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The Fantasy world was turned upside down in some ways in Week 2, and we hope Week 3 brings back a sense of normalcy. Aside from the injuries to stars like Tony Romo (clavicle), Drew Brees (shoulder), Eddie Lacy (ankle) and Carlos Hyde (thigh), we had plenty of wacky performances out of nowhere.
Two of the Top 5 quarterbacks in Week 2 were Tyrod Taylor and Derek Carr. DeAngelo Williams, Matt Jones and Dion Lewis were better than Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles at running back. Travis Benjamin was a Top 5 receiver, and Crockett Gillmore was better than Rob Gronkowski at tight end.
We usually get several performances we can't explain during the year, but Week 2 had more than its share in what has been a strange start to the season. And now we enter a time when hopefully things become clear.
Two games is a small sample size, but you should start to realize what kind of roster is on your hands. You should have an idea of which players you can trust and who should remain on your bench until further notice.
Now, be smart with your lineup decisions. Peyton Manning and Allen Robinson taught us that in Week 2, and you should see C.J. Anderson, Frank Gore and Mike Evans, for example, rebound this week as well. Hopefully some other disappointments follow suit (we're looking at you Andrew Luck and Marshawn Lynch).
You should also know which players to avoid, and we hope your lineup decisions start to become easier. There will always be questions, and we're here to help. This should be a fun scoring period with some exciting matchups, and it would be great to see the Fantasy options we expected to play well all season show up this week.
Start of the Week: Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals
We've had Carson Palmer listed in this column as a starter for the past two weeks, and he's been better than advertised. While Tom Brady is drawing headlines for his dominant performances to start the season, Palmer has been just behind him as the No. 2 Fantasy quarterback in standard leagues.
That's right, old and fragile Carson Palmer.
Fantasy owners were hesitant to draft Palmer this season coming off last year's torn ACL, and he played in just six games in 2014. There was also concern to trust a 35-year-old quarterback in a tough division in the NFC West.
So far, however, the results have been impressive, and we expect him to stay hot for another week against the 49ers. Palmer had 31 Fantasy points in Week 1 against New Orleans and 29 points in Week 2 at Chicago. This is now seven complete games Palmer has played going back to last season, and he has scored at least 20 Fantasy points in every outing.
All of his weapons are making plays with Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown leading the way, and we expect Palmer to have success against San Francisco at home. The 49ers were just embarrassed by Ben Roethlisberger in Week 2 with 369 passing yards and three touchdowns, and Palmer should add to their misery.
Palmer missed the two games against the 49ers in 2014, but he faced them twice in 2013 and had 705 passing yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions for an average of 22.5 Fantasy points. He should be in that range this week and makes for an excellent starting option in all leagues.
Every Fantasy league is hurting at quarterback with Romo out and Brees banged up. Palmer makes a great replacement option and should be starting in every league sooner rather than later with how he's playing so far this season.
Russell Wilson (vs. CHI): Wilson is far from the reason the Seahawks are 0-2 right now, and he should continue to play well following last week's solid outing at Green Bay when he scored 25 Fantasy points. He looked like the elite Fantasy quarterback many owners hoped on Draft Day with 206 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception and 78 rushing yards. This week, he faces a Bears defense that has allowed the third-most Fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks with Aaron Rodgers and Palmer having big games. Wilson should follow suit and get Jimmy Graham going, but the one concern here would be Lynch stealing the show. Still, even if that happens, Wilson should still do enough to give you a solid stat line this week.
Cam Newton (vs. TB): Newton put the Panthers offense on his back in Week 2 against the Texans, and that might have to be his course of action moving forward with limited weapons around him. But he starred with 30 Fantasy points thanks to 195 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception and 76 rushing yards and a touchdown. He got Ted Ginn and Corey Brown involved, which is huge, and Greg Olsen also stepped up. This week he's facing a depleted Saints defense that has allowed at least 20 Fantasy points to Palmer and Jameis Winston through two games. Newton had a huge game against the Saints in their most recent meeting last year with 226 passing yards and three touchdowns and 83 rushing yards and a score. We hope a similar outing happens this week.
