Week 3 was certainly an eyebrow raiser across the NFL — Buffalo walked into Minnesota and stunned the hometown crowd and Tom Brady looked like he scrapped with ‘Father Time’ during pregame warmups — but, it’s time to get you back on track in your fantasy lineups with this week’s edition of ‘Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em.’
Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers vs. San Francisco 49ers
In my mind this is a no-brainer as the Chargers travel back “home” (we’ve seen the visiting squad bolster larger crowds in Los Angeles in recent weeks) to host a 49ers team that suffered a devastating loss in Kansas City last week. More importantly was the loss of their star quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, who suffered a non-contact knee injury and will be out for the remainder of the season. Does C.J. Beathard have it in him to outduel Rivers? Not likely. Rivers is 3-0 lifetime against the 49ers with a 9:3 TD:INT ratio while averaging 321 PYDS/G. The crafty veteran is licking his chops with a 49ers team on deck that has given up 23.4 FP/G to opposing QB’s (6th-most in NFL).
Stat Projections: 23/32, 296 yards, 3 TD’s
Royce Freeman, Denver Broncos vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Broncos rookie Phillip Lindsay looks to have landed in some hot water following an ejection last week in Baltimore. Vance Joseph didn’t sound pleased and Lindsay could face a suspension because of his actions.
This is the perfect opportunity for Freeman to step up and solidify himself as the team’s RB1 against a Chiefs defense 29.8 FP/G to the position (2nd-most in NFL). Expect Freeman to get a heavy dose of carries on Monday night and see some extended Red Zone opportunities — currently, he’s tied for 14th in Red Zone touches with the likes of Ezekiel Elliott, Melvin Gordon, Jordan Howard and Kareem Hunt…pretty impressive company.
Stat Projections: 17 CAR, 78 yards, TD, 4 REC, 22 yards
Sterling Shepard, New York Giants vs. New Orleans Saints
When news broke that Giants tight end, Evan Engram, would miss “several weeks” with a sprained MCL, the dollar signs flashed before me when considering Shepard’s value. Someone needs to get those targets and why not Shepard? He’s coming off a Week 2 line of 6/80/1 in Houston and now gets the opportunity to line up opposite a Saints defense giving up an NFL-worst 47.3 FP/G to wideouts. The Saints’ secondary has allowed three 100-yard receivers through three weeks — Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and Calvin Ridley (Julio Jones was close last week with 96 receiving yards) — and I can’t imagine they have an answer for the combo of Odell Beckham Jr. and Shepard on Sunday.
Stat Projections: 7 REC, 89 yards, TD
Jimmy Graham, Green Bay Packers vs. Buffalo Bills
This pick has everything to do with the health of Aaron Rodgers and that banged up knee. The longer he plays on it, the more you can expect him to look for more intermediate routes — enter Graham.
It was a horrid Week 1 that saw Graham catch just 2 passes on 4 targets for 8 yards, but since then the big tight end has hauled in 11 catches on 15 targets for 140 yards. Rodgers is certainly looking his way and Graham gets a Bills defense that has been a bit soft against TE’s so far — 9.1 FP/G to the position (11th-most in NFL).
Stat Projections: 6 REC, 59 yards, TD
Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders vs. Cleveland Browns
Look, the Carr-Gruden experiment has to click at some point, right? It very well may this season, but not this week. The Browns lead the NFL with 11 takeaways and Carr boasts a 2:5 TD:INT ratio through three weeks…yikes!
Although he’s averaged 312 PYDS/G (6th in NFL), something seems to be missing under center and Gruden doesn’t seem to be on the same page with his signal-caller. Expect the struggles to continue in Week 4.
Stat Projections: 24/41, 258 yards, TD, 2 INT’s, FUM
Dion Lewis, Tennessee Titans vs. Philadelphia Eagles
With Marcus Mariota’s health a growing question mark each week, can you really be expected to trust a Titans RB right now? I’m a big believer in Lewis and loved the signing during the offseason, but so far it hasn’t paid dividends and that’s due in large part to Mariota’s ability to throw the ball at this point.
It doesn’t get any easier with the defending Super Bowl champions coming to town and holding opposing RB’s to an NFL-best 9.7 FP/G. All signs point to another sloppy week for Lewis and this offense.
Stat Projections: 8 CAR, 31 yards, 5 REC, 24 yards
Chris Hogan, New England Patriots vs. Miami Dolphins
Yes, I was wrong last week about Amari Cooper going up against Xavien Howard. Which is why I’m taking my medicine and learning from my mistakes. Howard already has three picks this year and that’s now six in his last eight games (NFL leader) dating back to Week 13 of 2017.
It’s a tall task for Hogan this week with Howard lined up opposite him and consider that in Tom Brady’s last start against the Dolphins things got ugly. Brady finished 24/43 (55.8 CMP%) for 233 yards, 1 TD and 2 INT’s in a Monday Night Football loss. “Tom Terrific” has been anything but the last two weeks (QB19 in Week 2 and QB29 in Week 3) and I expect more of the same against an underrated Dolphins secondary.
Stat Projections: 3 REC, 32 yards
George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Chargers
The loss of “Jimmy G” in the 49ers offense will probably diminish Kittle’s fantasy value the most. In eight games with Garoppolo dating back to last season, Kittle’s per game averages were 4.9 TGTS, 3.4 REC, and 51.9 YDS. Now, Beathard enters the fold and in five career games, Kittle’s per game averages are a pedestrian 4.2 TGTS, 2.2 REC, and 25 YDS. It’s safe to say this will have a negative effect on Kittle’s performance and lines up Sunday against a Chargers team surrendering just 2.9 FP/G to opposing TE’s (2nd-fewest in NFL).
Stat Projections: 2 REC, 28 yards
By Jamie Zadow – @jamiezadow