Week 2 2017
Oh man was it great to watch some football again. As expected, Week 1 was a humbling experience. While I did say that being contrarian by going high-priced WRs was a great way to differentiate, there were still a lot of bad high-end WRs out there (I’m looking at you Green and Julio). There is definitely a lot we can take away from this week, but we also need to realize that one game does not a robust sample make. After taking a look at these games, there are clearly some that jump off the page, so while we clearly need to attack those, we should definitely sprinkle in some pieces from the others as they could easily go overlooked. With that being said, let’s dig deep into this week, but also take a lot of what we saw already with a grain of salt.
I also just want to quickly clarify what I mean by “sharp money” since I referenced it several times last week and will reference it again this week. We can see sharp money in play when the line moves against the team with the higher percentage of bets placed. Sharp bets have much more money behind them, so it moves the line more than several smaller bets (e.g. 1 $100 bet is much larger than 10 $1 bets). Also, sharp money just pertains to the spread – it is not necessarily an outright bet on a team. For example, this week we have sharp money on the Jets as the line has moved in their favor 0.5 points while they have only received 20% of the bets. This does not mean sharp people think that the Jets will win. They don’t. They just think that the Jets will keep it within 2 TDs.
Side rant – Skip Bayless is a moron. Yes, this isn’t exactly earth-shattering news for pretty much anyone who knows anything about him (except for ESPN), but I did just want to point out his latest idiocy where he lauded the PI call against Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins played Dez as well as a CB can play a WR by forcing him out to the sideline with no room to spare, and he got his head around to track the ball. There is no way that that was PI. Every day ESPN continues to employ him is just another round that they are pumping into their own foot. If they want someone with loud, strong opinions and only a nominal knowledge of sports, they have their man. If they are looking for someone with careful analysis and strong logic to back up their reasoning, they do not. We all know that ESPN is very worried about their ratings at this point, as well they should be, and the surest way to actually improve them would be to fire Skip.
HOU (16.25) @ CIN (21.75)
What a horrible game to start a week with. The Houston offense was so offensively bad last week and allowed so much pressure, the Jaguars literally renamed their Twitter handle to Sacksonville for the week. Let’s not forget about their opponents here who literally scored 0 points. Awesome.
Anyhow, it took Tom Savage all of one half to get benched for Deshaun Watson this past week. Watson also hurt his ankle, but not severely enough for the Texans to go back to Savage. Just as a thought experiment, how damaged would that ankle have to be? I assume at least partially detached, but I digress… All of HOU’s TEs are in the concussion protocol right now, and Fied’s was so bad that they placed him on the IR. I assume that they will pick someone up this week (maybe Barnkowski?), but if they don’t and Griffin can somehow return, he will see a lot of targets here.
Matt Harmon does some great work, and he produced the leaders in air yard percentage for their teams after Week 1:
Hopkins – 56.9%
Green – 50.2%
Goodwin – 46.2%
Pryor – 45.2%
Hopkins clearly has a huge market share here, and I think he will continue to be valuable purely from a volume perspective moving forward, especially when all of the TEs are down (he saw an amazing 16 targets in Week 1). Vegas also projects HOU to trail – I’m not sure which team will win this one, but I’m pretty sure all fans will be the losers regardless – so the game script also sets up for another heavy dose of Hopkins. The Bengals will get Adam Jones back for this one, but with his age and the volume that Hopkins will see, that’s not enough to deter me.
Lamar Miller led the team with 17 carries and 2 receptions, but he ended with only 65 ground yards and 31 through the air. Surprisingly, this is mostly due to his second half as he had 6 attempts for only 15 yards in the first. Even with this performance, Miller is the only offensive starter for the Texans who graded out as above average per PFF. The o-line looks bad, and I believe I heard a report that they want to get Foreman more involved, but I can’t locate that now, so maybe I’m just being hopeful because of my dynasty team. Just as a reminder, Burfict is still suspended for this one.
The Bengals’ RB situation was as much of a mess as I feared it would be. Gio ended up pacing the committee with 45% of the snaps, while Mixon was close behind at 38%. The starter in name only (SINO?), Hill, saw 17%. Take one if you want, but if you do, you are a braver man than I.
Like HOU, CIN only had one offensive starter that graded out as above average per PFF – AJ Green. (Side note, each team had only one defensive player that also was above average, so 4 starters between both teams. Sigh.) From HOU, I’m really not sure who will line up against Green and it really doesn’t matter as Green will win. He should also see plenty of volume here as, per above, he was the only other receiver over 50% of his team’s air yards. While HOU did only give up 125 passing yards last week, this came against the stud known as “Blake Bortles.” Sadly, I don’t think that we can really say that Andy Dalton is much better after watching his abysmal 5 turnovers to the Ravens last week. Watt, Mercilus, and Clowney will have a field day against this atrocious o-line, so expect Dalton to be under duress all game. This is my one concern with Green – he won’t be able to complete his route by the time Dalton is face down in the dirt.
CLE (15.5) @ BAL (23.5)
I was worried that Woodhead would reinjure himself if not given enough time to heal, and that is indeed what seems to have occurred. It was severe enough that he just got put on IR, which firmly entrenches West and Allen as the only options in this backfield. There is talk that Campanaro could fill in for Woodhead, but I’ll believe it when I see it. West did have the goal-line carry and 19 totes for 80 yards last week, and most of these came in the first half before the game was completely out of hand, so he seems like the lead back. Allen also got plenty of touches with 21 carries and 1 target, but most of these occurred in the second half. The Browns did only allow 35 ground yards last game – perhaps because of how PIT abused them through the air – so they do not look as soft against the run as they did a year ago. A big question here is, do you see this run-heavy trend continuing for the Ravens? Over the past two years, they have been one of the pass-heaviest offenses in the league. Either they are trying to turn over a new leaf, or they could just be easing Flacco back into it after missing a decent chunk of the preseason.
