Matt Savoca’s Fantasy Football Matchups Column returns for Week 3 of the 2021 NFL season. The column will break down key matchups for the most important players each week, helping you prepare for NFL daily fantasy football picks on DraftKings and FanDuel while also providing tips for NFL player prop bettors, and season-long fantasy football setting lineups on Yahoo, ESPN, Sleeper and CBS. Let’s dive into the all of the NFL DFS tips matchups and fantasy football lineup decisions.
Week 3 Daily Fantasy Football Matchups & Player Props
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks vs. Minnesota Vikings
Wilson once again finds himself making the absolute most of the least, stuck in a backwards offense that still ranks fifth in game-adjusted rush rate despite phenomenal play from both star wide receivers, particularly Tyler Lockett, to begin the season. Wilson ranks 27th in pass attempts but first in adjusted yards per attempt and sixth in fantasy points per dropback. He has been particularly effective on passes thrown 20-plus air yards downfield, ranking top five in deep-ball completion percentage. He is absolutely lethal from a clean pocket as well, having connected on 86% of his clean-pocket passes so far this year. And luckily for Wilson, though the Vikings rank fairly high in team defensive pressure rate, this has been mostly situational, as PFF ranks the Vikings as the sixth-worst teams in team pass rush grade. Wilson is no longer rushing the ball with any kind of frequency like he did earlier in his career, lowering his QB1 upside, but Wilson remains one of the highest-probability quarterbacks to throw for four or more touchdowns on the slate.
Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Los Angeles Rams
Brady has stomped two subpar defenses in the opening weeks of the season but faces by far his toughest test in a meeting with the 2-0 Rams this Sunday. Brady is playing some of the best football of his career, ranking fourth in attempts, third in air yards, fifth in yards passing and first in touchdowns. But the Rams defense ranks top 10 in both yards per attempt allowed and points per play allowed and top five in defensive DVOA. Though the Vegas total for this game is enormous, and Tampa Bay is unlikely to disappoint drastically compared to expectations, the risk of this game turning into a defensive battle is not fully encapsulated by the implied totals, and under 55.5 total points is the correct bet in the premier matchup of the week.
Justin Fields, Chicago Bears vs. Cleveland Browns
It has been a tumultuous ride to the correct decision for the Bears, as Matt Nagy’s stubbornness surrounding the development of Fields was negated by an injury to veteran Andy Dalton. Fields was the most accurate quarterback in the entire PFF era based on completion percentage over expectation, an excellent indicator of his future ability to be accurate consistently in the NFL. He also has game-breaking rushing upside and just behind Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson as the fastest players at his position. Starting Fields allows the Bears to open their playbook to more read-option plays, making them even tougher to defend. The Browns defensive line was a liability last season but has ranked top five in yards per carry allowed this season. Their secondary, however, has been their weakness this season, as they rank 24th in yards allowed per attempt. Fields’ yards passing prop line of 220.5 might be even safer than his yards rushing prop line of 43.5.
Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints vs. New England Patriots
It has been an up-and-down start to the football season for Kamara, who began the year with 24 total opportunities, including five carries in the red zone, in an upset win over the Packers. But Week 2 was a different story entirely, and regardless of the quality of the Panthers defense, Kamara’s lack of touches was downright jarring. Kamara has now played on less than 75% of the Saints snaps in both games with Jameis Winston under center, and his 30 total yards are the fewest Kamara has totaled in his career. But even against a solid defensive unit like New England’s, who ranks third in defensive DVOA, this smells like a bounce-back spot for Kamara. New England has sold out to stop the pass in their first two games, ranking second in DVOA against the pass. But against the rush it has been a different story, as they are 10th worst in the NFL. The Saints should pepper Kamara with volume early, which makes Kamara’s yards receiving prop line of 32.5 an easy over bet.
Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs
Ekeler played on just 63% of the Chargers’ snaps in Week 1, possibly due to the fact he was recovering from a preseason hamstring injury, but he still had 15 total touches against a trough Washington defense. But what was most concerning about Ekeler’s Week 1 performance was his lack of usage in the passing game, as Ekeler saw zero targets in a game for the first time since 2018. In Week 2 Ekeler saw nine targets and caught all nine. Even without a major boost in playing time (he played 65% of snaps in Week 2), and fewer carries, Ekeler’s 18 opportunities and 115 total yards are much more in line with expectations. This week he faces a Chiefs defense that ranks dead last in yards per carry allowed and 31st in yards per pass attempt allowed. Ekeler should receive plenty of checkdowns to keep the chains moving in what could easily be the highest-scoring game on the main slate. The Awesemo Props Tool suggests Ekeler has a 55% probability of hitting the over on his reception prop line of 4.5.
