back spot against a Bucs unit that has allowed the third-most catches to tight ends (16) and the 12th-most fantasy points to the position. We want tight ends who play heavy snaps and run a lot of routes, and it’s a plus when we get them in offensive shootouts like this one.

Logan Thomas at Bills -- The only tight end in the league who has played 100% of his team’s offensive snaps, Thomas is the overall TE7 in fantasy despite seeing just 10 targets. He’s turned those 10 looks into an 8-75-1 line and now gets to face a Bills team whose strength is on the boundary with CB Tre’Davious White. White will see a lot of Terry McLaurin, which could funnel more looks to Thomas in the middle. There’s no need to overthink it with Thomas. He plays every snap and has run the fourth-most routes among tight ends.