Who is playing more like Cam Newton than Newton is right now? Speaking of Newton, did he “get his swag back” and pass the “New Orleans Saints test?” Why did Travis Kelce and Kyle Rudolph disappoint? Can you trust the guy named Marcedes? FantasySharks.com senior writer Matt Wilson digs into the fantasy highlights and lowlights of a crazy Week 3 in fresh-off-the-press edition of Traps & Trends.
1. Guess who is playing more like Cam Newton than Newton is right now?
The Dude: Deshaun Watson.
The Damage: Coming off a shaky NFL debut back in Week 2 (125 scoreless passing yards and 5-67-1 rushing) that didn’t exactly impress the fantasy community, Watson came close to becoming the first rookie quarterback to beat Bill Belichick in Foxborough this past Sunday. The Clemson product erupted in a high-scoring contest against the New England Patriots, connecting on 22 of his 33 throws for 301 yards and two touchdowns against two picks (one was a real stinker). He also tacked on a Cam Newton-esque 41 yards on eight carries during Houston’s 36-33 loss to Belichick and company. Is this one promising performance enough to earn Watson fantasy starter status in all league formats? Is this one of many productive fantasy outings on the horizon for him?
The Diagnosis: TREND
Yes and yes. The Texans had to turn Watson loose during that scoring festival against the Patriots, and he made an impressive leap from Week 2 to Week 3, coming close to upsetting the Patriots on their home turf. How’s that for a difficulty factor? While Watson had his main guy, DeAndre Hopkins (7-76-0 on eight targets) in the banged-up Houston receiver corps, the rookie quarterback, who completed passes to eight different receivers, also had to rely on backups Ryan Griffin (5-61-1 on six targets) and Bruce Ellington (4-59-1 on seven targets). The Texans prefer a run-first approach. If/when their ground game starts clicking again, they’ll probably dial back the throwing a bit. Watson is looking much safer as a two-quarterback option and as a streaming option in plus matchups in all formats.
2. Guess who spectacularly flunked the “New Orleans Saints test” this past Sunday?
The Dude: Cam Newton
The Damage: Last week I wrote, “Newton draws a very favorable Week 3 home matchup versus a statistically NFL-worst New Orleans Saints defense that has been sliced up by Sam Bradford and Tom Brady. If Newton can’t rack up at least 200 passing yards and two touchdown tosses against the Saints – even without Greg Olsen (foot surgery) – then something is terribly wrong.”
During the Carolina Panthers’ 34-13 home loss to the Saints, Newton, still flashing that shaky accuracy, went 17-for-26 for only 167 yards with no touchdowns and three picks against the super-leaky New Orleans secondary. The 2015 NFL Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year salvaged his bad outing with 16 rushing yards and one rushing score on three carries. It should be noted that Kelvin Benjamin left the game due to a knee injury early in the second quarter. Assuming the Panthers don’t bench Newton…just a thought…is this level of production the new normal for Newton in the short term?
The Diagnosis: TREND
Newton owners – it’s time to push that panic button. Physically, he’s just not right. Granted, Newton was sans his top target, Olsen, and operated without Benjamin for three quarters against New Orleans, but it stands to reason that the Carolina triggerman should have been able to have some success against a Saints secondary that coughed up 346 passing yards and three touchdown tosses to Bradford. Newton, averaging 188.7 passing yards per game with just two touchdown passes (both came against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1) doesn’t look fully recovered from offseason surgery on his right (throwing) shoulder – Newton doesn’t look 100 percent healthy, period – even though the Panthers have said otherwise. If you haven’t already done so, park Newton on your bench until further notice.
3. Travis Kelce…paging Travis Kelce…please pick up the white courtesy phone. Your fantasy owners are on the line. They want to know where you were in Week 3.
The Dude: Travis Kelce
The Damage: Coming off a huge Week 2 performance (8-103-1 on 10 targets against the Philadelphia Eagles), Kelce made the Week 3 flight to Los Angeles to face the Chargers but pulled a disappearing act. He caught one pass for one yard on…drum roll please…on measly target, which went down on the stat sheet as the second-worst performance of Kelce’s five-year NFL career. With Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt emerging as clearly viable receiving options, should fantasy owners expect more stink bomb fantasy outings from Kelce?
The Diagnosis: TRAP
You’re obviously smart enough not to sit him. Kelce owners, as Aaron Rodgers says, “R-E-L-A-X.” While Kelce will bounce back – I guarantee it – dud performances against the Chargers could be the norm. I think they’ve got his number. During a Week 17 road matchup against Los Angeles last season (yes, I know they were the San Diego Chargers in 2016), Kelce managed just one catch for eight yards on two targets. When he faced the Chargers at home last season, Kelce compiled six receptions for 74 yards on seven looks. Los Angeles, when facing Kelce at home, seems to have his number. The Chargers also closed out 2016 ranked 12th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends and entered Week 3 ranked 14th in fantasy points ceded to the position.
4. The Miami Dolphins’ bell cow runner drew a great Week 3 road matchup versus a New York Jets defense that has allowed the second-most fantasy points to the running back position. What could possibly go wrong?
The Dude: Jay Ajayi
The Damage: Granted, Ajayi had been nursing a dinged knee coming into his clash with Gang Green in the Big Apple, but his 11 carries for 16 yards and two catches for nine yards on three targets was a major disappointment against a Jets defense that had been gashed by the Buffalo Bills (Week 1) and especially the Oakland Raiders (Week 2). By the way, Ajayi racked up 30 touches against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 1. Should Ajayi owners consider sitting him?
The Diagnosis: TRAP
Just mark Ajayi’s Week 3 performance down as a bad day at the office. An unfavorable game script doesn’t deserve all the blame for Ajayi’s woes. New York took just a 10-0 lead into the locker room at the half, but the Jets did extend their lead to 17-0 midway through the third quarter while playing some surprisingly tough run defense on their home field. Assuming Ajayi’s tender knee isn’t an issue – watch the practice reports closely this week – he should rebound with a favorable matchup against the New Orleans Saints in London, England.