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NFL: Gardner Minshew, James Conner, Calvin Ridley, Austin Ekeler headline the 15 Super-Fun Facts for Week 3

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In 2019, Chargers tailback Austin Ekeler either ranked first or second in positional catches (92), targets (108), receiving yards (993) and receiving touchdowns (8).

FUN FACT #1
Through two weeks of action, the Panthers defense ranks dead-last versus opposing tailbacks, citing the crucial categories of rushing touchdowns, receiving targets and receptions allowed.

This all bodes extremely well for Chargers tailback Austin Ekeler, who ranked either first or second in positional catches, targets, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns last season.

What’s more, Ekeler demonstrated solid early rapport with rookie quarterback Justin Herbert (first NFL start last week), accounting for 148 total yards (93 rushing) and four receptions.

Put it all together, and aside from the Saints’ Alvin Kamara, there isn’t a stronger PPR option among running backs in Week 3.

FUN FACT #2
In the past, we haven’t devoted much Fun Facts editorial space to quarterback Gardner Minshew II, mainly due to the Jaguars finishing 26th in scoring offense last season.

But now, we would be foolish to overlook Jacksonville’s new-found focus on scoring (NFL rank: 8th overall) and commitment to a vertical passing game (led by new O-coordinator Jay Gruden).

For example, five different pass-catchers (Keelan Cole, Laviska Shenault, DJ Chark, Tyler Eifert, Chris Thompson) have already recorded a touchdown reception for the Jaguars; and of Jacksonville’s top eight playmakers (the five above, plus James Robinson, Chris Conley, James O’Shaughnessy), that large group has proffered a sterling catch-to-target rate of 81 percent.

Does this mean the Jaguars should ignore thoughts of drafting quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence (Clemson) or Justin Fields (Ohio State) at the top of next year’s draft, if feasible?

Certainly not. You don’t pass on generational prospects … at the league’s most high-profile position.

At the same time, it’s easy to believe in Minshew’s development for Year 2; and it makes perfect sense to project robust numbers this week against the Dolphins, who own bottom-10 rankings with passing yards and passing touchdowns surrendered.

FUN FACT #3
It’s been nearly 48 months since Melvin Gordon (then of the Chargers) logged 25 or more carries in a single game.

However, this type of Herculean effort may be required on Sunday, as the injury-depleted Broncos (no Drew Lock or Courtland Sutton) look to the triumvirate of Gordon, rookie wideout Jerry Jeudy and tight end Noah Fant to end Denver’s winless run in 2020.

Can Gordon handle a major workload this week? Here’s some motivation for doing so:

a) For the young season, the Bucs defense claims bottom-4 tallies with rushing touchdowns, catches, targets and receiving yards allowed to opposing tailbacks.

b) Citing his 13 career outings of 20-plus carries, Gordon reached the elite-level threshold of 100 total yards and/or one touchdown 11 times.

FUN FACT #4
With Saquon Barkley done for the season (torn ACL), you’d think tight end Evan Engram (6 catches, 65 yards last week) would now become the focal point of the Giants offense.

But not this week … at least on paper.

After two weeks, the 49ers defense has yielded the fewest catches, targets, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns to opposing tight ends.

For the year, San Francisco has surrendered just one catch (off six targets) to that position. Whoa!

FUN FACT #5
Falcons wideout Calvin Ridley has amassed elite-level averages of 7.2 catches, 106 yards and 1.1 touchdowns in his previous six games (dating back to last year).

It’s also worth noting: During this prolific stretch, Ridley’s teammate Julio Jones attracted double-digit targets four times and thrice crossed the 130-yard threshold.

WEEK 3 PREP WORK

PASSING FANCY: Lamar Jackson leads the QB rankings for Week 3
RUN TO DAYLIGHT: Alvin Kamara headlines the top 60 PPR tailbacks
TARGET PRACTICE: DeAndre Hopkins carries the Top 70 PPR wideouts
BIG LOVE: Travis Kelce, Tyler Higbee dominate the top 30 tight ends
GET ‘EM WHILE THEY’RE HOT: Top 30 waiver-wire pickups for Week 3
ACT NOW: 7 buy-low fantasy assets to acquire as soon as possible
SHAKING THE 0-2 BLUES: 4 remedies for enhancing your winless roster

FUN FACT #6
There’s a good news/bad news proposition with installing Lamar Jackson as this week’s No. 1 fantasy quarterback.

On the plus side, Jackson boasts otherworldly averages of 284 total yards and 3.2 touchdowns in his last five non-divisional home games during the regular season.

And keep in mind, that nugget doesn’t factor in Jackson’s superhuman effort of 508 total yards (365 passing) and one touchdown in the January playoff loss to the Titans.

On the down side, Jackson has encountered the Chiefs twice in the last 21 months (excluding Sunday’s highly anticipated matchup). For those meetings, the reigning NFL MVP posted softer averages of 263 total yards and 1.5 TDs.

FUN FACT #7
It’s weird how receiver Robert Woods (two-year average: 88 catches, 135 targets, 1,177 yards, 5.5 TDs) was a relative afterthought in his time with the Bills (2013-16).