Eli Manning (vs. WAS): Manning didn't have his best outing in Week 2 against the Falcons, including a costly fumble, which has brought plenty of criticism. But he did rediscover what made him a successful Fantasy quarterback going back to last year, which was get Odell Beckham the ball. Manning targeted Beckham 12 times, and he delivered with seven catches for 146 yards and a touchdown. Manning also leaned on Shane Vereen (eight targets for eight catches and 76 yards), and we should see more of Rueben Randle this week now that Preston Parker and his drops are off the roster. Manning is facing a Redskins defense on Thursday that hasn't been tested yet. Washington dominated time of possession against Ryan Tannehill in Week 1 and easily stifled Nick Foles in Week 2. This will be the Redskins toughest test to date, and Manning was awesome against Washington in two games last year with 550 passing yards, eight total touchdowns (one rushing) and one interception. Even with the short week, Manning is worth trusting in this game.
Ryan Tannehill (vs. BUF): I'm torn on Tannehill this week, but I think the positives outweigh the negatives, which is why I would use him as a low-end starter. I don't expect the Dolphins to have much success running on the Bills, especially with Lamar Miller (ankle) banged up. And we saw in Week 2 against Jacksonville that Tannehill can be highly productive when asked to carry the offense since he attempted 44 passes with 30 completions for 359 yards and two touchdowns. Buffalo's pass defense also just got shredded for 466 passing yards and three touchdowns by Brady and has allowed at least 21 Fantasy points to Andrew Luck and Brady this year. And Tannehill has been solid against Buffalo at home in his career. In three career meetings vs. the Bills in Miami, he has at least 19 Fantasy points in each outing with eight touchdowns over that span. The big downside for Tannehill this week is he has a bad history against Rex Ryan during his tenure with the Jets, but Tannehill has scored multiple touchdowns in every home opener of his career.
Andy Dalton (at BAL): We keep waiting for Dalton to fail because, well, that's typically what he has done in his career. Sustained success has not been his mantra, and even though we only have a two-game sample size, he looks poised for a big year. He's averaging 24.5 Fantasy points in two games this year and has yet to throw an interception, and we'll see how he handles a familiar opponent on the road with the Ravens. In his last five games against Baltimore he has nine total touchdowns (three rushing) and eight interceptions, and he's never scored more than 18 Fantasy points against the Ravens on the road. But Baltimore's defense was awful last week at Oakland without Terrell Suggs (Achilles) and allowed 448 total yards, including 351 passing and three touchdowns to Carr. Now, the Ravens aren't that bad and will be tough in their building, but I think we have to buy into Dalton as a solid Fantasy quarterback this week. His weapons are carrying him, and he should have his best game in Baltimore of his career.
Teddy Bridgewater (vs. SD): Maybe his receivers will step up this week.
Marcus Mariota (vs. IND): The Colts secondary is a mess right now.
Nick Foles (vs. PIT): Matchup makes Foles a strong option in 2-QB leagues.
Drew Brees (at CAR): It seems like Brees is going to play through the rotator cuff injury he's dealing with, but this is a situation most Fantasy owners should stay away from if possible. This isn't the same scenario we had last week with Peyton Manning struggling and then putting together a solid performance. Obviously, Brees could do the same thing, but he's also facing a tough opponent against the Panthers on the road. In his past three meetings against Carolina, Brees has four total touchdowns (one rushing) and four interceptions with no 300-yard outings. And in his last three meetings with the Panthers on the road he has five total touchdowns (two rushing) and five interceptions with only one 300-yard outing. It's hard to bench Brees if he plays, but he's clearly hurt and has 32 total Fantasy points through two games, his first without Graham. Maybe he can defy the injury and matchup here and play well, but I'd bet against it and sit Brees this week if you can.
Colin Kaepernick (at ARI): The 49ers were terrible against the Steelers in Week 2, but that was to be expected. They had a big win Monday night in Week 1 vs. Minnesota and then had to travel across the country on a short week for an early start. Kaepernick showed his Fantasy potential in that game with 335 passing yards and two touchdowns and 51 rushing yards. It was just his third game with more than 20 Fantasy points in his past 12 outings, so he'll need to be more consistent if owners are going to trust him. I'm not sure if this is one of those weeks. Now, he does have a great history against the Cardinals with at least 21 Fantasy points in four of his past five meetings, but Arizona should prove to be a tough test, especially on the road. The Cardinals held Brees to 18 Fantasy points in Week 1 and then easily handled the Bears with an injured Jay Cutler (hamstring) for 12 points. Kaepernick should be closer to Brees' Fantasy total, but he's a risky start for consecutive road games. I'd only use him in two-quarterback leagues this week.
