It’s week 3, and I’m already scared to death about the outlook of my fantasy football team’s future. Questions surround my Arian Foster-led fantasy squad as it makes its way into its week 3 matchup, looking to improve upon its current 1-1 record. Will Foster continue to lose touches as his backup, Ben Tate, continues to progress? Is Marques Colston going to start producing like a #2 WR anytime soon? And how in God’s name is Mike Williams my top bench player?
So, as these questions (among others) continue to chip away at my optimism for my own team’s chances at winning it all this season, let’s take at look at some of the key storylines that could make an impact on your team’s week 3 performance.
Injury bug bites trio of high-profile running backs
Ravens RB Ray Rice has been a starting lineup staple for fantasy owners since breaking out in 2009, just his second year in the league. Prior to this season, though, many wondered if 2nd-year backup Bernard Pierce would begin to push Rice for touches. With Rice being forced out of last week’s game against the Browns as the result of a hip injury, that threat became an obviously necessary reality as the Ravens fed Pierce 20 times (19 rushes, one reception).
Rice is listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game against Houston, who would present a so-so matchup for the Ravens running game. Even if Rice does play, expect the Ravens to play it safe by giving Pierce at least half of the touches. He was able to punch it in into the endzone last week, so another score from Pierce is definitely not out of the question this week, either.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are going nowhere fast. I highly doubt that even the great Timothy Tebow could provide an end to suffering at this point. This sinking ship of a franchise seems to be taking its franchise player down along with it, as it has become increasingly obvious that Maurice Jones-Drew is now past his prime. He has started the season off poorly with just 73 total yards and no TD’s through his team’s first two games. Last season was no career highlight for Jones-Drew either, as injuries limited the stocky ‘back to just six games played.
Injuries have crept up on Jones-Drew yet again, as ankle issues have forced his name onto the list of questionable players for week 3. The Jags will be facing an extremely stout Seattle defense on Sunday, though, so MJD may not be worth the risk. If you possess a somewhat serviceable replacement, sit Jones-Drew.
Unlike MJD, there is little to doubt as to whether or not Falcons RB Steven Jackson will be on the field Sunday when the team travels to Miami to take on the Dolphins. Jackson suffered a hamstring injury in week 2 that is expected to keep him out of action for the next three weeks or so. Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling will fill in for Jackson, but neither ‘back has made much of a lasting impression when given larger roles in the past. Rodgers should get the majority of the carries, while Snelling will most likely scoop up any goal-line opportunities.
Rather than simply passing off Jackson’s full workload to the two backups, it is much more likely that Matt Ryan will be given plenty more opportunities to throw the ball in week 3. Rodgers is a flex play at best, and Jackson should be stashed on the bench until his return to the field garners a return to your starting lineup.
Browns trade Trent Richardson to Colts
The Browns shocked the football world this week by shipping their best offensive player, Trent Richardson, to the Indianapolis Colts for a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. The big bruiser will receive plenty of touches in Indy. Now that he’s paired alongside a legitimate threat at the quarterback position in Andrew Luck, there’s no telling just how much Richardson will impact from not being the focal point of opposing defenses’ schemes, as he frequently was in Cleveland.
His sub-3.5 yards-per-carry isn’t exactly “elite” by any sense of the word, but it’s no secret that the offensive situation in Cleveland was an absolute mess – to put it nicely. So, while Cleveland’s offense will more than likely continue its fade into fantasy football obscurity, Richardson’s future just got a heck of a let better. While Indy’s offensive line has had its fair share of issues this season, the Colts offense as a whole is nowhere near as putrid as the Browns’ offense .
The Browns, meanwhile, have signed 31-year-old Willis McGahee to fill the void left by trading their primary offensive weapon. If McGahee were joining any other offense, besides the Jaguars, I would be optimistic about the former Miami Hurricane’s chances to post yet another successful season in what has become a well-traveled but overall productive career. Sorry, Willis. Welcome to Cleveland.
Richardson is worth the start, although I would be hesitant to put him in the RB 1 category, as the Colts face a tough 49ers team that will be looking to avenge last week’s loss against Seattle. Also look for backup Ahmad Bradshaw to steal a healthy amount of touches while the former Brown tries to adjust to life in Blue and White.
As far as McGahee is concerned, he is worth the pickup, considering how thin the running back position is this year in fantasy football. I wouldn’t expect too much production in his first week, though, as he spent the entire preseason and first two weeks of the regular season watching NFL action from the sidelines as a free agent. He is also coming off of a serious leg injury, so my cautious optimism rates his upside as a RB 2 by the end of the season, though he barely garners consideration as a flex play this week.
Peyton Manning leads loaded Broncos offense
Is Peyton Manning human? Through two games, the Broncos QB has an insanely high quarterback rating of 131.0 to go along with nine touchdowns, and I’m almost positive that “father” Archie engineered robot quarterback sons. Well, son (sorry, Eli).
Don’t expect a let-up this week, as Manning and the loaded Broncos offense look to exploit an unspectacular Oakland Raiders defense. The wideout trio of Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, and Eric Decker bodes extremely well for Manning owners. Owners of each of the individual receivers, though, will continue to struggle throughout the remainder of the season with deciphering which one will get the most action on a game-by-game basis. The recent emergence of tight end Julius Thomas will not help alleviate these issues, either.
Decker seems to be like the most likely candidate to produce a huge wideout performance for Denver on Sunday. Decker was targeted 13 times last week, which comes at just the right time for the wideout. In a 2012 matchup against the Raiders, Decker exploded with 15 catches on 18 targets for 167 yards and one TD. Look for another big game from Peyton’s “#3″ option.