Former juggernauts getting shut out and shut down. Upstart teams making strong statements for respectability. A first-round pick traded for another first-round pick, in a shocking early-season move. Yes, it was just another week in the NFL, and as the dust settles from the latest round of upsets and surprises, the fantasy picture is getting a little clearer. Our major takeaways from the week that was:
1. It's good to be a Bronco, unless you're a RB. Ah, how Denver tantalizes us with all sorts of fantasy goodies. It's pretty much a given that Peyton Manning will put up MVP numbers every week, and his targets WRs Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas , and Eric Decker, and TE Julius Thomas, are racking up yards and TDs much like the Cookie Monster scarfing down some chocolate chip treats. But RB Knowshon Moreno, who was a hot waiver pickup last week after 90+ yards and 2 TDs in week 2, was nearly invisible while his stable mate RB Ronnie Hillman got the yards, the TD and the glory in Week 3. Either Hillman are a good risk if you need a bye week fill-in, but depending on who's hot on a given week, definitely stress the word "risk." You could say the same for Green Bay's RB triumvirate of Johnathan Franklin, James Starks and Eddie Lacey, all of whom have had big fantasy days in 2013 -- beware to the one who picks one of these three up, and relies on him every week.
2. The squeaky wheel gets the grease? Pittsburgh WR Antonio Brown made headlines when he confronted offensive coordinator Todd Haley after not getting enough touches the first two weeks. The result? Brown pulled in 196 yards and 2 TD passes to finish up as the week's best fantasy WR. Our nominee for "squeaky wheel" this week is 49er RB Frank Gore, who piled up 70 yards versus the Colts in the first half of last Sunday's loss but only received 3 carries after halftime, leading to a verbal altercation with head coach Jim Harbaugh. With the Niner passing game struggling, we expect Gore to do himself (and his fantasy owners) proud Thursday night against a Ram defense that just surrendered over 200 yards to Dallas RB DeMarco Murray.
3. The Jets? Fantasy football? Really? Yes Virginia, the Jets are a viable fantasy force once again, all seemingly due to new coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and rookie QB Geno Smith. WR Stephen Hill has come up big the last two weeks with over 200 receiving yards, and RB Bilal Powell broke through with his first 100+ rushing game against the Bills last Sunday. With Tennessee, Atlanta and Pittsburgh looming (all three teams far from overpowering on defense), the stage is set for Hill and Powell to keep their mojo working.
Waiver Wire Picks This Week
Miami QB Ryan Tannehill – It's official: the Dolphins are for real. And while Tannehill might not be top-tier fantasy quality, he's shown enough in the first three weeks (827 passing yards, 4 TDs) to be a capable reserve on the bench. The schedule is favorable over the next month as well, with the Dolphins playing second-tier pass defenses. This gives him the edge over Tennessee QB Jake Locker, who has put together some promising performances but faces a very tough road over the next month versus the Jets, Chiefs, Seahawks and 49ers.
New England RB Brandon Bolden – Let's be clear here: Bolden is not a cure-all for what ills your running game, but as the only Patriot RB with decent receiving skills, he's in line to see a lot of targets the rest of the way.
Indianapolis RB Ahmad Bradshaw – Let's face it, this is just a stopgap measure, given that newly acquired RB Trent Richardson will become the #1 RB sooner or later, but Bradshaw's 95-yard, 1-TD effort against San Francisco last week proves there's still some gas in the tank, and with the pitiful Jaguars next on the schedule, he's in line for another decent fantasy week.
Atlanta RB Jason Snelling – The Falcons let another game get away from them, but they may have found a bellcow RB in the process, as headler Stephen Jackson recovers from injury. Snelling piled up 111 total yards and looks to be an every-down threat that the smaller Jacquizz Rodgers isn't equipped to be.
Pittsburgh TE Heath Miller – In limited duty for his first game back since surgery, Miller gained 35 yards. The word is that he'll receive more snaps moving forward, which should return him to his usual position of solid fantasy option.
Philadelphia WR Jason Avant – With starting WR Riley Cooper struggling, Avant stepped up last week with 87 yards and a TD. The Eagles' offense still revolves around Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson, but given how many plays Philly runs per game, Avant will continue getting chances to make an impact.
Kansas City WR Donnie Avery – Avery did his damage on crossing routes against Philadelphia last week, and with another defense coming to town that's weak in the middle zones (the Giants), he should put together another sterling performance.