We finally got a taste of real live NFL action last week. Most of it lived up to the hype, while there were plenty of performances that made us scratch our heads. The hot takes heading into Week 2 rarely disappoint as confirmation bias and one-hit wonders run roughshod over the fantasy football community. There were plenty of tangible takeaways from Week 1, but this is usually the prime time for a market correction. I would still prefer to lean on preseason beliefs over last week’s results in most instances. That can change, and it likely will in many situations throughout the 2021 NFL season. For now, though, my Week 2 Start and Sit recommendations are based more on what we know than what we think we know.
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Fantasy Football Week 2 Start and Sit Recommendations
Quarterback to Start
Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns v. Houston Texans
I get why Baker Mayfield is not a consensus top-12 quarterback this week. He does not run, so his floor is lower than the elite fantasy quarterbacks. And his ceiling is theoretically limited because the Browns are 13 point favorites which means pass attempts could be limited. Odell Beckham has also been ruled out, giving Mayfield one less weapon at his disposal. But I believe Baker will exceed expectations and be efficient enough to put up huge numbers this week.
The Jacksonville Jaguars were forced into pass-happy mode for virtually their entire Week 1 loss to the Houston Texans. For the final three quarters of last week’s game, Jacksonville trailed by double-digits every time their offense took the field. Houston’s defense still managed just one sack against Trevor Lawrence in 52 dropbacks. They only generated pressure 30.8 percent of the time despite being presented with plenty of obvious passing situations. Cleveland’s offensive line is light years ahead of Jacksonville’s. Whenever Mayfield drops back to pass, he will have enough time to film another Progressive commercial. He averaged well over 11 yards per pass attempt against Kansas City last week, and he can very well that number again in Week 2.
As for the notion that Cleveland will dominate on the scoreboard, that is certainly possible. However, three of last week’s top-six scoring quarterbacks played on teams that won by at least 25 points. So those circumstances do not necessarily limit quarterback production. The Browns have an implied total of 30.5 points, which is the second-highest in the NFL this week. Mayfield will have plenty of opportunities to put up numbers, particularly on play-action attempts. He was a perfect 6-for-6 with 110 passing yards when utilizing play-action a week ago. There is also the possibility that Houston’s offense remains competitive enough (Tyrod Taylor revenge game!) to force Mayfield into 30 or so passing attempts. That will be more than enough for him to put up high-end fantasy totals this week.
Quarterback to Sit
Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals at Chicago Bears
The Cincinnati Bengals did not ask their quarterback to do much in their Week 1 overtime victory against the Vikings. Joe Burrow threw just 27 passes in nearly 70 minutes of action. That is almost unheard of in today’s NFL. The Bengals instead leaned heavily on Joe Mixon and the running game. And the strategy worked swimmingly. The Bengals won the game and their franchise quarterback exhibited tremendous efficiency. Burrow completed 74.1 percent of his passes while averaging a career-high 9.7 yards per attempt. They would be wise to install a similar game plan when they travel to Soldier Field to take on the Bears on Sunday.
It was not all sunshine and rainbows for the Bengals passing game in Week 1. Burrow was pressured on 56.2 percent of dropbacks and sacked five times. Word has it that first-round draft pick Ja’Marr Chase is not, in fact, an offensive lineman. Cincinnati will need to stick to their Week 1 formula if they want to keep Burrow upright against Khalil Mack and company. That means that volume may be tough to come by in this game. Despite Burrow’s efficiency last week, he only finished as the QB18 for fantasy purposes. He will likely struggle to put up top-12 fantasy numbers against teams with solid defenses and/or poor offenses. Check and check when it comes to the Andy Dalton-led Bears. Burrow will be a QB2 in 12-team leagues this week.
Running Backs to Start
Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers v. Atlanta Falcons
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers began their Super Bowl defense with an offensive eruption led by Tom Brady and the passing game. Tampa Bay ran the ball just 14 times versus 50 passes against the Dallas Cowboys. I expect a much more balanced attack when they face the Falcons this week. Though Brady will apparently never age or wear down, I do not think Bruce Arians wants his 44-year old quarterback throwing the ball 1000 times over the next four months if they are to repeat as champions. They will have to establish the running game, and they should be able to do so this week. It might be dicey to roll with the Bucs backs (particularly Jones) but I expect both he and Fournette to pay off as Flex options this week.
Chase Edmonds, Arizona Cardinals v. Minnesota Vikings
People may see that James Conner out-carried Chase Edmonds 16-12 and think Conner has at least a 50-50 share of the work. That would be a mistake. Conner carried the ball eight times on Arizona’s final 11 offensive plays as they were in clock-killing mode. Edmonds is the Cardinals back you want to start, and you should do so this week against the Minnesota Vikings. Joe Mixon just gashed the Vikings for an NFL-high 127 rushing yards in Week 1. Edmonds is not the workhorse that Mixon is, but he will carry enough of the load for him to be productive in this matchup. Expect Edmonds to put up a second consecutive top-20 fantasy performance this week.
