Week 3 Fantasy Football Preview: Nickels, Dimes, and Mind-Blowing Trades
Did you listen to my opening advice last week? I sure hope not. I told you all to stop trying to be so sexy, but now the Browns are showing us why that’s a terrible message. Career third-stringer Brian Hoyer is now the starting quarterback, franchise running back Trent Richardson is now an Indianapolis Colt, and Maurice Clarett is requesting a tryout via Twitter. The really scary part? Giving Clarett a crack might not be a half-bad idea.
This week’s lead advice that you should absolutely, positively, under no circumstances abide comes from our greatest sage, Yogi Berra: “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.” Keep this in mind when considering the implications of the Richardson trade, fantasy running backs in general, and making deals of your own.
Ponder that. Revel in it. Then read about this week’s games.
All times Eastern.
Chiefs at Eagles (Thursday Night Football, 8:25 p.m.)
Instead of flying to this game via private jet, the standard mode of transit for NFL road teams, Andy Reid will presumably lead his Chiefs in a military-style march to Philadelphia, traversing the frozen tundra of Illinois, the rain forests of Indiana, the coral reefs of Ohio, and the ritzy neighborhoods of Appalachia. And he’ll be pumping his fist the whole damn way.
Who can blame him? Reid certainly has a lot to be excited about, namely his team’s 2-0 record, so he’s entitled to strut his stuff in front of his former city. Hell, by the time he reaches Lincoln Financial Field, Reid’s gait will probably look something like this:
But let’s not allow Reid’s marvelous comeback tour to obscure what really matters here: whether Reid is any good for our fantasy teams. After extensive research, the results are decidedly mixed. Reid is using Jamaal Charles more consistently than Romeo Crennel did — granted, a lobotomized seahorse could have used Charles more consistently than Crennel did — but as I mentioned last week, Reid’s top receivers generally don’t catch many passes, and Dwayne Bowe delivered another measly four-reception outing in Week 2. Expect this to be the norm going forward. Bowe will need to score more frequently than vintage Don Draper in order to finish the season as a top-20 wideout.
Former Reid receiver and current Eagle DeSean Jackson, meanwhile, is the complete opposite of Bowe right now. Jackson looks capable of breaking the single-game receiving yardage record at some point this season.
Packers at Bengals (Sunday, 1 p.m.)
Eddie Lacy’s status remains unknown as of this writing, but I’d be shocked if he played in Cincinnati. He didn’t practice on Wednesday while continuing to recover from a concussion, and it would be absurd for Mike McCarthy to risk Lacy’s long-term health in a relatively meaningless early-season matchup, especially on the heels of James Starks’s terrific Week 2 rushing performance. Starks won’t rush for 132 yards again, because Cincy’s run defense is stout and because, well, he’s James Starks. But given the ease and efficiency with which Aaron Rodgers is operating, the Packers should continue to move the ball well, netting Starks plenty of touches near the goal line.
Meanwhile, BenJarvus Green-Ellis best be watching his throne, because Giovani Bernard made a strong case for it on Monday night and figures to seize it in the next month or so.
Rams at Cowboys (1 p.m.)
BREAKING: Despite the (very legitimate) questions we had about Dez Bryant’s hydration following his public renouncement of Gatorade, it appears his fluid intake remains superb — or so his nine receptions, 141 yards, and one touchdown at Arrowhead in Week 2 seem to indicate. A likewise superb development from Chiefs-Cowboys: DeMarco Murray’s increased involvement in the passing game, which made his dreadful day on the ground slightly more palatable for his owners, particularly those in PPR leagues. It’s enormously comforting to be able to bank on five-plus receptions from a running back, cushioning the blow in case he has a bad game otherwise, and Murray provides owners with that sort of safety net. (Of course, you could argue that Murray’s relatively high susceptibility to injury nullifies said safety net, but still.)