All-in-all, I don’t hate the play of West for $5100, but I’m also not in love with it. Going for him, the Ravens do project to lead by a significant amount against the team that gave up the 3rd-most PPR points to RBs a year ago. It looked like a committee effort coming into the year, however, and we still have 2 players splitting time here. It also doesn’t help that the whole left and center of the Ravens line graded out abysmally last week (yes, small sample size, so they can turn it around). One of my main issues with this pair is that they just don’t seem all that great. Ideally, we will get some clarity around game plan before lock.
AB destroyed the Browns last week as he put up 182 yards on them and then Jesse James scored 2 TDs through the air, so they are clearly vulnerable against the pass. Unfortunately, the Ravens didn’t really have to show us much last week and Perriman and Maclin both tied with 4 targets. I do feel like that Flacco will start chucking it more as the season goes along, and I like Maclin here as he is the best route-runner and most proven WR on the team. Furthermore, he will go up against Jamar Taylor in the slot. While Taylor did have a very good year last year where he finished as a top-20 CB, he has struggled every other year and graded out as “Poor” in each of them per PFF. After one week this year, he has returned to his normal form.
DJ-lite might not be a RB anymore as he didn’t take a single snap from the backfield in Week 1. Instead, he lined up in the slot most of the time and appears to be the Browns’ slot receiver. I’m not particularly interested in him regardless, even though the game script should set up in his favor again. I also don’t want Crowell against a strong run D, in negative script, and after he looked so bad last week (1.9 ypc). The volume should be there again if you want to go super contrarian, but I don’t want anything to do with him.
One call that I am very proud of from last week is that Coleman was in a great spot and had a clear connection with Kizer in the preseason. While he didn’t have a monster game, CC put up 5-53-1 on 6 targets, which was very solid compared to what most receivers did. Jimmy Smith had a solid week for the Ravens against the Bengals, but pretty much everyone on that D had a good day. This week, they move from one of the worst pass protection lines in the NFL to one of the best, so they will have a much more difficult time getting after the QB. With the negative game script that the Browns will find themselves in again here, I think that Coleman makes for a strong play again, especially if they can line him up against Brandon Carr. Oh yeah, Hue also expressed the winter of his discontent to Britt by saying that he might not even be a starter anymore (while I think that this is at least partially bull due to the contract that they just paid him, he doesn’t seem like a favorite here).
BUF (17.75) @ CAR (25.25)
I recommended Clay last week, and he proceeded to lead the team with 9 total targets, which was more than Matthews and Jones combined, and he parlayed this into 4-53-1. CAR is better against TEs as they ranked 9th in DVOA against them last year, but they did give up the 5th-most PPR points/game to the position. Clay obviously isn’t great, but he will see a ton of volume until TyGod feels more comfortable with J-Matt and/or Zay. He is also always cheap, he clocks in at $3000 this week, and the Bills figure to be in a game script that behooves him.
The Panthers just picked up ex-Packer Ladarius Gunter off of waivers, but I’m not sure if he will start right away. Either way, I’m more excited to roster WRs against him than I am for the new look of the Panthers’ D. Per above, Taylor doesn’t seem very comfortable with his receiving options, so I expect most of the volume to funnel through Clay and McCoy. It will be interesting to see how the Bills open things up in a negative game script after getting the cupcake match-up of the Jets last week.
Shady will probably go wildly overlooked this week because no one wants to roster a RB against CAR and the game script projects to be extremely negative for him. On his limited carries last week, Hyde averaged 5.0 ypc against this run D, and not only is McCoy better, he has a better o-line in front of him (as shown by his 3.1 yards before contact last week, which was 3rd-highest among RBs). Just like last week, the strength of the Bills’ line matches up with the weakest part of Carolina’s. I project McCoy to see at least 5 targets this game – he saw 6 last week compared to J-Matt and Jones’ combined 7 – so he has a very safe floor here. Hyde also put up 6-32-0 on the Panthers through the air last week, so I think we can expect a similar line here at a bare minimum.
I don’t feel like we can effectively evaluate the Bills’ D since they played the Jets, so this will be a great test for them. We do know, however, that a lot has changed for their secondary since a year ago, so we can assume that they are still gelling at best. With that being said, I have no idea if we will actually see Cam air it out here. K-Benj saw 5 targets last week to lead all WRs, but he only turned that into a pitiful 1-25-0.
CMC led the team in targets and catches with 7 and 5 respectively, but Stewart had 18 carries. J-Stew is also not completely uninvolved in the pass game either as Newton targeted him twice, one of which went for a TD. It is also worrying that they are already talking about not “wearing the batteries out on their new toy.” Carolina should score some points in this one, but I don’t have a great idea of where they will come from. If they will really win by more than TD as Vegas predicts, I can see the logic behind Stewart as a tournament play since he will go overlooked and is only $4400.
ARI (25.5) @ IND (18.5)
There is sharp money on the Colts here as they have experienced a 0.5 point swing in their favor while only receiving 28% of the bets.
The RB apocalypse is in full swing. DJ just went down with a dislocated wrist and Bruce Arians hopes to get him back by Christmas. The Cards just signed DJ Foster and brought back CJ2K, so it looks like this will be a mess of a timeshare for the foreseeable future and I plan to steer well clear. If you hear rumblings about which RB will get the most work this coming week, they will be cheap, in a great spot, and will likely be the chalk as Bruce Arians favors a bell cow.
