Thank god I don’t do these posts till Saturday, because you wouldn’t have liked my advice had I included Thursday night’s players into my start/sits. Everyone knows that Thursday Night Football is a curse for fantasy players. Even Peyton Manning has fallen victim to it. In the final TNF game of the 2013 season, Manning had arguably his worst performance of the year, completing just 65.8 percent of his passes for 289 yards in the Broncos’ embarrassing 27-20 home loss to the Chargers. Maybe it’s the short week coupled by the night game, or the fact that it’s on national television. Who knows. But it doesn’t bode well for good statistics.
I had Ben Roethlisberger and Torrey Smith pretty high up in my Week 2 rankings, but that was just stubborn of me. You can’t get much worse than the nine fantasy points Big Ben put up, Owen Daniels vulturing Dennis Pitta every step of the way, or the one catch for 10 yards Torrey had — especially after Joe Flacco had said earlier in the day that he expects his top receiver to catch 100 balls this year.
Sunday should offer many more offensive fireworks than Thursday night’s dreadful affair. There are plenty of matchups to exploit, including the Saints vs. Browns, Patriots vs. Vikings, Chiefs vs. Broncos, Jaguars vs. Washington Football Team, and Cowboys vs. Titans. But none should be more exciting (and fantasy-team boosting) than the Eagles/Colts game. The high-flying Eagles (pun intended) travel to Indy to take on the 900 horsepower Colts (pun also intended). You’re always gonna start Andrew Luck, Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy, but their supporting casts deserve a lot of attention this week and are all nearly must starts in most fantasy formats. Fringe fantasy starters like Darren Sproles, Riley Cooper, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Dwayne Allen are near automatic starts this week, and even Colts’ tight end Coby Fleener is worthy of consideration in deeper leagues. The only guys I’d be hesitant to recommend are Hakeem Nicks and Trent Richardson, who have proven to be too untrustworthy. Not only will this game have a large effect on the outcome of your fantasy matchups, but we get to wait till Monday night to have it all play out. Now, that, my friends, is what fantasy football is all about!
Please feel free to post your start/sit questions below. Until then, here are the rest of my starts and sits for Week 2…
(All recommendations are based on PPR formatted leagues.)
Jake Locker, Titans: When you get the opportunity to start players vs. the Cowboys defense, you take it. Locker is coming off a pretty good showing in Week 1, where he threw for 266 yards, 2 TDs and no INTs in KC. Dallas allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing QBs last year and judging by their showing vs. Niners last week, they haven’t improved in that department. Locker is owned in only 17 percent of ESPN leagues.
Chad Henne, Jaguars: Everyone knows about Allen Hurns and his breakout performance in Week 1 (4/110/2), but no one is really talking about the guy who got him there — QB Chad Henne. It wasn’t the most efficient of games (24-for-43), but the seventh-year QB was still able to tally 266 yards and 2 TDs, en route to 16 fantasy points. It looks like the Jags will again be without WR Cecil Shorts (hamstring), but with Toby Gerhart (ankle) also ailing, the Jags game plan could involve a lot of passing. The Washington Football Team allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to opposing QBs last year, which only adds butter to your bread.
Fred Jackson, Bills: Old man time hasn’t quite caught up to Jackson yet. At age 33, the Bills’ ball carrier is the eldest of all NFL running backs — but he’s still producing at a fantasy-relevant level. The Bills play the Dolphins this week, whom Jackson absolutely tormented in their two meetings last year, rushing 29 times for 141 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, while adding six catches for 56 yards through the air. The Dolphins could have Dion Jordan back from suspension on Sunday, but that won’t stop the run-heavy Buffalo offense from pounding the rock. F-Jax is a RB2/FLEX play in most formats this week.
Chris Johnson/Chris Ivory, Jets: The “Brothers Chris” had a fantastic showing vs. the hapless Raiders last week, and although the Packers are one of the NFL’s top teams, their defense isn’t. The Packers got shellacked by the Super Bowl champion Seahawks last Thursday (did I mention Aaron Rodgers succumbed to the TNF curse?), and they didn’t do themselves any favors with their porous run defense. Marshawn Lynch ran amok, gaining 110 yards on just 20 carries (5.5 YPC) and scoring twice. The Jets’ two-headed rushing attack limits the overall upside of each as an individual, but their Week 1 performances (102 yards, TD for Ivory; 91 total yards, TD for Johnson) give hope that they can co-exist in the same backfield. This game quietly has the makings of a shootout, so fire up your Jets running backs in Week 2.
