What’s better than one Bar? Two Barz of course. In this weekly column, Scott Barrett and Graham Barfield will highlight some of their favorite plays of the week and try to point out the plays you should avoid from shallow (10-teams) to deep (12- and 14-team) leagues. As always, check out our site projections for more context behind the best plays.
Start: Aaron Rodgers vs. Lions
Rodgers was lights out in Week 1, scoring the 2nd-most fantasy points on the week (30.8), but maybe we shouldn’t have been too surprised. Minnesota is clearly a bottom-5 pass defense and Rodgers was easily one of the league’s most matchup-sensitive QBs in 2019. Quoting a previous article: “In 2019, Rodgers averaged 27.8 FPG against teams ranking bottom-6 in FPG allowed to opposing QBs. In all other games, he averaged just 14.3 FPG. For perspective, that’s either 0.4 off of Lamar Jackson for first-place or 0.1 off of Mitchell Trubisky for dead-last among all QBs.” Is Rodgers really “back” or was this just another good matchup? We can’t know for sure until Week 3, because this week’s matchup might be even better. He gets a Darius Slay-less Detroit Lions defense that gave up the 5th-most passing fantasy points last week, after giving up the 3rd-most passing FPG in 2019. He’s an easy must-start.
Start: Josh Allen at Dolphins
Last week, Allen dropped back to pass 53 times (2nd-most on the week). He found the end zone 3 times (2 passing, 1 rushing), while throwing for a career-high 312 yards on a career-high 46 attempts. On the ground, he added 57 yards on a whopping 14 attempts. Those numbers are unreal, and especially when you consider this was a game Buffalo never needed to keep their foot on the gas, leading 14-0, 21-3, 21-10, and 27-17 at the end of each quarter.
Could Allen be a potential league-winner, or was this big game just a function of an ideal matchup up against the ultimate pass funnel defense (excellent against the run, dreadful against the pass)? I’m leaning more towards the latter, because, while Rodgers was highly matchup-sensitive last year, Josh Allen is arguably the most matchup-sensitive player in fantasy. Quoting a previous article: “Since entering the league, Allen averages 25.8 FPG against bottom-12 defenses (by FPG allowed). If over a full season that would rank 6th-most all-time, comparable to Peyton Manning’s famed 2013 season (26.3).”
Like with Rodgers, we won’t know until Week 3. Allen gets another dream matchup this week, against a Miami defense that gave up the 2nd-most FPG to opposing QBs last year (19.8). A team that Allen clowned on to the tune of 27.6 FPG in 2019. And worst yet, Miami is most vulnerable against QBs of the Josh Allen-archetype. They were the most man-heavy defense in the league last week (82.4%), which is something that leaves them especially vulnerable to hyper-mobile QBs (because DBs have their backs turned to the QB). And what happened to them in Week 1? Cam Newton – Allen’s closest comp – roasted them on the ground, rushing 15 times for 75 yards and 2 scores.
Sit: Drew Brees at Raiders
The matchup looks good on paper. But Brees, very much, does not. For one thing, he’ll be without star WR Michael Thomas who has personally accounted for 29% of Brees’ fantasy points since the start of 2018. Second, in Week 1 (and I know it’s just a one game sample), Brees looked far more like a 41-year-old QB than Brees. He ranked 24th of 32 QBs in PFF Grade (57.5), and was unable to move the ball past the sticks nor with any level of zip. A league-high 71% of his throws traveled just 6 yards or less through the air.
Start: Matthew Stafford at Packers
Even if Kenny Golladay (hamstring) sits again, this is still a choice matchup for Stafford. Last week, Green Bay allowed Kirk Cousins to finish as the QB9 (22.8 fantasy points) on just 25 pass attempts. The Packers defense played zone on 96% of their snaps in the opener, too, which is great news for Stafford considering he finished second among all QBs in yards per attempt (9.6) against zone coverage last year per Sports Info Solutions. For reference, Patrick Mahomes ranked third in YPA (9.5) against zone in 2019. In a game where the Lions should trail and have to throw to keep up -- they’re currently 6-point underdogs -- Stafford is a high-ceiling play in Week 2. Over his last nine starts dating back to last season, Stafford is averaging 310.7 yards per game.
Sit: Jared Goff at Eagles
After flopping in a perfect matchup at home against Dallas in the opener, Goff shouldn’t be in lineups this week outside of Superflex leagues. The Eagles are one of the most aggressive front-seven’s in the NFL and could expose some of Goff’s weaknesses if they dominate the line of scrimmage. Last year, the Eagles generated pressure at the league’s sixth-highest rate and if they get after Goff in Week 2, it will spell trouble for fantasy. Why? Because Goff struggles mightily against pressure. Per SIS, Goff completed 47% of his passes for 5.8 yards per attempt against pressure last season. When he wasn’t pressured, Goff completed 71% of his attempts for 8.3 YPA.
