Thursday - Apr 18, 2019

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RED LIGHT, GREEN LIGHT — Week 3

Welcome back for the Week 3 edition of “Red Light, Green Light”, your matchup guide for all of this weekend’s (and Monday’s) NFL contests. While this piece is not intended to be solely a start/bench list, it can be used for some of those decisions as well.

In each NFL Week 3 game profile below, the players mentioned in the green light sections have a great matchup, and can be counted on as rock solid options for the week. Players mentioned in the yellow light sections have just an okay matchup and/or usage concerns, meaning they are passable fantasy options but don’t expect them to set the world on fire. Players in the red light sections have serious concerns, and need to have expectations lowered for the week, and/or should be avoided if possible. Remember, seeing your stud listed in the yellow or red light section isn’t necessarily grounds to bench them, but more of an indication they may not be the guy(s) carrying your team to victory this week.

Note: Fantasy points allowed statistics are based off of the Fantasy Sharks default PPR scoring system.

Buffalo Bills at Minnesota Vikings

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Most 2018 Fantasy Points Allowed
Position Bills Vikings
Quarterback 4th 26th
Running Back 2nd 28th
Wide Receiver 17th 19th
Tight End 9th 7th
Defense/Special Teams 1st 27th
Vegas Line: Vikings -17
Vegas Over/Under: 41
green-light Kirk Cousins showed everyone last Sunday why the Vikings were so aggressive in their pursuit of his services, as he scorched the Packers’ pass defense for 425 yards and four touchdowns, and likely would have led his team to victory had it not been for a series of kicking gaffes. The Bills have allowed six passing touchdowns over two games to start the 2018 season. Kyle Rudolph rebounded in Week 2 with a 7-72-0 line on 8 targets after catching just one pass the week prior. The Bills have allowed the seventh-most receiving yardage to opposing tight ends thus far in 2018, so look for Rudolph to have another productive afternoon.
yellow-light Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen could not have gotten off too much hotter 2018 start, as they currently sit 4th and 8th respectively in terms of PPR fantasy points. This week, they’ll need to make a dent in the box score early before the game gets out hand, while the Bills’ secondary doesn’t give up a ton of yardage to opposing wideouts. Despite disappointing numbers as a rusher, Dalvin Cook‘s 92.5 total-yard average through two games is still respectable. The injury Cook suffered last Sunday (reports conflict between hamstring and cramp) is supposedly a non-issue, though the Vikings could decide to scale back his workload in a contest they should be able to win handily, or even hold him out entirely. In the likely event this contest is a blowout, backup Latavius Murray should see extra reps and will have a good shot at a garbage time score. If Cook sits, elevate Murray to green light status. Charles Clay has just two catches for 29 yards through two games, though did show some life with Josh Allen under center. Rolling with Clay won’t be for the faint of heart, though tight end defense has been the chink in Minnesota’s defensive armor (they allowed at least 90 receiving yards to both George Kittle and Jimmy Graham in Weeks 1 and 2).
red-light It’s going to be a tough afternoon for almost everyone else on the Buffalo side of the ball, as this game is predicted to be a complete blowout. LeSean McCoy (ribs) is banged up, and while perhaps you can get some garbage time production out of Kelvin Benjamin (he did score a touchdown last week), it just seems too risky of a gamble.

New York Giants at Houston Texans

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Most 2018 Fantasy Points Allowed
Position Giants Texans
Quarterback 28th 24th
Running Back 20th 19th
Wide Receiver 27th 28th
Tight End 32nd 10th
Defense/Special Teams 4th 11th
Vegas Line: Texans -6
Vegas Over/Under: 
41.5
green-light No longer the Giants’ offensive focal point, Evan Engram should benefit from the Texans selling out to stop teammate Odell Beckham. Through two games, Engram is third on the team in targets, and will face a Texans’ defense that was ripped to shreds by the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski down the middle of the field in Week 1. The Giants’ pass defense has held up well through the first two weeks of 2018, but has yet to face an aerial attack quite like Houston’s. With Giants’ CB Eli Apple (groin) highly questionable to play, Janoris Jenkins is left on an island to deal with DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, each of whom went over 100 receiving yards and scored last week. Deshaun Watson has yet to flash any signs of his 2017 self, though still managed to finish as top-10 quarterback last week, and should build on that performance against a Giants defense whose pass rush is non-existent, with just one sack through two games. The Texans D/ST is a top defensive play as six-point favorites in a home matchup versus a stagnant Giants offense that just gave up six sacks to the Cowboys last Monday night.
yellow-light Lamar Miller currently sits fourth in 2018 rushing yards with 166, and it’s fair to wonder why he’s not being leaned on more with the Texans’ pass game looking out of sync. Miller’s blocking up front has actually been surprisingly good, as the Houston offensive line currently ranks second in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards (ALY). Conversely, the Giants’ offensive line as been horrendous, as they rank dead last in ALY, much to the detriment of Saquon Barkley outside of a 66-yard touchdown run in Week 1. Barkley’s lack of consistent success on the ground is masked by his ability to catch passes out of the backfield, and if Eli Manning‘s protection up front doesn’t improve in a hurry, Barkley could once again see alot of check downs. The Giants’ offensive line have also been a detriment to Odell Beckham, as the star wideout couldn’t get much going last Sunday night against Dallas as Manning had no time whatsoever to locate him downfield. In Week 3, Beckham faces a Texans pass defense in which only the Rams have allowed fewer receiving yards to opposing wide receivers.
Ryan Griffin caught just one pass for 19 yards last Sunday after failing to reel in any the week prior. With QB Watson funneling targets toward his wideouts, Griffin won’t be a streaming play against a Giants defense that appears to have improved how they handle opposing tight ends as compared to last year. Sterling Shepard looks to have fallen down to fourth in the Giants’ receiving heirarchy with just 76 scoreless yards through two games.

