Week 2 Starts and Sits
Patrick Mahomes (at Pittsburgh)
Like most people, I was curious how the Kansas City Chiefs were going to utilize 2nd year quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Based on week 1, I think we all know there won’t be a training wheel period. Against a staunch Chargers defense (albeit they were missing Corey Luiget and Joey Bosa), Mahomes went off in week 1, throwing for 256 yards and 4 touchdowns with no interceptions and finishing as QB5. This week, he draws the Pittsburgh Steelers who may or may not be starting Joe Haden with a bad hamstring. Even if the Steelers commit themselves to limiting the explosive plays of Tyreek Hill, Mahomes has plenty of other weapons (Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt) to do serious damage. While Mahomes is known for his prodigious arm strength, he also showed a willingness to run the ball (5 carries for 21 yards). This is worth noting because the Steelers are coming off a week where they allowed Tyrod Taylor to rush for 77 yards on 8 carries. He should be an automatic start this week if you drafted him.
Alex Smith (at Indianapolis)
Alex Smith didn’t disappoint in his week 1 debut with the Washington Reskins, completing 21 of 30 passes (70% completion) for 255 yards and a 2/0 TD/INT ratio against a Cardinals team that is known for their defensive capabilities. He also showcased his ability to spread the ball around, primarily attacking the Cardinals defense with his non-receiver options (Chris Thompson and Jordan Reed combined for 12 targets on the day). In week 2, he gets the lucky draw of the defense that made Andy Dalton into a QB2 for week one (15th in fantasy points at the position). Expect another efficient day from Smith as he picks on a young Colts defense that struggles to generate a pass rush to help out the secondary.
Philip Rivers (at Buffalo), Joe Flacco (at Cincinnati), Ben Roethlisberger (vs Kansas City)
Here is a perfect rule of thumb for the 2018 NFL season: if you have an offensive player going against the Buffalo defense, he is an automatic start. This week, the lucky beneficiary is the high-powered Chargers offense and Philip Rivers. Rivers picked a part a week Chiefs secondary in week 1, amassing 424 yards and a 3/1 TD/INT ratio and a finish as QB3. Given the fact that this same defense allowed a frequently inefficient Joe Flacco (236 3TDs 0INT’s) to have a field day, Rivers has a very realistic chance to finish as QB1 this week. Speaking of Joe Flacco, his stellar preseason has officially translated into the regular season. Now that Flacco has perimeter weapons (Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Willie Snead), we have to respect his ability to put up numbers until he shows otherwise. This week he draws a Bengals defense, that while better than Buffalo, still allowed a rusty Andrew Luck to complete 73.6 percent of his passes for 319 yards and 2/1 TD/INT in week 1. Flacco should also get the benefit of opportunity given Andy Dalton’s tendency to turn the ball over in primetime games (more on that later). Ben Roethlisberger is officially back at home in week 2, playing against a weak Chiefs secondary that may still be down a rehabbing Eric Berry. Roethlisberger threw the ball 41 times in week 1 thanks to overtime, and has the weapons to attack the Chiefs defense in multiple ways if they work to contain Antonio Brown. This should be an absolute shootout in Pittsburgh.
Alvin Kamara (vs Cleveland)
In week 1, Alvin Kamara did his best to show that his high touchdown efficiency in 2017 wasn’t a fluke. While his rushing yardage left something to be desired (8 carries, 29 yards, 2 TDs), he reinforced his first round draft stock with a stellar receiving game out of the backfield (9 receptions on 12 targets, 112 yards, 1 TD), allowing him to finish the week as the top player in PPR formats. Given the fact that Cleveland struggled to contain James Conner in his first NFL start last week (31 carries, 135 yards, 2 TD’s and 5 catches for 56 yards), it stands to reason that Kamara is another excellent play in week 2.
James Conner (vs Kansas City)
Might as well ride the hot hand while he’s hot. Conner was extremely involved in the Steeler’s game plan against the Browns in week 1 (stats above), and he draws another high upside matchup against Kansas City in week 2. A week after giving up a combined 20 carries and 103 yards and 14 catches on 18 targets for 189 yards and a touchdown in the passing game to the combination of Melvin Gordon and Austin Eckler. Given the fact that Conner has nobody to share that backfield with, and the fact that the Steelers seem to want to stick it to Le’Veon Bell for holding out, expect Conner to have absurd usage in week 2.
