As we do each week, we recap the week's winners and losers from a fantasy perspective, complete with applicable game and historical data. Check back after the conclusion of the 1 and 4 p.m. ET (and, when applicable, Sunday Night Football) games for our picks of the week's best and worst.
Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons: The week's biggest breakthrough story was a rookie started in just 6.5 percent of ESPN leagues, but that at least represents a 4 percent increase upon his rate in either of his first two career games. Ridley was Matt Ryan's go-to guy in the Falcons' overtime loss against the division rival New Orleans Saints, perhaps because the rookie wasn't aligned from the start with star cornerback Marshon Lattimore, scoring 40.5 PPR fantasy points on eight targets. That was the ninth most in a game by a rookie wide receiver since 1950, and the most since Odell Beckham Jr. scored 42.3 in 2014 Week 15. Most importantly, it gave Ridley a combined 11 receptions on 13 targets the past two weeks combined, as well as a 21.0 percent target share during that time span. He remained available in nearly 60 percent of ESPN leagues at the time of the game's kickoff, but should rank among the week's hottest pickups -- and rightfully so.
Drew Brees, QB, Saints: Forty! It's an extremely difficult fantasy point threshold for a quarterback to reach, but Brees got there Sunday, his 40.5 points scored helped greatly, of course, by the fact that his victory against the Falcons went to overtime -- and he was the one who scored the winning touchdown on a one-yard carry. By doing that, he became the first quarterback since at least 1950 to score 40-plus fantasy points in multiple games in his career. By the way, there have been only 23 instances of a 40-point game by a quarterback in the NFL and one in the AFL during that time span. With that monstrous effort, Brees has totaled 89.7 points through three games, which is the third most by any quarterback through three team games again since at least 1950 (see the chart to the right). Incidentally -- since he set the NFL record for completions on Sunday and is approaching the record for passing yards -- he now has 4,532.4 career fantasy points, just 149.7 shy of Peyton Manning for the most in history by a quarterback.
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs: At some point this second-year phenom's hot streak will cool off somewhat -- well, probably it will -- but what Mahomes has done through three games this season is something awfully special and literally record-setting. He completed his 13th touchdown pass of the season, breaking the record for most touchdown passes through the first three games of any season previously held by Peyton Manning (12, 2013), before halftime and concluded his Sunday with three passing scores and 25.3 fantasy points. That gave him at least 25 points in each of the season's first three weeks, making him only the 15th player (at any position) to score at least that many in each of his team's first three games, and a grand total of 92.4 for the season -- that's the most by any quarterback since at least 1950 (as seen in the above chart). Mahomes keeps carving up defenses and rewriting the record books, though he faces perhaps his biggest challenges yet in the next two weeks, with a road game at the Denver Broncos in Week 4 followed by a home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 5. But hot as he has been, he needs to be started in all leagues regardless.
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons: He joined Brees as quarterbacks who reached the 40-fantasy-point threshold on Sunday, and in the process, the duo became the first quarterbacks since at least 1950 to do so while facing each other in the same game. While Ryan came up on the short end of this one on the NFL scoreboard, his 40.2 points represented a new personal best for him, and gave him at least 30 in each of his past two games -- and they are two of the six best single-week scores in his 161 career games played. Ryan looks much improved upon his disappointing 2017, performing much better in his second year working with offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. Another favorable matchup at home against the Cincinnati Bengals is up next for Ryan in Week 4.
Dallas Goedert, TE, Philadelphia Eagles: So who had this rookie second-round pick as the leading scorer among tight ends from the 1 p.m. ET games? Goedert's 0.17 percent start rate in ESPN leagues says "very few people," but his 20.3 PPR fantasy points were one of the more relevant stories of Week 3, especially if you contrast his seven-target stat line against Zach Ertz's 12.3-points-on-10-targets numbers. Remember, this was Carson Wentz's 2018 debut in his first game since recovering from reconstructive knee surgery, and a quarterback change can often signal a shifting of the target shares in a team's passing game. Goedert is still more of a dynasty league option than one in shallow re-draft leagues, but he could be one of the week's better speculative pickups.
