Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is geared toward season-long leagues but can also be used for daily fantasy purposes. Anybody can tell you to start the Lamar Jacksons, James Conners, and Julian Edelmans of the world. That’s not what I’m doing here. I’m looking deeper at legitimate mostly-borderline candidates who owners may truly be contemplating using in lineups.
Start of the Week: Josh Allen at Giants: Allen wasn’t particularly good in the Week 1 opener against the Jets, but he was far better than Sam Darnold. Darnold played scared in the pocket and missed a ton of throws, whether it was on him or his receivers. Despite the lackluster game, Allen still managed to finish as the QB16 for the week on the heels of his dual-threat ability. Allen had one touchdown each as a passer and runner. He tossed a couple interceptions, but the pick-six was extremely unlucky, as it hit off Cole Beasley’s thigh and popped into the air to C.J. Mosley. Allen is technically going back out on the “road” for an away game Week 2. But the Bills are simply playing in the same stadium they played last week. They’ll face both the Jets and Giants in their respective home openers at MetLife Stadium. The Giants were absolutely shredded by Dak Prescott Week 1, surrendering 405 yards and four touchdowns through the air. Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and even Randall Cobb were running free all afternoon. The Giants’ defensive line recorded Football Outsiders’ second-worst pass-rushing score, better than only the Broncos. Under DC James Bettcher, the G-Men play a ton of man coverage, and that typically benefits mobile quarterbacks who can get out of the pocket and run when defensive backs have their backs turned to the line of scrimmage downfield. The Giants yielded the seventh-most rushing yards to quarterbacks a season ago under Bettcher. Prescott didn’t have to run last Sunday. But dual-threat QBs Blake Bortles (42 yards), Prescott (45), Deshaun Watson (36), and Cam Newton (29) all had success on the ground against New York in 2018. Allen rushed 10 times for 38 yards and one score last week. That’s just part of his game and considerably raises his floor as a fantasy prospect. The 43.5-point total for Bills-Giants doesn’t jump out as a game to attack, but there’s a non-zero chance Allen finishes Week 2 as the top fantasy scorer. John Brown should also be running free most of the afternoon.
Jared Goff vs. Saints: One of my “sits” last week, Goff went to Carolina and put up the overall QB30 week while throwing for just 186 yards on 39 attempts (4.8 YPA) with one score and one pick. Goff never challenged the Panthers downfield and relied heavily on dump-offs. As noted last week, Goff’s home-road splits were drastic a season ago. At the L.A. Coliseum last year, Goff attempted on average five more passes per game than on the road. His completion percentage was 7.5 points higher at home, and his passer rating was 116.7 at home compared to 82.7 in away games. Goff also threw 22 touchdowns in home games to just 10 on the road. Goff’s fantasy finishes in his seven home games, starting with the most recent: QB21 > QB2 > QB11 > QB4 > QB2 > QB6 > QB12. Goff faced the Saints twice last year, once in the 80-point shootout at the Superdome in Week 9 and again in the NFC Championship game back in New Orleans. Goff attempted 40 passes in both games, producing a combined 688 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception. The Saints are fresh off getting lit up by Deshaun Watson on Monday night and now travel to the west coast on a short week off an emotional win. New Orleans gave up the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks in Week 1 and were 30th in fantasy points surrendered to the position in 2018. The Saints have a formidable pass rush, but the back end of their defense is a bit leaky. This game sports a 52-point total, the second-highest of Week 2. Goff is firmly back in play as a top-12 play and solid option in daily leagues at his somewhat depressed price coming off a forgettable opener.
