“Going to plan” and “fantasy football” aren’t really synonymous. That’s why I — “fantasy expert” — couldn’t win my home league last season, and why all of us haven’t made millions playing DFS. But Sunday was a particularly rough day, with injuries, benchings and good old fashioned struggling marring the proceedings like few in recent memory. Let’s sort through Week 2’s biggest disappointments, and their implications going forward.
1. Tony Romo’s injury.
On a day filled with injuries, none reverberated like Romo’s. The Cowboys were already scaling Denali without Dez Bryant. Now they’ve got to summit Everest. Romo is arguably the toughest player in football, but this is the second time in six years he’s broken his left collarbone. The first cost him 10 games for a non-competitive team. The second is expected to sideline him a minimum of 6-8 weeks, and probably 8-10. The Cowboys have taken on a new identity the past two seasons, committing to the run and playing tougher defense, but it’s hard to see how they can stay in the playoff race with Brandon Weeden caretaking a Joseph Randle/Darren McFadden/Lance Dunbar committee at running back.
As for the post-Romo fantasy landscape, nothing really changes for Terrance Williams, Jason Witten and Cole Beasley. Williams is going to remain a volatile WR2 best utilized as a WR3, while Witten and Beasley will soak up checkdowns. If you were willing to start Williams this week, there’s no reason to sit him next Sunday.
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2. The implosion of the Eagles’ offense.
Someone forgot to oil the machine. The Eagles were positively dreadful, making zero plays in the passing game while the Cowboys’ defensive line strained spaghetti against the run. Nothing went right, but the literal collapse of Chip Kelly’s interior line stood out as the most alarming development. The Cowboys got to DeMarco Murray’s handoffs faster than Sam Bradford did, limiting the Eagles to a positively absurd seven rushing yards on 17 carries. Bradford, meanwhile, was equal parts sluggish and erratic, bringing little pace to the play and lacking crispness on his throws. He’s now turned in one good half out of four as an Eagle.
Which brings us to the part where we say not to panic. It’s not an article of faith that this thing is going to work, but it’s still talent worth betting on. Murray has been effective as a receiver, while Bradford’s good half was really good. Chip Kelly is going to make adjustments, and none of them are likely to involve changes at quarterback or running back. Mark Sanchez would have been even worse than Bradford behind Sunday’s abysmal line, and there’s zero reason to believe Ryan Mathews would have been more effective than Murray. Gale Sayers couldn’t have found the holes in that line. Bradford and Murray’s respective QB1 and RB1 candidacies are on thin ice, both will be top 12-14 options in Week 3 against the Jets.
The Sunday night game could have offered respite from the afternoon’s carnage. Instead, it magnified it, with the cart brought out for each of the RB1 and WR2 before halftime. Adams ended up returning, but Lacy should be considered highly questionable for Week 3 even though X-rays came back negative. A high-ankle sprain, which has yet to be ruled out, would be a multi-week issue. James Starks will be in the RB1 conversation for Monday Night Football against the Chiefs if Lacy can’t go.
4. Jeremy Hill’s benching.
Hill’s first fumble set the Chargers up in Bengals territory. The second got him benched. Hill spent the final 23 minutes of the game on the pine, watching as Giovani Bernard rushed for over 100 yards for just the second time in his career. We’d like to say there’s no reason to worry, but Hill’s emphatic benching combined with Bernard’s strong running in each of the Bengals’ first two games merit alarm bells from even the most stoic of fantasy owners. Bernard enters Week 3 with 227 yards on 37 touches. Hill, 104 on 30. Even if there’s a committee, Hill should still get the money carries. Despite Sunday’s fumbles, he’s the rugged inside runner Bernard will never be. He’ll just be more of a top 12-15 option than the top 5-6 one he appeared destined for in August.
5. The death of the Saints.
Mercifully, I was lower on Drew Brees than most this week, but I still expected nothing like the funeral march that unfolded at the Superdome. Playing at home, the Saints barely competed with a team that got dismantled 42-14 in Week 1, and hit a new low in a collapse that seems to have no end in sight. The Superdome used to be the most impossible place in football for an opposing team to get a victory. Now the Saints are barely competing at their home pad, dropping six in a row and getting outscored by 81 points in the process.
