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STATS’ Favorite Fantasy Football Plays: Week 3

By: Andy Cooper

Week 3 of the NFL season already is nuts. The Rams and 49ers already hung up a combined 80 points, and the Sunday/Monday games feature maybe the most questionable players and game-time decisions that I can remember.

Who plays and who doesn’t could render some of the following picks obsolete, so please check all player news before penciling any player into your lineups. And also be sure to check out Sean Koerner’s Week 3 Tiers while you’re at it.

Some GTDs that particularly could have an impact include Sam Bradford, Demarco Murray and Randall Cobb. Also, since I can’t touch on every player of course, feel free to ask me your sit/start questions on Twitter.

High-End QB Play: Aaron Rodgers, GB (vs. CIN)

Everybody agrees Rodgers is the No. 1 QB option this week. I’d just like to point out that we project him for quite a few points above No. 2 Tom Brady, who may not need to throw much at all in order to beat the Deshaun Watson-led Texans. Rodgers also won’t need to throw for 400 yards to beat the Bengals, but that game should still be a bit closer. He’s my cash-game recommendation this week.

Stack Partner: TBD. You have to check the news before deciding on this one, with both Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson questionable. Lately, Nelson practiced and Cobb didn’t. If Nelson plays and Cobb sits, Nelson is an elite WR play. If they both sit, Davante Adams is a must-start, must-cash guy. This would also make Martellus Bennett one of the top TE options.

High-End QB Play: Cam Newton, CAR (vs. NO)

Newton is obviously recovering from a shoulder injury, and is therefore too risky to use in cash games. Against the New Orleans “defense,” though, he has immense upside in GPPs, where many people will refuse to roster him because he is “bad.” Somehow or some way, Carolina will score points in this matchup, and Greg Olsen’s injury (and lack of great replacement options) may just force Cam to rush one or two extra times. He is a top-5 most likely option to contribute 4+ TDs this week.

Stack Partner: Ed Dickson. He’s a mediocre, blocking TE, but that didn’t stop Newton from targeting him three times after Olsen’s injury last week. Now, Carolina beat writers are pumping him up as a potential focal point of the offense (somehow). He’s basically minimum price and only needs three catches or so to provide value, but he’s also a solid bet to score a TD. I also like Devin Funchess here, who is basically built like a TE and is a sneaky natural replacement for Olsen.

High-End QB Play: Carson Wentz, PHI (vs. NYG)

First of all, the Giants defense doesn’t quite look as dominant as last season. Their starting secondary contains great individual players, but star corner Janoris Jenkins is already banged up, which forces an aging DRC into a bigger role, and big play-yielding Eli Apple into a starting spot. Second, Wentz looks like a high-floor, high-ceiling guy, since Philly has all but abandoned their usage of RBs. He could lead them in rushing, while also throwing for 300 yards. While many other borderline QB1 types like Philip Rivers and Dak Prescott have tough matchups, Wentz is a QB1 by default in season-long leagues.

Stack Partner: Zach Ertz. Ertz is a great option against any team, but especially against a Giants D that funnels to TEs. Also, Wentz/Sproles is a sneaky contrarian stack, as most will avoid the QB/RB duo.

QB Sleeper: Deshone Kizer, CLE (@ IND)

Kizer ran five times last week despite missing much of the game with migraines. He runs so much that he is approaching a Tyrod Taylor-like floor, where 5-10 points are all but assured as long as he suits up. This week, in addition to the floor, he has a higher-than-usual ceiling, with Cleveland expected to score – gasp – 21 points! Indy’s run defense looks good enough to limit Isaiah Crowell, but their pass defense is still not good and Kizer could make some plays. He’s a solid QB2 option in two-QB leagues, and a better GPP play than typical QB2 types like Joe Flacco and Eli Manning this week.

Stack Partner: Rashard Higgins. Kenny Britt is sneaky because everybody has written him off, but Higgins is a great cheap option this week with Corey Coleman out. Hopefully he is “listed” as the No. 3 guy on the depth chart, which lowers his ownership, because he’s still the best bet to lead Cleveland in receiving.

