Who to start Week 2: Derek Carr over Aaron Rodgers?

Print

Each week of the regular season in "Fantasy Audibles" I'll use the SAP Player Comparison Tool to help you make the right decisions when it comes to difficult lineup dilemmas. The tool uses several factors to help make an educated suggestion, including past performance, matchup, consistency, upside and intangibles. However, the tool isn't fully operational quite yet. As a result, I'll use the old-fashioned fantasy methods to help make a determination on three difficult Week 2 matchup decisions below. Let's take a look at the start/sit questions haunting some of our fantasy readers and try to help them set a winning lineup.

Who should I start at QB: Aaron Rodgers or Derek Carr?


On the surface, this question seems silly. You start Aaron Rodgers, the guy who has finished as the overall QB1 or QB2 in six of the seven years he's played at least 15 games, and not the third-year quarterback who has never thrown for 4,000 yards in a season, right? Well, for Week 2, the decision might not be so cut and dry.

While Rodgers puts up video game-esque numbers on nearly a weekly basis, there is one defensive coordinator who consistently gets his goat, and that's Mike Zimmer the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, Rodgers' Week 2 opponent. This trend started back when Zimmer was the defensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals (2-0 versus Rodgers and the Packers while in Cincy), and continued once Zimmer moved to Minnesota. Here's a look at how Rodgers has stacked up against Zimmer over their six career meetings:

While there are solid performances in that admittedly small sample size, what's concerning is how Rodgers' numbers against Zimmer-led defenses compare to his career averages. The fact that he throws for roughly 40 yards and .5 touchdowns fewer per game against Zimmer should be of particular concern for fantasy owners. Add in the fact that Rodgers is heading into Minnesota for the grand opening of a new stadium, with Jordy Nelson still operating at less than 100 percent, and the concerns begin to mount. This isn't to say Rodgers is going to be a disaster on Sunday night, but there are enough factors to give fantasy owners pause when considering slotting Rodgers into their starting lineup.

Derek Carr, on the other hand, faces an Atlanta pass rush that lacks teeth. The team ranked dead-last in the league in 2015 with 19 sacks, and couldn't bring down Jameis Winston once in Week 1. Against a feeble New Orleans pass rush in Week 1, Carr was able to stay clean in the pocket (zero sacks, three hits) en route to a 319-yard, one-touchdown day. It wasn't gangbusters in fantasy, but if Carr is afforded similar time this week in Atlanta he should be able to put up similar numbers. He boasts a deeper, more talented pass-catching crew than Winston, and likely won't have a 75-yard Jalen Richard touchdown run taking his fantasy scoring opportunities off the board. Desmond Trufant is a worry in terms of locking down Amari Cooper, but since Trufant largely sticks to one side of the field, Cooper (and Michael Crabtree for that matter) should be able to find plenty of space to roam. However, there's every chance Winston's four-touchdown explosion in Week 1 was an outlier. Aside from a revamped linebacking corps, the Falcons defense wasn't too drastically different from the unit routinely trotted out in 2015 that allowed just 19 touchdown passes all year. Let's not overreact to Week 1 here and suddenly anoint the Falcons as a team to stream quarterbacks against (though another porous performance will put them in consideration).

While Carr has the seemingly safer floor, it's too hard to bench Rodgers given his always sky-high upside. He's beaten tough matchups countless times in his career, and what's to say he can't ruin the Vikings opening ceremony at U.S. Bank Stadium with a stellar performance on Sunday night? While I wouldn't fault anyone for starting Derek Carr over Aaron Rodgers in Week 2, I will not be among those bold enough to make that call.

Who should I start at RB: Spencer Ware or T.J. Yeldon?


Two backs in committees who are earning the lion's share of the opportunities, though one has a much harder matchup on paper. Let's dive in, starting with T.J. Yeldon

Last week, Yeldon assumed a featured back role when Chris Ivory was a surprise scratch before the game against the Packers after being hospitalized with an illness. Up next for Yeldon is a date with a San Diego defense that gave up 13 catches on 14 targets for 153 yards to the Kansas City backs. Yeldon is an excellent pass-catcher, and could be the Jaguars featured runner again with Ivory just getting out of the hospital on Tuesday. While Yeldon was stuffed on the ground against the Packers (39 yards on 21 attempts), Spencer Ware racked up 70 yards on just 11 carries against the Chargers, so there could be more room to roam. It's worth noting, however, that Yeldon isn't Spencer Ware. Which brings us to the other side of this lineup dilemma.

Ware was a near unstoppable force against the Chargers, and surprisingly maintained fantasy relevancy despite the Chiefs falling behind 21-3 early. That's because of the talk this offseason of him improving as a pass-catcher came to fruition as he hauled in seven of his team-high eight targets for 129 yards (also a team-high). This week Ware faces a much tougher challenge in a Houston defense that bottled up Jeremy Langford in Week 1. Langford averaged just 3.35 yards per rush attempt and only hauled in two of his four targets for a measly six yards. The Texans front seven manhandled the Bears offensive line thanks to a ready-to-breakout Jadeveon Clowney and a healthy J.J. Watt. They could pose issues for Ware, but the Chiefs know this offense runs through the backfield, and not Alex Smith's arm, so Ware should have every chance to earn plenty of touches once again.

