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Week 3 Fantasy: “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down”

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Thumbs Up of the Week: Daniel Jones (v ATL)

Rushing production has Jones sitting as the QB4 through two games, and he’s yet to throw an interception while also impressing through the air. This week, it sounds like the Giants will get Evan Engram (calf) back, and Saquon Barkley will ideally be unleashed with a few extra days to prepare. As you’ll see throughout this article, I’m very high on New York for Week 3, and Jones is a QB1 play.


Thumbs Up: Kirk Cousins (v SEA)

Seahawks-Vikings should be high-scoring, and the passing attack of Minnesota has been more active than anticipated, so Cousins is trending up heading into the final week of September. There were some big plays left on the field last week for the Titans in their matchup against Seattle, but Ryan Tannehill still threw for 347 yards, and the emergence of K.J. Osborn adds another weapon for opponents to contend with in Minnesota. Cousins is a high-end QB2.


Thumbs Up: Sam Darnold (@ HOU)

Coming off a 305-yard, two-touchdown performance to beat the Saints, Darnold looks very comfortable in Joe Brady’s offense, and now he gets a chance to start 3-0 for a Thursday Night Football matchup versus Houston. D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, and Terrace Marshall Jr. can present problems for a banged-up secondary, and Darnold is also a threat to keep the ball for himself if there is an opening.


Thumbs Up: Tom Brady (@ LAR)

We have to keep an eye on the status of Antonio Brown (COVID-19 list), but Brady shouldn’t be downgraded too far from high-end QB1 territory for a matchup against Los Angeles, and I have him as a borderline top-five play. Buccaneers-Rams has the makings of a shootout, and TB12 will have his guys ready for what might be Tampa Bay’s toughest challenge on the road to an undefeated season. Keep loading up Brady in lineups.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Jameis Winston (@ NE)

The high from a five-touchdown performance was short-lived for Winston, and he went back in time for a two-interception day (with just 111 scoreless passing yards) in a 26-7 loss last week. Now, the matchup is even tougher this weekend against an opportunistic and stout New England defense, so Winston needs to be downgraded significantly. Those in Superflex leagues in particular should consider Taysom Hill as a stash with Winston possibly on the hot seat depending on this upcoming stretch (@ NE, v NYG, @ WAS).


Thumbs Down: Baker Mayfield (v CHI)

Cleveland is very thin at wide receiver with Jarvis Landry (knee) on IR and Odell Beckham Jr.’s status still a mystery—which could lead to a very run-heavy offense (and a slugfest) on Sunday. I’m guessing the team lightened Nick Chubb’s workload some against the Texans (11 carries) in anticipation for a battle versus Chicago, and Mayfield could again hover around the 20-attempt mark in Week 3.


Thumbs Down: Teddy Bridgewater (v NYJ)

Bridgewater has been on point to begin 2021, but this week feels like a potential spot where the offense might be dragged down if the Jets can make it a brawl like they did in their first two games. The Week 2 breakout for Courtland Sutton will have New York prepared to limit him and a passing attack that doesn’t have Jerry Jeudy (ankle), so Bridgewater is someone to consider selling before the schedule toughens up.


Thumbs Down: Joe Burrow (@ PIT)

He only faced the Steelers once as a rookie, but Burrow struggled in a 36-10 defeat, and Cincinnati’s offensive line remains a definite concern this season with nine sacks allowed through two weeks. Maybe the firepower with Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd will be enough to have better luck in 2021, but I’m not expecting a strong fantasy performance out of Burrow. Consider him a low-end QB2 option.


Running Back


Thumbs Up of the Week: Saquon Barkley (v ATL)

This was always the target week for Barkley to look like himself, and fantasy owners should be optimistic about that being the case after he handled 15 touches and played 84% of the offensive snaps on short rest last Thursday night. Saquon is back in the RB1 ranks for me, and we could see magic if/when he hits the open field this weekend and for the rest of the year.


Thumbs Up: James Robinson (v ARI)

Urban Meyer not feeding Robinson is one of the biggest surprises of the season so far, but the second-year runner hasn’t done or shown anything to suggest reason for concern about his outlook as a player, so you have no choice but to be patient. Arizona was vulnerable against the run last week (25 attempts for 142 yards), and Jacksonville building the game plan around Robinson is the easy fix for their offensive woes. I have him as a top-20 back for Week 3.


