1:00 PM ET Games
New Orleans @ Atlanta
Team Totals: Falcons 28, Saints 25
Matt Ryan shook off a forgettable opener to flame Carolina for last week’s QB5 finish on 9.7 yards per attempt with zero sacks taken and four all-purpose touchdowns. The zip on Ryan’s passes returned after he spent Week 1 throwing balloon-ball floaters on a humid Philly night, and OC Steve Sarkisian sparked his team’s red-zone execution by getting non-Julio Jones pass catchers involved and going up-tempo in scoring position, forcing the Panthers’ defense to more quickly react. Week 3 opponent New Orleans has shown no ability to generate pass rush, ranking dead last in QB hits (6) and 28th in sacks (3). Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tyrod Taylor went a combined 43-of-58 (74%) passing for 663 yards (11.4 YPA) and a 5:1 TD-to-INT ratio versus Dennis Allen’s unit in Weeks 1-2. Ryan’s yardage/touchdown/interception totals against the Saints since Allen took over are 288/1/1 > 221/1/3 > 331/4/0 > 240/2/0 > 334/2/1 > 295/2/0. This game’s shootout potential locks in Ryan as an upside QB1. … Tevin Coleman will continue to operate as Atlanta’s feature back after parlaying 20 Week 2 touches into 125 yards on a 64% playing-time clip. Rookie Ito Smith swiped 10 touches on 30% of the downs and deserves to stay involved after averaging 5.4 yards per touch. Although the Saints held Browns and Bucs backs to a putrid 43/136/1 (3.16 YPC) rushing line in Weeks 1-2, New Orleans will be without key run-pluggers MLB Manti Te'o and NT Tyeler Davison (foot) in this one. Coleman’s 18-22 touch projection, passing-game usage, and homerun speed solidify him as a borderline RB1 until Devonta Freeman (knee) returns.
Ryan’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Julio Jones 28; Austin Hooper 9; Mohamed Sanu 8; Calvin Ridley 7; Coleman 6. … The Falcons’ Week 2 passing success without forcing Julio the ball has a chance to benefit Jones as we move forward, making defenses account for alternative weapons. PFF has charged Saints top CB Marshon Lattimore with eight completions allowed on ten targets for 159 yards and a score, the NFL’s fifth-most yards permitted among cornerbacks. Julio’s receiving lines against the Saints since Allen became defensive coordinator are 7/149/0 > 5/98/0 > 7/96/1 > 1/16/0 > 9/149/0 > 6/93/0. Jones also happens to be Week 3's No. 1 buy-low target in Josh Hermsmeyer's predictive Air Yards model; last week's No. 1 WR Adam Thielen went off (12/131/1). … Ridley’s Week 2 emergence (4/64/1) was promising for Atlanta’s offense, but the rookie ran only 21 pass routes and has drawn a measly 53 Air Yards two weeks in. Ridley’s opportunity isn’t yet enticing, although this game’s shootout potential at the Georgia Dome raises his WR4/flex appeal. … Sanu’s four stat lines against the Saints since signing with the Falcons are 4/31/0 > 6/83/1 > 4/32/1 > 3/31/0. As Sanu never offers yardage upside, he is a touchdown-or-bust WR4 each week. … At long last, Hooper busted his streak of 18 consecutive games of 50 yards or fewer in last week’s win over Carolina, also hitting pay dirt from eight yards out. Through two weeks, Hooper has efficiently converted 8-of-9 targets into 83 yards and a score. Hooper is still best viewed as a touchdown-or-bust streamer against a Saints defense that held Bucs tight ends to 2/54/0 in Week 1 and Browns tight ends to 6/35/0 in Week 2.
Drew Brees is an exciting QB1 play after recording QB2 (vs. TB) and QB15 (vs. CLE) finishes to begin the year with yardage/touchdown/interception results of 239/1/1 > 271/2/1 > 350/2/1 > 376/3/1 > 323/1/0 > 312/1/0 in six meetings with Atlanta since Dan Quinn became coach. Already badly missing MLB Deion Jones (foot, I.R.) and SS Keanu Neal (ACL), the Falcons are also without sack-leader RE Takk McKinley (groin) and key rotational DE Derrick Shelby (groin). Atlanta surrendered Cam Newton’s single-game career high for completions (32) in Week 2, good for 335 yards and three scores. Cam converted 71.1% of his throws, light years above his career 58.6% rate. Brees, of course, is the NFL’s all-time leader in completion rate and shouldn’t have trouble picking apart Quinn's depleted defense. Lacking ground-and-pounder Mark Ingram and featuring receiving-oriented back Alvin Kamara has had an underreported impact on New Orleans’ offense. Brees’ pass attempts are back up to 40.0 per game after bottoming out at 33.5 last year. … Christian McCaffrey ethered Jones-less Atlanta for 14 catches on 15 Week 2 targets, usage Kamara is capable of replicating. Two games in, only James Conner (77) and McCaffrey (67) have run more routes than Kamara’s 65. Kamara’s 19 touches in last week’s win over Cleveland tied a career high. Fantasy leaguers were probably disappointed with his bottom line, but Kamara lost an early-game TD on a ticky-tack holding penalty. Kamara is a fade-recency-bias play as a shoo-in top-five RB1.
Brees’ Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Michael Thomas 30; Kamara 18; Ted Ginn 13; Ben Watson 9; Austin Carr 3; Tre’Quan Smith and Josh Hill 2. … I’m old enough to remember the narrative that Brees never targets an individual pass catcher at a dominant rate. Thomas took a 2017 sledgehammer to that theory and has built on it this year with a 37.5% target share, second highest in the NFL. Thomas has mostly shredded Atlanta since entering the league with stat lines of 4/66/0 > 10/117/1 > 10/156/1 > 7/71/1 in four career meetings. … Ginn’s two 2017 results against the Falcons were an uneven 2/10/0 and 4/76/1, also representative of his weekly expectations. It helps that Ginn’s 214 Air Yards rank just behind Thomas’ 235 for second on the team. Still, the story on Ginn is clear week to week. Ginn is not going to get bankable high volume, yet big-play potential always keeps him in the WR3/flex discussion. … Watson was one of my favorite Week 2 streamer tight ends, only for Brees to overthrow him on a wide-open touchdown in the first half against Cleveland. The Falcons stymied Eagles TEs for 52 scoreless yards on 13 targets on Opening Day, then gave up ten yards on three targets to Panthers TEs last week.
Score Prediction: Saints 30, Falcons 27
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San Francisco @ Kansas City
Team Totals: Chiefs 31.5, 49ers 24.5
Patrick Mahomes figures to be Week 3’s highest-owned DFS quarterback after torching the Chargers and Steelers on the road for ten TDs and an otherworldly 10.6 yards per attempt. Even in his six-score Week 2, Mahomes left plays on the field, including a 40-yard bomb to wide-open Sammy Watkins and would-be 27-yard score to Travis Kelce on a wheel route. San Francisco’s defense is the weakest Mahomes has faced after DC Robert Saleh’s unit conceded Week 1’s QB12 result to Kirk Cousins and Week 2’s QB9 finish to Matthew Stafford with a combined 5:0 TD-to-INT ratio and ten QB hits, 11th fewest in the league. PFF has charged 49ers corners with 338 yards and three TDs allowed on 37 targets (9.14 YPA). RCB Ahkello Witherspoon was benched last week versus Detroit. Mahomes’ most-promising Week 2 development was his incorporation of all the Chiefs’ weapons after previously force feeding Tyreek Hill. It’s scary to think this passing game has left meat on the bone. … Kareem Hunt kept a stranglehold on feature-back duties at Pittsburgh, logging 19 touches on 69% of the snaps with Spencer Ware (1, 10%) in the distant rearview. Hunt’s Week 3 draw isn’t a cinch against a 49ers defense getting back difference-maker MLB Reuben Foster (suspension), but Hunt’s secure role and home-favorite distinction lock him in as a fringe RB1. It is notable that Hunt has just two targets in two games; Mahomes’ ultra-aggressiveness is hurting Hunt’s checkdown usage. On the off chance that changes, Week 3 opponent San Francisco has been vulnerable to backs in the passing game, permitting the NFL’s second-most catches (21) and ninth-most receiving yards (122) to the position.
Mahomes’ Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Travis Kelce 16; Sammy Watkins 15; Tyreek Hill 14; Chris Conley 3; Hunt and D’Anthony Thomas 2; Ware 1. … Although neither Week 1 opponent Minnesota nor Week 2 foe Detroit threw to tight ends frequently, the 49ers did surrender five catches for 54 yards and two TDs on six targets to the position. Especially after 49ers designated TE stopper SS Jaquiski Tartt exited last week’s win with a shoulder injury, Kelce’s Week 3 matchup looks unimposing following his Week 2 breakout game (7/109/2). Kelce’s 211 Air Yards lead all NFL tight ends; runner-up Jimmy Graham is far behind at 160. … Slot men Adam Thielen (6/102/0) and Golden Tate (7/109/0) were their teams' leading receivers in Weeks 1-2 dates with the Niners. Hill leads Kansas City in slot targets (14) with Watkins (12) close behind. Hill’s twitchy route running poses a mismatch for oversized 49ers RCB Witherspoon (6’3/198) and LCB Richard Sherman (6’3/195). Watkins is much less trustworthy, but last week’s 131 yards from scrimmage increase confidence Watkins will become a consistent part of the Chiefs’ offense. Hill is always an elite every-week WR1. Watkins is a volatile WR3/flex option.
