With three weeks of the NFL season in the books, some teams (and players) are showing their true colors on the field and for their fantasy owners. Other teams (and players) are entering a week where they really need to step up in order to right the course of their season (New England Patriots). After Week 3, no game should be considered a “gimme” (Minnesota, I’m looking at you). Every week in football, nothing is a sure thing, but we sure try to predict it.
While on any given day, a team can beat another team, we are learning more about defenses. However, as injuries pile up (Jimmy Garoppolo) and other players get a chance to play, the makeup of the team changes. Some players are a solid start one week and should be back on the bench the next week.
Please note 5 Up/5 Down is a guide on players that should exceed or fall below their rank this week. This is based on past performance, injury status and matchup. This is not a start/sit column, but rather a guide. You also can see how my Week 3 calls turned out at the bottom.
Teams on bye: Carolina, Washington
Philip Rivers, QB, Los Angeles Chargers
Rivers is ranked No. 4, so it is hard to rank higher than that (especially considering how well the Thursday night quarterbacks played). This rank may be off, but the bottom line is that Rivers should have a great game. He has an excellent matchup against the banged-up San Francisco 49ers defense. Even though he only threw 226 yards in Week 3, he should bounce back this week. In Week 1, Rivers put on a clinic, throwing for 424 yards and three touchdowns. Week 4 may have similar numbers.
Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Based on practice reports, it seems that Fournette will return in Week 4. He suffered a hamstring injury during Week 1 and only played less than half a game. He sat out two weeks, but seemed close each week. The Jaguars face the Jets in Week 4, and this should be a good matchup for Fournette. Carlos Hyde just scored two rushing touchdowns against them in Week 3. Fournette is ranked No. 13 but is a clear RB1.
Kerryon Johnson, RB, Detroit Lions
In Week 3, the Dallas Cowboys let Chris Carson run all over him. Johnson and the Detroit Lions face the Cowboys this week. Johnson is ranked No. 18 this week, but if he can continue to emerge as the top back in Detroit, he should exceed that. He was given 16 carries in Week 3, twice what he had previously. The number of carries should continue to increase, and so should the yards. As the first Lions running back to exceed 100 rushing yards since 2013, the team would be wise to continue to give him the football.
Sterling Shepard, WR, New York Giants
After Evan Engram went down in Week 3, Shepard started getting more looks. He had seven targets and he caught six of them for 80 yards and a touchdown. The Giants face the New Orleans Saints. If the Saints get points on the board, Eli Manning will have to throw the ball. Odell Beckham Jr. faces double coverage, so Manning will be forced to look to Shepard again in Week 4 with Engram out. Shepard is ranked No. 31 but could easily slide into high WR3 territory.
Dallas Goedert, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
Carson Wentz returned in Week 3 and immediately turned to his tight ends. Zach Ertz had a team-high 10 targets and Goedert had seven, the second most on the team. While Goedert is a rookie and will have weeks where he doesn’t make an impact, the fact that he had seven targets (and he caught all seven of them, including a touchdown) means that he is part of the game plan. He’s ranked No. 20 this week, which puts him in the TE2 range. This seems accurate, but even if he has five receptions for 50 yards, those 10 points will likely move him higher than 20th.
Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
At this point, Brady is ranked No. 3 because of his name. It’s certainly not because of his performance so far this season. His Week 1 game was good: 277 yards, three touchdowns, one interception. However, in Week 2, he only had 234 yards and two touchdowns. In Week 3, against a Detroit Lions defense that allowed both Sam Darnold and Jimmy Garoppolo to throw two touchdowns, Brady only managed 133 yards and a touchdown. He should rebound against the Dolphins, but he likely won’t be in the top three, especially after Jared Goff and Kirk Cousins lit it up on Thursday night.
Alex Collins, RB, Baltimore Ravens
While the Pittsburgh defense does allow points through the air, the Steelers have done a decent job against the run. Kareem Hunt scored a touchdown through the air, but not on the ground. Collins isn’t a pass-catching running back (seven receptions so far this season). Collins is ranked No. 17, but if he doesn’t get in the end zone (that work has been going to Buck Allen, although he does have two touchdowns this year), he’s going to finish lower than that.
Marvin Jones, WR, Detroit Lions
The ankle injury that had Jones on the injury report doesn’t seem to be an issue, but the target share is. Golden Tate had eight targets in Week 3 and Kenny Golladay had seven. Jones only had six. He did catch three of them, which included a touchdown, but if he’s the third (or fourth) option in this passing attack, he’s not going to exceed his No. 25 ranking.
Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders
Cooper owners last year knew how inconsistent he was. This year, after Week 1, it seemed like the same pattern would hold true. He had one reception for nine yards in Week 1. The fantasy owners who benched him for Week 2 missed out on 10 receptions for 116 yards. For those that thought the Raiders finally were going to use him and started him in Week 3 were rewarded with two receptions for 17 yards while Jordy Nelson had a 6/173/1 line. Cooper is ranked No. 28 this week, and if the pattern holds, he could exceed that. However, experience shows that he won’t even be a WR3.
O.J. Howard, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
While the tight end landscape is shrinking due to injuries, Howard is a TE1. However, ranking him No. 8 may be a bit high. He and Cameron Brate are both being used in Tampa Bay. In Week 3, Howard had eight targets, while Brate had four. However, Brate was the one with the touchdown. In Week 4, the Bucs face the Chicago Bears. While the Bears have allowed two touchdowns to tight ends this season, their defense is legit and the Bucs may struggle to score points.
Full Disclosure for Week 3:
5 Up (2/5 correct)
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, San Francisco 49ers (Ranked: 7, Actual: 11)
Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals (Ranked: 15, Actual: 9)
Matt Breida, RB, San Francisco 49ers (Ranked: 21, Actual: 20)
Keelan Cole, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (Ranked 32, Actual: outside top 50)
Will Dissly, TE, Seattle Seahawks (Ranked: 21, Actual: outside top 50)
5 Down (4/4 correct)
Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles (Ranked: 16, Actual: 22)
Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings (Ranked: 9, Actual: DNP)
Chris Hogan, WR, New England Patriots (Ranked: 23, Actual: outside top 50)
Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers (Ranked: 13, Actual: outside top 50)
Jimmy Graham, TE, Green Bay Packers (Ranked: 4, Actual: 20)
— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.