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The Awesemo NFL Fantasy Matchups Column with Adam Pfeifer: Game by Game Week 3 Breakdown (FREE)

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Fantasy rosters needed protective spray because players were bit hard by the injury bug in Week 2. Multiple starting quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers all suffered injuries this past weekend, with a handful of key offensive linemen also going down. As a result, we missed on plenty in this article, but we hit on plenty, as well. Back on the horse. With that in mind, let’s dig into some NFL matchups and NFL game breakdowns for your Week 3 Fantasy Football Lineups.

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This article a beast, so if you’d rather just go one team at a team, we’ve got you covered with links to each team preview below.

NFL Early Slate

Atlanta Falcons at Indianapolis Colts | New York Jets at New England Patriots | Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills | Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles | Oakland Raiders at Minnesota Vikings | Miami Dolphins at Dallas Cowboys | Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs | Denver Broncos at Green Bay Packers

NFL Late Slate

Houston Texans at LA Chargers | New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks | Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals | Pittsburgh Steelers at San Francisco 49ers | New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Cincinnati Bengals @ Buffalo Bills

Total: 42

Line: BUF -5.5

Bengals passing game

The Bengals offense is much more creative under new head coach Zac Taylor and as a result, Andy Dalton has had some strong fantasy numbers. He is currently the QB11 in fantasy, throwing for 729 yards and four touchdowns. Cincinnati’s lack of run game and negative game script has led to Dalton leading the NFL in pass attempts with 94. The Bengals are road dogs here in Buffalo but I don’t see myself going to Dalton this week. In 2018, the Bills allowed 9.2 yards per completion, the lowest mark in the NFL.

Through two weeks this year, Buffalo is coughing up just 7.3 yards per completion, which is easily the lowest mark in the NFL. Noticing a trend here? The Bills don’t give up a lot in the passing game, also surrendering just 4.6 yards per pass attempt which, you guessed it, is the lowest rate in the league. Buffalo has a great combination of talent in the secondary and on the defensive line, making Dalton an easy sit for me and an avoid in DFS contests.

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I was on Tyler Boyd last week so it was good to see him catch 10 balls for 122 yards on Sunday. He failed to score, but he is a lock for double-digit targets until A.J. Green comes back. His slot percentage jumped back up to 65 percent last week, which bodes well for him here, as he’ll avoid Tre’Davious White for the majority of the game. The problem is that his DraftKings price tag of $6,500 didn’t move, making him an okay option but one that likely lacks GPP-winning upside. In seasonal leagues, Boyd remains a high-volume WR3 in PPR formats, though Sirian Neal and Taron Johnson have played well as nickel corners this season.

I told some people to sit John Ross for better options last week and it looked like a great call until he took a pass 66 yards to the house with 40 seconds left in Sunday’s blowout. While that may have been fluky, Ross’ usage certainly isn’t. He saw eight more targets this week and found the end zone again, giving Ross an impressive eight touchdowns during his nine career games played without Green in the lineup. Ross remains the big play threat, handling 40 percent of the Bengals’ air yards through two weeks.

You still want Ross to make the big play but unlike in years past, you aren’t exactly depending on it, as he’s inside the top-10 in targets through two weeks. Ross will see plenty of Tre White in this game, who wasn’t fantastic last week but is fast and physical. This clearly isn’t the best matchup, as Buffalo has allowed just two 20-yard passing plays so far this season and zero such plays of 40 yards or more. Finally, Tyler Eifert found the end zone last week but is still playing fewer snaps than C.J. Uzomah, making both tight ends easy avoids going forward.

Bengals running game

Because Cincinnati has gone so pass-heavy, the running backs have been disappointing in fantasy. Joe Mixon left Week 1’s game early with an ankle injury and after missing a few practice sessions, he suited up in Week 2. He rushed for just 17 yards on 11 carries and was stuffed at the goal line. Mixon has obviously disappointed to start the season, though it clearly isn’t his fault. Assuming he gets full practice this week, I still like him as a mid-range RB2 against a Buffalo defense that funnels touchdowns and production to running backs. They surrendered 92 total yards and a score to Le’Veon Bell in Week 1, while Saquon Barkley rushed for over 100 yards and a touchdown last week. 50 percent of the touchdowns surrendered by this Bills defense last year came via the run, one of the highest rates in football. I think we see the Bengals try to get their running game going and in tournaments, I have some interest in the talented Mixon at just $5,500 on DraftKings.

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Bills passing game

Josh Allen is looking very good.