Jimmy Garoppolo was more problem than solution in San Francisco’s narrow Week 2 win over Detroit, gripping the ball fearfully in the pocket and absorbing six sacks and eight QB hits against a previously-lifeless Lions pass rush. The Niners rode sophomore SPARQ phenom Matt Breida – presently the NFL’s rushing leader – to amass 28 team rushing attempts with only 26 passes. As San Francisco now faces a seemingly unstoppable Chiefs offense at Arrowhead, Kyle Shanahan will almost certainly have to dial up more Week 3 passing volume. The Chiefs yielded Week 1’s QB3 finish to Philip Rivers, then Week 2’s QB2 result to Ben Roethlisberger. Kansas City’s 860 passing yards allowed are by-far most in the NFL; runner-up Tampa Bay is over 100 yards behind (753). The Chiefs’ defense is historically stouter at home, but its pass-defense ineptness remains worth attacking. Garoppolo is a high-ceiling, if high-variance QB1 play. … Alfred Morris out-touched (16) and out-snapped (47%) Breida (14, 41%) against the Lions, but Breida outgained Morris 159 to Alf’s 80 in an exceptionally explosive Week 2. Breida put the 49ers’ offense on his back with numerous second-half chunk-yardage gains, including a 66-yard scoring sprint. Kansas City has surrendered a combined 29/122/1 (4.21 YPC) rushing line to enemy running backs, plus 21/261/1 (12.4 YPR) receiving. Although the even RBBC figures to remain intact, Breida has obviously shown a higher ceiling. He’s a viable flex play in this plus draw. Morris is a touchdown-dependent flex.
Garoppolo’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: George Kittle 13; Pierre Garcon 10; Trent Taylor 8; Dante Pettis 7; Breida and Kyle Juszczyk 6; Morris, Kendrick Bourne, and Garrett Celek 2; Marquise Goodwin 1. … Kansas City has yielded the NFL’s second-most touchdowns to wide receivers (4), specifically getting torched by JuJu Smith-Schuster (13/121/1) and Keenan Allen (8/108/1). Listed as questionable, Goodwin will be a high-upside, if low-floor WR3/flex play if he returns from his bruised quad. Week 2 fill-in Pettis dusted Lions CB Teez Tabor for a 35-yard gain in the first quarter, but struggled with a knee injury thereafter and didn’t dent the box score again. … Garcon has drawn 6 and 4 targets and leads the 49ers in Air Yards with 166. Garcon remains a low-ceiling WR3/flex option with low scoring probability. … Badly missing SS Eric Berry (heel), Kansas City got drilled by Steelers tight ends (8/164/1) in Week 2 and poses a plus draw for Niners target leader Kittle, who disappointed last week because San Francisco’s passing volume was reduced and Celek vultured a red-zone TD. Still top five among NFL tight ends in Air Yards (144) and second in red-zone targets (3) behind Travis Kelce (4), Kittle is a top-ten TE1 in a game where Garoppolo’s pass attempts will inevitably spike. Kittle checked in as this week's No. 1 buy-low tight end in Josh Hermsmeyer's Air Yards model; last week's No. 1 TE was Kelce (7/109/2).
Score Prediction: Chiefs 30, 49ers 24
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Oakland @ Miami
Team Totals: Dolphins 23.5, Raiders 20.5
The Dolphins are off to a 2-0 start with Ryan Tannehill in a game-manager role, where he ranks 28th in pass attempts (51) on an offense that sits fourth in rushes (60). Adam Gase has used Tannehill in this manner dating back to 2016, leading to an impressive 9-1 record over Tannehill’s last ten starts. Week 3 opponent Oakland ranks 30th in quarterback hits (7) and second to last in sacks (2). Favored at home facing a pass rush-deficient defense, Tannehill projects for another high-efficiency, low-volume effort as a respectable two-quarterback-league start. … Kenyan Drake remained the lead member of Miami’s one-two punch in last week’s win over the Jets, out-touching Frank Gore 15 to 10 on 60% of the snaps to Gore’s 40%. I found it interesting Gore played ahead of Drake in fourth-quarter crunch time with Miami up by only one score. Gore clearly isn’t going away, but Drake’s upside RB2 value and scoring-position roles are safe with four red-zone carries to Gore’s two and two carries inside the ten to Gore’s one. This has a chance to be Drake’s breakout game against an injury- and trade-ruined Raiders defensive front that was gashed by Rams and Broncos running backs for 46/265/1 (5.76 YPC) rushing in Weeks 1-2.
Tannehill’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Jakeem Grant 11; Danny Amendola 10; Albert Wilson 9; Drake and Kenny Stills 8; AJ Derby and Mike Gesicki 2; Gore 1. … Miami’s low passing volume and widespread target allotment remain the biggest obstacles for Dolphins pass-catcher reliability. And DeVante Parker (finger) will further muddy box-score outlooks whenever he returns. Slot receivers have given Oakland the most trouble; Cooper Kupp (5/59/1) and Emmanuel Sanders (4/96/0) paid off against the Raiders in Weeks 1-2. Amendola leads Miami in slot routes (38), and Stills is second (21). Amendola remains a low-upside, PPR-specific WR4/flex. Stills is a WR3/flex option with big-play dependency. Stills’ chances of hitting a big play do rise whenever Miami faces weak pass-rushing teams, giving Tannehill more time in the pocket. … Rookie TE Gesicki’s playing time rose from 34% to 55% last week, but he was not targeted. Derby (57%) continued to play ahead of Gesicki and caught a 19-yard laser throw from Tannehill for a score. Neither player is worth rostering beyond Dynasty or especially deep tight end-premium leagues.
After game script limited his Week 1 usage, Marshawn Lynch capitalized on the Raiders leading for most of last week’s loss in Denver with 20 touches on 65% of the snaps. Doug Martin (8, 25%) remained his ineffective self, while previous-week comeback-mode star Jalen Richard (2, 12%) was barely seen, and wasn’t even targeted. Lynch has a stronghold on scoring-position work with all seven of the Raiders’ touches inside the ten-yard line. Miami’s run defense has been lights out early on – holding Titans and Jets backs to 43/142/1 (3.30 YPC) combined rushing – but game script is most important for Lynch. He shouldn’t struggle to pay RB2 dividends if Oakland stays close. … Although Derek Carr flashed slightly more Week 2 aggressiveness and completed passes at an absurd 91% rate, he visits Miami with lame QB27 (Rams) and QB21 (Broncos) weekly fantasy results to face a Dolphins defense that has yet to spring leaks after checking Marcus Mariota/Blaine Gabbert (QB29) and Sam Darnold (QB23). The good news is Miami has struggled to generate pass rush with the NFL’s second-fewest QB hits (6) and sixth-fewest sacks (3). Carr’s frenetic tendencies shouldn’t be as apparent in this matchup. He’s an okay QB2.
Carr’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Jared Cook 16; Amari Cooper 13; Richard 11; Jordy Nelson 8; Seth Roberts 5; Lynch, Martavis Bryant, and Derek Carrier 4; Martin 3. … After dabbling in the slot in Week 1, Cooper resumed operating as Oakland’s primary perimeter wideout in last week’s loss to Denver, giving Bradley Roby, Adam Jones, and Tramaine Brock fits en route to a 10/116/0 receiving line. Keyed by CB Xavien Howard’s lockdown coverage, the Dolphins have slowed outside receivers Corey Davis (6/62/0), Robby Anderson (3/27/0), and Tajae Sharpe (1/17/0). Until Cooper demonstrates sustained box-score usefulness, he deserves to continue to be viewed as a high-variance WR3/flex play. … Cook leads the Raiders in targets and Air Yards (126) and now draws a Dolphins defense that has given up the NFL’s eighth-most yards to tight ends (155) after struggling to stop the position all last year. Cook is a locked-in TE1 play with matchup-driven upside. He would be helped if Dolphins star SS Reshad Jones (questionable, shoulder) can't play. … Yet to carve out a high-volume passing-game role on his new team, Nelson remains a touchdown-or-bust WR4/flex option. Jordy has one red-zone target in two weeks. … Bryant played only 40% of Oakland’s Week 2 snaps after rejoining the team, running 14 pass routes. Martavis will likely need a Cooper or Nelson injury for fantasy relevance.
Score Prediction: Dolphins 27, Raiders 20
Buffalo @ Minnesota
Team Totals: Vikings 28.5, Bills 12
In perhaps the most-lopsided matchup the 2018 NFL season will feature, the Vikings host the helpless Bills as whopping three-score favorites. Minnesota should impose its offensive will on Sean McDermott’s defense, which Joe Flacco torched for Week 1’s QB10 fantasy result followed by Philip Rivers’ QB11 finish. Kirk Cousins’ pass volume may be limited if the Vikings position themselves to rest starters late in the game, but his floor-ceiling combination is too strong to ignore. On fire with a 6:1 TD-to-INT ratio and the NFL’s fifth-most passing yards (669), no quarterback in football has made more tight-window throws than Cousins through two weeks. … Latavius Murray will operate as Minnesota's Week 3 bellcow in Dalvin Cook's (hamstring) absence as a massive home favorite facing a Buffalo defense that last year allowed the NFL’s most fantasy points to running backs. This year, the Bills have given up a league-high six TDs to the position. With Cook on the shelf last season, Murray averaged 18.5 touches over Minnesota's final ten regular season games and finished top five in the NFL in carries inside the five-yard line despite sharing time with Jerick McKinnon. As UDFA backups Mike Boone (groin, questionable) and Roc Thomas pose less of a playing-time threat, Murray is a strong candidate to push for 25 touches in this best-case-scenario spot.
