Football is back, baby! Welcome back to another exciting season of NFL football. Most importantly, welcome back to another season of fantasy football! It’s Week 2, so naturally it’s time to overreact about your 0-1 team, whether it’s your fantasy team or your NFL team. I’m here today to tell you to put your hands under your butt and leave your team alone. Don’t panic! We’re one game into what should be a thrilling season with its fair share of ups and downs. Don’t drop Jimmy Graham, Trey Burton, Alex Collins, or Matthew Stafford. As a general rule, I like to wait until three or four weeks in to drop a player I put a fair amount of draft capital in.
Another thing to remember for this early in the season is that numbers and box scores don’t tell the whole story. Don’t get me wrong, I love me a good statistic. However, there are few things I love more than a good film session. While numbers never lie, they don’t exactly tell the whole truth. For example, if you look at Kenyan Drake or any of the other Dolphins running backs, ESPN will say that they are facing the second-best rushing defense. If you watched the Jets game, however, you’ll notice that the Lions had a hard time keeping up in the first half and eventually were outscored 31-7 in the second half. The Lions had to pass the ball to catch up, which lead to running the ball only 15 times. To be fair, the Lions only got 39 yards from those 15 carries, so the Jets’ rushing defense is tough, just not as tough as the numbers would have you believe.
You may have noticed that this article is titled “Hot ‘N Cold”. From now on, I don’t want to tell you who to start and who to bench. I don’t want to do that simply because that’s too black-and-white and fantasy football is a large grey area. I don’t want to preach that you should bench Jay Ajayi if you’re in a 14-team league and don’t have any depth. Each player has value to somebody. Therefore, I would rather stick to a more analytical approach and inform you as to who is likely to have a good week (hot) and who isn’t (cold). If you haven’t already, lob me a follow on Twitter (@QLynchUW). Whenever I do research and watch film I like to share what I find because not all of it makes it into the article. Let’s get that dub this week!
QB – Tyrod Taylor – Cleveland Browns
Are the Saints bad? I don’t think so, but their Week 1 performance against the Buccaneers says otherwise. The Saints’ defense gave up 529 yards of total offense, including 417 passing yards and four touchdowns, and one rushing touchdown, to Ryan “FitzMagic”. This isn’t the first time the Saints’ defense has started slow, however. Last season, the Saints lost in Week 1 on Monday Night Football to the Vikings, where they gave up 346 passing yards and three passing touchdowns to Sam Bradford, and 127 rushing yards to Dalvin Cook alone. In Week 2, the Saints lost to the Patriots and allowed 447 yards and three touchdowns to Tom Brady.
Now onto Tyrod Taylor. He went 15-for-40 for 197 yards and only one touchdown last week against the Steelers. If you watched the game, however, you know how much the weather impacted the quarterbacks on both teams. Taylor was still able to rush eight times for 77 yards and a score in the contest. He still scored over 20 fantasy points and has clearly developed chemistry with Cleveland’s offense.
RB – Adrian Peterson – Washington Redskins
Peterson is coming into Week 1 off his red-hot performance against the Cardinals. In that game, Peterson rushed 26 times for 96 yards and one touchdown while catching two passes for 70 yards. The former Viking looked like his old self on some plays, making jump cuts, breaking tackles, and bouncing off defenders. The Cardinals called Peterson’s number on third down from the goal line. The Redskins running back with the second-most carries was Chris Thompson with five. Peterson even led the Redskins in receiving yards! The backfield belongs to All Day.
As for the Colts’ defense, they’re coming fresh off an abysmal performance against the Bengals in Week 1. In that game, they gave up 95 rushing yards and 54 receiving yards to Joe Mixon.
RB – Isaiah Crowell – New York Jets
Isaiah Crowell rushed 10 times for 102 yards and two touchdowns on Monday night against the Lions – including a 62-yard score late in the third quarter. While Crowell’s 10 carries weren’t most among New York running backs, and while he wasn’t targeted by Sam Darnold, he made the most of his workload, as he averaged 10.2 yards per carry. To be fair, if you take away the 62-yard touchdown his statline becomes nine carries for 40 yards and one touchdown, which still gives him 4.4 yards per carry. As a side note, I like Bilal Powell this week, too.
