Here are some thoughts on games and players for Week 3’s games:
Kansas City at Atlanta - Hard to know what to make of this game - a below-average offense and a mediocre defense (KC) vs. a mediocre offense and below-average defense (Atlanta). My guess is that all translates into a 24-21 or 24-17 game, meaning none of the players on either team are likely to lead your fantasy team to victory this weekend. Can Chiefs’ QB of the week Tyler Thigpen throw well enough to keep the Atlanta offense honest and give RB Larry Johnson some room to run? I doubt it. TE Tony Gonzalez and WR Dwayne Bowe might have some value on the assumption that Thigpen’s got to complete some passes to someone, but hopefully you have better options at both positions this weekend. On the Atlanta side I would start RBs Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood on the assumption both will get at least 10-15 carries. I wouldn’t start QB Matt Ryan either, but again, his top two WRs (Roddy White and Michael Jenkins) can be started under the assumption that Ryan’s got to complete some passes to someone. I’d stay away from both Kickers and both Defenses.
Arizona at Washington - This game features two potentially explosive offenses, suggesting that each team possesses a number of useful fantasy options this week. For the Cardinals QB Kurt Warner, RBs Edgerrin James & Tim Hightower, WRs Larry Fitzgerald & Anquan Boldin, TE Leonard Pope, and K Neil Rackers are all worth starting. For the Redskins QB Jason Campbell, RB Clinton Portis, WR Santana Moss, TE Chris Cooley, and K Shaun Suisham are all worth starting. Leave both Defenses out of your lineups this week.
Miami at New England - I wouldn’t start anyone from Miami’s offense this weekend unless I had no other options. I would not start Patriots’ QB Matt Cassel yet, even against Miami’s defense. I’d also stay away from the Patriots’ running backs, since as many as four may share carries on Sunday. However, TE Ben Watson, who appears set to make his first start of the season, WRs Randy Moss & Wes Welker, and K Stephen Gostkowski are all worth starting Sunday. New England’s Defense is also worth starting.
Carolina at Minnesota - New Vikings’ QB Gus Frerotte may be a half step up from Tarvaris Jackson, but I would not start him this weekend. His starting WRs, Bernard Berrian & Sidney Rice, are listed as Probable & Questionable, respectively, making Frerotte an even less appealing option. With RB Adrian Peterson listed as Questionable, I’d also advise against starting him, unless you’re willing to settle for a line similar to LaDainian Tomlinson’s last week against the Broncos. RB Chester Taylor and TE Visanthe Shiancoe are worth starting only in the deepest of leagues. The Panthers’ offer a number of enticing options this weekend, starting with QB Jake Delhomme. As with many other teams the running back situation is muddled, but both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are worth starting against the Vikings. WR Steve Smith returns from his two-game suspension this week and should be starting on all fantasy teams immediately. Fellow WRs D.J. Hackett and Muhsin Muhammad are also worth starting. I also like K John Kasay and the Panthers’ Defense.
Cincinnati at NY Giants - QB Carson Palmer’s ankle injury figures to limit his mobility this weekend, which suggests the Giants will spend most of the afternoon blitzing, especially since RB Chris Perry hasn’t shown much in the first two weeks - I’d avoid both of them. However, WRs T.J. Houshmandzadeh & Chad Ocho Cinco should be started if they’re on your roster - Cincinnati’s QB (whether it’s Palmer or backup Ryan Fitzpatrick) figures to throw a lot of passes this weekend. I’d also avoid K Shayne Graham and the Bengals’ Defense. Giants’ QB Eli Manning looked extremely poised in last week’s demolition of St. Louis, and while he may never put up the numbers that older brother Peyton does, he is definitely worth starting against the Bengals this week. Like many teams the Giants also split carries among multiple running backs, but Brandon Jacobs is the only one worth starting. WRs Plaxico Burress & Amani Toomer, K John Carney, and the Giants’ Defense are also worth starting this weekend.
