A rash of early season injuries not only has cost some fantasy football managers a win or two and forced them to scour the waiver wire for leftovers, but it also prevents them from seeing how their offenses and defenses could perform down the road.
How are we supposed to know the full potential — or limitations — of the 49ers passing game if they can’t keep Deebo Samuel, Jimmy Garoppolo and other mainstays on the field at the same time?
Conversely, do you have to worry less about the 49ers' pass defense without Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas?
You’d like to trust that the identity of an offense or defense won’t change drastically despite some major losses, though Michael Thomas' absence from the Saints was quite noticeable Monday night against the Raiders.
Finding the right matchups for the players you can count on are especially important in Week 3.
Cardinals QB Kyler Murray vs. Lions
Between Mitch Trubisky and Aaron Rodgers, the Lions have given up five touchdowns through the air this season. Kyler Murray really hasn’t opened up the Cardinals passing game with DeAndre Hopkins just yet, but that could happen in Week 3.
And although Trubisky and Rodgers are good scramblers, the Lions haven’t faced a running threat of Murray’s level either.
Also consider: Patriots QB Cam Newton vs. Raiders
Eagles RB Miles Sanders vs. Bengals
The Bengals put up little resistance against Nick Chubb or Kareem Hunt in the Thursday night game, and although Chargers backs Joshua Kelley and Austin Ekeler have different styles, both put up good numbers.
A dual-threat back like Miles Sanders should get on track quickly in this matchup.
Also consider: Steelers RB James Conner vs. Texans
Colts RB Jonathan Taylor vs. Jets
The 49ers’ Raheem Mostert and Jerick McKinnon sliced through the Jets' run defense like melted cheese. Jonathan Taylor may not be able to run 22 mph, but he showed against the Vikings (26 carries for 101 yards and a TD) that he can wear down a defense.
Also consider: Bills RB Devin Singletary vs. Rams
Titans WR Corey Davis at Vikings
Mike Zimmer’s new-look Vikings secondary isn’t working out too well. The Colts have taken some dings to their pass catchers and yet they still carved up Minnesota’s defensive backs. They made Mo Alie-Cox (111 yards) and Zach Pascal (1 TD) look like Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne.
The Titans’ Corey Davis topped 100 yards in Week 1 and, with A.J. Brown sidelined, scored his first touchdown of the season in Week 2.
“I had confidence in the guys we had out there,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said via the Nashville Post. “Obviously, (we) miss A.J. (Brown). He’s a heck of a player. With (Cameron) Batson and Kalif (Raymond), Nick (Westbrook-Ikhine) was out there a little bit, I have a ton of confidence in those guys. They all bring something a little bit different to the table.”
Also consider: Bears WR Allen Robinson at Falcons
Cowboys WR CeeDee Lamb at Seahawks
The Seahawks have given up an alarming number of big plays to receivers so far. The Patriots don’t exactly have a stable of talent yet: Julian Edelman (eight catches for 179 yards), Damiere Byrd (6-72) and N’Keal Harry (8-72) had a PPR field day.
CeeDee Lamb had six catches for 106 yards against the Falcons and is emerging as a playmaker for the Cowboys.
Also consider: Jaguars WR DJ Chark vs. Dolphins
Bengals TE Drew Sample vs. Eagles
Drew Sample put in admirable work after C.J. Uzomah suffered an Achilles injury, grabbing seven of nine targets for 45 yards. The Eagles secondary got torched by Tyler Higbee (3 TDs) and gave up a score to Washington’s Logan Thomas in the opener.
Also consider: Washington TE Logan Thomas vs. Browns
Seahawks K Jason Myers vs. Cowboys
Russell Wilson can’t throw four or five touchdown passes every week, can he?
The Cowboys gave up 17 points to Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo and would’ve given up double digits to the Rams' Sam Sloman had he not missed a kick in the opener.
Also consider: Falcons K Younghoe Koo vs. Bears
Chargers defense/special teams vs. Panthers
The Bolts gave the Chiefs all they could handle until Patrick Mahomes and Co. pulled it out in the end.
