Start 'Em Sit 'Em: Week 3
Fantasy Football Start Sit: Week 3
Eight games closed out Week 2 as one-score finishes, including several late-day heroics from Dallas, Tennessee, and Baltimore that reminded all of us why we enjoy football as much as we do. While plenty of football fans and fantasy managers also came away disappointed with the results of Week 2, the schedule for Week 3 ushers in a bit of change. Teams that began with a home-field advantage will hit the road, where we're all being reminded just how much of an impact fans have on the gridiron. Conversely, those teams that dealt with adverse situations by starting with consecutive road games will return home to their fans. There will also be just three divisional games in Week 3, reduced from the five divisional games featured in Week 2. This creates the opportunity for increased offensive production for teams that face an opponent outside of their division.
Another full, sixteen-game slate means there are plenty of start/sit questions to analyze. So let's get right into the action that Week 3 has to offer and decide which of these fringe players to start or sit this weekend.
Daniel Jones (QB) New York Giants
Daniel Jones had arguably his best game for the New York Giants despite the loss in Week 2. Not only did Jones avoid turnovers, but he also threw for 249 yards and a touchdown, hitting Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton on a combined 16 targets against what we all perceived to be an elite Washington Football Team defensive unit. As if this wasn't an encouraging performance already, Jones used his mobility to finish with nine carries for 95 yards and a touchdown, catapulting to the QB4 in PPR formats. Mobile quarterbacks offer an attractive upside that fantasy managers should consider, particularly when facing the Atlanta Falcons defense.
The Falcons defense has allowed the second-highest fantasy points per game (29.05 FPPG) against opposing quarterbacks in 2021. In addition, it failed to contain Jalen Hurts in Week 1 and Tom Brady in Week 2, showing that it's incapable of stopping opposing styles of play at the quarterback position. However, Jones seems to have found his rhythm despite playing within an underwhelming offense, funneling 31.3 percent of the target share to sixth-year wideout Sterling Shepard in Week 2. With Saquon Barkley playing only 84 percent of the team's offensive snaps in Week 2, it's a strong possibility that Jones continues to be the primary ball-carrier for the Giants at home against Atlanta in Week 3. Jones is a great streaming option, and this is the week to play him in one-quarterback leagues if you have him stashed on your bench. Another QB1 performance is on the horizon, so make sure to insert Jones into fantasy lineups in a game where three points favor New York at home.
Latavius Murray (RB) Baltimore Ravens
Starting the RB2 on any team is always a bit scary. However, considering Baltimore is one of the most run-centric teams in the league, plugging Latavius Murray into lineups as a mid-range RB3 is a relatively safe play against the Detroit Lions in Week 3. While Murray lacks involvement in the passing game, he did manage nine carries for 36 yards and a touchdown against Kansas City on Sunday night. It's true; Lamar Jackson is the primary ball-carrier for Baltimore. Yet, the number of offensive snaps Murray saw (35.5%) compared to Ty'Son Williams (48.7%) in Week 2 was reduced by eight percent compared to their Week 1 overtime loss in Las Vegas. Therefore, expect Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman to continue incorporating Murray more into the game plan to form a running-back-by-committee tandem comprised of the rookie, Williams, and the veteran, Murray. In a favorable matchup on the road against Detroit, whose defense gave up the third-highest fantasy points (26.9) to a young San Francisco 49ers backfield in Week 1, Murray could see more carries and even a few valuable goal-line carries, returning RB3/Flex value in Week 3 lineups against a lackluster Lions defense.
Michael Pittman Jr. (WR) Indianapolis Colts
Carson Wentz and Frank Reich switched their offensive strategy up against the Los Angeles Rams defense in Week 2, pivoting from 15 running back targets down to just three between Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines. Instead, Wentz threw over 35 percent of his targets to Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and thoroughly debunked what I predicted he would do against a talented Rams defensive unit. The second-year wideout caught eight of his 12 targets for 123 yards, averaging a solid 10.2 yards per target. Additionally, Wentz was willing to take more downfield shots at Pittman in a matchup that I thought would force Wentz to continue checking down to the running backs or their deep tight end personnel. Standing at 6'4" and weighing in at over 220 pounds, Pittman Jr. finished as a high-end WR2 (WR13) in full-PPR leagues and will get a great matchup against the Tennessee Titans in Week 3. The Titans have allowed the most FPPG (46.85) to opposing wide receivers thru two weeks, meaning Pittman should dominate despite the divisional road matchup. The potential for Pittman's first WR1 finish of the 2021 season is enough to warrant starting him as a WR2 with WR1 upside on the road in Nashville.
