Fantasy Football Start, Sit, Stream, or Fade: Week 2
2020 has been a year of chaos and discombobulation -- whatever the norm was, it's long been thrown out the window. However, despite all the pandemonium, the one thing that's bound to be a constant is the need to make fantasy football lineup decisions.
Imagine spending months searching for a vacation destination, finally finding one, and having absolutely no plan for when you arrive -- that would be all of us after weeks and months of researching for drafts and then not having a plan of action for when the season actually arrives.
If you had a good draft, you should have some tough lineup decisions to make on a weekly basis. If you don't have any tough lineup decisions, there's a good chance that your bench is thinner than LeBron James' hairline. The goal of this piece is to assist with some of those decisions.
Of course, leagues come in all shapes and sizes, so it's near impossible to tackle every start-or-sit scenario. A must-start for one team could be a bench option in another.
With all that being said, we're here to help at numberFire! This column will try to highlight some of those tough lineup decisions you have to make every week, and will, hopefully, be able to sway you in one direction or another.
We'll break down players into four categories:
Start: These players are good starts in any format unless you have one of the elites.
Stream: These will be players with either good matchups or higher-than-usual projected volume that can be streaming options in many formats.
Fade: This category will be reserved for higher-end fantasy studs who find themselves in a bad spot on that given week. Fade these players in DFS or if you have a loaded roster, but don't get too cute.
Sit: This category will feature players that should ride the pine unless you truly have no better options.
Without further ado, let's get to it!
(When I reference fantasy points allowed, it is Yahoo settings for quarterbacks and half-PPR for the other positions.)
Josh Allen (at Miami): Josh Allen's Week 1 performance was as Josh Allen-sy as it gets. The 24-year-old posted a career-high 312 passing yards to go along with 2 passing scores, 57 rushing yards, and 1 rushing tuddy. He also had some mind-bogglingly awful plays. But hey, that's the Josh Allen experience we've all come to love. In Week 2, Allen gets to go up against a Miami Dolphins defense that just surrendered 75 rushing yards and 2 rushing scores to Cam Newton, who also completed 80% of his passes, by the way. In his four career games against the Dolphins, Allen is averaging 228.3 passing yards, 2.5 passing touchdowns, 79.5 rushing yards, and 0.8 rushing scores -- that's insane. In fact, each of the three highest-scoring games of his career have come against Miami. Allen is a no-brainer, high-end QB1 this week.
Tom Brady (vs. Carolina): Brady's debut for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was not the prettiest of performances, though it wasn't without bright spots -- the 43-year-old looked like he could still sling it downfield. While the New Orleans Saints are a revamped defense that can generate pressure at a near-elite rate, the Carolina Panthers are essentially the opposite. Week 1 saw Carolina generate almost no pressure on Derek Carr. Granted, Las Vegas' offensive line and running game are as good as it gets, but it's still hard to see where that pressure would come from even against a lesser offensive front. While the Raiders focused entirely on their run game and Carr was his usual unaggressive self (5.8 average depth of target), that's not likely to be the case with Brady and the Bucs in Week 2. This is a matchup where Brady can feast.
Joe Burrow (at Cleveland): I'll admit it, this is a risky play, but that's why it's in the "stream" section. There were times where Burrow looked quite poised behind terrible protection in Week 1, and there were times where he made some brutal decisions. However, that performance came against the Los Angeles Chargers, who have one the best defensive fronts in football. While the Cleveland Browns are not lacking in talent, they're not the Chargers. In the opener, Cleveland surrendered a whopping 10.9 yards per attempt to Lamar Jackson though the air, and he also rushed for 44 yards on 8 totes on the ground. Burrow rushed for 46 yards in Week 1, and that's a floor that's likely to remain as long as the Cincinnati Bengals fail to give him time in the pocket. After struggling as a passer against one of the best secondaries in the NFL, look for Burrow to rebound on Thursday night.
