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  • Week 1 can inform our decisions, but we should be careful not to overreact before Week 2
By Michael Beller
September 13, 2018

It can be hard to forget about Week 1. After all, it represents 100% of the season to date. That’s a big number. Totality can be overwhelming. As easy as it is to counsel people to not overreact to one week, it remains an understandable impulse to indulge.

With that, I want to talk about Matthew Stafford. Few players in the league had a worse Week 1. He threw four picks. His team got blown out. At home. By the Jets. He got knocked around, missing a few plays after getting kicked in the leg and taking a huge shot to the sternum, and eventually gave way to Matt Cassel. It was an ugly performance, one he’d like to soon forget. Guess what? Fantasy owners should do the same.

Stafford is in his 10th year in the league. We know exactly what to expect of him. He has thrown for at least 4,200 yards in seven straight seasons. He had at least 20 touchdowns in all of those years, hit at least 28 in four of them, and averaged 28.1 over the full sample. He has a pair of established, underappreciated receivers in Golden Tate and Marvin Jones, and an emerging weapon in Kenny Golladay. Yeah, Week 1 was particularly brutal, but Stafford is going to be just fine.

Stafford and the Lions travel to San Francisco to take on the 49ers in Week 2. Kirk Cousins delivered against the Niners a week ago, throwing for 244 yards, 6.78 yards per attempt, two touchdowns and zero picks in a 24-16 Minnesota win. The 49ers are favored by six points, but the over/under on the game is 48, the third-highest mark in Week 2. Stafford and the Lions will live up to their end of the bargain this week. Fantasy owners who resist the understandable impulse to overreact to Week 1 will be happy they did.

And now, for the rest of Week 2 Start ’Em, Sit ’Em.

Quarterbacks

Start

Andrew Luck, Colts (at Redskins)

Luck’s first game in 20 months wasn’t the stuff of legend, but it certainly was good enough to rate as a success in the fantasy world. Luck threw for 319 yards, two touchdowns and a pick against a tough Cincinnati defense, finishing with 20.46 points in standard-scoring leagues. That’ll play pretty much every week. What’s more, Luck attempted 53 passes, despite the Colts leading or being within one score for all but the final 24 seconds of the game. If he remains that game-script proof all season, he’s in for a monster fantasy campaign.

Jared Goff, Rams (vs. Cardinals)

Week 1 was a classic Goff performance, throwing for 233 yards, 7.06 yards per attempt, two touchdowns and zero interceptions in the Rams’ 33-13 win over the Raiders. With Todd Gurley such a high-volume back, there are going to be games where Goff simply doesn’t get the necessary volume to post QB1 numbers. This week, however, the Rams are playing at home and favored by 12.5 points against an Arizona team that surrendered 24 points to Washington last week. The Rams’ have an implied total of 28.75 points, one of the highest on the board this week. You want that team’s quarterback active.

Case Keenum, Broncos (vs. Raiders)

Keenum had himself a strong Denver debut, throwing for 329 yards, 8.44 YPA and three touchdowns in a 27-24 win over the Seahakws. Yeah, he threw three picks, too, but he easily made up for those turnovers from both real-life and fantasy perspectives. In Week 2, he gets a Raiders defense that didn’t throw up too many roadblocks in front of the Rams a week ago. The Broncos are favored by 5.5 points and playing at home, both of which are factors that make Keenum even more attractive in fantasy leagues. As deep as the quarterback position is, Keenum still looks like a top-15 option this week.

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Eli Manning, Giants (at Cowboys)

Yeah, Manning wasn’t great in Week 1. But he won’t be the last quarterback to struggle against the Jaguars this year. He gets a much different assignment this week, traveling to Dallas to take on the Cowboys. As great as the Jaguars’ pass defense is, it had no answer for Odell Beckham. If you think the Cowboys are going to do any better, you’re kidding yourself. This time, however, Manning should have more success connecting with Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram, as well, and chances are he’ll get into the end zone a couple of times. Manning is an easy top-20 quarterback for Week 2.

Sit

Russell Wilson, Seahawks (at Bears)

Wilson is incredible and it doesn't seem to matter who's around him in Seattle's offense, but he’s in a tough spot this week. The Seahawks go on the road to take on a Chicago team that stymied Aaron Rodgers for the better part of a half before he turned into a magician in the second half. Still, the Bears defense played well with a challenging assignment, especially when you consider that neither Khalil Mack nor Roquan Smith had a training camp. Wilson is always a dangerous fade, but I'm worried about him without Doug Baldwin, leaving Tyler Lockett and Brandon Marshall as his top receivers. I've got him as the QB18 this week

Dak Prescott, Cowboys (vs. Giants)

If you’re invested in any part of the Dallas offense outside of Ezekiel Elliott, you should be concerned. This group looked rudderless in last week’s 16-8 loss to the Panthers, not scoring until about halfway through the fourth quarter. Prescott completed nearly two-thirds of his passes, but threw for just 170 yards and 5.86 YPA. It’s not that he was particularly bad in the game, it’s just hard to envision a realistic scenario in which he’s providing significant fantasy value at any point this season. The Giants defense did a nice job against Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville passing game last week, holding him to 176 yards and 5.33 YPA. Prescott should be comfortable off the starting radar this week.

