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Fantasy Fast Forward: NFL Week 3

Photo courtesy of the Miami Herald

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 2-0. So are the Kansas City Chiefs and the Chicago Bears, for that matter.

The Minnesota Vikings are 0-2. So are the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers, all three predicted to be 2010 playoff teams.

So what does that all mean, really? Are the Bucs and Chiefs bound for Dallas in February? In April, will we be hearing, “With the first pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the Dallas Cowboys select Joe Football Player from the University of Football?” The answer to both questions… probably not.

Two weeks is a long time for some things. Being in jail for two weeks would be an eternity. Being constipated for two weeks would be a pretty painful ordeal as well. But in the NFL, two weeks isn’t much. Blink, and things will change.

So look at your fantasy football league’s standings. You probably see a team or two at 2-0 that you thought didn’t have a chance in H-E-double-hockey-sticks at winning your championship. Then there are probably a few teams at 0-2 that on paper, looked absolutely stacked heading into the season. Things can, and will, change.

Take my picks, for instance. Week 1, by all accounts, was the week of all weeks, in terms of my player picks. I was hitting on all cylinders, which by the way, is tough to do in the NFL’s opening week. Then Week 2 came. Let’s just say, my swelling ego took a huge hit. I wasn’t completely awful, but for someone who writes, eats, sleeps, and breathes fantasy football, you deserve better from me.

And so with Week 3 upon us, I’m here to dust myself off and give it another shot. I’ll first sum up the week that was for Week 2, then move on to my Week 3 Aces & Jokers.

My Week 2 QB Aces (Rivers, Campbell, Brady)

One stud, one dud, and one hometown QB who didn’t get the job done. Rivers had a 3-TD, 334-yard performance in San Diego’s win over the Jags, but Brady (20-for-36, 248 yards, 2TDs, 2INTs, 1 lost fumble) had a miserable game in the Meadowlands against the Jets. And poor Jason Campbell (8-for-15, 87 yards, 1INT) didn’t even last the whole game, with Bruce Gradkowski coming out of the bullpen for mop-up duty.

My Week 2 QB Jokers (Ryan, Young, Favre)

I’d chalk up two wins in this category, which ain’t half bad. Ryan turned in a monster game in Atlanta’s rout of Arizona, putting up 225 passing yards with 3 TDs and no turnovers. Favre was very “Favre-ian” Sunday, turning the ball over four times in their loss to Miami, and like Campbell, Vince Young didn’t finish his game either, handing over the reigns to Kerry Collins, after throwing two INTs and losing a fumble.

My Week 2 RB Aces (Bradshaw, Tomlinson, Moreno)

Moderate success here, although Moreno was the only one with a touchdown. Between rushing and receiving, the Denver running back led this trio with 118 all-purpose yards, with L.T. hot on his heels with 102 all-purpose yards, including 6.9 yards-per-carry on the day against the Pats. Ahmad Bradshaw scampered for 89 yards in the Giants’ blowout loss Sunday night to Indy… but he didn’t throw his helmet into the stands, so I guess that’s a beautiful thing.

My Week 2 RB Jokers (Benson, F. Taylor, Foster)

Another 2-for-3 for me. Arian Foster, while it wasn’t a 231-yard day, did have 69 yards both on the ground and through the air, which as a fantasy owner, you have to be pleased with. Cedric Benson ran for 78 yards but didn’t have a score, and New England’s Fred Taylor had just 11 rushing yards in their loss to the Jets. BenJarvus Green-Ellis had twice as many carries as Taylor did, so for all of you shlubs that ran to the waiver wire to scoop up Fred Taylor last week… you may have picked up the wrong Patriot running back.

My Week 2 WR Aces (Jennings, Bowe, D. Bryant)

Disastrous, plain and simple. No touchdowns for this trio, and none of the three wideouts had more than Bryant’s 52 receiving yards on the day. Jennings caught just three short passes for 36 yards against Buffalo, while KC’s Dwayne Bowe hauled in four passes for just 45 yards. So, uh yeah… sorry about that.

My Week 2 WR Jokers (Cal. Johnson, Clayton, D. Jackson)

And of course, all three of these guys made a trip to the end zone, making me an even bigger Week 2 loser. DeSean Jackson led the way with 135 yards and a score, while Calvin Johnson caught four balls for 50 yards and a TD. The Rams’ Mark Clayton did come back to Earth with just two catches in Week 2, but both went for touchdowns, helping those of you who snatched him up after his big opening week.

