This is the Fantasy Football Nerd's look at the best and worst matchups for Week 3 of the 2014 NFL season. Decisions are based upon the FFN rankings and matchup analysis. Given the known conditions, these matchups are the ones to watch and/or avoid.
This list does not generally include the elite players that you are going to start regardless of matchup. You don't need us to tell you to start Peyton Manning, Jimmy Graham, or LeSean McCoy. Instead, we take a look at other players on your team that we believe either have great matchups or should be avoided for multiple reasons. Factors like opposing defense, performance trending, and peer comparisons may influence our decisions.
Start 'em - Russell Wilson (SEA, QB)
In a rematch of last year's Super Bowl, Russell Wilson will face the Denver Broncos. The difference is that Russell will be playing at home and coming off 2 solid games where he's racked up 18+ fantasy points. He threw for 206 yards and 2 scores with Super Bowl jitters, so coming in right around that total should be doable this week.
Start 'em - Jay Cutler (CHI, QB)
Even with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery questionable last week, Jay Cutler lit up the 49ers. Cutler has played far above where you drafted him and that should continue this week against the Jets who couldn't stop both Derek Carr and Aaron Rodgers score on them. Expect a 20+ point game this week from Cutler.
Start 'em - Zac Stacy (STL, RB)
If we look at the carry distribution from last week, it would appear that the contest between Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham is apparently over. Stacy should see the bulk of the work again this week against the Cowboys making him a solid start.
Start 'em - Knile Davis (KC, RB)
Keep an eye on this situation. We expected Jamaal Charles to be out several weeks with a high-ankle sprain; however, it doesn't appear that he has the kind of injury that sidelines a guy for a month+. Charles practiced this week and remains questionable for Sunday. This is a sweet matchup against the Dolphins, but it's an afternoon game, so if Charles plays, Davis' value goes down. If Charles sits, Davis is a potential Top-10 option this week.
Start 'em - Stevan Ridley (NE, RB)
It's tough to know what Patriots coach Bill Belichick will do week to week, but Stevan Ridley's matchup this week is too good to pass up. He had a dismal performance in Week 1, but shot back up the rankings with last week's 101 yards and a score. Any Patriots RB is a fantasy risk, but Ridley is a risk we think is worth taking this week.
Start 'em - Wes Welker (DEN, WR)
Back a week earlier than expected, Wes Welker should be good to go. If we look at his Super Bowl #'s the last time these two teams met, he went 8 for 84 yards. As tough as the Seattle defense is, they are not invincible. Manning will find Welker several times this game and prove that. With Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, and Emmanuel Sanders on the field, Manning will put up some yards.UPDATE: Welker's role is expected to be limited this week making him a riskier play than previously considered.
Start 'em - Golden Tate (DET, WR)
The Packers give up the 12th-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. Calvin Johnson will command double coverage and safety help which should give Tate some one-on-one time. He's had 11 receptions and 154 yards over his first two games so double-digit fantasy points in PPR formats this week is easily doable making him a good WR2/3/Flex.
Start 'em - Zach Ertz (PHI, TE)
Outperforming his draft rankings, Zach Ertz has quietly been one of the best fantasy tight ends after two weeks. In fact, he's a Top 10 TE with 163 yards and a score. He'll look to improve those numbers this week against the Redskins who give up the 12th-most fantasy points to opposing TE's.
Start 'em - Martellus Bennett (CHI, TE)
Another tight end that is outperforming his draft ranking is Martellus Bennett. With 107 yards and 2 scores, he is averaging almost 19 points in PPR formats. No other team has been as tough on TE's as the Jets, but the stats are misleading here. The only starting TE's that the Jets have faced in two weeks has been Davis Ausberry and Andrew Quarless - not quite the talent that warrants a sit here. The Jets will have their hands full with Martellus Bennett.
Start 'em - New Orleans Saints (NO, DEF)
We love this matchup. There will be no Adrian Peterson, and without a legitimate rushing threat, the Saints are going to put the pressure on Matt Cassel this week just like the Patriots did last week. The Vikings will not be able to stop Drew Brees which means that they'll be playing from behind. For an elite QB, that means putting up major yardage. Cassel is not elite and we're anticipating plenty of turnovers. The Saints could easily outperform their #14 ranking on FFN this week.
