Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 3

It's a Super Bowl rematch, and the home quarterback is a fantastic fantasy football play this week.

Caring about and playing fantasy football can’t be good for your health. Nothing exemplifies this more than what my brother went through this week.

Like most fake footballers this week, he benched Brandon Marshall. Hindsight’s 20/20, Einstein. Of course he wouldn’t have had he known B-Marsh would play, let alone score three times.

Rather than playing Marshall, he opted for Justin Hunter. Ha! Remember when those fantasy analysts said Hunter would break loose in Week 2? Idiots.

The point differential between Hunter and Marshall was a hefty 23.2, putting my brother in a pretty big “what could have been” depression. Fortunately, his opponent had AJ Green – hope was not lost.

Entering Monday Night Football, broski was up 30.4 points. His win probability was through-the-roof positive, considering the only player his opponent had left was – gasp – Darren Sproles.

Darren Sproles scored 30.8 points in my brother’s fantasy league. My brother lost.

Had he not benched Brandon Marshall, despite Sproles’ ridiculous Week 2 game, my bro would've won by almost 23 points. What seemed optimal on Sunday at 1:00 PM EST turned into a disaster on Tuesday at 1:00 AM EST.

This happens. When you can’t control what occurs on the football field, you’re never going to be perfect. And although my brother got the loss in his Week 2 contest, I’m sure he’ll still make a similar move in the future when one of his players isn’t likely to play a Sunday Night Football matchup. Because Brandon Marshall, from our perspective, could have scored zero points just as easily as his 27.8.

Bad beats will happen throughout the fantasy season. But as long as you're making logical decisions, you shouldn't feel awful about it.

Let me help you make these logical choices.


Start Russell Wilson: - Wilson's been relatively quiet to start the season, but he ranks eighth in fantasy points scored at the quarterback position, and ninth in terms of Passing Net Expected Points (NEP). He's been Russell Wilson.

The Super Bowl XLVIII rematch this weekend should bring strong fantasy numbers to teams starting Seattle's signal-caller. The Broncos have allowed 625 yards passing over the first two weeks of the season, and that's not just game-flow related - they actually rank 26th against the pass according to our adjusted metrics.

Though his wide receiver use will be ambiguous, it doesn't really matter: Russell Wilson will produce.

Sit Peyton Manning: - After spending an early-round choice on him, the last thing you want to do is bench Peyton Manning. He's been great - Manning has six touchdown passes through two games, and is the third-best quarterback in fantasy football.

But he's also been fairly touchdown dependent thus far, and that's not going to fly on Sunday. If he throws for three touchdowns in Week 3, he'll be the first quarterback to do so in Seattle since 2010. Brett Favre was in the league then.

You can certainly do worse than Manning during a week with few viable quarterback streaming options, but owners should be aware that expecting a typical Manning performance is foolish.

Start Jay Cutler: - Smokin' Jay, man. All he does is score fantasy points.

Despite a sluggish start against San Francisco on Sunday night, Cutler managed to throw four touchdown passes to go along with only 176 yards. His fantasy points have been there simply because fantasy football favors touchdowns, but he actually ranks 21st within our Passing NEP metric.

He'll have an opportunity to be a little more efficient with the football this week. The Bears travel to New York to take on the Jets on Monday Night Football, and on a per drop back basis, the Jets are completely average thus far against the pass. If his weapons are healthy, we should expect a top-10 performance from Cutler.

Sit Ben Roethlisberger: - Big Ben finished his Week 1 matchup with the Browns as the fourth-best quarterback in football, with a Passing NEP of 13.30. After two weeks, his Passing NEP total is 2.48, meaning he played nearly 11 points below expectation against the Ravens last Thursday.

He'll be in Charlotte on Sunday night to face the Panthers and their top-five pass defense - one that allowed just 14 fantasy points to Matthew Stafford last week. This isn't the week to start Roethlisberger.

Other Players to Start: Ryan Tannehill, Philip Rivers
Other Players to Sit: Jake Locker, Joe Flacco

Running Back

Start Zac Stacy: - I guess the Rams like Zac Stacy after all. Many believed Benny Cunningham would start to dig into Stacy's workload, and while he's still involved, Stacy now has 30 carries through the first two weeks of our young NFL season. He hasn't been incredibly effective at a -0.07 Rushing NEP per rush, but volume means plenty - and enough - in fantasy football.

