This is the Week 2 “Fire or Flop” series, highlighting my favorite and least favorite fantasy plays of the week. I am not going to mention elite players because you will usually be starting them every week anyways (Def/ST, the exception). I will list five players from each position group (excluding K) that I feel good about each week, followed by others that I don’t. As always, my thoughts are with PPR in mind.
Derek Carr vs. New York Jets — Carr finished eighth among QB’s last week (22.7) in a tougher matchup than he faces this week. Oakland should be all over New York on Sunday, start to finish. Led by a steady run game, Carr will have plenty of play-action opportunities to make big plays with Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and Seth Roberts.
Drew Brees vs. New England Patriots — Brees’ low fantasy output last week was predictable, and this week I predict a bounce-back for him. I don’t see the Saints winning, but Brees should put up a good stat line against a Patriots defense that surrendered a career game to Alex Smith (39.0) last week.
Jameis Winston vs. Chicago Bears — Fantasy owners had to be patient while Tampa Bay and Miami used their bye week already in Week 1, but it’s time to unleash Winston this week against the Bears. I have him ranked as a top-10 passer this fantasy season and it starts this week. Look for Winston to make plays with options like Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard.
Philip Rivers vs. Miami Dolphins — Man, I miss the old AFC West showdowns between Rivers and Jay Cutler. Luckily, we get another one this week. Rivers held his own (23.7) against one of the best pass defenses in the league last week in Denver. Expect more of the same (probably more) this week.
Alex Smith vs. Philadelphia Eagles — Right off the bat, Smith’s not dropping a 40-burger again. However, he is facing a more banged-up Eagles secondary than he faced with the Patriots last week. Kareem Hunt proving to be a dangerous receiving target out of the backfield helps also. Smith should have a satisfying stat line again this week.
Trevor Siemian vs. Dallas Cowboys — Siemian was fantasy’s fourth-ranked QB last week (26.7), but that’s not going to be the norm for him. No matter their flaws on paper, the Cowboys defense always seems to perform better than you would expect. They held Eli Manning completely in check last week, and he’s got nearly as good of weapons as Siemian does. I wouldn’t count on Siemian carrying your teams this week.
Blake Bortles vs. Tennessee Titans — The Jaguars are very much a running team now, especially with the loss of Allen Robinson for the season. Bortles is going to have to rely on lesser weapons, and he already isn’t a good QB. He will likely do better than his 12.3 points last week, but not by much.
Melvin Gordon vs. Miami Dolphins — Gordon is damn near in every-week starter mode, so this may be among his final weeks eligible for my list. Last week, he proved that he can make a dent even without doing much on the ground. Although he ran for just 54 yards, he caught 5 balls for 25 yards and 1 TD, scoring 18.9 fantasy points.
Jay Ajayi @ Los Angeles Chargers — Ajayi and Gordon are very closely ranked for me, both on the season and this week. Ajayi is a workhorse who Miami is going to get involved as much as they can. This week, he gets a Chargers defense that just allowed C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles to combine for 121 rushing yards and average 4.0 yards per carry each.
Leonard Fournette vs. Tennessee Titans — I wrongly marked Fournette as a flop last week due to going up against a Houston defensive front featuring three elite run defenders in J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus. If Fournette can get 20 carries and hit the century mark against them, then I have no qualms starting him against Tennessee’s defense.
Kareem Hunt vs. Philadelphia Eagles — Again, probably not dropping 40 points on 246 yards and 2 TD’s like he did against New England, but the Chiefs now know that they have a RB capable of inflicting that type of damage on their opponent. Hunt can run and catch, which fits perfectly for Smith’s style of play. I’m starting him until he makes me regret it.
Mike Gillislee @ New Orleans Saints — The New Orleans Def/ST is giving me that warm, fuzzy feeling again this year. The feeling that I should start most of their opponents in fantasy. Between Dalvin Cook, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, the Vikings trio murdered the Saints last week (avg 23.0 points each). Gillislee scored twice last week against a much better Chiefs Def/ST, so I don’t see why that can’t happen again this week.
Frank Gore vs. Arizona Cardinals — Gore’s value is largely dependent on if Scott Tolzien (bad) or Jacoby Brissett (slightly better) starts at QB for the Colts. However, that doesn’t diminish the fact that Gore saw only three more snaps than Marlon Mack, and shared the same amount of carries (10) last week. Whether or not the Colts are getting blown out again this week, Gore has limited opportunities to make a fantasy impact.
Ameer Abdullah @ New York Giants — I hate to say it, but Abdullah’s going to have to show something before he gets back into the good graces of fantasy owners. Detroit is giving him opportunities, but as usual, Theo Riddick is the one making a bigger impact.
Isaiah Crowell @ Baltimore Ravens — This Ravens Def/ST is for real. Their offense is no juggernaut, so this game may be close enough for Cleveland not to have to abandon the run, but I’m not betting on any RB making a dent in this Baltimore Def/ST right now.
Larry Fitzgerald @ Indianapolis Colts — This is definitely going to be a game where the Colts wish CB1 Vontae Davis wasn’t injured. Fitzgerald can do everything. Even when going deep, he can out-body the CB for position to make up for his lack of deep speed. In the slot, it’s going to be rookie Nate Hairston lined up on him. Outside, it’s going to be Rashaan Melvin, T.J. Green and Quincy Wilson. Yikes.
