Week 1 always features some surprise performances. Who expected Willie Snead to be the fourth best WR or Jack Doyle to be the top tight end? Simply put— some things are beyond prediction. Having said that, it never hurts to know more about the players on your team to make more informed lineup decisions. Catch our weekly fantasy football suggestions in the following podcast.
Eli Manning, NYG (vs New Orleans Saints): We’re rolling with Manning for the second week in a row. Like we said last time, he has the best targets ever. Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, a seemingly healthy Victor Cruz and a solid tight end in Larry Donnell. This week he has an even easier opponent, the Saints, who allowed Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders to put up 35 points in New Orleans.
Drew Brees, NO (vs. New York Giants): The 2015 clash between New Orleans and New York resulted in 101 total points, with the two quarterbacks collectively passing for 13 touchdowns. Seven of those came from Brees, who despite throwing two interceptions, racked up an insane 501 yards passing while still averaging over 10 yards per attempt. Brees had a monster outing in Week 1, passing for 423 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions, picking on prized free agent acquisition Sean Smith to the point in which the corner was benched in his first game after signing a $38 million contract over the offseason.
Russell Wilson, SEA (vs Los Angeles Rams): Some may be tempted to bench Wilson after a modest start to the 2016 season (from a fantasy perspective), especially considering he will be facing a team that has given him problems in the past. Against the Rams, Wilson is 4-4, with only 9 touchdowns, 6 interceptions and 226.6 passing yards per game. And now he is dealing with an ankle injury. However, he’s like to start, and you should likely be starting him, too. The Rams appear to be a team in disarray. Perhaps the move to Los Angeles and being featured in HBO’s “Hard Knocks” were a bit too distracting. So after getting torched by the 49ers, Wilson and his plethora of weapons are coming to town. The fifth year QB and receiver Doug Baldwin are now one of the best QB-WR tandems in the league. Meanwhile, WR Tyler Lockett is a rising star, and TE Jimmy Graham is slowly getting back to speed.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, NYJ (vs Buffalo Bills): In two games against Buffalo last year, the formers Bills QB threw only 4 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, almost half of his season total (11). And the Bills allowed just 308 total yards of offense against the Ravens last week, 66 of which came on a Mike Wallace reception. Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick failed to execute against the Bengals on Sunday despite strong support in the run game.
Andrew Luck, IND (vs Denver Broncos): Until Denver’s defense proves otherwise, it’s always safe to assume the Broncos will stifle whoever is playing quarterback for the team they face. Luck put up huge numbers in Indianapolis’ Week 1 loss to the Lions, but that was against a suspect secondary. Facing the only team which has three corners capable of effectively negating the Colts’ loaded receiver position which features T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett, Luck doesn’t look like a good start this week. There’s always a chance the Colts quarterback goes off on any given week, but it’s better to play things safe when a quarterback is facing the Denver Broncos.
C.J. Anderson, DEN (vs Indianapolis Colts): The Colts were absolutely atrocious against the run in the opener, allowing both Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick to average over 5 yards a carry. Anderson had a solid first game against a stout Panthers defense, and he is clearly going to be the focal point of the offense. This is a no brainer.
Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (vs Washington Redskins): Maybe the Redskins should’ve kept Terrance Knighton around. DeAngelo Williams shredded through Washington’s defense last week en route to a league-leading 143 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a game where the Steelers attempted 37 passes. Everyone knows about the Cowboys’ offensive line, which is the most overhyped unit in sports but a talented group of players nonetheless. If Elliott was able to gain 51 yards and score a touchdown against a Giants front which features Damon Harrison, Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul, he should be able to wreak havoc against Washington’s defensive front.
Frank Gore, IND (vs Denver Broncos): Somehow Gore continues to be a featured back well into his 30’s. He had a solid 14 carries against the Lions last week. And the Broncos did allow 157 yards to the Panthers last week in Denver (4.9 yards per carry). However, a big chunk of those yards came from quarterback Cam Newton and a 20 yard rush by Ted Ginn Jr. Also, the Broncos’ started looking championship caliber in the second half, when they allowed only 58 yards rushing. So expect Gore to feel his age in a tough game in the Mile High city.
LeSean McCoy, BUF (vs New York Jets): As Bengals fans saw firsthand, the Jets’ defensive front is no pushover. Limiting Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard to 61 total yards and a touchdown, New York forced Cincinnati to beat its defense with the pass. And while the Bengals were able to do that, the team still did so without involving its running backs. After a lackluster performance against the Ravens, it’s hard to see Shady bouncing back against New York’s stout defensive front, which will return superstar defensive end Sheldon Richardson this week.