Phillip Lindsay (vs Oakland), Adrian Peterson (vs Indianapolis), Tarik Cohen (vs Seattle)
Probably the most surprising player in the opening week of 2018, Phillip Lindsay seems to have earned a distinct role in the Broncos backfield. Lindsay provided 15 carries for 71 yards and had 2 catches (3 targets) for 31 yards and a touchdown. After Monday night, it would seem that the Raiders are still trying to figure out their defensive identity after the Khalil Mack trade, so Lindsay should have the opportunities to build on solid week 1 momentum. Hand up, I underestimated Adrian Peterson in week 1. While he wasn’t the most efficient in week 1, registering 3.7 yards per carry (26/96/1TD), the Redskins showed they are willing to feed him the ball to get him going. Peterson gets a solid matchup against the Colts in week 2, a team that just allowed Joe Mixon to register 95 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. I’m here for Peterson until the wheels fall off. Tarik Cohen is my gut feeling for week 2. The Bears used him all over the field in week 1, featuring him at wide receiver and 2 back sets. While that translated into only 5 carries for 25 yards and 3 catches for 16 yards. He has a chance to exploit the Seattle defense in week 2 given how much they play cover 3 and leave the flats to rely on tackling. He should be a high upside FLEX option.
JuJu Smith-Schuster (vs Kansas City)
Last week, Juju had an excellent game given limited targets. Smith-Schuster had 119 yards on 5 catches (8 targets), feasting on the Browns defense as they shaded to try and limit Antonio Brown. He most likely draws the coverage of Steven Nelson this week against Kansas City and should have the opportunity to convert more targets into explosive plays given Roethlisberger’s ability to extend plays.
Corey Davis (at Houston)
Corey Davis works his way into the start column this week just based on his high upside target count from week to week. Last week he had 6 catches on 13 targets for 62 yards. It’s clear the Titans want him to be the WR1 on the field, and more targets have opened up with the Delanie Walker going down for the season with an injury. If he can ever connect on more of those opportunities, he has the ability to explode on any given week. *Be sure to monitor Mariota’s status as we get closer to Sunday*
Allen Robinson (vs Seattle), Brandon Marshall (at Chicago), Cole Beasley (vs New York)
Based on week 1, Allen Robinson seems to be the focal point of the Bears passing offense. He drew the most targets (7), catches (4), and yardage (61). He made some difficult contested catches and just missed on a couple deep shots. Robinson isn’t known as a burner, which is the perfect receiver to attack and exploit the Seattle Cover 3 defense. He should be able to convert those short to intermediate targets into a big week on Monday Night Football. On the other side of the matchup, Brandon Marshall all of a sudden finds himself in a major role for the Seattle offense. Given Doug Baldwin’s tenuous knee and unlikelihood to play in week 2, Marshall could have some serious potential this week. Marshall drew 6 targets in week 1, catching 3 of them for 46 yards and a touchdown. He also had a touchdown negated due to a red zone pass interference call. Marshall should get some work in the Baldwin role, and it would seem that the Seahawks plan on using him to fill the void left by Jimmy Graham, giving him big touchdown upside on a weekly basis. When it comes to FLEX plays, you want to find high volume upside. Given the dumpster fire that currently is the Dallas offense, the highest volume upside wide receiver is Cole Beasley. It is clear that Dak Prescott is the most comfortable with Beasley in all of his weapons given his 7 catches (8 targets) and 73 yards. Even though Detroit was forced to throw the ball a ton on Monday Night against the Jets, the most appropriate comparison in that receiver corp is Golden Tate, who generated a 7 catch (15 targets) for 79 yards and a touchdown. Beasley could very well come close to replicating that line in week 2, which gives him serious WR3/ FLEX potential.
Jared Cook (at Denver)
The tight end position is absurdly thin this season, which makes the Jared Cook line from Monday Night against the Rams extremely appealing. He registered 9 catches on 12 targets for 180 yards, and it would seem that he will be a focal point of the Raiders’ offense early in the season. Cook was productive in all levels of the defense and Derek Carr wasn’t afraid to cut it loose to him every opportunity he got. He should see similar usage this week given that the Rams defense and the Broncos defense have the same areas of weakness (interior linebackers).
Jordan Reed (vs Indianapolis)
From an athleticism stand point, there are few players as impressive as Jordan Reed when he is healthy. Alex Smith loves throwing to his tight ends, and Jordan Reed provides him with a player who can draw unbelievable matchups on a consistent basis. As long as Reed and Smith a healthy, Reed is a great play. Week 1 against a fast and explosive Cardinal’s defense, registering 5 catches for 48 yards and a touchdown. Don’t be shocked if he’s able to exploit the lack of experience at linebacker and safety for a weak Colts defense in week 2.
