Quarterback play has dominated the fantasy football scene during the first three weeks, which, in turn, hasn’t led to fruitful results from the majority of running backs who were selected long before the first passer came off the board.
Outside of Todd Gurley and Alvin Kamara, most of the high-end backs need a wake-up call, and several should be able to answer in Week 4.
That said, don’t expect the grip that quarterbacks — and the receivers who have benefitted from them — have on fantasy leagues to slip this week, especially with a handful of passers sitting on favorable matchups.
START: Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons
Looking more like the fantasy beast he was in 2016, Ryan has thrown for 646 yards and seven touchdowns in his last two games. The rise of rookie receiver Calvin Ridley and the ability to finally convert red-zone visits into touchdowns have been key factors for Ryan, who gets a Bengals defense that’s allowing 270 passing yards per game and is 25th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. It’s also at home, where Ryan has been devastating the last two weeks.
SIT: Carson Wentz, QB, Eagles
Half of the Eagles’ 120 passing attempts have gone to either Nelson Agholor or Zach Ertz. Agholor owns 75 percent of the team’s targets to wide receivers. Add the fact that the Titans are 11th in pass defense, and the numbers don’t favor Wentz in his second game back in the lineup. Don’t expect too many downfield shots from Wentz — he has no receiver to take long shots. The Eagles have only five completions of better than 20 yards.
START: T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts
Hilton would be among the highest-paid receivers in the game if he could face the Texans on a weekly basis. In 12 career games against them, Hilton has 63 catches for 1,131 yards and nine touchdowns while recording five 100-yard games. This should be the game Andrew Luck and the Colts ditch the short, safe stuff and improve upon a 7.8 yards-per-catch average.
SIT: Isaiah Crowell, RB, Jets
Yes, Crowell scored two short touchdowns in the loss last week to the Browns, but that doesn’t hide the fact he has rushed for 69 yards on 28 carries in his last two games. That 2.4 yards per carry isn’t going to get much better against a Jaguars run defense that is eighth in fantasy points allowed to running backs and has given up one rushing touchdown.
START: Trey Burton, TE, Bears
The Buccaneers’ defense has been shredded by the Eagles’ and Steelers’ tight ends in consecutive weeks, and while Burton has been disappointing so far, he gets a great chance to rebound. The Bears are 29th in yards per attempt (5.7) but need to take the gloves off quarterback Mitch Trubisky as he lines up against a Bucs defense that has allowed a league-high 1,088 yards and 11 touchdowns through the air.
SIT: Jordy Nelson, WR, Raiders
His six catches for 173 yards last week against the Dolphins likely will be Nelson’s high-water mark for the season. It’s easy to think Nelson is trending upward, but keep in mind he had only five catches for 53 yards in his first two games. The Browns are sixth in pass defense and have allowed only two touchdown passes. With the kind of pressure quarterback Derek Carr will face, the Raiders’ passing game will be short-circuited.
START: John Brown, WR, Ravens
The Steelers are one of three teams that have allowed at least 200 yards per game to wide receivers. Brown has shown his big-play prowess with the Ravens, having recorded a reception of at least 29 yards in each game this season. He’s averaging 18.5 yards per catch and won’t need too many targets to put up big numbers against a Steelers defense that has given up 15 completions of more than 30 yards.
SIT: LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills
Shady is no longer a must-start. He has rushed for 61 yards on 16 carries and missed the win last week over the Vikings with a rib injury. McCoy plans to give it a go, but it looks like the Bills are showing an increased commitment to Chris Ivory in what will be a favorable matchup against the Packers, who are 27th in rushing yards allowed.