by Scott Spratt
It's the second straight week of clear skies and warm temperatures to start the football season. Hopefully the offenses with fantasy potential that seemed still mired in preseason form in Week 1 -- such as the Bears, Browns, Falcons, and Steelers -- can take advantage of those excellent conditions and put up some fantasy points this week. I have high hopes for the latter team, at the very least.
The following tables feature the players with the best and worst matchups of the week. Each listed player shows a true-talent (TT) ranking that represents how I would rank him within a perfectly neutral game context. Then, that ranking is adjusted by adding the context of the venue (Ven) -- home and road and dome and outside -- the forecasted weather (Wea), and the defensive tendencies of the opponent (Def). The line beneath those rankings shows how much those contextual factors move projected PPR fantasy points. That total (Tot) number gives you a comprehensive estimate of how many fantasy points the player will score this week more or less than his typical total.
|Best Week 2 Matchups - Quarterbacks|
Next to maybe Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger has the most publicized home/road splits at the position. Over the last three seasons, Roethlisberger has completed 3.9% more passes for 30 more yards and 1.1 more touchdowns per game at home than on the road. That adds up to a 5.7-fantasy point advantage at home that is the most among quarterbacks with more than a year of experience as his team's starter.
The Steelers had other problems in Week 1, but being on the road and facing the Patriots' fearsome secondary didn't help. They should have a much easier time of things in Pittsburgh against the Seahawks this week. Back in their Legion of Boom days, the Seahawks cut passing touchdowns per attempt by as much as 50%. But that cut fell to 18% after the 2016 season, and they have actually boosted touchdowns a bit the last two years. I'm not sure how much stock one should put into their weird performance against the Bengals on Sunday, but the Seahawks defense performed better against the run (No. 2 DVOA) than the pass (No. 11 DVOA). I'm confident of Roethlisberger in the top 10.
Cam Newton had his own forgettable debut performance, but he should do better tonight against a Buccaneers team that increases passing yards per attempt by 15% and passing touchdowns per attempt by 53%. Ryan Fitzpatrick was held to 29 pass attempts against a scary Ravens team that controlled the ball with 46 carries against just 26 passes. He still produced a respectable 6.4 yards per attempt and should have ample garbage-time opportunities to rack up fantasy points against the Patriots.
Tom Brady may not have Antonio Brown against those Dolphins, but he assuaged any fears concerning the loss of Rob Gronkowski with a 341-yard, three-touchdown performance in Week 1. The Dolphins defense promotes passing yards per attempt by 20% and passing touchdowns by 72%, which more than counterbalances their 9% reduction in pass plays facing teams that tend to build big leads and run the ball to kill clock.
Derek Carr didn't carry the volume of passes to excel in fantasy on Monday night, but he completed 84.6% of his passes -- 14.4% more than expected according to Next Gen Stats -- and looked fine without Antonio Brown. He will likely throw way more than 26 times this week facing a Chiefs team that increases passing plays by 16%. And the Chiefs defensive issues from last year didn't look solved as sixth-round rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew carved them up for 275 yards and two touchdowns in relief of Nick Foles.
Patrick Mahomes didn't have any trouble against the Jaguars' No. 1 projected DVOA defense last week, so I'll leave him where he belongs as the No. 1 ranked fantasy quarterback in Week 2 facing a Raiders team that increases passing yards per attempt by 21% and passing touchdowns by 81%, both the most in football. He will likely have a similar performance as last week, with excellent fantasy numbers but a modest total of pass attempts given a Raiders team that decreases pass plays by 14%.
|Worst Week 2 Matchups - Quarterbacks|
Kyler Murray threw the ball 54 times in Week 1. Overtime was a factor, but Kliff Kingsbury's Air Raid offense and Murray's obvious arm talent make him a safe QB2 for fantasy in my mind. At least, that will be the case most weeks. Matchups don't come any tougher than on the road in Baltimore. The Ravens cut passing yards per attempt by 12% and passing touchdowns by 23%. They also more than double passer fumbles. Leave Murray on your benches in every format.
The Titans showcased their own stout pass defense in blowing out the Browns on Sunday. They and the Ravens are the top two defenses in pass defense DVOA after one week. The Titans also cut passing touchdowns by 18%. Jacoby Brissett looked capable in relief of the retired Andrew Luck, but the Colts offense will likely skew heavily to rushing. Avoid him in fantasy in Week 2.
