Week 3 fantasy football thoughts

      September 26, 2011 @ 11:29:19 PDT


Did your fantasy football team get destroyed by the one-man wrecking crew known as Wes Welker? Luckily for me, I only went against Welker in one league and was able to enjoy him doing the wrecking on opponents in several others.

Wes Welker, WR, New England Patriots

Another week of NFL action is largely in the books, and what a weekend it was. The New York Jets forgot how to play run defense, the Minnesota Vikings gave up their third consecutive first-half lead to fall to 0-3, the Buffalo Bills stunned the New England Patriots and Tom Brady threw as many picks (four) as he did in 16 games last season! And those are just a few of Sunday's highlights. Oh, league parity ... you evil, yet delightful weekly occurrence.

The fantasy football season remains young, but each passing week becomes more and more critical in the W column. If you are likely to start 0-3, don't become too discouraged. There is still time to turn the season around! On the flip side, if you're 3-0, don't start becoming so comfortable you're not paying close attention to your league's waiver wire each week.

Gut Feeling

San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews has quietly taken over as the feature back in the San Diego system. While Mike Tolbert will still steal some touches and work on third down, the team seems to be comfortable enough with Mathews to rely on him during most situations. He even saw work at the goal line against the Chiefs, which is a major positive if it continues. In Week 1, Tolbert had the 21-15 advantage on touches, but Mathews has started to separate himself since. Mathews had 25 touches to Tolbert's seven in Week 3, and has a plus-20 touch advantage over the last two weeks.

I was hesitant to push the panic button on running back Chris Johnson after the first two weeks; but when he failed to provide much of a spark against the Denver Broncos' defense in Week 3, I officially hit red alert. With the Cleveland Browns (allowing 124 run yards and 0.33 rush TDs to opposing backs), Pittsburgh Steelers (allowing 95.3 run yards and 0.67 rush TDs to opposing backs) and a bye on deck in the next three weeks, we may not see Johnson explode anytime soon.

Would forcing someone to watch the San Francisco 49ers versus Cincinnati Bengals over and over again be considered cruel and unusual punishment? That game was ugly.

I loved seeing Adrian Peterson tell the field goal unit to sit back down in the fourth quarter because he wanted the team to go for it on fourth down. The Minnesota Vikings, however, couldn't convert. Maybe they should have given it to Peterson instead of the fullback. What I didn't love seeing was the Vikings getting away from Peterson during the second half of the game. He needs to touch the ball 25-plus times weekly.

I'm starting to become quite worried about Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall. He managed just 37 yards rushing on 18 carries against the poor Indy run defense. On top of that, 22 of the yards came on 17 carries. That's pathetic. That's a game he should go for no less than 100 yards and a score. The offensive line is in serious trouble and Mendenhall just doesn't seem to have the same pop he did a year ago. He has yet to rush for more than 66 yards in a game this year, and his yards per carry sits at three after as many games. Yuck.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady does a lot of beautiful things with the football ... running the ball is not one of them.

Speaking of the Patriots, Welker was targeted an impressive 20 times during Week 3 -- 44 percent of Brady's passes. To put it into perspective: In the first two games, Welker was targeted 23 times combined.

Don't go crazy trying to pick up New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz in your fantasy football leagues this week. Sure, he had two touchdown catches in Week 3 against the Eagles, but his 74-yard touchdown reception should have been more like a 10-yard catch had several Eagles tried to tackle properly. That play had to be one of the most pathetic defensive showings I've seen in a long time. He was targeted five times in Week 3 after being targeted just four times in the previous two games combined. I'm not buying the big game.

I'm not sure if Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is trying too hard or what, but he doesn't look right on the field right now. He is making some very uncharacteristic dumb throws.

Congrats to New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram on scoring his first NFL touchdown. Hopefully now that he has tasted the end zone it will make him hungrier to do it again often in the coming weeks and months. Yes, I have him on many of my fantasy football teams; he rode the pine in most of them this past weekend. As sad as it is to say, it looks like Darren Sproles is going to be the safest of the New Orleans backs to play each week.

New England receiver Chad Ochocinco was targeted a season-high four times in Week 3, but he only caught two of them. Ochocinco beat a defender on the play, but was unable to haul in a pass for what would have likely resulted in a touchdown reception. Those are the plays he needs to make to gain Brady's confidence and that of the coaching staff. Look for his playing time to continue to be limited....

Just when fantasy football teams had Cam Newton in their starting lineup, his numbers came crashing back to Earth. Don't blame too much of it on Cam, though. That Jacksonville - Carolina game was in monsoon-like rains for most of the game.

I'm figuring Matt Cassel has another start or two before he is benched if the Chiefs haven't won a game. Donovan McNabb may have about the same length of a leash with the Vikings. If you're sitting on either as a backup on your team, I'd be looking to jump ship.

If New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie put nearly the effort into his tackles as he does pretending to make an attempt to tackle a player, he'd post 120-plus tackles every year.