Sure, he had four turnovers in Week 1 but two of them weren’t on him. He followed that performance with a 253-yard, one-touchdown effort through the air and 21 yards and a score on the ground against the Giants. Allen has now scored six rushing touchdowns over his last six games dating back to last season, while averaging around nine rushing attempts per game during that span. 12 percent of Allen’s 2018 rushes last year were scrambles, but Buffalo is designing more runs for their quarterback in year two. The additions to the receivers and offensive line have been huge for Allen and I think you have to consider him again this week as a top-12 play.

The Bengals just surrendered five passing plays of 30 yards or more last week and have coughed up three passing touchdowns of 40 yards or more already. Cincinnati is allowing 10.3 yards per pass attempt, the third-highest mark in football, while 12 percent of Allen’s pass attempts have traveled 20 yards or more down the field. You should feel great about Allen once again and while his price has jumped up, he is still under $6,000 on DK.

John Brown is a damn good wide receiver and he is making a huge impact on this offense. Brown had another quality game on Sunday, catching seven passes for 72 yards. Through the first two weeks with his new team, Brown has hauled in 14 balls for 195 yards and a touchdown, while seeing a healthy 26 percent of the team’s targets. Brown remains a top-30 wide receiver this week, as the Bengals have allowed both opposing number-one receivers to find the end zone so far this year (Tyler Lockett and Marquise Goodwin). Brown lines up as the right wide receiver for Buffalo, which means he’ll draw coverage from Dre Kirkpatrick, who has allowed eight catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns on 10 targets this season.

It was another solid outing from Cole Beasley, who had 83 yards on four catches. The majority of the damage came on a 51-yard catch and run and he seems to have a decent floor in this offense. The problem is he is priced up to $4,400 on DK, which means he’s priced near guys with just a way higher ceiling. Again, the matchup certainly isn’t terrible but Beasley is someone I probably don’t see myself landing on this weekend.

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Bills running game

I expected the Bills to fully commit to Devin Singletary last week, but it didn’t happen. Instead, Frank Gore paced the team with 19 carries and 40 snaps compared to the rookie’s six carries and 22 snaps. Singletary left the game with a hamstring injury and is questionable to suit up this weekend. If he sits, Gore is the unquestioned lead back in a run-first offense in an elite spot. Gore found the end zone last week and could be in line for 17-20 carries without Singletary. The Bills offensive line has impressed thus far, creating 2.88 yards before contact per rush, the second-highest mark in the league. Cincinnati, meanwhile, was absolutely gashed by the 49ers run game to the tune of 269 yards and two touchdowns. They have now surrendered a whopping five touchdowns to running backs through two weeks of play. Opposing defenses are stacking the box 56 percent of the time against Gore this year, but I don’t care. It isn’t exciting, but if Gore is the guy, he’s a top-30 running back play this week and a decent cheap option in DFS contests.

If Singletary does play, both are low-end FLEX options, mainly because the Bills won’t commit to Singletary. The big play has been there though, as five of his 10 carries this year have gone for 15 yards or more.

Miami Dolphins @ Dallas Cowboys

Total: 47.5

Line: DAL -21

Dolphins passing game

What are you doing here? Like… you’re not legitimately considering using a Miami quarterback, right? Ryan Fitzpatrick tossed three more interceptions on Sunday, two of which were returned for touchdowns, which ended up breaking the entire slate. Josh Rosen entered the game with about nine minutes left in the fourth quarter and joined the party with a late turnover of his own. The Dolphins are going to have all of the negative game script in the world this season, but you still don’t need to look to either of these passers this week. Or, you know, ever.

Surprise, surprise, the Miami wide receivers leave much to be desired, as well. I guess Preston Williams is somewhat interesting in the deepest of leagues, as he continues to operate as Miami’s number-two receiver with Albert Wilson still recovering from hip and calf injuries that kept him out of practice all last week. He played a career-high 52 snaps last game and DeVante Parker will continue to see the top cornerback from each opposing defense. In this case, Parker would see Byron Jones, who did allow a touchdown in coverage last week, but still makes for a poor matchup.

Dolphins running game

The Dolphins are three-touchdown road underdogs. They are the worst team in the NFL. They are currently averaging 13.5 rushing attempts per game. You are in bad shape if you are relying on a Miami running back for fantasy purposes. Kenyan Drake is pretty clearly the most talented back in this offense, but the Dolphins are tanking, which means they are playing Kalen Ballage enough snaps to take away from Drake. If you drafted Drake this summer, you are praying he gets dealt to a team like the Bucs in the coming weeks.

