Fantasy Football: Time to panic or Week 2 antic?

2RW85EW Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett (7) sacks Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) during an NFL preseason football game , Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Peter Joneleit)

  • Justin Fields has struggled as a passer: That’s no different from what fantasy managers saw in 2022. His rushing usage has some panicked, however.
  • Dameon Pierce is still taking a backseat in the fourth quarter: After holding a role as a true three-down back in the preseason, Pierce continues to get phased out of the game plan when down in the fourth quarter.
  • Atlanta Falcons TE Kyle Pitts posts another disappointing week: The Falcons low-volume passing attack is likely to set fantasy managers up for a season of volatility.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Week 2 of the 2023 NFL season is officially in the books, and there were just as many highs and lows as there were in Week 1. Now, at least, we have a two-game sample size to draw conclusions from. With another week in the books, here are five stats highlighting various fantasy disappointments from Week 2 and a temperature check — is it time to panic or just a Week 2 antic?

WR:CB Matchup Chart

Chicago Bears QB Justin Fields is averaging just 14.64 fantasy points per game.

If we were able to speak in definitives after just two weeks, the biggest takeaway is that Fields might not be the quarterback we hoped he could be — for fantasy football or a real-life NFL team. Even amidst his biggest struggles as a passer, fantasy managers at least could hold on to his production as a rusher to save his day.  However, that hasn’t been the case so far in 2023.

After averaging nearly six designed rush attempts per game in 2022, Fields has had just five total designed rush attempts through two games. Fields’ production as a rusher was key to contributing to his QB6 finish for fantasy with 1,143 rushing yards and eight scores on the ground. However, the Bears have yet to feature that aspect of his game, doing him, the offense and fantasy managers all a huge disservice. If OC Luke Getsy looks to make adjustments, he can start by calling some plays to get Fields involved on the ground – which should be good news for fantasy managers. Fields’ 86.0 PFF rushing grade ranks second among quarterbacks while also leading the position with 72 yards after contact. Keep hope!

Temperature check: Week 2 antic

Cincinnati Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase is falling behind teammate Tee Higgins.

The Bengals have been off to a disappointing start in the season, going 0-2 and receiving even more bad news regarding Joe Burrow’s health after Week 2. Unfortunately, after Week 2’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens, Burrow noted that he was experiencing some calf soreness, which isn’t good news as this team looks to bounce back from that abysmal start. 

Chase has led the team with a 68.6 receiving grade while running a team-high 76 routes. Despite that, we haven’t seen the ideal usage from Chase, targeted on 22.4% of routes in comparison to teammate Tee Higgins at 25.7% with just 5.9% of those targets coming with 20-plus air yards. That’s reflected in his average depth of target, too, where he also ranks well below Higgins, who’s averaged a 14.3-yard aDOT to Chase’s 7.7. 

Though his usage to this point has been less than ideal, this is an offense that has had slow starts in the past and has an understanding of how best to use its assets historically. Chase’s 6.6 yards per reception, 0.91 yards per route run and 4.3 yards after the catch per reception and deep target rate are all well below his career averages, which has him due for some positive regression as long as this offense gets back to form.

Temperature check: Week 2 antic… but be cautious!

Houston Texans RB Dameon Pierce is still losing playing time in the fourth quarter.

Ahead of the 2023 NFL season, it seemed likely that Pierce was in for a significant workload in the season to come. After an offseason filled with hype for his potential as a three-down back, it doesn’t seem to be translating exactly as one would have hoped based on his preseason usage. Though Pierce is leading the backfield with just over 45% of snaps played this season, the split is not as drastic between him and running backs Devin Singletary and Mike Boone as we’d like — as both have played 29% and 16% of the team's offensive snaps through two games so far this season, respectively. 

So far this season in the first three quarters, Pierce has led the team with 55% of its offensive snaps. However, in the fourth quarter, when the offense has been playing catch up, he’s seen a significant drop in usage, taking a backseat to Devin Singletary, playing 38% of fourth-quarter snaps to Pierce’s 29%. Though there have been a few bright spots for this team that indicate it is headed in the right direction, it seems likely the Texans will be playing from behind in most games, which won’t help Pierce’s usage if the current deployment of these running backs stands.

Temperature check: Time to panic

Las Vegas Raiders RB Josh Jacobs is averaging 1.64 yards per carry in 2023.

It’s been a slow start for the Raiders, even despite their Week 1 win, ranking bottom five in the league in both points scored and net offensive yards per game. Though Jacobs has totaled 35 touches over the first two weeks, it hasn’t amounted to much, averaging just 3.4 yards per touch for finishes as the RB30 and RB23 in Weeks 1 and 2, respectively. 

Though Jacobs’ efficiency is concerning, there are plenty of reasons to believe he’s due to bounce back as long as he continues to get the volume. In the 2021 and 2022 seasons, there were exactly 43 instances where a running back averaged more than 15 touches per game with a minimum of five games played in a season. In just three of those instances, running backs averaged less than 10 fantasy points per game, even amidst inefficiency, because volume is king in fantasy football. Jacobs is dominating the running back room with just under 77% of the team's offensive snaps. Don’t worry about Jacobs just yet.

Temperature check: Week 2 antic

Atlanta Falcons Kyle Pitts was targeted on just 13.5% of routes run in Week 2.

All eyes felt like they were on WR Drake London in Week 2, who went without a single catch in their season opener. London’s fantasy managers were appeased, as London saw seven targets, catching six for 67 yards and a score in a bounce-back game. Pitts remains a non-factor however, as he's been outscored in fantasy through two weeks by Durham Smythe, Tyler Conklin and Donald Parham Jr. for crying out loud.

Pitts has significant upside as a receiver, as evidenced by his career average of 14.4 yards per reception. However, his connection with QB Desmond Ridder needs some work, and the low passing volume for the Falcons at just 25 attempts per game over the first two weeks remains a concern for expectations of any level of consistency moving forward. Pitts is still just 22 years old and undoubtedly has a bright future ahead, which could make him a solid trade target in dynasty leagues, but redraft managers should be in full panic mode and looking to secure another option at tight end – quickly.

Temperature check: PANIC. WITH A CAPITAL P. 


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