Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet: All you need to know to win in Week 3

  • Fantasy football, baseball and college basketball contributor.
  • Author of book, “Yes, It’s Hot in Here.”

So much changes from week to week around the NFL, and we’re here to make sure you’re on top of it all heading into Week 3 of the 2022 NFL season.

The weekly fantasy football cheat sheet provides a rundown of the best tips from all of the fantasy football content that ESPN has posted over the past seven days. You’ll find answers to the biggest start/sit questions of the week and other pertinent matchup advice from our team, including Field Yates, Mike Clay, Eric Karabell, Tristan H. Cockcroft, Matt Bowen, Seth Walder, Al Zeidenfeld, Eric Moody, Liz Loza, Daniel Dopp and ESPN Insiders Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano, plus all of NFL Nation. It’s all the best advice in one handy article.

Here’s what our experts are saying about Week 3 in the NFL:

Are any of these unexpected starts for real?

There have been plenty of early surprises so far in the 2022 season, and while some of them might well prove to be flashes in the pan as the sample size continues to grow, a few of these notable trends could indeed be the start of something fantasy managers can truly rely upon for the rest of the season. With that in mind, NFL Nation turned its collective eye this week toward determining what’s real and what’s simply a mirage.

  • Richie James, New York Giants: James currently leads the Giants with 10 catches and 110 yards. It’s quite the revelation considering he seemed to be on the roster bubble throughout the summer. But James has quickly become a favorite of quarterback Daniel Jones. It’s just hard to imagine this continuing throughout the season. Kadarius Toney played a bigger role in Week 2, and rookie Wan’Dale Robinson (knee) should be back within the next couple of weeks. Robinson’s return should cut into James’ opportunities, even if it won’t completely cut him out of the rotation. — Jordan Raanan

  • The Detroit Lions’ offense: With offensive coordinator Ben Johnson calling plays, this Lions offense is explosive and creative. Quarterback Jared Goff has plenty of big-play options in running back D’Andre Swift, wide receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown and DJ Chark and tight end T.J. Hockenson. Detroit led 22-0 in the second quarter of its 36-27 win over Washington this past Sunday and put up 35 points in the season opener against Philadelphia. … There’s no reason the Lions can’t keep scoring points if their top guys stay healthy. — Eric Woodyard

  • The Seattle Seahawks’ offense: The Seahawks’ only points in Sunday’s loss to the 49ers came via a blocked field goal that they returned for a touchdown, which means their offense has been shut out since the second quarter of their opener. Sure, no one thought they’d be the Greatest Show on Turf with Geno Smith replacing Russell Wilson at quarterback. But even with his limitations, Smith is capable and has strong players around him. Seattle’s brilliant first half against Denver isn’t going to be the norm, but the Seahawks have enough to be much better than what they’ve shown since then. — Brady Henderson

  • The Baltimore Ravens’ defense: The Ravens have allowed a league-worst 758 yards passing this season after finishing last in pass defense last year. So there is a troubling trend. But Baltimore hasn’t played a full game with its top two cornerbacks on the field because of injuries. There have been a lot of growing pains with rookie defensive backs Kyle Hamilton, Jalyn Armour-Davis and Damarion Williams. If Marlon Humphrey (groin) and Marcus Peters (knee) get healthier, the Ravens will cause problems for quarterbacks. But two big tests lie ahead in October: Josh Allen and Joe Burrow. — Jamison Hensley

  • Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins: He might not finish this season as the NFL’s leading passer, but the Dolphins’ ability to move the ball through the air is legitimate. Receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle will each finish the year with more than 1,000 yards receiving if they stay healthy, and Tagovailoa proved in Week 2 he can command this Mike McDaniel-led offense. It’s a new day in South Florida. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Don’t go all-in on Dolphins just yet

Let’s stay in Miami for a moment. Yes, what Tua Tagovailoa did in Week 2 was certainly impressive, and few fantasy analysts are talking about “selling high” on the Dolphins quarterback because the long-term prospects do seem to be quite bright. That said, week-to-week variance and playing the matchup game is something good fantasy football managers have to consider and, in that regard, there seems to be a lot of support for sitting Tagovailoa for Week 3’s game against the Bills.

