Fri Sep 6 8:37am ET
By MIKE BARNER
Mike Evans setup for big opener
While it’s sad to see the summer months come to an end, the good news is that September brings the return of football! Week 1 is comprised of plenty of exciting matchups and there is even more fun to be had with RealTime Fantasy Sports’ DFS slate. Let’s breakdown the matchups and highlight some players across the price scale to target, as well as some to avoid.
Top-tier option: Russell Wilson, SEA vs. CIN ($6,500): It’s no secret that the Seahawks like to run the ball despite the strength of their offense being Wilson at quarterback. He only attempted 427 passes last year, which was more than 100 passes fewer than each of the previous two seasons. Still, he remained productive with 35 touchdown passes, giving him at least 34 touchdowns through the air in three of the last four seasons. Look for him to get off to a hot start at home, a place where he has 101 touchdown passes and only 27 interceptions across 56 career games.
Cheap target: Jimmy Garoppolo, SF at TB: ($5,900): After an ACL injury ended his ’18 campaign early, Garoppolo had his struggles during the preseason. While some might be shying away from him in his first game back, that just presents an opportunity to differentiate your lineup. This is an extremely favorable matchup for him against a Buccaneers’ secondary that is among the worst in football.
Player to avoid: Ryan Fitzpatrick, MIA vs. BAL ($5,800): The Dolphins have the potential to be a disaster this season. They are clearly in the early stages of a rebuild and just traded away stellar offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil. Even though they have young quarterback Josh Rosen in the fold now, they will start the interception-prone Fitzpatrick in the first game of the season. With Earl Thomas now leading the Ravens’ secondary, things could get ugly in a hurry here.
Top-tier option: Saquon Barkley, NYG at DAL ($8,100): Despite a lackluster offensive line and a bad quarterback, Barkley had a spectacular rookie season with over 2,000 total yards and 15 touchdowns. With Odell Beckham Jr. now in Cleveland, Barkley is the undeniable centerpiece of the Giants’ offense. They improved their offensive line during the offseason and should give Barkley a ton of carries and targets in this game, leaving him with both a high floor and a high ceiling.
Cheap target: Chris Carson, SEA vs. CIN ($6,000): It’s going to be difficult to pass up Carson at this price. While he’ll share some carries with Rashaad Penny, there is plenty of work to go around with how often the Seahawks run the ball. The Seahawks are also heavy favorites at home, which could lead to a significant amount of carries for Carson in the second half if the team jumps out to a big lead. After scoring nine touchdowns in 14 games last season, don’t be surprised to see Carson reach the end zone in the season opener.
Player to avoid: Derrick Henry, TEN at CLE ($6,200): Yes, Henry finished with 1,059 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns last season. However, most of that came over his last four games when he had 585 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. The Browns have a strong defensive front and Carson can be had for the same price, making Henry someone to avoid.
Top-tier option: Mike Evans, TB vs. SF ($7,200): This game has the potential to be a shootout considering the 49ers’ secondary has the potential to be just as bad as the Bucs. Evans is coming off career-highs in both receiving yards (1,524) and catch rate (62.3%), leaving him with as high of an upside as any receiver for this slate.
Cheap target: John Brown, BUF at NYJ ($4,600): The duo of Brown and quarterback Josh Allen could be a match made in heaven. Allen had an average depth of target of 11.3 yards last season while Brown has averaged 15 yards per reception for his career. The Jets might have a rising star in Jamal Adams at safety, but their cornerbacks leave a lot to be desired, so Brown is someone to at least consider at this cheap price.
Player to avoid: Tyreek Hill, KC at JAC ($7,100): Two of the biggest stars at their respective positions figure to face off in this game with cornerback Jalen Ramsey expected to shadow Hill for much of the contest. When these two teams faced off last season, Hill was held to 61 yards on four receptions. Evans has a much easier matchup and is only $100 more, making it hard to justify deploying Hill.
Top-tier option: George Kittle, SF at TB ($6,500): If I like Garoppolo, of course I like his top receiving option in Kittle. Even without his number one quarterback last year, Kittle shined with 1,377 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Look for him to lead the team in targets not only in this game, but for the entire season.
Cheap target: Evan Engram, NYG at DAL ($4,100): Engram might be the best value on the slate. Tight ends who will cost more than him include Jason Witten ($4,500) and Tyler Eifert ($4,300). Need I say more? When healthy, Engram is one of the top receiving tight ends in the league. With Odell Beckham Jr. gone and Golden Tate suspended, Engram should be relied upon heavily in this contest.
Player to avoid: Eric Ebron, IND at LAC ($5,500): Ebron was one of the most pleasant surprises in fantasy last year, racking up a whopping 13 touchdowns and 750 receiving yards on 110 targets. However, there were two major differences last year than what we are looking at for Week 1. First, he had Andrew Luck as his quarterback, who has since retired. Second, fellow tight end Jack Doyle only appeared in six games due to injury. With Doyle now healthy and Jacoby Brissett at quarterback, Ebron is way too risky at this price.