Cousins’ Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Adam Thielen 25; Stefon Diggs 19; Cook 12; Kyle Rudolph and Laquon Treadwell 10. … Thielen has out-targeted and drawn more Air Yards (272, 236) than Diggs, and his Week 3 matchup is better against Buffalo’s slot coverage, where rookie CB Taron Johnson (shoulder) missed Week 2 and fill-in Phillip Gaines dislocated his elbow against the Chargers. Thielen is running 62% of his routes in the slot. He began the season with back-to-back 100-plus-yard performances. … Diggs moves around enough to avoid stingy Bills LCB Tre’Davious White with a 23% slot-route rate and over 50% of his snaps coming away from White’s side of the field. Bills Week 1 starting RCB Gaines is injured. Week 2 RCB Vontae Davis quit on the team. And despite having faced the NFL’s ninth-fewest pass attempts (65), Buffalo has yielded the league’s tenth-most completions of 20-plus yards (8). Thielen is a mid-range WR1 play. Diggs is a high-end WR2. … Rudolph’s eight Week 2 targets were reassuring after he drew only two looks in the opener. Buffalo has yielded the NFL’s seventh-most yards to tight ends (158), including a perfect 3/55/0 on three targets to Chargers blocking TE Virgil Green last week.
Josh Allen enters a terrifying Week 3 spot at Minnesota, which ranks No. 4 in sacks (7) and No. 2 in QB hits (18) after facing Green Bay and San Francisco, which both field far-superior offensive lines to Buffalo. Allen has held onto the ball for a league-high average of 3.57 seconds on 56 dropbacks. He took five sacks last week despite drawing the Chargers without RE Joey Bosa and DT Corey Liuget. The full-strength Vikings are easily Week 3’s top D/ST play. … Even if LeSean McCoy (ribs, off field) can’t play, Chris Ivory is an obvious fade as a massive road dog against a Vikings defense that held 49ers and Packers backs to a 44/174/0 (3.95 YPC) rushing line in Weeks 1-2. There were signs in both preseason and Week 1 that scatback Marcus Murphy was threatening Ivory’s No. 2 back job, and Murphy has out-snapped (37%), out-touched (10), and out-targeted (7) Ivory (13%, 6, 2) two games in. On a team almost certain to be trailing, Murphy’s receiving ability makes him a more appealing PPR dart throw than one-dimensional Ivory. … Kelvin Benjamin is a garbage-time gamble with Xavier Rhodes chasing him for however long this game stays in doubt. … Murphy and Andre Holmes led Buffalo in targets in Allen’s first start, both drawing just five. … Charles Clay has Buffalo’s best matchup against a Vikings team that faced George Kittle (5/90/0) in Week 1, then woke up Jimmy Graham (6/95/0). Unfortunately, Clay’s target volume and Allen’s ability to complete throws both lack reliability.
Score Prediction: Vikings 40, Bills 0
Indianapolis @ Philadelphia
Team Totals: Eagles 27, Colts 20
Carson Wentz makes his season debut against an upstart Colts defense that allowed Week 1’s QB15 fantasy result to Andy Dalton before holding Alex Smith to last week’s QB28 finish. Rookie DC Matt Eberflus’ unit is held together by breakout DL Margus Hunt, ubiquitous rookie MLB Darius Leonard, shutdown slot CB Kenny Moore, and future star FS Malik Hooker. Wentz returns without Alshon Jeffery (shoulder), Mike Wallace (ankle), Jay Ajayi (back), and Darren Sproles (hamstring), while LT Jason Peters (quad) barely played last week. Coming off ACL/LCL tears, Wentz is unlikely to have his usual mobility early on. I’m treating Wentz as a fringe QB1/2 until he shows he deserves more. … The Colts’ defense got gashed (18/93/5.17/1) by Bengals backs in Week 1, then shockingly shut down Redskins backs (16/22/1.38/0) last week. Eberflus’ zone defense has permitted a league-high 22 running back receptions, however, and arguably Corey Clement’s greatest strength is his receiving ability. Including last year’s playoffs, Clement has turned his last 17 targets into 15 catches for 194 yards and a score. Unfortunately, Clement tweaked his groin in Friday's practice and is listed as questionable. Beat writers expect him to play, but the injury lowers his floor. Wendell Smallwood offers deeper-league flex appeal in what will likely remain a committee. UDFA power back Josh Adams is third in line for work. I'm penciling in a 45-35-10 workload share for Clement-Smallwood-Adams, respectively.
After Dalton went a perfect 5-of-5 for 57 yards targeting Bengals tight ends against the Colts in Week 1, Smith went 7-of-9 for 62 yards throwing to Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis. Zach Ertz has caught at least five passes in 20 of his last 28 games (71%) and has the best Week 3 matchup in Philly’s pass-catcher corps. Among tight ends, only Travis Kelce and Jimmy Graham have drawn more Air Yards than Ertz (158). No one has more targets (23). … Jordan Matthews is expected to see snaps in the slot after signing off the street this week, and he has familiarity with Wentz and Doug Pederson’s offense after logging a 73/804/3 stat line for the 2016 Birds. In addition to his rustiness and still-uncertain playing time, however, Moore’s stingy slot coverage is a concern after Indy checked Tyler Boyd (3/26/0) and Jamison Crowder (2/8/0) in Weeks 1-2. The Eagles’ litany of wide receiver injuries give Matthews some deep-league PPR bench-stash value. … Agholor may be forced into primarily perimeter receiver work, where he struggled in 2015-2016 before 2017’s breakout in the slot. The Colts’ biggest secondary deficiencies are at boundary corner, though, and Agholor’s voluminous usage remains bankable in a narrowly-distributed passing game. He drew 10 and 12 targets in the first two weeks. … The Eagles will fill out their wideout corps with some combination of Shelton Gibson and Kamar Aiken. Aiken drew six targets last week, while Gibson has just two targets through two games. … After a mistake-filled opener, rookie TE Dallas Goedert played behind Josh Perkins in Week 2, running six routes to Perkins’ 24. Perkins turned six targets into 57 yards and figures to stay ahead of Goedert against Indianapolis.
Andrew Luck stayed committed to the short passing game in last week’s upset win in D.C., attempting just 4-of-31 throws 20-plus yards downfield and connecting on only one. Frank Reich’s quick-out offense takes pressure off Indy’s line, which has surrendered only three sacks in two games. Luck has still absorbed 16 hits, however -- fourth most in the league – and the Eagles lead the entire NFL in QB hits (21). Luck’s Weeks 1-2 fantasy finishes were QB11 (Bengals) and QB27 (Redskins), putting him on the wrong end of the QB1/2 fringe in this difficult road draw. … The Colts kept a three-way RBBC in Marlon Mack’s Week 2 debut. Jordan Wilkins led the corps in touches (12) but battled an ankle injury and managed 64 scoreless yards. Still hobbled by his hamstring and tweaking his foot during the game, Mack gained 36 yards on 11 touches and is out this week. Nyheim Hines scored a spinning, diving eight-yard TD in the second quarter, but he combined to lose three yards on his other four touches and was barely heard from in the second half. Philly’s shutdown run defense held Falcons and Bucs backs to a combined 37/99/2.68/1 rushing line in Weeks 1-2. When Mack missed Week 1, Wilkins led the unit with 17 touches, Hines handled 12, and Christine Michael logged 2.
Luck’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: T.Y. Hilton 22; Jack Doyle 15; Ryan Grant 11; Hines 10; Eric Ebron 9; Chester Rogers 6; Wilkins 5; Mack 2. … Hilton has dominated targets (11, 11), Air Yards (180), red-zone targets (4), and targets inside the ten (2) in the Colts’ offense. Cornerback is the most-attackable position in Philly’s defense, as Weeks 1-2 opponents Julio Jones (10/169/0), DeSean Jackson (4/129/1), Mike Evans (10/83/1), and Chris Godwin (5/56/1) could all attest. LCB Jalen Mills has been an especially major liability; PFF has charged him with 11 completions allowed on 12 targets for 156 yards and a score. Last year, the Eagles allowed the NFL’s 11th-most yards to wide receivers. This year, they’ve allowed the third most (463). … Possession WR Grant has safely caught 10 of his 11 targets, but he isn’t getting big-play chances and has zero red-zone targets. Grant and slot man Rogers essentially cancel each other out. … Ebron has drawn two red-zone targets and turned both into scores. The Eagles got burned for a 75-yard TD catch by O.J. Howard in Week 2, but otherwise have limited enemy tight ends to 45 yards on nine targets. With Doyle (hip) sidelined, however, Ebron is likely to experience a significant uptick in playing time after running 48 fewer pass routes than Doyle in Weeks 1-2. Doyle's absence makes Ebron a strong TE1 play.
Score Prediction: Eagles 21, Colts 20
Green Bay @ Washington
Team Totals: Packers 24.5, Redskins 21.5
Following an uneven start, Alex Smith draws a similarly uneven Packers defense which easily shut down Chicago’s fledgling passing game in Week 1 before getting pasted by Kirk Cousins for 425 yards and four TDs in last week’s tie. In Chris Thompson and Jordan Reed, the Redskins have playmaking talent to exploit weaknesses in the middle of Green Bay’s defense. The Packers gave up a 9/37/1 rushing line to quarterbacks in the first two games, and Smith is one of the NFL’s top scramblers. This game’s high-scoring potential makes Smith a sneaky-upside QB2. … Green Bay has played sub-par run defense, permitting 35/169/0 (4.83 YPC) rushing to Bears and Vikings backs. While this matchup looks favorable on paper, Adrian Peterson showed his concerning floor with 20 yards on 11 carries in last week’s loss to Indy, seeing his workload and production diminish in negative game script. Peterson saved some face with three catches for 30 yards, but he is best viewed as a volatile RB2 at risk of busting if Aaron Rodgers comes out hot and gives Green Bay an early lead. … Week 2’s negative-script beneficiary was Chris Thompson, who had a massive receiving day (13/92/0) and has led the Skins in targets in each of their first two games. Despite offseason buzz Jay Gruden wanted to lessen Thompson’s usage, his snap rate (54%) and touches per game (14.0) are both up from last year (52%, 10.3). Also leading the Skins in red-zone targets (3), Thompson warrants every-week RB2/flex treatment in both PPR and non-PPR leagues.
