Herbert, Allen, Williams Among Chargers to Start in Week 2
The good September weather is poised to continue this weekend with forecasted temperatures universally in the 70s or higher and light rain only a threat for the Titans and Seahawks in the Pacific Northwest and the Broncos and Jaguars in the Atlantic Southeast. But that's no reason to ignore venues and opponents in your lineup considerations. The Cowboys at Chargers game in particular has major fantasy potential, and a number of matchups seem likely to move players from starting lineups to fantasy benches or vice versa this week.
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 with 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 opponent tendencies (Opp). 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.
You can see our full weekly projections with projected stats, matchup adjustments and fantasy points by subscribing to FO+.
|Best Week 2 Matchups - Quarterbacks|
His true talent ranking of fourth at the position reflects my optimism for Justin Herbert this year with the jump quarterbacks typically take from their first to second seasons in the NFL. Herbert will likely be a frequent DFS recommendation unless the platforms price him up near the elite options at the position, but this week, Herbert also leads the list of quarterback matchup gainers in a traditional sense. The many Cowboys fans out there have undoubtedly realized that Dak Prescott has thrown for 47, 57, 58, and 58 pass attempts in his last four healthy games courtesy of an undermanned defense. But they may not have realized what those shootouts have meant for their opponents in fantasy. The Cowboys defense is the No. 8 booster of passing yards (6%) and No. 1 booster of passing touchdowns per pass attempt (44%). Because of that, Herbert earns my No. 1 quarterback ranking this week, and Prescott isn't far behind him in the No. 3 spot. Expect a ton of points for both the Chargers and Cowboys this week in the dome in Los Angeles.
Kyler Murray made me look stupid in Week 1 to point out his historically extreme home/road split, which after the Cardinals' blowout of the Titans in Tennessee has receded to "just" 4.0 more fantasy points per game at home than on the road . But that shouldn't be a bad development for Murray's fantasy stock in his home games. He has one of those this week against a Vikings team that boosts completion percentage and passing yards and touchdowns per attempt by between 4% and 20%. I'm a little nervous that Murray may run less this year than he has in the past, something he told reporters was a priority this offseason. But a point or two drop in true talent shouldn't matter this week with a venue and opponent poised to increase his production by a projected 2.4 fantasy points.
The Packers laid the biggest egg of Week 1 and sent fans of the team into a panic. Fantasy players shouldn't need Aaron Rodgers to remind them that was just one game. But for good measure, I'll pipe in that the team's Week 2 opponent Detroit is the No. 1 booster of passing yards per attempt (21%), No. 2 booster of passing touchdowns per attempt (43%), and No. 2 cutter of interceptions per attempt (46%). Rodgers seems unlikely to need to loft balls from his goal line into double coverage against Dan Campbell's rebuilding defense. That may not make Rodgers a top-of-the-line DFS option at his $6,600 DraftKings and $8,000 FanDuel salaries, but he's firmly in my top 10 at the position this week. I ranked him sixth.
Best DraftKings Values: Justin Herbert ($1,000 underpriced at $6,700), Joe Burrow ($600 underpriced at $5,800), Dak Prescott ($400 underpriced at $6,800)
Best FanDuel Values: Justin Herbert ($1,100 underpriced at $7,600), Joe Burrow ($500 underpriced at $7,100), Dak Prescott ($400 underpriced at $6,000)
With my stated expectations for a shootout in Los Angeles, it's little surprise to see Herbert and Prescott as top values in both DFS platforms. South of $7,000 in DraftKings and $8,000 in FanDuel, they are elite options this week at non-elite prices. Herbert in particular offers some appealing stacking opportunities, which I will discuss in future paragraphs.