Green Bay Packers at Washington Redskins

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Most 2018 Fantasy Points Allowed
Position Packers Redskins
Quarterback 6th 31st
Running Back 24th 16th
Wide Receiver 6th 30th
Tight End 17th 22nd
Defense/Special Teams 19th 20th
Vegas Line: Packers -3
Vegas Over/Under: 
46
Through two weeks Jordan Reed and Chris Thompson have combined for almost 40 percent of the Redskins’ targets. Both players will be leaned on as Washington trades blows with the Packers’ offense. The Redskins defense gave up 46 receiving yards and a score to the Colt’s tight ends in Week 2, and will have their hands full with Jimmy Graham, who isn’t quite ready to fade away quietly after posting a 6-95-0 line against the Vikings. The Redskins were among the league’s worst at containing opposing tight ends in 2017.
The Redskins secondary has been playing lights out through two weeks, allowing an NFL-low 161 passing yards per contest. Meanwhile Aaron Rodgers (knee) is still hobbled, and will likely have trouble evading the Washington pass rush. The Redskins represent the softest matchup Jamaal Williams has seen so far this season after facing the Bears and Vikings is back-to-back weeks. Williams’  pass-blocking prowess has likely earned him a longer look in the starter role given Rodgers’ isn’t 100 percent. Davante Adams shook off his shoulder injury to post a 8-64-1 on 12 targets against the Vikings, and likely could have a had a bigger day if he wasn’t flagged for offensive pass interference on a long reception. Washington CB Josh Norman is a tough draw, though found himself victimized by T.Y. Hilton last week. Alex Smith is averaging 273.5 passing yards per game, but has just two touchdowns to show for it (both came in Week 1). Smith can make for a passable streamer against a Packers’ defense that was lit up like the 4th of July by Kirk Cousins last week, though it would be nice to see the veteran signal caller connect with some of his wideouts down field rather than constantly checking down to his backs and tight ends (as it appears Smith as reverted to his pre-2017 form). Someone not named Jordan Reed needs to step up in this Washington receiving corps, and my money is on Paul Richardson, who leads all Redskins wideouts targets through two weeks. The Packers’ secondary is talented but inexperienced, and allowed 12.3 yards-per-reception to the Vikings’ wideouts in Week 2.
Aaron Jones returns from suspension, though Packers’ head coach Mike McCarthy, has indicated the talented second-year running back won’t be handed a sizable role right away. Ty Montgomery has only handled 10 touches through two weeks, and Jones’ presence clouds how the backfield snaps are divvied up behind Williams. If the Packers’ weren’t favored, I would have more confidence in both Geronimo Allison and Randall Cobb, as the Redskins have mostly done a solid job of opposing wideouts. The Packers’ no. 2 and no. 3 wideouts may not be involved as much if the Packers aren’t playing from behind. Whether it’s because Alex Smith won’t look their way, or because they can’t get open, Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder aren’t getting it done from a fantasy perspective, as the duo have combined for just 10-88 through the first two weeks of 2018.

