Thank goodness for a new week in the NFL season! Week Two was a mess all around, as we had several popular plays underperform (looking at you, Sam Bradford). We also had a few players hit by the injury bug (looking at you, Tony Romo). We had touchdowns vultured by backup running backs (sorry, Matt Forte, it’s Jeremy Langford time). We had players see their playing time diminished because of fumbles (looking at you, Jeremy Hill). In other words, it’s time to brush ourselves off and wipe the slate clean. Let’s take a peek at some quarterbacks and running backs for Week Three. This week will certainly be better than the last!
*Note – FanDuel prices in parentheses
Five to target
1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers ($9,100)
2. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts ($9,000)
3. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks ($8,400)
4. Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills ($7,000)
5. Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets ($6,800)
It’s official: Aaron Rodgers is matchup-proof. He is simply a machine on the football field. Despite the losses of Jordy Nelson in the preseason along with Eddie Lacy, and Davante Adams last week, Rodgers still pin-pointed his way through a tough Seattle defense that allowed the fewest points per game to quarterbacks last season. He completed 76% of his passes for 249 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions on Sunday night. If you need a safe cash game play at quarterback, Aaron Rodgers is the top option pretty much every week.
If you are looking for a great tournament play this week, look no further than Andrew Luck. Luck and the Indianapolis offense have looked horrendous through the first two games, and the last performance came in front of a Monday Night Football audience. A short week follows. Nobody will be on the Indianapolis skill players this week. That makes them attractive tournament targets, and Luck is definitely in that conversation. We all know that he has 300-yard, four touchdown upside, and he gets to face a Tennessee defense that provided little resistance for Johnny Manziel and company last week.
The Seahawks are 0-2 and they are coming home. They are not pleased. Expect a focused performance out of the squad in this game, and it certainly doesn't hurt that they get to play the woeful defense of the Bears, who are fresh off a home game where they allowed 48 points to the Cardinals. The defense is exploitable at every level, and Russell Wilson has the added bonus of being able to produce with his legs as well as his arm. He is a solid play at a reasonable price tag of $8,400 on FanDuel.
The FanDuel pricing algorithm has not yet bought into the early season success of Tyrod Taylor, so he is still available at a bargain-like $7,000 price. This is not the best matchup, as he has to face a tough Dolphins Defense in his first road start. That would generally worry me in cash games, but the upside is certainly there. I expect him to carry a low ownership percentage this week despite the depressed price tag because the matchup is tough. The salary cap space that is opened up by taking Taylor is certainly enticing, especially when you combine it with his dual-threat upside.
The bargain bin at quarterback is interesting this week, and I don’t mind dumpster diving with Ryan Fitzpatrick on some teams. He has played remarkably well through two weeks, especially on Monday as the Jets went into Indianapolis and won with relative ease. He has some playmakers in Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, and it appears as though the Jets Offense is going to surprise some folks this year. From a fantasy perspective, they have a great matchup against the up-tempo Eagles this week. With his price sitting at a very reasonable $6,800 on FanDuel, he's a great way to get some upside but save some cap space in order to spend up at other positions
Two to avoid
1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots ($8,700)
2. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders ($6,600)
This is not a ringing opposition to Tom Brady. In fact, it’s much less than that. I think that Brady will carry a high ownership percentage this week, and I don’t like the way this matchup sets up for him. The Patriots went with a pass-happy approach against a tough Buffalo defense a week ago, and Brady produced like the MVP quarterback that he has shown himself to be over the years. A different game script is likely in store this week, as the Patriots are comfortable two touchdown favorites against a below average Jacksonville team. Look for them to be able to run the ball with much more effectiveness this week, thereby limiting Brady’s chances to produce huge fantasy stats. There are better high-dollar picks on this slate.
Derek Carr was fantastic in last week’s victory against the Ravens, as he had arguably his best game as an NFL quarterback. Don’t chase the points, as this week brings a stiff matchup on the road against a sneaky-good Cleveland pass defense. Look for the Raiders to turn to the ground game more often this week, and shutdown corner Joe Haden will likely reduce the production of standout rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper. There will be days to use Carr at a cheap price tag, but this does not qualify as one of those times.
