By Zac Bellman
Special to the Tribune
It was a great week for many lesser known players to jump on to the scene in Week 2. Several young players took advantage of opportunities that were given to them by injury or poor performance by the starter. Some of Week 2’s breakout stars were Giovani Bernard, James Starks, DeAndre Hopkins, and Eddie Royal. For these players, it may be the start of something special, or it may be just a flash in the pan. Here are my picks for Week 3 of the fantasy season. As always, tweet additional fantasy questions you may have to @ZacBellman_WNY.
Start: Matthew Stafford (Lions) vs. the Redskins – The Redskins feel about as sure about their defense right now as Robert Griffin III is about his knee. They have given up the most fantasy points to quarterbacks in the league this season, and are coming off a surgical dismembering last week. Stafford has played well enough to be a starter in most situations anyway, but this week he will likely make the leap to top five performer.
Sit: Joe Flacco (Ravens) vs. the Texans – Flacco is rapidly losing his weapons on offense, with Ray Rice at least iffy for Week 3, and Jacoby Jones definitely out again. Houston’s defense hasn’t looked as dominant as it did last season, but they still feature some of the premier pass rushers and defenders in the league. This would be a good week to look for a better matchup on the waiver wire.
Sleeper Start: Alex Smith (Chiefs) vs. the Eagles – One of the waiver wire gems that may be available is Alex Smith. He’s off a to a hot start as a passer as well as a runner, passing for almost 400 yards and four touchdowns with no picks. He hasn’t been the type of quarterback to stretch the field, but he may look to do that against an Eagles secondary that has given up over 700 yards passing in two weeks. Smith’s chemistry with Dwayne Bowe appears to be developing as well and could lead to some big plays this week.
Start: Giovani Bernard (Bengals) vs. the Packers – Bernard was one of several breakout stars in Week 2 on Monday night, and this could lead to him getting an expanded role this week against the Packers. The only reason to fear Bernard’s chances is if this game turns into a shootout, but it appears that both teams will want to establish the run. The Bengals will want to slow the game down and keep Aaron Rodgers off the field, and Bernard is their best means of doing that right now.
Sit: Darren McFadden (Raiders) vs. the Broncos – Speaking of games that can turn into shootouts, Darren McFadden could get lost in the fold if the Raiders get behind early to the Broncos. He is a threat receiving out of the backfield, but he is likely to see a majority of the game-planning by the Broncos defense. The Broncos look as dominant as any team in the league through the first two games, outscoring opponents 90-50 already this season. He doesn’t appear to be even a strong flex play this week.
Sleeper Start: Bilal Powell (Jets) vs. the Bills – Powell has gained a slight edge over former-Saint Chris Ivory in the time share that the Jets are currently running on offense. Despite Stevan Ridley’s well documented fumble problems, the Patriots as well as the Panthers were both rushed for over 100 yards against the Bills. The Bills also gave up a league-worst a league worst 21 rushing touchdowns to running backs last year. He missed some practice with an illness this week, but assuming he’s healthy he’s a solid flex play.
Start: DeAndre Hopkins (Texans) vs. the Ravens – Hopkins showed signs of some great things to come this season with seven catches for 117 yards and the game-winning touchdown in Week 2. Andre Johnson is listed as questionable for Week 3 with a concussion, which makes Hopkins a lock to get another ten or so targets this week. He is a solid second receiver this week with very high upside the rest of the year.
Sit: Roddy White (Falcons) vs. the Dolphins – White is really ailing right now with his ankle injury, and it is affecting his fantasy value in the early going. Through two games he’s managed only 40 yards on five catches with no scores, which is hardly the production he’s used to giving. This week he will likely play again, but the fact that he’s not practicing is a sign he is still not back to normal. Expect another low snap count and few targets again this week.
Sleeper Start: Cordarrelle Patterson (Vikings) vs. the Browns – Patterson has not produced much so far in the receiving game, but his snap count has also been very low thus far. Vikings Coach Leslie Frazier pointed out that the offense will need to feature more of Patterson going forward. Sometimes it is little comments like that from coaches that can prove to be a sign of a breakout performance the next week. In any event, he is a good flex play this week with an opportunity to be a solid WR2 the rest of the season.