Fantasy News & Analysis

NFL Week 3 DFS Cheat Sheet: Five recommended plays for all contests

2RHYCYF Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) salutes prior to an NFL preseason football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

• TE Travis Kelce (64.9 PFF receiving grade), Kansas City Chiefs vs. Chicago Bears: He faces the league’s softest linebacker coverage unit. 

• WR Zay Flowers (77.2 PFF offense grade), Baltimore Ravens vs. Indianapolis Colts: He faces the league’s worst perimeter-coverage duo.

• Dominate your fantasy league in 2023: For up-to-date fantasy draft rankings and projections, check out PFF’s fantasy rankings tool!

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Daily fantasy sports (DFS) lineups require smart matchups analysis and rostership leverage opportunities to succeed. The analysis below details five fantasy assets capable of gaining significant leverage on the field. 

WR:CB Matchup Chart

TE Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs vs. Chicago Bears – $8,000 on FanDuel

Kelce (64.9 PFF receiving grade) returned to play in Week 2 following a harrowing knee hyperextension/bone bruise injury that sidelined him for Week 1. Kelce produced three straight “Limited Participant” designations last week before tying New York Giants tight end Darren Waller (74.4 PFF receiving grade) for the overall TE4 spot with 10.6 FanDuel points. The showing was a disappointment by Kelce’s standards, negatively influencing his Week 3 rostership rate. PFF’s ownership projections give Kelce a 10.3% rostership rate, 4.5% lower than Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews (63.9 PFF receiving grade).

Kelce has resumed practicing in full. 

FanDuel implies Kansas City to score an extremely-fantasy-friendly 30.0 points against Chicago. 

PFF’s OL/DL matchup chart gives Kansas City a 56.0% pass-blocking matchup advantage rating, ranking No. 1 on the week by 20.0%. Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes (74.6 PFF passing grade) will dish from mile-wide pockets. 

Kelce earned a team-high nine Week 2 targets despite his limitations. His 34.6% target rate paced the field among 22 NFL tight ends with at least 25 receiving snaps. Fantasy managers should expect a repeat showing — three Kansas City pass catchers suffered Week 2 injuries, jeopardizing their Week 3 availability.

PFF’s TE matchup chart gives Kecle a 27.0% receiving matchup advantage rating against Chicago linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (57.4 PFF coverage grade), tied for third best on the week. 

Led astray by Edmunds (100.0% catch rate allowed), Chicago’s linebacker corps is the league’s worst tight end-coverage unit. Among NFL linebacker-corps tight end-coverage units, Chicago’s ranks dead last in catch rate allowed (100.0%) and yards allowed per coverage snap (6.67). Their 8.3% explosive 15-plus-yard pass plays allowed rate ranks No. 27.

Chicago’s secondary is hampered by center-field cluster injuries, including starting slot cornerback Kyler Gordon (65.0 PFF slot-coverage grade, injured reserve), two-time Pro Bowl safety Eddie Jackson (72.3 PFF coverage grade, foot injury) and backup slot cornerback Josh Blackwell (46.1 PFF slot-coverage grade, hamstring strain) who resumed practicing in a limited capacity. Blackwell’s 20.0% explosive 15-plus-yard pass plays allowed rate coupled with Jackson’s impending absence bodes well for Kelce, whose 25.9% deep-target rate and 37 explosive 15-plus-yard pass plays ranked top seven among 42 NFL pass catchers with at least 100 targets in 2022. Kelce logged a 57.1% pre-snap alignment slot rate in Week 2. 

Kelce brings week-winning potential to Week 3 cash games and GPP tournaments alike.

RB Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys @ Arizona Cardinals – $9,400 on FanDuel

Pollard (61.5 PFF offense grade) enters a dreamy Week 3 matchup against a tactically compromised Arizona defense. Pollard’s $9,400 salary is second among FanDuel running backs, but his projected 7.0% rostership rate (No. 18 among running backs) makes him an advantageous leverage play as the masses flock to Cleveland Browns fill-in starter Jerome Ford (68.5 PFF offense grade) at a projected 24.3% rostership rate.

FanDuel implies Dallas to score 27.75 points as 12.5-point road favorites, ensuring a high-volume rushing day for the NFL’s sixth-most run-heavy offense (46.1% rushing rate). 

PFF’s OL/DL matchup chart gives Dallas an 8.0% run-blocking matchup advantage rating, fourth best on the week. 

