Fantasy Football Week 3 Wrap: Can we start Cardinals with confidence?

Dallas Cowboys @ Arizona Cardinals

Arizona’s 180 rushing yards over the first two quarters were the most by any team in a half this season. It was the most rushing yards Dallas has allowed in a half since 1991 (and more than they yielded in their first two games combined) in a game they entered as heavy favorites. The Cardinals pulled off a 28-16 upset and have held a halftime lead during all three games to open the season.

Josh Dobbs got 9.0 YPA with zero turnovers against a stout Dallas defense (missing Trevon Diggs) that entered allowing the lowest EPA/play in the league by a wide margin. Dobbs has played far better than expected, helping keep Arizona fantasy relevant. James Conner was the RB6 after a top-15 finish last week, as he continues to put up big production when Kyler Murray is out. Marquise Brown was a top-20 fantasy WR this week, pulling down his second TD of the season after playing hurt in Week 1.

Zach Ertz was quiet Sunday but entered leading all tight ends in targets this season. Rondale Moore had a nice touchdown, and rookie Michael Wilson made a big play downfield in the fourth quarter:

The Cardinals get another tough defense in San Francisco in Week 4, but Arizona has proven not to be taken lightly in 2023.

Dak Prescott was outplayed by Dobbs (10.5 CPOE vs. -3.3), culminating with his first interception of the season late in the fourth quarter in which three different defensive players could’ve recorded this brutal pick:

Prescott had a real nice run in the third quarter but otherwise couldn’t get it going against an Arizona defense that's exceeding expectations. Prescott has curtailed the picks to open 2023 but has just three touchdown passes over three games. Dallas had five red-zone trips result in just six points during Sunday’s loss. They are bottom-five in red-zone efficiency this season after ranking first last year. The Cowboys’ offense will get going, but they get New England and play in San Francisco the next two weeks.

  • Tony Pollard got his YPC back up but watched Rico Dowdle steal a 15-yard TD catch. Pollard entered on pace for 425 touches and saw another 26 opportunities. Huge fantasy games are coming.

  • Michael Gallup showed real signs of life, while Brandin Cooks had a nice catch just out of bounds in the end zone in the second quarter.

  • No need to worry about CeeDee Lamb.

  • Matt Prater nailed a 62-yard field goal to end the first half of the stunning upset.

Indianapolis Colts @ Baltimore Ravens

  • Lamar Jackson didn’t rip apart a vulnerable Colts secondary, but fantasy managers won’t care with him rushing for 100+ yards and two scores. Jackson’s running was amazing Sunday. 

  • Gus Edwards left injured and finished with one fewer carry than Melvin Gordon. Yuck.

  • Zay Flowers once again exceeded a 30% target share, leading the team with 10. He also had a facemask ignored and looked like he drew a PI penalty on fourth down with three minutes left in overtime, but no flags were thrown.

  • Matt Gay became the first kicker in NFL history to record four 50+ yard field goals. Justin Tucker came up short on a potential game-winner from 61 yards out.

  • Zack Moss was a top-10 RB last week and top-five in Week 3 despite facing a Ravens defense that’s allowed the lowest EPA/play in the league since trading for Roquan Smith (and playing with a backup QB who pulled an Orlovsky on Sunday). Moss Moss’d someone and had seven more carries than anyone else this week. He’s locked in as a must-start in fantasy leagues while Jonathan Taylor is away.

  • Josh Downs saw 12 targets and can be added in deeper fantasy leagues.

Tennessee Titans @ Cleveland Browns

  • The new Jim Schwartz-led Browns defense continues to play like one of the league’s best units, having now allowed just one touchdown all season. Ryan Tannehill took more sacks (five) than he got YPA (4.2) and has finished with fewer than 200 passing yards in two of three games. Derrick Henry had four carries for negative seven rush yards at halftime and finished with 1.8 YPC.

  • Deshaun Watson benefitted from Tennessee’s pass-funnel defense and played well, finishing with a 19.2 CPOE in the 98th percentile (despite this backward pass!). He hit Amari Cooper on a busted coverage for a long score, but the two were also robbed of another TD connection (and 40 yards).

  • Jerome Ford was predictably shut down (1.8 YPC) by the Titans’ run defense but led Cleveland’s backfield and scored twice. He should be treated as a top-15 fantasy RB moving forward.

