Lessons Learned – Week 3

by Al Scherer · Analytics & Advanced Metrics
  1. 1) The (AFC) West is the Best

After today’s home loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, the Kansas City Chiefs are now 1-2 and in last place in the AFC West. This is the first time they’ve had a losing record in Patrick Mahomes career. This is also the first time at any point in his career that they’ve given up more yards year-to-date than they’ve gained. They fell to the Chargers at home today and now go on the road for three of their next four, with their only home game being a test against the Buffalo Bills.

It may seem laughable to consider any games must-wins this early. But should the Chiefs slip up again in the next few weeks, they will face an uphill battle to host 2021 playoff games.

The Chargers are now 2-1 after a 30-24 win over the Super Bowl Champion Chiefs. Justin Herbert, who was “just ok” in Weeks 1 and 2 despite throwing over 300 yards in both games, was a sterling 26 of 38 for 281 yards with four scores in Week 3. Head coach Brandon Staley showed supreme confidence in Herbert, bypassing a shot at a late fourth-quarter FG attempt that could have given them the lead, instead going for it on fourth down. Then, with under a minute left, rather than kick a chip shot FG to take the lead, Staley let Herbert throw into the end zone, where Justin found Mike Williams for the game winner. The Chargers have a great pass defense and now all the confidence in the world.

Denver is 3-0 on the strength of a defense that completely shut out the hapless Jets. Yes, the Broncos have been blessed with one of the easiest three-week schedules to open a season that we’ve seen in a long time (at NYG, at JAX, vs NYJ). But they’ve done their job, giving up only 9 points per game. We’ll see how they fare over the next several weeks. They don’t face another such patsy until Week 14 vs Detroit.

But a strong defense, a solid running game, and a safe quarterback throwing to decent receivers will give them a chance to win almost every week.

The Raiders are also 3-0 on the strength of Derek Carr‘s fifth straight 300-plus yard passing game (going back to last year). While never sure where their rushing will come from (was that really Peyton Barber today??), there are passing scoring to be had everywhere. When defenses take away Darren Waller, Carr has success looking to Bryan Edwards, Henry Ruggs, and Hunter Renfrow.


Look for any available passing targets on Los Angeles’ and Las Vegas’ rosters. There’s enough volume that even third targets on these squads are usable. In Denver, see if Melvin Gordon is available. While many have already written him off for Javonte Williams, Vic Fangio doesn’t seem to think so yet, giving Gordon 60-percent of the Week 3 carries. Having one of the fastest recorded plays to this point in the season, Gordon still has value in 2021. There will be enough for both he and Williams to contribute this year. The best Chiefs are already taken. Don’t reach further for KC talent until/unless the Chiefs get back on track.

  1. 2) The Beast in the East

When the Buffalo Bills and Josh Allen stumbled out of the gates in Week 1 against Pittsburgh, folks were ready to write off the Bills and especially Allen as a two-year wonder (is there such a thing?). Well, after that slip-up against the Steelers, the Bills put on their big boy pants, rolling over Miami and Washington by a combined score of 78-21. Holding the ball for more than 35 minutes against the Football Team, Allen hit on four passing strikes and now sports a 7-1 TD-to-interception mark for the season. Not only has he shined, the Bills have even involved their running backs. Devin Singletary and Zack Moss have already put up four touchdowns versus the six scored all of last year. The Bills get a scrimmage next week against Houston before traveling to Kansas City with a 4-1 record. If the Bills win in Arrowhead in two weeks, come playoff time, they’ll not be going back to Kansas City.


Get on the Bills Train any way you can. Five Bills already have double-digit targets, with (do you mind my extrapolating after three weeks?) Cole Beasley, Stefon Diggs, and Emmanuel Sanders all on pace for over 100 targets. At running back, Zack Moss, who may be on your waiver wires, had the most Week 3 running back touches with 16. Devin Singletary posted another 12. There are plenty of touches and fantasy points to go around in Buffalo.


  1. 3) Grab these Lower-Profile WRs Now!!

