Fantasy Football: 5 Bold Predictions for Week 3
One of the things that makes fantasy football so captivating is the variance. Derrick Henry was the RB1 in all of fantasy in 0.5 PPR in 2020, but Henry himself only had 3 weeks as the top fantasy scorer. That means, on individual weeks, some very strange players may lead the league in fantasy points at their positions.
That opens the door for some room to be "spicy" and make some fun predictions. In a landscape increasingly set ablaze by "hot takes," it can be difficult to understand the difference between a bold prediction -- based on a particularly strong spot for a team or player -- and a senseless take with the prayer of becoming correct based on variance.
Let's shoot for the former with five interesting spots to target during this weekend's 16 NFL games.
(All predictions are for half-PPR and FanDuel scoring for quarterbacks.)
1. Saquon Barkley Comfortably Finishes as a Top-10 Fantasy Running Back
That is -- at the very least -- the case this week. Barkley has been progressing from offseason rehab to a point where he was limited in Week 1, but in Week 2, Barkley saw 83% of the Giants' snaps on a short week. That was tied for third-most in the NFL by percentage of snaps. If that was limited again in Week 2 as some reports indicated, Barkley may soon give Najee Harris and his 98% snap rate through two weeks a run for its money.
Barkley is not only on the field, but he also saw a good workload. He saw 3 targets in addition to 13 carries, and most encouragingly, 5 of those carries came in the red zone. That substantive workload would work for any running back facing the Atlanta Falcons, much less one as talented as Saquon.
The Falcons are allowing 0.13 Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per rush this season, which is fifth-worst in the NFL. That weakness may be quieter than most of the public recognizes considering the Eagles had a 53% pass rate in Week 1 against them, and the Buccaneers had a 65% pass rate in Week 2. Those two above-average marks were in two exclusively positive game scripts as well.
Because of the injuries and the general perception of his offense, this take seems bold, but Barkley is numberFire's fourth-highest projected running back this week in half-PPR scoring. He should deliver on that mark against Atlanta.
2. Zach Wilson is a Bottom-5 Quarterback (Again)
Coming off a terrible, four-interception performance against the Patriots, Zach Wilson is on very few redraft league radars. Therefore, consider this prediction more so an advertisement of the Denver Broncos' defense in all formats.
Seriously though, as a Las Vegas Raiders fan, the Broncos' early-season schedule is ridiculous. They have opened with the Giants and Jaguars, and now get the New York Jets in their home opener. In hindsight, they probably should have been the top defense drafted for season-long because of their early-season security. However, giving credit where credit is due, Denver has delivered with an overall 0.01 defensive NEP through two weeks, which is the seventh-best mark in the league.
Wilson is not only performing poorly, but he has absolutely no chance for success at this moment. The Panthers had six sacks and a 46.5% pressure rate against the Jets' offensive line in Week 1, and New England tallied four sacks and an increased 47.5% pressure rate on a line now working without Mekhi Becton as he recovers from a knee injury.
This is ultimately a rookie quarterback willing to take chances inside an environment he is forced to. While the Bradley Chubb injury is mildly concerning, Denver's defense still has three sacks and three turnovers against poor teams in their small sample, and New York is the worst functioning offense they will face yet. They will be a top choice again in daily formats, and if somehow they are on the waiver wire in a season-long format, they are the top streaming option of the week.
3. The Top Overall Pass-Catcher in Week 3 Comes From the Chiefs/Chargers Game
This one might get push back as not being "bold" enough from the top fantasy game on Sunday, but ultimately I'm narrowing my odds of picking the top overall wideout or tight end from effectively four choices -- Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Keenan Allen, and Mike Williams.
I'm happy to do so.
The 55.5 total in this game is 3.5 points clear of any game on the slate, and the Kansas City Chiefs profile to play this style of game all season. Their 0.31 Adjusted NEP per play is tops in the league offensively, but their defense is allowing 0.27 Adjusted NEP per play -- worst in the league. Nearly guaranteed shootouts with Patrick Mahomes involved? Yes, please.
