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Starting Points for Week 3

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One thing is clear as Week 3 approaches, Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton are for real! The two young quarterbacks continued to light up the scoreboard for your teams and both look like every-week starts. For other people you are on the fence about, see below and good luck in Week 3.

Quarterbacks

Get 'em active ...

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Rex Grossman (at Dallas) – The Rexclamation point is off to a fast start in 2011 with 290-plus yards and two scores in each of his first two starts. For his five career starts under Mike Shanahan with the Washington Redskins, Grossman is averaging 290 yards passing with two scores per game. In three of those five games, he has topped 300 yards with multiple scores and he has been over 290 yards with two scores in four out of five. I have been sticking with him so far and I see no reason to change this week when the Redskins travel to Dallas to take on the very generous Cowboys pass defense.

So far, the Boys have battled injuries in their secondary and have allowed the aerial assassins Mark Sanchez and Alex Smith (who did not have Michael Crabtree or Braylon Edwards for most of his game) to combine for 514 yards and four touchdowns against them in the first two weeks of the season. Dallas has now given up 37 passing scores in its last 18 games and Grossman could take that number to 40 in 19. For the third straight week, Grossman finds his way into my top 12 at quarterback and I expect another solid game from the underappreciated King Rex. (Projection Snapshot: 288 yards passing and two TDs)

Ride the pine ...

Jay Cutler (vs. Green Bay) – Blitzing defenses can wreak havoc on the Chicago Bears passing game and we saw that very clearly in Week 2 against the New Orleans Saints. The Saints took advantage of an overmatched offensive line, which will be without first-round pick Gabe Carimi in Week 3, and sacked Cutler six times. He was rushed all day long and completed only 19 of his 45 passes, with 10 of those completions going to running back Matt Forte. Now he will face another pressure-happy team in the Green Bay Packers, a team that Cutler has struggled mightily against of late. In their last five meetings, the Packers have picked off Cutler 10 times and have given up only four passing scores. Cutler has been held to an average of 191 yards and 0.8 touchdowns to go with two picks per game during that span and he was knocked out early the last time these two teams faced each other -- in the 2010 NFC Championship. Green Bay has struggled in the early goings this season, but the Packers know these Bears very well and I expect their best defensive performance yet. With the emergence of so many productive Fantasy quarterbacks like Rex Grossman, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Cam Newton, there is no need to risk starting Cutler (and I am also putting Eli Manning in this category for Week 3) in a less-than-favorable matchup, so I would keep him benched in Week 3. (Projection Snapshot: 218 yards passing and one TD with two interceptions)

Running Backs

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Ryan Mathews (vs. Kansas City) -- I have long been a believer in Ryan Mathews and it sure looks like 2011 will be his breakout season. He has topped 110 total yards in each of the Chargers first two games and should make it three in a row against the reeling Kansas City Chiefs in Week 3. The Chiefs are struggling mightily and have given up 126 yards per game on the ground so far, eighth most after two weeks. They have also allowed three rushing scores and four total running back scores, both tied for second most in the NFL. Mathews himself is averaging 122 total yards per game and has been far more efficient with his touches than Mike Tolbert.

Mathews is averaging 4.5 yards per carry compared to 2.1 for Tolbert and Mathews is in the top three at running back with his 13.5 yards per catch average, 9.6 yards per target average and 135 yards receiving. To make it crystal clear, Mathews has touched the ball 34 times for 244 yards (7.2 yards per touch), while Tolbert has 38 touches for 176 yards (4.6 yards per touch) and just lost a fumble. I love that Mathews continues to prove he can score from deep and he has more rushing scores of 5 or more yards than any back in the NFL over the last 18 games. Norv Turner has been heaping praise on his second-year rusher and look for Mathews to do better than the 71 total yards and a score he had in his last meeting with KC. For the record, I do also love Mike Tolbert this week and he should be started in all formats as well. (Projection Snapshot: 87 yards rushing, one TD; 41 yards receiving)