Atlanta Falcons @ Detroit Lions

  • Jared Goff shook off a bad interception up 10 points to end the third quarter, finishing as a top-12 fantasy QB this week. He’s a cheat code at home.

  • Amon-Ra St. Brown had a nice game fighting through his toe injury, while Sam LaPorta had a 35.5% target share (11) and finished as fantasy’s No. 1 tight end on Sunday. LaPorta is the first TE in NFL history to start their career with 5+ receptions in their first three games.

  • Jahmyr Gibbs didn’t erupt and surprisingly saw just two targets, but you love 17 carries (and just four for Craig Reynolds). Gibbs’ fantasy managers just need to remain patient.

  • The good news is Kyle Pitts led Atlanta with nine targets. The bad news is Jonnu Smith (eight) was right behind him, and they resulted in 41 scoreless yards. Desmond Ridder was awful Sunday, missing an open Pitts for a possible 85-yard touchdown early in the first quarter. Ridder posted a -14.2 CPOE in the seventh percentile and missed throws all day against an injured Lions secondary.

  • Bijan Robinson likely just had his worst fantasy game of the season.

New Orleans Saints @ Green Bay Packers

  • Jordan Love has been an enigma. He entered leading the NFL in Passer Rating yet behind only Justin Fields in Next Gen’s completion percentage above expectation. He got -7.8 CPOE on Sunday (with an ugly pick) yet earned 20+ fantasy points for the third straight game to open the season (despite missing Christian Watson and Aaron Jones). Love looks like a big regression candidate, but he’s also undeniably had his moments (and added 9-29-1 on the ground for fantasy managers). Love has been one of the best draft picks in Superflex leagues and gets a home matchup versus the Lions in Week 4.

  • New Orleans led 17-0 (thanks in part to a big Rashid Shaheed play on special teams) but Derek Carr suffered a potentially serious injury. The Saints would ultimately lose 18-17, thanks to a late missed field goal and Green Bay shrewdly going for two down 14. But New Orleans still hasn’t allowed 20 points in a game since Week 9 last season.

  • Jayden Reed had zero targets over the first two quarters but saw seven in an eventful second half that featured two great catches but numerous drops, including a possible 20-yard TD. Romeo Doubs picked up the slack.

  • Jameis Winston is the next QB up, but all Saints players’ fantasy values would benefit from a quick return by Carr. Kendre Miller remains a fantasy stash with Alvin Kamara due back next week.

Houston Texans @ Jacksonville Jaguars

  • C.J. Stroud is the truth. He got 9.3 YPA Sunday on the road against an angry Jaguars team (that had a great week of practice according to Doug Pederson) despite a shaky offensive line. Having Nico Collins and budding star Tank Dell certainly doesn’t hurt, but Texans fans should be elated with how Stroud looks.

  • The rookie Dell commanded a team-high in targets and grabbed a 68-yard score in the fourth quarter to secure the upset. He somehow remains available in 69% of Yahoo leagues but needs to be added in even the shallowest formats.

  • Dameon Pierce scored but lost passing-down work to Mike Boone and clock-killing runs to Devin Singletary. Put differently, Pierce saw a lower backfield share this week despite a positive game script. Not bullish.

  • This wasn’t as lopsided as the final score indicates, with Jacksonville missing two field goals in the first half and allowing a crazy kick return for a touchdown by a fullback when it was a one-score game late in the third quarter:

  • That said, Trevor Lawrence threw a bad interception late in the third quarter, helping to seal Jacksonville’s fate.

  • Travis Etienne racked up another 24 opportunities while making numerous nice catches. But he also lost a goal-line TD and left banged up late (to add injury to insult). His status needs to be monitored. Meanwhile, Tank Bigsby suffered a bad drop that easily could’ve led to an interception in the third quarter but was rewarded with a goal-line score later that drive.

  • Calvin Ridley continued his season theme of almost catching touchdowns. He dropped a would-be TD three minutes into Sunday’s game and then suffered a worse drop in the second quarter. He’d later draw a PI flag in the end zone in the third quarter. Ridley is certainly due for better luck, but he’s also clearly playing banged up right now.

Denver Broncos @ Miami Dolphins

  • Tua Tagovailoa somehow was the No. 2 fantasy QB this week despite his backfield running for five touchdowns (and totaling 90+ fantasy points) and his backup throwing for a score. He was fantastic, finishing with a near-perfect Passer Rating and more touchdown passes (four) than incompletions (three). Tagovailoa even completed a no-look shovel pass for fun. While most assumed last season’s league-best YPA (8.9) would regress in 2023, it’s up to 10.1 through three games (just one home start). And Tua did that Sunday without Jaylen Waddle!