While the matchup doesn't favor Ware, in this instance it's wiser to ride the hot hand. The Jaguars and Chargers game could turn into a shootout, while the Chiefs figure to be locked into an old-fashioned game of defensive, running football. Yeldon has plenty of upside, especially in PPR, but Ware is the No. 1 or 2 option in his offense along with Jeremy Maclin, while Yeldon feels like the fourth guy behind Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Julius Thomas. Ware is the right choice here.

Who should I start at WR: Willie Snead or Will Fuller?


Two semi-surprising breakout wide receivers from Week 1 ... though this one isn't that close.

Will Fuller made his NFL debut with a bang, leading the Texans in targets (11) while hauling in five catches for 107 yards and a touchdown. Fuller's hands remain a concern, but his playmaking upside is evident. The Texans will continue to utilize him each and every week, though don't expect him to consistently lead the team in targets. Looking ahead to Week 2, Fuller should see a healthy dose of both Phillip Gaines and Marcus Peters, as he lined up all over the field for the Texans in Week 1 (39 plays wide, 13 in slot divvied up almost 50-50 between right and left). While Philip Rivers' box score looks like the Chiefs held him in check, he was 12-for-14 (85.7 completion percentage) for 109 yards and a touchdown before Keenan Allen went down with a knee injury. Brock Osweiler isn't on Rivers' level, but with his arsenal of talented pass-catchers headlined by DeAndre Hopkins, he should be able to make some noise against this Kansas City defense -- especially while the pass rush is still operating at less than full strength (Justin Houston is on PUP, Tamba Hali is injured).

That's all well and good for Fuller's upside this week, but Willie Snead should get the start in this lineup battle. And that's not because he simply posted a more impressive Week 1 stat line of nine catches for 172 yards and a touchdown (on nine targets). What's relevant for his Week 2 matchup with the Giants, is that 110 of those yards came from the slot, where he played 64 percent of his Week 1 snaps. The Giants allowed 102 yards from the slot to the uninspiring trio of Jason Witten, Cole Beasley, and Terrance Williams in Week 1. Snead is a better, and younger player than anyone in that group, and is paired with a Hall of Fame quarterback in Drew Brees. While Snead isn't likely to repeat his monstrous opening weekend stat line, he's a good bet for solid production and is a much safer WR2/flex play than Fuller is on Sunday.

Who should I start at TE: Coby Fleener or Dwayne Allen?


I love this question because it's two former teammates coming off polar-opposite weeks facing polar-opposite matchups. Let's start with Coby Fleener.

Fleener shot up fantasy draft boards and rankings after he was a high-priced free-agent acquisition by the Saints. Many assumed (or hoped, rather) that'd he'd immediately step into the Jimmy Graham/Benjamin Watson role, assume 130-ish targets, and take the fantasy world by storm. So far, that hasn't happened ... at all. Reports mounted all offseason about Fleener struggling to pick up the playbook and not being in sync with Drew Brees. That materialized on Sunday when Brees threw the ball 42 times for 423 yards and four touchdowns, yet Fleener managed just one catch for six yards on four targets ... all while playing a whopping 81 percent of the offensive snaps. Woof. Is this simply growing pains in a new offense, or is this Fleener's past performance issues finally finding the limelight? After all, from 2012 to 2015 Fleener posted the lowest catch percentage and touchdown percentage among Dwayne Allen (former teammate) and Jimmy Graham/Benjamin Watson (Saints TEs people wished Fleener would become). Anyway, enough throwing dirt on Fleener's fantasy grave. After all, "He's not dead yet!"

Fleener currently is eyeing a matchup against the New York Giants, a team that just gave up 10 catches for 87 yards on 15 targets to Jason Witten and Geoff Swaim. Fleener, despite his flaws, is an athletic specimen with a daunting size-speed combination. If the Saints want to find an inherent mismatch against the Giants, it'll be with Fleener against the middle-of-the-road linebacking corps the Giants currently start (Kevon Dennard, Kelvin Sheppard, Jonathan Casillas). Fleener's weekly upside in a Drew Brees-led offense is immense, if he receives the requisite targets, making him an enticing start regardless of matchup. The trouble is, we've now seen his ghastly floor, and that will (and should) undoubtedly scare plenty of fantasy owners.

Now the man in Indianapolis, Dwayne Allen is coming off of a solid fantasy outing (four catches, 53 yards, one touchdown) even though Jack Doyle vultured two red-zone touchdowns. However, Allen is facing the vaunted Broncos defense, giving many the night sweats. Last year, Allen was blanked by the Broncos despite Andrew Luck posting 21.48 fantasy points in what many figured was a nightmarish matchup. However, Greg Olsen was able to find space against the Broncos in Week 1 (seven catches for 73 yards on nine targets), and that was with a less dynamic passing attack than what the Colts bring to the table. With Donte Moncrief and T.Y. Hilton commanding extra attention on the outside, it stands to reason that Allen could be featured prominently in the passing attack. After all, while he posted had zero catches against Denver in 2015, Coby Fleener and Jack Doyle were minorly productive. Allen is the best player of that bunch, and could still post solid totals in Week 2 against the Denver defense.

All told, this battle should ultimately be decided by what your Week 2 lineup needs. If chasing mouth-watering upside, go with Fleener. However, if a safe, reliable floor is the goal, then Allen is the wiser choice. If push came to shove, I'd go Allen.

It's not too late to play NFL Fantasy! CLICK HERE to join or create a Fantasy league.


-- Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar

Print