Fantasy Football Week 3 News & Notes: Quarterback injuries everywhere
Ben Gretch gets you up to speed on the latest headlines for Fantasy Football in Week 3.
We've barely passed the halfway point of September and the league's signal callers — the most important players to Fantasy Football not necessarily for their own value but for how they impact all the players on their teams — are dropping like flies.
First it was Andrew Luck retiring in August. Then Sam Darnold got mono after an exciting preseason. During their Week 2 games, we lost Ben Roethlisberger for the season and Drew Brees likely until Week 10. After the games, we learned Cam Newton re-aggravated his foot injury and is questionable for Week 3.
Over the past couple seasons, there has been a growing rift between the good offenses and the bad ones. I don't necessarily mean production-wise, but rather scheme. More and more of the league's teams are starting to embrace analytics, and building offenses that spread things out, put more wide receivers on the field and throw more. And maybe not just throw more, but throw more effectively, down the field to stretch out defenses and then to the intermediate and shorter ranges (and maybe even mixing in some running) once that has been established. It's everything the old wisdom of NFL people preached, except exactly backwards.
And it's been successful! Last year's final four teams — the Rams, Saints, Patriots and Chiefs — have all featured modern passing offenses in one way or another over the past few seasons. The Eagles, who took down the 2017 Super Bowl, are one of the most publicly supportive franchises of analytics.
So to lose Luck, Brees and Roethlisberger as the signal callers for three of the most forward-thinking offenses is devastating for Fantasy Football. Last season, the Steelers and Colts were the top two offenses in pass attempts, and both were top six in passing yardage and passing touchdowns. The Saints didn't throw as much, but Brees was efficient, breaking his own NFL record for completion percentage and tying for the sixth-most touchdown passes in the league.
By comparison, teams like the Seahawks and Packers are neutering their quarterbacks. Seattle won by a single point at home against Cincinnati and then by two on the road against the Steelers, who were without Roethlisberger for the second half.
Russell Wilson was phenomenal in both games — he has a quarterback rating of 134.5 through two weeks — but the Seahawks refused to let him put inferior opponents away. The Packers did the same to Aaron Rodgers in Week 2, opting to give their running backs 39 touches after getting out to an early 21-0 lead, tied for the second most any team has given the position in a game this year. The Vikings cut the lead to 21-16 and probably should have won if not for a few late Kirk Cousins mistakes.
But we still have Patrick Mahomes! The Chiefs take no issue with putting teams away. And we still have Deshaun Watson — despite a poor Week 2 and Bill O'Brien's sometimes-conservatism — and new Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has embraced analytics and unlocked Dak Prescott. It's malpractice I haven't mentioned the phenom that is Lamar Jackson yet, while his Week 2 opponent Kyler Murray looked pretty great himself piloting another modern offense that has mostly lived up to the billing outside a slow first few quarters in Week 1 and some questionable decisions to settle for field goals in Week 2.
There's reason for hope!
Let's get to the news and notes.
- Brees will undergo surgery Wednesday, and is expected to miss six weeks. The Saints have a Week 9 bye, so it likely puts the target return at Week 10 for a home matchup with Atlanta. In the meantime, Teddy Bridgewater will lead the Saints for road games in Seattle, Jacksonville and Chicago and home matchups with Dallas, Tampa Bay and Arizona.
- Newton is in a walking boot and his status for Week 3 is uncertain. We'll have to monitor the practice reports, but it doesn't sound like this will be a multi-week absence either way. The Panthers will go with second-year UDFA Kyle Allen over rookie third-rounder Will Grier if Newton can't suit up. Allen was great in a Week 17 start last year, completing 65% of his passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
- The Daniel Jones era will begin for the Giants, as the team is ready to move on from Eli Manning. Jones was a revelation in the preseason, completing 85% of his passes for 416 yards and a pair of scores with no interceptions. Jones immediately raises the ceiling of the offense as a whole, and while he may have his growing pains, he can't really be much worse than Manning has been thus far. It's a net positive for the skill position players of the Giants.
- Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard remains in the league's concussion protocol. He would be one of Jones' top targets if he can make it back in time for Week 3, and it seems likely that will be the case after Shepard sat out Week 2.
- Darnold is feeling better and targeting a Week 5 return, after the team's Week 4 bye. That's great news, because the Jets lost backup Trevor Siemian to a season-ending injury in their Monday night loss to the Browns. If Darnold can meet that timeline, we'll have just one start from Luke Falk.
- David Njoku suffered a concussion on Monday night that puts his Week 3 in doubt given it's a short week. Former Chief Demetrius Harris played a 78% snap share in his stead and caught his lone target.
- DeSean Jackson will miss Week 3, and Alshon Jeffery's status is similarly in doubt. With the slew of injuries the Eagles suffered Sunday night, they leaned heavily on Mack Hollins and rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside behind Zach Ertz and Nelson Agholor. There's a solid chance that's their main pass-catching group for the second straight week, and it would make both Ertz and Agholor solid plays with Arcega-Whiteside and Hollins being deep-league options.
- The Lions released C.J. Anderson and claimed Paul Perkins. As I noted in , Anderson lost snaps last week but Ty Johnson gained more. J.D. McKissic was also involved, and Kerryon Johnson still only got 14 of 28 RB touches. I don't read this as a big deal for Kerryon's value, unfortunately, especially as it coincided with them claiming another back. The Lions seem to have just wanted to move on from Anderson.
- Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey has asked for a trade, but he's unlikely to get that wish before Thursday Night Football. Ramsey will reportedly play even if no deal is done, but it would be fair to wonder where his effort level will be after he got into a sideline interaction with coach Doug Marrone last week that was significant enough that he's asked out of town. The Jaguars are reportedly seeking two first-round picks as compensation, a price reports are indicating most teams are unwilling to meet.
- Chiefs running back LeSean McCoy's Monday MRI came back and reported no significant damage to his ankle. He'll be questionable for Week 3 and there's a shot he'll play. Damien Williams is also dealing with an injury, but his reportedly just a contusion to his knee and he's seemingly unlikely to miss Week 3.
- James Conner said he is "good to go" for Week 3 after a knee injury knocked him from the Steelers' Week 2 loss to the Seahawks. He'll likely be a focal point for the Steelers going forward with Roethlisberger out, and the positive reports this early in the week seem to indicate he won't have much in the way of limitations come Sunday. It's certainly possible the Steelers will mix in Jaylen Samuels more if Conner is not 100%, though.
- Browns wide receiver Rashard Higgins returned to a limited practice Wednesday after missing Week 2 with a knee injury. Higgins got off to a fast start in Week 1, catching two of three targets for 46 yards on the Browns' first drive of the season before the injury knocked him from the game. With Jarvis Landry's 2018 struggles carrying over into 2019, it's possible Higgins could overtake him as the No. 2 passing-game option behind Odell Beckham.
- Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians has been critical of O.J. Howard's play but told reporters Tuesday that the defense dictates who gets the ball, and that "the balls will come" for Howard. It's a nice note ahead of a Week 3 matchup with a Giants team that has traditionally been a plus matchup for tight ends and gave up scores to both Jason Witten and Blake Jarwin in a Week 1 loss to Dallas. They didn't allow much production to the position in a Week 2 loss to the Bills, but that's not a position the Bills have featured. Howard may be in line for a get-right game in that matchup.
So who should you sit and start this week? And which surprising quarterback could lead you to victory? Visit SportsLine now to get Week 3 Fantasy football rankings for every position, plus see which QB is going to come out of nowhere to crack the top 10, all from the model that out-performed experts big time last season.
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