Posted: Sunday September 23, 2012 9:26PM ; Updated: Tuesday September 25, 2012 11:11AM
Eric Mack

Fast Forward Week 3 (con't ...)

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Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning had a great fantasy effort, but the Broncos fell to the Texans.
Chris Humphreys/US PRESSWIRE

Peyton Manning, Broncos -- You really didn't think he was done after that three-interception effort in Atlanta on Monday night, did you? That was a great fantasy game against a very good Texans defense. You should feel great about Manning and all your Broncos against the Raiders next week.

Carson Palmer, Raiders -- He doesn't have a go-to receiver, but he does have a potentially great running game and he spreads the ball around nicely. Consider Palmer a starter-quality option next week in what should be a shootout against the Broncos.

Jay Cutler, Bears -- His breakthrough season just isn't going the way it should be and it might get worse against those elite Cowboys corners next week. Don't start this guy, if you can afford to bench him. Outside of Brandon Marshall, who draws a lot of double teams, Cutler just doesn't have enough weapons in the passing game with Matt Forte (ankle) out. Rookie Alshon Jeffery isn't there yet, so Cutler isn't going to be posting starter-quality numbers for fantasy owners, even in favorable matchups right now.

Alex Smith, 49ers -- We shouldn't have been sucked in by this game-manager. Sure, there will be weeks where he scores fantasy points because his team can be dominant at times, but that loss at Minnesota showed he cannot lead his team from behind and own the game through the air. Smith is closer to cutting than starting for fantasy owners, despite his promising start to the season.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills -- Maybe the questions about the Bills QB are unfounded. He is off to another scorching start on the season and he draws the Patriots in Week 4, which could lead to a shootout. He is worth owning in all leagues and is a potential starter if you have a higher-rated QB on bye. We would say he's earned all-league starter status if not for that disappearing act a year ago.

Jake Locker, Titans -- This was an impressive performance, making fantasy stars out of Nate Washington and tight end Jared Cook and a sleeper out of Kenny Britt. Locker won't be someone to consider next week against the Texans, but at least we can feel better about his primary targets now.

Josh Freeman, Buccaneers -- It should have been apparent already, but Freeman is no better than a low-end fantasy backup QB. That 2010 season looks like a fluke.

Brandon Weeden, Browns -- After a great Week 3, Weeden looked closer to his Week 1 self. It makes Greg Little and even rookie RB Trent Richardson less viable for fantasy owners. You probably don't want to be starting any Browns on the short week, facing that Ravens defense Thursday night.

Blaine Gabbert, Jaguars -- Sure, he staged another dramatic fourth-quarter rally, but he does nothing for most of the game. His inability to get the ball downfield makes rookie Justin Blackmon, WR Laurent Robinson and TE Marcedes Lewis hardly worth owning, much less starting.

Tim Tebow, Jets -- Let's call it: Tebow is a waste of roster space. With bye weeks starting, you should release Tebow from all rosters for someone that can help you. He just isn't involved enough in the offense. Cut him.

Running backs

Adrian Peterson, Vikings -- After a stinker in Week 2, A.D. held up well against that rugged 49ers run defense. It makes Peterson a must-start in all leagues in all weeks, regardless of the matchup going forward.

Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars -- It is official: MJD is no holdout bust. After he rushed for 177 yards and a TD, you have to consider MJD one of the few RBs in fantasy immune to a bad matchup. Week 4 vs. the Bengals is not a great matchup, but you're never going to sit a healthy MJD now.

Darren McFadden, Raiders -- So much for those zone-blocking scheme questions. That 64-yard TD run to open up against the Steelers is an example of why you start McFadden regardless of the matchup.

Michael Turner, Falcons -- He might not impress in touches or yardage, but as the bell cow in that offense, he remains a viable starter because of his goal-line back status. Jacquizz Rodgers took a reception in for a score, but speedy backup isn't a real threat to Turner's rushing attempts at this point.

Ryan Matthews, Chargers -- His return was met with one big "Meh." He lost a fumble and was limited to 10 carries for 44 yards. The good news for PPR leagues is Mathews was the leading receiver out of the backfield with five catches for 32 yards.

Shonn Greene, Jets -- He was brutally bad against a tough Dolphins run defense, rushing 19 times for just 40 yards and giving way to backup Bilal Powell. Powell was better on 10 carries for 45 yards, but neither back is going to muster much of anything against the 49ers run defense next week.

