Fantasy football is fun, sometimes. And fantasy football is hard, much of the time. Week 3 was a challenging week for many. All you can do is make good decisions, load up your roster smartly, and hope some bounces go your way. And remember, the balls roll funny for everybody, kid. Eddie Felson tried to warn us on that.
Big names bolster busts of Week 3's Sunday action
Consider the front of the early-window running back board. Khalil Herbert pinballed the Texans after David Montgomery got hurt. Monty managers feel the pain, and Herbert managers likely didn’t benefit this week, though good things could be coming down the line.
Herbert stands as RB1 as we compose this piece. He was started in four percent of Yahoo leagues.
Detroit Lions' spirit animal Jamaal Williams sits No. 2 on the backfield leaders. Williams was plausibly playable for some fantasy teams, as he gets double-digit carries just about every week and has a ton of goal-line equity. But his 107 total yards and two touchdowns were surely tilting to D’Andre Swift managers.
Dalvin Cook (shoulder) and Montgomery left with injuries. Christian McCaffrey punched out 108 rushing yards, but he didn’t score a touchdown and had just seven receiving yards. Baker Mayfield has torpedoed DJ Moore (1-2-0) for three straight games. Moore can’t be started until that pair shows some chemistry.
Alvin Kamara has 19 receiving yards for the year. The 1-2 Saints haven’t done much on offense, save for some Jameis Winston garbage-time yards (and one snappy comeback win at Atlanta), but when the Saints actually do move the ball, it’s Chris Olave winning downfield. Kamara looks sluggish through his two games, and Michael Thomas (foot) left early with an injury.
We have good news on the Bengals, coming later, but Joe Mixon wasn’t invited to that party. The Jets held him to 38 total yards and no touchdowns on 15 touches.
Okay, backfield bricks can happen. Normally we can soothe a tough 1 p.m. window with some easy receiver hits.
Can anyone find any?
The Dolphins had a glorious win over Buffalo, but Tyreek Hill (2-33-0, four targets) wasn’t the accelerant. After two weeks of highly-concentrated passing, the Dolphins threw their one touchdown to River Cracraft. At least Jaylen Waddle collected 102 yards on just four catches. Miami had trouble sustaining offense and ran a shockingly-low 39 plays. Usually on a day like this, you're dead in the water. But the Dolphins defense stole the game.
Stefon Diggs didn’t kill you off a 7-74-0 line, though a touchdown would be nice. Gabe Davis was quiet in his return (3-37-0), more a decoy than anything else. The Dolphins did harass and confuse Josh Allen for three hours.
Ja’Marr Chase posted a touchdown at the Jets, but he had just 27 total yards and lost a fumble.
Justin Jefferson, who we were ready to follow into a burning building two weeks ago, is in a funk. It’s one thing when Darius Slay shuts him down in Week 2. But how do we explain Jefferson’s 3-14-0 dud against the Detroit turnstile? (Perhaps, as Mike Salfino has suggested, Detroit corner Jeff Okuda is showing some shutdown chops.) Kirk Cousins threw touchdown passes to Adam Thielen (a one-yarder, of course) and to a charitably-uncovered K.J. Osborn in the final two minutes.
We’ll keep grinding, gamers. Generally, we think of running back production being heavily tied to usage projections and winning scenarios, while wide receiver is a position where dynamic talent is much more critical. (One of my favorite industry friends put this into perfect words this week, but I can't remember who it was. Reebs? Mattek? Hartitz? Levitan or Silva? I'll try to find the apropos tweet.) But that doesn’t mean either position is easy to project. And it doesn’t mean every week is going to be sunshine and lollipops.
Of course, this column is called Booms and Busts. We have a few happy stories to spotlight, too.
Lamar Jackson early MVP favorite
Lamar Jackson bet on himself before the year, and that bet looks like a home run. He had no problem with Bill Belichick and the Patriots' defense Sunday, throwing for four touchdowns (two of them to superstar Mark Andrews) and adding another 11-107-1 on the ground. No matter your scoring system, Jackson is easily the No. 1 quarterback on the early board, at least 12 points ahead of the chasers. Jackson was September's cheat code.
Jalen Hurts has a good thing going in Philadelphia. He threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns at Washington, and he was kind enough to make sure all scoring tosses went to the pass-catchers fantasy managers care about (DeVonta Smith, A.J. Brown, Dallas Goedert). The widely-available Eagles DST also answered the bell, sacking Carson Wentz nine times. Philadelphia’s schedule is comically easy for most of the year. The Eagles might be the NFC’s favorite right now.