I'm not convinced that Josh Allen's massive 8.2-fantasy point home advantage from a year ago is a sustainable trend. Much of it came from what seems like a coincidental split of six rushing touchdowns at home against just two on the road. Week 1 aside, Allen threw a similar ratio of picks to attempts at home and on the road last year. He draws the Giants, who were the second-worst DVOA pass defense in Week 1. But all that said, I'm not bullish on his fantasy potential this week. The Giants may be bad against the pass, but they still cut passing touchdowns per attempt by 15% -- probably because they increase rushing touchdowns per attempt by 40%. Maybe Allen gets that rushing score, but I think this could be the Devin Singletary breakout.
NFC South rivals Drew Brees and Jameis Winston have the same 4.2-fantasy point home advantage over the last three seasons, and both get the bad draw on the road against the Rams and Panthers, respectively, this week. Brees salvages a back-end QB2 rankings thanks to the plus Rams matchup for passing. Meanwhile, I'm subjectively more pessimistic for Winston than my No. 18 ranking. The Panthers enter the season as a defense that boosts passing yards and touchdowns, but upgrades in their pass rush and secondary could turn them into a minus matchup for quarterbacks this season.
|Best Week 2 Matchups - Running Backs|
Josh Jacobs took 23 of the Raiders 26 running back carries on Monday night. That workload vaults him into the top 10 at the position in my true-talent rankings. This week, he could threaten the top spot against a Chiefs team that increases rushing yards per attempt by 18% and rushing touchdowns per attempt by 71%. The Raiders face blowout potential, but Leonard Fournette managed a solid 13 carries with more than 5.0 yards per carry last in a similar situation. If that's the downside for Jacobs this week, sign me up.
Across the field, Damien Williams will face a favorable matchup, as well. The Raiders boost rushing yards per attempt by 9% and rushing touchdowns per attempt by 43%, and unlike the Chiefs, they also boost rushing plays by 14%. Many Williams owners are likely worried by LeSean McCoy's team-leading Week 1 rushing performance, but half of McCoy's 10 carries came with the Chiefs up three scores. I think McCoy is a handcuff and Williams is a solid RB2 play this week.
Like most Patriots, James White can be difficult to predict week to week. Case in point, he had 16 touches for 112 yards and two touchdowns last September against Miami and followed that up with just six touches, 28 yards, and no touchdowns against the Dolphins in December. The Patriots may be better and the Dolphins are pretty clearly worse since that pair of contests, and that could set up a blowout that heavily features power back Sony Michel. But White has also enjoyed marginal advantages in touches, yards, and touchdowns at home over the road the last three years that add up to a 3.0-fantasy point advantage in Foxboro. I'm content to start him as a back-end RB2 in PPR formats.
Nick Chubb was a touchdown away from a decent fantasy performance despite the Browns' blowout loss to the Titans last week. I think he's clearly a true-talent RB1 the first half of the season. The Jets defense looked improved thanks mostly to C.J. Mosley in Week 1, but that improvement skewed passing (No. 6 DVOA) over rushing (No. 22). They should be a major matchup upgrade for Chubb over last week against a Titans defense that cuts rushing touchdowns by 63%, second most in football.
|Worst Week 2 Matchups - Running Backs|
The Colts' Marlon Mack will be the next runner to try to best that fearsome Titans run defense. Mack is a comparable true-talent player to Chubb in my mind, but the matchup drops him from a back-end RB1 to a back-end RB2 this week. Meanwhile, Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay draw the Bears, who cut rushing touchdowns by even more than the Titans do -- at 50%, it is the most in football. Freeman should be more susceptible to difficult rushing defenses than Lindsay now that Lindsay has taken over the bulk of the Broncos' receiving back work. The Bears were "only" 10th-best allowing a -9.5% DVOA to receiving backs last year. They were top-five against every wide receiver position and tight ends.
Latavius Murray saw just eight carries to Alvin Kamara's 20 last week. That drops Murray to 44th in my true-talent rankings, and he falls a few more spots facing a Rams defense that cuts run plays by 8% and rushing touchdowns per attempt by 10%. I'd still rather start him than the Rams' Malcolm Brown in the same game. Brown may have drawn the goal-line looks and scored twice last week, and the Saints may boost rushing touchdowns a bit compared to an average team. But Brown seems unlikely to be involved in the Rams passing game in a backfield with Todd Gurley and receiving back Darrell Henderson, and the Saints cut rushing plays by 15%.