Matthew Stafford (vs. DEN): Stafford is all sorts of beat up right now with injuries to his ribs, elbow and thumb. He gutted out a tough performance against the Vikings in Week 2 with 23 Fantasy points, and it was good to see him get Calvin Johnson going with 17 targets. We hope that trend continues, but Stafford is a risky starting option this week against the Broncos. Denver's defense has looked dominant through two games against Baltimore and Kansas City with a combined 308 passing yards allowed, no touchdowns and four interceptions against Joe Flacco and Alex Smith. Granted, those aren't the best quarterbacks when it comes to Fantasy production, but the Broncos are going to make it tough on Stafford this week. He'll have better days ahead, and hopefully he'll be 100 percent healthy soon. But battered and bruised against this badgering Broncos bunch means you should bench Stafford this week.
Joe Flacco (vs. CIN): Flacco posted a fantastic stat line in Week 2 at Oakland with 25 Fantasy points and more than made up for his dud in Week 1 when he scored zero at Denver. It's safe to say he'll be somewhere in between this week, but he's a risky starter in most formats against the Bengals. Cincinnati's defense has been stout the first two weeks with 33 combined Fantasy points against Oakland and San Diego, and Flacco has a miserable history in this matchup. In his past five meetings against the Bengals, Flacco has four touchdowns and eight interceptions with just one game over 200 passing yards. The Ravens are staring at an 0-3 start for the first time in franchise history, so hopefully Flacco can make some plays to avoid that dubious distinction, but it doesn't look good given the matchup or history in this series.
Jameis Winston (at HOU): Winston had his first NFL victory in Week 2 at New Orleans and also his first 20-point Fantasy outing when he passed for 207 yards and a touchdown and ran for 23 yards and a touchdown. He showed improvement from Week 1 to Week 2, and now we'll see how he does with consecutive road games for the first time in his career. The Texans defense has been abysmal through two games, especially against opposing quarterbacks with Alex Smith (28 Fantasy points) and Newton (30 points) going off. Winston could follow suit, but I expect the Texans defense to play their best game to date. Winston is missing a big weapon with Austin Seferian-Jenkins (shoulder) out, but maybe Evans gets going after being held without a catch against the Saints. It's not a bad idea to stash Winston to see how he does as the season moves on, but you don't need to start him in Week 3 at Houston.
Bust alert: Sam Bradford (at NYJ): Bradford has been a bust alert for the season with his performance so far through two games, and there's no way you can trust him in this matchup at the Jets. We thought Bradford's second-half performance against the Falcons in Week 1 was something to build off, but he took a giant step back in Week 2 against the Cowboys. His receivers aren't helping with numerous drops and poor routes, but Bradford isn't making the right reads with this throws either. We'll see if he can correct the problems soon, otherwise we could see the Eagles turn to Mark Sanchez, which wouldn't be a surprise. The Jets just obliterated Luck for 10 Fantasy points and have allowed just 481 passing yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions and four fumbles to opposing quarterbacks this year. I hope Bradford surprises us all in this matchup, but it's hard to trust him heading into Week 3.
Latavius Murray (at CLE): Murray is coming off a solid performance against the Ravens with 14 Fantasy points on 15 carries for 65 yards and a touchdown and three catches for 22 yards. It has been more than encouraging watching Murray involved as a receiver with 10 catches through two games, and he has little competition for touches. He has a favorable matchup this week against the Browns, who have already allowed Chris Ivory and Dexter McCluster to reach double digits in Fantasy points. Cleveland has now allowed five running backs in a row to reach double digits in Fantasy points going back to last season and seven of the past eight, and we expect Murray to follow suit. He's got Top 10 potential this week.
C.J. Anderson (at DET): Step off the ledge. Don't panic. We're not ready to call Anderson a bust yet, and he's far from Montee Ball. And this is a good week to trust him going to Detroit in what should be a favorable matchup. The Lions have struggled with running backs the past two games as Danny Woodhead in Week 1 and Adrian Peterson last week both reached double digits in Fantasy points. We expect Anderson to follow suit, especially if Detroit linebacker DeAndre Levy (hip) remains out. Anderson hasn't played since last Thursday's game at Kansas City, so his nagging toe injury should feel better. And even though he will split time with Ronnie Hillman you know the Broncos want to get him going. Continue to keep Anderson active in all leagues, and hopefully this is the week he delivers.
