Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 2

Is Steve Smith and the Ravens offense ready to rebound in Week 2 against Oakland?

After one week of football, Tyrod Taylor has more fantasy points than Eli Manning and Peyton Manning do combined. There are 59 wide receivers with higher fantasy point totals than Calvin Johnson. Rashad Greene is third in the NFL in targets. Bishop Sankey has done more for fantasy owners than all but three running backs. In PPR formats, the top-10 pass-catchers include five tight ends.

But, hey, Cordarrelle Patterson is the 112th-ranked wide receiver, so not everything is out of whack after our one-week football sample.

If your fantasy squad didn't perform in Week 1, don't sweat it. There's plenty of time to come back, and crazy things will happen in just one week's worth of games.

But before you submit your lineups for the week, make sure you absorb the information below. It won't be perfect, but it's numbers-driven and logical. And if your process is right, you'll come out victorious in the long run.

Quarterbacks to Sit

Ryan Tannehill (at Jacksonville): Playing a quarterback against Jacksonville seems like a good move, not a bad one. But the truth is, while Jacksonville's defense may allow for efficiency, it hasn't been the best one to score fantasy points on.

I'm not just judging this off of Cam Newton's Week 1 performance, either. In 2014, the Jags allowed just four top-12, QB1 performances. And only one of those performances came after Week 4.

Much of this has to do with game script, as teams are simply running the ball more against Jacksonville since they're ahead in games. And while that's not a huge deal, in general, at the quarterback position (volume actually doesn't correlate with fantasy points scored), it matters when you get close to the end zone. Since the start of 2014, teams against Jacksonville have a 1.01 pass-to-run ratio when they reach the Jaguars' 20-yard line. Meanwhile, the league average rate in the red zone is 1.17, or far more pass-heavy.

Tanny's not an awful option this week given he's got a decent floor, and he's actually ranked fairly high according to our projections. But to me, the ceiling could be capped.

Peyton Manning (at Kansas City): I don't want folks to take this recommendation the wrong way. Manning's not some waiver wire passer (yet), and he's certainly capable of proving all critics wrong with a big performance on Thursday night. I'm not even a huge critic -- the Ravens' defense is a lot better than what most are giving them credit for, which has something to do with Manning's poor Week 1 performance.

Manning owners in smaller leagues can probably find a better option though. The quarterback game in fantasy football is one that's full of replaceability thanks to supply and demand, so players like Carson Palmer or Eli Manning can often be found on small league waiver wires. If that's the case, feel free to go with them.

The fact is, this matchup against Kansas City isn't a cakewalk. Manning's on the road, the game has a fairly low over/under, and the Broncos aren't favorites. According to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, Kansas City had the ninth-best secondary in the NFL last year, and they're already ranking sixth in this one.

Plenty of signs are pointing to an average game from Manning. I'd stay away if it's possible.

Other quarterbacks to sit: Cam Newton, Marcus Mariota

Quarterbacks to Start Instead

Eli Manning (vs. Atlanta): Like his older brother, Eli had a rough Week 1, too. 

But we should be in store for a bounce-back game from the Giants' passer. Atlanta's in town, and they've consistently had a low schedule-adjusted Defensive Passing NEP rank over the last couple of seasons. Though they looked decent to start their Monday night game against Philadelphia, once the Eagles decided to actually use their best weapons (Jordan Matthews), they really took advantage of a weak -- though improving -- Falcons defense.

The game being played in New York is important, and Vegas actually has the Giants with the third highest team total on the week. As a favorite, it'd be a surprise if Manning doesn't put up at least low-end QB1 numbers this week.

Andy Dalton (vs. San Diego): Dalton was a start recommendation last week, and he pulled through with the ninth best quarterback performance in Week 1. And from a Passing NEP standpoint, only six other starting quarterbacks were more efficient per drop back.

A big reason to like Dalton again in this one is because he's a home favorite. That, and San Diego's pass defense is pretty average according to our numbers.

As a favorite over the last two seasons, Dalton's averaging roughly four more fantasy points per game versus when he's not in the split. And when he's at home, he's averaging over two touchdowns per contest.

Dalton struggled last season, but he also didn't have A.J. Green for part of the year, and Tyler Eifert and Marvin Jones were non-factors due to injury. Things are different for Cincinnati in 2015, and Dalton should take advantage.

Other quarterbacks to start: Joe Flacco, Carson Palmer, Sam Bradford

Running Backs to Sit

Alfred Morris (vs. St. Louis): The 25 carries Morris received in Week 1 was the highest total he's seen since early November 2013. He also played 49 snaps, which is more snaps than he saw in all but two games a season ago.

Things definitely favored an Alfred Morris game on Sunday. The Redskins were able to keep the game close throughout, so Morris owners didn't have to worry about him leaving the field on passing downs. The Dolphins' rush defense also isn't the toughest matchup in the world -- even with Ndamukong Suh -- as they ranked in the bottom half of the league last season against the run, per our metrics.

