Exploiting the Matchups: Week 3 Start/Sit and Streamers

Exploiting the Matchups: Week 3 Start/Sit and Streamers

This article is part of our Exploiting the Matchups series.

While most of the stuff below focuses on opponent matchups, I'll also blend in a lot of my work from earlier this week in Backfield Breakdown and Target Breakdown, the articles where I analyze usage and roles for every RB, WR and TE in the league.

Unless otherwise noted, references to 'fantasy points' are based on PPR scoring with 25/10 yards per point and 4/6 points for TDs. Start % comes from Yahoo, as of Wednesday night / Thursday morning.

Start/Upgrade 

Quarterbacks 👍

  

Kirk Cousins (vs. DET) — 39% started

Start Over — Aaron Rodgers (at TB), Tua Tagovailoa (vs. BUF), Carson Wentz (vs. PHI)

After facing two of the NFL's better secondaries in his first two games, Cousins gets a Week 3 home matchup with one of the weakest  groups in the league. It's a bad unit even at full strength, and was worse than usual last week with top corner Amani Oruwariye (back) inactive. Carson Wentz finished with 331 passing yards and three TDs despite a quiet first half, overcoming a trio of sacks by Aidan Hutchinson, who has since shown up on the injury report with a thigh issue (he missed Wednesday's practice). The Lions don't have much else in the way of pass-rushing threats, especially with 2021 second-round pick Levi Onwuzurike (back) on IR and John Cominsky undergoing thumb surgery earlier this week. It's a good matchup for all the Vikings, not just Cousins.

     

Other Good Matchups: Matthew Stafford (at

While most of the stuff below focuses on opponent matchups, I'll also blend in a lot of my work from earlier this week in Backfield Breakdown and Target Breakdown, the articles where I analyze usage and roles for every RB, WR and TE in the league.

Unless otherwise noted, references to 'fantasy points' are based on PPR scoring with 25/10 yards per point and 4/6 points for TDs. Start % comes from Yahoo, as of Wednesday night / Thursday morning.

Start/Upgrade 

Quarterbacks 👍

  

Kirk Cousins (vs. DET) — 39% started

Start Over — Aaron Rodgers (at TB), Tua Tagovailoa (vs. BUF), Carson Wentz (vs. PHI)

After facing two of the NFL's better secondaries in his first two games, Cousins gets a Week 3 home matchup with one of the weakest  groups in the league. It's a bad unit even at full strength, and was worse than usual last week with top corner Amani Oruwariye (back) inactive. Carson Wentz finished with 331 passing yards and three TDs despite a quiet first half, overcoming a trio of sacks by Aidan Hutchinson, who has since shown up on the injury report with a thigh issue (he missed Wednesday's practice). The Lions don't have much else in the way of pass-rushing threats, especially with 2021 second-round pick Levi Onwuzurike (back) on IR and John Cominsky undergoing thumb surgery earlier this week. It's a good matchup for all the Vikings, not just Cousins.

     

Other Good Matchups: Matthew Stafford (at ARI), Derek Carr (at TEN), Marcus Mariota (at SEA)

  

Running Backs 👍

   

David Montgomery (vs. HOU) — 80% started

Start Over — Clyde Edwards-Helare (at IND), Ezekiel Elliott (at NYG), Josh Jacobs (at TEN)

The rebuilding Bears won't be favored many times this year, and while I'm not quite sure they should be this week, we can at least all agree it's one of their better chances to get a win. Not that Montgomery needs a W to have a big fantasy day, but it at least helps when the Bears aren't getting blown out. There's also the matter of backup RB Khahil Herbert having his role reduced last week, with five touches on 20 percent of snaps (after 10 touches on 29 percent in the opener). Meanwhile, Montgomery's snap share rose 14 percentage points (66 to 80), suggesting he could be among the leaders in that stat for a third straight year (74 percent in 2021, 75 percent in 2021 - active games only). He needs all the snaps he can get, considering he's getting them in such a bad offense.

      

Miles Sanders (at WAS) — 61% started

Start Over — Josh Jacobs (at TEN), Kareem Hunt (vs. PIT), Darrell Henderson (at ARI)

Sanders is a sell-high candidate after starting the year with back-to-back performances of at least 80 rushing yards, both in games where the Eagles held leads for most of the afternoon. The only thing is that you might want to wait, as he'll face the Commanders this week, the Jaguars next week and the Cardinals in Week 5. After that, Sanders gets matchups with Dallas and Pittsburgh sandwiched around a bye, likely setting up a slump if the injury bug doesn't bite him first. For now, Sanders should remain functional as an RB2.

