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Week 3 Fantasy Faceoffs

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Editor's note: Each week Dave Richard, Jamey Eisenberg and Nathan Zegura will tackle lineup dilemmas that you might be facing. These subjects are derived from discrepancies in Dave's and Jamey's weekly rankings .

Which elite QB would you sit in favor of Cam Newton in Week 3?
Dave Richard You guys already know that Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has the arm and legs to put up big stats and that his matchup against the Jaguars' lowly secondary is very good. You know that he's making the most of his receiving corps and is picking up some bonus passing yardage from dump-offs to his running backs. These are things Matt Schaub has surprisingly not been doing through the first two weeks of the season. Part of the reason why Schaub hasn't done this is because the Texans' run game has been excellent even with Arian Foster banged up. The Texans' matchup against the Saints screams barnburner, and it wouldn't be a surprise if Schaub did well. Look, both guys are worth starting, but if they're both guaranteed to get, say, 20 Fantasy points, it's a no-brainer that Newton has the upside to get closer to 30 points, which he nearly totaled against the Packers, one of the best defenses in the league, in just his second NFL game last week.
Jamey Eisenberg Are we really hyping a rookie quarterback in just his third NFL start? Have all three of us gone off the deep end, or is Newton really that good? I think you have to look at the quarterback landscape for Fantasy owners and realize that Newton should be considered a No. 1 option this week. And he should perform better than Ben Roethlisberger, who will do plenty of handing off in Indianapolis against a bad Colts defense. Newton has put the Panthers on his shoulders, and he's kept them in games against Arizona on the road for his first NFL start and against an excellent Green Bay defense. This week he has a favorable matchup against Jacksonville, which has allowed four passing touchdowns to Matt Hasselbeck and Mark Sanchez in consecutive weeks. With his rushing ability, Newton should be able to reach at least 20 Fantasy points, and he should do better than Roethlisberger this week.
Nathan Zegura Aaron Rodgers is always a great start, but the Bears do seem to have a formula for slowing him down, so I am actually thinking of going with Newton this week over him in one of my leagues. Newton is getting 50 chances to make plays per game (41.5 pass attempts and nine rushing attempts) and has a 100 percent big game rate after two games. At the goal line, he also leads all quarterbacks with eight chances and three scores, so clearly this is his offense. Newton has a nice matchup against a Jaguars defense that has allowed four passing touchdowns already this year and is giving up a healthy 7.7 yards per attempt. Add in the fact that Blaine Gabbert makes his NFL debut this week and I think Newton will be in favorable situations all game long. Meanwhile, over his last five games against Chicago, Rodgers is averaging just 234 yards passing and one score per game, which is well below his usual output. In the last four meetings, Rodgers does not have a single game with multiple touchdown passes and has been held under 200 yards passing twice. In other words, this may be one of the tougher matchups Rodgers faces all year and while I would consider him a must start every week, if I had either Matthew Stafford against Minnesota or Cam Newton against the Jags, I’d gamble on them this week. I’d also take Newton over Tony Romo, Matt Schaub, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning and Jay Cutler this week.
Which elite TE would you sit in favor of Fred Davis in Week 3?
Dave Richard Dallas Clark has been a total disappointment through two games against the Texans and Browns, and now the Steelers will come calling to Lucas Oil Stadium. Pittsburgh's defense should have its way with an overmatched Indianapolis offensive line and get in the face of quarterback Kerry Collins. That will make it hard for him to throw pretty much anything beyond quick screen passes to Clark. I like that Clark has been targeted 13 times through two games, but the 71 yards and one garbage-time touchdown to show for it doesn't raise eyebrows. And get this: Davis has just as many targets with twice as many receiving yards (11-191-1). The Steelers' secondary isn't the best in the league, but they are way better than what Davis will go up against in Dallas on Monday.
Jamey Eisenberg Heading into Week 3, the Top 7 tight ends based on Fantasy points in a standard league are Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Dustin Keller, Tony Gonzalez, Scott Chandler, Fred Davis and Jeff King. You have to look way down the list to find Vernon Davis, who has just five Fantasy points right now, which trails the No. 2 tight end on his own team in Delanie Walker, who has nine points. Alex Smith can't get his Davis involved in the offense, but Rex Grossman sure knows how to use his Davis. Fred Davis has clearly moved past Chris Cooley as the No. 1 tight end for the Redskins. In Week 3, he has a tremendous matchup at Dallas, which has allowed two tight ends to score in Keller and Walker. Davis has developed a tremendous rapport with Grossman, and he should be started in all leagues while he's playing at this level.
Nathan Zegura Dallas Clark is struggling along with the rest of the Colts without Peyton Manning and has just eight catches for 71 yards and a touchdown in two games thus far. I do not like the fact that Clark is averaging just 5.5 yards per target and 8.9 yards per catch with Kerry Collins under center. The Colts have a tough matchup with the Steelers and you have to wonder if Collins will have enough time to complete his windup and make any plays down the field. Fred Davis, on the other hand, is averaging a tight end best 14.7 yards per target and is second at 17.4 yards per catch. He has seen the same 13 targets as Clark, but has 191 yards (second at the position) and one touchdown. Add in the fact that Davis will get to victimize a Cowboys pass defense that has given up 37 passing scores in their last 18 games -- most in the NFL -- and Davis is a great play in Week 3.
You can only start one: Ryan Mathews or Mike Tolbert?
Dave Richard I love both running backs in this game. Not like -- love. The Chiefs run defense has been Colts-like so far this season and with no end in sight, the Chargers can order a double-dose of rushing. And not only are both of these guys great at running the ball, they're both in the Top 5 in targets among running backs (Tolbert has 18, Mathews has 14). Tolbert owns the goal line, so I can see why some people might favor him over Mathews, but if you expect both running backs to score then you might want to take the back with more carries and a better rushing average (Mathews is running at a 4.5 yards per average clip while Tolbert is only at 2.1) and receiving average (13.5 for Mathews, 7.7 for Tolbert). In closing, I'm not sure if there's a winner or a loser to this topic, but I'd bank on Mathews to be slightly better than Tolbert in Fantasy play.
