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Week 3 fantasy matchups: Take Crayton over T.O.


One thing is different right off the bat when you look at Week 3 this season as compared to Week 3 of 2006 -- all 32 teams are playing. Last season, the byes began a week earlier than usual, so fantasy owners had to scramble a bit to accommodate for star players who may have been off.

Well, we're happy to report you've got one more week before that becomes a factor. For now, you can revel in the fact that Week 3 is generally the time when offenses seem to start catching up to the defenses. In Week 3 last year, there were eight 100-yard rushers, eight 100-yard receivers and six 300-yard passers.

Here's a look at key fantasy matchups for Week 3:

Cardinals at Ravens

How's this for a quirk: Both teams have scored 40 points this season and allowed 40. Both teams are trying to be ball-control offenses. That's nothing new for Baltimore, but it is for Arizona. The Cardinals controlled the ball for more than 33 minutes in their Week 2 win over Seattle. That said, don't expect RB Edgerrin James to have another big game this week as he takes on the Ravens stingy defense.

DE Trevor Pryce is out for Baltimore, but this is a scheme defense, so I don't think the Pryce injury will hurt here. The only numbers here will come from QB Matt Leinart and WRs Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Arizona is ranked eighth in total defense, but I still like Ravens RB Willis McGahee better than James.

Check the injury reports to see who starts at QB. I think it doesn't really matter if it's Steve McNair or Kyle Boller -- either will do pretty well here. Expect good but not great numbers from WR Derrick Mason. He'll be the main target, followed by TE Todd Heap.

Chargers at Packers

I like LaDainian Tomlinson here -- but not too much. Amazingly, Tomlinson has only two more rushing yards than receiving yards. I like QB Philip Rivers and TE Antonio Gates, but keep in mind I expect this to be a low-scoring game.

For Green Bay, I like QB Brett Fave. He's been phenomenal against San Diego in the past, though it'll be harder here. I think WRs Donald Driver and James Jones will do well. It's really hard to run on the Chargers, and Green Bay has only four rushing first downs in two games.

Colts at Texans

Starting QB Peyton Manning and WRs Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne are no-brainers, of course. But here's the big fantasy news on this team: For everyone who was hoping that the departure of Dominic Rhodes meant RB Joseph Addai would be the workhorse, here are the numbers: Through two games, Indy has run the ball 49 times; Addai has 43 of those carries.

On the flipside, Houston RBs Ahman Green and Ron Dayne each have exactly 31 carries. That said, Green is the kind of runner who can give the Colts some trouble. QB Matt Schaub is playing great, and with Andre Johnson out look for TE Owen Daniels and rookie WR Jacoby Jones to catch some balls.

Vikings at Chiefs

I like Vikings RB Adrian Peterson here, but not a lot. I think you'll see Kelly Holcomb at QB. We're not sure if he'll do much, but anything is an improvement -- the Vikings, despite a 2-0 record, have as many defensive TDs as offensive TDs (3).

You have to play RB Larry Johnson, though Kansas City will have a tough time running on Minnesota. If the line can buy time, QB Damon Huard might be able to have success, but with WR Eddie Kennison out, there won't be receivers with big numbers.

Bills at Patriots

Buffalo has the league's 31st-ranked offense and is taking on the No. 1 defense, so don't expect much from the likes of RB Marshawn Lynch. Knowing Bill Belichick, he will scheme to shut down WR Lee Evans, so don't be surprised to see QB J.P. Losman have some success throwing to Roscoe Parrish.

For New England, QB Tom Brady is playing lights-out, and WR Randy Moss has been unstoppable. One negative fantasy aspect of the Patriots' success: It looks like RB Sammy Morris will continue to take carries away from Laurence Maroney.

Dolphins at Jets

First off, Miami is having a hard time blocking anyone these days. RB Ronnie Brown has done well against Jets -- 237 yards in his last two games against them, but Miami is averaging just 63 rushing yards in two games this season, with no TDs. The best play for the Dolphins here is WR Chris Chambers.

QB Chad Pennington likely will play here over Kellen Clemens, but I like either one of them to do well. Dilemma for fantasy owners: WR Jerricho Cotchery gets the yards, but Laveranues Coles gets the TDs. Coles has 9 career TDs vs. Miami.

Lions at Eagles

Expect this to be a high-scoring game. For the Lions, I like QB Jon Kitna and WRs Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams. Of course, don't forget that Shaun McDonald is actually their leading receiver. Detroit is averaging 341 passing yards per game with 5 TD passes.

Look for Philadelphia to start off QB Donovan McNabb with some high-percentage passes so the crowd gets behind him after a tough week. I think with his competitive nature he'll come out strong here. I love RB Brian Westbrook here. I also like Kevin Curtis and Jason Avant -- who seems to be emerging as a favorite target for McNabb.

49ers at Steelers

I'm not sure you can play anyone on the 49ers ths week -- they rank last in total offense despite a 2-0 record. They'll try to run with Frank Gore, but don't expect much here. QB Alex Smith will see every zone blitz known to man.


