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FFL: Offseason | NFL: Offseason

Lineup Prep: Week 3

Wed Sep 19 8:28 am
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer

Thompson is getting targets


If you haven't noticed, all the penalties called on the defense is leading to more points for offenses. This a trend that likely will continue all season as long as referees continues to call it very tight in the secondary and quarterbacks are nearly off limits for defenders. This is going to have fantasy scoring up, especially when it comes to passing games. We have been trending that way the last few years, but the way things have been called this year is ramping up offenses even more. Prepare for plenty of high scoring fantasy games.

Now for my random thoughts for the week. . . . .

I am tempering my expectations for Josh Gordon in New England. The upside is big if he keeps his act clean and finds his way into the starting lineup, but that is a pretty big "if." So if you want to trade for him, don't trade away the bank to get him. I think he is a huge risk. But with that said, I think it will be fun to see what he can do in this offense. He kind of has similar skill set to Randy Moss, a player that excelled with the Patriots.

The Bucs are going to have a hard decision to make when Jameis Winston comes off the suspended list after this week. Ryan Fitzpatrick is posting astronomical numbers as the starter and the team is winning, so it will be tough to get him out of the lineup, especially if the team wins again this week. It will be interesting to see how it plays out going forward. I don't think the job is going to automatically go to Winston when he comes off the suspended list.

I know it is early but the top five fantasy quarterbacks right now are Ryan Fitzpatrick, Patrick Mahomes, Ben Roethlisberger, Kirk Cousins and Philip Rivers. This is the reason myself and many other experts were saying to wait on a quarterback this year. The position is crazy deep right now and many guys are capable of being a top-10 fantasy quarterback at season's end. You were much better off using an early-round pick on another running back or receiver than going quarterback early in drafts. Keep this in mind next season, which is likely to bring a similar scenario.

I would not feel too good if I had Ezekiel Elliott or David Johnson on my fantasy team. Both these guys are playing for bad teams in not ideal situations. The Cowboys are in a little better place overall but they have no passing game, which is causing team to just stack the box on Elliott. Johnson is just getting shut down all over the place as that offense is a disaster. Johnson is a bigger concern for me but at least the Cardinals are talking about finding different ways to get him the ball (using him the slot). Either way, both these players are trending towards failing to live up to expectations. Not good.

I think the teams that stashed Mark Ingram should be feeling pretty good. Alvin Kamara has not had a lot of success running the ball, failing to hit the 50-yard mark in either game this year. Ingram can provide a spark to the running game and produce well in this offense. Remember, he was a top-10 fantasy back last year. I expect him to play a similar role once he is back playing.

Kenny Golladay is the real deal. He has 21 targets the first two games. He has emerged as a top threat in this offense and will be getting plenty of work all season in the pass-first offense. He is a top red-zone threat and big-play option for the Lions. It would not surprise to see him ending the season as the top fantasy receiver out of a very good trio of Lion receivers. Kudos to all of you that nabbed Golladay in your drafts.

The Giants are a mess. The offensive line has some new faces this year but is producing the same. This was a concern for me heading into the season and remains a big concern after the first two games. New York is giving Saquon Barkley little room to run, and Eli Manning is running for his life. Barkley is still producing for fantasy teams because of all his work in the passing game but you have to worry about his rushing numbers. He has done next to nothing besides one long run against the Jaguars in Week 1.

The Vikings offense is looking very good after two games. I know Dalvin Cook hasn't gotten going just yet but I think his time will come because the passing game is having so much success. Kirk Cousins has been great as the new quarterback. And receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have legit shots at both being top-10 fantasy receivers, which is hard to do when on the same team. This passing game is that good, though. And Cousins is looking like a guy that could be a top-five fantasy quarterback.

The kicker position had some turnover last week because of a lot of missed chances. This could be good news if you are looking for a new kicker, though. Dan Bailey has huge potential in a starting role for the Vikings. He can be a top-five kicker from here on out. Sam Ficken can do well as the starter for the Rams, an offense that produces a lot of chances. And Greg Joseph isn't a guy to pickup just yet but he has some upside if he kicks well. The Browns have produced some chances for their kicker the first two games of the season.

As always, don't forget to check out our weekly rankings: Week 3 Rankings.

