Week 2 presents a dangerous hurdle for fantasy football managers susceptible to small sample sizes.
Gamers spent months waiting for new data, filling their appetite with offseason tidbits and even preseason results. Now they have a week of meaningful football to digest, which often leads to overreactions.
Many of these lineup dilemmas wouldn’t have tripped anyone up a week ago, but they’re now legitimate conundrums. Was last weekend telling of something significant, or should fantasy fanatics stay the course? As the answer to most of the complicated questions in life, it depends.
QB: Eli Manning (vs. Atlanta) or Philip Rivers (at Cincinnati)
A full year of Odell Beckham Jr. and a returning Victor Cruz would turn Eli Manning into a stable starting quarterback. Meanwhile, Philip Rivers slipped into matchup purgatory despite another 4,000-yard, 30-touchdown campaign. Among the two 2004 draftees, fantasy show-runners preferred Manning as much as the New York Giants 11 years ago.
Then Bad Eli Manning showed up, going 20-of-36 with 193 yards and no scores in what was supposed to be a high-scoring affair against the Dallas Cowboys. Rivers, meanwhile, completed 35 of 42 passes for a week-high 404 yards.
Without the suspended Antonio Gates, Rivers surgically picked apart the Detroit Lions on short passes, as highlighted by ESPN Stats & Info:
Not that the Lions were a cupcake opponent, but the Cincinnati Bengals present another tough obstacle for Rivers to overcome. Last year, the Bengals yielded the third-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks under ESPN.com scoring, joining the Buffalo Bills as the only two teams with more interceptions (19) than passing touchdowns allowed (18).
On the heels of ranking last in passing offense in 2014, the Atlanta Falcons surrendered 336 yards to Sam Bradford, who wasn’t particularly sharp on Monday night. Their hapless pass rush, which sewed together 22 sacks last year, registered none to open the season.
Despite Week 1’s conflicting outcomes, stick to the preseason evaluations and trust Manning in the superior matchup.
RB: Bishop Sankey (at Cleveland) or LeGarrette Blount (at Buffalo)
Rex Ryan definitely drafted LeGarrette Blount on his fantasy team this season.
The Buffalo Bills head coach insisted the running back will quickly oust Dion Lewis upon returning from his one-game suspension, per ESPN.com’s Mike Rodak:
That’s who it’s going to be. That’s who it would have been Week 1 [when Blount was suspended]. So the other kid is who he is. But I mean, c’mon. Blount’s their guy. And I know him. He’s a big, tough, stud running back.
That’s the guy that’s like, “We throw in this other dude [Lewis]. Hey, guys, guess what? He ain’t gonna play.” He’ll play on third down, he’ll do those types of things.
Ryan knows his nemesis well. Jonas Gray didn’t even play the week after tallying 201 yards and four scores, so Lewis won’t eat much into Blount’s carries despite averaging 4.6 yards per handoff against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Even so, the Bills are a tough matchup, limiting Frank Gore to 31 yards last week. Don’t rush to activate Blount, especially if holstering a strong alternative like Bishop Sankey.
Although Terrance West led the Tennessee Titans with 13 carries, Sankey made much more of his 12 rushes, gaining 74 yards to West’s 41. According to Pro Football Focus, the sophomore amassed 56 of those yards after contact.
Let’s hope Tennessee doesn’t buy into the revenge narrative, or else West could get featured against the same Cleveland Browns who traded him earlier this month. Trust the Titans to instead utilize the superior player against a defense Chris Ivory steamrolled for 91 yards and two touchdowns during Week 1.
WR: Brandon Coleman (vs. Tampa Bay) or Marques Colston (vs. Tampa Bay)
After allowing a perfect passer rating to Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota during his NFL debut, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t a stout adversary for Drew Brees at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Anyone owning Brees, Mark Ingram and/or Brandin Cooks will comfortably slot them into the starting lineup.
Yet some controversy looms at wideout, where rookie Brandon Coleman outclassed veteran Marques Colston. The newcomer collected the New Orleans Saints’ lone passing touchdown last weekend while also playing more snaps, according to Pro Football Focus:
Before going overboard, both wide receivers received an identical seven targets and earned negative grades. Footballguys.com’s Sigmund Bloom isn’t impressed with what Coleman brings to the table:
Colston finished 2014 with his fewest receptions (59) and yards (902) since an 11-game 2008, but Brees won’t suddenly ignore his partner in crime going of 10 seasons. His upside, however, is severely limited with irregular snaps at age 32.
Both hover around the same area of flex or No. 3 receiver territory. For the higher ceiling, go Coleman. For a safer bet, don’t count out the old man.
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