My Week 2 TE Ace (V. Davis)

A very lackluster day for V.D…. That’s Vernon Davis, not venereal disease… with the San Fran tight end catching just four balls for a modest 78 yards. Even at 0-2 though, the Niners can still win the putrid NFC West with ease… and they will.

My Week 2 TE Joker (M. Lewis)

He had one more catch that Vernon Davis, but they totalled eight less yards. So really, both players were a pile of mediocrity in the NFL’s second week.

My Week 2 Superlatives

Team Most Likely to Score More Than 40 Points (Green Bay) – They came close, putting up 34 points against the lowly Bills before they took their foot off the gas, but it was the high flying Falcons who were the only team in Week 2 to reach the 40-point plateau, beating the Cardinals in the “Battle of the Birds,” 41-7.

Fantasy First Rounder Most Likely to Have Their Owners Curse Their Name (Chris Johnson) – I think if you could have listened in on every Chris Johnson fantasy owner this past Sunday, the phrase, “Chris Bleepin’ Johnson” would have been pretty popular. 34 rushing yards and a fumble from your early first round pick doesn’t do much to warm a fantasy player’s heart.

Running Back Most Likely to be the Arian Foster of Week 2 (McCoy) – I guess you’d have to consider Detroit’s Jahvid Best as having the most “Foster-ian” performance of Week 2, but Philly’s LeSean McCoy wasn’t too far off. McCoy had three TDs on the day, and ran for 120 yards, which was more than all but three backs (Adrian Peterson, Darren McFadden, and Jason Snelling) in Week 2.

My Week 2 Wackies

“Michael Vick will run for more yards as a QB than Chris Johnson will as a RB.”

Boom goes the dynamite, I nailed this one! In a Week 2 that was starving for highlights, this certainly serves as my Week 2 home run, with Vick’s 37 rushing yards edging out Johnson’s 34. As the shifty-eyed Stuart Scott would say… “Boo-Yah!”

“Tampa Bay will win their second game in a row this week over Carolina, and won’t win another game this season.”

Step 1 of this prediction came true, with the Bucs improving to 2-0 with their Week 2 win over the Panthers. Only time will tell if the second part of this “wacky” comes to fruition. The Bucs host Pittsburgh this week in a game where the over/under I think is set at 9 1/2. Points will be at a premium, as they say.

“In ‘Manning Bowl 2’ on Sunday night, Eli and Peyton will combine for at least four interceptions.”

Swing and a miss. The Manning bros threw just one pick on the night, with Eli committing the boo-boo in the Colts’ blowout of the G-Men.

Without further ado, I take another crack at it with my Week 3 picks. Time to bring da noise and bring da funk…

Week 3 QB Aces

Carson Palmer, CIN (@CAR)

No one has attempted more passes that Cincy’s Palmer (85), and against an awful Carolina team, this is the week when those plentiful pass attempts turn into touchdown gold. Carolina is tied for the most passing touchdowns allowed thus far, with five, and with Carolina, Cleveland, and Tampa Bay on the horizon for Cincy, now’s the time to load up on Bengals.

Donovan McNabb, WAS (@STL)

I’ve never been high on McNabb as a fantasy baller, even back in his Eagle days, but this week he goes up against an absolutely terrible Rams defense, so I’m booking a one-week stay on the McNabb bandwagon this week. McNabb is coming off a huge 426-yard performance in the Skins’ OT loss to Houston last week, but the TDs were going to RB Clinton Portis instead of McNabb and the passing game. That’ll change this week, with McNabb hoping to hook up with his receiving corps for another big day through the air. I think he will, with ease.

Kyle Orton, DEN (vs. IND)

While I do think the Broncos will end up on the losing end of this AFC battle, I do see Orton having success on Sunday against the Indy defense. Orton’s got a lot of talent to throw to in Denver, with Jabar Gaffney, Eddie Royal, Brandon Lloyd, and rookie Demaryius Thomas at his disposal… no huge standouts, but all four could have breakout games at any time. With Denver likely playing from behind in this game, I see a Peyton vs. Orton shootout in the making.

