Patrick Mahomes, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Other Fantasy Football Players to Watch in Week 3

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Before I start writing and you start reading, let us try to take a moment to process the featured image above. Specifically: is this the greatest thing ever to happen or a sign the excesses of Western Civilization have finally gotten completely out of control? I wonder . . . Okay, so now that we have all taken an existential journey, let’s just jump right into this week’s preview. Since there were no complaints last week, we can use the same format.

San Francisco 49ers at Kansas City Chiefs

Key Players: Patrick Mahomes, Kareem Hunt, Matt Breida, The Eight 49er Receivers with Receptions in Week 2

Andy Reid took a big gamble replacing Alex Smith when Smith was coming off of a career season. The first two games of this season have silenced anyone who vocalized their dissent. Last week he put on an absolute clinic going 23-28 for 326 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. It’s not like he did this against a rebuilding team, this was Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh. Sure, these are not Dick LeBeau’s elite defenses of the mid-2000’s, but do not let that diminish what Mahomes was able to accomplish. Mahomes shows exactly why Reid turned his offense over to him: he can make every throw imaginable. Check out the throw to Sammy Watkins at the 30 second mark, it’s remarkably effortless. Who knows if he can keep this up, but if he can he’s a must start fantasy quarterback for the rest of the season. It remains to be seen what becomes of Kareem Hunt. He had a good game with 18 carries for 75 yards to go with one five yard touchdown reception. He remains a starting fantasy back, I just fear he’ll need to catch touchdown passes to score. Mahomes is so versatile in the red zone, he might take the touchdowns there with bootlegs since he’s so good throwing on the run. If you, like me, have Hunt on your roster, it is not time to panic. It is time to consider where you have the most depth and see if you can swing a trade for another running back.

Matt Breida had 11 carries compared to veteran Alfred Morris’ 14. I find it very hard to believe that will happen two weeks in a row. Not only because those 11 carries went for 138 yards, including a 66 yard touchdown, but more because of the way he gained those yards. Kyle Shanahan asked him to run inside, outside, and even on a counter as a wing back. Breida did not disappoint. He showed surprising toughness for his size and, critically for all Shanahan running backs, the ability to run the one cut stretch runs. Look for a huge game from him this week against a suspect Kansas City run defense. As for the rest of the 49er offense, Jimmy Garoppolo should stay on your fantasy bench for now and it will be hard to start any of their receivers. Jimmy completed 18 passes to 8 different receivers, with only Pierre Garcon (4 receptions for 57 yards) catching more than 3. Be wary (says the guy heaping praise on George Kittle last week).

New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons

Key Players: Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, Tevin Coleman, Austin Hooper

Drew Brees and the Saints are one heart-breaking Cleveland performance, which was bad even by the Browns already abysmal track record, away from being 0-2 again this season. Even going up against a surprisingly competent Browns defense, Brees was still able to put up a good game, finishing 28-35 for 243 yards and 2 touchdowns, once more showing that he can exceed just as much in a low scoring game as he can in a shoot-out like Week 1 against Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bucs. If you have him, keep starting him. Speaking of starting someone on the Saints, Michael Thomas is off to an epic start in 2018. In two games thus far he has 28 catches on 30 targets for 269 yards and three touchdowns. How he fell all the way to pick 47 in the 2016 Draft is beyond me. Anyway, there is little to indicate he’s going to be slowing down anytime soon. With Ted Ginn somehow having not lost a step (even at 33) on the other side and Alvin Kamara drawing most of the opposing defensive coordinator’s attention, Thomas cannot be double teamed. Hell, it’s even a stretch to imagine a team shading coverage towards him. Barring an injury, he could put up a historic fantasy season. This week he’ll be up against a Falcons defense that gave up three touchdown passes last week, including a 51 yarder to DJ Moore.

