The fantasy matchup stats you need to know for Week 3
Jeff Ratcliffe runs through the 15 remaining Week 3 games to find the noteworthy matchups for fantasy.
The fantasy matchup stats you need to know for Week 3
With two weeks in the books, we’re starting to get more data points on how defenses match up against the skill positions. Things will continue to change on a week-to-week basis, but entering Week 2 here are the key matchup stats to know — both good and bad — from the remaining 15 games on this week’s slate:
Arizona @ Buffalo
Downgrade LeSean McCoy this week.
Sure, the Cardinals have to go west coast to east coast for this contest, but don’t overthink things. Arizona’s defense is one of the league’s strongest units. Through two games they’re the fifth-worst fantasy matchup for opposing running backs. The Cardinals yield just 3.7 yards per carry and the second-fewest receiving yards to the position. McCoy is coming off a tough matchup against the Jets in Week 2, and he gets another rough one here. Downgrade McCoy to an RB2 this week.
Oakland @ Tennessee
Tajae Sharpe rebounds in Week 3.
Some contemplated dropping Sharpe following his 33-yard performance in Week 2, but keep in mind the matchup. As the Titans No. 1, Sharpe saw a lot of Lions CB Darius Slay, which had an obvious impact on his statistical output. This week, he gets a Raiders secondary that is by far the best matchup for opposing receivers this season. Through two games, Oakland has yielded 35 catches for 564 yards and five scores to the position. All three numbers lead the league. That’s not a good thing for the Raiders, but it’s certainly good for Sharpe owners.
Cleveland @ Miami
DeVante Parker offers big-play value.
Joe Flacco continually took deep shots against the Browns defense in Week 2, and we could see that trend continue this week with Ryan Tannehill and Parker. Last week, Tannehill targeted Parker an average of 16.6 yards downfield. That places him in the top 15 among wide receivers in target depth. With the Browns seeing the deepest wide receiver target depth in the league (17.4 yards), Parker figures to again be heavily used downfield. He screams big-play upside this week.
Baltimore @ Jacksonville
It’s a sneaky week to start Chris Ivory.
After missing the first two games of the season with a mystery illness that initially had Ivory in the hospital, he’s back in practice and on track to play this week. Ivory will slot in as the early-down runner and gets an intriguing matchup against a Ravens defense that is one of just three units to give up 5.0-plus yards per carry to opposing running backs. With T.J. Yeldon floundering as a runner through the first two weeks, the Jags will look to lean on Ivory. He’s a sneaky flex play.
Detroit @ Green Bay
This is the Jared Cook breakout week.
Through the first two weeks of the season, no team has yielded more fantasy points to tight ends than the Lions. In total, opposing tight ends have racked up 15 catches for 179 yards and four scores. Cook hasn’t been anything to write home about so far this season with just five catches on eight targets. But he has the speed to take advantage of a strong matchup against Lions LB Tahir Whitehead, who is really struggling in coverage this season. Cook has sneaky TE1 upside this week.
Denver @ Cincinnati
Downgrade the Bengals passing game.
It’s bad news for A.J. Green owners, as he faces a Denver defense that has given up the fewest yards and catches to opposing wide receivers through the first two games. If you own Green, you still have to start him. Studs need to be started in fantasy football. However, those who own Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd will want to look to other options this week.
Minnesota @ Carolina
Avoid Cameron Artis-Payne and Fozzy Whittaker this week.
With Jonathan Stewart sidelined, the Panthers will turn to a committee that will featured Artis-Payne on early downs with Whittaker working in on passing situations and a little bit of Mike Tolbert sprinkled in. If you picked up Artis-Payne or Whittaker, you’re going to want to keep them out of your starting lineup this week. The Vikings give up the fourth-fewest yards to opposing running backs this season with an average of just 2.9 yards per carry.
Washington @ New York
Matt Jones gets a downgrade in Week 3.
After a poor start to the season, Jones showed promise last week with 61 yards and a score on the ground. However, Jones owners are going to want to fade the Redskins running back the week. The Giants defense has been impressive to start the season, giving up just 3.2 yards per carry to opposing running backs. Jones is a flex play at best.
Los Angeles @ Tampa Bay
Todd Gurley finally has a big game.
Write this one down in ink. Gurley has struggled mightily over the first two weeks of the season in the Rams one-dimensional offense, but that trend reverses this week against a Bucs defense that currently ranks as the sixth-best matchup for opposing running backs this season. Frustrated fantasy owners should start Gurley with confidence this week.
San Francisco @ Seattle
This isn’t the week to start Carlos Hyde.
Certainly stating the obvious here, but just in case you were pondering starting Hyde, it isn’t a good idea. The Seahawks defense has been stout so far, allowing just 2.9 yards per carry to opposing running backs. Keep Hyde on your bench, but don’t drop him after a poor week. Greener pastures are ahead.
New York @ Kansas City
More Matt Forte?
Absolutely. Through the first two games of the season, Forte has racked up 59 touches and the Jets do not plan to limit him any time soon. This week he faces a Kansas City defense that has seen the most carries by opposing running backs and has given up the most yards to the position. Forte remains locked in as an RB1 option.
San Diego @ Indianapolis
It’s Melvin Gordon time.
With Danny Woodhead now on injured reserve, Gordon is now in the driver’s seat as the Chargers’ feature back. After struggling in his rookie season, Gordon is off to a hot start with three scores as a runner and 159 yards on 38 carries. He’s a strong RB1 play this week with a healthy projected workload against a Colts defense that is the No. 1 fantasy matchup for running backs so far this season.
Pittsburgh @ Philadelphia
Downgrade Ben Roethlisberger?
Here’s one of those examples where the stats can be misleading. On paper, this looks like a brutal matchup for Roethlisberger. The Eagles are one of just two teams that have yet to give up a touchdown pass and currently sit as the worst matchup for quarterbacks this season. But we need to put those numbers into context. Philadelphia has faced the Browns and Bears so far. Neither team has a quarterback who is likely to own a gold jacket in the future. The Steelers, on the other hand, do have such a player. The first two matchups have made the Eagles defense appear to be better than what it actually is, and fantasy owners shouldn’t hesitate to start Roethlisberger this week.
Chicago @ Dallas
It’s a good week to start Zach Miller.
Like most of the Bears offense, Miller has been a disappointment through the first two games of the season, with seven catches for just 47 yards. However, fantasy owners may want to take a long look at Miller this week. He faces a Cowboys defense that currently sits as the No. 4 matchup for opposing tight ends. Through the first two games, only the Browns have given up more receptions to the position. Miller is a front-end TE2 play this week.
Atlanta @ New Orleans
Coby Fleener finally gets off the schneid.
Fantasy owners are fed up with Fleener after a slow start where the former Colts tight end has caught an abysmal three balls for just 35 yards. But Fleener should not be dropped. He saw eight targets last week, and big weeks are coming. It’s a good bet they start this week against a Falcons defense that has given up three scores and 15 catches to the position so far this season. Fleener gets back in our fantasy good graces on Monday night.
Jeff Ratcliffe | Director of Fantasy
Jeff Ratcliffe is the Director of Fantasy at Pro Football Focus. He produces all of our projections and is 2016's second-most-accurate ranker in the fantasy industry. Jeff also is the host of our show on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio and is one of the main hosts of our Fantasy Slant podcast.