Thumbs Up of the Week: Patrick Mahomes (v SF)
Is Patrick Mahomes going to throw for the 80 touchdowns that he’s on pace for this year? Probably not, but he’s made NFL history with the most passing touchdowns through two games to start the season (ten), and despite being held out of the end zone in his NFL debut last year in Week 17, Mahomes is the only player to ever throw for double-digit touchdowns over his first three career starts. The scariest part? “Showtime” is setting the league on fire without even playing a home game yet. It will be fun to see what Andy Reid’s offense has in store for the fans at Arrowhead this Sunday in what should be a shootout. Tom Brady is the only quarterback I have ranked above Mahomes for Week 3.
Thumbs Up: Matt Ryan (v NO)
In their Week 2 win over the Panthers, Matt Ryan decided to take the Falcons’ red-zone struggles into his own hands with two rushing scores, helping lead to a 31-24 victory and 29 fantasy points. As a passer, Ryan completed 82.1% of his passes for 272 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception against Carolina, and he could have easily had a huge day through the air if not for pressure preventing him from hitting Julio Jones deep a couple times (one of which was intercepted when his arm was hit). This week, Matty Ice should have more time to find Julio and the rest of his weapons, as the rival Saints have struggled to generate a pass rush to start the season with just three sacks (fifth worst in the league). Consider Ryan a solid QB1.
Thumbs Up: Jimmy Garoppolo (@ KC)
Remember the Patriots’ 41-14 loss at Arrowhead Stadium a few years ago that caused many to declare the New England dynasty was dead? People legitimately thought that Jimmy Garoppolo could takeover for TB12 based on him going six-of-seven for 70 yards and a score in garbage time of the primetime defeat. Of course, that was always silly, and much has changed since then with Jimmy G on a new team and in a new offensive system. I bring that game up, though, because another big change is the quality of Kansas City’s defense, which was arguably a top-five unit at the time, but is now a bottom-five unit, particularly on the backend. The environment will be tough, but Garoppolo is up for the challenge in what should be a back-and-forth, offensive battle.
Thumbs Up: Derek Carr (@ MIA)
Handling adversity will be a key for being successful under Jon Gruden, and Derek Carr did just that by bouncing back from a meltdown in the opener to flirt with the single-game record completion percentage in Week 2. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to get a win, but Carr looks to have a great grasp on Gruden’s system with the schedule lightening up considerably. I was more confident about the Dolphins this year than most were, but too much stock is being put into their strong defensive start (8.0 fantasy points per game allowed to opposing quarterbacks), as they faced Blaine Gabbert (who split time with an injured Marcus Mariota) and 20-year-old Sam Darnold so far. I don’t see how Carr isn’t a top-20 play this week and for the rest of the season.
Others: Ben Roethlisberger (@ TB), Jared Goff (v LAC)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Philip Rivers (@ LAR)
I’m not completely fading Rivers because he has enough weapons to overcome a difficult matchup, but it would definitely be unwise to consider him a QB1 option against the Rams. In four games against Wade Phillips (when he was Denver’s defensive coordinator), Rivers threw for 219 yards per game with a 5:5 touchdown-interception ratio, going 1-3 with just 5.99 yards per attempt. And not only does Phillips’ new defense have former Bronco Aqib Talib, but they also have former Chief Marcus Peters, who has intercepted Rivers four times in their past three matchups. All things considered, the 36-year-old is my No. 20 signal-caller for Week 3 and is better left on the bench.
Thumbs Down: Mitchell Trubisky (@ ARI)
Matt Nagy hasn’t seemed willing to take the training wheels off of Mitchell Trubisky through two weeks, as he’s completing nearly 70% of his passes, but has yet to surpass 200 yards. I would be surprised if Trubisky was unleashed on the road against an opportunistic—though they haven’t shown it during the regular season—Arizona defense, and he probably won’t find much running room against Steve Wilks’ zone-heavy scheme. With plenty of other options at such a deep position, the former No. 2 pick is barely a top-25 option for me.