Why did I include the link to Jaws? Because as a writer it is my duty to reveal any bias I may have. In this case, it is likely, if not probable, my motivation for including Austin Hooper in this list has less to do with his fantasy value and more to do with hearing Robert Shaw’s voice every time I hear the name Hooper. On a serious note, his 8-yard touchdown against the Panthers last week was a breath of fresh air for Falcons fans. It was one of their rare solid play calls in the red zone. The other player from Atlanta to keep an eye on is Tevin Coleman. With Devonta Freeman sidelined again this weekend, Coleman will once more keep all the carries to himself. Last week he did not disappoint with 16 carries for 107 yards. He didn’t have any touchdowns, but it seems unlikely Matt Ryan will rush for two touchdowns every game, including this week. The Saints were one huge loss by Antonio Callaway on a reverse away from giving up 100 yards rushing to the Browns last week. If you have him, consider starting Coleman this week. The Falcons will want to keep Brees, Thomas, and Kamara off the field and, as such, will need to run the ball.

Oakland Raiders at Miami Dolphins

Key Players: Marshawn Lynch, Amari Cooper, David Carr, *Insert Dolphins Player Here*

Amari Cooper followed up his one catch Week 1 with 10 receptions for 116 yards in Week 2. What I was relieved to see was that his 10 receptions weren’t just on deep balls, something that I feared last week. They were in all three zones (short, middle, deep) and on a variety of routes. For a second I was taken back to John Gruden’s first tour with the Raiders and thought I was watching Tim Brown out there. Derek Carr had a nice bounce-back from Week 1, finishing 29-32 for 288 yards and a touchdown. He got the ball out quickly and accurately, showing very good footwork and timing (aka the two things a quarterback must show in a traditional West Coast offense). Marshawn Lynch finished with 18 carries for 65 yards and a touchdown. He may no longer be the Beast Mode of old, but he showed he still has something left in the tank. The Raiders had the lead for most of the game before letting it slip away. They need to score more touchdowns, so they’ll need to find more ways to get Lynch or Cooper the ball in the red zone.

The Dolphins intercepted Sam Darnold three times last week to pull off a 20-12 win in which they did not score in the second half. More than that, they showed tremendous balance on offense. Seriously. Take a look at the box score. They had 135 yards rushing split between 11 carries for Kenyan Drake, 9 for Frank Gore, and 8 for Ryan Tannehill. Their 168 receiving yards were split between seven receivers, none with more than four receptions. This balance is great on the field. It is not great from a fantasy perspective. So for now it’s going to impossible, from a fantasy perspective, to project the Dolphins offense week to week. All we can do is watch the games and see if anyone starts to take over a majority of the carries or receptions. Until that becomes clear, avoid starting any Miami players if you can.

Buffalo Bills at Minnesota Vikings

Key Players: Josh Allen, Chris Ivory, Zay Jones, Adam Theilen, Stefon Diggs

What a strange week for the Bills. Vontae Davis up and retired at halftime, a sentence I never imagined writing without “after a catastrophic injury” at the beginning of it. On the field they lost their best offensive player, LeSean McCoy, to an injury. Chris Ivory, who actually scored their first touchdown of 2018, will likely take over this week. He’s had his moments throughout his career. While I wouldn’t say he’s a must play this week, he still can get the ball in the end zone whenever his team ventures into the red zone. Those of you with McCoy on your roster really should take a look at him (especially if McCoy ends up being out for an extended period of time). Josh Allen had a decent start to his pro career, finishing 18-33 for 245 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. It’s unlikely he would have thrown 33 times had the score not been 28-6 at the half. While there were rough patches, there is not denying the guy has an absolute cannon. Said cannon could benefit Zay Jones, who hauled in a 57-yard pass from Allen. Until he cleans up his mechanics on the precision throws, look for Allen to take deep shots. Why not go back to the guy who caught his first deep completion?

The Vikings found themselves in a shoot out with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, walking away with the second NFL tie in as many weeks. It is unlikely Kirk Cousins will be asked to throw 48 times this week against the Bills. In fact, it is unlikely the Vikings want him to throw that much in any game this season. Still, it helps to know that he can. Last year’s NFC Championship Game was lost as soon as it fell to Case Keenum to carry them. When he does have to air it out, it is clear Cousins has already built a rapport with Adam Theilen and Stefon Diggs. Theilen had 12 receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown. Not to be outdone, Diggs finished with 9 receptions for 128 yards and two touchdowns. Again, the Vikings don’t want to chuck the ball all over the field. However, Theilen and Diggs remain strong options in PPR leagues. The Minnesota running game doesn’t look like it’s ready to take over quite yet, so they’ll need to keep airing it out for now.

