Jimmy Garoppolo (at Kansas City)
Has Garoppolo lost enough luster to qualify as a sleeper after two subpar weeks to open the season? We’ll find out definitively when he goes to Kansas City to play the worst defense in the league. Garoppolo has exhibited some pocket presence issues which could plague him if he falls behind in this one. He’s worth a start as a streamer, or if you didn’t take Matt Ryan after him, or if you didn’t pick up Ryan Fitzpatrick, but this doesn’t feel like the slam dunk it should be.
Blake Bortles (vs Tennessee)
Bortles is coming off of arguably the best game of his career and going into a matchup against a suspect Titans pass rush and work in progress secondary. Bortles did struggle mightily in both matchups with the Titans last year after having an easier time with them in 2016, but the momentum favors Bortles here, as does playing with a banged up #1 and #2 running back which could lead to a more pass-heavy game plan and flow.
Alex Smith (vs Green Bay)
Smith had solid numbers in a cakewalk at Arizona, then failed to score a touchdown against the Colts last week. The Colts defense actually had a terrific performance, especially as open field tacklers and against the run, and might be underrated to help contextualize that performance. The Packers defense also just gave up four passing scores to Kirk Cousins and lost Kevin King. Smith’s floor will help you avoid disaster, and hopefully his ceiling will come back into play this week.
Joe Flacco (vs Denver)
The No Fly Zone has been very accessible this year. Denver gave up three passing scores to Russell Wilson in Week 1, and Derek Carr only had three incompletions in Week 2. Flacco has looked better this year, he’s in tune with his new wide receivers, he’s got a trio of tight ends to exploit the main weakness in Denver’s pass defense, and the Ravens offense has tilted pass heavy so far this year when Flacco has been in. He’s moving up from desperation play status to a matchup play, and Denver has been in a transition from matchup to avoid to matchup to target.
Corey Clement (vs Indianapolis)
The Eagles are likely to be without Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles this week, making Clement the de facto lead back. Practice squad call-up Josh Adams and Wendell Smallwood will share the load, but Clement should get lots of red zone play and he has looked sharp this year. The return of Carson Wentz at home should give the offense a boost of energy, and Clement will sustain that when he touches the ball. He has added PPR upside and the Eagles had already had two running back touchdowns in the red zone in each of the first two games.
Sony Michel (at Detroit)
Michel was only in on 13 snaps last week and touched the ball 11 times. He looked like the most physically talented back in the Patriots backfield and he’s sure to get more work against the Lions this week - the same Lions defense that gave up the huge days on the ground to the 49ers and Jets in two games so far this year. Michel also had two goal to go touches last week, which is a great sign for his upside.
Corey Grant exposed a lack of speed at the second level of the Patriots defense, and the Lions have two players in the backfield that can do that this week. Johnson is the best all-around back the team has by far and is deserving of more work going forward. He doesn’t have to come off of the field in any situation. Riddick is the team’s best receiving back and has the higher PPR ceiling coming off of a nine-catch week when the team had to play from behind, which is certainly possible this week. The Lions backfield could provide should cheap points in a high-scoring game.
Bilal Powell (at Cleveland) **Thursday**
There is a Isaiah Crowell revenge game narrative here, but the Browns were stout against the Saints running game last week, and the Jets running game was bottled up by the Dolphins after having an easy time of it against the Lions in Week 1. Powell broke out as a receiver last week since Sam Darnold threw the ball more than 21 times, and he should be used in that fashion this week against the Browns to slow down their pass rush and give Darnold some high percentage throws. He has a lot more potential in PPR leagues.
Corey Grant (vs Tennessee)
This is a deep cut for PPR leagues only, but one with plenty of big play potential. Grant is the healthiest back in the Jaguars backfield, and he was sensational as a receiver out of the backfield last week. He should hold onto a stable role in the offense no matter the status of Leonard Fournette and TJ Yeldon, a role that could grow to Chris Thompson proportions if Fournette and Yeldon can’t stay off of the injury report for long this year.
