Thumbs Up of the Week: Derek Carr (v ARI)
A three-interception performance from Carr led to disappointment in Week 1, but he is in great position to bounce back on Sunday versus an Arizona defense that just allowed five touchdown passes to Patrick Mahomes. Carr showed a strong connection with Davante Adams in their first game back together, and we should see the offense get Hunter Renfrow more involved to take advantage of a struggling secondary. I have Carr ranked as a definite top-ten option this week.
Thumbs Up: Trey Lance (v SEA)
While the first showing of the season wasn’t encouraging for Lance, the weather was a clear factor, and we should get a better idea of his progression as a quarterback this week when the Seahawks come to town. The Niners highlighting Lance’s ability as a runner is the best chance of them getting more out of him than they would Jimmy Garoppolo, so look for the young quarterback to have more success on the ground after being contained to 54 yards on 13 attempts in Week 1.
Thumbs Up: Jameis Winston (v TB)
Winston paid off as a solid start last week, and I should again mention the ever-present risk of putting him in lineups. That said, Winston gets another shot at his former team after his season ended against them in limited action last year—when he notably rushed four times for 40 yards with a touchdown pass on just 20 snaps. With increased firepower, Jameis should be a high-upside QB2 at home.
Thumbs Up: Jared Goff (v WAS)
The Eagles should have one of the NFL’s best defenses this season, so Goff helping to keep the Lions competitive in the opener is a positive for the outlook of the offense and himself. Goff’s connection with D.J. Chark (4/52/1) to pair with Amon-Ra St. Brown (8/64/1) should have fantasy owners optimistic about his ability to put up consistent numbers as a solid QB2, and Washington will be an easier matchup than the Eagles were.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Justin Fields (@ GB)
Fields deserves credit for making plays that needed to be made in last week’s win over San Francisco, and starting 1-0 could be a nice confidence booster for him in Year 2. However, he’ll now face an angry Green Bay squad that has no intentions of being 0-2 ahead of a Week 3 matchup versus the Bucs, and Fields had four turnovers in two games against the NFC North foe last season. If he doesn’t produce on the ground, it could be a sub-par night for the second-year quarterback.
Thumbs Down: Ryan Tannehill (@ BUF)
Although the Titans have gotten the better of the Bills in each of the past two seasons (42-16 in 2020; 34-31 in 2021), Tennessee will head to Buffalo for the first time with Tannehill under center—and you know the crowd will be nuts on Monday night to support the current Super Bowl favorite. For what it’s worth (because he was with the Dolphins for all the matchups), Tannehill has a 2:5 touchdown-interception ratio in five road starts versus the Bills.
Thumbs Down: Mac Jones (@ PIT)
I’m still high on Jones for this season and beyond, but going to Pittsburgh—even if they don’t have T.J. Watt (pectoral)—while dealing with a back injury and general concern about the offense for New England isn’t a good mixture. Mike Tomlin knows how to avoid a letdown coming off an overtime victory in which they forced five turnovers against Joe Burrow, and Jones could be steering a run-heavy game plan on Sunday.
Thumbs Down: Tom Brady (@ NO)
Brady remains a top-ten option for me this week, and benching him isn’t something most fantasy owners will be able to consider. The Saints have been a problem for Tampa Bay, though, and TB12 won’t have Chris Godwin (hamstring) or Rob Gronkowski (retired) as two of his favorite security blankets with left tackle Donovan Smith (elbow) either playing hurt or at less than full strength. Basically, a huge game would be a surprise this week—knocking Brady towards the low-end QB1 ranks.
Thumbs Up of the Week: Aaron Jones (v CHI)
Those who drafted Jones early should be comforted by head coach Matt LaFluer saying his eight-touch workload was “not good enough”—and Jones looked excellent on the work he got (five carries for 49 yards and three receptions for 27 yards). Overall, the situation feels very similar to last year when Jones saw seven touches in a blowout loss to open the year, but was then featured the following week (in primetime) with 67 rushing yards, 48 receiving yards, and three receiving touchdowns. I’m anticipating a monster night from Jones to get the Packers back on track.
Thumbs Up: Antonio Gibson (@ DET)
Gibson getting a vote of confidence from head coach Ron Rivera ahead of the opener was a significant boost to his outlook, and he rewarded Rivera’s faith by turning 21 touches into 130 yards against Jacksonville. Now, the versatile weapon will take on a Detroit defense that just allowed 22 carries for 126 yards and three touchdowns to Philly running backs. Consider Gibson a borderline top-15 option that gets boosted in full PPR leagues.