WR – Emmanuel Sanders – Denver Broncos
Emmanuel Sanders led the Broncos in targets (11), receptions (10), and receiving yards (135) against the Seahawks in Week 1. The Broncos got the win and Case Keenum had a solid day at quarterback despite throwing three interceptions. While Demaryius Thomas isn’t out of the picture, Sanders clearly had the edge in the passing game in Week 1. In addition, Sanders was on the field for 64 of the Broncos’ 72 plays, whereas Thomas was only on the field for 53 plays. Whether or not that continues will remain to be seen, but both receivers should be solid choices if Keenum keeps performing. In Week 2, Sanders and the Broncos play a Raiders defense that gave up 233 passing yards to the Rams on Monday night without forcing any turnovers.
WR – Jarvis Landry – Cleveland Browns
Tyrod Taylor relied heavily on Jarvis Landry in the Browns’ tie with the Steelers in Week 1. Landry led the team in targets with 15 and receptions with seven. He was the only receiver targeted more than seven times and the only receiver to catch more than three passes. Besides tight end David Njoku, no Brown caught more than one pass — including Josh Gordon, whose only catch was a 17-yard touchdown. As I mentioned, the poor weather conditions made passing the ball difficult. But, the fact that seven of Taylor’s 15 completions came from Jarvis Landry is very noteworthy. Not to mention, Landry was on the field for 81 of the Browns’ 85 plays. If the Saints’ defense performs as poorly as it did in Week 1, Landry should be in for a big game.
TE – Jared Cook – Oakland Raiders
Jared Cook was the only good thing about the Raiders’ passing game on Monday night. He led the team in receiving yards (180) and targets (12). He tied running back Jalen Richard for receptions (nine). Let’s keep in mind that the Rams’ secondary did a fantastic job of shutting down the Raiders’ wide receivers, leaving Cook wide open for most of the game. Let’s also keep in mind that Cook’s 12 targets in Week 1 ties his career high, set in the NFC Championship with the Packers in 2016. What I’m saying is, Cook has historically been a boom-or-bust kind of tight end, but when you look at his upcoming matchups you have to consider the fact that he could win you some games. In Week 2, Jared Cook takes on a Broncos defense that gave up 105 yards and a touchdown to Seahawks tight end Will Dissly.
FLEX – Allen Robinson – Chicago Bears
Though Allen Robinson was second in receptions for the Bears, behind only Taylor Gabriel and Jordan Howard, he is a go-to guy for Mitch Trubisky. In fact, three of Robinson’s seven targets came on the final drive with less than two minutes left in the fourth, as the Bears tried to avoid a heartbreaking defeat. In that game, the Bears’ offense ran very conservative plays in the second half and was stymied by the Packers’ defense. In Week 2, Chicago should have an easier time against the Seahawks, who allowed 329 passing yards and three touchdowns in Week 1.
QB – Ryan Fitzpatrick – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I know, I know. How could I even think about arguing against a guy who threw 417 yards and four touchdowns, and even ran for a touchdown, against a defense that featured the 2017 Defensive Rookie of the Year? I can because Week 1 was an extreme for Fitzpatrick. He hasn’t thrown for over 300 yards in 13 starts, which was in Week 2 of the 2016 season when Fitzpatrick played for the Jets. In 2015, he threw for over 300 yards in just one game – keep in mind that he started in all 16 games that season.
This week, the “Amish Rifle” faces a Philadelphia defense that slapped former MVP Matt Ryan with a 12.4 QBR in Week 1. In addition, Fitzpatrick and the Buccaneers may be without DeSean Jackson, who caught five passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1, as he recovers from a concussion and shoulder injury.
