Thumbs Up of the Week: Jared Goff (@ GB)
Goff should be confident after nearly coming back to beat the 49ers last week, and now he will get a hopeful shootout against a Green Bay defense that just allowed five touchdowns passes to Jameis Winston. Keeping up with Aaron Rodgers will likely be necessary for Detroit to win on Monday night, and Goff can target T.J. Hockenson and his two talented running backs to make up for limitations on the outside.
Thumbs Up: Mac Jones (@ NYJ)
New England didn’t get a win, but Jones was great in his NFL debut—throwing for 281 yards, one touchdown, and zero interceptions against a stingy Miami defense. The Jets will present an easier challenge for his first road game, so Jones is squarely on the QB2 map for the first of many future battles with No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson.
Thumbs Up: Andy Dalton (v CIN)
It’s very tough to predict if/when backup rookie quarterbacks—in this case, Justin Fields—will take over, but just trying to pick out any information we can, I thought the SNF booth seemed to indicate that the Kansas City model is Chicago’s plan. If so, Dalton is definitely safer as a streaming option, and I love how the weapons of the Bears match up against his former Bengals squad.
Thumbs Up: Jalen Hurts (v SF)
Those with Hurts should have him pretty much locked into lineups (especially if you used our rankings and drafted him as a top-six option), but not everyone is sold. For this week, don’t be concerned about the matchup; Hurts will be protected by one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, and he showed tremendous poise in the pocket to begin 2021.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Kirk Cousins (@ ARI)
Last week showed that quarterback is loaded considering all the big scores that were put up, so selecting “Thumbs Down” options for Week 2 and beyond could be slim pickings. That said, Cousins is in definite danger of a low-floor game based on how good Arizona’s defensive front was in the opener, and first-round left tackle Christian Darrisaw (groin) will either be out again or thrown right into the fire coming off an injury-plagued offseason. I’m avoiding Cousins because of the downside.
Thumbs Down: Matthew Stafford (@ IND)
Stafford beat my expectations in the opener, but it was a relatively easy game with Chicago blowing a couple of coverages for deep scores, and the Colts have historically—despite doing the same last week—not allowed big plays. I would view the veteran as more of a low-end QB2 assuming cornerback Xavier Rhodes (calf) is able to play, though he’ll be moved up some if that’s not the case.
Thumbs Down: Daniel Jones (@ WAS)
A rushing touchdown helped boost Jones against the Broncos, but it was not a good day for New York’s offense, and they get a short turnaround to figure things out. Last season, the 24-year-old combined for 324 passing yards and a 1:2 touchdown-interception ratio in two matchups versus Washington, and he was sacked five times on the road. You can’t count on another rushing touchdown like Jones had in Week 1.
Thumbs Down: Baker Mayfield (v HOU)
Weather was a factor last year, but Mayfield threw for just 132 scoreless yards in a 10-7 victory against Houston, and the only other time he faced them was a three-interception game in 2018. Although it’s a new regime for the Texans, I’m still expecting Cleveland will use heavy dose of Nick Chubb and the running game this weekend to avoid any chances of an 0-2 start, so Mayfield might not air it out much—especially with Odell Beckham Jr. (knee) remaining inactive.
Thumbs Up of the Week: Ronald Jones II (v ATL)
I’m definitely playing with fire here (and more than people know; perhaps I’ll tell the story on a future episode of The Fantasy Consigliere Podcast), but Bruce Arians has said Jones will start in Week 2—and I bet the Bucs know how important getting him going will be for a team with championship expectations. Over his past three games against the Falcons, Jones has rushed 35 times for 235 yards (6.6 yards per carry) and two touchdowns.
Thumbs Up: Jamaal Williams (@ GB)
Williams was a strong start for Week 1 with D’Andre Swift’s role unclear, and he will continue to be based on how much Detroit projects to play through the running backs to create offense. Look for the former Packer to get a very nice ovation from the Green Bay crowd on Monday night, then he’ll look to help lead a primetime upset. Roll with him again as a low-end RB2/FLEX option.
