Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 2
After just a half hour of football on the first Sunday of the NFL season, the two of them catapulted my lineup into the top five in an 11,000-entry tournament.
Trust me, this is no humble brag. Despite owning two guys who performed far above expectation, costing next to nothing on the platform, my team didn’t earn a single penny. Because fantasy football is a terrible thing sometimes. Sometimes, I hate fantasy football.
But even with the devastating performance, I was still elated. Fantasy football is officially back. The ups, downs, lefts and rights have returned. Things are going to be unpredictable – did you think Jamaal Charles would see seven rushing attempts in Week 1? Things are going to be wild – did you think Derek Anderson would nearly double Aaron Rodgers in Week 1 fantasy points? And things are going to be annoying – did you see how badly my lineup flopped?
But this is why we love football. This is why we love fantasy football. Let’s keep the fun going into Week 2, shall we?
Start Andy Dalton - Andy Dalton’s seen crazy splits when facing bad defenses throughout his career, which is why his Week 2 matchup against the Falcons is so attractive. Against top half defenses in terms of fantasy points against, his average fantasy points scored has been a little over 17 across his career. Versus bottom half defenses, this jumps to over 23, and it was well over 27 points per contest in 2013.
Vegas has set the over/under of the game in Cincinnati at a nice 48.5, with the Bengals as five-point favorites. Atlanta ranked dead last against the pass a season ago, are playing on the road and aren’t indoors. It’s the perfect recipe for Dalton to have one of his blow-up weeks.
Sit Philip Rivers - Though Rivers wasn’t great fantasy-wise in Week 1, but his Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) total could’ve been worse, ranking 19th in the league. Unfortunately, he’s going to have a hard time improving that number in Week 2, as the Seahawks and their top-ranked secondary comes to town.
On his side is the fact that the game’s being played in San Diego, but it’s tough to trust any quarterback against the Seahawks. We saw this first hand just last week.
Start Jake Locker - My love for Jake Locker is well documented, and he came out looking great in Week 1, posting the sixth most fantasy points and Passing NEP in the league. That was against the Chiefs in Kansas City, too.
This week Locker gets Dallas, and he’ll be at home. The Cowboys’ defense is in shambles, and Vegas likes this game to get close to 50 total points with the Titans winning by more than a field goal. Locker’s the perfect streaming option this week at quarterback.
Sit Robert Griffin III - This one has less to do with matchup and more to do with the player.
Can you really trust Robert Griffin III right now? After a terrible preseason, the Washington offense did little in Week 1 against Houston, and RGIII now sits as the worst offensive player in the entire NFL in terms of Total Net Expected Points, which factors in both passing and rushing. Though the matchup looks juicy against Jacksonville, it’s tough to trust Griffin when he’s given you nothing so far to trust.
Though he could certainly go off, there are plenty of safer options this week.
Start Giovani Bernard - As I mentioned earlier, the Falcons aren’t strong defensively. Yes, they’ll surely be better in 2014 than they were in 2013, but let’s not pretend they’re even a top-20 unit.
The Saints, after facing Atlanta, exited Week 1 with the second-highest Rushing Net Expected Points total as a team. While the Bengals have rookie Jeremy Hill (and, sleeper alert, he should get more looks in Week 2), their running back situation is far less committee-driven compared to New Orleans. Translation: Because he’s getting the majority of looks in his offense, Giovani Bernard could go bonkers against Atlanta this week.
Sit Steven Jackson - Speaking of Atlanta, their lead runner may have a tough time producing this week in Cincinnati. For a few reasons, actually. First, the matchup isn’t favorable – Cincinnati ranked in the top half among defenses last year in rush defense according to our metrics, and have a strong defensive line.
Second, the Falcons dished out touches to four different running backs in Week 1. While Jackson led the way with 12 attempts of his own, he’s not a big-play runner capable of scoring fantasy points without volume.
Finally, Steven Jackson just isn’t very good anymore. According to our metrics, both Devonta Freeman and Jacquizz Rodgers were more effective than Jackson last Sunday, and S-Jax struggled with the ball in his hands last year as well.
