Written by Caleb Brunman, Contributor for FLAFFL House, you can find him on Twitter @cbretweet & Fantasy Life App @cb
Carolina Panthers vs. Atlanta Falcons
Start Cam Newton. Only 13.1 points last week against a tough Vikings defense? You didn’t draft him to play matchups.
Matt Ryan’s downfall begins this week. The number one quarterback through the first three weeks, I’ve been calling him the ultimate sell high candidate. Trade him away as soon as you can, because he will not be a top ten quarterback for the remainder of the season. His next three contests will bring him troubles against Carolina, in Denver, and in Seattle. Cut ties with him now, and find someone else to start this week.
After the loss of Jonathan Stewart, the Panthers backfield has become exceedingly frustrating. Quarterback Cam Newton has been responsible for goal line scores, and no Panther had more than twelve rushes last week against Minnesota. The twelve-carry man, Cameron Artis-Payne, wasn’t particularly impressive, racking up only 48 yards. Fozzy Whittaker, while catching the ball five times, had a measly five rushes. I wouldn’t start either unless I was forced to do so.
Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman put on a show against the Saints on Monday night, gaining a combined 296 total yards and entering the end zone on four separate occasions. While not the ideal matchup this time around, Freeman should be plugged into all fantasy lineups, while Coleman deserves some starting consideration in PPR leagues, though, like Matt Ryan, I see Coleman as an excellent sell high candidate; don’t expect three touchdowns in a single game again this season.
Perhaps the biggest storyline in Carolina last week was the disappearance of the previously electric Kelvin Benjamin. He’ll be facing Desmond Trufant this week, which is not exactly a matchup upgrade, as Trufant held Saints wideout Brandin Cooks to only thirteen yards on two receptions. I wasn’t a big fan of Benjamin in the preseason, and although he surprised me in a good way to begin the season, I’m sitting the pass catcher until he proves he can provide consistent fantasy production. No other Panthers receiver is startable.
Yes, I know that Julio Jones gained only sixteen yards on a lowly one reception. Yes, I know he has nagging injury concerns. No, I am not sitting the wideout. Not under any circumstances. Jones’ seven targets are encouraging and about all the motivation you should need to keep the All-Pro in your lineup. After going 16-266-1 in two contests against Carolina last season, there’s no reason to bench Jones, who will square up against a worse secondary this year; start your studs. Mohamed Sanu’s big week one was a fluke, and now with a shoulder ailment, he should be benched or dropped.
My number two tight end entering the year, Greg Olsen has lived up to expectations and then some, making him one of the few must-starts at the position. As an added boost, the Falcons have given up the second most points to opposing tight ends this season.
Jacob Tamme has quietly become a top ten tight end option through the first three weeks. Although rookie Austin Hooper looks, the immediate sets of targets should continue to find Tamme, making him a plausible starter in many leagues. Oh, and the Panthers have allowed the seventh most points to opposing tight ends this season.
Denver Broncos vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Trevor Siemian burst onto the scene against the Bengals last week, racking up 312 yards and four touchdowns, earning a quarterback week-high 29 fantasy points. Gary Kubiak finally seems comfortable with the former seventh rounder and has thus opened up the playbook for the young signal caller. With things looking up and a plus matchup on the way -- the Bucs have allowed the fifth most points to opposing quarterbacks this season -- Siemian is a potential starter in deeper and 2 QB leagues.
The question with the Broncos defense every week is whether or not they put opposing players out of fantasy starting contention. Jameis Winston struggled -- throwing four interceptions and putting up a minuscule 4.6 fantasy points -- against a similarly good Arizona Cardinals defense, and with the gunslinger actually performing better on the road last season, it’s probably wise to let Winston ride the pine this week against Von Miller and company.
C.J. Anderson has either been a pleasant surprise (for owners this season) or a bitter aftertaste (for last year’s drafters of the running back) in the fantasy world. The Broncos have shown a remarkable commitment to running the ball this season, as evidenced by Anderson’s 56 carries thus far, and a date with a defense that has allowed the seventh most fantasy points to opposing running backs should only boost Anderson owners’ confidences.
Contrary to popular belief, the Denver defense hasn’t been overly astute against the run this year. Allowing 127.7 rush yards per game and the twelfth most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season, the Broncos, though not necessarily vulnerable, are beatable on the ground. With no competition for carries to be found, Charles Sims should be a full go in most standard and all PPR leagues.
