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Rinse and repeat with fantasy running backs

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If you consider the sheer amount of injuries we saw last week across the NFL, putting together a fantasy lineup this week will be a challenge for most owners, to say the least. The Vikings dropped a bomb on fantasy owners Wednesday morning when they announced Adrian Peterson would need surgery to repair his torn meniscus, knocking him out of action for a "minimum" of 3-4 months. 

Then we have the rest of the NFL, where the Browns have probably the worst QB situation in the NFL right now (rookie Cody Kessler and Charlie Whitehurst); Browns rookie WR Corey Coleman broke his hand at practice on Wednesday; the Lions put Ameer Abdullah on the I.R., vaulting Theo Riddick into a fulltime role at RB; the Chargers lost Danny Woodhead to a torn ACL; Doug Martin and Jonathan Stewart are out; if the Patriots know when Rob Gronkowski will take the field, they aren't telling anyone.

Navigating the minefield that is fantasy football is never an easy task even when everything going right. Add in injuries and depth chart questions, and you pretty much have one foot on a banana peel and the other foot on an ice skate going uphill.

But, then again, that is why you come here. I am the oasis in the desert that is your start/sit decisions. You can make all the right free agency and draft decisions possible, but if you don't start the heroes and sit the zeroes, then you will lose every time! I'm going to throw a name out there you might want to pick up and stash on your bench: Bears RB Jordan Howard.

Remember, 2nd place is just the first loser.

Start 'em

Matt Ryan – Falcons: Matty Ice has Julio Jones to throw to, a WR that is #1 on most people's fantasy WR list. Add to that the emergence of TE Jacob Tamme, the pass-catching ability of Tevin Coleman out of the backfield, and the stability of knowing Mohamed Sanu is out there if Jones tweaks his ankle again, and you have a recipe for success against a terrible Saints secondary in Week 3.

I would go so far as to say Ryan could finish this week as a top-5 fantasy QB, and I'd seriously consider starting him over most QBs.

Philip Rivers – Chargers: Rivers didn't miss a beat after losing Keenan Allen for the season, throwing for 4 touchdowns and 220 yards in Week 2. To make the situation worse, Woodhead is out for the season now too. So how could I tell you to start Rivers, you ask? Well, the Chargers take on the Colts and their Swiss cheese secondary. Don't forget, last week Trevor Siemian managed 215 yards on 17-of-25 passing in the first half against the Colts.

Rivers gets the Colts this week, then the Saints next week, making him a great QB1 for the next two weeks.

Ezekiel Elliott – Cowboys: There has been a lot of talk about Elliot and his lack of focus since entering the NFL. His first two games of the season didn't help silence that talk, totaling 41 carries, but just 134 yards and 2 TDs to show for it. It's hard to ignore his 3.33 YPC average in the NFL when he averaged 6.7 YPC in college.

With that said, he gets the Bears' dreadful defense at home this Sunday. This is a prime chance for Elliot to get the wheels on his bus going round and round.

Melvin Gordon – Chargers: With Woodhead and Allen out for the season, the Chargers have an even bigger need for Gordon to take over the workhorse role and run with it. The great news for Gordon owners is he was able to rack up 24 carries, 102 yards, and a touchdown last week. This week he gets a Colts defense that is giving up the most fantasy points to RBs this season at a whopping 34.6 PPG thus far.

I'm locking Gordon into my RB1 rankings for this week, making him a sneaky DFS play for those who need an RB option.

Dez Bryant – Cowboys: I'm normally not a Bryant fan when it comes to fantasy football, as I've said before with numbers to back me up. However, Bryant had his 2016 coming out party last week against the Redskins, when he hauled in 7 of 12 targets for 102 yards. In true Bryant fashion though, he failed to find the endzone.

This week he gets an even juicer matchup with the injury riddled Chicago Bears secondary. To put it in perspective, last week that Bears defense made Carson Wentz look SO good, even the most hardened Bears fan I know (Chris Da' Bears Fan) texted me and said Wentz is for real. Hey Chris, what if the Bears defense is just that bad? I'd play Bryant in any format this week.

Willie Snead – Saints: Snead came back down to Earth in Week 2 (5 catches, 54 yards, 1 TD) after burning the Raiders for a 9/172/1 line to open the season. In saying that, I want to recommend his owners don't jump ship on starting him just yet. The Falcons give up 24.9 PPG to fantasy WRs this season, 12th-most in the NFL through the first two weeks.

Snead needs yards after the catch to make a real fantasy impact, but the Falcons have DBs that should allow him to do that. Consider him a low-end WR2/ high-end WR3 for Week 3.

Julius Thomas– Jaguars: Thomas has settled into his role with the Jaguars and has built a trusting relationship with Blake Bortles so far this season. In Week 1 Thomas reeled in 5 of 5 targets for 64 yards and a touchdown. In Week 2 he caught 4 of 7 targets for 71 yards and no touchdowns. This week he gets a Ravens defense that has given up just 77 yards, but has faced sub-par TEs in Charles Clay & Gary Barnidge (no QB).

