We now have a better understanding of how teams operate now that two weeks are in the book for the NFL season. If you’re like me, you likely circled a lot from your Week 1 notes but slashed an “X” through others.
Seattle and Detroit in shootout matchups? Expected. Joe Burrow struggling again, and Cincinnati moving to 0-2 – overall and in the division? Not expected.
I used to write a weekly Start Em, Sit Em with Sleepers and Busts at another publication, but I 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 Kirk Cousins and Justin Herbert in what is likely the highest-scoring game of the week? Or to stay away from Marquise Brown as the Cardinals take on Dallas in a battle of two teams going in opposite directions?
We’re looking for diamonds in the rough. In Week 2, the home runs kept coming.
Last week we saw Mike Evans, Sam LaPorta, James Conner, and Houston Texans duo Nico Collins and C.J. Stroud make the list.
Evans: 6 catches (8 targets), 171 yards, 1 touchdown.
LaPorta: 5 catches (6 targets), 63 yards.
Conner: 23 rushes, 106 yards, 1 touchdown.
Collins: 7 catches (9 targets), 146 yards, 1 touchdown.
Stroud: 30-for-47 for 384 yards, 2 touchdowns.
So, we weren’t allergic to the end zone last week. Milestone touchdown marker for Evans and career-best receiving yards for Collins? You’re welcome.
To help you out, this article contains my top five sleepers of the week, and why.
JAVONTE WILLIAMS & SAMAJE PERINE, RB, DENVER BRONCOS
AT MIAMI DOLPHINS | 1:00 PM EST
Miami did a much better job in Week 2 against the run than in Week 1, but the Dolphins have struggled in recent years against the Broncos. Most notably, Melvin Gordon scoring twice in a Denver upset victory in 2020 slowed Miami’s roll that season. He found 84 yards on 15 carries (5.6 YPC) in the game, including multiple first down gains. Javonte Williams has never faced Miami. However, adding Samaje Perine creates a more challenging game plan for the Dolphins, who couldn’t stop duo Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley in the season opener. Perine is more a boom or bust with needing to get into the end zone, but Miami is notorious for allowing rushing scores. It wouldn’t surprise me if Williams reached the 100-yard mark, especially because the results aren’t out on the new Sean Payton/Russell Wilson experiment.
NELSON AGHOLOR, WR, BALTIMORE RAVENS
VS INDIANAPOLIS COLTS | 1:00 PM EST
This game would be a little more even if Anthony Richardson (concussion) were playing, but the start for Gardner Minshew actually makes receiving options on both teams more likable in the matchup that would’ve otherwise been a ground battle. Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle) has already been ruled out, and Agholor was Baltimore’s leading receiver against Cincinnati one week ago. Yes, it’s 2023, and you just read that sentence. He saw one more target (six) than rookie Zay Flowers, while also passing Rashod Bateman in usage. The Colts are also 31st in the NFL in pass defense, boding well for Agholor, who should come in as a No. 3 receiver in this matchup behind tight end Mark Andrews and Flowers.
DRAKE LONDON, WR, ATLANTA FALCONS
AT DETROIT LIONS | 1:00 PM EST
The Falcons are surprisingly 2-0, but they’ll get their first loss without keeping up with a pass-heavy Lions team this weekend. London had zero fantasy points in Atlanta’s opener but was targeted on its first play last week and caught a touchdown in a comeback against the Green Bay Packers. I don’t know what to make of either of the aforementioned teams, but I do know London can beat top corners, evidenced by his success against Jaire Alexander. It’s more likely he catches three or four balls per game, but that median could be exceeded again if Atlanta wants to keep up with the Lions. Quarterback Desmond Ridder absolutely has to step up in this game and he’ll likely need multiple passing touchdowns for the first time this season to do so. The help of London is only logical.
MATTHEW STAFFORD, QB, LA RAMS
AT CINCINNATI BENGALS | MNF 8:15 PM EST
The Rams were almost 2-0 and again played a contested game in Week 2 against one of the top defenses in the league: San Francisco. They lost a one-score game without the likes of Cooper Kupp and Cam Akers, who has now been traded to Minnesota. I believe Puka Nacua (oblique) will play this weekend, and he has the most targets for a rookie in NFL history in the first two weeks (35). Los Angeles doesn’t have to deal with an early Sunday East Coast game and will benefit in a Monday night game against a surprising 0-2 team with poor quarterback play to begin the season. This has a chance to be a high-scoring affair, and the new addition of Kyren Williams as the Rams’ sole running back hasn’t been seen yet – aiding to Stafford’s possible uptick in points.
JAYLEN WARREN, RB, PITTSBURGH STEELERS
AT LAS VEGAS RAIDERS | 8:20 PM EST
I’ll throw a dart on this one, even though Warren was outsnapped by starter Najee Harris in Week 2. But the Raiders couldn’t stop any of the Bills’ backs, and that’s embarrassing. The three backs combined for 223 yards and two scores. This is Warren’s chance to show he deserves more playing time than Harris, and the odds are in his favor with the question marks in the passing game and Harris’ slow downfall. I also don’t think this needs to be a high-scoring game for Warren to succeed.
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.