Thumbs Up: Trey Sermon (@ PHI)
We obviously need to make sure Sermon is active after he was a healthy scratch in Week 1, but Philadelphia showed some vulnerability early on against Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson, so San Francisco should test them between the tackles with their rookie runner. While more of a deeper-league play, Sermon is a talent I’m betting on for this week and the entire season.
Thumbs Up: Ty’Son Williams (v KC)
Perhaps the coaching staff trusted Latavius Murray more down the stretch, but it was a curious move to limit Williams’ workload after a hot start on Monday night, and Baltimore will need his juice in the backfield to keep up with Kansas City this week. As was the case last week, I have Williams as a top-20 play in 0.5 PPR leagues.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Mike Davis (@ TB)
Tampa Bay’s run defense was more engulfing than ever last Thursday night, and the Falcons probably won’t have a ton of success trying to run the ball against them. Davis can contribute as a pass-catcher (six targets in addition to the 15 carries last week), but the floor and ceiling are both significantly lowered for this matchup.
Thumbs Down: Mark Ingram (@ CLE)
The Texans made a statement in the opener by easily handling the Jaguars, and Ingram was fed 26 carries in the win. However, he was limited to 3.3 yards per attempt, and sledding will be much harder on Sunday against the bolstered Browns defense. Consider him a borderline top-40 option in a backfield that will remain a committee.
Thumbs Down: Saquon Barkley (@ WAS)
Benching Barkley is difficult simply because he’s such a talented player and can pay dividends with one big play, but he’s again more of mid-to-low RB2 due to the matchup. Furthermore, the Giants are playing on a short week, so we might be waiting for a longer layoff ahead of Week 3 for the superstar back to be fully unleashed.
Thumbs Down: Jets RBs (v NE)
The loss of Mekhi Becton (knee) for several weeks is going to really hurt the offense, and that includes Tevin Coleman, Ty Johnson, and Michael Carter. I don’t think the offense did a very good job of creating balance for Zach Wilson in his first career start (37 pass attempts compared to 17 rush attempts), and there’s no reason to have faith in them suddenly figuring it out against Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
Thumbs Up of the Week: Darnell Mooney (v CIN)
Mooney was quiet in Week 1 with Chicago using more of a quick-strike passing attack to offset the Rams’ pass rushers, but the deep ball will eventually be there—and I have a feeling a connection will happen this weekend. The Bengals just allowed Minnesota wideouts to catch 22 passes for 250 yards and two scores, so Mooney should be able to get a chunk of production alongside Allen Robinson.
Thumbs Up: Marquez Callaway (@ CAR)
I was out on Callaway last week against Jaire Alexander, but now he’s right back in play as an upside FLEX in the spread-it-out offense of the Saints. Playing 84% of the team’s offensive snaps in the opener is encouraging, and a better matchup for a potential shootout in Carolina could lead to regret for those who put too much weight on a one-catch performance versus one of the NFL’s top cornerbacks.
Thumbs Up: Nelson Agholor (@ NYJ)
I thought my “Thumbs Up of the Year” at wide receiver might start a little slow for a matchup against Miami, but he made multiple tough catches on his way to a 5/72/1 line and projects to a featured player in the New England passing attack. Agholor should be much more efficient than he was in last season’s matchup in the Jets when he caught just four-of-11 targets.
Thumbs Up: K.J. Hamler (@ JAX)
The injury to Jerry Jeudy (ankle) opens the door for Hamler to have a big role in Denver’s offense, and I love how his downfield skillset matches up against the longer cornerback group of Jacksonville. The Penn State product can immediately be put into lineups as a big-play FLEX, and you should look to him as a cheap option in DFS lineups.