Cowboys passing game

Dak Prescott and this Dallas passing game look unstoppable right now. New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is implementing more play-action, and when you have arguably the best back in football in your backfield, play-action will work quite a bit. So far this season, Prescott has completed 25-of-27 passes for 333 yards, four touchdowns with a 157.6 QB rating off play-action. He’s been putting on a clinic and it should continue to be a huge part of this offense going forward.

Through two weeks, Prescott has completed 82.3 percent of his passes for 674 yards and seven touchdowns, while leading the NFL in yards per attempt (10.9). And he has run the ball nine times through two games. He is looking like a legitimate top-seven fantasy quarterback and should be viewed as at least that in a home meeting with a Miami defense that has allowed seven passing touchdowns through the first two weeks. Miami also does not generate much of a pass rush, as Tom Brady was under duress on just 16.7 percent of his dropbacks last week, the lowest rate in the league. Meanwhile, only the Giants have rated worse in coverage than the Dolphins this season, according to PFF. Fire up Dak as a top-five quarterback this weekend.

We got word that Michael Gallup will miss the next two-to-four weeks with a knee injury. Because Gallup has emerged as a key cog in this offense, this is huge news. Amari Cooper will obviously see more looks and has found the end zone in each of the first two games. He should be viewed as a top-12 wide receiver but in terms of DFS, I can’t say he’s a must for me, even with Gallup out. Again, the Cowboys are 21-point home favorites and Cooper will likely be shadowed by Xavien Howard, the only notable defender on this team. He’s allowed just three catches for 31 yards in coverage through the first two games. You aren’t benching him, but given the price of him and other elite receivers this weekend, Cooper isn’t my favorite option.

So who benefits from Gallup’s absence? Well, Randall Cobb will continue to line up out of the slot, where he has been 87.8 percent of the time through two weeks. He could certainly see a few more targets, making him worth a look in deeper PPR leagues. His floor hasn’t been awful during the first two games but Prescott still spreads the ball around so much. Perhaps Devin Smith could be a viable Week 3 punt? He is only $3,400 on DraftKings and is coming off a game where he caught all three of his targets for 74 yards and a 51-yard touchdown. Smith already saw an uptick in snaps last week and that number likely climbs even higher with Gallup out of the lineup. If he played 21 snaps (12 out wide, 6 in the slot) with Gallup active, he could easily get to the 30-range, which is enough for GPP consideration as a salary saver, mainly because he’s facing the gift that keeps on giving in the Dolphins.

Jason Witten has now scored in both of his first two games this season, but if he doesn’t score, he’s giving you nothing. With all of the tight end injuries and busts, I won’t fault you if you stream him in seasonal leagues this week. However, I am not paying $3,700 for Witten this weekend. I am sorry, just can’t do it.

Cowboys running game

After being limited a bit in Week 1, Ezekiel Elliott returned to his workhorse role in Week 2, carrying the ball 23 times for 111 yards and a touchdown. He played 76 percent of the snaps, while backup Tony Pollard, who had a touchdown called back, played just 24 percent. The only negative has been Elliott’s lack of involvement in the passing game, but perhaps he sees more looks with Gallup sidelined. Of course, it isn’t as if you need it if you’re getting 25 carries from arguably the best runner in the NFL. Elliott should be viewed as maybe the top overall play of the week, facing a Miami defense that has allowed four rushing touchdowns through two weeks of play. Opposing offenses are calling run 58.7 percent of the time against the Dolphins thus far, the highest rate in the league. Pencil in Elliott for 20 carries and at least one touchdown with upside for, well, much, much more.

Denver Broncos @ Green Bay Packers

Total: 43

Line: GB -8

Broncos passing game

Joe Flacco’s surface numbers against the Bears weren’t too bad (292 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) but it was not an impressive outing. He averaged an ugly 5.8 yards per attempt in this game and his touchdown didn’t come until there was 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Flacco is now averaging 6.9 yards per attempt through his first two games with the Broncos, the 10th-lowest mark among qualified signal callers. Two big name quarterbacks were lost to injury in Week 2, but you still shouldn’t be relying on Flacco as a fantasy option, especially against an improved Green Bay defense that is coughing up just 5.6 yards per pass attempt thus far, the fifth-lowest mark in the league. Once again, look elsewhere this week.

Somebody told Emmanuel Sanders that his career was over. Somebody lied.

Sanders had an awesome game in Week 2, catching 11 balls for 98 yards and a score against a tough Bears defense. He’s now scored in consecutive games, while seeing 25 percent of the team targets. Given how good he’s looked and how involved he is, $4,800 is too cheap of a price tag for Sanders, who has reestablished himself as a top-30 fantasy wide receiver. The weakest point of Green Bay’s defense is slot corner Tramon Williams, and 41 percent of Sanders’ 2019 targets have come from the slot. I am confident in him and his ability to score a touchdown, as Sanders is currently third in the NFL in red zone targets (7) and tied for second with three end zone targets.

