We were warned. Every expert, pundit and talking head around the NFL said there were going to be injuries this year. I just don’t think we were expecting them all to come at once.
Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, Davante Adams, Jimmy Garoppolo, Drew Lock, Courtland Sutton, Paris Campbell, Breshad Perriman, Tyrod Taylor, Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman all sat out or left their games with an injury on Sunday. Those are the offensive players. They joined the likes of Michael Thomas, Kenny Golladay, Chris Godwin and George Kittle on the injury report.
It sounds like a few of these guys should be back before too long. Godwin has already cleared concussion protocol. Golladay and Kittle could be back as soon as this week. The 49ers have also voiced optimism about Garoppolo’s ability to play in Week 3 as well.
With all the injuries, you are likely in need for some major reinforcements for your fantasy football team. Here are my top guys to add from the waiver wire heading into Week 3.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, TEN Through two weeks of the NFL season, Ryan Tannehill is currently tied with Lamar Jackson as the No. 9 quarterback in fantasy. He is also still available in roughly 60 percent of ESPN leagues. With teams loading the box to stop Derrick Henry, Tannehill is showing that he can get it done through the air. With another fantasy-friendly matchup coming up against the Vikings, he is in a great position for a spot start this week.
Gardner Minshew, QB, JAX Just behind Tannehill is Minshew, who put up some big numbers against the Titans this past weekend. He has been fairly consistent in his scoring as well, with 19 points in Week 1 and 22 points in Week 2. He gets a Dolphins secondary that had no answer for Josh Allen on Sunday and could be without Byron Jones. Minshew might not throw the ball 45 times again like he did in Tennessee, but he is still a fringe starter if you are hurting for a quarterback.
Jerick McKinnon, RB, SF If had a running back go down over the weekend, McKinnon is someone you should be targeting. He showed good burst in limited opportunities through the first two weeks. Both Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman are expected to be out for a few weeks though, which opens up the door for McKinnon to be the feature back. He is actually tied for 18th among running backs through two weeks despite only nine total touches. With an even larger workload coming his way against a suspect Giants defense, he is a RB2 option in Week 3.
Joshua Kelley, RB, LAC In case you weren’t already aware, Los Angeles is going to run the ball a lot this year. After two weeks of play, the Chargers lead the league in rush attempts and rank sixth in yardage. Austin Ekeler is the leader in the backfield, but Kelley has carved out a meaningful role for himself. He earned an outrageous 23 carries in Week 2 against the Chiefs. Kelley was not overly efficient, but he faces a Panthers defense that is last in points allowed to fantasy running backs so far. He is a flex play at worse in Week 3.
Mike Davis, RB, CAR Attention Christian McCaffrey fantasy managers. You need someone to fill in for McCaffrey for the next month while he is out for an ankle injury. Mike Davis is ready to do just that. He only has one carry this season, but he posted eight catches for 74 yards against Tampa on Sunday. Considering that McCaffrey played into the fourth quarter, that is a really good sign regarding his fantasy viability. I don’t know that I would recommend starting him against a solid Chargers defense in his first week as the starter, but he is certainly worth claiming from the waiver wire.
Dion Lewis/Wayne Gallman, RBs, NYG The Giants backfield took a major hit following Saquon Barkley’s torn ACL. Really the whole offense did. While it is unclear exactly who will be in the lead role, Lewis and Gallman are in line for an increase in touches. I lumped the two together, because it is not overly clear who really will be the feature back. More likely, New York will go running back by committee. Lewis has more value in PPR formats, while Gallman could be a solid add to your bench in non-PPR leagues. However, it looks likely that the Giants sign Devonta Freeman, so I would not prioritize either of these backs over those listed above.
Russell Gage, WR, ATL I will continue to bang the table for this guy. The Falcons have maybe the worst secondary in the NFL, which means they are going to throw a lot to stay in games. Gage has earned 21 targets over the first two weeks of the season and currently ranks tied for 10th among fantasy receivers. That ties him with the likes of Tyreek Hill, Tyler Lockett and Terry McLaurin. Gage is still available in 72 percent of ESPN leagues. Expect him to be a flex option for the foreseeable future.
