Fantasy Football Week 2: Confident Calls on Toughest Lineup Decisions
Now that the first week of the 2018 NFL season is in the books, the overreactions have run rampant. It's true for fantasy football as well.
Based on Week 1 alone, you might be led to believe that Ben Roethlisberger has reached the cliff, that Patrick Mahomes is already an elite quarterback or that Kenny Golladay is the new Calvin Johnson. Obviously, we'll have to let more of the season play out before confirming or dispelling such notions.
What we don't need to wait to know is that guys like Todd Gurley, Julio Jones and Antonio Brown are fantasy must-starts even against the toughest matchups. Other players? Well, things can get a little trickier.
We're here to help decipher whether some second-tier starters and flex options deserve to get the start against rough Week 2 opponents. We'll be factoring in what we saw in Week 1, but we'll also try to avoid the overreactions.
We'll be making our choices based on point-per-reception (PPR) scoring formats.
QB Ben Roethlisberger vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was a fantasy disaster in Week 1. Sure, he passed for 335 yards and a touchdown, but he also had five turnovers.
Does this mean Big Ben should be banished to free agency for the remainder of the season? No. In fact, if you have Roethlisberger on your roster, now is the perfect time to start him.
While Roethlisberger didn't look good on the road in Week 1, running back James Conner did. This means the absence of Le'Veon Bell should no longer be a concern. Pittsburgh's offense will be at full strength in its home opener.
Roethlisberger is typically a more efficient quarterback when playing at home—between 2013 and 2017, he held an average passer rating that was 17.2 points higher than when on the road in the regular season. He'll also be going against a Kansas City Chiefs defense that allowed 418 passing yards last week, the second-most of Week 1.
You'll want to keep an eye on the elbow injury Roethlisberger is dealing with, but he's regularly played through injuries in the past. Unless the Steelers officially rule him out Sunday morning, the QB is starting material in Week 2.
Projection: 335 yards passing, 4 TD, 1 INT
QB Matt Ryan vs. Carolina Panthers
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan finds himself in a situation similar to Roethlisberger's. He bombed out in Week 1, and he'll be making his home debut in Week 2.
There's less reason to believe Ryan will bounce back, though. For one, he'll be facing a stiffer defense. The Carolina Panthers allowed just 138 yards passing last week, third-fewest in the league.
While one should be wary of overvaluing the Panthers' performance against Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys' patchwork receiving corps, it's worth noting that Carolina ranked seventh in total yards allowed (317.1 per game) for all of last season.
Ryan will have a particularly difficult time against the Panthers if they are able to lock down his favorite target. Ryan only connected with five pass-catchers in Week 1. Only 82 of his 251 passing yards were caught by guys not named Julio Jones.
The Falcons may not have running back Devonta Freeman at 100 percent either. According to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, Freeman missed practice early in the week due to being sore.
Projection: 212 yards passing, 1 TD, 2 INT
RB Christian McCaffrey vs. Atlanta Falcons
While Ryan struggled mightily in the 2018 season opener, the same cannot be said about the Falcons defense. It allowed the third-fewest yards of the week (232) and a mere 18 points. This may make you hesitant to start versatile running back Christian McCaffrey in Week 2, but he should be a safe play.
Now, let's be clear. If you're in a standard league, McCaffrey isn't going to have as much value. Carolina's ground game also involves Cam Newton and C.J. Anderson. McCaffrey had a good-but-not-great 95 combined rushing and receiving yards in Week 1 with no scores.
Since we're looking at PPR, though, there's absolutely no way we'd suggest sitting McCaffrey, even against a fast and physical Falcons defense that is playing at home. When you add the six receptions he had in Week 1, his fantasy value looks a whole lot better.
McCaffrey should be a safe start in all formats this week, as the Panthers are going to want to use him often to counter Atlanta's fearsome pass rush. He'll regularly be seeing the ball as a runner and as an outlet receiver.
Projection: 55 yards rushing, 7 receptions, 60 yards receiving, 1 TD
RB Jamaal Williams vs. Minnesota Vikings
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers may play Sunday, but he isn't going to be at 100 percent after suffering a knee sprain in Week 1.
"I want to play obviously," Rodgers said after missing practice Wednesday, per Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. "You're just taking it one day at a time."
This means the Packers should protect Rodgers with the running game, and therefore, you should be safe to start running back Jamaal Williams, right? Well, not so fast.
While Williams did see 15 carries in Week 1 to Ty Montgomery's two, he didn't do much with his opportunities (3.1 yards per carry). He isn't likely to fare much better this week against the Minnesota Vikings, who allowed just 90 total rushing yards last week.
Even if Williams doubled his touches last week (he had no receptions), he would fall short of 100 yards. It's unlikely the Packers are going to give him 30 carries, though, so your best bet is to send him to the bench or drop him entirely and try to grab Aaron Jones in free agency. His suspension ends after this week.
Projection: 52 yards rushing, 1 reception, 6 yards receiving
WR Davante Adams vs. Minnesota Vikings
Just because you should avoid Williams doesn't mean you should avoid every Packers offensive player. Obviously, Rodgers is a must-start as long as he's capable of standing upright in the pocket. And if Rodgers is under center, you should be fine starting wideout Davante Adams.
Because Green Bay's running game is so underwhelming, Rodgers is going to be tasked with carrying the offense. He also may be forced to mount another comeback like he did in Week 1—the Vikings did jump out to a 24-6 lead over the San Francisco 49ers last week.
This should lead to plenty of opportunities for Adams, who had 88 yards and a touchdown in Week 1.
