Six Week 3 Storylines: Can We Trust Tom Brady?

Is Tom Brady a good starting fantasy quarterback this weekend?

Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning and Peyton Manning are all on pace to throw more than 6,000 yards in 2013. LeSean McCoy, after three games, is moving towards a 2,741-yard season. If Terrelle Pryor can keep his rushing totals going, he’ll not only be the 9th-best runner in the league this year, but he’ll be the second NFL quarterback ever to break the 1,000-yard rushing mark.

Stat extrapolation: killing fantasy teams since 1981.

While studs like Peyton, Aaron and LeSean will certainly finish with incredible numbers this year, we’ve got to remember that predicting season totals using such a small sample can be devastating, especially when you’re making fantasy trades based on them. That’s why you can’t just give up on players like Tom Brady and Roddy White, and why David Wilson’s season isn’t completely over just because he’s rushed the ball for fewer yards than Felix Jones.

It’s easy to jump to conclusions early in the football season, but you’ve got to dig a little deeper to find out whether or not a player can keep up his pace. That’s what these columns are for. I’ll help answer some of the bigger entering each week, and make sure you’re aware of the anomalies throughout the league.

Can Trent Richardson be trusted in fantasy?

I love Richardson’s new location from a fantasy perspective. Love it. This week against San Francisco though? Not so much.

I noted this in my article on Richardson’s move, but the Colts have actually been the best team in football running the ball this year. No, the statistics won’t show that, as LeSean McCoy is running around defenses like he’s facing high school teams, but the reality is that efficiency can happen without a high volume. That’s what the Colts have done thus far; they’ve run effectively with few attempts.

Trent Richardson can help make the Colts an even more balanced offense, but given his lack of preparation and the fact that they’re playing a great defense in San Francisco, I’d have a hard time playing T-Rich in fantasy this week. Don’t get me wrong: I’m playing him over a guy like Jacquizz Rodgers, but it’s far too risky to slot Richardson in your lineup if you have, say, Knowhon Moreno benched.

Use our questions area of the site to see if you should be starting Richardson. The masses – including me – will help you out.

Will Aaron Rodgers and the Packers keep it going in Cincinnati?

Aaron Rodgers boasts the second-best passing net expected points total in the league, only behind Peyton Manning. This number – 38.90 in Rodgers’ case – tells us how many real points a player has given his team compared to one in a similar situation. Rodgers clearly is an invaluable asset to the Packers offense.

Through two games, Number 12 has 813 yards, seven touchdowns and has completed an absurd 69.9 percent of his passes. Though he played a nice game against San Fran in the NFL’s opening week, a good chunk of these numbers came from his 480-yard, four touchdown performance against the dreadful (and I mean dreadful) Redskins defense.

Rodgers is an obvious start each week, but should be tested a little more against the Bengals in Cincinnati this weekend. The Bengals rank 14th in defensive passing efficiency according to our metrics, and they can also get to the passer. Through two games, Rodgers has been sacked ninth most in the league, and if you recall, he was tackled behind the line of scrimmage more than any other passer just a season ago.

Expect the brilliant quarterback to put up solid numbers again this week, but don’t expect them to look like Week 2.

Which rookie quarterback will shine?

Geno Smith has shown his potential at times over the first two weeks of the season, but his costly interceptions against New England forced the Jets to fall to a fairly pleasant 1-1 record. As of now, Geno ranks only ahead of Blaine Gabbert in passing NEP, showing that a replacement-level quarterback may bring a little more to the table for the Jets. He, however, can get his NEP score going if he limits turnovers.

Fellow rookie passer E.J. Manuel has been much better, capturing a -0.34 passing NEP, a score better than New England’s Tom Brady. Manuel has more to work with in his offense though, as the Bills rushing attack is listed at number 11 in terms of efficiency and appear to be more committed to the run.

The two passers face off on Sunday, and the algorithms seem to like E.J. Manuel more from a fantasy standpoint. Thus far, E.J. is averaging over 220 yards a game (hey, stat extrapolation!) and has only thrown one pick. Expect this efficiency to continue on Sunday, with the occasional rushing yard or two.

Will 100 points be scored in Detroit?

Gone somewhat unnoticed is the fact that Matthew Stafford has only thrown the ball 79 times this year, including just 36 attempts in Week 2 against Arizona. After leading the league in pass-to-run ratio last year, the Lions have taken perhaps a more conservative approach in 2013, ranking 18th in the category.

They get the Redskins this week in what will surely be a high-scoring affair. Washington’s been getting the most of their second half junk time this year, salvaging the early fantasy seasons for Robert Griffin III and Pierre Garcon. As I noted before, the Redskins defense (and secondary) has been terrible over the first two weeks, leading the way for Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson to have a big day through the air.

No, 100 total points won’t be scored in Washington this week, but if you can, get as many Lions and Redskins in your fantasy lineup as possible. There’s a chance that this will be the highest scoring game of the week.

Will the Pats turn things around offensively?

The numbers don’t lie: Tom Brady has been a below average quarterback in 2013.

His wide receivers haven’t helped him much, and his lack of Rob Gronkowski hasn’t either, but Brady’s not played very Brady-like against the Bills and Jets, causing internal stress amongst the fantasy owners who drafted him in the fourth round in August.

This isn’t the time to panic, however. Not only is Gronk just inches away from coming back, but Brady’s receiving arsenal will slowly gain experience with the playing time they’re absorbing.

But now, in Week 3, Brady faces a Bucs team that ranks sixth in pass defense (per our metrics), and one that forced Drew Brees to throw two interceptions. However, from a fantasy perspective, Tampa Bay has given up bottom-half defensive numbers to opposing quarterbacks.

It’s tough to bench Tom Brady. And this week, I think – and so do our algorithms – that Brady gets back on track with a decent fantasy game at home. He won’t reach his ceiling until the rest of his team is healthy, but he’ll still have a decent floor for you risk-averse fantasy owners.

Who benefits most from garbage time?

There are two games that scream blowout this week. The Jaguars, coming off a loss to the Raiders, will travel to Seattle and face the 2-0 Seahawks. And on Monday Night, the Peyton Mannings will bring in division foe Oakland for what should be a complete disaster of a game for the Raiders.

Take advantage of what could happen. If Seattle gets a comfortable lead, don’t be surprised to see Marshawn Lynch leave the field for some rest, leaving backup running back Robert Turbin to see some reps. And in Oakland, if Denver’s offense scores early and often, the entire Oakland offense could see a prevent, safe defense for the majority of the second half.

Targeting cheap garbage time players can often win you fantasy games. Robert Turbin is actually a decent play in deep leagues this week, and don’t be surprised if Terrelle Pryor and someone like Rod Streater end up saving their Week 3 matchup with late-game fantasy points. Only look for these players if you’re desperate, but always keep this in mind: garbage time fantasy points mean just as much as the fantasy points gained in close games.