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Start 'Em, Sit 'Em for Week 3

Start 'Em & Sit 'Em is the ultimate look at the weekly NFL matchups and how they'll affect your fantasy football team. Sleeper alert features an under-the-radar player who could produce good numbers. Owners beware features a regular fantasy starter who could fail to meet expectations based on the strength of his opponent. Obvious fantasy starters like Aaron Rodgers and Arian Foster will not be featured in this column. For your final lineup decisions, check our lineup rankings.

Quarterbacks - Start of the week


Robert Griffin III vs. Cincinnati Bengals: You have heard me state it throughout the preseason - I love me some RG3, and the fantasy man crush has done nothing but increase after he put up yet another monster stat line against the St. Louis Rams. Next on the schedule is a game against the Bengals, who have allowed an average of over 21 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season.

Start 'em


Matthew Stafford at Tennessee Titans: I have Stafford in the start 'em portion of this column in an attempt to ease the anxiety of fantasy owners who drafted him. Yes, he has had a slow start (Christian Ponder has more fantasy points), but he is going to bust out this week against the Titans. Their defense has surrendered an average of close to 20 fantasy points per game to signal-callers in 2012.

Tony Romo vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Romo was good in Week 1, but not so terrific in Week 2. Fear not, anxious fantasy leaguers, the Cowboys quarterback is a tremendous option based on favorable matchup against the Buccaneers. No defenses has given up more passing yards (813) after the first two weeks. The Bucs have also allowed 19.36 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, so Romo should shine.

Matt Cassel at New Orleans Saints: If you need a one-week start at the quarterback spot, Cassel is well worth a look off the waiver wire. Available in over 95 percent of NFL.com leagues, he's averaged a solid 17.43 fantasy points in his first two games and how has a nice matchup against the Saints at the Superdome. Their defense has surrendered the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks.

Sleeper alert - Alex Smith at Minnesota Vikings: Smith, who ranks in the top 10 in fantasy points at his position after two weeks, has developed into a viable option if you're in need of a quarterback. This week he goes up against the Vikings, who have allowed 19 or more fantasy points to each of the first two field generals they have faced. Smith is still available in over 50 percent of leagues.

Quarterbacks - Sit of the week


Carson Palmer vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: Believe it or not, but Palmer is eighth in fantasy points among quarterbacks heading into Week 3 despite throwing just two touchdown passes. He could find it difficult to pile up the yardage against the Steelers, who have surrendered the fifth-fewest passing yards (391) in their first two contests. I need to see more from Palmer before I trust him as a starter.

Sit 'em


Sam Bradford at Chicago Bears: Bradford is coming off one of his best fantasy performances of his career, throwing for 310 yards with three touchdowns in a win over the Washington Redskins. Unfortunately, he'll find the sledding to be tougher at Solider Field against the Bears. In their last contest, these new Monster of the Midway held fantasy superstar Aaron Rodgers to a meager 10.16 fantasy points.

Jake Locker vs. Detroit Lions: A popular fantasy sleeper in the preseason, Locker has been asleep in the stat sheets. After two weeks, a total of 28 signal-callers have scored more fantasy points (including Kevin Kolb and Ryan Tannehill). Until he starts to show some signs of fantasy life, the Locker needs to be on fantasy sidelines - especially when facing such an aggressive defense like the Lions.

Josh Freeman at Dallas Cowboys: Remember when the Cowboys were a defense to target in the fantasy quarterback matchups? Well, the addition of CBs Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne have now made this unit one to fear. In fact, this team has given up just two touchdown passes and an average of 12.68 fantasy points to opposing signal-callers. That's bad news for Freeman, who is off to a mediocre start.

Owners beware - Peyton Manning vs. Houston Texans: Which Manning will we see in Week 3? The one who torched the Steelers in the opener, or the quarterback who three three picks in a loss to the Falcons? Regardless, he is a risk for owners in what could be a defensive battle against the Texans. Their defense has allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, so start Manning with caution.

