The Predictalator has run every Week 3 2014 NFL game 50,000 times.
Below we present the up-to-date top three at each fantasy position for the week, a sleeper likely to have a breakout game (generally chosen as the best $/FP value on daily fantasy sites), a player to avoid (the worst $/FP value) and some injury situations to monitor heading into the week. Also, check out free projections for every player in every future week in our Rest of Season Fantasy Football Rankings.
1. Matthew Stafford 24.1 FPs (DET vs. GB) - Technically, Matt Ryan is our #1 QB for the week, but he plays Thursday. If we were right, many of you are reading this after 305 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT for Ryan. For Stafford in an expected shootout with Aaron Rodgers (also a top ten play at QB this week), the projections are similar. Look for around 290 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT for Stafford.
2. Peyton Manning 23.5 FPs (DEN @ SEA) - Before Week 1, Aaron Rodgers was our "must avoid" quarterback for the week, ranking 21st in our fantasy projections while taking on the Seahawks stellar defense to open the season. At the time, we suggested that almost any quarterback facing Seattle's defense should be benched. This week, Peyton Manning heads to Seattle. This is the exception. Manning still ranks second for the week. In each of the previous weeks, he projected to top 30 fantasy points, so it's a moral victory to hold him to more than a touchdown shy of his previous expectations (a moral victory that may lead to an actual victory on the field).
3. Russell Wilson 23.2 FPs (SEA vs. DEN) - Wilson and Manning look to engage in a high scoring and close (this time) battle for league supremacy. It's rare that Wilson finds himself in a tight home game late into the fourth quarter (he is 6-0 ATS all-time at home as a touchdown or less favorite). The fact that this game should remain relatively close benefits his expected output as the Seahawks may need plays from Wilson throughout the game.
Breakout Candidate: Chad Henne 18.2 FPs (JAC vs. IND) - The Eagles exposed the current Colts' defense in many ways on Monday night, most notably as a team that simultaneously does not have a pass rush and yet also struggles to cover players in the flats. Toby Gerhart and Jordan Todman are no LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles, but Henne has enough weapons to be respectable against a bad defense Sunday. Henne ranks 17th for the week, so he is just a fringe starter, yet makes a decent injury replacement for RGIII or Carson Palmer ahead of the likes of Tony Romo, Jake Locker, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and this guy...
Must Avoid: Kirk Cousins 17.3 FPS (WAS @ PHI) - It is a popular narrative among media and fans to build Cousins up to be an upgrade over Robert Griffin III at quarterback for Washington. In five games last season, Cousins averaged 5.5 yards-per-pass on 52.3% completions with four touchdowns, seven interceptions and three fumbles lost, topping 200 yards passing just once. He is little more than the new version of "Captain Checkdown" like Trent Edwards, Blaine Gabbert and Colt McCoy before him, except that, when he does go down field - a staple in Jay Gruden's offense with the Bengals - it's even more likely to be intercepted than with those players.
1. DeMarco Murray 16.5 FPs (DAL @ STL) - Murray leads the NFL in rushing yards through two games and is projected to top 1,750 yards rushing if he makes 16 starts this year. For perspective, no other player is projected to exceed 1,500 yards rushing. Dallas needs Murray. He is delivering now. Enjoy the ride while it lasts (and don't be afraid to grab Lance Dunbar for when/if it does not).
2. LeSean McCoy 16.3 FPs (PHI vs. WAS) - Like Peyton Manning above, McCoy will be in the top three almost every week (that he plays). Darren Sproles is a targeted receiver and gadget (for lack of a better term) play back that is incredibly useful to the Eagles, yet really is not a threat to McCoy's numbers. Both are likely to be weekly starts in fantasy, especially in points-per-reception (PPR) leagues.
3. Lamar Miller 15.7 FPs (MIA vs. KC) - While fantasy owners scramble to the waiver wires in the wake of running back injuries to pick up Knile Davis, Bobby Rainey and Khiry Robinson, Miller is the top sleeper and Week 3 beneficiary of an injury to a back. Off the injury report entirely for Week 3 and playing both the McCoy and Sproles roles in former Eagles' coach Bill Lazor's Dolphins offense, Miller is an every down back destined for 20+ touches and 100+ total yards. His backups right now are Damien Williams and Orleans Darkwa.
Breakout Candidate: Darren McFadden 12.4 FPs (OAK @ NE) - Davis, Rainey (Thursday night) and Robinson are all decent plays in fantasy this week, but daily fantasy sports sites seem have priced them appropriately. McFadden, like Miller, is another underrated sleeper. With Maurice Jones-Drew banged up and no team trust in Latavius Murray, McFadden is the go-to guy in Oakland right now. That does not always mean big things, but against the New England Patriots defense allowing 122.5 yards-per-game and 4.3 yards-per-carry, it does.
Must Avoid: Trent Richardson 7.2 FPs (IND @ JAC) - Not only has Richardson fallen behind fellow Colt Ahmad Bradshaw in fantasy worth, at #42 for Week 3, he is also behind backups Isaiah Crowell, Benny Cunningham, Jeremy Hill, Chris Ivory and others.
