Injuries play a major part in deciding the haves and have-nots in fantasy leagues each year, and the 2013 season has been no exception. You think your season has been rough? There’s some teams out there in the rotosphere that have Steven Jackson as an RB2 and Eddie Lacy as an RB3. Throw Ray Rice, Maurice Jones-Drew, Reggie Bush, Shane Vereen, Le’Veon Bell and Andre Brown into the mix and any team with a healthy stable of running backs heading into Week 3 should consider itself incredibly fortunate.
And that’s just the RBs — put guys like Danny Amendola, Andre Johnson, Vernon Davis and even the injured-but-playing Roddy White into the mix, and there are a few poor fantasy owners who are likely throwing their hands up at a screen full of injury-tagged players. At least injured quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert and Brandon Weeden can’t hurt fantasy teams from the waiver wire.
But sometimes injury breeds emergence. James Starks in Week 2 looked like a guy who could have saved the Packers a few picks on running backs this summer. Joique Bell has become 90 percent of Reggie Bush, and that estimate may be conservative. With Brown out in New York, David Wilson has turned into … well, never mind that one.
How do you navigate the slate of injuries, disappointments and breakouts heading into your Week 3 lineup decisions? Simple: grab as many opinions from as many reasonable fantasy writers as you can. I hope the set of rankings below can be one of those tools to help you win this week.
As always, I’ve highlighted a few key players after the rankings. Don’t TL;DR this analysis and assume that you should necessarily play the “starts” over the “sits”; instead, the “start” recommendations are for guys that generally aren’t worth considering week-to-week, while the “sit” options are saved for guys I would normally start most weeks. Let the rankings be your guide to specific start/sit decisions.
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Start/Sit Week 3
Start: Andy Dalton vs. GB
Andy Dalton has been put to the test in his first two games, squaring off against the Bears and Steelers, respectable defenses both. He threw two interceptions in Chicago in Week 1, but had just seven incompletions on the day while throwing for 282 yards and two TDs and keeping his team in it till the very end. He was less efficient in Week 2, completing just 56 percent of his passes, but he played mistake free football and still managed to total 280 passing yards in a game the Bengals had salted away in the fourth quarter.
This week, he won’t have the benefit of sitting on a lead, going up against a high-flying Packers offense that should spur the Bengals to stay in attack mode throughout. The Packers’ pass defense was dissected in Week 1 before giving up a nice performance to Robert Griffin in Week 2, albeit with much of Griffin’s fantasy points coming in garbage time. Dalton’s two-TE attack should create mismatches throughout the day, and the Packers aren’t likely to have an answer for A.J. Green either.
Even better, Giovani Bernard emerged as a force in Week 2, and if Bernard can siphon playing time away from BenJarvus Green-Ellis, it just gives Dalton another weapon to utilize as teams will have to respect the RB in the passing game when Bernard is on the field. I expect a breakout week for Dalton in Week 3, and I’m putting him in my top 10 at the position and starting him over Griffin in the one league in which I’m a Dalton owner.
Sit: Russell Wilson vs. JAC
Last week, I made Terrelle Pryor a “sit” against the Jaguars after he broke off the second-most impressive rushing performance of Week 1. He wound up throwing for just 126 yards and rushing for 50 yards while not passing or running for a touchdown. Point, me. (Full disclosure: I also told you to sit Michael Vick in Week 1, so my imaginary opponent and I are tied 1-1.) Pryor’s Raiders had the game in hand for basically the entire 60 minutes, with the Jaguars getting into scoring position just once in the first 55 minutes and coming away with a field goal.
I bring this up because I expect the same thing from Russell Wilson’s Seahawks in Week 3. While there’s always the danger that the Jaguars could catch Seattle sleeping as a major underdog, there’s a reason the Seahawks are about 20-point favorites as of Tuesday. Seattle absolutely crushed a very good San Francisco offense in Week 2; it’s quite possible they eviscerate the Jaguars so bad that they get relegated to the NCAA after the game. (That can happen, right?)