Others: Sammy Watkins (v KC), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (v DET)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Brandon Aiyuk (@ PHI)
Kyle Shanahan is clearly not happy with Aiyuk right now, and the talented second-year target is basically on the borderline of being a No. 2 or No. 3 wide receiver on a run-first offense. Maybe he can make something happen if he gets the ball in his hands to get back into the head coach’s good graces, but Aiyuk is a substantial risk in lineups until we see it.
Thumbs Down: Corey Davis (v NE)
Davis scored twice in the opener, but all that will do is make him more of a priority to stop for Bill Belichick on Sunday. In his first two career matchups against the Patriots (including playoffs), Davis went for lines of 5/63/2 and 7/125/1—which was followed up by a zero-catch outing in the most recent meeting. The arrow is pointing straight up for the former No. 5 overall pick, but put it on hold for Week 2.
Thumbs Down: Mike Williams (v DAL)
It was great to see Williams haul in eight passes on 12 targets last Sunday (leading to 82 yards and a score), and you should be extremely optimistic about his 2021 outlook. I’m worried about coverage from Trevon Diggs—who can take the ball away—on the outside, though, especially since Justin Herbert knows how to distribute without taking unnecessary risks. I’ll probably have Williams as a WR2 most weeks, but he’s outside the top-30 for this matchup.
Thumbs Down: Will Fuller (v BUF)
Fuller is similar to the previously mentioned Saquon Barkley in that it might take just one play for him to pay off, but the Bills present another reason to hold off for a week. In the lone game versus Sean McDermott’s defense, Fuller was limited to two receptions for 33 scoreless yards, and I’d prefer to see how the snaps are split between him, DeVante Parker, Jaylen Waddle, and Albert Wilson—not to mention Mike Gesicki.
Others: Colts WRs (v LAR)
Thumbs Up of the Week: Kyle Pitts (@ TB)
He ended up with eight targets in his debut, but Pitts didn’t seem to be much of a factor for the Atlanta offense because of how poorly they performed in general, and I expect the coaching staff will make sure that changes for a probable shootout against the Buccaneers. It will be interesting to see how much the rookie plays on the perimeter as the Falcons hope to isolate him in single coverage. The upside keeps Pitts in the top five.
Thumbs Up: Logan Thomas (v NYG)
Thomas caught a touchdown in one of the matchups against the Giants in 2020, and dating back to late last November, he’s gone for lines of 4/20/1, 9/98/1, 6/43, 13/101, 7/63, 3/37/1, 5/74, and 3/30/1 over his past eight games. Those numbers would lead to a 106/990/8.5 season for a 17-game schedule, and I’m high on Taylor Heinicke as he replaces Ryan Fitzpatrick (hip) at quarterback.
Thumbs Up: Cole Kmet (v CIN)
Kmet is a classic case of believing in the talent of a player for me, and the role is also there as the clear No. 1 tight end in Chicago (74% snaps played in the opener). The downfield passing attack showing life will open up space for Kmet to work underneath, and I have him as a top-12 option for Week 2.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Mike Gesicki (v BUF)
Unfortunately on the other side of the spectrum compared to Cole Kmet (talented player, but shaky role), Gesicki played just 21 snaps last week, and that will make it difficult to consistently produce. Heading into another tough matchup against Matt Milano and the Bills, Gesicki is more of a TE2 option this weekend.
Thumbs Down: Tyler Higbee (@ IND)
Indy allowed the Seattle tight ends to combine for 57 yards and a score in Week 1, but I’m going to count on Darius Leonard and company being closer to what they were last season as one of the most difficult matchups for the position. Higbee remains on a crowded offense, and I suspect we’ll see the Colts try to drag Los Angeles into a slugfest.
Thumbs Down: Austin Hooper (v HOU)
The good news for Hooper is that he out-snapped David Njoku in the opener, but the bad news is that it was by a narrow margin (64% to 59%), and Njoku had more targets (five to three) and yards (76 to 27). Again, I’m anticipating a heavy dose of the ground game for Cleveland this week, so Hooper’s ceiling might be capped if he doesn’t have luck finding the end zone.