I don't expect the Bears to be as tame a defense as they appeared to be on Sunday night against the Rams. Aaron Schatz projected them as the No. 7 defense in DVOA, and they almost certainly will make it to Joe Burrow since the Vikings had such an easy time of it — they sacked the sophomore quarterback five times and finished the week first in adjusted sack rate. Still, Burrow showed me everything I wanted to see in his comeback from his torn ACL. Poised to enjoy the same Year 2 efficiency benefits as Herbert, Burrow is up to 11th in my true-talent quarterback rankings. That carries his $600 and $500 discounts in the DFS platforms in what is likely a neutral matchup at best.
|Worst Week 2 Matchups - Quarterbacks|
Patrick Mahomes has defied the typical quarterback trends of worse play on the road and in poor weather. I can't ever in good conscience recommend you bench him. But his drop to No. 4 in the Week 2 quarterback rankings will hopefully clue you into some of the second-tier options at the position with particularly good matchups. On paper, Mahomes has a tougher one on the road in Baltimore on Sunday night. That said, the Ravens may have lost some of their defensive luster from departed free agents such as Matt Judon and injured players such as Marcus Peters. And Mahomes lit the Ravens up for 374 yards and three touchdowns when he played them in 2019 and 385 yards and four touchdowns when he played them in 2020, when they ranked fourth and 10th in pass defense DVOA, respectively. All I can safely say is you may want to consider other options in DFS this week since Mahomes carries his typical expensive price tags of $8,300 and $8,600 in DraftKings and FanDuel.
Ryan Tannehill and Daniel Jones are the quarterbacks who might spark a lineup decision this week. The former saw his Titans offensive line wrecked by Chandler Jones and the Cardinals in Tennessee in Week 1 and faces another tough NFC West team in the Seahawks this week. I would bench him. The Seahawks looked tremendous up front (7.6% adjusted sack rate) against last year's third-best team in offensive pressure rate, the Colts (18.1% according to Sports Info Solutions). Meanwhile, Tannehill has had the most extreme home/road split in recent seasons, scoring 7.1 more fantasy points per game at home. And this game is on the road in Seattle where there is a threat of rain. He drops to 15th at the position this week.
Jones has a better true-talent ranking (14th) than you might expect. His Giants' offseason additions of Kenny Golladay and a healthy Saquon Barkley offer Jones one of the top skill position groups in football. But you still shouldn't start Jones this week on the road in Washington. Jones has an unfortunate tendency to hold the ball too long and then fumble whenever he gets hit, and that is the wrong weakness to have against a Washington defense that is the No. 5 booster of passer fumbles per dropback. Chase Young and company are sure to make this Thursday a battle of defenses, and therefore one to avoid in fantasy in most respects.
Worst DraftKings Values: Lamar Jackson ($1,300 overpriced at $8,000), Patrick Mahomes ($1,100 overpriced at $8,300), Ryan Tannehill ($200 overpriced at $6,300)
Worst FanDuel Values: Patrick Mahomes ($300 overpriced at $8,600), Lamar Jackson ($300 overpriced at $8,300), Jameis Winston ($200 overpriced at $7,700)
A pair of lost fumbles sabotaged what would have been a strong 2021 fantasy debut for Lamar Jackson. He only threw for 235 yards and one touchdown, but he ran 12 times for 86 yards, which in fantasy count the same as an extra two passing touchdowns. He should mostly be fine this season no matter what the state of his offensive line or the receivers around him. Still, I don't relish the idea of deploying Jackson in my Sunday DFS lineups when he is just $300 cheaper than Mahomes—who I also see as overpriced—in both formats. Jackson has not enjoyed the same success as his counterpart in the last two Ravens-Chiefs meetings. His combined passing line of 364 yards and one touchdown from both 2019 and 2020 looks like one disappointing Mahomes box score.
Jameis Winston was the biggest fantasy beneficiary of the Saints' shellacking of the Packers in Week 1. And if the former team continues its offensive line dominance, Winston will almost certainly enjoy a productive fantasy season. I just don't think this is the week to use him in FanDuel with a markup to $7,700. On the road in Carolina, Winston won't enjoy the dome benefits that, while new for him, have traditionally granted Saints quarterbacks some of the most extreme home/road splits at the position. Meanwhile, the Panthers defense looked dramatically improved against the Jets in Week 1. That may have been matchup-related as well, but the Panthers project as a slightly unfavorable opponent for passing yards and touchdowns per attempt. I'd rather wait another week to see how both the Saints and Panthers perform before I settle on any opinions on the teams.
|Best Week 2 Matchups - Running Backs|
Aaron Jones was one of the many Packers to suffer from the team's disastrous debut against the Saints. But while poor offensive line play and AJ Dillon and Kylin Hill's involvement may cause you to worry about the long term, Jones, like his quarterback, should have an easy time of things at home against the Lions this Monday night. The latter team is a top-seven increaser of run plays (13%) and rushing yards (8%) and touchdowns per attempt (51%). The 49ers lost their lead back four snaps into Week 1 and still ran for 319 yards and two touchdowns against them. The Packers may not build the same multi-score lead that enables such a run-heavy game plan, but Jones should thrive either way with his rushing and receiving versatility and is one of the best bets at the position to score a touchdown this week.