Corey Davis, WR, TEN He was not quite as spectacular in Week 2, only totaling three catches for 36 yards, but he found the end zone. He is currently the Titans’ top target with A.J. Brown out and he faces a terrible Vikings secondary in Week 3. Only the Seahawks have given up more fantasy points to receivers through the first two weeks of the season. His matchups get a bit tougher starting in Week 4, but he definitely has some value for this week.
Keelan Cole Sr., WR, JAX Cole continues his surprising start to the season. He posted 15-plus fantasy points for the second straight week in PPR scoring and found the end zone again. His 12 targets n two weeks suggest that his upside is a little limited in this run-first Jaguars offense, but he should definitely be on more teams than he currently is. Cole is rostered in 3.2 percent of ESPN leagues right now and could be in for another big week as he faces a Dolphins team that gave up over 400 yards through the air to the Bills.
N’Keal Harry, WR, NE I’m still a little tentative on this one, but Harry flashed a lot of the potential that made him a first-round selection in the 2019 NFL draft against the Seahawks. As I mentioned before though, no team has given up more fantasy points to receivers than Seattle. He seems to be a better option in PPR formats, picking up a ton of targets and catches, but not a tremendous amount of yards. The Patriots offense is still one of the most difficult to predict on a weekly basis, but Harry seems pretty well entrenched as Cam Newton’s No. 2 receiver behind Julian Edelman. A favorable matchup with the Raiders adds to his value for Week 3.
Dalton Schultz, TE, DAL There are not a ton of great options available on the tight end market, but Schultz looked sharp in his first game as the starter. An early fumble was disappointing to see, but Schultz racked up nine catches for 88 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets. It is unlikely he see quite as many throws his direction in the future, but his position in this offense gives him at least decent fantasy value. If you are looking a backup tight end to stash, he is the best one available.
Logan Thomas, TE, WAS The target share is there for Thomas. Dwayne Haskins has thrown 17 passes his way through just two weeks. That is tied for third with Dallas Goedert in the league among tight ends at this point, trailing only Darren Waller and Travis Kelce. It is clear that Haskins trusts Thomas as his security blanket. Unfortunately, those 17 targets have netted just eight catches for 63 yards and one touchdown. Only one of those passes has been a drop by Thomas, so the issue is really Haskins’ accuracy. If you trust that he can put it together against a banged up Browns defense, than Thomas has a ton of value in Week 3.
Jonnu Smith, TE, TEN His production has been largely touchdown dependent so far, but that is pretty standard for tight ends in the NFL not named Kelce, Waller or Kittle. Smith has become Ryan Tannehill’s favorite red zone target early in the season. He is not as available as some of the other players on this list (rostered in just over 50 percent of ESPN leagues), but if he is sitting around in your league, go grab him. He has starting tight end potential going forward.
Mo Alie-Cox, TE, IND His outlook is dependent on Jack Doyle’s health. If Doyle will be back in Week 3, it is unlikely that Alie-Cox is really worth a pick up. But if Doyle is out, Alie-Cox becomes an intriguing option. He reeled in five catches for 111 yards on Sunday vs. the Vikings. He might not eclipse the 100-yard mark again, but he faces a Jets defense that just gave up two touchdowns to Jordan Reed. If you are in a league that places a premium on tight end scoring, Alie-Cox should be on your roster.
As you are reading this, another NFL player has likely suffered a season-ending injury. Injuries were undoubtedly the focal point of the second week of play. Big names like Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey and Nick Bosa all suffered season-altering setbacks for their teams. The lack of proper preparation was on full display.
When players weren’t getting hurt, the NFL actually felt very familiar. The Falcons blew a massive lead in inexplicable fashion. Most of the 49ers’ roster got hurt, but they still comfortably beat the Jets. Detroit blew a double-digit lead in their fourth straight game. While the league was mostly in shambles, those trends were comforting in a strange way. At least something was normal that we could hold on to.
