Thumbs Up of the Week: Ben Roethlisberger (v KC)
The Steelers’ Week 1 tie against Cleveland was not pretty for Ben Roethlisberger, who turned it over five times—including three interceptions—while finishing with just eight fantasy points. However, weather played a factor, and Big Ben has been significantly better at home than on the road in recent years. This week, Pittsburgh will make their home debut in a potential shootout against the Chiefs, who have one of the worst cornerback groups in football and just allowed Philip Rivers (a quarterback that usually struggles against them) to throw for 424 yards and three scores. With Tom Brady facing Jacksonville and a hobbled Aaron Rodgers facing Minnesota, only Drew Brees is a better play than Roethlisberger for me.
Thumbs Up: Matt Ryan (v CAR)
Like Big Ben, Matt Ryan had a less-than-impressive opener, completing 48.8% of his passes for 251 yards, zero touchdowns, and one interception. Perhaps more discouraging than the numbers were Atlanta’s continued struggles in the red zone, as the offense was simply unable to move the ball in scoring territory. That’s been the case since Kyle Shanahan’s departure, but hopefully a matchup with Carolina can jumpstart them; over the past five games against the Panthers, Ryan has a 4-1 record with 343 yards per game and a 10:2 touchdown-interception ratio. He’s a low-end QB1 option.
Thumbs Up: Mitchell Trubisky (v SEA)
The Bears had a tough loss in the opener, but I think it could be a learning experience for Chicago and a positive for Mitchell Trubisky’s fantasy outlook. Despite allowing Trubisky to throw the ball 35 times while nursing a lead for most of the game, Matt Nagy seemed to get a little too cute with his play-calling, while at the same time not being as aggressive with downfield shots. I expect that to be corrected against an attackable Seattle secondary on Monday night by giving Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, and Taylor Gabriel more opportunities to make plays in one-on-one coverage.
Thumbs Up: Nick Foles (@ TB)
This morning, Doug Pederson officially announced that Nick Foles will make another start on Sunday with Carson Wentz still not ready, and the Super Bowl MVP gets a cupcake matchup to potentially remind people what he did in January/February. Foles is as hot-and-cold as it gets, but Tampa Bay should give him a chance to heat up early with injuries impacting a secondary that would be an inviting matchup with everyone at full strength. If you were planning on using Foles as a fantasy option in 2018, this looks like the spot.
Others: Derek Carr (@ DEN), Josh Allen (v LAC)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Aaron Rodgers (v MIN)
We probably won’t know if Aaron Rodgers is starting until Sunday morning, but at less than 100% against the league’s best defense, it might be best for fantasy owners to play it safe and/or temper expectations if he suits up. Rodgers has actually had a ton of success against Minnesota throughout his career (including 238 yards per game and a 13:2 touchdown-interception ratio in six healthy starts since Mike Zimmer was hired by the Vikings in 2014), so fantasy owners might want to roll with him anyway, but I’d consider him a low-end QB1 for Week 2.
Thumbs Down: Matthew Stafford (@ SF)
Aaron Rodgers wasn’t the only NFC North quarterback to have an injury scare in the opening slate of NFL games, as Matthew Stafford was forced to exit Monday night’s loss to the Jets on two separate occasions after a hit to the leg and a big shot to the abdomen. The actual play from Stafford and the team was more concerning, though, as he threw four interceptions and the Lions were completely dominated at home. He could explode in any given week thanks to the trio of Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, and Kenny Golladay, but I’d like to see it before I’m comfortable starting Stafford in 10- or 12-team leagues, especially because San Francisco’s underrated front might cause problems this weekend.
Thumbs Down: Tyrod Taylor (@ NO)
He was saved by his rushing production (two runs of 20+ yards, including a touchdown), but Taylor struggled to move the ball through the air in his Browns debut, completing just 15/40 passes (37.5%) for 197 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Tyrod had plenty of opportunities after the Cleveland defense forced six turnovers, but the offense was only able to convert one of them into a score. Now, Taylor will face a predominantly man-to-man defense (which he typically struggles more against as a passer) that should be laser-focused after allowing Ryan Fitzpatrick to torch them in a shocking upset loss. There are better options at such a deep position.
Thumbs Down: Ryan Fitzpatrick (v PHI)
The Harvard grad threw for 417 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions in the aforementioned torching of the Saints, so he’s a no-doubt streaming option, right? I wouldn’t be so sure; you should always value guys based on what they will do, not what they’ve already done, and you won’t be getting the veteran’s 41 fantasy points from Week 1 if you pick him up to start in Week 2. The Eagles can be vulnerable against the pass, especially away from Lincoln Financial Field, but Fitzpatrick is about as unpredictable as it gets. If you think he can stay hot, then go for it, but I’d look elsewhere.