Mitchell Trubisky (vs. NYG): Let me be crystal clear -- this is a streaming recommendation for two-QB and deep leagues only. Don't go starting Trubisky over Matt Ryan or some crazy
shi stuff like that. Trubisky led the Chicago Bears from down 23-6 to a 27-23 victory on Sunday, posting a solid fantasy day in the process, finishing as the Week's QB8. Trubisky's got the weapons to post some big numbers -- the issue is that he's just not very good. However, Sunday showed what he could do when he can scrap his talent together for a couple of quarters. The fact that he was only sacked once was encouraging, as were his 26 rushing yards, which would have been his second-most in 2019. Trubisky gets the New York Giants this week, and while they certainly looked improved from last year (not exactly a high bar), they still looked like a defense we can attack in fantasy. Prior to Week 1, Trubisky had posted at least 18.0 fantasy points 13 times in his career, 9 of them came at home -- you can do worse as far as streaming options are concerned.
Deshaun Watson (vs. Baltimore): Watson salvaged what was a not-so-great performance with a garbage-time rushing touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, and he draws an even tougher matchup in Week 2. The Baltimore Ravens stifled Baker Mayfield in the opener, and that wasn't an isolated incident -- Baltimore was the second-stingiest defense against opposing quarterbacks last year. Watson himself faced the Ravens in 2019 and threw for 169 scoreless yards while rushing for an additional 12, again scoreless -- that was for a measly 5.0 fantasy points. Watson is outside my top 10 this week.
Drew Lock (at Pittsburgh): There's going to come a point in time where you can stream Lock, but this week is not it. Lock gets a brutal matchup for the second week in a row, this time facing the Pittsburgh Steelers. Following their acquisition of Minkah Fitzpatrick last year, Pittsburgh was a nightmare matchup for opposing quarterbacks. In that 14-game stretch, the Steelers allowed a mere 198.7 passing yards and 1.2 passing touchdowns per game while picking off 19 passes. Only one quarterback (Baker Mayfield, somehow) exceeded 17.4 fantasy points during those 14 games. Daniel Jones was able to record 19.4 fantasy points against the Steelers in Week 1, though some rust out of the gate was to be expected from defenses.
Gardner Minshew (at Tennessee): The Tennessee Titans look like they're going to be a matchup to avoid this year. Lock managed just 216 on 33 attempts against them on Monday night, and the Titans ranked ninth in Adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play. Minshew's upside is likely quite limited in this matchup. Despite him throwing just one incompletion on Sunday, he only finished as the QB13.
Austin Ekeler (vs. Kansas City): If you spent an early- or mid-second round pick on Ekeler, you might be panicking, but this is a good time to take a breath and relax. Ekeler managed just 87 yards, 1 reception, and no scores in the opener, but he did have 19 carries, which would have been a season-high in 2019. Ekeler also had a 68% snap share, which would have ranked as his fourth-highest share last season. Against the Kansas City Chiefs, giving Ekeler just one target won't cut it. Head coach Anthony Lynn has already stated that it's a "priority" for the team to get Ekeler touches moving forward, and if they want to have any chance of beating the Chiefs, that'll need to happen. The Los Angeles Chargers are currently 8.5-point dogs, per FanDuel Sportsbook, so they should look to target Ekeler early and often.
Ronald Jones (vs. Carolina): Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians stayed true to his word about Jones "carrying the load," as he gave the 23-year-old 17 carries in Week 1 -- he also garnered 3 targets. While the New Orleans Saints possess one of the stoutest front sevens in the league, the Carolina Panthers are so very much the opposite of that. After allowing the most fantasy points, 2,403 total yards, and 30 scores (!!) to backs in 2019, Carolina picked right back up where they left off, surrendering 206 total yards and 3 scores to Josh Jacobs and the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 1. If Jones can get a majority of touches again, he should be able to feast in a game with a total of 47.5 where the Bucs are favored by 9.5.
