Matthew Stafford turned in yet another solid performance last week against the Titans. What’s most encouraging about last week’s outing is that he was able to put up good numbers while having multiple touchdowns nullified due to penalty. He is a mid-to-high end quarterback option this week and beyond, matchups depending.
Something’s wrong with Aaron Rodgers. There. The 5x pro bowler is struggling, and there’s no other way to put it. After two lackluster outings saved by rushing touchdowns, Rodgers may not live up to his drafted expectations. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Jordy Nelson isn’t fully back. Maybe Rodgers will declare “R-E-L-A-X” again and everything will go back to normal. Then again, maybe I’m right. Either way, I’d trade Rodgers to receive draft day value, though I’d find it hard pressed to bench him this week.
Questions litter the Detroit backfield after Ameer Abdullah’s transition to injured reserve. While many expect seventh-round pick Dwayne Washington to receive the bulk of the carries, I’d play Theo Riddick before him in all formats, especially PPR. Zach Zenner should be active Sunday, eating into Washington’s potential workload. Riddick will have the most playing time among the backs due to the game likely being a high scoring affair, and he is undoubtedly the safest option in the Lions’ backfield.
I wish the Packers would give Eddie Lacy the ball. Obviously talented and now skinny, Lacy hasn’t had a chance to shine yet this season. Hopefully Green Bay will realize that their offense functions best when they commit to running the football. However, I doubt Packer high-ups read my articles, and they probably wouldn’t listen to my advice anyway (but they should!). The point is that no one knows how much action Lacy will get, but I’m willing to give the consensus third rounder a few more chances.
The Detroit offense has proven to be a productive unit this season, in large part due to the emergence of new recruit Marvin Jones. Jones, who has had lines of 4-85 and 8-118, is quickly becoming a favorite target of Matthew Stafford and deserves starting consideration in most leagues. Golden Tate, who has racked up only 56 yards thus far, still figures to be the long-term top option in Detroit, but benching him now, if possible, is not the most radical idea. Anquan Boldin, who scored a touchdown last week and had another one called back, is not start worthy until he proves to be a consistent threat week in and week out.
While Jordy Nelson may not yet be 100% healthy, he is still a must-start wideout. Don’t overthink the struggling Packers offense; it’s still good. A preseason favorite of mine to outperform draft day price, Randall Cobb, no longer generates that same must-start title. Green Bay is not performing as they were in 2014, meaning that neither is Cobb. Until that offense sorts itself out, Cobb is a number two option playing for an okay team, making him a high-end flex play at best. Sharing some targets with Cobb is Davante Adams, though I’d prefer avoiding him if I could.
Eric Ebron has surprised me in a good way thus far. Though not putting up ridiculous numbers, it’s obvious that the North Carolina product is a permanent fixture of the strong Jim Bob Cooter offense. Because he’s proven his worth through the first two weeks, he should continue to see more balls come his way, making him worthy of start consideration most weeks, including this one, where he’ll face up against the currently 30th ranked fantasy defense against tight ends.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Packers tight ends have no fantasy value. Simply not an important part of the passing attack, Jared Cook’s addition only muddies the already dirty tight end infused waters in Green Bay. It’s Rodgers before Cook, as always, but preferably -- and in virtually any situation -- none at all. Consider this fact: Neither of the tight ends rank in the top 32 at their position.
Chargers vs. Colts
Rivers exceeded expectations against the Jaguars last week without Keenan Allen and eventually Danny Woodhead. However, a team playing a big, emotional game after one of its stars was injured is actually fairly common, and I maintain that Rivers is no longer a must-start quarterback, especially now that he’ll be missing two of his top targets weekly. He can be started this week against an awful Colts secondary, but he is purely matchup dependent at this point.
In just two games, Andrew Luck has convinced fantasy owners that he has reverted to 2014 form, catching opposing defenses weak and earning many fantasy points in the process. Despite a seemingly poor performance last week, I’m willing to let a game in Denver where Donte Moncrief got hurt slide. Unlike Philip Rivers, and especially with his toughest matchup behind him, Andrew Luck is a must start player and elite fantasy quarterback.
Last week we discussed the impact of Keenan Allen’s loss to an ACL tear and determined that Danny Woodhead would be the only player to benefit from the injury…. This time around, Danny Woodhead has an ACL tear, and Melvin Gordon will be the one to benefit. I wasn’t a big fan of Gordon coming into the season and didn’t anticipate a season long spectacle, but with the volume he’s sure to get and the decent consistency he’s shown, he’s definitely start worthy this week (against the last ranked fantasy run defense through two weeks) and beyond. Dexter McCluster should be considered only a flier in the deepest of PPR leagues.
I liked Frank Gore coming into the season -- and I still think he will have some good games -- but with the Colts so often playing from behind thanks to a horrendous defense, it’s hard to start him with confidence. Even though Gore has little to no competition in the Indianapolis backfield, garbage time doesn’t favor power runners. This week may be as good as any to start him, as the Chargers rank 24th against the running back so far this season (and ranked 28th last season), but unless he gets more volume, he’ll never amount to anything more than a low-end RB2 or flex play.
