Welcome back. No frilly introductions this time, just pure fantasy football goodness. If you read last week, Chris Hogan, Ty Montgomery, Zach Ertz, Coby Fleener and Ravens D were all big hits, and hopefully you listened and avoided land mines like Jordan Howard, TY Hilton, Kenny Britt, Isaiah Crowell and the Vikings defense. Remember, fantasy is a game of probabilities. I won’t always be right. But as you’ll see with my hit rates below, the goal is to lead you to the correct fantasy lineup decision as often as possible each and every week, and I’m confident that’ll be the case. With that said, let’s take a walk down fantasy lane and look at players with exciting matchups and those better left as bench fodder. Also worth noting: These aren’t all obvious plays! It bothers me when start/sit articles on legitimate fantasy websites tell you to play guys like Keenan Allen. Who is that helping? Instead, I try and look more at guys on the flex borderline that can help your lineup.
Starts Record: 17/24 (70.1%)
Sits Record: 16/23 (69.6% – nice)
Sleeper Record: 0/3 (0%)
*Note: These statistics do not include injured players or players who are essentially a wash and did not really help you or hurt you if you started them.
Start: Cam Newton vs. New Orleans
So the quarterback position has been pretty wonky in general over the first two weeks. The unheralded duo of Trevor Siemian and Alex Smith are currently leading the position in fantasy points scored, while Russell Wilson is the QB23 despite two seemingly plum matchups. Weird. You might want to run away from Cam after he’s struggled to shake off post-surgery rust in his first two games and now lost his safety net Greg Olsen, but think again. The ideal pass defense to attack in fantasy football is the Saints and they’ll be traveling to Carolina in the perfect slump-busting matchup for a home offense. Cam still has two very tall receivers, a fine tight end replacement in Ed Dickson and a get-right spot for Christian McCaffrey as the Saints give up loads of volume to backs through the air.
New Orleans is still missing its best cornerback (Delvin Breaux) and has now given up an average of 388.5 passing yards per game through the first two weeks of the season. No, that is not a typo. Per Rich Hribar’s excellent Rotoworld Worksheet, that’s the seventh-most passing yards ever allowed through the first two games of the season. Newton’s second-best fantasy game came against New Orleans last year and he absolutely destroyed them in both matchups the year prior. Though Cam struggled last week, his numbers improved from week one in completion percentage (from 56% to 62.5%), yards per attempt (6.8 to 7.1) and rushing yards (3 to 27). Also per Hribar, the Saints have allowed the highest completion percentage (86.7) on pass attempts 15 yards or further in the air. Carolina has the fifth-highest implied team point total of the week (26.25).
Start: Matthew Stafford vs. Atlanta
These are the types of games you hoped for when targeting Stafford as a late-round quarterback. Stafford has already exceeded early-season fantasy expectations with a stellar four-touchdown performance against a strong Arizona defense in week one and a solid game on the road against the Giants last Monday night. Stafford is the early QB5 on the season despite only attempting a likely season-low 21 passes against New York as the Giants simply couldn’t muster any offense and allowed Detroit to salt away the clock. This week is different as Matt Ryan and Julio Jones come to town in a game with the second highest implied point total of the week (50.5). Detroit is actually a three-point home underdog which means it is far more likely Stafford has to attempt 35+ pass attempts this week to keep up with the Falcons’ high-octane passing attack. Atlanta gave up the second-most points to opposing quarterbacks in 2016 and will be without 2016 NFL sack leader Vic Beasley in this one.
Other Recommended Starts: Derek Carr @ Washington (Highest implied point total of the week against a poor Washington defense that got eaten alive by Carson Wentz at home in week one. Carr has been excellent through two games), Kirk Cousins vs. Oakland (Highest implied point total of the week against a secondary that gave up 16 fantasy points to Josh McCown on only 24 passing attempts)
Sit: Jameis Winston @ Minnesota
It’s hard to truly gauge Tampa Bay’s offensive plans after a blowout in week one in which the team was able to ride the running game and a strong defense to an easy home win against Chicago. This week will prove much tougher as Jameis heads to Minnesota where the Vikings vaunted defense held Drew Brees to 15.6 fantasy points in Week One, four of which came on a garbage time-ish touchdown to Coby Fleener. The Vikings then held Ben Roethlisberger to 6.9 yards per attempt at home, which is a full yard below his career average of 7.9. We’ll get back to this below, but stud cornerback Xavier Rhodes has basically shut down top receivers Michael Thomas and Antonio Brown in consecutive weeks and will likely shadow Mike Evans. Despite only recording three sacks through two games, Minnesota has an excellent pass rush that was slowed by two elite offensive lines, both of which profile much better than Tampa’s does. Per Rich Hribar’s week 2 Worksheet, Minnesota has allowed just one 300-yard passing game and (tied for) a league-low four QB1 finishes allowed since the start of 2016. Also per Hribar, Jameis hasn’t had a top-10 fantasy scoring game since Week Seven of last season. Jameis is nothing more than a low-end two-quarterback-league start this week.
