With three weeks in the books we’re starting to get a better picture of who teams actually are. While most data scientists would laugh at a three-game sample size, the season is so short as is and there are plenty of useful takeaways each week. The Vikings are still somewhat of a mystery after botching last week’s game against the lowly Bills as 17-point home favorites. It’s one of the biggest upsets in NFL gambling history. Some luck on turnovers certainly played a part but the Vikings pretty much just rolled over when things didn’t go their way. They won’t have much time to dwell on the loss as they travel to Los Angeles to take on the Rams tonight. Under head coach Sean McVay, the Rams have only scored fewer than 20 points in 3-of-19 meaningful games and have started the season with 33, 34, and 35-point outings. For more in-depth analysis on this game check out Evan Silva’s Matchups Column. Onto the news. ...
Rex Burkhead Sent to Injured Reserve
After entering the season as the lead back for the Patriots, Rex Burkhead played 49>25>15 percent of snaps in Weeks 1-3. A lot of his low usage was injury related and he now finds himself on injured reserve due to a neck issue. The Patriots signed Kenjon Barner in a corresponding move but he is unlikely to have much of a role. This has a domino effect on the Patriots backfield and most notably Sony Michel. James White has played on 48>56>52 percent of the snaps the past three weeks and will remain in a pass-catching specialist role. In games where the Patriots face negative game-script James White will play frequently, but otherwise the Patriots will likely feature their 1st-round pick Michel. After logging 48 percent of the snaps in Week 3, Michel should be penciled in for around 60 percent of the snaps going forward. He could see an even higher percentage because of his versatility as a good pass-catcher and elusive runner. Despite a recent flop against the Lions, the Patriots will likely rebound in the coming weeks, gifting Michel a healthy role in one of the league’s best offenses. He should be an immediate trade target if anyone is having their doubts about him in your fantasy leagues. He has been inefficient with his touches so far (3.5 yards per carry), but volume trumps efficiency in fantasy football, especially if he will be getting goal line carries. I like him as a high-end RB2 for the rest of the season with upside if the Patriots routinely get him involved in the passing game.
Editor's Note: If you love Fantasy Football you have to be playing on DRAFT. It's daily fantasy football snake drafts instead of salary caps. All the fun of season long drafts but with no management and they last for just one week. They take minutes to complete and there's even auction drafts! No more setting lineups or constantly worrying about pros, just draft and win! Right now DRAFT is giving Rotoworld readers an exclusive FREE entry into a real money draft when you make your first deposit! Here's the link
Fitzpatrick has been on fire through three weeks, throwing for over 400 yards in every contest and 11 total touchdowns. It’s tough to bench a player who has been excelling to this extent and that looks to be the Bucs current decision. Fitzpatrick has been receiving more 1st team reps in practice so far suggesting that he will be the starter against the Bears on Sunday. With the Bucs on a short week after a Monday night loss to the Steelers, it would be a difficult transition to throw Winston in. After this week’s matchup they will have their bye, a great opportunity to switch signal-callers. It really doesn’t make much sense to stick with the 36-year old Fitzpatrick in the long term over the Winston despite his recent success. Winston has a better career completion percentage, touchdown rate, interception rate, adjusted yards per attempt, and adjusted net yards per attempt. Fitzpatrick has had flashes in the pan like this before and consistently regressed to his mean. Beyond a “who is better now” approach, if they do stick with Fitzpatrick, they are essentially burning the bridge with Winston. He was drafted No. 1 overall to be their future, and still has a chance to be that despite a three-game suspension stemming from incidents that occurred prior to his time in the NFL. I’m by no means vouching for his behavior, but he has been clean as far as the NFL is concerned in his time in the league. This week’s game could potentially make the decision easier as the Bears defense ranks No. 1 in Football Outsiders’ DVOA starring Khalil Mack. With a lackluster performance from Fitzpatrick heading into their bye I fully expect Winston to be the starter in Week 6 against the Falcons.