Ted Ginn Jr (at Atlanta)
Monitor Ginn’s status, as he has missed some practice, but he did last week and looked as dangerous as ever against the Falcons last week. Drew Brees missed him wide open last week or we would have been celebrating another big week for Ginn. The Falcons gave up three scores to wide receivers last week, so expect a high-scoring game and one with potential red zone success for Saints wideouts.
This one depends on Jimmy Garoppolo to play better than he did the last two weeks, but he faces a Chiefs defense that should make most quarterbacks look good this year. Garcon is the safest volume play and healthiest of the trio, but the least explosive. Pettis and Goodwin have already proven their deep ball chemistry with Garoppolo, but Pettis was a non-factor after tweaking an ankle despite a promising big play on the opening drive, and Goodwin is no sure thing to return to action this week, or to be effective or last through the entire game after leaving twice against the Vikings in Week 1. All those factors aside, it’s not a bad idea to play a receiver facing the Chiefs if you need to dig deep this week.
Calvin Ridley (vs New Orleans)
Ridley was given a larger role last week, and he responded in a way that should only encourage the Falcons to give him more snaps and targets against the Saints. Ridley broke the red zone drought, which makes him a great candidate to have his number called in that situation again this week, especially with Julio Jones battling a calf strain. If Jones’ injury acts up or makes it easier for Marshon Lattimore to shut him down, Ridley could be a surprise huge Week 3 hit.
Hogan was highly drafted enough to possibly not be considered a sleeper, especially coming off of a two-touchdown performance against an elite Jaguars secondary, although he only had three catches and the scores came when the game was basically decided, and he was a huge disappointment in Week 1. Gordon might not even play, and who knows what his involvement will be if he does, but we already know he can score on any given target. Dorsett has been a mainstay in the short passing game and he should benefit from a good matchup if Gordon plays. There might not be any bad matchups in the Detroit secondary if Darius Slay doesn’t clear concussion protocol by Sunday night, so that’s even more reason to click the check next to your Patriots wide receiver this week.
Chris Godwin (vs Pittsburgh)
It’s difficult to be overshadowed when you score in each of the first two games, but DeSean Jackson and OJ Howard have stood out a lot more compared to fantasy peers while propelling and being propelled by the Buccaneers passing game’s ridiculous start to the season. Godwin is arguably the team’s best red zone receiving option, and he should get opportunities there again this week against a Steelers defense that wasn’t able to keep up with the Chiefs last week.
George Kittle (at Kansas City)
Kittle was drafted to start in a lot of leagues despite a preseason shoulder injury, and he more than came through in Week 1 in a tough matchup. He had even better matchup in Week 2, but was shut down by a combination of drops, Garoppolo misfires, and a strong defensive effort by the Lions on him that bordered on uncalled penalties. This week, he’ll get a Chiefs defense that just made Jesse James look like Jason Witten last week. Don’t go away from him.
Austin Hooper (vs New Orleans)
Hooper might be coming into his own in year three. He had a smoothly-executed touchdown last week in one of the better games in his young career, and this week he gets a Saints defense that allowed six catches to Browns tight ends last week. The Falcons offense got over their red zone woes last week, in part due to Hooper. Julio Jones is banged up and Devonta Freeman is out, so Hooper should be higher up on the list of red zone options than usual this week.
If there was only one healthy Steelers tight end, we would have the best sleeper play of the week, but instead we ha e two. James is coming in with a lot of momentum after finding a ton of room to roam against the Chiefs defense last week, and he is among the top tight end scorers in fantasy leagues right now, making him the easier call. McDonald is getting healthier and was reportedly going to be a point of emphasis in the Steelers offense this year, so with the rust shaken off, he could see a larger role than James and is more of a projection. There’s enough to go around that both could be solid streaming plays this week against a defense that just gave up 15 catches to tight ends last week.
Charles Clay (at Minnesota)
If you must play a Bill this week, Clay might be the pick to click. Josh Allen has revived something resembling a downfield passing game for the Bills, and Clay has the best matchup of Allen’s targets. The Vikings allowed 5-90 to George Kittle in Week 1, and there was a lot more there to be had, and then Jimmy Graham put 6-95 on them last week. Clay could have modest success in a garbage time, catch-up mode game script for Buffalo this week.