Thumbs Up of the Week: Josh Allen (@ GB)
Remember when everyone made a joke of Josh Allen in the pre-draft process? I don’t think anyone is laughing now, particularly not the Vikings after he looked like the best player on the field in a shocking 27-6 road victory last week. Allen not only threw the ball well against the league’s best defense by completing 68.2% of his passes for 196 yards, one touchdown, and zero turnovers, but he also rushed for 39 yards and two more scores. Plus, Kelvin Benjamin dropped a would-be touchdown, and Buffalo took their foot off the gas with a 27-point lead at the half. Of course, me and the six other people who thought Allen would be a star in the NFL shouldn’t put him in Canton yet, but he is immediately a fantasy option with immense weekly upside based on his ability as a runner alone. The Packers allowed athletic quarterbacks Mitchell Trubisky (32 yards and a score) and Alex Smith (22 yards and three first downs on five non-kneel carries) to do damage on the ground so far this year, and Allen is on another level. The rookie is a high-upside streamer this week.
Thumbs Up: Jared Goff (v MIN)
Minnesota held Jared Goff and the Rams to just seven points last November in a clash between two Super Bowl hopefuls, but a lot has changed since then. First of all, the Vikings are coming into Thursday night without standout defender Everson Griffen (personal), and Trae Waynes (ankle) could be less than 100% despite a full practice on Tuesday. Also, Mike Zimmer’s defense has looked susceptible compared to the stout 2017 unit, while Sean McVay’s offense looks even better than the attack that led the league in points per game last season. Most importantly, I think Goff—who actually completed 17-of-22 passes for 181 yards to Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Sammy Watkins against Minnesota in their previous matchup—is more confident than ever after dropping dimes all over the place in Week 3. I have the former No. 1 overall pick as a top-12 option for LA’s second primetime game of the year.
Thumbs Up: Derek Carr (v CLE)
The interceptions (five) are obviously a concern, but Derek Carr has mostly done a tremendous job at the controls of Jon Gruden’s offense with 312 yards per game while completing 76.6% of his passes. When you consider two of the first three games came against the Rams and Broncos, there is definite reason to be optimistic about Carr’s rest-of-season outlook due to his supporting cast, coaching staff, and individual talent. This week, the Raiders face a Cleveland team that can be very predictable under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, which plays to the advantage of Gruden, and in turn, his starting quarterback. I’m not worried about the Browns allowing the second-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, as they have a beatable secondary; Carr is firmly on the streaming radar in all formats.
Thumbs Up: Mitchell Trubisky (v TB)
Speaking of a beatable secondary, the Buccaneers have allowed a whopping 375 passing yards per game over the first three weeks of the season, and they will now be without starting safety Chris Conte (knee) for the rest of the year. Even with Conte in the lineup, Tampa Bay had major issues on the backend of their defense, so I think Matt Nagy could unleash Mitchell Trubisky and the downfield passing attack this Sunday. Despite a shaky start, Chicago’s franchise quarterback has all the weapons around him to finally breakout in a potential shootout between 2-1 teams, which makes him a fine QB2 with a strong combination of floor and upside.
Others: Andy Dalton (@ ATL), Marcus Mariota (v PHI)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Kirk Cousins (@ LAR)
Kirk Cousins finished with respectable numbers (296 yards, one touchdown, and one interception) in last week’s blowout loss to the Bills, but anyone who watched the game (or in this case, simply saw the final score) knows that numbers don’t tell the whole story. Unfortunately for the Vikings, their fatal flaw was evident—as the offensive line struggled to keep a clean pocket all afternoon—and it could be a season-derailing issue if things don’t get figured out soon. I know the Rams will be without Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters on Thursday night, but it might not matter who lines up at cornerback if the Vikings can’t keep Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh out of Cousins’ face. Overall, besides an explosive second half against the Packers in Week 2, it’s been an underwhelming start for Minnesota offensively, so I’d avoid Cousins if possible in this matchup.