The Rams face Dallas this week, who were gashed in Week 1 by San Francisco. While last week's performance against Tennessee may make the Cowboys defense look like a tough matchup, keep in mind that the Titans ran their running backs a grand total of 11 times due to falling behind early.

Don't be afraid to use Stacy this week, especially after the work he saw - and touchdown - in Week 2.

Sit Terrance West: - Rookie runner Terrance West was decent against New Orleans last week, running the ball 19 times for 68 yards and a score. And among the 33 running backs with 20 or more carries this year, West ranks 5th in Rushing Net Expected Points.

He's been great, and he had a solid eight carries more than teammate Isaiah Crowell in Week 2. But Week 3 is a new test, facing a Baltimore Ravens defense that's been surprisingly stingy against running backs this year, ranking 10th in terms of Net Expected Points. And after playing a set of two stellar sophomores, Giovani Bernard and Le'Veon Bell, the Ravens have still allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing runners.

West should still get volume, but you may be able to find a better option on your squad this week.

Start Joique Bell: - The Packers rush defense is not good. In fact, on a per tote basis, the team ranks only ahead of Cleveland at stopping the run according to our metrics.

Enter Joique Bell, who's facing that Packers defense this weekend. Our numbers haven't seen Bell as a wildly efficient back this season, but neither has Reggie Bush. That's mostly because they've seen a pair of tough matchups.

Bell has played 18 more snaps than Bush through two games, and has one more red-zone carry. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, too, making him viable in PPR formats.

Joique should be able to take advantage of a Packers team that's allowed four total touchdowns to running backs through two games this year.

Sit Steven Jackson - The difficult part of this start/sit decision is that Jackson plays on Thursday night, where running backs tend to perform a little better given the limited time for teams to game plan.

But thus far in 2014, Steven Jackson has been fairly mediocre, seeing 23 carries for under 100 yards and zero scores. He's performed a little above expectation according to our metrics, but he's proving to be rather touchdown reliant. And that's not good against Tampa Bay, who have been pretty strong against running backs through two games, allowing just one running back score.

Jackson's volume isn't what it used to be when he was in St. Louis, and he needs that to be a consistent asset in fantasy.

Start Trent Richardson - I never thought I'd write the words, but Trent Richardson isn't a bad play this week.

Let's look at the bad first: his production is going to depend on game script. In Week 1 against Denver, the team fell behind, and Richardson carried the ball just six times. Last week in a game that saw Indianapolis lead early, T-Rich carried the rock 21 times.

My guess is that Indianapolis' game against Jacksonville won't get away from them, meaning Richardson could be in store for at least 15 carries this week. Given Jacksonville's 26th-ranked Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP, that could mean big things.

Sit Toby Gerhart - The matchup is fantastic, but that doesn't really matter. You can't start Toby Gerhart right now in fantasy football.

In Week 2, Gerhart saw just seven carries as the Jaguars fell behind and got destroyed by the Redskins. There's reason to believe the same could happen in Week 3, and even if it doesn't, Gerhart hasn't been nearly efficient enough behind an offensive line full of holes to be worthwhile in fantasy football.

Of the players with 20 or more carries this year, only Eddie Lacy has a worse Rushing NEP. Lacy played two top rush defenses, while Gerhart faced the Washington Redskins. Stay far away.

Other Players to Start: Danny Woodhead, Khiry Robinson
Other Players to Sit: Darren McFadden, Shonn Greene

Wide Receiver

Start Keenan Allen: - Fantasy owners are surely turned off by Keenan Allen's start, but keep in mind that he faced Arizona and Seattle, two teams that will surely be listed close to the top of our pass defense rankings - at least total defense - at season's end.

Allen's still seeing enough volume, sitting with 15 targets and 10 receptions after two games. He'll face Buffalo this week, a team that's allowed the third-most receptions to opposing wide receivers through Week 2, and the 11th-most fantasy points.

I'm expecting Allen to get back on track this week, especially in PPR formats. No one should be surprised if he finishes as a top-15 wideout.

Sit Kendall Wright: - The Tennessee Titans offense didn't come close to performing like many thought they would last week, and their Week 3 test is certainly not easier.

Cincinnati is a scary team at home. They've allowed just two 100-yard receiving games at Paul Brown Stadium since the end of the 2011 season, and so far this season, they've put together the fourth-best secondary in the league, per our adjusted-for-opponent metrics.

Kendall Wright has been a volume receiver throughout his brief career, and with other viable options in the passing game, that volume hasn't been there for him in 2014. In fact, both Justin Hunter and Delanie Walker have gotten more looks.