Last week was an interesting look into how the Chargers were going to handle their wide receiver situation post Allen. They fared very well against Jacksonville, with Travis Benjamin leading the way with a 6-115-2 statline and Tyrell Williams adding 3-61-1. It’s clear that Benjamin can be the primary receiver in San Diego, and should be started as such (likely in the WR2 range). Williams will be more inconsistent and therefore should only be considered to fill a WR3 or flex slot, though I’d like to see him play well again before inserting him into my lineup if I can afford it.
The biggest news in Colts camp is Donte Moncrief’s fractured shoulder blade that will cause him to miss 4-6 weeks. How will this development affect Indianapolis wideouts? Well, the offense should place more emphasis on T.Y. Hilton, making him a nice buy low candidate. Phillip Dorsett becomes addable in all formats, though I wouldn’t dig any deeper than the second-year man out of the University of Miami. T.Y. Hilton should be started in most leagues while Dorsett deserves some consideration as well.
With Antonio Gates currently listed as doubtful, all eyes turn to rookie Hunter Henry, the first tight end taken in this year’s draft. Obviously talented, Henry looks like a decent streamer against a Colts defense that allows currently ranks 19th against opposing tight ends, and who also ranked an even worse 23rd last season. With little reason for him not to succeed, Henry should be considered a potential play in all lineups depending on who fantasy owners also have at the position.
I have touted Dwayne Allen ever since preseason, calling him as high as a top eight tight end. While not dropping any jaws, he’s been a top ten option at the position thus far, and he’s just getting started. While fellow tight end Jack Doyle’s usage is slightly concerning, against the 28th ranked tight end defense thus far, Allen -- only owned in 55.0% percent of leagues -- should be considered an elite streaming option, as well as a potential every week starter for the rest of the season.
Bears vs. Cowboys
Brian Hoyer is going to be the signal caller Sunday night. Do I really have to say anything else? Even in a 32 team league, you might want to start the backup of a different injury prone quarterback. (Just kidding.) But seriously, why would you start him?
Dak Prescott has shown to be a serviceable gunslinger in his first two career contests. However, he hasn’t been startable as a fantasy quarterback. With so many other good options likely on your waiver wire, there shouldn’t be much need to roster the rookie. Take out his rushing touchdown from last week and he would be only QB28. On the plus side, the fact that he hasn’t thrown for a touchdown yet suggests that positive regression is coming, but I wouldn’t count on a score of his to save your week.
I’d like to stay away from the Chicago backfield if possible. Jeremy Langford losing touches as soon as the second drive of the game should be very worrisome to owners of the second-year back. The Bears coaching staff realizing that Langford simply isn’t a very good football player comes with a decline in carries, something that the very inefficient runner cannot afford to see. Touchdowns have saved Langford from near disastrous fantasy outings the first two weeks, but with Ka’Deem Carey likely out and the hungry and far impressive rookie Jordan Howard itching for carries, it’d be safer to avoid this backfield -- which will see defenses stack the box against it -- than hope for a Langford score.
Ezekiel Elliott has been alright -- that’s better than “okay” and worse than “good” -- thus far. Yes, he’s been a top 20 running back in most formats, but that’s not what you hope your first round pick achieves. His lowly 3.3 yards per carry behind the best offensive line in football is very discouraging, and he could be a good sell high candidate based on the touchdowns he’s scored and the name value he possesses. He wasn’t a top 10 running back for me coming into the season, but as long he’s on your roster, he should be good enough to start, and you shouldn’t have very many better options. He can maintain this “alright” pace, and he could get better as he adapts to the speed of the NFL, but make sure to proceed with caution.
Like quarterback, you shouldn’t overthink the Chicago wide receivers. Kevin White, Eddie Royal, or really any wideout not named Alshon Jeffery is not startable this week, and won’t be startable until further notice. Simple as that. Maybe a lesser name catches a couple touchdown passes this week, but no one besides Jeffery is worth the risk it will cost to play them. Still, it will be important to monitor Jeffery’s knee injury and have a contingency plan in case he can’t go (remember he plays on Sunday night). In terms of Jeffery’s production, Hoyer throwing the ball doesn’t really worry me.
Dez Bryant is alive! Looking like the real Dez that football fans haven’t seen since 2014, the wideout put up an impressive 7-102 statline, prompting his believers to come out of the shadows. Hopefully for his owners, Bryant will keep up this nice pace and prove to be the WR1 we know and love. Last week’s performance is enough for me to start Bryant with at least some confidence, and sitting him would be a mistake I wouldn’t want to make. Otherwise, Cole Beasley is startable in deeper PPR leagues, and Terrance Williams is not startable in any format.
Zach Miller has been surprisingly disappointing so far this year. Though the only target down the middle of the field, the tight end has simply not been found by his quarterbacks and can be safely dropped at this point; it would take a few consecutive positive weeks for him to become rosterable again. Needless to say, Miller isn’t startable this week against even the 28th ranked Dallas defense against tight ends.
On the flipside, Jason Witten has been a nice value through the first two weeks of the season. While still not a top end option at the position, consider Witten startable in deeper leagues. Dak Prescott’s favorite security blanket, Witten will always be an integral part of the offense, though not necessarily the most productive piece of it.