Other Recommended Sits: Deshaun Watson @ NE (Belichick has made a living shutting down rookie QBs on the road with a bad offensive line),
Sleepers: Andy Dalton @ Green Bay (new offensive coordinator, no Mike Daniels, AJ Green squeaky wheel potential), DeShone Kizer @ IND (Indy allowing a ton of throws downfield while Kizer has attempted third-most throws 15+ yards or more despite missing half of week 2 with a migraine. Colts allowing 10.4 YPA.)
Start: DeSean Jackson @ Minnesota
I know this looks counterintuitive to what I wrote about Jameis above, but there’s still plenty of room for Jackson to succeed and Winston to not return QB1 numbers. With Xavier Rhodes likely draped over Mike Evans, Jackson should get the pleasure of lining up against third-year sieve Trae Waynes. Waynes has been targeted on ten throws through two games and allowed all ten targets to be completed for over 150 yards, in addition to committing a pass interference penalty. He played against another vertical receiver in Martavis Bryant last week and allowed three catches for 91 yards and a touchdown despite Waynes giving Martavis plenty of cushion so as to not get beat vertically. Waynes ran a 4.31 coming out of Michigan State but clearly doesn’t run nearly as quickly in actual game scenarios and struggles with his technique. The Buccaneers may struggle to move the ball but Waynes is literally the only weakness in this legit defense and therefore makes a ton of sense to try and exploit after Rhodes impressively won his matchup with Antonio Brown in week two. D-Jax is a high variance fantasy player as a big play receiver, but these are the types of matchups you likely drafted him for. Owners seeking a ceiling game should roll the dice with him as a WR3 with plenty of upside.
Start: Danny Amendola vs. Houston
Amendola is practicing this week which means he’s cleared the concussion protocol. Granted, he’s an injury risk pretty much every time he touches the ball, but technically so are most players. Amendola looked great in Week One en route to six catches for 100 yards despite only playing a little over half the game. The offense began to sputter immediately after Amendola left the game, showing just how important a trustworthy, shifty slot receiver is to Brady and this offense. Rex Burkhead still hasn’t practiced this week, Chris Hogan only got in a limited practice on Wednesday and Gronk is also banged up. The Texans will be without stellar corner Kevin Johnson on Sunday while other starting corner Johnathan Joseph is dealing with a shoulder injury, and this is the same defense Julian Edelman caught eight passes for 137 yards against in the 2016 playoffs. At the very least he’s a PPR WR3 with upside for much more. New England has the second-highest implied team point total of the week and scored 27 and 34 points in its two matchups against Houston last season.
Other Recommended Starts: Adam Thielen vs. Tampa Bay (this is only if Bradford starts, but if he does fire up Thielen as Tampa Bay’s weakest defensive link is slot corner Robert McClain who was repeatedly burned last year and so far this season), Kelvin Benjamin (Should receive a few extra targets with Olsen out and always a solid bet for a touchdown playing on a team with a high implied point total in a great matchup)
Sleepers/Deep DFS plays: Devin Funchess vs. New Orleans (Same thing I said for Benjamin applies to Funchess as he dropped 4/68 on 6 targets after Olsen left last week and actually outsnapped Benjamin in the game), Kenny Golladay vs. Atlanta (gets matched up with Atlanta’s worst cover corner in a game with shootout potential; clearly a starter in Detroit that has Stafford’s trust)
Sit: Mike Evans @ Minnesota
This should make plenty of sense in relation to sitting Jameis and starting Jackson. Xavier Rhodes is expected to mostly shadow Mike Evans, which is about all you need to know. Rhodes held other first-round fantasy picks Michael Thomas (5/45/0 on 8 targets) and Antonio Brown (5/62/0 on 11 targets) in check and both players receive passes from better quarterbacks than Evans does. Evans is at least the biggest of the three receivers and will get his typical target volume, but his efficiency will likely drop against the player Pro Football Focus credited as the number one shadow corner in 2016. I understand you’re probably not sitting him but it’s best to think of Evans as more of a WR3 this week.
Sit: TY Hilton vs. Cleveland
This is so painful to consistently have to write for such a talented player, but I was correct about him last week and don’t see much changing. You might see the Browns on your fantasy schedule and get all warm and fuzzy, but Cleveland has actually allowed the 11th-fewest fantasy points to receivers through two games this season. Hilton has only seven catches and 106 yards through two games, which was a typical box line score for him last year. New Colts starter Jacoby Brissett clearly favors safe, interior options like Jack Doyle and his running backs all of whom combined for 12 targets last week. Brissett only targeted Hilton six times on 37 pass attempts, good for a meager 16.2% target market share which simply isn’t anywhere close to what a number one receiver typically garners/deserves. Hilton is nothing more than a WR4 until Luck comes back or Brissett shows he’s willing to aggressively target him.
