Written by Caleb Brunman @cbretweet on Twitter and @cb on the Fantasy Life App
What a first week of football we had! From 98 yard touchdowns to rookie quarterback victories, the opening installment on the gridiron was certainly memorable. Here is a Week 2 Fantasy Preview featuring in depth analysis on this week’s most important games.
New Orleans Saints vs. New York Giants
Let’s all take a trip back in time. It was November 1, 2015. Two average teams squared up for what seemed like would be an average game. It was not. 101 points and 1,283 total yards later, the New Orleans Saints walked out of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome victorious over the New York Giants by the colossal score of 52-49. On Sunday, we’ll get to see the much-anticipated rematch and reap much fantasy success because of it.
Like the Lions vs. Colts matchup last week, basically every player is startable in this game. Drew Brees, who racked up 505 yards and seven touchdowns the last time these teams met, may not again earn 44.3 fantasy points, but he should be started regardless of league size or format. (Brees is my number one quarterback this week.) While this matchup will likely be pass heavy, Mark Ingram should still see considerable work, and it’s unlikely that you have two better options to usurp him in your lineup this week. With C.J. Spiller officially cut, Travaris Cadet can be looked at as a pass-catching back, but he should only be played in very deep PPR leagues, if at all.
Like last season, receiving options should feast. Despite an improved Giants’ defense, expect big things from Brandin Cooks, though I actually expect Willie Snead to outperform him this week. Rookie Michael Thomas should see even more game action in his second contest, and in what will likely be such a high-scoring matchup, he too becomes startable.
Finally, Coby Fleener should bounce back from a dismal six yard performance and make his way into fantasy relevance. Only New Orleans was worse than New York against the tight end last year, showcased by Benjamin Watson’s 9-147-1 against the G-Men last season. With 8-114-1 from last year’s contest in Marques Colston no longer on the team, all of the Saints receiving threats will help make up those numbers, providing fantasy owners with ear-to-ear grins. Needless to say, New Orleans’ defense isn’t startable this week (nor is it ever), but I would consider adding Saints rookie kicker Wil Lutz, who despite going only 2/4 on field goals last week, will get multiple scoring opportunities against the Giants, though you likely already a roster a kicker you’re more comfortable with.
The Giants will also rack up many a fantasy point against the pathetic Saints defense. As any competent gunslinger becomes against New Orleans, Eli Manning is a top option at the quarterback position for the week; nothing more needs to be said about that.
Running back Rashad Jennings can now be started with confidence after amassing the lion's share of work last week against the Cowboys, and doing so with decent efficiency. Neither Paul Perkins nor Orleans Darkwa accounted for a single touch, as receiving back Shane Vereen (who may be startable in PPR leagues this week) was the only other Giant with a rushing attempt. As is the case with Ingram, Jennings could lose some work due to game flow, but he will rack up fantasy points nonetheless.
The wide receiver position will be a fun one to watch in this one. Last year, Giants phenom Odell Beckham Jr. pulled off a ridiculous 8-130-3 statline. While those numbers are likely unrepeatable, he should of course be in all starting lineups and will compete for wide receiver of the week honors. Expect brilliance. Rookie receiver Sterling Shepard, who had himself a nice first game (3-43-1), showed enough last week to be started against such a poor defense this time around. The Saints’ secondary has proven time and time again that multiple pass catchers can thrive against their failures, so fantasy owners should be able to put some faith behind plugging Shepard into their starting lineups. As for Victor Cruz, I still want to see him get through some more games with health and fantasy proficiency. Despite a good week against Dallas, I simply do not have the confidence to play him. However, this week is as good as any to start him on a limb, so if you’re forced to look deep, he deserves some flex consideration.
Finally, the tight end situation in New York is frustrating: A combined thirty-one yards between Will Tye and Larry Donnell in the opening week does not inspire hope for fantasy success, this week’s opponent notwithstanding. Unfortunately, it is probably best to avoid the situation entirely, despite the fact that the Saints have been historically bad against the tight end position.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. San Diego Chargers
Levels of uncertainty will play into this high-scoring matchup. How will the Chargers offense look and function without star wideout Keenan Allen? Will the Jaguars get their first win behind Allen Robinson’s first touchdown? Let’s find out.