Thumbs Down: Baker Mayfield (@ OAK)
The talking heads are trying their best, but there’s no way to spin Baker Mayfield’s NFL debut as anything other than impressive after leading Cleveland to their first win since December of 2016. A throw into double coverage (that the defender dropped) in the red zone was really the only mistake Mayfield made last Thursday night, but he got away with it—and it’s probably not something that will be repeated. That said, it’s going to be a tough environment this weekend in Oakland, and unlike the Jets, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther will have had a week to prepare for the No. 1 overall pick. I think Mayfield is worth picking up in all leagues, but it might be best to leave him on the bench for his first road start to see how he and the Browns handle success against a desperate Raiders team.
Thumbs Down: Dak Prescott (v DET)
It’s somewhat surprising based on their 48-17 loss in the opener, but Detroit currently has the best pass defense in the league with a stingy 152 yards per game allowed through three weeks. It would be misleading to not recognize that the Lions are allowing an NFL-worst 149.3 rushing yards per game (i.e. success on the ground is causing teams to run the ball), but we saw Matt Patricia’s guys give Tom Brady and the Patriots fits on Sunday night with receivers struggling to get open. What do you think the secondary will do to the Cowboys’ wide-receiver-by-committee this week? Fantasy owners are probably going to need rushing production from Dak to be happy about starting him against Detroit.
Thumbs Down: Josh Rosen (v SEA)
Some might be tempted to pick up and start Josh Rosen after seeing early success from Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, and Baker Mayfield for the rookie quarterback class, but I would advise against it. With two chances to win the game with a potential field goal in his debut, Rosen tossed an interception on his first career drive, and then followed it up with another pick-six that was overturned on a penalty that didn’t really impact the play. He will be at home on Sunday, but the Cardinals don’t have the offensive line or scheme to feel confident about the UCLA product against a defense that leads the league in interceptions with seven, including multiple takeaways in all three games to start the season. Rosen is a bottom-three quarterback option for me.
Others: Blake Bortles (v NYJ), Sam Darnold (@ JAX)
Thumbs Up of the Week: Sony Michel (v MIA)
When I chose my “Thumbs Up” and “Thumbs Down” options for the week yesterday, Sony Michel was originally a “Thumbs Down” after he struggled as a receiver in New England’s 26-10 loss to Detroit. However, my concerns about him losing snaps for a team that can change game plans on a whim were immediately wiped out when Rex Burkhead (neck) was placed on IR today, locking the first-round pick into a featured role on early downs for an offense that’s going to eventually erupt. Miami has been more stout against the run than I thought they’d be entering the year, but the defense is still allowing the ninth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs in standard leagues, and Michel has the talent to breakout. He’s a high-upside RB2.
Thumbs Up: Kenyan Drake (@ NE)
The window of late September through early October is the prime opportunity to buy low on guys, and Kenyan Drake is one of the headliners this year. Miami’s starter had just five carries for three yards in Sunday’s win over the Raiders, but the Dolphins—who were heavily dependent on long touchdowns—ran just 39 plays while trailing for the majority of the game. If Adam Gase’s 3-0 squad wants to send a message with a road win against the Patriots on Sunday, they will need to feature Drake like they did in Week 13 of last season when he turned 30 touches into 193 yards in a 27-20 victory. And as we saw a few days ago, New England can be run on.
Thumbs Up: Matt Breida (@ LAC)
Dating back to last season, there might not be a more effective runner over the past five games than Matt Breida. The 23-year-old has averaged 7.64 yards per carry over that stretch, with rushing lines of 11/74/1, 12/72, 11/46, 11/138/1, and 10/90—and the 46-yard performance came against the Vikings. I think we’ve seen enough of Breida putting up college numbers to consider him an every-week RB2/FLEX option, and his PPR outlook gets a boost with C.J. Beathard replacing Jimmy Garoppolo (knee) for the rest of the year, as the second-year quarterback is willing to check down as much as anyone in the league. Plus, we could see Kyle Shanahan dial up more plays to get Breida the ball in space to try to compete in what appears to be a lost season.
