I’ll cut right to the chase, if you’re 0-2 this season, DON’T PANIC. Yes, it’s only two losses, but perhaps you feel hopeless or like your team can’t get it done. If so, you have to remember to stay fluid. Prowl the waiver wire, look for solid trades, and make the right start/sit decisions. If someone in your league lost Delanie Walker, Greg Olsen, Doug Baldwin, Joe Mixon, or is the victim of the seemingly eternal Le’Veon Bell saga, trade with them. In one of my leagues, I was able to get T.Y. Hilton from someone who had just lost Delanie Walker and was short on running backs because of Bell’s holdout.
That brings me to my next point: forget about your draft. Sure, it was fun when Gary had one too many Blue Moons by the 12th round and stumbled into the draft board on his way to put up his Jaguars defense sticker. That part you can remember, but what you need to forget is what draft pick you spent on who. Don’t start a player who’s off to a slow start simply because you drafted him in the second round. Now that we have a few weeks of data, you need to analyze it and do your research.
Take for example, Royce Freeman (who we’ll be talking about later). Drafted somewhere between the third and fifth rounds, his backfield and workload have been invaded by Phillip Lindsay. What we thought about Freeman coming into the season has changed, and we need to adjust. Whether it’s benching him, trading him away, or just lowering your expectations, his situation is different now and you need to stay fluid. Now it’s a matter of who has the opportunity to succeed and who doesn’t. Most importantly, it’s a matter of who’s hot and who’s cold.
QB – Ryan Fitzpatrick – Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Steelers
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Ride the horse until it bucks you off. Ride the train until it runs out of tracks. However you want to say it, get a piece of FitzMagic until it isn’t magical anymore. Obviously, Fitzpatrick’s numbers aren’t sustainable over the entire season. In two games, he’s thrown for 819 yards, eight touchdowns, and just one interception. He’s taken it to two above-average defenses in the Saints and Eagles. I can’t quite explain it, but Ryan Fitzpatrick is the hottest player in fantasy right now and he should be started in every league – as of writing this, Fitzpatrick is owned in only 68.4 percent of ESPN leagues. In addition, Fitzpatrick goes up against a Steelers defense that gave up 449 total yards and 42 points to the Chiefs last week.
RB – Lamar Miller – Houston Texans vs Giants
Miller is the classic bland, ol’ reliable draft pick. He gets the job done and what you see is what you get. If you look at Miller’s fantasy points, you might be disappointed. Just let me remind you that Miller rushed 20 times in Week 1 and 14 times in Week 2, in addition to being on the field for over 75 percent of Houston’s offensive snaps. The opportunity is there for Miller and he’s still averaging 4.9 yards per carry on the season. His numbers don’t look as great because he has yet to find paydirt. The Giants have given up the fourth-most rushing yards so far this season (275) and stand to give up a lot more against Lamar Miller.
RB – Marshawn Lynch – Oakland Raiders @ Dolphins
Lynch is, in a way, the opposite of Miller. He still has the volume (11 carries in Week 1 and 18 carries in Week 2) and the snap count (63 percent in Week 2). The only thing Lynch doesn’t have that Miller does is the yardage. Lynch has 106 yards on the season compared to Miller’s 186, and a 3.7 YPC compared to a 4.9 YPC. What gives Lynch the edge, however, are his two touchdowns. On average, the Dolphins defense gives up 18.1 fantasy points per week to running backs. With Lynch getting an average of 58 percent of the carries, most of those 18.1 should go to him.
WR – Brandin Cooks – Los Angeles Rams vs Chargers
Cooks is a player I was very high on coming into the season. My concern was whether he would be the next Sammy Watkins for the Rams, and that Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp would both finish ahead of Cooks. On the season, Robert Woods has one more target than Cooks, but Cooks has 126 more yards. He is what we thought he would be coming into the season: a deep threat that can take the tops off defenses. In half-point scoring, Cooks is currently the WR #14, and he’s doing so without having scored a touchdown yet this season. This week may be a good chance to log his first score as a Ram, as the Chargers defense has given up five passing touchdowns and over 300 yards on the season.
WR – Quincy Enunwa – New York Jets at Browns
Enunwa is the clear No. 1 receiver for the Jets (and only owned in 62.4 percent of ESPN leagues???). Quincy Enunwa averages 38 percent of the Jets’ targets, with the next highest going to Terrelle Pryor at 17 percent of targets per game. In a nutshell, that volume alone should be reason enough to start him. The Browns give up a large amount of receptions per game (15 in Week 1 and 17 in Week 2), in addition to giving up 380 passing yards this season and an average of 26.4 fantasy points to opposing wide recievers.
TE – O.J. Howard – Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Steelers
Howard’s numbers on the season are inflated a tad because of that 75-yard touchdown he scored last week against the Eagles. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great play by a very talented tight end, just don’t expect that to happen every week. That being said, let’s keep in mind that Howard averages 72 percent of offensive snaps for the Buccaneers – second-most amongst Buccaneers pass catchers, bested by only Mike Evans (79 percent). Howard and the Bucs also take on a Steelers defense that gave up 109 yards and two touchdowns on seven receptions to Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce last week.
