jordy nelson

Fantasy football: Tight end replacements, pass-catching RBs, sleeper WRs

ap-zach-miller-shane-vereen.jpg
USA Today Images

Fantasy football: Tight end replacements, pass-catching RBs, sleeper WRs

I'm assuming you need a tight end.

Injuries to Greg Olsen, Tyler Eifert, Rob Gronkowski and Jordan Reed have turned a thin position into a fantasy wasteland two weeks into the season. Olsen is out at least eight weeks, Eifert appears to be out this week and has been brutal the last two, and Gronk and Reed will likely be game-time decisions Sunday.

The somewhat good news if you're in the market for a tight end, though, is that there should be several quality options available on waivers.

Here's a look at the top tight ends (and more importantly, top TE matchups) of Week 3, as well as suggestions at other positions:

Bears TE Zach Miller (vs. Steelers)
The Steelers have allowed just 27 points through two games thanks to a pair of favorable matchups against the hapless Browns and a Case Keenum-led Vikings team in Week 2.

Still, through two weeks they've allowed 10 catches and 107 yards to tight ends. If you average that out to 5-for-50, you're looking at a double-digit fantasy performance in PPR leagues. In standard leagues, 50 yards would still be more than Eifert brought you in two weeks.

I like Miller for five or six catches this Sunday. He's been targeted 15 times by Mike Glennon through two games. Only Jason Witten and Zach Ertz have seen more targets.

Miller isn't going to win you a week or go for 25 points but he's a steady short-term plug-and-play this week. If it's a PPR league, he'd be my No. 1 target if you're looking for safety over a boom-bust performance.

Ravens TE Ben Watson (vs. Jaguars in London)
The only reason I can't put Watson ahead of Miller is because the Ravens' tight end picture is a bit more crowded.

Whereas Miller has run 35 more pass routes than the Bears' second-string tight end, the pie in Baltimore has been split more evenly.

Watson has run 33 pass routes while Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams have combined to run 34, according to Pro Football Focus.

Watson is by far the most accomplished receiver of those three and he was a prime target of Joe Flacco's this past Sunday, catching all eight targets for 91 yards. 

Watson also has a great matchup against the Jaguars, who have allowed 151 yards (fourth-most) and a TD to tight ends so far.

Watson has more touchdown potential this Sunday than Miller, so if you're in a standard or even half-PPR league, I'd give Watson the slight edge on Miller. In PPR, it's just hard to pass up Miller's 8-to-10-point floor.

Other TEs:
Jack Doyle is probably owned in your league, but if not, he's a better season-long option than both Miller and Watson. He caught 8 of 8 targets for 79 yards in Week 2 from Jacoby Brissett, who starts again this Sunday vs. Cleveland.

• Folks will be intrigued by Evan Engram's 4-49-TD line on Monday Night Football but I'd avoid starting him this week against the Eagles, who are usually very good against opposing tight ends. Travis Kelce was an exception last week but he's one of the top three tight ends in the NFL.

• Keep an eye on the Jordan Reed situation. If he sits, Vernon Davis is a decent option. Last season, Davis had 13 catches for 176 yards and 3 TDs in the first three games Reed missed, having a quiet game in only the last one on Christmas Eve.

• It would be bold to start Antonio Gates against the Chiefs' stingy defense, but Gates always has top-five touchdown likelihood at his position because of his rapport with Philip Rivers. The problem is he also has more 1-catch likelihood than most tight ends.

Running backs
Chris Thompson is available in 68 percent of Yahoo leagues. Whether or not Rob Kelley plays Sunday, Thompson is worth grabbing. If it's a PPR league, he has no business sitting on the waiver wire. He won't scoop up between-the-tackles carries if Kelley misses the game but he's always a factor in the passing game.

• I also like Shane Vereen (22 percent owned) this week against the Eagles. The Giants have a porous offensive line and the Eagles' strength is their pass rush, which should result in plenty of quick passes from Eli Manning.