Jonathan Stewart (vs. NO): Stewart has been rather mediocre to start this season. He has just 13 Fantasy points combined through two games despite getting the bulk of the workload with 35 total carries and five total catches. That's encouraging that Stewart has at least 18 touches in each of the first two games, but we're expecting better results, which should come this week. He's facing a New Orleans defense that has struggled with running backs through two games. In Week 1, Andre Ellington and David Johnson both scored double digits in Fantasy points, and last week Doug Martin had 98 total yards. Stewart also has a good history in this matchup. His last game against the Saints was Week 14 last year, and he was awesome with 20 carries for 155 yards and one touchdown. And in his past five meetings with New Orleans he has averaged at least 4.64 yards per carry with three total touchdowns over that span. He should be a quality No. 2 running back this week.
Frank Gore (at TEN): Like Anderson, Fantasy owners are panicking about Gore after his poor performance to start the season, and rightfully so. He has not looked good in two games against the Bills and Jets, but those are two tough defenses. But you also have to take into account the circumstances that Gore dealt with in those two games. He had calf cramps in Week 1 at Buffalo, and he fumbled at the goal line in Week 2 against the Jets. If he scores that touchdown he has 11 Fantasy points and no one is complaining about his stat line. What is troubling is his lack of involvement as a receiver with just three catches in two games, but all his woes should be corrected in this matchup. The Titans allowed Martin to gain 4.73 yards per carry in Week 1, and Isaiah Crowell had 72 rushing yards and a touchdown in Week 2. Gore should get going this week as the Colts offense starts to kick into high gear.
Dion Lewis (vs. JAC): This feels like one of those games where the Patriots fool us and lean on their running game, and LeGarrette Blount could be a sneaky sleeper. The Patriots also are favored to win by nearly two touchdowns, so they could be leaning on their ground game in the fourth quarter. But to reach that margin they will likely be throwing a lot with Brady, and Lewis has proven to be his best weapon out of the backfield. He had 120 total yards in Week 1 against the Steelers when Blount was suspended, and he followed that up with 138 total yards and a touchdown in Week 2 at Buffalo. He has 10 catches over that span, and he's a PPR dynamo heading into this matchup. If there's an area where Jacksonville has struggled with running backs so far it's catching passes since Stewart had four in Week 1 and Lamar Miller and Damien Williams combined for eight catches and a touchdown in Week 2. Lewis should continue to play well, and he's worth buying into as a starter in all formats this week.
T.J. Yeldon (at NE): NE has not looked good in run defense so far.
Isaiah Crowell (vs. OAK): OAK has allowed three rushing touchdowns.
Devonta Freeman (at DAL): He's due for a lot of work with Coleman out.
David Johnson (vs. SF): He has two touchdowns in seven total touches.
Melvin Gordon (at MIN): He continues to show progress each week.
Doug Martin (at HOU): The Texans defense hasn't played well through two games, but running backs haven't exactly been the problem. Jamaal Charles caught a touchdown in Week 1 and had over 100 total yards, but he's going to be dominant against most teams. Houston did hold him to 16 carries for just 57 yards on the ground. And then Stewart had 17 carries for 62 yards in Week 2. The Texans also have gone six games in a row without allowing a rushing touchdown to a running back. Martin had 98 total yards at New Orleans last week, but he lost a fumble and finished with just seven Fantasy points. He now has 12 Fantasy points combined through two games, and he's been limited as a receiver with only three catches. He should still be considered a flex option in most leagues, but he's far from a must-start option based on his play through two games this season.
Lamar Miller (vs. BUF): It's a bad sign that the Dolphins promoted Jonas Gray from the practice squad Wednesday since Miller is dealing with an ankle injury. Miller said he'll play against the Bills, but he wasn't able to finish Week 2 at Jacksonville after he got hurt. If Miller does play as expected he should be used as a flex option at best. The Dolphins are struggling to run the ball through two games, and Miller was limited to 13 carries for 53 yards and one catch for 22 yards in Week 1 at Washington and 10 carries for 14 yards and five catches for 28 yards at Jacksonville. He also hasn't scored a touchdown or gained over 100 total yards against the Bills in his past five meetings, and Buffalo has allowed just 23 carries for 89 yards and a touchdown to running backs through two games. Miller is a good buy-low candidate, but don't consider him a must-start option in Week 3.