On the other sideline, Jared Cook’s no-show last week was a little disconcerting after his huge debut with the Rams, but uncertainty comes with the territory of owning this tight end. With the bevy of other weapons at Sam Bradford’s disposal — namely Tavon Austin, Chris Givens, and Austin Pettis, in that order — Cook will unfortunately deliver the occasional clunker.
Chargers at Titans (1 p.m.)
Looks like the Titans pullin that Jared Cook card .. Looking like this the last year ill be sayin #TitanUp .. So lets make it a Great year
— Kenny Britt (@KennyBritt_18) September 17, 2013
Fantasy owners, heed Titans coach Mike Munchak: Play that Jared Cook card on Kenny Britt, and play it now. The Tennessean‘s Jim Wyatt reports that Britt was benched due to his “lackadaisical approach,” coincidentally the same reason I got a C- in high school chemistry. Britt will likely take a backseat to Kendall Wright and Nate Washington until he stops playing so much Call of Duty.
Fantasy owners would be way better off starting Eddie Royal, which is saying a lot, because Royal’s long descent back to Earth begins Sunday. Look, here’s some exclusive footage I’ve discovered of Royal’s next couple games:
Browns at Vikings (1 p.m.)
Our unstoppable strategy of starting the receiver not drawing coverage from Joe Haden is two-for-two after Baltimore’s Marlon Brown tallied a solid 10 fantasy points last week, so with Haden expected to lock down Greg Jennings on Sunday, consider Jerome Simpson a guarantee to perform well. Provided your roster isn’t brimming with stud wideouts, you can justify plugging Simpson in at WR3 or flex; he demonstrated his big-game ability in Week 1, and it never hurts to ride a guy playing for a long-term contract. Rookie Cordarrelle Patterson should eventually overtake Simpson on the depth chart, but that won’t happen until the second half of the season.
Pending Willis McGahee’s physical (he supposedly passed one with the Giants last week), he could be a solid flex against a Vikings defense that has hemorrhaged 43 fantasy points to Lions and Bears rushers. No, McGahee isn’t in the same galaxy as Matt Forte, but he doesn’t need to be to warrant flex usage. It’s worth noting that Browns coach Rob Chudzinski was McGahee’s offensive coordinator at The U, which should assuage some concerns about McGahee’s ability to get up to speed with the new offense. And don’t waste your time picking up Bobby Rainey. After watching every snap of Rainey’s brief Browns career, here’s the one thing I can tell you: He’s really good at returning kickoffs to the 15-yard line. That’s it.
Finally, in honor of Josh “Gatsby” Gordon’s return from a purple-drank suspension, let’s take a moment of silence to reflect on his ridiculous ride.
Buccaneers at Patriots (1 p.m.)
The best part of fantasy football isn’t the prize money, the pride, or how it brings friends together. It is, hands down, the way it allows us to fulfill our wackiest GM fantasies. For example, yesterday I was mining my league’s free-agent pool and impulsively decided to cut EJ Manuel, whom I’d claimed off waivers after Week 1, to make room for Aaron Dobson, a guy who could really become something special if he learns to run routes properly. I dreamed up a whole conversation I’d have with Dobson informing him of the signing, and it went like this:
Me: Aaron, Matt Borcas here, GM of Smokin’ Weeden. Words cannot express how excited I am to welcome you to our organization. My scouts were up all last night studying your tape, and they came away VERY impressed. Pack your bags, because I’m sending my Gulfstream to pick you up immediately. We here at Smokin’ Weeden pride ourselves on core values of honesty, integrity, philanthropy, and twerking, and we think you’ll be a valuable asset on all four fronts. Once you pass our team-mandated physical, I can’t wait to see you out on that practice field. Did I mention our top-of-the-line facilities?
Then I proceeded to inspect the free-agent pool a little more, and someone caught my eye: Philip Rivers, currently the fourth-best player in all of fantasy, and a guy who would possess some trade value if an elite quarterback ever went down. I felt he’d be a tremendous addition to Smokin’ Weeden, forcing me to exchange a tearful good-bye with Dobson.
