What a start to the NFL season. After many long weeks of waiting and waiting, football came back with a force over the past week. From key injuries, to star players not performing, to defenses being some of the top scorers in fantasy football, there are a lot of different story lines to cover. All things considered, here are my Start‘em and Sit‘em candidates for Week 2.
QB Start of the Week: Derek Carr (OAK) vs. NYJ
Derek Carr started the 2017 season off well with 262 yards, two TDs and no INTs against the Titans. The Raiders offense as a whole looked good with its new additions (RB Marshawn Lynch and OL Kelechi Osemele), but the passing attack in particular looked very impressive and should in for a big 2017 season. Carr also shook off any injury concerns fantasy owners may have after coming back from his gruesome broken fibula injury in December of 2016.
Carr is an excellent start this week not only due to his team’s success, but also because of the juicy matchup he faces. The Raiders are up against the Jets, a team that allowed 224 yards and 2 TDs against the Bills passing offense in Week 1. Look for a big game from Derek Carr this week.
QB Start‘em: Marcus Mariota (TEN) vs. JAX
Marcus Mariota had a fairly positive game against the mediocre Raiders defense with 256 passing yards, 26 yards on the ground and one rushing TD. He, like Derek Carr, also erased any injury doubt that owners may have had after suffering a similar broken fibula injury in 2016. His ability to create plays with his legs always gives Mariota an advantage in fantasy football. Even if he does not have a stellar day passing the ball, he can have a safe floor based on the rushing yards he can typically produce. Jacksonville’s defense had a good showing against the Texans last week, which may cause some fantasy owners to be hesitant on Mariota; but I would not fear. The Titans offensive line (4th in the league according to Pro Football Focus) is far better that the Texans (29th in the league by the same measure), which should keep Mariota upright. Plus, Mariota did well against the Jaguars in 2016: 369 passing yards and three TDs in 1.5 games (injured in the second matchup). Start Mariota confidently this week.
QB Start‘em: Jameis Winston (TB) vs. CHI
With the suspension of the Bucs-Dolphins game due to Hurricane Irma, a lot of fantasy owners were at a loss and having to scramble to find fill-ins for some of their key players. One of those players that many had to bench and replace was Jameis Winston. Many experts have projected Winston to make a leap from his QB11 finish in 2016 to being an elite QB1 this season. While his Week 1 bye does put a damper on his season-long projection, I am expecting a big first game for Winston in this Week 2 matchup. The Bears were shredded by the Falcons last week, allowing 321 yards through the air to Matt Ryan and company. With this great matchup and the extra week of rest, expect a big day from Winston.
RB Start of the Week: Terrance West (BAL) vs. CLE
The Ravens backfield so far this season has been one of the more interesting situations in all of the NFL. It started with the signing of Danny Woodhead, a spry pass catching back coming off of a torn ACL in his eighth season. Then came the sudden suspension of perceived starter Kenneth Dixon, and the subsequent torn meniscus that would hold him out of the 2017 season. This led to a starting role being open in Baltimore, which was won out in part by last year’s leading rusher for the team: Terrance West. The work load projections were discussed by many this offseason, trying to figure out who would be the best back to have in Baltimore. After Week 1, this proved to be West; turning in 80 yards on 19 rushes and scoring one TD. Now, Danny Woodhead did leave the game in the first quarter after re-aggravating his hamstring that he has had problems with this offseason, which lead to more production for West. But anyone that started West last week was happy with his performance on the field.
Moving forward, this is West’s backfield to lose. Reports have stated that Woodhead will be out for six to eight weeks, giving West a good share of the potential snaps for the foreseeable future. This week the Ravens take on the Browns, which should be a positive matchup for West. While the Steelers struggled in the run game against the Browns in Week 1 (32 yards allowed), I think this had more to do with their passing game success and Pittsburgh’s play calling than the Browns defense. With an open backfield and a good matchup, start West in Week 2.