  • The Dolphins became just the fourth team ever to score 70 points and the first since 1966. They did so with eight minutes remaining and could’ve set an NFL record, but Mike McDaniel chose to kneel. Then again, the Dolphins also went for it on fourth-and-goal up 35-13 (when Mostert scored his third TD on his 11th carry). Miami’s 726 yards were the second-most in NFL history.

  • Denver didn’t exactly put on a tackling clinic Sunday, when even Magic Mike White and Chosen Anderson got in on the fun. The Dolphins are the only undefeated team in the AFC and have recorded the most yards over the first three games in NFL history.

  • The Broncos dealt with the sun only on their side of the field, and Sean Payton is taking heat for leaving Russell Wilson in a blowout.

  • Marvin Mims had a 99-yard kick return for a touchdown and needs to see more snaps.

Los Angeles Chargers @ Minnesota Vikings

  • Justin Herbert and Kirk Cousins combined for 772 yards and six TD strikes, both finishing as top-five fantasy QBs this week. The expected shootout eventually materialized after a slow start, highlighted by Keenan Allen’s historic day. Allen recorded 18 catches on 20 targets and also threw a long touchdown pass to Mike Williams (Joshua Palmer was open for a walk-in score as well). With Williams reportedly suffering a season-ending knee injury, Allen looks like a top-five (at worst) fantasy WR moving forward.

  • Herbert was blitzed on a whopping 82% of his dropbacks Sunday and finished with the best completion% in NFL history despite getting zero help from his rushing attack. Joshua Kelley was stuffed at the goal line and managed just 11 yards on 12 carries in a highly favorable matchup. He added only one target and was one of this week’s biggest fantasy busts.

  • Cousins took the most hits in the league last season and is taking a ton so far this year. He threw a bad interception on first-and-goal with the game on the line. The Vikings lost their seventh fumble of the season early in the first quarter after losing eight in 2022. Minnesota is 0-3 in one-possession games after going 11-0 last year. Regression is hitting Minnesota hard and all at once.

  • The Chargers were ahead but went for it on their own 24-yard line late in the fourth quarter and failed. But Brandon Staley’s job remains safe after winning the battle of shaky coaching.

  • Donald Parham Jr. continues to see more red-zone work than Gerald Everett, while Palmer lost a fumble (the Chargers’ first turnover of the season) and was quiet other than a lucky TD. Quentin Johnston becomes a fantasy add with Williams’ injury.

  • Justin Jefferson had zero targets over the first 20+ minutes and appeared to suffer a possible major injury. But he returned (just cramps) to score his first TD of the season while falling just one yard short of becoming the first player in NFL history to start the season with three straight 150-yard games.

  • Alexander Mattison had a bad drop in the red zone and was very fortunate his forward progress was called stopped before losing a fumble (he later caught a TD on the same drive). Mattison saw 27 opportunities and was a top-10 fantasy back this week, but Cam Akers could start cutting into his work moving forward.

  • K.J. Osborn pulled down a big fourth-down TD catch.

New England Patriots @ New York Jets

  • Mac Jones struggled, but Zach Wilson was worse in a defensive battle. Wilson got 4.4 YPA and sacked himself at one point, with Nick Bawden scoring the Jets’ lone touchdown. Breece Hall and Garrett Wilson deserve so much better.

  • Rhamondre Stevenson had a bad drop and managed just 3.1 YPC while Ezekiel Elliott got 5.0 on just three fewer carries. Still, Stevenson saw 23 opportunities and will eventually benefit from an easier schedule.

  • The Patriots went up 3-0 for their first lead and their first points scored in the first quarter of 2023. New England’s longest play of the season went to Pharaoh Brown.

  • The Pats have now beaten the Jets 15 straight times.

Buffalo Bills @ Washington Commanders

  • Josh Allen had a nice touchdown run and targeted Stefon Diggs 12 times, while Gabe Davis made the most of his one catch (although he was close to another TD in the second quarter).

  • James Cook once again dominated Buffalo’s backfield work yet watched two teammates run in scores. His fantasy value will skyrocket soon enough.

  • The Bills added a defensive score and recorded a whopping nine sacks. Sam Howell is on pace to take 108 sacks this season (he was also picked off four times Sunday).

