Fantasy football is a passion for many. Sometimes that passion causes fantasy managers to make emotional decisions even when the data suggests otherwise. Each week during the 2023 NFL season Liz Loza will attempt to strike a balance between what the data states and what the heart wants. This is called Facts vs Feelings.
My friend's husband is obsessed with the band Rush (stand up Gen X dads). He will prattle on endlessly about the group's progressive sound, the masterpiece that is "Tom Sawyer" and Neil Peart's chronic tendinitis.
And we will all patiently listen.
Why? Because it makes him happy. This assemblage of aged, screechy-voiced rockers gives him so much joy that his nearest and dearest allow him the space to revel in his passion. It's kind of cute (says the woman not married to him).
Positivity is palpable. And I think we can all agree that the world could use more of it.
Yet, there exists an ardent faction of football fans who can't resist screaming at the clouds about how "no one cares" that Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce are (maybe) dating. People clearly care! Travis Kelce's jersey sales spiked nearly 400% and the Chiefs versus Bears game nabbed 24.3 million viewers, making it Sunday's most-watched NFL contest.
As a Bears fan, I'll admit Taylor was the balm to my fury. Watching her let a "LFG" rip while pounding the glass next to Donna Kelce absolutely sent me, and helped to alleviate the metric ton of angst I felt over the stupid team I've rooted for since the '80s. It was a worlds colliding moment. And I loved it.
But if that wasn't you, cool. Not everyone has to be into the same stuff. Dumping on something that makes someone else smile is rude.
Fantasy football fans should understand this better than anyone else (except maybe the D&D folks). We are a weird and wonderful collection of souls who fervently prioritize the management of fake football teams for a quarter of the calendar year because it absolutely delights us. Anyone who wants to roll their eyes at our (or anyone's) shared bliss can kick rocks (perhaps down "Cornelia Street").
So, don't yuck someone else's yums. It's weak. Besides, we've got enough -- between injuries and Arthur Smith -- to worry about.
Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals: Burrow's fantasy output is certainly a topic of concern. While he notched his first win of 2023 and his 259 passing yards marked a season high, Burrow remains the QB32 in fantasy points per game (8.9). Here's another less-than-fun fact: Keenan Allen recorded recorded just two fewer fantasy points (5.9) through the air than Burrow did on Monday night (8.2). I've been patient. Now, I'm starting to panic.
Burrow's calf issue is clearly affecting his production, through the air and on the ground. Not only does Joe Cool's aDOT of 6.1 yards rank 30th in the NFL, but he's managed just two rushing yards through three games (last year he averaged over 15 rushing yards per contest while adding 5 rushing scores to his regular season stat line). Thankfully, Burrow did not suffer a setback on Monday night. His fantasy investors, on the other hand, can't say the same.
Burrow will travel to Nashville in Week 4. The Titans defense has given up the fourth-most yards (690) to opposing receivers. That bodes well for Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins (whom I expect will clean up the drop issues he dealt with on MNF). However, Tennessee has also registered the seventh-most sacks (10) on the season (and that number should be higher given the unit's uncharacteristic 14 missed tackles from Week 3). That makes me nervous for Burrow on a short week. He's currently my QB10, but adding Russell Wilson (66% rostered) or subbing in Geno Smith (22% started last week) may end up being the wiser choice.
D'Andre Swift, RB, Philadelphia Eagles: The riddle of Burrow's startability may not yet be clear, but at least the mystery of Philly's RBBC appears to have been solved. D'Andre Swift has emerged from the mist of a muddy backfield and is giving off phoenix-like energy. The 24-year-old has managed at least 17 touches and gone over 130 scrimmage yards in back-to-back outings. Even with Kenneth Gainwell returning to the field, Swift led the team's RBs in snaps (42), offensive play percentage (53.8%), touches (17) and total yards (138).
Fully utilizing those hometown vibes, Swift is showcasing the quickness and burst that made him an early second-round selection back in 2020. Posting 6.9 yards per carry over his last two contests, the former Lion leads the position in breakaway runs (17). He's also gifted investors with top-15 positional production over the past two weeks. His ceiling as a receiver might be capped (only 5 catches for 14 yards), but Miles Sanders managed top-12 numbers with only 20 grabs in 2022. Not bad for a guy who was drafted as the RB24 overall last month. Swift figures to thrive as a solid RB2 option versus Washington in Week 4.
Javonte Williams, RB, Denver Broncos: Williams, 23, may not be serving Swift-like snap-back vibes, but he is consistently shaking off rust and exceeding expectations. Despite suffering a multiligament knee tear less than a year ago, Williams is the Broncos' clear-cut RB1. He has registered 13+ touches in each effort this season, recording 24 more rush attempts than RB2 Samaje Perine. Additionally, Williams is leading the squad in rushing yards after first contact (45 to Perine's 25), which is particularly telling given his tackle-breaking skill set.