Just when the Green Bay Packers running game started to make sense, Ryan Grant had to make it clear he shouldn't be forgotten with a 92-yard performance. Grant had 17 carries to the 11 James Starks posted, but Starks averaged just 0.5 yards per carry to the 5.4 Grant posted. This Jekyll and Hyde running game is going to drive fantasy football owners crazy more often than not.

Shonn Greene finally showed some signs of life, rushing 15 times for 59 yards against the Oakland Raiders. The aggravating New York Jets' tailback was oddly also used in the passing game, catching seven balls for 47 yards - two better than third-down specialist LaDainian Tomlinson. Tomlinson, by the way, still looks to be the better back by quite a bit, averaging 6.3 yards per rush and piling up 116 yards and a touchdown through the air. The Jets, however, can't count on him for a season-long heavy workload, but he's proving he's still a capable flex option in PPR leagues.

Early Waiver Wire Thoughts

These are some knee-jerk reactions to what was seen during Sunday's games. KFFL's official Waiver Wire recommendations will be released Monday afternoon, as we'll have a better understanding of many situations and injury updates.

Dexter McCluster, RB/WR, Kansas City Chiefs - McCluster isn't going to turn your fantasy football season around, but he remains available in a large amount of leagues despite K.C. losing Jamaal Charles a week ago. The Chiefs were more competitive during Week 3, and McCluster was a dual threat - rushing nine times for 45 yards and catching six passes for 17 yards. He'll have his moments this year and should be acquired, especially in point per reception leagues.

Stevan Ridley, RB, New England Patriots - If you're in a deeper league, Ridley is worth taking a flier on. He had seven rushing attempts for 44 yards on the ground and caught one pass during Week 3. BenJarvus Green-Ellis had nine touches for a comparison. The Patriots have so many options, it's tough to ever put your finger on what is going to happen. However, Ridley looked good in the preseason and is now seeing some chances during the game. If you're snake bitten at running back, there may be some potential here as the weeks unfold.

Nate Washington, WR, Tennessee Titans - It looks like Kenny Britt (knee) will miss the remainder of the season with a significant knee injury, so Washington's opportunities should increase moving forward. Will he succeed as a No. 1 receiver? The jury is still out on that, but fantasy football success usually starts with opportunities. He was targeted nine times in Week 3, catching eight of them for 92 yards and a score.

Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens - Lee Evans was brought in to be the deep, but he failed miserably during the first two weeks and was out with injury during Week 3. Smith stepped right in and showed he is more than capable of filling that role, coming up with some huge catches immediately. Smith caught touchdowns on each of his first three NFL receptions, finishing with five catches for 152 yards and the three scores. The Ravens' offense has a whole new dimension with an effective deep threat; don't be shocked to see Smith hold onto that role moving forward.

Damian Williams and Lavelle Hawkins, WR, Tennessee Titans - Not a lot to get excited about here, but desperate times can call for desperate measures. Both were targeted at least three times in Week 3 and both should see their snaps increase with Britt likely out for the year. I'd classify these two more as watch-list material than immediately acquire, but quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is playing well and has never been afraid to distribute the ball to the open option.

Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers - I'm still seeing Olsen on plenty of waiver wires. It is an incredibly deep year for tight ends, so it makes some sense. However, Olsen is going to be a fairly consistent option (he was targeted 10 times) in the Carolina system despite sharing duties with Jeremy Shockey. If you need a second tight end, you surely could do worse.

Scott Chandler, TE, Buffalo Bills - Guess who scored for a third consecutive game? Yardage and receptions leave a lot to be desired, but Ryan Fitzpatrick likes his big tight end in the red zone.

Jared Cook, TE, Tennessee Titans - Will the Titans use Cook more with Britt likely done for the year? They may have no other choice. He was a fantasy sleeper for many, but his slow start may have him floating on your league's waiver wire. He was targeted just twice in Week 3.

What did you like/dislike during Week 3? Which players have climbed your waiver wire ladder for Week 4? Share your thoughts and help other fantasy football players entering Week 4 in the space below.

Don't forget to follow @kffl on Twitter for all of the latest NFL and fantasy football news, and you can keep up with all of my shenanigans and random thoughts by following @rblaptop

Catch me and other KFFLians Wednesday evenings on Big Lead Sports on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio from 10 pm - 1 am ET on Sirius 210 and XM 87.

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About Ryan R. Bonini

Founding KFFL in 1996, Bonini now serves as VP of Fantasy Sports Solutions for USA TODAY SPORTS, KFFL's parent company. Bonini was named 2009 Fantasy Football Writer of the Year by the FSWA, received honors with the Best Fantasy Football Series in '10 and was named into their Hall of Fame in '13.

His work has been found in USA TODAY Sports, Yahoo! Sports, FOX Sports, CBS Sports, NFL.com, and many others. He has also been featured on numerous radio programs around the country. Bonini is a member of the PFWA, FSWA and FSTA.

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