Two weeks of the NFL season are down, and there are plenty of new developments, including clarification of previously unknown situations as well as new, developing situations. Week 2 was particularly hard on fantasy owners with an unusual amount of top level fantasy players going down with injuries, including Ray Rice, Steven Jackson, Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Bush and Maurice Jones-Drew. However, the season goes on and these injuries give new players a chance to show their value to their own NFL team as well as to fantasy owners.
Outside of injuries, another major take-away for fantasy owner should be valuing matchups against specific defenses. Obviously the Seahawks are the best defense and owners need to think long and hard about starting all but the most elite against them, but other teams, such as the Bengals and Vikings, have emerged as solid defensive and special teams options for fantasy owners. The best part about all these new developments is that we are finally in the thick of the NFL and fantasy season, so with that here are my Week 3 predictions for fantasy owners.
1. I think everyone can be surprised by the way the Chargers have played so far this season, and I think they continue to make things tough on Titans running back Chris Johnson this weekend. So far in 2013, Johnson has 50 carries for 166 yards, a 3.32 average, and has yet to score a touchdown. I think that a surprising Chargers team shuts him down, putting the pressure on Jake Locker to move the offense. I have never been a big fan of Chris Johnson from a fantasy perspective, but after this week, if the Chargers shut him down, I think he is a great buy low candidate going forward.
2. I think that the best receiver in the game, Calvin Johnson, finishes the week as the number #1 WR for the first time this season. It is really a perfect storm for him, being the most talented WR in the league and going against one of the worst, if not the worst defenses in the NFL so far this season. He had a relatively mellow week 1, but broke off a long touchdown last week, and I think a Redskins secondary that is starting two rookies and just lost Brandon Meriweather (again) to a concussion won't stand a chance against Megatron.
5. In the same game, I think the Redskins finally get on track offensively, making this game an absolute shootout. Forgotten in all the talk about the state of Robert Griffin III is how effective and important Pierre Garcon has been to the Redskins. I understand that both games were massive comeback attempts, resulting in little to no run plays being called, but it is obvious that Garcon is RG3's favorite target and I think this week against the Lions, who have a solid group up front, the Redskins will air out from the beginning, resulting in fantasy goodness for Pierre Garcon owners. I think that RG3 will finish as a top-8 quarterback, and Pierre Garcon will finish as a top-5 wide receiver, trading blows with Calvin Johnson throughout the game.
4. I don't feel good about the New England Patriots matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With Darrelle Revis likely covering Julian Edelman, I think that he will finish outside the top-20 of wide receivers and Tom Brady finishes outside the top-12 at quarterback for the second week in a row. Not that there was much to be optimistic about after the Patriots' Thursday night victory over the Jets, for fantasy purposes at least, but going against a defense that shutdown the Saints, only allowing 16 points during the game, I really don't like the Patriots offense this weekend.
5. I got burned by running backs in my predictions the past 2 weeks, but that won't keep me from making a new, bold prediction for week 3. I think the 3 replacement backs, Joique Bell, Bernard Pierce, and James Starks all finish inside the top-15 at running back this week. There is still a chance that Reggie Bush may be able to suit up this weekend against the Redskins, but if not Bell gets to run against the defense that gave up 132 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries to James Starks. I think they play off the line again this weekend in an attempt to slow down Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, leaving plenty of running lanes for Bell. With Pierce and Starks, its they both proved in their respective Week 2 games that they are more than just replacement level running backs, each registering a touchdown run in their teams' victories. James Starks will have the toughest test of the 3, going against a solid Bengals defense, but I think the talent of the Packers passing game will force the Bengals to account for Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb throughout the game.
6. I think Cam Newton comes to play this weekend against a suspect Giants defense, leading the Panthers to victory at home and putting the Giants in an 0-3 hole. The Panthers as a whole are a better team than their 0-2 record shows, and I think Newton will finish as a top-5 fantasy quarterback this week. Only throwing for 125 yards and TD in week 1 and 229 yards and 2 TDs in week 2, fantasy owners have been a little down on Newton so far this season, but I think this game becomes a shootout, and with the superiority of the Panthers defense added to the mix, I think the Panthers ride an elite fantasy game from Cam Newton to a win in week 3.
7. I think that in the Thursday night game, Alex Smith finishes in the top-10 and Michael Vick finishes outside the top-10 at quarterback at the end of week 1. It sounds crazy when you say it out loud, but I believe in the Chiefs defense and think they are a far superior defense to the Redskins and Chargers., the Eagles two previous opponents. In addition, Alex Smith has a 100% red zone TD percentage and has rushed for 82 yards in two games. With weapons around him including Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe, compounded by the inept Eagles defense, I think he has a great game and outshines Michael Vick in primetime on Thursday night.
8. In the primetime Sunday night game, I think Brandon Marshall has a top-5 game against a solid Steelers secondary that held AJ Green to just 4 fantasy points. The Bears offense has really impressed me so far this season with Jay Cutler playing extremely well and the great start from Matt Forte and Marshall. Add in Martellus Bennett and I think that is just too much for a Steelers defense, who's offense keeps putting them back on the field, to handle.
9. I think that the waiver wire darling so far this season, Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor crashes back to Earth and finishes outside the top-20 at quarterback. I could see this Monday night football game going very badly very early for the Raiders, and I don't think the Raiders offense will stay on the field long enough for any fantasy value to be had.
10. My last prediction for Week 3 I hope means that there is some clarity in the Broncos backfield. After last week's 2 touchdown performance, I think Knowshown Moreno finishes this week against a weak Raiders defense as a top-5 fantasy back. As a said earlier, I think the Broncos will get up big early in the game and from that point I think they will lean on Moreno, who will also be in the game more due to the recent injury news on Ryan Clady as well as his superior pass protection skills over Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman.
- Matt Young (@Matt_Young2)