For Pittsburgh, I like RB Willie Parker, QB Ben Roethlisberger and WRs Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes, in that order. The trend continues in which Roethlisberger is spreading the ball around to multiple receivers, so it's hard for any of them to have big days.

Rams at Buccaneers

St. Louis is starting off like it did last year -- they scored more FGs than TDs in their first three games last season. So the message is: Don't give up. They have been the victim of dropped passes and fumbles, but QB Marc Bulger, RB Steven Jackson and WR Torry Holt are all good plays. The Rams' defense will benefit from the presence of coaches Jim Haslett and Rick Venturi, who know how to attack Tampa Bay from their days with New Orleans.

Tampa Bay is one of just three teams that have run the ball more than they've passed. RB Cadillac Williams can have some success here. QB Jeff Garcia is playing well, and he'll look for WR Joey Galloway. For a 35-year-old receiver with surgically repaired knees, Galloway is a phenom. In his last four games, he has caught 22 passes for 466 yards and four TDs -- two of 60-plus yards.

Jaguars at Broncos

Denver is second in defense, but I like Jacksonville RBs Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor to play well here. I also think WR Dennis Northcutt has a chance to do well -- the outside guys will be blanketed by CBs Champ Bailey and Dre Bly, but Northcutt should produce from the slot.

For Denver, I like WR Brandon Marshall, who is emerging as a key receiver. WR Javon Walker could do well, too, and QB Jay Cutler is worth playing. RB Travis Henry, the NFL rushing leader after two weeks, should be good but not great against a Jaguars run defense that looks like it's back to form after an opening-day meltdown. Henry is averaging 130 yards per game, but I would expect him to finish in the 90s here.

Browns at Raiders

The problem with expecting a strong follow-up to QB Derek Anderson's great performance last week is that he is terribly inconsistent. That said, I like WR Braylon Edwards, TE Kellen Winslow and RB Jamal Lewis here. The Raiders are without DE Derrick Burgess, who is a big part of their defense. And don't let last year's stats fool you -- this year's Oakland defense is not what it was in '06.

As might be the case every week, the best plays for Oakland are WR Ronald Curry and RB LaMont Jordan. QB Josh McCown, like Anderson, is very inconsistent. He has thrown five interceptions, had five fumbles and been sacked seven times in two games.

Bengals at Seahawks

This should be another high-scoring game for Cincinnati. The Bengals have played in Seattle before, but not in this loud stadium, so the crowd noise could become a factor. QB Carson Palmer is coming off a six-touchdown game, and I like WR Chad Johnson and RB Rudi Johnson. Check the injury report for the status of WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

For Seattle, QB Matt Hasselbeck has been playing very well and will continue here. I also like WR Deion Branch, RB Shaun Alexander, and WR Bobby Engram.

Panthers at Falcons

Carolina WR Steve Smith had three touchdowns last week and is an automatic. He presents a tough matchup for Atlanta. The best way to handle Smith is to press him at the line and have a safety over the top. Well, the Falcons can press him at the line with DeAngelo Hall, but they don't have the safety to handle Smith deep.

RB DeShaun Foster is worth a play. QB Jake Delhomme is 4-0 with a TD-INT ratio of 7-1 in his last four division games.

For Atlanta, the Panthers are the kind of team RB Jerious Norwood can run on. The only other possible play is TE Alge Crumpler.

Giants at Redskins

In his last three road games, QB Eli Manning has thrown 8 TDs and 1 INT. Assuming Manning plays here, he and WR Plaxico Burress should do well. I like RB Derrick Ward, but it's tough to run on Washington.

For the Redskins, QB Jason Campbell is inconsistent, but it's hard not to play him against the Giants' 32nd-ranked pass defense, which has allowed 631 yards and seven TDs in two games. That's also good news for WR Santana Moss and TE Chris Cooley. Expect RBs Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts to split the load.

Cowboys at Bears

Despite Dallas' high-scoring offense, I expect this to be a low-scoring game. Dallas has scored aa total of only 25 points in its last three games at Chicago. QB Tony Romo is playing very well and should continue to do so. I also like RB Marion Barber and TE Jason Witten. And here's the catch: I think WR Patrick Crayton will have a better game than Terrell Owens.

Despite QB Rex Grossman's troubles, he should do well against a Dallas defense that has given up a bunch of passing yards. That's good news for WR Bernard Berrian -- and I have a hunch that Muhsin Muhammad breaks out here. Pencil in RB Cedric Benson for 75 yards.

Titans at Saints

Tennessee QB Vince Young has been disappointing from a fantasy perspective so far -- but that will happen when a team throws the ball just 28 times in two games (vs. 83 rushing attempts). Of course, Young faces a Saints defense this week that has allowed 531 passing yards in two games. Last week we correctly predicted that LenDale White would be the more successful running back for the Titans. I think it goes back to Chris Brown this week, though the two will split carries.

Despite New Orleans' struggles, you still have to play QB Drew Brees, RBs Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush and WR Marques Colston. The one Saints you might want to pass on is WR Devery Henderson, who had three key drops last week.