Note: Sleeper alert focuses on players who aren't considered regular starters but have favorable matchups and could produce at a high level. Owners beware focuses on prominent players with unfavorable matchups who could fail to meet statistical expectations.
START OF THE WEEK
LaMont Jordan, RB, Oakland: Jordan has been one of the best draft values in all of fantasy football this season. He is on pace to finish with 72 receptions, 1,800-plus rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Chances are he won't reach those totals, but the numbers prove what a steal he has been based on his preseason value. He could be a gametime decision due to a sore back, but he's a tremendous starter if active headed into this week against Cleveland. The Browns have surrendered an average of 39.5 points and 171.5 rushing yards per game, so look for Jordan to produce nice numbers.
QUARTERBACKS: START 'EM
Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle: Fantasy football isn't rocket science, so when a defense surrenders 51 points, five passing touchdowns and 554 yards of total offense, a huge red bullseye appears on its back the following week. That's the logic behind the selection of Hasselbeck, who faces a Cincinnati defense that was blasted by Derek Anderson and the Cleveland Browns last week. The Bengals have allowed an average of 35.5 points and 267.5 passing yards per game, so look for Seattle to exploit that obvious weakness with a lot of Hasselbeck. In fact, a stat line that includes 250-plus yards and multiple touchdowns is in the cards.
Vince Young, Tennessee: Young hasn't had a tremendous start to the regular season, but he should post his best stat line of the season in front of a national audience in Week 3. The versatile quarterback heads to New Orleans to face the Saints on Monday Night Football, and he'll be motivated to produce solid numbers. Young should be able to accomplish that goal, as the Saints defense has allowed an average of 36.0 points and 391.0 total yards in losses to Indianapolis and Tampa Bay. In what will be the first time Young and Reggie Bush are on the same field since the 2006 Rose Bowl, look for Young to score a pile of fantasy points.
QUARTERBACKS: SIT 'EM
Matt Schaub, Houston: As much as I like Schaub this season, the loss of Andre Johnson is far too much for him to overcome and still record solid totals. Johnson sprained his knee in last week's win over Carolina, and it looks like he will miss Week 3 due to the ailment. In his absence, the Texans will be forced to utilize Kevin Walter, Andre' Davis, Jerome Mathis and rookie Jacoby Jones. While Jones is talented, none of the four will scare an Indianapolis defense that has allowed a mere 15.0 points and 179.5 passing yards per game. That's bad news for Schaub, who will face a formidable unit without his most reliable (and legitimate) option.
David Garrard, Jacksonville: Garrard has developed into a viable option for fantasy owners in his first full season as the starter in Jacksonville. The former East Carolina standout ranks 10th among quarterbacks in fantasy points and is on pace to throw for over 3,800 yards. However, this week's matchup on the road in Denver makes him a serious risk. The Broncos, who field an unreal cornerback tandem of Champ Bailey and Dre' Bly, have allowed an average of just 62.5 passing yards (no, that's not a misprint) per game. The Jaguars will instead look to exploit Denver's run defense, which has allowed an average of 156.0 yards per game, so Garrard should be reserved.
Owners beware: Matt Leinart at Baltimore.
RUNNING BACKS: START 'EM
Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia: Westbrook has missed practice time this week after having an MRI on his knee, but NFL Network analyst Adam Schefter reports the Eagles don't believe the ailment is serious. Barring setbacks, the versatile runner out of Villanova should be considered a fabulous fantasy option in Week 3. Westbrook faces a Detroit defense that has surrendered an average of 344.0 total yards per game, and he'll be the focal point of an offensive attack that will utilize him both as a runner and receiver out of the backfield. Fantasy owners should add Correll Buckhalter as insurance, but for now Westbrook is a nice option.
More running backs with favorable matchups: Thomas Jones vs. Miami, Jamal Lewis at Oakland, Laurence Maroney vs. Buffalo, Clinton Portis vs. N.Y. Giants, Cadillac Williams vs. St. Louis.
Sleeper alert: Derrick Ward at Washington.
RUNNING BACKS: SIT 'EM
Marshawn Lynch, Buffalo: As much as I love Lynch -- I think he'll become a tremendous fantasy runner as the season rolls on -- he has had a difficult start due to some harden defensive opponents. He opened the season with contests against Denver and Pittsburgh, and now he'll have to face New England at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defense has been close to impenetrable, as it has allowed an average of just 14.0 points and an NFL-low 56.0 rushing yards per game. That's bad news for Lynch, who will find it hard to run in an offense that has not established a pass attack. Unless you're in a PPR league, Lynch should be on the fantasy sidelines.
Julius Jones, Dallas: When a running back faces the Chicago defense, he's destined to be on our list of players to sit. Chicago held LaDainian Tomlinson and Larry Johnson, two of the top runners in the NFL, to a combined 80 rushing yards, an awful 2.4 yards-per-carry average and no rushing touchdowns in the first two weeks. That doesn't bode well for Jones, who isn't even the best back on his own team. Marion Barber is a far more viable fantasy option than Jones, who loses goal-line work and lacks the explosion Barber possesses. With such a scenario destined to continue this week against the Bears, Jones should be reserved if at all possible.