Adams may be the only Packers receiver you should feel good about starting, though. While Randall Cobb (142 yards, 1 TD) did have a tremendous game in Week 1, he hasn't traditionally been reliable against the rival Vikings. He covered 62 yards in his best game against them.
Naturally, you'll want to keep an eye on Rodgers' (knee) and Adams' (shoulder) injuries. However, the bottom line here is to start Rodgers and Adams if both are healthy but beware of just about everyone else on Green Bay's offense.
Projection: 6 receptions, 90 yards, 1 TD
WR Amari Cooper vs. Denver Broncos
Oakland Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper caught just one pass for nine yards in the season opener. This prompted head coach Jon Gruden to emphasize the need to use him more.
"We'll have to get Amari going this week," Gruden said, per Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle. "It's easier said than done when you've got [Bradley] Roby and Chris Harris, and a fierce pass rush that doesn't let you drop back and let these routes develop."
Herein lies the problem with starting Cooper. The Denver Broncos do indeed have a pair of talented cornerbacks in Roby and Harris. They also have an impressive group of pass-rushers that includes Von Miller, Bradley Chubb and Shaq Barrett.
No Seattle Seahawks wideout produced more than 60 receiving yards last week against Denver—though tight end Will Dissly did top the 100-yard mark.
Tight end Jared Cook, who had 180 yards last week, may be a safe bet against the Broncos. Cooper, however, is unequivocally not. He had just 18 yards in two combined games against Denver last season.
Projection: 3 receptions, 27 yards
WR Kenny Stills vs. New York Jets
The New York Jets decimated the Detroit Lions on Monday night. They also made Matthew Stafford and the Lions offense look foolish in the process, picking off Detroit quarterbacks five times. Does this mean you should avoid Miami Dolphins players when the Jets host them in Week 2?
Not all of them.
Wide receiver Kenny Stills should be a safe start. While the Jets did come away with a number of turnovers, they allowed Kenny Golladay to rack up seven receptions and 114 yards. Stills, who has emerged as Ryan Tannehill's top target—and who had 106 yards and two scores last week—should be able to have high-end production.
Remember, New York's dominance of Stafford may not have been all about talent.
"We knew his signals," linebacker Darron Lee said, per ESPN.com's Rich Cimini.
The Jets never sacked Stafford or backup Matt Cassel, and if they cannot pressure Tannehill, Stills is going to have opportunities to make plays.
Projection: 6 receptions, 98 yards, 1 TD
WR Phillip Dorsett vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
When you're catching passes from Tom Brady, you're going to get some fantasy attention. This is where wideout Phillip Dorsett finds himself, especially after grabbing seven receptions, 66 yards and a touchdown in Week 1.
Dorsett is likely to remain a large part of the Patriots' passing attack as long as Julian Edelman is sidelined, and perhaps even after that. Here's the problem, though. The Patriots are traveling to face the Jacksonville Jaguars this week.
Given the state of New England's receivers, Dorsett is likely to draw a lot of coverage by shutdown corner Jalen Ramsey.
The other problem is that the Patriots change up their game plan from week to week. Passes to wide receivers may not even be a big part of the strategy this week. New England is likely to attack on the ground, as the run is the one thing the Jaguars defense is susceptible to. Jacksonville ranked just 21st in run defense last season (116.2 yards per game) and ranks 16th after one week in 2018 (114 yards).
Dorsett is going to grab a few receptions, but they're likely to be of the short and relatively meaningless variety.
Projection: 4 receptions, 47 yards
TE Eric Ebron vs. Washington Redskins
Tight end Eric Ebron is quickly becoming a favorite target for Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. The two hooked up for four receptions, 51 yards and a touchdown. Those are starter-worthy stats, but should Ebron be a target for your starting lineup? He'll be on the road against a Redskins defense that only allowed 145 yards passing in Week 1.
The answer is yes, and for a couple of reasons.
For one, the Redskins faced Sam Bradford and the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1. Andrew Luck and Bradford are not close to being the same quarterback, despite what Bradford's contract might suggest. The success of Washington's pass defense in Week 1 was likely a product of Bradford's struggles and his lack of talented targets.
Washington's defense may still be very good, but Luck is going to find some holes.
The second reason is that Luck is going to keep looking Ebron's way as long as he produces. Given it was a fumble by fellow tight end Jack Doyle that cost Indianapolis the game in Week 1, Ebron may be the only tight end Luck trusts in Week 2.
Projection: 5 receptions, 64 yards, 1 TD
Cleveland Browns D/ST vs. New Orleans Saints
Chances are you didn't draft the defense and special teams of the 0-16 Cleveland Browns at the beginning of the year. After watching the Browns pile up six turnovers and four sacks—while giving up a middle-of-the-road 21 points—you might consider picking the unit up.
Don't do it. While Cleveland's defense does appear to be a unit that could finish the season near the top, there is a lot working against it this week.
For one, the Browns are traveling to face the New Orleans Saints in the Superdome. While they shellacked one future Hall of Fame quarterback in Roethlisberger in Week 1, they'll be facing Drew Brees on his turf—and it will be turf, unlike the waterlogged natural grass the Steelers had to play on in Cleveland.
The Saints won't have to worry about the heavy winds and pouring rain that almost certainly helped create some of Cleveland's Week 1 turnovers.
Oh, and let's not pretend the Saints won't be looking to spit out the bad taste of their 48-40 home-opening loss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
If you're in a position to stream your defense, revisit the Browns in Week 3.
Projection: 34 points allowed, 3 sacks, 1 FF, 1 INT