Start: Nick Chubb vs. Bengals
Chubb was efficient in Week 1, turning 10 carries into 60 yards, but he got scripted out of Cleveland's plans quickly in a game that was never within reach. This is exactly why we warned you against drafting Chubb – you don’t draft committee RBs in the first two rounds of your draft. The good news is that this week’s game shapes up perfectly for Chubb. Favored by 8.5-points, game script should be ideal, and the matchup too. Cincinnati gave up the 4th-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing running backs last year (+4.7) as well as a 33-148-1 line to Chargers RBs last week.
Start: David Johnson vs. Ravens
Johnson, like Chubb, is another player we panned in the offseason but would be excited to start this week. The matchup isn’t ideal, but it shouldn’t be too difficult for Johnson to overcome it on volume alone. Johnson saw top-5 usage last week, earning 81% of the snaps, 69% of the carries out of the backfield, and 13% of the targets in a game that got out of hand quickly. Poor game script is a concern again this week, but with Duke Johnson questionable to play, volume should be good enough again to be able to start him with confidence.
Sit: Todd Gurley at Cowboys Another committee back, like Chubb (though far less talented at this stage of his career, is Gurley. And just like Chubb last week, Gurley is likely to get scripted out of Atlanta’s gameplans this week, and quickly. They’re 7.5-underdogs, meaning Atlanta is going to have little choice but to lean heavy on the pass, just like they did last week. Gurley saw 13 opportunities in the first half of last week's game against Seattle, and then only 5 in the second-half. Gurley was dreadful as a receiver last season (see above), and Atlanta seems well aware of it, having had Ito Smith and Brian Hill run 30 routes to Gurley's 14. Behind the highest over/under of the week (50.0), Gurley will need to do his damage early, or fall into the end zone once or twice to salvage his day.
Even though this is going to be a backfield committee all year long, this is a prime matchup for both Moss and Singletary. Last week, Singletary out-snapped Moss 51 to 39 but the duo split first-down carries (5 to 4 in favor of Singletary) while Moss got all of the touches (5) when the Bills got into scoring position inside of the 10-yard line. In a COVID-shortened offseason, Moss backers should be thrilled with his Week 1 usage. Regardless, there should be enough work to go around for both backs to hit as RB2 / FLEX plays this week. The Dolphins gave up 25.3 fantasy points to Patriots RBs last week after allowing the seventh-most points to backs last year (27.3). Installed as 6-point road favorites, the Bills should enjoy great game script again here in Week 2.
Sit: Cam Akers at Eagles
The Rams are going to give Akers every chance to be the main guy eventually, but after Malcolm Brown popped for 110 scrimmage yards and two scores on his 21 Week 1 touches -- Akers should be the clear No. 2 option in Week 2. Brown ran with more decisiveness in the Rams season opener and his experience will be needed against the Eagles fantastic run defense. Philadelphia allowed just 2.2 yards (second-fewest) in Week 1 after giving up the eighth-fewest YPC in 2019. If you’re going to start a Rams back this week, make it Brown.
Start: Mike Evans vs. Panthers I spent a great deal of time this offseason trying to convince you that if there’s any honest coach in football, it’s Bruce Arians. Well, if that’s the case, we should expect Evans to see a good deal of volume this week. On Tuesday, he lamented not getting Evans more targets, not lining him up all over the field to put him in more advantageous matchups (he was followed by elite shadow CB Marshon Lattimore). He said he “feels bad if Evans has less than 10 targets in any game.” Expect at least that many targets this week, and possibly more if Chis Godwin sits out (concussion). Against a Panthers defense that ranked bottom-10 in PFF Pass Rush Grade and PFF Pass Coverage Grade in Week 1, with James Bradberry no longer on the team, this is now a top-flight matchup.
Start: Calvin Ridley vs. Cowboys
Here’s one of the notes Greg Cosell sent us after watching Sunday’s games: “Ridley looked very smooth and fluid as a route runner, Excellent route and separation quickness; He looked explosive.” Well, his stat-sheet certainly backed that up, catching 9 of 12 targets for 130 yards and 2 scores. Look for a (nearly) repeat performance in a similarly scripted game (+7.5) that sports the highest over/under of the week (50.0). Dallas’ secondary isn’t as weak as Carolina’s but Trevon Diggs and Chidobe Awuzie don’t need to be feared, and the losses of LBs Leighton Vander Esch and Sean Lee should help.
Sit: DeVante Parker / Preston Williams vs. Bills If Parker plays, sit Parker and start Williams. If Parker sits, bench Williams. Why? Because Tre’Davious White is arguably the top shutdown corner in the NFL. Despite routinely shadowing the opposing team’s best WR he ranks top-5 (of 70-plus CBs) in yards allowed per snap in coverage since the start of 2019 (better than Stephon Gilmore), allowing zero touchdowns over this span.
