Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em Week 2
We have only absorbed the first week of regular season matchups, and how they meshed with our initial Start ‘Em Sit’ Em decisions. Yet, that opening installment of highly anticipated game action finally moved us beyond the overused and essentially meaningless phrases that were all too prevalent during the summer – such as “he’s coming along nicely”, “he’s in the mix”, and “he looks good in practice” – and can now assist us in constructing the framework of our own increasingly tangible opinions. Through the consumption of voluminous statistical results, fused with focused viewing of both live and recorded game action.
If that last scenario applies to you, it is appropriate to take solace in the knowledge that better performances are forthcoming. As it is often easy to overreact initially to the results of Week 1. But it is critical to redirect that thought process toward planning for the next sequence of contests that will soon be played. Which escorts our attention toward examining your lineup options in these final days before Week 2 begins. The goal of this Start’Em Sit’Em column is to reward you for choosing to make it a destination, by providing a strategic approach toward recommending your best starts, along with the players that should be excluded from this week’s lineups. Kickoffs are approaching, so let’s get started with the Gridiron Experts Week 2 Start’Em Sit’Em featured piece for the 2017 NFL Season.
Raiders vs. Jets
Carr returned to the field for his first matchup since suffering a broken fibula last December and did not disappoint his owners on opening day against the Titans. As he compiled 262 yards, two touchdowns, and connected with eight different receivers in the process. 11 of his passes were garnered by the stellar tandem of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, who perpetuated their roles as his most critical receiving weapons. Both wideouts just began their third season with the Raiders, as Crabtree entered the Week 1 contest with more targets (291-262) and receptions (174-155), while Cooper had amassed the superior yardage total (2,223- 1,925). However, what had been a wide disparity in touchdowns, and red zone targeting for Crabtree was not perpetrated during this encounter with Tennessee, as Carr targeted Cooper 13 times. Including several in the red zone, which resulted in Oakland’s initial score. The addition of Jared Cook provides an additional element to a passing attack that should continue to thrive with Carr at the helm while enabling him to accumulate desirable numbers for his owners. That will occur again this week, when he faces a Jet team that has been routinely stripped of talent and will be severely challenged simply to compete on a weekly basis. Gang Green just surrendered 224 yards and two touchdowns through the air to Tyrod Taylor in Week 2, and Carr should exceed that output by a considerable amount. While it is conceivable that the Raiders will choose to pound the ball with Marshawn Lynch once they have built a sizable lead, it is more likely that he will be utilized sparingly once that transpires. There is absolutely nothing about this week’s matchup that should discourage anyone from starting Carr.
Also Start: Philip Rivers vs. Dolphins, Carson Palmer at Colts
Titans at Jaguars
Last week the third-year signal-caller was a recommended start in this column. While he ultimately ran for a 10-yard touchdown and produced 256 yards through the air, he failed to generate a passing score versus what indeed appeared to be an overmatched Oakland defensive unit. This week, he will be confronted by a Jaguar defense that enters Week 2 as the league leader in total defense, which presents him with a far more daunting task.
Also Sit: Dak Prescott at Broncos, Carson Wentz at Chiefs
Chiefs vs. Eagles
One of the more intense and polarizing discussions during the final four months of the offseason concerned the degree to which Spencer Ware and Hunt would each be allotted touches within Andy Reid’s regular season game scripts. Anyone who has read my previous article on this topic, or engaged in one of those discussions with me, is already fully aware that I have been an advocate of Hunt since the Chiefs aggressively pursued the opportunity to secure him during last April’s NFL draft (relinquishing multiple draft in order to rise 18 spots). Ware’s unfortunate knee injury that occurred in Week 3 of the preseason (torn PCL/torn LCL), certainly cleared the runway for Hunt to assume Kansas City’s feature back role. But the explosive rookie’s outstanding debut against the Patriots (148 rushing yards/98 receiving yards/3 touchdowns), cemented the fact that he is fully capable of thriving in that role. Even though I have been among Hunt’s most passionate proponents, I believe that it is premature to immediately anoint him as a matchup proof, every week starter after just one game, despite the exceptional results of his first professional outing. Notwithstanding the fact that he is extremely close to earning that designation, he definitely cannot be expected to replicate the precise level of output that he delivered against the Patriots. But moving forward with a week-by-week approach to his fantasy value, it is still reasonable to trust him again on Sunday, even though Hunt will be contending with an imposing Philadelphia front seven that contains no significant shortcomings. Because the blend of his abilities, and the enormous number of chances he will be presented to utilize them, is sufficient for owners to deploy him in their lineups during Kansas City’s home opener.
