Another week of the NFL season is in the books, and there is no shortage of fantasy football news to digest.
Each Saturday during the season, ESPN fantasy analyst Eric Moody will ask our NFL Nation reporters the most pressing questions heading into the weekend and what to make of the fallout after games are played. Who is primed for a big performance, who is impacted by injuries and what roles might change? Here’s what our crew had to say about some of the biggest storylines before Week 3 begins Sunday.
What changes can we expect from Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears offense against the Kansas City Chiefs?
The Bears have been here before. Chicago had 10 days between games in Week 6 and 7 last season to make changes on offense, which resulted in nine designed runs for Fields against the Patriots — his most in a game. I don’t believe there will be wholesale changes, but offensive coordinator Luke Getsy has shown an ability to adjust before and should be in position to do so again with the team in an 0-2 hole. Fields said the goal is to have a healthy mix of staying in the pocket and taking off and running and aims to play to his instincts against the Chiefs. “I think there’s going to be times when you are going to have to stay in the pocket and, like I said, you’re going to have to extend plays, make plays, get outside the pocket, be a threat with your legs and still be able to throw the ball too,” Fields said. — Courtney Cronin
How will the Cincinnati Bengals offense change if Joe Burrow has to miss time to recover from his calf injury?
If Burrow is out for any amount of time, the logical solution is to lean into the running game with RB Joe Mixon. Mixon has had a strong start to the season, racking up 26 rushing yards over expectation, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Even with Burrow on the field, Mixon’s usage was pretty high. He ranked 11th among all running backs in total scrimmage yards through the first two weeks and was one of 11 running backs with 10 or more targets, per ESPN Stats & Information. Fantasy managers should feel good about starting Mixon — whether Burrow is playing or not. — Ben Baby
How do you envision the Cleveland Browns running back by committee evolving with Jerome Ford and Kareem Hunt?
As coach Kevin Stefanski noted this week, Ford is going to be the lead back. The Browns are excited about his talent. He played well replacing Nick Chubb on Monday and he’s one of the reasons Cleveland felt comfortable moving on from Hunt this past offseason. Hunt will likely settle into a complementary role, spelling Ford when needed while providing QB Deshaun Watson with a backfield receiver. But Ford is expected to get the bulk of the work for the Browns. And Cleveland, even in Chubb’s absence, will continue to try to run the ball. –– Jake Trotter
What insights can you provide regarding the reported tension between Denver Broncos QB Russell Wilson and coach Sean Payton?
The real “tension” is the Broncos are having the same problems that Sean Payton criticized Nathaniel Hackett for having. They have had clock-management issues, they don’t get their personnel changes into the game fast enough, they’re penalized a lot and haven’t won. Payton and Wilson are working through some of the usual new offense, new playbook stuff, especially in terms of the tempo Payton wants the offense to have. But Wilson’s play at the moment isn’t near the top of the list of this team’s problems. Payton has promised to do his part to make things more efficient — reducing some verbiage in the playcalls, being a more selective about what he’s calling in games, etc. But things like rookie WR Marvin Mims Jr. playing just 16 snaps in the loss to Washington after having 113 yards receiving and a TD on his two targets in the game and rookie RB Jaleel McLaughlin not getting a second carry against Washington after his first one went for a TD, have nothing to do with Wilson. — Jeff Legwold
With Anthony Richardson ruled out due to a concussion, how do you expect the Indianapolis Colts‘ offensive strategy to adapt with Gardner Minshew taking the reins at quarterback?
With Minshew, the Colts will employ a much different offensive approach since they’ll be unable to take advantage of Richardson’s dual-threat capabilities. Coach Shane Steichen has done a good job building Richardson’s abilities into his scheme, but the Colts will be a more traditional dropback, quick-throw offense with Minshew. This isn’t the way the Colts intended to attack opponents, but Minshew’s game won’t hurt the offensive line as his quick decision-making should give the unit help in pass protection. That is of great importance this Sunday because center Ryan Kelly is also going to miss the game. — Stephen Holder
Do you think the Jacksonville Jaguars will continue to heavily rely on RB Travis Etienne Jr. without mixing in Tank Bigsby throughout the remainder of the season?
Bigsby had a rough opener (a ball went off his hands for an INT and he failed to recover a fumble) so he didn’t get much work in Week 2 but played only two fewer snaps than he did in Week 1. For the next few games Etienne will be the lead back but Bigsby’s role will eventually expand as he gets more comfortable and gains more trust. — Michael DiRocco
How concerned should we be about Philadelphia Eagles WR A.J. Brown‘s slow start?
I’d expect Brown to have a breakout game before long. Opponents have focused on stymying the air attack by dropping upward of eight into coverage and keeping their safeties back. Philly’s answer has been to run the ball, and the Eagles have done so successfully. Defenses will have to adjust to keep from getting run over, and that’s when Brown and the passing game will take off. — Tim McManus
How do you foresee Jaylen Warren‘s role evolving in the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ backfield?
As long as defenses keep loading the box against the Steelers, Warren is going to be most effective as a pass-catching back — especially on third down. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Warren has played 65.5% of the Steelers third-down snaps compared to Najee Harris‘ 31.0%. Warren has run 15 routes with five catches, 66 yards and 35 receiving yards over expectation on third down. Coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that Warren is giving himself more opportunities because of how well he’s playing. Harris is still the team’s preferred back on first and second down, but he’s not getting much room to run behind the offensive line. In the first half against the Browns, Steelers ball carriers were contacted at or behind the line of scrimmage on seven of their eight carries, per ESPN Stats and Info. — Brooke Pryor
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