Smith’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Thompson 21; Jordan Reed 13; Paul Richardson 12; Josh Doctson 10; Jamison Crowder 8; Peterson 6; Vernon Davis 2. … After holding Bears tight ends to 24 yards on nine targets in Week 1, the Packers sprung Week 2 leaks against Vikings tight ends (9/91/0). Reed’s number of pass routes climbed from 21 to 35 last week. As long as he’s healthy, Reed will always be a mid-range to high-end TE1 play. … Richardson leads Washington in Air Yards (124) but hasn’t drawn a red-zone target and always projects for low volume vying for looks with Doctson, Crowder, Davis, and Peterson behind focal points Reed and Thompson. … Doctson has 48 yards to show for his ten targets and would likely need a short score to pay off. He has one red-zone target on the year. … Crowder is averaging 4.0 targets and 33.0 Air Yards per game. The ball simply isn’t going his way enough for box-score optimism, regardless of matchups. Crowder would likely need a Reed injury for fantasy relevance.
Aaron Rodgers’ mobility improved as last week’s tie with Minnesota progressed, and his fantasy results would have been stronger if not for Jimmy Graham’s negated touchdown due to a questionable holding call. Rodgers now visits the Skins, whose defensive strength is versus the pass after shutting down Sam Bradford (QB32) and limiting Andrew Luck (QB27) in Weeks 1-2. DC Greg Manusky’s unit finished 2017 ranked No. 6 in pass-defense DVOA. Rodgers remains an every-week fantasy starter in season-long leagues, but box-score expectations shouldn’t be as high as usual due to his suboptimal health and stingy opponent. … Beat writers suggested this week that No. 2 back Ty Montgomery is in more danger than Jamaal Williams of losing snaps with Aaron Jones returning from suspension. Jones struggled in pass protection as a rookie, and Williams is one of the best pass-blocking backs in the league, especially important with Rodgers’ knee well short of full strength. Through two weeks, Williams has logged team-high touch counts of 15 and 19 on 62% and 60% playing-time clips. Williams has all three of Green Bay’s red-zone carries, but zero inside the five. Not a big-play threat, Williams is a low-end RB2 play at Washington, which yielded a fairly generous 37/163/2 (4.41 YPC) rushing line to Cardinals and Colts backs in Weeks 1-2. Montgomery and Jones figure to share change-of-pace touches initially.
Rodgers’ Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Davante Adams 20; Randall Cobb 16; Geronimo Allison 14; Jimmy Graham 12; Williams 6; Montgomery 5. … After winning his Week 2 battle with Xavier Rhodes (8/64/1), Adams gets a softer draw against a zone-based Redskins defense that leaves LCB Josh Norman on one side. Always a confident WR1, Adams leads Green Bay in Air Yards (215) by a 55-yard margin and ranks fourth in the league in red-zone targets (5). … Cobb followed his monster opener with a 30-yard Week 2, while Graham, Adams, and Allison’s usage all rose. Short on big-play chances, Cobb will be tough to forecast each week in a deep pass-catcher corps. His 80 Air Yards rank a distant fourth on the team, and he does not have a red-zone target. … Graham came alive in last week’s tie with the Vikings, racking up 95 yards on eight targets and getting robbed of a touchdown when it was negated by a flimsy holding call. Two weeks in, only Travis Kelce (211) has more Air Yards than Graham (160) among tight ends. Graham is a first-tier TE1 play against the Skins, who surrendered 5/46/1 receiving to Colts tight ends last week. … Seeing seven targets per game on 75% of the snaps in a Rodgers-quarterbacked offense, Allison is always going to be in play as an underrated if less-than-bankable WR3/flex option.
Score Prediction: Packers 24, Redskins 23
Cincinnati @ Carolina
Team Totals: Panthers 23.5, Bengals 20.5
Christian McCaffrey played a career-high 94% of Carolina’s Week 2 offensive snaps and was a PPR magnet in Greg Olsen’s (foot) absence, easily pacing the team in targets (15) and parlaying 22 touches into 139 yards. C.J. Anderson touched the ball twice and dropped a pass that resulted in Cam Newton’s lone interception. Still missing suspended WLB Vontaze Burfict, the Bengals have allowed the league’s fourth-most receiving yards (145) and sixth-most catches (18) to running backs. Although McCaffrey is scoreless so far, he does rank top ten in carries inside the ten-yard line (3) and should soon experience positive-TD regression. … Even as Cincinnati’s defense has shown playmaking ability with five turnovers and six sacks in two games, first-year DC Teryl Austin’s unit has surrendered the NFL’s third-most passing yards (664) by stamping out Indianapolis and Baltimore’s rushing attacks to force pass-funnel situations. Andrew Luck (53 attempts) and Joe Flacco (55 attempts) logged QB11 and QB12 fantasy results against the Bengals in Weeks 1-2. As Panthers OC Norv Turner embraced a pass-first approach in last week’s shootout in Atlanta, Newton set a career high with 32 completions en route to Week 2’s QB7 fantasy finish after logging Week 1’s QB14 mark. Cam is a high-floor, high-ceiling QB1 play against the Bengals.
Newton’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: McCaffrey 24; Devin Funchess 14; Jarius Wright 12; Torrey Smith 9; Ian Thomas 5; Anderson and D.J. Moore 2. … John Brown (4/92/1), Ryan Grant (8/59/0), and T.Y. Hilton (5/46/1) have all produced near, at, or above expectation against the Bengals’ secondary. Funchess’ last four stat lines in games missed by Olsen are 7/77/0 > 4/60/1 > 5/92/2 > 5/86/0, locking in Funchess as a WR2 play. Seeing an abundance of opportunity, Funchess leads Carolina in Air Yards (158) and red-zone targets (3). … Coach Ron Rivera stated this week that Moore earned more snaps after ripping off a 51-yard touchdown in last week’s loss. Increased usage for Moore would come at Wright and/or Smith’s expense. Despite Wright and Smith’s Week 2 red-zone TDs, McCaffrey and Funchess remain the Panthers’ only fantasy-viable pass catchers. … The Burfict-less Bengals gave up 12/124/1 receiving to Colts tight ends in Week 1, then 8/74/1 to Ravens tight ends last week. Thomas offers Dynasty and tight end-premium appeal after playing 94% of Carolina’s Week 2 offensive snaps and running 45 pass routes, tied for second most among all NFL tight ends. Thomas could have turned his ten-yard game into a useful one had he not dropped a 17-yard touchdown that hit him in the chest.
Andy Dalton has been sharp behind much-improved pass protection, flaming the Colts and Ravens for a combined 6:1 TD-to-INT ratio at 7.26 yards per attempt. After surrendering the NFL’s seventh-highest sack percentage (7.3%) last year, Cincinnati has yielded just two sacks and seven QB hits, giving Dalton time to make better decisions in the pocket. The Panthers’ pass rush no-showed in Atlanta, managing two hits and zero sacks as Matt Ryan lit up Ron Rivera’s defense for last week’s QB5 fantasy result. This week, Carolina is without SS Da'Norris Searcy (concussion), and No. 2 CB Donte' Jackson (hamstring) is questionable. Dalton quietly has a 31:9 TD-to-INT ratio over his last 16 games. … Joe Mixon’s knee scope thrusts Giovani Bernard into Cincinnati’s feature back role. Under OC Bill Lazor, Gio’s touch/yardage/touchdown counts when playing 40-plus snaps are 16/70/0 > 30/168/1 > 17/43/1 > 17/130/0 > 15/96/0. Bernard will have no trouble clearing that playing-time clip with only Mark Walton and Thomas Rawls behind him. Walton barely made the Bengals’ 53-man roster as a fourth-round pick, then was a healthy scratch in Weeks 1-2. Rawls signed off the street on Wednesday. A PPR goldmine, Bernard has drawn five or more targets in five of his last six games. Carolina’s run defense has been an early-season sieve, yielding a combined 41/227/1 (5.54 YPC) rushing line to Cowboys and Falcons backs in Weeks 1-2.
Dalton’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: A.J. Green 17; Tyler Boyd 14; John Ross 10; Bernard and Mixon 8; Tyler Eifert 7; C.J. Uzomah 5; Tyler Kroft 3; Josh Malone 1. … Off to a monster start with four TDs in two games, Green goes back on the road this week, where his home-away splits come back into play. Green averages a 4.8/70.2/0.54 career receiving line in Cincinnati versus 6.1/90.9/0.63 on the road. He is an elite WR1. … Eifert’s Week 2 usage took a big step forward, improving from 41% of the offensive snaps to 66% with 34 routes run, Eifert’s most in since Week 12 of 2016. As Eifert has three extra days to recover following last Thursday night’s win, his involvement could further expand in Carolina. Still missing suspended WLB Thomas Davis, the Panthers coughed up a perfect 6/69/1 receiving line on six targets to Atlanta’s usually-nonexistent tight ends last week. … Ross’ snaps dropped from Week 1 (66%) to Week 2 (59%). Including the preseason, Ross has converted just 5-of-17 targets into 123 yards with two scores. Until Ross proves he can handle heavier usage, he will max out as a touchdown-dependent WR4/5. … Boyd has been a more consistent factor than Ross, out-snapping him 81% to 62% and out-targeting Ross by four. Boyd will be a higher-floor WR4/flex in PPR leagues when bye-week binds set in.