Others: Dak Prescott (v NYG), Andy Dalton (v BAL)
Thumbs Up of the Week: Christian McCaffrey (@ ATL)
Week 1 was a definite disappointment for McCaffrey owners, as he lost a fumble at the goal line and only received ten carries (compared to seven for C.J. Anderson). Plus, the Panthers lost right tackle Daryl Williams (knee) after he made an amazing recovery to get back for the opener. All that said, it’d be silly to overreact to one game for the Stanford product, as his 16 touches against the Cowboys should be a floor for him this year, and he will have an even bigger presence in the passing game with Greg Olsen facing a multi-month absence. This week, McCaffrey gets an Atlanta defense that allows the underneath throws by design (he had five receptions in both matchups last season), and they will be without perhaps their best two defenders after Deion Jones and Keanu Neal were both placed on IR. This might be the only buy-low window for Run CMC.
Thumbs Up: Adrian Peterson (v IND)
A throwback performance (28 touches for 166 yards and a score) by Adrian Peterson was dedicated to “anyone that’s ever been doubted,” and I have no reservations about the 33-year-old being productive for as long as he stays healthy behind Washington’s elite offensive line. Even those who aren’t sold on AD for the rest of the season should be on the bandwagon this week, as the Colts just allowed 5.6 yards per carry and a score to Joe Mixon, who was running behind an average to below average offensive line. I think the Redskins will want to control time of possession once again to keep the ball out of Andrew Luck’s hands, and Peterson appears to be locked into 20-25 weekly touches. I have the future Hall of Famer as my No. 15 running back in standard leagues.
Thumbs Up: Derrick Henry (v HOU)
My “Thumbs Up” headliner from last week’s article, Derrick Henry rushed just ten times for 26 yards and caught a five-yard pass against the Dolphins, compared to Dion Lewis, who totaled 110 yards and a touchdown on 21 touches. However, Henry critics shouldn’t celebrate too early, as he simply couldn’t get going due to a couple weather delays that lasted over four total hours, which kept Miami’s defense fresh. Also, the monster runner had a 62-yard touchdown called back due to a terrible holding call that a) wasn’t a hold, and b) didn’t impact the play. I have a difficult time viewing Henry as anything less than an RB2 with great scoring upside after one bizarre game. For what it’s worth, the former second-round pick has rushed 35 times for 190 yards (5.4 YPC) and two touchdowns in four career games against the Texans.
Thumbs Up: Tevin Coleman (v CAR)
I think the key to getting results in the red zone for Atlanta might be featuring Tevin Coleman—whether that’s as a runner, in the slot, or out wide. In the season opener, a nine-yard rush by the dynamic back was the only touchdown for the Falcons out of five trips into scoring territory, and I think he brings the explosiveness that will make defenses pay for doubling Julio Jones. Carolina isn’t a favorable matchup on Sunday, but with Devonta Freeman (knee) looking questionable, Coleman would be a no-doubt top-20 option that just needs one play to be worth a start. Even if Freeman is active, I prefer Coleman.
Others: Alfred Morris (v DET), Latavius Murray (@ GB)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Alex Collins (@ CIN)
Alex Collins remains a low-end RB2/FLEX option, but there is some unknown with him this week after he lost a fumble against the Bills, as he finished with just seven carries for 13 yards and a touchdown in Week 1. Even if Baltimore was simply resting their starter in a 44-point victory, Collins gets a tougher matchup this week against a Bengals defense that limited him to 3.9 yards per carry last December. A low-scoring slugfest wouldn’t be surprising on Thursday night against a divisional opponent that just held the Colts to 68 scoreless yards on 21 attempts (3.2 YPC).
Thumbs Down: Carlos Hyde (@ NO)
As stated, the Saints should be laser-focused after allowing 48 points at home to a team that many (including me) expected to be the worst in football. Fortunately, they get a chance at redemption against what could be the second worst team in football, and New Orleans will want to set the tone by stopping Carlos Hyde and the running game. I know he scored in his team debut to save fantasy owners, but Hyde didn’t look great with 22 attempts for 62 yards (2.8 YPC), while Nick Chubb ripped off a 17-yard run on one of his three carries. The veteran might not get too much time to pick up his efficiency with a capable rookie waiting in the wings, and if the Saints defense did anything last week, it was hold the Bucs’ running game in check.
