We have twice as many weeks in the books as we did at this time last week and the “Trending and Noteworthy” items are starting to take form. We have some defenses that you can comfortably stack against as well as some matchups you may want to avoid. There are position battles and committee situations that are starting to establish patterns and we are starting to see sample sizes that are at least suggestive of what we should expect going forward. The waiver wire had less of an impact on this week’s article, while I felt more compelled to cool concerns about some early season disappointments.
It is difficult after only two weeks to come to a definitive conclusion about anything a team does, good or bad, but it is enough of a sample to at least get a feel for a team and it certainly can be used to make decisions that will impact Weeks 3 and 4 of the Fantasy season. Especially when a team is dreadfully bad, extremely good and even more so if the early season trend is supported by large amounts of data from 2016, so let’s look at the defensive trends that you need to be aware of so far.
From a purely Fantasy perspective and for our own knowledge, the New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots, and New York Jets have all been atrocious, above and beyond bad compared to the rest of the league. They have all scored negative Fantasy points in ESPN league scoring. Yes, negative. The Colts have scored -1 Fantasy points, the Patriots -5 and the Saints a putrid -13 Fantasy points. That means these three teams have been so bad that owners were better off leaving their DST spot empty rather than start them. If they have been this bad you can only imagine how well Fantasy players are scoring against them.
Matchup Trends – Wide Receivers
The Saints and Patriots have been so bad defensively, across the board, that not only do they rank worst and third worst in Fantasy points allowed to wide receivers, but they rank worst and third worst in Fantasy points allowed to running backs as well. The Patriots and the Saints rank Top 5 in rushing yards allowed, but they also allow the most receiving yards to running backs. That means that if you have a difficult Flex decision or you are looking for an opponent to stack against in DFS, you have found your defenses, the Pats, and the Saints. They can’t stop the run or the pass.
Two defenses that might surprise you are the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns. The Bengals have only allowed 34 Fantasy points to wide receivers while the Browns, a defense we joke about and typically stack against, have only allowed 51 Fantasy points to wide receivers, ranking them eleventh best among teams that have played two games. The Bengals will have a statement game this week when they face the vaunted Packers passing game. The Browns should improve their ranking as they face the Jacoby Brissett led Indianapolis Colts.
Matchup Trends – Running Backs
The Patriots and Saints are must-stack against defenses but there are a few other noteworthy defenses. If you have a good all-around running back who both runs and receives, the New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons defenses are your Huckleberries. The Jets are awful at stopping the run while they are just bad at allowing receiving yards to the running backs. The Falcons aren’t terrible against the run but they are fourth worst in football in passing yards allowed. The Los Angeles Rams are dreadful at stopping the run, but they are stingy about allowing passing yards to running backs. That bodes well for Carlos Hyde this week.
Two defenses you want to fade running backs against are the Buffalo Bills and Denver Broncos and they just so happen to face each other in Week 3. The Bills have allowed 158 total yards from scrimmage to running backs and zero touchdowns while the Broncos have allowed 137 and one touchdown. You might want to fade LeSean McCoy and C.J. Anderson in DFS this week.
One 2017 statistical oddity is the Los Angeles Chargers. They have allowed the fewest Fantasy points to running backs (26) among teams that have played two games even though they rank fifth worst in rushing yards allowed (240 rushing yards). They have allowed only three receptions, 11 receiving yards and zero touchdowns to running backs. Kareem Hunt should run wild but will he be a factor in the passing game and can he score a touchdown this weekend? Makes for a challenging decision in DFS this week.
Chris Carson, RB Seattle Seahawks
26 Rushing Attempts
132 Rushing Yards
The next closest Seahawks player in rushing attempts is Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy with five apiece. Rawls’ workload is something to watch after coming back from injury because right now, Chris Carson is the clear lead back in a run-first offense.
Mike Tolbert, RB Buffalo Bills
He has three touchdowns (one rushing and two receiving) and 15 carries after two weeks.
Mike Gillislee is a legitimate Flex play because of his access to high-leverage goal line touches and after two weeks Tolbert is emerging as a similar possibility.