Score Prediction: Bengals 24, Panthers 23
Tennessee @ Jacksonville
Team Totals: Jaguars 23, Titans 16.5
Leonard Fournette returns to face a Titans defense that failed to limit Weeks 1-2 run-game efficiency, yielding a 44/213/0 (4.84 YPC) rushing line to Dolphins and Texans backs. Fournette’s hamstring injury is an ongoing concern, but his matchup is not as a near-full-touchdown home favorite on a Jaguars team that should control this game in run-friendly script. Fournette was on pace for 30-plus touches in Week 1 before going down, combining nine carries with three receptions on what wound up being just a third of Jacksonville’s offensive snaps. In two post-injury games last season, Fournette logged touch counts of 21 and 19. … Tennessee gave up Weeks 1-2 fantasy results of QB17 (Ryan Tannehill) and QB10 (Deshaun Watson), while Blake Bortles remained his uneven self with QB20 (Giants) and QB3 (Patriots) finishes. In Fournette’s Week 2 absence, Bortles benefited from OC Nathaniel Hackett’s implementation of spread concepts and creative pick-rub plays to spring the Jaguars’ pass catchers free. Fournette’s return can have something of a ball-and-chain effect, and losing rising-star LT Cam Robinson (ACL) at very least stings. Bortles is always capable of sporadic big weeks, but he remains an untrustworthy QB1 streamer.
Bortles’ Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Donte Moncrief 14; T.J. Yeldon and Keelan Cole 12; Dede Westbrook 11; Austin Seferian-Jenkins 10; Corey Grant 7; D.J. Chark 4; Fournette 3; Niles Paul 2. … Quietly soaking in opportunity, Moncrief leads the Jags in targets, Air Yards, and targets inside the ten (2). “Quietly” because he’s turned all of that into a measly 5/48/1 receiving line. Running a team-high 88% of his routes outside, Moncrief does have a plus Week 3 draw versus Titans RCB Malcolm Butler, whom PFF has charged with league highs in yards (257) and touchdowns (3) allowed. … Week 2 star Cole runs 65% of his routes on the perimeter and will also face Butler often. Titans LCB Adoree’ Jackson hasn’t been much better, conceding 11-of-16 targets for 102 yards and a score. Volume will be a weekly adventure for all Jaguars pass catchers, especially when Fournette plays. … Tennessee’s big Weeks 1-2 games allowed were to mainly-perimeter WRs Will Fuller (8/113/1), DeAndre Hopkins (6/110/1), and Kenny Stills (4/106/2). Westbrook runs 79% of his routes in the slot and ranks a distant third behind Moncrief (219) and Cole (128) in Air Yards (86). Yeldon and Moncrief are the only Jaguars with multiple red-zone targets. … ASJ will be a touchdown-or-bust streamer all year with one game of 50-plus yards in his last 25. The Titans have given up almost no tight end production, although they’ve faced the Dolphins and Texans’ barely-there tight ends.
The Titans eked out last week’s home win over Houston via a fake-punt TD and Taywan Taylor’s screen-pass score, not by playing functional offense. This Blaine Gabbert-quarterbacked team enters a buzzsaw in Jacksonville, where yards and points will be even tougher to come by. Marcus Mariota (elbow) apparently improved in practice this week, but it’s been a long time since he's played well. … As Dion Lewis is Tennessee’s primary back in negative game script, Derrick Henry is a Week 3 avoid. Lewis has run 41 routes to Henry’s 11 and out-targeted him 9 to 1. Lewis remains a low-end RB2/flex option specific to PPR leagues. Jacksonville has yielded a 41/180/1 (4.39 YPC) rushing line to enemy backs, although the touchdown and 68 of the yards came on one Week 1 play by Saquon Barkley. Otherwise, running backs are averaging 2.80 yards per carry versus the Jags. Lewis will need to see far more than last week’s one target to pay off. … Corey Davis is the lone Titans pass catcher worth fantasy consideration. He has drawn a dominant 33% target share and 44% Air Yards share in Tennessee’s offense, although Gabbert’s inefficiency is crushing Davis’ production. And there is no reason to believe that will change in the toughest matchup Davis will draw all year. Through two games, Davis has 21 targets. No other Titans non-running back has more than five.
Score Prediction: Jaguars 27, Titans 10
Denver @ Baltimore
Team Totals: Ravens 24.5, Broncos 19.5
The Ravens’ backfield remained an even timeshare in last week’s loss to Cincinnati, paced narrowly by Alex Collins’ 12 touches with Buck Allen’s 11 right behind. Even as Collins is the superior runner, Allen’s reliability gives him a secure situational role. Allen has out-snapped Collins 44% to 42%, and each back has 20 touches. Both have four red-zone carries. Collins has rushed three times inside the ten to Allen’s two, although Allen has two carries inside the five to Collins’ one. Both are risky RB2/flex options versus a stout Denver defense that held Seahawks and Raiders backs to 41/151/1 (3.68 YPC) rushing in Weeks 1-2. … After Baltimore’s offensive line turned in a clean-sheet opener, Joe Flacco’s protection failed him against the Bengals. He took eight hits and four sacks, contributing to three turnovers. The Broncos surrendered Week 1’s QB7 fantasy result to Russell Wilson, then Week 2’s QB21 finish to Derek Carr. Despite his above-par start to the season overall, Flacco is a mid-range QB2.
Flacco’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Michael Crabtree 16; John Brown and Willie Snead 14; Allen 13; Nick Boyle 10; Mark Andrews 8; Collins and Maxx Williams 5; Chris Moore 4. … Brown is the Ravens’ receiver to own, having out-targeted Crabtree 3 to 1 in the red zone with 268 Air Yards to Crabtree’s 164. Brown runs 77% of his routes outside, meaning he’ll avoid shutdown slot CB Chris Harris on the vast majority of snaps. Denver's leaky perimeter corners busted Amari Cooper's slump (10/116/0) last week. … Crabtree has 60 yards or fewer in nine straight games, and his long gain in that span is 20 yards. Regardless of opponent, Crabtree is always a touchdown-or-bust WR4/flex. … I underestimated Snead, who is running 86% of his routes in the slot and playing 60% of Baltimore’s snaps. Snead’s to-date usage suggests he’ll be a PPR factor all year. Unfortunately, he’s unusable this week against the best slot corner in the league. … Denver has shown severe early-season vulnerability to tight ends, but the Ravens may lack personnel to capitalize. Plodding blocker Boyle’s playing time dipped from 68% in the opener to 51% last week as the Ravens chased the Bengals after falling behind. Yet none of Baltimore’s three tight ends exceeded four targets. It’s a situation to avoid.
The quality of Baltimore’s defense is difficult to assess after it dismantled Buffalo’s Nathan Peterman-Josh Allen debacle in Week 1, then got blowtorched for four Andy Dalton touchdown passes in Week 2. Ravens top CB Jimmy Smith remains on suspension, and ILB C.J. Mosley (knee) is banged up. As Mosley exited in last week’s first half, Baltimore wound up yielding a moderate 27/111/0 (4.11 YPC) rushing line to Bengals backs. The first undrafted running back to ever total 100-plus yards in his first two NFL games, Warrick Dunnian rookie Phillip Lindsay has logged team-high touch counts of 15 and 17 on playing time that rose from 35% to 42% last week. As Denver mostly trailed versus Oakland, negative script benefited Lindsay but hurt early-down grinder Royce Freeman, whose touches dipped from 15 to 8 and snaps from 39% to 24%. Devontae Booker is still siphoning 25-33% of the playing time, but he has seven touches in two games to show for it. Ideally, Denver will eventually weed out Booker and commit to a Thunder and Lightning, Freeman-Lindsay one-two punch. Until then, Lindsay will be a somewhat big-play-dependent RB2/flex starter. Freeman will likely need short touchdowns to pay off in fantasy. … After logging fantasy QB9 results in Week 1, Case Keenum’s Week 2 versus Oakland was disappointing due mainly to missed opportunities. Keenum threw a pick at the one-yard line to Raiders CB Rashaan Melvin. Touchdown passes to Tim Patrick and Courtland Sutton were overturned. Keenum engineered four second-half scoring drives to pull off the comeback win. Keenum isn’t necessarily a safe fantasy bet on the road in Baltimore, but Dalton’s Week 2 shredding of the Ravens combined with their critical losses give Keenum more fantasy appeal than the at-first-glance, on-paper matchup might suggest.
Keenum’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Demaryius Thomas 21; Emmanuel Sanders 15; Courtland Sutton 11; Jake Butt 10; Lindsay, Tim Patrick, and Jeff Heuerman 4; Booker 2; Freeman 1. … Coming off a torn ACL, PFF has charged Ravens slot CB Tavon Young with 7 completions allowed on 8 targets for 93 yards and two TDs. Bengals slot WR Tyler Boyd turned in a career-best game (6/91/1) against Young last Thursday night. Keenum is 14-of-15 passing for 231 yards (15.4 YPA) when targeting Sanders, who runs 71% of his routes in the slot and is a high-upside WR2 play at Baltimore. … On the flipside, Keenum is 11-of-21 for 81 yards (3.8 YPA) when targeting Thomas, who is tied with Laquon Treadwell for the NFL lead in drops (4) and has been declining steadily for years. Thomas’ sheer target volume keeps him in the WR2/3 hunt. He still leads the team in targets, Air Yards (195), red-zone targets (4), and targets inside the ten (2). … Sutton isn’t seeing heavy volume, but he’s going to have a big game at some point. His 192 Air Yards are right behind Thomas, and he was inches away from multiple big plays in last week’s win after racking up two 20-plus-yard gains in Week 1. … Butt is still playing fewer than half of Denver’s offensive snaps, but Keenum is looking for him when he’s in. Butt is a Dynasty/deep-league prospect.