Tyler Boyd, WR, Bengals: For the second consecutive week, Boyd scored at least 20 PPR fantasy points, his 25.7 on seven targets on Sunday representing the third most among wide receivers from the 1 p.m. ET games. Boyd now has 21 targets, second on the team behind A.J. Green's 25, which is 18.1 percent of the team's target share through three games. The third-year receiver appears to be on the verge of a breakout year, stepping up as a go-to option for Andy Dalton while John Ross has disappointed. Boyd remained available in more than 80 percent of ESPN leagues at the time of his game's kickoff.
Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints: The top-scoring running back from the 1 p.m. ET games, Kamara's 34.0 PPR fantasy points were fueled by a massive receiving stat line -- 15 catches on 20 targets for 124 yards. Through three weeks, he has a position-best 95.0 fantasy points, yet has amassed only 141 rushing yards while averaging 3.8 yards per carry. Per Pro-Football-Reference.com's Play Index, Kamara's 30 receptions through the Saints' first three games are tied for the second most by a running back through his team's first three games of a season behind only Clark Gaines' 31 for the 1980 New York Jets. Kamara's receiving usage is an extremely promising sign, because it shows that he can still be a dominant, top-five-in-fantasy running back even if he's not handling a large share of the rushing chores, which eases any worry about the impact on his numbers once Mark Ingram returns from suspension following Week 4.
Robert Woods, WR, Los Angeles Rams: What competition for targets? The Rams have been leaning heavily upon their top three wide receivers this season, rolling Woods, Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp out there on 96.9 percent of their snaps in Weeks 1-2 combined, and the result on Sunday was a huge day for all three, led by Woods' team-best 33.7 PPR fantasy points. He paced the trio (and the team) with 11 targets, marking the third consecutive week that he has either tied for or led the team in that category. For the season, Woods now has 55.1 points, Cooks has 53.2 and Kupp has 46.9, placing all three within the top 25 at the position (pending the Sunday and Monday night results). In general, have no fear of starting any of them, though the Rams do have a tough assignment coming in Week 4 against the Minnesota Vikings defense.
Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks: His 20.4 PPR fantasy points wasn't a position-topper during Week 3 -- it ranked seventh among running backs through Sunday's 4 p.m. ET games -- but it was a significant development in that he managed a week-high 32 rushing attempts, easing concerns that rookie Rashaad Penny might be closing the gap between them on the depth chart. Penny, by comparison, had just three carries, and with his five rushing yards he has now averaged just 2.2 yards per attempt through his first three NFL games. While the Seahawks might struggle to move the offense at times and do have some tough matchups on their schedule -- the Rams in Week 5 stand out in the near future -- Carson does appear to have enough of a grip on the role to be a worthwhile weekly flex.
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers: Another week, another big fantasy point total from the typically reliable Newton. His 29.6 points fell considerably short of the week's top score from a quarterback, but they were still the 33rd instance of his scoring at least 25 in a game out of 112 played, which is sixth-most in NFL history. It was also the sixth time in his career that he rushed for multiple touchdowns, and per Pro-Football-Reference.com's Play Index, that moved him into a tie for the fifth-most such games in history, behind Otto Graham, Jack Kemp, Steve McNair and Steve Young, all of whom had seven such games apiece.
Carlos Hyde, RB, Cleveland Browns: His Browns career has gotten off to a promising start, and his 24.3 PPR fantasy points were not only his most in his three games for them thus far, but also his most since 2017 Week 6 (24.5). Hyde had 23 of the team's 33 rushing attempts on Sunday, and through three games he now has 61 of the team's 98 rushing attempts, with Duke Johnson Jr. (10 attempts) and Nick Chubb (7) only minimally involved thus far. Hyde looks like the Browns' clear workhorse running back, and he should be started in a lot more than the 58.2 percent of ESPN leagues in which he was in Week 3.