Wide receivers
• I'd advise picking up Allen Hurns but not starting him Sunday against the Ravens unless you absolutely need to. The Jaguars are always going to be playing garbage time minutes and that's where Hurns shines. He had six receptions for 82 yards and a TD in Week 2 with almost all of that coming in the fourth quarter of a lopsided loss. Hurns is available in 73 percent of leagues.

• I trumpeted Jermaine Kearse in this space last week as a cheap waiver option nobody will use a claim on, and he picked up two TDs Sunday. The Jets, like the Jags, will always be playing from behind. Josh McCown-to-Jermaine Kearse is one of those average QB-average WR pairings that can produce points out of sheer necessity and volume.

• The Packers' Geronimo Allison is a sleeper option this week, if and only if Green Bay is down a receiver or two. Jordy Nelson' prognosis is 50-50 for Sunday, whereas Randall Cobb is expected to play. If both miss, Allison is an intriguing option who could get six-plus targets from a top QB. If Nelson misses, Allison is worth starting only if your next-best option is like Cole Beasley.

Defenses
• The Dolphins are the best defense to stream in Week 3 because the Jets are the Jets.

• The Bucs' defense (26 percent owned) is worth starting in Minnesota if Sam Bradford misses another game.

NFL Notes: Steelers-Chiefs moved to primetime because of ice storm

NFL Notes: Steelers-Chiefs moved to primetime because of ice storm

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The AFC divisional playoff game Sunday between the Steelers and Chiefs has been moved from an early afternoon kickoff to primetime because of an ice storm due to hit the Kansas City area this weekend.

The game was originally scheduled to kickoff at 12:05 p.m. Central time. It will now start at 7:20 p.m. to give road crews and public safety officials more time to treat roads and parking lots.

The forecast calls for ice to move into the area Friday, and persistent cold temperatures throughout Saturday and Sunday. Additional precipitation is expected Sunday, though mostly in the form of rain.

The time change means the Packers-Cowboys game scheduled to kickoff at 3:40 p.m. Central time on Fox on Sunday will lead into the Steelers-Chiefs game, which will air on NBC.

Packers: WR Jordy Nelson ruled out for Cowboys game
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Receiver Jordy Nelson will miss the Green Bay Packers' divisional round playoff game on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys because of injured ribs.

Coach Mike McCarthy said on Friday that Nelson would not be medically cleared to take part in the team's final practice on Saturday, and that the medical staff determined that Nelson would not be ready for the game.

Nelson had an NFL-high 14 touchdown catches in the regular season as quarterback Aaron Rodgers' top target in the Packers' prolific passing attack.

Nelson was hurt in the second quarter of the Packers' 38-13 win in a wild-card game last weekend against the New York Giants during a hit by safety Leon Hall.

McCarthy said Nelson's status moving forward will be determined on Monday if Green Bay advances to the NFC title game.

49ers: Cardinals VP Terry McDonough interviews for San Francisco GM job
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers have interviewed Arizona vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough for their general manager's job.

Team CEO Jed York met with McDonough on Friday as part of his search for replacements for fired coach Chip Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke following a 2-14 season that tied the worst mark in franchise history.

McDonough is the seventh candidate to interview for general manager, joining ESPN analyst Louis Riddick, Carolina assistant GM Brandon Beane, Indianapolis vice president of football operations Jimmy Raye III, Minnesota assistant GM George Paton, Green Bay director of football operations Eliot Wolf and Packers director of player personnel Brian Gutekunst.

McDonough has spent four seasons with Arizona and currently oversees the college and pro personnel departments and assists on contract negotiations.

Steelers: LB coach Joey Porter reinstated after some charges dropped
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers assistant coach Joey Porter is rejoining the team in time for Sunday's playoff game in Kansas City.

The team reinstated Porter on Friday morning. The Steelers placed Porter on leave Monday following his arrest on Sunday night during alleged altercation outside a bar hours after the team's victory against the Miami Dolphins.

The district attorney dropped the most serious charges on Thursday after examining surveillance videos. Porter still faces charges of disorderly conduct and summary public drunkenness.