FLEX – Sony Michel – New England Patriots vs Lions
The New England backfield is inconsistent yet again. Thanks to a variety of injuries and game scripts, it’s become hard to predict who will get the bulk of the load – or whether there will be a bulk to be had. If I had to bet on one back, it would be Sony Michel. Drafted out of Georgia, Michel dealt with a knee injury coming into the season and made his debut last week against Jacksonville. There probably isn’t a worse defense to face in your NFL debut, but there was some upside in this game. Michel received the bulk of the work, getting 10 carries compared to Burkhead’s six and White’s four. As for targets, White led with eight, but Michel got two while Burkhead wasn’t targeted at all.
While all of this might seem daunting, look at the matchup. The Patriots face a Lions defense that has given up 359 rushing yards so far this season, the most in the NFL. In addition, they have allowed 5.6 yards per carry and three rushing touchdowns.
QB – Eli Manning – New York Giants @ Texans
What’s going on with the Giants? Manning has only thrown one touchdown on the season, and it was a garbage-time touchdown to tight end Evan Engram against the Cowboys on Sunday night. Manning has also turned the ball over at least once in each game (an interception in Week 1 and a fumble in Week 2). To be fair, Manning started the season against Jacksonville. After seeing Sunday night’s game against Dallas, however, it’s hard to have any confidence in Manning moving forward.
RB – Dion Lewis – Tennessee Titans @ Jaguars
Lewis, on average, is on the field for 64 percent of the Titans’ offensive snaps. When you compare it to Derrick Henry’s 37 percent, you could draw the conclusion that Lewis is the back to own in Tennessee. Lewis even had a great performance in Week 1, rushing 16 times for 75 yards and a touchdown while catching five of eight targets for 35 yards – he was the RB #11 in half-point scoring that week. Last week, however, Lewis was held to 42 yards on 14 carries for a mediocre 3.0 average yards per carry. What went wrong? For starters, the Titans were playing without their starting quarterback, Marcus Mariota. The entire situation was strange because Mariota was listed as active but didn’t play. He suited up, but Blaine Gabbert played instead. Until we know what exactly is going on with Mariota, it might be best to try and look elsewhere for a running back this week.
RB – Royce Freeman – Denver Broncos @ Ravens
Freeman was another player I was very high on coming into the season. I liked how he played in college and I was prepared for him to take over the backfield in Denver. Then Phillip Lindsay came along. An undrafted feel-good story out of Colorado, Lindsay has taken the Broncos’ backfield by storm. Lindsay averages 49 percent of the Broncos’ carries, while Freeman gets 38 percent. Lindsay has rushed for 178 yards on the season, while Freeman has rushed for 99 yards. For now, the Broncos’ backfield seems to be an efficient committee, helping them snag wins over the Seahawks and Raiders so far this season. As the season goes on, Freeman may retake some of the workload, but he might be one to avoid, or keep low expectations for, this week against a Ravens defense that has given up just 191 rushing yards, an average 3.8 yards per carry, and no rushing touchdowns on the season.
WR – Tyler Lockett – Seattle Seahawks vs Cowboys
Lockett has stepped up well in Doug Baldwin’s absence, for the Seahawks and fantasy owners. Tyler Lockett gets a good share of targets from Russell Wilson and has also scored in each game so far this season. He’s gotten good production against two above-average defenses, the Broncos and Bears, but plays a Cowboys defense that held Odell Beckham to just four catches for 51 yards and no touchdowns. What has helped Lockett’s fantasy output is the fact that he’s scored once in each game. Lockett has yet to get over 60 receiving yards in a game this season, and the Seahawks’ offense looked out of sorts Monday night against the Bears.
WR – Devin Funchess – Carolina Panthers vs Bengals
Funchess has the highest snap count of all the Panthers’ skill players (besides Cam Newton, of course). The problem is that 35 percent of the Panthers’ targets go to Christian McCaffrey while only 20 percent go to Funchess, making him the WR #50 in half-point scoring. In standard scoring, Funchess has less fantasy points than Jarius Wright and D.J. Moore. Pair those numbers with a matchup against an above-average passing defense, and you’ve got a cold start.
TE – Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Jacksonville Jaguars vs Titans
Seferian-Jenkins is the same case as Devin Funchess: has the snap count, but not the targets. Bortles threw 45 pass attempts last week against the Patriots, and Seferian-Jenkins only got five targets. ASJ is fifth on the team in targets and has yet to catch over 30 yards in a game. He’s someone to keep in mind for tight end streamers, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up in a matchup against a defense that ranks fifth-best against tight ends in fantasy.
FLEX – Carlos Hyde – Cleveland Browns vs Jets
This was a hard pick for me. I was riding the Carlos Hyde hype train coming into this season, and he’s gotten plenty of volume. Hyde has been on the field for 55 percent of offensive plays and has gotten 58 percent of the Browns’ carries. The former 49er might be cold this week because he faces a Jets defense that has yet to give up 80 rushing yards in a game and allows less than four yards per carry on the season.
Favorable Matchups/Honorable Mentions
QB – Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers vs Buccaneers
RB – Kenyan Drake – Miami Dolphins vs Raiders
RB – Matt Breida – San Francisco 49ers @ Chiefs
WR – Marvin Jones, Jr. – Detroit Lions vs Patriots
WR – Tyreek Hill – Kansas City Chiefs vs 49ers
TE – George Kittle – San Francisco 49ers @ Chiefs