In our Week 3 fantasy football start ’em and sit ’em, we let the data guide you on Tua Tagovailoa, Alexander Mattison, James Cook and more.
Football is awesome. So is fantasy football.
Whether you’re relaxing on the couch watching NFL RedZone with friends, at a game with 70,000 strangers, or just locked in and watching the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions combine for 68 points by yourself, football is a blast.
Watching quarterbacks do incredible things, like Patrick Mahomes throw lefty for the Kansas City Chiefs or Josh Allen hurdle a defender for the Buffalo Bills or Chicago Bears’ quarterback Justin Fields take off for a 50-yard run is a thrill, even if you’re not a fan of any of those teams.
Watching Garrett Wilson’s one-hand snag for the New York Jets or Odell Beckham’s famous and miraculous one-handed catch against the Dallas Cowboys is something that you can still picture in your mind today. Because we’re all fans.
Football is an escape. We may all be driven crazy by agonizing fantasy losses or players putting up horrific fantasy point totals that bely the mind, but we come back the next week and the next season because football, well, it’s a blast.
99% of the time, that is.
Because every once in a while, we get reminded that for however much of a joy it is to watch grown men play a game, this is also a brutal and physical game. And that reminder happened on Monday night when Nick Chubb took a normal handoff and nothing normal happened after that.
To spare the gruesome details, Chubb is out for the season with a knee injury that won’t just take away his 2023 season but could potentially affect not just his career, but maybe even his well-being to just do normal things in life.
So, consider the tidbits that follow a salute to one of the NFL’s premier running backs since being drafted in 2018, and a hopeful wish that Chubb’s recovery goes as well as possible and we see him suit up in Week 1 next year:
- Only one player has rushed for more than 995 rushing yards in the five seasons since the 2018 Draft – Nick Chubb.
- Chubb had at least eight rushing touchdowns in each of the last five seasons. Derrick Henry is the only other player that can claim that consistency.
- Only two players have recorded five consecutive seasons of at least 1,140 scrimmage yards – Chubb and New Orleans’ Saints running back Alvin Kamara.
- Here’s the entire list of players in NFL history that have averaged at least 12 carries per game and 5.2 yards per carry – Chubb and fellow Cleveland Browns icon Jim Brown.
- Since 1991, here’s the entire list of qualifying players to average at least 6.0 yards per rush in the fourth quarter of games – Nick Chubb.
- Over that same timespan, Chubb’s 6.35 yards per carry when his team is winning by a touchdown or less is the highest.
- Even better? Chubb has averaged an absolutely outrageous 7.38 yards per carry in the fourth quarter of one-score games. The No. 2 player on that list averaged over 1.5 fewer yards per carry than Chubb. 23.3% of Chubb’s rushes in these scenarios went for 10+ yards, and yes, you guessed it, that is the highest percentage since 1991.
So, here’s to Nick Chubb, a brilliant player and by all accounts, a better human being. Football fans are rooting for you.
Week 3 Yays
Note: We’re comparing our rankings to the expert consensus rankings (ECR) from Fantasy Pros. These rankings update throughout the week (we pulled these numbers from Thursday). Once again, we are using PPR unless noted otherwise.
Tua Tagovailoa, QB (MIA) vs. DEN (ECR: 7, Our Rank: 1, Projected Points: 23.22)
Through two games against Justin Herbert’s Los Angeles Chargers and the defensively strong New England Patriots, Tagovailoa threw for 715 passing yards. Along with eight plays of 25+ yards, he led the NFL in both categories through two weeks.
The Denver Broncos, meanwhile, have allowed at least 200 passing yards and multiple touchdowns to Jimmy Garoppolo and Sam Howell to open the season. Let’s just say, Tua is an upgrade over both of those QBs.
In what is the home opener for the Miami Dolphins, our model is sky high of Tua’s chances of shredding the Broncos’ pass defense. Tagovailoa is our top QB for the week just ahead of Mahomes and Jalen Hurts. Tyreek Hill is our top WR for the week, and Tua, who enters Week 3 as QB6 for the season, has a solid chance of being in the top 3 upon the conclusion of this week.
Alexander Mattison, RB (MIN) vs. LAC (ECR: 18, Our Rank: 7, PP: 15.24)
Through two weeks, Kirk Cousins is the top QB in fantasy, Justin Jefferson is WR3, and T.J. Hockenson is TE1. But despite some prolific fantasy outputs, the Vikings are 0-2. One of the significant culprits of this slow start is the running game.
The Minnesota Vikings have 69 total rushing yards in two games. There are 40 NFL players with more than that. The Vikings are also the only team that hasn’t had a single run of 10+ yards. And despite all of the disturbing trends, our model is projecting an excellent week for Mattison.
Through two weeks, the Vikings have played the Philadelphia Eagles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, two of the toughest rush defenses in the league. This week, against the Los Angeles Chargers, our model is expecting much more rushing success. And yes, we’re aware that the Vikings just traded for Cam Akers. But until he actually bites into Mattison’s workload, Mattison is still the guy in Minnesota. And this week, he’s a top 10 option, right ahead of a model favorite, Arizona Cardinals’ running back James Conner and also ahead of Austin Ekeler’s replacement, Joshua Kelley.
Michael Pittman Jr. WR (IND) vs. BAL (ECR: 21, Our Rank: 10, PP: 15.15)
The top three wide receivers by PPR scoring this year are Hill, waiver wire darling Puka Nacua, and Jefferson. Those three also occupy the top three spots in targets through two weeks. Fourth on that list?
This constitutes just the second time in Pittman’s young career that he’s received double digit targets in back-to-back games, and it’s the first time he’s recorded eight receptions in consecutive contests. And Week 2 proved that he’s got the attention of both Indianapolis Colts’ quarterbacks, Anthony Richardson and Gardner Minshew.