Me: Hey, Aaron — the Gulfstream is turning around. It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I report to you the termination of your contract with Smokin’ Weeden. This wasn’t an easy decision. Tears were shed, expletives were shouted, and glass was broken here at the office, but I have to do what’s best for my team. It’s a real shame that you won’t be able to experience our lavish facilities firsthand. I pray one day we’ll meet again, in this life or the next.
Moral of the story: Trade Dobson for Rivers (or Manuel for Dobson) if you can, but do so with the utmost care, compassion, and respect. That way, you’ll NEVER lose.
Cardinals at Saints (1 p.m.)
Word to Sean Payton: I know you used a first-round pick on Mark Ingram and thus want to give him as many opportunities as possible to validate that decision, but 17 carries for 31 yards is straight depressing. Watching Ingram run is like watching a deer try to negotiate the treacherous waters of Lake Erie.
It’ll be better for everyone involved — especially fantasy owners — if you just give those carries to Pierre Thomas. Please and thank you.
Lions at Redskins (1 p.m.)
A less communist running back time-share can be found in Detroit. Reggie Bush didn’t practice yesterday after sustaining a “medium-term” knee injury in Arizona, and seems about 50/50 for Sunday. It might seem dicey, but this situation is actually very cut-and-dried: If Bush plays, expect him to gash the worst run defense in football while Joique Bell catches five-plus passes out of the backfield; if Bush doesn’t play, Bell becomes a must-start player in all leagues and would be poised to be one of Week 3′s highest-scoring backs.
Meanwhile, it’s time to send out some trade feelers to RG3’s owner, because there’s a decent chance those fantasy players are frustrated and willing to make the QB available for a relative pittance. Of course, RG3 missed the preseason and figures to improve from here on out, but logic has never gotten in the way of a fed-up fantasy owner.
Giants at Panthers (1 p.m.)
Here’s what the Giants’ running back situation currently looks like:
David Wilson remains the putative starter but played just 24 of 79 snaps against Denver, compared to Da’Rel Scott’s 39. Scott is supposed to be a halfway-decent third-down/PPR back, but caught just two balls in a game in which Eli Manning threw 49 passes. Brandon Jacobs is one of history’s most dependable goal-line backs, and while he scored a touchdown, he also ceded some short-yardage carries to Scott. These three are like a demented version of rock-paper-scissors, except you can’t win. Wilson beats Scott beats Jacobs beats Wilson, and on the cycle goes.
Texans at Ravens (1 p.m.)
Ray Rice (hip flexor strain) and Andre Johnson (concussion) will probably both suit up on Sunday, but that shouldn’t dissuade you from starting either Bernard Pierce or DeAndre Hopkins. Pierce was about as effective as you could expect him to be last week against Cleveland’s third-ranked run defense, has proven himself a consummate point-poaching vulture, and merits low-end RB2/high-end flex consideration.
Moreover, as I mentioned Tuesday, Hopkins is probably better off in the long run with Johnson attracting the opposition’s top corner, freeing up the rookie to do things like this more often. Nukkkkkkkk.
Falcons at Dolphins (4:05 p.m.)
Mike Wallace owners who didn’t panic following his Week 1 famine were rewarded with a Week 2 feast, and I think they’ll be eating heartily again on Sunday. Atlanta’s pass defense, ranked 28th in the league by Football Outsiders, surrendered 350-plus receiving yards apiece to the Saints and Rams, and Wallace will use his 4.3 speed to zoom behind the Falcons for multiple deep gains. I’m not keen on Jacquizz Rodgers here; he was a rather ineffective replacement for Steven Jackson last week, and will almost certainly be robbed of any goal-line carries by Jason Snelling. Rodgers is an OK flex in PPR leagues, but that’s about it.
Bills at Jets (4:25 p.m.)