The Steelers did not do anything to dissuade my concerns for their poor offensive line in Week 1 against the Bills. The former team was already the worst in football with 3.78 adjusted line yards in 2020 and may have gotten worse over the offseason losing blockers such as David DeCastro, Maurkice Pouncey, and Matt Fieler to retirement and free agency. But that may not matter for rookie back Najee Harris this week. He draws a plus matchup from a Raiders team that is the No. 1 booster of rushing touchdown rate (60%). And I'm extremely confident Harris will see the team's goal-line carries. He played 100% of the Steelers offensive snaps last week and joined a list of exclusively dominant fantasy backs who have matched the feat in recent seasons.
Rookie #Steelers RB Najee Harris played 100% of the team's offensive snaps in Week 1. The full list of RBs that played 100% of snaps in a game from 2018-20: McCaffrey (14 times), Le'Veon Bell (2), Elliott (1), Gurley (1), Barkley (1), and Fournette (1).
— Scott Spratt (@Scott_Spratt) September 15, 2021
Best DraftKings Values: Elijah Mitchell ($1,400 underpriced at $5,000), Darrell Henderson ($1,100 underpriced at $5,700), Najee Harris ($600 underpriced at $6,300)
Best FanDuel Values: Najee Harris ($1,500 underpriced at $6,100), Elijah Mitchell ($1,400 underpriced at $5,800), Mike Davis ($1,300 underpriced at $5,500)
I'm not completely convinced that No. 1 waiver pickup Elijah Mitchell will be a bell-cow back. He was in relief of an injured Raheem Mostert in Week 1, taking 19 of the team's 20 running back carries after Mostert exited early in the first quarter. But Mitchell is an accomplished kick returner and may have special teams to thank for his Week 1 activation while fourth-round rookie Trey Sermon sat on the sidelines. All that said, Mitchell looked tremendous in his debut and has the 4.32s speed that made Mostert a tremendous fit for Kyle Shanahan's scheme. I'm projecting Sermon for some work in Week 2, and Mitchell still looks like his position's best DFS value at just $5,000 and $5,800 in DraftKings and FanDuel. Your only concern will be if everyone else in your contests jump to that same conclusion.
You may have a bit more luck with your lineup differentiations with Darrell Henderson and Mike Davis. Neither player seemed a lock to dominate his backfield in touches this season, especially the former after his team traded for Sony Michel. But in Week 1, Henderson and Davis played 94% and 75% of their teams' snaps and took 94% and 63% of their team's running back carries. With that kind of playing time and their proficiencies as receivers. Henderson and Davis look like possible top-10 fantasy backs this season. And they certainly aren't priced that way in the DFS platforms. Take advantage while you can.
|Worst Week 2 Matchups - Running Backs|
For all the DFS love I have for Davis at his low salaries, he does have a difficult matchup this week on the road in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers were last year's No. 1 DVOA run defense and looked just as strong in the season opener, limiting Ezekiel Elliott to 33 yards on 11 carries. The matchup drops Davis from his borderline RB1 true-talent status to 15th at the position this week. It would probably be more, but Davis insulates himself from extreme matchup swings with his contributions as a receiver. He could see another six targets this weekend if his Falcons fall behind by multiple scores the way they did to the Eagles on Sunday.
Mark Ingram dominated his Texans backfield in carries in Week 1, but his 35th true-talent ranking is not a mistake. For all the work, Ingram demonstrated his participation in a full-on committee in his 46% offensive snap share. That did not dramatically outpace the rates of teammates David Johnson (28%), Phillip Lindsay (26%), or Rex Burkhead (13%). Don't expect the Texans to build a lead on the road in Cleveland this week. And if they fall behind, Ingram may yield even more time to the receiving-capable backs in his backfield. As such, I rank him just 36th at the position in PPR formats this week.
