Derrick Henry poised for a fantasy breakout in Week 3

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Welcome to FedEx Air and Ground fantasy analysis. Each week, we'll highlight some favorable quarterback plays and a few running backs that could prove valuable for fantasy owners based on matchups, projected game flow, and most essentially, talent. With Week 2 in the books and a small sample of fantasy points against data to work with, here are a few options to keep your eye on in Week 2. These players might just win your week.

Air Analysis:


Carson Palmer vs Bills:  In a 40-7 win against Tampa Bay last week, Palmer ranked second in the NFL among quarterbacks with a 24.3-yard average air distance per pass attempt, per Next Gen Stats. Helping Palmer's cause was veteran Larry Fitzgerald who hauled in eight receptions for 81 yards, all of which came with Fitz lined up in the right slot. Palmer's big day netted him three touchdown passes, 308 passing yards and 24.32 fantasy points, enough to rank him as the QB5 in standard fantasy leagues for Week 2. Heading into Week 3, Palmer is one of just three quarterbacks who has thrown at least five touchdown passes with zero interceptions (Drew Brees, Philip Rivers) which adds to his positive fantasy outlook.

Palmer appeared in this FedEx Air & Ground fantasy analysis space last week, and he makes the cut again this week as the Cardinals will face the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Coming off a Thursday night loss to the Jets last week, Buffalo is staring down an 0-3 start to the season. The Bills fired offensive coordinator Greg Roman after the loss, but Buffalo's offense wasn't entirely responsible for the ugly game. Rex Ryan's defensive unit was absolutely picked apart by Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets to the tune of 374 yards and one passing touchdown.

This gives Palmer and his array of weapons in the passing game a solid foundation upon which to game plan and you can bet Arizona is going to attack Buffalo's lackluster secondary early and often. The Bills defense is currently allowing 297.5 passing yards per game to opposing offenses, so make sure Palmer is in your lineup for Week 3.

Matt Ryan vs Saints: Ryan is quietly the No. 1 ranked fantasy quarterback through two games with 52.2 total points, about two more than Cam Newton. Ryan has already accumulated 730 passing yards and thrown five touchdown passes and is off to a much better start this year in his second season in Kyle Shanahan's offensive scheme. A 365 passing yards per game average isn't too shabby, but Atlanta has had two cake matchups against the Buccaneers and Raiders. Believe it or not, the going gets even easier in Week 3 as the Falcons head to New Orleans. Of course, by now you're aware of the Saints historically bad pass defense from 2015. If you can fathom it, the Saints' defense allows more passing yards per game through two weeks (336) than they did all of last season (284). Somehow, they kept Eli Manning from tossing a single touchdown pass last week but still lost the game as the veteran spread around his 368 passing yards.

All of this bodes well for Ryan this week. He has one of the best wideouts in the NFL to throw to in Julio Jones, two great pass-catching running backs, and a bevy of other ancillary targets to spread the love to including Mohammed Sanu, Aldrick Robinson, Jacob Tamme and Justin Hardy who all hauled in passes last week. Look for Matty Ice to keep his hot start going on Monday night in the Superdome.

Ground Analysis:

Melvin Gordon vs Colts:  With matchups against two teams with extreme talent at the running back position, the Colts banged-up defense has surrendered more fantasy points to opposing runners than any other team in the NFL. In Week 1, Detroit's running back duo of Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick combined for three total touchdowns and 228 total yards against Indy. The Colts gave up one more rushing touchdown to rookie Dwayne Washington in that game too. Last week, Denver welcomed the Colts into their stadium and proceeded to mash on the ground with 162 total yards from their backfield.

This week, Melvin Gordon is licking his chops at the potential of his matchup against the Colts. Gordon, who has already scored three touchdowns and racked up 177 total yards, ranks as fantasy's RB4 through two games. Following Danny Woodhead's season-ending knee injury last week, San Diego loaded Gordon up with a ridiculous 27 touches against Jacksonville. He netted 120 yards from scrimmage averaging 4.3 yards per attempt while hauling in three receptions. Gordon could see additional work as a pass catcher with Woodhead out boosting his value even more. The second-year back went from an early-down banger role to a potential three-down workhorse in a San Diego offense already gashed by injuries early in the season. Expect the Chargers to load up Gordon with carries once again in one of the softest matchups he'll see all season.

Derrick Henry vs Raiders: I've been advocating for Derrick Henry for what feels like forever even though we're only about three weeks into the season. Henry impressed in his preseason opportunities but now that the real games started, it's clear that the Titans prefer the veteran Murray early on.

Murray has logged 54 percent of Tennessee's rush attempts compared to Henry's 30 percent share through two games. So for now, Henry is more of a complement to Murray than anything else. Murray has been inefficient thus far with his touches save for a 67-yard run in Week 2 which accounted for about half of his rushing yards for the season, so more playing time could be in the offing for the rookie. But until Henry becomes more than just a complement, his fantasy value will be capped.

That will all change this week when the Titans welcome the Raiders to Nissan Stadium in what will be Henry's breakout game.

Through the first two weeks of the season, the Raiders defense ranks dead last in the NFL in points per game allowed (34.5), total yards per game allowed (517.5), passing yards per game allowed (404) and yards per play allowed (8.02). That's nothing but good news for the Titans key offensive players, including Henry who had his play percentage increase from Week 1 to Week 2. Against the Vikings in Week 1, Henry was on the field for 31 percent of the Titans' snaps. In a closer game against Detroit in Week 2 that number jumped up to 46 percent. Atlanta running back Tevin Coleman produced 13 fantasy points against Oakland last week on a similar amount of playing time.

Henry is currently averaging 8.5 touches per game compared to Murray's 18. But the rookie doesn't need a ton of touches in order to produce. With the Raiders defense reeling, I can see a scenario where Henry breaks off a couple of long runs, makes some kind of incredible play in space on a reception and receives a goal-line carry for a score in Week 3. That adds up to a good fantasy flex play at worst in a week where the matchup simply couldn't get much better for the Titans backfield.

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