This article is part of our Exploiting the Matchups series.
Rather than an intro, here's a short list of some of the stuff I'm most interested in for fantasy football in Week 2. I'll be revisiting all of these topics next week in Backfield Breakdown (Monday) and Target Breakdown (Tuesday), before putting all the info to good use every Thursday here at Start/Sit.
Baker's Dozen: Top Fantasy Stories for Week 2
- Elijah Mitchell, duh. (And maybe Trey Sermon or JaMycal Hasty?)
- James Robinson vs. Carlos Hyde on early down in Jacksonville.
- Miami's WR snaps/alignments with Will Fuller back from suspension.
- Denver pass catchers vs. Jacksonville sans Jerry Jeudy (IR - ankle).
- Jets WR snap/alignments with Jamison Crowder and maybe Keelan Cole (Q) returning.
- Can Kyle Pitts turn Week 1 usage into Week 2 production... at Tampa Bay?
- Marquez Callaway redemption tour? He and TE Adam Trautman did get a lot of W1 snaps.
- Saquon Barkley... Will training wheels come off Thursday night, or not until Week 3?
- Cole Kmet's role vs. the Bengals, after Jimmy Graham barely played last week.
- Bryan Edwards vs. Henry Ruggs for Raiders WR1 in a tough trip to Pittsburgh.
- The latest chapter in RoJo vs. Fournette... there will be drops!
- Chris Carson's backup in Seattle after Rashaad Penny aggravated a calf injury.
- Najee Harris, allowed to come off the field or no? (100% snap share Week 1.)
Unless otherwise noted, references to 'fantasy points' are based on PPR scoring with 25/10 yards per point and 4/6 points for TDs. Start % comes from Yahoo, as of Wednesday night / Thursday morning.
Justin Herbert (vs. DAL)
On paper, Herbert struggled in the season opener, finishing with 14.4 fantasy points, two turnovers and one touchdown. He also won on the road against a top-five defense, and one of the turnovers was a strange play / bad call that ended a red-zone drive and perhaps cost him a second TD. After throwing for 337 yards in Washington, the second-year QB should be good for similar yardage and multiple scores in a home matchup with the shootout-prone Cowboys. As if their roster wasn't already imbalanced enough, the 'Boys may be without starting defensive ends DeMarcus Lawrence (foot) and Randy Gregory (reserve/COVID-19) this Sunday. No pass rush = no bueno.
- Honorable Mentions: Russell Wilson, SEA vs. TEN; Aaron Rodgers, GB vs. DET; Baker Mayfield, CLE vs. HOU; Ben Roethlisberger, PIT vs. LV; Teddy Bridgewater, DEN at JAX; Mac Jones, NE at NYJ
Kareem Hunt (vs. HOU)
Nick Chubb tends to get a little more work in close games, while Hunt usually picks up a couple extra carries or targets if the Browns are up/down big. More important, the Browns figure to make numerous trips to the red zone this Sunday, likely providing scoring chances for both backs. Cleveland has the second-largest implied total (30.25) of Week 2, with bookmakers and fans alike seemingly convinced Week 1 was a fluke for the Texans. It's hard to argue otherwise when you look at their depth chart.
AJ Dillon (vs. DET)
If Dillon is to have standalone value alongside a healthy Aaron Jones, it'll likely be with the help of increased workloads in favorable matchups. The Lions, apart from their late rally, didn't look much better than the no-show Packers in Week 1. And while Dillon played just 28.1 percent of snaps in the opener, he could tick up to 30-40 percent if the Packers actually maintain drives for long enough to get Aaron Jones fatigued. Garbage time didn't even help Dillon help last week, as it was such an ugly blowout the Packers mostly went with third-stringer Kylin Hill in the fourth quarter. If that happens this week, it'll likely be Green Bay on the right side of the scoreboard, perhaps aided by a Dillon touchdown before Q4.
- Honorable Mentions: Chase Edmonds, ARZ vs. MIN; Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams, DEN at JAX; Larry Rountree, LAC vs. DAL
DeVonta Smith (vs. SF)
We don't normally think of the Niners defense as a friendly matchup, especially now that Nick Bosa is back. Unfortunately, he's about the only one, as the Niners lost CB Jason Verrett to an ACL tear tear in Week 1 and now have four additional starters (CB Emmanuel Moseley, LB Dre Greenlaw, DT Javon Kinlaw, DE Arik Armstead) absent from practice to start Week 2.