Kelvin Benjamin, CAR (vs. San Francisco 49ers): As of right now, Benjamin is on the bench in almost half of NFL.com’s fantasy leagues. That just doesn’t make sense. He’s the clear #1 in Carolina, and Cam Newton is about to take out the frustration of two consecutive losses to the Denver Broncos on the 49ers.
A.J. Green, CIN (vs Pittsburgh Steelers): Green burned past Darrelle Revis all game long in Week 1, and he could be targeted just as often in Week 2 as he faces a Steelers front which surrendered over 115 yards and a touchdown to the receiver in both regular season contests last season.
Sammy Watkins, BUF (vs New York Jets): Sure, the Jets’ secondary looked helpless against A.J. Green. And Watkins is a tremendous talent, which is why he’s starting in 88% of NFL.com leagues. But the third year receiver is fighting through a painful injury and there were rumors he’d be shut down for the season. If you have better options, make Watkins prove he can still be effective before starting him.
Allen Robinson, JAX (vs San Diego Chargers): Chargers fans have been laughably vocal about their “lockdown corners,” but in their defense, San Diego boasts one of the best cornerback groups in the NFL. Jason Verrett is elite when healthy, and Casey Hayward may well be the best slot corner in football. Unless Robinson can squeeze past Brandon Flowers, who has looked much better than he performed last season, on a play or two, it’s hard to imagine him lighting up the scoreboard in San Diego, especially considering Sunday could potentially be the Chargers’ last ever home opener in America’s Finest City.
Jordan Reed, WAS (vs Dallas Cowboys): His stats weren’t particularly stellar in Washington’s ugly loss to the Steelers on Monday night (64 yards receiving, 0 TDs). But he did still lead his team in targets and receptions. And it was clear that he drew a lot of attention from the Steelers. Now he goes up against the Cowboys, a team he struggled against last year (only 78 yards in two games). But don’t be tempted to sit him. With someone as talented as Reed, you know he’s due for a huge game soon, so why not against a division rival that has had his number?
Delanie Walker, TEN (vs Detroit Lions): The Titans’ tight end struggled throughout Week 1 but managed to squeeze out 42 yards, mainly in garbage time. But a matchup with the Detroit Lions, who surrendered two touchdowns to the Colts’ Jack Doyle and a third to Dwayne Allen, looks promising for the Titans’ most talented pass-catcher. The Titans could fall behind against a Lions team which looked solid in Week 1, which means the tight end could see a ton of targets.
Jimmy Graham, SEA (vs Los Angeles Rams): For the second week in a row, we think Graham needs to assert his place in Seattle’s offense before earning the right to start on your fantasy team.
Coby Fleener, NO (vs New York Giants): It’s surprising to see Fleener on anyone’s roster after the Saints lit up the scoreboard in Week 1 while the tight end was on the receiving end of only four targets. That the tight end only hauled in one pass for six yards on those targets certainly doesn’t help his case. Fleener should ride your bench until he finally proves he can get the job done on the field.
Defense and Special Teams
Carolina Panthers (vs San Francisco 49ers): The 49ers blew out the Rams on Monday night. And the Panthers gave up 21 points to Trevor Siemian and the Broncos last Thursday. But don’t read too much into either games. San Francisco quarterback Blaine Gabbert averaged a mere 4.85 yards per attempt against Los Angeles in the opener. And the 49ers’ 150 yards rushing were, in part, due to the fact that the Rams’ offense couldn’t sustain drives, and thus, put their defense on the field too often. The Panthers may not win 15 games again, but, as Washington’s game against Pittsburgh showed us, the loss of cornerback Josh Norman is not insurmountable for a talented Carolina defense.
Seattle Seahawks (vs Los Angeles Rams): This one’s pretty obvious. The Rams offense was shut out against the 49ers defense, which many believe is one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Los Angeles might have Todd Gurley, but the Rams won’t be running the ball much when they’re down 21 points. Los Angeles got the better of Seattle a few times over the past few years, but most of the production in those wins came on the special teams front rather than on offense. Seattle’s defense still looks top-notch, so keep it in this week in what looks like a very favorable matchup.
Atlanta Falcons (vs Oakland Raiders): They just gave up four touchdown passes to second year quarterback Jameis Winston at home. Now they must travel to the Black Hole to face Derek Carr, who is oozing with confidence after beating the Saints in New Orleans on a touchdown pass and two point conversion with 52 seconds left.
Minnesota Vikings (vs Green Bay Packers): The Vikes led all defenses in fantasy scoring last week, and the Packers struggled in Week 1, but Minnesota is still facing Aaron Rodgers. Most of the Vikings’ Week 1 points came from the team’s two defensive touchdowns — something no one should count on when a team is facing Green Bay.