Kyle Rudolph (at Green Bay), George Kittle (vs Detroit), Ricky Seals-Jones (at Los Angeles Rams)
Kyle Rudolph didn’t generate many targets in week one, but he made the most of his role brining in 1 of 2 targets for 11 yards and a touchdown. Green Bay doesn’t have a great linebacking corp and Rudolph should have high touchdown upside on a week to week basis. Once again, tight ends are sparse this year, so any chance you have to score a touchdown, it is worth the play. On the flip side, George Kittle looks to have a huge role this season given the lack of perimeter options in San Francisco. Kittle caught 5 balls (9 targets) for 90 yards and a touchdown. Kittle should be the consistent beneficiary of the Jerrick McKinnon injury if week 1 is any indication. My deep tight end sleeper for week 2 is Cardinal’s tight end Ricky Seals-Jones. While he didn’t have an exceptional first week, we saw the Raiders attack the Rams through the tight end. Seals-Jones showed some upside last season, and Bradford will probably need to distribute the ball quickly given the porous nature of his offensive line. Seals-Jones is an under the radar tight end stream this week, especially if you are trying to fill the void left by the Delanie Walker and Greg Olsen injuries.
Sam Bradford (at Los Angeles Rams)
This is definitely not a Sam Bradford week. Against a decent Washington defense, Bradford was harassed into a 20 for 34 for 153 yards and 0 touchdown to 1 interception line in week 1. The job gets much harder as the Cardinals travel over to Los Angeles to take on the Rams. The Rams are a suffocating defense with top notch corners and an aggressive and fast defensive line. This feels like the kind of week where Bradford should be thankful to get out of the game healthy, much less with any production.
Andy Dalton (vs Baltimore)
Oh Andy Dalton, we will always have you as a week one start candidate. While Dalton didn’t light the world on fire in a favorable matchup (QB15 in week 1), he was serviceable as a fantasy option. However, he finds himself in the sit section this week for two very simple reasons: the Ravens’ defense is no joke and Andy Dalton is terrible in primetime games. Dalton carries a 4-8 record, 57.9 completion percentage, 201 yards per game, 14 TDs and 12 INTs, and a 73.6 QB rating. You can definitely find a better option this week.
Dak Prescott (vs New York Giants), Ryan Fitzpatrick (vs Philadelphia), Buffalo QB (vs Los Angeles Chargers)
The Cowboys offense is an absolute mess and they draw a significant challenge week 1 against the Giants. For these reasons, you should pivot off of Dak Prescott this week. He struggled to pedestrian statistics against a weak Panthers secondary in week 1 (19/29, 170 yards, 0 TDs and 0 INT’s). Until a wide receiver can step up and deliver for Dak, he is nearly unplayable from a fantasy standpoint. The most surprising fantasy player in week 1 was easily Ryan Fitzpatrick. Against what was a strong defense in 2017, Fitzpatrick led all quarterbacks in fantasy scoring (42.3 points) with a 21/28 line for 417 yards, 4 TDs and 0 INTs. He also added a rushing touchdown to those totals. However, in week 2 he will face a much tougher test in the Eagles defense, who suffocated the Falcons offense week 1. Don’t be shocked if Fitzpatrick struggles to come close to his numbers from week 1 and comes back to Earth. As of this article, I don’t know who the starting Bills QB will be on Sunday. Despite the missing players on the Chargers defense, I wouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking this a vulnerable team because Patrick Mahomes picked this team apart last weekend. The Bills offense is atrocious and shouldn’t be considered at all.
Peyton Barber (at Philadelphia)
Peyton Barber had a solid debut as the starting tailback in week 1, rushing 19 times for 69 yards., finishing as RB25. Despite the fact that Ronald Jones II was a healthy scratch and probably won’t get much run in week 2, I wouldn’t rush to play Barber despite his role as the bell cow option. The Eagles defense is designed to suffocate the run, which could mean an exceptionally long day for the Buccaneers ground game.
Derrick Henry (vs Houston)
I feel as though we learned some important information last weekend: Dion Lewis may be the lead back in Tennessee this season. While the Titans were behind during the game, Lewis still led the way in carries (16 to 10), yards (75 to 26), and rushing touchdowns (1 to 0). Lewis was also used in passing situations, registering 5 receptions for 35 yards. It would seem that the Titans staff prefers Dion Lewis in the early part of the season, so I don’t see Derrick Henry commanding the workload to make him a viable option in fantasy against Houston’s defense.
Devonta Freeman (vs Carolina), Alex Collins (at Cincinnati), Leonard Fournette (vs New England)
An interesting trend seemed to emerge during the Falcons first game. Tevin Coleman out-touched Devonta Freeman. Freeman carried the ball 6 times for 36 yards and also had 3 catches for 14 yards. Conversely, Coleman carried the ball 9 times for 19 yards and touchdown and added a catch for 26 yards and another score. Part of this could have resulted from Freeman’s lack of ability against the Eagles in the playoffs, but it could also be the fact Coleman is in the final year of his contract and the Falcons want to get their money’s worth before he goes to free agency. This week also poses an uphill battle against the Panthers strong run defense. It is somewhat perplexing how little Alex Collins touched the ball against the Bills. In the run game he provided 7 carries for 13 yards and a touchdown. Given how quickly the game got out of hand, it was somewhat shocking that the Ravens didn’t give him any more run. This week, he gets a difficult matchup against the Bengals strong front 7 in week 2. Throughout his career, Leonard Fournette has been amazing when healthy. However, that last part is the most difficult one to maintain. After exiting week 1 before halftime due to a hamstring injury, he is questionable for week 2 as of this article. However, a greater issue is the fact that the Patriots defense will once again force Blake Bortles to throw to win the game, which could severely diminish Fournette’s value even if he cleared to run.