Steelers chairman Art Rooney II said in a statement Friday the team has reviewed the situation and took note when several charges were withdrawn.

Porter added in a statement he is grateful to return to the team and regrets the incident.

Against Packers, Eagles play their worst 3rd-down defense in 21 years

Against Packers, Eagles play their worst 3rd-down defense in 21 years

When you allow an offense to convert 71 percent of its third downs, you’re going to lose.

It’s just that simple.

The Packers converted 10 of 14 third downs Monday night — they were actually 10 of 12 at one point before essentially calling off the dogs — on their way to a way-too-easy 27-13 win over the Eagles at the Linc.

Their 71 percent conversion rate on third down is highest against the Eagles in 21 years.

“It’s very tough to win the game when we stay on the field for the majority of the game,” cornerback Leodis McKelvin said.

“It’s hard to win games when you can’t get off the field. It’s hard to win games when you are playing bad technique. It’s hard to win games when it becomes 3rd-and-5 and you jump offsides. We just beat ourselves overall from the front line to the back end.”

Of the Packers’ 10 third-down conversions, eight were 3rd-and-5 or less. They also converted a 3rd-and-10 and a 3rd-and-12.

The last time the Eagles allowed a team to convert 71 percent of its third downs was Sept. 24, 1995, when the Raiders — with Jeff Hostetler at quarterback — went 9 for 11 on third down in a 48-17 win at Oakland Coliseum.

That game was notable becaue the Eagles took a 17-0 lead in the first quarter, then the Raiders scored the last 48 points. Randall Cunningham was benched at halftime and never started another game for the Eagles.

(That remains the only game in NFL history a team led by 17 points after the first quarter and lost by 31 or more.)

The last time the Eagles allowed a team to convert 70 percent of its third downs in Philadelphia? NFL third-down stats have been kept since only 1990, and it hasn’t happened since then.

So this is uncharted waters.

“A lot of the third downs were 3rd-and-short, so they were able to get rid of the ball real quick when we tried to pressure,” Malcolm Jenkins said.

“We had a couple third-down penalties. And then they just flat-out made some plays. A couple like where Jalen Mills breaks it up and it falls into Jordy Nelson’s hands, so it was just a rough day.”

Aaron Rodgers was 9-for-10 for 94 yards and a 105.8 passer rating on third down.

The Packers ran the ball on four third downs, converting the first three. The final one came in the final seconds and they didn’t even try to convert it.

“We converted third downs, that was the key,” Rodgers said. “We were right on third down the entire game. Odd game with the number of possessions. Six true possessions and a couple kneeldowns. I mean, that’s really rare. We had sustained drives, which was great. We punted once. The offensive line dominated I felt like. No sacks. We did a good job of getting us some rushing yards.

“But again, third downs were the key for us. We started fast. We hit our first six and that obviously helped us take the lead and give our defense some confidence.”

The Eagles actually came into the game ranked fourth in the NFL in third-down defense at 35.2 percent.

Rodgers and the Packers, in three nightmarish hours, knocked them down to 13th place at 38.9 percent.

There were only two times in the game's first 57 minutes that the Eagles legitimately stopped the Packers on a third down. One was a 3rd-and-10 near midfield with 4½ minutes left in the second quarter, when Rodgers completed a seven-yard pass to James Starks, who was stopped three yards short of the sticks by LB Nigel Bradham. The other was a 3rd-and-3 midway through the third quarter, when Rodgers threw incomplete.

“We normally excel at third down,” Bradham said. “Just pretty much we didn’t get them in enough 3rd-and-longs. We were always in 3rd-and-short and that made it easy for them.”

Green Bay’s 71 percent third-down conversion figure is second-best this year in the NFL behind the Eagles’ 77 percent in their loss to the Giants (10 out of 13).

It’s the Packers' third-highest figure in the last 25 years.

"They had a really good game plan," Fletcher Cox said. "He was picking the ball up and throwing it. They made more plays than we did."