Other Recommended Sits: DeAndre Hopkins at New England (Expect Belichick to devote all his resources to shutting down Hopkins, even if the targets will be there. Worth noting that Malcom Butler was benched last week and is battling an injury in practice, however), Alshon Jeffery vs. New York Giants (this is only applicable if Janoris Jenkins is playing and fully healthy as Jenkins held Dez Bryant to 2/43/0 in Week One on nine targets).
Start: Theo Riddick vs. Atlanta
Riddick is a solid PPR RB2 this week going against an Atlanta defense that allowed league highs in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns allowed to running backs last season. That trend has continued into 2017 as Atlanta has allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing running backs, giving up eight catches to Tarik Cohen in week one before Ty Montgomery roasted them for six catches, 75 yards and a touchdown through the air in week two. As stated above, this game has the second-highest implied point total of the week. That this game is played at home in a dome only helps to strengthen Riddick’s case. Atlanta actually comes into this game favored by three points so it’s possible Riddick takes over some extra snaps from Ameer Abdullah if the Lions are playing from behind. Riddick has seen 10 targets through two games despite Stafford only attempting 21 passes last week and caught a red zone touchdown in week one. It is also worth noting Riddick was used to help salt away the clock last week after Abdullah left the game with an ankle injury.
Start: Christian McCaffrey vs. New Orleans
This might seem bold considering McCaffrey’s slow start to his NFL career, but there’s nothing to cure a slump like the Saints defense. New Orleans has allowed the fourth-most points to opposing running backs after ranking third-worst in the same category last year, and we already know this is a historically bad passing defense that we want to exploit for fantasy purposes. If McCaffrey can’t get it going against New Orleans then it might be time to bench him, but this is as good as matchups get for pass-catching running backs. McCaffrey has averaged 15 touches per game so far -which is certainly enough volume to net RB2 numbers (a la Tevin Coleman) – and, per Rotoworld’s Nick Mensio, he would have a touchdown to his name if not for a bad overthrow by Cam Newton near the goal line. Mensio also notes that McCaffrey has run the fourth-most routes among all running backs, and it’s significant that receiving backs Rex Burkhead, James White and Dion Lewis destroyed the Saints linebackers for a combined receiving line of 12/137/1 in week two.
Other Recommended Starts: Tarik Cohen vs. Pittsburgh (Read the Howard excerpt below and you’ll understand)
Sit: Jordan Howard vs. Pittsburgh
Back to the well here. I sincerely hope you listened to this advice last week as Howard dropped an absolute stinker, not even registering a full fantasy point on his putrid seven rushing yards. He was seen in a sling after the game and is questionable for Sunday after getting in a limited practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Just as troubling, Howard was out-touched 15-9 by rookie Tarik Cohen in a game with negative game script, which profiles similarly to Sunday’s bout with the Steelers who enter as 7.5 road favorites. Heading into the season I was worried about Howard being this year’s sophomore Todd Gurley as a back with little pass-catching prowess on a terrible team with awful quarterback play. It seems all those fears and more have come to fruition as Howard has also struggled to run the ball effectively. He is best left on your bench against a Pittsburgh defense that’s allowed the tenth-fewest points to opposing backs this year and really only gives up points to receiving backs like Cohen. I’m fine with Cohen as an RB2/flex play, especially in PPR leagues.
Sit: Bilal Powell vs. Miami
Powell has been a bust so far this season and now, this:
Next question, please.
Sleeper: Joe Mixon @ Green Bay (New offensive coordinator Bill Lazor may actually realize that Mixon is his most talented backfield player. If he does Mixon could be in for a bigger game than advertised if run-defending studs Mike Daniels and Nick Perry both sit. This is a bet on talent more than anything, however.)
Temper expectations: LeSean McCoy vs. DEN (Denver held Zeke to an abysmal .89 yards per carry last week while Shady was also bottled up by a talented defense. You’re obviously playing him but he’s more of a high-end RB2 than surefire RB1 this week).
Start: Jared Cook
Those looking to replace Greg Olsen’s production (join the club) have plenty of decent streaming options this week. Cook failed as a potential sleeper in this spot last week, though he did still garner six targets and part of his low score was due to Oakland taking its foot off the gas in a blowout. Cook is a clear part of Oakland’s offense after logging 75% of the team snaps over the first two weeks of the season. Now he gets a matchup ripe for the picking against a Washington secondary that has given up the seventh-most points to tight ends so far this year after allowing the eighth-most points to the position in 2016.
