The Fantasy Focus is a weekly column that breaks down everything you need to know to set your fantasy football lineups. Make your start and sit decisions with fantasy facts, injury information, matchups stats, predictions for the week and more.
Seven months without football is a long time. When we finally get to NFL’s opening week, we’re all starved for football. And then we get overloaded with 16 games and all types of crazy stuff happening. So it’s easy to overreact to what happens in Week 1. We all do it. But the NFL season is a marathon, not a sprint. A lot of what we saw last week really doesn’t indicate anything about what we can expect in 2019. So if you’re feeling the need to freak out after a bad fantasy week, take a deep breath and relax. While you’re at it, here’s what you need to know for Week 2.
Last week’s 85 total offensive touchdowns is the most we’ve seen scored on NFL’s opening week in the PFF era, which dates back to 2008. It’s easy to slip into the mindset that we’re going to see this sort of production every week, but we aren’t. Football statistics regress to the mean, so view last week more as an outlier.
Tight end is a tricky position in fantasy, but a former mainstay looked like he took a few sips from the fountain of youth. Jimmy Graham impressed in the opener. While he only ranked 11th among tight ends in fantasy scoring, Graham did find the end zone as a receiver. There are also other positive signs for his fantasy outlook. Graham led the Packers in red zone targets with three and posted a healthy 19.3-yard average depth of target.
Speaking of older players, LeSean McCoy is coming off an ugly 2018 season where he was second-worst in the league in yards after contact per attempt. However, the veteran back looks like he may reverse that trend this season, as he posted 3.5 yards after contact per attempt in Week 1. McCoy knows Andy Reid’s offense and will be used along with Damien Williams. His fantasy arrow is pointing up.
Don’t expect the Vikings to only pass the ball 10 times again this season. The gamescript was just plain brutal if you had any piece of the Minnesota passing offense. However, Adam Thielen did get in the end zone. Better yet, Kirk Cousins had a perfect passer rating when throwing to Thielen.
The Seahawks said they were going to get Chris Carson more involved in the passing game, and so far they’ve delivered on their word. Carson led all running backs in team target share with a massive 35% in Week 1. Of course, the Seahawks are one of the league’s run-heaviest offenses. But still, Carson’s involvement in the passing game positions him right on the fringe of RB1 territory.
Earlier in the week, the Bengals called Joe Mixon “day-to-day” with an ankle injury, but the bell cow back didn’t practice for most of the week. He did get in on the practice action Friday, so keep an eye on reports. If Mixon sits, expect Giovani Bernard to see an every-down role. He’ll slot in as a high-volume RB2.
The Jets will be without Sam Darnold for at least this week, as the signal-caller is dealing with mono. Trevor Siemian will get the nod for the Jets with Darnold out. Siemian’s presence isn’t a good thing for Robby Anderson, but Jamison Crowder owners shouldn’t be worried. Siemian’s propensity to check down actually bodes well for Crowder. Le’Veon Bell is also on the injury report this week with a shoulder. Bell underwent a precautionary MRI, but the results were negative. Look for him to get back into practice and suit up on Monday night.
Hunter Henry’s tibia fracture is just plain brutal. However, the tight end has so far avoided injured reserve, which means there’s a chance we see him in 4-6 weeks. Henry’s absence should open the door for more work for Mike Williams in the red zone, but the wideout looks like he won’t suit up this week after suffering a knee injury in the opener.
Tevin Coleman will likely be sidelined for at least the next two weeks with a high ankle sprain, so expect to see a lot of Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert this week with Breida serving as the lead back. … The Redskins will be without Derrius Guice for 6-8 weeks after the running back went under the knife for meniscus surgery. If you don’t have an IR spot, it’s reasonable to drop Guise in redraft leagues. Adrian Peterson offers little fantasy upside and Chris Thompson is an extremely volatile fantasy option as a third-down back. … A.J. Green shed the walking boot and managed to run on a treadmill this week. It’s a good sign, but Green is still trending toward missing all of September. … Sterling Shepard is in the concussion protocol and has not practiced this week. If Shepard is unable to get back on the field, expect heavy usage for Evan Engram against the Bills. … Speaking of concussions, Jordan Reed remains in the league protocol, but did get limited work in on Wednesday and Thursday. If Reed suits up, we’ll have to downgrade Vernon Davis’ fantasy outlook. … A finger injury has limited Jimmy Graham in practice this week, but he’s a good bet to be on the field against the Vikings on Sunday.
Wide receiver matchups
Julio Jones didn’t get off to a hot start in Week 1, due in part to tough coverage from Xavier Rhodes. But Jones isn’t likely to see the same treatment from a Philadelphia secondary that got absolutely torched by the Redskins last week. The trio of Ronald Darby, Rasul Douglas, and Avonte Maddox surrendered a combined 14 catches, with Douglas responsible for two of Washington’s passing score. Look for Jones to shred the Eagles coverage and bounce back in a big way.
It wasn’t just Jones who got off to a slow start in Week 1. JuJu Smith-Schuster also sputtered out of the gate. But he’s a good bet to turn things around this week with a plus matchup against the Seahawks. No longer the legion of boom, Seattle’s secondary proved a weak link against the Bengals last week. Tre Flowers surrendered a league high 10 catches for 170 yards and a touchdown in that contest. Smith-Schuster should have no problem putting up numbers against Flowers and the rest of the Seattle secondary.