Joe Burrow didn’t go bonkers at the Jets, but the Bengals cleaned up the pass protection and Burrow did a better job taking care of the ball. Three touchdowns, 275 passing yards, no picks, just two sacks absorbed. That’s a major step forward for a Bengals team that did little right through two weeks.
• The 49ers gave away Sunday’s game through three turnovers (and that doesn’t count a gift safety), losing despite a sizable advantage in yards per play. The Broncos also caught breaks on a handful of Melvin Gordon touches that could have been turnovers, but were not. Denver’s offensive play calling clearly shows the team doesn’t have a lot of confidence in Russell Wilson or the blocking right now. If this doesn’t change, the Broncos are in trouble.
• One of the keys for any fantasy backfield is trying to reduce the workload from three runners to two runners. Now that the Patriots wagon is hitched up to just Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris, they both have lower-end RB2 or higher-end flex appeal. Of course this very ordinary offense takes a step back if Mac Jones (ankle) misses any time, but the backs will still be on the cusp of fantasy playability.
• J.K. Dobbins was limited to nine touches and 40 total yards in his first game back. This underscores why we usually need a prove-it or show-me week before someone returns from a major injury.
• Clyde Edwards-Helaire is something of a fantasy fraud right now, living off touchdown deodorant. I don’t know that you’ll find an exciting trade market for him, but I’d try anyway.
• The worst thing about Chicago’s start is that the Bears improbably are 2-1, so they’ll keep pretending they can win playing 1977 football. Meanwhile, Justin Fields won’t really be developing, and everyone in the pass-catching corps becomes useless for fantasy.
• It’s not that I expected miracles from Davis Mills, but he’s been poorer than expected. I have mildly downgraded Brandin Cooks and been forced to reevaluate Nico Collins, who is still getting open. The tight ends are the only ones catching touchdowns for Houston, and the Texans always seem to insist on using multiple tight ends.
• I can't believe what the Chargers did with Justin Herbert today, especially at the end of their blowout loss. Sure, Herbert wanted to stay in, players almost always say that. You pay the coaching staff to be the adults in the room. Be better than this, Brandon Staley.
• The Jaguars are fun. I'm not sure just how good a coach Doug Pederson is, but he's 1000 miles from Urban Meyer. James Robinson's comeback is a revelation, and I'm not giving up on Travis Etienne, either. Christian Kirk might have been overpaid, but so what? The Jaguars treat him like a No. 1 and Kirk built quick and immediate chemistry with improving Trevor Lawrence. Jacksonville gets a major test at Philadelphia next week.
caught the Chargers defenders wearing blinders pic.twitter.com/CwoIbWt9kz
— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) September 25, 2022
• Despite Hunter Renfrow’s targets off the books and the Raiders trailing for just about three hours, Davante Adams and Darren Waller did not take advantage. Derek Carr’s one pick was Waller’s fault, a bobble in the end zone. I know I took Adams over Stefon Diggs in at least one league, a dreadful mistake.
• No one is ever going to confuse Derrick Henry with Marshall Faulk or Christian McCaffrey when it comes to pass catching, but there’s no reason the Titans couldn’t get Henry 40-55 passes a year if they really wanted to. They prioritized Henry’s receiving Sunday and it was a boost to the offense. These can be easy yards, and for once it’s nice to see Henry tackled by the smallest defenders on the other side, not the biggest ones.
• The best thing about the Packers and Buccaneers game is that it ended; it felt like Old-Timer's Day. But let’s be fair to Tom Brady — he was playing without Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Julio Jones, and don’t forget Rob Gronkowski retired after last year. Most of those guys will come back strong. Heck, maybe they can twist Gronk’s arm around Thanksgiving.
• Atlanta’s usage was narrow and tidy, with the ball going to Cordarrelle Patterson, Kyle Pitts, and Drake London. Of course Pitts was their one core player who didn’t score (Marcus Mariota also had a rushing score), but Pitts managers can handle 5-87-0 on eight looks. I realize the entire fantasy world has said this already, but the blowup is coming. Atlanta's offense has been useful in every game.
• I wish I had remembered Minnesota and New Orleans were ticketed for the Week 4 London game, because it’s common for teams to play poorly on the eve of that obtrusive trip. I liked Detroit and Carolina as spread picks anyway, but this would have upped the urgency.