After lining up outside on 49 of his 58 snaps (84.5 percent) last week, Smith figures to run a lot of his routes against fellow rookie Deommodore Lenoir, with the fifth-round pick being San Francisco's only clear(ish) starter at cornerback for Week 2. The other options are slot specialist K'Waun Williams, third-round rookie Ambry Thomas or one of three veteran retreads who was signed within the past couple weeks (Josh Norman, Dre Kirkpatrick, Dontae Johnson). Smith should eat, coming off 6-87-1 on eight targets and 87 percent snap share in the picture-perfect debut at Atlanta.
Tyler Boyd (vs. CHI)
No matter where you get your fantasy info, Boyd's name is likely to pop up this week. That's because the Bears had someone named Marqui Christian guarding the slot last week, while second-year corners Jaylon Johnson and Kindle Vildor stuck to the outside. This is a good individual matchup for Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, but it's a great one for Boyd, whose shorter routes could represent Cincinnati's solution to the other potential mismatch here (Bengals O-line vs. Bears front seven).
Christian is a 2016 fifth-round pick who has played more career snaps on special teams (1,115) than defense (807), and in Week 1 he surrendered 85 yards and two touchdowns on six targets, helping Cooper Kupp to a 7-108-1 receiving line. Chicago's nickel alternatives for Week 2 consist of a pair of recent sixth-round picks (Duke Shelley, Xavier Crawford), a 2016 first-round bust with four career starts (Artie Burns) or perhaps one of the backup safeties (Deon Bush, Deandre Houston-Carson). None is likely to fare well against Boyd.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling (vs. DET)
One of the underrated surprises from last week was Randall Cobb barely playing for the Packers while Valdes-Scantling logged 84.2 percent of snaps through the first three quarters and even finished with a team-high eight targets. He caught only three passes for 17 yards, but the role/usage hint at better days ahead, likely starting this Monday against a rebuilding Lions team that just got smoked by Deebo Samuel. Look for MVS and Rodgers to connect on a deep ball, after going 0-for-3 on downfield looks in the season opener. (Only Tyreek Hill (3-for-5) and CeeDee Lamb (0-for-4) saw more targets 20-plus yards downfield last week.)
- Honorable Mentions: DK Metcalf & Tyler Lockett, SEA vs. TEN; Allen Robinson, CHI vs. CIN; JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT vs. LV; Jakobi Meyers & Nelson Agholor, NE at NYJ; Russell Gage, ATL at TB; Tim Patrick & KJ Hamler, DEN at JAX; Terrace Marshall, CAR vs. NO
Tyler Higbee (at IND)
Higbee put up 5-68-0 on 100 percent snap share in the season opener, yet somehow his start percentage on Yahoo is actually down a few points from last week. He was used as a blocker on just two of his 28 pass snaps in the romp over Chicago, and he'll now face an overrated Colts defense that may be missing its best player after LB Darius Leonard aggravated a lingering ankle injury in the season opener. This is more about role than matchup, but the latter should also work out just fine for Higbee, my TE6-8 for Week 2 (depending on scoring system and whether or not Dallas Goedert gets a boost from a potential Zach Ertz absence).
- Honorable Mentions: Logan Thomas, WAS vs. NYG; Rob Gronkowski, TB vs. ATL; Robert Tonyan, GB vs. DET; Jared Cook, LAC vs. DAL; Cole Kmet, CHI vs. CIN; David Njoku, CLE vs. HOU
Trevor Lawrence (vs. DEN)
Despite an ugly debut, Lawrence finished 12th among QBs with 22.1 fantasy points, eeking out 332 yards and three touchdowns (plus three INTs) from 51 pass attempts (6.5 YPA). Maybe he can get it done on volume alone — especially if he adds more rushing stats — but a matchup with Denver's talented defense presents too many problems for that approach in Week 2. And while it's far too soon to panic, Lawrence and the Jaguars offense don't appear ready to go toe-to-toe with the big boys just yet. The rookie is more likely to break out in Week 3 (vs. ARZ), Week 4 (at CIN) or Week 5 (vs. TEN).
- Honorable Mentions: Lamar Jackson, BAL vs. KC; Derek Carr, LV at PIT; Carson Wentz, IND vs. LAR; Daniel Jones, NYG at WAS
Mike Davis (at TB)
There actually were some encouraging signs for Davis last week, starting with Wayne Gallman being a healthy scratch. Cordarrelle Patterson picked up nine touches and 33 percent of snaps off the bench, but Davis was plenty busy nonetheless, with 15 carries and six targets on 75 percent snap share. That's the good part; now for the bad...
