The Waiver Wire Wizard Week 3 2021
I hate injuries.
Can I just get that out of the way before I dive into writing this article? Ugh. Week 2 was an utter disaster for the majority of Fantasy Football players, between stars in juicy matchups underperforming and starters going down with injuries. Some would argue that a litany of injuries across the league would make this column easier to write, for pickup purposes - everything is rather straightforward. Though true, I find it frustrating that the content becomes rather pigeon-holed, rather than free flowing. Alas, it is what it is. Fingers crossed that next week the Fantasy Gods are kinder and spare us their unbridled wrath yet again.
Here are my thoughts on the Week 2 games, coupled with waiver wire recommendations to consider.
(Waiver bids are based upon an assumed $100 FAAB)
Football Team 30, Giants 29
This one hurt to watch as a Giants fan. Going into Thursday Night Football, I was hopeful that Daniel Jones would take a step forward and utilize his athleticism to neutralize the formidable Washington defensive front. To that end? Check! Jones played one of the best games in his career, avoiding any turnovers while rushing for almost 100 yards and a touchdown on RPO plays. Saquon Barkley still isn't 100 percent healthy, but he does represent a prime buy-low candidate for the future. Additional days off prior to Week 3 will aid him greatly. Sterling Shepard continues to ball out, and he clearly represents the top target for Jones currently. I mentioned him last week in the pickups section.
Taylor Heinicke played incredibly well against a top-notch secondary, and he was able to feed Terry McLaurin a bevy of targets (11/107/1). McLaurin is matchup proof, and is really coming into his own as a top-10 wideout in the league. Antonio Gibson was largely ineffective, and surprisingly caught just two passes all game. The Giants made it a point to take him out of the game, and I'm not concerned about his long-term outlook. Fingers crossed J.D. McKissic's usage will decrease moving forward - especially in the two-minute drill.
Waiver Wire Targets: Sterling Shepard needs to be owned in all formats. He's elevated himself to a WR3 for the foreseeable future. If still available, make a healthy investment ($10-15)
Patriots 25, Jets 6
This game was over before it even begun. It isn't any secret that Bill Belichick would make every effort to take away Corey Davis and put pressure on Zach Wilson. Checkmate. Wilson was booed off the field in his first home game after he threw four interceptions. Elijah Moore saw eight targets, catching four passes for 47 yards. Michael Carter and Ty Johnson ended up splitting backfield duties, and both players ran for over 50 yards - more on that down below.
Mac Jones finished with a QBR of just 28.8, and threw for a paltry 186 passing yards. To put it simply, he wasn't needed. New England ran the ball at will on New York, and their defense made this a time of possession game quickly. Damien Harris continues to be the lead back for the Patriots, with Rhamondre Stevenson scratched due a thumb injury. Harris remains a low-end, volume based RB2. Currently all New England receivers should be viewed as desperation plays. This offense only throws the ball when absolutely necessary.
Waiver Wire Targets: Michael Carter is becoming more involved each week, but don't discount Ty Johnson. He's owned in less than 8 percent of leagues, and with one strong showing he could seize additional snaps. Johnson is worth a speculative $1 bid in 14-team or larger leagues.
Bears 20, Bengals 17
Similar to the NE vs. NYJ game above, this was a sloppy game where the best defense took over. On the Cincinnati side, Joe Burrow had a very tough day, tossing three interceptions and barely breaking 200-yards passing. He was under constant duress, leading to a number of mistakes and hurried throws. Joe Mixon was given a heap of opportunities (21 total touches) but converted that into just 71 all-purpose yards. Thankfully, all three Bengals wideouts (Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins and Ja'Marr Chase) had decent days - the connection that Burrow has with Chase is evident, and he has been really strong out of the gate.
Andy Dalton suffered a bone bruise on a play where he scrambled out of bounds. Though he avoided a serious injury, he is expected to miss some time. Conveniently, this allows Chicago to start Justin Fields (who should have all along) instead. Fields isn't as accurate of a passer as Dalton, but he brings upside scrambling the ball. Defenders are likely to use a "spy" player to keep him in the pocket, which may open up running lanes for David Montgomery. Allen Robinson had another quiet game (2/24/1 on just four targets) -he's a trade candidate for me. Better days are ahead.
Waiver Wire Targets: None
Browns 31, Texans 21
Cleveland was able to stave off Houston and avoid going 0-2 to start the 2021 season, though they did have scares along the way. After throwing an interception, Baker Mayfield attempted to make a tackle on safety Justin Reid and injured his non-throwing elbow/shoulder. To make matters worse, top-target Jarvis Landry sustained an MCL injury, and is expected to miss several weeks while recovering. The (hopeful) return of Odell Beckham is beneficial, but another receiver will have to step up opposite OBJ. Nick Chubb continues to be an absolute monster, and his volume will only increase if the passing game fizzles.