Thumbs Up: Latavius Murray (@ DET)

Ty’Son Williams again drew the start on Sunday night, but Baltimore will clearly be a committee, and Murray has punched it in for six in each of his first two games as a Raven. Even if Detroit’s defense goes with a changed-up game plan to stop the run this week, limiting Lamar Jackson and the running backs is easier said than done. Last year, Murray rushed 14 times for 64 yards and two touchdowns against the Lions.


Thumbs Up: 49ers RBs (v GB)

Excluding last year’s matchup when San Francisco was ravaged with injuries, Kyle Shanahan’s squad has rushed for team lines of 30-174-1, 22-112-2, and 42-285-4 (playoffs) in three games versus Green Bay, and the running game will undoubtedly be emphasized again for a primetime matchup. Elijah Mitchell (shoulder) is the obvious candidate to go off if he’s healthy, but I’m still not giving up on Trey Sermon (concussion) if cleared, and you also can’t sleep on Jacques Patrick.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Clyde Edwards-Helaire (v LAC)

Edwards-Helaire has struggled to get going through two games, and that’s without even taking into account his costly fumble in Kansas City’s loss to the Ravens last week. Even as a receiver, three targets in two games isn’t going to cut it for those expecting a Year 2 breakout, and CEH could even lose touches to Darrel Williams again based on how the season has started. He might be best viewed as a low-end RB2/FLEX right now.


Thumbs Down: Tony Pollard (v PHI)

Dallas being without Michael Gallup (ankle) has opened the door for Pollard to be featured, and he handled a whopping 16 touches on just 21 snaps in Week 2. That said, Ezekiel Elliott has typically been the one to star in games against the Eagles, and Pollard has been very quiet in four career meetings with the NFC East foe. Production obviously doesn’t carry over from week to week, so don’t make the mistake of overvaluing last week’s blowup.


Thumbs Down: Mark Ingram (v CAR)

Volume helped Ingram get off to a hot start in the opener, but it’s a mistake to view him as anything more than a low-floor FLEX in a committee for a team that projects to finish towards the bottom of the standings. In Week 2, Ingram played just 19 snaps, and we could see him cede more work to David Johnson and Phillip Lindsay with just 3.2 yards per carry so far in 2021.


Thumbs Down: Rams RBs (v TB)

Darrell Henderson (ribs) will either be inactive or playing at less than 100%, but this is mainly about the matchup for him and Sony Michel (who I really like long-term, and would be an RB2 against anyone other than Tampa Bay if Henderson was out). Picking up where they left off as a unit in 2020, Todd Bowles’ defense has allowed 3.0 yards per carry and 57.5 rushing yards per game through two weeks.


Wide Receiver


Thumbs Up of the Week: Kenny Golladay (v ATL)

As stated, I’m very high on the Giants, and Golladay should get a tally in the touchdown department against an Atlanta defense that has allowed an NFL-high eight scores through the air heading into Week 3. We would be feeling a lot better about the big-bodied target if he didn’t drop a couple of passes last Thursday night, but Golladay is highly paid and should soon be highly productive for New York.


Thumbs Up: Nelson Agholor (v NO)

Whether or not Marshon Lattimore (thumb) is back in the lineup this week, I really like how Agholor matches up against the New Orleans secondary, as his twitchiness should cause problems for them at all levels of the field. Having only one reception for 19 yards in last season’s game versus the Saints shouldn’t be held against Agholor (he played just 19 snaps). Mac Jones and the offense should be more aggressive after a conversative approach against the Jets.


Thumbs Up: Marquise Brown (@ DET)

Brown has turned 16 targets into a 12/182/2 line through two games, and he’s picked up where he left off after catching fire in the second half of 2020. The two-deep looks shown by the Lions on Monday night will be less frequent this weekend, so Baltimore should be able to dial up some deep shots to Brown and Sammy Watkins; perhaps added confidence for Lamar Jackson will lead to more downfield connections.


Thumbs Up: Jalen Reagor (@ DAL)

Almost doesn’t count in football, but Reagor was inches away from two touchdowns in two games, and he’s been the No. 2 wideout for Philadelphia with 70% of the snaps played in both games so far. DeVonta Smith drawing coverage from Trevon Diggs would open up favorable looks for Reagor, and I like him as a high-upside FLEX on Monday night.


