The FedEx Air & Ground fantasy preview is back!
In case it slipped your mind, NFL football fans have the opportunity to vote on top performers at the running back and quarterback position following every week of football action.
The candidates at quarterback last week were Alex Smith, Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan. At running back, Kareem Hunt, LeSean McCoy and Leonard Fournette were all featured. You can vote for your Week 1 winners here.
Now, without further ado, let's dive into some players who could have huge games in Week 2, both through the air and on the ground.
If you haven't checked out James Koh's piece on how the Lions' rookie receiver Kenny Golladay unlocks a new dimension to Detriot's passing game, you need to. Koh mentions there that the threat of Golladay on the outside, something the Lions lacked last season, opens up the opportunity for Golden Tate to his natural slot role, where he thrived in Week 1. This also is a positive sign for Matthew Stafford's fantasy outlook and the overall outlook for the Lions pass attack this season.
In Week 1, Stafford attacked the Cardinals defense with success on the outside. Stafford's NextGenStats passer rating chart versus league average illustrates his prosperity on deep passes on either side of the hashmarks:
For as good as the Giants defense is, they still let Dak Prescott complete 24 of his 39 pass attempts for 268 yards and a touchdown in Week 1. One could argue that Stafford has a better arsenal of weapons than Prescott to target in the aforementioned Golladay, Tate, Marvin Jones, Eric Ebron and Theo Riddick. If Stafford was able to pick apart a secondary as talented as the Cardinals, who's to say he can't repeat against New York on Monday night? I like him as a top-10 option at quarterback this week.
In Week 1 against the Redskins, Carson Wentz had some promising results that could indicate he is truly going to make a statistical leap in Year 2. He completed 29 passes for 307 yards with two touchdowns and one pick. As a young quarterback, he's still susceptible to making mistakes, but those should be mitigated as he rounds into form.
The added weapons around him help. Outside receiver Alshon Jeffery wasn't much of a factor last week with just three receptions for 38 yards, and Wentz was still able to produce. Thanks to the contributions of tight end Zach Ertz, who hauled in all eight of his targets for 93 yards and the unexpected big game from slot receiver Nelson Agholor who posted a 6-86-1 line. Torrey Smith only had one catch, but it was a 30-yarder. Running back Darren Sproles contributed 43 yards as a receiver out of the backfield too. The point is, Wentz has more options than he did last year.
Wentz took advantage of them, especially downfield. In fact, he averaged 12.2 intended air yards on his throws in Week 1 versus his 8.5 average from the 2016 season. Matchup-wise, the Chiefs will be without safety Eric Berry who was lost for the season to a torn ACL. If nothing else, Berry's absence doesn't hurt Wentz's outlook for Week 2. If the Eagles signal caller continues to open things up downfield, which there's no reason not to given his surrounding talent, he could be in for another big game after finishing as fantasy's QB5 in the season opener.
I know what you're thinking. Mark Ingram only had six carries for 17 yards in Week 1 and split the workload with two other running backs against the Vikings. Yes, that did happen. But we also got some indicators in this game as to what we might expect from Adrian Peterson this year. And it wasn't pretty. As Matt Harmon pointed out in his NextGenStats recap of the game, Peterson has been relegated to a low-volume type of role player out of New Orleans' backfield. The Saints were trailing for nearly the entire game, and Peterson saw the fewest snaps, nine to be exact, of the team's running backs. He only had one carry in the second quarter and didn't see a touch in the final frame. Based on Ingram's success as a pass-catcher given his two straight seasons with 45-plus receptions, he's the favorite to stay on the field in negative game scripts, and at the least split snaps with rookie Alvin Kamara, who actually saw three more snaps as the Saints attempted a failed comeback.
In what should be a high-scoring game against the Patriots as it features two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, Ingram should be on the field as a runner on early downs and as a receiver if the Saints fall behind. Did I mention the Patriots were absolutely gashed by rookie back Kareem Hunt last week for 246 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns? Even Hunt's backup, Charcandrick West, did work against the Pats on his ONE carry for 21 yards and a score. This is a trend that has carried over from last season, as New England gave up the second-most receiving yards (808) to running backs in 2016. Everything is lining up for a big game from Ingram so find room to plug him into your lineup.
I know what you're thinking. Carlos Hyde had just nine carries for 45 yards last week against the Panthers. You're probably also thinking that this is the same intro I used for the Mark Ingram section above, and you're right. Ignore that.
What flew under the radar for the 49ers offense last week is the fact that Hyde tied Pierre Garcon for the team lead with six receptions in Week 1. He only had 32 receiving yards, but even in a game that got out of hand rather quickly for the 49ers, Hyde was still on the field for 78 percent of San Francisco's offensive snaps. Three of his first four carries of the game went for eight, 12 and 18 yards before they seemingly gave up running the ball. Starting in the second quarter, six of Hyde's last eight touches of the game were receptions.
But the matchup against the Seahawks is terrible, right? Well, Seattle let Ty Montgomery into the end zone last week on his way to a 93-yard day including 39 receiving yards on his four receptions. So if Hyde stays on the field even if the 49ers fall behind, which he should, there's a good chance he racks up some yardage through the air late. Is he going to be a candidate for Ground player of the week on the road in Seattle? Probably not. But if you're thinking about benching him because of the tough matchup, all I'm saying is that you might want to consider otherwise because of his role as a pass-catcher out of the backfield.
A fantasy preview you can count on. Just like FedEx Ground -- fast and affordable shipping you can count on.