The amount of information you need to sift through on a weekly basis to build some competitive lineups can seem overwhelming. You’re in the right place to get through all of that information in no time, and we have another item for you to add to your arsenal. Each week, we’ll break down the best and worst rushing and passing matchups for Sunday’s main slate of games.
This will allow you to quickly zero in on the top anchors for your lineups, and point out which players you’ll want to avoid as you fill out the rest of your roster. There’s a ton of choices to examine on a weekly basis. The goal of this article is to help you narrow the field of targets down substantially.
Let’s get right to it, starting with the week’s top matchups.
Matchups to Exploit
Dallas Cowboys Rushing Offense vs Los Angeles Rams Rushing Defense
Ezekiel Elliott has sandwiched two solid performances around an awful one in Week 2, but he’s in line to add another checkmark into the positive column this week. The Los Angeles Rams have been fantasy friendly to opposing running backs thus far this season, and the elite offensive line of the Dallas Cowboys should help insure that continues. The Rams have already allowed a pair of multiple-touchdown games to opposing backs this season - Chris Thompson found paydirt twice in Week 2, while Carlos Hyde pounded the rock home a pair of times last week - so this matchup presents a great opportunity for Elliott to have the monster game that we all know he’s capable of.
While there’s no promises that will happen, the stars are aligning in the right way. Projections call for the Cowboys to be protecting a lead - Vegas has the Cowboys as a 6.5-point favorite with a projected total of 48 points - so we can expect a heavy dose of Elliott in the second half if all goes according to script. The Rams have shown a lot of flashes this season, and they’re clearly a team on the rise. This shouldn’t be a complete blowout, but the Cowboys should be able to chalk up the win against a young squad. Elliott is going to cost you a pretty penny, but he shapes up as one Week 3’s top projected plays.
Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Offense at Los Angeles Chargers Rushing Defense
The Los Angeles Chargers have also been gashed by opposing backs this season, but they’ve been keeping them out of the end zone thus far. Jay Ajayi ran for 122 yards in Week 2, while Kareem Hunt erupted for 172 yards last week. If we add in the fact that C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles combined for 121 yards in the opening game of the season, and it’s getting to the point where we can be optimistic that 100 yards on the ground is an attainable goal for backs facing off with the Chargers. Hunt is the only opposing back that has found the end zone against them so far, but we’re not going to let that scare us off of a potentially fruitful matchup.
The Eagles are set up for a productive afternoon of running the football, but there’s a slight problem. Darren Sproles is out for the year, and Wendell Smallwood and LeGarrette Blount split carries pretty evenly after he went down last week. Can we expect more of the same this week? There’s no definitive answer to that, but it certainly looks like a reasonable assumption. Smallwood brings more versatility to the offense, but Blount has more touchdown upside. Both players are intriguing options as salary saver choices at running back, but be mindful of the risk that comes with the workload split.
New England Patriots Passing Offense vs Carolina Panthers Passing Defense
Since putting up a dud in Week 1 against the Chiefs, Tom Brady has been completely dialed in. Brady tossed for 447 yards and three scores against the Saints in Week 2, and he followed that up by torching the Texans for 378 yards and five touchdowns last week. For those scoring at home, that’s an elite level of performance. As you would expect, Brady is priced with that in mind across the industry. The upside he brings to the table makes it worth it, as the Patriots project out as one of the week’s highest-scoring squads. Current lines brand the Patriots as a 9-point favorite, and the game has a projected total of 49 points.
The Panthers did a nice job of holding Brian Hoyer and Tyrod Taylor in check in the first two games of the season, but things changed when a more dangerous signal caller came to town. Drew Brees threw for 220 yards and three scores, but it could’ve easily been more. The Saints won the game going away, and there’s little doubt that Bress would’ve done even more damage in a closer affair. We can’t quite pencil Brady in to do the same, but the chances are awfully good. For stacking options with Brady, Rob Gronkowski is always in play, but he’s also typically the most expensive tight end on the board. Brandin Cooks had the breakout game we’ve all been waiting for last week, while Chris Hogan is filling in nicely in the Julian Edelman role. If you’re looking to save salary, roll with Hogan, but we can easily make a case for all three.
Tennessee Titans Passing Offense at Houston Texans Passing Defense
When thoughts turn to the Houston Texans, the natural inclination is to thinks of strong defense and a weak offense. While soem of the pieces are in place to live up to that billing on the defensive side of the ball, the club has had some struggles against the pass. Tom Brady torched them last week in a game that turned into an unexpected shootout. The Texans are thin at cornerback due to the injury to Kevin Johnson, and there’s no help on the way to make that better. While the Titans offense will never be confused with the Patriots, Marcus Mariota could have himself a productive day.
The running game remains the strength of the team, but we’ll consider that another benefit to this matchup. While the Texans focus on mitigating the damage on the ground, Mariota and the offense should be inspired to get creative. Mariota has yet to throw for more than 256 yards in a single game this season, but he was able to toss two scores against the Seattle Seahawks last week. For stacking purposes, Rishard Matthews and Eric Decker are the options to key on. Matthews has evolved into Mariota’s top target, while Decker could have a nice day out of the slot against struggling cornerback Kareem Jackson.