Jaguars vs. Titans
Anyone who selected Fournette in Round 2 of their fantasy draft process, did so with confidence that he would operate in the capacity of a feature back for the Jaguars this season. But when a lingering foot injury sidelined him for their final three preseason contests, hesitation emerged among a growing number of potential owners, who responded by eschewing their opportunity to select him. However, he immediately rewarded anyone who had started him, by rumbling for the aforementioned 100 yards and a score on 26 attempts (3.8 YPC), while catching all three of his targets for an additional 24 yards.
Also Start: Marshawn Lynch vs. Jets, Ty Montgomery at Falcons
Eddie Lacy / Thomas Rawls / C.J. Prosise
Seahawks vs. 49ers
Ideally, weeks of ambiguity regarding the workload distribution for Seattle’s collection of running backs would have reached some degree of clarity entering Week 2 of the regular season. Uncertainty remains in the aftermath of inconclusive results from the Seahawks’ undistinguished offensive efforts in Week 1. Russell Wilson led the team with 40 yards, while the litany of output from the team’s backs included Chris Carson (6 attempts-39 yards), Prosise (4 carries-11 yards-2.8 YPC), and Lacy (5 carries-3 yards-0.6 YPC). The unimpressive statistical resume for Seattle’s burgeoning stable of backs would have been even more expensive if Rawls had been available (ankle injury). At this point, the first beacon of hope for owners of any Seattle back would be supplied by Carson, who should be added to all rosters in leagues where he remains available. He has consistently been the Seahawks’ most impressive runner behind a talent challenged offensive line, and logic would dictate that he will eventually be allotted the majority of carries from among the cluster of backfield options. Beyond Carson, Prosise has the greatest potential to emerge as a viable point producer, if he is provided with the opportunity to supplement Carson’s touches. Conversely, Rawls has not proven that he can avoid injury with sufficient consistency, while Lacy’s history since 2014 has assembled a lengthy procession of red flags. The uncertainty and ineffectiveness of this unit (beyond Carson) is unfortunate. Because a clear, dependable feature back would theoretically be the recipient of a favorable matchup this week. Versus a San Francisco run defense that just yielded 112 yards to Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey in Week 1, and remains predisposed toward being gashed for sizable yardage on the ground. But uncertainty that permeates yet another dreaded committee should keep all Seattle backs on your bench, until this situation becomes less cumbersome.
Colts vs. Cardinals
Gore is to be applauded for continuing to function as a feature back entering his 13th professional season. He has surpassed 1,000 rushing yards in nine different seasons, and in 2006, reached the threshold of accumulating 1,700 yards on the ground (1,695). A voluminous amount of football has been played since that particular season. while Gore has persevered as the unquestioned viable starter for the Colts beyond any logical expectation. But there is now a multitude of reasons for owners to avoid any further dependence upon the 34-year old unless his situation is altered dramatically. First, even though Indianapolis was expected to struggle without Andrew Luck in the lineup, the level of ineptitude that we witnessed from Scott Tolzien in Week 1 should alarm anyone who had initially planned on Gore functioning as a productive feature back before Luck returns. Also, rookie Marlon Mack matched Gore’s 11 touches, generated a touchdown, and scored twice. Although Chuck Pagano was remiss in challenging a call that likely would have been overturned. While Mack replaced Gore largely because the Colts had fallen far behind, that scenario could reoccur again this week. As the undeniable spark that Mack delivered to what is otherwise an exceedingly substandard offense without Luck spearheading it, should enable him to pilfer Gore’s touches moving forward. Plus, this week the Colts will face another NFC West defense that has no discernible reason to fear a sustained, NFL quality aerial assault. Which provides the final element in this multi-layered cautionary tale toward encouraging you to find an alternative.
