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 - Colin Kaepernick (SF, QB)
Looking at how Chad Henne, Andrew Luck, and Kirk Cousins performed against the Eagles, the matchup for Colin Kaepernick this week is pretty sweet. Philly has given up the 2nd-most points to opposing signal callers, and Kaepernick should be able to put up respectable, Top-10 numbers this week.
Start 'em - Tony Romo (DAL, QB)
Tony Romo missed practice on Wednesday, but was back on Thursday. His back is obviously giving him some trouble and he's produced far below expectations so far this year, but that will change this week. He looked decent against the Rams last week and New Orleans gives up the 6th-most fantasy points to QB's. The tide is going to turn in Romo's favor this week.
Start 'em - Philip Rivers (SD, QB)
Let's face it. Philip Rivers is the San Diego offense. There is no Ryan Mathews or Danny Woodhead. Donald Brown makes for a nice play this week (see below), but Rivers is the center of that universe. Normally that would be reason for concern; however, no other team has given up more points to opposing QB's than the Jaguars. That's too sweet of a matchup to overlook.
Start 'em - Donald Brown (SD, RB)
Philip Rivers can't throw the ball on every play which means that when the Chargers are running, Donald Brown is running. Brown is a case where volume and the matchup matter. He should get plenty of volume judging by his workload last week (31 carries) and Jacksonville gives up the 3rd-most fantasy points to running backs.
Start 'em - Fred Jackson (BUF, RB)
Let me guess - you didn't draft Fred Jackson as your RB1 or RB2, right? FJax has quietly become a Top-15 fantasy RB putting up 119 yards on the ground and just 1 yard less through the air. His 13 receptions for 118 yards is decent for a WR. Both Jackson and RBBC C.J. Spiller make for great plays this week as the Bills take on the Texans who are giving up the 5th-most fantasy points to RB's.
Start 'em - Lamar Miller (MIA, RB)
We don't expect to see Knowshon Moreno until Week 6 which means that the starting gig in Miami still belongs to Lamar Miller. Oakland gives up 167 yards from scrimmage to RB's and the 9th-most fantasy points, so if the Jets' RB's Chris Ivory and CJ2K can bring home double digit fantasy points, Miller should be able to as well. Miller played very well last week and should continue to produce this week in London.
Start 'em - Marques Colston (NO, WR)
Sadly, it has not been often that we get to put Marques Colston's name here, but this week should be fantastic for Colston and the Saints. Colston put up 107 yards on 7 receptions and a score last time he faced Dallas. He has the potential to put up similar numbers as does the rookie sensation Brandin Cooks.
Start 'em - Steve Smith (BAL, WR)
There's just something about a guy playing against his former team with a chip on his shoulder that equates to fantasy goodness. We saw it last week with DeSean Jackson who had a monster week against his old team, and we should see it again when Steve Smith faces the Panthers. Smith has seen a resurgence in fantasy relevance since going to Baltimore and his relevance should continue this week.
Start 'em - Golden Tate (DET, WR)
Calvin Johnson practiced on Friday and should be good to go. That's good news for Golden Tate as that leaves him with one-on-one coverage against one of the worst secondaries in the league. The Jets give up the most points to opposing WR's, so we're expecting a nice fantasy bounce-back for Tate.
Start 'em - Martellus Bennett (CHI, TE)
For a guy who was frequently drafted as a backup TE, Martellus Bennett has been a shining star. In PPR formats, Bennett is the #3 fantasy tight end after 3 weeks. The Packers can be thrown on, but tight ends have had a very difficult time against Green Bay. The Pack have given up the fewest points to them all year, but they haven't really faced a serious TE until this week. Look for Bennett to continue his fantasy success.
Start 'em - Antonio Gates (SD, TE)
Another guy that was frequently drafted as a backup TE has quietly become the 6th-highest scoring TE after 3 weeks. The chemistry between Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates is alive and well. Gates disappointed fantasy owners last week with a pathetic 1 catch for 8 yards, but don't let that one game fool you. He's playing against the Jags who are giving up the 2nd-most points to fantasy TE's this year making Gates a must-start.
Start 'em - San Diego Chargers (SD, DEF)
The Chargers playing at home against Jacksonville makes for a pretty nice defensive matchup. It's too soon to know what kind of impact Blake Bortles will have, but everything else lines up nicely on paper. The Jaguars give up the most fantasy points to opposing DEF's. If you're looking for a solid option at DEF this week, San Diego fits that bill.
Start 'em - Adam Vinatieri (IND, K)
The Colts can move the ball down the field and they do it frequently enough that Adam Vinatieri becomes a great fantasy kicker. He has a great history playing against the Titans and we expect him to have another great day with at least 2 field goals and 3 extra points.