Tyrod Taylor was playing lights-out in the early going and I'm not going to lie - it was fun watching Houston be more competitive than the doormat many envisioned. Unfortunately, Taylor suffered a Grade 2 hamstring strain on a scramble, and medical experts are currently estimating his recovery window of at least a month. Rookie Davis Mills will take over behind center, on a short week against a very difficult Carolina Panthers defense. I'd recommend sitting all Texans for Fantasy purposes on Thursday Night.
Waiver Wire Targets: In two-quarterback or Superflex leagues, feel free to toss $5-10 on Davis Mills as a desperation add.
Rams 27, Colts 24
I'm starting to feel like Oprah - "You get an injured quarterback! And YOU get an injured quarterback!" Under constant pressure from Rams defenders, Carson Wentz ended up scrambling for his life multiple times on Sunday. He was knocked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to sprains in both ankles, and his status for Week 3 is a major question mark. Jacob Eason would start in his absence if necessary, though his presence would present a major value hit to all Indianapolis receivers. Look for Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines to shoulder the bulk of touches if Wentz can't go.
Matthew Stafford continues to show his obvious connection with breakfast partner-in-crime Cooper Kupp. Kupp came away with 9 receptions for 163 yards and two touchdowns on 11 targets, and shows no signs of slowing down. Robert Woods continued to play second fiddle, catching five passes for 64 yards on nine targets. I wouldn't sell-low on Woods just yet, since the volume is still going his way at a decent clip. With that in mind I'd drop him from a low-end WR1 to mid-range WR2 though moving forward. Darrell Henderson Jr. was magnificent during the first three quarters (over 80 total yards and a rushing touchdown) but left with a rib cartilage injury. Los Angeles is hopeful to have him back for Week 3.
Waiver Wire Targets: Keep an eye on the practice reports for Henderson. Sony Michel should already be rostered in the vast majority of leagues, but he would be worth a $10-15 bid if Henderson can't go.
Bills 35, Dolphins 0
Welcome to the "not much to write about" game. Buffalo's defense knocked Tua Tagovailoa out of the game early, so Jacoby Brissett was forced to start in his absence. Brissett was both scattershot and inefficient (24/40 passing for just 169 yards), and one has to hope Tagovailoa can play through his bruised ribs and start Week 3. Currently it is described as a "pain management" issue - one bad hit could knock him out early.
Buffalo activated Zack Moss for this game, and he fell back into his goal line and short-yardage role - 8 rush attempts for 26 yards and two touchdowns. Devin Singletary still played in front of him (13 carries for 82 yards and a touchdown), but the presence of Moss greatly caps his upside. Josh Allen continues to look off - he isn't playing at nearly the same MVP level as 2020. Allen remains a must start, but his struggles are beginning to downgrade Stefon Diggs. Allen is a nice buy-low candidate for teams looking to acquire a quarterback.
Waiver Wire Targets: None. I'd rather avoid Jacoby Brissett, even in two-quarterback leagues.
49ers 17, Eagles 11
As exciting and otherworldly as Jalen Hurts was in Week 1, he looked lost and inaccurate against San Francisco. Hurts struggled mightily, completing just 12 passes in the game for 190 yards. Thankfully for Fantasy players, he was still able to rush for 82 yards and a score, somewhat covering his shortcomings. Miles Sanders upside continues to be sapped by Kenneth Gainwell, a fear that many Fantasy players had entering the year. This is quickly approaching a full blown committee situation, forcing Sanders into RB3 territory. Though DeVonta Smith had a quiet game (two receptions for 16 yards on seven targets) I'm not concerned - he still is Philadelphia's top receiver and better days are ahead.
Anyone who dropped 100 percent of their FAAB or burned a high waiver priority on Elijah Mitchell is likely regretting that decision. Mitchell still led the backfield in touches (19), but was inefficient before leaving the game in the second half with a shoulder injury. JaMycal Hasty failed to capitalize on the opportunity, and instead suffered a high-ankle sprain (he's already been ruled out for Week 3). Additionally, Trey Sermon sustained a concussion that will keep him in the league's protocols. Yeesh. After the conclusion of the game, San Francisco signed Jacques Patrick from the Bengals' practice squad, and is in the process of hosting Duke Johnson and Lamar Miller for visits. What a mess. I wouldn't target any of these players, since Jeff Wilson will take over as the starter when he returns in Week 7. George Kittle continues his VERY slow start to the season - I'm concerned about his target share.