Derek Carr vs. Chiefs: Carr was surgical in the Raiders’ emotional Week 1 defeat of the Broncos, completing 22-of-26 throws for 259 yards and one touchdown. Carr took what the defense gave him and methodically poked his way down the field with high-percentage passes. He attempted just four throws 20-plus yards down the field, completing three for 92 yards. Carr now gets a Chiefs Defense at home where he had arguably his best game of the season last year. Week 13 last season, Carr completed 29-of-38 passes for 285 yards and three touchdowns, finishing as the overall QB4. The Chiefs were 31st in opponent plays per game in 2018, and Oakland ran its second-most plays of the season in that Week 13 contest. Jaguars quarterbacks Nick Foles and Gardner Minshew combined to complete 27-of-33 passes (81.8%) for 350 yards (10.6 YPA) and three touchdowns with one pick against the Chiefs in Week 1. Minshew is a sixth-round rookie who was making his NFL debut, and the Chiefs made him look like a 10-year veteran. Playing Carr isn’t sexy by any means, and it might not feel right. But this Kansas City defense bleeds points to quarterbacks. Carr is extremely cheap on daily sites, priced beneath Case Keenum and Mitchell Trubisky on FanDuel. He’s a cheap way to load up on skill players and makes for a fine streaming option in redraft formats. The 53.5-point total for Chiefs-Raiders is the highest of the week. Pairing Carr with Tyrell Williams and/or Darren Waller makes a whole lot of sense. All three players are at big-time value price points.
Andy Dalton vs. 49ers: Dalton turned in the QB13 day last week against the Seahawks in Seattle, throwing for a robust 418 yards and two scores on 51 attempts. This game was close all afternoon, and the Bengals nearly pulled the upset. The 51 attempts very well could go down as Dalton’s season high when all is said and done, but this looked like an offense under new coach Zac Taylor that wants to push the pace, similar to the Rams team Taylor worked for the last few years. The Bengals were 14th in pace Week 1 and ran the sixth-most offensive plays. Cincinnati’s defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage much of the day, getting the ball back in Dalton’s hands relatively quickly. This 49ers-Bengals game is sneaky for stacking in fantasy. San Francisco played at the sixth-fastest offensive pace Week 1 and finished 20th in opponent plays per game. The Bucs just couldn’t do anything against the Niners. San Francisco is back in the eastern time zone for an early 1 PM ET start after playing in the late afternoon last week. The Niners’ pass rush is much improved with the additions of Nick Bosa and Dee Ford, but Taylor did an unbelievable job of scheming the ball out of Dalton’s hands quickly last week in Seattle to make up for the Bengals’ offensive-line issues. Cincinnati used play-action 33.9% of the time, the fifth-highest Week 1 mark. The 49ers field largely the same exact secondary from a year ago when they finished 19th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and 27th in pass-defense DVOA. They’ll be better this year if the pass rush hits home more often, but this still looks like a defense to pick on in this spot. John Ross’ blazing speed should play well against slower-footed, big-bodied outside CBs Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon. Tyler Boyd in the slot against CB K’Waun Williams is another mismatch in Cincy’s favor.
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Aaron Rodgers vs. Vikings: Making his debut in new coach Matt LaFleur’s offense, Rodgers and the Packers played at the sixth-slowest pace in Week 1 and ran the seventh-fewest plays. It’s hard to fault Rodgers for his down numbers -- 203 yards and one touchdown -- against the Bears’ elite defense at Soldier Field, but the offense also wasn’t conducive to fantasy production. At least Rodgers is playing at home this week, but the draw is similarly tough against a Vikings Defense that suffocated Matt Ryan last Sunday. Ryan tossed a pair of garbage-time touchdowns to save his fantasy day, but Atlanta was getting shut out for a good portion of it. Minnesota surrendered the second-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks in 2018 and now have DE Everson Griffen back to full health coming off the edge opposite stud Danielle Hunter. Xavier Rhodes locked down Julio Jones last week, and Harrison Smith remains one of the best centerfield safeties in the sport. Rodgers has long struggled against this defense since coach Mike Zimmer took over. Since the start of 2015, Rodgers has managed finishes of, starting with the most recent, QB25 > QB18 > QB1 > QB17 > QB19 > QB8 against Zimmer’s defense. Rodgers is a borderline 12-team league play this week and best suited for two-QB formats. There are far more enticing streamer options listed above who I’d all play over Rodgers.