Mike Barner has been covering fantasy sports since 2007. His work has appeared in Sports Illustrated, Yahoo, SportsLine and RotoWire. Mike was also a finalist for the 2018 FSWA Basketball Writer of the Year award. Follow Mike on Twitter @rotomikebarner.
Five Cold Plays: Week 2
Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock faces a stiff test in Week 2 on the road against the Steelers Defense. The 23-year-old second-year signal-caller had his ups and downs in the Week 1 Monday night loss to the Titans. His mobility and arm strength were on display, but he was hurt by some drops and overthrows and he also fumbled the ball twice but recovered. His final line was 22-for-33 for 216 yards and one touchdown. Lock should get both Courtland Sutton (shoulder) and rookie K.J. Hamler (hamstring) back for this one, but the matchup is too tough to consider him as anything more than a low-end QB2 in leagues that start two quarterbacks.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (ankle) was not present at practice on Friday for the second straight day. There were reports that Thomas "felt fantastic" at practice on Thursday, and there is a "glimmer of hope" that he can play in Week 2 on Monday night against the Raiders, but it's a long shot, at best. The All-Pro receiver is dealing with a high ankle sprain, which can keep players out up to a month or more. The 27-year-old is known as a quick healer and wants to get back out there as soon as possible, but fantasy managers need to keep realistic expectations. You should be planning to be without Thomas this week. Both Emmanuel Sanders and Jared Cook should have heavy target shares with Thomas likely out.
Chicago Bears linebackers Khalil Mack (knee) and Robert Quinn (ankle) are both questionable to play in Week 2 against the Giants. Mack was also questionable for the season opener against the Lions, but he played and was quiet with just four combined tackles. Quinn missed Week 1 with Chicago after a big season with the Cowboys. The Bears are counting on the combination of Mack and Quinn to be a big pass-rushing force this year, so if they both sit out, it'll be excellent news for Daniel Jones and the Giants passing attack. Chicago's defense/special teams should be considered a midrange starting unit in fantasy, but they'll lose a little luster if one or both of Mack and Quinn are ruled out.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (ankle) practiced in full the last two days and was taken off the Week 2 injury report. Conner will be active this Sunday against the Broncos, but he might play second fiddle to Benny Snell Jr. after Snell replaced the injured Conner in Week 1 against the Giants and ran for over 100 yards on the ground. Conner couldn't stay healthy last year as the team's lead back, so perhaps this will become more of a backfield committee in 2020 to preserve Conner's health. Snell is probably the more attractive RB3/flex this week, but both running backs are hard to trust because of the uncertain playing time split.
New York Giants wide receiver Golden Tate (hamstring) is listed as questionable for Week 2 against the Bears. Tate sat out in Week 1 against the Steelers, but he was much more active in practice on Friday than he was last week. Even if the 32-year-old plays this weekend, there are likely better flex options you can plug into your fantasy lineups. If he doesn't play for the second straight week, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton and tight end Evan Engram would all stand to benefit from extra targets in the passing game. Slayton was the biggest beneficiary in Week 1, hauling in two touchdowns.
The Carolina Panthers Defense has ruled out defensive tackle Kawann Short (foot) and rookie defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos (concussion) for Week 2 against the Buccaneers. A shaky Panthers defense that allowed over 30 points to the Raiders in Week 1 will be hoping that rookie defensive tackle Derrick Brown can step up against their division rivals on Sunday. Already at the bottom of the pile for fantasy defenses, Carolina should be avoided like the plague this weekend against Tom Brady and the Bucs, who are looking for their first win of the season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (hamstring) practiced in full on Friday and was taken off the Week 2 injury report. Evans will be good to go against the division-rival Panthers. The 27-year-old should draw the coverage of cornerback Donte Jackson, but he's good enough to put up points, and he should be targeted even more by cornerback Tom Brady with Chris Godwin (concussion) doubtful to play. Evans had a quiet Week 1 but still managed to find the end zone to salvage his day. With Godwin likely out, Evans will be a low-end WR1/high-end WR2 this Sunday.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker (hamstring) is listed as questionable for Week 2 against the Bills. Parker is in line to be a game-time decision on Sunday morning, but fantasy managers will know well in advance of the early games whether Parker will be able to play. The 27-year-old was able to get in three practices this week, so that bodes well for his availability. However, Parker will be a risky flex option for fantasy managers if he plays, since he'll likely be covered by Bills All-Pro cornerback Tre'Davious White. Preston Williams, Miami's No. 2 wideout, would be more attractive as a flex if Parker suits up. Otherwise, he'll likely draw the coverage of White in this one.
Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich said that tight end Jack Doyle (ankle, knee) is out for Week 2 against the Vikings. Doyle missed practice all week and will give way to Mo Alie-Cox as the team's starting tight end with Trey Burton already on Injured Reserve. Alie-Cox is a low-end TE2 to begin with, but on top of it, the Vikings were the best against opposing tight ends in 2019. When healthy, the 30-year-old Doyle is a low-ceiling TE2 in a Colts offense with plenty of mouths to feed, even after Marlon Mack's (Achilles) season-ending injury. He went for 49 yards in the season-opening loss to the Jaguars.