Worst DraftKings Values: Alvin Kamara ($1,900 overpriced at $8,800), Miles Sanders ($1,700 overpriced at $6,900), David Johnson ($1,500 overpriced at $5,200)
Worst FanDuel Values: Alvin Kamara ($1,300 overpriced at $8,800), Christian McCaffrey ($800 overpriced at $10,000), David Montgomery ($800 overpriced at $7,300)
My biggest takeaway from the blowout Saints win is that their offensive line still rules. That's tremendous news for Alvin Kamara. But I still want to see more of Jameis Winston in that offense before I trust Kamara to maintain his top-five fantasy status. Drew Brees targeted a running back on 27.4% of his pass attempts in 2019 and 2020, the second-highest rate at his position behind Alex Smith's 28.0%. In contrast, Winston threw just 18.1% of his passes to a running back in that time. Some of that disparity was undoubtedly a result of the talent differences in their respective skill players at the time, but Winston may skip a few checkdowns each game this season and instead throw deep to his wide receivers and tight ends. Until I see more, that makes Kamara a poor DFS value at his top-shelf $8,800 price tags.
David Montgomery was one of the lone bright spots in the Bears' loss to the Rams on Sunday night. In general, I think he's an underrated player—he has finished third and seventh in avoided tackle rate among backs with 100 or more carries the last two seasons—but he has frequently dealt with poor run-blocking. But my qualm with his $7,300 FanDuel salary is his receiving volume. Montgomery nearly doubled his target total from 35 in his rookie year to 68 last year. But he piled up that latter total with receiving back Tarik Cohen out for the year. Cohen has yet to return from his ACL rehab, but free-agent addition Damien Williams picked up the slack in a major way in Week 1, out-targeting Montgomery five to one. Montgomery may be talented, but a carry-heavy workload won't be good for his fantasy value this season. Avoid him in DFS until his salaries correct for a reduced receiving role.
|Best Week 2 Matchups - Wide Receivers|
Keenan Allen and Mike Williams look like similar beneficiaries of my predicted Chargers shootout with Dallas. The Cowboys project as a top-11 booster of touchdown rate for No. 1 (16%) and No. 2 (21%) outside receivers, and the No. 1 booster for slot receivers (73%). Why choose when you can stack? Of course, in a traditional format, Williams is the compelling story this week. His projected increase of 2.0 PPR points because of the matchup vaults him from 37th in my true-talent receiver ranking to 22nd this week. And honestly, that may be too low. Williams may be the player best positioned to benefit from a Year 2 Justin Herbert breakout, and he is dramatically underrated thanks to a 6.3-touchdown shortfall relative to his expected touchdown total from the last two seasons. It was just two years ago that Williams scored 10 touchdowns on 43 catches. He could match or even exceed that touchdown total this year.
I'm not sure how much Brandon Staley will improve the Chargers defense, but without much consideration for the team's new coach, they look like a much worse wide receiver matchup than their Week 2 opponent Dallas is. The Chargers project to cut slot receiver yards and touchdowns by 2% and 9% per target, respectively. That said, I still see this as a good matchup for CeeDee Lamb. The dome venue simply means more. Even on the road, slot receivers enjoy an 8% increase in their yards per target and an 11% increase in their touchdowns per target. And Lamb's projected jump of 1.0 PPR points sneaks him into the top 10 at the position this week. Without Michael Gallup for several weeks, Lamb and Amari Cooper should both be top-20 true-talent receivers.