The reason to be so confident in the pass catchers on both the Chiefs and Chargers sides is their market share concentration. Both of these passing games lean so heavily on these four players that -- in a phenomenal fantasy contest -- we know where the ball is going:
|Target Share||Route %||Air Yards
These are four of the most elite workloads in the NFL. Even Kelce, who is lagging behind in many of the volume categories, is making up for it with efficiency. Kelce's 1.38 Receiving NEP per target is eighth amongst pass-catchers with over five targets this season.
Keenan Allen has also yet to find the end zone despite matching the peripherals of the other three that have scored a combined six touchdowns. That is worth noting for those who target touchdown regression.
Of the top ten overall workloads entering Week 3, four of them are likely in this high-scoring contest with defenses not to be feared. Therefore, it seems easy to manage probabilities that any one of these four posts the top week inside of it.
4. DK Metcalf and Robert Woods Flip the Script
D.K. Metcalf and Robert Woods have lagged behind both, but both have still seen a tremendous amount of work in great offenses to believe that they can -- in this one individual week -- top their star teammates.
Metcalf is a much simpler argument. He and Lockett essentially have the same role, but Lockett has just converted on more throws down the field. Lockett does lead the Seahawks with seven deep targets, but Metcalf has five himself. Metcalf also has two red-zone targets to Lockett's one. The two share a 30.8% target share through two games, and Metcalf has actually played a percentage of snaps (94.3%) than Lockett (87.3%) -- as one would expect with Lockett entering the season a little banged up. In some weeks, Metcalf is obviously going to steal the show with the same workload.
Woods, however, is definitely a step behind Kupp's role overall, but that is definitely changing. Much has been made of Woods only running 82.8% of routes -- even trailing Van Jefferson. However, Woods has still out-snapped Jefferson and played 88.1% of snaps overall. Woods played just one fewer snap and ran two fewer routes than Cooper Kupp in Week 2. It is very possible that Sean McVay eased Woods into Week 1 after seeing no preseason work, and now, Woods will resume the identical role to Kupp he has shared for years with the Rams.
Metcalf and Woods are in this same bucket as potential "buy low" candidates in fantasy football, and they are sharp pivots in daily formats. With similar peripheral usage, and shifting defensive attention as Kupp and Lockett light it up, Metcalf and Woods will have their days on top soon. It could come as soon as Sunday; the two are playing inside games tied for the highest implied totals of the week.
5. Kyle Pitts Scores His First Career Touchdown
Far too often, rookies stumble out of the gate and immediately get sold in fantasy football. Justin Jefferson had just six targets in the first two weeks of his WR7 campaign last season, for instance.
Kyle Pitts is definitely in that category. The tight end position has been abhorrent, so no one is moving off of Pitts at this stage, but his 5.1-point and 9.8-point fantasy performances are not inspiring much confidence. He has not found the end zone, Atlanta has been terrible, and many would probably prefer T.J. Hockenson in the bad-team, great-volume discussion.
I still believe.
The Falcons have been in difficult, heavy-passing situations against plus defenses. The Buccaneers rank 7th in Adjusted Defensive NEP (-0.01) per play, and the Eagles are 15th (0.10) in the same category. The same is not true for the struggling Giants. At 0.16 Adjusted Defensive NEP per play, New York is the tenth-worst defense in the league in terms of overall efficiency, and they have ceded monster games to pass catchers Jerry Jeudy and Terry McLaurin already.
Perhaps that is a boon to Calvin Ridley more than anyone, but Pitts is clearly the co-captain in this offense. His 78.2% of routes are solidly behind Ridley (93.1%), but decently clear of Russell Gage (65.5%) at a position that is much more scarce. Pitts and Ridley together have 75.5% of Atlanta's air yards through two weeks, and the next highest member of the offense is Gage (7.7%) once again. The Falcons only trust their top duo when moving the ball down the field, and those opportunities have just been few and far between.
Pitts has two red-zone targets but none in the end zone. The athletic specimen was drafted to replace Julio Jones as a big-body target in close, and the pick this week is that Atlanta's offense is finally efficient enough to use him in that spot, and he converts for his first career score.