Cook has played against Washington once in each of the last three years. For what it’s worth, starting with the most recent meeting when Cook was a Packer, here are Cook’s last three stat lines against Washington: 6/105/1, 5/47, 4/61/2. The R-words are missing safety Su’a Cravens for the entire season and the presence of corners Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland may funnel extra volume away from Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree and towards Cook. Oakland has the highest implied team point total of the week at 29.
Start: Eric Ebron vs. Atlanta
Even though I successfully touted Coby Fleener in this spot the last two weeks, I’ll admit I was too scared to write about Ebron despite a plum matchup against the Giants. I did start him, however, and think he has the potential to reward tight end-needy owners once again this week. Ebron strung together a very solid 5/42/1 game despite Matthew Stafford only throwing 21 attempts, 18 of which came in the first half. Atlanta gave up the sixth-most fantasy points to tight ends in 2016 and ranks middle of the pack this year, fresh off allowing Martelllus Bennett to soak up 11 targets last week. Atlanta has a solid trio of cornerbacks in Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford and Brian Poole and is, therefore, more susceptible to interior options like Ebron. This game has the second highest implied point total of the week (50.5).
Other Recommended Starts/Streamers: Ben Watson @ Jacksonville (not actually a Jacksonville home game as both teams travel across the pond, while Watson led the team in targets last week and the Jags defense is most vulnerable to tight ends), Jack Doyle (Acted as Jacoby Brissett’s safety valve to the tune of 8/79 against a good defense and now gets the Browns at home after Cleveland just hosted the Ben Watson coming out party.)
Sleepers/Deep DFS Plays: Austin Hooper @ Detroit (pretty much the same reasons I listed for Ebron but on the other side of the ball), Julius Thomas @ NYJ (there are much worse ways to chase a touchdown against a leaky Jets defense after Thomas played nearly all the Miami snaps in week one)
Sit: Tyler Eifert @ Green Bay
This may obviously come back to bite me as Eifert is as good a bet as anyone in the league to score a touchdown on any given Sunday. But Eifert is also notoriously injury prone and just sat out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday with knee and back problems. It’s probably a good time to remind you that Eifert spent all of the offseason recovering from back surgery. On top of his questionable status, Eifert has only accrued five targets through two games and has to block a little more this season to help hide the glaring deficiencies of the Bengals offensive line. The strength of Green Bay’s secondary is the safety play of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett while the Packers corners are young and burnable. Look for Andy Dalton to funnel targets AJ Green’s way as Green Bay comes in allowing the second-fewest points to tight ends so far this season. If you’re chasing a touchdown I understand starting Eifert, and maybe you’re a big believer in mid-season offensive coordinator changes, but Eifert is hurting your team if he doesn’t reach pay dirt.
Other Recommended Sit: Jimmy Graham @ Tennessee (Graham has been a colossal bust through two games and is now dealing with ankle and knee injuries)
Start: Patriots Defense
Pretty simple here. It’s easy to explain New England’s lack of fantasy points playing against the Chiefs and Saints through two weeks and now they have a gorgeous matchup. Belichick is notorious for eating the souls of rookie quarterbacks, especially ones playing on the road with a bad offensive line, no healthy tight ends and one legitimate receiver. Look for Belichick to devote extra resources to shutting down DeAndre Hopkins and force Watson to beat them with his arm, which simply doesn’t look to be NFL-caliber. Per FootballGuys, since Belichick became the New England head coach in 2000, rookie quarterbacks are 0-8 with a 50.7 passer rating against him. Houston has the lowest implied point total of the week.
Start: Eagles Defense
Philadelphia is the sixth-highest fantasy scoring defense through two weeks despite having played both games on the road. Now a Giants offense less exciting than a Lifetime original movie comes to town fresh off a 10-point stinker against a mediocre Lions defense. The offensive line is a mess, Odell Beckham Jr. isn’t 100% healthy and veterans Eli Manning and Brandon Marshall look pretty washed up. Nobody should be scared of this broken offense that’s scored 13 total points across two games going against one of the most ferocious front sevens in the league.
Sit: Houston Defense @ New England
There simply have to be better options available to you. Starting any defense on the road at New England is a fool’s game as it is, while Houston’s defense isn’t even a top-20 fantasy scoring option thus far this season. This has the potential to change if Gronk and Chris Hogan both sit out, but Danny Amendola is scheduled to return and Jacoby freaking Brissett hung 27 points on this defense in New England last year. New England has the second-highest point total of the week.
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Statistics courtesy of nfl.com, rotoworld.com, footballdb.com, Yahoo!, fantasylabs.com, footballguys.com and pro-football-reference.com