2021 NFL season: Michael F. Florio's Week 3 fantasy football matchups – NFL.com

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Icon Sep 25, 2021

NFL Fantasy Analyst
Every week this article looks at the best and toughest matchups heading into that week to help you best set your fantasy lineups! This will be the final week that includes 2020 data, as after three weeks we will start to have a better feel for current defenses in the NFL.
Daniel Jones vs. Falcons: Danny Dimes is popular in fantasy circles this week and for good reason. Last week he scored nearly 30 fantasy points while rushing for 95 yards and a touchdown. He has lead the Giants in rushing in two straight games, with a touchdown in both. But what I like more so isn’t just that he is running, it’s that the Giants are calling designed runs and when Jones feels pressure, he just takes off. That makes his rushing production more sustainable than say one long run. He has also been taking better care of the ball. But you came to this article for matchup information, and Jones could not have a better matchup. The Falcons have allowed at least 28 fantasy points to both QBs they have faced this season (Jalen Hurts and Tom Brady) and the most fantasy PPG to QBs (23.96) since the start of the 2020 season.
Lamar Jackson at Lions: If you drafted Lamar, you know to start him weekly. He showed up why last week against the Chiefs when he went off for over 32 fantasy points rushing for 107 yards and two scores, while adding 239 passing yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. But he has an even better matchup this week against a Lions team that has allowed the second-most fantasy PPG (23.72) to QBs since the start of last season. Just last week Aaron Rodgers scored over 26 fantasy points against this defense. Lamar could be in for a huge day.
Other favorable QB matchups: Kyler Murray at Jaguars, Teddy Bridgewater vs. Jets, Justin Herbert at Chiefs.
Ty’Son Williams at Lions: Just like this is a good matchup for Lamar Jackson, it is for the Ravens RBs as well. Williams takes on a Lions defense that has allowed the most fantasy PPG since the start of the 2020 season (33.02). In that span they have allowed 35 scrimmage touchdowns to the position, that is 10 more than the next closest team. Plus, just in 2021 alone they have allowed the second-most fantasy PPG to RBs (37.4), including a league-leading six touchdowns. Williams, who has over 90 scrimmage yards in both games this season, should be in for a nice day.
Chase Edmonds/James Conner at Jaguars: In 2021 the Jags have allowed the ninth-most fantasy PPG to RBs (26.85) but that number jumps up to 29.9, the third-most in the NFL, if you include last season. This is a spot where the Cards could be playing with a lead throughout and look to get the RBs more involved. Through two games, Edmonds has played 62 percent of the snaps to Conner’s 43 percent. All of the passing game usage has gone to Edmonds (all nine RB targets), but Conner actually has more carries (24 to 20). Edmonds is the preferred option, but Conner comes in as a flex option.
Other favorable RB matchups: Austin Ekeler at Chiefs, Dalvin Cook vs. Seahawks, Chris Carson at Vikings.
Colts WRs at Titans: The Titans have allowed the most fantasy PPG since 2020, giving up 47.04 per game. That includes a league-high 205.3 receiving yards per game, and 28 touchdowns, which ranks in the top three in the NFL. If you are going by just this season, Tennessee has given up an average of 64.85 fantasy PPG to WRs, by far the most in the league. They have allowed four top 12 fantasy WRs this season and we have only had two games. Carson Wentz’s status (ankles) needs to be monitored closely, but either way there is really just one player to trust here and that is Michael Pittman. He saw 12 targets in a breakout game last week. If Wentz misses time it makes Pittman a little riskier, but he should see safe volume in a game the Colts will need to put up points against the Titans. Pittman saw two targets out of five Jacob Eason pass attempts last week.
Giants WRs vs. Falcons: We are playing Danny Dimes, so you should be interested in his pass catchers as well. In 2021 alone, the Falcons are giving up over 43 fantasy PPG to receivers, including five touchdowns already. If you include 2020 though, they have given up the second-most fantasy PPG to receivers (44.97), including over 200 yards per game. The one Giants receiver you must play is Sterling Shepard, who has been the top target through two weeks. He has seen at least nine targets in each game and topped 90 receiving yards in both. He is a safe WR2 in this great matchup. Kenny Golladay has been anything but great this season, however, this could be a get right game for him. He is a boom-or-bust flex option. Darius Slayton is in play in deeper leagues.
Other favorable WR matchups: Ravens WRs at Lions, Eagles WRs at Cowboys, Seahawks WRs at Vikings, Vikings WRs vs. Seahawks.
Noah Fant vs. Jets: Dating back to last season, the Jets have allowed 16.88 fantasy PPG to tight ends, the most in the NFL. That includes a league-high 66.6 receiving yards per game and 14 touchdowns. Fant has been a consistent part of the Broncos offense, seeing six and eight targets, while topping 12 fantasy points in each game. That is not elite-level tight end production, but after the high-end options, all you are asking for is for consistency. Tight end is as big of a wasteland as ever. If you have Fant you should be starting him and feeling good about it.
Cole Kmet at Browns: The Browns have allowed the third-most fantasy PPG to tight ends since last season at 15.36 per game. They have allowed 5.4 catches per game, 56 yards per game and 12 touchdowns to tight ends in that span. Kmet saw seven targets in Week 1 and looked like his sleeper status would pay off. He followed that up with just one target in Week 2. This week, with Justin Fields starting, all the Bears are a little volatile, but they definitely come with more upside than if Andy Dalton was starting. Kmet is a boom-or-bust tight end, but most are after the top 10 tight ends. Kmet is worth taking a shot on for tight end needy teams.