This is an important point, as a dominant Seattle win is likely to take the ball out of Russell Wilson’s hands. He threw just 19 passes in the team’s blowout win over the 49ers Sunday. Pryor threw just 24 passes in his team’s win over the Jaguars. Neither QB managed to make it to 150 passing yards as a result. There are definitely going to be times to use Wilson this season (I’m looking at you, Rams defense), but Week 3 isn’t one of them. As a quarterback who seems very likely to throw 20 passes or so, he’s a guy that’s a must-sit in virtually any league.
Start: Jacquizz Rodgers at MIA
Despite accruing only 16 rushing yards on 13 carries, I feel that Jacquizz Rodgers is one of the best pickups of the week, and I think he deserves serious starter consideration in many leagues. The reason, of course, is the injury to Steven Jackson, who was ruled out for Week 3’s matchup against the Dolphins on Tuesday.
Rodgers has a fair shot at being a force on the ground in Week 3; despite holding Trent Richardson to mediocre numbers in Week 1, the Dolphins defense surrendered 133 yards and one touchdown on 26 rushes by the Colts in Week 2, and none of us are penciling in the Colts as one of the league’s elite rushing teams. The Dolphins will also likely have their hands full with a top-notch Atlanta passing offense. Even a gimpy Roddy White deserves respect, while Julio Jones has looked every bit as good as his preseason fantasy ranking would suggest.
The big boost for Rodgers comes in the passing game. White has been used as a decoy through two weeks, and with he and Jones drawing the Dolphins defense down the field, Rodgers could rack up receptions as a check-down and screen option for Matt Ryan. Without Steven Jackson in 2012 (and, some would argue, without Michael Turner), Rodgers piled up 53 receptions on 59 targets. In standard-sized PPR leagues, he’s a starter. In non-PPR leagues, he still deserves consideration as a flex play. He’s locked into my lineup as a starter over BenJarvus Green-Ellis in an 18-teamer this week. Jason Snelling also looks like a solid option for any deep leaguers who can’t get their hands on Rodgers.
Sit: Maurice Jones-Drew at SEA
Maurice Jones-Drew is battling an ankle strain and appears on his way to being a game-time decision in Week 3. If he doesn’t start, that makes your start/sit choice easier. If he does start, he really should be out of fantasy lineups against the Seahawks.
Seattle’s defense is fresh off holding running backs Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and Antonio Dixon, as well as a San Francisco offensive line that may be the best in the league, to 13 rushing yards on 11 carries. Though the team was behind all night, the three combined for just one reception on three targets (all to Gore) for 14 receiving yards. DeAngelo Williams fared much better the previous week, but that was a game that never veered away from being a one-score deficit for either team. That will not happen this Sunday.
Jones-Drew, if he does play, is going to be less than 100 percent. He’s averaged just 2.9 yards per carry on his 25 totes this season while catching just one pass for one yard. He’s been a fantasy afterthought for two weeks in games where he was healthier than he will be this week and playing teams that are worse off on defense than his opponent this week. Nothing about this sounds good for MJD owners, who should have no problem sticking him on the bench for depth running backs like Jacquizz Rodgers, Joique Bell, Ben Tate, Giovani Bernard, Pierre Thomas, Bilal Powell, Bernard Pierce and others.
Start: Josh Gordon at MIN
In Week 1, I tabbed Greg Jennings as my “start” recommendation and just missed a nice score, with teammate Jerome Simpson coming through for 140 yards on seven receptions. Last week, I looked toward Marlon Brown, who scored a touchdown in Week 2 to give Brown double-digit fantasy points. This week, I’m going with a guy that has zero catches on the season for zero yards and zero touchdowns. Despite that line and despite his status on Fantasy Pros as a borderline starting option, Josh Gordon will be in my lineups this week.
Gordon, of course, hasn’t been able to rack up fantasy points the past two weeks while serving a two-game suspension handed down by the league. Without him, Jordan Cameron has emerged as the No. 1 receiving threat in the Browns offensive offense. Greg Little has been the team’s “top” receiving option, catching four of 10 passes in Week 1 and four of 12 passes in Week 2. Gordon has been sorely missed.