In other bad news for the offense, starting LT, DJ Humphries, will be out for the next couple of weeks. Even though this is clearly bad news for Palmer who is in the twilight of his career, this is as good of a spot as he will get all year. Jared fricking Goff just picked the Colts apart for 306 yards and a TD a week ago, so Palmer should be able to do the same if he has anything left in the tank. While Palmer had a terrible day, Fitz saw 13 targets that he turned into a line of 6-74-0. He has a very safe floor for cash, and I love his upside for tournaments. While I still don’t think he has good odds of going over 100 yards, he still has multi-TD upside as shown by his 3 (!!!) red zone targets last game. If he caught multiple TDs last week, just think about how everyone would be talking him up this week. I’m just saying that that reality is not too far off from where we are today. He was also the chalk last week, but looks to be <15% this week at $6500. I loved John Brown at $5000, but he is now out with a quad injury. I was really hoping that he would be able to stay healthy this year, but that clearly couldn’t happen and I’m very worried about him in general now. JJ Nelson is now an elite GPP option at $3800 who will have incredibly low ownership.
The dark horse candidate for worst team in the league is the Colts. Nailed it. They are truly terrible as they don’t have a competent QB, o-line, or defense currently. They are apparently “considering” starting Brissett over Tolzien this coming week, but I’m not sure what there is to consider. Tolzien is a disaster and clearly cannot make NFL level passes. Even if Brissett knows only half of the playbook at this point, it will at least give him valuable experience running the offense and the Colts can see what they have in him. To make matters worse, the Colts did also just lose their starting RT from last week, Denzelle Good, to the IR. Thus, their already bad o-line just got worse. PS – They decided to roll with Brissett after I originally wrote this.
Hilton is going to get blanketed by Peterson when they go 2-wide, which should leave Moncrief as a viable option in a game where they will throw a bunch of passes, but they don’t actually have a QB that can complete those passes. Assuming they do start Brissett, we should watch which receivers he favors. This is probably self-obvious, but I want none of the Colts this week.
TEN (21.75) @ JAX (20.25)
Like I said last week, the Jaguars want to run the ball all day. This is clearly no secret, at least not to the Texans, as Fournette did see 8+ defenders in the box a Sunday-high of 57% per Next Gen Stats. Even with all of this love, he did put up 26-100-1 on the ground with another 3-24 through the air and saw 3 carries inside the 5. TEN will be without SS Cyprien for the next couple of weeks with a hamstring issue, so that will be a blow for their D as he is one of the best when active. The price of $6500 here feels about right and, while Vegas does paint JAX as the underdog, they are within a field goal, so it’s negligible and shouldn’t radically alter their game plan.
Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee are now the WR1 and WR2, not necessarily in that order, for the Jags with A-Rob going down with a torn ACL. While Lee looked clearly like the superior receiver last year, I think it will be hard for him to see enough volume to provide the upside that we look for most weeks since they are clearly trying to limit how much Bortles throws. If you think that the Jags fall behind early enough and substantially enough to force them to throw, he is the guy I would go to if you really wanted to roster one of them.
I definitely thought that Davis would get eased back in here, but he saw a team-high 10 targets, which he parlayed into 6-69-0. It is worth noting that Decker saw the most snaps, however, as he was in on 94% of the plays. Rishard Matthews also, predictably, seemed to have the best chemistry with Mariota out of the 3 WRs. I fully expect TEN to move into a 3-wide offense this year, and they did run in that formation 76% this past week. I have a lot of faith in JAX’s defense this year (assuming that they don’t get put in too many awful spots by Bortles), and they are anchored by two stud outside CBs, Ramsey and Bouye. Ramsey did miss Friday’s practice, so keep an eye on this. If he cannot go, this firmly puts Davis in play at only $4100.
I don’t really want to run against the Jags, especially when we have a split backfield. Thus, depending upon injuries, I think Walker will be the most reliable option here this week. I don’t hate him at $4700, but there are other TE options I like better, and I’m fine just taking a pass in general.
PHI (21.25) @ KC (26.75)
Eric Berry is out for the season with an Achilles tear, which is really a shame – I love Berry’s game and was excited to see what the Chiefs could do this year with him in there. While he did manage to shut down Gronk for while he was in the game, I think that this quietly sets up to be a very good spot for Ertz with Berry out. Ertz went 8-93-0 on 8 targets last week and is clearly a favorite target for Wentz. With Wentz probably forced to throw to catch up, we should see Ertz peppered with targets again here.
Surprisingly, Agholor put up 6-86-1, also on 8 targets. The TD and a good chunk of that yardage came on a broken play, however, so we need to take this with a grain of salt. It was very encouraging to see them design plays specifically for him, so perhaps this cause a change in his career arc. There were a lot of very positive reports coming out of training camp about Agholor, and the Eagles felt good enough about him to trade J-Matt, but his usage in PW3 really worried me (he saw 0 targets). He draws another favorable match-up against Gaines here who got repeatedly whipped out of the slot last week. Marcus Peters should shut down Jeffery, so I’m not going there. While Wentz did put up 300+ yards and more than pay off his salary last week, he was slightly off on several throws against WAS, so I would really like to see him tighten things up here. I’m not too interested in Torrey Smith because of the inaccuracies, but the Eagles will give him at least a couple of deep targets each game. Also worth noting is that Justin Houston looked back to form against the Pats, so we can expect a lot of good battles between him and Peters/Johnson.
Blount looked less than stellar here as he averaged 2.8 ypc, but he did salvage his fantasy day on a surprising TD catch. We obviously cannot count on passing TDs to him moving forward as Sproles is the main pass-catcher out of the backfield here. I’m going to continue avoiding this situation like the plague.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, an already weak secondary got even weaker as Ronald Darby is now gone for 4-6 weeks with an ankle injury. I really hope that they decide to give rookie 3rd rounder Rasul Douglas a lot of reps moving forward. While it won’t be pretty, he will gain a lot of great experience. Coming into this year, I am firmly in the TyFluke camp as there is no way for him to sustain that number of TDs on so few touches (especially long TDs). The volume available to him, however, still does make him an interesting prospect, especially for DFS purposes. It also helps that he will line up against Jalen Mills who gave up 108 yards through the air in Week 1, which was bad enough for 2nd-most. As Graham Barfield pointed out, in the 5 games without Maclin, Hill has averaged a line of 7-76-0.4. I’m also very interested to see if Alex Smith keeps up his vertical attack moving forward this year as I was favorably impressed with him against NE. I assume that Reid will take some deep shots here since Cousins to Pryor just missed several times last week, and if Smith can hit Hill, we will definitely see some big gains. In order to make these plays, the o-line will need to keep Smith clean, which will be hard against this front seven. We saw them get to Cousins 4 times last week, and Cox and Graham will go against the weakest part of the Chiefs’ line this week.