Indianapolis Colts at Philadelphia Eagles 

Key Players: Eric Ebron, T.Y. Hilton, The Indy Backs, Carson Wentz!, Nelson Agholor

As feared last week, Eric Ebron stole another red-zone touchdown from Jack Doyle last week. Doyle spent far more time on the field, he just wasn’t out there for that play. And, man, what a catch. Especially given it came after Ebron bowled over Josh Norman in the open field. Doyle remains the starter in Indianapolis, it just remains to be seen how much playing time Ebron will earn. If he keeps making catches like he did last week, Luck will keep throwing him the ball when the Colts get close to the end zone. T.Y. Hilton was on the receiving end of Luck’s other touchdown pass, finishing with 7 receptions for 83 yards and said touchdown. It’s encouraging for Hilton owners to see he and Luck seem to have picked up where they left off in 2016. As for the Colts running backs, Marlon Mack was back in action and the Colts finished with 104 rushing yards. What was interesting was to see it came with a pretty even distribution of carries. Mack had 10, Jordan Wilkins had 10, and Nyheim Hines had only four, but got the touchdown. My guess is Frank Reich will install the same three back rotation scheme Philly rode to the Super Bowl last season. So, be careful starting any Indy backs this fantasy season.

Speaking of Philly, Carson Wentz is back! Though Nick Foles got hot in the playoffs last season, Eagles fans must be overjoyed to see Wentz back. We all learned last season how Philly fans express joy, so be careful out there. On a serious note, it will be interesting to see how Wentz comes back from his knee injury. I’m particularly interested in seeing if Doug Pederson is going to let him run this season. Ever since Michael Vick exploded onto the NFL landscape almost two decades ago (damn, that makes me feel old), the debate has raged about letting the quarterback run because of the injury risks. Look for the Colts to blitz early and often, as no one knows their weak spots as well as Reich. He’ll want to test Wentz’s knee right out of the gate. The other Philly player to watch is Nelson Agholor. The Philly receiving corp is still decimated, so they are bringing back their old friend Jordan Matthews. One of the major catalysts for trading him last season was to open up a spot in the slot for Agholor. It will be interesting to see how this move impacts their line-up. Agholor has flourished in the slot, hence why they moved him there. While he can play outside, it is not the best spot to put him on the field. Agholor owners want to watch this game very closely.

Green Bay Packers at Washington Redskins

Key Players: Jimmy Graham, Adams-Allison-Cobb, Chris Thompson, Jordan Reed

The Packers will be out for blood after giving up 22 fourth-quarter points and tying the hated Vikings last week. Look for Aaron Rodgers to come out gunning in an attempt to build an early lead and force the Redskins to try and out shoot him. Jimmy Graham had a quiet first half and I feared I would look like a fool two weeks in a row, having talked up how great he would be for the Packers. A second-half surge saw him finish with 6 receptions for 95 yards. I would imagine he will keep this going, as he has always been a better fit in a more spread out offense than the one run in Seattle. The rest of the Packer receivers had a very balanced game, making this another group to be wary of in fantasy. Again, I am not knocking balance on the field. Every team should strive for it. It simply makes it very hard to project fantasy players if they come from a balanced attack. The only reason I would categorize Graham as a must start from this group is because he is a tight end and they carry a higher premium than wide receivers.

The Redskins only managed 9 points last week. Adrian Peterson came crashing back to earth with a measly 20 rushing yards on only 11 carries. This week it was his rotation mate, Chris Thompson, that stood out with 13 receptions on 14 targets for 92 yards. As we saw last season, Alex Smith loves to throw to running backs. If Peterson can’t get it done on the ground, look for Thompson to steal some more carries and add some rushing yards to his impressive amount of receiving yards. Assuming Rodgers plays this week (his knee is still iffy), the Redskins are going to want to keep him on the sideline. If Peterson can’t, Thompson must.The only position Smith loves to throw to more than running backs is tight ends. Jordan Reed had 6 receptions for 55 yards. While this was not a huge game, he did this on 8 targets, compared to fellow tight end Vernon Davis‘ 1 target. One of these two players was going to jump ahead of the other, for now it looks like Reed.