Antonio Gibson, Washington Football Team at Buffalo Bills
Gibson proved that his usage might be more game-script dependent than many had hoped this season, playing on just 61% of Washington’s snaps against the Giants a week ago, and he had a massive drop-off in volume compared to Week 1. Gibson saw seven fewer carries and two fewer targets but still managed 73 total yards. Most concerning, however, is Gibson’s usage near the goal line. He has a total of one red-zone touch this season, which, combined with his lack of consistent usage in the passing game, makes Gibson much more difficult to roster in DFS lineups. This week the game script should be more similar to Week 2, as Washington is a touchdown underdog on the road against the Bills. Buffalo has been excellent against opposing rushers to begin the season, bottling up both the Steelers and Dolphins rushing attacks. They rank eighth in yards per carry allowed and second in points per play allowed, indicating this Buffalo unit might be making a move towards elite status. The PFF grades agree, as the Bills are the fourth-best defense in the NFL. Keep Gibson out of DFS lineups but take the over on a fairly soft 60.5 yards rushing prop line.
Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings vs. Seattle Seahawks
Jefferson has not had a spectacular start to his 2021 season from a production standpoint, ranking just inside the top 30 wide receivers in PPR scoring through two weeks. Still, his underlying opportunity metrics look strong, indicating that he continues to be a solid bet in DFS lineups, even if the fantasy production of the Minnesota offense is looking more spread out than last year due to the emergence of K.J. Osborn as an additional option in the passing game. And while Jefferson’s target share ranks outside the top 20, that can be easily explained by an increase in Minnesota’s overall pass attempts to begin the season. He is yet to see fewer than nine looks in a game, and he has claimed nearly 48% of the team’s air yards, helping him rank seventh in weighted opportunity rating. This week he gets a Seattle defense that PFF ranks as a bottom-15 defense in coverage grades and in yards per pass attempt allowed. Week 3 could be the first blowup of the season for Jefferson, and the Awesemo Props Tool suggests taking the over on his 73.5 yards receiving prop, as it has a nearly 55% chance of hitting this weekend.
A.J. Brown and Julio Jones, Tennessee Titans vs. Indianapolis Colts
The 0-2 Colts are dealing with injuries on both sides of the ball and now head to Tennessee to face a Titans offense that seemed to come alive a week ago in an overtime win against the Seahawks. Brown was quiet in Week 2 but still leads Jones in targets, end-zone targets and air yards, meaning it is a bit fluky that he has produced slightly less than Jones through two weeks. Indianapolis has been one of the most disappointing secondaries in the league thus far, ranking 30th in yards per attempt allowed and 27th in points per play allowed, all while ranking league average in yards per rush attempt allowed, meaning a blowup game is slightly more likely to come from the Titans. The Awesemo Props Tool sees both players’ receptions prop lines (5.5 catches for Brown, 4.5 for Jones) as fair.
Marquise Brown, Baltimore Ravens at Detroit Lions
The Ravens are never going to be a pass-heavy offense with Jackson at the helm, but if one player were to get all the opportunity in the offense, then the low-volume nature of the offense would seem to matter. Brown has accounted for nearly 33% of Baltimore’s weighted opportunity, ahead of Sammy Watkins and well ahead of presumed No. 1 option Mark Andrews. There is likely some variance still to come for this Baltimore passing attack, and there will almost certainly be games in the Ravens’ future where Andrews leads the team in targets, but because of the combination of both targets, air yards and end-zone targets, Brown ranks 11th among all wide receivers on the main slate in expected fantasy points. If the Ravens’ passing attack continues to stay efficient, they could even more lethal offensively — they already rank 11th in Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA rankings. And in Week 3 they get the Lions, objectively the worst defense in Football, who rank 32nd in yards per pass attempt allowed and points per play allowed and 31st in PFF’s team defensive grade. Brown (and Watkins) could feast on a secondary devoid of even replacement-level cornerbacks.
Darren Waller, Las Vegas Raiders vs. Miami Dolphins
Waller was the most obvious regression candidate in Week 2 after earning an unsustainably high 26 targets to begin the season en route to the ninth-most yards receiving and second-most PPR fantasy points of any receiver or tight end in the NFL. In Week 2 Waller barely ranked inside the top 50 players in targets and now faces a Miami secondary that has graded as one of the top units in the league. PFF ranks Miami as the No. 1 defense in team coverage grades, and the Dolphins have two cornerbacks and three safeties graded in the top 20 at their position. The Awesemo Player Props Tool suggests Waller has nearly a 60% chance to hit that mark this Sunday.
Noah Fant, Denver Broncos vs. New York Jets
Fant is questionable heading into Week 3, but all indications are that Fant should play a full snap share this Sunday in what should be the third straight winnable matchup for the Broncos. Fant has not seen less than six looks in a game this season, something accomplished by only five other tight ends thus far. And he is clearly a favorite of Teddy Bridgewater’s as Denver gets into the red zone. Fant is tied for third in the NFL in red-zone targets and second among tight ends, and in Week 3 he faces a Jets defense that is no better than average in most statistical categories. They are 13th worst in yards per pass attempt allowed and bottom 15 in points allowed per play, meaning Fant should see his typical opportunities Sunday. The Awesemo sports betting model believes the Broncos will beat the Jets by more than 10.5 points Sunday, making Fant all that much more of a lock.
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