In regards to Kelce, you are clearly not sitting him in season-long leagues, but the Eagles have historically been strong against TEs (they were #1 in DVOA last year). While Jordan Reed saw 8 targets last week, he only put up 5-36-0 on the Eagles, so I’m not a fan of using Kelce here at $5100 unless we can get him at a severe discount in ownership since he does have such high TD equity.
Everyone’s favorite new play is Kareem Hunt and boy did he look good last week. He tore apart the Patriots and, when not breaking a long TD, he made sizable gains in between the tackles. The Eagles’ defensive front is much better than the Pats’, as shown by how they limited WAS to only 64 rush yards last week, but clearly Hunt is much better than Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley. All-in-all, I look forward to seeing what Hunt can do here against a better opponent. The game script also looks favorable for Hunt and his involvement in the passing game gives him a solid floor.
NE (30.75) @ NO (24.75)
There is some sharp money on the Saints here as their total has risen a full 1.75 points while they have only received 20% of the best (NE’s total has also risen by 1.25 points).
Everyone loves the narrative of Cooks coming home and really sticking it to the Saints, but $8200 is a little rich for my blood, so I will be underweight on him. I’m not sure I can do a full fade due to how god-awful the Saints defense is (they gave up the 5th-most PPR points to WRs last year), but it is worth considering. Amendola suffered a concussion in their game last Thursday and he will not play this week. Surprisingly, at least to me, Danny did put up 6-100-0 on 7 targets in only 27 plays before he went down. I think we should see Hogan as his main replacement as he did run 54% of his routes from the slot. Hogan was also in on the most plays out of any WR, ran the most routes, and saw an endzone target that Brady missed him on, so I’m counting on a bounce-back here. It helps that NO is clearly bad at covering people out of the slot after letting Thielen whip them all night for 9-157-0. I do also think that Hogan plays much more to Brady’s preferred horizontal orientation versus the vertical threat that Cooks provides. While Brady did target Cooks on several deep throws, he looked very uncomfortable in a vertically-oriented offense. I’m not sure if it will just take him some time to acclimate or if this is truly the beginning of the end for Brady, but I know people have predicted the latter before and ended up having to eat crow later on. It is worth noting, however, that he had several bad misses that weren’t that deep including several to Hogan, one to Allen while wide open, a couple to Burkhead, etc. I have in my notes 8+ misses, but I need to re-watch to confirm. After last week, we know that Brady would prefer to put up 5+ TDs as revenge here, and after watching Bradford pick apart the Saints’ secondary, I assume Tom will be one of the more popular plays this week.
While this looks to be a prime spot for Gronk, I’m pretty nervous about him here. After the layout TD that got reversed, he just didn’t look like himself even though he did play on almost every offensive snap in this game. Most telling is that they didn’t target him immediately after Eric Berry left the game, which I see as a very bad sign. No one likes paying up for TE especially after an atrocious week, so I assume he will have only around 10% ownership at $6900. I’ll have at least one line with him, but I would like to hear some positive news about how he is feeling before I go all in.
As a shock to no one, Gillislee was the goal-line back last week and he ended up with 3 TDs, which will inflate his ownership this week. It definitely helps that they got setup on the 1 several times, but this is not something we can count on moving forward. White was more heavily involved than I expected. In the offseason, Belichick stated that he didn’t want his personnel groupings showing the opposing D his hand, which I took to mean that White was going to have less usage this year since his presence generally signifies a passing play. The Pats ended up playing him on several early downs, however, and he looked fairly productive with 38 yards on 10 carries. He is a smaller runner, so we will see if this trend continues and if his body can hold up. My money is still on Burkhead leading this backfield in yards over the course of the year. Rostering anyone from this backfield will continue to be difficult week-to-week, but I prefer White or Burkhead as contrarian options to Gillislee here. NO also gave up the 2nd-most PPR points to RBs last year, and they already started off this year the same way by giving up 127 rushing yards and another 10 air yards to Dalvin Cook last week.
I am very disappointed in Payton’s Week 1 play-calling. He kicked way too many field goals, especially late, when he should have gone for it on 4th down. Being that reserved will not win you football games, as we saw, especially against good teams. He better get back to the drawing board and fast for this one.
As we saw last week – and last year since they gave up the 2nd-most points to RB receivers – NE gets gashed by pass-catching backs. This past week, Kamara led the Saints in snaps and carries with 31 and 7 respectively to Ingram’s 26 and 6, and he also saw 6 targets, which led the RBs. Ingram did out-catch him 5 to 4 though, so these two do seem to be splitting the work fairly evenly. AP had very limited involvement and wasn’t happy about it. I assume that he will either be cut or traded to a RB-hungry team for a 7th rounder at some point. Hightower will probably also miss multiple weeks with an MCL sprain, so the Pats will be even weaker against RBs here.
MIN did a very good of bottling up Thomas last week, and he only put up 5-45-0 on a team-high 8 targets. I can guarantee you that Belichick watched that tape and will partially base his coverage of Thomas on what he saw there, and I won’t be surprised if Thomas gets held to a similar line this week. Even though the game flow will be in his favor, I don’t love him at $7500. As we saw last week, speed killed the Pats. Enter Ted Ginn Jr. This is the exact type of situation that I love to have exposure to someone like Ginn. He profiles well against the Pats, he should see a bunch of opportunities (he saw 5 targets last week), and he provides a lower-owned leverage option at a discount. As PFF noted, Fleener ran a route on 23 of Brees’ 38 dropbacks, and he makes for another excellent option here. The Pats were middle-of-the-road against TEs last year as they ranked 14th in DVOA, and Brees has a history of looking to his TEs often. At only $3100 and with Snead still out, Fleener will likely be popular and for good reason.