QB Fade: Drew Brees, NO (@ CAR)

This matchup is just bad for old man Drew. First of all, he’s on the road, which is an obvious negative split. Second, he faces a good defense. Third, Carolina’s offense is probably not good enough to make this a blowout or shootout like last week vs. New England, so he probably won’t salvage with garbage-time points. Brees is priced like a super-elite QB on DFS sites (he’s $100 less than Rodgers and $100 more than Matt Ryan on DraftKings), but he’s more of a back-end QB1. Heck, if you have Kirk Cousins or Matt Stafford as his backup in season-long, you may want to start them over him.

High-End RB Play: LeSean McCoy, BUF (vs. DEN)

Ezekiel Elliott put up a real-life stinker against Denver last week (8 rushing yards), but in a strange way, he foreshadowed a high floor for Shady by getting four receptions on five targets. McCoy is a better receiving back, and Denver’s corners are so much better than Buffalo’s wide receivers that he very well may lead the Bills in receptions. Also, as long as Buffalo does a better job on defense at home than Dallas did last weekend in Denver, the game won’t be a blowout, meaning Buffalo won’t abandon the run after nine attempts like Dallas did last week. Shady’s potential volume (even if he averages 3.5 instead of 4.5 YPC) keeps him as a top 5 or 6 RB, and he’s priced like a borderline RB1 only. He’s a valuable DFS play this week as a result.

Stack Partner: Bills Defense. Denver is “good” and Buffalo is “bad,” right? Yet Vegas gives Buffalo roughly a 40% chance of pulling off the upset at home. If that happens, it’ll probably be with ball control and defense, and perhaps Trevor Siemian will turn into a pumpkin. If so, both McCoy and the Bills D will benefit simultaneously, making this a sneaky contrarian stack.

High-End RB Play: Kareem Hunt, KC (vs. LAC)

I just want to point out that regardless of your opinion on Hunt as a sustainable elite talent, he has earned himself an elite RB1 workhorse role seemingly. He was the only Kansas City RB to run the ball last week, and we have seen him do things in the passing game that most seasoned RBs can’t imagine. In a game where KC is both favored and expected to score 25 points, he’s the No. 2 option behind Le’Veon Bell in DFS, and his price makes him a better cash game value.

RB Sleeper: Darren Sproles, PHI (vs. NYG)

I already mentioned how Philly abandoned the RBs last week, but that was mainly LeGarrette Blount and Wendell Smallwood as Sproles touched the ball 12 times. Sproles can make enough happen with that amount of volume, especially with receptions, to be a back-end RB2 this week against a Giants D that tends to stop WRs while funneling to RB and TE. He’s the best punt play at RB this week, in cash games and GPPs alike.

RB Fade: Ty Montgomery, GB (vs. CIN)

This isn’t a total fade as much as a warning to proceed with caution. Montgomery leads NFL RB in snaps through week 2, which is problematic since he suffers from sickle cell syndrome and also isn’t used to being a running back. Green Bay will definitely look to lighten his load when given the opportunity, and there may be no better opportunity than if the Packers go up big against the Bengals. Montgomery might very well be needed with the WR corps banged up, but this is a good opportunity to fade a hyped-up player and have the percentages on your side.

RB Fade: Frank Gore, IND (vs. CLE)

Opposing RBs are typically no-brainer, must-start plays against Cleveland as their teams typically get and keep the lead, but Frank Gore is as risky as they come. First of all, the Colts are bad, so that lead won’t come as easily as it would for other teams. Second, because they’re bad, they have reduced Gore’s role in favor of younger RBs, meaning he’s only on the field for 30-40 percent of the snaps. That could continue to trend down as they totally give up on the season. Gore needs a TD in order to provide anything, meaning he’s more of a dart-throw flex than a shoe-in RB2.