Running backs - Start of the week


C.J. Spiller at Cleveland Browns: With Fred Jackson out of action, Spiller is now a terrific starter in fantasy land. In his last five games dating back to last season, he's carried the football 70 times for 554 yards (7.9 YPC) and scored five touchdowns on the ground. Spiller has also been effective as a pass catcher with a combined 20 receptions for 215 yards and an additional two end-zone trips.

Start 'em


DeMarco Murray vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Murray was shut out for the most part last week, rushing for a mere 44 yards in a blowout loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Fantasy leaguers shouldn't fret, however, as the talented runner should make up for that lack of production against the Buccaneers. Their defense allowed the most fantasy points to runners in 2011 and 20.00 to New York Giants backs last week.

Michael Bush vs. St. Louis Rams: Barring an unforseen turn of events with Matt Forte's injured ankle, Bush should see the lion's share of the carries this week against the Rams. Their defense continues to be one of the weakest in the NFL in terms of fantasy points allowed to running backs, allowing an average of almost 19 points per game. Consider Bush a stellar No. 2 runner or a solid flex starter.

Alfred Morris vs. Cincinnati Bengals: If you need a flex starter for Week 3, Morris is well worth a roll of the dice. While the black cloud of Shanahanigans always looms, the rookie is ninth in fantasy points among running backs and has led the Redskins in carries in each of their first two contests. This week, Morris faces a Bengals defense that has given up the third-most fantasy points to backs.

Sleeper alert - Donald Brown vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: There hasn't been a worse run defense in the entire league, at least from a fantasy perspective, than the Jaguars. In their first two games of the year, this unit has surrendered five rushing touchdowns and the most fantasy points to running backs. That bodes well for Brown, who is well worth starting in a flex spot based on this most favorable matchup.

Running backs - Sit of the week


Michael Turner at San Diego Chargers: If you didn't believe that Turner was a major bust candidate before the season, take a look at his 74 rushing yards and awful 2.5 yards-per-carry average in his first two contests. Sure, he could have some motivation to produce against his former team, the Chargers, but that's not enough for me to trust him as a starter. At best, he's a desperation flex choice.

Sit 'em


Shonn Greene at Miami Dolphins: Greene's poor stat line against the Steelers could be a harbinger of things to come this week against the Dolphins. In six career games against this AFC East opponent, the Iowa product has averaged a meager 39.8 scrimmage yards with just two runs of 10 yards or more. Greene has also failed to score a single touchdown in those contests. He's better left on the bench.

Cedric Benson at Seattle Seahawks (Mon.): Benson recorded a respectable stat line against the Bears last week, totaling four catches and 116 scrimmage yards on Thursday Night Football. Regardless, I'd still be wary of starting him against what is a tough Seahawks defense on their home field. This unit held Murray to 44 rushing yards last week and has allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to backs.

Ben Tate at Denver Broncos: Tate is coming off a monster stat line against the Jaguars and is a hot name in fantasy land. The question is, can you trust him to produce in consecutive weeks while seeing snaps behind Arian Foster? The Auburn product also has a tough matchup against the Broncos, who have given up the fifth-least fantasy points to backs. He's a risk-reward flex starter at best.

Owners beware - Adrian Peterson vs. San Francisco 49ers: The last time I suggested that Peterson was a risk for fantasy owners, he went on to rush for two touchdowns. However, this week's game against the Niners is anything but favorable. The toughest defense for runners to score on in 2011, this unit has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to backs this year. Like it says, owners beware.

Wide receivers - Start of the week


Larry Fitzgerald vs. Philadelphia Eagles: Fitzgerald is having a horrible start to the season, leaving fantasy owners to contemplate sitting him. Well, I'll preach patience with the veteran and here's the reason. In four career games against the Eagles (including the playoffs), he's scored eight touchdowns. Fitzgerald also has 16 catches, 298 yards and two scores in his last two games against them.

Start 'em


Miles Austin vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: This start 'em is a double dose of Cowboys wide receivers, as I would start Austin and Dez Bryant against the Buccaneers. This is a defensive unit allowed the two highest-scoring fantasy wideouts (Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz) a week ago and has surrendered more fantasy points (41.65 FPG) to the position than any team in the entire league after two weeks.

