Patrick Mahomes is good. 2018 David Johnson looks nothing like 2016 David Johnson. The Rams’ defense has not only replaced the Seahawks as the NFC’s most dominant unit, but it might be the best the NFL has to offer.
Week 3 will go a long way toward helping fantasy football owners decide how those observations play out. Mahomes, Johnson and the Rams’ defense are certain starts, but the same can’t be said for some others whose fate will hinge on the faith of their owners.
START: Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bucs
FitzMagic’s next act won’t be too hard as the Steelers’ defense easily disappears. It ranks 31st in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks and will have to contend with the withering assault that will come from Fitzpatrick firing the ball to Mike Evans, O.J. Howard and DeSean Jackson. Mahomes’ historic start is the only reason that Fitzpatrick’s 699 yards and eight touchdowns aren’t the story of fantasy football. Playing Fitzpatrick on Monday night will give his owners plenty of confidence in pulling out a Week 3 victory.
SIT: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
Seriously. The threat of his injured knee giving way blends in with a road game against a Redskins defense that has allowed 161 passing yards per game and a mere 5.1 yards per attempt. Rodgers saw his Week 1 fantasy output nearly cut in half by the Vikings last week, and the Redskins will be focused on forcing him to make plays on his bad leg. Under normal circumstances, Rodgers is a must-start on a weekly basis, but there’s too much risk in play with his injury. Those who have a QB2 who’s healthy and has a favorable matchup might want to go in that direction.
START: Matt Breida, RB, 49ers
He’s not going to repeat his 12.5 yards per carry from last week against the Lions, but Breida is in line for another big afternoon against a Chiefs defense that is giving up yardage in big chunks. While the Chiefs are seventh overall against the run, their inability to stop pass-catching backs is why they’re 30th in fantasy points allowed per game to opposing runners. Alfred Morris still will get his touches, but in a game with two bad defenses, Breida is the clear choice, especially in point-per-reception (PPR) formats.
SIT: Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings
A hamstring issue led Cook to miss practice Wednesday, and with a battered Bills defense on the docket Sunday, this could lead the Vikings to either put him on a “pitch count” in favor of Latavius Murray or have him sit out. The Bills are 29th in fantasy points allowed per game against running backs, making Cook a tempting play, but don’t be surprised if the Vikings play the long-term game and make Murray an intriguing flex option.
START: Corey Clement, RB, Eagles
It’s unlikely that Jay Ajayi and/or Darren Sproles will be available against the Colts, making Clement a sneaky good start in PPR leagues. Clement caught five passes for 55 yards and a touchdown in last week’s loss against the Buccaneers and gets a meaty matchup against the Colts. They’re allowing 11 catches and 93 yards per game to running backs. With Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz as the only reliable options in the Eagles’ passing game, look for the returning Carson Wentz to help get Clement 12-15 touches as a dual threat.
SIT: Corey Davis, WR, Titans
Quarterback Marcus Mariota’s status remains in question, meaning Blaine Gabbert again will be cast into the role of game manager for a run-heavy attack. It doesn’t help Davis’ cause that he’ll see plenty of All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey much of the afternoon. The Jaguars are ninth in fantasy points allowed per game to receivers, and if Gabbert is indeed the starter, don’t count on Davis putting up big numbers.
START: Keelan Cole, WR, Jaguars
Leonard Fournette should return to the lineup, but it shouldn’t keep Cole from having a solid encore performance after last week’s seven-catch, 116-yard outing against the Patriots that included his first touchdown of the season. Cole has caught 10 of his 12 targets and has shown his big-play skills, having pulled in four passes of 20-plus yards. The Titans have allowed a staggering 70 percent completion rate to passers, and if the Titans put too much focus on slowing down Fournette, Cole and Blake Bortles will be able to put up solid numbers.
SIT: Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals
C.J. Uzomah is beginning to steal targets from Eifert, and it doesn’t help his cause that the Panthers have been solid when it comes to containing tight ends. Eifert could have red-zone potential, but the Bengals will look to exploit a Panthers defense that is 28th in completion percentage (73.7) by using running back Gio Bernard to help take attention off A.J. Green.
START: Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions
The Lions are 30th in rushing, which is more reason for Stafford to fire away against a Patriots defense that was scorched by Blake Bortles last week. The Pats have allowed 276 passing yards per game, and Stafford is coming off a 347-yard, three-touchdown performance in the loss at the 49ers. This also should be a good game to play Lions receiver Kenny Golladay, who has seemingly passed Marvin Jones and could have a huge Sunday night.
SIT: Josh Gordon, WR, Patriots
Tom Brady will get to deploy his latest weapon Sunday night, but Gordon won’t be on the field enough to justify starting him. Gordon probably will get 15-20 plays, meaning he will get three to four targets, with at least one a downfield shot. It will be best to wait a game or two before going all-in with Gordon, whose upside has never looked better now that he is with a franchise who can help him mature on and off the field.