New York Giants vs. Washington (Thursday, 8:25 p.m.)
Vegas O/U: 44 pts, Giants total: 24 pts, Washington total: 20 pts
Something of an anniversary game for Eli Manning and Larry Donnell, this matchup pits a team that could go off through the air (Big Blue) against a team that would like nothing more than to grind out the clock – and another win – via the ground.
If you think Washington can successfully pound away at the Giants, bleed the clock, and play keep away with their one-two running back punch, then this Thursday night game has all the makings of an automatic fade in DFS.
New York, headed into Week 3, has faced only 22.5 carries per game. Consider that they've played Atlanta and Dallas – two games with less-than-stellar running attacks – and that makes sense. I think it's important to note that the Giants are allowing a miniscule three yards per tote, the third bets mark in the league. Washington coaches pledge to split carries between Matt Jones and Alfred Morris for the remainder of the year, making both runners iffy plays against what seems like a decent run defense.
Jones, however, is still priced outside the top-50 running backs on DraftKings. It's tough to find a potential 15-touch guy for any cheaper.
Rueben Randle has been a ghost on the gridiron, even in Victor Cruz's absence. Preston Parker, who was cut after a heinous Week 2 outing, saw more action than Randle in the season's opening weeks. I think Randle, priced near the minimum, is a reasonable tournament option against a Washington secondary that probably isn't very good, though they haven't been tested so far in 2015. The hope here is that Eli will have little choice but to throw it Randle's way if Odell Beckham, Jr. is blanketed.
Larry Donnell saw six targets last week, including a few looks in the red zone. Remember that Donnell saw more red zone targets in 2014 than any other tight end, and that offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo is something of a tight end guru. Donnell is huge, has an enormous wingspan and often sees single coverage as teams flock to OBJ inside the 20-yard line. Donnell, who caught a touchdown last week, is available for just above the minimum on DraftKings.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Cincinnati Bengals (Sunday, 1:00 p.m.)
Vegas O/U: 45 pts, Ravens total: 24 pts, Bengals total: 21 pts
The lone bright spot in the Ravens' debacle of an offense: Crockett Gillmore, the unheralded tight end who scored more fantasy points than anyone at the position in Week 2. He's seen 11 targets through two weeks, but more importantly, Gillmore is running a good number of routes – 32 per game, to be precise. Route running is a critical element of tight end production. I like Gillmore this week as much more than just a Hail Mary GPP option.
Steve Smith could see quite a bit of Adam Jones in coverage. I think that makes Smith a pretty easy fade against the Bengals, as Jones is Pro Football Focus' top-rated cover corner through two weeks. Leon Hall, the other Cincy corner, is also among PFF's top rated cover guys in this young season. That's a big part of why I wouldn't be bowled over if Gillmore sees upwards of 8-10 targets in Week 3.
I suppose Jeremy Hill's workhorse role may be in some question after he was grounded when he fumbled twice in Week 2. Probably Marvin Lewis' punishment won't extend into Week 3, but at Hill's high DFS price against a solid Baltimore run defense, I'm not sure I can buy the runner as a cash game play. Lewis said neither Bengals running back will be able to predict how much work they get in a given week.
The Ravens cornerbacks, Ladarius Webb and Jimmy Smith, are rated as PFF's 49th and 20th best cover corners, respectively. Baltimore is giving up a meager 5.7 yards per attempt but opponents are completing a healthy 62.9 percent of passes against the Ravens. A.J. Green is a safe receiver option with some upside in this matchup. I have trouble believing the Ravens – after being gouged by Oakland – will hold the Bengals to 21 points in this one.
Andy Dalton is the most appealing DFS play at his DraftKings salary, but I don't see much reason to deploy him on FanDuel. Dalton has notched 253 yards, 0.88 touchdowns, and 1.5 interceptions (17.8 fantasy points) in eight games against Baltimore.
Cleveland Browns vs. Oakland Raiders (Sunday, 1:00 p.m.)
Vegas O/U: 42 pts, Browns total: 23 pts, Raiders total: 19 pts
We'll cut to the chase here: The only viable stack in this game is the Browns' defense and Isaiah Crowell, who has emerged as a fairly reliable running back on a team with a laughably limited passing attack. He saw 15 carries for 72 yards and a score last week against Tennessee. Crowell saw 12 totes in Week 1.
Don't be fooled by the Raiders' offensive display against Baltimore. This team – and its quarterback – are different entities on the road. Oakland in 2014 gave up 5.3 fantasy points to opposing defenses in home games, and 14.2 points in road outings. Carr was particularly disastrous on the road. I'll have a lot of exposure to Cleveland's defense this weekend.
It's hard to buy into a wide receiver who ran less than 10 pass routes last week, even if one of those routes turned into a long touchdown. That's what we have with Travis Benjamin, who seems to be the lone viable fantasy receiver in Cleveland. He was three touchdowns on six catches in 2015. Hello, regression. Goodbye, Benjamin.
This game has the second lowest total of Week 3. Don't get cute. Look elsewhere for value plays and stacks, but consider the Browns' defense a prime Week 3 option. They're very reasonably priced this week.
Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints
Vegas O/U: 45 pts, Panthers total: 28.5 pts, Saints total: 22 points
The Saint's once-prolific offense has never been an intimidating unit away from the Superdome. That'll likely be more noticeable than ever as Drew Brees struggles through a shoulder injury and the team's awful defense makes the Saints' offense one-dimensional.
Carolina's defense has played two of the league's worst offenses – Jacksonville and Houston – but I think they make for a rock-solid cash game play in Week 3. The Panthers, sporting a tough secondary and a passable front seven, has allowed just 3.8 yards per play over the season's first couple weeks. That's unimaginably low, and I think it could spell doom for a Saints' offense that appears incapable of picking up yardage in chunks. The Panthers are the NFL's second best team in pass coverage, per Pro Football Focus.
Mark Ingram's Week 3 pricing makes him a fairly risky play. He also has Khiry Robinson and C.J. Spiller rotating into the backfield. I see Ingram's Week 1 PPR bonanza as an anomaly unless and until Robinson and/or Spiller go down to injury or are phased out of the offense for some reason. I'm fading Ingram in Week 3.
Cam Newton, priced outside the top-10 quarterbacks on FanDuel, might have some aerial upside here against a woeful New Orleans secondary. PFF rates the Saints as the league's second worst pass coverage team. This might be a game in which Newton's dearth of viable receivers doesn't matter. And it's worth noting that Newton is running quite a bit in 2015: he has 24 rushes for 111 yards and a score through two games. That gives Newton a hefty floor, week in and week out.
I think we could see Carolina carve up the Saints on the ground, as New Orleans opponents have rushed the ball 30 times a game through two weeks. That makes Jonathan Stewart – whose DFS price has dipped after a slow start – a nice pivot play that you might want to stack with Newton. Stewart is DraftKings' 22nd highest priced runner in Week 3.