Let’s face it, there’s an enormous amount of information out there on Sunday mornings. We’re not going to waste your time by repeating the news and notes about who’s in or out this week, since that’s really not what you visit us for. We’re also not going to do another article on starts or sits this week – we already have the personalized lineup advice for you on the premium content. Again, there are 100 places you can go for that, so no reason to repeat ourselves or others.
The Sunday Morning Huddle goes through each game and states what we’re looking to see from a dynasty perspective. One player will be picked from each team who has dynasty value tied to the game – players at a pivot point where their value could increase or decrease based on opportunity and performance.
Carolina at Atlanta
While the Panthers opened the season with a win, their offense was a disappointment overall and they’ve lost starting tight end Greg Olsen to a foot injury. This is a huge opportunity for fourth-round rookie tight end Ian Thomas, who is slated to start in Olsen’s place. He was a hot waiver wire add in dynasty leagues this week and could quickly gain even more value if he puts up numbers. The Panthers face division rival Atlanta, who did a good job limiting tight end production a year ago, but also lost multiple defensive starters to injury last week.
The injury bug didn’t limit itself to the Falcons defense, but also their offensive stars. Starting running back Devonta Freeman dinged his knee and will miss multiple weeks. This is the same knee issue that bothered Freeman a year ago. Many dynasty owners will be excited to see Tevin Coleman work as the lead back, a possible preview of the 2019 season when Coleman is expected to be with a new team via free agency. In many ways, we know what Coleman offers already, so I am also anxious to see rookie back Ito Smith in action for the first time. Smith was active in week one but didn’t play a snap. He’s expected to serve as Coleman’s backup in this game and we should get a long look at him, albeit against a strong Panthers run defense.
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LA Chargers at Buffalo
After just one week and another disastrous game from second-year quarterback Nathan Peterman, the Bills have made a change and will start rookie Josh Allen. While many analysts and fantasy players already think they know what Allen is, we’ll get to see for sure. Unfortunately, sending him out with this offensive depth chart won’t truly offer a good look at what he can do.
The Chargers put up some points last week but fell short to the fast-paced Chiefs. The cross-country trip will offer Philip Rivers and company a different type of challenge in this game. Veteran wide receiver Travis Benjamin is iffy to play in the game due to a foot injury which could open the door for an even larger role for second-year receiver Mike Williams, who quietly set or tied his career highs with five receptions for 81 yards last week. His main competition for looks, Tyrell Williams, caught just two passes for eight yards and dropped a sure long touchdown from Rivers.
Minnesota at Green Bay
The Packers had an eventful opener, going from fearing they’d lost quarterback Aaron Rodgers for the season to Rodgers returning in the second half and leading a miraculous comeback against the Bears. There is still some doubt about Rodgers’ status for this game, so we could see backup DeShone Kizer, who was a terrible “real” quarterback last season, but a surprisingly good fantasy option.
The Vikings obviously have many fantasy relevant players in their lineup, but the one I’ll be focused on in this game is tight end Kyle Rudolph. When former Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins joined the Vikings, there was a lot of discussion about how he was partial to tight ends during his time in Washington and how that could translate to Minnesota and Rudolph. Perhaps though, that was more a case of Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis being Cousins’ most talented pass-catchers at that time. Rudolph saw just two targets and caught only one, though it did go for a touchdown.
Cleveland at New Orleans
Well, this game just got a lot more interesting. Saturday afternoon, Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon was surprisingly ruled out with a hamstring injury and a later report was even more shocking. The Browns plan to release their star wideout on Monday, though it now seems they could trade him before they cut him outright. Heck, they may have traded him before you even read this. Regardless, this impending move will lead to a larger role for talented rookie receiver Antonio Callaway, who has had his own share of off-field trouble. Although Callaway was announced as a starter in week one, he played just 15 snaps and only saw one target. This should lead to a usage increase for Callaway, as well as young tight end David Njoku.
Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas set a new team record with 16 receptions in week one, yet the story on offense still revolved around running back Alvin Kamara. We knew the second-year back was in for a big workload with veteran Mark Ingram suspended for the first four games of the season, but he still only touched the ball 17 times. For reference, last week’s RB2, James Conner, needed 36 touches to get his 29.2 PPR points. We expect another huge game from Kamara against the Browns and then he torches, I mean faces, the Falcons and Giants before Ingram’s return. At just 23 years old and a focal point of one of the league’s top offenses, it might be time to put Kamara in the discussion as the dynasty RB1.