High-End WR Play: DeAndre Hopkins, HOU (@ NE)

Hopkins is being ranked as a WR2. I get it, their offense is bad and Bill Belichick likes to “take other teams’ best players out of the game.” He can do that, and severely limit Hopkins’ efficiency, but the fact of the matter is that Watson doesn’t even look at other receivers and force-feeds the ball to Hopkins. He is pretty much the only Houston WR that has seen any targets, and Bruce Ellington’s return won’t take more than 3 or 4 of those targets away. In a game Houston will surely be losing most of the way, I expect Hopkins to put up something like eight receptions for 80 yards, making him a sure-fire WR1 while guys like Michael Thomas and Dez Bryant have bad matchups. Priced like a WR2, he’s a great DFS play.

WR Sleeper: Eric Decker, TEN (vs. SEA)

Decker is very, very sneaky this week. Marcus Mariota made an effort to get him involved early last week with a few targets, and the rest of the way the Titans were winning by 20 and hardly needed to throw. If it were a close game, Decker could’ve compiled targets/receptions. Tennessee facing Seattle may weirdly be a better matchup for Decker – they surely won’t blow them out, so they’ll keep throwing, and Decker operates largely out of the slot, meaning he’ll largely avoid Sherman. Throw in the fact that Corey Davis is out, freeing up more looks, and you have a potential breakout game for Decker. He’s my favorite contrarian punt play at WR in DFS and a solid emergency flex in season-long leagues.

WR Fade: Michael Thomas, NO (@ CAR)

I already mentioned Brees as a fade, and there’s not much more to say about Thomas. The matchup and abnormally low expected output from the Saints makes him a back-end WR1, and not the elite guy I expect him to be nearly each week going forward. I like Hopkins more than him this week, but try to use this as an opportunity to buy low in season-long.

WR Fade: Brandin Cooks, NE (vs. HOU)

Cooks looks like more of a deep threat rather than a volume guy in New England. He didn’t compile stats last week when Brady threw for 447 yards in a shootout against the Saints, and I don’t expect him to compile stats in a lower-scoring laugher against Houston. He may get a deep ball or two as New England has the opportunity to basically toy with the Texans, but the fact of the matter is that he’s more of a DeSean Jackson style hit-or-miss WR2 this week. With his expectations and at his price, no thank you.

High-End TE Play: Jared Cook, OAK (@ WAS)

I touted him as a TE sleeper last week, saying he was so cheap that he just needed three or four receptions to hit value. Does it count as a win for me that he got four receptions on six targets for but for a measly 25 yards? Either way, the volume was encouraging and he looks like Derek Carr’s bona fide third option. He has the talent and role of a top 10 TE the rest of the way and makes for a nice Greg Olsen replacement if he’s still on your wire. If you want to acquire him, you should do it now, as the game in Washington could be a shootout. I’d also like to take this opportunity to say I’d fade Gronk in cash this week – he’s still the #1 TE but it’s a good week for him to take snaps off. I prefer Cook and Ertz in cash games. That being said, with Gronk obviously banged up, he’s an interesting contrarian GPP play, and if his few catches do come in the end zone, he’ll break the slate.

TE Sleeper: Charles Clay, BUF (vs. DEN)

Denver shut down Hunter Henry but then got torn up by Jason Witten. So are they death to TEs or the worst at defending them in the league? The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle, which is good enough for Clay, who looks like Buffalo’s most (only?) dependable receiver. Much like Witten, he’s slow and old, yet is often his QB’s No. 1 target option by default. With Aqib Talib and Chris Harris overmatching Buffalo’s WRs, Clay could have a nice PPR game.

TE Fade: Eric Ebron, DET (vs. ATL)

I had some good calls last week (Chris Carson as a long-term RB sleeper, Gurley as a high end play, etc.), but one I got totally wrong was Jason Witten as a TE to fade. The logic there was that the Giants always give up big games to TE, and the matchup against Denver would be much tougher. Jason Witten is a hall of famer who still has enough talent in the tank to prove me wrong. Eric Ebron is a guy who has eight career TD in 42 games. With TE being such a TD-dependent position week-to-week, and since I think Golden Tate will go back to hogging PPR targets this week, Ebron is an easy guy to bench in season long. He may be over-owned in DFS, as point chasers look to stack him with Stafford in a potentially high-scoring matchup, so I’d rather fade him.