MIN (19.5) @ PIT (25.5)
Unexpectedly, Jesse James caught 2 TDs this past week. I didn’t see this happening, nor did anyone else, as the Steeler’s traded for McDonald clearly because they were unhappy with existing options. Also, I don’t see them moving to more 2-TE sets as I fully expect them to go 3-WR almost all of the time once Smith-Schuster comes back. Even here they were in 3-wide formation about 67% of the time. I really hope that you had more AB than I did – I got too cute and tried to outthink everyone by going Martavis – as Brown put up a monster 11-182-0 on 11 targets. Martavis only ended up with 2-14-0 on 6 targets, which makes me a sad panda. This week, Rhodes is currently questionable, so we need to monitor this closely as they were able to somewhat shutdown Michael Thomas with him in there last week. AB is clearly a different beast though, and will always see a ton of volume in this offense. He will probably also be lower-owned than he should be since most people paying up at WR will gravitate towards Julio. I really like Martavis this year in general, but he looked super rusty out there Week 1, so proceed with caution here.
Bell shockingly only saw 10 carries and 3 catches on 6 targets, which resulted in a very lackluster fantasy day and disappointed many. His price tag still increased to $9800 here, and I assume that many people will be off of him due to last week and the more difficult match-up against the Vikings’ run D. Whenever you can get Bell at discounted ownership and in positive game script, you have to take it in GPPs. Paying up at RB is an excellent contrarian strategy in general this week.
The whole pass-catching corps looked very good on Monday night with both Diggs and Thielen putting up 27+ DK points. Bradford also looked very sharp and was spot on with some very tough passes. As Graham Barfield pointed out, in the 9 games when healthy between this season and last, Diggs has averaged 19.8 PPR points/game. Scott Barrett also pointed out that newly acquired Joe Haden gave up the most yards out of all CBs Week 1 with 109. Diggs should win this match-up every time and could be in line for another huge week. I also like Thielen out of the slot as he ended up with a team-high 10 targets, and is clearly one of Bradford’s favorite receivers. We know that the passing volume in this offense is going to filter through these two as they has a combined 18 targets, while the entire rest of the team saw 14. Bradford did appear on the injury report this week, so I’m hoping that this is nothing serious as I have a lot of interest in him here.
Dalvin Cook apparently cannot catch out of the backfield as he had at least 3 bobbles. This might have been a case of rookie jitters, but if he can’t pull it together, I assume that he will just be a 2-down back. I am also worried about the o-line’s ability to open up holes. While Dalvin did lay 22-127-0 on the Saints, he had two 30+ yard runs that helped his total immensely. One went for 33 yards at the very end of the game, and I always take late big plays with a grain of salt, especially in a somewhat uncontested game (don’t kid yourself, did the Saints really look like they had a shot of winning this late?). I’m just saying that while he did average 5.8 ypc if we include everything, this drops to 4.5 ypc without that run and then it drops all the way down to only 3.1 ypc if we take away the other big run that he had. Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but I definitely want to monitor this as I had a lot of questions about the Vikings line coming into this year. The Vikings to plan to continue to rely on him heavily, however, so he warrants consideration with his volume at $5900, but I doubt I will end up with him. If Tuitt sits, that only strengthens the case for Cook, but he did get a limited practice in on Friday so this seems unlikely.
CHI (18) @ TB (25)
Jerrell Freeman, last year’s top LB, has both a concussion and a pectoral injury, with the latter getting him placed on IR. This will be a massive hit to the Bear’s D. They do still have some solid run stoppers and they allowed only 64 ground yards last game, but I expect that to climb sharply here. In the 3 games that Martin missed last October, Rodgers saw a minimum of 20 touches (19 rushes and 1 catch). In the game with his heaviest workload, he saw a jaw-dropping 30 carries and 5 receptions. The Bucs are clearly not shy about utilizing him heavily, and this is insane volume that you can get for only $4400. I will be using a lot of him this coming week.
I don’t know if Prince Amukamara will be able to suit up this week, but that will obviously be a boost for the secondary if he can. He sat last week, so I rostered a ton of Julio, which was clearly a mistake in hindsight. The Bears play a lot of Cover 6 D, which is designed to take away the top weapon, and they were able to hold Evans to 4-66-0 last year. I do think that D-Jax will really open things up for him throughout the year, but I don’t feel like it is the week to roster Evans here. D-Jax, on the other hand, is a great play at only $4900. It also looks like he will run most of his routes at Marcus Cooper if Amukamara is back and, like I mentioned last week, Cooper ranked a horrid 101st out of 110 CBs last year. I also really like Brate at only $3000. Last year, he put up 7-84-1 on the Bears (yes, this is a ridiculously small sample size and it is really hard to compare performance against a team from one year to the next), and Winston has a long history of throwing to his TEs a lot. I know people are flocking to Howard this year, but it generally takes rookie TEs at least a year to adjust to the NFL.
The Bears also just lost Kevin White for the season. Again. I feel bad for the guy as his fragility will probably end his career, but are his bones literally made of glass or something? I’m just picturing him being in a reboot of Unbreakable. I got sucked into the Kendall Wright talk last week due to his price tag, the dearth of targets out in CHI, and his history with the coach. He ended up playing on only 60% of the team’s plays, while Cohen ended up leading the Bears with 12 targets. There were some warning signs in the offseason that the Bears didn’t like Howard in the pass game, and it seems like these have come to fruition with this game plan. CHI projects to be behind by a TD per Vegas, so this should give Cohen another very positive game script. It also helps him that Cunningham is still out for this one, so Cohen won’t have to share targets with another back. The Bucs also ranked a meager 26th against receiving backs last year in DVOA and gave up the 8th-most receiving yards, so he could have another big day while his high number of targets gives him a comfortable floor. I don’t have huge long-term hopes for him due to his size, but I’m definitely willing to take some shares at $4100 here. I do have some concerns about ownership after his huge game last week, but I’m hopeful that it won’t balloon too much yet.
