By Jared Clifton
Well, we survived week one and although many of our favorite players were knocked out for either the season or the foreseeable future, at least, we’re on to another week of pigskin. Let’s take a 30,000 foot look at some important pieces before you set those lineups and like an Andy Reid face shield, see if we can clear some things up.
Coming off one of the worst rushing performances of his young career, Saquon Barkley faces a much easier defensive unit in the bend-but-don’t-break Bears. The Bears allowed 4.8 ypc on 29 carries to inferior running backs, so expect Jason Garrett and Joe Judge to dial up Barkley often and give him a big game.
The Bears offense used a very efficient and balanced offense to defeat the Lions on Sunday, but expect more of a ground attack against the hapless Giants front seven on Sunday that allowed 113 yards to Benny Snell on Monday. David Montgomery is in line for a monster game.
The Falcons spread the ball equally to their top three wideouts on Sunday and while everyone expects that volume to continue for Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, the expectations for Russell Gage aren’t as bullish. Against the Cowboys improved defensive line and without Leighton Vander Esch on the field, another big target share on quick underneath routes for Gage in the slot is a good bet.
The Cowboys hyped up offense didn’t deliver when it counted on Sunday, but against a bottom third defense in the league this week, they should reach the 30’s. Michael Gallup is in for a big game on the outside, against a team that didn’t have an answer for Lockett or Metcalf.
The surprise in Detroit, with the Kenny Golladay absence, was the heavy targeting of Quintez Cephus. Although he only turned his 10 targets into 3 catches for 43 yards, he should see a similar workload in a game that the Lions should trail most of the day and with a +70% catch rate in his college career, he should make marked improvements to his dismal 30% rate in week one.
When I’m wrong, I’m really wrong, as the Packers took a page out of Nigel Tufnel’s book and turned it up to 11, instead of the conservative game plan I expected. Aaron Rodgers is a must start against a Lions team that allowed 12.1 yards per catch to a very mediocre Trubisky led passing attack.
It’s likely that DJ Chark is the most talented offensive weapon in Jacksonville, so it was confusing to see him largely absent from the game plan. If the Jaguars can get him back into the slot more (less than 17% on Sunday), then this is an exploitable match-up, in a game that could play fairly slow.
It had been 22 months since Corey Davis last breached the 100 yard mark, but he looked really good against an at least respectable Broncos secondary. He flashed good speed and great hands and is poised to make FLEX decisions a little more complicated this season.
Dalvin Cook struggled to make a fantasy impact last week, but game script left him on an island almost from the get go. The Colts defense played well against Jacksonville, but Cook and Co. are a superior unit to the Jags and there should be an expectation for touch distribution to normalize in Minnesota and for Cook to find plenty of space to make plays via the passing game and on the ground.
With Marlon Mack done for the year, it is now Jonathan Taylor’s chance to do his best impression of CEH and that should start this week. The Packers ran the ball at will against the Vikings, as well as allowed 9 catches to the RB’s, so the breakout is coming this week.
The Bills roll into another plus match-up this week, but it’s more likely to be the rushing attack that wins the day this week. The Dolphins gave up 217 rushing yards against a pretty vanilla playbook on Sunday, so Devin Singletary should get closer to the 20 touches I promised last week and if Josh Allen doesn’t snipe the goal line carries, he should be a safe bet for a touchdown.
We’re inching closer to our first Tua Tagovailoa sighting, as he was removed from the injury report and Ryan Fitzpatrick did his best late Texans Matt Schaub impersonation last week against the Patriots. It may not happen this week, but unless Fitzpatrick goes all Ivy league on the Bills this week, by week three I see Tua getting a serious look.
The poor air quality in San Francisco wasn’t just due to the horrific wildfires, but also from the arm of Jimmy Garoppolo. Take away the great catch and run passes to Raheem Mostert (76 yards) and Kyle Juszczyk (41 yards) and it’s an even worse effort than his 39.7 QBR game already indicated. In a game that should be run heavy for Shanahan and the gang, Jimmy G continues to be a dicey bet as a starting QB.
With Le’Veon Bell and Jamison Crowder both out this week, Chris Herndon has the opportunity to garner a lot of targets and get himself closer to our fearless leader, JJ Wenner’s,
top5/ top6/ top7/top8 tight end prediction. I’d expect the targets to be short to middle depth, but in a PPR he has a safe floor this week.
Malcolm Brown delighted the few that believed Sean McVay would actually use him as the true lead guy, but against the strong Eagles front seven, the likelihood of him repeating are lessened. He does have the ability to punch the ball in from short, so he is still a TD dependent FLEX option this week.
With Miles Sanders likely back this week, we should get a better look at a functional offense and the Rams did struggle to contain Ezekiel Elliott last week. Assuming he’s 100%, I’d expect to see a healthy load of carries this week, as they try to re-balance their offense and take some pressure off Carson Wentz after a dismal week one.
