In "Exploit or Avoid," we take a close look at some of the week's more favorable — and tough — matchups for skill-position players. Here's who we like on each side of the ledger in Week Three:
Titans WRs Kenny Britt and Nate Washington (vs. Detroit) — It's reasonable to wonder if Britt still rounding into form after missing Week One with knee issues, but head coach Mike Munchak indicated that the club hopes the fourth-year wideout will start to be able to log more snaps. Assuming Britt plays this week, he's a fine option in leagues that start three wideouts or more, as is Washington. The Lions' secondary has struggled with injuries all season and could be vulnerable even at full strength.
Colts RB Donald Brown (vs. Jacksonville) — The Jaguars have surrendered the most rushing TDs (five) and the second-most rushing yards (339) through two games. If nothing else, Brown is a solid "flex" option, and he's a reasonable play in traditional two-RB formats, too.
Chiefs QB Matt Cassel (at New Orleans) — The Saints' defense is struggling mightily in multiple facets, and no team is allowing more yards per pass. While Cassel hasn't played wonderfully in his first two starts, he has racked up 559 yards and three TD passes, and he also has rushed for a score. if you have to start him, you're getting the best of it from a matchup perspective.
Cowboys QB Tony Romo (vs. Tampa Bay) — In three career starts against the Buccaneers, Romo has thrown for 908 yards and 11 TDs. Tampa Bay allowed 510 passing yards to Giants QB Eli Manning on Sunday. Romo's just about an automatic start for most fantasy owners this week; we say it's time to worry about your other positions, not QB.
Cardinals RBs Ryan Williams and Beanie Wells (vs. Philadelphia) — Are they top-caliber options this week? No, but if you have to start either Williams or Wells, know that the Eagles are surrendering more yards per rush (4.88) than pass (4.01). Wells has had slightly more work than Williams thus far, and he has fared a little better, racking up 58 yards on 21 carries compared to just 22 yards on 18 carries for Williams.
Packers RB Cedric Benson (at Seattle) — As the Packers' featured back, he's a reasonable start in big leagues no matter the matchup. However, Benson faces a stout Seattle defense on Monday night, and running room could be tough to find against a stop unit that's allowing 46 rushing yards per game so far.
Falcons RB Michael Turner (at San Diego) — He's difficult to bench, and many owners in bigger leagues won't even have the luxury to consider it. However, if you have good RB depth but believe you have to start Turner out of obligation, this might be the week to sit the Falcons' featured back. The Chargers are allowing 2.77 yards per carry, and Turner has yet to hit his stride in 2012. The ramifications from his DUI arrest early Tuesday morning are something to monitor.
Rookie quarterbacks not named Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III — Give Cleveland's Brandon Weeden, Miami's Ryan Tannehill and Seattle's Russell Wilson their due for their Week Two play. Tannehlll and Wilson helped their teams to their first wins of the season, and Weeden took a big step forward in defeat, throwing for 322 yards at Cincinnati. However, we wouldn't want to bank on any of these rookie passers this week. Tannehill draws an experienced Jets defense, and the Packers' playmaking stop unit is next for Wilson. Weeden, who faces the Bills at home, has the best matchup, but we want to see him string together a couple of good starts before endorsing him.
Texans RB Ben Tate (at Denver) — Yes, he scored two TDs in Week Two. Yes, he was on the bench in a lot of leagues, and now those owners are pondering whether to play him at Denver. To me, he's only an option in bigger leagues. The Broncos have allowed just 142 rushing yards in two games and are surrendering a paltry 2.63 yards per carry. Note that Tate has scored TDs in back-to-back games only once in his NFL career. With Arian Foster getting the bulk of the carries for Houston, Tate's workload from game-to-game could fluctuate, depending upon game situation and opponent, among other factors.