Score Prediction: Broncos 24, Ravens 21
NY Giants @ Houston
Team Totals: Texans 24, Giants 18
Although Deshaun Watson rebounded from his forgettable opener in Foxboro for last week’s QB10 finish at Tennessee, Houston’s league-worst offensive line continued to do him no favors. Watson has now taken the NFL’s fourth-most sacks (7) and a league-high 22 hits despite facing Patriots and Titans pass-rush units that combined to generate one sack and six QB hits in their other two games. Watson returns home to face another lame pass rush in Week 3; the Giants are dead last in both sacks (1) and QB hits (6). More time to throw would raise Watson’s passing expectation, and New York has shown rushing vulnerability to dual threats Dak Prescott (7/45/0) and Blake Bortles (4/42/0) on the ground. … Lamar Miller remained Houston’s clear Week 2 lead back over Alfred Blue, logging 16 touches on 76% of the snaps to Blue’s 7 touches and 25% playing-time clip. Although Blue vultured a goal-line TD in Week 1, Miller has out-carried him 6 to 1 in the red zone overall. The Giants allowed over 130 rushing yards in each of their first two games. Favored at home in a plum draw, Miller is a strong RB2 play in Week 3.
Watson’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: DeAndre Hopkins 22; Bruce Ellington 11; Will Fuller 9; Ryan Griffin 6; Miller and Jordan Akins 4; Jordan Thomas 3. … Fuller’s return injected life into the Texans’ passing game against the Titans, and his Week 3 matchup is pristine with Janoris Jenkins likely to chase Hopkins. In five career games with Watson, Fuller’s otherworldly stats are 8/113/1 > 5/125/2 > 2/62/1 > 2/57/2 > 4/35/2. Fuller played 82% of the Texans’ Week 2 snaps and is a high-ceiling WR2. Giants No. 2 CB Eli Apple (groin) is out, and fill-in B.W. Webb has played for seven NFL teams. Webb was out of football all last season. … We can’t overthink Hopkins, of course. Jenkins got dusted on Tavon Austin’s 64-yard touchdown bomb last Sunday night, and Dak Prescott went 7-of-7 for 105 yards when throwing to Jenkins’ side of the field. Only Julio Jones (477) has drawn more Air Yards than Hopkins (423) across the league. … Fuller’s return rendered the Texans’ complementary pass catchers obsolete in fantasy. Ellington’s 3 targets were third most on the team behind Hopkins’ 11 and Fuller’s 9.
The Texans’ fantasy D/ST should be teed up confidently against the Giants, who enter Week 3 with two touchdowns in two games while allowing the NFL’s fifth-most sacks (8) and a league-high 19 tackles for loss, conceding incessant penetration. LE J.J. Watt against RT Ereck Flowers is a surefire massacre. The Texans also get back RE Jadeveon Clowney, who missed Week 2 with back and elbow injuries. After consecutive QB28 finishes in Weeks 1-2, Eli Manning is barely playable in two-quarterback leagues. … Saquon Barkley is a volume-based RB1 against a Texans defense that has suffocated enemy backs for 59/205/0 (3.47 YPC) rushing. With no room to run, Barkley has averaged 2.36 yards per carry outside of his 68-yard touchdown in the second half of New York’s Week 1 loss to Jacksonville. That run alone accounts for 51% of his rushing yards. The Giants also lost C Jon Halapio (fibula) to I.R. after he was their best lineman in the first two weeks. Still, Barkley has bankable usage on touch counts of 20 and 25. James Conner and Christian McCaffrey are the only two NFL running backs who have played more snaps.
Eli’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Odell Beckham 24; Barkley 22; Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard 12; Cody Latimer and Wayne Gallman 3. … Blaine Gabbert predictably failed to take Week 2 advantage, but the Texans’ biggest defensive weakness is at outside corner, where they were forced to move FS Kareem Jackson after losing LCB Kevin Johnson (concussion, I.R.). 34-year-old RCB Johnathan Joseph has allowed 8-of-11 targets to be completed against him for 72 yards and a touchdown. The Giants must begin generating big plays with Beckham to play competitive offense. OBJ ranks seventh in the NFL in Air Yards (278), but doesn’t yet have a 25-yard catch. … Engram salvaged his Week 2 box score with a garbage-time TD against the Cowboys. In a deep pass-catcher corps with bottom-five quarterback play, expect Engram to continue to be a volatile week-to-week producer. He is still firmly a top-ten TE1 option each week. … Shepard draws the Giants’ toughest matchup versus Texans slot CB Aaron Colvin, who played a leading role in silencing Chris Hogan (1/11/0) in Week 1 and Rishard Matthews (2/8/0) in Week 2.
Score Prediction: Texans 30, Giants 17
4:05 PM ET Game
LA Chargers @ LA Rams
Team Totals: Rams 27.5, Chargers 21.5
Fresh off back-to-back eviscerations of the Raiders and Cardinals, the Rams host a Chargers defense that remains without up-front difference-makers RE Joey Bosa (foot) and DT Corey Liuget (suspension) and got blowtorched by Kansas City for 38 points in Week 1 before last week’s cupcake win over Buffalo. The Bolts do deserve credit for keeping their run defense together, limiting Chiefs and Bills backs to a combined 34/133/1 (3.91 YPC) rushing line. Still, Todd Gurley is a home-favorite workhorse coming off touch counts of 26 and 22 facing a depleted defensive front. As usual, Gurley is the top RB1 play on this week’s slate. … Incredibly, the Rams have scored 30-plus points in 10-of-18 games during the Sean McVay era. Jared Goff has been a steady-if-unspectacular presence, opening 2018 with QB16 and QB13 fantasy results. Goff should be viewed as a decent-floor, low-ceiling play against the Bolts.
Goff’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Robert Woods 18; Brandin Cooks 17; Cooper Kupp 15; Gurley 8; Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee 2. … Working against Goff is the fact that none of his pass catchers have standout Week 3 matchups. Cooks is the one potential exception as a 4.33 speedster facing a Bolts secondary that has failed to contain fellow burner Tyreek Hill in three straight meetings (7/169/2 > 5/88/1 > 5/77/1). There were offseason concerns Cooks would simply fill Sammy Watkins’ old “decoy” role, but that hasn’t been close to the case. Cooks is averaging 9.0 targets and 111.0 Air Yards per game after Watkins managed 4.7 and 67.3 clips last year. … Against sturdy Chargers slot CB Desmond King, Kupp is best viewed as a touchdown-or-bust WR3/flex. Kupp presently ranks third in the NFL in red-zone targets (six) and is tied for the league lead in targets inside the ten (4), but his 89 Air Yards rank a distant third on the team behind Woods (268) and Cooks (222). … Woods’ matchups on the outside with RCB Trevor Williams and LCB Casey Hayward are imposing, but his opportunity is tough to dismiss with team highs in targets and Air Yards in a highly productive offense. I’m sticking with Woods as a solid WR3 play.
Even after a white-hot start with QB3 and QB11 Weeks 1-2 results, Philip Rivers catches a potential buzzsaw matchup at the Rams, who have allowed just one offensive touchdown and zero via the pass, rendering Derek Carr (QB27) and Sam Bradford (QB32) utterly useless. Rivers is obviously much better than both, but DC Wade Phillips’ stymieing of enemy passers is a sustained trend after surrendering the NFL’s ninth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks in 2017. The Chargers’ passing game has minimal discernable advantages against Phillips’ defense. … Melvin Gordon sets up as the Bolts’ best means of moving the Week 3 chains; Phillips has long emphasized stopping the pass over the run, and enemy backs have combined for a respectable 34/138/1 (4.06 YPC) rushing line against the Rams. Still missing ILB Mark Barron (ankle), the Rams have also yielded the NFL’s fifth-most receptions to enemy backs (19), even if that number is spiked by negative game scripts. (The Chargers could easily face negative scripts in Week 3, of course.) Gordon ranks No. 4 among running backs in both targets (20) and catches (15), and No. 2 at the position in targets inside the ten-yard line (3). Gordon is a matchup-proof RB1. … Change-up back Austin Ekeler has chipped in touch counts of 10 and 14 on 27% and 41% snap rates, although the latter numbers are a bit inflated by the blowout nature of last week’s win in Buffalo, and Gordon getting late-game rest. Nevertheless, Ekeler has carved out a big enough role for flex consideration in PPR leagues each week.
Rivers’ Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Gordon 20; Keenan Allen 19; Ekeler, Tyrell Williams, and Mike Williams 8; Virgil Green and Travis Benjamin 5; Antonio Gates 4. … Allen (6’2/206) has the top matchup in the Bolts’ wideout corps with a severe size advantage on Rams slot CB Nickell Robey-Coleman (5’7/169), whom PFF charged with 9 catches allowed on 11 targets in Weeks 1-2. The Williamses’ boundary draws with LCB Aqib Talib and RCB Marcus Peters should help funnel targets to Allen and Gordon in the middle of the field. … After Rivers ignored him until what amounted to Week 1 garbage time, Mike caught his first-career TD on the Chargers’ first drive at Buffalo. Mike was targeted once the rest of the game. Likely to lose snaps if Benjamin (foot) returns, Mike is a touchdown-dependent WR4/flex option in this much-tougher draw. … Tyrell isn’t getting enough big-play chances, ranking a lowly fifth on the team in Air Yards (56) behind Gordon, Allen, Ekeler, and Mike. Tyrell does not stand out as an appealing play against Talib and Peters. … The Rams hemorrhaged 200 yards to Raiders tight ends in Week 1, then eliminated Ricky Seals-Jones (4/17/0). Gates should play a bigger role this week, but there’s not much to go on with 16 scoreless yards on four targets to date.