I talked about how I liked Miller last week, and he did end up finishing 2nd on the team with 6 targets. I came off of him before lock last week, however, because one of the CHI beat writers wrote that they expected Sims to be the primary redzone target. This did not come to fruition, however, as Miller saw 2 RZ targets to Sims 0. Also, Miller doubled the number of targets and catches that Sims had, but they did both play on a lot of snaps, which suggests CHI used Sims more in a blocking role (I need to try and found the number of routes run for each on Glennon drop-backs). It is worth noting that TB was 4th in DVOA against TEs last year. Thus, Miller seems like a volume option at the low, low price of only $2900, but I won’t have too many shares. I don’t think any other pass catcher really warrants a mention.
MIA (21) @ LAC (24.5)
Allen looked back to his old self last night as he ran crisp routes, scored a TD, and saw 10 targets. If he sees that kind of usage against one of the best secondaries in the league, where he lined up against the best CB in the league, he should see a ton of targets every week moving forward. This week he will see Bobby McCain out of the slot who has graded out as “Below Average” per PFF over each of the previous two seasons. Allen is a clear mis-price this week at $5800 and will be one of the most popular options on the slate. An excellent differentiation option here is Tyrell Williams at $4700. He also looked great last week and saw the 2nd-most targets with 7, which he quietly parlayed into the most receiving yards on the team with 54. Even though he led the team here, he didn’t catch one of Rivers 3 TDs, so I expect most to gravitate away. While he runs most of his routes against the side the Byron Maxwell mans, a top-10 CB last year, the Chargers do move him around quite a bit, so he will also get a bunch of routes against the very beatable Xavien Howard. The one concern I have here is game flow, but as long as MIA can keep it competitive, Rivers will still throw a decent bit. Speaking of Rivers, MIA gave up the 4th-most points to QBs last year.
Gordon is a true workhorse back, and his usage in the passing game gives him an incredibly solid floor (just last week, he had 5 catches on 6 targets). Just as an FYI in that regard, last year MIA gave up the 6th-most receptions to backs, but ranked a solid 10th in DVOA against them. They were much worse against the run in general, however, as they ranked 22nd in DVOA and gave up the 4th-most yards in the league. Surprisingly, they gave up the 5th-fewest rushing TDs, but this should positively regress to the norm if they give up a ton of rushing yardage again this year.
Jason Verrett is out for this week, which provides a huge boost to the MIA passing game. Casey Hayward is also a legit shutdown corner, however, so things aren’t all rosy here. I really want to love Parker here, but I feel like Hayward might shadow him on the outside since Hayward did shadow the 2nd-most out of any CB last year according to PFF. He can also travel into the slot, which begs the question – who is Miami’s current WR1? With all of the reports from over the summer and due to Cutler’s downfield throwing style, I feel like it might be Parker. So, with Jay’s run-and-gun style, Hayward containing Parker, and the negative game script that the ’phins will find themselves in, this theoretically means that Stills is the play here. You don’t need much of him to be overweight on the field, but this is clearly risky.
Ajayi will go wildly overlooked this week and I think that is a mistake. Even if MIA is in comeback mode, they will heavily utilize him as a 3-down back and there have been glowing reports about his hands and route-running throughout the offseason. The Chargers gave up the 5th-most PPR points to RBs last year per game (27.1), the 5th-most rushing TDs (16), the 4th-most receptions (100), the 5th-most receiving yards (758), and the 3rd-most receiving TDs (5). At only $6400, Ajayi is priced lower than players like Fournette, Freeman, and Hunt.
NYJ (15.25) @ OAK (28.25)
We have sharp money on the Jets as the line has moved in their favor by 0.5 points while they have only received 20% of the bets.
I’m going to keep it short and sweet for the Jets since there is nothing here to like. Forte played 5 more snaps than Powell, but saw 3 fewer touches, so the timeshare that I predicted looks to remain for the foreseeable future. Kearse surprisingly saw the most targets with 9, which he turned into 7-59-0. Take a volume-based flyer on him if you want, but I don’t guarantee that the lead target won’t change this week. I also cannot guarantee that McCown will leave this game under his own power. I’m very worried about what Khalil Mack might do to his fragile body. The OAK D will clearly be highly owned this week at $3500.
It looks like my concerns about Lynch are at least somewhat overblown as he saw 19 touches – 18 carries and 1 catch – to Washington and Richard’s combined 11. He also had several punishing runs that looked like classic Beast Mode. The game was fairly close throughout, however, so I’m not sure how they will utilize him in a blowout, which this one will almost certainly be. Labs currently projects Lynch to be owned at 9-12% here, but this feels low to me since he is going against the Jets and is priced at only $6000. Depending upon how they call it, we could see all 3 RBs with over 15 touches here.
You break my heart Cooper. I had a ton of shares last week and he saw huge volume, 13 targets, but he only turned this into 5-62-1. It also featured 3 consecutive drops in the endzone. Sigh. Crabtree put up 6-83-0, but on a little over half of Cooper’s targets (7), so it looks like Cooper will finally blow past him this year. Cook was on the field for 71% of the plays and caught all 5 targets for 56 yards, so I definitely think that he is in play in future weeks. I honestly don’t really love any of the pass catchers here. Any and all of them can destroy the Jets “defense,” but how much will Carr actually have to throw in this game? I mean, Amari can certainly put up 4-100-1 in the first half alone, but you have to have guaranteed volume if you decide to pay $8200 for a WR.
