Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 2: Smart Matchup Plays, Sleepers and More

David McCracken@crackemcFeatured ColumnistSeptember 12, 2017

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 10: Carson Palmer #3 of the Arizona Cardinals warms up prior to the start of the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on September 10, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit defeated Arizona 35-23. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

With Week 1 of the 2017 NFL season on the books, fantasy football fans are even more confused about their starting lineups for the next 16 weeks.

Most confusing of all was the lack of touches future of Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson got Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings. Peterson finished his debut for the New Orleans Saints with six carries for 18 yards, leaving his fantasy owners more upset than he was on the sidelines during Monday's game.

If there's one thing we know about fantasy football, it's that we don't know much at all. With that in mind, let's look ahead to Week 2, where some players have some mouth-watering matchups on paper that can erase the bad memories of Week 1.

Here are this week's top matchups for each offensive position: 

QB

- Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers) vs. Buffalo Bills

- Sam Bradford (Minnesota Vikings) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

- Tom Brady (New England Patriots) vs. New Orleans Saints

- Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers) vs. Atlanta Falcons

           

Top matchup play: Derek Carr (Oakland Raiders) vs. New York Jets

NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 10:  Quarterback Derek Carr #4 of the Oakland Raiders plays against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on September 10, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Derek Carr is always primed for a breakout performance with the dangerous weapons he has on offense in Oakland, but going up against the New York Jets this upcoming week is money in the bank.

The Jets are, to put it kindly, downright terrible. They allowed LeSean McCoy to run all over them for 110 yards while allowing the Bills, a mediocre offense with some question marks at quarterback and at the receiver position, to put up 21 points on them.

Carr is projected to score 18.19 points this week in standard Yahoo fantasy leagues, and that's being generous to the Jets defense. Look for Carr to put up at least three touchdowns to go along with a 300-plus-yard game.

          

Sleeper: Carson Palmer (Arizona Cardinals) vs. Indianapolis Colts

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 10: Carson Palmer #3 of the Arizona Cardinals drops back to pass during the third quarter of the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on September 10, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit defeated Arizona 35-23. (Photo by Leo
Leon Halip/Getty Images

Calling Carson Palmer a sleeper at this point in his career feels wrong for all he's accomplished, but he is primed to have an absolute field day against the Indianapolis Colts, who just made second-year quarterback Jared Goff look like Aaron Rodgers.

The Colts might have been the most shockingly bad team in football, and that's saying something considering the likes of the Jets and San Francisco 49ers both showed their true colors on Sunday. But the Colts were supposed to be a Super Bowl contender just a couple years ago before the franchise spiraled out of control, mainly because of the health of Andrew Luck.

But even without Luck, there's no excuse for the Colts defense to surrender 306 passing yards to Goff, who completed 21-of-29 passing, and a score en route to conceding 32 points for the game (the other 14 points the Los Angeles Rams scored were from defensive touchdowns).

If the Colts can make Goff look like a starting caliber quarterback in the NFL, imagine what Palmer will look like with actual talent on the field. Don't be surprised to see Palmer sling the football around like its 2015 again. 

       

RB

- DeMarco Murray (Tennessee Titans) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars 

- Jay Ajayi (Miami Dolphins) Los Angeles Chargers 

- LeSean McCoy (Buffalo Bills) vs. Carolina Panthers

- Mark Ingram (New Orleans Saints) vs. New England Patriots

          

Top matchup play: Kareem Hunt (Kansas City Chiefs) vs. Philadelphia Eagles

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 07:  Kareem Hunt #27 of the Kansas City Chiefs runs the ball during the second half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 7, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Last week's ultimate sleeper is now the most valuable asset in fantasy football.

Kareem Hunt put the NFL on notice with an unreal performance in Week 1 against the Patriots, scoring 40.60 points in standard Yahoo leagues. Not bad for a rookie, huh?

Now that the secret is out about his game-changing ability, it's on opposing defensive coordinators to figure out a way to stop him. Hunt appears to be the clear bell-cow for the Chiefs with Spencer Ware out injured, and he is also capable of getting catches out of the backfield.

While this may be too much too soon for Hunt, he has all the makings to be the next Jamaal Charles-type player in Kansas City. Watch out, Philadelphia Eagles. Hunt is coming. 

          

Sleeper: Alvin Kamara (New Orleans Saints) vs. New England Patriots 

CARSON, CA - AUGUST 20:  Alvin Kamara #41 of the New Orleans Saints runs the ball down field during the first quarter of the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at the StubHub Center on August 20, 2017 in Carson, California.  (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Ge
Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images

No one is quite sure what's happening with the Saints' backfield, except that rookie Alvin Kamara is out-touching the likes of Peterson and Mark Ingram. 

Kamara was on the field more than Ingram and Peterson were Monday against the Vikings, and he showed flashes of why he belongs in New Orleans' backfield. Kamara has a similar skill set to Kareem Hunt, and I thought that both backs coming out of college were eerily similar in terms of agility and the ability to read a defense.

While Hunt has already exceeded my expectations, Kamara will be eager to prove why he should be the bell-cow for the Saints.