The first time we saw the Titans and Colts square off last season, T.Y. Hilton went absolutely nuts, racking up nine catches on nine targets for 155 yards and two scores. Most of that came against Adoree’ Jackson, who we again expect to be on Hilton. While Hilton doesn’t have as much fantasy upside as he would with Andrew Luck under center, he’s still a high ceiling play this week.
A simple formula for fantasy success is to go after P.J. Williams’ coverage every week. That means getting as much exposure to Cooper Kupp as you can this week. Williams allowed a touchdown in his coverage last week, which picks right up where he left off in 2018 when he surrendered seven scores in his coverage.
No Tyreek Hill for the Chiefs means we should expect plenty of Sammy Watkins yet again this week. Better yet, he draws a favorable matchup out of the slot against Lamarcus Joyner. In the Raiders opener, Joyner allowed seven of his eight targets to be caught. Watkins is a top-10 play this week.
John Brown showed a good connection with Josh Allen in Week 1, topping 100 yards and finding the end zone. Expect more of Brown this week with an extremely favorable matchup on tap against the Bills. Giants’ RCB DeAndre Baker got lit up last week by Dallas, allowing 132 yards and a score on four catches in his coverage.
A big reason for Brown’s success last week was due to coverage from Darryl Roberts and Trumaine Johnson. The Jets duo allowed a combined 12 catches for 187 yards and a score last week. On Monday night, they get to face Odell Beckham Jr. Get your popcorn ready.
We also saw the Miami secondary get torched by Baltimore last week, with six catches for 82 yards and two scores coming against Eric Rowe. The former Patriots’ corner should get picked on yet again this week, which means good things for Josh Gordon and Antonio Brown. Both receivers will draw Rowe when they’re lined up at left wide receiver.
With Brown out of the mix in Oakland, Tyrell Williams is all but cemented as the Raiders’ No. 1 wide receiver. Williams topped 100 yards and found the end zone last week, and he should continue his productive ways against the shaky Chiefs’ secondary. Charvarius Ward allowed all seven of his targets to be caught last week for a massive 123 yards.
The good times have continued to roll for Amari Cooper with the Cowboys, as the wideout topped 100 yards and found the end zone in Week 1. However, Cooper will be tested in this week’s contest, with plenty of coverage likely to come from Josh Norman. While Norman may not be one of the league’s elite’s any longer, he proved last week that he can still hold an opposing No. 1 wideout in check, with Alshon Jeffery managing just 4 catches for 44 yards against Norman. Cooper is still a play in season-long fantasy, but you may want to fade him in DFS contests.
It might be tempting to use Danny Amendola in fantasy after his big Week 1 performance, but it’s wise to fade him this week. Amendola figures to see a healthy dose of Desmond King out of the slot. While Casey Hayward has garnered much of the attention in the Chargers secondary, King has quietly emerged as one of the league’s best slot corners. He tends to keep plays in front of him and has only allowed 8.6 yards per catch over the last three seasons. Don’t try to chase last week’s stats with Amendola.
We saw a big Week 1 performance from John Ross, but look for the young wideout to come back to earth against the 49ers. He’s likely to draw primary coverage from Richard Sherman. While Sherman won’t shadow Ross, it’s enough to put a damper on Ross’s upside for the week.
The Bears secondary essentially shut down Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay passing game in Week 1. That isn’t good news if you’re looking to roll with Courtland Sutton or Emmanuel Sanders this week. While the Broncos passing game showed promise in the open, it’s a good idea to fade these two in this contest.
There wasn’t much to like about the Dolphins’ performance in the opener, but perennial offseason hype candidate DeVante Parker did show well with three catches for 75 yards. But that isn’t enough of a reason to get him in starting lineups this week, as we expect a shadow from Stephon Gilmore.
Browns CB Denzel Ward completely shut down Corey Davis in shadow coverage last week. That means we want no part of Robby Anderson, who not only will be in Ward’s coverage, but will also have Trevor Siemian throwing him the ball.
Matchup stats to know
The vaunted Rams defense actually surrendered the most fantasy points to running backs last week, and by that, we specifically mean to Christian McCaffrey. That should be music to Alvin Kamara owners’ ears, as the two players are very similar from a profile standpoint. Look for Kamara to put up big-time numbers in this contest.
Miami allowed a league-high 190 rushing yards to the Ravens running backs last week. While Sony Michel got off to a slow start, he’s a good bet to bounce back in this matchup. Michel is a sneaky DFS option.
Miles Sanders didn’t exactly come roaring out of the gate in his professional debut. However, he’s tempting to flex out this week against a Falcons defense that continued to struggle against the run last week, allowing 168 yards and two scores to the Minnesota run game.
Don’t be as confident on the other side of this matchup. While the Eagles struggled mightily against the pass in Week 1, they showed that they’re still one of the league’s better run defenses. Devonta Freeman didn’t get off to the best start to 2019 and that will likely continue in Week 2.
It wasn’t the prettiest game from Arizona in Week 1, but David Johnson did exactly what we wanted him to do for fantasy purposes. However, Johnson owners will want to temper their expectations this week with a brutal matchup on tap against the Ravens. Baltimore allowed the fewest fantasy points per game to running backs last season, and they picked right up where they left off last week.
There’s no sugar coating it: Josh Allen isn’t a safe fantasy play. That said, the second-year man does offer major upside with both his arm and his legs. He also gets a tasty matchup against a Giants defense that surrender 405 passing yards and four scores to Dak Prescott last week.
Tight end matchups are always tricky at this point in the season, but we did see the Cowboys give up double-digit catches to Evan Engram last week. If Jordan Reed isn’t able to get back on the field, fantasy players in need of a tight end may want to fire up Vernon Davis this week.