News and Notes: The Cowboys signed receiver Brice Butler on Tuesday. Butler has played with the Cowboys, so he should pickup the offense quickly and could find his way into the mix at receiver in a hurry. . . . . The Cardinals have not announced a starting quarterback for this week. Head coach Steve Wilks has been non-committal as to who will start. An announcement should be made later in the week. . . . . .The Vikings are making a change at kicker, releasing rookie Daniel Carlson after his struggles last week. Minnesota signed veteran Dan Bailey to take his place. . . . .Cleveland also made a switch at kicker, releasing Zane Gonzalez. He was replaced by rookie free agent Greg Joseph. . . . . .The Rams made a change at kicker because of injury. Greg Zuerlein has an injured groin and is expected to miss a few weeks of action. Los Angeles signed kicker Sam Ficken on Monday to handle the kicking duties while Zuerlein is out of action. . . . . The Eagles signed receiver Jordan Matthews on Wednesday. Matthews gives the Eagles some much needed depth at receiver and could play immediately because of his familiarity with the team.

HOT PLAYS

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bucs. Fitzpatrick is off to some kind of start to his season. He is first overall in fantasy quarterback scoring. He has 400-plus passing yards and four touchdown passes each of his first two games this year. And last week he had his huge game against a very good Eagles pass defense. This week, he gets the Steelers, a team that allows the second most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Fitzpatrick is about a must start in this matchup. He might not hit the 400-yard mark again but the chances of him having another strong game are high.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers. Smith-Schuster is on his way to that breakout season many predicted. He has back-to-back 100-yard games to start his season and was targeted a whopping 19 times last week. He is seventh overall in fantasy receiver scoring. Things should go well for him again this week against the Bucs. Tampa is 31st against the pass and allow the seventh most fantasy points to receivers.

Jordan Howard, RB, Bears. Howard didn't do much last week but had 17 touches for 68 total yards, so his day wasn't a complete bust. He is getting a workout on a weekly basis as the led back for the Bears. He gets around 20 touches per game and can top that mark in the right matchup. And this week against the Cardinals could be a week he gets even more work. Arizona has been dreadful against the run, allowing the most fantasy points to running backs. The Cardinals rank 28th overall against the rush, allowing 136-rushing yards per game.

Chris Thompson, RB, Redskins. Thompson is fifth in running back scoring after two games and has the third most targets for a running back. He had 13 receptions last week after having six in Week 1. He is getting a ton of targets with Alex Smith as his quarterback and this trend should continue. Look for another good game this week against the Packers. This should be a high scoring game with the Redskins having to throw often, leading to a lot of target for Thompson.

Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions. Stafford had a terrible first week but looked more like the Stafford of old last week. He was 34-of-53 for 347 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. The Lions having little success running the ball, so Stafford is going to get plenty of chances to air it out on a weekly basis. Expect more of the same this week against the Patriots, a team that was just torched by Blake Bortles. The Patriots allow the seventh most fantasy points to quarterbacks.

COLD PLAYS

Royce Freeman, RB, Broncos. Freeman remains the starter in Denver but he is getting outplayed by rookie free agent Phillip Lindsay. It has not been a good start to the season for Freeman. We are not giving up on him by any means but he is a hard play right now with his current production. Things will be very tough for him this week against the Ravens, a team that allows the second fewest fantasy points to receivers. You might want to live Freeman on your bench for Week 3.

Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers. Rivers is off to a great start to his season, having two straight three-touchdown games. He played the Chiefs and Bills to star the year, though. These are two bad defensive teams. Things get much tougher for him this week against the Rams. Los Angeles has arguably the best pass defense in football this year with all their high-priced talent at cornerback. Rivers is going to have a hard time repeating his first two weeks in Week 3. Los Angeles allows the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks after two games.

Randall Cobb, WR, Packers. Cobb had a big Week 1, topping 100 yards while catching nine passes. He came back down to earth last week, catching four passes for just 30 yards. This could be a trend for Cobb, posting erratic numbers in the Packers pass-first offense. Cobb could have one of his down games this week against the Redskins. Washington has been solid against the pass to tart the year. The Redskins allows the third fewest fantasy points to receivers and are first overall against the pass, allowing just 161-passing yards per game.

Marlon Mack, RB, Colts. Mack returned to the lineup last week and had 10 carries for 34 yards. He got some chances but was outplayed by rookie Jordan Wilkins. Mack should continue to split work with the rookie, making him a tough play for fantasy teams unless he is in a great matchup. And this week against the Eagles is not a good matchup for Mack. Philadelphia allows the fifth fewest fantasy points to running backs and rank first overall against the pass, allowing just 58.5-rushing yards per game.