Week 3 QB Jokers

Matt Schaub, HOU (vs. DAL)

There is surely a lot of hype entering this Lonestar State battle, and with Schaub coming off a gigantic Week 2 where he put up nearly 500 yards passing, many might think Schaub and the Texans are on a roll that can’t be screwed with. If you’re expecting a repeat performance this week though, well buddy, give me some of that good stuff you’re smoking… in reality, it just ain’t happening. Schaub has a banged-up star WR in Andre Johnson (ankle), and is beat up a bit himself after five sacks and nine QB hits from Washington last week. Schaub comes back to Earth this week with a below-average performance.

Matt Hasselbeck, SEA (vs. SD)

Hasselbeck had a very solid Week 1 win over the Niners, but he and the Seahawks couldn’t follow it up last week, losing to the Broncos. Which Seahawks team will show up against the Chargers in Week 3? My thought: not a good one. The Chargers were turnover machines last week against Jacksonville, racking up six takeaways on the day. I see Hasselbeck and the Seahawk offense having a tough day on Sunday in the Pacific Northwest.

Matt Cassel, KC (vs. SF)

Two QB Jokers named Matt just isn’t enough. I’m completing the trio with Kansas City’s Matt Cassel. The undefeated Matt Cassel. Sure, he’s led his team to a surprising 2-0 start, and sure he’s up against an underachieving San Fran team that could help the Chiefs run their record to 3-0 by weekend’s end, but look at Cassel’s stats so far, and you’ll see that Kansas City is winning despite their QB’s performance. Cassel has just 244 passing yards in two games this season… that’s less than half the total Matt Schaub had in just one game last week! Cassel might help deliver a victory again this week, but he won’t do it by tossing up a gem of a game himself.

Week 3 RB Aces

Ray Rice, BAL (vs. CLE)

Ray Rice fantasy owners have been pulling their hair out so far this year, with Rice putting up two disappointing games to open the season. He doesn’t have a touchdown yet, but I’m here to tell you that that streak will end this Sunday in Baltimore’s home opener against the Browns. In fact, he won’t just score once, he’ll score at least twice. He’s as big of a “must-start” as there is this week.

Pierre Thomas, NO (vs. ATL)

With the loss of Reggie Bush to a broken right fibula, the Saints will lean even heavier on Thomas to shoulder more of the workload in the backfield. He goes up against an Atlanta defense that kept the Cardinals under wraps last week, but Thomas should have little issue putting up a solid day at the Superdome this week.

Darren McFadden, OAK (@ ARZ)

Maybe, just maybe, we’re finally going to see Darren McFadden live up to the hype he entered the league with. Week 2 was a breakout game for the third-year back, racking up 145 yards on the day on a career high 30 carries. Michael Bush, McFadden’s running mate in the Oakland backfield, should return to the lineup this week after missing the two opening games with a fractured left thumb, but the starting job is definitely McFadden’s to lose now. Facing a Cardinal team that gave up 221 rushing yards last week to Atlanta, most of which came from backup rusher Jason Snelling, McFadden and the Oakland offense should be able to run rampant in the desert on Sunday.

Week 3 RB Jokers

Ronnie Brown, MIA (vs. NYJ)

Brown is stuck in the true definition of a “running back by committee” situation, splitting carries almost evenly with running mate Ricky Williams. This week, Brown and the undefeated Dolphins face a Jets defense that’s allowing just 1.8 yards per carry so far this year. He had mixed success last season against New York, rushing for 74 yards and two TDs in the first matchup, but then struggling in the second game with just 27 yards on 11 carries. I have a feeling points will be at a premium in this Sunday night divisional battle, so it’s quite possible that Brown turns in a fantasy stinker this week.

Jahvid Best, DET (@MIN)

The early Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate has “future superstar” written all over him, but I think this is the week that Detroit’s Jahvid Best starts to trip up. He faces the Vikings, who despite their 0-2 start, boast a very solid run defense. The Vikes will be playing desperate too, they didn’t want to start 0-2, and you know they can’t afford to fall to 0-3. Best has been the best so far, but that run will end this week.

Marion Barber, DAL (@HOU)

Other than Miles Austin, the other pieces on the Dallas offense have really disappointed fantasy owners thus far this season, and Barber is no exception. He’s stuck in a running back trio, which has limited him to just 19 carries and 70 yards through two games. The game with the Texans should result in plenty of points on the scoreboard, but with Felix Jones and Tashard Choice to split carries with, I don’t see many of those fantasy points heading Barber’s way this week.