San Francisco 49ers at Kansas City Chiefs

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Most 2018 Fantasy Points Allowed
Position 49ers Chiefs
Quarterback 8th 1st
Running Back 14th 4th
Wide Receiver 9th 2nd
Tight End 18th 3rd
Defense/Special Teams 5th 32nd
Vegas Line: Kansas City -6.5
Vegas Over/Under: 
56
Patrick Mahomes is on another plane of existence right now with 10 touchdown passes through two games, as he appears completely dialed in. It doesn’t hurt that the Chiefs defense is so bad, the team is forced to keep their foot on the gas pedal for a full 60 minutes each week. Tyreek Hill is second in NFL receiving yards, and faces a 49ers’ defense that has allowed the fifth-most receiving yardage to opposing wideouts this season. Averaging just 233.5 passing yards per contest with a 3:3 TD/INT ratio through two weeks, Jimmy Garoppolo hasn’t been able to recapture his 2017 magic. A cure for what ails Jimmy G could be on the horizon, however, as the Chiefs have far and away the worst pass defense in the NFL so far this season (their 860 passing yards allowed are over 100 more than Tampa Bay has permitted since the NFL season opener). Against the hapless Lions in Week 2, Matt Breida exploded with 150 total yards and a score on just 14 offensive touches. Clearly a superior option to teammate Alfred Morris, Breida should again be heavily involved as the 49ers attempt to keep pace with the Chiefs’ league-leading scoring offense. George Kittle was a major disappointment with just 2-22 on two targets last week after a huge performance in the 49ers’ season opener. The second-year tight end has a chance to rebound in Week 3, as he faces a Kansas City Chiefs defense that is coming off a miserable defensive outing in which they allowed a 5-138-1 line to the Steelers’ Jesse James.
Travis Kelce made amends for his one catch performance on Week 1 by going 7-109-2 against the Steelers last Sunday. The 49ers have allowed the fifth-fewest receiving yards to opposing tight ends through two weeks, though have allowed them to score twice. Sammy Watkins was another to rebound after a poor Week 1, totaling 131 yards (100 receiving, 31 rushing) a week ago. Watkins is likely to see more looks as the season goes on with opposing defenses keying in on Kelce and Hill. We’d likely be hearing more about 2017 NFL rushing leader Kareem Hunt‘s disappointing start to the season had he not scored last week, as he’s averaging just 3.6 yards-per-carry and 62 rushing yards the past two weeks. Hunt’s voluminous role isn’t being threatened anytime soon, however, and he’ll likely be leaned on to close this contest out if the Chiefs’ can maintain a lead. Just be wary of hard-hitting LB Reuben Foster‘s return from suspension, as he’s an instant upgrade for the San Fran rush defense. With a shootout brewing at Arrowhead stadium, Pierre Garcon should have a safe floor as one of Garoppolo’s primary receiving targets, though Marquise Goodwin (quad) has returned to practice and should rejoin the starting lineup if healthy enough to play.
Alfred Morris took a backseat to teammate Matt Breida last week, and for good reason, as the latter out-gained the former 159-90 on two fewer touches. In what projects as a shootout with the Chiefs, Morris figures once again to be the less productive San Fran running back given the 49ers’ status as 6.5-point Vegas underdogs means they’ll likely be chasing a lead rather than trying to hold one. Dante Pettis caught just one pass for 35 yards last week before exiting with what may have been a knee issue. Even if he turns out to be fine, he’ll be hard to trust behind Pierre Garcon, George Kittle, and possibly even Marquise Goodwin.

Oakland Raiders at Miami Dolphins

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Most 2018 Fantasy Points Allowed
Position Raiders Dolphins
Quarterback 18th 30th
Running Back 9th 10th
Wide Receiver 20th 29th
Tight End 24th 12th
Defense/Special Teams 9th 7th
Vegas Line: Dolphins -3
Vegas Over/Under: 
44
Kenyan Drake is in a good spot to break out, as only the Lions have allowed more rushing yards to opposing backfields so far this season. Jared Cook didn’t quite live up to expectations in Week 2 after his 180-yard blow up in the Raiders’ season opener, though draws another useful matchup here as the Dolphins allowed the most receiving yardage to opposing tight ends in 2017, and don’t look to have made many adjustments for the new season.
Marshawn Lynch has scored in consecutive contests and continues to run like he’s leading a stampede, but is still isn’t being given a full workload (Lynch’s 62 percent snap share last week was a vast improvement over his 36 in Week 1). Kenny Stills bombed last week with just a 2-17-0 on just three targets in what should have been a good matchup, though the Dolphins storming out to a large early lead over the Jets may have played a role in the low usage. More concerning than this week’s matchup is the pending return of DeVante Parker (finger).  The Dolphins D/ST has been somewhat surprising to start the year, allowing just the fouth-fewest points scored per game, while the Raiders offense has looked anything but scary.
Amari Cooper had a surprise 10-116-0 performance last week against a very good Denver secondary, though likely won’t be able to replicate it against a Dolphins defense that is currently ranked first in Football Outsiders’ pass defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA). Not really utilized in the passing game, Doug Martin isn’t getting enough touches to warrant any sort of fantasy consideration. Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson continue to be victims of the Dolphins’ offensive philosophy, as neither are seeing many targets coming their way. Derek Carr looked much improved last Sunday from his disastrous Week 1, though with just one touchdown pass through two 2018 contests, still has much to show before he can be trusted as a streamer. Ryan Tannehill is in a similar boat as Carr given the Dolphins’ appear to prefer winning their games by grinding it out on the ground with Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore while playing solid defense.

About Will Weiler

An NFL Red Zone addict and all-around data nerd, I've been obsessed with the NFL and stats ever since I started playing the virtual pigskin game in 2005.