Corey Davis, WR, Titans. Davis isn't off to a terrible start but not a great start. He has at least five receptions each of the first two games but not topped 65 yards in either game. It has been pretty mediocre for him. Marcus Mariota is still hurting and could miss the game again this week, which is not good for Davis. Plus, the Titans plays the Jaguars. Jacksonville allows the fourth fewest fantasy points to receivers and are ninth overall against the pass. Expect another mediocre game from Davis in this one.

SLEEPERS

Matt Breida, RB, 49ers. Breida had a 100-yard game last week and 11 carries each of the first two games. He is getting double-digit touches per week in the 49ers offense, giving him good fantasy potential because of his big-play ability. Breida could do some damage this week if he gets double-digit touches against the Chiefs. Kansas City is a mess defensively, allowing the fourth most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Breida is worth a flex play in this matchup.

Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars. Bortles had a monster game last week, throwing for 377 yards and four touchdowns against the Patriots. Bortles is seventh overall in fantasy quarterback scoring after two games. He is looking more like the fantasy quarterback from early in his career than the guy from the last few years that didn't help many teams. He should do well again this week against the Titans. Tennessee is 20th against the pass to start the year.

Calvin Ridley, WR, Falcons. Ridley didn't catch a pass in the opener but was a bigger part of the offense last week, catching four passes for 64 yards and a touchdown. The Falcons made it a point to get Ridley involved and he produced. This should be a trend going forward. He has a chance to play a big role in this offense. Ridley is worth a look as a No. 3 or 4 receiver this week with a matchup against the Saints. New Orleans allows the most fantasy points to receivers and rank 29th against the pass.

Theo Riddick, RB, Lions. Riddick doesn't have many yards to start the year but his reception totals make him an intriguing fantasy option. He caught nine passes last week and has 14 catches in two games. He is fifth in targets for running backs after two games. He gets a workout in the Lions passing game, a passing attack that gets a lot of chances. Riddick should be on the field a lot this week against the Patriots. The Lions could have to score a lot of points to keep up with the Patriots. Riddick is a solid flex play in this matchup.

David Njoku, TE, Browns. Njoku is off to a bad start for all his fantasy owners. He has just seven receptions for 33 yards in two games. The good news is he has been targeted 14 times, which is the fifth most for a tight end. So he is getting the looks. It is just a matter of time before he has that breakout game. The Browns get a so-so Jets pass defense this week, so this could be the week that Njoku puts it together.

High/Low Scoring Games

Each week we will take a look at some of the high and low scoring games for the coming week. In high scoring affairs, get your marginal players on those teams in your lineup to take advantage of the possible points barrage. And in the low scoring games, keep those marginal players on the bench and make sure to have your defenses involved in those contests.

High Scoring Games: Saints/Falcons, 49ers/Chiefs, Packers/Redskins, Patriots/Lions, Steelers/Bucs.

Low Scoring Games: Broncos/Ravens, Cowboys/Seahawks.

Jeff Paur is a two-time finalist for FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and won the FSWA award for Best Fantasy Football Article on the Web in 2011. He also was the most accurate expert in 2012, winning the FSTA Fantasy Football Accuracy Award. If you have any questions for Jeff, email him at jeff@rtsports.com. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.

Player Notes
Thurston Armbrister Feb 20 5:23pm ET

Arizona Cardinals LB Thurston Armbrister was waived Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Hayden Hurst Feb 20 5:20pm ET

Baltimore Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst (foot), who was the 25th overall pick in last year's draft, said an X-ray showed he is now 100 percent after he had a screw removed from his foot. Hurst went down with a stress fracture in August and played in 12 games in his rookie season, catching only 13 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown. Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams will be free agents, so Hurst and 2018 third-round pick Mark Andrews could compete for playing time in 2019. Hurst is only 25 and has pass-catching upside, but he's still probably only an asset in dynasty/keeper leagues to begin next season. He could become a waiver wire pickup if he sees considerable playing time and proves he's healthy.

From RotoBaller

Le'Veon Bell Feb 20 5:00pm ET

There is word on the street that Pittsburgh Steelers impending free-agent running back Le'Veon Bell is up to around 260 pounds after holding out for all of 2018. His playing weight is listed as 225 pounds. Bell may have lost a lot of that extra baggage now, but the Jets and other teams may be concerned about what kind of shape he's in. There's also concern about how much the 27-year-old has left in the tank after his 1,635 touches in five seasons. Bell is believed to be looking for a deal that nets him $48 million in the first three years of his next deal. He is arguably the best dual-threat running back in the last decade and should still be an RB1 in his new home.