More running backs with unfavorable matchups: Tatum Bell at Philadelphia, Warrick Dunn vs. Carolina, Frank Gore at Pittsburgh, Edgerrin James at Baltimore, Deuce McAllister vs. Tennessee.
Owners beware: Larry Johnson vs. Minnesota.
WIDE RECEIVERS: START 'EM
Laveranues Coles, N.Y. Jets: Maybe he likes playing the most popular team from the state where he attended college. Maybe he doesn't like teal and orange. Whatever the reason, Coles has owned the Miami Dolphins throughout his career. He has recorded a total of nine touchdowns against the Fish, and his success at the Meadowlands has been immense. In fact, Coles has posted 24 receptions, 386 yards and an impressive six touchdowns in five career contests on the field shared by the Giants and Jets. Coles, who has scored three times in his past two home games against the Dolphins, will also have Chad Pennington back under center and is a terrific fantasy option.
Bernard Berrian, Chicago: Berrian has had a nice start to the season -- he's on pace to record 80 receptions and 1,184 yards (both would be career bests) -- and he'll have a chance to fatten his numbers this week against Dallas. The Cowboys might be undefeated, but their pass defense has been dreadful. In fact, the Polks have surrendered an average of 303.0 receiving yards per game -- only the New York Giants have allowed more -- so look for Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner to take some chances downfield and target Berrian. The potential return of CB Terence Newman would hurt Berrian's value a bit, but overall he's a nice choice.
Sleeper alert: Ronald Curry vs. Cleveland.
WIDE RECEIVERS: SIT 'EM
Darrell Jackson, San Francisco: The Niners acquired Jackson in the offseason to improve their porous pass attack. Well, the move hasn't accomplished that mission after two weeks. In fact, the team is next to last in passing offense with an awful average of just 99.5 yards per game. That doesn't bode well for Jackson, who must now face a Pittsburgh defense that has allowed an average of just 5.0 points and 186.0 receiving yards. Another reason to reserve Jackson -- he missed portions of practice this week with an injured back. He is expected to start for head coach Mike Nolan, but Jackson's stat line will be far less than stellar.
Vincent Jackson, San Diego: Jackson was producing like former San Diego wideout Charlie Joiner in the preseason, but his regular season numbers have been more like that of Charlie Brown. He has just seven receptions, and he hasn't scored a touchdown. His poor level of production should continue in Green Bay, where he'll face one of the best cover cornerbacks in the league in Al Harris. The Packers have one of the more underrated defenses -- they've allowed an average of just 13.0 points per game in wins over Philadelphia and the New York Giants -- so Jackson could be hard pressed to make an impact at Lambeau Field.
More wide receivers with unfavorable matchups: Mark Clayton vs. Arizona, Joey Galloway vs. St. Louis, Joe Horn vs. Carolina, Brandon Marshall vs. Jacksonville, Hines Ward vs. San Francisco.
Owners beware: Lee Evans at New England.
TIGHT ENDS: START 'EM
Chris Cooley, Washington: Cooley has just three receptions for 35 yards, but at least one of those catches went for a touchdown. He'll have a chance to reverse his fortunes this week at FedEx Field, where he'll face a Giants defense that has been small in statistical stature. No team has allowed more receiving yards per game than the G-Men, who have surrendered an average of 315.5. What's more, the Giants have allowed 14 receptions for 171 yards and three touchdowns to tight ends in losses to Dallas and Green Bay. All of these numbers and nuggets point to Cooley having a solid performance for fantasy owners.
Owen Daniels, Houston: Daniels followed up a one-catch, 14-yard stinker in the regular-season opener against Kansas City with a solid five-reception, 58-yard performance last week in a win over Carolina. With stud wide receiver Andre Johnson expected to be sidelined this week with an injured knee, Daniels should be able to at least duplicate that sort of stat line against AFC South rival Indianapolis. Texans head coach Gary Kubiak will no doubt look to incorporate Daniels into a much more prominent role in the pass attack against the Colts, who have surrendered nine receptions to tight ends after two weeks. Consider Owens a viable fantasy starter.
More tight ends with favorable matchups: Alge Crumpler vs. Carolina, Tony Gonzalez vs. Minnesota, Marcus Pollard vs. Cincinnati, Kellen Winslow at Oakland.
Sleeper alert: Bo Scaife at New Orleans.
TIGHT ENDS: SIT 'EM
Randy McMichael, St. Louis: McMichael seems to have done a Houdini act in his first two contests with St. Louis. The veteran out of Georgia has just four receptions for 64 yards with no touchdowns, and now he'll have to face what looks like an improved Tampa Bay defense in Week 3. The Buccaneers have surrendered two receiving touchdowns, and neither of those scores went to tight ends. The presence of athletic LB Barrett Ruud and an experienced veteran like LB Derrick Brooks makes the Bucs much more formidable in the middle of the field, so McMichael could find it hard to make much noise. Unless you're desperate, he's not a recommended option.