The over/under isn't enticing, and the matchup is tough. Kendall Wright doesn't need to be in your lineup.

Start Julian Edelman: - This is just a friendly reminder that Julian Edelman is Tom Brady's favorite target. He hasn't seen fewer than 7 targets, 6 receptions and 64 yards since November 18th of last season - that's seven straight games excluding the playoffs (he hit those numbers in two playoff games, too) - and he has 5 touchdowns during that span (again, not including the playoffs, where he scored a touchdown).

There may be no wide receiver who's more reliable and less talked about than Julian Edelman. And against Oakland this week, he's a must start once again.

Sit Terrance Williams - The good news is that Terrance Williams has seen the second-most targets at wide receiver on the Cowboys so far this year. The bad news is that he's caught just 54% of them, and is playing on a team that's been surprisingly run heavy to start the season.

Dallas' pass-to-run ratio is one of the lowest in the league, and while their Week 2 game certainly helps this, the team was still fairly run-heavy against San Francisco in Week 1, all things considered. It's a little odd coming from a Scott Linehan offense, but the Cowboys know that DeMarco Murray is one of the best backs in the game, so they're going to utilize him.

The truth is, Williams is likely to be an unpredictable asset all season long, and you're banking on a big play to return value. The matchup could be worse this week, but I don't think Williams warrants a start given his use in the offense.

Start Golden Tate - There's no doubt that Golden Tate is the number-two wide receiver in this offense, as he's played more snaps than any other wide receiver, including Calvin Johnson. Through two games, he has 11 catches on 14 targets, and is a top-30 wide receiver in terms of Reception Net Expected Points.

The Lions matchup this week is a juicy one, as mentioned above with Joique Bell, with an over/under set at 54 points. Expect points to be scored, and expect Golden Tate to be a solid WR3 - even WR2 - this week.

Other Players to Start: Cordarrelle Patterson, Reggie Wayne
Other Players to Sit: Torrey Smith, Markus Wheaton

Tight End

Start Jared Cook: - Brian Quick's getting all the love in St. Louis, but Jared Cook's caught four balls in each of his first two games, totaling over 100 yards. Consistency has never been associated with Jared Cook, but so far so good this year.

The main reason I like him this week is because he faces Dallas. If you recall, Vernon Davis caught two touchdowns against the Cowboys in Week 1, and Delanie Walker straight dominated them in Week 2, catching 10 passes and scoring a touchdown.

The quarterback situation in St. Louis isn't anything to get excited about, but this matchup has a lot of potential for the usually streaky Cook.

Sit Heath Miller: - Heath Miller's posted similar numbers to Cook, but his matchup this week isn't a good one. Carolina's been great on defense to start the year, and have allowed the 16th-most points to tight ends despite facing teams that like to utilized them.

Miller's only going to be relevant in fantasy when he finds the end zone, which isn't all that probable this week - we have 29 tight ends with a higher likelihood of scoring.

Start Niles Paul: - With Jordan Reed sidelined, Niles Paul has stepped in admirably, catching 12 of 15 targets in Weeks 1 and 2 of the NFL season. While the Eagles, his Week 3 opponent, have done a good job at defending tight ends, DeSean Jackson isn't fully healthy, and Paul should continue to see volume. You can't say that about a lot of tight ends, let alone ones on the waiver wire. As Phil Simms would say, "Start eem."

Other Players to Start: Zach Ertz, Travis Kelce
Other Players to Sit: Eric Ebron, Ladarius Green


Start the Cleveland Browns: - The Browns were pretty impressive against one of the best offenses in the league last week, and now they'll be at home in Week 3 against Joe Flacco and the Ravens, an offense that's not scaring anyone.

The Browns' rush defense is weaker than the pass, but the Ravens have struggled running the football effectively since the beginning of last season. The game has one of the lowest over/unders of the week, making Cleveland a strong streaming option with a pretty good floor.

Sit the Seattle Seahawks: - The Seahawks' defense disappointed fantasy owners in Week 2, and it could be the same story in Week 3. Though I mentioned earlier that no quarterback has thrown three touchdowns in Seattle since 2010, we're still talking about a Broncos offense that's best in the league after two weeks. The Seahawks are far better at home, but that doesn't make them a must-start in fantasy football.

Other Defenses to Start: New Orleans, New England
Other Defenses to Sit: Minnesota, Buffalo