Two weeks are in the books and we can start to make some judgments about teams. The most impressive offense in the league so far is the Denver Broncos. They have been an offensive juggernaut, scoring 90 points in two games. Conversely, the NFC East has no defense again this year. The Eagles are the second best defense in the division right now, but are 28th in points allowed with 60. That is because the Washington Redskins have allowed 71 points and the New York Giants have allowed 77 points. Those are by far the worst defenses in the NFL to start the season.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Seattle Seahawks have been very impressive, allowing just 10 points in their first two games. I cannot see them losing a game in Seattle; they may win all eight home games by double digits the way they are playing now. They will probably post a shutout this week with the Jacksonville Jaguars coming to town. The Jaguars are 19.5 underdogs, those are odds we haven’t seen since the Patriots were 20-point favorites over several teams in their undefeated 2007 season. The Jaguars have scored 11 points in two games and will looking for their second touchdown of the season. That is going to be a tall order in Seattle.
As you look to set your lineups this week, here are some players that I would start and I would avoid. Next week the byes start, but we ease into the bye weeks with only two teams (Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers) being off in Week 4.
Start of the Week
St. Louis Rams QB Sam Bradford – I was not a big believer in Bradford to start the season, but he has been impressive through the first two weeks. So far he is the fifth highest scoring fantasy quarterback. Even though most of his fantasy points in his second game were scored after the Falcons led 24-3, in fantasy those points are just as valuable as meaningful statistics.
This week, Bradford plays a Dallas team that has allowed the third most fantasy points in the NFL this year. The Cowboys are 24th in passing yards allowed and have given up six passing touchdowns, which is tied for second most in the NFL. If Bradford continues to play at this level, he will be a fantasy QB1 this year. I would look to start him this week.
Other Players to Start
Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson – The Jacksonville Jaguars are downright atrocious and it is possible that they go three and out on every offensive possession. The Jaguars have actually been strong against fantasy quarterbacks this year, ranking sixth. I think that is more of a product of their schedule than it is that their defense has been dominant. The only risk is the game is out of hand so quickly that the Seahawks stop passing the ball, but head coach Pete Carroll has never been shy about running up the score. I would confidently start Wilson this week.
San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Matthews – Matthews has actually been playable so far this year, ranking 22nd among fantasy running backs. Tennessee is 14th against fantasy backs, but one of those games was against a bad Steelers offense. I think Matthews has great flex value to low RB2 value this week against a Titans D that has only shown they can stop the Steelers this year.
San Francisco 49ers RB Frank Gore – Gore has struggled out of the gate this year, but some of that has been due to matchups. He was not going to do much in Seattle last week and a shootout with Green Bay was not the best recipe for him to do well either. I still think he is going to struggle to put up big numbers at his age, but the Colts are just 27th against fantasy running backs. I think this is a week where he can be a fantasy RB2.
Baltimore Ravens WR Torrey Smith – Smith survived the bad matchup with Browns CB Joe Haden and recorded seven receptions for 85 yards. The Texans secondary looked leaky to me at the end of last year. They were horrible against the Chargers to open the season and the only reason they rebounded last week was their opponent, the Tennessee Titans. I think Smith is a good WR2 candidate at home against the Texans.
San Francisco 49ers WR Anquan Boldin – I think that was just a freak game against the Seahawks, just like I thought the game against the Packers was a fluke. I doubt he catches 13 passes for 208 yards again, but I also doubt he tallies one catch for seven yards again. The Colts are 15th against fantasy receivers thanks to a Week 1 matchup with the Oakland Raiders. Boldin bounces back this week as a high WR3 to low WR2.
Houston Texans TE Owen Daniels – Daniels plays a Baltimore team that has allowed the fourth most points to tight ends. Daniels should have TE1 value this week playing the Ravens this week.
Sit of the Week
Jacksonville Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew – MJD is showing us why I was not high on him in my rankings and had him ranked as a RB3 instead of a RB2. The Jaguars offense is even worse than I originally feared and MJD is already showing that he is not the same back that he once was for the Jaguars. In two games, he has just 25 carries for 72 yards and no touchdowns as the Jaguars have scored 11 points in two games.
Complicating things, he has a tendon sprain and he is going to be questionable this week. I think with the long trip and a game they have no shot of winning, the Jaguars would be best to leave him home and hope that he is better for their home game in Week 4 against Indianapolis. Regardless, stay clear of any Jaguars running backs this week; the Jaguars will be lucky to gain a rushing yard in Seattle.
Other Players to Sit
New York Giants RB David Wilson – I do not care that the Panthers are the 23rd ranked fantasy running back defense, this experiment looks like it will be a failure. I do not think you cut Wilson; it is possible that he works through this and becomes relevant at some point down the road. I just do not think you can put Wilson in your lineup while you wait for that to happen. Keep him on the bench until he gives you a reason to play him.
New England Patriots QB Tom Brady – I may bump his ranking up if I hear that TE Rob Gronkowski or WR Danny Amendola is in the lineup. Brady is a future Hall of Famer and one of the best to ever play the game, but he needs weapons to be fantasy relevant. I think 200 yards passing and a touchdown is what we can expect until his supporting cast is healthy; I think you have to go in another direction if this continues.
Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger – A bad offensive line, a lack of impact players other than WR Antonio Brown and a running game that cannot move the ball have neutered the Steelers offense. It has resulted in an offense that is averaging 9.5 points per game to start the season and now they play the Chicago Bears. I would continue to sit Big Ben and all Steelers skill position players. There is just not much upside there and I am not sure that a healthy RB Le’Veon Bell can fix what ails them. This could be the reality in 2013.
Jacksonville Jaguars WR Cecil Shorts – Shorts has no chance to play well in Seattle. Whether it is going to be CB Richard Sherman shadowing him or the pass rush giving little to no time for a quarterback to deliver him the ball, Shorts is not a starting option this week.
Atlanta Falcons WR Roddy White – After the first game, I thought they might ease him back in as a decoy and open up the offense in his second game back. Last week, he warned fantasy owners not to start him if he does not practice; it is a red flag. It was, he was a decoy for a second straight game and finished with three receptions for 20 yards. Keep an eye on his practice schedule and I would not start him until he shows that he is recovered from that injury. It is bad enough not playing a high pick, but it is even worse seeing three to five points per week from him in your lineup.
Minnesota Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph – He is the ultimate boom or bust player with QB Christian Ponder struggling to keep his job. Rudolph will only tally you three to four points per week, unless he scores a touchdown. The Vikings play a Browns team that has allowed the third fewest points to tight ends and no touchdowns through two weeks. I would look elsewhere.