By Matt Citak
Week 1 of the 2017 NFL season brought us some big surprises. Rookie running back Kareem Hunt put together the highest-scoring fantasy football debut in history, while fantasy stalwarts such as Le’Veon Bell and Rob Gronkowski started the season with poor performances. NFL’s opening weekend also saw consensus no. 1 pick David Johnson dislocate his wrist, an injury that will force him to miss most (if not all) of the fantasy season, while wide receiver Allen Robinson tore his ACL and will definitely be on the sidelines for the remainder of 2017. But as they say, the show must go on.
Here are Week 2’s Fantasy Football Starts and Sits.
QB: Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
There’s a very good chance that you will see whichever quarterback gets to face the New York Jets each week in the “Start” section of this piece throughout the season. Carr is the lucky one in Week 2, as he faces the Jets secondary that allowed Tyrod Taylor to throw for 224 yards and two touchdowns and an interception last weekend, with the interception coming off a deflection that easily could have been a third score. The Raiders quarterback opened up the season on a good note, completing 68.8 percent of his passes for 262 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions against the Titans. The Jets defense is not as good as Tennessee’s and Carr is a better QB than Taylor. Look for a big game from the fourth-year quarterback.
QB: Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers
Last week I had Rivers in the “Sit” section due to his matchup against the Broncos. How did he respond? By completing 66.7 percent of his passes for 192 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. Against the Broncos and their elite secondary in Denver, that is downright impressive. This week, Rivers gets a much easier matchup as the Chargers welcome the Dolphins to their temporary home in Carson, California. While the StubHub Center has a capacity of only 27,000, thus limiting the home field advantage the Chargers would normally receive, throwing on the Dolphins’ secondary should be a walk in the park for Rivers after facing the Broncos last week.
QB: Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
Palmer was not good in the season opener, throwing for 268 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions against the Lions and their weak secondary. Arizona also just lost David Johnson for a significant chunk of the season, putting even more pressure on the veteran quarterback to perform well. While last week’s performance was a disappointment, a repeat outing seems unlikely. The Cardinals are traveling to Indianapolis to take on the Colts, who allowed Jared Goff to score 18 fantasy points last week. With Colts cornerback Vontae Davis still sidelined with a groin injury, Palmer should be able to easily pick apart the Detroit defense.
RB: Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins
Ajayi seems to be the forgotten man among the league’s top running backs due to Miami’s Week 1 bye because of Hurricane Irma. In his first season as the Dolphins’ starting running back, Ajayi looked very impressive, rushing for 1,272 yards on 260 carries (4.9 yards per carry) and eight touchdowns. And he did most of that from Week 5 on, as Arian Foster was the team’s starting running back to start the season. This week, Ajayi goes up against a Chargers defense that allowed C.J. Anderson to rush for 81 yards on 20 carries Monday night. Los Angeles surrendered 20 rushing touchdowns in 2016, and with the Dolphins likely looking to keep Rivers off the field as much as possible, Ajayi will probably receive a full workload on Sunday. Don’t overthink this one: start Ajayi.
RB: Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
McCaffrey found himself on this list last week, but did not perform as well as I thought he would. He averaged 3.6 yards on 13 carries, finishing with 47 yards along with five receptions for 38 yards and one fumble. Jonathan Stewart led the way for the Panthers with 18 carries for 65 yards, and it looks as if Stewart has cemented himself a role in the Carolina offense. Still, there should be plenty of opportunities to go around this week as the Panthers face off against the Bills. Buffalo allowed Bilal Powell and Matt Forte to catch a combined eight receptions last week, and should have their hands full trying to stop McCaffrey and Stewart on Sunday. The rookie should be heavily involved in the passing game, and could be in for a big bounce back game.
RB: Mike Gillislee, New England Patriots
After hearing all throughout training camp and preseason that it will be tough to trust any New England running back this season due to the presence of so many talented ones on the roster, it was quite clear last Thursday that Mike Gillislee is the Patriots back to own in fantasy. Gillislee led the team with 15 carries for 45 yards and three touchdowns. But more importantly, the 5-foot-11, 220-pound back received all four carries on New England plays inside the Chiefs’ three-yard line. It seems clear that Bill Belichick is going to use Gillislee the same way he used LeGarette Blount last season, a role that led to Blount leading the NFL with 18 touchdowns. With Sunday’s matchup against the Saints likely resulting in a shootout, Gillislee should have several opportunities to punch it in to the end zone.
