Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Week 3 Rankings Discussion

I get asked a lot of questions on twitter regarding the rationale behind certain rankings choices in the Fantasy Football Weekly Rankings. Therefore, I felt that it would be worthwhile to explain some of the rationale behind the rankings so that you would be able to make the most informed decisions possible for your Week 3 lineup decisions.

Quarterback Discussion:
  •  Drew Brees leads off the Week 3 QB rankings matching up against the defense that has allowed the most fantasy points to QBs so far, the Chiefs.  
  • Aaron Rodgers has struggled in his two games this season, only 14th in fantasy points among QBs (albeit in two very tough matchups). This week he squares off against the surprising Seattle defense which just shut down a very good Dallas offense. However, with Greg Jennings back in the lineup after missing last week's game vs the Bears, the Packers should be much more effective throwing the ball in this game.
  • The leading QB in fantasy points so far Robert Griffin III comes in at 7th in the Week 3 rankings in a favorable matchup against the weak Bengals pass defense. I considered moving him higher, but he is still a rookie with only two career NFL games under his belt, and his top WR and TE are both banged up so I'm not ready to trust him over those top 5 QBs this week. 
  • Two QBs that moved down a lot in this week's rankings are Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Contrary to what you may expect, these rankings are not indicative of me being down on those two QB after their disappointing games in Week 2 (although the loss of Hernandez clearly hurts Brady). Their opponents, BAL and HOU, were two of the four best defenses in terms of fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs in 2011 allowing only 8.7 and 10.6 fantasy points to QBs respectively.
  • After two games, Alex Smith is tied for 8th in fantasy points among QBs. Even though he doesn't throw for huge yardage, he doesn't turn the ball over. The Vikings allowed the most points to QBs in 2011, and just got torched by Blaine Gabbert and Andrew Luck, so Smith should have no trouble putting up his solid stats in Week 3.
  • Jay Cutler will not finish as the 16th ranked QB, he will either be a top 10 guy as he was in Week 1, or terrible as he was in Week 2. Which Cutler shows up is anyone's guess.
  • Andrew Luck has been pretty good in his first two games, but he now faces off against Jacksonville, a team that allowed the 8th fewest fantasy points to QBs in 2011 (and has allowed the fewest so far in 2012). I expect him to struggle more than last week. 

Running Back Discussion:
  • C.J. Spiller, a RB that I loved in Week 2, exploded for 170 total yards and 2 TD. He is now the NFL rushing leader by a wide margin and has a great matchup against CLE who allowed the 6th most fantasy points to RBs in 2011.
  • I'll admit I underestimated Frank Gore in the preseason, ranking him only 20th among RBs due to health and workload concerns. He has put together back-to-back great games, and sits 5th among RBs in fantasy points. His 6.1 yards/carry will decline, but Gore looks like a different RB than the one who in the 2nd half of 2011 only had one game in which he averaged more than 3.7 yards/carry. He cracks the top 10 for the first time this season.
  • Michael Bush fills in for an injured Matt Forte and gets a very favorable matchup against the Rams who allowed the 4th most fantasy points to RBs in 2011 (and was picked apart by Kevin Smith in Week 1).
  • Ahmad Bradshaw has been ruled out for Thursday night's game, stepping in for him is Andre Brown, a 4th round pick from the 2009 draft. He has almost no track record before last weeks game in which he filled in admirably for Bradshaw, but with the NYG offensive line and the great matchup against the Panthers (2nd most fantasy points allowed to RBs in 2011, and just allowed an insane 37 fantasy points to the Saints RBs last week).
  • Darren McFadden, Adrian Peterson and Stevan Ridley all find themselves in unfamiliar territory in the Week 3 rankings. I like all three of these backs, but I will be benching them this week if I had other good options, as the Steelers, 49ers and Ravens are all very tough run defenses.
  • A newcomer to the rankings in Lions RB Mikell Leshoure, recently activated after his two week suspension. This week I don't expect him to have a huge share of the touches (maybe 35%) but he is a guy that I touted in the preseason in my Hidden Gems article. He could have a major role this season and even take over the starters job from brittle Kevin Smith.
  • For the second week in a row, I have ranked Pierre Thomas over Mark Ingram. Frankly, as was evident in Week 2, he is the better RB and unless Ingram scores Thomas should be the more reliable start in fantasy leagues.

