Fantasy Football Week 2: Biggest Takeaways from Last Week
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Apparently running backs didn't watch film of David Wilson fumbling away an opportunity in the season opener a year ago against the Dallas Cowboys. It put him in Tom Coughlin's doghouse and left him worthless to fantasy owners until very late in the season last year.
Heck, David Wilson didn't watch film of David Wilson fumbling his way to the bench.
History repeats itself. Learn from it, dummies.
The woes of some premium running backs putting the pigskin on the turf and their coaches subsequently putting their behinds on the bench are among the biggest developments from the first NFL Sunday. We break down all of the biggest fantasy takeaways of the week in this must-read slideshow.
Doghouse No. 1: RB Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots
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Stevan Ridley had a few close calls Sunday, putting the football on the turf early against the Bills. Then he slipped without getting hit and handed the Bills a long defensive fumble return for a touchdown.
He might have fumbled away the starting running back job along with it.
Bill Belichick had had enough, allowing Shane Vereen to take over the rest of the way. Vereen rushed for 101 yards on 14 carries in addition to reeling in seven passes for 58 yards. If he was a PPR gem before, he is a potential star now.
I'm not going to make any excuses, man. Two balls on the ground is unacceptable. I'm not going to sit on the past. I just have to accept where I messed up and made the mistake and grow from it. ... It's part of the game of football, and I'm going to have to keep working and driving and keep pushing forward. We've got 15 more weeks in front of us.
Those 15 weeks might be more bountiful for Vereen's fantasy owners now. If you didn't handcuff Ridley with Vereen, you might have cost yourself your fantasy season with a bust of a second- or third-round pick.
Ridley continued to the Herald:
Shane's a player, man. I can't take anything from him. He made a few great catches and some nice runs. He's just taking advantage of the opportunities he's given, just like all of us. I'm happy for him. I really am. It sucks for me to be in this situation, but as a teammate, I pat on the back and tell him he did a great job helping us win the game today. ... I have to just man up and come back to work. Put my nose in the dirt and keep grinding.
Belichick's doghouse can be one of the loneliest in football. It can also be a fantasy death sentence. As a Ridley owner, you have to make an aggressive play for Vereen. The ball just might not bounce back Ridley's way, particularly with his history of fumbles.
If you have Vereen, do backflips. He is the fantasy play in Week 2 against the Jets. Ridley is a sit.
Ridley owners learned a valuable lesson of handcuffing, or buying into any running back who has a history of fumble woes for a disciplinarian coach like Belichick.
Doghouse No. 2: RB David Wilson, New York Giants
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If sitting with a minus-3 in your starting lineup as the worst running back in fantasy football doesn't clinch it, this quote pretty much sums up the fantasy disaster for hopeful David Wilson fantasy owners:
"They're not going to play unless they can hang onto the ball," Tom Coughlin said after the Giants' sloppy six-turnover loss to the rival Cowboys.
Not only did Wilson already learn this painful lesson after a fumble on the first official carry of his NFL career last year, but he also did it twice!
First, he lost a fumble in the red zone in the first quarter. Then, he handed the Cowboys a defensive touchdown with another fumble in the third quarter. Da'Rel Scott replaced him, but he tipped an Eli Manning pass into Brandon Carr's hands for the game's deciding touchdown in the fourth quarter.
These players are supposed to be scoring touchdowns for their own team, not the opponents.
The fact that Scott had an equally costly blunder and the Giants have just rookie Michael Cox behind them on the running back depth chart gives Wilson a good chance to regain his starting status, unlike Ridley. Andre Brown (broken leg) is out until Week 10 after being placed on the Designated for Return IR.
Wilson's saving graces for his job are his breakaway potential and the Giants' lack of depth. Still, you cannot trust Wilson in your fantasy lineup in Week 2 against the Broncos. You can add Scott if you want insurance, but don't start him either.
Even if Wilson does retain his job, the Giants might consider bringing in a plodding veteran like Jonathan Dwyer or Beanie Wells, two players they worked out last week. That would mean no goal-line carries for Wilson, even if he becomes the next Tiki Barber-type of cured fumble curse success story.
Surprise! Fred Jackson Still Lives
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This is supposed to be the year C.J. Spiller races to the fantasy elite as Doug Marrone and Co. stop giving Fred Jackson touches in lieu of their breakaway feature back. Such much for that.
Spiller had a fumble early, and while he wasn't benched for it like Stevan Ridley or David Wilson, he did have to surrender touches to Jackson. Jackson combined for 108 total yards (67 rushing on 13 carries). It was far more work than anyone could have imagined.
The situation here was more of a function of adjustments than a benching, though. A tough Patriots run defense was taking Spiller away. The Bills decided Jackson was a better player to use because he wasn't going to be keyed on as much.