Others: Antonio Brown (@ LAR), Emmanuel Sanders (v WAS)


Thumbs Down of the Week: Mike Evans (@ LAR)

We will see exactly what kind of role Jalen Ramsey plays this week, but Evans would seem to be in line for the most snaps against him, and Tom Brady can easily go elsewhere with Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown (if available), Rob Gronkowski, and various others on offense. Although the Bucs are high-powered enough that everyone can put up numbers, this might be another quiet week for Evans to sandwich a two-touchdown performance.


Thumbs Down: Will Fuller (@ LV)

Fuller was a “Thumbs Down” even before Tua Tagovailoa (ribs) was ruled out, and I’m just not too eager to get him back in lineups for his first game action since Thanksgiving. The former Notre Dame standout—as the No. 3 wideout (compared to the No. 1 last season in Houston)—could settle back in as a boom-or-bust play, and I’d lean towards the latter for Week 3.


Thumbs Down: Laviska Shenault Jr. (v ARI)

On the bright side, Jacksonville is at least trying to get Shenault touches (16 targets and two carries in two games), but intent isn’t enough, and it’s difficult to trust a player reliant on a lot of manufactured opportunities on an offense that’s frankly been lost to open the season. A shoulder injury is another factor to consider, and there are likely better options than Shenault in 10- or 12-team leagues.


Thumbs Down: Amari Cooper (v PHI)

Just when I thought Cooper was turning the corner by eliminating the low-floor games based on his hot streak (dating back to 2020), he totaled just 24 scoreless yards in Week 2, and now he’ll face a Philly defense that he’s been hit-or-miss against. Since a monster showing with ten receptions, 217 yards, and three scores to close out 2018, Cooper has gone for lines of 5/106, 4/24, 1/5, and 4/121 in four meetings with the Eagles; he’s more of a mid-to-low WR2 than WR1 for me.


Others: Odell Beckham Jr. (v CHI), Brandon Aiyuk (v GB)


Tight End


Thumbs Up of the Week: Mike Gesicki (@ LV)

Las Vegas has a different defense than they did last season, but that might be a good thing for Gesicki—who will be the security blanket for Jacoby Brissett with Tua Tagovailoa (ribs) out. While it’s been a quiet start for the athletic tight end, he was one of the lone flashes for Miami in their shutout loss to Buffalo, and I’m continuing to bet on the talent for a shallow TE1 class.


Thumbs Up: Dallas Goedert (@ DAL)

Prior to last season when he combined for just 53 scoreless yards in two matchups, Goedert went for lines of 4/44/1, 4/69/1, and 9/91/1 in the three previous games against Dallas, and I think we could see him closer to those numbers considering all the shuffling for Dan Quinn’s group. I would be surprised if the Eagles didn’t give him at least a handful of targets, especially with Zach Ertz either still on or recently coming off the COVID-19 list.


Thumbs Up: Austin Hooper (v CHI)

No Jarvis Landry for a few weeks creates an opening for Hooper to be Baker Mayfield’s most trusted target, and the aggressive Chicago defense could be susceptible to play-action as they try to slow down Nick Chubb. David Njoku is also a quality flier at tight end, and Harrison Bryant is worth considering as a cheap option in DFS lineups.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Jonnu Smith (v NO)

It isn’t yet time to panic about Smith’s outlook, but Mac Jones’ primary focus has been taking care of the football, and we might not see more chunk plays until New England is forced into a shootout. For Week 3, Smith is dropped in the rankings against a New Orleans defense that is always a stingy matchup for opposing tight ends.


Thumbs Down: Eric Ebron (v CIN)

Ebron has already been passed by second-round pick Pat Freiermuth with fewer snaps, targets (five to four), and numbers across the board, so he’s settled in as a touchdown-dependent flier. Last season, the veteran was limited to two receptions (on six targets) for 38 scoreless yards in his healthy matchup against Cincinnati; it’s unlikely he gets that many looks on Sunday.


Thumbs Down: Zach Ertz (@ DAL)

The playing time has been there for Ertz, but Jalen Hurts remains more comfortable throwing outside the numbers, and now the former Pro Bowl tight end is in a tough spot (on the COVID-19 list) playing on Monday night. Unless you have an option on the Cowboys to substitute for Ertz, he probably doesn’t have enough upside to gamble on.


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