RB Start‘em: Mike Gillislee (NE) vs. NO
Mike Gillislee had a very surprising start to the 2017 season. His transition to the New England backfield left many fantasy football owners wondering who they would be getting with this player. Would they be getting LeGarrette Blount Lite, a goal line back that has the ability to score double digit touchdowns? Or would they be getting Jonas Grey 2.0, a big potential back that would fail to impress many owners in 2017 due to an inconsistent role and usage? Well, we all found out Thursday night. Gillislee had a whooping three TDs in Week 1, along with 45 yards on 15 rushes. He finished the week as the #2 back in most formats, delighting all that took the chance on him. Gillislee showed that as long as the Patriots get down near the goal line, he will be fantasy relevant this season. The Patriots face the Saints this week who were carved up by Dalvin Cook for 127 yards in Week 1. While I don’t expect another monster three touchdown day from Gillislee, I do think he will be a fine start as an RB2 with RB1 upside.
RB Start‘em: Jonathan Stewart (CAR) vs. BUF
Jonathan Stewart was a running back that many owners felt queasy about last week. His role was questionable to start the week; many did not know how many touches he would receive in Week 1 and moving forward into 2017. Rookie running back Christian McCaffrey was slated to be the top backfield weapon in Carolina coming into the game, leaving Stewart’s starting percentage at 12% across ESPN formats in Week 1. For those that buckled in and started him, they enjoyed a sweet ride; as Stewart had 65 rushing yards on 18 attempts along with one receiving TD. The Panthers face off against the Bills this week, a team that held the Jets running backs to under 40 yards rushing. This defense may seem like a tough matchup, but I think the Jets are more of a bad team than the Bills are a good defense; allowing me to have faith that Stewart will be a underrated start in Week 2.
WR Start of the Week: Copper Kupp (LAR) vs. WSH
After being overshadowed by other WR prospects in this past draft, Cooper Kupp landed in LA being selected by the Rams in the third round. His fantasy relevance seemed to be minimal this season, with the Rams having a bad passing offense in 2016 and not improving much over the offseason. However, Kupp gained some hype after having a strong training camp and impressing in some preseason matchups, (specifically his six receptions, 70 yards and one TD in game two versus Oakland). Kupp carried that momentum into the Rams’ matchup against the Colts last week with four receptions, 76 yards and one TD. Kupp looked great on the field and was Jared Goff’s top target in the game with 6 total targets.
The Rams face the Redskins this week; who were just lit up by Wentz and the Eagles, surrendering 307 yards through the air and three TDs. While Goff may cool down in this matchup, look for Kupp to still be heavily targeted and have a safe floor in this Week 2 matchup.
WR Start‘em: Stefon Diggs/Adam Thielen (MIN) vs. PIT
While many fantasy football owners and football fans in general expected a modest game from Sam Bradford and the Minnesota passing offense this past week, he obliterated the Saints defense and emerged as a top QB in Week 1. The main beneficiaries of this Sam Bradford renaissance were his two primary wide receivers: Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Both wide outs had monster games, scoring over 20 points in 0.5 PPR formats and finishing as the #2 and #5 wide receivers of Week 1 in most formats. No WR duo on the same team combined for more fantasy production than Diggs and Thielen last week, and with their next matchup I would say that they both would be excellent starts this upcoming game. The Vikings play the Steelers, a pass defense that is suspect at best. They finished 2016 as the 16th best defense against the pass, and while they did add former Pro Bowler Joe Haden recently, I do not fear them as a team defense in this matchup. Look to start both Diggs and Thielen this week.
WR Start‘em: DeSean Jackson (TB) vs. CHI
One of the biggest offseason acquisitions for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2017 was WR DeSean Jackson. His big play ability should help open up what was a fairly good passing offense last season (16th in the league based on most metrics). While we missed out on seeing what this new addition would look like on the field (thanks Irma), we should be in store for a good performance from Jackson this week. The extra week of practice that the Buccaneers received will help mend any possible chemistry questions the team may have. Plus, this matchup is an excellent one for Jackson. The Bucs face off against the Bears, a team that gave up 321 yards to the Falcons passing attack in Week 1. Where this especially helps Jackson is the Bears allowed four passing plays over 20 yards, including two plays of over 40 yards (tied for most in the NFL so far this season.) The Bears seem to be vulnerable to the deep pass play, something Jackson excels at. Start Jackson as your WR2/Flex this week.
