Welcome to FedEx Air and Ground fantasy analysis. Each week, we'll highlight some quarterback/wide receiver stacks and a few running backs that could prove valuable for fantasy owners based on matchups, projected game flow, and most essentially, talent. With Week 1 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 Week 2. These combos might just win your week.
To think that kind of historical game is in the cards again might be an exaggeration, but it's still a great matchup for Manning, Brees and each of their respective receiving corps.
You can safely start both quarterbacks in what should be another shootout-type of affair in the Superdome. Brees, who threw for 423 yards last week, most in the NFL, added four touchdown passes: Two to Willie Snead, one to Brandin Cooks and one to Travaris Cadet. Fantasy owners can safely fire up both Cooks and Snead in this one, but it's not likely both go off for 140-plus yards in two consecutive weeks. Brees also has rookie Michael Thomas and tight end Coby Fleener to deposit passes to. With all of the weaponry surrounding him, Brees is a top-three quarterback play in fantasy this week.
For New York, the return of Victor Cruz makes Manning a much more interesting option in fantasy than he would be without the veteran salsa-dancer. The duo hooked up for a touchdown last week for the first time since Week 3 of the 2014 season. Manning also connected with rookie Sterling Shepard for his first career end zone catch. Burying the lede here, Odell Beckham Jr. is a must-start against the worst pass defense (yes, still) in the NFL. New Orleans is coming off a game in which they allowed Oakland to put up 35 points and 486 yards of offense.
In a heated division rivalry game, both Cincy and Pittsburgh enter this contest with a 1-0 record to start the season.
In Week 1, each team took advantage of their top playmakers. Andy Dalton only had eyes for A.J. Green, littering his star wideout with 13 targets that went for 12 receptions, 180 yards and a score. On the opposing side, Ben Roethlisberger hooked up with Antonio Brown on eight of 11 targets that went for 126 yards and two touchdowns.
Both stacks: Dalton/Green and Roethlisberger/Brown are worth considering this week in fantasy. With a lack of other options in the passing game, it's likely that Green leads the Bengals in targets once again. Obviously, Pittsburgh will try to mitigate the damage he inflicts in the box score, but they don't boast a great secondary. Brown is a virtual lock for at least 100 yards, and that's probably his floor. Again, the Bengals will try to shut down the Ben-to-Brown connection but opposing teams have had a tough time doing so: In his last 16 games with Roethlisberger starting, Brown has collected 151 receptions for 2,048 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Arizona was one of the highest-scoring offenses in the NFL last season and that trend should continue in 2016. Tampa Bay has the potential to be in that conversation as well. That's why this matchup is an interesting one to target for quarterback/wideout stacks in fantasy.
For Arizona, Larry Fitzgerald dominated last week against New England, but there is much more to love about the Cardinals' passing game than just Fitz. The advantage that Carson Palmer has over other fantasy quarterbacks is extreme depth in terms of his pass-catching corps. Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd (a buy-low candidate), John Brown, David Johnson, Andre EllingtonJermaine Gresham, Jaron Brown and J.J. Nelson make up a talented array of targets. All of the aforementioned players got looks in Week 1, and they provide Palmer with myriad options on any given play, increasing his opportunities for big yardage and touchdown totals. The veteran signal-caller usually peppers his top three wideouts with most of the targets, so those are the guys fantasy owners should be looking at to eat against Tampa Bay. More specifically, look for Floyd to rebound after a disappointing Week 1 and start him with confidence.
Last week in this space I suggested stacking Jameis Winston with Mike Evans against Atlanta. Winston went off for four touchdown passes following a rough first quarter, with all four of his touchdowns distributed to different players. Evans led the Bucs with 99 yards receiving and a score. The matchup is a bit tougher for this duo going up against an Arizona defense that boasts superstars like Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu lurking in the secondary. Still, 12 of Evans' 16 career touchdown receptions have come on the road and it seems he and Winston have built some strong chemistry in the preseason, especially on deep balls, that has carried over into regular season play. While Winston might be a questionable start this week against Arizona's defense, Evans should get the nod in fantasy leagues across the board.
In his NFL debut, Ezekiel Elliott found it to be tough sledding against a revamped and dominant New York Giants defensive front. He averaged just 2.55 yards per carry on his 20 rush attempts but did manage to sniff out the end zone in the second half, saving his fantasy day from being a total disaster.
After re-watching his runs, it looked like Zeke was anxious to break off a big one, sometimes rushing to hit holes that weren't necessarily there. When Dallas put veteran Alfred Morris in, he displayed why patience is key for a running back, waiting for lanes to develop and averaging 5.0 ypc on his seven rush attempts.
This week, Zeke will face off against a Washington line that just got absolutely shredded by DeAngelo Williams for 143 rush yards on Monday night. The Cowboys' offensive line will create opportunities for Elliott and after studying his mistakes, he should improve his efficiency. Dallas would also be wise to get their rookie back more involved as a pass-catcher in Week 2. Zeke had just two targets in Week 1, but much of his value comes in his ability to make defenders miss in space. Expect Elliott to get a high volume of carries early on as Dallas attempts to establish the run. In Week 1, 10 of Zeke's 20 carries came in the first quarter, and he totaled just five rush attempts in the second half.
We'll chalk up Zeke's debut to rookie struggles. Fantasy owners can expect a much bigger game this week in Washington against a less-than-formidable defensive line.
It's evident that the Texans are going to use Lamar Miller as the lynchpin of their offense this year. In his debut with Houston, he logged 32 touches and over 100 yards from scrimmage. While he failed to reach the end zone, that's the kind of volume fantasy owners can only dream of. It should continue this week against Kansas City.
Kansas City's defense used to be a horrible matchup for fantasy running backs. But the unit is without ILB Josh Mauga for the entire season (hip), linebacker Justin Houston (knee) is out until at least until November, and Tamba Hali (knee) played limited snaps in a backer rotation with Dee Ford and Frank Zombo. This weakness was apparent when San Diego's running backs combined for 177 total yards and three touchdowns against the Chiefs in Week 1.
Danny Woodhead, who is known more for his pass-catching prowess than his rushing ability, ate up big chunks of field with 80 rush yards on 14 attempts from the shotgun and added a receiving touchdown. Melvin Gordon scored twice in short-yardage situations early. All signs point to Miller, who is a do-everything, three-down and goal-line back, getting all of the opportunities to himself against the Chiefs. And with the downfield threat of DeAndre Hopkins and rookie Will Fuller helping to keep defenses honest, Miller should have ample room to run once again. Lock him into your RB1 slot for Week 2.
In the first game of the 2016 season, C.J. Anderson lit up Carolina's defense with 139 total yards and two scores on 24 touches. It's clear that Denver is going to load up Anderson's workload this year in Gary Kubiak's run-first scheme, especially with such a green signal-caller under center.
Anderson's matchup in Week 2 against the Colts could not be better. Indianapolis allowed 229 total yards and four total touchdowns to Detroit's running back committee in Week 1. That translated to 46.9 fantasy points between three running backs. Anderson's not a one-trick pony either as he logged 47 yards and a receiving score on four receptions against the Panthers. Fire up Anderson as an RB1 as he looks to take advantage of the holes in Indy's defense for one of the best running back matchups of the week.
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