Thumbs Down: Ryan Fitzpatrick (v PIT)
Maybe I’ll be burnt for a third time (although I have him as a top-15 play this week), but I just don’t completely trust Ryan Fitzpatrick as a must-start after back-to-back 400-yard, four-touchdown performances. This is completely different because Fitzpatrick passes the eye test and has a loaded collection of talent around him, but for what it’s worth, Trevor Siemian was the No. 1 fantasy quarterback heading into Week 3 last year and had a 6:12 touchdown-interception ratio for the remainder of the season. On Monday night, we could see Pittsburgh’s defense try to confuse the veteran, who has been mistake-prone for his entire career until the past two weeks, and Fitzpatrick is 0-5 against the Steelers, including a 31-13 loss in 2016.
Thumbs Down: Marcus Mariota (@ JAX)
The world might not know who will be under center for Tennessee until Sunday morning with Marcus Mariota still healing from his elbow injury, but if the Oregon product does play and start, it will be difficult for fantasy owners to trust him against the confident Jaguars. Last year, the Titans won both matchups and Mariota played really well, but statistically, he threw for just 175 yards per game with a 2:1 touchdown interception ratio and fantasy-point totals of 12 and 13. Plus, he’s in danger of getting pulled if the elbow still isn’t 100% and Jacksonville jumps out to an early lead, so I’m avoiding Mariota no matter what.
Others: Josh Allen (@ MIN), Case Keenum (@ BAL)
Thumbs Up of the Week: Tevin Coleman (v NO)
It’s sadly happening due to an injury to Devonta Freeman, but I’ve basically been waiting three years for Tevin Coleman to be featured over multiple weeks, and he took full advantage of his first start of the season with 16 carries for 107 yards against Carolina’s elite run defense last Sunday. The 25-year-old is a walking game-breaker that looks like he’s shot out of a cannon every time he touches the ball, which should be at least 18-20 times per game until Freeman’s return. In three career meetings with the Saints in which he’s received double-digit touches, Coleman has averaged 16.7 fantasy points per game in standard leagues—and even that’s on just 12 touches per game. He’s a high-upside RB1 for as long as he has the starting job to himself.
Thumbs Up: Marshawn Lynch (@ MIA)
Marshawn Lynch was able to get through a couple tough matchups (v LAR, @ DEN) to start the season with a touchdown in both games, but more encouraging has been his workload, as Lynch (29 carries) has handled nearly 75% of the early-down touches ahead of Doug Martin (11 carries). Now, the Raiders will look to get and keep a lead against a Miami team that allowed the Titans to rush for 101 yards in the opener and should have had another 62 yards added on to it if not for a bogus holding call that wiped out a touchdown by Derrick Henry. The Dolphins held the Jets in check last week, but I think they are still a run defense to target this year, which makes Marshawn a top-20 play.
Thumbs Up: Matt Breida (@ KC)
The league’s leading rusher of the young season, Matt Breida put up college numbers last week with 11 carries for 138 yards and a score, also adding three receptions for 31 yards. Alfred Morris will have a role, but I think it’s only a matter of time before the second-year back is given 15-18 weekly touches, and that includes this Sunday against the Chiefs, who have already allowed Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler to go wild both on the ground and through the air this year. In Kyle Shanahan’s offense, Breida is an every-week RB2/FLEX option that’s leaning towards the optimistic side for a potential track meet at Arrowhead Stadium.
Thumbs Up: Kerryon Johnson (v NE)
Fantasy owners that are undecided on their starting FLEX option should almost always bet on talent, and Kerryon Johnson—who I think is clearly the best rookie running back not named Saquon Barkley—will often get the edge for me in those debates until the Lions finally commit to him and he turns into a star. On Sunday night, Detroit is going to need to score with Tom Brady coming to town, and featuring Kerryon as a runner and receiver to potentially avoid 0-3 (or perhaps more realistically, another embarrassing home loss in primetime) would be a sound strategy. Now is the time to buy-low on Johnson.
Others: Alfred Morris (@ KC), Nyheim Hines (@ PHI)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Ezekiel Elliott (@ SEA)
If you have Zeke, you’re obviously not benching him unless you are absolutely stacked at running back, but I think he’s more of a low-end RB1 this week. Not only are the Seahawks desperate at 0-2, but they also will have the support of their home fans, and we just saw their run defense shutdown Jordan Howard and the Bears after Mychal Kendricks boosted a thin linebacker group. The absence of anchor Travis Frederick on the offensive line probably wasn’t talked about enough entering the year, as Dallas’ front isn’t dominant when a key piece is missing (see: Tyron Smith in 2017). Elliott could very well go for 100 yards and three scores because of his own individual talent, but I would at least avoid him in daily fantasy lineups, especially now that All-Pro defender Bobby Wagner says he’ll be ready to go against the Cowboys.
Thumbs Down: Jay Ajayi (v IND)
As of this writing, Jay Ajayi (back) sounds very questionable for Sunday’s game against the Colts, and if he does play, he might be too risky to use in fantasy lineups. We know the Eagles already use a running-back-by-committee under head coach Doug Pederson, so having one of the members at less than 100% could cause others—namely Corey Clement and recently-promoted Josh Adams—to see more touches at Ajayi’s expense. Also, Indy’s rookie linebacker Darius Leonard (18 tackles in Week 2) has led a surprisingly impressive run defense, so the Colts might not be quite as good a matchup as expected.
Thumbs Down: LeSean McCoy (@ MIN)
The early-season schedule for LeSean McCoy has been unforgiving, and he’s totaled just 89 scoreless yards through two weeks behind one of the worst offensive lines in football. Now, he’s dealing with a rib issue heading into a road matchup with the Vikings, which could quickly get ugly if protection doesn’t hold up for Josh Allen. I wouldn’t even recommend McCoy as a FLEX option, and it might be a good idea to see what kind of trade value he has in your league based on big-name appeal due to the combination of age, supporting cast, and more potential legal troubles.
Thumbs Down: Royce Freeman (@ BAL)
Based on results, it hasn’t been a complete disaster for Royce Freeman investors to start the year, as he rushed for 71 yards in the opener and found the end zone last week. However, even the rookie’s fiercest supporters have to be concerned about Phillip Lindsay, as the versatile 24-year-old is the RB9 in standard leagues, has averaged 16 touches per game, and already has two 100-yard (total) games under his belt. In Week 3, you’re probably hoping for a goal-line plunge against a top-end run defense from Freeman, so he’s a weak FLEX option.
Others: Carlos Hyde (v NYJ), Isaiah Crowell (@ CLE)
Thumbs Up of the Week: JuJu Smith-Schuster (@ TB)
After catching five passes for 119 yards in the opener, JuJu Smith-Schuster followed it up with a 13/121/1 line in Week 2, and now he will get a shot at another 100-yard game in a cupcake matchup against Tampa Bay on Monday Night Football. I think JuJu profiles similarly to Michael Thomas, who stung the Bucs for 16 receptions for 180 yards and a score in the opener, and Big Ben doesn’t appear to be playing favorites with Antonio Brown so far this year, which is probably part of the reason for Brown’s (apparently unrelated to the team) frustrations. Smith-Schuster should have already been a staple in lineups, but he’s my No. 7 receiver for Week 3.
Thumbs Up: Kenny Golladay (v NE)
“Babytron” is for real, and Matthew Stafford has had no reservations when targeting him as an elite downfield threat. Including last year’s season finale, Golladay has 80+ yards in three-straight games with two touchdowns and 18.9 yards per reception over that span while looking like a legitimate rising star. There will definitely be some disappointing games on an offense with three talented wideouts, but I don’t think Sunday night will be one of them, as New England’s coverage issues from last year have appeared to carry over to 2018. Golladay is a high-upside FLEX.
Thumbs Up: Chris Godwin (v PIT)
He was a “Thumbs Up” in both weeks to start the season and has turned in lines of 3/41/1 and 5/56/1, so I might as well keep rolling with Chris Godwin until everyone realizes how good he is. The Penn State product only played 50% of the team’s offensive snaps in Week 2 as he rotated with DeSean Jackson (59%) and Adam Humphries (50%) behind Mike Evans, but the Bucs need to keep Godwin—who might have earned more playing time after a key block to spring O.J. Howard last week—on the field if they want to come close to sustaining their white-hot start. I think Godwin will be able to find the intermediate holes in Pittsburgh’s zone on Monday night and is once again an underrated FLEX in all formats.
Thumbs Up: Pierre Garcon (@ KC)
Like Godwin for the Bucs, Pierre Garcon had an important downfield block last week on a long touchdown, and I wouldn’t overlook Kyle Shanahan’s ability to scheme a play or two for him as a reward this Sunday. Even if that doesn’t happen, Garcon gets a dream matchup against the Chiefs, who have already been victimized by Keenan Allen (8/108/1) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (13/121/1) to start the year with Mike Williams (5/81) and Antonio Brown (9/67) also doing damage (Tyrell Williams and James Washington both found the end zone, too). The veteran is a solid option in a game that should have plenty of scoring.
Other: Nelson Agholor (v IND), Jordy Nelson (@ MIA)
Thumbs Down of the Week: DeSean Jackson (v PIT)
DeSean Jackson is the overall WR2 with a couple deep touchdowns boosting his numbers, but his 30.6 yards per reception is very clearly not sustainable. Again, we should value guys based on what they will do, and I would bet that Jackson has already had his best two games of the season. Looking at this week’s matchup, the Steelers did a great job containing Tyreek Hill in Week 2 with zero receptions in the first half before allowing him to get loose for a 36-yard gain to start the second half and then a 29-yard touchdown on the first drive of the fourth quarter; and I like Pittsburgh to play a complete game on Monday night by keeping Jackson in front of them for 60 minutes. Chris Godwin is a better option for me.
Thumbs Down: Corey Davis (@ JAX)
Perhaps Corey Davis can do what Chris Hogan did for New England by avoiding Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye in the slot, but who else does Jacksonville really have to worry about at receiver for Tennessee? The fifth-overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft caught just one pass in two starts against the Jaguars last season, and he probably would need to find the end zone to not be a regrettable play for fantasy owners on Sunday. Davis should have better luck at proving himself as a WR2 after this week when the Titans take on the Eagles and Bills.
Thumbs Down: Kelvin Benjamin (@ MIN)
Xavier Rhodes wasn’t able to take away Davante Adams last week in a tie with the Packers, but a) Kelvin Benjamin won’t have Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball, and b) he isn’t the matchup-proof star that Adams is. While KB was saved by a score for those who decided to roll with him against the Chargers, he’s totaled just three receptions for 29 yards through two games and hasn’t shown much chemistry with Josh Allen yet. That’s unlikely to change against the Vikings, so Benjamin needs to stay out of fantasy lineups.
Thumbs Down: Mike Williams (@ LAR)
The touchdown catch last week for Mike Williams should be the first of many for him in the league, but score No. 2 might have to wait until Week 4 with a matchup against the shutdown corner duo of the Rams coming this Sunday. I think Los Angeles (Chargers) will have to move the ball with Keenan Allen in the slot and Melvin Gordon out of the backfield rather than testing Peters or Talib on the outside, which makes Williams a risky option that probably needs to win a 50/50 ball. Fortunately, there should be plenty of alternatives to consider for fantasy owners.