Jamey Eisenberg I'd love to start both Chargers running backs, and I'm going to make a case for doing just that in Start ‘Em and Sit ‘Em this week. But if I have to choose one I'm still standing behind Tolbert. He is going to be on the field more in passing situations, and he's going to work at the goal line. The Chargers should be able to do whatever they want against a bad Kansas City defense this week, and both running backs should be productive. But I still expect Tolbert to have more receptions, score more touchdowns and be the one closing out the game in the fourth quarter. As long as he isn't dealing with fumble issues, he will have more Fantasy value. Again, you can start Mathews this week also since he should do enough damage to be a stellar Fantasy option. He just won't be better than Tolbert.
Nathan Zegura Ryan Mathews is the one Charger runner I would go with this week against the Chiefs, but make no mistake about it, both Mathews and Mike Tolbert are top 15 options for me this week. Mathews is averaging 122 total yards per game and has been far more efficient with his touches than Tolbert. Mathews is averaging 4.5 yards per carry compared to 2.1 for Tolbert and Mathews is top three at running back with his 13.5 yards per catch, 9.6 yards per target and 135 yards receiving. To make it crystal clear, Mathews has touched the ball 34 times for 244 yards, while Tolbert has 38 touches for 176 yards. Yes, Tolbert will likely score in this game, but Mathews can too as he leads the NFL in rushing scores of five or more yards over the last 18 games. I love his increased involvement in the passing game and he is the safer yardage play for me, which is why he gets the nod.
You can only start one: Ryan Fitzpatrick or Kevin Kolb?
Dave Richard Ryan Fitzpatrick would be the hottest rags-to-riches quarterback in Fantasy Football if not for Cam Newton and Rex Grossman, but I can't count on him for big stats this week against a defense that has flat-out owned him in the past. He's thrown three touchdowns and six interceptions with two fumbles lost in his past three games against the Patriots. Sure seems like New England has a good way of defending him, and I imagine a lot of that has to do with his offensive line and the Pats pressuring him into mistakes. Chad Henne and Philip Rivers have had success against the Patriots this season, but their O-lines are better and their receiving corps are better (yes, even Miami's). To me, Kolb is safer. He's thrown for at least 250 yards and two scores in each of his two starts and doesn't face a tough matchup in Seattle. This isn't the week to ride the Fitzpatrick bandwagon.
Jamey Eisenberg I like Kolb this week, but Fitzpatrick is playing arguably the biggest game in Buffalo since Jim Kelly was running the "K-Gun" offense in the early '90s. The Bills and Patriots are both 2-0, and a win this week could help Buffalo establish itself as a potential playoff team. The reason for that is Fitzpatrick, who has 472 passing yards, seven touchdowns and one interception in two games and is averaging 30 Fantasy points over that span. New England's secondary is a mess right now with Chad Henne and Philip Rivers combining for 794 passing yards, five total touchdowns and three interceptions in two games. Coach Chan Gailey is trusting Fitzpatrick to make plays, and he's utilizing all his weapons in Steve Johnson, David Nelson and Scott Chandler. This is a good week to consider Fitzpatrick a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback, and I would start him ahead of Kolb.
Nathan Zegura I am sticking with 'The Genius' Ryan Fitzpatrick this week against the Patriots. He has thrown for seven passing touchdowns in the first two games of 2011 and has now tossed 30 scores in his last 15 starts. Those are pretty impressive numbers and I think he will stay hot against a struggling Patriots pass defense. Through two weeks, the Patriots have allowed two passing touchdowns and 397 yards passing per game, second most, with both Philip Rivers and Chad Henne topping 375 yards with multiple scores. The Patriots will put points on the board, so Fitzpatrick will have to throw the ball to keep up and I look for another explosive game from him. Kevin Kolb has a solid matchup with Seattle and is a good play, but I think The Genius will be throwing it a lot more this week and has the better shot at big numbers.
Start or sit James Starks at Chicago?
Dave Richard I have no problems using Starks as a low-end No. 2 running back or a flex option this week. In those roles owners could expect anywhere from seven to 10 Fantasy points and get it. To expect him to play ridiculously well and score -- as he did over 22 carries and 74 yards in last year's NFC title game at Chicago -- seems a little risky. The Bears have yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season and if not for a 53-yard jaunt by Michael Turner in Week 1 would be holding opposing rushers to just 83 yards per game. The Bears typically play the Packers close so the argument that Starks will be used to grind down the clock isn't necessarily a slam-dunk. The Packers have games in the future against the Broncos, Falcons and Rams -- those are the weeks to trust Starks. The matchup at Chicago doesn't exactly paint a rosy picture.
I'd rather start: Ryan Mathews (vs. KC), Ben Tate (at NO), Shonn Greene (at OAK)
Jamey Eisenberg I'm going to roll with Starks until he lets me down, and I don't see any reason for that to happen this week. The Bears defense is solid, but they've already struggled against running backs this season. Michael Turner had 12 Fantasy points against Chicago in Week 1 and Darren Sproles had 12 points also in Week 2. The Bears have had trouble with running backs out of the backfield with Turner, Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers each getting at least three catches for 32 yards in Week 1, and Sproles had eight catches for 43 yards and a touchdown last week. Starks plays on receiving downs for the Packers, and look for Aaron Rodgers to rely on him in all situations. He has 11 Fantasy points in each of his first two games, and I expect him to reach double digits again this week. He should be considered a No. 2 Fantasy running back.
I'm starting Starks over: Cedric Benson (vs. SF), Mark Ingram (vs. HOU) and Willis McGahee (at TEN)
Nathan Zegura You know I am all aboard the James Starks bandwagon and recommended you play him over Chris Johnson last week, but this week against the Bears things could be a lot tougher. That being said, I believe that the Packers staff is smart enough to see that he is averaging 6.8 yards per carry and needs to touch the ball 15-20 times every week, which is why I think Starks is a solid flex play this week. The Bears are one of four teams that have not allowed a rushing touchdown this year, but they are giving up a healthy 5.3 yards per carry, second most in the league. Starks is in at the goal line and is the team's pass catching back (as he showed good receiving skills on his three catches for 30 yards last week) and I think he will catch at least three passes again this week, so his total yardage should be fine. All I ask is that the Packers retire the Fantasy unfriendly John Kuhn fullback dive at the goal line, because if they do Starks will be a top 20 back this year. This is not an ideal matchup for Starks and it carries some risk because he still has not seen 15 touches in a game, but I think he will get to 70 total yards and has a good chance to score, making him a solid flex play.
I'm starting Starks over: Cedric Benson (vs. SF), DeAngelo Williams (vs. JAX), Thomas Jones (at SD)