Veteran running back C.J. Anderson announced his retirement from football on Friday at the age of 29. Anderson went to the Pro Bowl in 2014 and won a Super Bowl with the Broncos in 2015 after being an undrafted free agent. He plans to pursue a career in coaching. Anderson managed 10 total touchdowns in 2014, and he also ran for 1,007 yards and three touchdowns in 2017 in his final full season with the Broncos. He'll finish his career with 776 carries for 3,497 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground while catching 108 passes for 900 yards and five additional scores.
Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said that wide receiver A.J. Brown (knee) will not play in Week 2 against the Jaguars. Brown is dealing with a bone bruise in his knee and is listed as week-to-week. Make sure you remove the second-year receiver from your starting lineups this weekend. Corey Davis, who surprisingly caught seven of eight targets for 101 yards in the Week 1 win over the Broncos, should see a healthy amount of targets once again with Brown out. Consider him in the picture as a WR3/flex. Adam Humphries and Kalif Raymond should comprise three-wide sets on Sunday, with Humphries being a sleeper in DFS. Tight end Jonnu Smith has TE1 upside with Brown out.
Dallas Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith (neck) hasn't practiced all week due to a neck injury, and a decision will be made on his availability for Week 2 against the Falcons on Saturday. Head coach Mike McCarthy said that Smith wants to play. This is something to monitor since the Cowboys already have offensive lineman La'el Collins and Cam Erving on Injured Reserve. Losing Smith against Atlanta would be another big blow to their offensive line and could be bad news for quarterback Dak Prescott's protection this Sunday. Terence Steele would likely step in on Prescott's blind side if Smith doesn't get clearance.
Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said that wide receiver Julio Jones (hamstring) has been dealing with a hamstring injury for a couple of weeks, but he added that "my concern level is low" for the injury impacting Jones' play. The 31-year-old veteran All-Pro often deals with nagging injuries but has managed to play through them and remain productive in Atlanta's offense. Jones caught nine of his 12 targets for 157 yards in the Week 1 loss to the Seahawks. He has been limited this week with the hamstring injury, but he should be just fine to suit up this Sunday against Dallas. Jones is an elite WR1 that is a must-start if he's active.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders (hamstring) is expected to play in Week 2 against the Rams after sitting out the season opener. Sanders practiced in full on Thursday and should make his season debut as the team's bell-cow back this weekend. Against a Rams Defense that gave up plenty of yardage on the ground against the Cowboys in Week 1, fantasy managers should consider Sanders a strong RB2 this weekend. In other injury news, defensive end Derek Barnett (hamstring) is also expected to play after practicing in full on Thursday. Undrafted rookie Nate Herbig will start at right guard, according to head coach Doug Pederson.
Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia said that wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hamstring) will be "very limited" in practice on Friday. Golladay missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday and is in real danger of missing his second straight game to kick off the 2020 season. Detroit's No. 1 receiver is on the wrong side of questionable for Sunday against the Packers, and you might even say he's doubtful at this point. You should be preparing for him to miss another game. Marvin Jones Jr., Danny Amendola and rookie Quintez Cephus should operate in three-receiver sets, with tight end T.J. Hockenson seeing more targets if Golladay sits again.
Updating a previous report, Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin (concussion) practiced Friday, Sept. 18, but still has not cleared the league's concussion protocol and will be listed as doubtful for the Week 2 game against the Carolina Panthers. Godwin is scheduled to go through more tests tomorrow and if doctors clear him then, he will be upgraded to questionable.
Fantasy Spin: Godwin owners are likely going to need to monitor the situation right up through the release of the pre-game inactive list Sunday.
Pittsburgh Steelers RB James Conner (ankle) said Friday, Sept. 18, that things are 'definitely trending in the right direction' for Week 2 after practicing Wednesday and Thursday.
Fantasy Spin: Fantasy GMs will definitely to check his practice status later Friday, but things are surprisingly looking up for Conner following his early-game Week 1 injury. Have him ready for a RB2 role if he proves good to go.
Free agent PK Mike Nugent (Patriots) on Friday, Sept. 18, was signed to the Arizona Cardinals' practice squad.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper (ankle) is not expected to miss any time in Week 2. Cooper was a late addition to the injury report this week, which is always concerning, but it seems he is fine and fully expected to play. Cooper is a high-upside WR1 as long as he suits up, as the Falcons Defense was annihilated by the Seahawks passing game last week. Cooper will match up with rookie defensive back A.J. Terrell.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin (concussion) remains in the league's concussion protocol and will be listed as doubtful for Week 2 against the Panthers. Godwin will go through more tests on Saturday, and if doctors clear him then, he will be upgraded to questionable. The good news is that Tampa's game is early on Sunday, but even then, you should be making plans to be without Godwin this weekend. Mike Evans will be a strong WR1 play with Godwin likely sidelined, while slot man Scotty Miller is also quickly rising up the PPR ranks as a flex play in deeper leagues. Both tight ends Rob Gronkowski and O.J. Howard become a bit more attractive as well in a good matchup against Carolina's shaky defense.