Donald Brown, Colts -- This was supposed to be his coming-out party against a Jags defense that had been awful against backs the first two weeks. He was limited to just 62 yards on the ground, although he did take a pass for 39 yards. He is on bye next week and is going to be a bad start against the underrated Packers run defense in Week 5. Maybe it is time to deal him off.

Isaac Redman, Steelers -- That running game is putrid and now Redman and Dwyer figure to give way to Rashard Mendenhall (knee) after the Week 4 bye. You can cut Redman and Dwyer to take some other fliers now. They had their chance to do something and choked it away.

Dexter McCluster, Chiefs -- He might have cost himself a spot on fantasy rosters this week. He lost a fumble, caught just three passes and ran once for five yards, before leaving with an elbow injury. He is an uncertain member of fantasy rosters -- mostly benches -- right now. With bye weeks upon us, you can consider cutting him for the flavor of the week pick-up or a bye-week replacement.

Wide receivers

Wes Welker, Patriots -- Welcome back! You should never have gone into purgatory for a couple of weeks. Welker is once again the PPR monster he had always been and should be counted on as a starting fantasy receiver, except for touchdowns.

Torrey Smith, Ravens -- Sunday night offered an example of what Smith can do. With Joe Flacco capable of becoming a star fantasy quarterback, Smith is going to be a huge beneficiary. Consider Smith a potential top-15 fantasy wideout now. Those up-and-down weeks are going to smooth out as the season wears on.

Golden Tate, Seahawks -- Regardless of whether you think that simultaneous catch Monday night was cheap, Tate was credited with two touchdowns. It makes him the Seahawks receiver of choice over the quiet Sidney Rice. But no Seahawks receiver is going to be a great option outside of being a desperation bye-week replacement with rookie QB Russell Wilson.

Julian Edelman, Patriots -- He is still getting opportunities and he reeled in a rare touchdown, but he cannot be counted on week to week yet. Consider him merely a bye-week stopgap when the byes get heavy soon.

Santonio Holmes, Jets -- Those who have been down on Holmes are foolish. He is easily the best receiver and one of the more dominant No. 1s for his team in the NFL. He went for nine receptions and 147 yards. You should consider him a starter in most leagues on a regular basis. He shouldn't be available in almost one-fifth of's leagues. He will be one of the most-added players off waivers.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders -- He found the end zone but was knocked out of the game, literally, and has to be considered a non-start against the Broncos next week ... if he even plays.

Denarius Moore, Raiders -- A TD and DHB's status makes Moore an intriguing option as a starter next week in standard leagues.

Andrew Hawkins, Bengals -- OK, we cannot be stubborn with this 2012 breakout candidate anymore. He scored a 59-yard TD and looks like a solid option against the Jaguars in Week 4.

Randy Moss, 49ers -- We have said it before, but we will say it again to allow it to really set in: Moss isn't worth owning in fantasy. No more to be said here. Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham are the San Francisco receivers to own.

Santana Moss, Redskins -- He reeled in a short TD, but he is getting limited snaps and limited targets. Leonard Hankerson and Aldrick Robinson are better options for fantasy owners needing a sleeper at WR from the Redskins right now.

Brian Hartline, Dolphins -- Save for a 41-yard reception in overtime, Hartline was a non-factor for fantasy owners. It was Davone Bess taking in five catches for 86 yards. Don't start any Dolphins receivers against the Cardinals next week.

Ramses Barden, Giants -- The lanky fill-in for Hakeem Nicks starred against the Panthers with nine catches for 138 yards. He won't be useful when Nicks plays -- which will be the case in Week 4 against the Eagles -- but you might want to stash him just in case something happens to Nicks or Victor Cruz.

T.Y. Hilton, Colts -- The rookie enjoyed a huge breakthrough with four catches for 113 yards, including a 40-yard TD. That came despite the fact Austin Collie (concussion) was active and Donny Avery started. Hilton is talented, but he is too far down the depth chart to be trusted in fantasy week to week. Don't bother taking a flier on him yet. He is headed into his bye week and you cannot expect to start him against the Packers secondary in Week 5.

