QB: Joe Flacco, vs. CLE – Coming off a three touchdown, 382-yard performance against the Patriots, Joe Flacco has never looked better. His imminent breakout seems to finally be upon us with the Ravens new no-huddle offense. This week he draws a great matchup against the Joe Haden-less Browns, who currently rank 26th against the pass.
RB: Cedric Benson vs. NO – With the Saints currently dead last against the rush, the Packers couldn’t draw up a better matchup for Cedric Benson. Mike McCarthy has shown his willingness to put the ball in Benson’s hands, feeding him 45 touches over the last two games. Expect Benson to have a nice week against one of the league’s worst defenses.
Frank Gore at NYJ – The 49ers defense will be able to wreck havoc against the Jets’ sub-par offense and their overall lack of talent. I feel good about Gore getting plenty of touches and the Jets are currently struggling against the run, allowing an average of 148.7 yards per game – good for 28th in the league. Most importantly Gore has shown that he’s still a special talent – averaging a stunning 5.9 yards per carry. There are plenty of reasons to believe Gore will recover this week.
Stevan Ridley at BUF – Lots of fantasy owners are worried about the workload that Stevan Ridley is going to receive coming off his 37-yard dud last week. His lack of usage was due to the Patriots game planning that called for lots of quick passes because of the Ravens dominant front seven. Expect Ridley to be a bigger part of the Patriots game plan against the Bills mediocre run defense.
Darren Sproles at GB – In 21 games as a Saint, last week marked only the 3rd time that Darren Sproles didn’t record at least four catches. In a shootout against the Packers, expect the Saints to be in heavy passing mode. This will amount to fewer touches for Mark Ingram and more snaps for Sproles. Start him with confidence despite last week’s lack of production.
WR: Brandon Lloyd at BUF – Leading the Patriots with 33 targets this season; Brandon Lloyd is on the cusp of a big breakout. Last week was a solid start, hauling in nine of his 12 targets for 108 yards. That said many owners still haven’t seen what Lloyd is truly capable of, due to Brady and Lloyd’s inability to connect on the long ball. A true breakout game is coming; I suspect it’ll be this week.
Jordy Nelson at NO – Jordy Nelson is coming off a two catch, 19-yard performance against an imposing Seattle defense. Let’s just say he was one of my favorite “buy-lows” this week. Nelson was a dominant fantasy wide receiver last season and nothing has changed. The Packers have struggled against some tough matchups coming out of the gates but there is little reason to panic. This dream matchup against the Saints will help the Packers get more in-sync.
Greg Jennings at NO – Just like Jordy Nelson, owners are worrying about the skill players on the Packers offense. Don’t forget that the Packers were the league’s most efficient offense last season and little has changed. This week the Packers have their first good matchup and I don’t expect them to waste much time scoring.
Hakeem Nicks at PHI – After sitting out last week’s game, some owners may be hesitant to start Hakeem Nicks against the Eagles. I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t be concerned – Nicks is an elite receiver that has to be inserted into your lineup whenever he’s healthy.
TE: Greg Olsen at ATL – Greg Olsen paced the Panthers in targets last week with 11, catching seven passes for 98 yards. Playing the Falcons will keep the Panthers in heavy pass mode and Olsen should continue to dominate over the middle of the field.
QB: Jay Cutler at DAL – With just three touchdowns and six interceptions on the season, Jay Cutler simply can’t be trusted as your starting quarterback. Aside from his solid performance against the lowly Colts in Week 1, Cutler is just 28 of 58 (48.3%) with one touchdown and five interceptions. Just stay far, far away.
RB: Steven Jackson vs. SEA – Although he’s not practicing, Steven Jackson is expected to suit up for Week 4. Don’t be foolish enough to start the struggling back at less than 100 percent. So far this season he’s complied 41 rushes for 140 yards and no touchdowns, while adding six catches for 36 yards through the air. That amounts to a lowly 46.7 rushing yards per game and he’s yet to face a rush defense as good as the Seahawks, who are allowing the second least points to opposing running backs this season.
Ryan Williams vs. MIA – With Beanie Wells heading to the ‘designated for return’ injured reserve, Ryan Williams will have a chance to be the Cardinals lead back. While I do like his chances of holding the job, this isn’t the week to take him for a test drive. The Dolphins have allowed just 66.3 rushing yards per game, good for third fewest in the league. That means you’ll want to leave Williams on your bench.
Alfred Morris at TB – Another running back that has had increasingly good news this week is Alfred Morris. With Roy Helu done for the season and Evan Royster battling to stay healthy, Morris is locked in as the Redskins feature back. That said, his matchup couldn’t be worse – the Buccaneers defense has allowed a league-leading 47.3 rush yards per game.
Ahmad Bradshaw at PHI – Despite having a solid Week 1 showing, things have quickly gone downhill for Ahmad Bradshaw. While the Giants still call him the starter, I wouldn’t think of starting him this week. Andre Brown added a new element to the Giants offense, averaging 5.6 yards per carry and looking plenty explosive. Bradshaw didn’t look explosive during the Giants’ first two games and I’d hate to rely on him this week while he’s splitting with Brown against the Eagles solid defense.
Chris Johnson at HOU – My how the mighty have fallen, over the past four years Chris Johnson has seen his rushing yards per game fall from 125.4 in 2009 to 85.3 in 2010 and again to 65.4 in 2011. Somehow this year he’s averaging just 15 yards per game. Despite being many owners’ first pick, Johnson simply can’t be trusted against a stout Houston defense.
WR: Nate Burleson vs. MIN – After catching ten passes for 69 yards, a touchdown, and a two-point conversion last week, some owners may look to Nate Burleson as a bye-week filler. I’m here to tell you that is a bad idea. Burleson plays on an offense that will allow him to perform like this some weeks but he’s not a big enough part of their game plan to expect these games consistently. There were enough pass attempts for Burleson to be successful in the Lions 44-41 loss to the Titans but I wouldn’t expect the same to be true this week. Do yourself a favor and start Jerome Simpson or Leonard Hankerson instead.
Kenny Britt at HOU – Despite being a player that I targeted as buy-low in many of my leagues this week, Kenny Britt is one game away from being startable. He’s still struggling with some lingering injuries and has a tough matchup against Jonathan Joseph. Wait till Britt plays the Vikings in Week 4 for his true breakout party.
Santonio Holmes vs. SF – Santonio Holmes put up huge numbers last week, reeling in nine catches for 147 yards against the Dolphins. There are plenty of reasons to believe this won’t become a trend against the 49ers. Let me start by saying that was Holmes’ first 100-yard receiving performance in his last 28 games. Expect the 49ers defense to dominate the Jets offense, leaving little room for Holmes to put up solid starting production.
Michael Crabtree at NYJ – PPR owners shouldn’t worry too much about avoiding Crabtree, this one is more for standard leaguers. Despite his reliable catch totals, 6.3 catches per game, Crabtree doesn’t break long touchdowns and will continue to struggle in the red-zone. The 49ers have focused on getting Frank Gore and Vernon Davis touches in the red-zone, leaving Crabtree to work between the 20’s. There’s little reason to expect that to change.
TE: Jared Cook at HOU – I’m a big fan of Jared Cook’s unique ability and he had a nice game last week against the Lions. That said, he’s struggled with a shoulder injury in practice this week and can’t be expected to do much against the stingy Houston defense. You’re better off playing Brandon Pettigrew, Kyle Rudolph, Brent Celek, Greg Olsen, Jason Witten, Owen Daniels or even Fred Davis this week.
Thanks for reading! Hit me up on Twitter @BraudeM or post below for any lineup questions you guys have!