TE Start of the Week: Jimmy Graham (SEA) vs. SF
One of the NFL’s best athletes at the TE position is none other than Jimmy Graham. He uses his power forward frame as a part of his skill set to make big plays that other tight ends simply can’t. He has certainly fallen off the radar in recent years, going from scoring 197 fantasy points in 2011, and 217 in 2013, to 124 last season (standard scoring). But he still has tremendous value as top talent in a weak positional pool by being able to have those big game-winning performances, such as Week 8 last season: eight receptions, 103 yards and two TDs. Week 1 was not one of those weeks however; Graham disappointed owners with only three receptions for eight yards on seven targets against the Packers.
This week the Seahawks face the 49ers, which should be a better matchup for Graham and their offense as a whole. Graham himself played well against the 49ers in 2016 with a combined 10 receptions, 164 yards and one TD in his two matchups against them. Look for the Seahawks to get back on track and for Graham to have a big bounce back game in Week 2.
TE Start‘em: Coby Fleener (NO) vs. NE
Coby Fleener was one of the most hyped up tight ends in the NFL last season. Many people expected him to take his talent from Indianapolis, bring it directly to New Orleans and become an elite TE1. While he did technically finish as a TE1, he was a disappointment and was someone that could not be relied on week-to-week based on his inconsistency. Coming into 2017, Fleener has lower expectations and did impress in his Week 1 matchup against the Vikings with five receptions, 54 yards and one TD. This week the Saints will take on the Patriots, a team that held elite TE Travis Kelce in check. Even in the face of this tough matchup I think Fleener has a safe floor (six targets in Week 1) and should still be fantasy relevant in Week 1. Start Fleener this week.
TE Start‘em: Charles Clay (BUF) vs. CAR
Charles Clay came into Week 1 as a very sneaky spot start. He was a very late round draft pick (13th round ADP as of 9/6/17) that not many owners expected to start out of the gate. However, if you did go with him in your lineup, he produced very well with four receptions, 53 yards and one TD. One statistic that is important when considering whether to start Clay going forward was the target share for the Bills. Clay was far and away the top target of Tyrod Taylor with nine total targets, the second highest was LeSean McCoy with six and third was Zay Jones with four. Clay seems to be a go-to guy for Taylor and there is no reason to think he will not be the guy going forward. The matchup against the Panthers is slightly intimidating, as they rank 11th against the TE so far this year. However, when you consider Clay’s target share in the offense, he has a safe floor and will be a good TE to start in Week 2.
D/ST Start of the Week: Carolina Panthers vs. BUF
In an amazing week for D/ST in fantasy football where 9 units scored over 10 points in most formats and several TDs were scored on this side of the ball, D/STs showed that they are an important position in fantasy and can be a big difference between winning and losing a matchup. Last week, the Panthers played the 49ers and finished with three points allowed, one interception, one fumble recovery and four sacks; resulting in them finishing as a top 10 defense in Week 1. This week, they face the Buffalo Bills, a mediocre offense with a QB who can be prone to turnovers (13 INTs, seven fumbles and 80 sacks in his 2+ years as a starter in Buffalo). Look for the Panthers to pounce in this matchup and be another top defense in Week 2.
QB Sit of the Week: Matthew Stafford (DET) vs. NYG
Matthew Stafford impressed last week with 292 yards, four TDs and one INT against a respectable Arizona defense, ranking as the second highest scoring QB in most formats. He had a slow start to the game, throwing just one TD and his only INT in the first half, but after the Lions made some half-time adjustments he erupted with three TDs and 180 yards in the second half. Stafford showed what kind of an arm talent he has and how important he is to the Lions offense in Week 1, and he will look to continue to do so again this week against the Giants.