Jordy Nelson, WR, Oakland Raiders: Now there's the Jordy Nelson we all know and love! His 29.3 PPR fantasy points were the third-most among wide receivers through Sunday's 4 p.m. ET games, and were his most in a single game since he had 36.4 in 2016 Week 16. Nelson did most of his damage in the first quarter of this game, but his eight targets showed that he's still involved enough in the Raiders' offense that he might have more to offer when the matchup is right.
Kenyan Drake, RB, Miami Dolphins: Consider this one a head-scratcher. Drake, who was coming off a 17.0 PPR point performance in Week 2 and was started in 82.3 percent of ESPN leagues on Sunday (12th-most among running backs), was held to a mere 3.0 points by a Raiders defense that had afforded a combined 44.6 points to Todd Gurley II, Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman in the season's first two weeks. Of particular concern was Drake's five carries and seven total touches, the former placing him second in the Dolphins' backfield to Frank Gore (6), and further raising questions about the rushing split between the two. The Dolphins travel to New England in Week 4, where there will be legitimate questions about how competitive they can stay deep into the game, meaning Drake's workload might again be limited.
Corey Davis, WR, Tennessee Titans: A popular preseason breakout pick, Davis' 2018 has been forgettable through three games, and his 5.4 PPR fantasy points on Sunday represented easily his season low to date. Worse yet, this was the first time in his three games that he failed to lead the Titans in targets -- Taywan Taylor had five to Davis' four -- after Davis had been expected to see an increase in targets following Delanie Walker's (ankle) season-ending injury. Marcus Mariota's elbow injury and the impact it has had on the Titans' quarterbacking plans has had a major impact on Davis' production -- that Davis' start percentage in ESPN leagues dropped sharply to 15.8 on Sunday shows that his managers recognize this -- and Adam Schefter reported early Sunday that the Titans hope Mariota "can regain feel in his hand for the grip of the football as soon as possible," which doesn't paint a picture of a player facing an imminent return to 100 percent. Davis is unfortunately matchups-susceptible as a result, and he and the Titans face the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4.
Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings: Though he saved his Sunday from certain disaster by attempting a tops-amongst-the-1-p.m.-ET-games 55 pass attempts, Cousins' 10.0 fantasy points were still extremely disappointing considering both the matchup as well as the passing-rich NFL environment through three weeks of 2018. He had a negative score into the second half and finished his day with three turnovers (two lost fumbles and one interception). As he was facing a Buffalo Bills defense that had allowed 20-plus fantasy points apiece to Joe Flacco and Philip Rivers in Weeks 1 and 2, Cousins was started in 69.4 percent of ESPN leagues on Sunday, fifth-highest among quarterbacks.
Amari Cooper, WR, Raiders: For the second time in his first three games of 2018, Cooper was held to fewer than four PPR fantasy points, his 3.7 on Sunday representing the 10th-worst score in his 48 career NFL games -- and be aware that his 2.8 in Week 1 tied for his sixth-worst performance. Cooper has become one of the most inconsistent wide receivers in the game during the past year-plus, scoring 21.6 points against what was considered a stout Denver Broncos defense in Week 2, but then doing this while his fantasy managers had him active in 73.4 percent of ESPN leagues (18th-most at the position).
Phillip Lindsay, RB, Broncos: Well then. After pacing the Broncos running backs in both carries and total touches in each of Weeks 1 and 2 -- though he tied Royce Freeman with 15 of the former in the season opener -- Lindsay's day came to a swift end on Sunday, finishing with 2.0 PPR fantasy points on a mere four carries and zero receptions after he was ejected for fighting during the second quarter. While that explains the quiet stat line, that provided a larger opportunity for both Royce Freeman, who finished with 12.8 points on his 14 touches, and Devontae Booker, who scored 9.4 on his 10 touches, and further cast this backfield into a difficult-to-read committee picture. Lindsay had been added in nearly 75 percent of ESPN leagues between Weeks 1 and 3, and he was active in 43.6 percent on Sunday, which placed among the top 25 running backs.
Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers: Forgive him the awful matchup -- the opposing Los Angeles Rams added Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib during the offseason and had afforded wide receivers a total of 22.7 PPR fantasy points in Weeks 1-2 combined -- but Allen's 5.4 point effort on Sunday was particularly frustrating to the 94.8 percent of his managers who started him in ESPN leagues (11th-most among wide receivers). What's more, fellow Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams managed a pair of long touchdowns on his way to a 24.1-point day, tying Allen for the team lead with seven targets. Allen won't have many quiet days like this, fortunately, and his matchups do get better from here, beginning with a Week 4 assignment against the San Francisco 49ers.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals: It's astonishing that Fitzgerald, who has some of the best hands in all of football, can't muster more fantasy production while working with one of the most accurate quarterbacks (at least in recent seasons) in the league in Sam Bradford. Alas, Bradford's struggles are having a profound impact upon Fitzgerald's numbers, as the veteran receiver managed just 2.9 PPR fantasy points on a pair of targets on Sunday, his sixth-worst single game output in any of his 221 career NFL games and his worst since he had just 1.2 in 2012 Week 14. Rookie Josh Rosen did get the call late in the game, a decision that could help improve the Cardinals' offensive prospects in the coming weeks, though Rosen didn't look any better than Bradford in his brief relief time. It'll be tough to trust Fitzgerald as any more than a flex option until Rosen proves himself -- assuming Rosen even gets the call to start in Week 4.
Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys' wide receiver deficiencies are having an adverse impact upon Prescott this season, and that was apparent on Sunday against the Seahawks, as he scored just 8.8 fantasy points. It was the second time in his three games this season and sixth in his past 12 regular-season games that he was held beneath 10 points, and this year he has played all three games with an eligible, healthy Ezekiel Elliott. Prescott does get enough of a break from a matchups perspective to be a worthy QB2 against the Lions in Week 4, but he then draws the Houston Texans (Week 5) and Jacksonville Jaguars (Week 6) the following two weeks, matchups in which you can't possibly trust him.
Stefon Diggs, WR, Vikings: The Vikings as a team suffered a massive disappointment on Sunday, losing 27-6 to the Bills in a game in which they were never competitive, but Diggs' 5.7 PPR fantasy points on 10 targets was particularly a let-down. That was his worst single-game total in his past eight regular-season contests, and it was the first time in his 43-game NFL career that he scored fewer than 10 points in a game in which he had double-digit targets (he has been targeted in double digits 10 times).
Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots: In what would probably rank as one of Week 3's biggest disappointments -- he was started in a tops-among-quarterbacks 91.0 percent of ESPN leagues -- Brady scored a mere 7.5 fantasy points in a surprising upset at the Detroit Lions. It was the fewest fantasy points he scored in a game since 2016 Week 15 (7.4) -- and that one came in a much tougher matchup against the Broncos. Brady now has just 45.1 fantasy points through three games, a total that has been exceeded by 20 other quarterbacks thus far, including rookie Josh Allen (46.3) and Blake Bortles (54.7). Fortunately for him, Brady should get newly acquired Josh Gordon into the mix in the coming weeks, and Julian Edelman will be eligible to return from suspension after Week 4.
Facts and tidbits
Saquon Barkley scored 22.7 PPR fantasy points on Sunday, his third straight game with at least 20. He's only the fourth player since 1950 to score at least that many in each of his first three career NFL games, joining Marcus Allen, Robert Griffin III and Kareem Hunt. ... Josh Allen scored 26.6 of his 27.7 fantasy points in Week 3 before halftime of his game against the Minnesota Vikings, which was the second most by any rookie quarterback before halftime this century. Only Russell Wilson (35.8, 2012 Week 15) had more fantasy points in the first half of a game during his rookie season.