WR: Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
Similar to Palmer, the Cardinals are going to need Fitzgerald to step up and replace some of the production lost with the injury to David Johnson. The veteran receiver played well in the opener, catching six passes for 74 yards. But Palmer targeted Fitzgerald 13 times that game, so clearly there was room for improvement from both the quarterback and the receiver. Going up against the Indianapolis defense without Vontae Davis is just what the doctor ordered for Arizona. Sammy Watkins caught five receptions for 58 yards last week against the Colts, while Cooper Kupp realed in four receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown. The never-aging Fitzgerald looks primed for a breakout game.
WR: Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers
There’s no doubt Cobb struggled last season, finishing the year with 60 receptions for 610 yards and four touchdowns. With Jordy Nelson and the emergence of Devante Adams, Cobb figured to be the afterthought of the Packers wide receiver corps this season. But in Week 1, the veteran receiver had a very strong game against one of the league’s best secondaries. Cobb had nine receptions on 13 targets for 85 yards against the Seahawks last week, leading Green Bay in each of the three categories. A lot of that has to do with Aaron Rodgers avoiding Richard Sherman’s side of the field, but nonetheless, it was a great performance by Cobb. This week, Green Bay takes on Atlanta in what should be a high-scoring affair on Sunday Night Football. Especially in PPR leagues, Cobb could be a reception machine this week.
WR: Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams
I was high on Kupp before the season started due to the rave reviews he received from everyone at Rams training camp. Well, Kupp made me look smart last week when he caught four receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut. With Sammy Watkins likely being shadowed by Josh Norman, who limited Alshon Jeffrey to just 16 yards on five targets, Kupp should match up against Kendall Fuller in the slot. Last season, Washington surrendered the fifth-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers out of the slot. Now I wouldn’t go as far as to say you should be starting Kupp over receivers like Jamison Crowder or Jeremy Maclin. However if you are looking for a sleeper WR this week in deeper leagues, don’t hesitate from rolling the dice with Kupp.
TE: Charles Clay, Buffalo Bills
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Clay was the best receiving option for the Bills in Week 1 against the Jets. The tight end finished the day with four catches for 53 yards and a touchdown on nine targets. Over the last five regular season games, Clay has been the third-best tight end in fantasy. He has caught five touchdowns in his last four games with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback, and it was obvious last week that Taylor felt most comfortable throwing him the ball. Keep in mind, the starting receivers in Buffalo right now are a rookie (Zay Jones) and a guy who was traded to the team only last month (Jordan Matthews). On Sunday the Bills get the Panthers, who allowed the second-most touchdowns to tight ends last year. Clay should finish in the top 10 among tight ends this week.
TE: Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans
The only quarterback that looked more at ease targeting his tight end than Tyrod Taylor last week was Marcus Mariota. Mariota targeted Delanie Walker nine times, connecting with him on seven passes for 76 yards. Walker has finished as a top-five tight end in each of the last two seasons, and despite turning 33 last month, looks as fresh as ever. The Titans take on the Jaguars and their revamped defense on Sunday, led by corners A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey. Mariota might have some trouble completing passes to his wide receivers, thus making Walker the logical choice to lead the Titans in targets.
QB: Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
I was wrong about Stafford last week, as he threw four touchdowns against the Cardinals defense. Well this week, I am doubling down. It’s nothing against Stafford, who I like this season. But in Week 2, the Lions will be traveling to MetLife Stadium to take on the New York Giants on Monday Night Football. The Giants are coming off an embarrassing, blowout loss on national television. The blame for last week’s performance is on the offense, but the Giants defense is still going to want to come out and make a point about their unit. With the entire country watching, I believe New York’s defense puts together a very strong game and keeps Stafford out of the end zone. But then again, I could not have been more wrong last week…
QB: Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
Prescott was another quarterback on my “Sit” list last week, but unlike with Stafford, that was the right call. Going up against the Giants defense, Prescott threw for 268 yards and a touchdown, adding three rushes for 24 yards. This was far from a poor performance, but at the same time, those numbers aren’t going to wow anybody. This week the Cowboys face off against an even stronger defense in the Denver Broncos. The Denver secondary allowed Philip Rivers to throw three touchdowns on them last week, and are surely eager to get back on the field and make up for that. Between Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib, Denver has two of the league’s top three corners from last season. Unless he can manage a good amount of points on the ground, Prescott is better suited for your bench this week.