  • Cole Turner led Washington in targets with Logan Thomas out and was tackled at the one-yard line (followed by a failed target in the end zone on fourth-and-goal). Jahan Dotston has yet to top 40 yards; he's been completely missing.

  • Brian Robinson looked great yet again (7.0 YPC) but suffered from a terrible game script. He also watched Antonio Gibson get just two carries and lose yet another fumble. Robinson can finish as a top-10 fantasy back in 2023.

  • The Commanders kicked a field goal with less than a minute remaining to avoid the shutout.

Carolina Panthers @ Seattle Seahawks

  • Kenneth Walker had a big game leading all non-Miami running backs in fantasy scoring this week. He’s scored twice in back-to-back games and recorded a career-high 59 receiving yards in Sunday’s win.

  • DK Metcalf remained productive while playing through a rib injury, but Tyler Lockett and Jaxon Smith-Njigba combined for just 44 yards on 10 targets. Seattle’s passing attack hasn’t looked as good this season despite adding JSN (more like MIA).

  • Andy Dalton attempted a career-high 58 passes, resulting in big games from DJ Chark and Adam Thielen (who was a top-five WR this week while missing a second touchdown by one foot). Chark looked good, while Thielen benefitted from Dalton at QB and saw the third-most targets (14) in Week 3. Jonathan Mingo, on the other hand, left concussed.

  • Miles Sanders had the wind knocked out of him in the second quarter and suffered a bad drop. But he scored, saw a career-high nine targets and would’ve had a much better fantasy day if Dalton didn’t miss him for a would-be long gain in the third quarter.

  • This game featured 21 accepted penalties, including a whopping eight false starts by Carolina. Chalk one up for Seattle’s “12th man” this week.

Chicago Bears @ Kansas City Chiefs

  • The Chiefs finally scored in the first quarter this season en route to a 34-0 halftime lead. Patrick Mahomes took a low hit late in the second quarter but appeared fine in the second half before departing with four minutes left in the third-quarter blowout. Mahomes finished as a top-five fantasy QB this week in barely one half of play.

  • Isiah Pacheco was tackled inside the five-yard line twice (and had another GL target fail) in the first half, when Jerick McKinnon and Clyde Edwards-Helaire combined for three scores. But Pacheco would finally hit paydirt, although he finished with the same number of carries (15) as CEH while playing through a groin injury.

  • Rashee Rice was stopped at the one-yard line two separate times (and never scored), but he was second on KC with just one fewer target than Travis Kelce (who enjoyed a TD with Taylor Swift in his suite).

  • DJ Moore committed a brutal drop downfield in the first half, when he had a 3-0-0-0 line. He would later score, but Justin Fields continued his glaring passing struggles. Fields got 4.5 YPA and failed to throw for 100 yards. Worse yet, he appeared to suffer a possible concussion that had Moore helping him to the sidelines, only for the Bears to bring him back in the game down 38 points. Malpractice.

  • Khalil Herbert lost a fumble in the first half and finished with fewer opportunities than Roschon Johnson, but neither back will help in fantasy much unless Chicago’s offense drastically improves.

  • Andy Reid makes me laugh every single time he says “nuggies.”

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Las Vegas Raiders

  • Kenny Pickett threw multiple TDs for the first time in his career, with Calvin Austin making a big play. Pickett’s box score looks good, but his CPOE was in the 14th percentile. It was no doubt a step in the right direction, but Pickett benefitted from playing indoors (with basically a home crowd) against a Raiders defense with the league’s lowest pressure rate. Marcus Peters dropped a sure pick-six in the first quarter, too.

  • Najee Harris still led Pittsburgh’s backfield but remained ineffective. Meanwhile, Josh Jacobs is still searching for his first touchdown of the season and has scored fewer than 10 fantasy points in each of the first three games. He doesn’t have one run for 10+ yards all season!

  • Jakobi Meyers saw 12 targets during his return, while Davante Adams saw 20. Adams recorded two touchdowns (including a long one on fourth down) and was behind only Keenan Allen in WR fantasy scoring this week. What a monster.

  • Jimmy Garoppolo threw three picks, while T.J. Watt became the first player to record six sacks and score a defensive touchdown in his team’s first three games.

  • George Pickens’ blocking could use some work.

  • The Raiders elected to kick a 26-yard field goal down eight points (after just scoring eight points five minutes earlier) with 2:25 left. Las Vegas got the ball back with seven seconds remaining in the game.