DAL (22) @ DEN (20)
There is sharp money on the Broncos here as the line hasn’t moved while they have only received 30% of the bets.
Orlando Scandrick broke his hand and will miss at least a couple of weeks. To replace him, DAL promoted Nolan Carroll who is oh so bad. D-Thom should line up across from him most frequently here and Thomas also paced the team with 5 catches on 8 targets last week. It is a little worrying that he didn’t see any RZ targets, but he is only $5900 and DEN projects to trail in this one. Oh Emmanuel. You could have had 2 TDs in that Monday night game and I would be a richer man today if that had happened. On the first, Trevor badly missed you as you were against a LB who clearly had no hope of covering you. On the second, it was so close, but you just couldn’t quite drag that second toe. Again, if Siemian hadn’t been a little off, you would have scored easily. Valiant effort though, I will most definitely continue to roster you down the line, but this week might not be the week since you offer only a slight discount at $5100. We absolutely need to get more data about Siemian’s preferred RZ target over the next couple of games.
After week 1, DEN had the 5th-most rushes in 1 score situations per Warren Sharp. CJA saw 20 carries and another 3 targets, which is tremendous volume for only $4700. For the first part of the game, Denver seemed content to let Charles block and use him as a decoy, but he did get more involved as the game went on and ended up with 10 totes. This included a goal-line attempt, which is obviously very valuable, but I don’t really expect that to continue moving forward. DAL did rank 8th in DVOA against the run last year and Sean Lee is clearly amazing, but I can’t for sure say that this wasn’t partially due to seeing fewer runs than most teams due to game script and their time of possession.
As Scott Barrett pointed out, Elliott saw a career high in targets in Week 1 with 5 (this more than doubles his average per game from last year), and set a career high in routes run with 30. While DEN ranked top-5 in DVOA against WR1s, WR2s, all other WRs, and TEs last year, they ranked 15th against receiving backs. They were also clearly much weaker against the run game as they ranked 21st against it in general, and they are presumably even worse this year after letting TJ Ward walk in free agency. All-in-all, I think that Elliott makes for a great contrarian option at expected low ownership here. I’m not taking any of the WRs or Dak.
WAS (21.75) @ LAR (24.25)
I’m not sure if it was just because Jeffrey lines up well against Norman or what, but WAS did not use him in shadow coverage last week. Instead, Norman played most of his snaps at LCB. I thought I had heard reports earlier in the preseason that they would task Norman with shadowing more this year, but perhaps that was just noise. I’m definitely going to try and watch for this moving forward, but will assume they are playing sides for now. With that assumption, that will put Norman on Woods for most of the day, with Watkins going against Breeland. This puts Kupp out of the slot against Fuller, who had a good Week 1, but graded out as one of the worst CBs in the league last year. Kupp has a clear connection with Goff and put up a very solid 4-76-1 on 6 targets last week. At $4100, he will probably be one of the more popular cheap options this week, but I think that this is a mistake.
While Goff picked apart IND last week, I don’t think he can do it again here, as WAS is much better than IND especially in their secondary. Also, LAR had the 4th-worst pass protection in the league last year. If Vegas is to be believed, they think Goff will put up points again, but this is one of the lines I’m most skeptical about this week. In general, I’m bearish on the Rams both in general and here. McVay might prove me wrong and, in that case, I’ll be writing an apology letter next week.
I think we can officially be very worried about Gurley moving forward. He only put up 19-40-1 on the ground for a 2.1 ypc average. He did put up 5-56 through the air, which is encouraging, but if he couldn’t do more damage on the ground, I don’t see how he will do much against better teams than the Colts (i.e. almost all of them). I’m off of Gurley until further notice.
Kelley saw 10 carries to Perine’s 0. Thompson was predictably involved in the passing game, but his lack of touches doesn’t make it easy to count on him. I expect WAS to play with the lead this week, so I think we can get a better sense of their backfield after this point. I’m not excited about rostering anyone here currently though.
Pryor saw 11 targets and had a bad drop on a deep ball that would have resulted in a TD early on. He did manage to put up 6-66-0, but most of these came on short and intermediate routes. His chemistry with Cousins on deep routes left a lot to be desired as there were several bad misses even outside of the aforementioned drop. The o-line certainly didn’t do Cousins many favors last week, and they will have their hands full with Donald even if he does just play a limited number of snaps. I don’t mind taking a flyer on Pryor again just in case they worked out the issues between him and Cousins, but I think that this will be a fairly low scoring game and there are other players that I’m more interested in in the same price bracket.
SF (14) @ SEA (28)
I really loved Hyde last week and it was great to see him in as an every down back, but unfortunately he didn’t see a ton of volume due to the negative gamescript. He finished with 9 carries and 6 receptions for 77 total yards. This week looks like another very tough one, especially since it will be played in Seattle. At $4900, I much prefer other options to him this week (notably CJA @ $4700 and Quizz Rodgers @ $4400).
Garcon saw massive volume here, and he parlayed his 10 targets into a 6-81-0 line. I need to find out where he lined up, but I assume that Shanahan won’t run him into Sherman here, so he should be in line for another massive amount of work. I actually really love taking him as a low-owned volume option at $4900 especially since he will get to go against unimpressive Griffin on the side opposite of Sherman or the equally unimpressive Lane out of the slot.
Seattle’s o-line still looks like one of the worst in the game, and Lacy had more carries, 5, than he did yards, 3. He has to be on the hot seat here as preseason darling Chris Carson looked far more explosive as he turned his 7 touches into 49 yards. Outside of a 30-yard gain, however, he also had issues with their woeful line (excluding that carry, he only averaged 3.2 ypc). Carson and Prosise both out-snapped Lacy with 27 and 15 snaps respectively to the latter’s 7. It is also worth noting that Rawls did not suit up last week, but plans to play this week. While Carson has looked dynamic, I really have no idea as to whether Carroll will go fully back to Rawls once he returns. If we can get some clarity around this before lineups lock, that will be ideal as the game script will clearly favor the SEA running game here, but the current ambiguity makes it less than appetizing. As I noted last week, the 49ers are not as bad as everyone assumes against the run when they are healthy, and they allowed only 3.6 ypc last week.
