Week 1 was wild. It had plenty of ups and downs for sure, while a handful of huge performances stood out. There was some good and some really bad on my part but this is all a process and we learn more about players and situations after each and every week. As always, we move forward, so let’s break down Week 2’s 13-game main slate. My Week 2 NFL Matchups column breaks down all the NFL games on the slate for your Fantasy Football Lineups. Let’s get into it!
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Check out Thursday’s FREE Week 2 NFL Showdown article here as the Panthers host the Buccaneers.
Arizona Cardinals @ Baltimore Ravens
Line: BAL -13.5
Cardinals passing game
It was a tale of two halves for Kyler Murray in his NFL debut. The top draft pick was missing throws left and right during the first three quarters but when his team needed him most, Kyler got going, setting a rookie record for fourth-quarter passer rating. In that fourth quarter, Murray completed 15-of-19 passes for 154 yards and a pair of touchdowns, hitting throw after throw. Arizona’s offense was projected to be one of the fastest-paced in the NFL entering this season and Sunday didn’t disappoint, as they averaged 22.8 seconds per play, the fastest mark in the league.
Murray didn’t do much with his legs, running three times for just 13 yards. He’ll have bigger days as a runner and after the game, head coach Kliff Kingsbury stated that his offensive play-calling in the first three quarters was awful and that he was “too cute.” Perhaps that is why Murray got off to such a slow start but at the end of the day, you have to be excited as a Cardinals fan.
Heading into Week 2, I still don’t feel great about starting Murray. He is going to make his first road start against a dangerous Baltimore defense that coughed up just 1.62 points per drive a season ago, the second-lowest mark in the league. Of course, Miami is a joke but the Ravens pressured Ryan Fitzpatrick on 45.5 percent of his drop backs in Week 1, and we know Arizona’s offensive line is still a major question mark.
Per NFL Next Gen Stats, Arizona operated out of the four-wide receiver set on 73 percent of their plays, an absolutely massive clip. This is a bit expected in an Air Raid offense, which means guys are going to have opportunities. Larry Fitzgerald caught eight of his 13 targets for 113 yards and a touchdown, unsurprisingly proving to be Murray’s guy late in the game. He lined up in the slot on 78 of 84 snaps, which is obviously where you want him at this stage of his career.
It is worth noting that this game finished as a tie, giving Arizona way more plays than normal. Murray won’t pass the ball 54 times very often, so it is tough to see Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk both see double digit targets very often. Fitzgerald is nothing more than a WR3 against a tough Baltimore defense.
Cardinals running game
Watching the Cardinals use David Johnson last year was absolutely maddening but things looked much, much better to start the 2019 campaign. They ran him more to the outside instead of into the gut of the defense. His usage as a receiver was better, too, as he lined up as a wideout 16 times, operating out of the slot on 12 snaps, per PFF. To put that into perspective, he lined up in the slot just 18 total times all of last season. He touched the ball 23 times, rushing for 82 yards and catching five passes for 55 yards and a touchdown. DJ’s usage and playing time (87% of snaps) was fantastic and he’ll be a locked-in RB1 going forward. From a DFS perspective, again, this matchup isn’t ideal but he is way too cheap at $7,100 on DK if he is going to be used like this.
Ravens passing game
Lamar Jackson broke the slate in Week 1, tossing five touchdowns against the lowly Dolphins. Sure, dudes were wide open all day but Jackson hit them in stride and looked fantastic. I never thought Jackson would have such a big fantasy performance without running but he delivered. Now he won’t face Miami every week but the speed in this Baltimore offense should help Jackson’s passing upside going forward. And while he didn’t run much on Sunday, we know that is coming. He is a must-start option against an Arizona defense that couldn’t cover anyone from the Lions last week, surrendering six yards per play and 13.4 yards per completion (sixth-worst).
I believe we see Jackson run quite a bit here, facing a Cardinals defense that blitzes a healthy amount. In 2018, Arizona called blitz 35.7 percent of the time, the fourth-highest rate in the NFL. We should continue to see them send heat which could be a good thing for Jackson, who can step up or outside of the pocket and take off. Meanwhile, the pass coverage was lacking without Patrick Peterson and Robert Alford.
After watching Jackson do what he did last week, you suddenly feel like you need to pair Jackson with someone, right? I’m still not so sure. Yes, Marquise Brown went nuts on Sunday, scoring touchdowns of 47 and 83 yards. However, the guy only played 14 snaps and ran just eight pass routes. Even against an Arizona defense that allowed a league-high seven pass plays of at least 20 yards in Week 1, it is hard to trust Brown in lineups, though the upside is obviously there.
Outside of that, this is still a run-first offense, which is why tight end Mark Andrews will continue to see his snaps somewhat limited. Yes, he had over 100 yards and a touchdown but he played 31 snaps to Hayden Hurst’s 43. Hurst was used as an in-line blocker on 28 of those snaps but because Baltimore is so run heavy, he’ll remain on the field. Arizona’s linebackers could not contain T.J. Hockenson, however and Andrews has big play ability. After targeting the tight end position 30 percent of the time last year, tight ends were targeted on 12 of Jackson’s 20 pass attempts in Week 1. He’s still GPP only.
Ravens running game
The box score could have you worried about Mark Ingram’s usage but keep in mind that while Gus Edwards had 17 carries, only five of them came before the fourth quarter, where the backups all took the field. I will say, however, Ingram is not the unquestioned every-down back, as Edwards and Justice Hill were both mixed in to start the game. Ingram got the short-yardage work, scoring a pair of touchdowns against Miami.
He’s just $6,000 on DK and if the game actually requires him to play the fourth quarter, he should get to that 20-carry mark in a strong matchup. I know Detroit’s running game didn’t dominate in Week 1 but this Arizona defense still allowed more rushing touchdowns per game than any team in football last year (1.6). Ingram remains a fine RB2 who should still be downgraded in PPR formats.
San Francisco 49ers @ Cincinnati Bengals
49ers passing game
Jimmy Garoppolo had a combination of bad play and bad luck last weekend. He had two touchdowns called back due to penalty but he also didn’t play very well, missing open receivers down the field multiple times. It has been an up-and-down few weeks for Jimmy G, who now heads into Cincinnati to take on a Bengals defense that played much better than anyone thought they would last week. They still surrendered two touchdown passes but given how Garoppolo has looked and the lack of trustworthy pass-catchers in this San Francisco offense, I will probably let someone else take a shot on Garoppolo, especially over on DraftKings where he is $6,000.
Dante Pettis didn’t impress during the preseason and camp and there was talk of him having to earn his role. It appears he has a long way to go, as the second-year wideout played just two snaps in Week 1. Kyle Shanahan said “hopefully he continues to earn more time out there.” That is obviously terrifying to hear and until further notice, I’m not sure how you can feel comfortable with Pettis in any lineup. Marquise Goodwin played 74 percent of the snaps but only saw three targets. I’m still somewhat intrigued by him against a Bengals defense that allowed a ton of big passing plays last year and allowed a 44-yard passing score last week.
However, this passing game obviously revolves around George Kittle, who had two touchdowns called back last week. He paced the team in targets with 10, while averaging a healthy 2.35 yards per route. The Bengals allowed the third-most fantasy points (12.5), sixth-most receptions (5.3) and most touchdowns per game (0.6) to opposing tight ends last year. The lack of trustworthy receiving options in San Francisco make Kittle an elite play once again.
49ers running game
This is where things get more interesting. Tevin Coleman has an ankle injury and will miss the next few games. Matt Breida will now serve as the starting running back and despite leaving for a bit in the first half for hydration purposes, he still led the team with 15 carries. Raheem Mostert saw nine carries and was more effective, for what it’s worth, and I’m sure Jeff Wilson Jr. will be active for this game. But Breida will get the first crack at work here against a Cincinnati defense that was atrocious against running backs last year and allowed Chris Carson to find the end zone twice in Week 1.
Only Oakland allowed more points per drive last year than the Bengals (2.56), while just 14.3 percent of all carries against them ended up stuffed at the line of scrimmage. Breida is very talented with big play ability, as he averaged six yards per touch last year, while he finished eighth in PFF’s breakaway run rate (42.5%). He’s a borderline top-20 RB play and a fine daily option. Keep an eye on Mostert, too, who could warrant GPP punt consideration. This is a two-back offense and he impressed under Shanahan a season ago.
Bengals passing game
I don’t know what to make of Andy Dalton. No one expected him to have a good fantasy day on Sunday but after Joe Mixon went down, the Bengals went pass-heavy, as Dalton threw the football 51 times. The 49ers pass defense played well last week but I think it was more of Jameis Winston just being absolutely pathetic. The Bengals offense looked much more creative than in year’s past with Zac Taylor calling the shots and because the 49ers secondary is still one to attack, I actually think Dalton is a viable streaming option in seasonal leagues and decent value play in DFS.
Where did that John Ross game come from? After undrafted rookie Damion Willis leap-frogged him on the depth chart, Ross reminded everyone of his crazy big play ability, hauling in seven of 12 targets for 158 yards and a pair of touchdowns. I’m scared to go down this road but Ross could be a thing. He saw a team-high 12 targets and played 82 percent of the team snaps and was responsible for 45.4 percent of the team’s air yards. A.J. Green is still out and Ross has scored seven touchdowns in eight games he’s played in his career without Green. Given the inconsistency over the years, Ross is still a boom-or-bust WR3/4 and GPP play in Week 2 but he’s trending upward.
Tyler Boyd, meanwhile, is still the top option in this passing game, seeing 11 targets of his own and running the 10th-most routes at the position. It was interesting to see him line up in the slot just 45.5 percent of the time after lining up there over 70 percent of the time last year. If he lines up in the slot more, he could smash. He’ll line up with nickel corner K’Waun Williams, who stands at just 5’9” and allowed 1.80 fantasy points per target a year ago. I do wonder about his GPP upside at $6,500 but Boyd sets up nicely as at least a cash play and a strong back-end WR2.
Bengals running game
Keep an eye on this backfield in practice, as Mixon left Sunday’s game early with an ankle injury. He was diagnosed with a low-grade ankle sprain and he’s being listed as day to day. If he gets a good week of practice in, fire Mixon up as a back-end RB1 against a San Francisco run defense that let Ronald Jones light them up for nearly six yards per carry last week. If he sits, Giovani Bernard finds himself on all fantasy radars. In Weeks 3 and 4 of last year when he started for the injured Mixon, Gio averaged 18 touches per game, while playing 74 percent of the snaps. If he ends up getting the start, he’ll become a borderline top-20 running back and a potential cash game staple in DFS lineups.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Detroit Lions
Line: LAC -2.5
Chargers passing game
For the most part, the Chargers offense didn’t skip a beat without Melvin Gordon. They scored 30 points and quarterback Philip Rivers completed 25 passes for 333 yards and three touchdowns. He got a lot of help from his playmakers doing damage after the catch but you’ll take it. Given the current state of the Los Angeles offensive line, Rivers may be checking down a lot more, as he posted a 7.8 aDOT in Week 1, the 10th-lowest of the week. The Colts funnels short targets so it could have been matchup-based, but they also pressured Rivers on 36 percent of his dropbacks.
We might continue to see more intermediate passes from Rivers going forward and because he doesn’t run, it is hard to project him for the same weekly upside as some other quarterback, especially with the Chargers playing at the league’s second-slowest pace after one week. Consider him a high-end QB2, low-end QB1.
Keenan Allen remains “the guy” in this Chargers passing game. He was outstanding in Week 1, hauling in eight-of-10 targets for 123 yards and a touchdown. After seeing just seven end zone targets in 2018, Allen saw a few on Sunday and could see more if Mike Williams (knee) is forced to miss time. Tight end Hunter Henry suffered a fractured knee last week, giving Allen immense target upside. Allen will see some Darius Slay in this game but likely not a ton, as Slay will shadow but doesn’t move inside at a crazy rate, while Allen lined up in the slot just over 55 percent of the time. He has a safe weekly floor and if the end zone targets rise, the ceiling is even higher. Allen is very fairly-priced across the industry and while he isn’t a priority, I won’t have any issues if I get to him.
Williams could miss this game with a knee injury, while Henry is out for a bit. This will open up more playing time and opportunities for Travis Benjamin and Dontrelle Inman. After so many receivers went off this weekend, Benjamin isn’t a priority in seasonal leagues at all but he’s only $3,200 on DK. Unfortunately, he likely moves to the perimeter, which means more coverage from Slay. Inman is minimum salary. As for replacing Henry, Virgil Green will likely start, though he has been known more for his blocking than pass-catching throughout his career.
Chargers running game
I wrote-up Austin Ekeler as a strong play last week but I cannot lie– I did not think he had GPP-winning upside. He shut me up, scoring three touchdowns against the Colts, while touching the ball 18 times for 154 total yards. Indianapolis allowed the second-most receptions (6.9) and second-most targets (8.8) per game to running backs last year and they didn’t look any better on Sunday. Ekeler evaded tackle after tackle and took advantage of the defensive scheme.
He out-touched Justin Jackson 18-6, while playing 47 snaps to Jackson’s 16. Jackson will get 5-8 touches but make no mistake– this backfield belongs to Ekeler until Gordon returns. He will continue to be used heavily in the passing game and the Lions just coughed up 5-55-1 through the air to David Johnson. Ekeler is a must-start option each week and remains firmly in play at $6,100 on DK.
Lions passing game
I really liked Matthew Stafford and the Detroit passing game in tournaments last week and that worked out, as Stafford threw for 385 yards and three touchdowns. Perhaps Stafford could be more viable than we initially thought. He’s healthy and the additions of Danny Amendola and T.J. Hockenson appear to be massive. Still, I wouldn’t feel comfortable having him as my only quarterback in a league and while his price is insanely low, I’ll likely prefer other signal callers this week. Detroit still played slow in Week 1 and are facing another team that ranked bottom-four in pace in last week, while no team averaged more seconds per play than the Chargers in 2018 (30.2). They didn’t play incredible but Los Angeles still has a good tandem of cornerbacks.
This is normally the part where I gush about Marvin Jones and how he’s a great play. I will not be doing that this week. Jones underwhelmed last week, catching four passes for 56 yards. His four targets were lower than Amendola, Hockenson and Kenny Golladay. He and Golladay will take turns battling with cornerback Casey Hayward, one of the best in the business. Jones has mostly been a touchdown-dependent fantasy option but at least he was the 1A or 1B in a concentrated passing game.
If his targets come down, he’ll be difficult to rely on in fantasy. If you believe in Amendola’s Week 1 (7 catches, 104 yards, 1 TD, 13 targets), he’ll get the best matchup of the Detroit wideouts, lining up in the slot 89 percent of the time. He’s $3,900 on DK, a site that awards a full-point per catch.
Finally, Hockenson looks like the real deal. His 131 receiving yards were the most in NFL history by a rookie tight end in their debut game. His 3.54 yards per route run was the third-highest among all tight ends in Week 1 and while his 18.2 aDOT obviously isn’t sustainable, it just shows the field-stretching ability Hockenson has.
Veteran Jesse James played 55 snaps but was used as a blocker on 40 of them. It is only a matter of time until Hockenson is an every-down player in this offense. He needs to be added in all leagues and is currently a high-upside TE2. And at $3,000 on DK, he is way too cheap and likely where a lot of people go if they are spending down at the tight end position in Week 2.
Lions running game
There were concerns about Kerryon Johnson’s usage during the preseason and while he still touched the football 18 times, I left Sunday’s game disappointed. He played 57 percent of the snaps, while CJ Anderson played 30 percent. And when Anderson was in, he got the ball, recording 11 carries. Kerryon only had two more carries than Anderson late in the fourth quarter and we continue to see him lose work on third-down, which really limits his ceiling. I mean, J.D. McKissic was even targeted twice in the passing game. The Chargers were just gashed by Marlon Mack to the tune of 174 yards and a touchdown but Johnson doesn’t seem likely to get 25 carries and the Colts offensive line had a lot to do with that production. After teasing fantasy owners with top-12 potential after the release of Theo Riddick in the offseason, Johnson is looking more like a low-end RB2, high-end RB3.
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