Thomas has a 9/135/1 line through two weeks, ranking him 3rd overall for fantasy TEs. If he can keep building his rapport with Bortles, he will be a steal for owners who took him in the middle of the 9th round.

Miami Dolphins defense: If you just skip down to the sit 'em RB and TE section, you will see that there really isn't much more I can say about the hole the Browns are in than I already have. This isn't about the Dolphins defense being good. Rather, it is about just how bad the Browns offense is with their 3rd-string rookie QB who has a below-average arm, and Corey Coleman out with a broken hand.

I picked up the Dolphins defense in most of my leagues, and consider them a must-start this week.

Sit 'em

Jameis Winston – Buccaneers: Winston is one of those fantasy QBs that I tend to stay away from, while others flock to him. In Week 1 he lit up the Falcons for 281 yards, 4 TDs, and 1 INT, but followed up that stellar effort with 243 yards, 1 TD, and 4 INTs against the Cardinals in Week 2.

With Martin out, the Bucs running game is in question. Last week Winston forced a lot of bad throws, resulting in INTs and a pick-six by Marcus Peters. This week he gets a Rams defense that is allowing the 4th-fewest fantasy points to WRs (15.0 PPG) through the first two games of the season. I'd look elsewhere for my QB sleeper.

Andy Dalton – Bengals: Dalton is one of those QBs that gets no respect from media around the country, despite being ranked #1 in the NFL for passing yards (732) and #5 in fantasy football for QBs. However, this week he runs into a Broncos team that is centered around its defense. Through two weeks, they are giving up the 12th-fewest fantasy points to QBs (19.1) and 3rd-fewest fantasy points to WRs (14.2).

With Tyler Eifert still out, and Jeremy Hill not living up to his hype yet again, Dalton will find it much harder to duplicate his success in Week 3 against the Broncos.

Isaiah Crowell – Browns: Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown are out at QB, forcing Kessler into not just action, but a starting job. Kessler is nowhere near ready to start in the NFL, meaning the Dolphins are going to play man coverage in the secondary and stack the box to stop Crowell from continuing his early-season rampage of 195 rushing yards (3rd in NFL) and 2 TDs.

I want no part of Crowell as long as Kessler or Whitehurst are under center, and you have to know the Dolphins are going to flat-out pack the box to stop the run. Find someone else to play in your flex.

Carlos Hyde – 49ers: Hyde came out swinging in Week 1 against the Rams, finishing the game with 23 carries for 88 yards (3.83 YPC) and 2 touchdowns. In Week 2 he hit the roadblock known as the Panthers defense, finishing with 14 carries for 34 yards (2.43 YPC). This week he draws the Seahawks' troublesome run defense that has allowed just 100 total yards rushing (4th-lowest), and is giving up the 3rd-fewest fantasy points to RBs this season at 10.9 PPG.

With the passing game not scaring anyone and the Seahawks confident they can handle Torrey Smith and Vance McDonald, I am looking for the running game to be the focal point on defense for Seattle. Hyde is a low-ceiling flex option.

Stefon Diggs – Vikings: The Vikings lose Peterson, and now are forced to roll out a RBBC of Jerick McKinnon, Matt Asiata, and possibly even newly signed Ronnie Hillman. The lack of stability in the running game means defenses can play a more balanced approach, putting pressure on Sam Bradford to prove he isn't the bust everyone thinks he is.

The Panthers give up the 2nd-fewest fantasy points to WRs this season at 14.0 PPG, and I'm certainly not looking for Diggs to do better than that with serious question marks in the running game. I'd find someone else to fill my WR2/3 hole this week.

A.J. Green – Bengals: I hate to say sit one of my favorite human beings in the NFL, but the cards are stacked against Green this week. For all the same reasons I'm sitting Dalton this week, I sit Green. The combination of Chris Harris and Aqib Talib will make it hard for Dalton to find Green with enough space to get him the ball.

If you must start Green due to WR depth, consider him a WR2 for fantasy purposes.

Gary Barnidge – Browns: Barnidge broke out last season (79/1,043/9) with Josh McCown at the helm for the Browns, which caused too many fantasy owners to reach for him in their draft, thinking he was a plug-and-play fantasy TE. This year he started the season with RGIII and finished Week 1 with 0 catches on 2 targets. Things got better in Week 2 after Griffin was lost for the season (again), and he managed to haul in 4 of 5 targets for 37 yards. Still not what owners hoped for, but far better than 0-2.

This week he is down to Kessler at QB, a rookie that has to have HC Hue Jackson wondering if he made the right move by leaving Cincinnati. I don't know that I would cut him because he has value when McCown returns, but he isn't a must-hold player either.

Kansas City Chiefs defense: The Chiefs entered 2016 as a projected low-end starting fantasy defense, but have found the road to success evasive. They were mollywhopped by the Chargers in Week 1 (27 points allowed, 1 sack), but refocused themselves and held the Texans to just 19 points, with 2 sacks and 2 INTs.

This week they take on a Jets offense that was firing on all cylinders last week against the Bills on Thursday night, racking up 374 passing yards, 123 rushing yards, and scoring 28 offensive points. The Chiefs are not a defense I want playing on my team this week, and suggest you go see if the Dolphins are still available if you own them.

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