Other favorable TE matchups: Austin Hooper vs. Bears, Logan Thomas at Bills, Jared Cook at Chiefs.
Tom Brady at Rams: The Rams have allowed just 13.61 fantasy PPG to QBs since last season, the fewest in the NFL. They have also allowed just 18 passing TDs in the last 18 regular season games, with 17 interceptions in that span. Plus, with Aaron Donald rushing, we could see them get a lot of pressure on Brady. This is an interesting game of two high powered offenses, meeting high powered defenses. There is no guarantee the defense wins the battle, but, Brady’s floor is definitely much lower this week than normal.
Joe Burrow at Steelers: Burrow has the tough assignment of facing the Steelers defense this week. Pittsburgh has allowed 14.9 fantasy PPG since 2020. Derek Carr last week was the first QB in over a year to score over 19 fantasy points against them. In that span, only one QB has topped 300 passing yards against them (Carr) and none have thrown for more than two touchdowns. When Burrow scored just 12.5 fantasy points when he played them last season. I would get away from Burrow this week. Pivot to Daniel Jones or Teddy Bridgewater if possible.
Other tough QB matchups: Mac Jones vs. Saints, Jameis Winston at Patriots, Josh Allen vs. Football Team, Matt Ryan at Giants.
Damien Harris/James White vs. Saints: The Saints are the toughest assignment for RBs in the NFL. Since last season RBs are averaging a league low 17.87 fantasy PPG against them, including just 12 scores in those 18 games. They also give up just 75 rushing yards per game to RBs. Christian McCaffrey had a good game against them in Week 2, but he is the best fantasy asset maybe ever. Aaron Jones was limited to under five points in Week 1, and dating back to last year, only two RBs have topped 17 fantasy points against this defense (CMC and Miles Sanders). I would look to get away from these backs if possible. Harris especially worries me because if the Patriots fall behind we know the passing work goes to White. Both are volatile flex options at best this week.
Joe Mixon at Steelers: Mixon has the tough task of going up against the Steelers, who have allowed the fewest fantasy PPG to RBs since 2020 (18.04). Only four RBs have topped 17 fantasy points against them in the last 18 games. Mixon missed the Steelers games last year due to injury, but what bodes well for him is Giovani Bernard did score 22.7 against them in his absence, the second-most any RB has scored against Pittsburgh in that span. Mixon simply sees too much weekly volume to consider sitting, but understand his production could take a hit due to the matchup.
Other tough RB matchups: Devin Singletary vs. Football Team, David Montgomery at Browns, Leonard Fournette/Ronald Jones at Rams.
Buccaneers WRs at Rams: When you saw it was a tough matchup for Brady, you should have figured there was a chance to see the Bucs receivers here. Dating back to last year the Rams are giving up just 28.8 fantasy PPG to receivers, including just eight touchdowns allowed in their last 18 games and a league low 132 yards per game. Last year’s game against the Bucs was one of the rare times when Jalen Ramsey shadowed a receiver, per PFF. That is a big concern for Mike Evans this week, especially if Antonio Brown in COVID-19 protocol. We could see Ramsey move into the slot at times to cover Chris Godwin, but most of the time he would be out-wide. If A.B. sits, I expect to see a lot of Ramsey on Evans. That is concerning too because in Week 1, when Trevon Diggs was covering Evans, Brady showed he is not afraid to just target his other options. This could be more of a Godwin and Rob Gronkowski week again.
Chargers WRs at Chiefs: The Chiefs secondary has been tough dating back to last year, giving up just 30.95 fantasy PPG, the second-fewest in the NFL. So far in 2021, they have been middle of the pack, giving up 35 fantasy PPG to the position, but just one touchdown so far. Despite the tough matchup, the volume that Keenan Allen and Mike Williams see on a weekly basis is too high. This could also turn into a high scoring affair, so you have to roll with the Chargers top two options here.
Other tough WR matchups: Chiefs WRs vs. Chargers, 49ers WRs vs. Packers, Washington WRs at Bills, Saints WRs at Patriots.
Robert Tonyan at 49ers: Big Bob Tonyan faces a 49ers defense that has been notoriously tough against tight ends. They have given up just 8.96 fantasy PPG including only 34 yards per game and five total touchdowns since the start of the 2020 season. While Tonyan is a useful fantasy tight end, he is definitely volatile week to week, depending if he finds the end zone. He is still a TE1 given the landscape of the position, but if you have another close option, go in that direction.
George Kittle vs. Packers: The Packers have allowed 9.72 fantasy PPG to tight ends since last season, including just three touchdowns to the position in that span. But more concerning than any matchup for Kittle is how he has been used so far this season. He has just nine targets and 22 air yards through two games. In Week 2, he had -6 air yards, meaning all his targets are behind the line of scrimmage. I get he is a YAC monster, but let this man run downfield a little bit. Kittle is too good to ever sit, and a breakout game is possible, but you can definitely feel a little worried. We will have to monitor his usage this week very closely.
Other tough TE matchups: Adam Trautman /Juwan Johnson at Patriots, Anthony Firkser vs. Colts, Darren Waller vs. Dolphins.
Notable Receivers with the Best WR/CB Matchups (per PFF)
Notable Receivers with the Toughest WR/CB Matchup (per PFF)
You can follow Michael F. Florio on Twitter and Instagram, @MichaelFFlorio.
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