There is a ton of movement in this week’s rankings. Some teams that won dropped. Some teams that lost moved up a couple spots. We now have a much better sense of where each team stands following a wild Week 2.
1. Baltimore Ravens: 2-0 (Last Week: 2) Won 33-16 at Houston Welcome to the top of the heap! Baltimore took care of business on the road this week. Lamar Jackson put up pedestrian numbers by his standards, but the defense came up with a number of big plays, including a pick-six. This might be the deepest team in the NFL, which might be really important at the rate these injuries are popping up. It is basically splitting hairs between the Chiefs and Ravens for the best team in the league right now. Thankfully, we will have that question answered on Monday Night Football this week.
2. Kansas City Chiefs: 2-0 (Last Week: 1) Won 23-20 at Los Angeles That was ugly. Kansas City was almost upended by a rookie quarterback in his first career start. Now there is no question the Chiefs were not prepared to face Justin Herbert. Herbert himself didn’t know he was starting until after the coin toss. However, it took a really long time for the offense to get going. Patrick Mahomes played really well when it counted and Harrison Butker came up clutch from long range, twice. Still, KC cannot not afford another slow start like that on Monday night in Baltimore.
3. Seattle Seahawks: 2-0 (Last Week: 4) Won 35-30 vs. New England What a thriller on Sunday night! Russell Wilson continued to cook with five more touchdowns against the vaunted Patriots defense. If you haven’t already heard, Wilson has only one more incompletion (10) than he does touchdown (9) through two weeks. DK Metcalf played like a superstar and largely won his matchup against reigning Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore. There are still plenty of concerns on the back end of the defense. Seattle lost Marquise Blair and Bruce Irvin for the season as well. Seattle has shown it can score a lot of points. The defense needs to do just enough to hang on for the win.
4. Green Bay Packers: 2-0 (Last Week: 5) Won 42-21 vs. Detroit Remember when we thought the Packers were foolish for not drafting a receiver? Or for not signing one other than Devin Funchess? Aaron Rodgers probably does. Aaron Jones likely does as well. The latter rumbled for 236 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns. Green Bay leads the league in yards and points through two weeks. The defense is no joke either. Year 2 under Matt LaFleuer is off to an incredibly fast start. The Pack host the Saints in a Sunday night showdown in Week 3.
5. Buffalo Bills: 2-0 (Last Week: 6) Won 31-28 at Miami This was definitely closer than it should have been, but Buffalo was largely in control of this game throughout. Josh Allen continues to put up MVP-type numbers and the defense is making enough plays for the Bills to win. Devin Singletary and Zack Moss were also much more efficient running the ball, even if they didn’t put up gaudy numbers. After coasting past two rebuilding teams, Sean McDermott’s squad will get a much tougher test with the Rams coming to visit. Time for them to prove they are legitimate against better competition.
6. New Orleans Saints: 1-1 (Last Week: 3) Lost 34-24 at Las Vegas Father Time seems to have come for Drew Brees. The 41-year-old quarterback was off the mark on Monday night against the Raiders. On a night where Alvin Kamara posts 180-plus yards from scrimmage and scores two touchdowns, a few missed throws wouldn’t matter. However, the defense had no answer for Darren Waller and Derek Carr carved New Orleans up on third down. There were just too many mistakes in big moments, as New Orleans racked up 129 penalties yards This was supposed to be the big push for a title before Brees rode into the sunset. Even though Michael Thomas was hurt, the Saints do not get a pass for a poor performance.