Other: Emmanuel Sanders (@ BAL), Michael Crabtree (v DEN)
Thumbs Up of the Week: George Kittle (@ KC)
He flopped last week with two receptions for 22 yards, but fantasy owners shouldn’t bail on George Kittle after one disappointing game, especially when there’s such a great matchup on deck. The Chiefs allowed Jesse James to go nuts for five receptions, 138 yards, and a touchdown in Week 2, and it looks like they will be without All-Pro safety Eric Berry for the third game in a row. I expect Kittle—who I have as my No. 3 tight end this week—to be a big-time contributor as Jimmy Garoppolo’s security blanket in an intimidating environment.
Thumbs Up: O.J. Howard (v PIT)
It’s honestly a little bit unfair that a person that’s O.J. Howard’s size (six-foot-six, 251 pounds) is able to run as fast as he does, but the athletic upside makes him an excellent weekly streaming option based on both touchdown potential and chunk plays. Last week, his 75-yard catch-and-run against the Eagles showed the combined upside on a single play, and Howard could be a problem for the Steelers if he finds himself in single coverage with a linebacker.
Thumbs Up: David Njoku (v NYJ)
Maybe it’s his own inconsistency, or play-calling, or Tyrod Taylor holding the offense back, but David Njoku has just seven receptions for 33 yards through two weeks. That said, he’s currently second on the team with 14 targets and should be the clear No. 2 option in the passing game with Josh Gordon gone, which could force the 2017 first-rounder to step up. The Jets aren’t necessarily a good matchup, but I hope and think Njoku will be utilized more on downfield routes and in the slot as the Browns try to finally win a game on Thursday night.
Thumbs Up: Antonio Gates (@ LAR)
The Rams were simply so dominant up front against the Cardinals last week that Sam Bradford didn’t have a chance to find Ricky Seals-Jones, but that doesn’t change the fact that Los Angeles should be a target for those streaming at tight end all season. Antonio Gates isn’t going to play a full compliment of snaps, but he should get enough opportunities to make an impact, including in the red zone. The future Hall of Famer is a top-15 play.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Travis Kelce (v SF)
When I said I had George Kittle as my No. 3 tight end for this week, you might have been thinking that I’m crazy—but it’s all about matchups. While Kittle gets arguably the most favorable opponent in the league, Travis Kelce gets the most difficult, as the 49ers—despite allowing a touchdown to the position in both games to start the year—have basically shutdown every tight end they faced dating back to last season, and they’ll now get Reuben Foster back from a two-game suspension. For just this week, Kelce drops out of my “sub-Gronk elite tier” that used to be his alone.
Thumbs Down: Trey Burton (@ ARI)
The Cardinals, too, have allowed tight ends to score in each of the first two games of the year, but they still have the athletic players in the middle of their defense to give Trey Burton fits on Sunday. Chicago’s free-agent signing has been contained with just 35 yards and a shovel-pass touchdown to start his age-26 campaign, and he’s seemingly taken a back seat to Allen Robinson as Mitchell Trubisky’s favorite target.
Thumbs Down: Tyler Eifert (@ CAR)
Perhaps they were just giving him limited snaps on a short week, but Tyler Eifert was basically rotating in a three-man committee with Tyler Kroft and C.J. Uzomah last week, which really makes him a touchdown-or-bust option. Against Luke Keuchly and company, I don’t like Eifert’s chances of finding the end zone in Week 3.
Thumbs Down: Dallas Goedert (v IND)
You probably weren’t using him anyway, but for those who are hoping for a touchdown from Dallas Goedert and didn’t know, he worked as Philly’s No. 3 tight end behind Joshua Perkins last Sunday, and there’s been nothing to suggest that won’t be the case again after the former undrafted free agent impressed with four receptions for 57 yards. Plus, Jordan Matthews re-signing with the Eagles puts a dent in Goedert’s overall season outlook as a rookie.