Cincinnati Bengals at Carolina Panthers

Key Players: A.J. Green, Giovani Bernard, Christian McCaffrey, Devin Funchess

Are the Bengals for real or is this just one of their “hey we’re good, oh wait, no we aren’t” seasons? It’s hard to say just yet, so this week’s game against the Panthers is a must watch not only for fantasy, but for AFC North implications. Last week, A.J. Green had 3 touchdown receptions before fans even got to sit down. Even though Tyler Boyd finished the game with more receptions and more yards, this is still Green’s team and he is still Andy Dalton’s favorite receiver. The Panthers allowed three 30 yard receptions against the Falcons last week, the Bengals should try to air it out early. Joe Mixon is out for 2-4 weeks, Giovani Bernard will assume the primary running back duties. Though he has been primarily a change of pace back during his Bengals career, Bernard has been pretty consistent as a runner and pass catcher out of the backfield. It seems unlikely the Bengals will lose a tremendous amount swapping Mixon for Bernard. This gives Mixon owners a life-raft heading into Week Three. If he’s on the waiver wire, get him. The Bengals do not have to completely overhaul the offense for him.

The Panthers probably don’t want Cam Newton throwing 45 times again this week. Certainly not if those 45 passes are offset by a mere 8 carries for Christian McCaffrey. He did have 14 receptions for 102 yards last week, so his fantasy value remains high. However, Norv Turner’s offenses typically rely on more rushing attempts. I expect he will try and get 15-20 for McCaffrey this week. When then Panthers do decide to throw the ball. Devin Funchess is an intriguing fantasy option in deeper PPR leagues. He finished with 7 receptions for 77 yards. He did not catch any of Newton’s three touchdown passes, as they went to three other receivers. The Air Coryell system Turner runs relies on power running offset by deep passing out of three receiver sets. At some point Funchess will start breaking the deeper routes for touchdowns. When this happens, you won’t want to be the player who dropped him the week before.

Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars

Key Players: Quarterback, Titans, Henry and Lewis, Blake Bortles, Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook 

I say “Quarterback, Titans” because it’s not clear yet who will be starting this week against the brutally tough Jaguars defense. Last week the Titans upset the Texans through trickery and sheer will power. This will not be enough against a Jacksonville team riding high after a beatdown of the mighty Patriots. They are going to need their quarterback, whoever that is, to make some big throws. Usually the Titans would try to keep the ball on the ground. Last week against the Texans, Derrick Henry only had 56 rushing yards on 18 carries and Dion Lewis only had 42 on 14 carries. Lewis had one catch for one yard and Henry had zero catches for zero yards. That was against Houston, this game will be against Jacksonville. Needless to say, the fantasy prospects do not look good this week. Unless I’m completely missing something, do not start any Titans this week.

Jacksonville, as I said above, has to be riding high this week. They were without Leonard Fournette and still hung 31 points on the Patriots. Before we go crowning the Jaguars as the new kings of the AFC, let’s take a deep breath and recall the Patriots always have a game like this at the start of the season. My Facebook feed fills with irrational rants from those in the blue and red T-shirts and taunts from New York fans and I roll my eyes. Having said that, this was an impressive game from the Jaguars. Particularly Blake Bortles, who ended the day 29-45 for 377 yards with 4 touchdowns and 1 interception, even tacking on 35 rushing yards on 6 carries. Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook also stepped up, with Cole finishing with 7 receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown, with Westbrook adding 4 receptions for 83 yard and a 61-yard touchdown. If nothing else, Jacksonville showed they can succeed without Fournette. As to whether Bortles, Cole, and Westbrook are legit fantasy options, we will have to wait and see. This week Fournette is questionable and will likely not be asked to carry the load if he does play. So, this is a game to watch and we can see what to make of Week 2’s heroes.

