NFL Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Week 3
Calvin Johnson and the Lions are good Week 3 fantasy options against the Titans
The Cowboys' cornerbacks likely to limit the Buccaneers' passing game in Dallas
Ken Whisenhunt has said he plans to utilize Larry Fitzgerald more against Philly
Week 3 offers some of the easiest lineup decisions of the fantasy football season. Two weeks of games has provided better information, and there aren't yet bye weeks taking away the no-brainer decisions. Byes begin next week, so enjoy what could be the last use of a full-strength lineup for months.
For those other decisions still causing you agony, we make sense of the minutia in the Week 3 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em:
Rams -- Danny Amendola: The ridiculous amount of targets Amendola has been getting will make him a priority for the Bears, but the Rams will find a way to get the ball to their go-to man. As for the Rams as a whole, they're facing their toughest week yet against a rested Bears defense coming off a loss.
Bears -- Michael Bush, Brandon Marshall, Robbie Gould, Bears D/ST: More than a mere goal-line back now, Bush is now the feature runner, so consider him a solid play in all formats. Marshall will rebound as pass protection and ball control again become a priority for the Bears. Gould is a sleeper kicker, while the Bears D/ST is a much better play at home.
Rams -- Sam Bradford, Steven Jackson, Daryl Richardson, Brandon Gibson, Steve Smith, Lance Kendricks, Greg Zuerlein, Rams D/ST: Bradford is someone to watch, but not play, outside of two-quarterback formats. The same goes for his secondary targets beyond Amendola. The running game is too much of a question mark after Jackson came down with a phantom groin injury following an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty last Sunday. Richardson is a sleeper pickup off waivers, but merely as Jackson insurance. Even if one back gets a full workload, it will come against a stout Bears run defense. For anyone thinking about taking a shot on a much-improved Rams defense facing the error-prone Jay Cutler and his suspect pass protection, the bet here is that the Bears will look far more potent at home than they did on the road against an underrated Packers defense.
Bears -- Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Earl Bennett, Alshon Jeffrey, Devin Hester, Kellen Davis: Cutler threw away a lot of his early fantasy mojo with his Week 2 stinker in Green Bay, so neither he nor his secondary targets should be trusted in standard leagues until the quarterback and offensive line show more consistency.
Bengals -- BenJarvus Green-Ellis, A.J. Green, Mike Nugent: The Redskins lost a pair of defensive starters last week, so the Bengals should benefit offensively. Andy Dalton is a sleeper in a game that figures to be a bit loose. Any Bengals offensive options are viable, but these are the only three certain starts before the bye weeks hit.
Redskins -- Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris, Pierre Garcon: The Bengals are a better defense than they have shown the first two weeks of the season, but few should sit this trio in any formats right now, assuming Garcon (foot) practices and plays this Sunday.
Bengals -- Bernard Scott, Andrew Hawkins, Armon Binns, Jermaine Gresham, Bengals D/ST: The Hawkins phenomenon is intriguing in deeper leagues, but it might be wise to save him for when bye weeks necessitate his use. Still, it's hard to ignore Hawkins' big plays every week. Gresham and the D/ST should prove to be viable fantasy options in most weeks going forward, but their slow starts should preclude anyone from trusting them right now.
Redskins -- Evan Royster, Roy Helu, Josh Morgan, Leonard Hankerson, Aldrick Robinson, Santana Moss, Fred Davis, Billy Cundiff: There is value to be had with this eclectic group, particularly because RGIII is so promising, but the better play is to let playing time and targets sort out before inserting these guys in starting lineups. Davis will eventually emerge as one of the more frequently targeted receivers, but it just hasn't happened yet with the rookie quarterback calling the signals. Moss might elicit interest for hopeful fantasy owners, but he is being limited to the slot receiver spot in three-receiver sets -- apparently because he has lost a step (or several).