Miami at NY Jets
The Jets season got off to a great start as they dominated the Lions on Monday night. They were, of course, led by rookie quarterback Sam Darnold. After throwing a pick-six on his first career pass attempt, Darnold rebounded to pass for just shy of 200 yards, along with a pair of scores. This was enough to drive the buzz in dynasty leagues and increase Darnold’s value, but the reality is those numbers were good enough for just a QB18 finish on the week. I want to see if Darnold can not only continue to look like a poised, mature veteran, but also put up big numbers while doing so.
Barring a last-minute setback, it appears that Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker will make his season debut after missing last week with a finger injury. After years of being hyped as a potential fantasy star, Parker has continued to disappoint and even though he now has a big opportunity, thanks to the departure of target hog Jarvis Landry, Parker’s dynasty value has taken a hit this off-season. The Jets defense was tough against the pass last week, picking off Matthew Stafford four times, but the wideouts still got theirs, so there is a window for Parker to produce right away. If he doesn’t dynasty owners might be ready to wave the white flag.
Kansas City at Pittsburgh
Make no mistake, all eyes will continue to be glued to Steelers second-year running back James Conner, who leads the league in rushing after one week. There are still no signs of superstar Le’Veon Bell returning to the team and Conner is gaining value by the day as a result. In what could be a shootout, Conner should again have an opportunity to put up big numbers and dynasty owners won’t be able to deny him much longer.
The Chiefs have their own mega-producer in wide receiver Tyreek Hill, but I’m more interested in Sammy Watkins. After the off-season move from the Rams to the Chiefs, who gave him a three-year, $48 million deal, there were expectations for a potential big role. He saw the third-most targets in week one, behind Hill and tight end Travis Kelce. This should probably be the expectation moving forward until Watkins proves it wrong.
Philadelphia at Tampa Bay
In the opener, the Eagles gave a surprisingly heavy workload to veteran back Darren Sproles, especially in the first-half. Sproles played the exact number of snaps as supposed workhorse back Jay Ajayi and was the only Eagles running back to see a target. Sproles will miss this game against the Bucs and the key beneficiary should be Corey Clement, who only got five carries a week ago, but turned them into a solid 26 yards. As a rookie, Clement saw double-digit carries in three games and scored six touchdowns on the season.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were one of the major surprises of week one, defeating the Saints in New Orleans. As quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick set a new career-high with 417 passing yards, all of his receivers benefitted. Veteran DeSean Jackson had a big day, but also suffered a should injury and a concussion. It does appear he will play, but it is also fair to expect young wideout Chris Godwin’s role to continue to grow. Godwin caught three passes for 41 yards and a score last week and this could be another high-scoring game.
Houston at Tennessee
Don’t blink, things sure change quickly in the NFL. The Titans were being touted all off-season as a team set to turn things around and compete in 2018. While there is obviously a lot of time left, their season didn’t get off to a good start with injuries and all-around poor play, mostly from quarterback Marcus Mariota. The quarterback has been dealing with an elbow injury and judging by the words of Titans head coach Mike Vrabel, it almost sounds as if there is a quarterback controversy as he suggested both Mariota and backup Blaine Gabbert would see playing time this week. Mariota needs to get and stay healthy and he really needs a statement game. Facing the Texans strong defense is not the easiest time for those things to happen.
This might seem crazy, but I’m starting to think that wide receiver Will Fuller is the key to the Texans success this season. That obviously doesn’t mean he is more important than Deshaun Watson or DeAndre Hopkins, but Fuller is the deep threat that kept teams honest for a short span last season and their offense looked way off in week one, when he was out with a bum hamstring. Head coach Bill O’Brien has said he is confident Fuller will be in the lineup in week two and hopefully he picks up where he left off with Watson a year ago.
Indianapolis at Washington
In week one, rookie running back Nyheim Hines was used as the primary pass-catching back and his nine targets were tied for fourth most among all backs in the league. With presumed starter Marlon Mack likely to return to the lineup, I am interested to see if Hines can keep up this volume of snaps and touches. If so, he’s being greatly undervalued in fantasy leagues. The Redskins allowed nine receptions to backs last week, which was tied for fifth-most in the league.
We know Jordan Reed and Chris Thompson are talented pass-catchers, but to have any type of success, the Redskins are going to have to get their wideouts involved. In week one, the trio of Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson accounted for a combined eight receptions for 65 yards. One of these three must become a reliable target for quarterback Alex Smith and my money is on Crowder.
Arizona at LA Rams
The Cardinals season got off to a rocky start, getting waxed by the Redskins at home. There are concerns at quarterback and many, including myself, calling for a change to rookie Josh Rosen. There is also reason to be worried about David Johnson’s limited usage in the passing game. One player I’m not concerned with yet is tight end Ricky Seals-Jones. RSJ saw six targets in week one, the same number as Travis Kelce and Trey Burton. This means he is likely to see the volume needed to reach TE1 range. Last week, the Rams gave up the most fantasy points, receptions, yardage and pretty much everything else thanks to a huge game from Raiders veteran Jared Cook.