1. Calvin Johnson 15.9 FPs (DET vs. GB) - MEGATRON
2. Percy Harvin 13.5 FPs (SEA vs. DEN) - A serious threat to Marshawn Lynch's value on the ground, Harvin is a well-utilized, explosive threat likely to see 7-10 touches a game. Dating back to the Super Bowl, Harvin has 21 touches for 230 yards and two touchdowns in essentially his only three healthy games since 2012. On pace for 1,300 total yards and double-digit touchdowns and consistently put in advantageous positions in which his likelihood of scoring is great. Only likely to catch 3-5 balls a game on average, Harvin is more valuable in standard scoring than PPR leagues.
3. Jordy Nelson 11.8 FPs (GB @ DET) - Nelson does not quite match the 111 projected yards and a touchdown we see for Megatron, but he is just as likely to score a TD and his 86 projected yards are third most for receivers for the week.
Breakout Candidate: Aaron Dobson 7.1 FPs (NE vs. OAK) - Dobson ranks just 50th in receiver rankings for the week, but he is worth a waiver add or trade as a likely sooner-rather-than-later breakout candidate. Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski are injury-prone to the most extreme deviation of that phrase. Julian Edelman is banged up right now (though likely to play). And Kenbrell Thompkins hurts his team on the field about as much as he helps. As Dobson gets healthier and others around him do not, he could quickly become a must-start in fantasy leagues.
Must Avoid: Marques Colston 5.9 FPs (NO vs. MIN) - Colston, to some extent looks like the opposite of Dobson. He's a veteran player whose career has likely peaked. Colston (8 targets) has been topped by Jimmy Graham (23), Brandin Cooks (14) and Pierre Thomas (10) in Drew Brees passing targets through two games and he is just ahead of Robert Meachem (7) and has the same number of targets per game (4) as Kenny Stills who missed Game 1. We do not project Colston to finish as the team's sixth leading receiver, but it will be tough to bounce back to consistent fantasy relevance with so many great weapons on the roster.
1. Jimmy Graham 14.5 FPs (NO vs. MIN)
2. Julius Thomas 10.7 FPs (DEN @ SEA)
3. Rob Gronkowski 10.2 FPs (NE vs. OAK)
Breakout Candidate: Jermaine Gresham 7.3 FPs (CIN vs. TEN)
Must Avoid: Vernon Davis 7.2 FPs (SF @ ARI - and may not play)
1. Greg Zuerlein 10.6 FPs (STL vs. DAL)
2. Justin Tucker 10.4 FPs (BAL @ CLE)
3. Stephen Gostkowski 10.0 FPs (NE vs. OAK)
Breakout Candidate: Shayne Graham 8.7 FPs (NO vs. MIN)
Must Avoid: Phil Dawson 7.7 FPs (SF @ ARI)
1. New England Patriots 13.2 FPs (NE vs. OAK)
2. Carolina Panthers 11.6 FPs (CAR vs. PIT)
3. Houston Texans 10.5 FPS (HOU @ NYG)
Breakout Candidate: Miami Dolphins 9.0 FPs (MIA vs. KC)
Must Avoid: Denver Broncos 1.3 FPs (DEN @ SEA)
Injuries to Watch
1. A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals - Green is nursing a toe injury that cost him almost all of the Week 2 game against Falcons. He was our top receiver for last week's fantasy focus (as was Adrian Peterson at running back when we posted the article on Thursday - good luck to DeMarco Murray and Calvin Johnson this week) and crushed many fantasy hopes with his injury. The Bengals are seven point favorites over Tennessee this week at home and have a bye next week, so it would make sense for Green to sit out. If so, as seen in our projections, Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill get a little bit of a bump (like they showed on the field last week) and Jermaine Gresham is worth a look as a fringe tight end starter. Mohamed Sanu, the lone healthy receiver from the Bengals' core of Green, Sanu and Marvin Jones in 2013, is a decent play at #31 for wide receivers, but is out-paced by DeAndre Hopkins, Golden Tate, Brian Quick and others in the projections. If Green can play, which head coach Marvin Lewis says is his expectation, Green is worth a start as a top ten WR, with Gresham, Sanu and Hill all falling off the fantasy start radar for the week.
2.Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs - Charles has a high ankle sprain that could cost him anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. It is unlikely that Charles plays (my expectation is that he is ruled out by the time that most of you are reading this) and that has major fantasy ramifications.... to one player. Knile Davis is an instant top ten running back for the week as Jamaal Charles-lite ("lite" in skill set not in relative weight). Davis is not nearly as explosive or as efficient, but he will get the touches if Charles does not play. In three games filling in for Charles, Davis has averaged 97 total yards on 27 touches a game with SIX touchdowns. Davis is a top ten play with Charles out, just as Charles is a top ten play if healthy.
3. Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers - Though his injury has been downplayed by the 49ers, Davis has remained on crutches for most of the week. If he does not play, the 49ers are downgraded. Technically, third string tight end (backup Vance McDonald is also dealing with an injury) would benefit, but likely not to the point of being startable in fantasy. In that situation, Colin Kaepernick would drop from a top 15 quarterback to #18 for the week and no one else's value on the team would change much.