Rashad Jennings (at WAS): The Redskins were among the better teams in run defense in 2014, and that trend has continued this season. Through two games, Washington has allowed the fewest Fantasy points to opposing running backs. Now, Miller had a bad game in Week 1, but the Redskins faced the Rams in Week 2 with Tre Mason making his season debut and no Todd Gurley (knee). This week might not be a tougher test since the Giants aren't exactly a power running team. Jennings did have 11 Fantasy points at Dallas in Week 1, but he was miserable against Atlanta in Week 2 with nine carries for 12 yards and two catches for 12 yards. He only had 14 carries for 58 yards and one catch for minus-3 yards in two meetings with the Redskins last year, and Vereen will take Jennings off the field in passing situations. Jennings is nothing more than a flex option this week on Thursday night.
Bishop Sankey (vs. IND): Sankey was a pleasant surprise in Week 1 with his performance against the Buccaneers with 12 carries for 74 yards and a touchdown and two catches for 12 yards and a touchdown, but he reverted back to the guy we saw as a rookie in 2014 with his outing in Week 2. He had just 12 carries for 42 yards at Cleveland, and he was outplayed by McCluster. The Colts did allow Sankey to get 11 Fantasy points against them in one meeting last year but also held him to minus-1 point in the rematch. And Indianapolis just did a nice job containing the Jets ground game with Chris Ivory limited to five Fantasy points. If the Titans are chasing points in this matchup we'll likely see more of McCluster and less of Sankey, and he's just a low-end flex option in deeper leagues at best this week.
Chris Johnson (vs. SF): Johnson turned 30 on Wednesday, and that's never a good age for running backs. We never expected Johnson to be a factor this season, but he's starting for the Cardinals now that Andre Ellington (knee) is out. He had 20 carries for 72 yards in Week 2 at Chicago, but it's clear the Cardinals need to get David Johnson more work. He has two touchdowns in seven offensive touches, and he's got much more to offer than Chris Johnson at this point. Coach Bruce Arians is stubborn so he'll continue to use Chris Johnson more than the rookie, but that's a mistake for this offense. And Fantasy owners should lean on David Johnson more than Chris Johnson this week.
Bust alert: Joseph Randle (vs. ATL): The Cowboys don't have their quarterback or top receiver with Romo and Dez Bryant (foot) out, and the Falcons will stack the line of scrimmage to force Brandon Weeden to make plays. Jason Witten (ankle) is also banged up, and Atlanta has done well in run defense this season. DeMarco Murray and Jennings have combined for 17 carries for 21 yards and a touchdown in two games against the Falcons this year, and they've been hurt by running backs catching passes with Darren Sproles (seven catches for 76 yards) and Vereen (eight catches for 76 yards), so Lance Dunbar can play a vital role. Dallas has stayed true to leaning on all three running backs with Randle, Darren McFadden and Dunbar, and even though Randle leads the team with 34 carries he's averaging just 3.4 yards per carry with no touchdowns. He also has just four catches on the season and is nothing more than a flex option this week.
Larry Fitzgerald (vs. SF): Fitzgerald's performance to start the season is not a fluke. He had six catches for 87 yards on eight targets in Week 1 against New Orleans and eight catches for 112 yards and three touchdowns on nine targets in Week 2 at Chicago. In his past 16 games with Palmer, Fitzgerald has 92 catches for 1,167 yards and 10 touchdowns. He might be slowing down at 32, but he's still productive when he has a capable quarterback. If you were hesitant to buy into Fitzgerald you should have no fear. And the last time Palmer and Fitzgerald faced the 49ers together was 2013, and Fitzgerald had 12 catches for 230 yards and a touchdown in two meetings. He should play well again this week, and you should also consider John Brown a starting option as well.
Mike Evans (at HOU): Evans sat out Week 1 against Tennessee with a hamstring injury and was a ghost in Week 2 at New Orleans with no catches on three targets. He expects to get a hefty amount of work this week at Houston now that the hamstring injury is behind him, and the Buccaneers will need him with Seferian-Jenkins out. The Texans just gave up two touchdowns to Ginn and Corey Brown in Week 2, and Evans and Vincent Jackson should have the chance to play well in this matchup. We need to see Winston get Evans going after Jackson scored against the Saints, but we're confident this is a week to trust him. He should start to live up to the preseason expectations beginning with this matchup.