Cecil Shorts, Jaguars -- For the second time in three weeks, Shorts scored a miraculous TD in the waning moments. It might make him someone to look at, but it is hard to trust these big plays happening going forward. Because Shorts gets just a few targets a game, you probably shouldn't even bother owning him.

T.J. Graham, Bills -- The speedy rookie got off the inactive list when David Nelson (knee) went down for the season and he found the end zone in Week 3. Graham was left wide open by a breakdown in the defense, but he can prove to be a sleeper in the second half of this season -- maybe even be a bye-week replacement option at some point.

Tight ends

Rob Gronkowski, Patriots -- It is not yet panic time for Gronk owners. He merely was quieted in a tough matchup. Frankly, the Pats don't have too many tough matchups on their schedule this season. Gronk is going to be fine. Don't sell low.

Dennis Pitta, Ravens -- He has so clearly blown away Ed Dickson as the go-to tight end in Baltimore now, Pitta has to be owned, if not started, in all leagues.

Fred Davis, Redskins -- He made a return to fantasy pertinence with seven catches for 90 yards. With Pierre Garcon (foot) out, Davis is Robert Griffin III's best target. He should be considered a viable start, if not a must-start, against the Bucs in Week 4.

Jermaine Gresham, Bengals -- With five catches for 64 yards and a TD, he looks like a must-have, if not a must-start, in fantasy again. That is a great matchup against the Jags next week for his owners.

Martellus Bennett, Giants -- He became the first Giant to score a TD in each of his first three games. It makes him one of the must-have, must-start TEs in fantasy. Just looking at this oozing talent, you have to think he might develop into a top-five option.

Jared Cook, Titans -- He enjoyed a breakthrough game before leaving with a shoulder injury. He did enough for this week with four catches for 77 yards and a 61-yard TD catch and run. Watch his health on the injury report for next week, although that is a tough matchup against the Texans defense.

Kyle Rudolph, Vikings -- Those were merely short TD catches, but the fact he is his team's second-best target behind Percy Harvin makes Rudolph a solid fantasy starter in most weeks. If he can score twice against that 49ers defense, we have to consider him a TE immune to a bad matchup now.

Greg Olsen, Panthers -- Don't give up on him, even if others might be finding the end zone at this position. He will be one of the most heavily targeted TEs in the game because of Newton's functionality and the fact they don't have elite options on the outside (Steve Smith is past his prime).

Coby Fleener, Colts -- Not only was he held without a catch, but also fellow rookie TE Dwayne Allen reeled in five passes for 35 yards. We cannot yet call Allen a viable fantasy roster option, but it is clear we shouldn't be starting Fleener in leagues. You probably don't even have to own him during the bye season. Pick up someone above that gets more targets.


Robbie Gould, Bears -- A great defense and a QB in Cutler struggling to stick the ball in the end zone make Gould one of the premium fantasy kickers to have right now. Pick him up if you need a bye week replacement. You will be fine with Gould as your kicker for the long haul.

Defense/Special teams

Seattle Seahawks -- They proved they can knock out one of the best offenses in football after slowing the Cowboys and Packers at home over the last two weeks. Next week they get the suspect Rams, which makes them a must-start in all leagues.

Cowboys -- That performance was impressive, making this one of the best units to have in fantasy now -- a must-start in all matchups. They have a great defensive coordinator that has two great corners to work with. That is a lethal combination.

49ers -- That was a pitiful effort for a fantasy defense that should be at the top of the scoring charts, not the bottom. You cannot give up on it, but consider dealing it to go with a matchup-streaming strategy isn't a bad idea.

Giants -- That was quite a beating they put on Newton and showed this unit isn't done being a fantasy starter. It is a tough matchup at Philly in Week 4, but it was thought the short week against the Panthers would be tough, too. You have to run them out there.

Bears -- Beating on the Rams might not have moved the needle for you, but the Bears defense looked like a dominant unit. They are headed for a strong couple of weeks against the struggling Cowboys and then the Jaguars.

Cardinals -- So, that win in New England was no fluke. This is a legit hell-raising defense worth starting in all fantasy leagues. This realization comes in the week before Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins come to town with a banged-up Bush. Hello, must-start Cardinals D/ST.

Eric Mack writes fantasy for You find him on Twitter, where you can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice @EricMackFantasy. He reads all the messages there (guaranteed) and takes them very, very personally (not really).

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