Thumbs Up: Giovani Bernard (@ ATL)
Emerging star Joe Mixon (knee) looks like he actually has a shot to suit up on Sunday against the Falcons to beat a two-to-four-week recovery timetable, but if he doesn’t, Giovani Bernard is again locked-in as an RB2 option. Cincinnati’s dynamic backup rushed 12 times for 61 yards and a score in a difficult matchup with Carolina last Sunday, so we’ll see if he can be even better in another possible high-scoring affair. Through three weeks, the Falcons have allowed 22.0 fantasy points per game to opposing runners in standard leagues, and Christian McCaffrey (14 receptions) and Alvin Kamara (15 receptions) have both taken advantage of the matchup through the air, too.
Others: Kerryon Johnson (@ DAL), Nyheim Hines (v HOU)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Dalvin Cook (@ LAR)
After missing Week 3 against the Bills, Dalvin Cook (hamstring) again looks questionable on a short week to face the Rams. If he does play, Minnesota’s starter could be a risky RB2 rather than an RB1/RB2 because of a difficult matchup combined with potential workload concerns at less than 100%. Even more concerning might be how quickly the Vikings abandoned the run last week, as they ran just four times with Latavius Murray and Mike Boone in the 27-6 loss. Perhaps it was poor play-calling, but the reliance on the pass might also be due to the offensive line’s inability to block on the interior, and a matchup with Aaron Donald is unlikely to be the cure.
Thumbs Down: Jay Ajayi (@ TEN)
We might not know the status of Jay Ajayi (back) for a couple days, but he’s in a similar situation to Dalvin Cook by coming off an injury to face a really tough defensive front. Tennessee’s run-stuffer Bennie Logan has helped the Titans contain the ground game of opponents (third-fewest fantasy points per game allowed), and Ajayi might not get his usual workload in Doug Pederson’s backfield committee, especially after Wendell Smallwood might have earned a weekly role after 56 yards and a touchdown last week. After looking like a high-end RB2 option after the opener, Ajayi is trending back down towards FLEX territory.
Thumbs Down: Isaiah Crowell (@ JAX)
Isaiah Crowell has been no stranger to strong starts to a season, but I think this is the third year in a row that I’ve advised people to sell. After ten carries for 102 yards and two touchdowns in the opener, the former Brown was held to 2.9 yards per carry and 2.1 yards per carry in Week 2 and Week 3, respectively. In fact, it seems like the same story as the previous two years with a long touchdown and some goal-line scores causing people to raise their expectations before he inevitably disappoints. This week, Crowell is a stay-away FLEX option against the Jaguars.
Thumbs Down: Phillip Lindsay (v KC)
On paper, this looks like a great matchup for Phillip Lindsay in a potential back-and-forth game with the Chiefs on Monday night, but I’m wary of an undrafted rookie in a three-way timeshare that’s coming off an ejection for throwing a punch. Devontae Booker caught five passes for 34 yards in extended action last week, so perhaps the coaching staff will roll with the 26-year-old more behind Royce Freeman as a form of punishment for the rookie. Again, I like the matchup here, but it might be best to avoid the risk with Lindsay in Week 4.
Others: Austin Ekeler (v SF), Jordan Wilkins (v HOU)
Thumbs Up of the Week: Allen Robinson (v TB)
The Buccaneers have been absolutely torched by receives to start the year, with Michael Thomas (16/180/1), Ted Ginn (5/68/1), Nelson Agholor (8/88/1), Antonio Brown (6/50/1) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (9/116) all having big games against them. The next notable name on the list is Allen Robinson, who has clearly operated as the No. 1 option in Chicago’s passing attack and is bound to find the end zone once (or multiple times) in the very near future. Tampa Bay’s top corner Brent Grimes (five-foot-ten) doesn’t have the size to cover Robinson on downfield throws, and the rest of the defense isn’t a match for the former Pro Bowler either. I have Robinson ranked as a low-end WR1.