Score Prediction: Rams 30, Chargers 20
4:25 PM ET Games
Chicago @ Arizona
Team Totals: Bears 22, Cardinals 16
Positive data points for David Johnson are few and far between in a pathetic Arizona offense that has scored six points in two games and fed its best player embarrassing touch counts of 14 and 14 while running just 47.0 offensive plays per game, by far fewest in the league. Chicago has played lights-out run defense, stymieing Packers and Seahawks backs for a combined 36/111/0 (3.08 YPC) rushing line in Weeks 1-2. Until the Cardinals show any capability of sustaining drives and using Johnson properly, we can only treat him as a low-end RB2 play. … The Bears lead the NFL in sacks (10) and rank seventh in QB hits (17). DC Vic Fangio’s unit should perform all-out destruction on the NFC’s worst offense. … As Larry Fitzgerald is his team’s lone wideout with more than seven targets through two games, he is also the lone playable member of Arizona’s receiver corps versus Chicago. The Bears did show vulnerability to fellow slot WRs Randall Cobb (9/142/1) and Tyler Lockett (5/60/1) in Weeks 1-2, and Fitz has run 90% of his routes inside. Nevertheless, the putrid state of Arizona’s offense has downgraded Fitzgerald from fringe WR1 territory into the risky WR2/3 bin. … Ricky Seals-Jones is second on the team in targets (12) and Air Yards (96) but has 36 scoreless yards to show for it. Dating back to last season, Seals-Jones has managed 20 yards or fewer in seven straight games. Hopefully, we get to see Josh Rosen play soon.
After Mitchell Trubisky struggled for the second straight game, coach Matt Nagy vowed publicly this week to get Jordan Howard more carries. Nagy’s plan especially makes sense against a Cards defense Redskins and Rams backs have rocked for 65/256/4 (3.94 YPC) rushing. Even if that run-game efficiency isn’t stellar, Arizona’s inability to keep its offense on the field is enhancing opponents’ rushing volume, and volume remains king in fantasy. No defense has faced more rushing attempts than the Cardinals, and no team is surrendering more running back fantasy points per game. … Cards coach Steve Wilks’ defense has been slightly more competitive against the pass, permitting consecutive QB13 results to Alex Smith and Jared Goff. Coming off his first-ever multi-touchdown-pass game, Trubisky’s Weeks 1-2 finishes were QB18 and QB20. Still in a rudimentary stage, Trubisky is a one-read-and-run passer who has only had eyes for Allen Robinson, and is struggling to find rhythm with anyone else. Seventh among quarterbacks in rushing yards (56), Trubisky’s legs keep him afloat as a low-end two-QB-league start.
Trubisky’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Allen Robinson 21; Taylor Gabriel 13; Trey Burton 11; Howard 9; Anthony Miller 6; Tarik Cohen 5; Dion Sims 3. … In addition to Trubisky’s one-read tendency, Robinson has benefited from running 34% of his routes in the slot. Trubisky threw the ball best in the middle of the field both at North Carolina and as a 2017 rookie. Robinson has yet to find pay dirt, but he ranks 11th in the NFL in target share (30%) and second to only Julio Jones (71%) in market share of Air Yards (54%). This is every-week WR1-caliber usage. Robinson's slot work will keep him away from LCB Patrick Peterson, who isn't shadowing No. 1 receivers this year. … Robinson’s opportunity dominance in the middle of the field is killing slot TE Burton and slot WR Miller. And it doesn’t help that rising-star Cards slot CB Budda Baker checked Jamison Crowder (3/32/0) and Cooper Kupp (6/63/0) in Weeks 1-2. Among tight ends, Burton ranks a lowly 19th in Air Yards (66) and 12th in targets. Burton is a fringe TE1. Complementary WRs Miller and Gabriel are waiver-wire fodder. … Cohen is barely worth rostering in season-long leagues on touch counts of 8 and 4. He’s played 36% of the Bears’ offensive snaps.
Score Prediction: Bears 17, Cardinals 13
Dallas @ Seattle
Team Totals: Seahawks 21.5, Cowboys 20.5
After last Monday night’s embarrassment at Chicago’s Soldier Field, the Seahawks return home to face a Dallas team that held Eli Manning to last week’s QB28 fantasy finish after permitting Week 1’s QB14 result to Cam Newton. And Russell Wilson has an abundance of factors working against him. The Cowboys’ pass defense is underrated, Wilson’s line has gotten no better, and he is badly missing go-to guy Doug Baldwin (knee). First-year OC Brian Schottenheimer’s scheme is antiquated to be kind. I’m still viewing Wilson as a matchup-proof QB1 in season-long leagues, but it’s certainly fair to question that stance’s validity. As Seattle has yielded a league-high 12 sacks and NFC-most 19 quarterback hits, this has become an offense to stream defenses against. … The Seahawks’ disorderly backfield distribution has rendered all of its members unusable for fantasy purposes, regardless of matchups. Chris Carson managed 24 yards on six Week 2 touches, then was abruptly benched because coach Pete Carroll thought Carson looked “too winded from special teams.” First-round pick Rashaad Penny logged ten touches on just a 30% playing-time clip. Mike Davis had four touches, and C.J. Prosise caught three targets for 22 yards. Until we get some semblance of clarity, this will be a fantasy situation to avoid.
Wilson’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Brandon Marshall 12; Tyler Lockett 11; Will Dissly 10; Penny and Nick Vannett 7; Carson and Jaron Brown 6; Prosise 3. … In LCB Chidobe Awuzie (6’0/202) and RCB Byron Jones (6’1/199), the Cowboys have rare plus-sized corners to deal with Marshall (6’5/229), who hasn’t topped 70 yards in 17 straight games and cleared 50 yards only three times in that span. Marshall is a touchdown-or-bust WR4/flex versus a Dallas secondary that checked Devin Funchess (3/41/0) and Odell Beckham (4/51/0) in Weeks 1-2. … Lockett is Seattle’s lone semi-trustworthy pass catcher with team highs in Air Yards (171) and touchdowns (2). Replacing injured Baldwin in the slot, Lockett ran a career-high 68% of his Week 2 routes on the interior. Cowboys slot CB Anthony Brown is better than given credit for, but he did allow the NFL’s second-most touchdown passes (7) last season. … Brown’s target counts in Weeks 1-2 were 3 and 3. He’s fringe waiver-wire material. … Rookie TE Dissly’s snaps rose from 58% to 71% in Week 2 with 33 pass routes to Week 1’s 20. Only six NFL tight ends have drawn more Air Yards (134), and Dissly is tied with Marshall for the team lead in red-zone targets (2). In Week 2, Eli Manning went a perfect 9-of-9 for 72 yards and a touchdown when targeting tight ends against the Cowboys. Cam Newton went a perfect 4-of-4 for 37 yards targeting Panthers TEs versus Dallas the week before.
Especially to keep the raucous “Twelves” calm, the Cowboys’ Week 3 game plan should lean especially heavily on Ezekiel Elliott with WLB K.J. Wright (knee) and MLB Bobby Wagner (groin) still banged up. Seattle stingily held Broncos and Bears backs to a combined 50/189/0 (3.78 YPC) rushing line in Weeks 1-2, rendering this a below-par matchup. Elliott’s first-tier RB1 usage remains unfazed; he’s handled touch counts of 18 and 22 and ranks sixth in the NFL in red-zone carries (6), logging Dallas’ only two rushing attempts inside the ten and hitting pay dirt on both. … Dak Prescott finished 2017 painfully slow and hasn’t been better in the early going, managing QB26 and QB27 fantasy results in two weeks. In an offense that refuses to stretch the field, Prescott is an abysmal 1-of-5 passing among 54 throws attempted 20-plus yards downfield. Seattle did yield Week 1’s QB9 finish to Case Keenum and Mitchell Trubisky’s first-career multi-touchdown-pass game last Sunday night. Prescott remains a QB2 only.
Prescott’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Cole Beasley 11; Elliott and Deonte Thompson 10; Allen Hurns 5; Geoff Swaim 4; Terrance Williams and Michael Gallup 3; Tavon Austin and Rico Gathers 2; Rod Smith 1. … Brice Butler was added to the wideout corps this week, further muddying these distributions. … Target leader Beasley has failed to top 50 yards in 21 of his last 23 games and is questionable with an ankle injury. … Thompson is on his fifth team in seven NFL seasons. … Elliott has 26 scoreless yards on his ten targets. … Austin is the only Cowboys pass catcher to record a gain longer than 20 yards. … Fade this entire pass-catching unit.
Score Prediction: Seahawks 21, Cowboys 20
Sunday Night Football
New England @ Detroit
Team Totals: Patriots 29.5, Lions 22.5
Matthew Stafford rebounded from Week 1’s four-pick nightmare to drop last week’s QB9 finish on the 49ers with much-improved pass protection and big plays to Kenny Golladay and Golden Tate. Stafford still left meat on the bone, badly overshooting Marvin Jones on a would-be 66-yard score near the end of the first half. In desperate need of a win, the 0-2 Lions draw another pass rush-deficient opponent hosting New England, which Blake Bortles flamed with Week 2 spread-offense concepts for four TDs and 412 all-purpose yards, taking zero sacks and only four hits. The Patriots will be without underrated LE Trey Flowers and SS Pat Chung due to concussions. … The Patriots have played sub-par run defense, yielding a combined 42/209/1 (4.98 YPC) rushing line to Texans and Jaguars backs. Detroit’s RBBC remains a fantasy wasteland, however, even after Kerryon Johnson deservedly led the backfield in Week 2 touches (13), fueled by LeGarrette Blount’s (9 touches) fourth-quarter ejection. Theo Riddick (9 touches, all catches) leads the unit in snaps (47%) through two weeks but is a PPR-specific role player.