As for Brees, the Saints tried to build a more run-heavy roster, but can’t stop falling behind in games, and therefore can’t stop passing. The (main) problem with this is that Brees has hardly any weapons left to throw to, and was forced to devote 14 combined targets to Brandon Coleman, “Willie Snead” and Ben Watson against the Bucs. It appears Brees will remain a QB1, but it will be of the lower-end, backdoor variety. The man who once forced other teams into garbage time now needs it to get his numbers.
The Week 1 bright spots were limited to 26 touches for 93 yards. Hyde wasn’t having the success he did against the Vikings, but Coleman appeared on the precipice of a big day. Hyde, thankfully, was cleared of a potential concussion, and will be ready to rock for next week’s tough test with the Cardinals. Coleman’s status is murkier after he was carted off with a rib injury. Even if Coleman did suit up for Week 3, a rookie playing with a cracked chest in his third NFL game wouldn’t be a great bet to be effective.
7. Ameer Abdullah’s faceplant.
Abdullah’s hype was already percolating following his huge preseason, but reached a fever pitch after he totaled 94 yards on 11 touches in Week 1. Throw in the fact that he was facing a Vikings defense that got gashed by Carlos Hyde on Monday, and you had a matchup not even the most cynical of fantasy players could resist. 24 hours and 18 yards on seven touches later, we’re wishing we resisted. (Full disclosure, I benched LeSean McCoy for Abdullah in a “big play” league.) If there’s good news for Abdullah’s owners, it’s that Joique Bell was even worse. Theo Riddick is a theoretical concern, but ultimately a role player. Abdullah’s explosiveness should be on display plenty more times this season, but Sunday’s letdown is a reminder that the path is rarely straight for rookie runners. Abdullah will be a mid-range FLEX option against the Broncos’ elite defense in Week 3.
Playing well for once, Cutler departed Chicago’s blowout loss to the Cardinals late in the first half. Stafford managed to complete Detroit’s dispiriting defeat in Minnesota, but not before injuring his chest. Cutler has been diagnosed with a “hamstring” injury even though he appeared to rack his shoulder/head as he attempted to tackle S Tony Jefferson on a pick six. He’s expected to miss Week 3. Stafford will probably suit up on Sunday, but will be in for even more pain against the Broncos’ dominant defense. Cutler has long since faded from QB1 status. Stafford finds himself on the same trajectory.
Five Week 2 Silver Linings
1. Antonio Brown’s continued domination. Coming off a season where he caught the second most passes (129) and posted the sixth most receiving yards (1,698) in NFL history, Brown has somehow been better. His 18/328/2 line extrapolates to 144/2,624/14. He won’t get there (we think), but only Odell Beckham is a real threat to Brown’s WR1 overall status.
2. Allen Robinson’s bounce back. Robinson decked the Dolphins for 6/155/2, kickstarting the Jaguars’ upset and atoning for Week 1’s discouragingly bad performance. Consistency is a lot to ask of someone with Blake Bortles at quarterback, but Robinson’s odds of a top-20 finish are alive and well.
3. Matt Jones and David Johnson’s impressive showings. The preseason told us both rookies could make plays, and they haven’t disappointed through the first two weeks of their NFL careers. Both will be stuck in timeshares for the foreseeable future, but offer upside as weekly FLEX options. The duo has just about cracked the weekly top 36 at running back.
4. Jameis Winston’s second effort. Winston bounced back from his forgettable to debut to complete 14-of-21 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown, adding another score on the ground. He did so without Mike Evans catching a pass. It’s not bold analysis to predict further peaks and valleys from the No. 1 overall pick, but at least the first valley has found its first peak.
5. Johnny Manziel showing more signs of life. Manziel completed only eight passes Sunday, but ended up with 172 yards and two touchdowns. It was a Tebow-esque day, albeit one that cut out the turnovers from Week 1. The effort was probably enough to convince the go-nowhere Browns to pull the plug on Josh McCown under center.
1. Is Crockett Gillmore the best player in the NFL?
2. If it’s not Gillmore, it has to be Travis Benjamin, right?
3. If you don’t put your team’s record in your Twitter handle, how will anyone ever know it?
Early Waiver Look (Players owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Stats of the Week
The Eagles have 145 total yards in the first half this season. 21 of them came on Sunday.
Aaron Rodgers hasn’t thrown a pick in Green Bay since Dec. 2, 2012.
Most Absurd Sequence of Week 2: Murray, desperately trying to notch a garbage time score, getting stoned on back-to-back runs before having a touchdown called back by holding.