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Brain games: Josh Jacobs is set for liftoff, Matthew Stafford is ‘quietly good again’ and more

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Just like that, we are in the thick of it. Injuries are piling up, rookies are emerging, pumpkin spice has taken over and, so far, I’ve resisted buying any Halloween candy because IT’S STILL SUMMER! There’s a metaphor here about people pushing things on us before we’re ready, like terrible trade offers for Ja’Marr Chase or inducting Puka Nacua into the Hall of Fame. Too soon, folks.

One of the hardest things to deal with — for me and I think a lot of other humans — is the not knowing. We think about a question or decision and are forced to admit that we don’t know. Those three words — “I don’t know” — are harder than “I love you” or “I’m really sorry” for people who pride themselves on being right most of the time. So today I want to wallow briefly in the uncertainty of teams that have shown us two very different sides in two games.

Daniel Jones can stand in for the entire New York Giants organization as he, like his team, was a zero for the first six NFL quarters of 2023. Then the greatest halftime speech of all time (?), or something, turned him into the single best fantasy hero at any position in Week 2. He passed, he ran, he scored three total touchdowns in the second half in Arizona. He earned back some of the faith we had lost in him, and the Giants overall, after the dismal Week 1 home loss to Dallas.

So, which Danny is the real one? Uncertainty abounds, especially with Saquon Barkley out for a while and a road trip to San Francisco this Thursday night. Tentatively, I believe we’ll see more of the good Jones going forward, since I truly believe in Brian Daboll and the receiving talent on this roster. Jones getting it going with his legs was huge for his success in Week 2, and something to prioritize going forward. That said, my expectations are very low for Jones and Co. in a short Week 3 on the West Coast without Barkley.

The Jacksonville Jaguars boast one of the most all-around talented rosters in the league. Trevor Lawrence was supposed to take a huge step forward in passing accuracy while still offering the bonus of some rushing ability. Calvin Ridley’s return to the game was nothing short of amazing in Week 1, while Christian Kirk dominated the Jaguars’ offensive plan in Week 2. Sometimes all that talent produces volatility for fantasy. Rarely can everyone in the same offense be great every week. In fact, the Jaguars looked very much the part of a team to be reckoned with after scoring 31 points in Week 1, but were completely stymied by the Chiefs in Week 2 (three field goals). On the bright side, Evan Engram and Travis Etienne are steady in terms of volume, although Etienne is clearly subject to some game script-dependent usage. The Jaguars WRs, including Zay Jones, project as boom-or-bust fantasy fliers. You’ll have to figure out, considering your opponent, if your fantasy lineup can withstand a zero or if you really need the ceiling Ridley, Kirk or Jones offers in a good matchup.

Speaking of matchups, one of the big conclusions from the Week 2 contest is that KC’s defense isn’t the pushover it has been the past couple of seasons — they allowed the ninth-most overall fantasy points and third-most to QBs in 2022 but now rank as the sixth-worst defense to face in fantasy. For Week 3 vs. Houston, Etienne should be the most trusted Jaguar, but Lawrence should bounce back nicely as well.

The Los Angeles Rams were expected to be just as bad as in 2022, when they shocked us with their first-to-worst turnaround. Well, count me shocked again as they are a far better than expected 1-1 to start the season with 26.5 points per game — just behind Buffalo and ahead of Baltimore, Detroit and Minnesota, all of whom were expected to be among the highest scores teams. I won’t bore you with too much more Nacua love here — he’s setting receiving records but more importantly for us, Matthew Stafford has directed 35 of his 58 pass attempts at Puka. That target share is unheard of, even for Cooper Kupp. No one saw it coming, but because of Nacua stepping up, Stafford is quietly good again. He’s also been bolstered by Kyren Williams’ surprising breakout and the Rams’ typically strong defense. The Rams are once again a matchup not to be taken lightly, as they just proved against one of the best teams in the league. Nacua and Williams are every week starters, and I’d consider Stafford a reasonable substitute for Joe Burrow or Anthony Richardson (if necessary) this week as the Rams play Monday night in Cincinnati.

To not veer too off the regular structure, I also have a couple players you shouldn’t overthink in Week 3, as well as two to tinker with for those of you who can’t help but mix it up.

Don’t overthink:

Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, DET: He’s been started even with David Montgomery in the mix, so no doubt he’s locked in for most of you. If you’re having second thoughts based on Atlanta’s surprisingly stingy (for fantasy) run defense so far, don’t. Though neither Miles Sanders nor A.J. Dillon scored on Atlanta, the Falcons are giving up 119 rushing yards per game, 11th-most in the league. Give me the talent and expected usage of Gibbs over either of them in what should be a fantasy-friendly game for both sides. Bonus “don’t overthink” from this game is Tyler Allgeier, who saw very similar usage in Week 2, but wasn’t as productive as Bijan Robinson this time. The Falcons aren’t giving up on the run-heavy game plan and we just saw Ken Walker have a great game vs. the Lions. There’s still room for both Falcons backs in fantasy lineups.

Josh Jacobs, RB, LV: It’s been a slow start and I feel badly for those who thought Jacobs was a lock for a second fantasy rushing title. That said, this could be the breakout week for Jacobs. The 70 yards he’s posted on the ground through two games are frustrating, but Las Vegas had little choice but to throw in Buffalo in Week 2, when Jacobs saw his usage drop from 19 carries to nine. Coincident with the pro-pass game plan, at least Jacobs saw his targets shoot up from three to six in Week 2. Now he and the Raiders get to host Pittsburgh, the team that has been destroyed on the ground by Christian McCaffrey and Jerome Ford. The Steelers are the No. 1 fantasy rushing matchup to target, so get Jacobs in those starting lineups with bells on.

Tinker with:

Jordan Love, QB, GB: With three passing touchdowns in each of the Packers’ first two games, Love is fantasy’s QB2, and the most consistent of the top QBs with 20-23 fantasy points per game. He’s made a nice connection with rookies Jayden Reed and Luke Musgrave and had utilized Aaron Jones and Romeo Doubs extensively in Week 1. The Packers face a tough defense in New Orleans this week, but Love should be able to compete. His average intended air yards rank fifth among QBs, and he leads the league in aggressiveness, a willingness to throw into tight coverage (per NextGenStats). For those who enjoy more traditional stats, Love’s QB rating of 118.75 leads all QBs to start the season.

Jordan Addison, WR, MIN: He’s starting in around 30-40 percent of leagues, but this week the Vikings take on the Los Angeles Chargers, and that number should climb higher. I mentioned Love is the QB2… well, Kirk Cousins is the fantasy QB1 right now. The Chargers have allowed the most fantasy points to WR, second-most to QB, and you guessed it, most overall fantasy points to opponents. This is a dream game for fantasy, so get every piece you can in there ASAP! Addison lags behind Justin Jefferson (of course) and K.J. Osborn in targets, but already has a nose for the end zone, accounting for two of Cousins’ six touchdowns.

(Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports)

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