Woof. Week 2 was a sweat-sesh that didn’t pay out. Kudos to Nick Chubb for clearing the mark. Everyone else is on pause for the moment.
Let’s right some ships (on the way to winning chips) in Week 3. Utilizing ESPN’s metrics database and some assistance from stats ace Kyle Soppe, I’m here to help you win in fantasy and at the books.
Las Vegas Raiders (-2, 45.5) at Tennessee Titans
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Nissan Stadium, Nashville
Pick: Derek Carr OVER 1.5 TDs (-117)
Davante Adams’ westward move elevated Carr’s fantasy profile, making the QB a darling value pick among drafters. Thus far, though, the result has been more womp-womp than woot-woot. I’d brace for more of the same and take the under on Carr finishing inside the top 10 FF players at the position. Facing a banged-up Titans squad on a short week, however, two tubs are within reach.
Given the current QB landscape … that’s nothing to sneeze at.
Tennessee has allowed six TDs on 61 pass attempts. That’s a rate of nearly 10%, which is almost double the league average (4.7%). That bodes well for Carr, as the Raiders have recorded a red zone passing rate of 72.2%. That’s a 17% increase from last season (55.1%). Adding an elite talent like Adams figures to create such a spike.
Whether it’s his mind-bending release or the ease with which he gains separation, Adams’ presence is game-changing. But it’s his dynamic after-the-catch ability (WR14 in 2021) that sets up particularly well for this specific matchup. The Titans have had trouble limiting YAC producers, allowing the sixth-most yards after the catch since the middle of 2021.
Obviously, Adams isn’t the only Raider who’s dangerous with the ball in his hands. Darren Waller and vertical threat Mack Hollins (who is also one of my favorite sleep picks for the week) can also turn upfield and smoke a defender. At least one of Vegas’ pass-catchers is getting loose for a score. The other TD is coming on a red zone bomb.
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Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings (-6, 52.5)
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis
Pick: Dalvin Cook OVER 102.5 total yards (-115)
You’d think I’d be off the Vikings after betting on Adam Thielen last week. Nope. Playing scared never won anybody anything.
Cook is due for a boom game. Fantasy managers need to breathe through their (understandable) frustration and visualize a top-five FF finish for Minny’s RB1. I don’t have any Cook shares in redraft, but that didn’t stop me from ranking him as my RB2 for the week.
The Vikings’ lead back should be fresh after touching the ball only 10 times last Monday night. Lest we forget, he’s also an elite talent, one who has gone over 100 scrimmage yards in over 72% of his career games when recording over 15 touches. Out of 41 regular-season contests (since 2019), Cook has failed to clear 15 touches only six times.
Volume shouldn’t be an issue when he faces a Lions squad that currently ranks sixth in pace of play. Detroit wants to go fast. With Kevin O’Connell clutching the clipboard, Minnesota has demonstrated the ability to answer, leading the league in plays per second last week. A pingpong match between these squads raises Cook’s floor, providing him with more opportunities for more production.
Given the over/under of 52.5 (one of just three matchups projected over 50 points), Vegas is leaning into the likelihood. To that end, Cook has posted at least 110 total yards in five of his past six games attached to a projected point total above 50. Rewind the clock to 2020 and he has done it in six of his past eight such games, dating back to a 252-yard effort in Week 9 versus Detroit.
Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants (-1, 39)
Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET (ESPN, ABC, ESPN+), MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
Pick: Ezekiel Elliott OVER 58.5 rushing yards (-115)
I’ve been getting a ton of questions about the Dallas backfield. Zeke looks like he has lost a step. And Tony Pollard was the more productive option in Week 2. But Elliott has the snaps (and money) on his side. Managers want to know which of these backs is worth riding in Week 3.
Sometimes the betting lines provide clarity. The over/under on rushing yards for Zeke is currently set at 58.5, while Pollard’s projected total is 38.5 rushing yards. Elliott leads the backfield in snaps. He also has the better matchup against the Giants.
Over 82% of Zeke’s runs have come on the interior since the beginning of 2021 (19-game sample). Meanwhile less than 75% of Pollard’s runs have come via the inside. The Giants have been markedly better at defending perimeter runs than interior rushes so far this season, allowing a YPC of 6.0 (29th) to interior attacks and a YPC of 3.0 (ninth) to outside charges. Given Elliott’s top-six snap share and top-18 carries-per-game average (2022), his odds of producing on the ground are higher than Pollard’s.
Dallas’ offensive line has stayed sterling, despite brutal injuries and obvious obstacles. Per the Loza blocking metric (she has a model, folks), the Cowboys have the ninth-most efficient run-blocking unit to open the season. Using the same grading system, the Giants have been the 24th-most generous run-stopping squad.
That combination is a green light for positive rushing production, even without Zeke looking vintage. It figures to help Pollard as well. However, Elliott’s higher opportunity share in a close contest (Giants -1) gives him the edge over Pollard. I have them ranked 10 spots apart with Elliott offering middling RB2 potential and Pollard projected to succeed in the flex.
Pick: JuJu Smith-Schuster OVER 4.5 receptions (-151), OVER 49.5 receiving yards (-119)
Patrick Mahomes warned us that the Chiefs’ corps could be a WRBC. After JuJu drew eight looks in Week 1, his meager three in Week 2 felt like a gut punch. In what could be a sneaky high-scoring affair (O/U 50.5), however, Smith-Schuster figures to climb back into WR3/Flex territory.
JuJu thrives when deployed via the slot. It makes sense then that the former Steeler has run 30% of his routes in the slot so far this season (18.9% last season). That puts him in a prime position to exploit a vulnerability that has plagued the Colts since the top of 2021. Indy is ranked 29th in YPA to the slot since the beginning of last year (26th so far in 2022).
The Colts have additionally struggled in the red area of the field, allowing a score on all three red zone trips over the team’s prior two outings. In fact, Indy ranked 26th in defending the scoring area since the beginning of last fall. That stat comes to life when noting that Smith-Schuster has run a route on 82% of Mahomes’ red zone dropbacks (78% overall).
Admittedly, the above prop isn’t about scores, but what fantasy manager doesn’t want to see their WR3 peppered with high-value looks? If JuJu is being trusted in scoring situations, then he’ll be trusted to move the chains and clear the above line.
Pick: Brandin Cooks OVER 56.5 receiving yards (-131)
Death, taxes and another 1,000-yard season for Cooks. The 28-year-old has cleared the 1K benchmark in six of his past eight seasons. He’s currently on pace for over 1,150 receiving yards in his ninth pro campaign. The man is consistent if nothing else.
Cooks averaged 64.8 yards per game in 2021. Two weeks into 2022 and he has managed 68 yards per contest. Dependable volume has contributed to steady production, as Cooks has gone over 10 looks in five of his past six games. That bodes well for the vet versus the Bears’ secondary. Chicago has wilted when battling high-opportunity wideouts, surrendering 88.2 yards per game in the 11 outings in which a receiver has drawn over eight targets.
It hasn’t been death by a thousand papercuts for Chicago either. The defense has allowed at least one 24-plus-yard grab in five consecutive outings. Fittingly, Cooks has recorded double-digit receptions over 20 yards every season in which he has played more than 14 games … and he already has three in 2022.
Cooks might be the ultimate fantasy floor play, but he offers a top-15 ceiling in Week 3. Start him ahead of brand names like Terry McLaurin or buzzy guys like Christian Kirk. The over in overlooked is Cooks’ Sunday vibe.
Follow Liz on Twitter @LizLoza_FF
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