7. Los Angeles Rams: 2-0 (Last Week: 11) Won 37-19 at Philadelphia Well then. I guess the Rams mean business. Beating up on the banged up Eagles doesn’t make you a Super Bowl contender, but back-to-back impressive weeks from the defense has me believing in this team’s potential. The backfield is deep and reliable. Jared Goff looks to be back in his 2018 groove as he completed his first 13 passes of the game. That doesn’t even cover Tyler Higbee’s breakout, three-touchdown game. Both Dallas and Philadelphia have struggled out of the gate, but Los Angeles looks it belongs in the playoff conversation.
8. Arizona Cardinals: 2-0 (Last Week: 14) Won 30-15 vs. Washington Arizona followed up their statement win in Week 1 with another solid outing. Kyler Murray continues to look dynamic with his arm and his legs. He accounted for three touchdowns and over 350 yards of offense. Washington did sack him three times, but Murray limited the damage by losing just eight yards on those sacks. DeAndre Hopkins has been exactly what the Cardinals hoped for when they traded for him as well. The defense also looks a lot better than last year, racking up four sacks and forcing two fumbles. It would not be a shock to see the Cardinals start 5-0 or even 6-0 with the Lions, Panthers, Jets and Cowboys coming up on the schedule.
9. New England Patriots: 1-1 (Last Week: 12) Lost 35-30 at Seattle I don’t care that it was a loss. New England showed it can hang tough with the best teams in the NFL. Cam Newton truly silenced the doubters with 397 passing yards and three total touchdowns. Julian Edelman continues to defy logic with an eight-catch, 179-yard performance. The Patriots got impressive outings from N’Keal Harry and Damiere Byrd as well. Surprisingly, it was the defense that let the team down. With so many new faces on that side of the ball, it is going to take the unit a few more games to really gel. Still, I was impressed by what I saw from the Pats.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers: 2-0 (Last Week: 8) Won 26-21 vs. Denver Pittsburgh was facing a Denver team playing without Drew Lock, Courtland Sutton, Phillip Lindsay or Von Miller and still almost lost this game. It was a tough reminder for Big Ben that he is still getting back into football shape. On the other hand, the defense came up when it mattered and James Conner bounced back from a disappointing start with a huge performance. The Steelers seem to have a deep group of playmakers with Diontae Johnson, Juju Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, Eric Ebron and James Washington all getting involved quite a bit on Sunday. There is still room for improvement, but Pittsburgh sits at 2-0 with a visit from Houston up next.
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 1-1 (Last Week: 9) Won 31-17 vs. Carolina This team has the feel of some of those early Brady-Belichick teams. A great pass rush and a disruptive, opportunistic defense leads the way. There are a ton of options out of the backfield. The receivers on the outside are talented. Tom Brady simply needs to manage the offense. He has struggled to do that through two games as he now has four total turnovers after an interception and a fumble on Sunday. It is clear this team can win with Brady under center. They might just not win because of him. The Bucs travel to Mile High to face Jeff Driskel next.
12. Tennessee Titans: 2-0 (Last Week: 10) Won 33-30 vs. Jacksonville How is it that I feel worse about this team at 2-0 than I did at the start of the season? Tennessee is finding a way to win tight games, which is important. The question that hovers over these first two weeks is why were they so close to begin with. Ryan Tannehill is playing some great football, which he will need to continue as teams zero in on stopping Derrick Henry. Where Tannehill really needs some help is on the other side of the ball. The defense came up with a late interception to seal the game, but giving up 30 points and close to 500 yards of offense to the Jaguars is not good enough. Luckily, the Titans get a hapless Vikings team up next.
13. San Francisco 49ers: 1-1 (Last Week: 7) Won 31-13 at New York As they say, the 49ers won the battle, but likely lost the war. San Francisco picked up its first win of the season. However, they lost Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Bosa, Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman and Solomon Thomas in the process. Bosa and Thomas are done for the year. There is some hope Garoppolo can play as early as this week. He should also get George Kittle back in the fold as well. No team has been hurt worse than the 49ers by injuries, which is why they drop so much despite the impressive performance. There is one stroke of good fortune. The Saquon Barkley-less Giants are up next.