Thumbs Up: Chris Hogan (v MIA)
I can’t believe that fantasy analysts are wondering aloud whether Chris Hogan is worth dropping after a slow start. He’s been held to basically nothing outside of a couple late touchdown against the Jaguars in Week 2, but Hogan—and the Patriots as a whole—have reinforcements coming to help the group takeoff with Josh Gordon (hamstring) hopefully active on Sunday and Julian Edelman (suspension) set to return in Week 5. He will eventually shift back outside, but for now, Hogan will have one more week operating in the slot for Josh McDaniels, and this will be the best matchup yet, as he will avoid shutdown boundary cornerback Xavien Howard—especially if Josh Gordon makes his team debut to occupy him. As was the case last week, it’s best to attack the defenders other than Howard, and Brady will do just that with Hogan this week.
Thumbs Up: John Brown (@ PIT)
John Brown being back on the field and healthy is awesome to see, and he’s looked as good as ever with 12 receptions for 222 yards (18.5 average) and two touchdowns so far this year. On Sunday night, “Smokey” gets a defense that’s giving up consistent chunk yardage with 12.7 yards per completion allowed, and it’s been a revolving door across from Joe Haden at cornerback. Also, the Ravens and Steelers have allowed the two lowest completion percentages in the league, so it could be a long, clock-stopping matchup with even more opportunities for Brown to get behind the defense. He’s on the WR2 map.
Thumbs Up: Jordy Nelson (v CLE)
A 61-yard reception and a 66-yard reception last week against the Dolphins showed Jordy Nelson still has it after people in Oakland indicated as much in the offseason, and he finished with six catches for 173 yards and a score by taking advantage of Miami’s No. 2 and No. 3 corners. Whether or not Cleveland decides to shadow Amari Cooper like the Dolphins did, I like this weekend’s matchup for Jordy against the small, inexperienced secondary of the Browns. There are a lot of promising receiver options for Week 4, but Nelson is worth considering as a FLEX and should be picked up in all leagues he was dropped in.
Others: Michael Crabtree (@ PIT), Mike Williams (v SF)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Davante Adams (v BUF)
It might not seem like it because this is the second time I’ve had Davante Adams here this season, but I’m a fan of Aaron Rodgers’ No. 1 receiver. However, I might be an even bigger fan of Buffalo cornerback Tre’Davious White, who is the defensive superstar that no one has wanted to talk about since he came into the league last year. Nevertheless, White was instrumental in the Bills’ victory over the Vikings by shadowing Stefon Diggs and limiting him to 17 yards on ten targets, and he will probably follow Adams on Sunday. As I said when he was on here for a matchup with Xavier Rhodes, the Fresno State product remains a WR2 because of his own talent and the guy throwing him the football, but expectations should be held in check.
Thumbs Down: Larry Fitzgerald (v SEA)
Maybe a simplified offense with a green signal-caller at the controls will cause Larry Fitzgerald to be fed targets for the next 13 games, but I view Josh Rosen as a significant downgrade on Sam Bradford in Arizona, which is unfortunate in what looks like the final year for the future Hall of Fame wideout. Honestly, though, quarterback isn’t the issue as much as the offensive system is, as Bruce Arians probably didn’t get enough credit for helping to rejuvenate Larry Legend’s career, while Mike McCoy’s scheme just hasn’t resulted in encouraging early-season returns for the Cardinals or fantasy owners. I’m avoiding Fitz if possible against the Seahawks, as Pete Carroll’s squad has allowed just one touchdown to him since 2011.