The Panthers have a lot less bite without running back Christian McCaffrey. If Mike Davis can’t get things going on the ground, Carolina might have to make Teddy Bridgewater a volume passer, and that’s not what Matt Rhule wants. The offensive line is iffy and Bridgewater was sacked five times by the Buccaneers.
Also consider: Washington Football Team at Browns
Chargers QB Tyrod Taylor vs. Panthers
This isn’t about Tyrod Taylor’s ribs or whether he’s about to lose his starting QB job to Justin Herbert, though they’re certainly valid concerns. The Panthers have just given up so much on the ground that quarterbacks haven’t needed big passing numbers.
The Panthers defense has two of the bottom 20 fantasy-point performances by quarterbacks, but two of the top six allowed to running backs. For a Chargers team that has questions about its passing game, this matchup will allow coach Anthony Lynn to ride Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley to a win.
Also consider: Broncos QB Jeff Driskel vs. Buccaneers
Panthers RB Mike Davis at Chargers
Is this any way to treat Mike Davis in his first start in relief of Christian McCaffrey?
We just talked about how the Panthers are letting teams run on them. Well, the Chargers are the opposite: L.A.'s defense has held running backs to two of the eight worst fantasy outputs at the position so far, according to FantasyData.com.
The combination of the Chargers running game and taking away their opponent’s rush could put a real damper on Davis' fantasy potential if he doesn’t get an early score.
Also consider: Rams RB Malcolm Brown at Bills
Texans RB David Johnson at Steelers
The Texans have problems on offense that go beyond David Johnson’s own ineffectiveness in Week 2. The team’s thin pool of pass catchers certainly doesn’t help Johnson’s cause.
The Steelers haven’t been very giving to running backs — they tie for the second-fewest rushing attempts allowed (16) this season, according to Yahoo.com.
Also consider: Dolphins RB Myles Gaskin at Jaguars
Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins at Ravens
There’s no guarantee that if Sammy Watkins goes into concussion protocol he’ll miss the Ravens matchup — like Chris Godwin did with the Panthers game.
But here are three things to consider: 1. The Chiefs can turn to Mecole Hardman or Demarcus Robinson; 2. the Ravens have held receivers like Odell Beckham Jr. and Will Fuller in check (though Fuller reportedly has a hamstring issue); 3. the game is on Monday night, meaning it could be too late to make a waiver move if Watkins is a late scratch.
Also consider: Bills WR John Brown vs. Rams
Lions WR Kenny Golladay at Cardinals
Kenny Golladay is expected to return from a hamstring injury and could match up against the Cardinals' Patrick Peterson.
The Cards shut down 49ers receivers in Week 1 and can chalk up their one letdown against Terry McLaurin to his pure talent.
Golladay also has to contend with sharing balls with Marvin Jones and Marvin Hall.
Also consider: Steelers WR Diontae Johnsonvs. Texans
Jets TE Chris Herndon at Colts
With injuries to Jamison Crowder and Le’Veon Bell, fantasy managers expect Chris Herndon to see enough volume against the 49ers to make him worth a start. He had just one catch for 5 yards, and now he faces a Colts secondary riding high off putting the clamps on the Vikings.
Also consider: Bills TE Dawson Knox vs. Rams
Raiders K Daniel Carlson at Patriots
After the Patriots lost a barn-burner, expect them to be sharp. Field goals probably won’t cut it in this game, and the last two kickers (Miami’s Jason Sanders and Seattle’s Jason Myers) had 4 and 5 points, respectively.
Also consider: Vikings K Dan Bailey vs. Titans
Saints defense/special teams vs. Packers
The Saints lost their shirts in Las Vegas (hey-yo!), but seriously folks, Derek Carr and Darren Waller dissected their secondary in the second half.
Up next are the high-powered Packers, the only team to saddle each DSTs (Lions and Vikings) they’ve faced with negative points.