     

Other Good Matchups: Cordarrelle Patterson (at SEA), Dameon Pierce (at CHI), Rashaad Penny (vs. ATL), Nyheim Hines (vs. KC), J.D. McKissic (vs. PHI)

  

Wide Receivers 👍

   

Drake London (at SEA) — 47% started

Start Over — Tyler Lockett (vs. ATL), Curtis Samuel (vs. PHI), Amari Cooper (vs. PIT)

London is the real deal -- as an eighth overall pick should be -- opening his career with 5-74-0 and 8-86-1 despite catching passes from a subpar starting QB. And while some of his early targets figure to be redistributed to TE Kyle Pitts over time, Drake's 33.3 percent target share through two weeks (fourth in the NFL) is arguably even more encouraging than the raw stat lines. The success should continue this weekend against Seahawks cornerbacks Tariq Woolen and Mike Jackson, a pair of young, fifth-round picks who teamed up for a blocked-FG touchdown last week but nonetheless appear to be weak links on defense. It's mostly weak links when talking about this Seattle defense, of course. London can also make noise over the middle working against the linebackers and safeties (Jamal Adams is on IR).

      

DeVonta Smith (at WAS) — 29% started

Start Over — Tyler Lockett (vs. ATL), Elijah Moore (vs. CIN), Jerry Jeudy (vs. SF)

Slot-based receivers have done the most damage against Washington so far, in part because No. 3 corner Benjamin St-Juste is a weak link and in part because the Commanders have faced two teams that primarily use their best WR in the slot. The Eagles, on the other hand, mostly use No. 3 receiver Quez Watkins there, while Smith and A.J. Brown figure to line up across from William Jackson and Kendall Fuller most of the time. Both Jackson and Fuller are experienced starters, but neither presents a menacing matchup (see: 2021), especially within the context of a defense that has other weaknesses and lousy coaching. Seriously, how does Jack Del Rio still have that coordinator job? 

     

Other Good Matchups: Brandin Cooks (at CHI), Gabe Davis (at MIA), Adam Thielen (vs. DET), Jakobi Meyers (vs. BAL); DJ Chark (at MIN)

  

Tight Ends 👍

   

Logan Thomas (vs. PHI) — 17% started

Start Over — Cole Kmet (vs. HOU), Irv Smith (vs. DET), David Njoku (vs. PIT)

A matchup with the Eagles could work in Thomas' favor from two different standpoints. For starters, he has the relative advantage in matchup, likely running most of his routes against Philly's middling linebackers and safeties while the Washington wide receivers square off with the talented CB trio of Darius Slay, James Bradberry and Avonte Maddox. Then there's the reality of Washington being an underdog, which increases the odds of a pass-happy game script where Thomas gets more snaps and routes (and hopefully targets). 

Coming back from an ACL tear, he played 62 percent of snaps in a Week 1 win and 73 percent in a Week 2 loss, drawing 11 targets (12.9 percent) while running a route on 58 percent of Carson Wentz's dropbacks. The target/route share numbers aren't great, but Thomas could see more work as the year goes along and he's further removed from the knee injury.

     

Other Good Matchups: Kyle Pitts (at SEA), Irv Smith (vs. DET)

         

Sit/Downgrade 

Quarterbacks 👎

    

  Russell Wilson (vs. SF) — 64% started

Start Instead — Matthew Stafford (at ARI), Kirk Cousins (vs. DET), Joe Burrow (at NYJ)

Better days lie ahead for Wilson, in all likelihood. This Sunday just won't be one of them, with the Niners bringing their fearsome front seven to town to face a QB who managed only two total touchdowns (against the Seahawks and Texans, no less) over the first two weeks of the season. It's a tough spot for Wilson, even if he gets Jerry Jeudy (shoulder) and KJ Hamler (knee/hip) back in the lineup this week... which is no guarantee.

     

Other Tough Matchups: Aaron Rodgers (at TB), Tua Tagovailoa (vs. BUF), Baker Mayfield (vs. NO)

       

Running Backs 👎

    

AJ Dillon (at TB) — 58% started

Start Instead — Josh Jacobs (at TEN), Miles Sanders (at WAS), 

Dillon had a big Week 1 in a 16-point loss, but we nonetheless should be wary on the rare occasions when the Packers are an underdog, especially if they're facing a defense like Tampa Bay's with a multi-year track record of strong work against the run. The Bucs are at it again, allowing the fourth fewest points to RBs through two weeks, though it helped to face the Saints without Alvin Kamara (ribs). Still, this matchup doesn't project well for Dillon in terms of either efficiency or volume.