14. Las Vegas Raiders: 2-0 (Last Week: 20) Won 34-24 vs. New Orleans What a performance from the Las Vegas Raiders. It was about the best possible way the Raiders could have opened their new stadium. Derek Carr played great, as did Darren Waller. Josh Jacobs put on another gutsy performance as well, even if he was not overly efficient. After a bit of a rocky start, the defense settled in, limiting Drew Brees and coming up big on third down. There are certainly some areas I’m sure Jon Gruden would like to sure up on that side of the ball, but it a great win for the relocated franchise. Vegas does not get any time to rest though with New England on the horizon.
15. Dallas Cowboys: 1-1 (Last Week: 13) Won 40-39 vs. Atlanta Mike McCarthy should send flowers to every single member of the Falcons onside kick recovery team. Without some truly astounding mistakes, there is no way the Cowboys could have come back in this game. Dallas found itself down 20-0 early on after a series of fumbles. The Cowboys coughed it up three times in total. Defensively, they had no answer for Matt Ryan or Calvin Ridley. Somehow, Dallas pulled off the comeback and avoided the embarrassment of starting 0-2. I wouldn’t count on too many more 20-point turnarounds this season though, particularly with a trip to Seattle coming up.
16. Houston Texans: 0-2 (Last Week: 17) Lost 33-16 vs. Baltimore It is hard to rip the Texans anymore than I already have. We know they made a bad offseason trade to acquire David Johnson and ship out DeAndre Hopkins. We also know they faced the particularly brutal task of playing the Chiefs and Ravens to open the year. They don’t get a complete pass for starting 0-2, but even with Hopkins, they likely would have lost both of these games. There were certainly some positives to this one. The defense limited Lamar Jackson and came up with four sacks. Unfortunately, it also gave up 240 yards rushing. Houston’s schedule does not let up either with Pittsburgh on the docket.
17. Indianapolis Colts: 1-1 (Last Week: 24) Won 28-11 vs. Minnesota In a battle of two struggling teams, the Colts quieted their concerns for at least one week. The defense stepped up and delivered three interceptions. Indy also kept Minnesota out of the end zone until the fourth quarter. It still wasn’t a great performance from Philip Rivers, but the offense was able to ride Jonathan Taylor to paydirt. The offense will have to truly round into form at some point, especially with Malik Hooker and Paris Campbell out for a while, but the Colts can get away with just good enough for this week.
18. Los Angeles Chargers: 1-1 (Last Week: 22) Lost 23-20 vs. Kansas City There are no such thing as good losses in the NFL, but the Chargers came as close as you can to having one in Week 2. Justin Herbert got the surprise start after Tyrod Taylor was ruled out pregame with a chest injury. The rookie from Oregon played extremely well, throwing for over 300 yards and a touchdown. He added one on the ground as well. Defensively, Los Angeles limited Clyde Edwards-Helaire and did its best to slow down Patrick Mahomes. It worked really well for three quarters. This is a team in flux though, so the loss does not really feel too painful. Anthony Lynn has said Taylor will be the starter when healthy, but the offense looked much better under Hebert. That will be a situation to watch.
19. Cleveland Browns: 1-1 (Last Week: 23) Won 35-30 vs. Cincinnati Beating the Bengals does not erase the memory of Week 1’s debacle against the Ravens, but it does put the Browns back on the right track. Baker Mayfield played much better. Meanwhile, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt showed why they are the best running back duo in the sport. Defensively, Cleveland struggled to slow down Joe Burrow. However, the defense could get reinforcements soon with Mack Wilson, Greedy Williams and Kevin Johnson all returning to practice on Monday. Cleveland will still have its hands full with Washington in Week 3.