Matt Ryan, Falcons (vs. Panthers)

This is less an outright sit recommendation, and more a warning to temper your expectations. I think the Falcons will get out of the station this week after struggling in Philadelphia in their season opener. Ryan wasn’t particularly efficient in that game, though, completing fewer than half of his passes for 251 yards, 5.84 YPA and one interception. The Falcons are playing at home and are favored by nearly a touchdown, so Vegas seems to think they’ll bounce back, and with Devonta Freeman possibly at less than 100%, Ryan may have to do more of the heavy lifting than he typically does. Still, Atlanta’s red-zone struggles are a concern, and the offense could be even less efficient without a full-strength Freeman. Ryan is more mid-tier QB2 than QB1 this week. He’s my QB16, just behind Goff and Keenum.

Marcus Mariota, Titans (vs. Texans)

There may be a temptation to play Mariota if he suits up for the Titans on Sunday. Resist it. We know he’ll be at less than 100% after taking an awkward hit on his throwing hand last week. He’ll also be playing against a Houston defense that features a fearsome pass rush, led by J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney. He’ll also have to try to figure out life without Delanie Walker, and that’s something I’d rather see him do at full strength. Even at home, this is a bad spot for Mariota.

Running Backs

Start

T.J. Yeldon, Jaguars (vs. Patriots)

This one is pretty simple. Forget about whatever you think about Yeldon the player. The opportunity is almost certainly going to be too good to pass up. It seems unlikely that Leonard Fournette will play, and if he does suit up, there’s almost no chance of him having his usual role. Yeldon served as a workhorse after Fournette left the Week 1 game against the Giants with a hamstring injury, and that would likely be the case if Fournette is out in Week 2. That alone makes him a top-20 running back at the outset of the week.

Carlos Hyde, Browns (at Saints)

Hyde wasn’t terribly efficient last week, running for 62 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. Forget about the yards per carry, though, and focus on all that opportunity. Nick Chubb, meanwhile, ran the ball three times. Hyde is clearly in command of the early-down work in Cleveland, and with the offense not the hopeless wasteland it was last year, that actually means something. Assuming the Browns can keep it somewhat close against the Saints, Hyde should be in for another 20 or so touches in what could be a great scoring environment on Sunday.

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Marshawn Lynch, Raiders (at Broncos)

Lynch got just 11 carries in the Raiders’ Week 1 loss to the Rams, running for 41 yards and a touchdown. The Raiders’ offense looked built for another era in that game, but they aren’t going to get run off the field every week like they did by the Rams. Assuming they can stay within arm’s length of the Broncos, Lynch should have a larger role in Week 2. Importantly, he handled 11 of the 20 carries by Oakland backs, and also got two targets. He may not be a true workhorse, but he’s going to get the majority of the backfield touches every week, and he’s likely to handle all goal-line work.

Peyton Barber, Buccaneers (vs. Eagles)

Barber was mostly left out of the fun in New Orleans last week, running for 69 yards on 19 carries despite the Buccaneers scoring 48 points. While that was a disappointment, it was still a net-positive week for him in the long term. All other Tampa Bay backs combined for three carries, and second-round pick Ronald Jones was inactive. Barber played 48 of the team’s 66 snaps, more than all skill players other than Mike Evans. With that sort of workload in a potentially competent offense, Barber will be at least flex-worthy until further notice.

Sit

Derrick Henry, Titans (vs. Texans)

I don’t see how any fantasy owner could have confidence in Henry after last week. Dion Lewis got 16 carries. Henry got 10. Lewis got eight targets. Henry got one. Lewis was electric with his opportunities, turning 21 touches into 110 yards and a touchdown. Henry was pedestrian, totaling 31 yards from scrimmage on 11 touches. Lewis played 49 snaps, nearly two-and-a-half times the 20 Henry played. Henry isn’t going away, but Lewis is in command of this backfield. On top of that, the matchup with Houston isn’t great on paper.