Brandin Cooks @ New Orleans Saints — Cooks gets his revenge game against a really bad pass defense. As I already mentioned, Thielen and Diggs blew New Orleans’ Def/ST apart last week, combing for 16 catches for 250 yards and 2 TD’s. Diggs (2) and Thielen (4) both finished among the top five WR’s last week.
Doug Baldwin vs. San Francisco 49ers — I don’t count Baldwin out two weeks in a row, and last week was a modest week (4 catches for 63 yards). Now that Seattle knows just how bad their offensive line is going to be this week, they can gameplan around it and get the ball out of Russell Wilson’s hands faster.
Tyreek Hill vs. Philadelphia Eagles — Hill—coming off of a 7-catch, 133-yard, 1-TD line—should be able to take advantage of a secondary that was already struggling and is now down Ronald Darby.
Amari Cooper vs. New York Jets — I would love to see Cooper start putting up yards more consistently. He usually scores a TD to salvage his fantasy week or puts up a decent amount of yardage instead. It would be nice for him to stop being so TD-dependent. This week against the Jets is a good opportunity.
Dez Bryant @ Denver Broncos — Bryant and Aqib Talib are going to kill each other, aren’t they? Even if the Cowboys win this game, I don’t expect them to have a good time through the air. Bryant isn’t fast enough to evade Talib consistently, and Bradley Roby and Chris Harris have Bryant beat in the quickness and speed department.
Pierre Garcon @ Seattle Seahawks — Seattle didn’t get to dominate their opponent last week, having to face Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. This week presents a good opportunity to make QB Brian Hoyer’s life miserable, though. I’m not betting on any 49ers offensive players this week.
Eric Decker @ Jacksonville Jaguars — I loved Decker’s matchup last week against Oakland and he barely showed up (4.0 points). He faces a much better secondary this week against Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye and Aaron Colvin. He’s going to have to show us something before I’m starting him again.
Zach Ertz @ Kansas City Chiefs — Due to the chemistry between Carson Wentz and Ertz, Ertz is working on being an every-week starter. He caught all 8 targets last week for 93 yards. Roll with the hot hand.
Kyle Rudolph @ Pittsburgh Steelers — Sam Bradford loves Rudolph. Rudolph is also becoming an every-week starter. He may not always put up many yards but Bradford often looks his way in the red zone.
Jason Witten @ Denver Broncos — Dak Prescott fed Witten last week to the tune of 9 targets. That turned into 7 catches for 59 yards and 1 TD against a very good Giants Def/ST. With the Broncos corners likely stifling Dallas’ receivers, Prescott will likely look to Witten often.
Eric Ebron @ New York Giants — Because of the damage that Witten was able to do to New York last week, Ebron makes for an intriguing start against them this week. He’s painfully inconsistent, only catching 2 passes for 9 yards last week, but because of the watered-down TE pool, he is start-able this week.
Cameron Brate vs. Chicago Bears — Last week, the Bears blew coverage against Falcons TE Austin Hooper badly, and he was able to gash them for 128 yards on two huge catches. Now, Chicago is without their best linebacker in Jerrell Freeman for the rest of the year. Things are looking good for Buccaneers TE Brate this week.
Austin Hooper vs. Green Bay Packers — The huge stat line last week will have people wanting to start Hooper again this week, but proceed with caution. It would be one thing if Hooper had been a focal point of Atlanta’s offense last week, but he wasn’t. He did all of that damage on just 2 catches, and those were the only times that he was targeted all day.
Zach Miller @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Tampa Bay only allowed 6.3 fantasy points per game against the TE position last year, and they’ve added S T.J. Ward since then. Miller should get plenty of looks because of a diminished WR corps but I don’t expect it to yield many results.
Arizona Cardinals @ Indianapolis Colts — If the Colts start Tolzien, then this is the lock of all locks. The Rams Def/ST looked like the ‘85 Bears against the Colts last week, and the Cardinals have even more playmakers on that side of the ball. If Brissett starts, Arizona still has the upper hand, however. Brissett has only been with the Colts for a couple of weeks and doesn’t have a strong grasp of the playbook yet, but would give the Colts a better chance of moving the ball.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns — Like I said, this Ravens Def/ST is awesome, and at all three levels. They get a rookie QB this week in DeShone Kizer.
Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers — Head coach Kyle Shanahan and Hoyer should be able to beat some bad teams this year, but Seattle ain’t one of ‘em.
Oakland Raiders vs. New York Jets — This Jets team is just so bad. Most Def/ST’s are start-able against them each week.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Houston Texans — Cincinnati did me dirty last week, but things are stacking up for them to have a good week this week. They face off against rookie QB Deshaun Watson, and the Texans are also missing basically all of their TE’s.
New York Giants vs. Detroit Lions — Things could look great on the fantasy scoreboard for the Giants Def/ST for the first three quarters, and then Matt Stafford makes it rain TD’s in the fourth. It’s hard to ever count against Stafford and the Lions offense.
Los Angeles Rams vs. Washington Redskins — On paper, this looks like a great matchup for the Rams. After all, they were the top fantasy Def/ST last week (29.0 points). However, Kirk Cousins isn’t Scott Tolzien and the Redskins offense isn’t the Colts offense.