Matthew Stafford vs. Chargers: Heavily aided by overtime and playing against the breakneck-paced Cardinals last week, Stafford managed the overall QB4 finish in the desert, throwing for 385 yards and three touchdowns. Stafford’s 45 pass attempts were his most since Week 2 of last season, which was before the Lions became extremely run-heavy under medieval coach Matt Patricia. In Patricia’s ideal world, Stafford would throw the ball 10 times like Kirk Cousins did for the Vikings last week while riding the run game to victory. The Lions aren’t good enough for that, but Stafford averaged just 32.5 attempts per game after Week 2 last year. He topped 300 yards just twice over his final 14 games and never threw more than two touchdowns in a game in that span. The Chargers now come to Detroit after playing at the third-slowest Week 1 pace. This game features two of the nine slowest-paced offenses from last week. After running 80 plays last Sunday, the Lions will likely drop down to the 55-65 range. The Bolts limited Jacoby Brissett to 190 yards on 27 attempts. L.A. was No. 7 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks a season ago, return the bulk of that defense sans S Derwin James, and have a stud pass-rush duo in Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. Lions LT Taylor Decker was having serious issues in pass pro last Sunday against Chandler Jones and Terrell Suggs. RT Rick Wagner wasn’t much better on the opposite side. Both Decker and Wagner graded out as bottom-15 tackles in Pro Football Focus’ Week 1 rankings. Stafford fades back to mid-range QB2 status and is only an option in two-quarterback formats.
Kyler Murray at Ravens: Murray attempted a league-high 54 passes in his NFL debut against the Lions, finishing as the overall QB11. That was heavily aided by overtime and the Cardinals firing off an NFL-best 82 offensive plays. Arizona played at the sixth-fastest pace. Playing fast and attempting a lot of passes will be normal for coach Kliff Kingsbury’s group. But going on the road for a 1 PM ET start all the way across the country against a Ravens Defense that is one of the best in the league and fresh off harassing Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t ideal for the rookie’s first road outing. The Ravens’ defensive front should thoroughly dominate Arizona’s subpar offensive line that surrendered five Week 1 sacks to the Lions. There are some bullet points in Murray’s favor, however. The Cardinals and Ravens were both top-three in offensive plays per game last week, and Baltimore was No. 1 in that category a year ago. There’s a good chance both of these teams run a ton of plays Sunday. The Ravens should have no trouble putting up points against a barely-there Cardinals secondary. Lions wideouts and tight ends were running free all afternoon last Sunday. That will again force the Cardinals to play catch up against a secondary that will be without top slot CB Tavon Young (neck, I.R.) and No. 1 outside cover man Jimmy Smith, who injured his knee Week 1. There could be enough second-half garbage time for the 13-point road underdog Cardinals to get Murray into the top-12 in fantasy. But I just would prefer to see how Murray performs in this tough road test before relying on him as my QB1. The Ravens annually play extremely tough defense in their own backyard. Baltimore was No. 3 in pass-defense DVOA and No. 4 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks in 2018. Only Ben Roethlisberger (QB5) and Andy Dalton (QB9) managed top-12 finishes in Baltimore last year.
Start of the Week: Sony Michel at Dolphins: Michel was pretty much the only Patriots player not to do anything in the Week 1 thrashing of the Steelers. New England rotated three backs between Michel, Rex Burkhead, and James White. Michel started and was in on 33% of the snaps, Burkhead 46%, and White 47%, but Michel literally did nothing with his 15 carries, turning them into 14 yards. The Patriots also talked about increasing Michel’s usage in the passing game during the summer. He ran just three routes last Sunday night. When he was in the game, the Patriots were handing him the ball. Michel is in a dream spot against a Dolphins Defense that got torched by Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards in Week 1. Ravens running backs piled up 190 yards and two touchdowns on 38 attempts. On paper, this looks like a scenario where the Patriots annihilate the Dolphins and ride Michel to an easy win. But we’ve seen in past games where the Patriots just keep the pedal to the gas and keep throwing, even if they’re up big. The Patriots faced the Dolphins twice last season. In those games, Michel had 25 and 20 carries, totaling 169 yards and one touchdown on those 45 attempts. This Miami defense is exponentially worse than it was a year ago. Teams should trample this group much of the 2019 season. Over 100 yards and multiple touchdowns is well within Michel’s range of outcomes. The Patriots are 18.5-point favorites and have the week’s highest implied team total at 33 points.