Lions -- Matthew Stafford, Kevin Smith, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Pettigrew, Jason Hansen, Lions D/ST: After a subpar Week 1 and facing the best defense in the NFL in Week 2, this finally rates as a start-all game for Stafford and the Lions. You might even consider Nate Burleson and the quiet Titus Young as stop-gap options in deeper leagues. The Titans have played two good offenses in the Pats and Chargers, but this Lions offense might be the best of the three.
Titans -- None: Jake Locker will eventually get himself and his top weapons rolling, but asking for that to happen against a solid Lions defense is asking for trouble. Consider this a sit-all game for the Titans.
Lions -- Mikel LeShoure, Joique Bell: Don't trust LeShoure yet, as he's coming off suspension and still recovering from last year's torn Achilles. The Lions are going to work him in slowly. Bell figures to afford the Lions time as Smith's backup but offers little reliability.
Titans -- Jake Locker, Chris Johnson, Kenny Britt, Nate Washington, Kendall Wright, Jared Cook: Coming into the season there was a lot of potential in Tennessee. After two weeks, it looks as lost as CJNoK's 2011 campaign. Start him if necessary, but the Lions figure to have at least as tough of a run defense as the Pats and Chargers. We saw how well that worked out. Locker and all of his receivers might improve -- especially as Britt's health improves -- but they have yet to give anyone a reason to trust them.
Chiefs -- Jamaal Charles, Peyton Hillis, Dwayne Bowe: This is a week to hope for a breakthrough from the Chiefs. The Saints haven't stopped anyone, which makes Matt Cassel a sleeper along with secondary targets Dexter McCluster, Steve Breaston and Jonathan Baldwin. Bowe proved to be a must-start a week ago, while Charles (knee) figures to finally open it up against a Saints run defense that has looked suspect. Hillis, despite fumbling on the goal-line a week ago, will continue to get enough touches to start and he should find the end zone at least once.
Saints -- Drew Brees, Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram, Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham, Garrett Hartley: Expect the 0-2 Saints to have a good day against a Chiefs defense that hasn't stopped anyone through two weeks. It makes Ingram and perhaps even Pierre Thomas backs to consider. Ingram is the better play between the two because he will get a touchdown or two. If you need a sleeper receiver, Lance Moore figures to rejoin the ranks of viable starts. Devery Henderson should play, but he's not useful just yet.
Chiefs -- Tony Moeaki, Kevin Boss, Chiefs D/ST: Moeaki and Boss are best considered bye-week replacements, since they each take a chunk out of each other's fantasy values. One or both will be a surprise in some weeks, especially this one, but it can be guesswork to figure which one it will be.
Saints -- Saints D/ST: Like the Chiefs above, don't start, or own, the Saints D/ST in any format right now. This is a shootout for the offenses on that fast SuperDome turf.
49ers -- Alex Smith, Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, David Akers, 49ers D/ST: This is a start-all game for the best team in football. The stout defense will finally get a less-than-elite offense to take advantage of, while Smith and his receivers should have a field day building a passing attack that usually has to take a back seat to the running game. This will be an offensive exhibition for the 49ers, so if you have to start Mario Manningham or backup running back Kendall Hunter, the time is now.
Vikings -- Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin: Here is the saving grace for the Vikings' top two weapons against that 49ers defense: There are going to be some garbage-time numbers to be had. Peterson might get the let's-save-him treatment, but he will be a factor in the passing game and a finisher if they do get inside the 10. Throwing to the backs in space has been a way to attack the 49ers defense.
49ers -- Randy Moss, Brandon Jacobs: These are two 49ers to sit. Yes, they will throw to Moss in the red zone in the limited snaps he gets, but they can blow out the Vikings without him. Jacobs isn't healthy yet, and Gore figures to be the primary goal-line back. Hunter figures to be the better sleeper back if Gore is allowed to shower early.
Vikings -- Christian Ponder, Toby Gerhart, Michael Jenkins, Kyle Rudolph, Blair Walsh: Never actively seek to start players against the 49ers defense, especially not this marginal group. Rudolph and Walsh are fantasy starters in some matchups, but this could be a shutout week. Roll the dice with some other flavor-of-the-week options instead.