Denver Broncos at Baltimore Ravens

Key Players: Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, Alex Collins, John Brown

The Broncos really had no business beating the Raiders this week (sorry Denver fans). They did because Oakland struggled to find the end zone and the Denver running backs make one hell of a pair. Phillip Lindsey ended up with 107 rushing yards on 14 carries and Royce Freeman added only 28 yards on 8 carries, but did score a touchdown. Case Keenum does not look like he’s going to be able to carry the offense despite a deep receiving corp. Until he shows a bit more consistency, Lindsey and Freeman are the only two players in the Denver offense worth starting for now. Don’t go cutting Demaryius Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders, just don’t expect a lot from them just yet. Especially not in close games, as the Broncos will try to keep in on the ground when they can. This week will be an interesting test for Keenum, as he is going up against a Baltimore defense that was shredded by Andy Dalton and company last week. If he struggles, Lindsey and Freeman remain the only viable Denver fantasy players.

I don’t know what to make of the Ravens offense. I really thought Alex Collins was going to have a breakout season this year. In two games thus far he has only mustered 48 yard on 16 carries. He has one touchdown and one fumble. Granted these two games where a blow-out win against the Bills and a comeback against the Bengals in which they were forced to go to the air, but still. Even the Baltimore passing game is hard to read from a fantasy perspective. John Brown had 4 receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown against the Bengals. Joe Flacco completed passes to nine different receivers, however, so we can’t call Brown a legit fantasy starter just yet. This week does not bode much better for anyone who owns any Ravens, as the Denver defense is equally tough against the run and the pass. They are probably the third-best defense in the league after Minnesota and Jacksonville. It is probably best not to start any Ravens this week.

New York Giants at Houston Texans

Key Players: Evan Engram, Saquon Barkley, DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller

It’s only been two weeks and already the “Giants can’t protect Eli Manning” memes are back out in full force. Dallas does boast a good pass rush, there is no denying that. Unfortunately, there is also no denying Eli looks like he’ll be on his butt a lot this season, as he was last season. Unlike a few teams I’ve already discussed, this does not mean the Giants are bereft of legit fantasy options. Evan Engram collected 7 receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown. As stated above, tight ends remain at a premium, so be sure to keep an eye on him. Saquon Barkley only gained 28 rushing yards on 11 carries, but balanced it out with 14 receptions for 80 yards. His ability to catch the ball was the main reason I thought he should have been a top draft pick in 2018 Draft, even though it is no longer en vogue to draft running backs in the first round. With a subpar line, Eli will need to get the ball out quickly again this season and will need a strong running game. No one will benefit from this more than Barkley.

Two weeks into the season, the Texans find themselves 0-2 despite Deshaun Watson being healthy. Not only are they 0-2, both weeks they have found themselves behind early and needing the throw their way back into the game. I find it hard to believe this was Bill O’Brien’s plan as he crafted his offense this past spring. The Giants have not played very well either, so look for the Texans to try and blitz their way into an early lead. If this happens, they will try to run the ball, as it is supposed to be their strength. If they are not able to jump to an early lead and once more must play from behind, expect another couple of big games from DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. Hopkins finished with 6 receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown and Fuller had 8 receptions for 113 yards and a touchdown. This means that, if nothing else, the Texans boast two of the top fantasy receivers in 2018.

Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Rams

Key Players: Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler, Philip Rivers, Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks

This week I’m seriously considering starting both Gordon and Ekeler in one of my leagues. I’ve never started two running backs from the same team at the same time, but find it hard to overlook what they did last week. Gordon finished with only 9 carries for 28 yards and a touchdown. His biggest contribution came in the passing game, where he hauled in 6 catches for 38 yards and 3 touchdowns. Ekeler got more carries with 11 for 77 yards with 3 receptions for 21 yards. All together the Charger backfield accounted for 164 total yards, 9 receptions, and 3 touchdowns. This week against the Rams, they will need to split more than 20 carries. The Rams boast an elite offense and the Chargers best chance (outside of Derwin James) is to keep the ball away from them. I’ll let you know next week what my Sunday morning tinkering leads me to, I have a feeling it will be starting Gordon and Ekeler.