Thumbs Down: Jamaal Williams (v MIN)
I think if anyone is a threat to Jamaal Williams’ status as lead back for the Packers, it’s Ty Montgomery, but there is some concern that Aaron Jones will be able to seize the job when he returns from suspension. If that’s the case, this Sunday could be Williams’ last chance to take control of the backfield, and it won’t be easy against the Vikings and their stout run defense, especially with them potentially crashing down all game to get Aaron Rodgers uncomfortable. The BYU product doesn’t crack the top-30 at the position for me this week.
Thumbs Down: Leonard Fournette (v NE)
A decision on Leonard Fournette (hamstring) this week could be made for fantasy owners if he’s not able to play, but if he’s active, who do you think Bill Belichick will want to eliminate on Jacksonville’s offense? Fournette was limited to 76 yards on 24 attempts (3.5 YPC) in the AFC Championship matchup, and I doubt we can expect a full workload coming off a leg injury. It might just be better for fantasy owners if Fournette was rested, as being in the lineup could easily lead to a 17-carry, 33-yard performance like we saw when the former No. 4 overall pick came off an injury in 2017.
Others: Peyton Barber (v PHI), Jordan Wilkins (@ WAS)
Thumbs Up of the Week: Nelson Agholor (@ TB)
Operating as Philly’s clear top receiver with Alshon Jeffery (shoulder) out, Nelson Agholor was featured in the opener, but Atlanta’s keep-everything-in-front defense limited him to a stat line (eight receptions for 33 yards) that Jarvis Landry was probably envious of. In Week 2, the 25-year-old will get to face a secondary that just allowed 16 receptions to Michael Thomas, and I think Agholor will have a huge game in front of his hometown fans (he played high school ball at Berkeley Prep in Tampa). Get him in lineups as a solid WR2.
Thumbs Up: Sammy Watkins (@ PIT)
This just feels like a game that Sammy Watkins will be able to breakout in, as Kansas City needs guys to step up after the Steelers did a great job containing Tyreek Hill in their 2017 meeting. Watkins should be able to find the holes in zone coverage at all three levels, so it will be up to Patrick Mahomes to find him in what should be a high-scoring affair. I wouldn’t be worried about the former first-round pick being limited to 21 yards last week, as first of all, Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt were also held in check, and more importantly, the Chiefs didn’t pay him big money to be a decoy. Consider Watkins a high-upside WR2.
Thumbs Up: Jordy Nelson (@ DEN)
The re-signing of Martavis Bryant should actually benefit Jordy Nelson in my opinion, as it will open up the offense by forcing defenses to respect the deep ball. Oakland’s passing attack looked good in the first half of Monday night’s loss, and I think they can put a full game together against the Broncos with Bryant adding another element. Nelson is just a FLEX until we see him connect with Derek Carr to get the offense rolling, but some fantasy analysts that don’t even have Jordy ranked this week are bailing way too soon.
Thumbs Up: Chris Godwin (v PHI)
Somehow available in over 65% of ESPN leagues, Chris Godwin is the best kept secret in the fantasy world. Tampa Bay’s emerging star caught three passes for 41 yards and a score in the opener, and he’s now gone for lines of 3/98, 7/111/1, and 3/41/1 over his past three games. This weekend, Godwin—who might be a full-time player if DeSean Jackson (shoulder, concussion) is out—gets an advantageous home matchup against the Eagles and left cornerback Jalen Mills, a gambling defender that has been prone to big plays and double moves. He’s on the low-end WR2/FLEX radar for me.
Others: Allen Robinson (v SEA), Tyler Lockett (@ CHI)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Brandin Cooks (v ARI)
Patrick Peterson might not shadow Brandin Cooks this week, but the possibility alone causes the versatile speedster to be downgraded to a risky FLEX in both standard and PPR leagues. Overall, I think Cooks will have a big year after starting off with five receptions for 87 yards on MNF (and it only takes one play for him to get behind the defense), so just consider other options if wide receiver is a strength for you this week.
Thumbs Down: Demaryius Thomas (v OAK)
In 14 career games against the Raiders, Demaryius Thomas has only scored twice, and both came in one game with Peyton Manning back in 2013. Since then, Oakland has been tougher on DT every year, including last season when they limited him to nearly nonexistent lines of 1/11 and 5/18. The defensive scheme and personnel is completely different under a new coaching staff, but new cornerback Rashaan Melvin has the familiar length that’s given Thomas issues against the Silver and Black. I would bench him if possible.