Pittsburgh has proven over the past year and now into the 2020 season, that they are one of the top defensive units in the league. That doesn’t bode well for an offense that struggled to move the ball last week against the Titans. If you have Melvin Gordon you’re probably starting him, especially with Phillip Lindsay expected to miss Sunday’s game, but keep expectations where they should be for a team that just held Barkley to 6 yards on 15 carries.
There should be plenty of notable fantasy lines from Pittsburgh this coming weekend, but I do expect Mike Tomlin to try to get James Conner going this week after a nearly zero performance in a plus match-up. Benny Snell did shine in mop-up duty and has earned increased touches, but it’s better for the Steelers if they have two RB’s that can both grind.
It’s worth mentioning that Tampa Bay only allowed 53 receiving yards to New Orleans receivers this past week, so that should give pause to inserting week one star Robby Anderson this week. In deep enough leagues, he’s a suitable boom or bust WR3 or FLEX, but outside of Christian McCaffrey or DJ Moore, I’m avoiding all Panthers this week.
It’s likely that Chris Godwin is out this week and Mike Evans may or may not have been healthy on his way to a one catch/two yard performance Sunday. That leaves Scotty Miller as a higher value FLEX piece this week as he could very well garner double digit looks this week, as Tom Brady looks to torch the Panthers after a miserable showing in his Bucs debut.
Lost in the excitement of a shocking week one win over the Eagles, Washington had a pretty lackluster showing on offense. However, Antonio Gibson did play relatively well in a limited showing. His usage should grow, as Rivera sees the gap between the rudderless Peyton Barber and Gibson grow. Arizona did an adequate job of containing the powerful 49ers run game, but Gibson could be a poor man’s Raheem Mostert this week in both the run and receiving game.
Arizona draws another minus defensive match-up, as the Washington Football Team showed great play from their front seven. What will be interesting to see, is if Washington deploys a QB spy to keep Kyler Murray inside the tackles and if so, that should allow Kenyan Drake the ability to get open in the passing game and do some serious damage, to make up for a mediocre showing in week one.
Much was made about the inability of Clyde Edwards-Hellaire to punch it in from the five, but the Texans knew what the play was going to be and simply did their job. Look for Andy Reid to remedy that with alternate formations and looks within the ten and also to get plenty of targets headed in CEH’s direction on Sunday.
Speaking of lack of targets, Austin Ekeler was a virtual zero in the passing game for the new look Chargers, so that is another aspect I expect to be heavily remedied this coming weekend. In doing so, I would expect the carries to trend down a bit and further boost Joshua Kelley as the lead ground game back.
Well, the game went largely according to plan for the Ravens, but there is intrigue with the usage of the running backs on Sunday and Greg Roman’s comments that the position will be a different rotation each week. J.K. Dobbins stands to gain the most right now from that comment and this may be one of the last weeks you can get him for a decent price. Neither he, nor Mark Ingram looked all that dynamic, but my expectation is that the Ravens will get their star rookie going in a friendly match-up this week. It may not change back to Ingram after that.
It seems unfair that the Texans have to start the season against the Chiefs and now the Ravens, but here we are. The Ravens did not defend the run particularly well versus the Browns, so this should be a plus match-up for David Johnson, especially with Duke Johnson banged up and the probability for passing work in the second half, as the Texans play from behind.
One wonders how long Bill Belichick had his dad’s old Navy playbook tucked away, ready to use it when the right QB came along. In an old school attack, Belichick deployed a very QB-centric run-heavy approach to the delight of hard nosed codgers and to the horror of people that actually like offense. Cam Newton will have to open it up a bit more this weekend, against a Seahawks team that played well against the run and got torched in the passing game. That thought, plus Newton’s still capable run ability, makes him extremely safe this week.
In a reversal of typical Pete Carroll scripts, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks passing attack went full aerial this past week. Now there is a big discrepancy between the meh Falcons and the still vaunted Patriots secondary, so I would fully expect the balance to be somewhat restored this week. That gives Chris Carson high end RB2 capability, as he gets more looks on the ground and is still involved in the passing game.
The Saints really didn’t look that great offensively against the Bucs, but they do face an easier match-up against a Raiders team that gave up 388 to the Panthers last Sunday. It’ll be interesting to see who soaks up the standard Michael Thomas target share, with him expected to miss several weeks with a high ankle injury. Remember that Emmanuel Sanders has typically killed it when the lead receivers for his teams have missed time (i.e. Deebo Samuel and Demaryius Thomas). Between him and Alvin Kamara, they could easily be targeted a total of 25 times on Sunday.
I wanted to see Bryan Edwards get his rookie season started off with a bang, against a suspect Panthers secondary, but Derek Carr didn’t look his way much, when he was on the field. The breakout is probably going to have to wait another week, as the alignment plays better to continued groundwork for Josh Jacobs and better circumstances for Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller in the short to intermediate pass game.
Now get out there and put this to use and remember, don’t tinker. Set it and forget it!
Jared Clifton – Host/Dynasty
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