Perhaps even more surreal, the Bills now feature one of the NFL’s best vertical attacks, thanks to quarterback Josh Allen (729 yards passing, 7 total TDs), Stefon Diggs (16 catches, 239 yards, 1 TD), John Brown (10 catches, 152 yards, 2 TDs) and Cole Beasley (9 catches, 128 yards).

Which brings us to this …

The Rams are one of four NFL defenses (along with the Bears, Eagles, Ravens) that have yet to surrender a touchdown to an opposing wideout.

FUN FACT #8
In his last seven outings, dating back to last year, Tyler Higbee has collected double-digit targets four times, caught seven-plus balls five times and posted four 100-yard efforts.

And for good measure, the Rams tight end scored five times during this prolific stretch.

FUN FACT #9
Cardinals QB Kyler Murray has accounted for multiple touchdowns in seven of his last 10 games, averaging 267 total yards and two scores during this robust period.

Adding to the fun, the red-hot Cardinals have a Sunday home meeting with the schizophrenic Lions, who have surrendered the second-most passing touchdowns this season (5) … despite also ranking fifth overall in fewest completions allowed.

The only drawback to Murray’s fantasy ranking for Week 3: Detroit’s porous defense, which ranks 30th in scoring defense, also holds bottom-10 tallies with opposing tailbacks, covering the categories of rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and receiving yards surrendered.

FUN FACT #10
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (83-percent passing, 610 yards, 9 TDs) has enjoyed a white-hot start, playing nicely into Seattle’s 2-0 record.

Going back further, charting his last 16 regular-season outings, Wilson has notched four-plus touchdowns five different times.

So, how might this play out Sunday, encountering a Cowboys defense which yielded 570 total yards (445 passing) and 39 points last weekend?

Well, in six career meetings, Wilson has never passed for 250 yards or tallied three touchdowns versus Dallas.

FUN FACT #11
Aaron Jones racked up 19 touchdowns for Green Bay last year; and yet, back in August, fantasy owners were leery about his 2020 prospects — even though Jones enjoyed more success with red-zone touchdowns than Ezekiel Elliott last season (14-11 advantage) … despite considerably fewer red-zone carries (59-33).

For his encore, Jones currently leads all fantasy backs in rushing yards (234), scrimmage yards (312) and total touchdowns (4, tied with Alvin Kamara).

Here’s another thing worth celebrating: Charting his last five games played indoors, Jones boasts supreme averages of 131 total yards and 1.2 TDs.

FUN FACT #12
The Colts have given up the fewest passing yards this season, a super-low clip of 143 yards per outing.

And as luck would have it, the sad-sack Jets (31st in scoring offense) have registered the third-fewest passing yards in 2020.

Sounds like a real barn-burner for Sunday, right? Ugh.

FUN FACT #13
New Patriots quarterback Cam Newton has accomplished a lot in his 10-year career, most recently last week’s epic outing of 444 total yards (397 passing) and three total touchdowns against the Seahawks.

In fact, did you know … last Sunday marked the first time that Newton had ever recorded multiple RUSHING touchdowns in back-to-back games.

FUN FACT #14
Here’s something really cool: Steelers tailback James Conner has an ongoing streak of eight consecutive non-divisional home games with at least one touchdown.

During this impressive span, Conner holds strong Heinz Field averages of 95 total yards and 1.2 TDs versus non-AFC North foes.

And last but not least …

FUN FACT #15
We’re going all-in on Washington Football Team receiver Terry McLaurin this week (No. 5 positional ranking).

Here’s why:

a) To date, the Browns have had to endure bottom-7 tallies with opposing wideouts, citing the categories of targets, receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

b) Charting his seven career road outings, McLaurin reached the elite-level threshold of 100 yards receiving and/or one touchdown four times.

c) Cleveland’s defense ranks third overall in rush defense, with opposing tailbacks posting meager averages of 3.1 yards per carry.

d) McLaurin has already tallied scores in consecutive games three times for his career; and Sunday could mark the Ohio State product’s first chance of collecting double-digit targets in back-to-back outings.

About The Managing Editor

Jay Clemons remains the only sports writer on the planet to capture Cynposis Media’s national award for Sports Blog Of The Year (beating out NBA.com, MLB.com, PGATour.com, The Players’ Tribune in 2015), along with the Fantasy Sports Writers Association’s pre-eminent award for Best Writer (2008). Through the years, Mr. Clemons has been a key figure with numerous blue-chip sports/media brands, namely the Detroit Lions, Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports, Bleacher Report and the NBC/Universal family. With Sports Illustrated (2006-11), Clemons served a triple role with SI.com‘s heralded football coverage—editing Peter King’s famed ‘Monday Morning Quarterback’ column, penning award-winning pieces for NFL and then writing/narrating scripted videos within the NFL and baseball realms. In 2013, Clemons’ first year with the company, FOX Sports South enjoyed a monumental increase of approximately 34 million Web hits in a 12-month cycle—merely posting 11 million hits the previous year. 

Then, over a two-month span in 2014, FOX Sports South amassed 19.5 million Web hits—a 60-day record for any FOX affiliate. And in 2015, Clemons claimed the aforementioned Cynopsis Media award on FOX Sports’ behalf, the company’s only national writing award during that period. Clemons, a graduate of Michigan State University  and Wayne State University, has been an on-camera Web-TV host for Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports. In 2015, he also became the first-ever sports journalism professor at Kennesaw State University in suburban Atlanta.

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