Week 3 WR Aces

Darrius Heyward-Bey, OAK (@ARZ)

Many thought this guy was the dud of the ’09 draft, and last year, he absolutely was. But after a Week 2 that saw him haul in six passing for 80 yards, with a team high 13 targets heading his way, the second-year receiver could finally be ready to realize his full potential. The news that Bruce Gradkowski will be under center for Oakland comes as great news for D.H.-B., who Gradkowski targeted nine times last week in just the second half alone.

Santana Moss, WAS (@STL)

He’s facing the Rams… ’nuff said. Moss has quickly emerged as McNabb’s favorite target, and that hookup should continue in grand fashion this week in St. Louis. I’ve never liked having him on my fantasy teams in the past, but this might finally be the year he puts smiles on his fantasy owners’ faces.

Brandon Marshall, MIA (vs. NYJ)

With no Darrelle Revis for New York, the Jets will likely put Father of the Year candidate Antonio Cromartie on Marshall, who is the far-and-away targets leader for Miami, with 21. Marshall hasn’t sniffed the end zone yet for his new team, but I think that’ll come to an end on Sunday night. The Jets will have to focus on the run with Brown and Williams both very able backs for Miami, and that should lead to a big day for Marshall.

Week 3 WR Jokers

Steve Smith, NYG (vs. TEN)

Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham have improved greatly over last year, which unfortunately has led to a very slow start for New York’s version of Steve Smith. He’s coming off a game against the Colts where with a team high nine targets, Smith was only able to haul in four of them for a measly 35 yards. Tennessee isn’t a top defense in the league by any means, but they are still above average, so look for this game to be tight, with defense winning over offense more often than not, on both sides of the ball.

Steve Smith, CAR (vs. CIN)

I’m so anti-Steve Smiths this week, I considered putting former Atlanta Hawks guard Steve Smith as my third WR Joker of the week. But I’ll stop here with two Steve Smiths, as Carolina’s version faces a very tough test against an underrated Bengals defense. Beyond battling wrist and thigh injuries, Smith will be dealing with yet another change at quarterback, with former Notre Dame standout Jimmy Clausen getting the starting nod this week, unseating former starter Matt Moore. It’s likely that Clausen will struggle in his NFL debut, which will spell doom for fantasy owners looking for big things from their favorite Steve Smith.

Larry Fitzgerald, ARZ (vs. OAK)

There’s no doubt that Fitz will have Oakland’s Nnamdi Asomugha locked on him the entire game on Sunday, which could lead to a very disappointing performance for Arizona’s top wideout. Starting QB Derek Anderson has targeted Fitzgerald 28 times so far this season, good for second-most in the league, but Fitz hasn’t had much luck turning those targets into fantasy points, catching just 10 passes for 126 yards and one TD. He’ll struggle this week against Asomugha, as will the entire Arizona offense.

Week 3 TE Ace

Todd Heap, BAL (vs. CLE)

Heap has emerged as one of Joe Flacco’s favorite go-to guys on offense, and that trend should continue this week against the Browns. Cleveland has allowed both opposing tight ends so far to have very solid games against them, including last week against the Chiefs, when relative unknown Tony Moeaki hauled in five balls for 58 yards to lead the Chiefs in receiving. Heap has been targeted the third-most amount of times of all tight ends in the league, so look for a struggling Flacco to rely on his security blanket plenty this week.

Week 3 TE Joker

Heath Miller, PIT (@TB)

Miller might be Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite weapon to throw to, but Big Ben remains suspended, leaving Miller with a tough start to the 2010 season. Miller and the Steelers will see Charlie Batch under center this Sunday against the Bucs, so it remains to be seen how much head coach Mike Tomlin lets Batch air it out to his receivers and tight end. I see a lot of Rashard Mendenhall in this game, and not a ton of Charlie Batch, which will likely lead to a third consecutive stinker for Heath Miller.

Week 3 Superlatives

Fantasy First Rounder Most Likely to Cause a Temper Tantrum – Steven Jackson, STL (vs. WAS)
QB Most Likely to Lose Their Starting Job This Week – Derek Anderson, ARZ (vs. OAK)

Week 3 Wackies

(These are admittedly low-odds predictions that only I have the stones to profess…)

  • There haven’t been any shutouts yet in the regular season. Week 3 will have at least two.
  • There has only been one running back to go for over 200 rushing yards in a game this season. Week 3 will have at least two.
  • After Week 3, I think we’ll have five undefeated teams remain. Less than half of those 3-0 teams will make the playoffs this season.

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