20. Philadelphia Eagles: 0-2 (Last Week: 15) Lost 37-19 vs. Los Angeles If you haven’t already hit the panic button, you are probably hovering right over it as an Eagles fan. Carson Wentz looked downright terrible at home on Sunday. The offensive line actually held up decently well. The Rams did not record a sack or register a tackle for loss, but it still felt like this offense was struggling to get going. Defensively, Philly looks like a mess. It had no answer for Tyler Higbee or Darrell Henderson Jr. throughout much of the second half. The silver lining here is that Washington lost, so Philadelphia is only one game back in the division. The season is not over yet, but a Week 3 loss to the Bengals would really set off some alarms.
21. Chicago Bears: 2-0 (Last Week 21) Won 17-13 vs. New York Don’t ask me to explain how the Bears are 2-0. They just are. It was another uninspiring victory over one of the teams in the NFL’s basement. Mitchell Trubisky played poorly and the defense caught a big break when Saquon Barkley tore his ACL. Chicago seems to have simply lucked its way into two wins to open the year. That luck will likely run out against the Falcons in Week 3, but Atlanta has a propensity for blowing games, so who really knows what will happen.
22. Denver Broncos: 0-2 (Last Week: 18) Lost 26-21 at Pittsburgh Courtland Sutton is done for the year and Drew Lock is out for the next two-to-six weeks. That’s a major blow for the offense. And yet, the Denver was very much in the game on Sunday despite those injuries. Jeff Driskel played surprisingly well in relief of Lock, but showed his inexperience late in the game taking a sack on fourth down, failing to identify the pressure off the edge. Driskel might be able to keep the Broncos afloat until Lock can return, but this team’s playoff hopes took a huge hit.
23. Atlanta Falcons: 0-2 (Last Week: 19) Lost 40-39 at Dallas I’ve gotta say it. This was the worst blown lead in a game, well since the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl. It was a staggering collapse for Atlanta, complete with dropped touchdowns, botched onside kick recoveries and bad coaching. The Falcons continue to waste incredible performances from Matt Ryan and the offense. Atlanta is fourth in total yards and sixth in points, but inexplicably finds itself at 0-2. Whatever trust Dan Quinn earned with the Falcons’ 6-2 finish to 2019 is definitely gone and the pressure is on for him to turn this around, fast.
24. Minnesota Vikings: 0-2 (Last Week: 16) Lost 28-11 at Indianapolis Talk about an offseason refresh gone wrong. Minnesota made some major changes with hopes of pushing itself over the hump. Gone was the unreliable secondary and disgruntled playmaker. In came the young wave of talent and the late addition of a star pass rusher. Turns out the Vikings could have used Stefon Diggs on Sunday. Adam Thielen is back to being a one-man show as Kirk Cousins flounders in the offense. Cousins posted an abysmal 15.9 passer rating. He owns the worst passer rating and third-worst QBR through two weeks of action. If Minnesota loses to Tennessee, it might not be much longer before we start to see some changes made to the coaching staff and front office.
25. Washington: 1-1 (Last Week: 25) Lost 30-15 at Arizona The euphoria of Week 1’s win wore off quickly as the offense spun its wheels in Arizona. Dwayne Haskins owns a league-worst 27.8 QBR through two weeks of play and it is starting to seem like he might be the problem. He might not have the best supporting cast, but his continued accuracy issues are a red flag. On the bright side, the defense showed flashes of brilliance again, with three more sacks and an interception. Washington is starting to get the right pieces in place, but still has a major question mark at quarterback.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars: 1-1 (Last Week: 28) Lost 33-30 at Tennessee So much for being the least talented team in the NFL. Jacksonville cut Leonard Fournette and traded Yannick Ngakoue less than 10 days before the start of the season. The Jaguars were a tipped pass away from forcing overtime or possibly moving to 2-0. This offense quietly has a good number of playmakers between DJ Chark, Laviska Shenault, Keelan Cole and Chris Conley. James Robinson is proving he can be an NFL back while Chris Thompson is a nice change of pace option. The offensive line has held up fairly well. It would be nice to see the defense generate a bit more pressure, but it is hard to complain as a Jaguars fan through two weeks.