The Jaguars put on a solid offensive show last week against the Packers, though it was devoid of a true standout performance. So, how will Jacksonville fare against a weaker Chargers defense? In a word, better. I wouldn’t necessarily want to start Blake Bortles against a surprisingly strong San Diego secondary, though I wouldn’t blame you for doing so. He should outdo the 15 fantasy points he achieved last week, even if it’s on volume alone.
Speaking of volume, T.J. Yeldon should continue to be a plug and chug play while fellow running back Chris Ivory remains sidelined. His twenty-five touches last week shouldn’t take a significant drop, because who else is going to run the ball? A constant receiving threat who will be on the field all game, Yeldon is no doubt worth a start in all formats, and he will most definitely improve his yards per carry average against a weaker Bolts front seven.
I made my case clear as to why I wasn’t a big fan of Allen Robinson this season in my Do Not Draft List, but he should be startable this week and most. (My point was that his ADP was too high, not that he didn’t have talent or wouldn’t produce.) Still, expect a lot of focus to be placed on the third-year wideout, although outdoing his 72 yard mark of last week shouldn’t be a very difficult task. Allen Hurns will likely do what most expect Allen Hurns to do: be decent and touchdown reliant. He can be a fantasy star in select weeks, but good luck choosing the right ones. It would be better to sit Hurns this week if possible. No other Jacksonville wide receiver should be started.
This week tight end Julius Thomas can be considered a starting option after turning in a nice 5-64-1 week one performance. More familiar with the offense, only more ankle issues should slow the big man down. Fellow tight end Marcedes Lewis, on the other hand, after earning a 2-48 day, should not be started in any format, nor is he a threat to Thomas’ production. And as in the aforementioned Saints-Giants game, the Jaguars defense is not worthy of fantasy consideration.
For the second straight year, the Chargers will have to deal with life without Keenan Allen. I will preface this part of the column by declaring that every Charger except Danny Woodhead will suffer because of Allen’s injury. “What about the wide receivers?” you ask. We’ll get to that.
First let’s examine Philip Rivers, who could be started due to the amount of times he’ll be forced to throw the ball, but who I’d also only feel very comfortable playing in 12-team-or-more leagues. From weeks 1-8 of last season -- when Allen was on the field -- Rivers averaged 21.0 fantasy points per game (FPPG). From weeks 9-16 -- after Allen was placed on season-ending IR with a lacerated kidney -- that number dropped to 14.5, which stretched across a full season would’ve been good for QB20, as opposed to the QB4 mark that 21.0 FPPG would’ve earned him. Needless to say, Allen makes a huge difference towards Rivers’ success. So while he could be worth a flier this year, it may be time to start looking for a replacement, as Rivers, now a year older, could struggle the rest of the season.
As previously mentioned, Allen’s injury will make Melvin’s Gordon fantasy stock take a hit (he’s a good sell high candidate), while Danny Woodhead’s importance just multiplied. The combination of less running lanes and less playing time will only hurt Gordon, and while Woodhead’s efficiency may not increase, his already large sum of playing time will make him startable in standard and PPR leagues alike. Last week, Woodhead was on the field for a whopping 68% of snaps, and that number should only continue to rise. Gordon owners should consider him startable only in deeper leagues, and only in the most cautious of manners.
Now the wide receivers: While we won’t have numbers to compare, Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams were better fit to play as second and third wide receivers in the Chargers offense, respectively. With now more difficult matchups and far more focus placed on them, these receivers won’t be able to live up to the potential they initially possessed with Allen’s presence. Benjamin could be considered start worthy and Williams should definitely be added to rosters, but against an improved Jaguars offense I’d rather wait to see what they can do than start them and get burned.
Antonio Gates is another player who suffered due to Allen’s injury last season. After missing the first four games of the year due to suspension and the week 7 matchup against the Raiders due to injury, in the three games both receiving threats played, Gates averaged 12.1 FPPG, which would’ve been good for… TE1 in standard leagues. In the final eight games without Allen, however, Gates only averaged 7.1 FPPG, good enough for TE9. While the ninth best tight end should be startable in most leagues, this season’s group of TEs is deeper, Gates is even older, and the Chargers offense could be even worse this season. (Anyone remember how poorly they played in the second half against Kansas City?) Start Gates at your own risk this week. While San Diego could put up a lot of points, predicting who will score them is too difficult and risky to start most Chargers with confidence.
Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings
A rivalry that has recently come into fruition, the Packers and Vikings have begun to produce more and more enjoyable games for football fans and fantasy owners alike. Though now Teddy Bridgewater-less, the Vikings will come to play against newly-returned Jordy Nelson and the Packers in what figures to be a Sunday Night Spectacular.
The Packers were surprisingly quiet in terms of fantasy production last week. Discounting Aaron Rodgers’ 23.6 fantasy points -- which included a rushing touchdown -- no other Packer owned in more than 20% of leagues achieved even double digit fantasy point totals against the Jaguars; that surprising stat no doubt will flip on its head in this upcoming matchup. Starting with the signal caller, who will again account for double digit fantasy points, Rodgers is a must-start aper usual. You did not draft Rodgers to play matchups; start your studs.
Eddie Lacy figures to have a breakout performance at the running back position, so he, too, should be in fantasy lineups. His touches will only increase, and with a Green Bay offense that is getting back on track, Lacy is destined for success this week and beyond. Skinny Eddie actually averaged 6.6 yards per carry against Minnesota back in his dominance of 2014. Beneath him, James Starks is not startable in any format.
Wide receiver was the most interesting position for Green Bay last week, with 2015 bust Davante Adams leading the pack in fantasy points. (See what I did there?) I don’t foresee that situation occurring again, and even if I did, I wouldn’t recommend starting Adams over the likes of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Why? As fantasy owners found out the hard way last season, the Packers offense revolves around Jordy Nelson; like in the case of Keenan Allen, without Nelson’s presence, everyone else suffered. Now he’s back, and after admitting to feeling sluggish after week one, Nelson improve both game and stamina wise. Adequate Nelson production makes Randall Cobb a solid WR2, borderline WR1 option as we saw in 2014, making him a top choice to start at the position week in and week out. Not to mention the running lanes that will open up because of the focus on the passing game…. The moral of the story is to trust the Packers offense and start the running back and receivers on the team (even Adams if you’re desperate).
The only position I’d shy away from using in my lineup is tight end, as Richard Rodgers and Jared Cook are forever unreliable. Like always, I see Rodgers as the number one option, but that doesn’t make him startable. Play the wire elsewhere if you’re not comfortable with your current tight end.
While not yet official, the biggest news in Minnesota is the expected beginning of the Sam Bradford era. How should Mike Zimmer’s decision affect your fantasy lineup? Not much, at least in relation to week one. Like Shaun Hill in the contest prior, starting Sam Bradford against Green Bay would be ludicrous. It would be foolish. Pure insanity! Seriously, don’t do it. Bradford could hit fifty fantasy points and I wouldn’t recommend starting him in a do-over. Average quarterback with shaky knees in a new system against a tough opponent does not equal fantasy success.
Onto the running back position, Adrian Peterson should be started in all formats despite awful week one statistics. As is the case with Aaron Rodgers, fantasy owners must learn to start their studs. Peterson also hit double digits in both of his outings against Green Bay last year. And on the bright side for those of you who may have lost week one matchups because of Peterson’s poor performance, he can’t get any worse, right?
At the wide receiver position, Stefon Diggs looks poised for a breakout campaign. After going 7-103 against the Titans, Diggs has emerged as a true number one receiver in an offense that at the very least should be productive. He can be considered a weekly flex option, and the only startable wideout on the Vikings. However, Diggs may not be the only startable pass catcher in Minnesota.
In deeper leagues, Kyle Rudolph can earn starting tight end consideration with another decent performance. The only threat over the middle, Rudolph will be a nice safety valve for the still-learning and likely nervous Bradford. The tight end finishing second on the team among targets, receptions, and yards would not surprise me. Even if he’s not yet ownable in your league, keep Rudolph on your radar. Finally, although the Vikings D/ST was a popular choice to exceed expectations this season, I cannot advocate starting them against the Packers offense. Stream, stream, stream! And for the sake of all my friends on the Fantasy Life App, I won’t even talk about Blair Walsh.
Until next time, follow me @cb on the Fantasy Life App and @CBRetweet on Twitter.