Dwayne Bowe at New Orleans Saints: I'm not sure if it's a result of the offseason "bounty" scandal, but the Saints defense has been one of the league's most vulnerable. This unit has allowed the second-most fantasy points to quarterbacks and runners, and the seventh-most to opposing wide receivers. Enter Bowe, who is now in a great position to have back-to-back monster stat lines for owners.

Michael Crabtree at Minnesota Vikings: If you're looking to fill a No. 3 wideout or flex spot, Crabtree is a player to consider. He hasn't posted huge fantasy totals in the first two weeks, but the Texas Texh product is the 19th-most targeted wide receiver in the league. He also has a favorable matchup against the Vikings, who have given up the ninth-most fantasy points to wideouts in 2012.

Sleeper alert - Greg Little vs. Buffalo Bills: Little had a slow start to the season, but he picked things up in Week 2 with close to 12 fantasy points. He's a nice sleeper against the Bills, who have already allowed a combined five touchdown catches to wide receivers. What's more, only the New York Giants and Buccaneers have given up more fantasy points to wideouts after the first two weeks.

Wide receivers - Sit of the week


Vincent Jackson at Dallas Cowboys: Jackson, listed in the start 'em section of this column last week, went off against the Giants for 128 yards and one touchdown. Unfortunately, this week's matchup against the Cowboys isn't nearly as favorable. In fact, the Pokes haven't given up a touchdown to a receiver in two games. This unit has also allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers.

Sit 'em


Greg Jennings at Seattle Seahawks (Mon.): Jennings continues to be a question mark due to a groin injury, and the fact that he's playing on Monday night makes it tough to start him unless you have insurance (Randall Cobb). Even if he's active, the matchup against the Seahawks on their home field isn't a good one. This unit held the trio of Austin, Bryant and Kevin Ogletree to a combined 17.10 fantasy points a week ago.

Eric Decker vs. Houston Texans: Decker has not lived up to expectations after two weeks, recording a mediocre 107 yards with no touchdowns. His fortunes don't appear to be set to change against the Texans, either. Their defense has allowed no touchdowns and the fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers to this point in the season. If you have better options, Decker should be on the sidelines.

Santonio Holmes at Miami Dolphins: To say that Holmes has failed to produce against the Dolphins is a huge understatement. In five career games against them, he's recorded a combined seven catches and averaged a mere 26.2 yards. Holmes, who has never had more than 63 yards in a game against the Fins, has also caught just one pass for five yards in two games playing in Miami. He's clearly someone to avoid.

Owners beware - Wes Welker at Baltimore Ravens: How about these fantasy football nuggets on Welker: He's never had more than 53 yards or scored a touchdown in five career games (including playoffs) against the Ravens. In those contests, he has averaged a mere 34.4 yards, including just 53 yards in the AFC playoffs last season. If you can afford to bench Welker this week, it's well worth consideration.

Tight ends - Start of the week


Vernon Davis at Minnesota Vikings: Guess who is the top-scoring tight end in fantasy football after two weeks? It's Rob Gronkowski, right? No. How about Jimmy Graham? Not him, either. It's Davis, who has already scored three touchdowns and is well on his way to a monster season. Fantasy owners should keep him active against the Vikings, who have already surrendered two touchdowns to tight ends.

Start 'em


Brandon Pettigrew at Tennessee Titans: Pettigrew might be 12th in fantasy points at his position, but he's seen plenty of targets in the Lions pass attack and should see continued opportunities against the Titans. Their defense has been utterly dominated by tight ends, allowing a ridiculous five touchdowns to go along with 26.60 fantasy points per game to the position. Get Pettigrew in your lineup.

Brent Celek at Arizona Cardinals: Reports of Celek's fantasy football demise have been greatly exaggerated. Not only is he among the 10 best tight ends based on fantasy points, but the veteran out of Cincinnati is also the third-most targeted player at his position. With the trust of Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin (hip) ailing, Celek has re-emerged into a No. 1 fantasy option across the board.