TY Hilton (at Washington)
While TY Hilton may inevitably find his way back into consistent WR 1 territory for the season, it would seem that he and Andrew Luck will have a bit of a honeymoon period. Hilton registered as WR22 in week 1, scoring 15.6 fantasy points thanks to a 5 catch (11 targets) 46 yard, and touchdown performance. Hilton’s value lies in his ability to get vertical, and until Luck can consistently show the deep ball he remains a dangerous play. Not helping matters in week 2 is the fact that he should see a lot of Josh Norman, which hampers his value.
Amari Cooper (at Denver)
Amari Cooper had a rough week one, rushing once for 9 yards and catching 1 of 3 targets for 9 yards. While Coopers talent is undeniable, he enters this week with another difficult task: escaping Chris Harris and the Broncos secondary. I have no doubt that things will balance out over the course of the season, but I don’t know if week 2 is the best matchup to experiment if you have stronger options.
Marquise Goodwin (vs Detroit), Larry Fitzgerald (at Los Angeles Rams), Josh Gordon (at New Orleans)
Marquise Goodwin’s value rests in his ability to be explosive. In week 1, he suffered a quad injury that limited him to a decoy role trying to open up underneath routes for other players. He registered 0 catches on 1 target for the game. If he isn’t healthy for week 2, he may struggle escaping Darius Slay’s coverage and may once again struggle to register significant statistics. Larry Fitzgerald is clearly still the lead receiver in Arizona despite his age. In week one he drew 10 targets, catching 7 of them for 76 yards, finishing as WR25 in PPR formats. However, his week 2 matchup is way more difficult in the form of the suffocating Rams defense. Given the coverage by Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, combined with the pass rush of the Rams, he could have a very difficult follow up performance. Despite knowing that Josh Gordon was on a snap count week one due to missing training camp, many people probably started him given his tantalizing potential. Gordon was able to register 1 catch on 3 targets for 17 yards and a touchdown in an overtime tie to the Steelers on that snap count. Gordon will most likely still see limited reps in week 2, and between that and the potential Marshon Lattimore coverage when he’s on the field, it is probably wise to continue to stash him on the bench until he gets his legs under him.
Tyler Eifert (vs Baltimore)
Tyler Eifert is another example of a highly skilled player who just hasn’t been able to avoid the injury bug in his career. When he’s been healthy, he’s been productive. However, this week could prove to be difficult. The Ravens defense boasts CJ Moseley in the middle of the field and strong safeties to take him out of the game. Also, see above notes on Andy Dalton and primetime games.
Jimmy Graham (vs Minnesota)
There is one tried and true fact from fantasy football the past few years: Aaron Rodgers hates tight ends. The fantasy community couldn’t have been more excited to see Jimmy Graham in Green Bay and they were rewarded with a TE31 performance to the tune of 2 catches on 4 targets for 8 yards. Graham faces a much more difficult test in week 2 against the stout Vikings defense that just shut down the Garoppolo led 49ers. Making matters worse, if Rodgers does play he will be hobbled, and him playing isn’t a guarantee.
David Njoku (at New Orleans), Will Dissly (at Chicago), Mike Gesicki (at New York Jets)
Of all the Browns weapons heading into the season, David Njoku looked to be the most tantalizing after a year in Cleveland. He also had a seemingly strong matchup against a weak Steelers linebacker and safety corp. Njoku responded with three catches for 13 yards and an ankle injury in week 1. Week 2 doesn’t get any easier as the Saints have a strong backend of the secondary that could limit his production, even if he is healthy. Clearly, the entire world knew that rookie tight end Will Dissly would erupt as TE3 in week 1 for the Seahawks. In reality, Dissly will probably be a very popular waiver add in many leagues, but I wouldn’t bank on his production being sustainable. He is still in a time share and is primarily known as a blocking tight end. The Bears also boast a fast linebacker corp of Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith with Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson behind them. Help yourself and let Dissly prove the explosive production is for real before plugging him in your lineup. Mike Gesicki seemed to be a strong play in week 1 given the absence of Devante Parker and loss of Jarvis Landry. However, he was only able to register 1 catch, 2 targets, and 11 yards in the first week. It is clear at this point that he is not considered an integral part of the offense quite yet and fantasy players should hold off on starting him this early in the season.