Jets -- Santonio Holmes, Nick Folk, Jets D/ST: Holmes figures to improve as the Jets' go-to receiver as the weeks go by. He was limited early with a hamstring issue, but his Week 2 touchdown against an elite Steelers defense shows he is ready to contribute more for fantasy owners. The Dolphins defense is a bit better than it is given credit for, so starting any other Jets, save for the defense and kicker (as needed), isn't advisable.
Dolphins -- Reggie Bush: We might have suggested to sit Bush against the Jets run defense, but after his 172-yard outing against the Raiders he clearly is what makes the Dolphins go. Even if he is stuffed in the running game, he will pick up numbers in the passing game.
Jets -- Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, Shonn Greene, Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley, Dustin Keller: Greene does not have a concussion, despite rumors to the contrary, but he shouldn't be a fantasy start against a Dolphins defense that held Darren McFadden to 22 yards on the ground. The Jets' supporting cast will have value at times this season, but not before Keller's hamstring proves healthy and the bye weeks force you to start consider these fantasy reserves.
Dolphins -- Ryan Tannehill, Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas, Brian Hartline, Davone Bess, Anthony Fasano, Dan Carpenter, Dolphins D/ST: Other than Bush, ignore the Dolphins on your rosters. They just aren't going to blow out the Jets like they did the Raiders, even if they are at home.
Bills -- C.J. Spiller, Stevie Johnson: The Bills offense has looked great the past two weeks, but these two are still the only players to trust. Spiller looks like the best running back in fantasy, and Johnson is steady, but the passing game is no certainty from week-to-week.
Browns -- Trent Richardson, Greg Little: After an unproductive debut, Richardson showed so much in Week 2 he now has to be considered a start in all leagues. He is just too much a part of the Browns offense to bench. Also, assuming Brandon Weeden keeps improving, Little could be a nice option as a third receiver.
Bills -- Ryan Fitzpatrick, Fred Jackson, Donald Jones, T.J. Graham, Scott Chandler, Rian Lindell, Bills D/ST: Chandler will get a lot of love after scoring touchdowns in back-to-back weeks, but use last season as your guide. He started off hot with the short touchdowns then, too, only to fall off as the season wore on. You are better off with a more regularly targeted tight end. Fitzpatrick is a sleeper in deeper formats, but the Browns made life miserable on a much better quarterback in Michael Vick in Week 1.
Browns -- Brandon Weeden, Mohamed Massaquoi, Josh Gordon, Ben Watson, Phil Dawson, Browns D/ST: Weeden looked like a whole different player last Sunday, but that doesn't mean we should rush him into fantasy lineups. That uncertainty makes the rest of these options sits on a weekly basis.
Buccaneers -- Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson: The Bucs opened the offense up against a suspect Giants secondary a week ago, but that won't happen against the Cowboys' corners. Martin has earned must-start status, regardless of the matchup, and Jackson likely did the same last Sunday.
Cowboys -- Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Dan Bailey, Cowboys D/ST: The Giants' late-game explosion versus the Bucs was a good sign for any owner with players facing Tampa Bay. It is the Cowboys' turn here, and thus a good week for Murray, Bryant and Witten to finally produce like the fantasy superstars they are. Keep them all active. This may be a breakthrough week for the disappointing Bryant against the worst team in fantasy versus receivers through two weeks.
Buccaneers -- Josh Freeman, Mike Williams, Dallas Clark, Connor Barth, Buccaneers D/ST: Coach Greg Schiano is building something in Tampa Bay, but this figures to be a far thinner week for the Bucs. The Cowboys posted a stinker in Seattle, but they are back home and the Bucs don't figure to be able to move the ball easily through the air against the Cowboys' corners. Williams is a sit in this matchup for that reason. The others are better used down the road as bye-week replacements.
Cowboys -- Kevin Ogletree, Felix Jones: So much for Ogletree's breakthrough: After the big numbers in Week 1, he managed just one target in Seattle. He just won't get the looks or be included in the game plan with the Cowboys' primary options all healthy. Jones can be cut in all leagues.