While I would normally keep the “hot hand” in and play him after an impressive game, I have some major doubts about his outlook for this upcoming game. Firstly, the matchup is bad for Stafford. The Giants had the 2nd ranked defense against quarterbacks in 2016 and held the Cowboys to 268 yards in Week 1. Stafford has had a history of not performing well against elite defense, causing me to be hesitant with him this week. Speaking of history, Matthew Stafford is the owner of some of the most interesting facts in the NFL. He is 1-25 against winning teams on the road and he is also 3-15 in primetime (Sunday Night and Monday Night) matchups; with an average stat line of 254 yards, 1.3 TDs and 0.9 INTs, and a 65% completion percentage on Monday Night games specifically. With the Lions facing the Giants at home on Monday, I would pass on the Lions signal caller in this difficult matchup.
QB Sit‘em: Tyrod Taylor (BUF) vs. CAR
Tyrod Taylor surprised lots of fantasy owners this past week with 224 passing yards, two TDs, one INT and 38 rushing yards against the Jets. Despite Buffalo’s almost blatant tanking mentality on the offensive side on the ball (shipping Sammy Watkins out of town for a minimal return and the team’s constant praise of Nathan Peterson); Taylor looked very comfortable in the new Rick Dennison offense. While Taylor started the season well, I wouldn’t commit to him as your season-long starter quite yet. He faces a tough Carolina defense this week, a team that held the 49ers to 193 yards and forced two turnovers. Bench Taylor for this week.
QB Sit‘em: Carson Wentz (PHI) vs. KC
Carson Wentz erupted in his Week 1 matchup against the Redskins with 307 yards, two TDs and one INT, leading him to finish as a top five QB in many formats. Many owners are hoping he will carry this momentum into the Eagles’ Week 2 matchup against the Chiefs, but I have my doubts. Firstly, the matchup is extremely tough. The Chiefs have a great defense and they displayed it last Thursday in Foxborough, holding Tom Brady to 267 yards and zero TDs. Secondly, Wentz suffered from some inflated numbers in Week 1. When you look at his overall stat line, it is very impressive. However, when you look closer, you see that Wentz benefited from multiple long pass plays. In fact, the Eagles had 4 passing plays that went for more than 20 yards: a 58 yard TD to Nelson Agholor in the first quarter, a 30 yard catch to Torrey Smith in the third quarter and two 24 yard receptions to Zach Ertz and Alshon Jeffery respectively in the fourth quarter. If you were to remove those plays from the stat line, since these long plays are hard to replicate week-to-week, you are looking at 171 yards; which is not terribly impressive. Now, I don’t think the Eagles offense will lose all of their big play ability in this matchup, but I would bring it into consideration when thinking about Wentz this week. These numbers along with the very hard matchup have me leaving Wentz on the bench in Week 2.
RB Sit of the Week: Carlos Hyde (SF) vs. SEA
In the murky team situation that surrounds the San Francisco 49ers, one player stands above the rest as someone who is fantasy relevant and even at times is a great RB to own when healthy. That player is Carlos Hyde. Hyde has been one of those players in his career that can produce monster fantasy stat lines when he stays on the field (23 rushes for 88 yards and two TDs in Week 1 of 2016 for example). But unfortunately, he can never seem to stay healthy. In his four years in the NFL, he has never played a full 16 games. In fact, he has only played in about 70% of the 49ers regular season games since joining the league in 2014. While he did not have any injury concerns in Week 1 and did have a decent fantasy day with nine rushes for 45 yards and 32 receiving yards on six catches, he is always a player you worry about starting a game but not finishing it.