Antonio Gibson (at Arizona): Gibson underwhelmed in Week 1, posting just 44 scoreless yards on 11 touches (2 receptions). His 26% snap share ranked third on the Washington Football Team. However, I'd throw a dart at Gibson again in Week 2. This time, he'll face an Arizona Cardinals team that seemingly hasn't defended running backs since 2017. The Cards allowed an eye-popping 268 total yards and 2 scores to San Francisco backs in the opener, on just 32 touches (8.4 yards per touch). Of the 36 running backs to receiver at least nine carries in Week 1, Peyton Barber ranked 31st in Rushing Success Rate (i.e., the percentage of carries that lead to positive NEP for a team’s offense), so it's not like Gibson's competition is formidable.
Nyheim Hines (vs. Minnesota): Hines was a pleasant surprise in Week 1. The 23-year-old turned 15 touches and a 53% snap share into 73 yards and 2 scores. Hines' eight targets ranked second among all backs for the week. That should hardly come as a surprise -- in his career, Philip Rivers has targeted running backs at a whopping 26.2% rate. Marlon Mack's injury secured Hines a substantial role moving forward, and that should be the case starting in Week 2.
Melvin Gordon (at Pittsburgh): The only reason Gordon isn't a straight-up sit in this brutal matchup is the fact that he won't face competition from Phillip Lindsay, who is likely to miss a few weeks with a foot injury. Gordon managed 86 total yards on 18 touches against a stout Tennessee defense on Monday night, but this matchup is a completely different animal. After not allowing a single running back to total more than 15 fantasy points against them last season, the Steelers smothered Saquon Barkley for 6 yards on 15 carries in their season-opener. In fact, Pittsburgh ranked first in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play in Week 1. Don't expect anything more than low-end flex production from Gordon in Week 2.
James Conner and Benny Snell Jr. (vs. Denver): Whether you invest a high pick in Conner in the draft, or you spent a significant chunk of your budget on Snell in waivers, neither is worth inserting into your lineups this week. Derrick Henry stifled his way to 116 yards on 31 carries on Monday night, but his line looks a heck of a lot better than his actual performance. Only 7 of Henry's first 28 carries went for longer than 4 yards, and just 2 of his 31 totes went for more than 10 yards. Again, this is Derrick Henry we're talking about. Conner and Snell are nowhere near that level.
Sony Michel (at Seattle): If you're somehow tempted to start Michel after he recorded 37 yards and a score in Week 1, I'd advise against it. While that was a cakewalk matchup in which the New England Patriots had control of the game, this bout with the Seattle Seahawks will be much tougher. Seattle ranked third in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play in Week 1, and they're favored by 4.0 points in Week 2. This could be a game where the Pats are forced to use the likes of James White and Rex Burkhead, further cutting into Michel's already minuscule 30% snap share.
Mike Evans (vs. Carolina): Despite seeing a 93% snap share in Week 1, Evans garnered just four targets and one catch -- that's going to change in Week 2. Bruce Arians said after the game that he never wants to come out of a game without "10 targets" for Evans, and this is one of those rare instances where I believe him. While Carolina allowed just 7 receptions to wideouts in Week 1, that was to a Las Vegas team that's extremely limited at the position -- Tampa Bay is not. In Week 1, Carolina ranked eighth-worst in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play, and it's not about to get any better. The Bucs have the second-highest implied total on the entire slate, so feel free to fire up Evans as a WR1.
T.Y. Hilton (vs. MIN): In half-PPR formats, the Minnesota Vikings surrendered 68.4 fantasy points to Green Bay wide receivers in Week 1. 68.4. Hilton posted 54 yards in the opener, which is nothing to write home about, but his 9 targets and 39.9% air yards share were quite encouraging. He could have a field day against the secondary that allowed 5 receptions of more than 20 yards in their first game.