Sterling Shepard (WR) New York Giants
Since Daniel Jones was already highlighted as one of the top quarterbacks to start against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 3, suggesting his preferred alpha target within the offense is the way I'll lean. Sterling Shepard has a 27.9 percent target share across the first two weeks of the season, leading Kenny Golladay by nearly seven percent while also playing on a higher percentage of snaps (93.8%) to become the leading candidate to claim on many league waiver wires heading into Week 3.
Sterling Shepard first two games— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) September 17, 2021
🔵 16 catches
🔵 207 yards
🔵 1 TD
A career-high receiving yards over any two-game span for Shepard 🔥 pic.twitter.com/RcSPAaG50G
Shepard gets a great matchup against a bad Falcons secondary at home this week, as Atlanta has also given up the 12th-highest FPPG (43.1) to opposing wideouts this season. As a result, I expect Daniel Jones and Shepard to transfer their momentum into a decisive win at home in a game that could wind up as one of the sneakier matchups for fantasy points from both offenses in Week 3.
Cole Kmet (TE) Chicago Bears
It appears that Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy has moved on from Jimmy Graham operating as the TE1 within the offense, elevating second-year tight end Cole Kmet to 73.1 percent of snaps during their first two games, nearly tripling the usage of Graham. Kmet had a notably decreased target share percentage (4.3%) in a defensive battle against Cincinnati in Week 2, but he did see 17.5 percent of the team's targets in Week 1 against the Los Angeles Rams, tying Darnell Mooney, who is their WR2. While much was made about the elite level of talent on the Cleveland Browns defense this offseason, the unit has allowed the 12th-most FPPG (14.9) to opposing tight ends while ranking 13th against opposing wide receivers. Allen Robinson will deal with Denzel Ward for much of the matchup in Week 3, meaning Kmet could return to the seven targets he totaled during a Week 1 blowout. Streaming tight end is never a fun position to be in, but Kmet had a difficult matchup against a Bengals defense that ranks fifth-best (4.55) against opposing fantasy tight ends this season. Kmet will bounce back with a favorable Week 3 performance on the road, especially in PPR leagues.
Joe Burrow (QB) Cincinnati Bengals
Joe Burrow is one of the league's most intriguing young quarterback prospects, as he's showed incredible poise under constant duress and adversity. Returning from offseason ACL surgery, Burrow struggled mightily against the Chicago Bears defense on the road in Week 2, throwing three interceptions and getting sacked four times against a defensive front featuring Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks. While Burrow mounted a comeback effort that eroded a double-digit deficit in Week 2, his offensive line is among the worst in football and will have its hands full against T.J. Watt and the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in Week 3. Since the over/under is set at 44.5 points, Vegas predicts another low-scoring defensive battle for Burrow to grind out. It's a bad matchup for the second-year quarterback, as Pittsburgh held Josh Allen to one total touchdown in Week 1. Although they could not contain Derek Carr and the Las Vegas passing attack in Week 2, expect a focused, motivated Steelers defense to regroup. A unit that rosters All-Pro players at every level of its defense is one that I am actively avoiding. Pivot off of Burrow as much as possible ahead of a brutal Week 3 divisional contest on the road.
Ronald Jones (RB) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Leonard Fournette has become the RB1 in Tampa Bay, which is a difficult reality to accept for Ronald Jones II, as he is a talented player who carries a relatively high ceiling during most weeks. The ambiguous role he has on arguably the most talented offensive roster in the league, combined with the perception of head coach Bruce Arians demoting Jones due to persistent blocking and fumbling issues, makes me want to sit Jones on the bench in PPR formats. Tom Brady has taken to the air in both games of the 2021 season and seen massive amounts of success. This is a dreadful outcome for fantasy managers rostering Jones in all formats, as he played on just 41.3 percent of snaps in a game where Tampa Bay scored 48 points. Even Giovani Bernard has seen a more significant target share (6.2%) percentage than Jones (3.7%) in their first two games. I would suggest packaging Jones in any potential trade offers, as his value is waning by the day. No chance I'm starting Jones in any format against the Los Angeles Rams on the road in Week 3, as Brady and Matthew Stafford will both be busy airing it out.
