Saturday, September 24, 2011

2011 Fantasy Football: Week 3 NFL Preview

As we look ahead to week three of the fantasy football season, one can't help but notice some of the big name players who will be missing this week. That list includes Dallas Cowboys WR Miles Austin (hamstring), New England Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez (knee) and Kansas City Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles (knee). With all of those players missing this week (Charles for the season), some fantasy owners are probably wondering where their points are going to come from. While those owners sweat out a weekend without their star performers, here's what I'll be watching for this weekend.

1) Cincinnati Bengals wide receivers
I have an unhealthy obsession with the Bengals wide receiver group. After week one, I wanted to see if WR Jerome Simpson, who led the team with 8 targets in week one, was worthy of a fantasy roster spot. After watching him in week two (4 catches for 136 yards) the answer was yes. However, my opinion has changed this week after Simpson became the target of a federal drug investigation. Authorities allegedly found 8 and half pounds of marijuana inside his house. I can't imagine Simpson playing another down for the Bengals, which is why I'm interested in seeing Cincinnati play this weekend. I want to see if fourth-year WR Andre Caldwell can be a relevant fantasy football wide receiver. Caldwell was buried on the depth chart, but after the Simpson incident and a season-ending knee injury to WR Jordan Shipley, Caldwell is in a position to start opposite A.J. Green. Caldwell caught a touchdown last week and could be a sneaky sleeper in PPR leagues and maybe (deeper) standard leagues. Green, meanwhile, is a star in the making; keep him in your line-up.

2) Cam's quest for 400 (again)
In his first two games as a pro, Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton has thrown for 854 yards. He's also accounted for five touchdowns (3 passing, 2 rushing), but he's 0-2 as a starter. I want to see if the Panthers will alter their game plan this week against the Jacksonville Jaguars to try and take some of the pressure off Newton. After two weeks, only Tom Brady (88), Philip Rivers (88) and Drew Brees (86) have thrown more passes than Newton (83). If Newton is going to throw the ball 40 times a game, the Panthers will lose a lot of games. However, from a fantasy perspective if Carolina continues to be a pass first offense, I will endorse Newton a must-start fantasy quarterback every week.

3) 'The Next DeSean Jackson'
When Detroit Lions WR Titus Young (pictured) made his first NFL catch last Sunday, his Lions teammate Nate Burleson was impressed. Young made five catches for 86 yards in a blowout win over Kansas City, and after the game Burleson compared the Boise State rookie to Philadelphia's all-pro WR DeSean Jackson. Certainly high-praise, especially considering Young has played just one game, but Young does have a great opportunity. Now that he's healthy, he has a chance to be a difference maker on a very good football team. While defenses will be focused on stopping all-pro WR Calvin Johnson, Young should be able to find plenty of single coverage in the slot. Young is another one of those sneaky sleepers in PPR leagues and maybe (deeper) standard leagues. With Minnesota and Dallas on the schedule the next two weeks, we should know soon if Young is worth a roster spot on your fantasy team.

4) Have we seen the last of Antonio Gates?
San Diego Chargers TE Antonio Gates is having serious foot issues (again) and did not practice on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. He's listed as questionable for this Sunday against Kansas City, but I doubt he plays. Last week, Gates played the entire game and failed to register a single catch. My hunch is that foot injury, which forced him to miss six games last season, could spell the end of a pass catching-era in San Diego. I know it sounds grim, but if he's not able to play on Sunday I'd be worried about the rest of his season. If you own Gates, maybe now is the time to trade him to someone who doesn't know any better.

5) Who replaces Jamaal Charles?
The Kansas City Chiefs season is off to a miserable start and losing RB Jamaal Charles to a season-ending ACL injury only makes things worse. The Chiefs now must find a way to replace Charles' offensive output (1,935 total yard and 8 TDs in 2010) and will looks look to three players to try and fill his big shoes. The trio of Thomas Jones, Dexter McCluster and Le'ron McClain will all play a role in replacing Charles. While none of these guys jump off the page, it will be interesting to see how each will be used. I expect McCluster to have the most fantasy impact (especially in PPR) and Jones to be a major fantasy disappointment. I'm not sure Jones has enough left in the tank to be fantasy relevant anymore. That brings us to McClain who is an intriguing player to me. He has the size and ability to be an effective short yardage back. Before any of these guys even get a sniff of your starting line-up, first see what happens this week against the San Diego Chargers.

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