Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Carolina Panthers
DeAngelo Williams – Out of all the fantasy players from both the Jaguars and Panthers, Williams’ value is the one that has the most at stake. Williams was made the unquestioned franchise player for the Panthers in the offseason with the signing of his huge contract. In doing so, Carolina also made the statement that Jonathan Stewart had a permanent spot as the backup running back. The Panthers have to be biting their nails with the small amount of production that Williams has given them early on in 2011. Williams does have plenty of time for rejuvenation though. The Jacksonville defense is suspect at best. Cam Newton’s impression of Dan Marino will keep defenders from focusing on the run game like they have been able to do in the past. This week against the Jaguars, Williams will have a grand opportunity to earn both his money and his fantasy draft position. Keep an eye on him closely this week. While he does have the chance to save his value, he has an equal chance of sliding further down. Stewart’s highly productive day against Green Bay last week wouldn’t be erased from coaches minds unless Williams earns his keep.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Vernon Davis – How does a dominate force in the passing game lose value while being on the field and completely healthy? Davis has the answer. He’s being completely underutilized thanks to a suspect offensive line that requires he stay put during passing plays to help protect Alex Smith. The new 49ers offense was said to be tight end friendly but so far no one is making friends with the new philosophy. Not the quarterback, not the running back, and certainly not the tight end. The San Francisco coaches need to unleash Davis and target him heavily in order to move the ball on offense. That’s just the way it is whether coach Jim Harbaugh wants to recognize it or not. Davis needs to be running routes on a regular basis and reestablish his seemingly waning chemistry with Smith. Davis needs a big game after the sit down talk that he had with his new head coach in order to maintain his designation as one of the top fantasy tight ends in football. If not, Davis could see himself outside of the Top 5 quickly and outside of the Top 10 by season’s end.
Miami Dolphins vs. Cleveland Browns
Colt McCoy – The young second-year quarterback has impressed over the first two games of the season. This game against Miami marks a chance for him to begin a slow but steady climb up the rankings board. McCoy has played suspect defenses in both Cincinnati and Indianapolis in the opening weeks. Miami will be the first mid-tier defense he’ll face in 2011. This game will be a much better indicator as to what McCoy’s skill set and overall potential look like. If he continues to roll with reasonable numbers he could eventually become a reliable No. 2 quarterback to have on your roster. Three straight 200-plus yard games to begin 2011 would be very good numbers seeing that McCoy is his first year as full-time starter. The way that he is able to deal with both the rush pressure of Cameron Wake and the capable cornerback coverage of the Dolphins will show us where the young quarterback is in the learning process.
New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills
Stevie Johnson – The talented wide receiver from the Bills has a chance in Week 3 to propel himself up the rankings board by more than five spots. The New England defense has been brutalized in back-to-back weeks by the passing game. In addition to that, Ryan Fitzpatrick has started off the season as one of most efficient quarterbacks in the league. The combination of the Bills’ offensive ability and the Patriots’ defensive inability should mean a big day for the skilled wide receiver. Johnson can keep the party going with a touchdown in three straight games if he hits pay dirt against the Patriots. The Bills defense isn’t good enough to keep players out of the end zone so the Buffalo offense will need to put up both yards and points to stay mildly competitive. Johnson should have a great game with more than 100 yards and score here in Week 3. Week 3 will be a value boost to Johnson, and by season’s end he could find himself fighting for a Top 10 ranking.
New York Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Hakeem Nicks – While Nicks has already established himself as a top-flight option at the wide receiver position, this will be a chance to improve even more so. Nicks will be facing the toughest pass defense in the NFL in Week 3. Nicks will be covered on every down by either Asante Samuel or Nnamdi Asomugha. This will be a true test as to how elite Nicks really is. Can he beat the best of the best? While it’s true that most receivers have trouble against such a tandem, one can’t help but to think what would happen to a receiver’s value if he performed well against such coverage. While Nicks will have his hands full in trying to prove his dominance the bigger issue is that of the offensive line. The Eagles should be able to completely destroy the Giants’ offensive line and get pressure to Eli Manning on almost every down. While Nicks’ competition against the secondary is indeed meaningful as to his overall worth, the battle in the trenches is just as meaningful toward his value. What good is a receiver if the quarterback can’t do anything? Week 3 will give us an indicator as to how high on the wide receiver list Nicks deserves to be. His value could be impacted by the secondary he faces and or the offensive line issues. No matter which one it is, an effect on value is still an effect on value.
Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings
Matthew Stafford – Suddenly all the first overall picks from the past three draft classes all look tremendous. Stafford has the chance here in Week 3 to blow the doors off the other two, though, and move into elite company. Minnesota has an above-average pass defense and will be playing for their lives already in Week 3. Minnesota knows that they can’t fall behind the Lions and Chicago Bears this early in the season and be able to recover. Minnesota will be looking at playing their absolute best on Sunday in order to stay afloat. This will give Stafford an above-average effort from an above-average passing defense. That will make things even more impressive when Stafford continues to roll and posts yet another outstanding outing in 2011. An additional multi-touchdown and 300-plus yard game will move Stafford just outside the top fantasy quarterback company for the meantime. He’ll have a seat directly behind the likes of Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers and Michael Vick. Look for him to raise his value in Week 3 and move up the overall rankings chart by leaps and bounds.
Houston Texans vs. New Orleans Saints
Ben Tate – What happens to the running back situation in Houston if Tate has his third straight 100-yard game in just as many tries? He’s clearly already earned a much larger workload than he would have had if Arian Foster entered the season healthy. It will be interesting to see how much Tate capitalizes on a New Orleans run defense that has not impressed early on in 2011. You could see the Texans “resting” Foster in order to get him back to 100 percent healthy if Tate performs yet again. A lot of the time in these situations where you have a stud back but also another player has performed well enough to deserve work you see the division of stats. By this, I mean one gets the yardage and the other gets the touchdowns. That way both players stay active, productive and happy. Could Tate be in line to steal away the scoring duties from Foster? A good outing against New Orleans would make it awfully hard to not give him meaningful work. Keep an eye on Tate in Week 3 because his performance not only affects his value but Foster’s as well.
Denver Broncos vs. Tennessee Titans
Chris Johnson – Johnson owners will finally be given something to celebrate in Week 3. Johnson will put up numbers indicative of a Top 3 draft pick and will hit the end zone against a porous Broncos defense. The current ranking of Johnson should be the lowest it will reach this season. He will bounce back in dramatic fashion against the Broncos, who couldn’t stop the run if their lives depended on it. However, if Johnson doesn’t finally get going here in Week 3 then owners have a huge problem on their hands. You should fully expect a big game out of Johnson. If he doesn’t produce than something is completely wrong and moves may need to be made. Johnson has the most to gain and yet the most to lose in this matchup in terms of value.