Arizona safeties Budda Baker (80.2 PFF 2022 run-defense grade) and Jalen Thompson (77.4 PFF 2022 run-defense grade) rank Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in PFF run-defense grades among 2022 Arizona defenders with at least 150 run-defense snaps. Baker resides on injured reserve and Thompson is tasked with doubling as Arizona’s primary slot defensive back.

Dallas slot receiver CeeDee Lamb’s (76.5 PFF slot-receiving grade) 2.66 slot-route yards per route run (YPRR) ranks No. 1 among 42 NFL slot receivers with at least 25 slot-receiving snaps, and his 23.4% slot-target rate ranks No. 5. Lamb’s dominance will force Arizona to stick Thompson on him at all costs, allowing Dallas to line up Lamb on one side of the field and run Pollard toward the other, removing Arizona’s most-proven run defender from Pollard’s path.

This dynamic weighs heaviest in scoring position and Pollard’s 12 green zone rushing attempts are two times more than the next closest NFL running back. 

Pollard is a high-scoring shoo-in for Week 3.

WR Zay Flowers, Baltimore Ravens vs. Indianapolis Colts – $6,300 on FanDuel

Flowers (77.2 PFF offense grade, 62.9% perimeter-route rate) carries a $6,300 top-36 FanDuel salary and a 7.7% top-15 projected rostership rate into a wheels-up Week 3 matchup against Indianapolis’ league-worst perimeter cornerbacks Dallis Flowers (61.9 PFF coverage grade) and Darrell Baker Jr. (29.9 PFF coverage grade). The duo yielded top-six scoring results to wide receivers listed in the Weeks 12 WR/CB Matchups to Target & Avoid articles. 

Baltimore No. 3 wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (67.9 PFF receiving grade, ankle) will miss Week 3, and No. 2 wide receiver Rashod Bateman (59.6 PFF receiving grade) remains on a snap count, stemming from his 2022 Lisfranc injury.

PFF’s OL/DL matchup chart gives Baltimore a 14.0% pass-blocking matchup advantage rating, tied for eighth best on the week. Quarterback Lamar Jackson (75.4 PFF passing grade) projects for a near-hit-free day. 

Flowers’ 2.85 YPRR and 7.9 yards after the catch per reception (YAC/Rec.) both rank top 10 among 66 NFL perimeter wide receivers with at least 25 perimeter-receiving snaps. His 87.5% perimeter-route catch rate ties for No. 3.

Flowers’ perimeter-route receiving data among 66 NFL perimeter wide receivers with at least 25 perimeter-receiving snaps.
NFL Perimeter-WR Receiving Zay Flowers
PFF Perimeter-Receiving Grade 79.5 (No. 10)
YPRR 2.85 (T-No. 10)
Catch % 87.5% (T-No. 3)
YAC/Rec. 7.9 (No. 6)
15+-Yd Pass Plays 4 (T-No. 8)
Missed Tackles Forced Receiving 4 (T-No. 1)
MTF/Rec. % 57.1%
Indianapolis’ perimeter-cornerback coverage data among NFL teams’ perimeter-cornerback coverage. 
NFL Perimeter CB Coverage Indianapolis Colts CBs
PFF Perimeter Coverage Grade 38.9 (No. 32)
Targeted % – Catch % Allowed 35.6% (No. 28) – 68.8% (No. 21)
Yards Allowed per Coverage Snap 3.61 (No. 30)
15+-Yd Pass Plays Allowed % 8.9% (No. 30)

Flowers’ (37.1% slot-route rate) 30.4% slot-target rate ranks No. 3 among 49 NFL slot receivers with at least 20 slot-receiving snaps. Indianapolis’ struggling (80.0% slot-coverage catch rate allowed) slot cornerback Kenny Moore II (67.2 PFF slot-coverage grade, knee injury) was downgraded to “Did Not Participate” status on Thursday. His backup Tony Brown (43.8 PFF 2022 slot-coverage grade) is a practice squad-to-special teams-level talent.

Flowers has FanDuel WR1 upside in Week 3.

WR Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis Colts @ Baltimore Ravens – $6,700 on FanDuel

Pittman (63.1 PFF offense grade) has assumed alpha-wide receiver status in his fourth season. His $6,700 FanDuel salary and a 4.9% expected rostership rate rank top 24 among FanDuel wide receivers. Pittman Jr. should be used as a cash-game and GPP-tournament WR1 and can be easily game-stacked with Baltimore’s Flowers.

PFF’s OL/DL matchup chart gives Indianapolis a 29.0% pass-blocking matchup advantage rate against Baltimore’s injury-ruined pass-defense unit. 

