Fantasy Football Week 3: The Walking Injured

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We feel for you, fantasy owners -- if you stumbled out of Week 2's carnage with that glassy, zombified look in your eyes, like the creatures in The Walking Dead, we wouldn't blame you. (Side note: How much fun is it to pretend to be a zombie? That's why those flicks will never go out of style.) With concussions, gruesome injury reports, and the decline of formerly great fantasy talents, it's clear that the NFL has had another paradigm shift.

Or has it?

Take a look at these teams that lost in Week 2 last year: The Ravens, Patriots, Redskins and Broncos. All ended up winning their divisions. So if the dead do indeed walk the Earth, don't be surprised if a team or three who disappointed last Sunday rises Lazarus-like from the ashes to make a serious run at the end of the year. In the interests of the here and now, though, let's run through some potential fantasy winners and losers for Week 3.

NFC Least

Last week it was the AFC North that won the dubious unofficial title of Worst Division in Football, as all four teams went down in their openers. This week the NFC East receives that honor, with all four teams losing in various horrifying degrees. As we sift through the wreckage, there's a couple of bright spots to consider:

Eagles flying high: Sure the Eagles are just 1-1, but that new Chip Kelly offense has been fantasy manna to Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson owners. The question, as always, is will these three injury-prone stars make it all the way through the season? Probably not, but why worry now? Just ride them as long as you can if you have them.

We're behind? Who cares? The Giants and Redskins are both 0-2. Ouch. Nothing to see here, right? Well, check out the Robert Griffin III-Pierre Garcon numbers, or the Eli Manning-Victor Cruz stat lines. Neither team looks like a playoff contender this year, but they're sure putting up some purdy numbers.

Dallas: The New Normal. With their offensive line woes, the Cowboys are 24th in total yards, yet 10th in points. Thank Tony Romo and Dez Bryant for that. We expect a similar up-and-down performance the rest of the season, but as long as Romo and Dez stay upright, this might turn out to be the most consistent team for fantasy in a topsy-tervy division.

Will the Patriots Turn It Around?

(This one goes out to fellow reporter and Patriot fan Kris Osborn. Sorry, Kris, you might not like this.)

Former Patriot receiver Brandon Lloyd announced this week that he's starring in a zombie movie (how's that for tying back to the theme of this column?); his ex-teammates must be feeling pretty zombielike after two shockingly mediocre offensive performances.. Your leading receiver in a game gets only 78 yards, on barely 6 yards a catch? Your QB is slamming his helmet down on the sidelines in frustration while you tear your fantasy hair out in disgust? Green receivers are running wrong routes and making horrible drops? Where are the New England Patriots and what have you done with them? Let's pause and note the fact that the Pats played the Jets in Week 2, a hated division rival who still has a durned good D. Still, the luck of the schedule draw seems to be working against Beantown this year, with the likes of a pretty good Tampa D, the Bengals, Atlanta, Houston and Denver waiting in the wings. If you're hoping on a wing and a prayer that Tom Brady and his cohorts rediscover the magic fantasy touch anytime soon, you may be disappointed.

The RB Runaround

Perhaps no position was harder hit with injury this past week than the RBs. Let's take a look at replacement RBs this week and their chance to make some hay:

James Starks, Green Bay: Starks will see plenty of action on the waiver wire this week due to his 100+ yard rushing day in the wake of Eddie Lacey's concussion. This Sunday sees a much tougher assignment in the form of the Bengal defense, though, and we expect Aaron Rodgers to air it out instead. With the Packers on bye Week 4, chances are Lacey will be reestablished as the starter the following week. Verdict: Stay away.

Bernard Pierce, Baltimore: Pierce has been solid and unspectacular in relief of Ray Rice so far, and with Rice a potential game-time decision, he may not go above his usual numbers. Still, he's been used as a goal-line runner and if you're desperate for RB he's not a bad roll of the dice. Verdict: Good gamble if needed.

Jacquizz Rodgers, Atlanta: It's clearly the Matt Ryan show in Atlanta now, so even though the diminuitive Rodgers gets the start this week in place of injured Stephen Jackson, we can't foresee him having a breakout game. Verdict: Stay away.

Flashes in the Pan?

RB Knowshon Moreno, Denver:  He had two long TD runs against the Giants, but wasn't overly impressive otherwise. Is he worth picking up in your league? His team has the advantage of a relatively easy schedule the rest of the way, and while the Peyton Manning show is the #1 attraction in Denver, he may be establishing himself as a starter.

WR Eddie Royal, San Diego: A portent of things to come or a one-game wonder? Royal had quite the game against a mediocre Eagle D, but can he keep up his production the rest of the way? He also benefits from an easy schedule, but we'd wait one or two more weeks before pulling the trigger.

WR DeAndre Hopkins, Houston: the rookie came through in a big way for the Texans last week (117 yards, 1 TD) and seems to be gaining the confidence of QB Matt Schaub. Wth Johnson nicked up, Hopkins has a chance to take it to the next level the next few weeks, and he'll need to bring his A game with the Seahawks and Niners looking. We like his chances.

TE Coby Fleener, Indianapolis: It took a year, but it looks like Fleener may have had a breakout game last weekend (69 yards, 1 TD). Can he do the same against a Niner team who will be out for blood this Sunday? Not likely, but since TE Dwayne Allen is out the rest of the year, he'll have more chances in the weeks ahead.

Week 3 Pick-ups

QB Terrelle Pryor, Oakland. Once is happenstance, twice is a trend, and Pryor has performed admirably in his first two starts. He's still a work in progress as a passer, but his running ability (162 yards so far) make him a plus player, and a good QB2 for your roster.

RB Fred Jackson, Buffalo. Old Fred was supposedly an afterthought after C.J. Spiller's breakthrough last season, but he has adapted more quickly to the Bills' new offense and is a solid depth add if he's available in your league.

WR Josh Gordon, Cleveland. Remember this guy? We don't blame you if you don't -- he was suspended for the first two games of the season. But now he's back, and with QB Bryan Hoyer likely to start this week, it's worth watching to see how he does in Norv Turner's offense. We're guessing he'll be an underrated fantasy producer.

WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota. After being on the field for a paltry 11 snaps the first two weeks, Minnesota has vowed  to get the explosive first-round talent more playing time. We'll see if the Vikes' money is as good as their mouth, but they could sure use him after some shaky offense so far.

TE Charles Clay, Miami. Dustin Keller's gruesome injury in preseason had many downgrading the Dolphins' prospects at TE this year, but Clay has stepped forward with 163 yards and a TD through two games. With young QB Ryan Tannenhill becoming more comfortable with Mike Sherman's attack, Clay is in line to continue receiving targets.

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