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard , Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and Nathan at @NathanZeguraTFC .

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Player News
Bears QB Jay Cutler expected back in Chicago with new staff
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:42 am ET) Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is expected to be back in Chicago next season, likely with a new offensive staff, reports CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora on Sunday.

Cutler has accounted for 30 touchdowns and a league-high 24 turnovers for the 5-9 Bears. He has the seventh-best completion percentage (66.1) among all quarterbacks this season. He signed a seven-year, $126 million contract in January and is guaranteed to make $15.5 million next season.


Report: Falcons remain optimistic Julio Jones will play Sunday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:33 am ET) The Falcons remain optimistic that wide receiver Julio Jones will be in the starting lineup Sunday against New Orleans, despite missing another week of practice because of a hip injury, Albert Breer of the NFL Network reports.

Jones ran on Saturday and will test his injured hip hours before kickoff in order to see how it responds. According to Breer, Jones' hip is in "better shape" than last week, and if he warms up without any setbacks, he'll be cleared to play Sunday.

Jones is third among all receivers in receptions (93) and second in receiving yards (1,428) this season. Harry Douglas would get the start if Jones sits out a second straight game.

Atlanta has moved from 6-point to a 6 1/2-point underdog at New Orleans.


Reports: Colts WR T.Y. Hilton a 'long shot' to play Week 16
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:25 am ET) Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who missed a week of practice due to a nagging hamstring injury, appears to be a "long shot" to play Week 16 against the Cowboys, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. Hilton will test his injured hamstring during warmups, but will only play if he's at 100 percent and "can be himself," coach Chuck Pagano told Ed Werder of ESPN.