Baltimore edge rusher Tyus Bowser (65.5 PFF 2022 pass-rush grade, injured reserve) is shelved through Week 4 and fellow edge starter Odafe Oweh (76.5 PFF pass-rush grade, ankle sprain) is unlikely to play. Free safety Marcus Williams (77.5 PFF coverage grade, pectoral injury) will miss multiple weeks and 2022 Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey (75.6 PFF 2022 coverage grade, foot injury) failed to practice on Wednesday and Thursday, likely sealing his Sunday-inactive fate. Backup defensive backs Trayvon Mullen (48.9 PFF 2022 coverage grade, reserve/non-football injury list) and Ar’Darius Washington (60.5 PFF coverage grade, injured reserve) are also out. 

Indianapolis quarterback Anthony Richardson (56.2 PFF passing grade) quickly proved himself as an NFL-ready passer but is currently working through the NFL’s concussion protocol. Doctor of Physical (DPT) Therapy Jeff Mueller notes quarterbacks who self-report concussion symptoms (a la Richardson) frequently play the following week, as opposed to those who are knocked unconscious or experience latent symptoms. Fellow DPT Edwin Porras calls attention to Indianapolis’ historically conservative injury processes though.  

Regardless, backup quarterback Gardner Minshew’s (75.2 PFF passing grade) adjusted completion rate (90.9%) and a 2.34-second average time to throw rank top five among 33 NFL quarterbacks with at least 10 dropbacks in Week 2.

Pittman’s receiving data among 40 NFL wide receivers with at least 65 receiving snaps.
NFL WR Receiving Michael Pittman Jr.
PFF Receiving Grade 63.7 (No. 34)
Targets 21 (T-No. 4)
Target % – YPRR 26.3% (No. 5) – 1.91 (No. 12)
Catch % – Contested Catch % 76.2% (No. 8) – 50.0% (T-No. 11)
YAC/Rec. 5.0 (No. 6)

Pittman Jr. will function as a target-hog WR1 against the injury-plagued Baltimore defense, whether Richardson or Minshew is under center.

WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Seattle Seahawks vs. Carolina Panthers – $5,300

Smith-Njigba (55.2 PFF offense grade, 79.0% slot-route rate) garners Week 3 GPP-tournament utilization, carrying an affordable $5,300 FanDuel salary and a projected No. 32-ranked 3.0% rostership rate. 

No. 1 wide receiver D.K. Metcalf (73.3 PFF receiving grade) is expected to play following a brutal Week 2 shot to the ribs. It is unlikely he plays a full snap share though. 

Carolina’s slot-coverage unit was built around high-quality play from former stud cornerback Troy Hill (67.8 PFF slot-coverage grade), but Hill’s precipitous drop-off coupled with inept backup slot defensive back Jeremy Chinn (80.7 PFF slot-coverage grade) and potential one-on-one matchups against journeyman linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill (66.0 PFF slot-coverage grade) green light Smith-Njigba in Week 3. 

Among 26 NFL slot cornerbacks with at least 15 slot-coverage snaps against NFL wide receivers, Hill’s 2.06 yards allowed per coverage snap rank No. 20 and his 5.6% explosive 15-plus-yard pass plays allowed rate rank No. 19. He has allowed a 100.0% catch rate.

Chinn has played well in limited action but his prior three-year stretch earning sub-62.0 PFF slot-coverage grades signals an imminent dropoff.

Starting linebacker Shaq Thompson (60.0 PFF slot-coverage grade) landed on injured reserve following a Week 2 fibula fracture. Among 45 NFL linebackers with at least 30 slot-coverage snaps in 2022, Grugier-Hill’s 2.42 yards allowed per coverage snap tie for No. 42.

Smith-Njigba is increasing his receiving snap participation while recovering from a preseason wrist fracture. His receiving data is quietly comparable to soon-to-be 32-year-old wide receiver Tyler Lockett (72.0 PFF offense grade).

Smith-Njigba and Lockett’s receiving data in Weeks 1-2. 
Seattle Seahawks WR Receiving Jaxon Smith-Njigba Tyler Lockett
PFF Receiving Grade 55.2 71.5
Target % – YPRR 21.3% – 1.00 21.2% – 1.05
Targets – Catch % 10 – 80.0% 14 – 71.4%
YAC/Rec. 4.8 1.5
15+-Yd Pass Plays % 12.5% 0.0%

Smith-Njigba should be included in GPP tournament rosters. 


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