Atlanta Falcons Passing Offense vs Buffalo Bills Passing Defense
On paper, the Buffalo Bills have been tough against the pass this season. We’ll get a true interpretation of how good they are when they finally face off against an elite offense. Our money is on the Atlanta Falcons finding some holes in the secondary. Matt Ryan has delivered solid fantasy production in each of his three outings, and he tossed a pair of touchdowns against the Detroit Lions. On the downside, he also threw three picks last week, but two of them came on tipped balls. He’s got plenty of weapons around him. The Falcons can do plenty of damage on the ground, courtesy of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, and there remains a ton of upside for the offense as a whole.
The Falcons are one of the week’s highest-projected scoring teams and a big favorite at home - current lines have them as an 8-point favorite with a projected total of 48.5 points - so that leads us to perk up as well. Ryan is one of the more pricey quarterbacks of the week, but he also looks like one of the safest for expected production. For stacking purposes, Julio Jones is obviously the top option, but he’s going to cost you as well. He’s yet to find the end zone this season. While we hate to brand someone as being due, we wouldn’t argue with the phrase being used in this case. Cheaper options such as Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, and Austin Hooper also merit consideration, but Jones is the safest option of the bunch.
Matchups to Avoid
Detroit Lions Rushing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Rushing Defense
We flag running backs without pass catching upside on pass-heavy teams as risky options to begin with, but that’s especially true when they’re facing off against a stout run defense. That’s the situation we have at hand when the Detroit Lions take on the Minnesota Vikings, and we’re not biting on Ameer Abdullah or Theo Riddick as a result. Abdullah showed some signs of life against the New York Giants in Week 2 by producing 86 yards on the ground, and he followed that up with 86 combined yards against the Atlanta Falcons last week. Riddick has the aforementioned pass-catching upside, but he hasn’t been much of a factor this season. Add in the fact that the Vikings have been holding opposing backs in check - even LeVeon Bell only managed 91 total yards in Week 2 - and we’ll take a hard pass on the Lions ground game for this week’s lineups.
Oakland Raiders Rushing Offense at Denver Broncos Rushing Defense
We may have jumped the gun by branding the Denver Broncos as an elite defense in last week’s column, as the unit disappointed in last week’s road tilt against the Buffalo Bills. However, we’re still not real interested in rostering players facing off against them, especially at home. The Bills success came through the air, as LeSean McCoy was effectively held in check with only 69 combined yards. For this week’s opponent, we could see more of the same. The Oakland Raiders as a whole had a horrible game on the road against the Washington Redskins, and a date with the Broncos is not the best spot for a bounce back. That’s especially true for the Raiders running game. The Broncos have not allowed a rushing touchdown so far this year, and the team is tops in the league in terms of rushing yards allowed per game. We’ll pass on Marshawn Lynch and company this week and spend our salary cap dollars on backs with better matchups.
Minnesota Vikings Passing Offense vs Detroit Lions Passing Defense
The Minnesota Vikings passing offense has looked fantastic in two of the first three weeks of the season. Sam Bradford dropped 346 yards and three scores in Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints. After he went down to injury, Case Keenum delivered a shaky performance the following week against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Keenum kicked things up a notch against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, as he threw for 369 yards and three touchdowns. However, we won’t be chasing those points in Week 4. The Detroit Lions have been holding opposing passing games in check, and shutdown cornerback Darius Slay limits the possibilities for opponents. There’s a lot to like about the Vikings passing attack in general, but not this week.
New York Jets Passing Offense vs Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Defense
The New York Jets passing attack will be an avoid more often than not in 2017, but the club showed some signs of life in an upset victory over the Miami Dolphins in Week 3. Josh McCown was efficient while throwing for 249 yards and a score, and it was a bit of a statement game in which the Jets announced to the league that they're not as awful as advertised. While that may be the case, we’ll be passing on McCown and company against a Jacksonville Jaguars squad that boasts two of the top cornerbacks in the league in Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. There will be weeks when we can glean some value from the Jets passing offense, but this is not one of those weeks.
Oakland Raiders Passing Offense at Denver Broncos Passing Defense
We mentioned earlier that the Broncos allowed a decent day to Tyrod Taylor last week, but we’re going to write that off as a hiccup until proven otherwise. The Broncos delivered an impressive home victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2, and they followed that up with a dud on the road against the Bills. It had all of the earmarks of a letdown game, and we’ll consider that to be enough a wake up call for one of the league’s top defenses. Derek Carr and the Raiders struggled mightily on the road against Washington last week, and a date with the Broncos is not a prescription for a bounce back performance.
Enjoy the games this weekend, and best of luck with your lineups. Feel free to hit me up anytime via email - firstname.lastname@example.org - with questions or comments.