Week three of the NFL season is here, and it’s hard to find a more brutal two-week stretch to start a season for fantasy starters. If you don’t have a roster in shambles, congratulations, and buckle up, because your time in the hopper is coming. However, if you drafted [list of players cut for brevity’s sake], then you know you need some help. Never fear, Football Absurdity is here with players available in at least 50% of Yahoo! Leagues. For those of you in the deepest of leagues, we also include one player available in at least 90% of leagues.
Matthew Stafford at Cincinnati (42% rostered)
Don’t look now, but Matthew Stafford is back. He’s good again. While Stafford has only one passing touchdown on the season, he finished with at least 300 passing yards in each of his first two games of the year against the 49ers and the Seahawks, where he helped lead the Rams’ offense to an average of 26.5 points per game. Obviously, we thought he would struggle out of the gate without Cooper Kupp, but Puka Nacua and Tutu Atwell emerging have helped to bolster his status. This week, he takes on a Bengals team that ranks inside the top five in quarterback fantasy points allowed after allowing two touchdowns to the position in each of their first two games.
Baker Mayfield versus Philadelphia (17% rostered)
Much like Stafford, two receivers carry Baker Mayfield’s weekly production, as Chris Godwin & Mike Evans do the hard part. Baker’s currently averaging over 17 fantasy points per game in the first two games of the season, thanks in part to his 14 rush attempts and 3 passing touchdowns. He’s not the best quarterback, but he does do well enough with trash time, which the Buccos should have in spades against the Eagles this week. Philly leads the NFL in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, and it’s not because they’ve played world-beaters. They’ve let Mac Jones and Kirk Cousins finish with over 310 passing yards and 3 touchdowns in each of the first two games of the season.
C.J. Stroud at Jacksonville (14% rostered)
Through two games, there isn’t a ton to like about Stroud. But, there are some encouraging signs for the #2 overall pick in this draft after his week two game. He’s rocking a 63% completion percentage, and his yards per attempt jumped up 48% from week one to week two. He also finished last week with 384 passing yards and two touchdowns, while feeding Tank Dell, Nico Collins, and Robert Woods as many targets as they could handle. This week he gets a Jacksonville squad that allows the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, with both Anthony Richardson and Patrick Mahomes topping 21 fantasy points against them in the first two weeks of the season.
Deep Diver: Desmond Ridder at Detroit (5% rostered)
Once again, the sub-10% quarterbacks are bleak, so I am going to lean into the matchup with Ridder going against the Detroit Lions in what should be a shootout. Poor Arthur Smith won’t be able to just slam the rock 500 times in this one, as the Detroit Lions try to play the same kind of ball-control offense, but they’re actually good on offense, scoring the tenth-most points per game. Ridder will be forced to throw to keep up, which doesn’t mean he will chuck it all over the yard, but Kyle Pitts, Drake London, and Bijan Robinson are more than capable of doing the hard part. The Lions, like the Jags above, have allowed at least 20 points to both quarterbacks to play them this season.
Josh Reynolds versus Atlanta (47% rostered)
Josh Reynolds is dealing with a core muscle injury, but he’s expected to play this week. In the first two weeks of the season, Reynolds ranks 21st in yards per game on the year while running a route on 70% of Jared Goff’s dropbacks on the year. He’s WR14 on the season, and while that’s unlikely to extend past Jameson Williams returning from suspension, Jameson Williams is still suspended. So, this week, Reynolds gets what has been a stingy Atlanta Falcons pass defense, which allows the fourth-lowest completion percentage on pass attempts traveling at least 15 yards downfield, per FantasyPoints Data Suite. Reynolds might struggle against that defense, but the volume the Lions generate (Jared Goff has generated just five fewer air yards than Trevor Lawrence) should help to offset that.
Tank Dell at Jacksonville (21% rostered)
If you’re going to believe in C.J. Stroud this week, then you have to believe in Tank Dell. He’s tiny, weighing approximately seven grams, but he’s potent. Call him Fantasy Fentanyl, as he played more than half of snaps last week for the first time in his career, but finished with 7 catches for 72 yards and a touchdown, on 10 targets. That came against the Swiss Cheese Colts’ pass defense, but the Jags’ pass defense isn’t much better, as they’ve given up big games to Michael Pittman and Skyy Moore already this season. While Dell is down the pecking order behind Nico Collins, he isn’t that much further behind.
