There are no dull weeks in the NFL and Week Three has featured season-changing moments since the action started on Thursday Night Football when Carolina lost running back Christian McCaffrey and cornerback Jaycee Horn to injury. The ripples from those injuries continued to be felt Monday morning when tight end Dan Arnold was traded to Jacksonville for cornerback C.J. Henderson after Tommy Tremble’s impressive debut at the same position. The action on Sunday was equally lively, as Minnesota’s offense thrived without running back Dalvin Cook, Chicago quarterback Justin Fields flopped in his debut, and the Rams firmly established themselves as a contender. This article will explore what these moves mean for the betting and fantasy landscapes moving forward.
Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey and CB Jaycee Horn Injured, TE Dan Arnold Traded for CB CJ Henderson
The Carolina Panthers have had an interesting week. They continued their torrid start to the season with a 24-9 win over the Houston Texans that saw rookies Chubba Hubbard (RB), Terrace Marshall Jr. (WR), and Tommy Tremble (TE) flash notable potential. The trio comes in various shapes and sizes, but they have one thing in common: they can run.
Their performances were all the more important in the wake of injuries to running back Christian McCaffrey and cornerback Jaycee Horn. McCaffrey’s hamstring pull will keep him out for at least one week and bodes poorly for a player who struggled with a variety of injuries last season. Hubbard’s debut showed the Panthers still have an explosive option at running back; veteran Royce Freeman is likely to play a complementary role in a two-back carry share, but Hubbard should be the lead back while McCaffrey is shelved. For more on Hubbard’s fantasy value in the short and long-term, check out The Professor’s Week 4 Waiver Options later this week.
Tremble only had two touches on Thursday Night Football, but what he did with them was impressive enough that the Panthers felt comfortable trading Dan Arnold. Horn’s injury meant that Carolina needed a cornerback and their front office had to be thrilled to acquire C.J. Henderson to fill the void. Henderson has been inconsistent in just over a year in the league, but his NFL debut showed that he has the talent to excel. Carolina picks up almost three years of Henderson’s rookie contract, plus his fifth-year option, in exchange for a veteran they signed this offseason and a swap of mid-round draft picks, which is a win for Carolina if both players play well for their new teams, particularly given the vast gulf in positional value.
The trade simultaneously creates an opening for Tremble in the offense. His performance on Thursday Night showed a big (6’4, 250) player who runs with notable fluidity and has the physical tools to be a matchup nightmare at the NFL level. Carolina has a deep cast of receivers, but Tremble brings a different element with his size. He is a high-upside option on waivers in season-long fantasy, though it may take a few weeks to sort out his target share in this offense.
Monday morning’s trade for Henderson is an indication that Carolina feels they’re ready to contend this season. They didn’t sit pat while Horn recovers, but made a move that makes them more talented in the short and long-term as they look to get into a legitimate battle with the Buccaneers for the NFC South. Tampa Bay remains the favorite, but this division could come down to the matchups between these teams in Weeks 16 and 18. Carolina’s over on 8.5 season wins (-145) and the NFC South division odds (+850) that are available at DraftKings suddenly look interesting for a team and quarterback that have made significant leaps from 2020.
Vikings Offense: No Dalvin, No Problem
Backup running back Alexander Mattison posted 112 yards on 26 carries and quarterback Kirk Cousins was 30 of 38 for 323 yards and three touchdowns as the Vikings offense cruised against an alarmingly bad Seattle defense. The Seahawks weren’t able to match Minnesota’s scoring, but both of these teams appear to be strong plays for overs moving forward; game totals for their respective Week 4 matchups have moved up by two points since Sunday.
Mattison’s performance could mean that Minnesota elects to give starter Dalvin Cook another week off to fully recover from his ankle, but the Vikings are also 1-2 and face a talented Cleveland team this week. Mattison will be a popular lower-cost DFS play if Cook is out and could also be a contrarian play at a low enough price if Cook is active, as Cook may cede some of his usual carry share to Mattison.
Tight end Tyler Conklin is also trending up after posting seven catchers for seventy yards and a touchdown this week; it is the second straight week Conklin has played a prominent role and he is an interesting low-cost player to pair with Cousins in DFS this week.
Chicago’s Quarterback Woes Continue
Rookie Justin Fields showed some promising flashes in relief of Andy Dalton against Cincinnati last week but also threw a brutal interception, and it was the latter play that carried over to his first NFL start against the Cleveland Browns. Box score scouting paints a limited picture, but when a quarterback is sacked nine times and produces six completions and three rush attempts, it’s safe to assume the game was a debacle.
The Lions have problems in their back end, but their defensive line will have the advantage over Chicago’s offensive line. The total in this game has dropped from an opener of 45.5 to the 42.5 currently available at DraftKings, so the value may be gone on the under, but this Detroit-Chicago game seems unlikely to feature much high-level offense. It looks like it could be a long season for Chicago, which could mean the end of GM Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy’s respective tenures.
You can’t win with Matthew Stafford
It’s tough to be a Lions fan right now. The team dropped to 0-3 on a wildly improbable drive capped by the longest field goal in NFL history, then had to watch former quarterback Matthew Stafford shatter the narrative that he was the reason Detroit didn’t have success in the win-loss column as Stafford and his new team in Los Angeles lit up the defending Super Bowl Champs. Stafford still has to do it in the playoffs, but his four-touchdown, zero-interception performance against the Buccaneers established that the Rams are a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Los Angeles hosts the Arizona Cardinals this week in a matchup of 3-0 teams that will determine early control of the NFC West. The Rams are currently at -6, but bettors probably will need to jump on that number early, as this game seems likely to close at -7 with the high-flying Rams likely to draw a lot of public money.
This article recapped developments around the NFL from Week Three. For more of The Professor’s content, including his Waiver and DFS Fantasy Football Targets for Week Four, check him out on BeerLife Sports!
Steven Clinton, better known as "The Professor", is a former D-1 Quality Control Assistant (Northwestern, Toledo) who holds a B.A. in Economics and M.S. in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern University. He maintains an end-to-end NFL game projection model and is a film junkie who breaks down the tape of every NFL game.