Owen Daniels at Denver Broncos: Daniels hasn't scored a touchdown at this point, but he is on pace to finish with close to 1,100 yards based on his current totals. With Joel Dresseen in Denver, the veteran is fourth in targets at his position and has become a viable starter in fantasy land. This week he faces the Broncos, who have allowed two touchdowns and the fifth-most fantasy points to tight ends.

Sleeper alert - Dennis Pitta vs. New England Patriots: Here's a little bit of fantasy football trivia. Who is the most targeted tight end in the league after two weeks? Surprisingly, it's Pitta. So while this week's matchup against the Patriots isn't favorable on paper, the fact that he's seeing so many passing opportunties from Joe Flacco makes Pitta a player to start if you're in need at the position.

Tight ends - Sit of the week


Jacob Tamme vs. Houston Texans: Tamme had a solid fantasy stat line in the opening week, but he disappeared in Week 2 while playing just 27-of-77 (35 percent) of the offensive snaps. Dreessen, a much more effective blocker, played 77 percent of the snaps. If that weren't enough to fear Tamme, he's also facing a Texans defense that has surrendered the fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season.

Sit 'em


Fred Davis vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Davis has had a very quiet start to the season, catching just four passes for 52 yards with no touchdowns. He also suffered a concussion in Week 2, leaving his status for this weekend in question. Even if he does suit up, the Southern California product is a major risk with RG3 taking more shots downfield and looking less and less for the short and intermdiate passes.

Scott Chandler at Cleveland Browns: Chandler is coming off a solid stat line, posting 53 yards, one touchdown and 11.30 fantasy points against the Chiefs. I still wouldn't trust him this week, however, as he goes up against a Browns defense that has allowed an average of fewer than six fantasy points per game to tight ends this season. Chandler needs to be more consistent to trust as well.

Marcedes Lewis at Indianapolis Colts: So much for Lewis' hot start to the season! After posting a very nice stat line in Week 1, the veteran out of U.C.L.A. was held without a single reception against the Texans. This week he faces the Colts, who have held him in check for most of his career. In fact, Lewis has averaged just 28.3 yards and scored one lone touchdown in his last eight games against them.

Owners beware - Jermichael Finley at Seattle Seahawks (Mon.): Much like Lewis, Finley started the season on a high note only to see his stats take a nose dive in Week 2. And while he is more valuable and far more difficult to bench, Finley does have a tough road matchup against an underrated Seahawks defense. This unit allowed a mere 5.8 fantasy points to Jason Witten in last week's win over the Cowboys.

Kickers - Start of the week


Garrett Hartley vs. Kansas City Chiefs: Hartley is coming off an 11-point performance in a loss to the Panthers, and this week's matchup against the Chiefs has all the look of a shootout. Neither defense is playing well, so the scoreboard should light up often at the Superdome. Kansas City has also allowed an average of 10.50 fantasy points per game to kickers, making Hartley a nice option.

Start 'em


Billy Cundiff vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Cundiff has averaged 10 fantasy points in his first two games, making him a legitimate fantasy starter across the board. However, the veteran is still a free agent in close to 75 percent of NFL.com leagues. If you need a kicker, Cundiff is clearly worth a look against the Bengals. Their defense has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to the position.

Dan Bailey vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bailey has had a horrendous start to the fantasy season, scoring a mere seven points while ranking 32nd in points at his position. Still, I'd roll the dice with him against a Buccaneers defense that allowed 15 fantasy points to Lawrence Tynes last week. The Cowboys should also move the ball well in their home opener, so Bailey will have plenty of chances.

Sleeper alert - Alex Henery at Arizona Cardinals: Much like Bailey, Henery has not had a great start to the fantasy season with a mere 11 points in two games. He's still worth consideration if you need a kicker this week, though, as Henery and the Eagles travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals. No team has allowed more fantasy points to opposing kickers to this point in the 2012 campaign.

Kickers - Sit of the week


Matt Prater vs. Houston Texans: If you're noticing a lot of Broncos in the sit 'em portion of this week's column, well, that's what happens when you face the Texans. Their defense has turned into one of the league's elite units under coordinator Wade Phillips, making the matchups pretty tough for the opposition. That includes Prater, who isn't even in the top 30 among kickers after two weeks.