I’ll admit it, I screwed up with my Wilson pick, and I’m sorry if I talked you into him. FWIW, I practice what I preach and had a ton of Russ. Jimmy Graham looked unmotivated and had some drops that he normally catches – at least from what I saw in the second half – and put up a sickening 8 yards on 3 catches (he did see 7 targets, however). Richardson also saw 7 targets that he turned into 4-59-0, and Lockett was eased back in on 52% of the offensive snaps. I cannot for sure say that Richardson is the WR2 here, and I feel like Richardson and Lockett will split time moving forward. Baldwin gets another ideal match-up, but since they will be so far ahead, Wilson won’t have to throw it all that much. The Seahawks could use this week to try and get their offense clicking though, so they might push it more than they normally would. I will need to think about this some more, but Baldwin feels a lot like Amari to me in that this is a steep price for a WR that won’t necessarily see a lot of volume.
GB (25.5) @ ATL (28.5)
This is no secret, but this game should be a fantasy goldmine. After Week 1, per Warren Sharp, GB played at the fastest pace while ATL played at the 6th-fastest in one score games. Last year, these two teams were #1 and #2 in fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs. GB also allowed the most PPR points to opposing WRs, while ATL was fairly generous to opposing RBs as well – they gave up the 4th-most PPR points.
I had some concerns about TyMont coming into the year, specifically in regards to if he could fully transition into a RB and how many touches they would give him, but my fears have been somewhat alleviated so far. Last week, he saw 19 carries and 4 receptions, and he managed a strong performance against an impressive d-line. Per Scott Barrett, with this usage, he ranked as the second highest bell cow on the week and was only behind Lamar Miller. He should be, by far, the most highly owned RB this week at $5800.
My heart is all aflutter for this game, and I’m going to talk up A-Rodg for the second week in a row even if this is kind of a gimme. I mean, why wouldn’t you talk about the best QB in the game every week? I will admit that I came off of him for the most part on Sunday morning when it was announced that his starting LT, Bryan Bulaga, was going to be out for this game, but Rodgers came through anyway. I did have one Rodgers-Cobb stack still as I figured that he would have to get the ball out quickly, and Cobb didn’t disappoint as he put up 9-85-0 on 13 targets. This was good enough for a 31% market share, but most importantly, Cobb looks fully healthy again out there. Graham Barfield did point out that, while he did lead the team in market share, he was last out of the big 3 in air yards with only 14%. Instead, Adams led the way with 43% and Jordy followed closely behind at 31%. Since he still saw such a massive percentage of the air yards while being shut down by Sherman, I really love Adams this week since he also figures to be the least popular WR to pair with Rodgers. All 3 WRs are clearly in play, however.
As I mentioned earlier, GB gave up the most PPR points to WRs last year out of any team. I’m not sure how they plan to stop Julio this week, but I don’t think they can. Julio will be chalky, but I’ll eat some chalk on this one as he always has one of the highest ceilings out of any player in the NFL. Sanu actually saw the most targets out of any Falcons WR last week with 9, so I don’t hate having some shares of him at $4500 in a high-scoring, fast-paced game.
Freeman and Coleman continue to split time and one of them will probably at least score one here, but I hate trying to decipher this backfield. Freeman doesn’t get enough touches to justify his $7300 price tag, but he could always put 2 in and then you hate yourself for not rostering him. Coleman also doesn’t get enough touches to justify his $5300 price tag with the other options available, but he will also be low-owned in this shootout. Feel free to roster either of them if you want to, but I’m not going there.
DET (20.25) @ NYG (23.25)
The Lions want to throw a lot this year, which is not really a surprise, and they led the NFL in 3-WR sets with 54 plays in this formation per Matt Harmon. They also ran 49% of their offensive snaps no-huddle, which was the highest rate for any team Week 1. One of my worst calls from last week seems to be MJ. He did have a TD to salvage his day, but only saw 2 targets, which is concerning. I’m not 100% sold that this isn’t an aberration though as Patrick Peterson ended up shadowing him instead of Tate, contrary to what multiple people (myself included) expected to occur, but proceed with caution here. Speaking of Tate, he put up 10-107-0 for 31% of the market share, and he ran most of his routes out of the slot. Tate has practiced all week with a splint on his finger, so definitely monitor this if you plan to play a slate with the Monday game, but he says that he is “fine” as of Thursday and was taken off of the injury report on Saturday. Assuming that Tate plays out of the slot again, this should put Jenkins on MJ and Apple against Golladay. Eli Apple gave up the 3rd-most yards Week 1 with 99, so feel free to lock Golladay in. If news comes out that Jenkins won’t shadow MJ, this will actually put MJ on Apple’s side more frequently, and MJ should have a helluva game instead.
While I did warm considerably to Abdullah by the end of the week, he had a very attractive price of $4300, he greatly disappointed. Also, unfortunately my concerns about Riddick and the redzone seemed at least partially founded. While Abdullah did lead the group with 15 carries – one of which was inside the 5 – and 3 receptions, he didn’t actually turn those into much, and Riddick was the only RB to score (on a 7-yd catch). The Giants’ D is clearly their strong point, so I’m not targeting this mess of a backfield.
So can we just give the MVP award to OBJ? If it is truly an award for Most Valuable Player, we just need to look at how the offense performed last week without him to make a very compelling case. He plans to return this week, but I’m worried that it will be in more of a decoy role. I don’t love the Giants’ offense in general with a bad QB and bad o-line so proceed with caution.