The prize pool is getting a bump in Week 2, so in addition to our usual topics I will be discussing some alternative game scripts for contrarian players while mentioning some position groups that have a path to improvement after a less-than-stellar opening day.
Washington vs New York (National): The only option in this game we can really consider playing is the New York quarterbacks card, which produced just a hair under 31 points. While the Washington quarterbacks card had a solid performance and a few individual players had strong outings on both teams, no other position group in this game really popped off as a unit. Considering that there are a number of games projected to be high scoring in nature in Week 2, I’d be looking to outright avoid deploying any component of this game, while only giving any consideration to the New York (National) quarterbacks card.
Passing Game Stacks
Tampa Bay Quarterback with Tampa Bay Wide Receivers: Tampa Bay is a 12 ½ point home favorite against Atlanta, who has one of the weaker secondaries in the sport. One of the challenges in this game is that you could conceivably play any position group that Tampa Bay has in this matchup, including their running backs and defense, and there would be a realistic path to them exceeding expectations against Atlanta. With that in mind, Tampa Bay’s passing offense is in a fantastic position and, since we don’t have to worry about which Tampa Bay wide receiver will do well in our format, deploying them as a group is a strong play this week. Further, if you think Atlanta’s offense is positioned for a bounce back this week (Atlanta has played up against significant opponents multiple times over the last few years), that would be a plus for Tampa Bay’s passing offense.
Los Angeles (American) vs Dallas: This contest has a chance to get out of hand on the scoring front, which makes stacking either team’s quarterback with their wide receiver group a play that has a chance to lead the week. Both quarterbacks could make for solid isolated plays as well, as they both bring a valuable rushing element to the table. Another wrinkle here is that both team’s running back cards could also end up being strong plays, to the point that I would consider stacking either side’s quarterback card with their wide receivers and then bringing it back with the opposing team’s running back card. This is a game that I’m highly interested in playing in a variety of ways, as both offenses are in a great position to exceed expectations.
Baltimore vs Kansas City: As we said last week, when it comes to Kansas City we can consider playing any component of their offense in any given week. That said, in this Sunday night matchup in Baltimore I’ll be higher on the Kansas City tight end group than their wide receivers, though both are certainly worthy of major consideration. On the other side, Baltimore has suffered a devastating number of injuries early in the season, which now includes their stud left tackle who will miss Sunday night’s contest against Kansas City. Missing a foundational piece like a left tackle creates more downside for everyone on an offense, as it reduces both stability and reliability, but at the end of the day Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson has been carrying this offense since he took it over three season ago and this game still comes with considerable shootout potential with its 55-point game total. In this spot you could pair Baltimore’s quarterback card with their wide receiver or tight ends card, as Baltimore could be playing catch up against Kansas City. However, considering Lamar’s abilities as a runner he’s more of reasonable isolated quarterback play than anyone else.
Seattle vs Tennessee: This is another game with shootout potential, with Seattle as a 6-point home favorite while the contest has an attractive 54-point game total. To be clear, this matchup has potential, but it is a much less stable game environment than either Los Angeles vs Dallas or Baltimore vs Kansas City. That volatility (driven by Tennessee) also means that some of the options in this game could serve as contrarian plays with significant upside.
After a very strong outing against Indianapolis last week, Seattle’s quarterback and wide receiver cards have an even higher ceiling against Tennessee, especially if Tennessee’s offense is able to push Seattle enough to keep them aggressive. Playing the Seattle running back card as a contrarian option is also worthy of consideration, especially if you think Seattle comfortably handles Tennessee in this matchup. How this game plays will ultimately depend on Tennessee. A bounce back performance after getting blown away in all phases by Arizona last week is possible, but keep in mind that Tennessee has a new offensive play caller this season and could continue to struggle in Seattle. In general, we want to deploy the Big Dog in games where Tennessee plays with a lead. So, if you have the Tennessee running back card I’d view that as more of a high upside, with greater downside than normal, option in this matchup. An interesting concept in this game is the prospect that Tennessee starts hot enough where the Big Dog has better volume and thus a greater performance than most would anticipate as a 6-point underdog that forces Seattle to play from behind. While I would not bank on that outcome, few will play this game that way and if it lands it could land big.
Green Bay: Last week in Jacksonville, Green Bay didn’t show up for their contest against New Orleans. I don't mean that literally, Green Bay's physical presence didn't have that much of an impact last week. You could speculate on a number of reasons for last week’s debacle ranging from the game displacement created by Hurricane Ida, the heat and humidity that often accompany September games played in Florida, or the simple fact that the core of Green Bay’s offense hasn’t played together since their loss in last year’s NFC Championship Game. Regardless, Week 2 brings substantial opportunity for a bounce back for Green Bay as they are 10 ½ point home favorites against Detroit on Monday Night Football. Now, an issue here is that a Green Bay passing game stack could realistically hit big enough to potentially lead Week 2. So could a Green Bay running backs correlation paired with their defense. In other words, Green Bay could see positive regression against a soft opponent in numerous phases,. I wouldn’t be opposed to playing the Green Bay quarterbacks or running backs as a one-off play in this situation.
Buffalo Quarterbacks: After a disappointing opening day loss to Pittsburgh, Buffalo heads to Miami for a matchup that we could reasonably avoid considering the other attractive game environments in Week 2. That’s also why there could be potential opportunity here. Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen has gone nuclear against Miami in the past and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if he did it again despite the close to average game environment in this matchup. The Buffalo quarterback card paired with the Buffalo wide receiver card is worthy of consideration in any given week, but keep in mind that the strength of the Miami defense is their cornerback group. While that doesn’t preclude Buffalo’s wide receivers from having a great game, as good offense can beat good defense in football, we should view this as a less than ideal matchup.