Jamaal Williams, Packers (vs. Vikings)

The Bears held Williams in check last week, limiting him to 47 yards on 15 carries. He was responsible for all but two running back carries for the Packers, but workload will only go so far. Eventually, Williams is going to have to capitalize on all that opportunity, especially considering Aaron Jones will return from his suspension next week. This is a brutal spot for him, with the Vikings coming to Green Bay this week and Aaron Rodgers certain to be at less than 100%. Williams adds nothing in the passing game, making him hard to start in these adverse conditions.

Isaiah Crowell, Jets (vs. Dolphins)

Do not be fooled by what you saw last week. Bilal Powell was the starter for the Jets, and likely would have been on the field for that first touchdown had he not been getting checked out by trainers. Crowell added a 62-yard score later in the game, but that’s an anomalous play for a non-explosive player who was taking advantage of specific game conditions. Powell got more carries and targets, and the two backs played the same number of snaps. Powell is the Jet you want in general, and specifically in this matchup after seeing what Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry did against the Dolphins last week.

Alfred Morris, 49ers (vs. Lions)

Morris isn’t unplayable, especially in a game with an over/under of 48. The 49ers are favored by six points, which gives them an implied total of 27 points. The concern, however, is that Matt Breida’s skill set plays much better to a game of this expected tempo. Morris has greater touchdown upside, and he led the 49ers with 12 carries last week. Of course, Breida ran for eight more yards on one fewer carry, and got two targets while Morris got zero. Breida is the better play among 49ers running backs, and while that doesn’t necessarily force Morris to fantasy benches, it does make it harder to trust him. If you’re starting him, you’re betting on him hitting paydirt.

Wide Receivers

Start

Devin Funchess, Panthers (at Falcons)

Funchess played two games last year after the Kelvin Benjamin trade before Greg Olsen returned from injury. He caught five passes for 86 yards in the first one—which was helpfully against the Falcons—and five more for 92 yards and two scores the next week. Olsen wasn’t much of a factor in his first three games back, totaling five targets. Funchess went 7-108-0, 4-60-1, and 3-59-1 in those contests. The sample may be small, but Funchess has shown No. 1 bona fides with Olsen out of the lineup.

Pierre Garcon, 49ers (vs. Lions)

Marquise Goodwin appears all but guaranteed to miss this game with a quad injury. Dante Pettis will step into the starting lineup, and George Kittle was the big story in the passing game last week, but Garcon has to have a larger role this week. He had just two catches last week, though his six targets were tied for second-most on the team. This week’s game with the Lions is a significant step down in weight class, especially In terms of pass defense, from last week’s clash with the Vikings in Minnesota. Consider Garcon a high-end WR3 this week.

Chris Godwin, Buccaneers (vs. Eagles)

Godwin has received at least four targets in five games in his young career, something he seems certain to do this week with DeSean Jackson out because of a concussion. In those five games, he has totaled 23 catches for 476 yards and two touchdowns. The Buccaneers’ offense appeared competent last week, especially through the air, and while the Saints’ defense deserves some blame, that same group was an excellent unit against the pass a year ago. The matchup with the Eagles is likely to be tougher, but Godwin has enough upside to get into lineups in all but the shallowest leagues.

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Quincy Enunwa, Jets (vs. Dolphins)

Enunwa was the clear No. 1 option in the Jets’ passing game in Week 1, catching six of 10 targets for 63 yards and a touchdown. Robby Anderson, meanwhile, got one target, and Terrelle Pryor got three. Remember, Enunwa was a popular late-round pick last year after hauling in 58 passes for 857 yards and four touchdowns in 2016, only to be derailed by a neck injury. He made a few key third-down catches for Sam Darnold, and the fact that he operates closer to the line of scrimmage than Anderson isn’t a bad thing with a rookie quarterback at the helm.

Sit

Sammy Watkins, Chiefs (at Steelers)

On paper, last week’s box score seems ideal for Watkins. The Chiefs scored 38 points, with all four of their touchdowns coming through the air. Travis Kelce caught one pass. Kareem Hunt got one target, and was inefficient on the ground. And yet, Watkins was held to three grabs on five targets for 21 yards. To be fair, two of Patrick Mahomes’ touchdown passes were effectively run plays, with him flipping shovel passes to Tyreek Hill and De’Anthony Thomas, but if Watkins isn’t going to show up in a game where Kelce and Hunt combine for one catch for six yards, it’s hard to believe in him if you have other options.