Jackson’s upside comes in the form of touchdowns, and he could find the end zone in Week 2. However, if you have a better option – perhaps one of the big running backs off the waiver wire this week – I’d shy away from the Falcons’ veteran.
In Tate’s relief against the Steelers, West rushed 16 times for 100 yards, finishing the day with 1.80 Rushing Net Expected Points. The numbers may be a little inflated by a really bad Steelers defensive line, but what's not is the fact that the Browns trusted West over fellow rookie Isaiah Crowell, who touched the ball 11 fewer times.
The New Orleans' defense allowed Atlanta to capture the seventh-best Rushing NEP as a team in Week 1, and that’s who Cleveland faces in Week 2. The Browns will continue to pound the rock under Mike Pettine, giving West immediate upside.
Sit Carolina Running Backs - Last year, the Detroit Lions finished second in the league against the run according to our metrics. That success continued on Monday night, as they forced the Giants to play over four points below expectation on the ground, which ranked 26th in the league.
Moreover, the Panthers’ rushing offense is listed in dead last after Week 1, as they found zero holes against the Buccaneers. Though Cam Newton’s set to return, it’s tough to believe any of the running backs in Carolina’s committee will produce on Sunday.
Start Shonn Greene - Hate all you want, but Shonn Greene has been historically better than you think. And he’s getting volume in an offense that’s set to score in Week 2.
Last week, Greene saw five red-zone rushing attempts, tied for second-most in the league. He failed to score, but it’s important that the opportunity was there.
Dallas, Greene's Week 2 opponent, allowed 116 yards and a score on 25 carries to San Francisco running backs last week, and as noted, the defense isn’t scaring anyone this year. With a high over/under set, Greene has a chance to find the end zone.
Sit Trent Richardson - T-Rich may find himself on the sit list more often than not this year, but it’s not my fault that he’s not very good at football.
The matchup last week wasn’t very good, as game flow not only forced the Colts to play Ahmad Bradshaw more, but the Broncos have a really underrated rush defense.
Giving Richardson a pass after one week wouldn’t make much sense though, as we have a two-year sample of unimpressive, ineffective running in terms of Rushing Net Expected Points. Against Philly this week – a team that stops the run much better than the pass – Richardson should continue to struggle.
Start Justin Hunter - I’ve already talked up Jake Locker and Shonn Greene, so why not Justin Hunter?
Though his three-catch, 63-yard game doesn’t stand out as anything spectacular from Week 1, an important thing to note is that Hunter actually led all Titans in targets. We know he’s capable of scoring touchdowns (he had four on 18 receptions as a rookie last season), and he’s certainly able to make a big play (his Reception NEP per target average ranked fifth in the league in 2013).
This could be the week that Justin Hunter breaks out. He has the talent, he’s getting the opportunity and he has the right matchup. I’d have a hard time benching him in Week 2.
Sit Steve Smith - Admittedly, our numbers like Smiff this week more than I expected, but there’s a massive range of outcomes for the veteran wideout. The reason I’m not so optimistic is because, well, he’s obviously not going to see 15 targets again in Week 2. But it's also a Thursday night game between two teams that are bound to see a lower-scoring contest. Vegas thinks so, too.
Torrey Smith is still the wide receiver to own in this offense, and we should fully expect the team to look his way a little more in Week 2 given a much more favorable matchup. Though anyone’s capable of going off against this Steelers’ defense, temper your expectations for Smith moving forward.
Start T.Y. Hilton - I’m openly a T.Y. Hilton hater, but I can’t deny that he can use his speed to get behind defenders, and that could come in handy against the Eagles in Week 2.
Last week, Allen Hurns was able to beat the Eagles secondary deep, and as a result, Philly now has given up the most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. This isn’t anything new, as the team ranked in the bottom 10 against the pass last year according to our metrics.
Hilton’s fantasy production comes in waves – he scored five times last year, but did so in just two games. Points will be scored in Indianapolis, and Hilton will have a shot to make a couple of big plays, boosting his fantasy value.