Look for Kamara to feature as the Saints third-down back from here on out, putting up Darren Sproles-like numbers in terms of receptions and yards. He'll be a nice addition to your lineup in the FLEX position.

           

WR

- Dez Bryant (Dallas Cowboys) vs. Denver Broncos

- Julio Jones (Atlanta Falcons) vs. Green Bay Packers

- Eric Decker (Tennessee Titans) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

- Brandin Cooks (New England Patriots) vs. New Orleans Saints

           

Top matchup to play: DeAndre Hopkins (Houston Texans) vs. Cincinnati Bengals

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 10:  DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Houston Texans and Deshaun Watson #4 celebrate after a score in the third quarter at NRG Stadium on September 10, 2017 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

When you lose at home to the Jacksonville Jaguars, a lot of self-reflection needs to be done before moving on to the next week.

But perhaps the only player in Houston's locker room who was able to put together a respectable game was wideout DeAndre Hopkins, who was able to haul in seven receptions for 55 yards and a score this past Sunday. 

Hopkins, as usual, is the only saving grace for the Texans offense. Going up against the Bengals this upcoming week will be a true test for the Texans and rookie Deshaun Watson, if he gets the nod as the team's new starting quarterback after he replaced Tom Savage under center in the second half against Jacksonville.

Watson will be out on a mission to prove he's a franchise quarterback and will look to air the ball out Sunday, continually looking for Hopkins down the field. For Hopkins fantasy owners, here's to hoping for a Clemson Tigers connection that will blossom with touchdowns and game-winning catches for years to come.

But for now, look for Hopkins to receive the lion's share of targets after he got 16 looks this past Sunday. That number will only go up. 

           

Sleeper: Jordan Matthews (Buffalo Bills) vs. Carolina Panthers

Sep 10, 2017; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Jordan Matthews (87) runs with the ball against the New York Jets during the third quarter at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Bills passing game was, for the lack of a better word, iffy against the Jets. But no matter, things can only get better with time. And hoping to assimilate himself in a new system will be wideout Jordan Matthews, who is easily the most talented receiver playing for the Bills.

After moving over from Philadelphia to Buffalo, Matthew has had some injury concerns that have kept him out of the preseason and a lot of practice, but he was able to play this Sunday against New York, totaling two receptions for 61 yards, including a 47-yard bomb downfield.

Going up against a Panthers secondary that hasn't quite recovered since losing cornerback Josh Norman to free agency, Matthews will continue to get looks downfield if he is in one-on-one coverage. Besides McCoy, Matthews is the best option for the Bills on offense. And the more time he has to learn how to play with Taylor, the better he will be in fantasy. Keep an eye out for Matthews to find the end zone this week. 

               

TE

- OJ Howard (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) vs. Chicago Bears 

- Jordan Reed (Washington Redskins) vs. Los Angeles Rams

- Jimmy Graham (Seattle Seahawks) vs. San Francisco 49ers

- Jack Doyle (Indianapolis Colts) vs. Arizona Cardinals

         

Top matchup to play: Rob Gronkowski (New England Patriots) vs. New Orleans Saints

Aug 31, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) before game against the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Among the fantasy duds in Week 1, one of the more popular names in the NFL was disappointing, to say the least. 

Rob Gronkowski, the athletic freak playing the tight end position for the Patriots, left many fantasy owners disgusted last Thursday against the Chiefs with his 33 total yards on two receptions with zero touchdowns.

Expectations for Gronkowski are always sky-high, but this year even more so since Brady's safety net in Julian Edelman is done for the season after injuring himself in preseason. 

Gronkowski will come back and dominate. He has to. He's the Gronk for a reason. The Saints are Swiss cheese on defense, and no man is better suited for ripping apart a secondary than Gronkowski. Gronkowski will make up for points lost last week with a multiple-touchdown performance to put all the Patriots' critics to rest.

         

Sleeper: Travis Kelce (Kansas City Chiefs) vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Sep 7, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA;  Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) celebrates a fourth quarter touchdown by running back Kareem Hunt (27) (not pictured) at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Moving on from one athletic freak to another is Travis Kelce. You might be wondering why Kelce is in the sleeper section in this article—after all, he's an elite player—but he is flying wildly under the radar in the Chiefs new-look offense, getting fewer looks than Tyreek Hill and Hunt in Week 1. 

Kelce finished with a disappointing five receptions for 40 yards, which is concerning, as the Chiefs were able to look elsewhere for offensive production rather than just force feeding Kelce. That sounds like a bad thing for fantasy owners if Kelce isn't getting many touches, but this is the best thing for his value at the end of the day.

With Hill and Hunt becoming viable options on offense, Kelce won't have to worry about double-coverage as often, especially with a safety playing deep downfield in case Hill goes long. Kelce should enjoy one-on-one coverage with regularity this season and will make the most of his opportunities when covered by linebackers this season.

Is Kelce really a sleeper? Not really. But he's being undervalued in Kansas City's offense, which will allow him to operate freely over the middle of the field. Kelce won't get close to double-digit targets or receptions against the Eagles in Week 2, but he should get some love from Alex Smith in the red zone and in play-action plays. Start Kelce knowing that he won't let you down against Philadelphia. 

All stats courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise noted. 

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