Davis averaged 4.0 yards per touch and broke only one tackle, contributing to Atlanta's lifeless 32-6 loss. As a reward, he gets a road trip to Tampa, home of the Super Bowl champs and a run defense that was best-in-the-league the past two seasons. After that, it's a trip to the Meadowlands to face Big Blue, followed by a Week 4 home game against Washington. Given the ugly Week 1 and a difficult schedule ahead, it's fair to wonder if new Falcons coach Arthur Smith might start losing patience with Davis or other components of the running game. Of course, Patterson and Gallman are backups for a reason.
Mark Ingram (at CLE)
If you're starting Ingram out of sheer desperation, that's one thing. Just don't expect anything close to a repeat of last week, and don't assume he's a lock for double-digit carries (despite getting 26 last week). Ingram remains low-ceiling, low-floor, filling a game-script-dependent role on a team that doesn't figure to sit on many leads this year. A road trip to Cleveland as a double-digit underdog won't be kind to him.
Brandin Cooks (at CLE)
Cooks may be the only show in town, but a road game against a likely playoff team is a whole different beast from a home matchup with the Jaguars. Put weight on Week 1 at your own risk; Tyreek Hill destroys most cornerbacks, and the Jags make most pass catchers look good. Cooks, of course, is good, but Tyrod Taylor isn't, regardless of what we saw last week. And the Browns have a top cornerback, Denzel Ward, who can run step for step with Houston's top receiver. The talent gap between these two rosters is comical.
Kenny Golladay (at WAS)
Golladay runs into two big problems here, in addition to the lingering concerns about Daniel Jones and Jason Garrett. The first is Washington's fierce pass rush, which is especially problematic for a receiver who largely runs downfield and intermediate routes and plays for a team with a suspect offensive line. Then there's Washington cornerback William Jackson, a pricey offseason addition who was consistently targeted on a small percentage of his cover snaps throughout four seasons in Cincinnati. There is a potential mismatch for Golladay against third-round rookie Benjamin St-Juste, but WFT defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio likely will try to keep the rookie on Darius Slayton and Jackson on Golladay for the most part.
- Honorable Mentions: Terry McLaurin, WAS at NYG; Cooper Kupp, LAR at IND; Laviska Shenault, JAX vs. DEN; Emmanuel Sanders, BUF at MIA; Zach Pascal, IND vs. LAR; Christian Kirk, ARZ vs. MIN; DeVante Parker, MIA vs. BUF; Henry Ruggs, LV at PIT
Hunter Henry (at NYJ)
A visit to the Meadowlands isn't exactly daunting, but it's less advantageous for Henry than most of his teammates, as the Jets at least have S Marcus Maye and LB C.J. Mosley guarding the middle of the field, while their CB group remains a hodgepodge of late-round picks. More important, Henry's Week 1 role was discouraging, as he got just three targets on 23 routes in a game where Mac Jones had 40 dropbacks and 39 pass attempts. The 57.5 percent route share (23 of 40) is especially discouraging, even though fellow Pats tight end Jonnu Smith actually ran one fewer route (but got two more targets).
For Shallow Leagues (40-69 percent rostered)
QB Kirk Cousins (at ARZ)
RB Latavius Murray (at KC)
WR Jakobi Meyers (at NYJ)
WR Jaylen Waddle (vs. BUF)
WR Marquez Callaway (at CAR)
WR Cole Beasley (at MIA)
TE Jared Cook (vs. DAL)
TE Gerald Everett (vs. TEN)
K Jason Myers (vs. TEN)
D/ST Packers (vs. DET)
For Medium-depth Leagues (15-39 percent rostered)
QB Mac Jones (at NYJ)
RB James White (at NYJ)
RB Tony Jones (at CAR)
RB Kenneth Gainwell (vs. SF)
WR Terrace Marshall (vs. NO)
WR Jalen Reagor (vs. SF)
TE Cole Kmet (vs. CIN)
K Chris Boswell (vs. LV)
D/ST Bears (vs. CIN)
For Deep Leagues (under 15 percent rostered)
QB Taylor Heinicke (vs. NYG)
RB Ty Johnson (vs. NE)
RB Larry Rountree vs. DAL
RB/WR Cordarrelle Patterson (at TB)
RB Damien Williams (vs. CIN)
WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling (vs. DET)
WR A.J. Green (vs. MIN)
WR Tim Patrick (at JAX)
WR KJ Hamler (at JAX)
WR Van Jefferson (at IND)
TE Adam Trautman (at CAR)
TE Tyler Conklin (at ARZ)
TE David Njoku (vs. HOU)
TE Dawson Knox (at MIA)
K Chase McLaughlin (vs. HOU)
D/ST Giants (at WAS)