Also Sit: Isaiah Crowell at Ravens, Paul Perkins vs. Lions
Chiefs vs. Eagles
When New England’s ill-fated attempt to cover Hill resulted in a busted coverage, Alex Smith located the wide open speedster, who subsequently bolted for a 75-yard touchdown during Kansas City’s opening night matchup. That was the sixth consecutive regular season contest in which he has generated a touchdown of at least 60 yards, and owners certainly welcome the fact that Andy Reid will continue to provide Hill with opportunities to excel in a similar fashion. This can result in an always coveted big play at any time because he possesses the physical attributes to explode beyond defenders, as he did on multiple occasions against the Patriots. As Hill collected 133 yards on seven receptions before his performance concluded prematurely dues to cramps. Hill has now proven that he can flourish as Kansas City’s WR1, while being deployed within a variety of formations. The degree to which the dynamic 23-year old prevailed during his encounter with New England’s secondary, should guide owners toward a massive state of anticipation for this week’s matchup with Philadelphia’s collection of cornerbacks. This would have transpired even if Ronald Darby was in the lineup. But the Eagles’ best corner has been jettisoned to the sidelines after suffering an ankle injury in Week 1. Even though Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson, and Jaylen Watkins performed reasonably well against the Redskins last Sunday, Hill can torch any member of this vulnerable trio rather easily. Leaving him primed to deliver big plays for yet another week.
Keenan Allen / Tyrell Williams
Chargers vs. Dolphins
Anyone who is involved with fantasy football ownership is already acutely aware of Allen’s unwanted history of injuries. Even though the maladies are unrelated – ACL, kidney, ankle, collarbone – the fact remains that those issues have conspired to force him from the field for a total of 26 games in his professional career. If he can persevere through a 16-game regular-season, it will be the first time that he is accomplished that feat. Nonetheless, he has proven the ability to stockpile yardage and receptions, which compelled many owners to retain confidence that he can deliver excellent numbers this year. This also applies for anyone who drafted Williams, following his 2016 breakout (69 receptions/1,059 yards/7 touchdowns).
Also Start: Amari Cooper / Michael Crabtree vs. Jets, Larry Fitzgerald at Colts
Cowboys at Broncos
If Bryant is on your roster, he could easily be your WR1. Or at a minimum, he is likely your WR2, amid your plan to rely upon him as an integral component within your lineup throughout the season. The three-time Pro Bowler should supply you with high-quality production during some of his upcoming matchups. However, this will not be one of his more prolific games of 2017, which only serves as a warning to prepare owners. As you are at risk of watching in dismay when the fallout from a nightmarish September schedule is perpetuated this week. This will occur immediately after you were subjected to the paltry production that resulted when Bryant managed just two receptions for 43 yards against the Giants. Now, the seven-year veteran will be confronted by a daunting matchup with Denver’s stellar secondary. Including sizable coverage from stifling cornerback Aqib Talib, who will present Bryant with a significant challenge for the second consecutive week. The proverbial silver lining for owners likely resides in the realization that the suffocating coverage will eventually subside in Week 5. Which will enable Bryant to finally deliver results that will be universally embraced by those who invested in him. However, the agonizing wait can only compel owners to hope that he can produce respectable numbers by overcoming the presence of proficient coverage.
Giants vs. Lions
Late in the fourth quarter of New York’s Week 1 matchup with Dallas, the final seconds were elapsing, and anyone reading this had equaled Marshall’s reception total for the game. However, he finally procured his lone catch on the final play of the contest, which encapsulated what had been a highly disappointing performance during his debut with the Giants. Worse, this occurred during a game in which Odell Beckham Jr. was absent from the lineup. Which appeared to be an opportunity for Eli Manning to locate Marshall with frequency. Instead, he only targeted the thirty-three-year-old wideout four times, which trailed Shane Vereen (10), Sterling Shepard (8), Evan Engram (5) and even Roger Lewis (6). The only continued the precipitous statistical decline that has taken place since his stellar 2015 season. During which he generated 1,502 yards, and tied for the league lead with 14 touchdowns. Now, he is a largely overlooked component within a Giant that appeared woefully out of sync in Week 1, without the presence of Beckham. This week, he must contend with a Lion pass defense that was surprisingly stout throughout much of last Sunday’s win over Arizona. As the Lions limited Carson Palmer to 56% passing, while also poaching three of his passes. Marshall will also be contending with the proficient Darius Slay, along with Nevin Lawson on the perimeter. Unearthing tangible rationale toward forecasting high-quality production for Marshall is a difficult task, and owners should explore other options as a result.
Also Sit: T.Y. Hilton vs. Cardinals, Rishard Matthews / Corey Davis at Jaguars
Falcons vs. Packers
Those of you who elected to pursue one of the elite tight ends during your drafts already know who you will be starting this week. As is the case for anyone who garnered a proficient TE1 weapon within the first eight rounds of your draft. Even if they disappointed you in Week 1 (yes, this means you Graham owners). But if you currently remain unsure who to elevate into a starting role at the tight end position entering Week 2, there is a distinct possibility that Hooper will reward you with a favorable performance. The 22-year old just accrued 128 yards against Chicago last Sunday. Which not only was the most yardage by any tight end during Week 1’s matchups, but only trailed three wide receivers for the highest total for the week. It also included an 88-yard touchdown that occurred on a blown coverage. This is not a suggestion that you should rely upon the Packers to replicate that level of play, nor does it ignore the fact that he was targeted a disturbingly low two times. However, Hooper did demonstrate playmaking ability when he was provided with the opportunity. Plus, his level of involvement was a byproduct of the Atlanta’s transition to a Steve Sarkisian-led attack, as he was calling his initial game at the professional level. Hooper has not risen to a level that approaches the league’s foremost tiers at his position. But he is ascending and represents a low-end TE1 option for owners in need.
Also Start: Hunter Henry vs. Dolphins, Cameron Brate vs. Bears
Lions at Giants
After another summer filled with varying opinions concerning how productive the often disappointing Ebron would be during his fourth NFL season, anyone who decided to take a chance on his seemingly massive potential was immediately forced to contend with the misfortune of counting on him to supply fantasy points against Arizona. The Cardinals entered the contest having permitted the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends in 2016 (3.4) while refusing to yield a touchdown to the position until Week 14. Unfortunately, for those who opted to start him, the results were discouraging. The 24-year old Ebron managed a grand total of nine yards with his two receptions, as only three of Matthew Stafford’s 41 passes were targeted for his tight end. This should only serve to elevate existing reluctance to use Ebron with any frequency, as substandard production, and an inability to discover the end zone, have diminished his viability as a low-end TE1 into question. This week’s matchup is not particularly daunting. As the Giant defense is sturdy overall but has not consistently provided strong resistance to opposing tight ends. New York was one of eight teams to allow over 1,000 yards to the position in 2016, but only yielded four touchdowns. However, there is also little evidence to suggest that he will accumulate desirable numbers against this unit. This is not a recommendation to give up on Ebron. Because he is simply too young and too talented for that premature proclamation. But it would be wise to sit him, until he demonstrates that he will supply you with fantasy points at a level you need from the tight end position.
Also Sit: Jack Doyle vs. Cardinals
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