Ty Montgomery, RB Green Bay Packers
Montgomery has been targeted 11 times in the passing game along with 29 rushing attempts in the running game. His 40 combined touches/targets lead the Packers second-most targeted player (Randall Cobb) by 18.
Montgomery is the second leading scorer in all of Fantasy football and far and away the leading target on a Green Bay offense loaded with playmakers. He is a trade target in yearly leagues and while he isn’t a bargain in DFS, he is cheaper than many of the elite running backs.
Five rushing attempts (66 yards)
12 Targets (Eight receptions – 47 yards – 1 TD)
Seven Rushing Attempts (13 yards)
Nine Targets (Eight receptions and 55 yards)
After Week 1, I warned owners not to buy into the analyst hype about Cohen’s immense potential and while he is establishing his Flex credentials, owners once again shouldn’t be fooled by a Week 2 increase in rushing attempts. Cohen’s attempts increased because of a shoulder injury to lead running back Jordan Howard.
Cohen is not going to consistently receive 15-20 rushing opportunities per game regardless of Jordan Howard’s health, which makes it almost impossible to rank him as even a low-end RB2. He is a gifted and explosive pass-catching running back who will provide owners with a high floor, but his inability to be a full-time rusher between the tackles limits him to at best a strong Flex, which is what we have seen in the first two weeks of the Fantasy season.
25 Fantasy Points
102 Receiving Yards
If you drafted Bryant expecting a Top 5 wide receiver you have to be disappointed with his lackluster production so far, but the silver lining is that he has faced two of the tougher pass defenses with some of the best cornerbacks in football (New York Giants and Denver Broncos) and he has still been targeted second-most in football behind only DeAndre Hopkins.
Bryant’s not the big play downfield threat that he was 2-3 years ago, but he is still the main target of the Cowboys’ passing game and a tough, physical mismatch for cornerbacks not named Aqib Talib. If you thought Bryant was going to be a 1,200-yard receiver in 2017, then your projections were overly optimistic, but his targets will continue to be there while his matchups will get better going forward. He should improve on his 4.5 reception, 51 receiving yards per game early season average, so don’t sell low, stay the course and recalculate your expectations.
Javorius Allen, RB Baltimore Ravens
28 Fantasy Points
35 Rushing Attempts
137 Rushing Yards
Five Receptions (One Touchdown)
There are trends to like and not like after two weeks for Allen. The Ravens rank second in rushing attempts (74) and Allen ranks fifth even though he is in a backup/time-share situation in Baltimore = Good. He doesn’t have a rushing touchdown while Terrance West has two = bad.
The two-week trend suggests that Allen is solidifying his spot as an equal timeshare and possibly the preferable option on an offense that could lead the league in rushing attempts. West is banged up at the moment, which will help Allen in the short run, but it looks like West will be the goal line option, limiting Allen’s overall potential. He is currently a must-start Flex with a chance to be a solid RB2 depending on West’s health and performance going forward.
Denver Broncos Rushing Attack
C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles
64 combined rushing attempts
285 Rushing Yards
Denver leads the NFL in rushing attempts (75) and rushing yards (318), while C.J. Anderson leads all running backs with 45 attempts. The Bronco’s offense can support two viable starting Fantasy running backs if this trend continues and at 2-0 it would make sense for them to consider.
Jamaal Charles is not going to overtake Anderson as the run-heavy Broncos lead running back, but he is currently averaging 9.5 carries per game and it is easy to see that increase to 15 carries per game as they ease off some of Anderson’s workload, which would make Charles a possible Flex option going forward. He hasn’t been a part of the passing game thus far, something that would increase owner confidence in starting him as their Flex.
Headscratchers After Week 2
* Mike Gillislee has the same number of rushing attempts, more rushing yards and four more touchdowns than Zeke Elliot.
* Mohamed Sanu, Jermaine Kearse, Pierre Garcon and Kendall Wright all have more receptions and receiving yards with at least 10 fewer targets than Dez Bryant.
* The Detroit Lions defense is second in Fantasy scoring (34 points in ESPN leagues) while being owned in only eight percent of Yahoo leagues.
* The New England Patriots are owned in 84 percent of Yahoo leagues even though Fantasy owners would have been better served by not starting a defense than using them this season.’