Hilton is tied for ninth in receptions (82) and fourth in receiving yards (1,345) this season. If he's unable to play, rookie Donte Moncrief will see a slight increase in playing time.

The Colts remain a 3 1/2-point underdog at Dallas.


Report: Cowboys' DeMarco Murray to play with protective pad Sunday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:17 am ET) Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray is expected to play Sunday against the Colts, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reports.

The plan is for Murray to play with a pad on his surgically-repaired hand, which he debuted during the team's final walkthru on Saturday. The Cowboys remain concerned with how his injury holds up on Sunday, and if they clinch a playoff spot in Week 16, Murray could be a candidate to sit out Week 17 in order to rest his injured hand.

Murray leads the league with 1,687 yards on 351 carries through 14 games, which is the most in franchise history. He also has 54 receptions for 395 yards.

The Cowboys remain a 3 1/2-point home favorite over Indianapolis.


49ers K Phil Dawson scores five points vs. Chargers Week 16
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:14 am ET) 49ers kicker Phil Dawson made five extra points but missed his only field-goal attempt in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Dawson didn't have much of a shot at converting his lone field-goal try, as his team tasked him with attempting to avoid overtime by nailing a 60-yard field goal at the end of regulation. He didn't come close, and the 49ers went on to lose in overtime.

Dawson has made 23 of his 29 attempts this season and is now 5 for 8 from 50 yards or more. He'll square off with the Cardinals in Week 17.


49ers WR Michael Crabtree plays sparingly vs. Chargers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:11 am ET) 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree managed just one catch for five yards in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Crabtree, who was questionable to play Saturday due to a knee injury, remained on the sidelines for large portions of the game, even donning a baseball cap at one point. It appeared he was set to play only in an emergency situation. However, the receiving corps was struck by multiple injuries, leaving the team to turn to Crabtree late, and he recorded his only catch in overtime.

Crabtree will try and heal up in time to serve a larger role in his team's season finale against the Cardinals in Week 17.


49ers WR Anquan Boldin catches seven passes vs. Chargers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:08 am ET) 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin recorded a team-high seven receptions on nine targets for 61 yards in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Boldin managed more than half of the team's receiving production Saturday, as the other San Francisco players combined for only 53 yards on eight receptions, though rookie Bruce Ellington did managed to catch a touchdown.

Boldin had his best performance since a nine-catch, 137-yard breakout in Week 12. He's racked up 81 receptions for 981 yards with four touchdowns going into a Week 17 matchup with the Cardinals, a team for which he played from 2003 to 2009. He'll be looking to secure his seventh career 1,000-yard performance in the season finale.


49ers WR Bruce Ellington scores twice in Week 16 loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:03 am ET) 49ers wide receiver Bruce Ellington tallied three rushing attempts for 12 yards and a touchdown and added an eight-yard touchdown reception in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Ellington scored both of his touchdowns in the second quarter, first hauling in the eight-yard touchdown on a play-action pass for which he was wide open. He then added the rushing touchdown on a jet play on third-and-goal where he took the ball on the move immediately after the snap and found a crease on the right side for the score.

It wasn't all positive for the rookie, as he was ruled out in the second half with a hamstring injury. If he can heal sufficiently during the upcoming week, he'll be in line to face the Cardinals in Week 17.


49ers RB Frank Gore rumbles for 158 yards vs. Chargers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:58 am ET) 49ers running back Frank Gore racked up 26 carries for 158 rushing yards with one touchdown in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Both numbers represent season highs for Gore, who hasn't had a better rushing day since the 2009 season. He set the tone early, shaking off would-be tacklers en route to a 52-yard score less than two minutes into the game. Gore continually proved difficult to tackle, as he would have managed his third 100-yard game of the season even without the long touchdown.

Gore is now up to 962 rushing yards and four rushing scores on 230 carries. He has a reasonable shot at cracking the 1,000-yard mark in his team's Week 17 matchup with the Cardinals.


49ers QB Colin Kaepernick tallies 151 rushing yards vs. Chargers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:54 am ET) 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick completed 15 of his 24 pass attempts for jsut 114 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions but added 151 rushing yards on seven carries in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Kaepernick had little trouble picking up chunks of yards against a defense that seemed adverse to tackling -- the 49ers set a new team record with 355 rushing yards in the game -- but his highlight came on a 90-yard scamper where he went untouched after crossing the line of scrimmage, with the Chargers committing a penalty on the play for good measure.

The rushing touchdown was the first of the season for Kaepernick, and his 151 rushing yards marked a new regular-season high. However, he's also failed to top 175 passing yards in any of his last four games. The 49ers will look to close out the season in strong fashion when they face the Cardinals in Week 17.


 
 
 
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