In my first article on running backs, I mentioned being unsure of Todd Gurley this season since I feared Brandin Cooks would account for a lot of the yards. This came true Sunday, as Cooks ended up with 7 receptions for 159 yards and Gurley only managed to get 42 rushing yards. He did not, however, have an off day fantasy-wise, as he finished with 3 rushing touchdowns. So long as he ends up getting the ball in the red zone, both he and Cooks are must starts in 2018. The Chargers boast a much better defense than the Cardinals (not to mention an offense that can actually move the ball), so they should put up bigger numbers this week. With the aforementioned Derwin James on the prowl, it makes sense for the Rams to try and get Cooks going early. If he stretches the field on the outside, it should open up the middle of the field, allowing Gurley to find running room. I also imagine Sean McVay will integrate some third-down screens to neutralize James when he blitzes. This will be a very interesting, fantasy-impacting chess match to watch

Chicago Bears at Arizona Cardinals

Key Players: Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, No Idea for the Cardinals 

How about Da Bears going out and beating the Seahawks on Monday Night Football? I’m still not completely sold on Mitch Trubisky, he needs to cut down on the turnovers before he is a realistic fantasy option. However, he is clearly picking up Matt Nagy’s offense and starting to build a rapport with his receivers. Allen Robinson caught 10 of the 14 passes thrown his way for 83 yards. The Bears offense, like the Chiefs offense last season, wants to operate in the middle of the field, meaning Trubisky is going to need to take some more deep shots. Robinson will be the guy he targets. He could be a bit of risk this week as Patrick Peterson will be shadowing him. Still, Trubisky has to take the deep shots and Robinson only needs to break one for a long touchdown. He’s probably a flex player for now, though it is a good idea to keep a close eye on him as he could be a No. 2 or even a No. 1 later in the season. If the Bears can stretch the field consistently, one player who will benefit the most is rookie Anthony Miller. He only has 4 receptions thus far in 2018, but scored his first touchdown last week. Though undersized, his speed (4.48 on the 40 during his pro day) makes him dangerous. He could turn into the Bears version of Tyreek Hill, who has, obviously, thrived in this offensive scheme. Keep an eye on him, especially this week as the Cardinals have but one Patrick Peterson.

The Arizona offense with Sam Bradford under center looks terrible. End of fantasy football analysis.

Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks

Key Players: Ezekiel Elliot, Somebody from the Dallas Receiving Corp . . . Maybe?, Will Dissly, Tyler Lockett

Right now the Cowboys offense looks like Ezekiel Elliot and a bunch of question marks. The defense looks good so far (though admittedly the Giants offensive line makes many a defense look good), so it could very well be their plan to let Elliot carry the offense and ask Dak Prescott to manage the game. Until someone from the receiving corp steps up, it’s hard to blame them for doing so, but I just can’t see this happening. Dallas is, of course, trying to make the playoffs and if they do, they need more out of passing game. Looking over the standings, they would run into plenty of high powered offenses in the NFC bracket with Green Bay, Minnesota, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and, dare I say, Tampa Bay (more likely New Orleans) standing in their way. If they get caught in a shoot out, Elliot cannot be their only weapon. Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan need to find a way to put Prescott in a position to throw for more than 160 yards. Tavon Austin had a long touchdown catch last week, so for now he’s the guy to watch. If no one else emerges, Austin’s speed on fly routes and reverses could make him a sleeper option.

I can’t tell what’s going on with the Seahawks. Of all the 0-2 teams, this is the most surprising. And, taking a quick break from fantasy football analysis, this has to be the most concerned fan base. This is not the kind of division you want to open 0-2 in, even with the Cardinals looking so inept. Even more surprising than their 0-2 start is their inability to run the football. Thus far, neither Chris Carson nor Rashaad Penny has taken off, meaning the Seahawks have had to rely on their passing game. With Doug Baldwin out, the receiving corp has done their fair share. So far in 2018 Tyler Lockett has 8 receptions for 119 yards and two touchdowns. Not stand out fantasy numbers by any stretch, but good enough to carry as a reserve for now. It’s not, after all, his fault Russell Wilson has been spreading the wealth. Rookie tight end Will Dissly scored another touchdown against the Bears, giving him a touchdown in each of his first two career games. If the Seahawks continue to struggle running the ball, he becomes a must start. What the hell else are they going to do in the red zone? I hate to be an alarmist, but this week’s game against the Cowboys is a must win for Seattle. If the running game stalls early on, they need to go to the air. If they do, Lockett and Dissly should have productive games.