Williams' 3.8 YPC may be less than stellar, but his steady snap share (48%, 45%, 42%), indicates a clear and defined role for the former second-round pick. His efficiency also figures to improve as the season progresses. You know what? Forget one month from now. I predict the former North Carolina standout flirts with 5.0 yards per touch (his rookie year average) in Chicago on Sunday. The Bears defense is an utterly lost unit that has been raided (pun intended) by opposing RBs, allowing the second-most fantasy points (just behind the Broncos) to the position. Williams gets closer to right in Week 4. He's a top-24 fantasy option at the position heading into the weekend.
Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, New England Patriots: Unlike Williams, Rhamondre Stevenson did not need an ACL repair and, yet, has averaged short of 3.5 yards per carry in all three games. He is, in fact, the only starting RB in the NFL to earn such a distinction. Conversely, the 25-year-old has recorded at least 18 touches in each contest this year. And that's an achievement he shares with only Christian McCaffrey.
Ah, yes, the age-old "efficiency versus volume" conundrum. Watching a back run into a wall nearly 20 times per game is the opposite of fun for everyone. But those incremental gains add up. Furthermore, a primary ball carrier with a hefty workload is likely being deployed in a variety of ways. Case and point, Stevenson is facing an average of 6.4 defenders in the box and has been stuffed five times (RB17) in the process. However, he's also converted 10 (RB2) of 13 targets (RB11), which lifts his overall portfolio and subsequent potential.
The weather didn't do Stevenson any favors last week. And the matchup won't help this go-around. Dallas' defense was stunned by Arizona's unexpected offensive creativity. I don't think that happens again. The Cowboys stymied Saquon Barkley in Week 1 and Breece Hall/Dalvin Cook in Week 2. James Conner's 98-yard rushing effort in Week 3 figures to motivate a return to form for this unit of stars. Stevenson's dual-usage should keep him more busy than productive, making him a low-end RB1 for fantasy purposes.
Elijah Moore, WR, Cleveland Browns: I'm sure Elijah Moore is happy to be employed -- let alone busy -- after catching just 37 balls in 2022. Less than a month into his third pro effort and Moore is nearly halfway to last year's catch total. The Ole Miss product has logged nine looks in back-to-back games, emerging as Cleveland's primary slot receiver. Moore thrived from an efficiency standpoint last week, making good on all nine of his opportunities. His 49 yards, however, underwhelmed.
A field stretcher, Moore is not. His 8.0 yard aDOT pales in comparison to Amari Cooper's 15.8 (and Donovan Peoples-Jones' 11.9). While that's likely to cap the 23-year-old's season-long ceiling, it might not matter in Week 4. The Browns host the Ravens on Sunday. Baltimore's banged-up secondary has been generous to opposing corps, allowing the sixth-most fantasy points to the position. Conveniently for Moore, the Ravens have additionally given up the fifth-most targets and eighth-most catches to the slot. Moore figures to grab-and-go his way to a double-digit fantasy total, placing him firmly on the flex radar in PPR-friendly formats.
Jakobi Meyers, WR, Las Vegas Raiders: Speaking of gutty slotmen who made waves over free agency, Jakobi Meyers appears to be thriving as a member of the Patriots West. Despite sitting out Week 2 with a concussion, Meyers has recorded 22 looks on the season. (Try not to be triggered when I tell you that's the same number of targets as Garrett Wilson.) The 26-year-old has registered at least 7 catches and cleared 80 yards in both of his contests this year. While Meyers is second in team target share (24.7%, behind Davante Adams' 39.8%), he leads the offense in red zone (6) and end zone (4) opportunities.
Josh McDaniels may not trust Jimmy Garoppolo, but he has every confidence in Meyers. And probably Brian Hoyer, too. That last part is important because Garoppolo (concussion) isn't likely to suit up against the Chargers in Week 4. Hoyer and Meyers overlapped in New England from 2020 through 2022. Interestingly, Meyer's first pro TD (which occurred 39 games into his career) was thrown by Hoyer in 2021. I think the reunited teammates will connect in the end zone again on Sunday.
The Bolts have allowed the most yards (807), scores (6), and fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. Expect the fantasy fireworks to fly in a division matchup game with the second-highest projected point total (47.5) of the weekend. Additionally anticipate a top-20 positional showing from Meyers.
Evan Engram, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars: Evan Engram may have moved south, instead of west, but the increase in sunshine seemed proportional to his statistical output. Jubilation over Engram's career effort in 2022 was short-lived, as many expected his volume to dip with the addition of Calvin Ridley. But that hasn't been the case. Engram leads the Jags in catches with 18 grabs (an 86% catch rate certainly helps). He's also tied with Ridley and Christian Kirk for first in yards (173).
While volume and production from the rest of Jacksonville's pass-catchers has yo-yoed, one of the most derided figures in recent fantasy history has flourished as a consistent offensive contributor. That is as delicious as Taylor Swift dipping chicken tenders in "seemingly ranch" dressing.
Averaging 11.8 fantasy points per contest, Engram is currently fantasy' TE four overall. He figures to shimmer as a top-eight option again on Sunday when he takes on a Falcons defense that just let Sam LaPorta go off to the tune of 8 catches, 84 yards, and a TD. Hold on to your helmets because this tight end is in his Dependable Era.
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