The NFL’s Third Season

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While the debate over football’s TV ratings rages on, the games play on like the steady heartbeat of a drum. Those who did tune in, however, were treated to a spectacle that was often, shall we say, less than pleasing to the eye.

Good defensive play is one thing; everyone loves a brutal, hard-fought battle on the gridiron. Bad offensive execution is another story, altogether. Blown routes and dropped balls make for some truly cringe-worthy moments that have real-life and fantasy owners wringing their hands in frustration.

The culprit: rust.

Due to injury concerns, teams opt to sit their best players for much of the preseason. Thus, many of these offenses haven’t logged significant playing time since last December. And, thus, we have the birth of the NFL’s third season.

The first two or three weeks of the regular season are now the real preseason, when team’s whip themselves into playing shape. Offensive line chemistry is perfected, timing routes are honed.

So, fantasy owners whose teams have laid eggs in the first two weeks shouldn’t despair completely. Better days may be on the horizon, perhaps as soon as this week.

Thursday, September 21st

Los Angeles Rams (-2.5) @ San Francisco 49ers

After a strong showing in week one, the Rams came back to Earth. They’re traveling on a short week, but at least they’re only traveling within their own state. Los Angeles will rebound and win a close game, covering the spread.

Start: Sammy Watkins
In week two it was obvious that Jared Goff has become too reliant on Cooper Kupp. Look for the coaches to emphasize spreading the ball a bit more. The talented receiver should be one of the beneficiaries.

Sit: Todd Gurley
The Redskins seemingly had no answer for the third year running back. The 49ers won’t make that mistake; expect them to stack the box and close off running lanes and make Goff beat them.

Sunday, September 24th

Baltimore Ravens (-4) @ Jacksonville Jaguars

This marks the year’s first match-up across the pond. The Jaguars have played five games overseas. The Ravens are making their first, such trek. I think the Jaguars prevail in a strange and ugly affair.

Start: Allen Hurns
The Jags receiver is known as “Mr. London” due to his prolific numbers in overseas contests. His chemistry with Blake Bortles has made him one of the week’s hottest pick-ups.

Sit: Joe Flacco
Hopefully you have better options than starting Flacco against Jacksonville’s fourth-ranked pass defense.

Denver Broncos (-3) @ Buffalo Bills

The Trevor Siemian bandwagon is officially cranking up. The second-year quarterback has done a marvelous job, distributing the ball where it needs to go and putting points on the board. Denver should cover easily.

Start: Charles Clay
With nine targets in week two, it’s clear the veteran tight end is the closest thing Buffalo has to a reliable option in the passing game. With Buffalo likely playing from behind, start Clay and hope for a garbage time touchdown.

Sit: C.J. Anderson
Anderson seems to have fully-recovered from the health woes that plagued last season. He looked good last week, but the Bills are better up front (7th ranked rushing defense) than the Cowboys. Temper your expectations.

Pittsburgh Steelers (-7.5) @ Chicago Bears

Da Bears are a long way from the glory years. Despite that, I’m always leery about taking Pittsburgh on the road. I’ll pick them to cover, but I probably wouldn’t use them in survival pools.

Start: Zach Miller
15 targets through two weeks of play shows the tight end is a valuable cog in this check-down offense. With Kendall Wright battling injury woes, ride Miller before he gets hurt again.

Sit: Tarik Cohen
Cohen was hungrily snatched up in most leagues. He will be a popular play if Jordan Howard is out. Hopefully you have better options; let’s see it first before I recommend starting Cohen.

Atlanta Falcons (-3) @ Detroit Lions

The Falcons enter the contest as a slim favorite, but the Lions have looked plenty spry. It’s tempting to take them, but I think Atlanta’s offensive talent wins out and they cover.

Start: Tevin Coleman
Atlanta will have to get the ball out quickly to beat that Detroit pass rush. Coleman was barely used in the passing game last week; expect that to change.

Sit: Golden Tate
Week two showcased the floor for the veteran receiver. He’ll get his targets, but his total yardage will make him unplayable in non-PPR formats.

Cleveland Browns (-1.5) @ Indianapolis Colts

One of these teams HAS to win, right? As fitting as it would be for this game to end in a tie, I think the Colts pull this one out.

Start: Jack Doyle
It’s hard to recommend starting anyone, but let’s go with the Colts tight end, who will be a solid volume play.

Sit: Everybody else

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Minnesota Vikings

Odds makers consider this game a pick-em. With Sam Bradford gimpy and questionable, I’m going with Tampa Bay.

Start: Dalvin Cook
The rookie back will look to make a statement against one of the teams that passed over him in the draft. That, combined with Minnesota’s anemic passing offense, make Cook a strong play.

Sit: Stefon Diggs
Avoid all Vikings receivers – especially if Bradford is a no-go.

Houston Texans @ New England Patriots (-13)

The Patriots have dominated the all-time series against the Texans (8-1 lifetime). Thirteen is a hell of a spread, but it might not be high enough. Patriots will cover.