Brandon Marshall (vs. PHI): Like Fitzgerald, you should believe that Marshall's production to start this season is legit. He already appears to have a solid rapport with Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Marshall could see more work in Week 3 with Eric Decker (knee) hurt. Through two games, Marshall has 19 targets for 13 catches, 163 yards and two touchdowns. He benefitted in Week 2 against the Colts when Vontae Davis (concussion) got hurt, but Marshall looks like he's rejuvenated with this trade to the Jets. And the Eagles have allowed at least 14 Fantasy points in a standard league to the opposing No. 1 receiver in two games this season with Julio Jones in Week 1 and Terrance Williams last week. We expect Marshall to add his name to that list.
T.Y Hilton and Donte Moncrief (at TEN): Luck should have his best game of the season, and we expect Hilton and Moncrief to benefit. Hopefully we'll see a healthy Hilton after playing through a knee bruise in Week 2, and he was limited with four catches for 45 yards on seven targets. When healthy, he'll re-emerge as a must-start option in all leagues, and he's worth trusting as a No. 2 receiver this week. I'd still start Moncrief ahead of him this week, and he's been the best Colts receiver through two games with 13 catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns on 19 targets. Andre Johnson looks like a 34-year-old receiver, but Moncrief has stepped up as a vital weapon for Luck. And once Hilton gets going you could see him and Moncrief be the best receivers in Indianapolis this season.
Allen Robinson (at NE): We'll ride the hot hand here and hope Robinson uses last week as the catalyst for his breakout campaign. He had six catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns against the Dolphins on 12 targets, and it was a huge rebound game from Week 1 against Carolina when he had just one catch for 27 yards on six targets. The Patriots have allowed at least 12 Fantasy points to two No. 1 receivers this year with Antonio Brown in Week 1 and Sammy Watkins in Week 2. The Jaguars will likely be chasing points, and Robinson could again get double digits in targets. He's worth using again with the expectation he should be a Top 20 Fantasy receiver in the majority of leagues.
Pierre Garcon (at NYG): He'll remain involved with DeSean Jackson out.
Terrance Williams (vs. ATL): He scored with Brandon Weeden in Week 2.
Kendall Wright (vs. IND): He should benefit with IND missing corners.
James Jones (vs. KC): All he does is catch touchdowns.
Anquan Boldin (at ARI): He has a great track record vs. his former team.
Steve Smith (vs. CIN): Smith is coming off a solid performance in Week 2 at the Raiders with 10 catches for 150 yards on 16 targets. He bounced back from a poor Week 1 at Denver when he had just two catches for 13 yards on seven targets, and this will be a tough matchup for him. The Bengals have shut down the past two No. 1 receivers they've faced in Amari Cooper and Keenan Allen, who combined for seven catches for 63 yards and no touchdowns on 13 targets. Smith had a huge game against the Bengals at home last year with seven catches for 118 yards and a touchdown, but he was also held to three catches for 35 yards in the rematch. He should see plenty of targets, but the Bengals know that as well and should be able to limit his production this week.
Brandin Cooks (at CAR): There are several reasons to avoid Cooks this week. Brees is banged up and will be playing at less than 100 percent if he's active, and the Saints are a different team outdoors compared to at home. Cooks also has a difficult matchup against Josh Norman, who is playing great so far this year. The cornerback has helped limit Robinson and DeAndre Hopkins to a combined seven Fantasy points, and he will likely see time on Cooks in this game. Cooks also has not played well this season with a combined nine catches for 111 yards on 15 targets through two games. Until we see Brees play like the quarterback we know and love it will be hard to trust Cooks, especially in a tough matchup.
Torrey Smith (at ARI): Smith was excellent in Week 2 at Pittsburgh with six catches for 120 yards and a touchdown on seven targets, and he rebounded in a big way from Week 1 against Minnesota when he had just one catch for 11 yards on three targets. Smith can always be involved when the 49ers are chasing points, which could be the case here, but he should also get matched up with Cardinals standout cornerback Patrick Peterson. The Cardinals have allowed two receivers to reach double digits in Fantasy points this season in a standard league with Brandon Coleman in Week 1 and Josh Bellamy in Week 2, but Cooks was held to four catches for 49 yards in the season opener. Peterson should make life difficult for Smith, and we'd avoid him in the majority of leagues if possible even after last week's big outing.