RB – Marshawn Lynch – Oakland Raiders
Beast mode was in full effect on the first drive of Oakland’s loss to the Rams on Monday night, as Lynch capped it off with a short touchdown. Lynch left the game, however, after falling ill, which could explain the small workload. Even then, Lynch carried the ball on 11 of the Raiders’ 23 running plays, while fellow running back Doug Martin rushed just four times. Marshawn Lynch faces the Broncos in Week 2, after they gave up only 64 rushing yards to the Seahawks the week before.
RB – Chris Carson – Seattle Seahawks
Speaking of the Seattle running game, let’s take a moment to talk about Chris Carson. The Oklahoma State product rushed seven times for 51 yards, averaging 7.3 yards per carry. While that’s impressive, Carson rushed as many times as fellow running back Rashaad Penny. Even though Penny was held to eight yards, Penny caught four passes for 35 yards compared to Carson’s three catches for 28 yards. To be fair, both backs received the same amount of targets, but that’s exactly my point: don’t let the high yards per carry deceive you into thinking that Carson has locked up a bellcow role or is unstoppable. Carson got 34 of his 51 rushing yards on two separate plays and even lost a fumble.
Chicago’s rushing defense likely won’t be so forgiving in Week 2. As a team, the Packers only rushed for 69 yards on 18 carries. Granted, the Packers were playing from behind the entire game. However, Jamaal Williams still rushed 15 times for a measly 47 yards, with 11 of those yards coming on one carry.
WR – Randall Cobb – Green Bay Packers
My transitions are fantastic, aren’t they? Speaking of the Packers, Randall Cobb is one receiver who is likely to crash from his Week 1 high. Cobb caught nine passes for 142 yards and one touchdown, including a 75-yard touchdown to help the Green and Gold complete a historic comeback. The Kentucky product was targeted often once Rodgers returned in the second half, but the Packers host a Vikings defense that picked off Jimmy Garoppolo three times and left him with a 10.6 QBR. Pump the brakes on Randall Cobb this week but have confidence later in the season.
WR – Adam Thielen – Minnesota Vikings
I’m going to stay in this Week 2 matchup for my second “cold” receiver. Thielen had a good showing against a weak Niners secondary, recording six catches for 102 yards off a team-high 12 targets. However, he and the Vikings visit Lambeau field to play a Packers defense that gave up only six points and 159 yards of offense in the second half against the Bears in Week 1. It won’t be surprising if Thielen has a great performance on Sunday, just be ready for a defensive game against a revamped Green Bay secondary.
TE – Jesse James – Pittsburgh Steelers
Jesse James caught three passes for 60 yards off five targets in Pittsburgh’s tie with the Browns in Week 1. This could be promising, considering Big Ben only completed 23 passes. The concern with James, even though he finished with the third-most yards and tied for fourth-most targets, is that there are simply too many mouths to feed. Take, for example, the three players who were targeted more in Week 1: Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and James Conner – a solid group of players to feed. Not to mention, former Niners tight end Vance McDonald, who practiced in full on Wednesday, and holdout running back Le’Veon Bell could return for Week 2 and diminish a lot of James’ value.
FLEX – Joe Mixon – Cincinnati Bengals
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be starting Joe Mixon in every league I have him. This is just a PSA to let Mixon owners know that he probably won’t get 149 scrimmage yards again in Week 2 because he and the Bengals face a Baltimore defense that gave up just three points and 153 total yards on 61 plays. Yes, it was the Bills that went 2-for-15 on third down and gave up six sacks. However, there is some serious talent on that Ravens defense and their Week 1 performance was no fluke. Start Joe Mixon this week, just temper your expectations.
QB – Alex Smith – Washington Redskins vs Colts
QB – Patrick Mahomes – Kansas City Chiefs @ Steelers
RB – Jay Ajayi – Philadelphia Eagles @ Buccaneers
RB – Matt Breida – San Francisco 49ers vs Lions
WR – Brandon Marshall – Seattle Seahawks @ Bears
WR – Nelson Agholor – Philadelphia Eagles @ Buccaneers
TE – Ricky Seals-Jones – Arizona Cardinals @ Rams
D/ST – New York Jets vs Dolphins