Week three of the fantasy football season rolls around and we've already seen some big surprises, bigger disappointments and a monumental trade that could have owners of a certain running back suddenly feeling optimistic.
THE LOCAL ANGLE:
Owners of Turlock product Colin Kaepernick may be reaching for the Dramamine after two weeks of the season, having rode the highs of his Week 1 explosion against Green Bay...all the way down to the three-interception low of last week's throttling by Seattle. This week should help restore the faith of Kaepernick owners and fans of the Niners, as the Colts visit for their first road game of the year.
What does that mean for Fantasy owners? Indianapolis figured to pass more with the injury to running back Vick Ballard, but the blockbuster trade for Trent Richardson may change the gameplan. QB Andrew Luck (who Coach Harbaugh knows pretty well) is prone to throwing deep...and to the wrong team. Luck led the NFL in dropped INT's last year, and added 18 completed ones.
Kaepernick should be able to move the ball with his feet and his arm against this marginal defense. The best thing that could happen is for Frank Gore's 2.0 yards per carry average to return closer to the norm, freeing up Vernon Davis against a suspect secondary.
Studs: QB Colin Kaepernick, WR Anquan Boldin, TE Vernon Davis, WR Reggie Wayne, SF Defense
Duds: RB Frank Gore, TE Coby Fleener, WR T.Y. Hilton, IND Defense
As for the Silver and Black, having exciting fantasy options is something of a new concept. While the Raider defense will be tested frequently by the Manning that "can" throw TD's, the Broncos will not be as aggressive this week, due to the loss of Pro Bowl LT Ryan Clady for the season. Manning's blind side will be on display for an aggressive pass rush. Caveat: the Raiders' NFL-leading nine sacks include five by members of the secondary. That method will get them burned by Peyton Manning.
Offensively, RB Darren McFadden is happy to get at least one of the divisional matchups against Denver early, as Bronco LB Von Miller is still serving his six-game suspension. McFadden has already busted 4 runs of more than 20 yards, and the best rushing attack in football (so far) will get their chances against a slightly-depleted Bronco D.
The loss of SS Tyvon Branch will allow Peyton to throw for 9,000 yards (estimate) in the game, unless Jason Hunter and Company can take advantage of the backup Chris Clark at left tackle.
Studs: K Sebastian Janikowski, RB Darren McFadden, TE Julius Thomas, WR Demaryius Thomas, QB Peyton Manning, RB Knowshon Moreno
MOVING BEYOND THE BAY:
Grab 'Em and Start 'Em:
RB Danny Woodhead (SD) - Tennessee's suspect run defense is only topped by their horrific pass defense, which leads us to...
QB Philip Rivers (SD)- For all of the (valid) recent criticisms, Rivers this season against two average-to-good defenses, has thrown for more than 600 yards and seven TD's. WR Eddie Royal won't keep up his 2.5 TD/game pace, but Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd give Rivers enough targets worthy of attempts to make for a nice day against Defense #32 in the league.
RB Giovanni Bernard (CIN)- He's still available in about 20% of leagues from a quick survey of three popular sites, which is not going to last for long. His 2 TD's against Pittsburgh were both examples of the explosiveness that has Bengal Nation excited, and the Law Firm of Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis nervous. WR A.J. Green's skills will limit how many defenders can be kept in to defend the run, and Bernard is a burner. Expect a big week against Green Bay.
DEF Buffalo. The Bills front seven is getting to the quarterback (eight sacks against the Patriots and Panthers), and DE Mario Williams is on pace for 36 sacks this year. While not sustainable in all likelihood, his pace won't slow against a porous Jets front with a rookie QB at the helm.
RB Ben Tate (HOU) - While Foster is the one who went in the Top Five in your draft, Tate is the one averaging more than eight yards a carry. Baltimore's defense is not what it used to be up front, and QB Matt Schaub is just enough of a threat to keep the Ravens hones in the box. The two backs should combine for 150-175 yards, with Foster likely breaking through the 100-yard mark by a hair this week.
QB's Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden (CLE) - This was a make-or-break year for Weeden, who has laid some rather impressive eggs in Weeks 1 and 2 before getting hurt. Jason Campbell was passed over for the start...in favor of Brian Hoyer. Even against Minnesota, whose defense isn't quite as terrible as they've looked so far, this offense will do nothing in the Metrodome.
RB Bilal Powell (NYJ) - 3.1 yards per carry against the fourth-ranked defense in the league against the run, with a sprinkling of Geno Smith under center equals a free agent-in-the-making for many leagues. If you're a Jets fan who wants to start a RB, bet on Chris Ivory vulturing red zone opportunity and at least splitting the remaining carries.
WR Jerome Simpson (MIN) - An eager target for QB Christian Ponder, Simpson has taken strides in improving his route running this season. 21 yards per catch would also normally suggest big things on the horizon, but last week's performance from first-round pick Cordarelle Patterson will reduce the number of targets for Simpson, and a focus on exploiting the remainder of Greg Jennings' ability this week against Cleveland should bring Simpson back into the 5-catch, 40-yard range.
DEF Seattle. If you sat this team so far, I would like to be in a league with you. The Seahawks defense is ridiculously good, and they're facing the worst offense to take a field in the NFL since they stopped allowing Pee Wee exhibitions at halftime.
QB Robert Griffin III (WAS) - He may not be 100% yet, but that is forcing Griffin to stay in the pocket and use his laser arm for big numbers. Detroit's defense should be a playground for RGIII and his favorite target, WR Pierre Garcon.
RB Matt Forte (CHI) - A big opportunity for a breakout night against the Steelers this week for Forte, and the Bears will try to develop his game to keep the pressure off of QB Jay Cutler. If Cutler keeps a clean pocket against Pittsburgh, bet on Forte to rack up 150 yards and a score.
The following matchups are ones to watch for for future prospects:
Kansas City DEF versus Chip Kelly's Eagles offense
This side of the Thursday Night game will trigger more pickups and drops than any game this week. So far, the Eagles have utilized DeSean Jackson at wideout heavily, and the Chiefs have the personnel on defense to erase at least one player from the other side. Watch for either of the Eagle TE's (Brent Celek or Zach Ertz) to become a larger part of the attack...or possibly WR Riley Cooper.
Green Bay's Offense versus Cincinnati's DEF
The 30th-ranked pass defense against perennial MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers might not sound like a tough matchup, but the young, improving Bengals' front seven promises to put Rodgers on his backside more than usual. Both RB James Starks and RB Eddie Lacy will need to make their presence felt early and often to keep their QB clean, and WR James Jones will get more looks in medium-depth patterns.
This week could be a make-or-break for owners of RB C.J. Spiller (BUF). His split load with RB Fred Jackson should be fine for this week, but will tilt towards Jackson if Spiller doesn't explode against the Jets.
The New England DEF is facing another potential legal issue, as CB Alfonzo Dennard is facing a likely jail term for probation violations. It's still to be determined if his attorneys can hold it off until after the season, but the Pats need no more distractions of this nature.
RB Maurice Jones-Drew (JAX) is prone to big games out of nowhere, but this won't be the week.
Next week, either. QB E.J. Manuel (BUF) will stick in the league if he continues from flashes of good to more consistency, but it has to happen this year if it's going to be in Buffalo. The Bills' other personnel issues could put Manuel in a tough spot going forward into next year.
By Bill Hudson, @nosduhllib