New England Patriots at Detroit Lions

Key Players: Josh Gordon, Tom Brady, LeGarrette Blount, Kerryon Johnson, Matthew Stafford

Josh Gordon will either be cut in one week or will be an All-Pro at the end of the season. I see no other way for his season to end. There are few receivers with his talent, there are few with his troubles, but there is nowhere better for him to be than with the New England Patriots. I imagine when he arrived in New England, Brady and Belichick pulled him aside and laid out some rules for him. Belichick probably also took the time to remind him that if he doesn’t make it work in New England, he’ll likely be finished in the NFL. If he can’t make a player follow the rules, no one can. And if he fails another drug test, I can’t see anyone taking a chance on him again (the story becomes all the more interesting when one considers recreational marijuana is now legal in Massachusetts). If he buys in, look out. When I saw the Browns were going to cut him, I dropped him off one of my teams in disgust. By the grace of the waiver wire, I got him back and plan on starting him this week. As for Brady, he hasn’t had a receiver with this effortless talent since Randy Moss. We all remember what they did together. His fantasy value just jumped up a few more notches (like he needed it).

What in the name of Matt Patricia’s beard is going on in Detroit (as an FYI, I’m trying to make this a saying, please help me do it)? The running game was a bit better last week, gaining a combined 98 yards on 18 carries (8 each for Blount and Johnson). However, Matthew Stafford still ended up throwing 53 passes last week. He completed 34 of them for 347 yards and 3 touchdowns. It cannot be their plan to have do this every week. With Gordon looming on the opposing sideline and Patricia’s knowledge of the Patriots’ scheme, I imagine he will try to get the run going. Blount has been a productive back for most of his career and Johnson looked good in college, so the running game should be better than it has been thus far. This makes this week’s game important to watch, as it will reveal if either back is worth carrying this season, as well as if Stafford remains a solid fantasy option because he team has no other choice than to let him go out and chuck it every week.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Key Players: Juju Smith-Schuster, Jesse James, Ryan Fitzpatrick, DeSean Jackson, O.J. Howard 

Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell might be grabbing all the headlines, but those headlines should be going to Juju Smith-Schuster, who is off to perhaps the quietest fast start in NFL history. Last week after the Chiefs jumped to an early lead and Pittsburgh had to abandon the run, he ended up with 13 receptions for 121 yards and a touchdown. With the Bucs looking unstoppable on offense, there is a good chance the Steelers fall behind early again. If this happens, look for him to have a huge game again this week. Smith Schuster a must start, as is Jesse James. With the middle of the field consistently open, James should have an even bigger game than his 5 reception, 138 yard, one touchdown Week 2.

And so the article comes full circle and we can finally talk about the Legend of Ryan Fitzpatrick. I truly can’t tell which is more shocking, the pace he has gotten of to in 2018 or whatever the hell he’s wearing in the feature photo. DeSean Jackson came out this week and said the Bucs should keep Fitz in the starting lineup even after Jameis Winston returns and I completely agree with him. Last week he was 27-33 for 402 yards with 4 touchdowns and 1 interception. He’s had his moments in the past, but nothing like this. Jackson finished with 4 receptions for 129 yards and a 75-yard touchdown. With him, Mike Evans, and Chris Godwin attracting so much attention on the outside, O.J. Howard had a beautiful 75-yard catch and run for a touchdown. The more the Bucs go to air on the outside, the more space he has to work with. He might get lost in the shuffle, so he’s probably a bye-week sub for now. Let’s see how he does this week with Pittsburgh needing to put their focus on the Bucs three headed monster at wide reciever.

Follow Nick on Twitter @anthonynickrose. Check out his other work here, such as his look at drafting fantasy running backs in the age of NFL RB rotations.

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