In Week 2, the 49ers take on the stout Seahawks defense. While the Packers were able to have a fairly good day running the ball against them in Week 1 (54 yards on 19 rushes and one TD), I am not expected a similar performance for Hyde this week. Hyde has struggled against the Seahawks, averaging 11 rushes, 54 yards and less than one TD a game against them in his career. Expect the struggles to continue in this matchup with the 49ers being one of the least talented teams in the league and having to rely almost exclusively on Hyde. His injury concern and matchup are enough reasons to keep Hyde on your bench this week
RB Sit‘em: Theo Riddick (DET) vs. NYG
The Detroit Lions have a very interesting RB situation. Ameer Abdullah seems to be in part the “starting” early down running back with Riddick being the primary receiving back. Both are special in their own way and represent different fantasy values. Riddick made a bigger impact in Week 1 against the Cardinals with 6 receptions for 27 yards and 1 TD along with 1 rushing attempt netting -1 yard. He finished with 11.7 fantasy points in 0.5 PPR formats, which lead him to be a solid RB2/Flex play in Week 1. Next week the Lions face off against the Giants, the 14th ranked defense against running backs so far this season. I expect the Lions to struggle overall in this matchup, so I would bench Riddick for someone with a more favorable matchup.
RB Sit‘em: LeGarrette Blount (PHI) vs. KC
LeGarrette Blount made a team change late in the offseason due to being bounced around by New England management. After getting an offer from the Patriots, and then not getting an offer from the Patriots, and then getting a contract tender from the Patriots, to finally settling for a one year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. Blount had his ups and downs this preseason but started the game in Week 1 and was solid: 14 rushes for 46 yards and one receiving TD. This week the Eagles play the Kansas City Chiefs, a defense that has some recent setbacks but still has top talent in the league. While Blount was fantasy relevant this week, I would not expect the same for this matchup; causing me to bench Blount for Week 2.
WR Sit of the Week: T.Y. Hilton (IND) vs. ARI
T.Y. Hilton was an elite fantasy WR in 2016, finishing with 91 receptions, 1448 yards and six TDs. He is a freak athlete with the ability to turn a simple four yard slant into an 80 yard touchdown on any play. While he still has the potential to be the WR5 in 2017, the major problem with Hilton this year is the inconsistent quarterback play without Andrew Luck. Reports are that Luck will miss not just the first couple weeks of the season, but could potentially miss a major amount of time in 2017. Hilton did not fare well with his backup options in Indy, reeling in 3 receptions and 57 yards from the two replacements Scott Tolzien and Jacoby Brissett. With either one of those QBs leading the charge for the foreseeable future, I would start to lower my expectations for Hilton in 2017.
What also stands in his way of having a good Week 2 performance is his matchup. The Arizona Cardinals have a good passing defense led by All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson, who will have primary coverage duties on Hilton this week. This tough matchup and bleak quarterback situation has me leaving Hilton on the bench in Week 2.
WR Sit‘em: Kenny Golladay (DET) vs. NYG
Like Copper Kupp, Kenny Golladay was a WR in this draft that was often overlooked and under analyzed. The Lions took him in the third round and hoped he could contribute to an already fairly good WR group in 2016. Golladay had a great preseason, mainly in his 53 yard and one TD game in Week 1, and caught the attention of many potential fantasy owners around fantasy draft season. He wasn’t a player that many people started last week (only 5.8% in ESPN formats) but he finished as top 3 WR with 4 receptions, 69 yards and two TDs. This was an impressive stat line for the rookie wide out but I would not expect him to carry this momentum into Week 2. His role in the offense seemed small to start the game, and a vast majority of his production came in the fourth quarter (both TDs and 80% of his yardage); leading me to wonder what his production will be going forward. Plus the Lions matchup against the Giants this week, a team with a good pass defense that will keep Stafford and company from scoring 35 points again. Don’t take Golladay for a victory lap this week, bench him for Week 2.
WR Sit‘em: Pierre Garcon (SF) vs. SEA
Pierre Garcon made the cross country move this offseason, going from the Washington Redskins to the familiar arms of Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco. While Shanahan was Garcon’s offensive coordinator in Washington back in 2013, Garcon had his best overall season with 113 receptions, 1346 yards and five TDs. Many fantasy owners are hoping he and Shanahan can have that special connection again and Garcon can be a sneaky draft value WR in 2017. In Week 1 Garcon had a decent game with 81 yards on six receptions; enough to finish as a WR2 in 0.5 PPR formats, which was a good start to the season. This week the 49ers face the Seahawks elite pass defense, a matchup I never recommend starting against. While it is unclear currently who will primarily cover Garcon, I fear that between the Seahawk pass rush and defensive backs, the 49ers will struggle in this game overall, which will affect Garcons stat line. Leave Garcon on the bench this week.
