Patriots @ Bills
Player to Start: Donald Jones
For those in deep 24-team leagues (most of you, I assume), Jones is an option. Everyone knows the Patriots have a below-average secondary, but what they do really well is take away the opponent’s top playmaker. We saw that when the Pats stifled Larry Fitzgerald in Week 2.
Normally, New England might focus their attention toward C.J. Spiller. With the-guy-who-is-on-every-fantasy-team-of-mine-except-the-one-in-the-Grantland-league probably out, Steve Johnson becomes the focal point of the Bills offense. Look for Belichick to do everything in his power to limit Johnson, leaving Jones in single coverage.
Titans @ Texans
Player to Start: Matt Schaub
With the way Houston’s defense is playing right now, you really can’t start anyone on the Titans. Chris Johnson could easily break the 100-yard mark if the Titans can find a way to give him 100 carries, but I don’t see that happening.
Meanwhile, Tennessee has allowed more passing yards than all but two teams. They’ll once again be susceptible to the pass when they stack the box to limit Arian Foster.
Saints @ Packers
Player to Start: Cedric Benson
The Saints have allowed 645 rushing yards in three games. 645 rushing yards in three games. 645 rushing yards in three games. Sink in yet? That total is nearly 200 yards more than the second-worst run defense. If there’s ever a time that Green Bay will run the football, it’s this week. Look for Benson to register 20 carries and 100-plus yards.
Panthers @ Falcons
Player to Start: Jonathan Stewart
Only one team in the NFL is yielding more yards-per-carry than the Falcons. After getting away from their running game last Thursday night against the Giants, the Panthers figure to ride Stewart early and often on Sunday. The key will be keeping the score close against a Falcons offense that has turned into one of the most prolific in the league.
Vikings @ Lions
Player to Start: Percy Harvin
The Lions really have one of the league’s more underrated pass-rushing units. With Ndamukong Suh inside and Kyle Vanden Bosch working at end, Detroit can attack the passer from all angles. That means Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder will look to get the ball out quickly to Harvin, who is absolutely dynamite in PPR leagues. Meanwhile, Minnesota may need to pass the ball often in the second half of a game I anticipate the Lions dominating.
Chargers @ Chiefs
Player to Start: Ryan Mathews
Norv Turner said he’s going to limit Mathews’ touches, but I don’t buy it. Mathews is San Diego’s workhorse running back and they aren’t going to continually take him off of the field in favor of Ronnie Brown. Plus, Turner will probably look to attack Kansas City on the ground. Since their horrible Week 1 showing against the Falcons, the Chiefs have allowed only 192 passing yards per game.
49ers @ Jets
Player to Start: Randy Moss
Guess what? The No. 1 receiver facing off against the Jets no longer needs to be automatically benched. The Niners are going to attack the Jets on the ground this week, as they do to every team every week. I really think the 49ers win in spite of their putrid offense, not because of it, but whatever. They should be able to get Frank Gore going a little, which will set up playaction passes. With formidable and physical cornerback Antonio Cromartie still in the mix, look for tight end Vernon Davis and the Niners’ 50-year old free agent receiver acquisition to make down plays downfield.
Seahawks @ Rams
Player to Start: Marshawn Lynch
The Seahawks’ defense has been absolutely dominant through three weeks, particularly in the secondary. Simply put, opposing receivers have been immobilized at the line by massive cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner. Thus, I don’t think anyone from St. Louis is capable of being started, outside of Danny Amendola in PPR.
Meanwhile, the Rams’ defense has overachieved a bit. The one thing they can do well is get to the passer, despite registering only four sacks in 2012. Led by Chris Long, look for the Rams’ defensive ends to rush upfield in an attempt to welcome Russell Wilson to the NFL, leaving gaping running lanes for Lynch.
Dolphins @ Cardinals
Player to Start: Michael Floyd
The Dolphins boast the NFL’s third-worst pass defense in terms of total yards allowed. They’re going to do everything possible to limit Fitzgerald, so look for Arizona’s rookie wide out, who scored his first career touchdown last week, to take advantage of some single coverage. Miami has allowed eight receiving touchdowns this season—the second-most in the league.
Raiders @ Broncos
Player to Start: Willis McGahee
Remember what Peyton Manning was like in 2010? Yeah, that’s never coming back. The Broncos aren’t going to be able to consistently win with Manning floating passes over the middle, so you can bet they’ll lean heavily on McGahee. The veteran running back doesn’t have much explosiveness left, but he’s a good bet for red zone carries.
Bengals @ Jaguars
Player to Start: Maurice Jones-Drew
The Bengals have allowed an insane 5.8 yards-per-carry in 2012—almost a full yard more than the second-worst defense. Even if they load the box, I don’t think they’ll be able to stop MJD from crossing the century mark in rushing yards. At home, the Jags may actually be winning (or at least not getting killed) late in the game, so Jones-Drew could see a few extra touches.
Redskins @ Bucs
Player to Start: Robert Griffin III
If you own RGIII, chances are you’re starting him every week at this point. The rookie has a particularly good matchup in Tampa Bay against the league’s worst-ranked pass defense. Only one team has allowed more yards-per-pass than the Bucs—and it’s the Redskins. This one has the makings of a good old-fashioned 38-34 defensive battle.
Giants @ Eagles
Player to Start: Michael Vick
Andy Reid said he’s going to lean more heavily on the run this week. In his world, that means allowing Vick to scramble after he drops back to pass. Look, there’s no way you’ll see an exorbitant number of LeSean McCoy carries, regardless of the matchup. That’s especially true against a banged-up Giants secondary that probably couldn’t stop Fred-Ex at this point. Vick will get back on track this week by throwing just two picks.
My Cowboys-Bears preview is up at Grantland.