Week 3 was the week of the back-up quarterback.
Seven different teams went into the week with a different quarterback than the one they thought they would start the season with, and shockingly five of those seven teams won their games this week.
Usually a back-up quarterback spells doom for their entire offence – for fantasy football and otherwise – but that simply wasn’t the case here.
The NFL already looks like a different league than the one we saw in Week 1, and if you want to have any shot to win your fantasy leagues you’re going to have to keep up.
So that you don’t fall behind, here are the five things we learned in week 3.
Daniel Jones Looks Like the Real Deal
We haven’t seen too many debuts like New York Giants first-round draft pick Daniel Jones’ debut on Sunday. Jones led the Giants back from an 18-point deficit to a 1-point road victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in his first-ever start in the NFL.
Jones tore it up during the preseason, but we’ve seen more than a handful of preseason stars flame out in the NFL. However, Jones passed his first test with flying colours, completing 23 of his 36 pass attempts for 336 yards and 2 touchdowns, while contributing another 2 scores and 28 yards with his rushing ability.
That performance was good enough to vault Jones to the top of the fantasy leaderboards – his 34.24 fantasy points finished behind only Russell Wilson and his own ridiculous 41.34 points.
Jones’ arrival in New York is a boon for their offence, which looked stagnant through the first two weeks of the season under Eli Manning.
The Giants had 2 pass-catchers (Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram) hit 100 yards in the game. By comparison, the Giants had just one pass-catcher hit that mark over the first two weeks of the season.
Things are really looking up for the Giants passing offence right now, and don’t expect that train to start losing steam anytime soon.
Over the next two weeks the Giants have two home games, one against Washington’s struggling defence and another against a Minnesota Vikings defence that has been solid in real football but forgiving in fantasy football.
This could be a good chance to see if Golden Tate is available on your waiver wires, and I expect Jones to be one of the most sought-after streamers at the quarterback position for Week 4.
But It’s Not All Sunshine and Butterflies in New York
The Giants may have come from behind to seal their first win of the season, but they lost superstar running back Saquon Barkley in the process — which means your fantasy teams did, too.
Barkley, one of the most dynamic and athletic players in the league, left Sunday’s game in the first half with an ankle injury. He didn’t return to the game but was seen on the sidelines in a walking boot and wielding crutches in the second half.
He has an MRI scheduled for Monday, but the outlook doesn’t look too promising right now.
Dr. David Chao – ProFootballDoc on Twitter – speculates that Barkley suffered a high ankle sprain, which would likely result in the stud running back missing a significant amount of time. San Francisco 49ers back Tevin Coleman suffered a similar injury in Week 1 and hasn’t played or fully practiced since.
Do you own Saquon Barkley in #FantasyFootball? How serious is his ankle injury?
— Fantasy Sports Radio (@SiriusXMFantasy) September 23, 2019
Barkley’s injury is bad news for the Giants and devastating news for those of us that spent high draft picks on him in fantasy this year.
Hopefully, his super-human athleticism will help him return to the field healthy sooner than expected, but in the meantime, you probably won’t be able to start the star for at least a couple of weeks.
In Barkley’s absence, Wayne Gallman took over as the lead back on Sunday. He only managed to muster up 13 yards on 15 carries against the Bucs’ stout run defence, and unfortunately, Gallman is not the same threat as a pass-catcher out of the backfield we’ve grown to expect from Barkley.
Expect the Giants to sign a free agent for depth this week, but Gallman should still be one of your top waiver priorities this week as the lead back on a revitalized Giants offence.
Kyle Allen Crushed It This Week
Were you worried about the Carolina Panthers this week, heading west to face off against the Arizona Cardinals without quarterback Cam Newton? I definitely was.
But Kyle Allen absolutely dunked on the Cardinals hapless defence on Sunday, and brought all of the Panthers’ top fantasy football options along with him. Allen was an efficient touchdown machine, completing 19 of his 26 passes for 4 scores in the Panthers’ first win of the season.
He tossed touchdowns to Curtis Samuel, D.J. Moore, and two more to Greg Olsen in the rout, and even managed to get Christian McCaffrey a few extra points in the receiving game for fantasy football – not that he needed them with his 153 rushing yards and a score of his own on the ground.
Sure, the Cardinals defence is atrocious, but Allen’s performance should give you the confidence you need to start your Panthers players in fantasy football for however long Cam Newton remains sidelined.
After all, the guy did beat out Kyler Murray for the starting job at Texas A&M back in the day.
The Panthers will have a tougher matchup on the road against the Houston Texans next week, but we’ve at least seen that Kyle Allen can keep the offence rolling while Newton recovers.
You’ll be able to start all of your Panthers with confidence in Week 4 regardless of which quarterback plays.
It’s Minshew Mania in Jacksonville
Kicking off the week of the breakout back-up quarterback was Gardner Minshew’s destruction of the Tennessee Titans on Thursday Night Football. Neither the final score – 20 to 7 – nor the box score fully reflect how good the sixth-round rookie looked in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ first win of the season.
In typical, accurate form, Minshew completed 20 of his 30 pass attempts for 204 yards and 2 touchdowns. What the box score doesn’t reflect is that five of his incompletions were drops, including one that should have been an easy score for Dede Westbrook.
Another two of those incompletions came on contested passes, meaning that over the course of the night just three of Minshew’s attempts were off-target. On the season, his 73.9 completion percentage currently ranks second in the league behind only Dak Prescott.
Minshew’s takeover in Jacksonville has created a few actionable takeaways for fantasy.
Minshew isn’t a competitive option as a quarterback himself outside of two-quarterback leagues, but he has put both Dede Westbrook and D.J. Chark on the map as fantasy WR3’s.
In Minshew’s two games as the starter, Chark, Westbrook and Leonard Fournette each have a 22% target share, while Chark has drawn an impressive 35% share of the team’s total air yards. His 10.7 average depth of target and 40% share of the team’s air yards over the whole season make Chark one of the premier deep threats in the league right now.
Chark (41%) and Westbrook (66%) are available in a surprising number of leagues heading into Week 4. If you need help at the wide receiver position, make sure to keep them on your shortlist.
Mike Evans is (Still) a Monster
If you drafted Mike Evans this season, you were probably starting to worry a little heading into Week 3. Evans had just 89 total receiving yards through the first two weeks and was being thoroughly outperformed by teammate Chris Godwin.
It’s fair to assume that the illness Evans contracted just before Week 1 could explain some of his struggles to start the season, but things were definitely getting a little dicey.
Unless you had been paying attention to the air yards distribution on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offence, that is. Despite Evans’ lack of real production, he still had 234 air yards through the first two weeks, a top 16 mark in the league.
Air yards are representative of a player’s intended usage on his team, and in Evans’ case, his huge air yard volume showed us that despite his low receiving yardage totals, the Bucs still wanted to feature him heavily.
In other words, he was primed for a breakout. We were all expecting something – just no one could have expected Evans to drop an 8-190-3 receiving line, even against a bottom-tier Giants secondary.
With his Week 3 performance, Evans vaulted from outside the top 50 wide receivers in fantasy.
The Bucs offence clearly relies on Evans and his explosive playmaking ability – the 31 points they scored on Sunday were the most they scored all year. With Evans back and healthy, the Bruce Arians Bucs can finally get things going.
If you bought low on Evans heading into Week 3, then congratulations. If you held onto him despite the slow start, then your patience was rewarded – assuming you started him this week.