Houston at Tennessee - Much has been made of Texans’ rookie RB Steve Slaton getting his first start this week, but given the rust factor (Houston and Baltimore didn’t play in Week 2 due to Hurricane Ike) and the Titans’ stout defense, I’d avoid starting him. QB Matt Schaub, TE Owen Daniels, WRs Andre Johnson & Kevin Walter, K Kris Brown, and the Texans’ Defense are all worth starting this weekend. Although Kerry Collins may still be a step up from Vince Young passing-wise, I’d stay away from him this week given his immobility and the Texans’ pass rush. With WR Justin Gage Questionable for this week, I’d avoid the Titans’ WR and start TE Alge Crumpler if you want to speculate on Collins’ favorite target. RBs LenDale White and Chris Johnson both figure to get at least 15 carries and be worth starting. K Rob Bironas and the Titans’ Defense are also worth starting this weekend.
Tampa Bay at Chicago - If the Texans-Titans game isn’t the lowest scoring game of the week, then this game will probably be it. Imagine what Bears’ backup QB Rex Grossman will be thinking when he watches his two backups from last season (current Bears’ starting QB Kyle Orton and Bucs’ starting QB Brian Griese) face off against each other. I would recommend avoiding all offensive players on both teams, but if you find yourself in a bind at RB, Bucs’ RB Earnest Graham and Bears’ RB Matt Forte figure to get a lot of carries, if not a lot of yards. Just make sure not to start Bucs’ WR Joey Galloway since he’s out this week with an injury. Both Defenses are worth starting this week in anticipation of a baseball-like final score.
Oakland at Buffalo - Unlike most experts I believe that Oakland will be successful moving the ball against the Bills’ Defense. Sure, RB Justin Fargas is Doubtful, and heralded rookie RB Darren McFadden is Probable, but that just leaves more carries for RB Michael Bush, who finally got to showcase his ability in last week’s victory over the Chiefs after McFadden went out with an injury. I’d try to avoid starting either McFadden or Bush this week given McFadden’s uncertain status, but even if he’s able to start, I’d still rather have Bush in my fantasy lineup this weekend. QB JaMarcus Russell doesn’t figure to put up big passing numbers - TE Zach Miller is the only Raiders’ receiver I’d recommend. K Sebastian Janikowski is also worth starting this week. For the Bills QB Trent Edwards continues to surprise and figures to have a good game Sunday, as does RB Marshawn Lynch - both are worth starting. WRs Lee Evans & Josh Reed are both worth starting, as is Bills’ K Rian Lindell. I’d avoid both Defenses in anticipation of a fairly high-scoring game.
New Orleans at Denver - This figures to be a game where the losing team could well score 28 points or more. Accordingly, leave both Defenses out of your starting lineup this week. For the Saints QB Drew Brees, RBs Reggie Bush & Pierre Thomas, TE Jeremy Shockey, WRs David Patton & Devery Henderson, and K Martin Gramatica are all worth starting. For the Broncos QB Jay Cutler, TE Tony Scheffler, WRs Brandon Marshall & Eddie Royal, and K Matt Prater are all worth starting. Stay away from the Denver RB situation unless you’re truly desperate - you have a better chance of predicting the stock market’s closing price for next Friday than you do of forecasting how this mess will play out.
Detroit at San Francisco - Another game in which you should pass on both defenses. For the Lions QB Jon Kitna, RB Kevin Smith, WRs Roy Williams & Calvin Johnson, and K Jason Hanson should all be starting in fantasy leagues this week. For the 49ers QB J.T. O’Sullivan’s “luck of the Irish” will probably run out in the near future, but he’s definitely worth starting this week in deeper leagues. RB Frank Gore, TE Vernon Davis, WRs Bryant Johnson & Isaac Bruce, and K Joe Nedney are all start-worthy too.