From RotoBaller

Le'Veon Bell Feb 20 4:43pm ET

Free-agent RB Le'Veon Bell (Steelers) reportedly weighed around 260 pounds during his year off from football. The Jets are fairly concerned about the shape Bell is in after he played at 225 pounds in 2017. New York is considered to be one of the front-runners to sign Bell this offseason. Despite the weight issue, the Jets will add him for the right price. The Jets currently boast the second largest salary cap heading into the offseason behind the Indianapolis Colts.

Fantasy Spin: Running back will be even more of a need if Isaiah Crowell is not retained. Bell would make a nice fit in green and white but is an RB1 candidate wherever he lands, assuming the weight won't be a big issue.

David Mayo Feb 20 3:33pm ET

Carolina Panthers LB David Mayo (hernia) recently underwent surgery for a sports hernia, according to The Athletic's Joe Person. Mayo is rehabilitating and is expected to make a full recovery.

Landon Collins Feb 20 3:23pm ET

New York Giants impending free-agent SS Landon Collins is expected to be pursued by the Indianapolis Colts in free agency, according to The Herald Bulletin's George Bremer.

Dion Sims Feb 20 3:10pm ET

The Chicago Bears are expected to release tight end Dion Sims, according to a source. He was due $6 million in 2019, so he'll become a salary cap casualty. The 28-year-old played in just 22 games in his two years in Chicago and caught only 17 passes for 189 yards and one touchdown over that span. Sims is mainly a blocking tight end and won't have a huge market for his services this offseason.

From RotoBaller

Dion Sims Feb 20 2:43pm ET

Chicago Bears impending free-agent TE Dion Sims is expected to be released, according to a source. Cutting Sims saves the Bears $6 million in salary cap space.

Landon Collins Feb 20 2:23pm ET

New York Giants impending free-agent SS Landon Collins cleared out his locker and said goodbye to teammates Wednesday, Feb. 20, indicating he does not expect to return to the Giants this year.

Jaelen Strong Feb 20 2:13pm ET

Free-agent WR Jaelen Strong (Jaguars) was signed to an undisclosed deal by the Cleveland Browns Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Le'Veon Bell Feb 20 1:43pm ET

Updating an ongoing saga, Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell will not be the recipient of the transition tag, according to general manager Kevin Colbert, Wednesday, Feb. 20. Bell will hit the open market in March.

Fantasy Spin: This isn't a big surprise. Gamers will have to wait to see where he ends up to get a true valuation, but Bell will remain in the RB1 ranks, albeit with risk, for 2019.

Todd Gurley Feb 20 1:20pm ET

Los Angeles Rams running back C.J. Anderson said Todd Gurley's knee injury was worse than the team originally thought when they signed Anderson to take over for Gurley for the final two regular season games. "Yeah, he'd never really tell me. It was tough. I would say sprained knee," Anderson said. "Obviously, it's the same knee injury he's had before in his career." Head coach Sean McVay and the Rams were calling it knee inflammation. Gurley has taken a pounding and no player in the league has had more touches than him since the start of 2017. He had just 14 carries in the conference championship and Super Bowl combined, so something was clearly not right with the star back. Gurley has gone over 1,000 yards on the ground in three of his four seasons and had 21 total touchdowns in 2018, making him the league's premiere running back. Despite ending the year hobbled in the playoffs, Gurley is a no-brainer first overall fantasy selection in 2019.

From RotoBaller

Antonio Brown Feb 20 1:20pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said the team will attempt to trade wide receiver Antonio Brown this offseason, but they will not give him away. If the trade doesn't benefit the Steelers, they will not trade him. Both sides are ready to move on, but the Steelers are unlikely to get a ton for the star wideout. Brown has rubbed many in the organization the wrong way despite putting up six straight seasons of 1,000 yards and 100-plus catches. While he's still the cream of the receiving crop, Brown is heading into his age-31 season and will likely do so in a whole new offense. He'll remain a high-end WR1, but Brown will come with more risk than ever before.