St. Louis, Morris' Week 2 opponent, is beastly up front. Against the Seahawks, St. Louis held Marshawn Lynch to a respectable -0.02 Rushing NEP per rush, when he averaged a 0.10 clip last season. And last season, the Rams allowed just seven top-24 running back performances in PPR leagues.

I know it's not easy to bench Morris because alternatives generally aren't there, but I'd look to do so here in Week 2.

Melvin Gordon (at Cincinnati): You could look at Latavius Murray's stat line from last week and think Gordon's a decent play in this one. Because in PPR leagues, Murray was the 17th best running back.

But a closer look at how Murray achieved that feat shows that it was all done through the air, where he caught all seven of his targets. On the ground, Murray ran 11 times for 44 yards, rushing to a 27.27% Success Rate, or the percentage of rushes that contribute positively towards a player's NEP. Only four double-digit carry running backs had a worse Success Rate in Week 1.

The Bengals could be run on last year, but the defensive line is energized and revamped. And with the Chargers being underdogs, game script could easily favor Danny Woodhead -- who saw eight red zone opportunities to Gordon's zero in Week 1 -- over Gordon. 

LeGarrette Blount (at Buffalo): Week 2 will be Blount's season debut after serving a one-game suspension, but the matchup is one to avoid. The Bills looked great in Week 1 against the Colts, making a top-five offense look nothing better than average (our numbers rank the Colts 15th offensively right now). Colts running backs combined for just 9.1 PPR fantasy points, the second lowest team total on the week.

Blount is a bruiser, and that plays right into Buffalo's strengths. Though he may find the end zone, it could be more of a Dion Lewis game from a pass-catching standpoint. Blount could be a really good trade target in your league after this weekend.

Other running backs to sit: Alfred Blue, T.J. Yeldon

Running Backs to Start Instead

Justin Forsett (at Oakland): Forsett owners are probably a little worried about his Week 1 performance, but don't underestimate the Broncos' defense. Last season, our numbers pegged them with the 10th best run-stuffing unit in the NFL. And it's aided by a strong secondary led by a guy who's probably the most underrated cornerback in the league, Chris Harris.

Forsett still played 72.4% of the Ravens' snaps in Week 1, which ranked 11th among all running backs in the NFL. If he sees the same type of looks, he shouldn't have a whole lot of trouble against the Raiders, given the way the game should go -- Baltimore's a seven-point favorite, which means a positive game script for their running back. That running back is Justin Forsett.

Ameer Abdullah (at Minnesota): (If you don't know, now you know.) Abdullah looked awesome in his debut against the Chargers, ranking in the top 10 in both Rushing NEP and Total NEP among all backs in Week 1. He also played the most snaps among Detroit backs, carried the ball the most among Detroit backs, and was targeted out of the backfield the most among Detroit backs.

If it's not clear that he's the Lions' running back to own, then I don't know what to tell you.

Week 2 has the Lions facing the Vikings, a team that was completely gashed by Carlos Hyde on Monday night. The nice part about Abdullah here, too, is that no matter how this game goes, he should still see work -- his ability on the ground and through the air is being recognized. That's important, because the Lions are underdogs, meaning they might be throwing it a little more throughout the game. That doesn't hurt Abdullah. In PPR leagues, it actually helps him.

Lamar Miller (at Jacksonville): I already mentioned it with Tannehill above, but teams run on the Jaguars. Not only is this true in the red zone, but only Tennessee and Oakland saw lower pass-to-run ratios against last season. Teams are running against the Jaguars all over the field.

Miller didn't have a fantastic Week 1, but the matchup wasn't nearly as easy as many thought, as Washington has a legitimate top-10 run stopping group. Miller, too, was in on over 80 percent of the team's snaps, which tied him for fourth most among all backs during the first week of the season.

The Dolphins have a 24-point team total this week and are 6.5-point favorites, meaning the game flow of this game is going to dictate a run-heavy approach. Miller's a fantastic option.

Other running backs to start: Chris Ivory, Rashad Jennings

Wide Receivers to Sit

Brandon Marshall (at Indianapolis): Did you see Sammy Watkins in Week 1? Yeah, I didn't either, because Vontae Davis blanketed him the entire game, leading to zero catches.

The same could happen to B-Marsh in Indy on Monday night, but the difference would be that the Jets fall behind and are forced to throw a little more. Vegas has the Colts as seven-point favorites, whereas the Colts were playing from behind against Buffalo -- the Bills didn't need to toss the ball 40-plus times in an attempt to try to come back.

But even though volume could be there, Marshall's a candidate to throw on the bench this week given the matchup. Vontae Davis is for real.

Amari Cooper (vs. Baltimore): I'll say it again: Baltimore's defense didn't get enough credit for what they did to Peyton Manning in Week 1, when they actually have a good defensive group. Jimmy Smith is an incredibly underrated corner, and the Ravens can bring pressure. With Derek Carr banged up and questionable to play, Cooper is an easy sit this week. He'll get his eventually though.

Kendall Wright (at Cleveland): Plain and simple, teams attack the Browns on the ground. And for good reason. The secondary, led by Joe Haden, ranked sixth best in the league last year according to our metrics.