     

Raheem Mostert (vs. BUF) — 7% started

Start Instead — Josh Jacobs (at TEN), Miles Sanders (at WAS), 

Mostert should be added in most leagues where he's available, but he should only be started Week 3 in cases of extreme desperation. While there was a lot to like about his role last week -- 55 percent snap share and 14 touches, up from 55 percent and six touches in the opener -- Mostert still has to contend with timeshare partner Chase Edmonds, not to mention a Buffalo front seven led by LBs Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano. I wouldn't want to start Edmonds either, but he's the better bet for production in difficult matchups, last week aside.

     

Other Tough Matchups: James Conner (or Darrel Williams and Eno Benjamin) vs. LAR, James Robinson (at LAC), Melvin Gordon vs. SF

   

Wide Receivers 👎

   

Terry McLaurin (vs. PHI) — 80% started

Start Instead — DJ Moore (vs. NO), Diontae Johnson (at CLE), Christian Kirk (at LAC)

An auto-start in most formats, McLaurin can be avoided in DFS this week and benched in shallower leagues. That's mostly on account of a likely shadow matchup with Darius Slay, who got the best of Justin Jefferson on Monday. While some of the targets that have been going to Curtis Samuel this month figure to eventually make their way to Washington's No. 1 receiver, the matchup here suggests it might take another week or two to happen. McLaurin hasn't topped eight targets or 61 yards in his four games against the Eagles since they traded for Slay.

     

Chris Olave — 10% started

Start Instead — Darnell Mooney (vs. HOU), Robert Woods (vs. LV)

Olave rightfully is attracting fantasy attention after his 13 targets last week (including a handful of deep shots) left him as the league leader in air yards by a wide margin. That's promising, as is his 83 percent route share (87 percent last week), but let's bet on a breakout game when he's playing at home on the friendly Superdome turf, not when he's on the road facing a defense that has two perimeter cornerbacks who are early draft picks with sub-4.4 speed (Donte Jackson, Jaycee Horn). While I'll like the matchup better if Jackson's hamstring injury keeps him out, Weeks 5 and 6 (vs. SEA, vs. CIN) still represent the more likely dates for Olave's arrival.

     

Other Tough Matchups: Marquise Brown (vs. LAR), Jahan Dotson (at PHI), Randall Cobb (at TB)

      

Tight Ends 👎

  

Albert Okwuegbunam (vs. SF) — 62% started

Start Instead — Logan Thomas (vs. PHI), David Njoku (vs. PIT)

Matchups have played a big role in San Francisco allowing the fewest points to tight ends, but the trend nonetheless figures to continue with Okwuegbunam starting the year slow and now facing a defense that has speedy linebackers Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw patrolling the middle of the field. There are better options available on waivers in many leagues, including Hayden Hurst and Evan Engram. Okwuegbunam is worth holding on the bench in deeper formats, but I wouldn't want to start him this week unless it's a two-TE league.

     

Other Tough Matchups: Mark Andrews (at NE)

         

Streaming Picks

For Shallow Leagues (40-66 percent rostered)

QB Justin Fields (vs. HOU)

RB Nyheim Hines (vs. KC)

WR Robert Woods (vs. LV)

WR Jakobi Meyers (vs. BAL)

WR DJ Chark (at MIN)

WR Treylon Burks (vs. LV)

TE David Njoku (vs. PIT)

K Dustin Hopkins (vs. JAX)

D/ST Bengals (at NYJ)

         

For Medium-depth Leagues (16-39 percent rostered)

QB Jared Goff (at MIN)

RB Mark Ingram (at CAR)

RB J.D. McKissic (vs. PHI)

WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling (at IND)

WR Joshua Palmer (vs. JAX)

WR Sterling Shepard (vs. DAL)

TE Logan Thomas (vs. PHI)

TE Hayden Hurst (at NYJ)

TE Evan Engram (at LAC)

K Jake Elliott (at WAS)

D/ST Bears (vs. HOU)

   

For Deep Leagues (0-15 percent rostered)

QB Marcus Mariota (at SEA)

RB Eno Benjamin (vs. LAR)

RB Jerick McKinnon (at IND)

WR Greg Dortch (vs. LAR)

WR Zay Jones (at LAC)

WR Nelson Agholor (vs. BAL)

WR K.J. Osborn (vs. DET)

TE Cameron Brate (vs. GB)

K Jason Sanders (vs. BUF)

D/ST Giants (vs. DAL)

         

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jerry Donabedian
Jerry was a 2018 finalist for the FSWA's Player Notes Writer of the Year and DFS Writer of the Year awards. A Baltimore native, Jerry roots for the Ravens and watches "The Wire" in his spare time.
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