LeSean McCoy at Raiders: Damien Williams dominated snaps 45-20 over McCoy in Shady’s debut with the team last week. Williams also out-touched McCoy 19-11 and received four touches to McCoy’s one in the red zone. Williams turned one of those into a touchdown. But McCoy out-gained Williams 91-65 in yards from scrimmage. McCoy looked like the better overall player against Jacksonville, but Williams received the “money” reps. Word out of Kansas City this week is McCoy should close the snaps gap between he and Williams this week against the Raiders now that he’s more comfortable in the offense and has his conditioning up to speed. Both Williams and McCoy are solid RB2 plays with obvious massive upside in this Kansas City offense that sports a 30.5-point team total, the second-highest of Week 2. The Raiders statistically performed well defensively in their opening win over the Broncos, but Joe Flacco was one of the worst quarterbacks of Week 1. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs should set this defense ablaze. The Raiders surrendered the second-most rushing yards and eighth-most fantasy points to running backs in 2018. With Darwin Thompson only getting one touch Week 1, this Chiefs backfield is more palatable from a fantasy lens as a two-headed committee. Both McCoy and Williams should see double-digit touches. McCoy gets the slight nod over Williams for me due to his projected increase in snap share and coach Andy Reid’s infatuation with the veteran. As mentioned earlier, McCoy also just looked like the more talented runner Week 1. But fire up both running backs with confidence.
Matt Breida at Bengals: “Start of the Week” Breida flopped for us last week, producing just 37 yards on 15 carries and no catches in the passing game. Breida had to leave the game at one point to get treated for dehydration in the sweltering Tampa Bay heat. He was in on just 43.3% of the snaps, but that number should rise against the Bengals with Tevin Coleman now out multiple weeks with a high-ankle sprain. Breida is expected to take over as the lead dog in this backfield in Coleman’s stead, with Raheem Mostert mixing in behind him. Mostert is uber-talented and a preseason All-Pro, so he could see some serious run with Coleman sidelined, but Breida should flirt with 18 touches in this spot. The Bengals allowed just 3.0 yards per carry to Seahawks backs in the opener, but Chris Carson scored once on the ground and caught a career-high six passes on seven targets with a second touchdown through the air. The Bengals yielded the eighth-most catches to running backs in 2018. Cincinnati’s defensive line played pretty well against the Seahawks, but the 49ers’ offensive line is one of the better units in the league. They returned all five offensive line starters and graded out 10th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards created in the run game a year ago and third overall in second-level yards. It’s a good spot to go back to Breida as a strong RB2/FLEX play.
Carlos Hyde vs. Jaguars: Picked up in a final cuts deal with the Chiefs two weeks back, Hyde made the start for the Texans in his Week 1 debut. Duke Johnson out-snapped Hyde 64% to 36%, but touches were more even with Johnson seeing 13 and Hyde 11. Hyde was one of Pro Football Focus’ top-graded runners, piling up 83 yards on his 10 carries. He was No. 1 in yards after contact per attempt with a 6.3 mark. Hyde was picking up chunk gains all night in New Orleans. The Texans seemed to favor a look of Hyde on early running downs and Johnson in the pass-game, two-minute, and catchup-mode roles. The Texans are significant 8.5-point home favorites, so this shapes up as a game for Houston to control most of the afternoon. Hyde could flirt with 18-20 carries in the old Lamar Miller position. It likely won’t be sexy, but Hyde has touchdown and volume upside in this #RevengeGame spot after playing the second half of last season for the Jaguars only to get released in the offseason. Jacksonville was gashed for 4.65 YPC and one touchdown on the ground by Chiefs runners last week. This could be one of the better spots Hyde will see all season. He’s worth running out there as a top-30 fantasy back.