TE Sit of the Week: Austin Hooper (ATL) vs. GB
The Atlanta Falcons had a historic offense in 2016, lighting it up on a weekly basis. Their passing yard and touchdown totals were astounding and Matt Ryan was the NFL’s MVP because of this production. While Ryan’s pass catchers all had great fantasy relevant seasons, he did leave out one position on most weeks: the tight end. Ryan only targeted his TE on roughly 15% of his pass plays last season, one of the lowest percentages in the league. Coming into this season many owners had hoped top TE for the Falcons Austin Hooper would break out of this mold and be a fantasy relevant TE. Now, when you look at Hooper’s fantasy finish for Week 1 (the #1 TE in most formats), you would think that he had a monster game in Chicago. But, when you look deeper into the box score, a huge percentage of his production came on one play: an 88 yard broken play TD in the fourth quarter. 69% of his yardage came on that play and 80% of his total fantasy production also came from that play alome, leaving him with what would have been a rough game if not for that.
In Week 2 the Falcons face Green Bay, a team defense that shocked many last week and were able to hold Jimmy Graham in check. While I expect this to be a high flying matchup that should see plenty of offense on both sides, I don’t expect Hooper to remain fantasy relevant due to his low targets. Bench Hooper in Week 2.
TE Sit‘em: Jason Witten (DAL) vs. DEN
Jason Witten has truly become a timeless asset for the Dallas Cowboys. He was a go-to target for Tony Romo for all their years together and has proved to become a safety blanket type target for newcomer Dak Prescott. Witten had a great game against the Giants last week with seven receptions for 59 yards and one TD on a team leading nine targets. Witten certainly has a role cut out for himself in the superb Dallas offense. This week, however, I would stifle my expectations of Witten and the Dallas offense as a whole. The Cowboys face Denver this week, a team that effectively shut down Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates last week. While Witten could still have a decent game in Week 2 due to his role in the offense, I would rather find a better matchup on the waiver wire and bench Witten this week.
TE Sit‘em: Tyler Eifert (CIN) vs. HOU
The Bengals suffered from the greatest offensive stagnation in Week 1. The whole offense struggled in the face of the Ravens defense and was the only team to be shut out among all 30 teams that played. One player that especially struggled was Andy Dalton with 170 yards and five turnovers. His passing targets failed owners due to this dysfunction, specifically TE Tyler Eifert. Eifert finished with one reception for four yards, a very disappointing day for someone who was started in 67% of leagues in ESPN formats. Unfortunately, this trend looks like it will continue in Week 2 as the Bengals face the Texans. Houston has a great defense and should be disruptive for the Bengals this week again. This matchup plus the overall dysfunction of the offense has me benching Eifert in Week 2.
D/ST Sit of the Week: Jacksonville Jaguars vs. TEN
The Jacksonville Jaguars, or the Sacksonville Jaguars as some fans are referring to them now, had a very impressive showing in Week 1 as a D/ST unit. They held the Texans to 7 points, had one interception, three fumble recoveries, one TD off of a fumble recovery and 10 sacks. Most of this production came while Tom Savage was under center, but the defense still looked good when Deshaun Watson came into the game. While they did impress, I have my doubts as to how they will fair in this matchup. The Titans have a much better offense than the Texans, both in the offensive line and in playmaking skill players. Plus, Marcus Mariota is a high level QB who has performed well against Jacksonville in the past. Another factor to consider is Mariota’s running ability. While Watson still got sacked four times in that game, his mobility proved to be a problem early in the second half which led to Houston’s only scoring drive of the whole game. Expect Mariota to use his legs to get around Jaguar defenders and make Jacksonville a benchable D/ST in Week 2.