BenJarvus Green-Ellis (at Buffalo) – Green-Ellis is off to a great start with scores in each of his first two games and I expect him to make it a hat trick in Week 3 against the Buffalo Bills. The Bills were 2010’s worst run defense, giving up 170 yards and 1.1 touchdowns per game and they are not doing much better in 2011. So far, the Bills are giving up 119.5 yards and 1.5 scores per game on the ground at five yards per carry, which is not great considering Kansas City did not even try to run in Week 1. Last week, the Oakland Raiders ran for 131 yards and three touchdowns against the Bills and Green-Ellis will find the end zone as well. With Aaron Hernandez out, the Patriots may go to a more traditional offense and pound the ball with their big bruiser. Last year, Green-Ellis posted a 100 percent consistency rate against the Bills with 98 yards and a score in the first meeting and 107 yards on 19 carries in the second game. Look for another solid double-digit day from Green-Ellis who has multiple score potential against the Bills. (Projection Snapshot: 80 yards rushing, one TD; 8 yards receiving)

Ride the pine ...

DeAngelo Williams (vs. Jacksonville) – The Carolina Panthers are the Cam Newton Show in 2011 and they no longer just turn around and hand the ball off to DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. As a result, Williams has been a huge bust this year and that will continue in Week 2 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, even though it sounds like a favorable matchup at first glance. First of all, in two games that have seen the Panthers put up well over 800 yards of total offense, Williams has touched the ball 22 times for a whopping 72 total yards. He had just five carries for 13 yards last week. Even more disconcerting are the following stats. In his last 13 games, Williams has topped 100 yards or scored only twice. He also has been held under 70 yards rushing and without a score in eight of his last nine games. Finally, Williams does not have a single opportunity in the red zone after two weeks.

That is not good for his Fantasy owners and this Jacksonville team may be a surprisingly good run defense, which further compounds the problem. Yes, the Jags faced a less-than-ready Chris Johnson in Week 1, but last week they were getting destroyed by the Jets and still did not yield anything on the ground. They held Shonn Greene to 49 yards on 16 carries and limited LaDainian Tomlinson to eight yards on six carries. For the year, the Jags are giving up only 72 yards per game (fifth fewest) on only 3.2 yards per carry. It sounds like Williams will need to become a better pass catcher in order to succeed this year, but he has not had a receiving game of 31 yards since October 2009. Add in the fact that Jonathan Stewart just caught eight passes for 100 yards in Week 2 and I am struggling to find anything positive to say about Williams’ current role or his potential production in the near future. Hopefully you have a better option, because you need to sit Williams down in Week 3. (Projection Snapshot: 47 yards rushing)

Cedric Benson (vs. San Francisco) – As ugly as the San Francisco 49ers have been running the ball this year, their defense has been even better stopping it. After finishing in the top eight in every major category against the run a year ago, including yards per game, yards per carry and touchdowns allowed, the Niners are the best run defense in the league after two weeks. So far, the 49ers are allowing a league low 54.5 yards per game, on a league low 2.5 yards per carry, and they have yet to allow a rushing touchdown. The 49ers also boast the league’s longest streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher, which is now at an impressive 24 games. That spells a tough day for Cedric Benson, who does not offer much as a pass catcher and who will need a touchdown to have a solid Fantasy day. Given that the Niners have not allowed a back to reach 50 yards in four straight and have given up only one rushing score during that span, means the odds are not in Benson’s favor this Sunday. Yes, he will get the ball a lot, but the results will not be pretty and I would keep Ced on the bench. (Projection Snapshot: 63 yards rushing)

Wide Receivers

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Get 'em active ...

A.J. Green (vs. San Francisco) – Green certainly showed me something last week as he was the focal point of the Bengals’ passing game against the Denver Broncos. He saw a team high 14 targets and caught 10 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown in that game while fully displaying the ball skills and body control that will make him an elite receiver for many years. Now he gets to face a 49ers team that can stop the run, but can’t stop the pass.

As noted above, the 49ers are No. 1 against the run, but against the pass they are, to quote Charles Barkley, “turrible.” So far San Francisco is allowing 315 yards and 2.5 passing touchdowns per game and those numbers include one game against Tarvaris Jackson. Green should have a field day against the Niners, who just allowed “Stone Cold” Miles Austin to catch nine passes for 143 yards and not one, not two, but three touchdowns. Look for the Bengals to air it out again this week like they did against Denver and I think Green makes for a great third wide receiver for your teams this week. (Projection Snapshot; 83 yards receiving, one TD)

Nate Washington (vs. Denver)Nate Washington is off to a great start in 2011 with 13 catches (tied for 10th) for 166 yards through the first two weeks. He has at least six catches in every game and seems to have already developed a great rapport with Matt Hasselbeck. Washington is catching a career best 72.2 percent of his targets and is averaging a very healthy 9.2 yards per target. With Kenny Britt playing at a ridiculously high level, Washington will have a lot of favorable matchups against single coverage. He had seven catches for 99 yards last week and could best that in Week 3 against the Denver Broncos. The Broncos just gave up 332 yards and two scores to Andy Dalton and the Bengals, who saw their top two receivers both top 100 yards in the game. Look for another strong game from Washington, who is a great third receiver for your teams this week. (Projection Snapshot; 73 yards receiving, one TD)

Ride the pine ...