"I'm pretty sure they're going to try to come in and stop the run," Spiller told BuffaloBills.com. "I'd be surprised if any team didn't do that and we know that going into the game. We just have to try to find ways to counter them."
Spiller remains a must-start option in all fantasy leagues against the Carolina Panthers in Week 2. Jackson is a must-add handcuff, but he shouldn't be trusted to start or post fantasy-worthy numbers on a regular basis.
Steelers Left Seeing Red, Man
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Oh my, the Steelers stink.
Not only did they fumble away what should have been a fairly sure victory against the Titans, but they also added injury to insult, losing Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey (knee), Larry Foote (biceps) and LaRod Stephens-Howling to injuries that might end their season.
The Steelers defense can still be fantasy-worthy without Foote, but the running game was atrocious against the Titans. They rushed for just 32 yards on 15 carries.
Zone-blocking scheme? More like no-blocking scheme.
"We just didn't get enough going with any of the running backs," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "The game circumstances dictated that we do some things, no-huddle and so forth."
Isaac Redman was another running back who was benched for a fumble, and he didn't make a return in the second half until LS-H was injured. The Steelers offense will be in for a longer day against the Bengals defense in Cincinnati next Monday night.
The good news is Le'Veon Bell might be a candidate to return to help restore a shred of pride for the Steelers' running game. Reports had Bell out for Week 1 because of his missed practice time more than his progress in his recovery from his mid-foot sprain.
The bad news is the Steelers' offense and running game are in shambles, particularly without Pouncey. Bell won't be a viable starter in fantasy at Cincy, but the continued struggles of Redman can force the Steelers to incorporate Bell sooner than later.
Peyton Manning Is Fantasy Football Gold
We got some answers about how Peyton Manning is going to feed all of his children: with a buffet.
The addition of Wes Welker seemed to be too much of a good thing, but Manning managed to make fantasy stars out of Welker, Demaryius Thomas and even new tight end starter Julius Thomas. Manning's seven touchdowns and 462 yards passing decided some fantasy matchups before the Sunday kickoffs.
He did all of that against the defending Super Bowl champions, who had prided themselves on defense. Wow!
You have to pity the Giants defense in Week 2. That offense is just too loaded and too dynamic. You cannot cover all of them, or—like the Ravens failed to—any of them.
Even fourth receiver/fifth or sixth option Andre Caldwell got in on the fun, catching Manning's third touchdown pass.
Via Thomson Reuters, Caldwell told reporters, "It's like Madden to me. Just throwing the ball around a lot of people making plays it just felt like a video game."
Demaryius Thomas added to the video-game theme, saying, "This is the first time I've ever been a part of a game where a quarterback throws seven touchdowns. Not even high school. Maybe Madden, but that doesn't count. This was real life. It was amazing."
Sure, Eric Decker was limited to just two catches for 32 yards, but he was targeted near the goal line on an errant touchdown pass attempt, so he was still in the mix. He remains a viable starter. The throws are going to come back his way as the defense gears up to stop the others.
The question is whether Julius Thomas is a breakout fantasy star.
The answer is not simple, and it won't be the same every week. There are just too many options in the Broncos offense, and they will run the ball more against weaker run defenses than the Ravens'.
Thomas is a must-add in all fantasy leagues, but that doesn't mean he rates as a must-start. He will have some lean weeks like Decker had.
Oh, in case you were wondering: Drop Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen and don't bother adding Caldwell.
Broncos RB Committee Is a Mess
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Those hoping Montee Ball would be a feature back in this potent offense had a worse week than the Ravens pass defense.
When you throw for seven touchdowns and 462 yards, there just isn't much of a need for a running game. The Broncos decided they would attack the Ravens through the air, where they could use their myriad weapons.
It sure didn't help that the Broncos decided to ignore their own published depth chart and start Knowshon Moreno. Ronnie Hillman was the change-of-pace guy, and Ball was the clock-grinder in the second half. Fantasy scoring for the backs wound up being flip-flopped from expectations:
- Moreno: 28 yards rushing (nine carries) and three catches for 37 yards
- Hillman: 15 yards rushing (four carries) and two catches for 27 yards
- Ball: 24 yards rushing (eight carries)
The most important takeaway here is none of the Broncos running backs did enough to factor in fantasy. You cannot start any of them in Week 2 at the New York Giants.
Until there is an injury, it will likely be a rotation too tough to call—even if Ball is going to vulture some goal-line touchdowns from time to time.
Colin Kaepernick Makes Everyone Else Better
We can already admit a potentially colossal mistake here: Colin Kaepernick can be just fine without a premium target. Heck, he makes anyone a premium fantasy option.
Kaepernick was held to just 22 yards rushing, but he gashed the Packers' suspect secondary with 412 yards and three touchdowns through the air, including 208 yards (13 catches) and a touchdown to 32-year-old Anquan Boldin. Vernon Davis looks like an elite tight end again too, adding six catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns.