Thumbs Down: Chris Hogan (@ JAX)
Anything is possible with Tom Brady throwing passes, but fantasy owners are playing with fire by starting Chris Hogan this week against Jacksonville. The 29-year-old had just two receptions for 20 yards in January’s playoff matchup, and the rematch will be even more formidable on the road. There will be bigger games ahead for Hogan, but he should be avoided after catching just one pass for 11 yards last week in a good spot versus Houston.
Thumbs Down: Davante Adams (v MIN)
Davante Adams and his quarterback are in the same boat this week, as the Pro Bowl receiver is dealing with an injured shoulder heading into the toughest matchup imaginable against Xavier Rhodes and the Vikings. Adams has shown the ability to win against any opponent, but his health combined with Rodgers potentially having limited mobility makes him a low-floor WR2 rather than his usual WR1 designation. And while Rhodes mostly followed the Packers’ current No. 1 receiver around in 2017 anyway, not having Jordy Nelson to take some pressure off might make things even harder for Adams.
Others: Robby Anderson (v MIA), Cowboys WRs (v NYG)
Thumbs Up of the Week: George Kittle (v DET)
I had him ranked as a worthy draft selection in 10-team leagues, but George Kittle still probably didn’t get talked about enough in the preseason, which might have been due to his injured shoulder causing him to fly under the radar. Nonetheless, the former Iowa star is the perfect tight end for Jimmy Garoppolo and Kyle Shanahan, as he has 4.52 speed and can make contested catches over the middle and down the seam. Kittle had a 5/90 line against the Vikings in Week 1, but it was close to being about 7/200/2 after getting behind the defense twice to no avail. This week, I think he’s a solid TE1 against the Lions, who seemed to let New York’s tight ends get open quite a bit despite just 34 yards on Monday night.
Thumbs Up: David Njoku (@ NO)
I’m not ready to give up on David Njoku after one week, but I can already tell that Cleveland’s coaching staff will have my patience wearing thin. Yes, the 2017 first-round pick dropped a pass, but he was frustratingly used as a check-and-release receiver rather than a legitimate weapon out of the slot or as a traditional tight end. Maybe it’s just me being biased, but I’m chalking up the entire game to bad weather and hoping that Njoku is given a chance to consistently make plays against man coverage in Sunday’s matchup with New Orleans.
Thumbs Up: Benjamin Watson (v CLE)
Starting tight ends against the Browns has been a theme since last year, as Gregg Williams defense is simply vulnerable to the position. Remember, Benjamin Watson was with the Ravens in 2017, so he got to face the Browns twice, catching 12-of-12 targets for 165 yards and a touchdown. I might actually be too low on the veteran as my TE13 for Week 2, but he’s squarely on the streaming radar.
Thumbs Up: Ricky Seals-Jones (@ LAR)
If there’s a team that will be worse against tight ends than Cleveland this year, it’ll probably be the Rams. Jared Cook dominated with a 9/180 line on Monday night to expose the biggest weakness—cover linebacker—on an otherwise stacked roster for Los Angeles, and Ricky Seals-Jones has the athleticism to put up career-best numbers this weekend.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Tyler Eifert (v BAL)
With C.J. Mosley roaming the middle of the field in pass coverage, it’s basically touchdown or bust for Tyler Eifert on Thursday night, so I’d rather roll with any of the “Thumbs Up” over him. Plus, who knows how the veteran’s back will respond on a short week or if the Bengals will decide to limit his snaps to keep him healthy for the long run.
Thumbs Down: Austin Seferian-Jenkins (v NE)
I had Seferian-Jenkins here last week and was kind of bailed out by a touchdown being wiped out due to a penalty, but similar to Eifert, I think ASJ needs a score to be worth starting, and he hasn’t scored since last October. The 25-year-old had one of the best games of his career (8/46/1) against New England last season with the Jets, but he was limited to 26 scoreless yards in two other matchups in 2016.
Thumbs Down: Jonnu Smith (v HOU)
With Delanie Walker unfortunately done for the year, Tennessee will need 2017 third-rounder Jonnu Smith to step up, and I think he could be up for the challenge. However, I want to see how he’s utilized before being comfortable with Smith in fantasy lineups, and we shouldn’t assume that the Texans will be weak against tight ends based on Rob Gronkowski going off in the opener.
Thumbs Down: Will Dissly (@ CHI)
Will Dissly was considered the best blocking tight end in the 2018 NFL Draft, but if his NFL debut was any indication, he was definitely overlooked as a receiver. Amazingly, Dissly had 336 yards in four years at Washington, and his 105 yards last week made up for over 31% of his college production. I expect more blocking than receiving against Roquan Smith and Chicago’s athletic linebackers on Monday night.