Henry Ruggs III (WR) Las Vegas Raiders
It's hard to fade the second-year emergence of Las Vegas Raiders wideout Henry Ruggs III. He's seen at least five targets in each of his first two games and managed to take a 61-yard reception to the end zone against the vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers defense to seal the win on the road in Week 2. However, fellow second-year wideout Bryan Edwards out-snapped Ruggs this past Sunday, running nearly 10 percent more of the team's offensive plays. Third-year slot wide receiver Hunter Renfrow tied Ruggs in Week 2 target share (18.9%), and Darren Waller will always be the bonafide alpha target for Derek Carr. The matchup is less than ideal for Ruggs in Week 3, despite returning home to Las Vegas. The Miami Dolphins got embarrassed in Week 2 and will be looking to atone for surrendering 35 points and five total touchdowns to Buffalo. Head coach Brian Flores is a defensive-minded head coach and held the Patriots to 16 points on the road in Week 1 while also ranking seventh-best against opposing wideouts (31.3 FPPG) in 2021. I expect the Raiders' offense to finally get contained by an elite Dolphins secondary, led by Byron Jones and Xavien Howard in Week 3, shelving Ruggs on the bench.
Corey Davis (WR) New York Jets
This offseason, Corey Davis was paid $12.5 million per year to become the New York Jets' top wide receiver in 2021. While Davis got off to a quick start with a pair of touchdowns against the Carolina Panthers in Week 1, fantasy managers should note rookie wide receiver Elijah Moore played on six percent more of the team's offensive snaps in a Week 2 blowout. Davis was also third in target share amongst the wide receiving corps in Week 2, as Braxton Berrios led the Jets with 11 targets. Even in an impressive Week 1 performance where Davis shined bright, Berrios tied his target share percentage (19.4%) while Elijah Moore threatens to continue out-snapping Davis moving forward. In addition, the Denver Broncos defense will be a difficult challenge for Jets' rookie quarterback Zach Wilson to overcome, particularly on the road, without their best offensive lineman Mekhi Becton. These factors make Davis a bench candidate in Week 3, opening up streaming opportunities for Jalen Reagor, Sterling Shepard, or Rondale Moore off of league waivers.
Mike Gesicki (TE) Miami Dolphins
The potential multi-week loss of second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is devastating for Mike Gesicki's fantasy value moving forward. Jacoby Brissett isn't an elite passer, as he finished with 169 passing yards and an interception on 40 attempts in relief of Tagovailoa this past Sunday. Gesicki finished as the TE18 in PPR leagues during the team's struggles in Week 2, hauling in three of his six targets for 41 yards. The team's use of a top-ten draft pick on rookie wide receiver Jaylen Waddle has been an investment they have honored, as he's seen over 70 percent of offensive snaps through two games. Most concerning for Gesicki is his tight end room, which has seen Durham Smythe come just shy of tying Gesicki in snap percentage (46.9%) this season. Waddle and Parker have been getting all of the targets funneled their way, and the return of Will Fuller V against the Raiders defense in Week 3 will only reduce Gesicki's role further down the target hierarchy in South Beach. Even second-year running back Myles Gaskin has seen a higher season target share (57.8%) than Gesicki (53.1%) which is mightily concerning. When looking at how Miami called their offensive game plan in a Week 1 win over the New England Patriots, only three targets were sent Gesicki's way, with none being caught. It's a passing game that appears to have shifted to a more traditional West Coast offense, leaning on the running backs and wide receivers on shorter, intermediate routes to extend the running game. Still not convinced to sit Gesicki? The Raiders have allowed the sixth-fewest FPPG (6.3) to opposing tight ends this season. Jared Cook, Austin Hooper, and Cole Kmet are all streaming options I'd turn to instead of the low ceiling Gesicki holds against Las Vegas in Week 3.
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Matt is an avid writer and enjoys analyzing the game within the game that is fantasy sports. Music is another constant in his daily life. Matt loves spending time with his fiancé and three pets, which typically involves some type of outdoor exercise or adventure. He likes to read, listen to Podcasts, and is constantly motivated to create the most accurate and engaging content in the fantasy sports industry. Pat McAfee is a massive inspiration to Matt, along with his parents and friends. He is guilty of ordering the same menu item at restaurants.