David Montgomery at Broncos: Montgomery was out-snapped 40-27 by Mike Davis in the Bears’ pitiful opening loss to the Packers. Davis also out-touched him 13-7. The offense couldn’t move the ball in their own backyard against Green Bay. Mitchell Trubisky is a problem. But the bigger problem for Montgomery is Davis being in the way. This offense already stinks, and if Montgomery isn’t going to play heavy snaps, then he’s not going to bring a lot of fantasy success. The Broncos field a good defense even if Josh Jacobs ran for a pair of scores against them Monday night. Jacobs still averaged just 3.7 yards per carry in that game. New Broncos coach Vic Fangio spent last year as the Bears’ defensive play-caller, so he knows this Chicago offense inside and out after facing it every day in practice. Bears-Broncos has a 40.5-point total, the lowest of Week 2. With Montgomery no lock to even reach double-digit touches, he’s simply off limits as anything more than a hold-your-breath FLEX option. We’re going to have to see the Bears show an ability to move the ball and for Montgomery to take the lead in this backfield over trusty veteran Davis before the rookie comes back on the RB2 map. He was overdrafted in the first place this summer as a third- or fourth-round pick in fantasy.
Phillip Lindsay vs. Bears: New Broncos OC Rich Scangarello talked all summer about wanting a near-even split in the backfield between Lindsay and Royce Freeman, comparing the two to Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman in Atlanta, with Lindsay playing the Coleman role. In the Week 1 loss to the Raiders, Scangarello executed his plan. Lindsay played just 33-of-62 snaps, and Freeman handled the other 29. Lindsay didn’t get by on volume as a rookie, either, which some may forget. He broke a ton of big plays, averaged over five yards per carry, and converted his goal-line looks. It was a perfect storm for Lindsay a season ago. Regression to the mean is in order, and it reared its ugly head last Monday night. Lindsay turned his 15 touches into 66 scoreless yards, and Freeman accrued 61 yards on his 11 touches. Neither found the end zone. Chicago’s defense presents an even tougher test this Sunday. The Bears will be on 10 days rest after playing last Thursday night, and the Broncos will be on short rest after playing Monday. The Bears eliminated Aaron Jones last week, holding him to just 39 yards on 13 carries (3.0 YPC) and a catch for no gain. With a smaller snap share than Jones and in a worse offense, Lindsay is a last-resort FLEX play. Like David Montgomery above, Lindsay was another player who was way overdrafted in fantasy leagues. Bears-Broncos has the lowest total of the week at 40.5 points.
Duke Johnson vs. Jaguars: As mentioned above, Johnson out-snapped Carlos Hyde 64% to 36% and out-touched him 13-11 in the Week 1 thriller against the Saints. Hyde out-carried Johnson 10-11, however, and Johnson wasn’t targeted in the second half after getting five passes thrown his direction in the opening 30 minutes. Johnson didn’t perform particularly well as a runner before breaking off a 32-yard run in the fourth quarter on the Texans’ final drive to set up Kenny Stills’ touchdown. Deshaun Watson hasn’t been keen on targeting his running backs in the pass game in previous seasons, and this doesn’t look like a game where Houston will have to throw a ton as 8.5-point home favorites. The Jaguars held Damien Williams mostly in check as a receiver in Week 1 and surrendered the seventh-fewest catches to the position last season. Myles Jack will also be back in the lineup after getting ejected from last week’s loss to help out in coverage. This sets up on paper as a Hyde game. Johnson is still start-able, but expectations should be tempered if the Texans use the same plan of attack in the backfield as they did in the opener. Johnson is more of a low-floor RB3/FLEX play in redraft formats.
Start of the Week: John Ross vs. 49ers: Ross caught just 21 passes his first two years in the league, missing 16 of a possible 32 games in that span to injuries. He then missed all of training camp and the preseason this summer with a hamstring issue. So to see him explode for a 7-158-2 game in Seattle last Sunday was completely unexpected by most, if not all. Ross ended the week as the overall WR3 and could have had an even bigger stat line if not for a couple dropped passes. Ross was running behind the defense all day and now comes home to face a Niners secondary that returns the same unit that was 27th in pass-defense DVOA and 30th in fantasy points allowed to receivers a season ago. Ross’ elite speed is a big notch in his belt this week against bigger, slower-footed corners Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon. It will be interesting to see how they handle Ross’ wheels. The Niners locked down Mike Evans and company last week, but the Bucs didn’t have a real true deep threat like Ross. Ross looked like a clone of Brandin Cooks last Sunday in Seattle, and perhaps that is the role new coach Zac Taylor envisions after coaching Cooks in L.A. last season. Ross needs to be plugged in lineups.
Will Fuller vs. Jaguars: In his first game action since tearing his ACL last season, Fuller played 62-of-64 snaps in the Week 1 thriller against the Saints last Monday night. He saw just two targets, however, but Fuller did manage to come down with both of them, including a sensational 54-yard grab over the top of CB Eli Apple. The main takeaways from Fuller’s Week 1 is he escaped it healthy and still has his deep speed. The targets will come, and there’s a pretty good chance the two he saw in the opener will be his fewest in a game this season. The Jaguars present a stiff on-paper test, but they did just get eviscerated by Patrick Mahomes and Sammy Watkins last week. Jacksonville was No. 1 in fantasy points allowed to wideouts a year ago, but came in at 27th this past week. Watkins was doing whatever he wanted down the middle of the defense, as the Jaguars’ safeties had literally no answers. Rookie S Ronnie Harrison had one of the worst individual games I saw Week 1. DeAndre Hopkins is going to see a whole lot of Jalen Ramsey in this one; that’s not to say Hopkins won’t get “his,” but it could funnel a few more looks Fuller’s way as he battles against A.J. Bouye. The former Texans corner allowed four of the seven passes thrown his direction to be completed for 79 yards last week, earning Pro Football Focus’ No. 86 grade among 98 cover corners. Fuller has missed two of the four meetings with the Jaguars the past two seasons, but he caught at least five balls in the other two. This one will be played in a fantasy-friendly dome environment in Houston. Fuller just needs one big play, and the Jaguars surrendered a lot of those last week.
Dede Westbrook at Texans: One of the chalkier plays of Week 1, Westbrook managed to save his day with a late touchdown despite being a relative disappointment with just a 5-30-1 receiving line. Westbrook tied for second on the Jaguars with his six targets and saw just five air yards. That latter stat is concerning and shows he wasn’t targeted downfield whatsoever. Gardner Minshew figures to pepper Westbrook near the line of scrimmage, so this is more of a volume play against a Texans secondary that just cut starting slot CB Aaron Colvin following Monday night’s loss to the Saints. It’s unclear who will take over there, but Houston did sign veteran CB Phillip Gaines. Westbrook ran over 85% of his Week 1 routes out of the slot. The Jaguars are 8.5-point road underdogs, so they could be chasing points most of the second half, much like last week against the Chiefs when Westbrook was able to find the end zone. Houston surrendered the fourth-most catches to wideouts in Week 1.
Christian Kirk at Ravens: I was down on Kirk last week because it simply wasn’t clear how many snaps he’d play after coach Kliff Kingsbury rotated all of his wideouts with the first-team offense in the preseason. We weren’t positive what the rotation would be Week 1. Kirk ended up playing 82-of-88 snaps and ran over 88% of his routes out of the slot. The Cardinals used four receivers over 60% of the time, and both Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald were the slot men. Fitzgerald led the team with 13 targets and 156 air yards, while Kirk was second in both categories with 12 and 139, respectively. Kyler Murray ended up missing Kirk on several open passes, and the sophomore receiver finished without a touchdown but did score a two-point conversion to somewhat save his fantasy afternoon. The Ravens present a stiff test, but Baltimore lost its No. 1 slot CB Tavon Young (neck) to I.R. before the season, and fill-in Brandon Carr wasn’t healthy for Week 1. Top outside CB Jimmy Smith (knee) is also expected to miss multiple weeks. Things won’t be easy, but Kirk’s target share and air yards leave him dripping with upside in an offense that could again uncork 40-50 throws as 13-point road ‘dogs. Kirk is a fine WR3 play.
A.J. Brown vs. Colts: Second-round rookie Brown led all Titans and Browns receivers with his 100 yards on three catches in Tennessee’s blowout road win. However, he played just 25 snaps and was behind both Corey Davis and Tajae Sharpe in playing time among Titans wideouts. That will likely change at some point, but Brown needs to pass Sharpe and become more of a full-time receiver rather than a 42.4% player before we can fully trust him for season-long leagues. The Colts also handled Chargers outside receivers Mike Williams, Travis Benjamin, and Dontrelle Inman to a combined 5-46-0 line last week in L.A. Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler did all the damage in the short passing game. Last season, Indy surrendered the third-fewest fantasy points to wideouts. DC Matt Eberflus’ zone defense does a great job of limiting big plays. The Colts were No. 5 in passes allowed of 20-plus yards and No. 2 in receptions of 40-plus yards in 2018. Brown is a good add in redraft formats, but he remains a WR4/5 for now. The 44.5-point total for Colts-Titans is fifth-lowest of Week 2.
Danny Amendola vs. Chargers: Operating as Matthew Stafford’s security blanket, Amendola led the Lions with 13 targets in Week 1 and turned them into a 7-104-1 line en route to the overall WR13 finish in half-PPR formats. Amendola was running free through the middle of the Cardinals’ undermanned defense all afternoon. The Lions also ran the second-most offensive plays of Week 1 with 82 in an overtime tie. Amendola could end up becoming Stafford’s new version of Golden Tate, but his matchup looks tough this week. Amendola will see a ton of Chargers slot CB Desmond King, who was Pro Football Focus’ No. 2 cover corner out of 123 qualifiers last season. He gave up just two catches for 19 scoreless yards in his coverage last Sunday against the Colts. It’s best to take a wait-and-see approach regarding Amendola, though he’s certainly worth owning in PPR formats. The connection with Stafford looked real.
D.J. Chark at Texans: Another Week 1 breakout star, Chark caught a looping 35-yard bomb of a touchdown from Nick Foles on the play Foles broke his left collarbone. Chark stayed involved throughout the day, nabbing all four of his targets for a whopping 146 yards and a score while playing 70.7% of the snaps and running 29 routes. Chark finished as the WR8 and was one of the hottest waiver-wire pickups this past Wednesday. The matchup with the Texans isn’t unbeatable, but his four targets last week were fifth on the team. Gardner Minshew is taking over full-time under center and figures to lean more on the short passing game, taking what the defense gives him. Chark just needs to bust one big play to return fantasy production, but it’s hard to chase that weak 12% target share. Chark very much has year-two breakout appeal; I just want to see him do it again in a tougher spot before relying on him as a WR3.
Start of the Week: Mark Andrews vs. Cardinals: Andrews played just 40.8% of the snaps last week in Miami but ran 20 pass routes on those 31 snaps and went bonkers with an 8-108-1 receiving line, catching his touchdown late from Robert Griffin III. It would be nice to see Andrews play more snaps, but the Ravens use Nick Boyle and Hayden Hurst more in the run game as blockers, leaving most of the receiving production for the position to Andrews. He gets another glorious on-paper matchup this Sunday. The Cardinals were eviscerated by rookie T.J. Hockenson and Lions tight ends last week. Hockenson’s 131 yards were the most ever by a tight end in his first NFL game; he was running wide open through the middle and down the seams all afternoon against this barely-there Cardinals Defense. Andrews is a sophomore stud with big-time breakout appeal. The Dolphins and Cardinals were last and second-to-last in fantasy points allowed to tight ends in Week 1. Baltimore’s implied team total of 30 points is third-highest of the week. Andrews is quickly approaching set-and-forget status as a TE1.
Darren Waller vs. Chiefs: Hyped up all summer by the coaches and Raiders beat writers, Waller ended up playing all 55 snaps Week 1 against the Broncos and led the team with eight targets. He turned them into a 7-70 line and looked to be a featured part of the new Antonio Brown-less offense. This offense appears to be extremely narrow with Brown now out of the picture. It’s Tyrell Williams deep and on the outside for big plays or dinking and dunking down the field with Waller and Josh Jacobs. We have a pretty good idea of who is going to be getting the ball most of the time for the Raiders, and it’s one of those three. Ryan Grant and Hunter Renfrow were barely featured Monday night. The Chiefs gave up eight catches to James O’Shaughnessy and Jaguars tight ends last week. There’s also a good chance the Raiders run 10-20 more plays this week than the 55 they fired off a week ago. The Chiefs were 31st in opponent plays per game in 2018, and the Raiders averaged 71 in their two meetings with Kansas City last year. Waller is a threat for double-digit targets Sunday and should be fired up wherever he’s owned.
Jared Cook at Rams: Cook played 64% of the snaps and ran 30 routes in his Saints debut last Monday night against the Texans. But he was targeted just three times in the win, catching only two balls for 37 yards. It was a disappointing effort, but we shouldn’t kick Cook to the curb just yet. The Saints talked Cook up all summer, and he was one of the brighter spots of training camp. In a game with a 52-point total, the third-highest of Week 2, it’s a good matchup to send Cook back out there as a TE1. The Panthers funneled nine targets Greg Olsen’s way against the Rams in Week 1. If Cook lays another egg against the Rams, it will be time to have concerns, but I’m not going to write him off completely after one down game. The Rams were bottom-nine in fantasy points allowed to tight ends last season.
Vance McDonald vs. Seahawks: Like every other Steelers player, McDonald did nothing against the Patriots last Sunday night. He caught just two balls for 40 yards on four targets. But the big takeaways for McDonald were that he ran 36 pass routes and played 72% of the snaps. McDonald played just 55% of the downs a year ago. Any tight end playing over 70% of the snaps is very much in play for fantasy purposes. Seattle surrendered a 9-93-0 line to Bengals tight ends last week and obviously lost stud centerfield FS Earl Thomas to the Ravens in the offseason. Tedric Thompson was a major weak point in the Seahawks’ defense Week 1. He was Pro Football Focus’ worst safety among 74 qualifiers last week. It’s time to go right back to the well with all the Steelers’ skill players, and that includes McDonald. Seahawks-Steelers has a 46-point total, but is one that has a potential to shoot out and hit the over.
Jimmy Graham vs. Vikings: Graham boxed out a Bears defender and scored the only touchdown of last Thursday night’s opener. The three catches for 30 yards is nothing to get excited about, however, and the matchup against the Vikings is just as tough. Graham is in for positive regression in the touchdown department this season after scoring just two last year, but this feels like another spot where we’d just be chasing a trip to the end zone with him. All-Pro Harrison Smith is one of the best cover safeties in the league. Austin Hooper caught all nine of his targets for 77 yards last week against Minnesota, but Atlanta moved the ball easily after it got down 28-0 and the Vikings were playing a laid-back defense much of the second half. The Vikings were No. 6 in fantasy points allowed to tight ends in 2018.
David Njoku at Jets: Njoku was one of my “sits” last week but ended up turning in a 4-37-1 line en route to the TE7 finish for Week 1. It could have been a much bigger afternoon for Njoku, but he dropped a couple balls, which has been a career-long problem for him. The Jets allowed the fewest catches to tight ends in 2018 and handled Bills TEs Tommy Sweeney and Dawson Knox with relative ease last Sunday. Njoku owners will again be chasing a mere touchdown this week as he battles with the Jets’ stud safety duo of Marcus Maye and Jamal Adams.
Austin Hooper vs. Eagles: Hooper reeled in all nine of his Week 1 targets for 77 yards against the Vikings. But Hooper, like many of his teammates, did most of his damage after the game was well out of hand at 28-0. A feather in Hooper’s cap, though, was he played over 78% of the snaps. It’s hard to find that at the tight end position, so fading that snap share is tricky. But this spot against Malcolm Jenkins and the Eagles looks tough after Philly suffocated tight ends for the fourth-fewest fantasy points allowed to tight ends in 2018. Vernon Davis had a big Week 1 against the Eagles, but his opening-drive 48-yard touchdown shouldn’t have been a thing. The Eagles badly missed a couple tackles on the sideline against Davis on what should have been a 10- or 15-yard pickup. Hooper will either need to accumulate volume or score a touchdown.