The emergence of Trevor Siemian complemented breakout performances from Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. The aforementioned playbook expansion -- which led to more passes of 20+ yards down the field last week than Siemian had produced in his first two -- should once again make Thomas hold previous years’ must start title. Sanders becomes an increasingly interesting flex play, and both pass catchers make solid starts against a Tampa Bay defense that has allowed the third most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season.
The Broncos defense has excelled at limiting opposing teams’ top options, as evidenced by the squad allowing the third fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, but Mike Evans has proven himself to be a weekly starter. With at least five receptions, seventy yards, and a touchdown in every contest thus far, Evans can now be considered matchup proof. Vincent Jackson has been disappointing and is not startable, and the team’s new number two, Adam Humphries -- who produced a 9-100 stat line last week -- should also find fantasy benches this go around against such a tough opposition.
Virgil Green was a compelling potential sleeper this offseason, but a disappointing start to the year coupled with a calf injury which kept him sidelined for last week’s game should send him back to the waiver wire if he was even owned at all. John Phillips, who only attained nine yards but did score a touchdown, and the twenty-three-year-old Jeff Heuerman, who added twenty-nine yards on his lone reception, are not rosterable in any format.
The release of Austin Seferian-Jenkins paved the road to playing time for rookie Cameron Brate, and boy did he take advantage of it. Going 5-46-2, Brate made himself noticed -- and even rosterable -- after last week’s stellar performance. He could be a sneaky tight end play this week, as Jameis Winston may constantly be looking for a quick dump off to counteract Denver’s ferocious pass rush. I wouldn’t expect multiple scores against a Broncos defense which defends the tight end better than half the teams in the league, but Brate should at least be considered a potential streaming and starting option.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
By now, you know what you’re going to get with Alex Smith. He’s a competent quarterback and excellent game manager, but a week in, week out fantasy stud? Not so much. Unless you’re in a very deep league and need an Aaron Rodgers bye week replacement, Smith should remain unowned, or at least benched.
Ben Roethlisberger only put up 257 yards last week, committing two turnovers and scoring no touchdowns in the process against a hot Eagles defense. Against an arguably even hotter defense -- six Ryan Fitzpatrick picks, anyone? -- the case could be made to sit Roethlisberger on Sunday night. Don’t. Kansas City’s defense will come back down to Earth, and Le’Veon Bell’s much-awaited return will only open the Pittsburgh offense up. Roethlisberger is a full go in all lineups this week.
With Jamaal Charles set to return this week, the Chiefs backfield will be nothing short of a mess. Likely to cede a significant number of carries to Spencer Ware, and to a lesser extent, Charcandrick West, Charles will be one member of a two-and-a-half headed monster, and that outcome would not bode well for fantasy owners. Charles being eased back into the offense means that I would avoid starting and Kansas City running back if possible, but I project Spencer Ware to earn the most carries and yards.
Speaking of Le’Veon Bell…. He’s back! The fantasy play is simple here: Start Bell. In my opinion the number one running back when on the field, Bell should be started under all circumstances. DeAngelo Williams should now be benched every week barring a Bell absence, making him nearly worthless except as a handcuff. If you drafted him for the first three weeks only, you’ve hopefully already traded Williams to the Bell owner.
Jeremy Maclin is the only Chiefs receiver ever worthy of starting consideration, and he faces a tough matchup -- the Steelers have allowed the sixth fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season -- this week. Maclin is actually one of my favorite buy lows, so if you can’t nab him this week, his trade value may be even lower after Sunday. But if you do have or trade for Maclin and can afford to sit him, do so, and then reap fantasy success because of him later in the year.
I think by now everyone knows that Antonio Brown is a must start. Duh! Pertaining to Brown, it’s of no importance that the Chiefs have allowed the eighth fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season. However, that number may not bode well for other Pittsburgh wideouts. None of Sammie Coates, Eli Rogers, Darrius Heyward-Bey, nor Markus Wheaton should be started this week unless you’re under the direst of circumstances. Wheaton is an interesting buy low candidate, but he’s nothing more than that this week.
Travis Kelce has pretty much lived up exactly to expectations, and if you drafted him anywhere near his ADP, he’ll continue to be a must start for your fantasy team. The Steelers rank right around the middle of the pack against opposing tight ends, so there’s not really any reason to sit the healthy Kelce. There’s not much more to be said about that.
Ladarius Green’s placement on the PUP opened the door for backup tight end Jesse James, who has all but squandered the opportunity. His week two touchdown alone has almost outscored his seventy yards from the first three weeks combined. Against a Chiefs defense that has allowed the third fewest points to opposing tight ends, it’s clear that James should definitely not be started, if he’s even rosterable at all.