Sit 'em - Cam Newton (CAR, QB)
There's a good chance that if you own Cam Newton, you have to start Cam Newton. Temper your expectations though as Newton's offensive line has been terrible, he has no legitimate run game to lean on, and the Baltimore Ravens have not allowed any QB to throw more than 1 score all year. Our expectations on Newton are pretty low this week.
Sit 'em - Ryan Tannehill (MIA, QB)
Oakland is not a great team by any stretch of the imagination, but Ryan Tannehill is not a great quarterback by any stretch either. We had such high hopes for Tannehill this year based upon where he ended up fantasy-wise last season. The rhythm with Mike Wallace is still developing slowly, and if his coach has moments of doubt about him, so should you. Tannehill has potential, but too risky as anything more than a bye-week flier.
Sit 'em - Darren Sproles (PHI, RB)
Two weeks ago, LeSean McCoy said that the Eagles would be nothing without Darren Sproles. Well, this week I'm saying that your fantasy team will be nothing -- with -- Darren Sproles. Click on Darren Sproles' name in the FFN rankings and you'll see the Defensive Dossier where it shows the 49ers shutting down Matt Forte and Andre Ellington. This will be a tough matchup for McCoy and Sproles. In standard leagues, it's reasonable to expect single digits out of Sproles and he'll be lucky to break double digits in PPR.
Sit 'em - Chris Johnson (NYJ, RB)
Detroit has allowed the 6th-fewest fantasy points to opposing RB's, and when the running back in question is the weaker half of a RBBC, it doesn't look good. Chris Johnson is playing second fiddle to Chris Ivory and no longer deserves the starting role in New York. That also means that he no longer deserves a starting role on your fantasy team. With perhaps a rare exception here or there, CJ2K is not worth starting.
Sit 'em - Vincent Jackson (TB, WR)
102 yards and a score is a good day for a guy drafted as a WR1 or WR2. That's Vincent Jackson's combined stat line for all 3 games. He's averaging under 9 points a game (ppr) and a change at QB isn't likely to help. Mike Glennon looked terrible when he came in for Josh McCown last week. The Steelers pride themselves on their defense and the Pittsburgh D is giving up the 9th-fewest fantasy points to WR's this year.
Sit 'em - Kendall Wright (TEN, WR)
With 94 catches last year, Kendall Wright was one of our favorite sleepers this year. Drafted as a WR3, Wright had a ton of upside coming into the season. His upside is shaky this week given that Jake Locker may not play and an untested Charlie Whitehurst would be under center. In standard leagues, Wright should be avoided. In PPR formats, he could fill in as a bye-week flex on Sunday.
Sit 'em - Eric Decker (NYJ, WR)
Decker is expected to suit up for the game this weekend against the Lions, but the real question is whether or not he'll be able to finish. He's dealing with a hamstring injury that forced him out of the game last week, and a bum hammy combined with a defense that has given up the 2nd-fewest fantasy points to opposing WR's isn't necessarily the best combination for fantasy success.
Sit 'em - Jason Witten (DAL, TE)
Jason Witten simply hasn't been the target that we've come to depend on in fantasy circles. Romo isn't targeting him as much which seems counter-intuitive given their history and the struggles that Romo has had this year. Of course, the moment we recommend a 'sit' for Witten is the moment that he goes off for a monster game. While there's always a chance that Witten finally becomes the Witten we remember and the fact that the TE position is really thin right now, we're probably going to start him but lower our expectations significantly.
Sit 'em - Heath Miller (PIT, TE)
If anyone has seen Heath Miller, let him know that fantasy owners are looking for him. Similar to Witten's situation, Miller has historically been his QB's security blanket, but not this year. Miller is averaging less than 7 points a game (ppr) and hasn't seen the endzone yet. There's little reason to expect that to change on Sunday.
Sit 'em - Chicago Bears (CHI, DEF)
Even with a Green Bay team that is having difficulty putting up points consistently, the Packers have historically done quite well against Chicago. The Bears are dealing with some defensive injuries and Rodgers and company are due for a big game. Don't drop the Bears completely, but we're not ready to plug them into our lineups this week.
Sit 'em - Blair Walsh (MIN, K)
The Falcons D is on a run and they've given up the 9th-fewest fantasy points to opposing kickers this year. The Vikings are without stud Adrian Peterson and are starting rookie Teddy Bridgewater. The offensive firepower of Minnesota is definitely in question this week. If they can't get into field goal range or can't keep their offense on the field, Blair Walsh's value goes way down.
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