Doug Baldwin Could Play in Week 4
The Seahawks have been without their top receiver for the past two weeks due to a knee injury. Baldwin admitted he likely won’t be at 100 percent any point during this season but planned on playing through the pain prior to re-tweaking it in Week 1. This week he has a chance to return after getting in a limited practice to start. Seahawks HC Pete Carroll said Baldwin “looks really good” in practice, but it’s unlikely he plays a big role in his first game back. I wouldn’t bank on anything more than WR3 production if he does play this week but it’s something that could change quickly if Baldwin looks like himself. With Baldwin being coddled, Tyler Lockett is an intriguing play this week against a burnable Cardinals secondary.
Evan Engram (knee) is expected to miss 2-4 weeks. This is a disappointing development for a true difference-maker at a position that has been putrid outside of the top players. Engram’s absence opens up more targets for Sterling Shepard. … Alshon Jeffery (shoulder) has been cleared for contact. He is now practicing in full after being limited the past few weeks. He isn’t a lock to play this week, but there’s a good chance he is on a snap count and finds his way onto the field for some chunk plays downfield. … Leonard Fournette was on the practice field to start week. This puts him on track to be active against the Jets this weekend. If he’s playing, he should be in your fantasy lineups. This is a decent matchup and he will likely receive plenty of volume. … Seahawks FS Earl Thomas was absent from Wednesday's practice. At this point Thomas doesn’t care about practice and just wants out of Seattle. He missed multiple practices last week but still played in the game and recorded two interceptions. The Seahawks have notable splits with-and-without him so his absence is something to keep an eye out for. … Keenan Allen (knee) didn't practice on Wednesday. He suffered the injury late in Sunday’s loss to the Rams and is probably just taking the day off. His participation in practice will be something to monitor in case it does become an issue. … Titans head coach Mike Vrabel confirmed Marcus Mariota (elbow) will start Week 4 against the Eagles. This makes sense with Gabbert still in concussion protocol. Mariota’s effectiveness may be in question though as his elbow issue could prevent him from fully gripping the ball. He isn’t even on the streaming radar for fantasy this week. … JuJu Smith-Schuster (abdomen) didn't practice on Wednesday. This isn’t anything to worry about yet as he is probably just getting a rest day after their Monday night win over Tampa Bay. If he sits again on Thursday there should be some legitimate concern. … Jay Ajayi (back) didn't practice on Wednesday. Ajayi is expected to play this week but will need to practice to do so. He will need to get in a limited practice on Thursday and Friday to have a shot at suiting up. If he is unable to go Corey Clement will take on a bigger role. … Rob Gronkowski (ankle) was limited at Wednesday's practice. He played the full game on Sunday night so Belichick is probably just giving him some extra rest. If he suffered an injury we will know by Friday. … Aqib Talib lands on IR after ankle surgery. This is a big blow to the Rams secondary which was proving to be elite under DC Wade Phillips. With Marcus Peters looking to be a game time decision heading into their matchup against the Vikings, the Rams secondary may not be as dominant. … Ravens TE Hayden Hurst (foot) returned to practice Wednesday. Hurst may not play this week but is a candidate to suit up in Week 5. In a much-improved passing offense there is a chance Hurst can make an impact in the touchdown department by the end of the season. … LeSean McCoy (ribs) was limited at Wednesday's practice. McCoy also said he expects to play this week. The Bills are 10-point underdogs on the road but facing long odds didn’t stop them from upsetting the Vikings last week. McCoy is a true contrarian play in DFS formats. … Chargers DE Joey Bosa (foot) expects to be sidelined until at least Week 9. Bosa had his cast removed this week and is making progress but still a ways from returning. The Chargers defense has suffered immensely from their injuries this season. … Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring) did not practice on Wednesday. He is expected to play this week despite minimal participation in practice. … Dalvin Cook (hamstring) is questionable for Week 4 against the Rams. The Vikings may hold Cook out another week and try to bring him back in Week 5 against the Eagles.