Best DraftKings Values: Ja'Marr Chase ($1,200 underpriced at $5,000), Keenan Allen ($1,100 underpriced at $7,000), Cole Beasley ($800 underpriced at $4,600)
Best FanDuel Values: Ja'Marr Chase ($1,200 underpriced at $5,500), Mike Williams ($900 underpriced at $5,600), Cooper Kupp ($900 underpriced at $6,200)
Allen and Williams came close to my favorite DraftKings and FanDuel plays this week, but Bengals rookie Ja'Marr Chase bested them for both platforms. Chase erased his preseason drops narrative with a standout Week 1 with 101 yards and a touchdown. And while much of that production came on one 50-yard touchdown catch, Chase looked like the team's No. 1 receiver with a 90% snap share that bettered those of Tee Higgins (74%) and Tyler Boyd (74%). As mentioned, the Bears will likely bring pressure on Sunday. But that should hurt Burrow more than his receivers. The Bears are thin at cornerback and will have to rely on sophomore Jaylon Johnson as their No. 1 shadow. His 7.8 yards per target allowed was a middling 47th among regular corners last year.
|Worst Week 2 Matchups - Wide Receivers|
Some of the game's best wide receivers have difficult matchups this week. Tyreek Hill draws the Ravens and cornerback Marlon Humphrey. Stefon Diggs draws the Dolphins and Xavien Howard. Humphrey and Howard had the sixth- (60.5%) and 14th-best (56.5%) coverage success rates in 2020 despite some of the game's most difficult assignments. Kenny Golladay and Calvin Ridley draw the Washington and Tampa Bay pass rushes that spurred last year's No. 2 and No. 5 pass defenses by DVOA. And A.J. Brown draws the Seahawks defense that looked like it could match those teams with its Week 1 handling of a talented Colts offensive line. You shouldn't bench any of Hill, Brown, Diggs, or Ridley in a weekly format. Even with projected losses of between 1.4 and 0.8 PPR points, they all remain in the top 18 at the position. But Golladay may be another story. He falls from 30th in true talent to 35th at the position this week. He may have earned a big-money free-agent contract, but he looked like the Giants' No. 2 receiver with Sterling Shepard out-snapping him 95% to 85% and out-targeting him nine to six in Week 1.
Worst DraftKings Values: Deebo Samuel ($1,600 overpriced at $6,700), Robby Anderson ($1,200 overpriced at $5,800), Brandin Cooks ($1,000 overpriced at $5,900)
Worst FanDuel Values: Chris Godwin ($1,500 overpriced at $8,000), Tyreek Hill ($1,200 overpriced at $8,700), Deebo Samuel ($900 overpriced at $6,900)
Deebo Samuel looked like the 49ers' clear No. 1 receiver in Week 1 with first-round sophomore Brandon Aiyuk starting on the bench and playing just 47% of the team's offensive snaps. And Samuel certainly took advantage of that opportunity to the tune of nine catches, 189 yards, and a touchdown. But that was against the Lions, a top-12 increaser of catch rate, yards per target, and touchdowns per target for No. 1, No. 2, and slot receivers. At least in Week 1, the Eagles looked life a different challenge. I'm not sure anyone can stop what Kyle Shanahan does with his offensive scheme, but even a modest slowing down of it could render Samuel overpriced at his inflated $6,700 and $6,900 price tags in DraftKings and FanDuel. Those salaries are up $900 and $800 from last week, respectively.
Chris Godwin was at times the goat and at times the savior for the Bucs in Week 1. But the vagaries of his Week 1 performance do not inform his projected $1,600 overpricing in FanDuel this week. It's simply a numbers game. The Bucs are loaded with skill talent with the likes of Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, and three capable running backs. There simply is too much talent for everyone to make good on their Super Bowl-inflated DFS prices. Last week, Evans was the odd man out with three catches and 24 yards. But I doubt you will be able to accurately predict which Bucs receivers will ebb and flow with their matchups this season. As such, I'd rather ride with the cheapest of the team's wide receiver trio, Brown. At $6,400 in FanDuel, he is $1,600 less expensive than Godwin is this week.
|Best Week 2 Matchups - Tight Ends|
Jerry Jeudy's high-ankle sprain will reasonably send some fantasy players to the wire to grab Tim Patrick, who finished 15th among wide receivers with a 16.1% DVOA last season and would be a starter for most NFL teams. But my eyes are squarely on Noah Fant this week. The third-year tight end shook off a preseason leg injury to produce a solid six catches and 62 yards on eight targets in Week 1. Now he draws a Jaguars team that is the No. 1 increaser of yards per target (19%) and touchdowns per target (113%) for the position. Even with Jeudy sidelined, Fant is unlikely to pile up the extreme target totals of tight ends such as Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, and T.J. Hockenson ahead of him in the rankings. But he's my top option in the second tier, at least with the plus matchup this week.