Meanwhile, Courtland Sutton remains the deep threat in this offense, though the Broncos aren’t taking many shots down the field right now. He’s the clear-cut number two, seeing 15 targets through two weeks. In daily, I don’t see how I use him when Sanders is only $300 more. And I think there are better seasonal plays, especially since I definitely don’t love Flacco in this matchup.

Broncos running game

Through two weeks of play, this is how the Denver backfield is shaping out:

Phillip Lindsay:        Royce Freeman: 

Snaps: 72                       Snaps: 71

Carries: 24                     Carries: 21

Catches: 8                     Catches: 6

Yikes. This is essentially a true split, which limits the upside of both players. Freeman has looked better through two weeks, averaging over five yards per carry. And per NFL Next Gen Stats, he has yet to see a stacked box, which tells me that Denver’s scheme has been different this year, especially when Freeman is in the game. Both running backs remain cheap, with Freeman costing more than Lindsay for the first time. As road underdogs, neither back seems optimal, especially because it doesn’t look like one is the passing downs back and one is playing on early downs. Green Bay was just destroyed by Dalvin Cook last week, but two things to note: One, neither Freeman or Lindsay are Dalvin Cook. Two, neither are seeing that type of usage. Now that this backfield is truly a split, both Denver backs are lower-end FLEX options in seasonal formats.

Packers passing game

For the third consecutive week, Aaron Rodgers will be ranked as a back-end QB1 for me. That is not because he’s suddenly bad or anything, but because the matchup isn’t ideal and Green Bay is pounding the run more. As such, Rodgers’ ceiling isn’t quite as high as it once was. Rodgers has thrown 34 and 30 passes through two games and this doesn’t seem like a game where he will have to throw 40 times, either. The Broncos still have a good pass rush and solid secondary, while this game likely isn’t played at the fastest pace. His price is down on DraftKings and he can always throw four touchdown passes, but I like other quarterbacks more this week. The big game is coming but I don’t know if it is in Week 3.

Davante Adams? Still good at football, it seems. After a dud in the opener against Chicago, Adams bounced back right away in Week 2, ripping off a 39-yard catch and run on one of the first plays of the game. He got open at will against Xavier Rhodes, who rarely chased him into the slot, finishing with 106 yards on seven catches. He’s yet to score but you know the touchdowns are coming. Adams will likely be shadowed again, this time by Chris Harris Jr. Interestingly enough, after ranking 20th among corners in slot cover snaps last year (291), Harris has not recorded a single cover snap from the slot thus far in 2019. The Packers will move Adams around a good bit and if Harris isn’t going to travel, this matchup is primed for the All-Pro wideout. Not may receivers have his touchdown upside and on DK, no receiver is priced at $8,000.

After being shut out in Week 1, Geronimo Allison saw five targets on Sunday with a touchdown. He played 45 percent of the snaps, though he still trailed Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Because Allison is lining up out of the slot, this means that Valdes-Scantling will see the most of Harris Jr. I still don’t want to really use any of these secondary receivers, though it was good to see Allison get back to being an integral part of the Green Bay passing attack. Allison is also $5,000 on DK. No thanks. But if he was dropped and you need some wide receiver help, scoop him up.

Foolishly, I bought into Jimmy Graham after he scored in Week 1 and was used more down the field. He followed it with a goose egg against the Vikings. No matter who is there, the Packers just don’t include their tight ends in the offense very much. Graham dominated the snaps, playing 72 percent of them, but he is hard to rely on and was actually priced up for Week 3. I don’t really get it.

Packers running game

During the second quarter of Sunday’s game, I tweeted that Aaron Jones is not an every-down back. He responded by carrying the ball 23 times for 116 yards and a touchdown against a very good Minnesota front seven. Jones showcased his fantastic vision, finding the right holes and bursting through them. Playing in a Rodgers-led offense is good for running backs, as Jones saw eight men in the box on just 13.5 percent of his carries in 2018. Through two weeks in 2019, that number is just over 19 percent. So it is higher, but still nothing crazy.

Jamaal Williams will still take six to 10 touches and passing down work from him because the team values his pass-blocking so much. But Green Bay has never appeared to be a “win by defense and running the football” team in Rodgers’ tenure and when they can, they have no issues giving the ball to Jones 20 times. This was great to see and Jones still had six targets. As a home favorite, Jones is a very strong option at just $6,100 and is back in that RB2 consideration.

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