27. Miami Dolphins: 0-2 (Last Week: 30) Lost 31-28 vs. Buffalo That is more like the Miami team we saw in the second half of last season. Ryan Fitzpatrick was slinging the ball all over the yard, namely to Mike Gesicki, against the Bills. Unfortunately, the revamped secondary did not do its job. Byron Jones exited with an injury and Xavien Howard could not contain Stefon Diggs. It was a clear reminder that the Dolphins are still rebuilding, but seem to be on the right path.
28. Detroit Lions: 0-2 (Last Week: 27) Lost 42-21 at Green Bay If the Lions fired Matt Patricia tomorrow, I wouldn’t blame them. Detroit has somehow blown a double-digit lead in four straight games. Missing Kenny Golladay did not help matters, but after being up 14-3, losing by 21 is inexcusable. The pass rush is essentially nonexistent and the run defense had no answer for Aaron Jones. After some buzz about the Lions being a dark horse playoff team, it seems like Detroit is much closer to cleaning house than making a postseason push.
29. Carolina Panthers: 0-2 (Last Week: 29) Lost 31-17 at Tampa Bay Losing to a division rival is tough. Losing Christian McCaffrey in the process is much harder for the Panthers. So much of this offense runs through him. With Teddy Bridgewater suddenly unable to take care of the football, Carolina could be a in lot of trouble if their superstar is truly out for the month he is projected to miss. McCaffrey has already said he wants to beat that timeline, but if the Panthers are 1-5, there would be little use in rushing him back. This was always a multiyear rebuild for Matt Rhule anyway. This might just accelerate the tanking process.
30. Cincinnati Bengals: 0-2 (Last Week: 31) Lost 35-30 at Cleveland Close only counts in horseshoes, but the Bengals have to like what they saw out of their young quarterback on Thursday night. Joe Burrow threw for three touchdowns and, mostly, took care of the football, albeit in a losing effort. Unfortunately, the defense could not slow down the Browns running game, or Baker Mayfield for that matter. Cincinnati needs better play from its front seven going forward to stay in these games. It might be good to find a bit more balance on offense as well. Burrow threw the ball an outrageous 61 times, which does not feel like a recipe for success.
31. New York Giants: 0-2 (Last Week: 26) Lost 17-13 at Chicago Welcome to worst-case scenario for the New York Giants. The talk all offseason was that Daniel Jones would finally get a chance to play with all of the talent the Giants had assembled around him. That dream came crashing down when Saquon Barkley tore his ACL. Jones still led a valiant second-half comeback bid, but ultimately came up short. Sterling Shepard also suffered a toe injury that could keep him out for a few games. Hopes of turning the corner on the rebuild are crumbling as New York seems destined for a top-five pick.
32. New York Jets: 0-2 (Last Week: 32) Lost 31-13vs. San Francisco I am hard pressed to think of a time where the Jets have had less proven talent available on their offense. Sam Darnold was mostly working with Patriots castoffs Chris Hogan and Braxton Berrios after Breshad Perriman exited with an injury. Despite San Francisco losing what felt like their entire team to injury, New York had a measly three points at halftime. No matter what the injury concerns for the Jets, Adam Gase seems as good as gone and now the focus might change to what to do at quarterback if Trevor Lawrence is available when Joe Douglas gets to pick.
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Football is back! I thoroughly enjoyed my Sunday of watching the NFL on my couch. If you are like me, you were also likely checking your fantasy team (or teams in my case) on your phone the whole afternoon. I have been a lover of fantasy football for a really long time. I participated in my first league as an overeager and very confused eight-year-old back in 2006. I have never looked back. This year, I wanted to start creating some fantasy football content. I’ve written some predraft rankings before, but I figured I would attempt to add a weekly column to my usual slate of content offering some fantasy advice. I don’t pretend to be an expert, but hopefully I can help some people win their matchups.