Golden Tate (vs. DEN): Tate has done what I expected so far this season with Calvin Johnson healthy, which is struggle. He only has 10 catches for 104 yards and no touchdowns on the season despite 18 targets. He faces a brutal matchup this week against the Broncos, who have been stellar against opposing receivers. You're not benching Johnson because he's a matchup buster, but the Broncos have given up just 10 catches for 102 yards to Baltimore and Kansas City, with Steve Smith getting only two catches for 13 yards and Jeremy Maclin getting four catches for 57 yards. Now, clearly, Johnson and Tate are on a different level than what the Ravens and Chiefs have at receiver, but Chris Harris and Aqib Talib are also a formidable duo that should be able to at least limit Tate's production this week. He's just a No. 3 receiver at best against this defense.
Jeremy Maclin (at GB): You're starting to see what Maclin is going to become this season with his performance through two games, and it's not a great Fantasy receiver. He has nine catches for 109 yards and no touchdowns on 16 targets, and the Chiefs have now gone 21 games in a row without a receiver catching a touchdown. That streak is due to end, and the Packers just allowed a touchdown to Doug Baldwin in Week 2 at home. But Green Bay has a solid secondary that should make things difficult on Maclin, and Smith's lack of downfield passing will drag down Maclin's production. He's a serviceable No. 3 receiver in PPR leagues, and the Chiefs should be throwing if they're chasing points as expected. But Maclin's upside is limited in this offense, and you should be wary of starting him in the majority of leagues.
Bust alert: Keenan Allen (at MIN): Allen won't be as good as he was in Week 1, and he won't be as bad as he played in Week 2. He had 15 catches for 166 yards on 17 targets against the Lions in Week 1, but he followed that up with two catches for 16 yards on four targets at Cincinnati last week. The Vikings will likely use Xavier Rhodes on Allen, and he struggles when teams focus on slowing him down. Philip Rivers also spreads the ball around with Steve Johnson and Danny Woodhead in the mix, and Gordon could have some success on the ground. Allen is still worth using as a No. 3 receiver in PPR leagues, but he's not a must-start option given the matchup with the Vikings on the road.
Tyler Eifert (at BAL): At some point the production is going to slow down, but he's been impressive through two games with 13 catches for 153 yards and three touchdowns on 17 targets. We hope Dalton continues to lean on him, and this isn't an easy matchup since Baltimore is currently No. 1 in fewest Fantasy points allowed to opposing tight ends. But that stat is somewhat misleading since the Ravens faced Denver and Oakland to open the season and neither team has a tight end of Eifert's ability. He should remain active in all leagues until proven otherwise.
Jordan Reed (at NYG): Reed had more production in Week 1 against Miami (12 Fantasy points) than in Week 2 against St. Louis (eight points), but that stat line against the Rams might be more impressive given how they defend tight ends. In any case, Reed is off to a great start this season with 13 catches for 145 yards and a touchdown on 17 targets, and he should stay productive this week against the Giants. New York has already allowed three tight ends to score at least six Fantasy points through two games with Jason Witten, Gavin Escobar and Jacob Tamme, and Reed might be the most talented of that group. He's healthy now, which is always a big key for him, and we'd start him this week on Thursday given how he's played so far through two games.
Kyle Rudolph (vs. SD): The Chargers have had a rough time with tight ends to start the season, and we hope Rudolph adds to their misery. Eric Ebron in Week 1 and Eifert last week both scored at least 10 Fantasy points, and Rudolph is coming off a solid outing in Week 2 against the Lions with five catches for 30 yards and a touchdown. He's done a nice job so far this season with 10 catches for 83 yards and a touchdown on 13 targets through two games, and he's been Bridgewater's only reliable receiving option thus far. We expect him to play well again this week, and he's worth starting in all formats.
Gary Barnidge (vs. OAK): A deep-league flier given the matchup.
Crockett Gillmore (vs. CIN): Week 2 could be a sign of things to come.
Jared Cook (vs. PIT): Tight ends have done well vs. PIT this year.
Heath Miller (at STL): The Rams haven't been as stout in their defense of tight ends this year as expected with Graham (11 Fantasy points) and Reed (eight points) posting quality stat lines, but this is a game where Miller could struggle. He scored in Week 2 against the 49ers, but he had just two targets and finished with two catches for 15 yards and the touchdown. He was better in Week 1 with eight catches for 84 yards on 11 targets against the Patriots, and that was a game where Pittsburgh was chasing points. The Steelers could be in a similar position this week, but Miller now has more competition for targets with Le'Veon Bell back from his two-game suspension. I expect Bell to steal some work from Miller, and the matchup is tougher. Miller is not a must-start option in Week 3.
