As we work our way into Week 3 of the 2015 NFL season, we have some clarity starting to take shape which is helping to guide us in determining how the games are going to play out. We can see the trends that are shaping up on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. This is a guide that helps us mine for value plays, and to see the players that should be avoided.
With the help of our defensive guru Aaron Rudnicki, let’s take a look at players that we both like and a few that we would avoid this week.
John Brown, WR, Arizona vs San Francisco ($5100)
Bischoff: The San Francisco 49ers have had a propensity to give up long passes in 2015 and the Cardinals are going to take a few shots vertically with Brown this week, like they have every week so far. Last week Brown drew pass interference flags of 38 and 42 yards, and he’ll continue to stretch the field in Week 3.
Rudnicki: The 49ers were expected to be bad this year, and week 1 will likely prove to be the outlier for them. CB Kenneth Acker has good size and speed, but he’s still raw and not going to be tough for John Brown to beat. After Fitzgerald posted 3 touchdowns, I expect him to draw a bit more defensive attention and that should help open things up for Brown to break a big play or two.
Allen Hurns, WR, Jacksonville @ New England ($3700)
Bischoff: Looking at how this game is likely to play out, the Jaguars should be down in this game with the possibility of late-game points available. Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles isn’t going to have a lot of time in the pocket, and Hurns will be opposite Jaguars No. 1 receiver Allen Robinson who is likely to get a lot of attention from the Patriots secondary. Hurns should see a lot of volume this week.
Rudnicki: We know the Patriots are probably going to put up points on just about everybody they face this year, which should put more pressure on Jacksonville to try and keep pace with their passing game. The Patriots corners are a glaring weak spot, and Bortles seems to be getting more comfortable. Tough to go wrong with either Jaguars receiver here, but Robinson is more likely to see double teams coming off his huge game so I think Hurns is the better value.
Kendall Wright, WR, Tennessee vs. Indianapolis ($5000)
Bischoff: Wright is off to a very nice start in 2015 and that should continue this week. This is a very nice matchup and he should be able to take advantage of the Colts corners with his smooth, efficient and quick route running ability.
Rudnicki: By the end of the Monday night game, the Colts were missing their top 4 cornerbacks. The front seven also isn’t generating any kind of pass rush at the moment, and Wright is the clear #1 receiver in this offense. It sounds like he got banged up a little last week, but if he’s healthy he could be headed for a huge game.
James Jones, WR, Green Bay vs. Kansas City ($4800)
Bischoff: The story of Jones’s return to Green Bay is truly amazing and it speaks volumes about how good Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is, as he’s turned Jones into a touchdown catching machine. At his price and with this matchup at home, Jones is a great start this week.
Rudnicki: The Packers were very fortunate to find James Jones on the street after the season-ending injury to Jordy Nelson. This figures to be one of the highest scoring games of the weekend, and Jones should get plenty of matchups with Chiefs #3 CB Jamell Fleming who was beaten repeatedly by the Broncos last week.
Travis Benjamin, WR, Cleveland vs. Oakland ($4200)
Bischoff: The Browns have used Benjamin as a vertical threat through two weeks and this is a Raiders weakness. It won’t be hard for Benjamin to be a great tournament play because of his speed and explosiveness, which gives them the ability to stretch the field and turn long catches into touchdowns. The Browns will continue to take long shots down the field, especially considering the play of the Raiders safeties.
Rudnicki: This play looked a bit better when Johnny Manziel was going to be the starter, but the Browns are apparently going back to Josh McCown this week. That being said, the Raiders corners aren’t likely to provide much resistance here and it seems like Benjamin could be headed for a breakout season in an offense that offers little competition for targets and catches.
Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle vs. Chicago ($4000)
Bischoff: Baldwin is leading the Seahawks in targets through two weeks and he looks to have the trust of quarterback Russell Wilson. Baldwin has seven catches in each of the first two games, and the Seahawks return home in Week 3 to take on a poor Chicago Bears team. Baldwin will continue to see volume in the form of targets and that will lead to production for fantasy owners.
Rudnicki: The Bears cornerbacks have looked pretty helpless as they gave up 7 touchdowns to opposing WRs over the first two weeks. Last year’s 1st round pick Kyle Fuller was benched, and his replacement Terrance Mitchell didn’t do any better. Many expected Jimmy Graham to become the focal point of the passing game, but it’s Baldwin who Russell Wilson has looked to most often with 7 catches in each game. Seattle is a two touchdown favorite so the risk is that they will be running out the clock for most of the second half, but the matchup looks great and he might only need a half to put up some big numbers.
Donte Moncrief, WR, Indianapolis @ Tennessee ($4800)
Bischoff: Moncrief has been very productive through the first two weeks in a Colts offense that has struggled. While Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton is still the number one here, it is Moncrief who is benefiting from lesser coverage as he doesn’t draw the defenses best cornerbacks, which allows him to make plays all over the field. He is currently white-hot and should be valuable at his price.
