FANTASY PLAYS: Managing Week 3 with no byes, but injuries
FILE - In this Sept. 18, 2016, file photo, Carolina Panthers' Fozzy Whittaker (43) runs against the San Francisco 49ers in the first quarter of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C. The Panthers will have to turn to Whittaker with Jonathan Stewart out with a hamstring injury. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn, File)
It's been a busy week on the fantasy football waiver wire – especially at running back – as many notable players went down with injuries and owners scrambled for their replacements.
Some fantasy players may feel quite undermanned heading into Week 3, but there are no bye week issues yet and hopefully good depth and/or a fruitful excursion to the free agent list has you ready for this week's full slate of games.
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BATTLE OF THE BACKUPS
The Panthers host the Vikings in a featured matchup of teams that are relying on reserve running backs to step forward for injured starters. Jerick McKinnon takes over for the shelved Adrian Peterson, with Matt Asiata also playing a role as a short-yardage vulture. The Panthers have allowed 106.5 rushing yards per game so far, so plug in the nifty McKinnon right away if you lost Peterson, and consider him as a flex play if you simply landed him off waivers. Asiata scored nine TDs when Peterson was suspended in 2014, but is better used when byes roll around. Cameron Artis-Payne and Fozzy Whittaker may share some work in place of Jonathan Stewart. The stingy Vikings defense is sixth against the run so far and Artis-Payne might only post mediocre totals, while Whittaker can give you some point-per-reception respectability because of his pass-catching abilities.
Cleveland has already lost their top two quarterbacks, and have to go with untested rookie Cody Kessler at Miami, which should be hungry to win after losing at Seattle and New England. Promising rookie Corey Coleman broke his hand in practice this week, and even suspended wideout Josh Gordon battled more off-field issues as Cleveland continues to spiral downward. Isaiah Crowell may have to face stacked fronts and Gary Barnidge's appeal has fallen again. Meanwhile, Ryan Tannehill has a very appealing matchup and an emerging DeVante Parker is looking like a viable starter on the rise.
RISE OF THE ROOKIE STAR
Ezekiel Elliott was a first-round pick in many leagues, but has yet to break out with 134 rushing yards in two games. He does have two rushing TDs, but only 5 receiving yards and there were public whispers about his conditioning and focus this week. Elliott would quiet doubters and please those who invested a high pick in him (including the Cowboys) with a strong performance against the Bears. Chicago has allowed 114.5 rushing yards per game and lost three key members of its defensive front to injuries this week. This is the game for Elliott and an underperforming Dallas offensive line to truly get on track.
San Diego lost Danny Woodhead this past week, Keenan Allen is already gone, and Antonio Gates is trying to work through a hamstring problem. Fortunately for San Diego, they draw what appears to be the AFC's worst defense as they travel to Indianapolis. The resurgent Melvin Gordon already has three rushing scores after not registering any in his rookie year and is a prime start this week with a larger role awaiting with Woodhead out. Gordon is a terrific daily fantasy play, as the Colts have allowed 125 rushing yards per game so far. Newly signed Dexter McCluster should be added as a free agent for point-per-reception depth if still available, and WRs Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams are good starts against a pass defense that has already surrendered nearly 600 passing yards.
The Seahawks offense has scored only one TD through its first two games. Russell Wilson has not been himself because of an ankle injury that has limited his mobility and sometimes affected his passing. A home date vs. the 49ers may appear to cure some ills, but divisional games are never easy. Keep Wilson reserved until he shows signs of improving. Christine Michael is a good flex option this week. Thomas Rawls is now doubtful with a shin injury. Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett still have potential to be playmakers even if their game is lower scoring. Also add Jimmy Graham if he is still a free agent, as he is gradually starting to get closer to being a more frequent contributor.
TALE OF TWO TAMPAS
Jameis Winston will try to put a terrible Week 2 behind him and regroup against the Rams. Charles Sims takes over for the injured Doug Martin and should get strong starting consideration because of his versatility and expanded role. Winston is too erratic to be trusted yet, but Mike Evans is already flourishing in a lot of leagues and slot receiver Adam Humphries is looking like an interesting add in leagues with 14 teams or more, or even very competitive 12-teamers. This could be the week when Rams RB Todd Gurley shows his 2015 form.
The Green Bay offense has continued to disappoint, as Aaron Rodgers has been the ninth-best QB in fantasy so far. The Lions have allowed 592 yards and six TDs to opposing passers, so there is hope for an upturn this week. Expect Jordy Nelson to score and Randall Cobb to display his better form again. Eddie Lacy should get a chance to finish off a scoring drive or two with a TD run. Matthew Stafford will keep pace and you can start Marvin Jones and Eric Ebron with confidence. The Packers defense has been very good against the run so far, but Theo Riddick should play an expanded role this week with Ameer Abdullah out.
MONDAY NIGHT FIREWORKS
The Monday night matchup between the Falcons and Saints looks like a shootout. This is a week to consider rolling out even secondary fantasy types on both teams, such as Mohamed Sanu and Michael Thomas at WR.
This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com .