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RED LIGHT, GREEN LIGHT: Week 3

Welcome back to this week’s edition of “Red Light, Green Light”, which is a 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 of the NFL Week 3 game profiles below, 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.

Baltimore Ravens at Jacksonville Jaguars

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Average 2017 Fantasy Points Allowed
Position Ravens Jaguars
Quarterback 32nd 29th
Running Back 25th 10th
Wide Receiver 28th 26th
Tight End 11th 3rd
Defense/Special Teams 18th 22nd
Vegas Line: Ravens -3.5
Vegas Over/Under: 39.5
green-light As the low Vegas over/under would suggest, both teams are going to struggle to score points in this contest, making the Ravens and Jaguars D/STs attractive fantasy options. If you had to choose between the two, I’d give the edge to the Ravens due to Jaguars’ QB Blake Bortles being more prone to errors.
yellow-light Leonard Fournette‘s heavy workload keeps him in fantasy starter territory this week, but he is the only legitimate offensive threat the Jaguars have, and by now, the rest of the league knows it. The Ravens have allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs, and have yet to allow a rushing score this season. The Jaguars have allowed 197 rush yards through their first two games this season, but most of it came via Derrick Henry in Week 2 when the Titans were in clock-killing mode. Meanwhile, the Ravens just lost their best offensive lineman in Marshal Yanda, which does not bode well for their rush offense this week. That said, Javorious Allen has a well established receiving floor that should keep him in FLEX status this week. If you look at Allen’s two games this season plus his six 2015 starts, Allen has averaged 41.3 receiving yards per game with three scores.
red-light Allen Hurns has made a living by racking up garbage time stats, a seemingly common theme among Jaguars receivers. Allen Robinson or Cecil Shorts anyone? The Ravens offense is not explosive enough to jump out to big lead against the Jags though, which makes both Hurns and Marqise Lee poor plays against a defense allowing the 4th-least fantasy points to WRs. Terrance West (undisclosed) is dealing with some sort of soft-tissue injury, and is questionable to play. In a poor matchup, a banged up West is best avoided. Jaguars CBs A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey have yet to allow a WR to eclipse 55 receiving yards (DeAndre Hopkins in Week 1), which means Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace are not usable this week. Wallace in particular had an atrocious start to the season. After going over 1,000 yards in 2016, Wallace has just two catches for 15 yards this year.

Denver Broncos at Buffalo Bills

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Average 2017 Fantasy Points Allowed
Position Broncos Bills
Quarterback 9th 24th
Running Back 29th 30th
Wide Receiver 11th 27th
Tight End 13th 23rd
Defense/Special Teams 20th 16th
Vegas Line: Broncos -3
Vegas Over/Under: 
40
green-light Call it a hunch, but C.J. Anderson should be able to run on the Buffalo Bills if Denver can dominate the time of possession as they did against the Cowboys in Week 2. Buffalo has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to RBs this season, however, those stats came against the hapless Jets and the offensively discombobulated Panthers. Anderson’s matchup would also soften a bit if stud DT Marcell Dareus (ankle) cannot play. Buffalo QB Tyrod Taylor is generally careful with the football, but he was sacked three times last week against Carolina, and could be under siege yet again if OT Cordy Glenn (ankle) is hobbled or forced to sit.
The Denver defense should be able to sell out to stop LeSean McCoy, much as they did last week against Dallas and Ezekiel Elliott. Buffalo does not have the receivers to make Denver pay for stacking the box on every down. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders should receive their stead dose of targets from Trevor Siemien, however, I am reluctant to list that trio as green light options in what figures to be a low-scoring grind. The Broncos have been a bit leaky against opposing tight ends, surrendering scores living legends Antonio Gates and Jason Witten in Weeks 1 and 2 respectively. Therefore, Charles Clay gets another week of streaming consideration, although it seems whenever the weight of expectations on his shoulders, he fails to meet them.
Already a poor passing offense to begin with, there’s almost no hope for Tyrod Taylor and Jordan Matthews in Week 3 against Denver’s No Fly Zone. If you had been streaming those guys to this point, take a break.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Chicago Bears

