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NFL Predictions Week 3: Full Projections, Odds, Highlighting Top Fantasy Stars

Fantasy Football
September 26, 2015

For too long, fantasy football has existed on an island away from actual NFL happenings. Now, more than ever, the real and fake are converging as one.

Anyone who reads fantasy analyses will constantly come across phrases like “game flow” and “game script.” The latter is especially odd, implicating that a screenwriter will concoct turnovers that provide the Denver Broncos with red-zone scoring opportunities and a hefty lead so they can run out the clock.

Good intentions can go awry. Nobody would have expected a shootout between the Baltimore Ravens and Oakland Raiders. Besides, one play often alters the expected pattern of any given game, forcing the script to undergo strenuous rewrites.

Yet the thinking makes sense. Favorites are more likely to win, which means they’re more likely to run the ball than a trailing opponent that needs to erase a large deficit. A matchup expected to produce a high point tally poses the potential for more fantasy goodness on both sides.

Before setting a Week 3 lineup, fantasy players would be wise to consider the weekend’s spreads and over/under lines, courtesy of Odds Shark. Perhaps the extra information can help pen a screenplay about victory.

Top Fantasy Stars

Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals

Carson Palmer: fantasy star? Through the first two weeks, you bet. Only Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger have scored more fantasy points than the Arizona Cardinals quarterback in ESPN.com leagues.

Back from a torn ACL, the 35-year-old passer has tossed seven touchdowns while averaging 8.79 yards per pass attempt. Including his brief 2014 success, Palmer has played the part of a worthwhile fantasy starter over his last eight games:

Before anointing him as an MVP candidate, however, let’s take a step back. The New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears ranked No. 25 and No. 30, respectively, in passing defense last year. They might be worse this year.

Touchdowns fluctuate on a weekly basis, so don’t expect three or four scores every game. Against a better defense, the guy who surrendered 22 interceptions during his last full season may show up.

Luckily for Palmer, that good unit isn’t entering Arizona on Sunday. The San Francisco 49ers have allowed a 74.6 completion percentage and NFL-worst 10.2 yards per passing attempt through two games. Roethlisberger could have submitted another six-score game if running back DeAngelo Williams hadn’t poached three goal-line carries during a 43-18 trouncing.

Another easy matchup means Palmer is a comfortable top-10 option for Week 3.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks

Marshawn Lynch’s early performance hasn’t elicited the same panic felt by everyone who drafted C.J. Anderson or DeMarco Murray. Yet the perennial first-round selection hasn’t reached the end zone in two weeks, a fairly uncommon occurrence for someone who scored 56 touchdowns over the last four seasons.

Don’t worry: The Seattle Seahawks will unleash Beast Mode against the Bears, who announced Friday that they’ll play without Jay Cutler and Alshon Jeffery:

Those guys weren’t responsible for tackling Lynch, but a 15.5-point spread suddenly seems generous for the underdogs. Seattle should thoroughly manhandle quarterback Jimmy Clausen at home, creating plenty of running opportunities against a defense that is yielding 4.3 yards per carry.

Last year, Lynch scored 12 of his 17 touchdowns at home. Although possibly a coincidence, it makes sense considering the team’s 7-1 record at CenturyLink Field. Last season, he averaged 18.5 carries per game in Seattle’s dozen victories but only 14.5 during the team’s four losses:

Expect Lynch to cross the pylons at least once Sunday.

Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots

It doesn’t matter that he’s a small slot receiver. Julian Edelman is a top fantasy wideout.

Edelman collected 11 receptions for 97 yards in each of the first two weeks, adding two touchdowns to his Week 2 tally. Operating as Brady’s unquestioned top receiver, the former seventh-round pick leads the NFL with 31 targets.

The terrible nickname aside, NFL Network analyst Nate Burleson is right to call Edelman the game’s premier slot receiver:

Including the postseason, he has hauled in 89 receptions over the New England Patriots’ last 11 games, receiving double-digit targets all but once. That heavy workload makes him arguably a top-five receiver under points-per-reception scoring.

The good times should continue against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who yielded eight catches and 110 yards to the Miami Dolphins’ Jarvis Landry last weekend. Before assuming a monumental blowout, New England has let the opposition move the ball this year. This could create a high-scoring affair, which is reflected in the matchup’s 48.5-point over/under line.

Aside from that, the Patriots don’t play nice and go into conservative mode with a lead. When they see an exploitable secondary, they’ll pass all day long. Edelman may not outshine Rob Gronkowski in the end zone again, but he’ll produce plenty of catches and yards once more.

Note: All betting info, updated as of Saturday morning, obtained from Odds Shark.

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