Stafford’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Golden Tate 28; Kenny Golladay 21; Riddick 19; Marvin Jones 17; Johnson 9; Luke Willson 2; Blount and Michael Roberts 1. … Only Michael Thomas (34) and Antonio Brown (32) have more targets than Tate, and New England had answers for neither Jaguars slot WR Dede Westbrook (4/82/1) nor Texans slot WR Bruce Ellington (4/37/1) in the first two weeks. Tate runs 77% of his routes inside. … Boundary WRs Keelan Cole (7/116/1) and DeAndre Hopkins (8/78/0) also caused the Patriots enough Weeks 1-2 problems that they benched No. 2 CB Eric Rowe for Jason McCourty last week, then were forced to turn back to Rowe after Chung went down and moved McCourty to safety. Jones and Golladay run 87% and 74% of their routes on the perimeter, respectively. Jones leads the NFL in end-zone targets (5). Golladay’s 333 Air Yards are fourth most in the league. As no Lions tight ends pose target competition, both Golladay and Jones are every-week WR2s.
After solid-if-unspectacular QB8 (vs. HOU) and QB16 (@ JAX) Weeks 1-2 results, Tom Brady visits Ford Field to face a Lions defense that may be without No. 1 CB Darius Slay (concussion) after benching No. 2 CB Nevin Lawson for Teez Tabor in Week 2, then benching Tabor during the game. Brady’s last six yardage/touchdown/interception totals in domed games are 505/3/0 (Eagles) > 447/3/0 (Saints) > 466/2/1 (Falcons) > 226/2/0 (Texans) > 312/3/1 (Colts) > 275/2/0 (Cowboys). The Patriots are well aware of first-year Lions coach Matt Patricia’s tendencies after Patricia learned his craft under Bill Belichick, and should pick Patricia’s porous defense apart. … Patricia’s run defense got absolutely destroyed in Weeks 1-2, surrendering a combined 53/363/3 (6.85 YPC) rushing line to Jets and 49ers backs. Unfortunately, New England installed a three-way RBBC in Sony Michel’s Week 2 debut. Michel and James White tied for the team lead in touches (11), but White dominated snaps (56%) over the first-round rookie (21%), and Rex Burkhead was sporadically involved with six touches on a 23% playing-time clip. Even in a mouth-watering draw, all three are dicey flex options based on limited usage. Burkhead was last year’s goal-line back, but he has yet to touch the ball inside the ten-yard line two games in.
Brady’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: White 17; Phillip Dorsett 14; Rob Gronkowski 12; Chris Hogan 10; Cordarrelle Patterson 6; James Develin 5; Burkhead and Jacob Hollister 3; Michel 2. … One of the driving forces behind New England’s Josh Gordon acquisition was likely to space the field for Gronk, who was smothered in Week 2 coverage by the Jaguars and hasn’t so much as drawn a red-zone target this year. The Lions have not defended tight ends stingily, permitting a combined 8/78/1 receiving line to Jets and 49ers TEs in Weeks 1-2. … Although Hogan’s first two games were a bit rocky, he leads the Patriots in Air Yards (185), touchdown catches (2), and slot routes (40), and has a secure role as New England’s most-versatile receiver. When Gordon gets up to speed, 78% perimeter receiver Dorsett is likelier to lose playing time than Hogan. Especially in this potential shootout indoors, confidence should remain high in Hogan as a WR2/3 play. … Dorsett’s matchup will be strong if Slay is inactive, although Gordon could quickly eat into Dorsett’s snaps. Dorsett has efficiently caught 12 of his 14 targets, but he is running short routes with an 8.6-yard aDOT compared to Hogan’s 16.8 and Gronk’s 12.7. Dorsett is a boom-bust WR3/flex.
Score Prediction: Patriots 30, Lions 24
Monday Night Football
Pittsburgh @ Tampa Bay
Team Totals: Steelers 27.5, Buccaneers 26.5
Leading the NFC in points (75), total offense, and passing yards per game (405.0), the Bucs host a Charmin-soft Steelers defense that yielded Week 1’s QB6 finish to Tyrod Taylor and Week 2’s QB1 result to Patrick Mahomes, who sprayed Mike Tomlin’s unit for six touchdown passes and left two more on the field on would-be scores to Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce. Tomlin's defense is prone to coverage busts to the extent that it's fair to directly question Tomlin and DC Keith Butler's coaching. I did not expect Ryan Fitzpatrick to earn locked-in QB1 treatment, and nor did I give him nearly the respect he deserved ahead of last week’s upset of Philadelphia. But OC Todd Monken has put on an early-season playcalling clinic, Tampa Bay’s weapons are among the league’s most explosive, and few defenses are playing as poorly as Pittsburgh’s. The Steelers have permitted a 29.0-point scoring average in seven games since losing ILB Ryan Shazier last Week 13. They allowed a 17.7-point average in Shazier’s final seven games. … Averaging 2.6 yards per carry with one reception for seven yards, Peyton Barber should soon be in danger of losing touches to rookie Ronald Jones, who was a healthy scratch in the first two weeks. Even as they were torched by the pass, the Steelers maintained solid run defense by limiting Browns and Chiefs backs to a 49/178/1 (3.63 YPC) rushing line in Weeks 1-2. Barber is a touchdown-dependent RB2/flex option in this matchup.
Fitzpatrick’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Mike Evans 19; Chris Godwin 10; DeSean Jackson 9; Adam Humphries 7; O.J. Howard 6; Jacquizz Rodgers 4; Barber and Cameron Brate 2. … The Steelers are getting back LCB Joe Haden (hamstring), but he’s hardly guaranteed to be 100%. Playing through a toe injury, RCB Artie Burns got torched for 100 yards and two TDs in Week 2. SS Morgan Burnett (groin) is doubtful. As Jarvis Landry (7/106/0), Sammy Watkins (6/100/0), and Tyreek Hill (5/90/1) have already done, expect Evans, Jackson, and Godwin to get theirs against this burnable secondary. … Evans leads the Bucs in targets and Air Yards (215). He is an every-week WR1. .. Jackson is right behind with 204 Air Yards and has caught all nine of his targets for 275 yards with three scores. He is an upside WR2. … Godwin played 50% of the Bucs’ Week 2 snaps and ran only 17 routes, but he leads the team in targets inside the ten (2) and is a touchdown-or-bust WR3/flex option. … Howard delivered in the Week 2 box score with a 75-yard catch-and-run score on which Godwin laid a stellar hustle block. Howard has zero red-zone targets, however, and he ranks 15th among tight ends in Air Yards (83). As Travis Kelce (7/109/2) showed last week, Pittsburgh is quite capable of being exploited by tight ends. Howard’s low-volume usage still renders him a boom-bust play.
By grabbing big leads and stopping the run, the Bucs have been a pass-funnel team, holding Saints and Steelers backs to a combined 32/119/3 (3.72 YPC) rushing line and forcing Drew Brees and Nick Foles into 45 and 48 attempts. If the trends hold, Ben Roethlisberger could capitalize with enhanced volume against Bucs DC Mike Smith’s burnable pass defense. Although Big Ben has a reputation for laying eggs on the road, he has fared well in post-1:00 PM ET games away from Heinz Field, where Roethlisberger’s last three yardage/touchdown/interception totals are 226/2/0 > 290/2/1 > 317/1/1. Ben’s career 96.7 passer rating in primetime games is superior to his clips at 1:00 PM ET (92.4) and in the late afternoon (93.8). … Albeit stout on the ground, Tampa Bay’s defense has been hammered by pass-catching backs Alvin Kamara (9/112/1) and Corey Clement (5/55/0), while James Conner enters Week 3 ranked top eight among running backs in catches (10) and receiving yards (105). Conner’s dip in touches from 36 to 13 in last week’s loss could be directly linked to negative game script. He still played 88% of Pittsburgh’s offensive snaps and ran a league-high 57 routes. As the Bucs will be without top-two nose tackles Beau Allen (foot) and Vita Vea (calf), Conner remains locked in as a high-end RB1. Only two running backs have more targets inside the ten (2), and no backs have more carries inside the five (3).
Roethlisberger’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Antonio Brown 33; JuJu Smith-Schuster 27; Conner 11; Jesse James 10; James Washington, Vance McDonald, and Justin Hunter 5; Ryan Switzer 3. … Amid locker-room turmoil, it would not be surprising if Big Ben came out force feeding Brown. Brown should have no trouble winning all of his matchups at Tampa Bay, which coughed up receiving lines of 16/180/1 (Michael Thomas), 8/88/1 (Nelson Agholor), and 5/68/1 (Ted Ginn) in the first two weeks. … Both Thomas and Agholor ran over half of their routes in the slot against the Bucs, and Smith-Schuster is lining up inside on 88% of his plays. Leading the NFL in red-zone targets (8), it’s time to begin classifying JuJu as a legit WR1. … After a mistake-filled Week 1, the Steelers benched Hunter for rookie Washington, who played 81% of last week’s offensive snaps. Washington caught just 1-of-5 targets for a 14-yard TD, but he finished second on the team in Week 2 Air Yards (127) behind Brown (192) and is an exciting breakout-game sleeper. … James’ snaps dipped from 82% to 55% with McDonald back from injury. Both tight ends drew five Week 2 targets, but James out-produced (5/138/1) McDonald (3/26/0) by capitalizing on Ben’s play extensions when the Chiefs left James uncovered. McDonald’s best play was a block to spring Smith-Schuster’s screen-pass score. Tampa Bay has been gutted by tight ends, yielding a league-high 20 catches and the NFL’s second-most yards to the position (210). In a timeshare, James and McDonald are dice-roll TE2s.
Score Prediction: Steelers 30, Buccaneers 27