We all thought the Patriots would lean on two-tight end personnel after dropping more than $50 million guaranteed on Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry this offseason. Still, it was nice to see that in their respective 73% and 72% snap share against the Dolphins in Week 1. I think both players can be TE1s this season. This week, they look even better thanks to a matchup with the Jets that increases tight end receiving yards and touchdowns per target by 12% and 69%.
Best DraftKings Values: Noah Fant ($1,100 underpriced at $4,200), Adam Trautman ($800 underpriced at $3,000), Dalton Schultz ($800 underpriced at $3,300)
Best FanDuel Values: Jonnu Smith ($500 underpriced at $5,300), Adam Trautman ($500 underpriced at $4,500), Noah Fant ($400 underpriced at $5,700)
Fant and Smith may be your best two modestly priced DFS options at the position this week. But if you are pinching pennies and need a long shot, consider Adam Trautman of the Saints and Dalton Schultz of the Cowboys. Juwan Johnson stole the Saints glory with two touchdowns in Week 1, but his tight end teammate saw twice as many targets (six vs. three) and played more than four times as many snaps (82% vs. 19%). When the Saints play normal games that require more than 20 pass attempts, Trautman could easily see a top-10 target volume at the position.
Schultz came close to a top-10 target volume last year after his teammate and assumed starter Blake Jarwin injured his knee and missed the season. I expected their roles to revert this year, but in Week 1, Shultz paced his position group with 57 vs. 48 snaps and six vs. four targets. If you are in the Chargers-Cowboys stacking business, Schultz may be a sneaky way to differentiate your lineup.
|Worst Week 2 Matchups - Tight Ends|
Coming off a 19-target Week 1 debut, Darren Waller has a stranglehold on a top-two ranking at his position. The Steelers may be the worst matchup for a tight end, cutting the position's catch rate by 12%, yards by 21% per target, and touchdowns by 56% per target, all top-three in football. But even a projected loss of 0.7 PPR points does not drop Waller out of his No. 2 spot.
Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz can't claim the same, and they start with much more precarious placements in fantasy lineups with the No. 13 and No. 17 true-talent rankings. Yes, their previous time share is back. Goedert played 73% of snaps in Week 1, but Ertz nearly matched him with 58%. There was plenty of productivity to go around in the team's 32-6 dismantling of the Falcons. But that may not be true against San Francisco this week. The 49ers cut tight end yards and touchdowns by 18% and 25% per target and bump both Eagles tight ends out of my TE1 rankings this week.
Worst DraftKings Values: Darren Waller ($1,200 overpriced at $7,000), Mark Andrews ($1,000 overpriced at $5,800), Mike Gesicki ($200 overpriced at $4,000)
Worst FanDuel Values: Juwan Johnson ($300 overpriced at $5,100), Mark Andrews ($300 overpriced at $6,200), Mike Gesicki ($300 overpriced at $5,300)
With the Ravens' myriad wide receiver injuries, Mark Andrews seems like their no-brainer No. 1 target. But that was not the case in Week 1 when Sammy Watkins and Marquise Brown out-targeted Andrews with eight and six targets to five. Lamar Jackson may never excel on throws outside the hashes, but he has the arm to attack downfield and may have to play more aggressively than usual this week if the team falls behind its explosive Chiefs opponent.
Tua Tagovailoa has looked dramatically better through the preseason and Week 1 this year than he did as a rookie. And while I expect that to unlock the fantasy value of receivers such as Jaylen Waddle and Will Fuller, it may not help Mike Gesicki as much as you would expect. Tagovailoa has underwhelming arm strength that will likely influence his decision to throw into tight coverage. Last year, Gesicki had the third-lowest average separation of 2.0 yards among regular receivers per Next Gen Stats. His Week 1 goose egg may not be a total fluke, especially since his 39% snap share landed him in the middle of a committee with Durham Smythe (70%), Hunter Long (33%), and Cethan Carter (24%).