Sit Victor Cruz - Similar to the RGIII note above, this has just as much to do with the uncertainty on offense as it does the matchup. The Giants looked bad against Detroit, and our numbers agree – the team ranks as the sixth-worst offense according to NEP.
What was arguably the most questionable part of the Giants performance on Monday was the lack of looks towards number-one wideout Victor Cruz. While Larry Donnell and Jerrel Jernigan consumed 15 targets combined (8 and 7, respectively), Eli Manning looked Victor Cruz’s way just 6 times, as Cruz caught only a pair of them.
Arizona’s defense is tough, but they’ll be traveling to the East Coast after a late Monday night game. Even still, I’d consider benching Cruz if you have reasonable options on your bench, perhaps someone like Justin Hunter.
Start Dwayne Bowe - In two games against Denver a season ago, Dwayne Bowe combined for 21 targets, 113 yards and a score. That accounted for over 20% of his season-long volume, and roughly 17% of his yardage total.
The Chiefs offense looked about as bad as an aged Ryan Leaf on Sunday, but against Denver in a game that’s bound to see the Chiefs go down early, Bowe could see significant looks. The team will need to get their balance back with Jamaal Charles, but don’t overlook Bowe simply because he didn’t play Week 1 while the Chiefs offense played so poorly.
Start Greg Olsen - Olsen’s one of the most dependable tight ends in all of fantasy football, and rarely gets the recognition he deserves. Last season, only Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas had more top-12 (TE1) weeks in PPR leagues, while guys like Jordan Cameron and Jason Witten saw fewer.
Olsen started the season with an impressive 8-catch, 83-yard, 1-touchdown performance, and gets a Lions team this week that let Larry Donnell finish as the seventh-best tight end in Week 1. Olsen, like most weeks, is a great option.
Sit Ladarius Green - Back in June, our own Brandon Gdula wrote about how Ladarius Green’s breakout may have to wait another year due to Antonio Gates’ presence. He couldn’t have been more correct in Week 1.
Gates, who was hobbled, played more snaps than Green in the Chargers Week 1 loss, catching six balls for 81 yards. Green caught two passes for 24.
The matchup this week isn’t pretty against Seattle, and Gates still looks like the superior play in fantasy football. Green can’t be trusted until he has a defined role.
Start Jermaine Gresham - With Marvin Jones already sidelined with an injury, the Bengals couldn’t afford any more receiving losses. But Tyler Eifert is now out for eight weeks, which means Jermaine Gresham could be the de facto number-two target for Andy Dalton in the Bengals offense.
When he has any semblance of a legitimate tight end, Bengals’ offensive coordinator Hue Jackson has helped produce fringe fantasy football TE1's. With Gresham gobbling up Eifert’s looks in the offense, getting eight targets per game isn’t out of the question. If you’re in a bind at tight end, Gresham could be a good target this week against a weak Falcons defense.
Sit Coby Fleener - The general problem with Fleener is that he’s still getting playing time, despite being outplayed by his teammate, Dwayne Allen. Fleener saw seven more snaps in the Colts’ Week 1 loss to Denver, but was only able to get 21 yards on eight targets. He was one of the worst players in Week 1 in terms of Target Net Expected Points as a result.
He may get a touchdown, but that’s not something to bank on. Dwayne Allen is the Colts’ tight end to own this year.
Start the Green Bay Packers - Though Geno Smith performs better against bottom-half defenses, he was only able to throw a touchdown pass in three of his eight road games last year. Coming off a loss in Seattle, we should fully expect the Packers to come out swinging, and although Smith may progress in Year 2 as a quarterback, he’s still going to turn the ball over. It’s what he does, and we saw that in Week 1. Green Bay is a nice streaming option at defense this week.
Sit the Cincinnati Bengals - The Bengals are our third-ranked defense this week against the Falcons in Cincinnati, but the Falcons offense is tough – currently the best in the league after one week - and I wouldn’t be against benching Cincinnati in this one. The Vegas over/under is relatively high, and although the Bengals are projected to win, I’d have a tough time starting a defense that’s facing Matt Ryan after his Week 1 performance.
Other defenses to start: Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills
Other defenses to sit: Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles