Last updated: September 15th at 12:34am ET.
Editor’s note: Below is a full audio reading of this column. While the column will receive updates over the weekend, the audio will not. It was posted on Thursday at 11:31pm.
Cardinals @ Ravens
Team Totals: Ravens 29.5, Cardinals 16.5
After an uneven opener where Kyler Murray worked just enough fourth-quarter heroics to eke out a 27-27 comeback tie, the Cardinals unenviably travel cross country for a 1pm ET start in Baltimore, where the Ravens have allowed 24 points or fewer in 13 of their last 14 home games and in 330-plus-pound space eaters Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce have colossal size advantages over Arizona’s smallish and leaky offensive line. As Detroit hung eight hits and five sacks on Murray in the desert, the Ravens’ D/ST should continue to be fired up aggressively. Albeit assisted by overtime, Murray survived for Week 1’s QB13 fantasy result and remains playable in two-quarterback leagues. He’ll be a more-confident top-12 option when the Cardinals’ schedule softens in a few weeks. As promised by Kliff Kingsbury, the up-tempo Arizona offense moved at the NFL’s fastest Week 1 pace and ran no huddle at a league-high 42% rate. … In last Sunday’s non-cupcake draw with Detroit, David Johnson eased preseason fantasy fears by playing 86% of Arizona’s offensive snaps and parlaying 24 touches into 137 yards with a score. Johnson’s receiving TD occurred on a textbook Mike Leach Air Raid design from 27 yards out down the seam. Per PFF’s Scott Barrett, Johnson drew 43 Air Yards against the Lions — more than he did in all 16 games combined last season (39) — and ran 15 routes at wide receiver. No. 2 back Chase Edmonds touched the ball once. High-volume receiving usage in a Kingsbury offense that forces him into space will help Johnson’s chances of remaining matchup proof.
Murray’s target distribution: Larry Fitzgerald 13; Christian Kirk 12; KeeSean Johnson 10; Johnson and Damiere Byrd 7; Edmonds, Maxx Williams, and Charles Clay 1. … Murray’s Week 2 pass volume won’t be nearly as high – he absurdly dropped back 59 times in an overtime-inflated game – but his pass catchers’ matchups are eased by a Ravens secondary that placed slot CB Tavon Young (neck) on I.R., didn’t have fill-in slot CB Brandon Carr (hip) at 100% in Week 1, and lost RCB Jimmy Smith to a multi-week MCL sprain in Miami. Top CB Marlon Humphrey missed practice time this week with a bad back. Fitz and Kirk were the Cardinals’ full-time slot receivers versus the Lions with Johnson and Byrd outside in Kingsbury’s four-wide spread. On quick hitters designed to get the ball out of Murray’s hands fast, Fitz and Kirk will remain the clear-cut focal points of Arizona’s passing game and warrant WR3 treatment despite this week’s seemingly-tough draw. Kirk is a particularly attractive Week 2 DFS-tournament play as the No. 1 wideout in Josh Hermsmeyer’s predictive Buy-Low Air Yards Model. .. Rookie WR Johnson’s value is limited to Dynasty leagues, at least for now. Longtime Kingsbury pal Michael Crabtree will be active this week and could easily cut into Johnson and Byrd’s usage out wide. Rookie Andy Isabella remains buried.
While skeptics push the narrative that Lamar Jackson’s record-breaking Week 1 laser show should be chalked up to Miami’s barely-there defense, it’s also true that this year’s Ravens face one of the NFL’s softest defensive schedules, continuing into Week 2 versus Arizona. Matthew Stafford’s 385 yards in last week’s tie with the Cardinals were his most in 26 starts, and his three TD passes equaled Stafford’s high from last year. Jackson’s ceiling is especially scary when you consider he rushed just three times for six yards against the Dolphins; he averaged 76.3 rushing yards in last year’s eight starts. … I wrote about game stacks built around Jackson, Mark Ingram, and the Ravens’ D/ST in last week’s Matchups column, and they remain firmly in play. Favored by nearly two touchdowns at home, Baltimore should again impose its offensive will with Ingram coming off a monster rushing performance (14/107/2) behind an offensive line that generated consistent run-game movement. Despite his passing-game nonexistence, Ingram is a trustworthy RB2 play with touchdown-driven RB1 upside in another gorgeous draw. … Gus Edwards technically out-carried Ingram 17 to 14 at Miami but primarily served as the Ravens’ late-game clock killer in their 59-10 win. “The Gus Bus” did receive a league-high seven red-zone carries and is an underrated RB3/4 stash. Justice Hill truthers need to stay patient following his seven-touch Week 1.
Jackson’s Week 1 target distribution: Mark Andrews 7; Marquise Brown 5; Hayden Hurst 3; Willie Snead 2; Nick Boyle, Miles Boykin, and Patrick Ricard 1; Ingram, Edwards, Hill, and Seth Roberts 0. … I made the regrettable mistake of souring on Andrews in the weeks leading up to the season and paid for it dearly when Andrews erupted (8/108/1) against the Dolphins, even as his touchdown was delivered by Robert Griffin III in garbage time. I still worry about Andrews’ week-to-week consistency as a rotational player on a run-based team – he was in on only 41% of last Sunday’s snaps – but I don’t doubt his playmaking ability. Andrews is an upside TE1 play versus the Cardinals, who Lions tight ends creamed for a combined 7/146/1 stat line on ten Week 1 targets. … I also didn’t come close to anticipating such a fast start by first-round pick Brown, who didn’t play a single preseason snap with Jackson and was in and out of practice all camp due to foot surgery and subsequent setbacks. Brown needed just 14 snaps to annihilate the Fins (4/147/2) and stud sophomore DB Minkah Fitzpatrick in particular. (Fitzpatrick eventually got benched.) Brown lacks a safe floor on such low volume, but his skill set is reminiscent of a cross between Tyreek Hill and T.Y. Hilton, and targets to players like that are worth more than what other receivers see. Against the Patrick Peterson-less Cardinals, Brown should be upgraded to a boom-bust WR3.
Score Prediction: Ravens 35, Cardinals 23
Cowboys at Redskins
Team Totals: Cowboys 26, Redskins 20.5
The Cowboys visit D.C. with a truly transformed offense under rookie OC Kellen Moore, who in Week 1 spiked Dallas’ usage of shifts and motions by an NFC-high 26% rate above last year’s average, adding pre-snap deception to a unit that grew painfully mundane under ex-OC Scott Linehan. Dak Prescott also capitalized on a squeaky-clean pocket – he was pressured on just 1-of-32 dropbacks by the Giants – en route to Week 1’s fantasy QB2 result. I expect more fireworks from Prescott against a Skins defense that conceded last week’s QB8 score to Carson Wentz and generated just four hits with one sack among Wentz’s 40 dropbacks. … Despite handling only 14 touches, Ezekiel Elliott indeed played more snaps (37, including penalties) than his expected 20-25 versus the G-Men and should be up for an increase after Tony Pollard struggled on the ground (13/24/0). Washington’s Week 1 run defense was unimposing – Eagles backs tagged it for 26/116/0 (4.46 YPC) rushing, not including Miles Sanders’ nullified 21-yard TD sprint – and is without critical run-stopping DE Jonathan Allen (MCL). Even if Elliott lacks his normal volume upside for another week, he should at very least be fired up as a low-end RB1.
Dak’s Week 1 target distribution: Amari Cooper 9; Michael Gallup 7; Randall Cobb 5; Jason Witten 4; Blake Jarwin 3; Zeke 2; Tavon Austin 1. … Despite preseason plantar fascia concerns, Cooper logged 75-plus yards and/or a touchdown for the eighth time in 12 games as a Cowboy in Week 1 and has been far more consistent than given credit for with Dallas. Turning 32 later this year, Skins top CB Josh Norman looked slow and downright old in last week’s meltdown in Philly, coughing up completions on 6-of-8 targets for 92 yards and a touchdown. Perhaps we should’ve been forewarned; Norman allowed the highest passer rating of his career when targeted in 2018. … Gallup’s camp hype spilled over into Week 1 with connections of 62, 36, and 23 yards from Dak. Cooper admitted to suffering a Week 1 “flareup” on his bothersome foot against the Giants. Although it’s not expected to cost Amari time, any small shift in usage would benefit Gallup, who warrants locked-in WR3 treatment at this point. … Cobb turned in a successful Cowboys debut (4/69/1) but produced at his ceiling relative to his target share. Even in another plus draw, Cobb is a low-upside WR4/flex as the fourth option in Dallas’ passing game. … Witten worked as the Cowboys’ primary Week 1 tight end on 66% of the snaps but was outproduced by Jarwin (3/39/1). Cooper and Gallup are the fantasy assets here; everyone else is a low-floor roll of the dice.
Despite last week’s fast start in Philadelphia, the Redskins’ offense remains mostly a fade with Derrius Guice (knee) on I.R., LT Trent Williams (holdout) not back yet, and Jordan Reed (concussion) still lacking medical clearance. Vernon Davis is an exception; Dallas’ zone defense served up the NFL’s fourth-most catches to tight ends in 2018, then got torched by Evan Engram (11/116/1) for Week 1’s overall TE1 result. Davis played 81% of Washington’s offensive snaps, tied for second on the team in targets (7), and scored a hurdling 48-yard touchdown that vaulted Davis past Shannon Sharpe on the all-time tight end TD list. … Guice underwent meniscus surgery on Thursday and should be dropped in season-long leagues. … Chris Thompson once again warrants RB3/flex discussion in PPR leagues. Thompson led the Skins in Week 1 targets (10), while Dallas permitted the league’s fifth-most running back catches per game (6.3) last year. Giants backs had seven catches against them last week. … Although rushing inefficiency seems inevitable considering the Redskins’ entirely run-unfriendly circumstances, Peterson should be rostered everywhere on volume projection alone. He averaged 16.9 touches per game, rushed for over 1,000 yards, and scored eight TDs as a starter last year. I must admit Peterson is at least a little bit tempting on Fanduel this week at $4,800. He’ll have a huge chip on his shoulder after being a healthy Week 1 scratch.
Case Keenum’s Week 1 target distribution: Thompson 10; Davis, Terry McLaurin, and Paul Richardson 7; Trey Quinn 6; Guice 3; Kelvin Harmon 2; Jeremy Sprinkle 1. … McLaurin roasted Philly’s secondary for a 70-yard TD bomb in last week’s second quarter, before Keenum missed him for another would-be 60-yard score later in the game. Although this week’s matchup is far more difficult, McLaurin’s 4.35 jets, superb route running, and high opportunity share vault him into every-week WR3 discussion on a team that will play from behind far more often than not. … Richardson has now played eight games as a Skin with full-season pace stats of 48/596/4. Let’s aim higher. … Quinn led all of Washington’s wideouts in Week 1 snaps (98%) but was quiet before garbage time, managing 4/33/1 receiving. Nevertheless, Quinn’s slot role keeps him relevant in PPR leagues, where Quinn offers WR4/value versus the Cowboys.
Score Prediction: Cowboys 27, Redskins 20
Colts at Titans
Team Totals: Titans 24, Colts 21
The Colts telegraphed their game-manager intentions for Jacoby Brissett by restricting him to 27 Week 1 pass attempts despite trailing most of the game. Behind an offensive line that returns all five starters and mashed the Chargers on the road, this is shaping up as a Marlon Mack-centric offense after Mack’s monster Opening Day rushing effort (25/174/1) in which he played a career-high 76% of Indy’s offensive snaps. Mack didn’t catch any passes against the Bolts but nearly doubled Nyheim Hines’ route total (19 to 11) and is clearly involved in the passing game. Seeing legit RB1 usage, Mack is a trustworthy Week 2 play facing a Titans defense against which Browns backs efficiently logged 19/92/1 (4.84 YPC) rushing last week. … A low-volume passer on a run-first team, Brissett’s Week 2 outlook is concerning versus an underrated Titans defense that last year yielded the NFL’s third-fewest points and in Week 1 blasted Baker Mayfield for five sacks, picked him off three times, and held Mayfield to a pathetic QB24 finish.
Brissett’s Week 1 target distribution: T.Y. Hilton 9; Devin Funchess 5; Hines 4; Eric Ebron 3; Jack Doyle and Deon Cain 2; Parris Campbell and Mo Alie-Cox 1; Chester Rogers and Zach Pascal 0. … Hilton looks like a prime sell-high candidate in season-long leagues after severely outkicking Week 1 usage-adjusted expectations. He saved his box-score results with two red-zone scores but finished a lowly 50th among NFL wideouts in Air Yards (67) and will have lots of trouble maintaining consistency on a run-heavy team. He’s a fringe WR2/3 play against the Titans, who held all Browns pass catchers below 75 yards last week. … Funchess broke his collarbone and figures to be replaced by a smattering of receivers as opposed to one individual Colts wideout. … As expected, Ebron and Doyle canceled each other out in last week’s loss to the Chargers and remain near the bottom of the TE2 barrel, if that. They are both drops in 12-team leagues. … In a wide-reaching rotation behind Hilton’s 89%, Colts Week 1 snaps were distributed as frustratingly follows: Funchess 57%, Rogers 40%, Pascal 37%, Campbell 29%, Cain 17%.
New Titans OC Arthur Smith put on a clinic in his play-calling debut at Cleveland, spiking Tennessee’s play-action rate to top five in the league (43%), coaxing out of Marcus Mariota his second-most yards per attempt in 38 games (10.3), and committing 20 high-efficiency touches to Derrick Henry even after falling behind early. The Titans return to Nashville to host the Colts, who coughed up 18/115/1 (6.39 YPC) rushing and another 100 receiving yards to Chargers backs last week. Although Henry’s ten Week 1 routes run don’t sound like much, his highest 2018 route total was 13, and Henry showed he warrants more passing-game chances on last week’s game-breaking 75-yard screen-pass score. Henry trampled Colts DC Matt Eberflus’ lightweight, athleticism-based defense in their 2018 meetings, combining for 25/139/0 (5.56 YPC) rushing. Henry should be upgraded into fringe RB1 territory as a home-favorite bellcow in a plus draw. … Dion Lewis managed six touches on 41% of the Week 1 snaps and will need Tennessee to chase points for flex value. Lewis hurt the Titans early with a drive-killing first-quarter drop. … Henry’s screen-pass TD accounted for over 30% of Mariota’s Opening Day yards, and Mariota was deployed as a low-volume game manager with 24 attempts. Mariota also took four sacks, faced pressure at the NFL’s fourth-highest rate (43%), and was fortunate to escape with such high passing efficiency. This game’s modest total (45) keeps Mariota out of QB1 contention despite his solid Week 1.
Mariota’s Week 1 target distribution: Delanie Walker 6; Lewis and A.J. Brown 4; Corey Davis 3; Henry 2; Adam Humphries and Jonnu Smith 1; Tajae Sharpe 0. … Even as he was out-snapped by Smith 63% to 46%, Walker ran routes on 21-of-27 plays (78%), logged a TE1-caliber 25% target share, and scored twice in the red zone from 11 and 7 yards out. Walker’s playing time figures to rise the further he’s removed from last year’s ankle injury. For Week 2, Walker is a top-12 fantasy play at hisposition facing a zone-based Colts defense that yielded the NFL’s most yards per game to tight ends in 2018, then gave up 64 yards on six targets to Chargers tight ends last week. … Brown gave every bit of credence to pre-draft JuJu Smith-Schuster comparisons on his 51-yard open-field catch and run in last week’s second half. He also caught a 47-yard bomb in the first quarter, exploiting a Browns coverage bust. Brown (42%) played fewer snaps than Sharpe (49%), however, and can’t be trusted until his utilization expands. … Davis drew all three of his Week 1 targets in Browns top CB Denzel Ward’s coverage, and all three fell incomplete. Davis did pop in Josh Hermsmeyer’s Week 2 Buy-Low Air Yards Model and is worth fade-recency-bias DFS-tournament consideration after easily leading all Titans in Week 1 playing time (73%). … I’m not sure why Humphries generated pre-season fantasy hype, but it’s generally good process to ignore low-efficiency slot receivers on run-first teams. Humphries played just 34% of the Titans’ Opening Day snaps.
Score Prediction: Titans 21, Colts 20
Seahawks at Steelers
Team Totals: Steelers 25, Seahawks 21
Seahawks-Steelers is my favorite Week 2 “over” bet with Pittsburgh returning home in prime bounce-back position following last Sunday night’s embarrassing 33-3 shellacking by the Patriots. As Pittsburgh shouldn’t have trouble flaming a Seattle secondary that yielded Andy Dalton’s career-high 418 passing yards in Week 1, Russell Wilson projects to respond with heightened pass attempts and subsequent scrambles. Steelers 2018 sack leader T.J. Watt (hip) and top CB Joe Haden (shoulder) both emerged beaten up after Pittsburgh allowed Week 1’s QB7 result to Tom Brady. As the Steelers lean heavily on man coverage where defenders turn their backs to the offense, Wilson should also see more rushing opportunities. Wilson’s 46 touchdown passes against man-coverage looks lead the NFL since 2017 (Sports Info Solutions) despite more attempts versus zone (465) than man (433) during that stretch. … As expected based on preseason signs, Chris Carson dominated snaps (76%) and touches (21) over Rashaad Penny (27%, 6) in last week’s win over the Bengals. Seattle’s coaches promised all offseason to increase Carson’s receiving usage and delivered; Carson’s 35% target share led the team, and his six catches were a career high. Carson ran 17 routes after averaging 9.0 per game last year. Carson’s RB1-caliber usage should keep him matchup proof, even as a road dog in this spot. Penny is a handcuff only.
Wilson’s Week 1 target distribution: Carson 7; D.K. Metcalf 6; Tyler Lockett, Nick Vannett, and Will Dissly 2; Jaron Brown 0. … Lockett is a screaming buy-low target in season-long leagues after Cincinnati double teamed him for nearly the entirety of Week 1. Metcalf made the Bengals pay, and Lockett now catches a gorgeous bounce-back spot facing a Steelers defense that perennially insists on covering slot receivers with linebackers. Pittsburgh gave up the NFL’s second-most completions and fifth-most yards in the slot last year, then hemorrhaged 15 catches for 270 yards and three TDs on slot routes versus New England last Sunday night. Lockett ran 82% of his Week 1 routes in the slot (Sports Info Solutions). Wilson-to-Lockett is one of my favorite Week 2 DFS-tournament stacks. … Metcalf benefited from all the Bengals’ attention paid to Lockett but also flashed his big-play chops on a pair of deep-ball receptions and will remain a tough cover all season long when Wilson improvises outside the pocket with 4.33 jets at 6-foot-3, 228. A boom-bust WR4/flex option, Metcalf is worth consideration in Seahawks-Steelers game stacks as Seattle’s clear-cut No. 3 pass option behind Lockett and Carson. … Brown didn’t see a single Week 1 target despite playing 78% of Seattle’s offensive snaps. … Dissly’s health remains untrustworthy after tearing his patellar tendon in 2018, then re-tweaking the knee versus Cincinnati.
Severely outclassed by the Patriots in primetime, the proud and still-ultra-talented Steelers return home in rebound position to face a Seahawks defense that got blowtorched by the Bengals’ A.J. Green-less passing game, yielding Week 1’s QB11 fantasy result to Andy Dalton in a game where ex-confirmed-draft bust John Ross went nuclear (7/158/2) despite leaving gobs of yardage on the field via drops and miscommunications after barely practicing throughout camp. Although it feels uncomfortable, Ben Roethlisberger is a green-light DFS-tournament play at what figures to be minimal ownership based on recency bias. … James Conner joined Big Ben as a Week 1 fantasy bust in brutal game script but still handled 82% of Pittsburgh’s backfield touches and is in much better Week 2 fantasy position as a home-favorite bellcow facing a Seattle team coming off an emotional, comeback home-game win now traveling cross country for a 1pm ET start. The Seahawks will be without stud NT Poona Ford due to a calf injury, and are already missing top DT Jarran Reed (suspension). Preseason and Week 1 usage show Jaylen Samuels remains purely a handcuff. Over-drafted fourth-rounder Benny Snell only played on special teams in the opener.
Roethlisberger’s Week 1 target distribution: Donte Moncrief 10; JuJu Smith-Schuster 8; Ryan Switzer and James Washington 6; Diontae Johnson 5; Conner and Vance McDonald 4; Samuels and Johnny Holton 2. … With four drops and a pathetic seven yards on his team-high ten targets, no NFL receiver had a worse Week 1 than “Chief Crief.” But Moncrief played 90% of Pittsburgh’s offensive snaps, is popping in Josh Hermsmeyer’s Buy Low Air Yards Model, and coach Mike Tomlin indicated Tuesday Moncrief’s snaps aren’t in danger. … JuJu is another buy-low Steeler after a humdrum opener where he missed snaps due to a toe injury but still led Pittsburgh in receiving (6/78/0) and gets a far softer Week 2 draw. Smith-Schuster ran 69% of his Week 1 routes in the slot, where the Seahawks lost stud CB Justin Coleman in the offseason and Ross recorded 68 yards with a score in Week 1. … Aligning with preseason trends, Switzer operated as Pittsburgh’s No. 3 receiver, Washington as the No. 4, and Johnson as the No. 5 against the Patriots. Switzer is worth rostering as a WR5/6 in deeper PPR leagues. Washington popped in Hermsmeyer’s Air Yards Model but looks like a trap after benefiting from Big Ben enlisting four- and five-receiver sets late in desperation comeback mode at Foxboro. … Containing McDonald was clearly a priority for the Patriots, who used SS Pat Chung to chase him in man coverage and checked McDonald until garbage time. I’m not going into panic mode; the Seahawks’ zone poses a much friendlier Week 2 matchup, and McDonald’s 32 routes run were seventh most among Week 1 tight ends. Seattle will miss starting FS Tedric Thompson (hamstring), who played every Week 1 snap. Bengals TEs efficiently combined to catch 9-of-11 targets for 93 yards against Pete Carroll’s defense last week.
Score Prediction: Steelers 31, Seahawks 30
Bills at Giants
Team Totals: Bills 23, Giants 20.5
Due to his innate ability to “go get it” like a dog chasing down frisbees, John Brown is the perfect match for Josh Allen, and last Sunday showed precisely why. Putting the offense on Brown and Allen’s backs, Buffalo rallied from a 16-0 deficit for its 17-16 win as Allen overcame four first-half turnovers and Brown went off (7/123/1) against a Jets secondary that had no prayer of covering him. OC Brian Daboll used Allen as a runner more aggressively as the game progressed, allowing the Bills’ bazooka-armed signal caller to hang 10/38/1 rushing on the Jets en route to Week 1’s QB12 fantasy finish. A theme of last week’s Matchups column, Allen-to-Brown stacks remain squarely in play against the Giants’ lowly defense, which got obliterated for Week 1’s QB2 result by Dak Prescott and cooked out wide by both Michael Gallup (7/158/0) and Amari Cooper (6/106/1). Entirely devoid of pass rush, the Giants pathetically pressured Dak on just 1-of-32 dropbacks despite blitzing at the NFL’s seventh-highest rate. Allen has finished QB12 or better in six of his last seven starts and will play Week 2 with a chip on his shoulder after Giants coach Pat Shurmur diminished Allen as a prospect coming out of Wyoming during press conferences this week. Allen is a green-light Week 2 DFS play. … Buffalo’s Week 1 backfield deployment was strange to be kind, but we can never be surprised at oddball usage in RBBCs on teams quarterbacked by dual threats. Devin Singletary dominated snaps (71%) but didn’t get a carry until halfway through the third quarter. Frank Gore out-touched him ten to nine. The good news is T.J. Yeldon barely played, so this is shaping up as more of a two- than three-man committee. Particularly after Singletary turned his nine touches into 98 yards, he looks like a risky but viable flex option in what should be a balanced-to-positive script affair against the lowly Giants. Singletary is clearly the most-dynamic back on the team.
Allen’s Week 1 target distribution: Brown 10; Cole Beasley 9; Singletary 6; Zay Jones 5; Dawson Knox, Tommy Sweeney, and Patrick DiMarco 2; Robert Foster 0. … One more note on Brown; I love that the Bills played him in the slot on 54% of his Week 1 snaps, where Brown added 3/32/0 to his box score. It’s a means of funneling Brown high-percentage catches on top of his goes and flies outside. Last week, Dallas’ slot men tag teamed to torch the Giants for 4/99/1 receiving on interior routes. … New York’s slot-defense weakness extends positively to Beasley, Buffalo’s primary slot guy. Beasley is popping as Week 2’s No. 6 buy-low receiver in Josh Hermsmeyer’s predictive Air Yards Model after performing miserably in Week 1 with two drops – one resulting in an Allen pick – but seeing heavy usage and playing the second-most snaps among Bills receivers behind Brown. Based on matchup and opportunity in a spot where I expect Allen to perform well, Beasley is an underrated PPR WR3/flex. … Jones and Foster essentially shared Week 1 third-receiver duties with Jones playing more. Both lack near-term fantasy appeal. … With Tyler Kroft (foot) on his way back, rookie TEs Knox and Sweeney are safe to ignore.
The Giants will continue to trudge out Eli Manning as their starting quarterback for Week 2, even after a largely unwatchable 17-point opener at Dallas in which Daniel Jones didn’t play until garbage time. The Bills are a more-fierce opponent than the Cowboys, last year ranking No. 2 in pass-defense DVOA before holding Sam Darnold to an anemic 4.3 yards per attempt and Week 1’s QB25 finish. Anyone rational is more than ready for the Danny Dimes era. … In what projects as a closer game than last week’s blowout in Dallas, expect Saquon Barkley’s usage to rise considerably from 15 touches, which he nevertheless parlayed into 139 yards. As a rookie, Barkley scored 12 of his 15 touchdowns and averaged 120.5 yards from scrimmage in games decided by one score. Sunday’s spread favors Buffalo by a 2.5-point margin.
Eli’s target distribution: Evan Engram 13; Cody Latimer 8; Sterling Shepard 7; Barkley 6; Bennie Fowler 5; Rhett Ellison and Wayne Gallman 1. … Even in a one-game sample, Engram’s monster 29.5% target share foreshadows his third-year breakout as one of the NFL’s most-athletic tight ends on a team built to throw the ball voluminously between the numbers. Engram is averaging 6.6 catches for 87.2 yards over his last five games. 2018 overall TE1 Travis Kelce averaged 6.4 catches for 83.5 yards. I’m viewing Engram as a matchup-agnostic play until he proves otherwise. … I’m not chasing Latimer’s 74-yard Week 1 against the Bills, who shut down Jets perimeter WRs Robby Anderson (3/23/0) and Quincy Enunwa (1/-4/0). But perhaps I’ll regret it; Latimer is Week 2’s No. 2 buy-low receiver in Hermsmeyer’s Air Yards Model. Latimer did miss practice time this week with a calf injury and is listed as questionable. If both he and Shepard (concussion) can’t go, the Giants’ three-receiver set would be reduced to Fowler, special teamer Russell Shepard, and ex-Lion T.J. Jones. … Buffalo’s defense is more vulnerable inside, where it lost slot CB Taron Johnson (hamstring) on Opening Day and was pounded by Jamison Crowder (14/99/0). Unfortunately, slot man Shepard was ruled out on Friday. It’s Barkley, Engram, or bust for me with this offense in Week 2.
Score Prediction: Bills 24, Giants 23
49ers at Bengals
Team Totals: Bengals 23, 49ers 22
The 1-0 Niners visit Cincinnati without Tevin Coleman, whose high ankle sprain figures to cost him 4-6 weeks and could conceivably ruin Coleman’s entire year. (I’d outright drop Coleman in 10- and 12-man season-long leagues.) Matt Breida is next man up after pacing Week 1’s backfield in touches (15) and snaps (43%) despite temporarily leaving the game due to dehydration in Tampa Bay’s sweltering heat. Raheem Mostert (10, 30%) mixed in behind him and had a ten-yard TD run negated by penalty. Even after the Bengals defended Seattle’s dangerous running game stoutly on Opening Day, Breida should be upgraded to a volume-based RB2 as Kyle Shanahan’s new lead back. The 49ers mainly value Mostert for his special-teams acumen, but he is worth a speculative waiver add, too. The Niners added Jeffrey Wilson from the practice squad on Saturday to serve as their No. 3 back. … Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t play well enough in August or Week 1 to be trusted outside of two-QB leagues, especially after the Bengals harassed Russell Wilson into four sacks and nine hits on only 24 dropbacks last week. I thought Jimmy G looked overreactive to pressure against the Bucs in Week 1, and NFL Films’ Greg Cosell observed that Garoppolo’s ball placement has become increasingly scattershot, outright missing open targets. This game’s modest total (45) provides further reason to temper box-score ebullience on either side of the ball.
Jimmy G’s Week 1 target distribution: George Kittle 10; Coleman, Marquise Goodwin, Deebo Samuel, and Kendrick Bourne 3; Richie James 2; Mostert, Breida, and Dante Pettis 1. … As it should be, Kittle dominated Opening Day targets at Tampa and finished with eight catches. Unfortunately, he had two touchdowns called back, one due to FB Kyle Juszczyk’s offensive pass interference and the other on RT Mike McGlinchey’s illegal-formation flag. Kittle should experience positive regression as San Francisco’s passing-game focal point facing a Bengals linebacker corps poorly equipped to guard the middle of the field. … As a practical matter, no other 49ers pass catchers will be playable in fantasy leagues until we see evidence of enhanced individual target shares. Playing-time distributions remain notable; Samuel led San Francisco’s wideouts in Week 1 snaps (88%) with Goodwin (73%) second, slot man James third (39%), Bourne fourth (25%), and Pettis a disappointingly-distant fifth (3%). After the game, Shanahan attributed Pettis’ minimal usage to a calf injury in addition to the groin pull Pettis battled late in camp.
Back home after putting up a surprisingly-frisky fight in Week 1’s 21-20 loss at Seattle, the Bengals host a San Francisco team playing on the East Coast for the second straight week, this time for a 1pm ET start after downing the Bucs 31-17 in Tampa last Sunday afternoon. Andy Dalton committed enough Week 1 turnovers (2) and took enough sacks (5) for our Seattle D/ST play to hit, but his career-high 418 yards and deadly connection with John Ross bode positively for Dalton’s two-quarterback-league outlook until A.J. Green (ankle) returns. From Dalton’s hiked play-action rate (34%) to specific designs intended to counteract leaky protection, the Bengals’ post-Marvin Lewis offensive modernization was palpable in Zac Taylor’s debut. Dalton’s life will be made a little bit easier if instant-impact 49ers rookie DE Nick Bosa (ankle) can’t play; Bosa went down in training camp and suffered a setback in Week 1. … Joe Mixon’s ankle sprain is among Week 2’s biggest injuries to monitor and highlights Giovani Bernard’s must-stash value as mentioned in last week’s Matchups column. Rookie Trayveon Williams (foot) and final-cuts pickup Samaje Perine are the only other backs on the 53. Bengals beats are confident Mixon will be active Sunday morning, but Gio could easily take on a bigger role than usual against the Niners.
Dalton’s Week 1 target distribution: Ross 12; Tyler Boyd 11; Tyler Eifert 6; C.J. Uzomah and Damion Willis 5; Alex Erickson 4; Bernard and Mixon 3. … Ross did virtually nothing his first two years in the league and barely practiced in camp due to a hamstring injury. So it was more than a little surprising to see him come out like gangbusters in Seattle, averaging a filthy 4.4 yards of separation at target en route to 7/158/2 receiving. With A.J. Green still several weeks away from return, Ross deserves to be Week 2’s top season-long waiver pickup and is worth serious DFS consideration as a smallish speed burner (5’11/188, 4.22) with mismatch potential against plus-sized LCB Richard Sherman (6’3/195) and RCB Ahkello Witherspoon (6’3/198). … Boyd didn’t make big Week 1 plays but showed his floor with a team-high eight grabs and remains an every-week WR2, especially in PPR leagues. Slot CB K’Waun Williams is the biggest liability in San Francisco’s secondary. … Uzomah paced Cincinnati’s Week 1 tight ends in snaps (71%) with Eifert (49%) second, and those two may continue to cancel each other out until Eifert earns a larger playing-time share. Second-round TE Drew Sample played only three snaps at Seattle.
Score Prediction: Bengals 24, 49ers 20
Chargers @ Lions
Team Totals: Chargers 25, Lions 22
The Chargers trek to Detroit fresh off their thrilling OT win over the Colts to face a Lions defense that logged a league-high 82 Week 1 plays in their own overtime game against a Cardinals offense that played no huddle at a league-high 42% rate. Afterwards, Kyler Murray said he noticed Lions defenders sucking wind during Arizona’s fourth-quarter comeback. … Austin Ekeler was the star of the Bolts’ Week 1 show, out-touching Justin Jackson 18 to 7, outgaining him 154 to 61, and hitting pay dirt three times, including Ekeler’s powerful game-winning rushing TD up the gut from seven yards out. (Take that #CantRunBetweenTheTackles Twitter!) On touch counts of 18 > 17 > 18 > 17 over his last four starts, Ekeler is a high-end RB2 with RB1 upside at Detroit, which yielded 142 total yards and a score to Cardinals backs last week. Hunter Henry’s devastating tibial fracture only enhances the Chargers’ need to rely on Ekeler in the short-area passing game. … Jackson should still be rostered in all season-long leagues as one of fantasy’s top handcuffs with some standalone value. … Smartly leaning on a low-aDOT passing game that featured slot receivers, backs, and tight ends, Philip Rivers was as sharp as ever versus the Colts, even while absorbing four sacks and nine hits behind Los Angeles’ leaky line. Still lacking any rushing floor and facing a better defense on the road, I’d view Rivers as a high-end QB2 at best at Ford Field. Henry’s loss and Mike Williams‘ balky knee further damage Rivers’ outlook.
Rivers’ Week 1 target distribution: Keenan Allen 10; Ekeler 7; Hunter Henry 5; Jackson, Mike Williams, and Travis Benjamin 3; Dontrelle Inman and Virgil Green 1. … Allen torched the Colts in the short to intermediate games (8/123/1), running over half of his routes in the slot. Week 2 opponent Detroit got waxed by Cardinals slot WRs Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk for 145 yards and a touchdown despite several wide-open Kirk misses by Kyler Murray. As the Lions play man coverage at a top-five clip, it’s notable Allen’s target share has spiked from 22% to 33% on Rivers passes versus man over the past three years (Sports Info Solutions). Allen warrants DFS cash-game discussion in this spot. Henry’s injury should increase Rivers’ reliance on Allen in the red zone, and Detroit’s defensive-line supremacy over the Bolts’ offensive-line deficiency could turn this into a pass-funnel situation for the Bolts. Allen has upside to lead the entire Week 2 slate in targets. … Playing 92% of Los Angeles’ snaps, Henry was solid-if-unspectacular with 60 yards on five Week 1 targets. He did run 32 routes, seventh most among NFL tight ends in Week 1 and second most of Henry’s career. Unfortunately, Henry is expected to miss at least a month and can be dropped in shallow-bench season-long leagues. … Williams figures to draw most of Lions top CB Darius Slay’s coverage on Sunday, but he should benefit with more scoring-position usage in Henry’s absence. Williams remains a touchdown-or-bust play on low volume. He also missed second-half snaps with a knee injury in Week 1, and coach Anthony Lynn stated Friday that Williams will be a game-time decision against the Lions. … Benjamin (48%) and Inman (41%) shared third-receiver snaps near evenly against Indianapolis. If Williams is inactive, however, Benjamin becomes a viable DFS-tournament play with big-play chops against Detroit’s man-coverage scheme.
Back home from last week’s meltdown in Arizona where Matt Patricia’s team blew an 18-point lead via conservative second-half play calling, the stubborn Lions figure to stick to their establish-the-run mantra versus a Chargers defense that got trampled by Marlon Mack (25/174/1) last week and sacrifices run-stuffing size up front for athleticism. Although Kerryon Johnson’s Week 1 efficiency was lacking, he held a commanding lead over C.J. Anderson in touches (18 to 11) and snaps (57% to 29%). Patricia and OC Darrell Bevell’s RBBC commitment caps Johnson’s ceiling – Ty Johnson and J.D. McKissic also mixed into the backfield – but Kerryon should remain a reliable RB2 in the 16-19 touches range. … The Lions’ pass game was much more productive than its Week 1 rushing attack, albeit against an Arizona defense missing both starting cornerbacks. Los Angeles poses a far stiffer challenge with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram creating havoc off the edge, one of the league’s speediest linebacker corps, and playmakers Casey Hayward and Desmond King at corner. Last week, the Bolts limited Jacoby Brissett to 190 yards on 27 pass attempts, and the Colts managed one completion longer than 20 yards. In Detroit’s archaic offense, no one should be surprised if Matthew Stafford’s Week 1 goes down as his best game all year.
Stafford’s target distribution: Danny Amendola 13; T.J. Hockenson and Kenny Golladay 9; Marvin Jones 4; Johnson and McKissic 2; Jesse James 1. … Keep in mind Detroit’s Week 1 box scores were severely inflated by overtime and running 80 plays; last year’s Lions offense averaged 63.7 per game. … Despite leading the team in targets, Amendola logged a 52% snap rate and will now primarily draw Chargers All-Pro slot CB Desmond King. Amendola sets up as a point-chasing trap. … Hockenson does look like the real deal after leading all NFL tight ends in Week 1 Air Yards (142) and being deployed as a legitimate vertical weapon. His 131 yards were most in league history for a tight end in his first professional game. Even as rookie tight ends are typically poor fantasy bets, Hockenson can buck those trends if this usage keeps up. He played 71% of Detroit’s offensive downs. Highly athletic on the second and third levels, the Chargers’ defense did eliminate Colts TEs Jack Doyle (1/20/0) and Eric Ebron (1/8/0) last week. Still, I’d boost Hockensen to into top-ten TE1 range entering Week 2. … For our Draft Kit, I wrote how Amendola and Hockenson’s additions could throw a wrench into Golladay and Jones’ target volume. Jones’ Week 1 involvement was especially discouraging with just four looks among Stafford’s 48 dropbacks. Golladay is the Lions’ lone fantasy-viable wideout for Week 2, even as the likeliest to draw coverage from Hayward.
Score Prediction: Chargers 23, Lions 21
Vikings @ Packers
Team Totals: Packers 24, Vikings 21
Dalvin Cook was among the NFL’s most-dynamic players in Week 1, trucking the Falcons for 120 yards and two scores on 23 touches. With Minnesota’s Gary Kubiak-infused run game dominating as an entity, rookie complement Alexander Mattison pitched in 49 yards on nine carries on a day where the Vikings ran for 172 yards and three scores. Although similar results are unlikely at Lambeau facing an improved Packers defense that held Bears backs to 11/37/0 rushing last week, Cook has more than earned elite RB1 treatment with averages of 107 total yards and 5.60 yards per carry over his last six games. Cook’s injury-riddled history does render Mattison a must-stash in season-long leagues. … As Kubiak and OC Kevin Stefanski successfully implemented their establish-the-run game plan and Minnesota spent all of Week 1 in positive script, Kirk Cousins attempted a measly ten throws in a picturesque game-manager role on Mike Zimmer’s anti-passing scorecard. Although the ten attempts will almost certainly go down as Cousins’ season low, they further confirm his low ceiling based on Minnesota’s offensive philosophy. For Week 2, Cousins is an unexciting two-quarterback-league option after the Packers allowed zero Week 1 touchdowns while hanging 11 hits and five sacks on Mitchell Trubisky. Green Bay pressured Trubisky on 40% of his dropbacks last week; he was pressured that often in just 1-of-14 starts last year.
Cousins’ Week 1 target distribution: Adam Thielen 3; Cook and Stefon Diggs 2; Chad Beebe 1; Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith 0. … Cousins is likely to finish much closer to 30 attempts than last week’s 10, so I’d suggest not overreacting to Thielen and Diggs’ near-nonexistent target volume. Thielen played 89% of Minnesota’s Week 1 snaps, pocketed the team’s lone passing-game score, and has historically had Green Bay’s number with receiving lines of 8/125/1 > 12/131/1 > 2/24/0 > 9/96/0 > 12/202/2 in these clubs’ last five meetings. The Packers allowed the NFL’s fourth-most fantasy points to wide receivers last year, then coughed up 102 yards to Allen Robinson last Thursday night despite abominable play from Mitchell Trubisky. … Diggs played only 60% of the Vikings’ Week 1 snaps while gutting out a hamstring strain. While I’m still willing to trust Thielen as a fringe WR1 at Lambeau, Diggs should be downgraded into WR2 territory until he proves full health. In seven career games playing through an injury designation, Diggs has never once cleared 60 yards. Good news: Diggs is off this week’s injury report. … Rudolph played 100% of the Vikings’ Week 1 snaps and blocked on 83% of them. Smith ran five routes among 49% of Minnesota’s offensive plays.
Albeit against Chicago’s league-best defense on the road, the Packers’ Opening Day offense was so discombobulated and poorly orchestrated by Matt LaFleur that Aaron Rodgers drafters should continue to seek out streamer replacements until his schedule eases up. Week 2 opponent Minnesota hit Matt Ryan seven times among four Week 1 sacks, and Ryan saved face only via two garbage-time touchdowns after the Vikings opened up a 28-0 lead. Rodgers has failed to clear 300 yards in three straight meetings with Mike Zimmer, throwing one or fewer touchdown passes in all three. … After ranking 11th and 6th in run-defense DVOA the past two seasons, Zimmer’s stout front stymied Falcons backs for 14/50/0 rushing with a Devonta Freeman lost fumble in Week 1. Aaron Jones was as disappointing as any member of Green Bay’s opener, out-snapping Jamaal Williams by only a 61% to 39% margin and out-touching him 14 to 7. Despite LaFleur’s offseason promises to involve running backs in the passing game more, Jones and Williams drew just three targets combined. I am standing by Jones as a low-end RB2 but lowering floor and ceiling expectations until he earns more work. Despite vastly-superior talent, Jones has frustratingly failed to distance himself from Williams since entering the NFL.
Rodgers’ Week 1 target distribution: Davante Adams 8; Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Jimmy Graham 6; Marcedes Lewis 3; Williams 2; Jones, Geronimo Allison, Trevor Davis, and Robert Tonyan 1. … Adams is among fantasy’s easiest buy-low targets after his scoreless, 46-yard opener. He still led Green Bay in targets, has hit pay dirt in four straight meetings with the Vikings, and is an excellent fade-recency-bias DFS-tournament play, checking in as Week 2’s No. 7 wideout in Josh Hermsmeyer’s predictive Air Yards Model… MVS was responsible for the Packers’ lone big Week 1 gain on a 47-yard catch off play action in Bears CB Prince Amukamara’s coverage. MVS managed five yards on his other five targets. He did draw more Air Yards (81) than Adams (63) and maintains boom-bust WR4/flex viability in this probable matchup with Vikings No. 2 CB Trae Waynes. Although Xavier Rhodes struggled last year and this preseason, he put clamps on Julio Jones (6/31/1) for most of Week 1. Valdes-Scantling is also Hermsmeyer’s No. 8 buy-low receiver for Week 2, right behind teammate Adams. … Graham looked spry against Chicago, surprisingly leading his team in Air Yards (117) and catching Rodgers’ lone touchdown. Mostly an August afterthought, Graham should be upgraded into low-end TE1 territory versus a Vikings defense that coughed up a perfect 9/77/0 receiving line on nine targets to Austin Hooper last week. … Although Allison’s Week 2 matchup is enhanced by Vikings slot CB Mackensie Alexander’s dislocated elbow, Allison is difficult to buy into after drawing zero Air Yards on one target in Green Bay’s opener. Allison played fewer than 50% of the Packers’ offensive snaps and looks like a drop in season-long leagues.
Score Prediction: Vikings 21, Packers 20
Jaguars @ Texans
Team Totals: Texans 26.5, Jaguars 16.5
Their season already circling the drain with Nick Foles (collarbone) lost to I.R., the Jaguars have turned to sixth-round rookie Gardner Minshew, whose high-efficiency Week 1 relief effort is easy to doubt going forward. Minshew was playing at home against a perennially poor Chiefs defense and took only three hits and one sack on 26 dropbacks. Minshew also threw both of his touchdown passes in fourth-quarter garbage time after Kansas City built a 37-13 lead. Minshew is intelligent with above-average athleticism and an adequate arm, but he’s best viewed as a fringe two-QB-league play until he excels in a larger sample. This is a green-light opportunity to stream Houston’s D/ST, especially with Jaguars LT Cam Robinson (knee) missing. … Foles’ injury reinforces Leonard Fournette as Jacksonville’s offensive engine after he played 86% of the team’s Week 1 snaps and handled 17 of the Jaguars’ 18 running back touches. Badly missing run-defense dominator Jadeveon Clowney last week, Houston was lit up for 19/140/1 (7.37 YPC) rushing by Saints backs and 76 more yards in the air. Although projected negative script heightens Fournette’s risk as a two-score road dog, increased passing-game usage raises his RB2 floor. Fournette’s six Week 1 targets tied his career high.
Minshew’s Week 1 targets: Dede Westbrook 6; Chris Conley 5; Fournette and James O’Shaughnessy 4; Geoff Swaim 3; D.J. Chark 2; RyQuell Armstead 1. … Even after Conley and Chark had bigger Opening Days, Westbrook remains the Jaguars’ safest fantasy wideout bet in the slot, a position Minshew was encouraged to target in Mike Leach’s Washington State spread. Westbrook also led Jags receivers in Week 1 snaps (83%) and could easily benefit from Conley and Chark’s big Week 1s by facing less defensive attention going forward. Texans slot CB Aaron Colvin was ethered by the Saints last week, yielding eight completions on nine targets for 117 yards and a score. Appropriately, the Texans cut Colvin on Tuesday night. … Conley and Chark each turned in highlight-reel moments against Kansas City but remain boom-bust WR4/5s as perimeter speedsters downgrading from aggressive Foles to Minshew’s short-area style. … Swaim managed 17 yards on four Week 1 targets, seeing 50% of the Jaguars’ snaps. O’Shaughnessy was Jacksonville’s top tight end with a 66% playing-time clip and five targets, which he parlayed into 4/32/0 receiving. An above-par athlete with blocking capability, O’Shaughnessy is at very least worth monitoring in tight end-premium leagues.
Back home for a get-right spot after last week’s last-second loss at the Superdome, the Texans host a Jaguars team that got waxed 40-26 at home by Kansas City, lost its quarterback indefinitely, and may soon call it a year. (Doug Marrone’s Jags checked out early last season, too.) … Despite continued pass-protection woes – Deshaun Watson took six sacks and 11 hits via the Saints and played through back pain – Watson registered Week 1’s QB4 result with four all-purpose TDs and 308 total yards. Patrick Mahomes, Sammy Watkins, and Travis Kelce all exposed the once-dominant Jaguars defense as light years from invincibility. Watson’s biggest box-score obstacle may be conservative play calling by Bill O’Brien in a game where Minshew’s Jags figure to struggle to match points. Watson should still be teed up confidently in season-long leagues and pondered as a low-owned DFS-tournament play as one of the NFL’s most-aggressive and dynamic players regardless of opponent. Watson got an enormous boost when the Jaguars ruled out top pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue (hamstring) and No. 2 CB A.J. Bouye (hip). … Carlos Hyde started Week 1 and flashed power with surprising burst but was severely out-snapped by Duke Johnson (64% to 36%) and drew just one target to Johnson’s five. All told, Johnson out-touched Hyde 13 to 11. Week 2 does set up well enough for Hyde to merit non-PPR flex-play consideration due to projected positive script. Johnson will be a more-confident RB2 when the Texans play in shootouts and games where they project to trail.
Watson’s Week 1 target distribution: DeAndre Hopkins 13; Johnson 5; Will Fuller and Kenny Stills 3; Jordan Akins 2; Hyde and DeAndre Carter 1. … Hopkins overcame three drops – he dropped just one pass on 163 targets last year – to emerge with Week 1’s WR4 result by leading the league in Air Yards (216) in a predictably back-and-forth Monday night affair where Hopkins dominated Saints top CB Marcus Lattimore. The NFL’s most matchup-proof wideout, Hopkins’ last five receiving lines against Jalen Ramsey’s secondary are 12/147/0 > 3/50/1 > 4/80/1 > 7/55/1 > 8/87/0. Watson-to-Hopkins DFS stacks will be especially contrarian this week. … Although target volume wasn’t there, Fuller had no Week 1 limitations (97% snaps) and finished top 20 among receivers in Air Yards (111). Particularly with Ramsey on Hopkins and Bouye sidelined, Fuller should stay stapled to season-long lineups as an every-week WR3. … Stills debuted as Houston’s primary slot man but only played 42% of the snaps and will likely share third-receiver duties when Keke Coutee (ankle) returns. Coutee practiced fully all week. … A 70% player in his first game as the Texans’ main tight end, Akins simply wasn’t involved enough for anything more than TE2 treatment.
Score Prediction: Texans 27, Jaguars 13
Patriots @ Dolphins
Team Totals: Patriots 33.5, Dolphins 14.5
Although last week’s restoration of a three-way RBBC frustrated Sony Michel drafters, Week 2 sets up beautifully for a rebound with the Patriots visiting Miami as nearly three-score favorites. Michel still led New England in Week 1 carries (15), and there should be more where that came from after Tom Brady puts the Patriots up before Michel puts the Dolphins away. Brian Flores’ Fins defense was ripped to smithereens by Baltimore on Opening Day, conceding 265 yards and two scores on the ground. … James White managed nine Week 1 touches on 47% of the snaps, and this week’s projected game script sets him up for similar usage. … Rex Burkhead’s 13 touches in New England’s blowout win over Pittsburgh came as a surprise, but he was highly effective (5.5 YPC, 8.2 YPR) on them and should now be owned in all season-long leagues. Both White and Burkhead are viable if lower-rung flex options at Miami. Damien Harris was a healthy Week 1 scratch and looks droppable in 12-team leagues. … Antonio Brown or not, we can’t overthink Tom Brady as a Week 2 fantasy start. The Patriots have the highest team total on the entire slate, and the Dolphins just coughed up six touchdown passes at home against the Ravens.
Brady’s Week 1 target distribution: Julian Edelman 11; Burkhead 8; White 7; Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett 4; Ryan Izzo 2; Jakobi Meyers 1. … Whether A.B. plays or not, Edelman has the steadiest role in New England’s pass-catcher corps in the slot, where Brown ran just 21% of his 2018 routes. Assuming he is fully bought in, Brown’s addition will simply increase the Pats’ juggernaut level rather than adversely affect Edelman or Gordon. It will knock Dorsett out of the top-three-receiver rotation, though. Edelman remains a locked-in WR2 with WR1 upside in PPR leagues. … Gordon played 79% of New England’s Week 1 snaps, catching 3-of-4 targets for 73 yards and a touchdown. He should stay planted in fantasy lineups as a WR2/3 with upside for far more. A.B. could help Gordon by distracting Dolphins top CB Xavien Howard out of shadow coverage. … Even after a monster opener (4/95/2), Dorsett simply won’t be playable in fantasy leagues if Brown is active. I’d assume they’ll split snaps down the middle in Brown’s debut. Even in this hypothetical timeshare scenario, I’d be willing to gamble on Brown as a WR2. The matchup couldn’t get softer, and the Patriots will be incentivized to feed Brown early-game targets.
The best way to approach the Dolphins’ Week 2 offense is to fire up the Patriots’ D/ST, which draws the most-cupcake of cupcake forthcoming schedules facing Ryan Fitzpatrick, Trevor Siemian, Josh Allen, Case Keenum/Dwayne Haskins, Eli Manning/Daniel Jones, and post-mononucleosis Sam Darnold in its next six games. … Miami’s offense is a near-full fade due to reasons laid out in last week’s Matchups. As expected, the Fins got clocked 40 to 20 in time of possession in their blowout loss to Baltimore, couldn’t sustain drives, ran a league-low 47 plays, and finished with ten points. The Patriots’ defense is even better than the Ravens’ this year. … The one Dolphin on whom I might take a DFS-tournament flyer is DeVante Parker, who led Miami’s wideouts in Week 1 snaps (76%) and targets (7). Parker flashed his dominant-if-typically-unfulfilled talent on a monster catch deep down the middle in double coverage against the Ravens. Parker popped in Josh Hermsmeyer’s Air Yards Model as Week 2’s No. 3 buy-low receiver. … From a sports-betting perspective, I like the idea of parlaying the Dolphins as a side along with the under. Virtually any 19-point spread in the NFL is way too high, and I believe there is a better than 50:50 possibility ex-Patriots DC Flores finds ways to slow down New England’s offense just enough for both bets to hit.
Score Prediction: Patriots 30, Dolphins 13
Chiefs @ Raiders
Team Totals: Chiefs 30, Raiders 23
After pouring 40 and 35 points on Raiders DC Paul Guenther’s defense in last year’s two meetings, the Chiefs draw this year’s Silver & Black in a short-week letdown spot following last Monday night’s emotional post-Antonio Brown win over Denver. The Raiders’ Week 1 defensive display can be dismissed against thoroughly-inept Joe Flacco as it relates to Patrick Mahomes, who terrorized Guenther’s unit for 9.3 yards per attempt, a 6:1 TD-to-INT ratio, and 11/53/0 rushing in 2018. In the highest-totaled game on the slate, Mahomes is Week 2’s top quarterback play, and it’s not particularly close. The Raiders will definitely miss tone-setting first-round safety Johnathan Abram (shoulder, I.R.). … Although RBBC fears were immediately realized in LeSean McCoy’s Chiefs debut, the good news is Darwin Thompson (one touch, 3% snaps) was almost entirely uninvolved. Both Damien Williams (19 touches, 66%) and McCoy (11, 29%) can be every-week fantasy plays in the NFL’s most-potent offense so long as this backfield remains a two- rather than three-man ordeal. Still Kansas City’s go-to back in the passing game, Williams is RB2 playable with RB1 upside at Oakland. McCoy severely out-performed Williams in the running game in last week’s 40-26 drubbing of the Jaguars and is a worthwhile RB2/flex.
Mahomes’ Week 1 target distribution: Sammy Watkins 11; Travis Kelce 8; Williams 6; Tyreek Hill and Demarcus Robinson 2; McCoy, Thompson, and Mecole Hardman 1. … Watkins’ week-winning ex