The NFL’s first week is in the books, and if you’re like me, you were taking skeptical notes, knowing that Week 1 usually doesn’t determine what a team will truly be like during the season.
How about Philadelphia struggling in New England, with the game almost resulting in a loss for the Eagles? Minnesota with arguably the biggest upset of the weekend, losing to Tampa Bay at home? A 40-point blowout division game in the NFC East? Giants: you’re better than this.
I used to write a weekly Start Em, Sit Em with Sleepers and Busts at another publication, but have brought my talents to RSJ and am revamping the launch of that series. Let’s be honest: do you really need to be told to start Tua Tagovailoa when he’s 4-0 in his career against Bill Belichick and threw for more than 450 yards last week? Or to stay away from the Eagles and Ravens backfield until we know who is actually going to be the No. 1 guy?
We’re looking for diamonds in the rough. In Week 1, we fell on our face with some choices but also hit some home runs.
Last week, we saw Tyler Higbee, Jahan Dotson, Josh Downs, Khalil Herbert, and Derek Carr make the list.
Higbee: 3 catches (3 targets), 49 yards, 0 touchdowns
Dotson: 5 catches (7 targets), 40 yards, 0 touchdowns
Downs: 3 catches (7 targets), 30 yards, 0 touchdowns
Herbert: 9 carries for 27 yards, 3 catches (5 targets), 37 yards, 0 touchdowns
Carr: 23-for-33, 305 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception
Okay, so we were allergic to the end zone last week. But so were the Giants and they’re still trucking along in Week 2. We’ll all do better this week.
MIKE EVANS, WR, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
VS CHICAGO BEARS, 1:00 PM EST
A 10-year vet is a sleeper? Yes, because if you’re like me, you didn’t start Mike Evans last week in what turned out to be a whacky game in Minnesota. If you did, it’s because his name is simply Mike Evans. Evans garnered 10 targets (six catches) and once again found the end zone. With one more touchdown grab, Evans would be in a tie for the ninth-most touchdowns in NFL history in his first 10 seasons. He won’t chuck that ball into the stands. He and the Bucs get the Bears, who, let’s face it, are still one of – if not the worst – team in the NFL. Evans has never had less than 1,000 yards per season in his career, and he can get a big jump to those numbers in this game, even if Chicago chooses to try and kill the clock by running the ball again.
SAM LAPORTA, TE, DETRIOT LIONS
VS SEATTLE SEAHAWKS, 1:00 PM EST
His 39 yards in the NFL opener didn’t paint the picture of what LaPorta is capable of as a rookie tight end. Jared Goff leaned on Sam LaPorta in short but key yardage situations, and I expect that to continue in Week 2 against a Seattle defense that was embarrassed in Week 1. Last year, former Detroit tight end T.J. Hockenson was targeted 12 times in these teams’ matchup and scored twice. I picked Higbee last week because Seattle is notoriously poor against tight ends – it just happened to be every other receiver shined for the Rams last week. I’ll assume Tre Brown will guard Amon-Ra St. Brown, leaving Tariq Woolen (and Quandre Diggs) in the top defender spots for Seattle. Anyway, I’m banking on the history of Seahawks defenses and tight ends, and LaPorta could easily be Goff’s second-favorite target on the team. We should see this come to fruition.
JAMES CONNER, RB, ARIZONA CARDINALS
VS NEW YORK GIANTS, 4:05PM EST
Obviously, James Conner will be off the table if he misses the game due to a calf injury and this also changes if he comes in less than 100-percent at game time. But this is a race of teams trying not to become 0-2 and it’s also a matchup of game-changing running backs. Let’s not forget the standout player Conner was in Pittsburgh just a few seasons ago, going up against Saquon Barkley who is still working toward a large, long contract extension. Dallas scored THREE rushing touchdowns on Sunday night against New York. Paired with Conner’s more than 80-percent snap count, he should find paydirt this week. I really only think Kayvon Thibodeaux stands between Conner and the end zone. With still being unsure if the Giants are rostering any receivers, this could be one of a few times Arizona’s offense is on the field a good bit of the game.
NICO COLLINS, WR, HOUSTON TEXANS
VS INDIANAPOLIS COLTS, 1:00PM EST
Nico Collins had the task of proving he really is Houston’s No. 1 option in the passing game in Week 1. He did just that, even against a tough Baltimore secondary. Eleven targets and 80 yards is no joke, and they didn’t all come when the game was out of reach. Jacksonville receivers scored multiple times on the Colts in Week 1, and Indianapolis’ offense has too many question marks to believe it’ll chew up the clock. Additionally, fellow wideout Robert Woods’ usage (10 targets) opening weekend makes it so teams need to cover more than Collins in the passing game.
C.J. STROUD, QB, HOUSTON TEXANS
VS INDIANAPOLIS COLTS, 1:00 PM EST
I will double down on Houston this week in the NFL’s first matchup of rookie signal callers. It seems many people sway toward playing quarterback Anthony Richardson if you had to pick between the two in this matchup, but not me. DeMeco Ryans proved the Texans are throwing on all cylinders, and I expect tight end Dalton Schultz to be more valuable to Stroud this weekend, too. Dameon Pierce had a rough go in Week 1, likely leading to more passing options for Stroud, but given the matchup this week, the Texans should throw a decent amount of time. I like Pierce as an emergency passing option for Stroud, too, and divisional games always seem to raise an eyebrow. If Stroud would’ve found the end zone in Week 1, we’d be talking about a 20-point fantasy quarterback. He’ll find the end zone in Houston’s home opener.
It’s not always runaway matchups that produce quality sleeper candidates on a weekly basis. Remembering to think of teams chasing points, lopsided run and rush defenses, and depth chart movement are all key factors to look at when attempting to gain an edge in fantasy football.
Have a player Kayla should analyze in the coming weeks? Reach out to RSJ.