Jonathan Stewart in line for big Week 3 fantasy outing

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The FedEx Air & Ground fantasy preview is back!

In case it slipped your mind, NFL football fans have the opportunity to vote on top performers at the running back and quarterback position following every regular week of action.

The candidates at quarterback last week were Tom Brady, Derek Carr and Trevor Siemian . At running back, Carlos Hyde, C.J. Anderson and Derrick Henry were all featured. You can vote for your Week 2 winners here.

Now, without further ado, let's dive into some players who could have huge games in Week 3, both through the air and on the ground.

Air Analysis:


Carson Wentz vs Giants

At this point, I might as well just attach myself to Wentz as one of my favorite sleeper quarterbacks for the rest of the season. I talked him up in Week 1 and again in Week 2 in different articles, and for the most part, he came through. Through two games, Wentz ranks third among all quarterbacks in fantasy points and has the fourth-most passing yards in the league. He's thrown more touchdown passes, four, than Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees. I'm not saying he's the next elite quarterback but it's a promising start for his Year 2 campaign. Wentz has also shown a propensity to throw the deep ball more often this season than he did as a rookie. In Week 2, he led all passers in average air distance per completion, per NextGenStats:

Some of that likely has to do with the upgrade in surrounding talent in his pass-catching corps over last season. With Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith on the outside and the emergence of slot receiver Nelson Agholor (two scores in two games) and tight end Zach Ertz, Wentz has a ton of options. Toss in Darren Sproles as an asset out of the backfield, and you can see why Wentz has posed over 300 passing yards in each game this season.

In Week 3, Wentz will face the Giants at home. New York's defense ranks 20th in overall defense so far this season but has been able to stop the pass, for the most part, allowing just 390 passing yards to quarterbacks in two games but has yet to get an interception. Wentz currently has a 102.7 passer rating in the red zone with three touchdowns. The Eagles lack a reliable goal-line back so they could rely on their receiving options near the end zone. With Giants top cornerback Janoris Jenkins slated to miss his second game, Wentz is a solid fantasy play for the third straight week.

Philip Rivers vs Chiefs

In the "Fight for L.A.," the Chargers need a spark. With a pair of heart-breaking loses, the newest L.A. football team is 0-2 and faces a tough test at home against the Chiefs this week. But there's reason to believe this will be a good spot to use Philip Rivers for fantasy purposes.

The veteran quarterback has posted just over 17 fantasy points in each of his last two games and is benefiting from the healthy return of wide receiver Keenan Allen. Allen's 14 receptions this season tie him for third-most among wideouts, while Rivers is averaging a solid 261.5 pass yards per game with a four-to-one touchdown to interception ratio and a 106.4 passer rating. Rivers' production has him ranked ninth among fantasy quarterbacks in terms of overall points and he has a favorable matchup against the Chiefs this week.

Kansas City is without Eric Berry, whom the defense lost to an Achilles tear in Week 1. So Marcus Peters will likely be covering Allen in this game. And while Peters is a talented defender, Allen has had his way with him in the past. Last season Allen caught all four passes he was targeted on with Peters in coverage, for 34 yards. This season, Peters hasn't quite been what we'd call a "shutdown corner" given that he allowed 50 yards on four receptions to Eagles' wideouts in Week 2. Through two games, the Chiefs defense actually ranks 27th in the NFL.

When you throw in the threat of speedster Travis Benjamin, Tyrell Williams on the outside and two top tight ends in Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry, plus the prospect of Melvin Gordon catching passes out of the backfield, you can see how Rivers is in an ideal spot to produce for fantasy owners this week.

Ground Analysis:


Last week in this space, I took a longshot on Carlos Hyde going up against a Seattle Seahawks defense at CenturyLink. Shockingly, Hyde ended up leading the entire league with 124 rushing yards on the road. While it's unlikely either of my running back sleeper candidates come through in Week 3 like Hyde did, they should both be viable starters with some upside based on favorable matchups.

Jonathan Stewart vs Saints

While rookie running back Christian McCaffrey has vastly out-snapped his veteran teammate so far this season, it's been Jonathan Stewart getting the volume when he's on the field. Per FantasyData.com, Stewart's touch percentage, or percentage of snaps played where a player touched the football, is 65 percent for the season, compared to McCaffrey's 33 percent. In short, when Stewart lines up in the backfield, there's a good chance he's getting the rock. J-Stew has at least 15 rush attempts in each of his first two games and his Week 3 matchup couldn't be better.

The Saints defense hasn't shown much improvement from seasons' past yet this year. In fact, New Orleans is dead last in overall defense thus far, and ranks 25th in rush defense, allowing 235 rush yards to running backs. On top of that, the Saints have surrendered 185 receiving yards to backs, most in the league. That puts McCaffrey in a good spot too, but for me, Stewart is the volume play.

With Cam Newton banged up, dealing with an ankle injury sustained in Week 2 on top of his shoulder not yet at 100 percent following offseason surgery, Carolina will look to continue its run-heavy offense. It'd be wise of them to try and keep the ball out of Drew Brees' hands, and control the clock in front of their home crowd. Some news on Thursday that the team will go with the "hot hand" approach at running back also seems to lean in Stewart's favor. I expect Stewart to have a low-end RB1 finish when all is said and done in Week 3.

Isaiah Crowell at Colts

Crowell has had a slow start to the season but this week could be the beginning of a turnaround for the Browns lead running back.

The Crow leads Cleveland with 27 rush attempts but after just 10 carries in Week 2, he reportedly has spoken up and asked coach Hue Jackson for more work. It's good to want things, but the Browns need to keep a game close in order for Crow to get the volume he and his fantasy owners desire.

Crowell was on the field for 79 percent of the Browns plays in Week 1 in a closer game script with the Steelers. He saw 19 touches in that game, which is more like what we should expect this week against the Colts. Duke Johnson, Crowell's only real threat to playing time, saw more snaps last week due to a negative script. Johnson is merely a pass-catching specialist that the team has experimented with as a slot receiver. Last week Johnson was only on the field for 27 pass plays, the majority of which came in the fourth quarter. He played on only six rushing plays the entire game, so Crowell is the clear lead runner and there should be no concern on that front.

From a matchup standpoint, the Colts have allowed 134 rush yards to running backs through two games, but faced a Cardinals backfield sans David Johnson last week and were routed by the Rams in Week 1 due to two D/ST touchdowns against them. In 2016, Indy allowed the sixth-most rushing yards to backs and sixth-most fantasy points per game to backs on the season and are now being led by Patriots third-string cast-off quarterback Jacoby Brissett.

If Crowell can get going early and the Browns can keep this contest close, he should return to his 70-percent-ish snap count and remain on the field for the late-game opportunities he missed out on against the Ravens making him an upside flex in Week 3.

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