RB: Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland Browns
After all the talk throughout the offseason of Cleveland’s strong offensive line and desire to run the ball as much as possible, Crowell came out and put up a complete dud in Week 1. The Cleveland running back carried the ball 17 times for only 33 yards, averaging 1.9 yards per carry. He was able to keep his performance from being a complete disaster by catching two passes for 33 yards and adding a two-point conversion, but still, Crowell did not look good. This week will be even harder for the 24-year-old back. Including the preseason and Week 1, the Ravens’ first-team defense has not allowed a rushing touchdown in 13 quarters. Baltimore also allowed the sixth-fewest rushing fantasy points per game to opposing running backs in 2016. I still like him for the season, but if you have a decent backup, I’d strongly consider planting Crowell on your bench this week.
RB: Ameer Abdullah, Detroit Lions
Abdullah is possibly the only running back that looked as bad as Crowell last week (if not worse). The Detroit running back carried the rock 15 times for 30 yards, and was only able to add 11 receiving yards on three receptions. While the production was certainly not there, it was nice to see the high-usage for Abdullah. However just like Stafford, he has the misfortune of having to face the Giants defense in Week 2. Ezekiel Elliott did average 4.3 yards per carry on 24 carries against them last week, but let’s be real, Detroit’s offensive line is no where near as talented as Dallas’. Abdullah managed a total of zero yards on four red zone carries last week, and that doesn’t seem to improve this week against New York.
RB: Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts
With Andrew Luck still on the sidelines with a shoulder injury, it’s hard to trust anyone on the Colts. Scott Tolzien looked horrible, and while Jacoby Brissett looked better, he only joined the team a little over a week ago. Regardless of which quarterback is under center on Sunday, it means bad news for Gore. The veteran back had 10 rushing attempts for 42 yards against the Rams in Week 1, but was not on the field for Indianapolis’ lone goal-line carry. Instead, rookie Marlon Mack got the carry and scored the touchdown. The Colts will welcome the Cardinals to Indianapolis on Sunday, which means both Gore and Mack are likely in for rough days. Arizona has given up the fewest rushing yards per carry to opposing running backs since the beginning of last season (3.2). Keep Gore on your bench this week.
WR: Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys
On a pure talent level, Bryant is one of the best in the league. But last week against the talented Giants secondary, Bryant managed just two catches on nine targets for 43 yards. Now Giants CB Janoris Jenkins is one of the best shutdown corners in the NFL. But two of the only players that likely beat Jenkins out on that list are part of Denver’s “No-Fly Zone,” who Bryant will go up against come Sunday. The Broncos defense allowed the fewest receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns last season. Start Bryant at your own risk this week.
WR: DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins
I still love Parker for the season, and see him as one of the position’s biggest breakout stars. But that is not going to start this week. The Dolphins, after having their Week 1 matchup against the Buccaneers postponed, will open their season in Los Angeles against the Chargers. This is not good for the Dolphins receivers. Los Angeles’ secondary features one of the best cornerback duos in the league in Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett. If you don’t believe me, look at what the two did to Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders on Monday. They limited two of the league’s better receivers to just eight catches for 93 yards and no touchdowns on 14 targets. Cutler is not the type of quarterback who is scared to sling the ball downfield, regardless of who’s in the secondary. But with Hayward and Verrett back there, I’d lower my expectations for Parker this week.
WR: Sammy Watkins, Los Angeles Chargers
Considering Watkins was traded to the Rams a little over a month ago, his Week 1 performance of five catches for 58 yards on five targets was not as bad as it may look on paper. Watkins did not get the whole offseason to learn the playbook and mesh with his quarterback, unlike almost every other wide receiver around the league. So while last week does provide some optimism for Watkins’ season outlook, the 24-year-old is likely in for a tough day on Sunday going up against the Redskins. As previously mentioned, Watkins will be covered by Josh Norman, who shut down Alshon Jeffrey in Week 1. Don’t expect Watkins to put up big numbers in his debut in Los Angeles.
TE: Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts
Doyle was considered one of this season’s biggest sleeper picks at tight end due to the obvious chemistry last season between him and Andrew Luck. However Luck will not be the quarterback under center for the Colts this Sunday, and whether its Tolzien or Brissett, it’s best to stay away from Doyle for the time being. Last week, the 27-year-old tight end caught two of three targets for 41 yards. This week he faces Arizona, who held Eric Ebron to just two catches for nine yards last week and are coming off a season in which they surrendered the fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends. Just like everyone else on the Colts (except for TY Hilton), it’s best to keep Doyle on your bench until Luck returns.
Matt Citak is a producer for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter or send comments to email@example.com.