Week 1 is in the books, and you either won or lost your matchup. In the league where I am commissioner, I had the second best overall score of the week — and I still lost. That’s because the team I played against was the one team that outscored me for the week — by 4.5 points. That’s a heartbreak score, but it also means it will take a lot to beat me on any given week, so I’m taking positives from it. My team played well as a unit, and on any other week I would have won. Now let’s hope they keep playing that strongly throughout the rest of the fantasy season.
Now Week 2 is upon us. It’s the time when fantasy owners usually have itchy trigger fingers, ready to jump on the bandwagon of players no one drafted, or set to jettison talent that didn’t produce, and that doomed them last week. One piece of advice for Week 2 is not to overreact. It’s easy to second-guess yourself, to go crazy on the waiver wire, to *gasp* bench Adrian Peterson because he killed your chances for a win last week. But that’s the breaks, in real football, and in fantasy.
Stick with your studs. They’re studs for a reason, so don’t even think about taking them out of your lineup based simply on results from one week of action. Use the waiver wire judiciously. For example, if you have Andy Dalton as your quarterback, by all means grab and start Marcus Mariota this week. Just temper your expectations. If you have Andrew Luck you can still grab Mariota as leverage, but don’t dare start him over Luck this week. Any week. You spent a high draft pick on him for a reason. Let him have the chance to help you remember it.
But now it’s time for Setting Your Lineup this week. Put last week behind you and move ahead. In this space I will tell you 3 players from each position you should start this week, and 1 that you should avoid at all costs. I’m not going to tell you to start Aaron Rodgers, Jeremy Hill, or Rob Gronkowski. You’re starting them anyway. They’re your studs. This spot is for players you might actually question. So here we go…
QBs to PLAY
Joe Flacco @ Oakland. One thing you can always count on from that Oakland defense is giving up yards through the air. Flacco has a strong arm, an able corps of receivers, and the chance for huge numbers in this one, even on the road.
Colin Kaepernick @ Pittsburgh. That Pittsburgh defense just gave up four touchdowns to the Patriots. We all know that Kaepernick is no Tom Brady, but the Steelers also gave up a ton of passing yards to running backs. Did you see what Carlos Hyde did last week? A mobile quarterback like Kaepernick, with the kind of protection that Hyde provides. That’s a recipe for success.
Marcus Mariota @ Cleveland. Back to back road games to start the season for this rookie, but he’s for real, and while the Cleveland defense is arguably better that the Bucs, they aren’t much better, and they aren’t built to handle a quarterback with good instincts like Mariota. He may have a turnover, but he will also throw for over 300 yards in this one.
QB to AVOID
Matthew Stafford @ Minnesota. Yes, the Vikings gave up a ton of yards on the ground to Hyde last week, and you know Detroit took note. Add to that the great game that Abdullah had in his first effort, and you can see who the Lions will lean on this week.
RBs to PLAY
Mark Ingram vs. Tampa Bay. You already know how I feel about that Buccaneers defense, and if Bishop Sankey can run wild on them then so can Ingram (and Robinson too, to a lesser extent). Play Ingram in all formats this week.
Shane Vereen vs. Atlanta. Did you see what Darren Sproles did to the Falcons last week? Vereen is a similar type of back who can catch and run as well as anyone in the NFL. The Giants will utilize him to full effect against a defense that isn’t built to handle the short pass-and-catch running back. Jennings is also a good play in this one.
Karlos Williams vs. New England. McCoy’s status is still up in the air as of now, but even if it weren’t it is obvious from what happened in Week 1 that he is in a committee running game for now with Williams and Dixon. Williams did a good job against the Colts last week, and should run well again against a Patriots team that couldn’t control the other Williams — DeAngelo — on opening night.
RB to AVOID
Alfred Blue @ Carolina. Blue hasn’t impressed during any of his extended looks with the absence of Arian Foster, and while Foster is again out this week I don’t trust Blue to do much more than 50 total yards with no touchdowns, especially on the road. Ryan Mallett will look to throw it in this one.