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Average 2017 Fantasy Points Allowed
Position Steelers Bears
QB 21st 15th
RB 22nd 18th
WR 25th 16th
TE 21st 6th
D/ST 27th 7th
Vegas Line: Steelers -7
Vegas Over/Under:
 44
Le’Veon Bell was unimpressive again last week, but he is locked in as a 25-30 touch workhorse playing for a 7-point favorite over a bottom-five NFL team in the Bears. In the Bears’ Week 2 loss to the Bucs, Mike Evans was on his way to a huge day (7-93-1) before his team took their foot off the gas pedal. After being slowed by Xavier Rhodes in Week 2, Antonio Brown should feast against a Bears’ secondary that received a clinic from Mike Evans last Sunday. Martavis Bryant rebounded from a poor Week 1, going 3-91-0 against Minnesota. The Bears nearly gave up a few long scores to DeSean Jackson last Sunday, so look for Big Ben to try and hit Bryant on a few go routes. The Pittsburgh D/ST should be able to get after mistake prone Bears’ QB Mike Glennon, especially if o-linemen Kyle Long (ankle) and Josh Sitton (ribs) are forced to sit with injuries.
In addition to concerns around Ben Roethlisberger‘s subpar road stats, he could suffer a similar fate to Jameis Winston last week, and be relegated to handoffs in the second half if the Steelers jump out to a big lead early. Diminutive RB Tarik Cohen has been a PPR maven the past two weeks, catching 16 passes during that span as one of the primary beneficiaries when the Bears enter comeback mode. Kendall Wright is also an intriguing PPR option as the last man standing in the Bears’ depleted receiver corps. The targets will be there (10 last week), but the production may or may not be. There are worse desperation PPR fliers out there this week.
The Bears have been one of the poorest teams at defending TEs this season, but Jesse James (ankle) is hobbled, and will most certainly be on a snap count if he plays at all this week. The reasons Tarik Cohen is a viable fantasy options are the reasons Jordan Howard is not. Howard was likely one of the first RBs selected in fantasy drafts, but he is averaging just 2.7 yards-per-carry this season, and has essentially become a non-factor in passing situations, of which the Bears have been finding themselves in frequently. Pittsburgh has defended TEs reasonably well so far, so this is probably not the week that Zach Miller reintroduces himself as a streaming option.

New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Average 2017 Fantasy Points Allowed
Position Saints Panthers
Quarterback 1st 31st
Running Back 4th 31st
Wide Receiver 1st 32nd
Tight End 4th 29th
Defense/Special Teams 29th 15th
Vegas Line: Panthers -5.5
Vegas Over/Under:
 46.5
This is a get right matchup for Cam Newton if there ever was one. Even without security blanket Greg Olsen, Newton should dice up New Orleans’ JV defense that could be without CBs Marshon Lattimore (concussion) and Sterling Moore (pectoral). Christian McCaffrey is set up to have the best game of his young career, as the Saints have allowed the most receiving yards to RBs this season. In fact, the Saints have allowed the most receiving yardage to just about every position (okay, 5th-most to TEs), so fire up Kelvin Benjamin for this contest too. On the other side of the ball, Michael Thomas should be able to get loose against a Panthers secondary that hasn’t faced anyone yet this season (Pierre Garcon and Jordan Matthews hardly strike fear into opposing DBs.
Drew Brees is on the fringe of being a green light option, but history is against him, as he’s averaged a mediocre (for Brees) 287.7 passing yards per contest and totaled 4 touchdowns and 4 interceptions over his last three games at Bank of America Stadium. Brees will also miss OTs Zach Strief (knee) and Terron Armstead (shoulder) protecting him from Carolina’s pass rush, who was able to bring down shift Tyrod Taylor three times in Week 2. Jonathan Stewart is no longer the workhorse RB he once was, but he is a good bet for a goal line score in this contest with Cam Newton running less. Coby Fleener appears determined to atone for last season’s lackluster performance, as he’s now scored in two straight contests, and appears to be one of the primary beneficiaries of Willie Snead‘s suspension. Devin Funchess is a sneaky start this week, as the vacated targets resulting from Greg Olsen‘s injury need to go somewhere, and Funchess appears to be the most likely candidate to see at least few of those. Mark Ingram is the only relatively trustworthy RB in the Saints backfield for this matchup. The Panthers have allowed the 3rd-least rush yards to opposing backs, but Ingram is active in the passing game, an area where Carolina doesn’t defend RBs as well. The Carolina D/ST has been one of the top options so far in 2017, but the Saints have averaged 33 points per game against them over the previous three times these two teams have played.
Ted Ginn is only averaging 38.5 yards per contest this season, and the Panthers secondary has not allowed a pass play go for more than 43 yards. Ginn’s window of fantasy viability closes after this week anyway. Brandon Coleman is intriguing as a 6’6″ red zone target, but he will hurt your fantasy team if he doesn’t score. Adrian Peterson should not be anywhere near a starting fantasy lineup as he’s carried the ball just 14 times through two games and caught 0 passes. Alvin Kamara is a wild card, and has PPR appeal as another reliable set of hands for Drew Brees, but his usage is too unpredictable to rely on at this time. If you were considering Ed Dickson as a replacement for Greg Olsen, stop right now. While Dickson is the next man up at TE for the Panthers, he primarily earns his paycheck via blocking, and has never caught more than 17 passes in any of his prior three seasons with Carolina.

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.