Running Backs to Sit
Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles
I can hear the cries now. “But Mick, I just used 101 percent of my FAAB budget on Mitchell! You want me to bench him?!?” Let me be clear, dear reader. I do not expect you to bench Elijah Mitchell. I am a fantasy manager too. We all want to show everyone how big our brains are and we all want the shiny new toy. We also often fall victim to the sunk cost fallacy. If you spent a fair amount of FAAB on Mitchell, you are going to want to justify that cost. You cannot do that if he is on your bench. So I am well aware that this advice is mostly going to fall on deaf ears. But it is the same process that caused managers to start Saquon Barkley on Thursday night.
“Sure, he is coming off a major injury and facing a good defense on the road with only three days rest off his first NFL game in a year, but I cannot bench my second-round running back!”
Hope you enjoyed the 8.9 PPR points. The worst part is I had Barkley ranked as my RB23 this week, and I knew it was a bad process. See? I’m just as prone to it as you probably are. This leads me back to our flavor of the week, Elijah Mitchell. Opposing backs averaged 3.5 yards per carry last season against the Philadelphia Eagles. That was the second-lowest average in football. The Eagles defense was up to the task in Week 1 against the Falcons. They are not a defense I am looking to target when it comes to players with questionable workloads. How sure are you that Mitchell gets another 19 carries? I would not be surprised at all if JaMycal Hasty or Trey Sermon led the San Francisco backfield this week. There are too many question marks this week for me to start Mitchell with any confidence in this matchup.
Mike Davis, Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers led the NFL last year by allowing 3.39 yards per rush to opposing running backs. They began the 2021 campaign by limiting Ezekiel Elliott to 33 yards on 11 carries. Elliott ended the week as the overall RB45. And now for my favorite co-stats regarding the Buccaneers prowess under Todd Bowles:
Christian McCaffrey has played in 20 games since the beginning of the 2019 season. Three of those have been played against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In the 17 non-Tampa Bay games, McCaffrey has averaged 162 yards from scrimmage. Against Tampa Bay, he has averaged 66 yards per game.
Alvin Kamara played in 15 games last season. Two of those were against the Buccaneers. He averaged 58 yards from scrimmage against Tampa Bay and 120.9 against everyone else.
If you think that Mike Davis can break through against a defense that can limit the likes of McCaffrey, Kamara, and Elliott as Tampa Bay has, then be my guest and start him. I do not expect Davis to put up starter-worthy fantasy production in this matchup.
Mark Ingram, Houston Texans at Cleveland Browns
Houston surprised many of us when they defeated Jacksonville in Week 1. They also surprised by utilizing Mark Ingram as a workhorse back after much talk during the summer of the dreaded RBBC (running back by committee). The Texans let Ingram carry the ball 26 times in last week’s game. To me, this indicates that Ingram is their preferred option when they have the lead or are in clock-killing mode. That is all well and good, except Houston does not figure to be in those situations very often. And I certainly do not expect that to be the case when they travel to take on the Cleveland Browns this week. I still think this is very much an RBBC, and I ranked David Johnson ahead of Ingram in PPR formats. Do not buy into last week’s usage, and do not start Mark Ingram in Week 2.
Wide Receivers to Start
Jarvis Landry, Cleveland Browns v. Houston Texans
My recommendation of Jarvis Landry here is a correlation play with Baker Mayfield. Landry should be the primary beneficiary of Cleveland’s efficiency in the passing game. He will square off against Desmond King in the slot roughly half the time. King has fallen off quite a bit in recent years, so I give Landry the edge there. And when he faces Vernon Hargreaves out wide, giddy-up. Hargreaves had a decent showing in Week 1 but has been one of the poorest cornerbacks in coverage for two years running. Landry posted a lackluster 29-yard effort in this same matchup a year ago. But that game was heavily impacted by a storm, which limited pass attempts. There will be no such concerns this time around. The outlook is bright and sunny for both Cleveland and its football team on Sunday. Fire up Landry as a WR2.
Juju Smith-Schuster over Chase Claypool, Pittsburgh Steelers v. Las Vegas Raiders
Tyler Boyd over Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals at Chicago Bears
I wanted to highlight this quartet of AFC North wide receivers because conventional wisdom suggests that Chase Claypool and Ja’Marr Chase are top-30 wideouts this week, while Juju Smith-Schuster and Tyler Boyd are borderline Flex options. I think the reverse is true, and I expect Smith-Schuster and Boyd to be their teams’ primary passing targets based on their projected individual matchups. Both slot receivers are slated to line up against their opponents’ weakest cornerback on most offensive snaps. As a result, they should be peppered with more targets than their outside counterparts. In our Bold Prediction piece, I suggested that Smith-Schuster will lead the NFL in Week 2 receptions.
