The 2014 Fantasy Football campaign is entering Week 3, and Jake Ciely of RotoExperts.com will be providing exclusive fantasy coverage for NewOrleansSaints.com all season. Jake will give you the expert deal on Saints players from fantasy perspectives with his in-depth game previews every week.
**The New Orleans Saints host the Minnesota Vikings in their home opener Sunday, and will have good matchups to take advantage of this week. This will be a week when you can roll out most of your top Saints in fantasy football with a lot of confidence.
It all starts at quarterback, and as we know, Drew Brees is even better at home. That's not to say Brees isn't good on the road. In fact, Brees being so good at home inflates perceptions of his road numbers. Brees has won over 55 percent of his road games, and in 95 games, his QB rating is 90.2 with 25,682 (270.3 per) yards and a 1.65:1 TD:INT ratio (155 total TDs). As good as those are, get ready for the home numbers. In 93 home games, Brees has a 100.5 QB rating with 25,969 (279.2) yards and a 2.48:1 TD:INT ratio (211 total).
The Vikings have allowed Shaun Hill, Austin Davis and Tom Brady to complete 67.2 percent of their passes so far with a 78.7 QB rating. That includes just one touchdown and two interceptions, so you know Brees will significantly increase those numbers, especially with such a high completion rate. With Peyton Manning headed to Seattle, fire up Brees as the top quarterback choice in fantasy football this week.
Mark Ingram looked terrific through the first two games. He was well on his way to a breakout year with 143 yards and three touchdowns on just 24 carries, but according to media reports he will not be available for this game and fantasy players can now look ahead to his return next month. The good news in the interim is that the Saints have plenty of quality options ready to step up. Pierre Thomas was filling more of the Darren Sproles role this season, but with Ingram out, his carries should increase. Thomas was already a solid RB2 in PPR leagues, and the increased usage makes him a solid RB2 in standard leagues as well.
The main beneficiary in the run game will be Khiry Robinson. As we saw at times last year, Robinson can handle the heavy carries, as he rushed for 224 yards with a 4.1 YPC average. Consider Robinson a quality RB3/Flex play against the Vikings – the lack of a RB2 status isn't because of his ability, it's simply because Brees should air it out plenty in Week 3. Deep leaguers and those looking for running back help shouldn't forget about Travaris Cadet. He'll certainly get more involved now, and Cadet has upside. Cadet has great speed for a 6-foot-1, 220-pounder and is as versatile as they come.
The receiving game mainly featured Jimmy Graham in Week 2, but you can guarantee Brees will work Marques Colston heavily back into the offensive flow this week. Expect Colston to see a healthy dose of targets against the Vikings. Brandin Cooks should bounce back, as even though he had 17 receiving yards last week, he still saw the most targets for all Saints wide receivers with six. Kenny Stills is worth a deep league start, as in his first game back, he saw four targets. Expect more usage as he nears 100 percent. Robert Meachem is another deep league option with the second-most targets against the Browns. Basically, since we know Brees is going to light up the scoreboard, there will be plenty of passing love to go around.
With Graham, we don't need to tell you anything; we know what we're going to get. Graham is the best in the business, and there is a real chance that Graham repeats his Week 2 numbers. You drafted him for weeks like these.
If you stashed and waited on the Saints defense/special teams, as I recommended in the preseason, now is the time to let them loose. As Brees goes, so does the team, and the Saints DST averaged more Fantasy Points per game at home last season. With an early lead being likely, look for the Vikings to air it out more, which opens up the opportunity for turnovers. Of course, a good scoring week means a quality outing for Shayne Graham. He is currently in the middle of the pack for kickers, but he is tied for the league lead in extra points, and those alone will guarantee Graham a solid Week 3 score.
Elsewhere, Cam Newton is back to being trustworthy. Newton is locked into QB1 status again. With plenty of time to rest after playing at less than 100 percent in Week 2, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery being ready for the Jets matchup have Jay Cutler nearing the Top 10 for quarterbacks. Kirk Cousins will be and should be one of the hottest waiver pickups this week. Cousins showed the upside he brings, as he finished with 21.9 Fantasy Points coming in for Robert Griffin and not having DeSean Jackson for most of the game.
Another aspect of the Redskins game to like is Alfred Morris. So far, he is a Top 10 running back with 176 yards and two touchdowns. Look for Zac Stacy to have his best game of the season against the Cowboys, as they are allowing 5.3 yards per carry through the first two games. Rashad Jennings is quietly having a RB1 season with receiving yards being a big reason for that. The Texans have allowed the 10th most Fantasy Points to running backs, which sets up Jennings for another good game. If the Jaguars move to Blake Bortles at quarterback, you can expect better numbers for Toby Gerhart, as Bortles will open up the offense more. Don't panic and trade away Gerhart.
Percy Harvin is in line for a big day, as the Seahawks host the Broncos, and if any offense can put a dent in the Seahawks' D and make the offense play keep-up, it's the Broncos. Julian Edelman is clearly a favorite of Tom Brady. If Brady trusts him, you should too… every week. Matthew Stafford targeted Golden Tate early against the Giants, which gives him a promising outlook, as the Packers will keep the game closer than New York did, forcing more passing from the Lions. Sammy Watkins had his breakout game last week (that was quick), and he will look to build off that outing against a Chargers defense that is allowing the seventh-most points to receivers. Brian Quick has a great matchup with the Cowboys, and most fantasy owners probably haven't noticed that Quick is currently the 26th-best receiver with 173 yards in two games.
Greg Olsen continues to be a target monster for the Panthers, and Zach Ertz continues to show us why this year will be his coming out party. Antonio Gates has proven that he is the one to focus on in the passing game, when it comes to tight ends. Gates is second only to Julius Thomas so far, and he actually has more yards (second only to Jimmy Graham in that department). If Jordan Cameron is healthy, you must put him in the lineup. He will be a focal point of the Browns offense for most, if not all, of the season. Andy Reid promised to use Travis Kelce more, and he delivered. Kelce would have even more value if the snap count keeps rising, but even so, Kelce is still a high-end TE2 with upside for more.
The Patrios DST will continue being one of the best units this week as they host the Oakland Raiders. Given their matchups, the Texans, 49ers and Colts should all finish with DST1 numbers. As for kickers, Dan Carpenter is leading the league, while rookie Cody Parker is worth owning in most leagues, as he has plenty of scoring chances for the Eagles.
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2nd gallery of photos from the New Orleans Saints game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, September 14, 2014. Photos by Michael C. Hebert (New Orleans Saints photos)