Daniel Graham, Denver: Graham signed a lucrative $30 million deal with the Broncos in the offseason, but all that cash has not equated into solid numbers on the field. He has just four catches for 33 yards, and he's still looking for his first touchdown with his new team. That probably won't happen this week against Jacksonville, which boasts one of the most formidable pass defenses in the NFL. The Jaguars have allowed an average of just 139.0 receiving yards per game, and they're the lone team not to allow a receiving touchdown. As a result, Graham is better off left on the bench in all fantasy football formats.
Owners beware: Vernon Davis at Pittsburgh.
KICKERS: START 'EM
Stephen Gostkowski, New England: Gostkowski hasn't had a great start to 2007 -- he's tied with three other kickers for 15th in fantasy points and has not made a field goal longer than 24 yards -- but he's still an attractive starter this week against Buffalo. No defense has surrendered more field-goal conversions than the Bills, who have given up seven field goals after two weeks. The Patriots should be able to move the football at will against a Bills defense that has been riddled with injuries, so look for Gostkowski to see his share of opportunities and produce a nice stat line in this AFC East battle.
Shayne Graham, Cincinnati: An injured hip made Graham a bit of a risk in the first week of the season, but he's back to 100 percent and remains one of the more prominent kickers in fantasy football. He connected on one field goal and six extra points in last week's 51-45 shootout in Cleveland, and all signs point towards another scoreboard special in Seattle. The Bengals rank third in scoring offense and the Seahawks are tied with three other teams for the fifth-most field goals allowed, so Graham should see several chances to produce in this inter-conference contest.
Sleeper alert: Phil Dawson at Oakland.
KICKERS: SIT 'EM
Olindo Mare, New Orleans: Mare was considered a nice sleeper in the preseason, but the former Miami kicker has been anything but in New Orleans. He has missed two of three field-goal attempts, and his longest conversion came from just 34 yards. Mare doesn't have a terrible matchup this week against a Tennessee defense that has allowed an average of two field goals per game, but the fact that he's been so inaccurate makes Mare a serious risk. There are a lot of viable kickers on the waiver wire at this point in the season, so fantasy owners would be wise to pass on Mare for another option.
Joe Nedney, San Francisco: Unlike Mare, Nedney has connected on 100 percent of his field-goal attempts and remains an accurate kicker. However, this week's contest in Pittsburgh against the Steelers makes him far less attractive. The Steelers have allowed a miniscule average of 5.0 points per game under the guidance of head coach and defensive wizard Mike Tomlin, and they've surrendered just one field goal and one extra point. Nedney will be a useful option for fantasy owners when the opponent is less formidable than the Steel Curtain, but for this week he should be reserved.
Owners beware: Nate Kaeding at Green Bay.
DEFENSES: START 'EM
Minnesota defense: The Vikings have the top defense in fantasy football after two weeks with an impressive 56 points. They've recorded three touchdowns, 10 sacks and five interceptions overall, and this week's game in Kansas City bodes well for their chances of continued success. The Chiefs offense has averaged a miniscule 6.5 points and has a mere 500 total yards overall. Minnesota ranks sixth in the NFL against the run, so it could be another bad week for Larry Johnson as well.
New England defense: The Patriots have been incredible on offense, but their defense has been pretty stout as well. They've allowed an average of 14.0 points per game and recorded eight sacks, two interceptions, four forced fumbles and two touchdowns. The sort of success should continue against Buffalo, which has averaged an awful 8.5 points and 96.5 passing yards per game. Don't be shocked if the P-Men hold the Bills to under 14 points in this AFC East contest.
More defenses with favorable matchups: Carolina defense at Atlanta, Dallas defense at Chicago, Denver defense vs. Jacksonville, Indianapolis defense at Houston.
Sleeper alert: Tampa Bay defense vs. St. Louis.
DEFENSES: SIT 'EM
Houston defense: The Texans have been a real surprise on defense this season. In fact, DE Mario Williams and his crew have the second-most points in fantasy football and are now a viable option in most leagues. However, this week's game against Indianapolis makes them far less attractive. The Colts offense is averaging 31.5 points per game, and Peyton Manning could be on the field quite a bit as the Texans will struggle to move the football on offense with Andre Johnson out of action.
San Francisco defense: Several offseason moves, none more prominent than the addition of CB Nate Clements, has made the 49ers a more formidable defensive unit. But with a contest against Pittsburgh on the horizon, San Francisco will be better off left on the sidelines. The Steelers have averaged 30.0 points per game in wins over Cleveland and Buffalo, and their offense could be on the field often unless Alex Smith can reverse his fortunes and move the Niners offense at Heinz Field.
More defenses with unfavorable matchups: Buffalo defense at New England, Green Bay defense vs. San Diego, Miami defense at N.Y. Jets, Seattle defense vs. Cincinnati.
Owners beware: Philadelphia defense vs. Detroit.