Fantasy Football: Matchups to avoid and exploit in Week 2
Ryan Fitzpatrick conjured 42.28 fantasy points in New Orleans — the most by any player at any position since Le’Veon Bell hung 47 on Buffalo in December 2016. Bell’s holdout replacement, James Connor, scored more points than every back in Week 1 not named Alvin Kamara, whose Rookie of the Year encore was a cool career-high 131 yards from scrimmage and three TDs.
Tyreek Hill was WR1 and PR1 (if you’re into that sort of thing), with 268 all-purpose yards and three TDs. Finally, Seahawks rookie Will Dissly (who?) edged Rob Gronkowski to pace the TE position, which was crushed by injuries to stalwarts Delanie Walker and Greg Olsen. Welcome back, fantasy football!
MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT
Washington vs. Colts
It’s fitting that perhaps the NFL’s most volatile skill group resides in our nation’s capital. But last week it was all about value as Washington invaded the desert with new starting QB Alex Smith ripping the Cardinals with a two-headed backfield of Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson, along with TE Jordan Reed. As long as the latter two are healthy, consider them must starts; Peterson, age 33, seems likely to fade eventually but not this week vs. the Colts, who just let Joe Mixon do his best A.D. impersonation.
Don’t hesitate: QB Alex Smith, RBs Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson, WR Jamison Crowder, TE Jordan Reed
Think twice (but it’s alright): WRs Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson
Chiefs (at Steelers)
One of the crazier stats from the Chiefs going into L.A. and putting 38 on the Chargers: Travis Kelce played every snap, yet finished only with one catch (for 6 yards) for just the fourth time in his career. We’re going out on a limb and saying that won’t happen again Sunday against Pittsburgh’s safeties. Pat Mahomes? He’s probably gone from fringe QB1 to possible QB1 overall in just one week. That’s what a four-TD road devastation of the Chargers will do. There will still be some ups and downs, we imagine, but his upside appears too great to have on your bench.
Don’t hesitate: QB Pat Mahomes, RB Kareem Hunt, WR Tyreek Hill, WR Sammy Watkins, TE Travis Kelce
Don’t do it: RBs Anthony Sherman and Spencer Ware
Steelers (at Chiefs)
When Vegas sets the point total at 52 ½, you bet we’re playing both sides of the action. Big Ben had four picks last week in a tie in Cleveland (of course it was Cleveland) and showed up on the injury report with an elbow issue. Mike Tomlin doesn’t sound too worried, though, so neither are we. No, it’s Le’Veon Bell who might want to worry after seeing James Conner handle 36 touches and 92 percent of the offensive snaps in a monster starting debut. The Chiefs just let Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler combine for 292 yards from scrimmage and two scores, and Conner apparently will get the Bell workload treatment. He’s not going to put up Bell numbers weekly, we don’t think, but we love his encore opportunity.
Don’t hesitate: QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB James Conner, WRs Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster
Don’t do it: WR James Washington, TE Jesse James
Jets (vs. Dolphins)
From the outhouse and our avoid section in Week 1 to the penthouse and our exploit space in Week 2, Sam Darnold’s Jets really are living large. Seriously, the No. 3 overall draft pick was super impressive, particularly given he was pick-sixed on his first NFL attempt then showed awesome poise, pocket awareness and playmaking ability down the field. We’re not ready to start Darnold yet, but his skill guys get a big bump based on his first appearance, especially Quincy Enunwa, who was targeted 10 times (6-63-1 receiving). That Bilal Powell and Isaiah Crowell split the workload evenly (24 snaps each) doesn’t help sort things out, but Miami’s run ‘D’ creates flex appeal for each of them.
Don’t hesitate: WR Robby Anderson, RB Bilal Powell
Think twice (but it’s alright): RB Isaiah Crowell, WR Quncy Enunwa
Don’t do it: QB Sam Darnold
MATCHUPS TO AVOID
Dolphins (at Jets)
Speaking of muddled backfields, Kenyan Drake out-snapped Frank Gore 46-18 but parlayed his 17 score-less touches into only 66 yards (compared to 9-61 for Gore). The Jets, meanwhile, dominated the Lions in every possible way, including limiting their run game to 2.6 yards per carry. We get it — that was the Lions. But New York had a top-11 run ‘D’ per Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric last season and looked really strong out of the chute. There isn’t much we feel great about for fantasy’s sake in South Beach except Kenny Stills.
Don’t hesitate: WR Kenny Stills
Think twice (but it’s alright): RB Kenyan Drake
Don’t do it: WRs Danny Amendola, Albert Wilson, TE Mike Gesicki
Cardinals (at Rams)
No offense, with the exception of Buffalo’s, inspired less confidence in Week 1 than Sam Bradford’s Cardinals, which might be good news for Josh Rosen but not so much for David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. No, we’re not telling you to sit either of them, but understand that a lingering Rams defensive front is obviously even better than the Washington group that was in Bradford’s face all day (4.5 YPA). We do like TE Ricky Seals-Jones, though, coming off a quiet outing in a huge role (92 percent of offensive snaps) six days after Jared Cook’s career night vs. the Rams.
Don’t hesitate: RB David Johnson, WR Larry Fitzgerald
Think twice (but it’s alright): TE Ricky Seals-Jones
Don’t do it: WRs Chad Williams, Christian Kirk
Jaguars (vs. Patriots)
Perhaps the Jaguars trust Blake Bortles this time around, unlike in the AFC Championship game, but that doesn’t mean you suddenly should. Not after his no-turnover directive from Doug Marrone lasted all of 10 minutes into the 2018 season. And not with Leonard Fournette already nursing a sore hammy. Keelan Cole did appear to be the WR1, even if Dede Westbrook and Fournette replacement T.J. Yeldon were targeted more. Enjoy the Jalen Ramsey-Rob Gronkowski pregame embrace, not the Jaguars’ fantasy prospects.
Don’t hesitate: RB Leonard Fournette (check status)
Think twice (but it’s alright): RB T.J. Yeldon (check Fournette’s status), WR Keelan Cole
Don’t do it: QB Blake Bortles, WRs Dede Westbrook, Donte Moncrief, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Bills (vs. Chargers)
Nate Peterman tossed five first-half interceptions against the Chargers in his NFL starting debut last season and somehow logged a lower passer rating last week in Baltimore before being benched in favor of Josh Allen. What Buffalo really needs is a camp arm to save Peterman the embarrassment of playing the Chargers again and protect Allen from Melvin Ingram. In fairness, the Chargers ‘D’ was bad a week ago, but that was against Pat Mahomes and Tyreek Hill.
Think twice (but it’s alright): RB LeSean McCoy