WRs to PLAY
Vincent Jackson @ New Orleans. That Saints defense didn’t inspire much confidence in me last week in a losing effort, and even though they’re at home I don’t see them taking care of business here either. Besides, Winston has to throw it to someone, and even if Evans plays he won’t be fully healthy. Trust in Jackson this week.
James Jones vs. Seattle. The chemistry between Rodgers and Jones was rekindled quickly, and it wasn’t a one-week phenomenon. Don’t look for Jones to score two touchdowns like he did last week, but he will be heavily involved in this offense against a Seahawks defensive unit that didn’t inspire much fear in that first game.
Jarvis Landry @ Jacksonville. It’s Jacksonville, and they didn’t do much to slow down the Carolina offense last week (the Carolina offense!) so Tannehill should have all day to throw against them, and we know how much he likes Landry. Look for 100 yards and a touchdown from him in this one.
WR to AVOID
Andre Johnson vs. NY Jets. You may not have better options for a WR2, but Johnson is no longer a stud, and he looked two steps too slow against Buffalo. The Jets will zero in on him as well in this matchup (he will probably be locked up on Revis Island), which won’t help matters. Look for another poor week from him.
TEs to PLAY
Jared Cook @ Washington. Nick Foles knows how to find his tight ends, and he played really well against that Seattle defense last week. Cook is a top-10 play this week against a Washington defense that didn’t look great against Tannehill and Jordan Cameron a week ago.
Vernon Davis @ Pittsburgh. He was an AVOID last week, and for good reason, against a Minnesota defense that traditionally performs well vs. tight ends, but he’s a PLAY this week due to what Pittsburgh failed to do in the opener. Now, he’s no Gronk, but even Scott Chandler scored in that one, so Davis has massive upside here.
Tyler Eifert vs. San Diego. I don’t know if you saw Eifert’s break out performance last week, but it was no fluke. He is unquestionably Dalton’s second most looked for receiver behind only A.J. Green, so he will have many opportunities to prove himself. This will keep him on a roll.
TE to AVOID
Heath Miller vs. San Francisco. That 9ers defense, while not as efficient or as effective as their defenses of old, can still disrupt an offense, and even on the road in Pittsburgh they are out for blood. While I think Antonio Brown will thrive (because he’s Antonio Brown) I don’t see Miller topping 50 yards or scoring.
FLEX to PLAY
Ameer Abdullah @ Minnesota. This one makes way too much sense after Carlos Hyde destroyed that Vikings defense last week. Abdullah probably won’t get as much yardage as Hyde, but he proved last week he can be a solid contributor, and he’s a great flex choice this week.
Chris Ivory @ Indianapolis. Those Buffalo running backs had a good day against Indy, and the Colts defense remains just as suspect as it was last season. That doesn’t bode well against the Jets and Ivory. He should get over 75 yards, and score a touchdown in this one.
Terrance Williams @ Philadelphia. The Eagles just gave up over 160 yards to Julio Jones, and while Williams is no Jones, he is Tony Romo’s top receiver with Dez Bryant on an extended leave. Look for him to get a ton of yardage against an Eagles secondary that is still getting to know each other.
FLEX to AVOID
Melvin Gordon @ Cincinnati. Once again that Cincinnati defense is for real, and at least in Week 1 Philip Rivers has shown more trust in Danny Woodhead than in the rookie Gordon. He will have to work his way into this offense, and I see Woodhead again having the better game.
K to PLAY
Matt Bryant @ NY Giants
Dan Carpenter vs. New England
Zach Hocker vs. Tampa Bay
K to AVOID
Josh Scobee vs. San Francisco
D/ST to PLAY
Rams @ Washington
NY Jets @ Colts
Tennessee @ Cleveland
D/ST to AVOID
Seattle vs. Green Bay