Avoid using Frank Gore this week and maybe the rest of the season in shallow formats. Devin Singletary looked exceptional in his Week 1 debut and was on the field for 48 snaps compared to just 19 for Gore. Their four-to-11 carry split from Sunday seems likely to flip as the season progresses, and Singletary is already the passing-down choice.
|Best Week 2 Matchups - Wide Receivers|
I was a little surprised to have a pair of Falcons on my best matchups list this week, even if they are at home in the dome. The Eagles have traditionally had an excellent pass defense courtesy their deep pass rush. But Week 1 skewed the other way, with the Eagles having the fourth-worst DVOA pass defense and third-best DVOA run defense. That may be a one-week anomaly, but the Eagles also increase pass plays by 19%, the most in football. Even if Matt Ryan is less efficient than usual in the matchup, he should provide ample targets to buoy Julio Jones to the No. 1 and Calvin Ridley to the No. 11 fantasy receivers this week.
JuJu Smith-Schuster should be the biggest beneficiary from Roethlisberger's home/road splits this week. He's in my top five at the position. Tyrell Williams and Darren Waller are the clear top two receivers for the Raiders without Antonio Brown, and that makes Williams a typical WR2 who looks even better against a poor Chiefs defense this week. And the Panthers' D.J. Moore had 10 targets compared to just four for Curtis Samuel in Week 1. I expect a similar ratio for the rest of this season, which will make Moore a back-end WR2 who jumps to the front-end tonight at home against the Buccaneers.
|Worst Week 2 Matchups - Wide Receivers|
You can't bench DeAndre Hopkins ever, but he falls all the way to wide receiver No. 7 in my rankings facing the Jaguars, who I still think have a good pass defense even after their dismantling by the Chiefs. They were the sixth-worst DVOA pass defense last week but were Football Outsiders' No. 1 projected DVOA defense before the season. Along those same lines, Will Fuller isn't a great flex option this week, although he's clearly the Texans' No. 2 receiving option with Keke Coutee still fighting a preseason ankle injury.
I'm not trusting any Cardinals receiver this week in Baltimore, but the team's apparent proclivity for passing should buoy Larry Fitzgerald to a high-end WR2 most weeks. And the Giants cutting of passing touchdowns in favor of rushing touchdowns should hurt John Brown more than any other Bills receiver now that it's clear he's the team's top choice on the outside.
|Best Week 2 Matchups - Tight Ends|
It's just one week, but Darren Waller looked explosive on Monday night, and along with Tyrell Williams may be one of the only two talented Raiders' receiving options. He leaps to my true-talent No. 6 tight end and jumps further to second for me this week against the Chiefs. But obviously feel free to start the triumvirate of Travis Kelce (No. 1 PPR ranking), Zach Ertz (No. 4), and George Kittle (No. 5) over him for safety.
Greg Olsen had nine targets in Week 1 and has the good matchup tonight against the Buccaneers, but make sure he's playing before you start him. He is questionable with a back injury he suffered in Week 1. At least it's not his foot again. The Seahawks defense is a bit better against tight ends than wide receivers at this point, but they still finished just 13th allowing -3.7% DVOA to the position last year after finishing top-five the previous two seasons. That sneaks Vance McDonald into the back of my TE1s this week. Meanwhile, the Eagles and Falcons should offer positive tight end matchups to each other on Sunday. They finished 24th and 28th defending tight ends respectively in 2018, allowing 11.2% and 13.5% DVOA to the position.
|Worst Week 2 Matchups - Tight Ends|
The Panthers have a very good defense against tight ends, finishing fifth against the position with -15.1% DVOA in 2018. That hurts O.J. Howard a bit, but I'm optimistic he's going to be a featured part of the Buccaneers offense that will bounce back from a horrible opener. Trey Burton missed Week 1 and is unclear for Week 2. Avoid him anyway against the Broncos.
Do the same with Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle against the Titans' No. 2 defense against tight ends from 2018 (-31.6% DVOA). They will likely sabotage each other's fantasy potential, anyway, in what will likely be a more run-focused offense with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. And finally, Jared Cook should suffer from a matchup against the Rams and their No. 4 tight end defense from a year ago. He's barely in my top 20 this week, in part because of the Saints' unexpected-by-me reliance on wide receivers in Week 1.