Wide Receiver Discussion:
  •  The NFL's target leader, Victor Cruz, moves up to #2 in the Week 3 rankings after Hakeem Nicks was ruled out for Thursday's game. With Hixon out as well, Cruz will dominate targets and should have a monster game against CAR.
  • Steve Smith and Dez Bryant both move into the top 5, with their great matchups against the Giants and Bucs respectively, the team who have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing WRs so far this season.
  • Fresh off a 2 TD performance against the Bills, Dwayne Bowe has a great matchup against the Saints who have been torched by opposing WRs so far this season.
  • Larry Fitzgerald has been one of the biggest disappointments for fantasy owners so far this season, but he is too talented to not bounce back. He still cracks the top 10 even in a tough matchup.
  • Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown both crack the top 20 this week. Despite the fact that Brown has more targets, receptions and yards so far this season, I ranked Wallace higher this week because I expect him to score against OAK's banged up secondary.
  • Greg Jennings should be returning for the Monday night game, and I have ranked him ahead of fellow Packers star Jordy Nelson. I expect both to have good games even against a very tough Seattle secondary that did extremely well against Dallas last week. There are just too many weapons on GB for SEA to match up with.
  • Assuming he is able to play in Week 3, Pierre Garcon should have a great game against a Bengals defense that looks nothing like the defense that finished 9th in fantasy points last season. They have allowed two 300+ yards, 2 TD performances for Flacco and Weeden so far this year.
  • Four guys I discussed earlier this week, Michael Crabtree, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Floyd and Brandon LaFell, should all have success this week. They are all turning into safe WR3 options.
  • Greg Little was a sleeper of mine in the preseason, but he fell off a lot of people's radars after being shut out in the 2012 opener. But he saw 7 targets in Week 2, catching 5 passes for 57 yards and a TD. This week, he gets a weak Bills secondary and should have no trouble catching passes.
  • Justin Blackmon is the more talented WR, but Laurent Robinson has seen more targets (15 to 10), caught more passes (8 to 3) and posted more yardage (115 to 24). As such, I have moved Robinson ahead of Blackmon in the rankings, and Blackmon was very close to being removed completely from the top 50 WRs.

 Tight End Discussion:
  • The leader in fantasy points among TEs so far this year is none other than Vernon Davis, who comes in at #2 in a good matchup against the Vikings, who have allowed TDs in both games this year.
  • However, the best matchup of Week 3 goes to Brandon Pettigrew, as the Titans have allowed 5 TDs so far to TEs in 2012 (including backup TE Dante Rosario's 3 TD performance last week). He should have no trouble finding the endzone.
  • Brent Celek was another sleeper of mine in the preseason, but he's been even better than I expected so far in 2012. After last week's amazing performance, he sits 7th in fantasy points among TEs, and is 3rd in targets. With Maclin banged up and looking likely to miss Sunday's game Celek should thrive again this week despite a pretty good ARI defense.
  • Three big climbers in this week's rankings are Martelleus Bennett and Dennis Pitta. They currently sit 5th and 9th in fantasy points for the season, respectively. Bennett has a big opportunity this week due to Hakeem Nicks' absence and should see a ton of targets. However, it is Dennis Pitta that I like the best for the season. He leads all TEs in targets and has put Ed Dickson firmly in his rear-view mirror. He is quickly turning into a every week TE starter in standard leagues.
  • Scott Chandler used to only be a good start in fantasy leagues in weeks in which he found the endzone. However, with all the injuries on the Bills, he has 11 targets already in the first two games (after only 46 targets all of last season). If his targets keep coming, he could be another breakout TE.
  • Brandon Myers is starting to make noise in fantasy leagues catching all 11 of his targets for 151 yards so far this season (that's as many yards as he had all of last season). The Raiders throw a lot, so the opportunity is there, but he needs to keep producing to earn my trust especially in a tough matchup like the Steelers.

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