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Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 3: Smartest Matchups to Exploit, Sleeper Plays and More

Fantasy Football
September 22, 2015

With any luck, fantasy football owners are free of the bizzaro world that was Week 2 just in time to make the difficult Week 3 start ’em, sit ’em decisions.

Seriously, Week 2 had to be an anomaly. Before Monday, Oakland’s Derek Carr (26 points) was just a few points out of first place among quarterbacks. DeAngelo Williams (26) in Pittsburgh led all backs. Cleveland’s Travis Benjamin (29) tied for first at wideout. Crockett Gillmore (20) in Baltimore scored better than Rob Gronkowski and beyond.

Owners don’t have a choice but to presume things will return to normal. Another week of usage, injuries and more is still evidence to work with, so let’s compare some of the game’s biggest names and identify some of the top matchups and sleeper plays in the start ’em, sit ’em category.


Top Matchup Play: Tom Brady, New England Patriots (vs. JAC)

It doesn’t get much easier than this.

Tom Brady continues to endure, if not look as good as ever through two weeks by way of his 754 yards and seven touchdowns. Week 1 figured to provide a stout test, but he sliced up Pittsburgh for 27 points. Ditto for Week 2 in Buffalo, but Brady one-upped himself with 28 points.

On the flip side, Jacksonville doesn’t appear to stand much of a chance. The unit has surrendered 12 and 23 points through two games, respectively, the smaller number more a result of Carolina’s stunning lack of weapons than a good performance by Jacksonville defense.

With Gronkowski, Julian Edelman (more on him later) and more to work with, Brady sits atop the matchup rankings as a surefire Week 3 stud.

Sleeper: Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills (at MIA)

Look, until owners start to take Tyrod Taylor seriously (he’s still owned in just 17.8 percent of leagues) he’s going to continue to get slapped with the sleeper label.

Maybe owners thought Taylor’s encouraging 15 points in Week 1 were a fluke. He proved this notion wrong in a head-to-head duel with Brady this past weekend, going for 25 points while throwing a trio of touchdowns and interceptions.

Taylor will make mistakes on a weekly basis, but four total touchdowns and the problems he presents for defenses make him a smooth start most weeks from here on out. Heck, the 25 points flowed despite the offensive line allowing a whopping eight sacks.

Miami held Kirk Cousins in check in Week 1, which isn’t too impressive of a feat. This past weekend it allowed Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles to total 20 points, so Taylor’s versatility figures to give the unit nightmares and owners plenty of production.


Top Matchup Play: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings (vs. SD)

Owners were justified if they were quick to anger over Adrian Peterson’s return to football in Week 1.

There, the Minnesota Vikings ran him just 10 times, giving owners five points. The coaching staff seemed to realize Peterson was in the backfield in Week 2 against Detroit, giving him 29 opportunities, which turned into 134 yards with another 58 through the air for 16 points.

Peterson lost a fumble on the day, but he had a touchdown rush called back to balance the performance out. He’s back in full form and there’s no chance the coaching staff ignores him again.

Just in time, too, because the San Diego defense looks leaky against backs. It let Detroit rookie Ameer Abdullah total 15 points in Week 1 and just allowed Cincinnati spell back Giovani Bernard to go for 13. The former carried the ball just seven times against San Diego, the latter 20.

Imagine what a high-volume game for Peterson would do.

Sleeper: Matt Jones, Washington (at NYG)

Buy early on the Matt Jones hype in Washington because he won’t last long on waiver wires.

Jones finished with 24 points in Week 2 to sit right behind Williams on the positional leaderboard before Monday by way of 19 carries for 123 yards and two scores.

Granted, the explosive rookie only tallied two points in Week 1, but it seems the coaching staff is ready to roll out a committee approach—which favors the rookie, not Alfred Morris.

In fact, Jones outcarried Morris 19-18 in Week 2, and it’s a trend that could continue to weigh more in Jones’ favor given his explosiveness from anywhere on the field, whereas Morris could function as a between-the-tackles guy for the tough yards.

This is the definition of a run-first offense as the coaching staff looks to protect Cousins and live without DeSean Jackson. The New York Giants, on the other hand, surrendered 10 points to Joseph Randle in Week 1 and 20 points total between Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman this past weekend.


Top Matchup Play: Julian Edelman, New England Patriots (vs. JAC)

Sometimes the numbers just need to do the talking.

This notion applies to the aforementioned Edelman. NFL on ESPN provided the goods:

It almost seems like Edelman could be the top matchup play each week at this point. Right now he’s Brady’s preferred wideout, especially with Brandon LaFell sitting on the physically unable to perform list.

There’s little chance Jacksonville can stop Edelman from reeling in more gaudy reception numbers. Just last week the unit allowed both Jarvis Landry and Rishard Matthews to post 11 points apiece.

The difference? Brady sits under center and Jacksonville doesn’t have a choice but to throw everything it has at Gronkowski. Even if Edelman doesn’t score, he’s in for another high-volume day.

Sleeper: Travis Benjamin, Cleveland Browns (vs. OAK)

It was all too easy to write off Benjamin’s 14 points in Week 1 before the 29-point outburst this past weekend with Tennessee in town.

Usually when an underdog like Cleveland has an underrated weapon such as Benjamin, it’s a situation that’s good for a few weeks of gaudy fantasy output before NFL defenses adjust and shut things down.

Still, it’s hard to ignore the numbers provided by NFL Network’s Gil Brandt:

Cleveland employs a run-first offense, but the staff will continue to find ways to get Benjamin involved in plays that allow him to break free. He also won’t lose his spot as a punt returner, not after taking one to the house against Tennessee.

Oakland’s defense would best be described as a hot mess, too. Just last week it allowed Steve Smith to post 15 points on 10 catches, so Benjamin should be able to do some major damage with the ball in his hands.


Top Matchup Play: Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers (vs. NO)

The situation with Greg Olsen in Carolina is actually a lot like the one with Peterson in Minnesota.

For one reason or another the Carolina coaching staff mostly ignored their veteran tight end in Week 1, ruining his fantasy production with just one reception. The staff changed its mind on leaning on a wideout corps led by Ted Ginn and Corey Brown in Week 2, allowing Olsen to catch six passes on the way to seven points.

It doesn’t sound like much, but Olsen’s opportunities won’t go back down and his ability to find the end zone (he has a minimum of five scores in every season dating back to 2008) makes him a smart play.

Of course, it helps that the woeful New Orleans Saints will pay the Panthers a visit next. The unit let Arizona backup Daniel Fells post 14 points in Week 1. With Olsen in the top matchup and the No. 1 option on offense, he’s a candidate to top the Week 3 leaderboard at the position.

Sleeper: Crockett Gillmore, Baltimore Ravens (vs. CIN)

Gillmore might have something to say about the Week 3 leaderboard, though.

It’s no joke, either. Gillmore tops the depth chart in Baltimore and stands as the second option on offense behind Smith with rookie Breshad Perriman out of the picture.

After a quiet start to the season, Gillmore ruined Oakland’s day this past weekend with a healthy dose of seam routes on the way to 88 yards and two scores on five catches.

Now Gillmore gets the Bengals, a team that has consistently struggled against tight ends from a fantasy standpoint. Thanks to matchups against Oakland and an Antonio Gates-less San Diego squad, the Bengals haven’t looked rough against the position just yet, but Gillmore has the usage and talent to be the first to take advantage.

All scoring info courtesy of ESPN standard leagues, as is points-against info and ownership stats as of September 21. Statistics courtesy of ESPN.

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