Anthony Miller (vs. NYG): This recommendation was a success in Week 1, and there's no reason not to go back to it in Week 2. Miller recorded 76 yards and a score in Week 1 -- it was his fifth game with double-digit fantasy points in half-PPR formats in seven tries since Taylor Gabriel exited the lineup with an injury last year. Juju Smith-Schuster, who lined up in the slot on 83% of his snaps in Week 1, roasted the New York Giants for 69 yards (nice) and 2 scores. Miller is exclusively a slot guy, and that definitely won't hurt him this week.
Emmanuel Sanders (at Las Vegas): With Michael Thomas out for a few weeks with a high-ankle sprain, the New Orleans Saints are going to need Sanders to step up. The veteran garnered just five looks while playing 49% of the snaps in Week 1, but both of those figures should increase dramatically in Thomas' absence. The Raiders were a bottom-10 defense in terms of Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play in their opener, and this is a far superior passing attack.
(Update: There's a glimmer of hope that Thomas will play. That would downgrade Sanders a bit, though he'd still be worth streaming.)
D.K. Metcalf (vs. New England): As difficult as it may be to fade or even sit Metcalf, this may be the week to do so. The Pats allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers last year -- only five wideouts topped 12.1 fantasy points in half-PPR against them, and two come from slot players and another did so on a 65-yard carry. In Week 1, New England picked up right where they left off last year, ranking second in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play.
Terry McLaurin (at Arizona): For the second straight week, I'm going to recommend avoiding McLaurin in fantasy. McLaurin caught 5 passes for 61 yards in Week 1, and he could struggle to top that against Patrick Peterson and the Arizona Cardinals. The Cards graded out as a top-12 defense against the pass in Week 1, and they could present another challenge to the team that averaged the fifth-fewest passes per run in the opening week. McLaurin is nothing more than a flex play in my book for Week 2.
Courtland Sutton (at Pittsburgh): Sutton was a game-time decision for Monday night's game, which means that there's a good chance he'll play in Week 2. If he does play, I'd keep him on the bench against Pittsburgh. While the Steelers were generous to Darius Slayton on Monday, they are likely to bounce back as one of the league's stingiest passing defenses. Additionally, with Jerry Jeudy and Noah Fant each likely to get their own, Sutton might not see the volume necessary to have a productive fantasy performance.
Tyler Higbee (at Philadelphia): Higbee only managed 3 receptions for 40 yards in Week 1, but it wasn't all bad. He had an 89% snap share and ran 22 routes -- he totaled 43 receptions, 522 yards, and 2 scores in the five games in which he played at least 80% of snaps last year. The Eagles allowed 37 yards and a tuddy to Logan Thomas in Week 2, and Higbee could drop an even bigger line on them in Week 2.
Jared Cook (At Las Vegas): Regardless of the matchup, Cook is going to be a borderline must-start in every game that Michael Thomas misses. With Thomas banged-up in the opener, Cook totaled 80 yards on 5 receptions -- it was the 7th time in his last 10 games with Drew Brees behind center that he totaled at least 60 yards and/or a score. The Saints still have the fifth-highest implied total this week, so Cook is a strong play.
Logan Thomas (at Arizona): George Kittle injured his knee in the opener, so it's tough to know whether Arizona is still the same glorious matchup for tight ends as they were last year, but let's give it another ride with Thomas. Thomas recorded 4 receptions on 8 targets in Week 1, turning them into 37 yards and a score -- he played on 74% of the team's offensive snaps. Those are good enough numbers to make him worth going back to in Week 2.
Mike Gesicki (vs. Buffalo): There are going to be weeks where Gesicki will be a solid option at tight end, but this is not one of them. Buffalo was the second-stingiest team against opposing tight ends last year, and Gesicki himself posted lines of 4/41/0 and 4/18/0 in two matchups against them. I'd keep him on the bench this week.
Chris Herndon (vs. San Francisco): Like Gesicki, Herndon will be streamable some weeks, but not in Week 2. Herndon saw a 71% snap share and 7 targets in Week 1, which didn't result in much (6/37/0), and this matchup is equally as tough. Look elsewhere for streaming options.