Robby Anderson, Jets (vs. Dolphins)

We want to guard against overreacting to one week, but some events force our hand. One of those took place on Monday night, when Quincy Enunwa got 10 targets from San Darnold, while Anderson got just one. Sure, Anderson’s one target went for a 41-yard touchdown, but that usage speaks volumes about where these two receivers fit in the Jets’ offense. Additionally, Enunwa played 40 of the team’s 60 snaps, while Anderson played 35. The target disparity won’t be so great every week, but the Jets gave us every indication in Week 1 that Enunwa, not Anderson, is their No. 1 receiver. Given that we shouldn’t expect this offense to support two fantasy-relevant receivers on a weekly basis, Anderson slides to the sit side of the ledger this week.

Chris Hogan, Patriots (at Jaguars)

Sitting Hogan is unquestionably a risk, and the Patriots are exactly the team that beat on-paper matchups. Still, they generally do that by not attacking a team’s strength, and the strength of Jacksonville’s is on the outside with Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. Hogan was an apparition last week, catching one pass for 11 yards, though he did play all but seven of New England’s 75 snaps. Fading any Patriot with a meaningful role is a dicey proposition, and I will reconsider this if Rex Burkhead is forced to sit because of a concussion. Still, the Jaguars have the personnel to take Hogan away from Tom Brady. The bet here is they’ll do it.

Tyler Lockett, Seahawks (at Bears)

Lockett, too, is a risky sit, with Doug Baldwin on the shelf because of a knee injury. Even though he should be in for a larger role, though, the problem associated with players like him was clearly evident last week. Lockett got just four targets, catching three for 59 yards and a touchdown. Two of those catches, though, totaled eight yards. Lockett was a fantasy zero until a 51-yard touchdown reception early in the fourth quarter made his day. Opportunity is huge for every player, but it’s not as though Lockett is going to start running high-percentage routes typically reserved for Baldwin. Those balls will go to Brandon Marshall. Lockett is still going to mostly operate deep down the field, remaining a boom-or-bust option. You should be able to do better with your entire roster available this week, especially since the Bears’ pass defense doesn’t appear vulnerable to receivers like Lockett.

Tight Ends

Start

Jack Doyle, Colts (at Redskins)

Doyle was surely happy to see Andrew Luck back, catching seven of 10 targets for 60 yards. Eric Ebron was heavily involved, too catching four passes for 51 yards and a score, but Doyle got more targets and played 40 more snaps. The Colts are going to run plenty of 12 personnel, which includes two tight ends, and that will make both Doyle and Ebron fantasy-relevant. Still, it’s Doyle who’s comfortably atop the depth chart.

David Njoku, Browns (at Saints)

Njoku wasn’t much of a factor in the Browns’ 21-21 tie with the Steelers last week, catching three passes for 13 yards. There were plenty of silver linings, though. He got seven targets, second on the team to Jarvis Landry, and played just shy of 90% of the team’s snaps. There’s enough upside here for Njoku to sneak back in as a low-end TE1 this week.

O.J. Howard, Buccaneers (vs. Eagles)

Howard got just two targets last week, but caught both of them for 54 yards. With DeSean Jackson (concussion) out, it stands to reason that Howard will see more looks from Ryan Fitzpatrick this week. With Greg Olsen and Delanie Walker out, the barrier to entry at the tight end position is lower than ever. Howard’s talent, Jackson’s injury, and the Buccaneers’ seeming competence through the air are enough to make Howard a worthy starter this week.

Sit

Jimmy Graham, Packers, (vs. Vikings)

We knew going into this season that Graham’s days as a threat between the 20s were gone. For him to sustain fantasy value, he needs to be a red-zone monster, like he was last year en route to 10 touchdowns. He got just four targets in his Packers debut, and none of them were in the red zone, let alone inside the 10-yard line. Both of Aaron Rodgers’ red-zone passes went to Davante Adams, and that could be disastrous news for Graham. On top of that, Geronimo Allison appears to have a notable role in the offense, which only takes more targets off of Graham’s plate. This, too, is a tough matchup on paper. George Kittle earned those numbers he put up against the Vikings last week, and Graham simply isn’t that type of tight end any longer.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jaguars (vs. Patriots)

Seferian-Jenkins is the patron saint of the called-back touchdown, but unfortunately there aren’t any points for that in fantasy leagues. He’s a touchdown-or-bust player in a low-volume passing offense playing in a game with an over/under of 45 where his team has an implied total of 21.5 points.

Jonnu Smith, Titans (vs. Texans)

Smith is a fine streamer if you find yourself in that position, especially if you previously rostered Delanie Walker. Understand, though, that he played sparingly as a rookie, and wasn’t exactly ticketed for a larger role before Walker’s season-ending injury. He’ll also be playing with either Blaine Gabbert or a less-than-100% Marcus Mariota. Tight end is already an ugly spot, but there are better options regularly available in almost all leagues. I’d go with Ben Watson, Ricky Seals-Jones and Ian Thoams over Smith.

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