Imagine the curse of being a fantasy football writer today: You’re contractually obligated to make jokes about/shit on the Jets whenever possible, yet you’re also left with no choice but to recommend Bilal Powell as a waiver-wire pickup because the other offerings at running back are so perilously slim. Call me a hypocrite, a quack, or a con artist — I get it, I truly do. In return, I humbly recommend to you the Bills defense, available in 82.1 percent of ESPN.com leagues, a unit I reckon will intercept Geno Smith so often that the game will quickly begin to resemble Jon Bois’s crazy Madden experiment.
Colts at 49ers (4:25 p.m.)
I’m going to rely on bullet points here because the Richardson trade has boggled my mind so badly, I’m no longer able to string together coherent sentences.
• Moving to Indy will unquestionably enhance T-Rich’s fantasy value in the long term, because the disparity between Brandon Weeden and Andrew Luck is akin to the difference between a horse-and-buggy and a new Bugatti. Opposing defenses actually respect Luck’s ability to deliver the football to the open target in a timely manner, which is, y’know, the quarterback’s main job and yet something Weeden has never quite been able to master as a pro. Additionally, Luck is mobile, whereas Weeden can’t outrun a freaking flag. Richardson will consequently face fewer stacked boxes as a Colt, which should mean more yards and scores. Playing indoors doesn’t hurt, either.
• Unfortunately for Richardson owners, the trade is detrimental to his value in the short-term, particularly this week. He won’t have time to get familiar with the playbook before Sunday, when he’ll have to go up against the 49ers’ fearsome defensive front. Expect to see a Richardson/Ahmad Bradshaw committee in San Francisco.
• Frankly, Richardson wasn’t that impressive in his 17 games with the Browns. He was exceedingly antsy, often failing to hit holes with any semblance of conviction, and his game log was equally uninspiring.
In non-Richardson news, feel free to take a flyer on Luck’s college teammate, Coby Fleener (available in 88.3 percent of ESPN.com leagues), whose productivity should increase with fellow tight end Dwayne Allen now on IR.
Jaguars at Seahawks (4:25 p.m.)
The spread for this game is nearly 20, which is also roughly how many points the Seahawks defense will net fantasy owners. This will be a typical Seattle blowout, marked by two or three Marshawn Lynch touchdowns, Pete Carroll being rather pleased with himself, and Russell Wilson passing the ball a mere 20 times. And for the record, I fully support the Jaguars fans clamoring for Tim Tebow — at the very least, he’d outscore Chad Henne and Blaine Gabbert in fantasy points.
Bears at Steelers (Sunday Night Football, 8:30 p.m.)
I feel like I have a solid read on this game, so let’s bust out some BOLD PREDICTIONS.
1. BOLD PREDICTION: Forte will be Week 3’s highest-scoring running back. Consider what Bernard did to the Steelers on Monday Night Football, and extrapolate that over Forte’s standard workload. Forte is like a fully realized version of Bernard, so this is basically a given.
2. BOLD PREDICTION: Felix Jones won’t be Week 3’s highest-scoring running back. More specifically, he won’t finish in the Top 50. This is simple math, really. He’s terrible, and the Steelers’ offensive line is terrible. Terrible + terrible = very terrible. Book it!
Thus concludes BOLD PREDICTIONS with Matt Borcas. Thanks for playing!
Raiders at Broncos (Monday Night Football, 8:30 p.m.)
We had the pleasure of witnessing the football equivalent of Halley’s Comet last weekend, and I think folks are mostly taking it for granted. I’m of course talking about Darren McFadden’s 19 carries for 129 yards, which resulted in 12 fantasy points and were a wonder to behold. Soak up his resurgence while you can, because if history is any indicator, it’ll be gone before we know it.
Finally, Knowshon Moreno seems to have established himself as Denver’s workhorse (for the time being, at least), and Eric Decker is bound to reach the end zone this week. Decker’s 13 targets against the Giants led all Broncos, so I’m pretty confident in this bonus BOLD PREDICTION. May all your BOLD PREDICTIONS come true this weekend, too.
Matt Borcas writes about fantasy football for Grantland.