Deep Diver: Josh Downs at Baltimore (2% rostered)
The Ravens are a strong defense on paper, but they haven’t had the services of their CB1, Marlon Humphrey, yet this season. Because of this, they have given up the sixth-most points per game to receivers this year, with the position averaging 46.55 fantasy points per game against them. With no Anthony Richardson and no Jonathan Taylor leading to a ton of Gardner Minshew, it’s hard to get away from the WR2 on a team that literally only has four wide receivers on the roster. Downs, the 79th overall pick in the 2023 draft, is yet to have his trademark breakout game, but he currently ranks second on the Colts in target rate and is third in air yards share. With the game plan for Gardner Minshew meaning more passing, that means more opportunity for Downs, who is mostly a short-area target, something a running quarterback won’t really need.
Jaylen Warren at Las Vegas (47% rostered)
I’m not really predicting that Jaylen Warren will take over for Najee Harris. What this is is recognizing that Warren has become the pass-catching back for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are looking to not run with a bell cow for the first time in Mike Tomlin’s tenure with the Steelers. Warren is first in running back targets per game, with 12 targets two games into the season (Christian McCaffrey leads the NFL with 13 targets, but he played on Thursday). Warren’s deficiencies, namely his size and his complete inability to do anything remotely resembling pass protection mean that Najee isn’t going anywhere, but if someone is on track to lead running backs in targets, then I am listening.
Kendre Miller at Green Bay (17% rostered)
The third-round selection in the 2023 NFL Draft is set to make his debut in week three with the backfield essentially all to himself. Alvin Kamara is serving the last game of his suspension, and Jamaal Williams is out for the foreseeable future with his hamstring injury. That leaves Kendre and Tony Jones Jr. to carry the load this weekend for the Saints.
From my pre-draft write-up on Kendre Miller:
“Miller has great straight-line speed and does an excellent job at setting up blockers to try to get himself to the second level. Unfortunately, he also struggles with muddier lines of scrimmage and can get himself killed trying to happy feet his way to the correct move. Still, he’s very strong and displayed that straight-line speed against Texas on a long touchdown run. He is going to be an above-average NFL back for a long time (or he could be terrible, who knows). Still, he has a lot that I like to see. In addition to strength and speed, he has a good amount of agility to manipulate defenders in the open field, and is strong enough to carry tacklers.” My favorite comparison for Miller was the newest Baltimore Ravens’ running back Melvin Gordon in his prime.
Deep Diver: Latavius Murray at Washington (4% rostered)
Don’t look now, but Old Man Latavius Murray™ is first on the Bills in running back snaps inside the ten and is tied for twelfth in the whole league among running backs in that statistic. He is also eighth in the NFL in running back carries inside the ten-yard line, with four so far in this young season. Instead of becoming insanely frustrated about the Bills using James Cook in a profoundly obnoxious way, I am going to lean into the skid and say that Latavius Murray scores a touchdown this week against the Commanders, who have had just two carries inside the ten against them, but the opposing back scored on one of them.
Jake Ferguson at Arizona (39% rostered)
This doesn’t have as much to do with Jake Ferguson as it has to do with the Arizona Cardinals. Ferguson is averaging 5.5 targets per game, but the key point here is that the Cardinals are, once again, one of the worst teams in the league against opposing tight ends. They’ve allowed 12.3 points per game to the position in the first two weeks of the year, with both Logan Thomas and Darren Waller posting 8 targets against them. Logan Thomas went 4/43, and Waller went 6/76. With streaming tight ends, you’re looking for someone to get that 4/43 floor, with a chance at a touchdown. This week, Ferguson has a chance to reward his fantasy managers who stream him with at least the TE12 finish, and if he scores a touchdown, he has a chance to finish inside the top five at the position.
Zach Ertz versus Dallas (29% rostered)
Through two weeks, Zach Ertz leads all tight ends in the NFL, averaging 9 targets per game. Unfortunately, he is just eighth in the NFL with 77 yards per game. Still, his 9.9 PPR points per game come out to eighth in the league, and going against the Cowboys, the Cardinals are likely to dump it off to Ertz just as much. You’re looking at a seven-target floor for Ertz, and given that he has strong hands and a knack for getting open, his 66.7% catch rate should hold, giving him a four-catch floor. With the tight end situation what it is, I will take that every day of the week.
Deep Diver: Cade Otton versus Philadelphia (2% rostered)
Cade Otton finished last week third on the Buccaneers in targets, pulling in all six of them for 41 yards. That wasn’t a monumental effort, and it was mostly getting opportunities, but it was good for TE12 on the week. That game came against the Chicago Bears, who rank inside the bottom ten in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. This week’s game comes against the Philadelphia Eagles, who give up the most fantasy points per game to tight ends on the year. Haters will say that those games came against Hunter Henry, Mike Gesicki, and T.J. Hockenson. But, while haters might be right, we are dreamers, here. Otton has a great chance to finish higher than the guy across the field from him, Dallas Goedert, this week.