Thumbs Down: Robert Woods (v MIN)
Last year, Robert Woods was able to avoid the coverage of Xavier Rhodes with Sammy Watkins drawing his shadow, and he led the team in targets (11), receptions (eight), and yards (81) against the Vikings. But can we simply assume that Rhodes will shadow Brandin Cooks this year? Or that he won’t just play a side rather than follow someone? We might even see Rhodes stick to Woods, as in my opinion, Minnesota’s best strategy would be to eliminate the main possession receiver in Sean McVay’s offense while bracketing versatile speedster Brandin Cooks. I don’t think fantasy owners should dread this matchup if they don’t have any other options, but Woods probably carries a lower floor than usual.
Thumbs Down: Robby Anderson (@ JAX)
The biggest reason that Robby Anderson appeared as a “Thumbs Down” for the year at the beginning of the month was because I wasn’t sure about his chemistry with Sam Darnold after breaking out with Josh McCown under center in 2017. As expected, he’s struggled to do much of anything outside of a 41-yard touchdown in the opener, and Anderson isn’t even a must-own heading into a matchup with the Jaguars, as he will have a difficult time getting loose against the coverage of A.J. Bouye and/or Jalen Ramsey.
Others: Kenny Stills (@ NE), Quincy Enunwa (@ JAX)
Thumbs Up of the Week: Jared Cook (v CLE)
Cleveland surprisingly hasn’t been burnt by tight ends through three weeks, but I’m not buying the newfound commitment to stopping the position. The team has the same defensive coordinator and basically the same personnel as a season ago when they bled points to opposing tight ends, and they’ve faced Jesse James (3/60) in a rainstorm, 37-year-old Benjamin Watson (3/19), and a ragtag group for the Jets (3/13). Jared Cook showed his upside in Jon Gruden’s offense with 180 yards in the opener, so this will be a good test for the Browns that I’m not sure they’ll pass. I have Cook as a high-upside, midrange TE1.
Thumbs Up: Kyle Rudolph (@ LAR)
The team that Cook went off against in Week 1 will be Kyle Rudolph’s opponent on Thursday night when the Vikings take on the Rams. Los Angeles has certainly cleaned things up over the past couple weeks, but they might be forced to roll coverage away from Rudolph with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen at receiver. Look for Kirk Cousins to target his security blanket when pressure comes up the middle from Wade Phillips’ All-Pro combo on the defensive line.
Thumbs Up: David Njoku (@ OAK)
David Njoku might be the only individual person that needed Baker Mayfield to step onto the field more than the entire city of Cleveland did. The 2017 first-round pick has the skillset to turn into a star, but Tyrod Taylor wasn’t the guy to unlock his potential; to the delight of fantasy owners, I think Mayfield—a dart-throwing, playmaking quarterback that loves working the middle of the field—is, so Njoku is suddenly a solid TE1 at a banged-up position.
Thumbs Down of the Week: George Kittle (@ LAC)
In the long run, I don’t think C.J. Beathard, who was George Kittle’s quarterback at Iowa, will be a detriment to the 24-year-old’s fantasy value. But for this week, Kittle is more of a TE2 option against a defense that has been stingy against tight ends since last year and already held Travis Kelce to one catch for six yards in the opener. Because the position is suddenly very shallow, he’s still a low-end TE1 option, but it might be best to get a streamer if possible.
Thumbs Down: Eric Ebron (v HOU)
Last week against the Eagles, Eric Ebron failed to capitalize on his first start with the Colts, catching just five of his team-high 11 targets for 33 yards while dropping a would-be touchdown in the end zone. He could get a chance to redeem himself with another start in a better matchup this weekend, but the former first-round pick has shown a history of inconsistency and confidence issues, so he carries some risk against the Texans.
Thumbs Down: Antonio Gates (v SF)
Travis Kelce (8/114) and Demetrius Harris (13-yard touchdown) helped dismantle San Francisco’s defense last week as a part of “Showtime” Patrick Mahomes’ home debut, but just like I’m not sold on the Browns being good against tight ends, I’m not sold on the 49ers being bad against them. Antonio Gates is always a threat to find the end zone with Philip Rivers throwing passes, but he has a zero-catch floor in a game that the Chargers should handle. Look elsewhere for Week 4.