This week, facing a Baltimore Ravens defense that has already surrendered at least six receptions and 50 receiving yards to four players this season, the model is optimistic of Pittman’s chances of making it five. Our model views him as a borderline WR1 this week, and he should be locked into all starting lineups until the point comes that he’s no longer receiving 10 targets per game.
Jakobi Meyers, WR (LV) vs. PIT (ECR: 42, Our Rank: 16, PP: 13.31)
It’s a small sample size of just one week, but Week 1 saw Meyers, and not Davante Adams, as Garoppolo’s favorite target for the Las Vegas Raiders. Ten targets, nine receptions, two touchdowns and a weekly finish as WR3.
Among wide receivers with 10 targets, Meyers is eighth in open percentage (90%) and 10th in burn yards per route (4.0).
All indications are that Meyers will play against the Pittsburgh Steelers after missing Week 2 with a concussion. And as long as Garoppolo continues to give Meyers opportunity, WR2 status on the week and season is well within his capabilities.
Week 3 Nays
Deshaun Watson, QB (CLE) vs. TEN (ECR: 11, Our Rank: 23, PP: 14.45)
Everything is set up this week for a successful outing for Watson. Tennessee is the league’s stingiest rushing defense, allowing only 2.71 yards per carry. But the Titans have also surrendered more than 300 passing yards in both of their games to open the season. Plus, with the unfortunate Chubb injury, this Browns offense is likely going to open up and pass the ball more.
But the model has seen nothing from Watson that might indicate he’s up for it, that he might be able to rediscover his form from 2020. In eight games since returning from suspension, Watson has only surpassed 235 passing yards once and has nine passing touchdowns in eight games. And oh yeah, Watson ranks 32nd (out of 32) in our well-thrown percentage metric.
Until the Browns passing attack shows significant growth, Watson will likely remain closer to a borderline QB2 type of player, one to play only if you’re in a super flex league and behind players like Jared Goff and Dak Prescott.
James Cook, RB (BUF) vs. WAS (ECR: 13: Our Rank: 29, PP: 10.25)
The good news for Cook is that he has seemingly secured his spot as the top dog in the Buffalo Bills’ backfield. His 169 rushing yards ranks sixth in the NFL and his 29 carries significantly outpace Damien Harris and Latavius Murray, both of whom only have eight carries.
Unfortunately for Cook’s fantasy managers, it’s those other two that have touchdowns because despite only eight carries for each, both Harris and Murray have more carries inside the opponent’s 10-yard line than Cook does. That lack of carries in prime locations impacts our projections, where our model thinks it’s more likely that if a Bills running back scores a rushing touchdown, it’ll be either Harris or Murray.
And while Cook is the top option, he doesn’t receive the amount of volume required to overcome a low touchdown projection. He’s a borderline RB2 play against the Washington Commanders this week, behind running backs like D’Andre Swift (Philadelphia Eagles), Raheem Mostert (Miami Dolphins), Najee Harris (Pittsburgh Steelers), Isiah Pacheco (Kansas City Chiefs), Jerome Ford (Cleveland Browns), Dameon Pierce (Houston Texans) and Miles Sanders (Carolina Panthers).
Calvin Ridley, WR (JAX) vs. HOU (ECR: 11, Our Rank: 26, PP: 12.20)
Ridley announced his return in a dramatic way in Week 1, finishing with 101 receiving yards and a touchdown and a weekly finish of WR6. Teammate Christian Kirk, meanwhile, finished as WR96. Well, last week, their roles were reversed, and it was Kirk finishing with a display reminiscent of his 2022 season. He scored 22 fantasy points and did so without a touchdown, due to his 11 receptions. It was Ridley that finished as WR81.
The first two weeks of every season are informative because coaches have had all offseason to prepare for how their offenses are going to look, and this Jaguars offense seems as though it might involve a different guy each week. And for Ridley, to contend with Kirk, Evan Engram and Zay Jones (when healthy) each week means there isn’t enough consistency for our model to confidently place him at or near the top 10.
At home, against a Houston Texans team that the Jags might handle with ease, Ridley remains the No. 1 wide receiver in that offense according to the model, but he does so from a WR2 fantasy tier.
Mike Evans, WR (TB) vs. PHI (ECR: 17, Our Rank: 29, PP: 11.84)
It’s been an electric start for Evans, who entered the season disappointed having not come to an agreement with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a new contract. Luckily for Bucs fans, Evans is the consummate professional and he’s taken his anger out on his opponents.
Evans and Baker Mayfield have connected for a touchdown pass in each of the first two games and with over 230 receiving yards, he’s well on his way to a 10th straight season with 1,000 receiving yards. He enters Week 3 as WR4, and if you have him, you might be convinced that the best thing to do would be to ride the wave.
Just keep in mind that Mayfield doesn’t particularly respond well to being under pressure and he’s about to match up against that vaunted Eagles defensive line. And chances are Evans will see a lot of Darius Slay. The model sees a lot going against Evans this week and has projected him as a borderline flex play, ahead of others like DeVonta Smith (Philadelphia Eagles), DJ Moore (Chicago Bears), Michael Thomas (New Orleans Saints), DeAndre Hopkins (Tennessee Titans), and Drake London (Atlanta Falcons).
Looking for more on players like Bijan Robinson, Breece Hall, Chris Godwin, Zay Flowers, Hunter Henry, Sam LaPorta and Mike Williams? Don’t forget to check out our complete fantasy football rankings and start/sit comparison tool, as well as our NFL predictions and statistical leaderboard. Happy exploring. And follow along on Instagram and X.