Julio Jones vs. Houston
At this rate, Julio’s 2015 reception total will eventually surpass the number of Waffle House franchises in the Atlanta metropolitan area. (But unlike Waffle House hash browns, Julio can’t be covered or smothered.) Jones has 34 catches, the highest three-game total to open a season in NFL history, and 440 receiving yards, putting him on pace for 2,347 (which would break Calvin Johnson’s single-season yardage record of 1,964 from 2012).
Matt Ryan targeted Jones 20 times against the Cowboys on Sunday, and Julio finished with 12 catches for 164 yards and two touchdowns. The Falcons host the Texans this week, and Houston has a good pair of veteran cornerbacks in Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson. But Joseph and Jackson are both under six feet tall and will have a hard time matching up physically with the 6'3" Jones. At this point, Houston’s best chance of slowing down Julio is having J.J. Watt and the rest of the Texans’ pass rushers put Ryan under duress.
For the second straight week, a significant injury at the quarterback position will send some in the fantasy community scrambling to the waiver wire. This week, it’s Ben Roethlisberger’s knee that has his owners desperate for help. More likely than not, those of you in one-quarterback leagues who just lost Roethlisberger for the next four-to-six weeks will want to fill that void on the wire. If the last few weeks have taught us anything, it’s that you can play the matchup game at quarterback. You’re better off giving up the last player on your roster for a good waiver QB, rather than using a real asset to trade for one.
Who might that quarterback be? One particular option, who has been extremely productive over the last two weeks, jumps off the page for the Week 4 Waiver Wire.
Week 3 was as exciting as Week 2 was bizarre. The Colts, Falcons, Cardinals, Bills and Patriots all scored at least 35 points, led by the Patriots’ 51. Tom Brady, Andy Dalton, Marcus Mariota, Joe Flacco and Josh McCown (seriously) all had at least 340 yards and two touchdowns. Three different running backs scored three touchdowns, seven receivers made a pair of trips to the end zone, and we saw our first 200-receiving-yard performance of the year.
We recap the most important developments of the day in the Week 3 Sunday Superlatives.
The Premier Running Back Duel
Joseph Randle and Devonta Freeman were both in great spots for their Week 3 meeting, though for different reasons. With Brandon Weeden under center, it was likely that the Cowboys would heavily feature the run, limiting Weeden’s opportunities to make mistakes. An injury to Tevin Coleman opened the door for Freeman in what figured to be a high-scoring game. Below, I present the first six touchdowns scored in the contest.
There are genuine reasons to be worried about the offenses in Philadelphia, New Orleans and Indianapolis. They all entered the season with different ceilings, but each was expected to be a reliable source of fantasy production. Thanks to injuries and underwhelming performances, though, all have fallen far short of expectations through two weeks. Those offenses are all involved in this week's Risers and Sliders, and the uncertainty within one in particular has created an opportunity for a new fantasy star to emerge.
Donte Moncrief, WR, Colts
Through two games, Moncrief has been just about the only positive fantasy player for the Colts. He received a lot of attention after T.Y. Hilton’s knee injury, and even though Hilton is essentially at 100% now, Moncrief will remain a fixture of our fantasy lives. Why is that? Well, it appears the Texans knew something about Andre Johnson when they let him go this past offseason. Johnson looks like he has nothing left in the tank, a fact that has to be apparent to the Colts by now. Expect Moncrief to supplant Johnson as the No. 2 target in the offense as early as this week. The second-year player out of Ole Miss already has 13 catches for 168 yards and two scores, and didn’t play much in Week 1 until Hilton suffered his injury. We know that Moncrief is a legitimate weapon for Andrew Luck, and this team already has to be searching for answers after an 0–2 start no one predicted. Getting the ball to No. 10 is one of those answers. He has WR2 upside for the remainder of the season.
Tony Romo owners will searching through the waiver wire this week, hoping for a suitable replacement for the Cowboys QB, who's set to miss eight weeks with a broken collarbone. Luckily, there are still a few serviceable quarterbacks who they can get their hands on. Somehow, there is one in particular who has turned in top-10 performances in both weeks this year and yet remains available in far too many leagues. That guy kicks off our look at the players, (quarterbacks and otherwise), to grab off the waiver wire heading into Week 3.
Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals
I don’t feel that I have to spend too much time on this one. Dalton is still available in about 70% of leagues. He already has 483 yards and five touchdowns against zero interceptions this season. He has a cache of weapons nearly any quarterback would trade for in a heartbeat, as well as a line that has played very well through two games. If you just lost Romo, or if you just need another quarterback, Dalton should be right at the top of your list.
There are a few weeks in every NFL season that get totally off track and never recover. Week 2 was the first instance of such a week in the 2015 season. The Buccaneers went into New Orleans as 10-point underdogs and were in complete control from start to finish in their win over the Saints. Oakland, Jacksonville and Washington knocked off Baltimore, Miami and St. Louis, respectively, as home underdogs. Johnny Manziel looked like one of the most dangerous deep passers in the league. Jeremy Hill fumbled twice and was benched for Giovani Bernard. DeMarco Murray had negative rushing yards until late in the fourth quarter. Like I said, it was a weird Sunday. Let’s get to some of the most noteworthy performances in the Week 2 Sunday Superlatives.
The Best Connection in the League
Week 2 eventually went off the rails, but it started in a very familiar way. Namely, with Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski making secondaries look helpless. Brown torched the 49ers for nine catches, 195 yards and one touchdown. He entered the week with a 33-game streak with at least five catches and 50 yards. He extended that by the midpoint of the second quarter. Up in Buffalo, Gronkowski did his thing, hauling in seven passes for 113 yards and a score of his own. He’s riding an impressive streak of his own, hitting paydirt in eight straight games, including the Patriots' run to the Super Bowl last season. Brown now has 18 catches for 328 yards and two touchdowns this year, while Gronk is up to 12 receptions for 207 yards and four end zone trips. Brown’s currently on pace for 2,624 yards and 16 touchdowns. Gronk is on pace for a measly 1,656 yards, but 32 touchdowns. They’ll both probably slow down, but it’s always fun to play around with on-pace stats early in the season. Brown and Gronk are unquestionably the best players at their respective positions. The question for us, however, is which connection—Ben Roethlisberger to Brown or Tom Brady to Gronkowski—is more potent?
It took all of one week for the injury bug to bite some of the NFL's most valuable players. The receiver position was hit especially hard, with Dez Bryant (foot), T.Y. Hilton (knee), and DeSean Jackson (hamstring) all set to miss time after suffering injuries last week. Add that to the usual Week 1 surprises, from disappointing no-shows to breakout performances, and the fantasy community is looking at an active week on the waiver wire. Below are the top players you’ll want to target this week.
Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals
Even though one-quarterback leagues are still the norm, it’s surprising that Dalton was so available heading into Week 1. That’s not going to be the case after what he did against the Raiders. Dalton’s numbers—269 yards and two touchdowns—would be enough to catch anyone’s eye. What’s more impressive is that he did it getting a subpar game from A.J. Green. The Bengals' offense is loaded, and Dalton is right at the center of it all. We know he’s going to have a stinker or two at some point, but his owners will be able to live with those games this season. With all the weapons around him in Cincinnati, the good is going to be way more frequent than the bad.