Vernon Davis (at ARI): Give the 49ers credit because they have involved Davis this year after his disastrous 2014, and he comes into Week 3 with eight catches for 109 yards on 13 targets. He only has 10 combined Fantasy points in a standard league, but he should post a big stat line at some point. That could happen this week, and the Cardinals do have a bad history against tight ends, although that has yet to materialize through two games. Davis has two games with double digits in Fantasy points against Arizona in his past five meetings, but the Cardinals so far have allowed just nine catches for 81 yards and no touchdowns to opposing tight ends, including Martellus Bennett in Week 2. Davis just isn't worth trusting this early in the season no matter how much San Francisco has leaned on him thus far.
Zach Ertz (at NYJ): Dwayne Allen (ankle) was banged up against the Jets on Monday night, but the Colts made no effort to look at their tight ends in that matchup with zero targets. We doubt the Eagles do the same thing with Ertz and Brent Celek, but you can't trust Ertz in the majority of leagues now. He only has six catches for 63 yards on the season and no touchdowns despite 15 targets, and we don't have much faith in the Eagles offense on the road in a tough matchup. We hope Ertz will prove us wrong as the season goes on, but right now there's no reason to start him at this point in the year.
Bust alert: Eric Ebron (vs. DEN): Ebron has been one of the better surprises this season with his performance through two games. He has nine catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns on 15 targets against the Chargers and Vikings, and he's given Stafford a reliable third target behind Calvin Jonson and Tate. But the Broncos should be able to contain Ebron, especially after shutting down Travis Kelce and Gillmore in consecutive weeks. Those two tight ends combined for six catches for 81 yards on nine targets, and Kelce was stifled with four catches for 58 yards in Week 2 on five targets. Ebron should be owned in every league, and he looks like a second-year breakout tight end. But he hasn't reached must-start status yet, and this is a tough matchup for him against a good Broncos defense.
Broncos (at DET): I'm not sure what Fantasy owners have been waiting for to buy into the Broncos DST, but they have been dominant through two games and should play well again this week. The Broncos DST is averaging 23 Fantasy points a game in standard leagues with two touchdowns, four interceptions, six sacks and three fumble recoveries with just 37 total points allowed. Stafford is banged up, and the Broncos should be able to contain this Lions offense. The Vikings had three turnovers (two fumbles, one interception) and held Detroit to 16 points in Week 2 for 11 Fantasy points, and we expect the Broncos DST to do better in Week 3.
Patriots (vs. JAC): Blake Bortles could be in trouble on the road.
Browns (vs. OAK): CLE had seven sacks in Week 2 vs. TEN.
Vikings (vs. SD): Rivers has three interceptions in two games.
Ravens (vs. CIN): The Ravens defense looked awful in their first game without Suggs in Week 2 at Oakland, and this could be a trend all season, which is troubling. The Raiders had 448 yards of total offense, and Baltimore couldn't slow down a team with limited weapons. Dalton hasn't turned the ball over yet, which is encouraging, and the Bengals are clicking through two games even with Hill's two fumbles in Week 2 against the Chargers. Now, Baltimore will play better at home, and the Ravens are looking to avoid their first ever 0-3 start. But if Week 2 was an indication of things to come without Suggs then the Ravens DST should be dropped in all leagues.
Blair Walsh (vs. SD): Walsh is coming off a solid game at home against the Lions with two made field goals and two extra points. He's been solid at home going back to last season with multiple field goals in three of his past five games in Minnesota. The Chargers have yet to allow multiple field goals in two games this season, but Walsh has the potential for multiple field goals this week and is worth using as a streaming option in all leagues.
Graham Gano (vs. NO): CAR should give Gano plenty of scoring chances.
Andrew Franks (vs. BUF): BUF just allowed four field goals in Week 2.
Mike Nugent (at BAL): BAL has allowed the most Fantasy points to kickers.
Cody Parkey (at NYJ): Like most of the Eagles, Parkey has struggled this season with just two made field goals and four extra points through two games. Since we're expecting Philadelphia's offense to struggle this week against the Jets you might want to find a new kicker for this matchup. The Jets also allow the fewest Fantasy points to opposing kickers with one made field goal and two extra points through two games. Parkey is an easy kicker to cut, and I'd rather start Walsh, Gano, Franks or Nugent instead.