Sit 'em


Greg Zuerlein at Chicago Bears: Want to know just how tough it is to predict kickers? Zuerlein, who was undrafted in most fantasy leagues, ranks in the top 10 in points at the position after two weeks. Of course, each of his first two games were played on turf. That's not the case this week, as he'll head to Solider Field to face the Bears. I'd keep Zuerlein on the bench (or the waiver wire).

Justin Tucker vs. New England Patriots: Tucker leads all kickers in fantasy points on NFL.com after two weeks. No, seriously he does. (Again, kickers are tough to predict)! So while his stock is rising in the fantasy world, this week's matchup against the Patriots isn't favorable on paper. Their defense has allowed an average of fewer than eight fantasy points per game to opposing kickers.

Owners beware - Sebastian Janikowski vs. San Diego Chargers: Janikowski has had a slow start to the season, averaging just 7.5 fantasy points per game. So while he remains one of the better kickers in fantasy land, his mediocre numbers coupled with a tough matchup against the Steelers makes Janikowski a risk. After two weeks, Pittsburgh has allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to kickers.

Defense - Start of the week


Bears defense vs. St. Louis Rams: The Bears have had some extra time to rest (and stew) after a Week 2 loss to the Packers, so DE Julius Peppers and his crew will be roaring and ready for Bradford and the Rams. When you consider how badly their offensive line is banged up, not to mention the fact that Chicago is playing on the home field, this should be a nice weekend for their defensive unit.

Start 'em


Texans defense at Denver Broncos: This might be a tough matchup on paper against Manning and the Broncos, but the Falcons put up a solid 11 fantasy points against this unit in last Monday night's win. What's more, the Texans defense is far more productive from a fantasy perspective and could give Manning fits. One of the elite fantasy defenses in the league, Houston needs to remain active in Week 3.

Jets defense at Miami Dolphins: Despite the fact that the Men in Green didn't next to nothing in the stat sheets last week, their defense is still ranked among the top options based on fantasy points. This week this unit goes up against the Fins and rookie Ryan Tannehill, so Jets coach Rex Ryan is certain to bring the heat. Look for the J-E-T-S to put up a nice stat line in this AFC East confrontation.

Sleeper alert - Cardinals defense vs. Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles might have a lot of offensive weapons in their arsenal, but this unit is also the most scored upon (in terms of fantasy points) by opposing defenses. Enter the Cardinals, who are coming off a stellar performance in a shocking win over Tom Brady and the Patriots. Arizona's defense is still available in most NFL fantasy football leagues.

Defense - Sit of the week


Chargers defense vs. Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan and the Falcons are rolling on the offensive side of the football. In fact, opposing defenses are averaging minus-1 fantasy points over the first two weeks of the season. That makes the Chargers, who have averaged a mere six fantasy points per game on defense, a unit to avoid. In Week 2, the Bolts ranked a very pedestrian 16th among defenses based on points.

Sit 'em


Broncos defense vs. Houston Texans: The Broncos have some talented players on the defensive side of the football, including CB Champ Bailey and LB Von Miller, but overall it's still tough to trust this unit against a tough opponent. That's the case against the Texans, who have been tough on the opposition. After two weeks, defenses have scored an average of just 3.50 fantasy points per game against them.

Bengals defense at Washington Redskins: Cincinnati has one of the better defenses in fantasy football last season, but that was then and this is now. In 2012, the Bengals have scored a combined nine fantasy points in games against the Ravens and Browns. This week they'll face Griffin III and the Redskins, who have averaged the fourth-most offensive yards and scored the most points in the entire league.

Owners beware - Ravens defense vs. New England Patriots: It's tough to bench a defense as good as the Ravens, but don't be shocked if this unit posts a mediocre stat line against Brady and the Patriots. After two weeks, opposing defenses have put up an average of just 3.50 fantasy points against this offensive attack. While I wouldn't drop the Ravens, I would consider adding another defense for one week.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!

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