Start and Sit: Week 3
Week 2's barrage of injuries may have wreaked havoc on your fantasy squads, but it opens the door for a number of nontraditional matchup starts in Week 3. If you'll be without heavy hitters such as Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, or Michael Thomas this week, consider plug-and-plays such as James Robinson, John Kelley, John Brown, and Tre'Quan Smith with matchup boosts and still available in many shallow leagues.
The following tables feature the players with the best and worst matchups of the week. Each listed player shows a true-talent (TT) ranking that represents how I would rank him with a perfectly neutral game context. Then, that ranking is adjusted by adding the context of the venue (Ven) -- home and road and dome and outside -- the forecasted weather (Wea), and opponent tendencies (Opp). The line beneath those rankings shows how much those contextual factors move projected PPR fantasy points. That total (Tot) number gives you a comprehensive estimate of how many fantasy points the player will score this week more or less than his typical total.
You can see our full weekly projections with projected stats, matchup adjustments and fantasy points by subscribing to FO+.
|Best Week 3 Matchups - Quarterbacks|
If there were any doubt that dual-threat quarterbacks ruled the fantasy game in 2020, one look at my top five at the position this week would allay them. With Patrick Mahomes bumped to sixth with a difficult road game in Baltimore, Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, and Josh Allen are my one-to-five. And really just Murray benefits from a plus-plus matchup at home against the Lions. His rushing will likely make him less sensitive to matchups than most quarterbacks, but he still plays his home games in a dome. He has scored 1.5 more fantasy points per game there than on the road over 18 career starts. The venue was enough to bump him to second for me this week -- he's already up to third in my true-talent rankings. But he should also benefit from a Lions opponent that boosts passing yards and touchdowns per attempt by 3% and 26% and cuts passing interceptions by 61%, the latter rate being the second-highest in football.
Daily players can consider a stack with that Cardinals-Lions game. Matthew Stafford doesn't enjoy the extreme bump he would at home, but the road-dome venue still boosts completion percentage, yards per target, and touchdowns per target by 2% each, better rates than outdoor quarterbacks experience at home. And even if they haven't showed it against the injury-depleted San Francisco and Washington offenses, the Cardinals project as a pass-friendly defense with 7% and 29% boosts for yards and touchdowns per attempt.
Whether or not you believe in momentum, you probably don't need an explanation of why Mitchell Trubisky becomes a mid-tier QB2 this week at home against the Falcons defense. They are a top-eight booster of completion percentage, yards per target, and touchdowns per target and have allowed a cool 78 points in two games this season. But Gardner Minshew and Drew Brees may surprise you in my top 12 at the position, especially after the Saints' loss in Las Vegas and Brees' publicized conservative play -- his 4.9 average depth of throw is more than a yard short of the field of starters this year. For Brees, you simply need to remember that he has scored 5.2 more fantasy points per game at home than on the road since 2017, third-most at the position. For Minshew, it's a combination of a few factors. One, his career average of 24 rushing yards per game makes a big difference for fantasy. And two, the Dolphins are the No. 1 increaser of both passing yards and touchdowns per attempt at 18% and 57%, respectively.
|Worst Week 3 Matchups - Quarterbacks|
I mentioned Mahomes, but he and Deshaun Watson are two normal top-five starters that fall to the back end of my top 10 this week because of their matchups. Mahomes' half-point knock for being on the road may overstate his sensitivity to venue; he has scored 4.1 more points per game on the road so far in his career. But the Ravens are no joke defensively. They just held Watson to 275-1-1 in Houston on Sunday and generally cut pass plays by 3%, completion percentage by 8%, passing yards by 13% per attempt, and passing touchdowns by 36% per attempt. All four of those rates are top-five in football. And as tough as the Ravens were and are, the Steelers may be tougher. They are a top-two forcer of interceptions and passer fumbles, and Watson generally averages more 2.2 more points at home than on the road where he'll be this week.