Justin Hunter/Kendall Wright, Titans: Pretty much the same goes with these two guys as it does for Locker. The Cowboys gave up the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing receivers last year. If you’re contemplating the two, Hunter is likely the better standard league choice, while Wright is always going to be more of a PPR threat than a yardage one. The duo combined for 15 targets last week vs. the Chiefs.
Larry Donnell, Giants; Niles Paul, Washington Football Team: Ok, so you must be saying to yourself, “Who??”. Well, quite frankly, until last week, I would’ve uttered the very same question. But, after breakthrough performances, these two nobodies became household names. Larry Donnell certainly isn’t the most athletic player out there — heck, he isn’t even the most athletic tight end on the Giants. That honor would go to Adrien Robinson. But the second-year pro seemed to have a connection with Eli Manning last week, which added up to five catches, 56 yards and a score. Manning loves throwing to his tight ends, and with his wide receivers looking pretty bad last week, it wouldn’t be surprising to see more of the Eli-Donnell connection in Week 2. Adding to Donnell’s intrigue is the team he will be facing — the Arizona Cardinals — who gave up a league-worst 19.2 fantasy points per game to tight ends last year. Niles Paul is in an almost identical boat to Donnell. He has been given the opportunity for more snaps with the loss of Jordan Reed to a hamstring injury. The converted wideout came out of nowhere last week, hauling in all four targets for 86 yards vs. the Texans. He has some competition in fellow tight end Logan Paulsen, but Paulsen was only targeted twice and has proven in the past to be a less-than-ideal receiving option in the Skins’ offense. Like Donnell, Paul has a fantastic matchup, as the Jaguars ranked 31st against opposing tight ends in 2013.
Philip Rivers, Chargers: There isn’t too much info you really need here. All you gotta do is look who is lined up on the other side of the ball — the Seattle Seahawks: Where Fantasy Dreams Go to Die. There are dozens of better options than Rivers this week, and many that you can grab off the wire if he happens to be your No. 1 guy.
Jay Cutler, Bears: The rather acceptable 19 fantasy points he piled up don’t illustrate how unimpressive Cutler really was in Week 1. Sure, he had a nice yardage total (349), but he missed on 15 passes, two of which were picked off, and one of those was quite possibly the funniest play of the young season. The Bears could be without top wideouts Brandon Marshall (ankle) and Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) this weekend, and their 8:30 ET Sunday night start time doesn’t give you the ability to wait for their health statuses. I fully expect Cutler to have a great season, but sit him in Week 2.
Reggie Bush, Lions: Bush may still have something in the tank, but he didn’t show it last week, rushing for just 15 yards on nine carries. While he had a nice day receiving (6 catches, 49 yards), it looks like the bulk of the ground work will be delegated to Joique Bell (15 carries). This looks like it’s going to be a very fluid situation going forward, but I expect Bell to the more reliable asset for fantasy purposes. Either way, the Lions play the ferocious Panthers’ defense this week, which makes it much easier to keep Bush on your bench.
Sammy Watkins, Bills: Watkins is arguably the most talented member of this year’s draft class, but there may be a longer adjustment period for him that most fantasy owners would like. He dealt with a rib injury in the preseason and followed that up by hauling in just three catches (four targets) for 31 yards in Week 1. The quarterback play in Buffalo is not very good — at least right now — and the Bills employ a run-first offense. At the moment, Robert Woods — not Watkins — seems to be E.J. Manuel‘s favorite target, and it also doesn’t help that this week’s opponent — the Miami Dolphins — allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points to opposing WRs last year. They looked every bit that part in Week 1, as well, making Tom Brady look like Brady Quinn. Watkins is a guy you’re gonna wanna bench until he gets a couple of good games under his belt.
Antonio Gates/Ladarius Green, Chargers: Everyone — including myself — was high on Green in 2014. When Gates landed on the injury report late last week, it made Green even that more enticing. A matchup vs. the Cardinals, who are inept at defending the tight end, awaited on Monday Night Football. Of course, Gates would end up playing, and playing well (6/81), and Green would only catch two passes for 24 yards. The dream matchup ended up crashing and burning. Not only were their fantasy stats far apart, so was their playing time — Gates appeared in 52 plays on offense to Green’s 24. Right now, this is too difficult of a situation to predict. Green is clearly more athletic and, quite frankly, the better player at this point, but Gates has veteran savvy and a history with QB Philip Rivers. Fortunately for fantasy owners, the Chargers’ schedule has made our decision easier this week, as they will face the Seattle Seahawks and their shutdown defense. Sit both tight ends this week and hope for some resolution in the near future.
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