Start 'em - Dan Bailey (DAL, K)
There's at least 1 Cowboy who's in the Top 5 at his position. After two weeks, Dan Bailey is ranked 2nd among kickers and we're expecting another solid game this week against St Louis.
Sit 'em - Tony Romo (DAL, QB)
As we learned last week, the Cowboys don't have to rely on the passing game to move the ball. DeMarco Murray is healthy and playing very well. Romo still looks out of sync with his receivers and has two terrible games under his belt. The Rams have allowed the fewest passing yards (174.5) per game to opposing QB's and there's no reason to think Romo will buck that trend.
Sit 'em - Eli Manning (NYG, QB)
Eli is in the bottom tier of QB's this year. His numbers aren't terrible per se as he's averaging 220 yards and 1.5 scores through 2 games, but he has also thrown 4 picks and has been inconsistent. With a QB rating of just 53 in Week 1 and 83 last week, he's not the model of consistency that you want from a fantasy QB. The Texans are going to rattle him early and Eli will make mistakes. When Matt Cassel is projected to do better, you know it's not a good option.
Sit 'em - Toby Gerhart (JAC, RB)
What a disappointment Toby Gerhart has been. If there was a week to play him, this would be it as the Colts are giving up the 3rd-most fantasy points to opposing running backs, but even though Gerhart has the lead role, his performance doesn't warrant a start. He's ranked 51st overall among all RB's after two weeks - not even high enough to be a backup RB. The high volume of work we expected isn't enough to offset his ankle injury, poor O-line, and disappointing stats.
Sit 'em - Frank Gore (SF, RB)
Gore struggled the last time he met the Cardinals in Week 17 rushing for just 14 yards on 13 carries (1.1 ypc) and Arizona has been tough on both Ryan Mathews and Rashad Jennings in the first two weeks. Don't be surprised to see Gore struggle this week.
Sit 'em - Eric Decker (NYJ, WR)
Eric Decker has been dealing with a hamstring issue that he suffered against Green Bay last week. Prior to the injury, he looked great, but his status is in question for Week 3 and he plays on Monday night. That's too risky considering the lack of likely options you'll have should he miss the game.
Sit 'em - Victor Cruz (NYG, WR)
I think we all expected more out of Victor Cruz than 84 yards total and no salsa dances after two weeks. The Texans have played well through the first two weeks and they'll put pressure on Eli. If Eli and Cruz can't rekindle their magic, it's tough to count on either guy each week. The only saving grace here is that James Jones, DeSean Jackson, and Pierre Garcon were all able to reach double digits (ppr) against Houston. Hopefully we'll see some production out of Cruz.
Sit 'em - Larry Fitzgerald (ARI, WR)
The problem here is not so much Fitz, the rise of Michael Floyd, or the fact that Bruce Arians isn't going to cater to Fitz. The issue here is Drew Stanton who is filling in for Carson Palmer again, and we've seen this situation with Fitzgerald in the past. Without a serviceable QB, Fitz's production suffers tremendously which is why his production puts him at 62nd in overall fantasy points. The talent is there, but the QB is not.
Sit 'em - Jason Witten (DAL, TE)
If there's a defense that doesn't bleed points to opposing tight ends, it's the Rams. That doesn't bode well for Jason Witten who has struggled to be fantasy relevant this year. Romo's security blanket is a shell of his former self putting up 46 total yards and no scores after two weeks. The matchup is tough and Witten hasn't been a productive part of this offense. His season will get better - just not this week.
Sit 'em - New York Jets (NYJ, DEF)
When the Jets face the Bears on Monday night, they're going to have to stop Jay Cutler and his arsenal of weapons. If Marshall, Jeffery, and Bennett aren't open, you can count on Matt Forte to gash them. The run defense is better than the passing defense, but if an out-of-sync Aaron Rodgers can torch the Jets, a red-hot Cutler should be able to put up some numbers.
Sit 'em - Sebastian Janikowski (OAK, K)
The Patriots give up the 12th-fewest fantasy points to opposing kickers and Sebastian Janikowski ranks 31st overall among all kickers after 2 weeks. That's not the kind of guy who is putting up 50-yard FG's, nor is he on a team that finds itself in the endzone so often that those extra points start to add up. The Pats should keep Janikowski at bay.
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