As true-talent QB2s or QB3s, Jared Goff and Derek Carr should probably only start for your fantasy teams when they are home. Even without domes, they have shown extreme home-field advantages of 2.2 and 4.8 more fantasy points at home the last three years. It's too soon to say how Tom Brady will take to his new digs in Tampa Bay, but I would bench him regardless this week because of his Broncos opponent. They cut yards and touchdowns per attempt by 4% and 17%, both top 10 in football.
|Best Week 3 Matchups - Running Backs|
After missing Week 1, Miles Sanders confirmed our assumption of his bell-cow status by taking 76.9% of the Eagles' carries in Week 2. That instilled confidence comes at the perfect time with the team set to play the porous Bengals defense on Sunday. The Bengals are the No. 2 booster of run plays at 12% and are also top-10 increasers of rushing yards per carry, rushing touchdowns per carry, running back completion percentage, running back yards per target, and running back touchdowns per target. Sanders jumps from outside of my true-talent top 10 to seventh at the position this week.
The Chargers' lack of a bell-cow back prevents them from seeing the biggest increase for their individual running backs this week, something the Panthers opponent normally enjoys thanks to their 23% and 161% boosts to yards and touchdowns per carry, both most for the position. Still, Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley should each earn an extra PPR point this week. Ekeler ends up 16th at the position with the boost and the greater share of projected workload. But, subjectively, I might value Kelley higher than his 35th-place ranking. He has a four-to-one advantage over Ekeler in carries taken inside the 5-yard line this season. If the Chargers are going to continue the streak of teams scoring three rushing touchdowns against the Panthers per week, I would bet on Kelley to score at least two of them.
A pair of Jameses round out the five best running back matchups, and I'm surprisingly much more confident in Robinson than in Conner. Conner shook off his ankle injury from Week 1 to take 72.7% of the Steelers' carries on Sunday. That was top-10 at the position and suggests he never lost his bell-cow status, just in time for a home game against a Texans defense that boosts yards per carry by 17% and yards and touchdowns per running back target by 10% and 140%, respectively. But Robinson has done it twice with 69.6% and 59.3% carry shares in Weeks 1 and 2, the Jaguars are playing well offensively, and their Dolphins opponent is the No. 1 booster of run plays in addition to increasing yards per carry and running back completion percentage, yards per target, and touchdowns per target. You can start Robinson as an RB2 with confidence.
|Worst Week 3 Matchups - Running Backs|
With Phillip Lindsay still not practicing and seemingly likely to miss another game this week, Melvin Gordon joins Josh Jacobs and Aaron Jones as the bell-cow backs you cannot sit in traditional fantasy formats despite difficult matchups against the Buccaneers, Patriots, and Saints this week. But Gordon scares me despite his top-10 weekly projection. The Bucs do not project to decrease rushing touchdowns, but their 33% reduction in opponent yards per carry is the most in football. And with Jeff Driskel starting for an injured Drew Lock at quarterback, Gordon may pull the kind of defensive attention that turns a game with 25 touches into just 60 total yards.
Speaking of 25-60 games, Frank Gore had his first of what could be several on Sunday with Le'Veon Bell sidelined with a hamstring injury. The Colts don't seem nearly as scary for opposing running backs as the 49ers were -- at least before their injuries -- but Indianapolis does cut rushing touchdowns by 54%, third-most in football. Really, there's little reason for the Colts not to test Sam Darnold and the dismal Jets passing game this weekend. And while that formula often leads to fantasy success for certain kinds of running backs, Gore remains without a target through two games this season and nearly falls out of my top 30 PPR backs despite a heavy projected carry share.
|Best Week 3 Matchups - Wide Receivers|
I did a double-take when I saw John Brown ranked ahead of Stefon Diggs this week. Diggs has out-targeted his teammate 22-to-16 through two games, and I project a similar target discrepancy for the receivers this week. But the Rams employ one of the preeminent cover corners in football in Jalen Ramsey, and unsurprisingly they cut No. 1 receiver yards and touchdowns per target by 14% and 46%, third- and seventh-most in football, respectively. As a deep threat, Brown should have an easier time with the Rams this week. Mike Evans, DK Metcalf, and James Washington all beat them for a deep score in 2019, and DeSean Jackson paced the Eagles with six catches and 64 yards against L.A. last week.
With Michael Thomas sidelined, it wasn't Emmanuel Sanders (8.1% target share) who assumed the Saints' No. 1 receiver role on Monday night. It was third-year presumed bust Tre'Quan Smith (18.9%). That one game wasn't enough to jump Smith into my true-talent top 40 receivers, but his home matchup against the Packers does. Smith makes an excellent DFS tournament play, although I subjectively trust him less than his ranking would on its own suggest.