  • Rams – DeSean Jackson/Van Jefferson

  • TheMatthew Stafford in Los Angeles” experience has passed with flying colors. With 9 TDs and 1 INT and over 300 yards/game, there is plenty of fantasy scoring to go around. You’re not going to get Cooper Kupp or Robert Woods, but there’s other options that are available. DeSean Jackson grabbed three of five targets for 120 yards and a score. Had Stafford not under-thrown him a couple times, he would have gotten closer to 200, still showing that world-class speed at age 34. Everyone’s fantasy roster needs pure upside, ceiling players for the inevitable “In Case of Emergency Break Glass” moments. Jackson offers that upside! (And, for dynasty or in the event DeSean breaks down again, stash Van Jefferson, who blazed a 4.39-second 40 Yard Dash at his pro day.)
  • Raiders – Hunter Renfrow

  • Derek Carr and the Raiders are winning with the same high-flying offense that Gruden’s silver-and-black put up 20 years ago. When a team is putting up 45 passes a game, you want in on that action. Even the third receiver in Vegas is a better choice than the No. 1 on some other teams (see Allen Robinson below). Enter Hunter Renfrow. Catching five of six targets for a healthy 77 yards and a score, he has now caught 16 of 22 targets for 204 yards in three games. A 72.7-percent (No. 24 among qualified wide receivers) Catch Rate and 93.3-percent (No. 9) True Catch Rate in 2020 combined with increased 2021 volume puts him solidly in the WR3 range with upside.
  • Bucs – Tyler Johnson

  • Quiet so far in the NFL, this is the same guy that rendered Rashod Bateman a WR2 when they were teammates at Minnesota. With Antonio Brown out, Johnson jumped right into the WR3 role, hauling in three catches for 63 yards. Should Brown miss any more time or any other injuries pop up, Johnson will play an important role. Now you can still get him for nothing. Especially in dynasty, when expiring contracts could present him with a much more prominent role in 2022, don’t wait!
  1. 4) These WRs are in Trouble!!

It may be too late to move these WRs but sell low if their names can still get you anything.

  • Bears – Allen Robinson

  • The Bears can’t pass block. In their first three games, they’ve posted one passing touchdown while surrendering 15 sacks. They are at the bottom of the league with 400 passing yards… in all three games combined! Justin Fields was sacked nine times for 67 yards in losses while posting 68 yards passing. Robinson has caught less than half his targets in 2021 despite a career-low YPT. Especially in redraft, sell Robinson low now if you can still get anything for his name. Easier matchups are coming, but this team is a mess.
  • Football Team – Curtis Samuel

  • Don’t bother. It took Samuel four years to “break out” in Carolina, when, aided by an 7.2 (No. 100, yes there are that many players ranked) Average Target Distance, Samuel posted a 79.4-percent (No. 2) Catch Rate. The 2020 breakout amounted to five (No. 34) total touchdowns. Prior to 2020, he’d never averaged as many as 40 receiving yards or 10 rushing yards per game. Samuel caught 51-percent of his targets for now-Washington OC Scott Turner when they were together in Carolina in 2019. Now on Injured Reserve, when Samuel returns, he won’t overtake Terry McLaurin, Logan Thomas, or Antonio Gibson for Football Team targets.
  • Panthers – Robby Anderson

  • Give up on him. CAR is 3-0 on the coattails of a crushing defense, balanced offense, and Sam Darnold‘s safe, mid-range passing game. The Panthers won’t give up enough points to get into shootouts, so won’t often need to go downfield. And even if they want to, D.J. Moore and Terrace Marshall are just as fast as Anderson, but with better hands. Anderson, now with 11 targets through three games, ranks No. 4 on the team, tied with TE Dan Arnold. Moore, on the other hand, has 10 targets per game over his last eight starts. There’s little reason for Darnold to look Anderson’s way.
  1. 5) Thursday Night Breakdown – CAR D Crushing It Early – Will It Last?

The Panthers have given up 30 points in 3 games. Sure, it helps to have hosted the Jets and Jameis Winston‘s Saints before visiting the Texans this past Thursday night, but 30 points against is 30 points against. Through three games, the Panthers have more than doubled their combined opponents’ yardage 1,171 to 573. The Panthers will be tested in the weeks to come though, with upcoming matchups against the Cowboys, Eagles, and Vikings. Carolina focused on defense during free agency, selecting exciting rookie CB Jaycee Horn in the first round, and the results to date have shown. Terribly though, they lost Horn in just his third game when he broke three bones in his right foot. Keep in mind that the Panther matchups in fantasy playoff Weeks 15 and 16 will be quite the test. So be prepared to move on at DST if they don’t maintain this pace.


If you play in leagues with DSTs and the Panthers are still available, grab them and see how they hold up. If your offensive players go up against Carolina, don’t be afraid to start them until and unless the Panthers show their new defense is the real thing.