So much for that bust talk tied to the fact he lost his leading receiver Michael Crabtree to a torn Achilles tendon in the offseason.
Things will be a lot tougher against the Seahawks defense in Seattle next Sunday night, but Kaepernick has immediately earned must-start status in all leagues regardless of the matchup. There is no tougher matchup than the Seahawks defense with its 12th man kicking up noise in Seattle.
Don't dare sit Kaepernick, Boldin or Davis at this point, though. Kaepernick is the type of talent who elevates everyone around him.
Eli Manning Has Healthy Weapons
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Few drafted Eli Manning as a surefire fantasy starter at the deep quarterback position, but this might stand to be his best year yet, at least in terms of yards and touchdowns.
Manning threw three dumb and costly interceptions, but a healthy Victor Cruz was a monster with five catches for 118 yards and three touchdowns, and a healthy Hakeem Nicks (contract year) was strong with five catches for 114 yards. Even new tight end Brandon Myers (seven catches for 66 yards and a touchdown) got in on the action in garbage time.
With the Giant issues at running back—no Ahmad Bradshaw, no Andre Brown (leg) and David Wilson back in the doghouse—Manning is going to have every game on his shoulders. He could be headed for a year of 5,000 yards, 35 touchdowns...and 25 interceptions.
You will take that last stat if you get the first two. Consider him a viable regular starter in fantasy for as long as his receivers stay healthy. That should be some shootout with brother Peyton Manning next Sunday.
Danny Amendola Teeters Between Awful and Awesome
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Watching Danny Amendola reel in 10 passes for 104 yards is a lot more bearable if you can just look at the stats at the end of the day. Watching him play can be a little nerve-racking for his fantasy owners.
Start him and cover your eyes, if you can.
Amendola nearly needed to leave the game with a groin injury, but he came back in the second half with some clutch catches over the middle. He looks just like Wes Welker, yet still injury prone—as everyone suspected.
"I didn't really expect anything to happen in the second half," Tom Brady told the Boston Herald. "I thought he was going to be out for the rest of the game. He showed a lot of toughness, mental and physical, and made some really great plays for us."
In Amendola's words to the Herald:
I didn't know when I came out (about coming back). I really didn't have my legs under me in the first half. It's been tight. But this is football. I came in, made some adjustments and just tried to make as many plays as I could in the second half. It's a painful game sometimes.
It wasn't just the groin injury, though. Amendola was taking shots over the middle too. When you have such an injury-prone player, it has to concern you.
It is reason enough to pick up Julian Edelman as slot-receiver insurance. That would have been the suggestion here even if Edelman didn't reel in seven catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns.
Kenbrell Thompkins' debut was modest (four catches for 42 yards on 14 targets), Zach Sudfeld didn't have a catch (one target that went for an interception), Josh Boyce was also shut out (just two targets) and second-round pick Aaron Dobson (hamstring) was inactive. Dobson might not have played even if he was 100 percent.
Those reasons might force the Pats to consider debuting Rob Gronkowski (back) on Thursday night against the Jets. Watch that early this week.
Tight Ends Are All over the Place, as Expected
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When we say tight ends were all over the place, we meant they were all over the end zone. Four tight ends scored multiple touchdowns, with the Rams' Jared Cook leading the way with seven catches for 141 yards and two scores.
We said picking tight ends before the late rounds was a bad idea. It was because the likes of Cook, Julius Thomas (5-110-2), Jordan Cameron (9-108-1), Brandon Myers (7-66-1) and Martellus Bennett (3-49-1) were on the board in the late rounds.
Thomas and revived Jet Kellen Winslow (7-79-1) might not have even been drafted in your league. They are adds at the sketchy tight end position now—and this is still a position your roster should only have one of.
While all of those numbers above are great, don't get used to them. The happened as a result of defenses sleeping on them just like fantasy owners did. With their debut success, that won't happen every week.
Someone in your league is going to drop a Kyle Rudolph or Greg Olsen for one of those above, merely following the numbers. The targets, catches and touchdowns can go back to the tight ends their own offensive play-callers slept on in Week 1.
What's Next for Week 2...
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If you are looking for more reviews of the fantasy landscape heading into Week 2, be sure to come back here for the Week 2 Rankings (Monday afternoon) and the Week 2 Waiver Wire (Tuesday afternoon). Later in the week, we give you a fantasy insider's notebook (Wednesday) and Friday's must-read position breakdown.
Finally, put the finishing touches on your lineup decision with Saturday's Start 'Em, Sit 'Em. We promise to be more successful with our picks there this week.
Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, is the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this season. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game. You can also listen to him on his podcast that he deprecatingly dubbed the Fantasy FatCast.