Thumbs Up: Damien Harris (@ PIT)
As stated, I think we could see a run-slanted approach for New England this weekend with Mac Jones at less than 100%, and Harris is being mentioned—despite a difficult matchup—to keep him from being overlooked. I’m high on Ty Montgomery as a player, but him being placed on IR with an ankle injury could be a long-term benefit if it leads to the offense being more streamlined by featuring Harris (39% snaps in Week 1) and Rhamondre Stevenson (25%). New England’s starter is a low-end RB2/FLEX for Week 2.
Thumbs Up: Tony Pollard (v CIN)
An injury should also have an impact in Dallas, as Dak Prescott (hand) facing a four-to-six-week absence will force the coaching staff to manufacture ways to move the ball. The biggest candidate to be more of a factor (perhaps excluding a heavy dose of Ezekiel Elliott) would seem to be Tony Pollard—who should see increased carries and additional looks in the passing game. I’d increase his value some as a standalone FLEX option.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Alvin Kamara (v TB)
Kamara is dealing with a rib injury that impacted his touches in Week 1, and it’s hard to imagine it not impacting his performance as well (46 scoreless total yards on 12 touches). This weekend, he will take on a Tampa Bay defense that has limited him to yardage totals of 67, 49, 76, and 31 over the past two seasons—with just 2.6 yards per carry over that span. In 0.5 PPR leagues, Kamara should stay out of the RB1 rankings for this week.
Thumbs Down: David Montgomery (@ GB)
Based purely in terms of playing time (67%) and volume (20 touches), Montgomery had exactly what fantasy owners would have hoped for in the opener. Unfortunately, Khalil Herbert was much more efficient on his touches (43 total yards and a score on ten opportunities, compared to 50 scoreless yards for the starter), which could create more of a split moving forward. Plus, the Bears get another difficult draw against the upgraded Green Bay front, and it remains to be seen how a negative game script might impact Montgomery’s workload. I have him as more of a FLEX than an RB2 on Sunday night.
Thumbs Down: Rex Burkhead (@ DEN)
It’s tough to wrap your head around what they Texans were doing by treating Dameon Pierce as the feature back last month only to have Burkhead clearly lead the backfield in Week 1—but I wouldn’t have a ton of confidence in starting the veteran despite handling 19 touches against Indy. Aside from Pierce drawing the start (a silver lining for investors), he also touched the ball on 12 of his 20 snaps; a flip that puts the rookie ahead of Burkhead is possible as soon as this week.
Thumbs Down: Breece Hall (@ CLE)
New York being in catch-up mode saved Hall’s debut for those that started him—with Joe Flacco targeting the second-rounder ten times (leading to six receptions and 38 receiving yards). However, Michael Carter also saw a healthy number of targets (nine) and was more efficient as a runner (ten carries for 60 yards, compared to Hall’s six carries for 23 yards) while playing 60% of the snaps. A lost fumble for Hall won’t help his cause in trying to take over the backfield, and you’re basically hoping for him to break a big run to be worth a start at this point.
Thumbs Up of the Week: Mike Williams (@ KC)
The Week 1 numbers for Williams (two receptions for ten yards on four targets) were among the most frustrating of the week, but he’s a guy you simply have to start because of the immense upside. In last year’s road win over Kansas City, Williams caught seven-of-nine targets for 122 yards and two touchdowns (plus a two-point conversion), and Los Angeles should funnel targets in his direction with Keenan Allen (hamstring) likely out. I’d say Williams has as good of a chance as anyone to put up a top-five finish to crash the party of the consensus high-end WR1 options.
Thumbs Up: Allen Robinson II (v ATL)
In my head, Robinson was penciled in as a “Thumbs Up” option for Week 2 while watching the Bills-Rams opener last Thursday night. Los Angeles didn’t spend big money on the former Jaguar and Bear to not feature him offensively, and Sean McVay should have more plays for Robinson as the primary read dialed up against the Falcons—who will surely being keying on Cooper Kupp. After Michael Thomas scored twice on Atlanta in the opener, I think we could see Robinson have similar success; he’s a high-end WR2 for me.
Thumbs Up: Julio Jones (@ NO)
Jones was fast and explosive in his Tampa Bay debut, and the team clearly wants to make him a significant part of the offense with a couple of carries in addition to five targets (for 69 receiving yards) on a night where Tom Brady only threw 27 passes. Not having Chris Godwin will only increase the role for Julio—who was ranked as a WR3 last week and should be a top-20 play in Week 2 as Mike Evans deals with Marshon Lattimore.