St. Louis at Seattle - The good news - one of these two teams will almost certainly win its first game of the week this year. The bad news - this game features many of this season’s biggest disappointments season-to-date from a fantasy perspective, making it difficult to wholeheartedly recommend any of the underperforming stars on either side. Still, Rams’ QB Marc Bulger, RB Steven Jackson, TE Randy McMichael, WR Torry Holt, and K Josh Brown can all be started against a Seahawks’ defense that has played poorly in its first two games. For the Seahawks offense, QB Matt Hasselbeck, RB Julius Jones, TE John Carlson, and K Olindo Mare can all be started - I’d stay away from all of the Seahawks WRs, given their apparent penchant for injury. Avoid both Defenses in this game too.
Pittsburgh at Philadelphia - While unlikely to match the fireworks of last Monday night’s game between the Eagles and the Cowboys, this contest also has the potential for a lot of offensive fireworks. Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Willie Parker, TE Heath Miller, WRs Santonio Holmes & Hines Ward, and K Jeff Reed can all be started this weekend in fantasy lineups. For the Eagles QB Donovan McNabb, RB Brian Westbrook, TE L.J. Smith, WR DeSean Jackson, and K David Akers all are good starts this week - hopefully, Jackson will remember to cross the goal line with the ball this week! I’d avoid starting either Defense if you have other options.
Cleveland at Baltimore - Another game that’s difficult to analyze. I wouldn’t read too much into the Browns’ early season struggles at home - the Cowboys look like frontrunners for the Vince Lombardi trophy at this point in the season, and the game with the Steelers was marred by high winds. Still, the Ravens’ defense is no slouch, and they’ve had an extra week of rest too following their unexpected bye week last weekend. I’d avoid QB Derek Anderson and RB Jamal Lewis this weekend, but I’d feel comfortable starting either TE Kellen Winslow or WR Braylon Edwards. For the Ravens I’d avoid RB Willis McGahee (health concerns) and QB Joe Flacco (rookie concerns), but TE Todd Heap and WR Derrick Mason are worth starting. I’d stay away from both Kickers, but I’d be willing to start either Defense.
Jacksonville at Indianapolis - Another potentially high-scoring game. Although both teams have played well below their potential in the first two weeks (especially on offense), I expect that to change this week. Jaguars’ QB David Garrard, RBs Fred Taylor & Maurice Jones-Drew, TE Marcedes Lewis, and WR Matt Jones all figure to rack up big days against a Colts’ defense that will be without Bob Sanders. K Josh Scobee is also a good start this week. For the Colts expect Peyton Manning to have a big game now that he’ll have both Center Jeff Saturday and TE Dallas Clark back. Manning, RB Joseph Addai, Clark, WRs Reggie Wayne & Anthony Gonzalez, and K Adam Vinatieri are all worth starting this week. I’d avoid both Defenses.
Dallas at Green Bay - Another potentially high- scoring game. Dallas QB Tony Romo, RB Marion Barber, TE Jason Witten, WRs Terrell Owens & Patrick Crayton, and K Nick Folk are all members of the best offense in football and should all be starting if they’re on your fantasy roster. Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers; WRs Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, & James Jones; and K Mason Crosby are all worth starting too. I’d avoid the Packers’ RBs if at all possible due to uncertaintly re: Ryan Grant’s status - Brandon Jackson is a better bet this week, but again, I’d avoid both unless I had no other options. Both Defenses should be avoided too.
NY Jets at San Diego - In spite of the Jets’ anemic offense the first two weeks of the season, I expect yet another high-scoring game here. Jets’ QB Brett Favre, RB Thomas Jones, TE Chris Baker, WR Jerricho Cotchery, and K Jay Feely are all worth starting against the Chargers’ defense, which obviously misses Shawne Merriman. If WR Laveranues Coles is healthy enough to play, he’ll also warrant a start; if not, consider RB Leon Washington, TE Dustin Keller, and WR Chansi Stuckey as candidates to pick up the slack for Coles. For the Chargers it’s impossible to say at this point whether RB LaDainian Tomlinson will play this weekend, and if he does, how effective he’ll be. Even if he does play, his backup RB Darren Sproles is worth starting in deeper leagues this week. QB Philip Rivers, TE Antonio Gates, WRs Chris Chambers & Vincent Jackson, and K Nate Kaeding are also worth starting. Avoid both Defenses this week.
Good luck this week!