Rudnicki: Tennessee has held up a little better in the secondary than many expected them to, but they haven’t faced a passing attack that was even average yet. With an angry 0-2 Colts team coming to town, I expect a much better game from Andrew Luck and Moncrief looks like the best value play. There really isn’t a corner on the Titans that you would fear him matching up against either.
Jordan Reed, TE, Washington @ New York Giants ($3800)
Bischoff: Reed has been very involved in the Redskins offense, catching 13 balls for 145 yards and a touchdown through the first two weeks. The Giants gave up three touchdowns in the first week of the season to the Dallas Cowboys and Reed looks to have emerged as one of the primary weapons in the Redskins offense.
Rudnicki: Washington has had remarkable success with their running game, which has helped open things up for Reed in the passing game as he’s usually matched against a LB or safety. SS Landon Collins and MLB Uani’ Unga have both struggled in coverage and tight ends have taken advantage, so I expect a very productive game from Reed here.
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota vs San Diego ($3300)
Bischoff: The Vikings got back to pounding the ball on the ground in week two versus the Detroit Lions, and they supplemented that with a short passing game in which Rudolph played a big part. It’s a formula that works, especially with a running back like Adrian Peterson, and the Vikings play action passing game looks to have an advantage at home over the Chargers this week.
Rudnicki: The Chargers have the corners to match up very well with the Vikings receivers, and will obviously be focused on keeping Adrian Peterson in check. When they do need to pass, chances are Kyle Rudolph will be the main beneficiary as he is quickly becoming Teddy Bridgewater’s favorite target. The Chargers have given up a touchdown to an opposing TE in two straight games and Rudolph looks like a great value here.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit vs Denver ($7900)
Bischoff: Johnson is still a physical monster, but there are two factors here that point to this being an ugly play this week. The Lions offensive line has simply been unable to protect quarterback Matthew Stafford, and Broncos defenders Demarcus Ware and Von Miller should be able to terrorize Stafford in this matchup. Also, the Broncos cornerbacks matchup nicely against Johnson, and they should be able to neutralize him. This has the look of the matchup that needs to be faded.
Rudnicki: The Broncos boast the best pair of cornerbacks in the league this year, and I’m not even sure any other team comes close. Johnson is obviously good enough to beat any corner in man coverage, but the Broncos are also getting a tremendous pass rush that figures to make Matthew Stafford very uncomfortable in the pocket. That combination of a great pass rush with tight coverage makes Johnson an easy player to avoid this week despite his big game a week ago.
Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans @ Carolina ($7100)
Bischoff: This is not a great matchup for Cooks, even if Saints quarterbacks Drew Brees were healthy, but Brees’ shoulder is banged up and there are no guarantees that he plays this week. There’s too much uncertainty here and this is a matchup to be avoided.
Rudnicki: The Saints passing game looks completely out of sync and now Drew Brees may be injured as well. If Cooks winds up facing Josh Norman this week, that’s a recipe for another disappointing game for a player who many were counting on to be a WR1. Cooks couldn’t take advantage of the Tampa corners at home a week ago, and he’s certainly not going to find things any easier this week.
Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago @ Seattle ($6900)
Bischoff: The Bears travel to Seattle this week which is a very ugly proposition for most teams. The Seahawks are 0-2 and one of their best defensive players in safety Kam Chancellor will return to the field for Week 3. Also, Bears starting quarterback Jay Cutler is out with a hamstring problem and Jimmy Clausen gets the start at quarterback. All in all, this is a terrible blend of problems for a very talented receiver, and he should be avoided this week.
Rudnicki: Everybody knows how difficult it is to play in Seattle, and now Chicago could be headed there to face an angry 0-2 team that gets one of their key players back in safety Kam Chancellor. Assuming Jeffery is healthy enough to play, Richard Sherman is likely to shadow him and there’s also a good chance he’ll have Jimmy Clausen throwing the ball instead of Jay Cutler. It’s been a rough start to the year for Jeffery, and it’s tough to see him turning things around this week.
Jordan Matthews, WR, Philadelphia @ New York Jets ($6900)
Bischoff: The Eagles offense has yet to get it going, and they look very vanilla through the first two weeks. Matthews has been very productive during those two weeks (although most of last week’s production came on the last drive to save his stat-line), but this week they travel to New York to face the Jets on the road. I wouldn’t rely on Matthews being very productive this week.
Rudnicki: The Jets smothered the Colts receivers last week and figure to do more of the same this week against Philadelphia. They made huge investments in the secondary this offseason, and are quickly becoming a matchup to avoid for receivers. Even if Darrelle Revis doesn’t lock up Matthews for the entire game, Buster Skrine is a very physical corner inside. Given how the Eagles offense has struggled against weaker defenses the first two weeks, this is probably a safe week to ignore them.