  • As Tristan H. Cockcroft points out, while we’d love to see a repeat of Week 2’s fireworks against Buffalo, recent history should take a back seat to a longer-term history of results: “While the 52-point total, second-highest for the week, seems to back it up, have we considered that the Bills might absorb a good chunk of that number? Tagovailoa’s interest in airing it out is admirable, but both for our purposes as well as the fun of football watching, this isn’t a good matchup for a quarterback with an 18.3% off-target rate (17.1% league average). The Bills have thoroughly embarrassed their first two quarterback opponents, a trend that extends from last season when it pertains to the position’s non-elite. In fact, Tagovailoa totaled only 15.72 fantasy points on 71 snaps played in his two games against the Bills last season.”

  • Matt Bowen has checked the tape and thinks the Ravens have to take some of the “credit” for how well Miami’s QB performed in Week 2: “But a deeper look at the tape shows multiple coverage busts and overall poor defensive structure from that Ravens unit. You can’t give up free shots over the top. For me, Tagovailoa is still a QB2 who will elevate — or decline — based on the weekly matchup. And this week versus the Bills, the league’s most fundamentally sound defense, is not the best spot for him and the Miami pass game. There are better matchups available in Week 3 for Joe Burrow, Matthew Stafford and Kirk Cousins based on my rankings.”

  • And, as Mike Clay’s projections seem to indicate, the Bills’ defense is not nearly as vulnerable to errors the way Baltimore’s was in Week 2: “Tagovailoa is off to an outstanding start, but he has a much tougher matchup against Buffalo this week. The Bills held Stafford and Ryan Tannehill to a combined one TD pass, five INTs and league-low 8.5 fantasy points. Consider Tagovailoa as only a fringe QB1 (in Week 3).”

Looking for the latest injury news leading up to kickoff? Check out all of the Week 3 inactives here.

Benching Brady and the Bucs?

I believe it was Chaucer who first posited that “all good things must come to an end,” but even if I’m mistaken about the true literary origins of the phrase, the fact remains that even a GOAT eventually becomes a fantasy goat at some point. Have we finally reached that “end” for Tom Brady and, if so, how does that impact the rest of the offensive pieces on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

  • Through two games, Brady has a paltry 402 passing yards, while completing just 59.0% of his passes. It’s extremely early, but that would be the lowest completion percentage in his career. Multiply that by the fact that Mike Evans (suspension) is out for Week 3, while we don’t know the status of Chris Godwin (hamstring) or Julio Jones (knee) yet (or left tackle Donovan Smith, for that matter), and Brady is outside my top 10 quarterbacks for the week. … And while the Packers were thumped by the Vikings in Week 1, their defense is good enough to dissuade me from starting Brady.— Yates

  • Meanwhile, Mike Clay says to downgrade Breshad Perriman and Russell Gage against Green Bay’s Jaire Alexander, Rasul Douglas and Eric Stokes: “With Evans and perhaps Godwin and Jones sidelined this week, the Bucs are already short-handed at receiver. That is far from ideal against a terrific Packers secondary that has allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to receivers so far this season.”

  • Not all of the Bucs buzz is negative, though. Al Zeidenfeld happens to like the looks of Leonard Fournette for Week 3: “Over the last two seasons, there have only been three instances where a player has opened the season with 20 carries and multiple receptions in both of his first two games. Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey did it last year. Fournette is the only player to check both boxes in 2022. The matchup is fine, with the Packers allowing over 3.0 yards per carry to running backs, both before and after first contact.”

Should you be leaving Las Vegas out of lineups?

The Las Vegas Raiders sit at 0-2 and in the cellar of the AFC West. Their remaining strength of schedule is currently projected to be the eighth toughest in the NFL. What should fantasy managers do with any Raiders they have on their rosters? Is there a silver (and black) lining to be found in what has been a very cloudy start to 2022? Our experts seem to think so.

