Going into last weekend, owners could only work with 2014 numbers and projections. Some projections turned out correct—Rob Gronkowski led all tight ends in scoring. Other results, owners could have never seen coming, such as Tennessee Titans rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota landing as the third-highest scorer at his position before Monday’s games.
With a week’s worth of information, including usage rates, injuries and more, now owners can crack their collective knuckles and stride in confident fashion into Week 2.
Below, let’s take a look at some of the toughest start ’em, sit ’em calls of the week and look at the best matchup plays and sleepers.
Top Matchup Play: Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals (at CHI)
Carson Palmer isn’t one to underestimate, folks.
He didn’t play a ton last year because of injury, but when he’s healthy, he stands as one of fantasy’s best. Case in point—this past weekend he scored 25 points to land second only to Tom Brady at the spot before Monday’s games.
Even with Andre Ellington leaving the game with an injury and Michael Floyd entering with one, Palmer was unstoppable. Consider a nugget from the Cardinals’ Mark Dalton:
In such a matchup, Palmer is a must-start option.
Sleeper: Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills (vs. NE)
One of last week’s money sleeper plays continues to hog the limelight this week.
Tyrod Taylor exploded with the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, posting 15 fantasy points in a breakout performance against a game Indianapolis Colts team. He threw for 195 yards and a touchdown and added 41 yards on the ground.
When owners hunt for a sleeper, an ability to produce on the ground and through the air is key. So Taylor doesn’t look incredible going into a showdown with the New England Patriots, but keep in mind coach Bill Belichick trots out a patchwork secondary that Ben Roethlisberger just torched for 18 points.
Taylor isn’t Roethlisberger, but it’s important to remember he has an incredible defense backing him, LeSean McCoy in the backfield and last year in Buffalo the Patriots gave up 17 points to Buffalo quarterbacks.
Top Matchup Play: Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks (at GB)
The globe will remember Marshawn Lynch for getting stuffed on 4th-and-inches in an upset against the St. Louis Rams last week, but owners will want to keep in mind he put up 12 points in the process.
It wasn’t the biggest Beast Mode number in the world by any means, but what the man needs is a better matchup.
He gets it in Week 2 against a Green Bay Packers defense that allowed Bears back Matt Forte to lead all scorers at the position after Sunday night with 22 points.
Not enough? Lynch encountered the Packers in Week 1 last season, and Green Bay surrendered 33 points to backs, including a pair of scores to Lynch. It seems little has changed in a year, so Lynch sits in the top matchup of the week.
Sleeper: Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins (at JAC)
The Miami Dolphins got caught in an awkward season debut against Washington, and most everyone not named Jarvis Landry suffered.
Lead back Lamar Miller was among those players who struggled the most, posting just seven points as the coaching staff ran him just 13 times and helped him to just one reception.
NFL.com’s Matt Harmon concurs Miller won’t be bottled up like that for long:
Miller’s stock is down, which is good for owners on the hunt for a sleeper. He next gets the Jacksonville Jaguars, a defense that ranked among the 10 worst against backs last year and hasn’t looked much better this season.
With a contest more likely to let the Dolphins run their desired pace, Miller should have a big day.
Top Matchup Play: Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos (at KC)
Even the best have duds sometimes, which is the case for Denver Broncos wideout Demaryius Thomas this past weekend.
Stuck in a rough matchup against the Baltimore Ravens, Thomas caught seven of 11 targets but gained just 60 yards and failed to reach the end zone. The important takeaway, though, is the 11 targets, a clear sign he remains the focal point of the offense.
When a wideout sees as many screens and short plays as Thomas, he fits into the “opportunities equals production” rule normally befit of running backs. This will prove especially the case against the Kansas City Chiefs considering DeAndre Hopkins of the Houston Texans led all wideout scorers at 23 points before Monday thanks to an encounter with the unit.
Look for Thomas to have a big day against a struggling defense. A quick turnaround for a Thursday Night Football affair favors an offense, meaning the Thomas drought won’t last long.
Sleeper: Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis Colts (vs. NYJ)
Chalk up Donte Moncrief as one of the biggest surprises to come from Week 1.
Locked in a tough contest, the 2014 third-round pick caught six passes for 46 yards and a score, good for a cool 10 points in his sophomore debut. He was targeted 11 times in the contest compared to just 49 times in 16 games as a rookie.
It’s all about opportunity with Moncrief. T.Y. Hilton has a bruised knee, Andre Johnson had trouble creating separation and Moncrief played much more than hyped rookie Phillip Dorsett, who didn’t help himself with a fumble.
Moncrief‘s door is wide-open, especially going into a contest against the New York Jets, who struggled all season long to wideouts last year, allowed Cleveland Browns wide receiver Travis Benjamin to score 14 this past weekend and also possibly lost Antonio Cromartie—who’s listed as week-to-week, per NJ Advance Media’s Dom Cosentino—to injury.
Top Matchup Play: Jimmy Graham, Seattle Seahawks (vs. TB)
So much for a change of scenery being the death knell to Jimmy Graham’s fantasy usefulness.
Mired in a tough matchup, Graham still found a way to reach the end zone against the Rams, finishing with six catches for 51 yards and a score, good for 11 points.
In other words, Graham remains the scoring monster he’s always been. ESPN Stats & Info provided context:
Tampa Bay wasn’t terrible against tight ends last season, but the Buccaneers defense is the reason the aforementioned Mariota scored so well. Before leaving in the third quarter, Tennessee tight end Delanie Walker found the end zone and posted 10 total points.
The Russell Wilson-Graham connection figures to strengthen against an exploitable defense this week.
Sleeper: Jared Cook, St. Louis Rams (at WAS)
Jared Cook remains as one of the most criminally underrated fantasy players around. Seriously, he’s owned in 5.7 percent of leagues right now.
Alas, the 6’5″, 254-pound Cook worked well with new quarterback Nick Foles this past weekend against a game Seattle defense, catching five passes for 85 yards and eight points.
It stands to reason Cook will post even more points against a better matchup, which he gets in Week 2 against Washington. Jay Gruden’s defense just gave up seven points to Jordan Cameron in a sloppy affair.
Cook finished one target shy of the team lead, a clear sign the coaching staff intends to work him into game plans more this year with Foles under center. Pair the notion with a strong matchup, and it makes for one of the most tantalizing sleeper picks of Week 2.
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