After putting up just 17 points against the Rams in their opener, the Cowboys offense is in a blowup spot on the road in Atlanta. In Week 1, the Falcons allowed a league-high 30.6 fantasy points to wide receivers aligned out wide and the fifth-most points (20.9) to slot receivers. And, last year the Falcons were top-12 in points allowed to both boundary and slot wideouts. While Lamb aligned in the slot on 93% of his snaps in his debut -- Gallup stayed at his typical boundary “X” receiver spot. Both receivers are high-ceiling WR2 plays against this completely overmatched Falcons defense.
Start: Parris Campbell vs. Vikings
Now finally healthy after dealing with multiple injuries in his rookie season, Campbell looked explosive as Philip Rivers routinely found him in open space in the middle of the field in Week 1. Campbell erased defenders' angles in college at Ohio State and flashed the same speed on tape against Jacksonville. This week, Campbell is in, arguably, an even better matchup against a Vikings secondary that was just gouged for a league-high 31.4 fantasy points out of the slot -- which is where Campbell ran 95% of his routes in the opener. After he matched T.Y. Hilton for the team-lead in targets (9) last week, we have Campbell aggressively ranked at WR24 for Week 2 lineup decisions.
Sit: Jamison Crowder vs. 49ers
I listed Crowder as one of my contrarian plays for Week 1 and he delivered in a big way. At just 2% ownership on DraftKings, Crowder went off for 7/115/1 on 13 targets. This week’s spot is totally different, though. Even though the 49ers secondary is banged up -- Richard Sherman is on injured-reserve (calf) and Ahkello Witherspoon (concussion) is questionable -- Crowder has a tough draw out of the slot. This week, Crowder will primarily face K’Waun Williams in coverage, who is literally the 49ers last healthy starting cornerback. He’s a good one, too. After allowing the ninth-fewest fantasy points to slot wideouts last year -- Williams allowed just one catch for 9 yards on 30 coverage snaps last week against Arizona.
Start: Mark Andrews at Texans
If you own Andrews, you already know you need to start him. But, man, start the [REDACTED] out of him. This FantasyPoints favorite is looking like a true league-winner. After spending 7 games on the injury report listed as questionable (foot, shoulder, knee, ankle) and while running a route on just 63% of Lamar Jackson's dropbacks (in games active) last season, Andrews ran a route on a career-high 90% of Jackson's dropbacks in Week 1. If you’re not fully grasping what this means, allow me to illustrate. So, last year he finished as a top-five fantasy TE averaging 13.9 FPG. Again, this was on just 63% of Jackson’s routes. A 90% route share would imply 19.9 FPG, or what would rank 2nd-most all-time, behind only Rob Gronkowski’s famed 2011 season. As a bonus, this week’s matchup is strong, with Marquise Brown likely to draw shadow coverage from the underrated speed demon (4.39 forty) Bradley Roby, thus funneling more targets to Andrews.
Sit: Mike Gesicki vs. Bills Gesicki struggled last week, catching just three of 5 targets for 30 yards against the Patriots. He has an even tougher draw this week, against a Buffalo Bills defense that ranks best against TEs over the past two seasons, allowing just 8.5 FPG. He’s just a mid-range TE2 this week.
Start: Jared Cook at Raiders
With Michael Thomas (ankle) very likely to miss this game, I think the Saints will rely on Cook as their go-to pass-catcher against Las Vegas. Cook actually led New Orleans in air yards (42% share) in the opener en route to another solid outing against the Buccaneers (5 catches, 80 yards), continuing an impressive streak of performances dating back to last year. Over his last 11 games, Cook has scored 11 or more PPR points ten times. For reference, Cook has averaged 14.9 fantasy points per game in this span, which would have ranked third-best among tight ends last year. Even though Ian Thomas didn’t expose them last week, this is still a great matchup for Cook, too. Last year, the Raiders allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per target and second-most touchdowns to tight ends. Also, this is a reeeevenge game for Cook. Does it still count if he’s played on five different teams? Who cares. Reeeevenge.
Sit: Rob Gronkowski vs. Panthers
Tampa Bay is in a great bounceback spot at home against Carolina after their offense struggled out of the gates in Week 1, but Gronk is not a safe play this week whatsoever. He and O.J. Howard both split snaps in the opener -- Gronkowski ran 23 routes while Howard ran 22 -- and until Gronk sees more usage as a receiver, he’s just a fringe TE2 in fantasy. HC Bruce Arians used Gronkowski more as a sixth blocker in the run game last week as Howard got 6 targets last week while Gronk only saw 3.