  • Josh Jacobs still has value as a lower-tier RB2 this Sunday in Tennessee. That matchup is pretty solid against a Titans defense allowing 6.05 yards per carry. But I’ve had a tough time ranking Jacobs this season. He gives you very little in the pass game (two receptions on the season) and he’s yet to score more than 10 PPR points in a game. You are simply betting on more steady rushing volume and low red zone/goal line carries in this one. He’s a touchdown-dependent back with more upside in non-PPR leagues. — Bowen

  • Derek Carr was 20th (through Sunday) in fantasy QB scoring in Week 1 as (other than Davante Adams) the Raiders’ aerial attack didn’t look as if it has hit its stride yet. But I watched the Cardinals try in vain to stop Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs on Sunday, and while Carr is no Mahomes, I don’t see how Arizona puts up much resistance against a Raiders team looking to get on track. If you waited until late in your draft and got Carr as your starting QB, or if you play in a two-QB league and were counting on him, don’t despair just yet. A big year is still in store for Carr and his pass-catchers. — Graziano

  • The Titans’ defense had a rough go against the Bills on Monday evening and has now allowed the most fantasy points to perimeter receivers through two weeks of play. The Titans have also allowed the fifth-most fantasy points overall to receivers (second most over expected). … Mack Hollins is coming off a strong Week 2 showing and is a deep sleeper. — Clay

  • Hunter Renfrow did not practice on Thursday (and) also missed practice Wednesday. Hollins would replace him in the starting lineup if he can’t play against the Titans in Week 3. Hollins had eight targets last week, and if Renfrow is out, he could replicate that against the Titans, though Darren Waller and Adams will be the primary participants in the passing game. — Moody

Quick hits, starts and sits

  • The tape on Jalen Hurts in Week 2 is as good as it gets. He made throws inside and outside of structure. He created as a runner. Plus, his ability to isolate targets both pre- and post-snap jumps off the screen. Hurts has posted at least 24 fantasy points in both starts this season. Lock him in as a top-five QB play. — Bowen

  • CeeDee Lamb’s start has been OK, especially in the context of playing without Dak Prescott now, but here’s one reason for optimism: changes to his route profile. The big upgrade here? Deep outs: Lamb’s 10% deep out rate is the fourth highest among wideouts this season and a huge uptick from the 4% he ran last year. It’s a good thing for a route that’s one of the most efficient in terms of yards per route run. Plus — you guessed it — he’s running fewer deep fades and gos. — Walder

  • Tyler Higbee has played a position-leading 95.3% of the Rams’ offensive snaps, paces his position with 20 targets, has the second-most red zone targets (4) and has run 71 routes. Higbee is getting a ton of work, and since defenses tend to focus on the Rams’ wide receivers, he might continue to see coverage by the Cardinals’ linebackers, a position that has been a weak spot so far this season. — Cockcroft

  • Jeff Wilson Jr. establishes himself as a valuable RB2 or flex option. Elijah Mitchell’s injury elevates Wilson to the top of the 49ers’ depth chart, which is always a good place to be for easy rushing yards. QB Trey Lance and WR Deebo Samuel combined for 21 carries in Chicago. Gotta think Wilson absorbs some of that workload against Seattle. — Fowler

  • Kyle Pitts is incredibly talented, and he was unlucky to score only one touchdown last season. He had more receiving yards than all but 23 players. Bet on talent, we tend to say. The Falcons seem to be curiously ignoring that talent, but we remain confident things will work out. If they don’t work out this week, then, well, just blame the Falcons, not us. — Karabell

  • Allen Robinson II isn’t a star-caliber starter, but it was heartening to see him receive an uptick in targets. The man is recording a 90% snap share and running close to 35 routes per game. He also has drawn red zone looks in each contest. Let him get a few more brunches at the SoHo House under his belt and he’ll start to ROI with WR2 production. That said, his Week 3 matchup against Byron Murphy Jr. is less than inviting so I’m ranking him outside of my top 30 this Sunday. — Loza

  • Nico Collins has caught just six of 12 targets from Houston Texans quarterback Davis Mills through two games. However, in last week’s loss in Denver, Collins had two receptions of 20-plus yards against zone coverage. He caught a deep, dig ball to the middle of the field and a corner route against Cover 2. These are schemed plays to find open gaps against zone — and that’s exactly what Houston will see from the Bears’ defense on Sunday. Collins has more upside in non-PPR formats until we see a jump in volume. — Bowen

  • I like JuJu Smith-Schuster to go OVER 4.5 receptions (-151) and OVER 49.5 receiving yards (-119). 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). — Loza

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