Welcome to upset central. Week 3 featured the Redskins downing the Packers, the Bills walloping the Vikings, the Titans grinding out a tough win over the Jaguars, and a Patriot dismantling at the hands of the Lions. On top of that, the Bears almost joined those ranks but just barely squeezed out a win against the Cardinals, and the Browns won for the first time in almost 2 calendar years. All in all, I think we’ve sufficiently proved the “Any given Sunday” mantra.
Unfortunately, these outcomes messed with several expected stat lines. A lot of you probably felt like this:
We’re no exception, as you’ll see as we walk through last week’s projections:
Week 3 Starts: Tyler Boyd, Houston D/ST, Jimmy Garoppolo, Will Dissly, Ryan Fitzpatrick
Boyd and Fitzpatrick both had excellent games, with Boyd topping 130 yards and Fitz becoming the first QB in NFL history to throw for 400 yards in 3 consecutive games. Garoppolo wasn’t transcendent, but 250 yards and 2 touchdowns is nothing to sneeze at. He also added 23 yards on the ground and a 2-point conversion. That’s definitely 3 hits there. The Houston defense did manage a decent day in terms of pressure (as predicted) as they tallied 4 sacks, but unfortunately were not able to turn that pressure into turnovers. Not the worst day imaginable, but not what you’d hope for what should have been a plus matchup. Dissly was just a straight up miss.
Week 3 Fades: Saquon Barkley, Travis Kelce, Dalvin Cook, David Johnson
I think it’s safe to say that Barkley showed us up with 117 total yards, 5 catches, and a touchdown. Kelce too with his 8 catches for 114 yards. Johnson’s only saving grace was his touchdown as he posted a total of 61 yards on 16 touches otherwise, although even then it wasn’t a great game for him. The Cook pick was disqualified after it was announced that he would not play.
So overall, it looks like our Starts are on the right track but we’ve got some work to do on our fades. We’ll try to right that ship this week.
Let the good times roll. After consecutive 6-catch outings totaling 223 yards and 2 touchdowns, Boyd gets yet another positive matchup. The Falcons are decent against outside receivers, but have not been so great against the slot. Having half their secondary on IR isn’t helping them. With A. J. Green’s health a little questionable, Boyd stands to see even more targets this week. Start him with confidence.
Graham has been a bit up-and-down this year, but this week figures to be a good one for him. As much as I’ve been banging the drum that the Bills defense is underrated, they do have a glaring weakness against tight ends. Kyle Rudolph just had nice 5/48/1 day against them, the Ravens tight ends combined for 9/103/0 in week 1, and even the TE-deficient Chargers got a respectable 3/55 line out of career journeyman Virgil Green. Given that the Bills have been a bit more stingy against outside receivers, Graham should receive a bit more of Aaron Rodgers’s attention than usual.
It’s sad that one of the consensus top 4 fantasy picks has fallen far enough that he may not be an automatic start for some people, but here we are. That happens when you’re constantly playing from behind with a subpar offensive coordinator. There may be some surprising respite this week though. The Seahawks’ defense did pretty well stopping Chicago’s running game in week 2, but otherwise got torched by Denver and Dallas in weeks 1 and 3. It’s not like Dallas has great scheming either under OC Scott Linehan, as any Cowboy fan will tell you. DJ is also Arizona’s favorite weapon in the red zone, scoring 66% of their touchdowns this season (sounds more impressive than saying “2 out of 3”). Johnson is set up for sneaky success this week even if the Cardinals find themselves behind once again.
Hyde has been a pretty solid fantasy contributor this season, even if it’s largely been on the back of a presumably unsustainable touchdown rate. A day may come when the touchdowns fail, but it is not this day (yes, that is the way Arigorn actually phrases his battle speech at the Black Gate, but I digress). This week Cleveland takes on the Raiders, who made a good showing against the Dolphins running backs but have sputtered otherwise. More importantly, Cleveland will likely try to ease Baker Mayfield into the full-time starting role and establishing the run game early will go a long way toward setting that up. Hyde should continue to churn out fantasy production this week.
Now that the 49ers have lost Jimmy Garoppolo for the season, it seems likely that they return to their punching bag form from the last few years. This should mean a very positive game script for the Chargers, which should lead to heavy doses of backup running back Austin Ekeler. Ekeler has been insanely efficient so far this year, putting up 295 yards on a mere 31 touches. Against San Francisco’s mediocre defense, Ekeler should have enough touches to once again feast.
Gurley certainly has had a good start to the year. He has yet to face a negative game script with the Rams offense, and the one time he ran into a team that could slow him down in yardage he racked up 3 touchdowns. I’m not saying he won’t be startable this week, but don’t expect another 20+ point bonanza. The Vikings are 7th in the league in yards per carry allowed at 3.6 and for the most part have done a respectable job of preventing RB catches. Gurley has a decent chance of scoring an errant touchdown as the centerpiece of the Rams offense, but don’t necessarily count on it.
Kenny Golladay & Marvin Jones
Despite Detroit’s slow start, Golladay and Jones have both been reliable fantasy starts. This week, however, I’d be a little leery. Dallas has surprisingly been tough on outside receivers this year; the best line any wide receiver has put on them is Tyler Lockett’s 4/77/1, and that includes squaring off against Odell Beckham, Jr. The Lions’ outside duo will likely see fewer targets that normal, so don’t expect yards and touchdowns for all this week like the first 3 weeks.