Indianapolis Running Backs: Chicago running backs just ran for 120 yards and a score against Los Angeles in a losing effort last Sunday night. Chicago running backs also added another 38 yards in the air, rounding out a solid performance for the group despite playing from behind on the road. Indianapolis has a better offensive line and a better running back group than Chicago, which are two strengths the Indianapolis offense is pretty reliant on. Factor in that Indianapolis will get Los Angeles at home as 3 ½ point underdogs this week, and there are opportunities for this running back group to be a better option than many might think. If this game is tightly contested, we can expect Jonathan Taylor to see a lot of work. If Indianapolis falls behind, pass catching running back Nyheim Hines could easily see a bump in opportunity. As you know, even if Marlon Mack swipes a touchdown in this contest, you will get all of the production from the Indianapolis running back group when deploying their card. While I wouldn’t frame this as a safe play, I will be treating the Indianapolis running back card as a high upside option this week.
San Francisco Tight Ends: San Francisco’s offense isn’t reliant on any one player, which sometimes makes week-to-week volume difficult to predict with their offense. With that said, George Kittle is a difference making athlete and San Francisco’s Week 2 opponent, Philadelphia, isn’t well equipped to handle a player like Kittle. So, while volume is a concern, I view this as a high ceiling matchup for the already valuable San Francisco tight end card. Additionally, the Philadelphia quarterback card is once again worthy of consideration. You could even consider the Philadelphia tight end card, considering the production San Francisco yielded to the position last week in Detroit.
Arizona Defense: Arizona ransacked Tennessee on opening day accumulating 6 sacks, 1 interception, and 2 fumble recoveries while holding Tennessee to 13 points. In Week 2 Arizona draws Minnesota as 3 ½ point home favorites, which is an interesting matchup for the Arizona defense as their front should have an edge over Minnesota’s average-at-best offensive line. I wouldn’t bank on a repeat of opening day’s stellar performance, and the truth is you could realistically play Arizona vs Minnesota as a potential high scoring affair in fantasy, but Arizona’s defense is in a pretty good spot in Week 2.
Tampa Bay Defense: Atlanta’s offense was dreadful against Philadelphia on opening day, so it’s not unreasonable to anticipate a bit of a bounce back against division rival Tampa Bay in Week 2. However, Tampa Bay is a 12 ½ point home favorite that has the tools on defense to stress most opposing offenses, not to mention a struggling one, so there is definite upside to playing Tampa Bay in this spot.
Defenses with Potential Running Back Correlations
Cleveland Running Backs plus Cleveland Defense vs Houston: Cleveland is in an excellent position as a 13-point home favorite against a volatile Houston team that exceeded expectations in Week 1. When volatile teams play well as Houston did last week, I generally look to bet against them in some fashion the following week as I expect some form of regression. Cleveland has a vastly superior roster to Houston’s, and the Cleveland running back group in particular is in an absolute smash spot coming off an opening day outing where they collectively scored 3 touchdowns in Kansas City. The ceiling is higher this week than it was on opening day for the Cleveland running backs card.
New England Running Backs plus New England Defense at New York (American): Second overall pick Zach Wilson is making his second start as a professional quarterback against one of the game’s great defensive minds in Bill Belichick, who has a reputation of unraveling young quarterbacks. On top of that, New York will be without their stud left tackle for multiple weeks, creating a significant edge for New England’s front against New York. Pair those factors with New England being a 6-point road favorite in this contest, and it’s reasonable to expect that New York will struggle offensively in this matchup. New England could attack New York’s defense in a number of ways, but if New York struggles to generate significant offense as expected New England running backs could see a swell in usage. Since New England sometimes deploys their backfield in unpredictable ways, we have the added bonus of not having to worry about a third of fourth string runner getting an unexpected increase in playing time, as we’ll still reap the benefits if that happens.
Chicago Running Backs plus Chicago Defense vs Cincinnati: Chicago running backs impressed last Sunday night in Los Angeles, as they ran for 120 yards and a score on 22 carries while adding 38 yards receiving on 5 receptions. The appeal here in Week 2 is that Chicago is a 2 ½ point home favorite that will have a front advantage over Cincinnati’s very beatable offensive line, making the Chicago defense worthy as an isolated play this week. Pairing the Chicago defense with their solid running game is more of a contrarian play that warrants consideration than a bankable option, but there is a very realistic path to this being a high-performing correlation play.
Pittsburgh Running Backs plus Pittsburgh Defense vs Las Vegas and vs Cincinnati: Pittsburgh has said multiple times this offseason that first round pick Najee Harris will see the vast majority of the running back workload this year, which makes the Pittsburgh running back card among the closest we have to playing an individual runner in our format. That said, their running back group is still in a very strong position as 6-point home favorites against a below average Las Vegas run defense. The same is true in Week 3 as Pittsburgh is in a very similar position when they take on division rival Cincinnati. Not only should we consider deploying the Pittsburgh running back card in each of the next two weeks, we should also consider Pittsburgh’s defense in both of these settings as their high-end front will be facing two below average offensive lines in back-to-back weeks. Additionally, stacking Pittsburgh’s quarterback with their wide receivers will also warrant consideration in both of these matchups.