For players looking for top-end options this week, DeAndre Hopkins, Adam Thielen, and Keenan Allen all enjoy 1.0- to 2.0-PPR point boosts this week with home matchups against the Lions, Titans, and Panthers, respectively. Thielen crashed back to earth with a 31-yard, no-touchdown Week 2 at the Colts after 110 and two in Week 1 at home against the Packers. But his 33.3% target share is still second at the position -- behind Hopkins (35.7%) -- and his opposing Titans are a top-six booster of pass plays with their relative defensive strength against the run (-14.5% DVOA in 2019, 11th) versus the pass (12.5%, 22nd).
|Worst Week 3 Matchups - Wide Receivers|
Mike Evans erased any concerns you might have had after the Bucs' rough Week 1 with seven catches, 104 yards, and a touchdown in Week 2 against the Panthers. But those numbers may be difficult to repeat with Chris Godwin returning from a concussion and traveling to Denver. The Broncos are relatively strong against deep receivers -- they cut yards and touchdowns by 19% and 85% per target -- as compared to normal and slot receivers. And Tyreek Hill may have similar problems in Baltimore. He missed last season's matchup with the Ravens with a shoulder injury, but while Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson, and Mecole Hardman had success with 204 yards and two touchdowns in that game, they saw just four targets and managed just 18 yards with cornerback Marlon Humphrey in coverage against them. Even the Ravens likely can't stop Mahomes, but expect him to pick on the relative weakness of their defense rather than force-feed Hill with an elite corner on him.
Russell Gage has a top-20 23.9% target share through two weeks, and as bad as the Falcons defense is playing, he can likely thrive in fantasy as the team's third receiver this season. I just don't love his odds this week. The Bears have one of the best overall defenses in football -- they're sixth in both DVOA and DAVE so far this season -- and they are particularly effective against slot receivers. They cut the position's completion percentage by 33%, yards per target by 41%, and touchdowns per target by 85%, all top-two in football.
|Best Week 3 Matchups - Tight Ends|
Ryan Fitzpatrick had historically relied heavily on wide receivers over tight ends, but Mike Gesicki's top-five 21.1% target share through two weeks gives me confidence he can maintain his top-10 true-talent ranking. Meanwhile, that confidence comes just in time for a Jaguars matchup. They are a top-four booster of completion percentage, yards per target, and touchdowns per target for the position.
I routinely beat that drum about the Cardinals as well. And while George Kittle (because of an injury) and Logan Thomas (because Washington) couldn't capitalize on the plus matchup in Weeks 1 or 2, I expect the third week to be the charm for Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson. His 12.7% target share so far this season doesn't scream upper-tier TE2, but with a number of elite tight ends facing difficult road tests this week, Hockenson cracks my top 10 at the position.
Speaking of Washington, Logan Thomas may have a forgettable total of 63 yards through two weeks, but his 27.0% target share is second at the position behind only Darren Waller (38.7%). He is a traditional-league and DFS option in the team's better matchups, and Washington should have one of those in Cleveland this week. The Browns are neutral for both tight end completion percentage and yards per target, but they boost their touchdowns by 79% per target, second-most in football.
|Worst Week 3 Matchups - Tight Ends|
Jonnu Smith just scored a pair of touchdowns against the Jaguars in Week 2, and Mo Alie-Cox shredded the Vikings for 111 yards in what was effectively his first career start. Still, the Vikings are typically a scary opponent for tight ends. They led football allowing a -46.4% DVOA to tight ends in 2019, and Alie-Cox's success last week seemed mostly driven by miscommunication rather than unskilled coverage from a linebacker corps that remains talented even with Anthony Barr injured. Smith's projected loss of half a PPR point isn't huge like those of some of the most matchup-affected receivers, but it still leaves him 15th at the position this week. You should probably avoid him in shallow and daily leagues.
The same is true for the Cowboys' new No. 1 tight end Dalton Schultz. He exceled with nine catches, 88 yards, and a score in his first start since 2018, but his volume was aided by game script, and the Falcons boost tight end completion rate and touchdowns per target such as they do for pretty much every position. In contrast, the Seahawks cut tight end touchdown rate by 69%, the second-most in football.
|Best Week 3 Matchups - Kickers|
The Bears may be a difficult opponent for the Falcons to score 30 on, but a strong red zone defense doesn't hurt Younghoe Koo's fantasy prospects the same way it does Matt Ryan and company. The Bears boost short field goal attempts by 16%, third-most in football. That plus the home dome jumps Koo to second at kicker this week. And Zane Gonzalez has a nearly identical jump with his dome in Arizona and a Lions team that boosts short attempts by 18%.
