Now would be the time for fantasy owners to get those lineups in ahead of the Thursday Night Football showdown between the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs.
Last Thursday was quite lucrative when the Pittsburgh Steelers danced with the New England Patriots, with the obvious names doing some serious damage. In theory, the same should apply here with Peyton Manning, Jamaal Charles and Travis Kelce looking like smart plays.
Not everyone has stakes in just the Thursday game, though, so it’s important to paint broad strokes when it comes to start ’em, sit ’em decisions. Below, let’s contrast some of the best options against one another to find the best value at each spot.
Start: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts (vs. NYJ)
There’s no way to sugarcoat it—Andrew Luck let fantasy owners down last week with a 17-point performance against the Buffalo Bills.
Rex Ryan and Co. had no qualms about blitzing Luck into next year, and it worked, forcing him to throw a pair of interceptions to go with his 243 yards and two scores.
A matchup against the New York Jets doesn’t sound easier, but keep in mind this one comes at home for Luck. Even better, it happens on Monday Night Football, meaning T.Y. Hilton has extra time to recover from a slight knee issue.
Another week also means more familiarity for Andre Johnson and Frank Gore. It seems like just a matter of time before Luck explodes, and on a friendly field it should be this week.
Sit: Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans (at CLE)
Quick, name the third-highest scoring quarterback from Week 1.
All right, most already know it was Tennessee Titans rookie Marcus Mariota by way of his four touchdowns tosses against a woeful Tampa Bay squad.
As odd as it sounds, things figure to get much more difficult in Cleveland against the Browns. Unlike the Buccaneers, the Browns will actually be prepared for the game and now have film to work with when it comes to Mariota.
Owners love Mariota, hence his bump in ownership percentage to 56.9. But he’s still a rookie prone to bad games, and a trip to Cleveland against Joe Haden and Co. doesn’t scream must-start play. It screams caution, because as great as Mariota looks, the Buccaneers might just be the worst team in the league. Take a wait-and-see approach with the tantalizing rookie.
Start: Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers (at PIT)
Well, Carlos Hyde answered whether or not he could replace Frank Gore well in dramatic fashion this past Monday.
Against what was supposed to be a stingy Minnesota Vikings defense, Hyde erupted with 168 yards and two scores on 26 totes, good for 29 points and a top slot above all other runners with Week 1 concluded.
Normally it might be advisable to stay away from a somewhat unproven starter against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but times change. Owners cannot afford to sit Hyde in almost any matchup, and the Steelers are a rebuilding unit that just allowed New England’s Dion Lewis to rush for 69 yards on 15 carries.
In what should be a run-first affair, Hyde should be in all lineups.
Sit: Chris Ivory, New York Jets (at IND)
Chris Ivory was a fun sleeper play in Week 1 against Cleveland in what should have also been a run-first affair. He responded in a big way, cashing in on solid red-zone looks to score 21 points via 91 yards and two scores.
While Ivory is a solid start option most weeks, he isn’t here. The numbers look good, but sometimes it’s critical to look at the matchup.
The New York Jets aren’t going to be favored on the road against the Colts, meaning Ivory’s chances could be few and far between while the Jets gun it with Ryan Fitzpatrick in an effort to keep pace.
This won’t be the case most weeks with Ivory, but matchups can outweigh individual numbers.
Start: Julian Edelman, New England Patriots (at BUF)
A matchup capable of flustering Luck screams must-avoid for a wideout the very next week, but New England’s Julian Edelman isn’t a terrible play after a bit of digging.
Edelman went out and caught 11 passes last week with 97 yards for good measure. He’s a point-per-reception monster any day of the week and a smart play against Buffalo considering he’s Tom Brady’s favorite target—Brady was 11-of-12 throwing to Edelman last week.
If Indianapolis’ Donte Moncrief can still find room for 10 points against the Bills, a No. 1 like Edelman can do even better. Last year, Edelman caught 9-of-12 targets for 91 yards on the road in Buffalo.
This year, nothing shy of a similar performance, if not a touchdown, is what owners can expect.
Sit: Stevie Johnson, San Diego Chargers (at CIN)
By the end of Week 1, San Diego Chargers wideout Stevie Johnson finished as the seventh-highest scorer at the position, going for 82 yards and a score on six catches for 14 points.
Those who trumpeted Johnson and his superb rapport with Philip Rivers as a sleeper are right to pat themselves on the back.
Still, Johnson did his damage against a wobbly Detroit defense, whereas Cincinnati in Week 2 isn’t so simple. In fact, the Bengals have surrendered the third-fewest points to wideouts in the league since the start of the 2014 season.
With a talented slot man like Leon Hall assigned to Johnson, Rivers—and owners—should want to look elsewhere for a week.
Start: Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions (at MIN)
So it finally happened—Eric Ebron looks like the No. 1 tight end in Detroit after an iffy rookie campaign saw him grab just 25 receptions.
Ebron went out in his sophomore debut against the Chargers and caught 4-of-5 targets for 53 yards and a score, a note that has been overlooked thanks to breakout monster games for names such as Kelce, Tyler Eifert and Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
Things only figure to get better for Ebron in Week 2 thanks to a showdown against the Vikings. The unit just allowed San Francisco tight ends to hog the top slots on the 49ers’ receiving numbers last week, with Vernon Davis and Garrett Celek combining for six catches for 87 yards.
Those seem like numbers Ebron can match while the Vikings focus on Calvin Johnson. He has a high-upside touchdown potential to target.
Sit: Larry Donnell, New York Giants (vs. ATL)
It looks like it’s time to let go of the thought that Larry Donnell can be a solid fantasy producer after several superb outbursts last season.
The New York Giants tight end should have been a major producer in a pass-happy showdown with the Dallas Cowboys last week, but instead saw just four targets, catching three of them for 21 yards. Fellow tight end Daniel Fells saw the same target rate, catching three for 33 yards.
New York’s clash with Atlanta looks prone to a lot of points, but Donnell’s sudden involvement in something of a committee at the position makes him a touchdown-dependent start.
At a position suddenly rich in talent, owners can look elsewhere.
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