Brandon Weeden, the team’s starting quarterback, looks like a good bet to miss this week’s game, which does put a little damper on Gordon’s outlook. However, backup Jason Campbell, while being just two years older than second-year starter Weeden, has 78 games of experience over eight seasons and has thrown more than 2,000 passes in his career. This isn’t going to be a case of an overmatched young player submarining an offense. Even if Campbell plays poorly, Gordon should see enough targets against an iffy Minnesota secondary to post top-30 WR numbers.
Sit: Roddy White at MIA
I whiffed in this space last week (good look, James Jones), and by focusing on the talented Roddy White as a “sit” option in Week 3, I could very well embarrass myself yet again. However, White owners are struggling with whether they would play him in any matchup after White received just five targets over the first two weeks of the season while dealing with a high ankle sprain. While he’s caught all five of his targets, his main function on offense has been to be a decoy that teams have to respect due to his elite skills.
White faces his toughest challenge of the season in Week 3 when the Falcons head to Miami. The Dolphins are fresh off limiting Colts no. 1 receiver Reggie Wayne to five catches and 46 yards. They previously held the Browns receivers in check, but that doesn’t necessarily deserve a pat on the back. Cornerbacks Brett Grimes, Dimitri Patterson and Nolan Carroll have combined for four picks in the first two weeks of the season, and they’ll likely remain aggressive against a limited player in Roddy White.
White’s going to have some great games this year, but until he looks closer to 100 percent, he is likely an option only to fantasy teams with poor depth at receiver. He’s right on the cusp of my startable players in Week 3; after all, he’s still Roddy White. But this could be Tony Gonzalez’s week to shine in the Atlanta passing offense, especially if Julio Jones receives as much attention as he deserves. White will likely remain a non-factor.
Start: Martellus Bennett at PIT
Martellus Bennett has clocked in as a top-five tight end over the first two weeks of the year, catching 10 passes for 125 yards and three TDs. He’s on pace for 24 scores, but I’ll go out on an extremely wide ledge and say he falls short of that mark. However, is there a reason he can’t reach the end zone ten times?
The Bears are a team that doesn’t lack weapons in the passing game. Due to the presence of Brandon Marshall on the outside and the threat of Matt Forte to turn any three-yard route into a 30-yard scamper, defenses just aren’t able to shadow Bennett over the top with a safety very often. Put a linebacker on him and it’s a mismatch. What do you do if you’re a defensive coordinator? Apparently, you let him score touchdowns.
The Steelers will have to try and contain Bennett this week after giving up 66 yards to each of Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert on Monday. The Pittsburgh defense was able to hold A.J. Green to just 41 yards on six receptions, and if they can manage the same amount of success against Brandon Marshall, they’ll endure whatever Bennett has to offer. I think he’s good for another TD or two this week, making him a must-start for me in all leagues. His relatively low ranking on Fantasy Pros makes me think that my views on Bennett aren’t the norm, but I’m not sure why after his early success this season.
Sit: Vernon Davis vs. IND
I’m marking Vernon Davis down as a “sit” this week, but like with Maurice Jones-Drew, the decision may be taken out of his owners’ hands by the time kickoff rolls around. Davis is dealing with a hamstring strain that seems likely to limit him in Week 3 even if he does take the field, and while a matchup against the Colts looks good on paper, Davis’ injury could have him sitting for much of the second half if the game is as comfortably in hand as Las Vegas expects it to be (the 49ers are double-digit favorites as of Tuesday).
The team wasn’t even sure how bad Davis’ hamstring strain was as of Tuesday. You can take that as a good or bad sign, but I tend to fall on the negative side of things, as I think it would be clear if the injury was mild and he was able to play at close to 100 percent Sunday. If news comes out during the week that Davis has been cleared and is not expected to be limited in Week 3, you can erase this “sit” recommendations from your hearts and minds. For now, his owners should be exploring other options for at least one week.
R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe and contributes to CBSSports.com's MLB Rumors blog. He has previously written for FanHouse, Razzball and FanDuel. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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