Waiver Wire Targets: None
Raiders 26, Steelers 17
I can't emphasize how impressed I've been with Las Vegas to start this season. Derek Carr has been playing out of his mind to start the year, and currently leads the league with 817 passing yards through two games. In a matchup against a very tough Pittsburgh defense where he was missing Josh Jacobs, Carr managed to get rid of the ball quickly and efficiently to Henry Ruggs III (5/113/1), Darren Waller (5/65) and Hunter Renfrow (5/57). Jacobs is currently described as "very questionable" to play Week 3. In his absence Peyton Barber and Kenyon Drake will continue to split duties.
Pittsburgh's ground game was supposed to be rejuvenated after they drafted Najee Harris, but they continue to struggle running the ball. Harris finished with just 38 rushing yards on 10 attempts, but salvaged his day as a receiver, catching five passes for 43 yards and a score. Down nine points on the final play of the game, Ben Roethlisberger opted to pass the ball to Diontae Johnson, who was tackled out of bounds and immediately grabbed his right knee. Owners feared the worst (ACL tear) at first, but reports have since released that he avoided a long-term injury. His status for Week 3 is murky at best. Johnson is a phenomenal talent, but he is very brittle. If he were unable to go, JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington would see a bump in targets.
Waiver Wire Targets: James Washington could be added as a flyer in 14-team leagues for $3
Panthers 26, Saints 7
Wait a second, is Carolina's defense halfway decent again? The Panthers were all over Jameis Winston in Week 2, sacking him four times and picking him off twice. This comes off a strong showing Week 1 against the New York Jets when they sacked Zach Wilson six times and picked him off once. Carolina's DST will be a VERY popular add in Week 3, going against the Houston Texans on a short week with a rookie quarterback. Carolina has reverted back to the Christian McCaffrey show - he finished with an absurd 29 touches for 137 total yards and a touchdown in this contest. His presence has crippled the value of Robby Anderson, who is a FLEX at best. D.J. Moore remains a back-end WR1.
For New Orleans, the only player currently worth starting on the team is Alvin Kamara. I don't trust Winston to be a consistent Fantasy contributor, and the receiving options on the team are either unproven (Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Marquez Callaway) or don't see enough volume (Juwan Johnson, Deonte Harris). This team is currently in trouble, especially if the opposition takes away Kamara.
Waiver Wire Targets: None
Broncos 23, Jaguars 13
It doesn't matter that Teddy Bridgewater is a "game manager" at the position, when this team just keeps winning. Bridgewater's ability to not commit turnovers coupled with Denver's strong defense and stout running game has this team trending upwards, fast. Even without stud receiver Jerry Jeudy, Bridgewater was able to effectively pass the ball to Courtland Sutton (9/159) and Noah Fant (4/33/1). It was very disappointing for Fantasy players who rostered (or worse, started) KJ Hamler - he only caught one pass for five yards on three targets.
Jacksonville dropped another game, and looked poor doing so. Rookie Trevor Lawrence appears lost (14/33 passing for 118 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions) and this running game is doing him no favors. James Robinson barely broke 50 total yards on 14 touches, and all receivers outside of Marvin Jones Jr. did little to nothing. This is a team best avoided for Fantasy purposes.
Waiver Wire Targets: None
Cardinals 34, Vikings 33
Minnesota fans - I feel for you. The Vikings moved the ball effortlessly on Arizona all afternoon, and were in prime position to kick a winning field goal with no time left on the clock - only to have their kicker botch it. Minnesota's offense was humming all afternoon, and effectively moved the ball on the ground with Dalvin Cook (22 rushes for 131 yards) and through the air (K.J. Osborn, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen all had touchdowns). Osborn continues to intrigue me, though I can't imagine this sort of production lasting. Dalvin Cook suffered an ankle sprain at the end of the game, but he should be fine for Week 3.
On the Arizona side - it is safe to say that Kyler Murray is a freak. Good luck trying to stop this offense. Murray threw for 400 yards and three scores through the air, and added another 31 rushing yards and a rushing score for good measure. Rookie wideout Rondale Moore led the team in targets (8) and finished with a 7/114/1 line. The time to buy on him was last week after Christian Kirk had a decent game. It won't be long before Moore is opposite DeAndre Hopkins on every play, with Kirk and A.J. Green fighting for scraps.
Waiver Wire Targets: Moore should be universally owned in all leagues, and warrants a $20-25 bid. K.J. Osborn should be added in 14-team leagues or larger, and warrants a $5-10 bid.
Buccaneers 48, Falcons 25
For most of the game this was a competitive matchup, and at one point in the fourth quarter it even appeared that Atlanta would have a chance to take the lead. Matt Ryan's mishaps in the fourth quarter fizzled away all hopes of an upset, as he threw pick-sixes on consecutive drives. Ryan finished with 46 pass attempts, and will continue to be asked to put the team on his shoulders. Mike Davis looks old and slow in the backfield, and is best used as a receiver in the flat. Cordarrelle Patterson really shined, and even though his rushing numbers (7 carries for 11 yards and a touchdown) were awful, his ability to break tackles in the open field as a receiver is intriguing. Calvin Ridley (7/63/1) and Kyle Pitts (5/73) remain the top passing options.
