Red Zone

Fantasy football tips for week three

San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.
San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. The Associated Press

Wondering whether to start LeSean McCoy and Jordy Nelson, or to bench Alfred Blue and Jerricho Cotchery? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with your real starting lineup conundrums, read on.

Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in week three of the 2014 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers at Bills. Buffalo may be 2-0, but they’ve been soft in the passing game. Meanwhile, Rivers and Antonio Gates are BFFs again, and it’s only a matter of time before Keenan Allen explodes. With Ryan Mathews sidelined, Rivers will need to be at his best; and he is clearly up to the task.

Bernard Pierce, RB, Ravens at Browns. Now that Pierce is seemingly locked into the lead back role in Baltimore (with Justin Forsett taking a back seat in Week 2), he stands to prosper most against the run-challenged Cleveland defense. Look for Pierce’s first 100-yard performance since 2012 and his first TD of the season.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Colts at Jaguars. Bradshaw continues to out-perform Trent Richardson as both a runner and receiver, and he isn’t laying the ball on the ground, either. In this decidedly lopsided contest, look for the better back to dominate the sieve-like Jaguars defense.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Bills vs. Chargers. Sore ribs aren’t expected to keep the rookie out of this contest, so look for a nice follow-up to last week’s breakout performance. We knew Watkins had the talent and the tools; the only question was whether EJ Manuel could get him the ball. He can.

DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans at Giants. I’m not convinced the Texans are for real, but I like their chances against the woeful Giants. Hopkins is getting lots of love in the red zone, and should have plenty more opportunities to soar in Week 3. Hopkins has been held out of practice due to an illness this week, but that should be well under control by Sunday.

▪ More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Andrew Luck, Jay Cutler, Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins; RBs Gio Bernard, Rashad Jennings, Jonathan Stewart, Joique Bell, Matt Asiata, Alfred Morris, Pierre Thomas, Knile Davis, Darren Sproles, Zac Stacy; WRs Cordarrelle Patterson, Mike Wallace, Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Julian Edelman, Keenan Allen, Percy Harvin, Pierre Garcon, Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Dwayne Bowe, Marques Colston, Victor Cruz, Jeremy Maclin.

Roll ‘em back

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers at Panthers. He’s coming off a rough outing against the Ravens and there’s no relief in sight on this road trip to Carolina. The Panthers manhandled Matt Stafford and the Lions in Week 2 and will be just as inhospitable to Big Ben & Co. on Sunday night.

Frank Gore, RB, 49ers at Cardinals. Carlos Hyde is eating into Gore’s carries, keeping the veteran from achieving his fantasy potential. Meanwhile, Arizona’s run defenders have picked up where they left off last year (among the NFL’s elites).

Montee Ball, RB, Broncos at Seahawks. You always hate to bench a premium draft pick, but if you have a safer option, consider it. Ball was stifled by the Seahawks in the Super Bowl and he wasn’t exactly dominant against the Chiefs last week. On the road against that fired-up defense, Ball is in for a rough outing.

Torrey Smith, WR, Ravens at Browns. With just four receptions on 10 targets over two weeks, Smith has taken a back seat to his ageless cohort, Steve Smith. He’s likely to be shadowed by Joe Haden in this matchup, so don’t expect Torrey to get back on track right away.

James Jones, WR, Raiders at Patriots. Jones was a popular waiver-wire acquisition this week after reeling in his second TD reception in as many games. But he’ll face a stout pass defense on Sunday that should keep his rookie quarterback under constant pressure. While Jones has become the King of Garbage Time Stats, he remains a gamble in this unfavorable matchup.

▪ More thumbs down: QBs Eli Manning, Jake Locker, Tony Romo, Andy Dalton, Alex Smith; RBs Trent Richardson, LeVeon Bell, Shonn Greene, DeAngelo Williams, Darren McFadden, Maurice Jones-Drew, Toby Gerhart; WRs Kendall Wright, Riley Cooper, Allen Hurns, Markus Wheaton, Mohamed Sanu, Terrance Williams, Michael Crabtree.

Take a flier

Khiry Robinson, RB, Saints vs. Vikings. New Orleans’ three-headed backfield is now down to two, opening up more opportunities for Robinson, especially near the goal line. The second-year back has yet to catch a pass in his short career (that’s Pierre Thomas’ domain), but he should get ample opportunities to rumble over Minnesota’s soft run defenders.

Don’t be the bonehead who …

Fails to plan ahead for the Week 4 bye schedule. With six teams (Bengals, Broncos, Browns, Cardinals, Rams and Seahawks) idle, many fantasy squads will soon be scrambling for substitutes on the waiver wire. Making a move or two in advance means you won’t have to get in line.