The new kicker to highlight is Rodrigo Blankenship. He probably deserves fantasy consideration simply on the strength of his name and his sweet goggles, but he also earns top-tier K2 status in Week 3 with a home matchup against the Jets.
|Worst Week 3 Matchups - Kickers|
With true-talent rankings between 12 and 25, Dan Bailey, Sam Sloman, and Daniel Carlson may not be lineup staples for your shallow fantasy squads. As such, I reached a bit up the bad matchup rankings to pull Greg Zuerlein, a normal top-six kicker who falls to eighth this week. That isn't about the Seahawks matchup. Koo and Nick Folk have attempted two kicks apiece against Seattle in two weeks, and the Seahawks generally boost long attempts by 16%, second-most in football. It's about playing on the road. When he's at home, Zuerlein can enjoy the home-dome boost of 2% to short field goal attempts and 8% to long field goal attempts. But on the road outdoors, long attempts are cut by 5%.
|Best Week 3 Matchups - Defenses|
The Steelers have certainly lived up to their defensive expectations through two games against the Giants and Broncos. The Texans are a different kind of offense, but playing them at home in Pittsburgh should neutralize some of Deshaun Watson's explosiveness. The Steelers are my No. 2 defense this week. The Patriots can't say the same for their start to 2020 after allowing five total touchdowns to Russell Wilson in Week 2. The four they allowed to wide receivers were the same total they allowed to the position in all of 2019. Wilson may just be that good now, but while we wait to see, the Patriots fall to ninth at the position this week, even with a relatively good home matchup against the dink-and-dunkier Raiders.
Defensive streamers have a pair of decent options in the Browns at home against Washington and the Bucs on the road in Denver. Washington is a top-five booster of both tackles for loss and sacks, and Dwayne Haskins easily led all frequent starters in 2019 with a 12.5% sack rate. Myles Garrett should have a field day. The Broncos are generally more competent, but things are looking grim for the team after losing their normal quarterback starter Lock and No. 1 receiver Courtland Sutton. The Bucs' defense was sixth in 2019 and is fourth so far in 2020 in DVOA. They tend to be underrated because of how often Jameis Winston -- and Tom Brady in Week 1 -- gave opposing offenses short fields with interceptions.
|Worst Week 3 Matchups - Defenses|
Most of your favorite defenses avoid terrible Week 3 matchups since the ones with the worst opponents such as the Saints (in the Packers), the Cardinals (in the Lions), and Bills (in the Rams) at least get to play them at home. As such, I view the Packers as the major defense to avoid this week. The Raiders may have made the Saints offense look dull, but as mentioned, Brees and his offense thrives at home in the Superdome. He likely won't fall victim to the Packers' top-five boosting of interceptions, and the Saints offensive line helps Brees cut sacks per pass attempt by 44%, third-most in football.
2 comments, Last at 28 Sep 2020, 11:50am
#1 by DIVISION // Sep 25, 2020 - 1:22pm
You were dead wrong about baby Minshew! I also didn't expect Miami's defense to romp like that.
You're also going to be dead wrong about Detroit's Hockenstein making some kind of impact based off of last year's edict that the Cards' weak spot was opposing TE's. That whole defense was horrible across the board.
As long as Zona's front can get pressure, they'll be fine in a game where they should be playing from ahead.
I haven't seen anything in Detroit's first two games to convince me they will ever be in this game.
#2 by jkostreba // Sep 28, 2020 - 11:48am
But through 3 weeks this column has actually been comical.
"Whether or not you believe in momentum, you probably don't need an explanation of why Mitchell Trubisky becomes a mid-tier QB2 this week at home against the Falcons defense. They are a top-eight booster of completion percentage, yards per target, and touchdowns per target and have allowed a cool 78 points in two games this season. But Gardner Minshew and Drew Brees may surprise you in my top 12 at the position."
Minshew horrendous, Trubisky lost his job mid game.
John Brown didn't scored a point.....