Thumbs Up: DeVonta Smith (v MIN)
Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen called Smith “a premier player in this league” following a zero-catch season debut, and with head coach Nick Sirianni also talking up last year’s No. 10 overall pick, it feels like a big-time performance could be coming on Monday night. Even if you don’t consider the possibility of the pendulum swinging back in Smith’s direction, I love how he matches up versus the Minnesota cornerbacks with the ability to get deep with a double move.
Others: Joshua Palmer (@ KC), Isaiah McKenzie (v TEN)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Mike Evans (@ NO)
Evans typically makes the “Thumbs Down” section for matchups versus Marshon Lattimore and the Saints, and the numbers speak for themselves—averaging 28.6 receiving yards per game over their past seven meetings (including playoffs). Finding the end zone in three of those outings has been able to save Evans from completely getting shutdown, but you’re relying on him as more of a low-end WR2 that could easily disappointment if he doesn’t catch a touchdown.
Thumbs Down: CeeDee Lamb (v CIN)
Lamb is also downgraded to low-end WR2 status this week—and it could be where he stays until Dak Prescott returns. The talent makes him someone you can still start with some confidence if there aren’t better alternatives on the bench, but it’s up to the Cowboys to get Lamb easier looks both in terms of coverage and designed opportunities for a player that can make things happen when he gets the ball in his hands.
Thumbs Down: Drake London (@ LAR)
It was good to see a healthy London on the field after an ankle injury suffered in the preseason, and he shined in his debut with five receptions (on seven targets) for 74 yards. But for his first career road game, London could see a heavy dose of Jalen Ramsey, and you know the LA defense will be determined following a demolition at the hands of the Bills in Week 1. London is a risky WR4/5.
Thumbs Down: Darnell Mooney (@ GB)
There has been a lot of talk about the Packers not using All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander in shadow coverage to slow down Justin Jefferson in the opener, but it’s something he wants to do—and Sunday night would be the perfect time to implement the strategy with Chicago having questionable depth behind Mooney. If it happens, Mooney would carry an extremely low floor, and the matchup doesn’t look very favorable either way.
Others: Rashod Bateman (v MIA), Amari Cooper (v NYJ)
Thumbs Up of the Week: Gerald Everett (@ KC)
The probable absence of Keenan Allen gives a boost to Joshua Palmer at wide receiver, but Everett should also get boosted after an impressive team debut in which he caught three-of-four targets for 54 yards and a touchdown. In addition to being an important part of a Justin Herbert-led offense, it’s notable that Everett should be very comfortable under the lights in Kansas City based on that Monday night classic from 2018 when he caught two touchdowns—including the game-winner—in a 54-51 victory with the Rams.
Thumbs Up: Mike Gesicki (@ BAL)
Last year’s game against the Ravens didn’t go as planned for Gesicki (zero receptions on seven targets), but he was close on a couple of would-be big plays and will hopefully have more success against them this year. In general, Gesicki being used as more of a traditional tight end will help him avoid Marlon Humphrey in the slot, and Sunday will be a test to see if we can have faith in the 26-year-old being a difference-maker for Mike McDaniel’s offense. I’d give him a shot as a high-end TE2.
Thumbs Up: Brevin Jordan (@ DEN)
The Broncos allowed both Will Dissly and Colby Parkinson to get loose for scores on Monday night, and Jordan—who played 60% of Houston’s offensive snaps in the opener—remains the preferred play at tight end after O.J. Howard caught two touchdowns. The second-year tight end would benefit from the Texans getting Dameon Pierce going to set up play-action opportunities, including some quick screens to get the ball in his hands.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Cole Kmet (@ GB)
I believe Kmet can be a TE1 this year, but the early-season matchups were always tough with the 49ers and Packers out of the gate—so he’s someone to wait another week on. Against Green Bay, the former second-round pick had been held to 115 scoreless yards in four matchups, and it’s difficult to rely on a guy to find the end zone when he hasn’t scored in his last 22 appearances.
Thumbs Down: Albert Okwuegbunam (v HOU)
Okwuegbunam was originally listed as a “Thumbs Up” option for this week as our TE20, but seeing his consensus ranking (TE12) pushes him into the opposite category. On Monday night, Denver used four tight ends in a heavy rotation, and Albert O likely needs to hit on a chunk play or touchdown to reach lofty expectations.
Thumbs Down: Austin Hooper (@ BUF)
Hooper was limited to one reception for six yards in Week 1, and now he’ll face a Buffalo defense that has historically been very stingy versus opposing tight ends. Maybe the number of targets Tyler Higbee saw last week (11) will mean Hooper gets plenty of opportunities, but Higbee had just 39 yards, and Tennessee doesn’t have a Cooper Kupp to draw coverage away. There should be other options to choose from in Week 2.