Over the past three seasons, new Rams receiver Brandin Cooks has never seen fewer than 114 targets, but everyone knows it will be difficult to reach that level in the balanced Los Angeles offense. In week one, Cooks led the team with 87 yards on five grabs but saw fewer targets than both Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. We can expect this level of balance moving forward, along with Cooks sprinkling in some splash games when he connects for a deep score.
Detroit at San Francisco
There’s no doubt, this game will be all about Kenny Golladay. Last week, Kenny G showed he’s no longer playing third fiddle behind veterans Golden Tate and Marvin Jones. Golladay led Lions receivers with 52 routes run, which was actually second most in the league among wideouts, per Pro Football Focus. Golladay also led the team in snaps with 65, compared to 62 for Jones and 57 for Tate. The Lions obviously want this guy on the field and we can’t blame them. His seven receptions and 114 yards were easily new career-high marks. I conducted a Twitter poll during the week and the results showed that Golladay was the overwhelming choice among dynasty players when asked which Lions receiver they preferred.
Which Lions WR do you want on your dynasty roster?
— Ryan McDowell (@RyanMc23) September 12, 2018
The 49ers will be playing without receiver Marquise Goodwin, who left the game last week with a quad injury. He was replaced by rookie Dante Pettis, who scored his first career touchdown among his two receptions for 61 yards. Expect even more from Pettis in a full-time role against the Lions banged up secondary.
Oakland at Denver
After last week’s disappointing debut in which Raiders receiver Amari Cooper had just three targets and one reception, head coach Jon Gruden suggested the team had to get him more involved, but that would be “easier said than done.” This sounds like a strong criticism of Cooper and the entire team, including quarterback Derek Carr, has me worried. Facing off against the Broncos secondary in Denver is no way to turn things around. I’m staying away from Cooper this week but hoping he can show last week was a fluke.
One of the big surprises on week one was the Broncos usage of undrafted rookie running back Phillip Lindsay, who matched fellow rookie Royce Freeman’s rushing numbers while adding two receptions for 29 yards and a touchdown. He has clearly overtaken Devontae Booker as the pass-catching back and seemingly could challenge Freeman for carries.
New England at Jacksonville
After missing week one with a knee injury, Patriots rookie running back Sony Michel is expected to make his NFL debut against the tough Jaguars defense. While Michel will almost certainly play behind veterans James White and Rex Burkhead, I do still project Michel to have a major role for the Pats this year and hope to get a glimpse of that in this matchup.
With running back Leonard Fournette expected to miss the game with a hamstring injury, the Jaguars will roll with a combination of T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant. Both of these players are explosive and will get a major opportunity to increase their dynasty value. Both backs will also be free agents following the season and are players to target with the expectation that a strong landing spot could increase their respective value.
NY Giants at Dallas
In his debut last week, Cowboys rookie receiver Michael Gallup drew just one target despite playing over 45% of the snaps, which was fourth-most among Dallas wide receivers. The offense overall struggled to produce points or sustain drives. Perhaps against division rival New York in an island game, we’ll see more of the rookie.
The Giants offense is really always going to be about rookie back Saquon Barkley and superstar wideout Odell Beckham, but I will be watching to see if tight end Evan Engram continues to be the odd man out, as he was a week ago. Engram was targeted five times in the game, catching two balls for 18 yards. The team is already saying they want Barkley, who had six targets, to see more work in the passing game, so there seems to be little room for Engram’s role to grow, barring an injury. If this trend continues, this could create a buy-low window in dynasty leagues.
Seattle at Chicago
We don’t have much of a sample of Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett serving as the top wideout on his team. In fact, we have none. This week’s Monday Night Football tilt will be the first game of Lockett’s career that he has played a game without teammate Doug Baldwin in the lineup. Lockett finished last week with three receptions for 59 yards, with Baldwin exiting early with a knee injury.
All off-season, new Bears head coach Matt Nagy suggested running back Jordan Howard would be more involved in the passing game. It was difficult to know if this was simply coach speak or if the rookie coach would be true to his word. In Week One, Howard caught five receptions, which tied for the team lead. He also saw more targets than pass-catching specialist Tarik Cohen. This has to be a major concern for Cohen dynasty owners who were excited to end the John Fox era in Chicago. The Seahawks also gave up the fourth-fewest receptions to running backs last season, which could make it tough to get either of Howard or Cohen involved.
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