Eric Decker (at Tennessee) – Decker was a waiver wire wonder this week after his excellent game in Week 2 that saw him grab five of his nine targets for 132 yards and two touchdowns against the Cincinnati Bengals. That production was very impressive, but it happened with Brandon Lloyd out of the lineup and Lloyd is expected back in Week 3. Decker will be starting alongside Lloyd this week with Eddie Royal out due to injury, but even if Decker was the top option for the Denver Broncos I would still sit him against the Tennessee Titans.

Through two games, the Titans are allowing just 186 yards passing per game, third best, and they have given up a league low one passing score. The Titans are also the only team that has yet to allow a touchdown to an opposing receiver and opposing quarterbacks have a 68.5 rating against them, third lowest. I think Decker is going to be a nice sleeper and a spot starter for your teams, but this week I would keep him benched even if he is your new waiver wire acquisition. For the record, I also do not like Dwayne Bowe one bit this week either against the San Diego Chargers. (Projection Snapshot: 46 yards receiving)

Tight Ends

Get 'em active ...

Dustin Keller (at Oakland)Dustin Keller has been Fantasy gold in the first two weeks of the season, posting a 100 percent big game rate as he has topped 60 yards with a score in each game and is coming off of a 101-yard, one-touchdown performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars. This week he will face an Oakland Raiders secondary that gave up a touchdown to Scott Chandler and has allowed 284 yards and two scores passing per game thus far. With Plaxico Burress in the mix, the middle of the field has been more open than ever for Keller, who is putting up great metrics.

So far, he has caught 79 percent of his targets and is averaging a ridiculous 11.5 yards per target. He is becoming a go-to guy for Mark Sanchez and has seen 14 targets through two weeks, tied for fifth among all tight ends. Keller looks ready for a breakout season and if he continues to be effective both between the 20s and in the red zone (he already has two red zone scores on five targets), he will be a top eight Fantasy tight end. Keep Keller in your lineups this week and expect more solid production. (Projection Snapshot: 67 yards receiving, one TD)

Good luck this week, do the stay healthy dance for your players and enjoy the games!

Glossary
Target Conversion Rate or Catch Rate (TCR): The percentage of a player's targets (passes thrown to them) that are converted into receptions. Over 60 percent is excellent, 66 percent is elite and under 52.5 percent is worrisome.
Yards per Target (YPT): A player's receiving yards divided by his targets. In other words, the numbers of yards a team gains on average every time they attempt a pass to a certain player. Over 10 is exceptional, over 8 is solid and 6 or lower is horrendous.
Red Zone Opportunities: A player's total number of pass+rush+targets inside the opponent's 20 yard line
Red Zone TD Rate: The percentage of a player's Red Zone opportunities that result in a TD
Goal Line Opportunities: A player's total number of pass+rush+targets inside the opponent's 5 yard line
Goal Line TD Rate: The percentage of a player's Goal Line opportunities that result in a TD
Consistency Rate: The percentage of quality starts a player gives you out of 16 games. For QBs that is a game with 300+ yards passing OR multiple TDs. For RBs/WRs: A game with 100+ yards rush/rec or a game with a TD. For TEs: A game with 60+ yards receiving or a TD. For a Kicker: A game with multiple FGs.
Big Game Rate: The percentage of dominant starts a player gives you out of 16 games (games missed with injury count as a bad game since they do not help your Fantasy teams). For a QB that is a game with 300+ yards and 2+ TDs or 200+ yards and 3+ TDs. For a RB/WR that is a game with 100+ combined rush/rec yards and a TD or a game with multiple TDs. For a TE that is a game of 60+ yards and a TD, 100+ yards or a game with multiple TDs.

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

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