Five to target
1. Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers ($8,800)
2. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks ($8,700)
3. Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders ($7,000)
4. James Starks, Green Bay Packers ($6,500)
5. Lorenzo Taliaferro, Baltimore Ravens ($5,600)
Let this serve as a public service announcement: Don't forget about Le'Veon Bell! There's a reason he was still drafted as a top-five pick in season-long leagues despite being suspended for the first two games. He is a great fit for a high-powered Pittsburgh offense that will be tasked with scoring a lot of points because of their below average defense. Bell's ability as a receiver out of the backfield is also a nice plus with FanDuel offering a 0.5 PPR bonus. He will likely go under-owned this week as casual players will forget about him. Don't make that mistake.
As I wrote above, I expect the Seahawks Offense to get things rolling this week. I will likely have Wilson or Marshawn Lynch on most of my rosters this week, though I won’t often play them together as Lynch is not a pass-catching back. Someone is going to get the production for the Seahawks this week, and the Bears Defense is just friendly enough that there might be enough to go around for both Wilson and Lynch. In short, get some exposure to the Seattle offense this week!
The middle tier of running backs is a black hole this week. Several of the running backs between $7,000 and $8,500 are banged up, while others have unclear roles or tough matchups. I am likely going to roster just one expensive running back this week. There's just not a lot to love here. Latavius Murray is the best option in the mid-range for me. He is being used as a three-down back, and he is improving as a receiver out of the backfield. The Raiders also face a Browns Defense that is much more vulnerable against the run than the pass. Murray has logged 18 touches in each of the first two games and should be a great option at $7,000 this weekend.
The jury is still out on whether Eddie Lacy will suit up this week, but it appears that he will be limited even if he does go. This means that James Starks will likely see a significant role in the offense. He is one of the cheapest running backs that is going to get carries this week, and he plays for the potent Green Bay offense. If Lacy is out, you almost have to play Starks in every format. Sure, you can make a case for fading a highly owned player in a tournament, but those highly owned players usually don't carry this cheap of a price tag. There's plenty of upside and very little risk in this play. If it looks like Lacy is going to play, you can pivot to Devonta Freeman at the same price point, as Freeman is taking over for the injured Tevin Coleman as the lead back in Atlanta.
This last pick is certainly not one that you want to make in a head-to-head or double-up contest. However, if you are looking for a low-owned, decent upside, cheap tournament play, Lorenzo Taliaferro should be at least on your radar. He played 34 snaps in Week Two, compared to 42 for starter Justin Forsett. In other words, this was pretty close to a time-share, and it came in a game where the Ravens were trailing for a good chunk of time. That’s even better news for Taliaferro, as Forsett is generally the passing-down back. Taliaferro should also take most of the red zone and short yardage work (he had three red zone opportunities in his first start back), which gives him the potential for a touchdown or two. The Ravens need a win in their home opener after losing two road games, and I expect them to utilize the run game heavily this week.
Two to avoid
1. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs ($8,700)
2. DeMarco Murray, Philadelphia Eagles ($7,800)
After two costly fumbles last week, I don't expect the Chiefs to go away from their bell cow running back. However, it would be short-sighted to dismiss the risk entirely, as we saw Jeremy Hill get benched for the same blunder. Charles carries a hefty price tag, and I'd rather take a safer play if I am spending that much salary on an elite running back. Both Le'Veon Bell and Marshawn Lynch are safer options in Week Three.
For now, it appears that the move to Philadelphia has eviscerated the fantasy value of DeMarco Murray. He has 21 carries for just 11 yards through two games, and he loses some snaps to both Ryan Matthews and Darren Sproles. The offense is also sputtering as a whole right now. Steer clear of Murray until he shows some signs of righting the ship. (He also left Wednesday’s practice with a hamstring injury. Even more of a reason to avoid this situation.)