Start: Brandin Cooks
Cooks is a notorious slow-starter. I think him and Tom Brady finally get on the same page, this week.

Sit: DeAndre Hopkins
One of the things Belichick is best at is taking away your number one option. For the Texans, that’s unquestionably Hopkins.

Miami Dolphins (-6) @ New York Jets

The Jets are gunning for that number one pick. Your best bet in survivor this year should be taking their opponent every week. Of course, it’s the Dolphins, so nothing’s for certain, but you should feel pretty good about it.

Start: Jermaine Kearse
With a healthy 15 targets through 2 weeks – and 2 touchdowns to boot – Kearse is a strong play against Miami’s 31st-ranked pass defense.

Sit: Bilal Powell
2.7 yards per carry; yuck.

New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles (-6)

This is a put-up-or-shut-up game for the Giants, who find themselves in a familiar 0-2 hole. The Eagles have owned them, of late, but I think the Giants will pull off an upset on the road, or at least cover the spread.

Start: Paul Perkins
The Giants o-line play has been woeful. If they are to prevail, look for them to establish the run game and take some pressure off of Eli. The talented Perkins would be the beneficiary.

Sit: Alshon Jeffrey
Even if Janoris Jenkins doesn’t suit up, Jeffrey will receive plenty of attention from the Giants secondary.

New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers (-6)

The Panthers, despite not firing on all cylinders, have taken care of business. This week seems primed for a Cam Newton breakout. Carolina covers.

Start: Christian McCaffrey
Expectations were too high for the rookie back, who continues to have his workload monitored. Still, there’s no better medicine than facing the Saints and their terrible defense.

Sit: Ted Ginn Jr,
Resist the temptation to start Ginn in his return to Carolina. He and Drew Brees have yet to establish a rhythm, making Ginn an afterthought on a crowded, New Orleans offense.

Seattle Seahawks @ Tennessee Titans (-3)

This is one of the week’s hardest match-ups to pick. With the Seattle offense on the fritz, I’m going to continue to roll with Tennessee until they prove me wrong.

Start: Marcus Mariota
Against a tough, Seattle defense, it’s hard to trust any one receiver in the Titans offense. The safest play is the one guy you know will have the rock in his hands. Mariota, with his running ability, will at least keep the Seahawks defense honest.

Sit: Chris Carson
The terrible offensive line makes it’s hard to trust a Seattle running back. The situation is made especially-murky by the presence of Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise. It’s hard to tell how the division of carries will play out, going forward.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Green Bay Packers (-9)

The Bengals have been hot garbage, but a nine point spread seems high for a Packers team that just gave up 34 points in a week two tilt against the Falcons. The Bengals aren’t the Falcons, of course, but their defense is solid so I’m taking them to cover.

Start: A.J. Green
Obviously you’re starting him if you have him. I like him in daily as well against Green Bay’s vulnerable secondary.

Sit: Martellus Bennett
Seventeen targets through two weeks, but only eight receptions. Now they’re going up against a Bengals defense that has been stingy against tight ends.

Kansas City Chiefs (-3) @ San Diego Chargers

The Chargers, as per usual, have been solid on offense and defense, but have struggled in the special teams department. The Chiefs have struggled defensively, this year. And, while they’ve won their last six match-ups against the Chargers, I think LA wins in a close one.

Start: Chris Conley
If you’re looking for a desperation play, try Conley, who is but a forgotten name next to some of Kansas City’s bigger stars. All the speedy wideout needs is to break free once against an LA secondary who just gave up 200 yards to Miami.

Sit: Travis Kelce
LA’s pass rush has been sneaky good, this year (6 sacks). If that’s the case, then Kelce – whose production has see-sawed throughout his career – may be called on to block.

Oakland Raiders (-3) @ Washington Redskins

There are a lot of home dogs, this week. The Raiders seemed to beat the “can’t win on the east coast” stigma last season, so I’m taking them. You just never know what you’re going to get out of the Redskins.

Start: Jared Cook
Washington has been dreadful against the tight end position. Cook has nine catches through two weeks. You do the math.

Sit: Chris Thompson
As good as Thompson has looked, this season, you can’t trust running backs in a Jay Gruden offense. You never know when he’s simply going to abandon the run. Thompson is a PPR-flex play at best.

 

Monday, September 25th

Dallas Cowboys (-3) @ Arizona Cardinals

I’d put my money on a better showing across the board from a Cowboys offense that was thoroughly-embarrassed last week by the Broncos. Dallas will bury this Arizona team that struggled to beat the Colts.

Start: Jaron Brown
Brown, who was targeted 11 times in week 2, represents an interesting dart throw in PPR-leagues.

Sit: Dez Bryant
With Bryant likely to be shadowed by Arizona cornerback, Patrick Peterson, the Cowboys offense may look elsewhere in the passing game.

 

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