Ho-hum, another five passing touchdowns for Tom Brady. What else can be said at this point? Tampa Bay will continually post great numbers from two receivers each week (this week it was Mike Evans and Chris Godwin with Antonio Brown being the man out), and Rob Gronkowski (4/39/2) will see a smattering of targets in the red zone. Good luck stopping them. Both Tampa Bay running backs will struggle to get out of FLEX territory, given how much they split snaps.
Waiver Wire Targets: None
Cowboys 20, Chargers 17
This was a very ugly game to watch. Dak Prescott struggled against the Los Angeles cornerbacks, and failed to generate many chunk plays. CeeDee Lamb once again led the team (8/81 on 9 targets) as the main receiving threat - he's firmly passed Amari Cooper in my rest of season rankings. Tony Pollard outplayed Ezekiel Elliott, despite seeing less snaps. It is clear that Dallas is trying to preserve Zeke for the long season, and Pollard is capitalizing on his chances. Pollard should be universally owned as a handcuff, but in shallow leagues he is my top waiver claim if available.
Justin Herbert was the victim of questionable officiating in this game, and he had several plays nullified due to penalties. Still, he was able to get Austin Ekeler involved in the passing game this week (9/61 on 9 targets) while also peppering Keenan Allen (4/108) and Mike Williams (7/91/1). Fantasy players should expect the Chargers to operate as a three-headed hydra of talent moving forward.
Waiver Wire Targets: None
Titans 33, Seahawks 30
What a great game. "King" Derrick Henry stole the show, totaling over 230 yards of offense and three scores on an ABSURD 41 touches. How he is able to withstand that sort of beating every week is mindboggling. Julio Jones had an obvious touchdown overturned for some reason (bad officiating was rampant this week) but thankfully he still finished with six receptions for 128 yards. A.J. Brown was largely held in check, but I'm not concerned at all there.
Russell Wilson targeted each of his top receiving threats 11 times, and ultimately Tyler Lockett (8/178/1) came away with the bigger statistical performance. How Lockett is able to break coverage on broken plays and catch 50-plus yard touchdowns still blows my mind. D.K. Metcalf appeared gimpy at the end of the game, but I haven't seen any news regarding a potential injury. Even though Chris Carson failed to break 3.0 YPC, he found the end zone twice to save his afternoon.
Waiver Wire Targets: It wouldn't hurt to drop a dollar on D'Wayne Eskridge in 14-team or larger leagues, in the event that D.K. Metcalf is actually injured
Ravens 36, Chiefs 35
The marquee matchup of the week delivered on all levels. Lamar Jackson took over the game in the second half with his running ability, racking up 107 rushing yards and two scores on 16 carries. Ty'Son Williams continues to pass my eye test - I really wish that Baltimore would give him more opportunities. Marquise Brown (6/113/1) continues to shine, and is firmly entrenched as a mid-range WR2 in my rankings.
Mahomes is Mahomes. Enough said. In a game where the opposing defense made it a point to remove Tyreek Hill, Mahomes continually found Travis Kelce (7/109/1) and Mecole Hardman (5/55). Hardman has definitely passed DeMarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle as the third receiving option on the team. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is really dropping off a cliff in my weekly projections. Kansas City doesn't script him in as a receiver, which is arguably his best attribute. He will still see the majority of snaps in the backfield ahead of Darrel Williams, but 13-15 carries for around 50 rushing yards is a scary floor. I'm not confident in a major rebound.
Waiver Wire Targets: None
Packers 35, Lions 17
It wasn't difficult to see this game getting out of hand quickly, with Green Bay coming off of an embarrassing loss to New Orleans in Week 1. The fans were back in the stands at Lambeau, and Aaron Rodgers responded with four passing touchdowns (including three to Aaron Jones). Jones added another score on the ground, and is cemented as a matchup-proof RB1. Something odd that I noticed? Of Rodgers 5 incompletions, 4 were to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Every time that Rodgers threw the ball to him, it wasn't remotely catchable. This wasn't to stop Rodgers from giving a patented eye-roll every time, but still. Just something to note.
Detroit led at halftime 17-14, and it appeared that they were in prime position for an upset - then the team completely abandoned the running game and was forced to play catch-up during the fourth quarter. D'Andre Swift looks electric with the ball in his hands, and appears to be the more complete back ahead of Jamaal Williams. T.J. Hockenson (8/66/1) is a stud, but it was Quintez Cephus (4/63/1) who caught my attention. I don't think that he's worth adding as a plug-and-play option, at least not yet.
Waiver Wire Targets: Place Cephus on your watch list in deeper leagues to see if this positive trend continues.
Best of luck to all in Week 3!