We really shouldn't expect Tennessee to be so efficient through the air like they were against Tampa Bay, especially considering Tampa Bay has one of the worst secondaries in the NFL. They're also on the road in Cleveland, and have a team total of just a little over 20 points. Wright should have his usual floor, but his ceiling isn't great. And that makes him a potential sit.

Other wide receivers to sit: Markus Wheaton, Andre Johnson

Wide Receivers to Start Instead

Steve Smith (at Oakland): Like Forsett above, Steve Smith is a perfect bounce-back candidate in Week 2. He saw a team high seven targets in Week 1, doubling more than any other receiver. That's not a huge surprise, because that group of wideouts is nasty looking. And I mean nasty in the worst way possible.

The Raiders' secondary can be attacked, as TJ Carrie, a seventh-rounder from a year ago, is their top corner. And if you watched last week's game, while Tyler Eifert tore it up, A.J. Green dropped a touchdown which could've made him a top-15 wideout in Week 1. It all makes Smith a great Week 2 play.

Anquan Boldin (at Pittsburgh): We're looking at #TeamOldWR this week apparently, as Boldin's also a guy who should be on your radar. If you missed last week's season opener, then you didn't see what could be the worst secondary in the NFL, and that same team will be facing Boldin in Week 2.

The Steelers are going to be in shootouts this year. It's going to happen. Antwon Blake, Cortez Allen, and William Gay are going to allow it to happen. And given this, passing volume -- which matters for receivers, not quarterbacks -- becomes important.

So not only does Boldin have a great matchup against these Steeler corners, but he should see way more than the five targets he had in Week 1 against Minnesota. Game script shouldn't go the same way it did on Monday night, and that benefits the veteran wide receiver.

Brandon Coleman (vs. Tampa Bay): If you want to dig a little deeper this week, I'm not against you taking a shot with Brandon Coleman. In Week 1, Coleman saw seven targets, the same number as Marques Colston and just one fewer than Brandin Cooks. He's also a huge red zone threat -- literally -- standing 6'6'' and weighing 220 pounds. The Saints should put up a lot of points this week (only Philadelphia has a higher team total), and Coleman should be part of that scoring.

Other wide receivers to start: Cole Beasley, Eric Decker

Tight Ends to Sit

Larry Donnell (vs. Atlanta): (Note: Fells has been ruled out, making Donnell a decent streaming play.) Donnell led Giants' tight ends in snaps against the Cowboys, but not by a whole lot. He also saw just as many targets as teammate Daniel Fells, as they split eight of them from quarterback Eli Manning. Donnell's just not overly reliable right now given how they used him in Week 1, and although the matchup appears decent, Atlanta was actually decent against the position last year, ranking eighth best in fantasy points allowed.

Other tight ends to sit: Josh Hill, Jared Cook

Tight Ends to Start Instead

Heath Miller (vs. San Francisco): Without Martavis Bryant and Le'Veon Bell, the Steelers just don't have many pass-catching options -- Markus Wheaton is inconsistent (and inefficient) and Darrius Heyward-Bey has bricks for hands. That led to Miller being targeted 11 times in Week 1 against the Patriots, the most outside of Tyler Eifert at the tight end position.

Miller will face the 49ers in Week 2, a team Kyle Rudolph found some success against in Week 1 despite his quarterback play. That's a plus, though it's not as important as the fact that Miller is the de facto number-two pass-catcher for Ben Roethlisberger right now in the Steelers' offense.

Jordan Reed (vs. St. Louis): Speaking of volume, the reason you should look Reed's way this week is precisely because of that. He tied Miller with 11 targets in Week 1, and whether or not that was tied to DeSean Jackson's injury, it doesn't matter -- D-Jax is going to be out in Week 2. That makes Reed a top option in the Washington offense. And while Kirk Cousins and company may struggle to generate points, Reed should be a nice security blanket against a strong pass rush.

Other tight ends to start: Jordan Cameron, Dwayne Allen

Defenses to Sit

Seattle Seahawks (at Green Bay): This is just another example of why you don't draft defenses early in fantasy football drafts. After a mediocre defensive performance (not from a fantasy perspective) in Week 1 against a very average offense, the Seahawks will travel to Green Bay to face Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Last season, only three defenses performed as top-10 units against the Packers, and with the Packers favored with a team total over 26 points, the Seahawks should be benched.

Other defenses to sit: New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles

Defenses to Start

New Orleans Saints (vs. Tampa Bay): Unlike Seattle, New Orleans' defensive unit wasn't even close to on fantasy owners' radars entering drafts this year. But there's a ton to like in Week 2. 

Jameis Winston looked like he'll be a quarterback to target when it comes to defensive streaming, and Vegas thinks so, too -- New Orleans is a 10-point favorite at home against the Bucs this week. In other words, Tampa Bay will more than likely be trailing for much of the contest, leading to a lot of potentially forced passes from Winston. That gives the Saints a lot of opportunity to score some fantasy points.

Other defenses to start: Carolina Panthers, Miami Dolphins