For what it’s worth, I like Boyd’s individual matchup against Marqui Christian more than I like Juju’s versus Nate Hobbs. But as I mentioned in the Burrow blurb, I believe volume could be an issue for the Bengals’ passing attack. Thus, the slight lean towards Smith-Schuster. I expect both to be top-24 fantasy wideouts in Week 2. I would not avoid playing Claypool or Ja’Marr, but I would also not chase (wry smile) either of them this week.
Wide Receivers to Sit
Laviska Shenault, Jacksonville Jaguars v. Denver Broncos
Projecting the Jaguars’ wideouts from week to week figures to be a tricky task. The trio of D.J. Chark, Marvin Jones, and Laviska Shenault should all be fantasy relevant this season but will have many peaks and valleys based on matchups, as many receivers do. If following the air yards is your thing, then it is difficult to get behind Shenault following last week’s performance. His 34 air yards were well behind both Chark (196) and Jones (121). 34 air yards is an extremely low number when you consider that Trevor Lawrence threw the ball 52 times. Denver’s secondary is also not one to mess with. Truth be told, I am not in love with any of the Jaguars’ wide receivers this week. But I suspect that Shenault will once again be the low man on the totem pole in this matchup.
Robby Anderson, Carolina Panthers v. New Orleans Saints
Robby Anderson had a breakout year in 2020. He set career-highs in receptions and targets and posted his first 1,000-plus yard season. But Anderson had only one reception and three targets in Carolina’s win last week. Yes, that one reception was a 57-yard touchdown that salvaged his fantasy day, but the usage was a bit concerning. Sam Darnold targeted D.J. Moore eight times and also fed Christian McCaffrey nine times. I believe Anderson can still be a productive piece in this offense, but he may be a bit more matchup-dependent than we anticipated. I do not believe his Week 2 matchup is one to exploit. New Orleans has a solid defense, and I expect McCaffrey and Moore to once again be Darnold’s primary targets. I would prefer to leave Anderson on the bench this week and see how he is utilized rather than trusting him in my starting lineup.
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Tight Ends to Start
Jared Cook, Los Angeles Chargers v. Dallas Cowboys
Jared Cook posted a solid 5-56 line in his Chargers debut last week against the Washington Football Team. That was good enough for a top-15 fantasy finish, and his Week 2 matchup is a juicy one. The Chargers host the Dallas Cowboys in what should be a shootout. The 55-point Vegas total is the highest of all 16 games this week. Rob Gronkowski just lit up the Cowboys and was last week’s overall TE1 in fantasy. Rookie linebacker Micah Parsons was not responsible for either score, but he did allow 1.41 yards per route covered last week. This is a game where Cook can easily get loose for a touchdown. Even if he does not find the end zone, I expect him to be a top-12 option this week and would start him wherever possible.
Adam Trautman over Juwan Johnson, New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers
Week 1 overreactions are all too real, and the tight end situation in New Orleans is a perfect example. Before the season, I had Adam Trautman inside my top 30 fantasy tight ends and Juwan Johnson outside my top 40. I would suspect I was not alone in that assessment. A week later, and Johnson is almost universally ranked ahead of Trautman. I just do not see it. Sure, Johnson caught two touchdown passes last week. But he was in on just 12 offensive snaps. Trautman, meanwhile, was on the field for 51 snaps. He also saw six targets in a game the Saints won by 35 points. I have Trautman as a top-20 tight end this week, and I would be shocked if Johnson outproduced him in Week 2 or beyond.
Tight End to Sit
Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles v. San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco was the stingiest defense against tight ends last season. I know they allowed T.J. Hockenson to post an 8-97-1 line. But for better or worse, the 49ers took their foot off the gas towards the end of that game. Hockenson had four catches and 52 yards over the final 10 minutes of game action. He was also on the field for a massive 78 offensive snaps as Detroit was in hurry-up mode over the final quarter. Goedert will not have that luxury in what should be a hotly-contested affair. Zach Ertz is still there to siphon some of the work, which limits Goedert’s ceiling.
San Francisco did lose starting linebacker Dee Greenlaw to a core muscle injury, which could help Goedert’s outlook. However, Azeez Al-Shaair played well last week. His 74.6 coverage grade via Pro Football Focus was 10th among all linebackers in Week 1. He has the physicality to match up with Goedert over the middle of the field. I do not mind starting Dallas Goedert as a fantasy tight end in this matchup if you do not have a better option. However, I do rank him outside my top-12, while most seem to project him as a Week 2 TE1.
If you liked Mick’s Week Start/Sit Recommendations, be sure to check out the rest of our Week 2 Rankings and Analysis!
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