From RotoBaller

Le'Veon Bell Feb 20 1:10pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said the team will not place the franchise or transition tag on running back Le'Veon Bell. "LeVeon is still a great player. We cant afford to use any other type of tags. LeVeon will be an unrestricted free agent at the start of the new league year," Colbert said. Bell held out for the entire 2018 season after the Steelers placed the franchise tag on him. He'll be free to sign any other club next month and is not expected back in Pittsburgh. The versatile back has 1,000-yard seasons in three of his five years in the NFL and is also one of the best pass-catching running backs in the league. He's likely to remain a strong RB1 wherever he goes next, but his upside will depend on the offense that he's in.

From RotoBaller

Adam Thielen Feb 20 12:30pm ET

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen's agent, Blake Baratz, thinks his client and two-time Pro Bowler could reach an extension with the team this offseason. Thielen signed a four-year deal worth $19.246 million in 2017 that will pay him around $8 million in 2019. He has outplayed his contract after setting career highs in catches (113), yards (1,373) and touchdowns (nine). Thielen just keeps improving season after season and has become a strong WR2 in point-per-reception leagues. It helps that he'll be working with quarterback Kirk Cousins again in 2019.

From RotoBaller

DeVante Parker Feb 20 12:30pm ET

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Devante Parker is believed to already be gone and wideout Danny Amendola is iffy to be re-signed as well. Even Kenny Stills could be at risk with a $4 million salary cap savings if he's cut. The Dolphins have been wanting to move on from Parker for a while, so that is no secret. The former first-round pick in 2015 has been a flop and had just 24 catches (47 targets) for 309 yards and one touchdown in 11 games in 2018. He has just two scores the last two years and has never played a full season in the NFL. Amendola was much more reliable for a stagnant Miami offense and had 59 receptions for 575 yards and a touchdown in 15 games in his first season in Miami. He's getting long in the tooth, though, and isn't a lock to find a prominent role on the open market.

From RotoBaller

Adam Thielen Feb 20 1:03am ET

Minnesota Vikings WR Adam Thielen's agent recently expressed optimism that his client and the team are committed to hammering out an adjusted contract that will make Thielen one of the more highly paid receivers in the league. Thielen is about to enter the third season of a four-year, $19.246 million base deal.

Todd Gurley Feb 20 12:13am ET

Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley (knee) was 'more hurt than we thought' and could have been dealing with a sprained knee as opposed to knee inflammation, as head coach Sean McVay and the team indicated during the season, according to comments made by C.J. Anderson on Fox Sports 1's 'Undisputed' on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 'The injury was a little bit more than what everybody in the building thought, including himself. ... Yeah, he'd never really tell me. ... I would say sprained knee. Obviously, it's the same knee injury he's had before in his career. Obviously, I had surgery on my meniscus and once you have a knee, you always have a knee. So it aggravates and if he was getting a lot of touches earlier in the year -- obviously him being one of the best backs, that probably was the case,' Anderson said.

Fantasy Spin: Gurley's lack of usage down the stretch suggests either he or McVay did not feel the back was not anywhere close to fully healthy. While Anderson admits he has no way to know for sure, a sprained knee can be a serious enough injury to keep Gurley from being able to or wanting to handle a full load. The 24-year-old should be able to enjoy a normal offseason - even if did suffer a knee sprain - and figures to be a fantasy stalwart again in 2019.

Emmanuel Sanders Feb 19 11:30pm ET

Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (Achilles) said that he wouldn't restructure his current deal. "It aint happening. No way Jose," Sanders tweeted. The 31-year-old tore his Achilles in practice on Dec. 5 and is schedule to count $12.94 million against the salary cap in 2019. If Denver exercises his 2019 salary before March 12, he'd be guaranteed $1.5 million. The Broncos would save $10.25 million by cutting Sanders, leaving only $2.687 million in dead money. Before the injury, Sanders was the team's best receiver, catching 71 passes for 868 yards and four touchdowns while also throwing a TD and running one in. It remains to be seen if Sanders will even be ready for the start of next season, although his production has been fine when healthy. If the Broncos move on, Courtland Sutton would be the unquestioned No. 1 receiver going into his second year.

From RotoBaller

Emmanuel Sanders Feb 19 11:13pm ET

Denver Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders (Achillies') is sheduled to count $12.94 million against the salary cap in 2019, but he appears to have no interest in restructuring his contract entering the final year of his deal. Denver has until March 12 to exercise his 2019 option, which would trigger a $1.5 million guarantee of his salary. In the event they choose to release him, the Broncos will save $10.25 million against the cap.