Finding the top free-agent adds early in the season is crucial to fantasy success. There are players that slip through the cracks of your fantasy draft that end up determining the outcome of the league. In recent years, Alvin Kamara (2017), James Conner (2018) and Mark Andrews (2019) all went largely undrafted. Each of them finished sixth or better at their position during those seasons in PPR scoring. Working the waiver wire is important. You cannot just rely on your draft. So let’s dive into my favorite fantasy pick ups of for Week 2.
Kirk Cousins, QB, MIN He might not have been yelling his famous catch phrase after his Week 1 performance, but Cousins looked pretty sharp despite the loss. He completed 19 of his 25 passes for 271 yards and a pair of scores. He did toss an interception, but he made up for it with 34 yards rushing. His numbers have him as a fringe QB1 option against an underrated Packers defense. Cousins gets a much less impressive Colts defense next. That Indy defense just allowed Gardner Minshew to complete 19 of 20 passes and throw three touchdown passes. Cousins has better weapons to work with than Minshew and should be a solid starting option in Week 2.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, SF I am not convinced Garoppolo is a good quarterback, but fantasy success is not always linked to on-field success. Jameis Winston threw 30 interceptions in 2019 and was the fifth-best quarterback in fantasy. Garoppolo had a solid first week, posting 259 yards passing and two touchdowns with no turnovers. His receiving options are very limited at the moment with Deebo Samuel on IR and first-round pick Brandon Aiyuk dealing with a hamstring injury. He still has George Kittle and a solid group of running backs to lean on though. If you need are streaming quarterbacks, there are few better options heading into Week 2. Garoppolo faces a Jets defense that just gave up 27 fantasy points to Josh Allen. He might not reach those heights, but Garoppolo has a high floor heading into the matchup.
Nyheim Hines, RB, IND This is definitely the first player I am putting a waiver claim on this week. Marlon Mack is going to miss the rest of the season with an Achilles injury. That opens up a ton of playing time for Hines. Yes, Jonathan Taylor is likely still the lead back in Indianapolis, but Hines evenly split the second half snaps at running back for the Colts on Sunday. He ended up with 15 touches (seven rushes, eight catches) and two touchdowns. He has more value in PPR leagues, but is still worth adding in standard scoring leagues. He faces a Vikings defense next that just gave up 158 yards rushing to the Packers.
Malcolm Brown, RB, LAR Heading into Week 1, this backfield looked like a logjam with Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson Jr. joining Brown. The Rams also have a capable complement of pass catchers, so it felt like Brown might get crowded out. Instead, he racked up 78 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. He also added 31 yards on three catches. There is no guarantee he will be the lead back week to week, but Brown seems poised for a healthy workload. He has the feel of a solid flex option going up against a banged up Eagles defense in Week 2.
James Robinson, RB, JAX If you didn’t hop on this one last week when he was announced as the starter, you aren’t too late. Robinson is still available in more than 70% of ESPN leagues. He did not put up gaudy numbers in the Jaguars win, but he had 17 touches and was the clear lead back for the team. He seems like a better option in standard leagues, only catching one pass in the contest. Jacksonville seems like they want to be a run-first team though, which bodes well for Robinson’s fantasy viability. He faces a tough Titans defense, but the long-term value here is good enough to go get him.
Benny Snell Jr., RB, PIT James Conner fantasy managers should be all over this one. Snell stepped in for an injured Conner and rushed for 113 yards against the Giants. He joins Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Derrick Henry as the only running backs in the league to eclipse 100 yards rushing in Week 1. He definitely has more value in standard leagues than PPR ones with no catches despite his heavy usage. Snell faces a tough Broncos defense in Week 2, but will get the Houston defense that gave up those 100+ yards to Edwards-Helaire in Week 3. He should have some fantasy value if Conner returns, but maximize his window as the lead back with Conner banged up.
Russell Gage, WR, ATL It is unlikely Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Gage will all go over 100 yards receiving again this season. However, nine catches on 12 targets gives me hope that Gage will carry fantasy value into the future. He earned at least six targets in five games last season, including Atlanta’s final three contests. This Falcons offense is going to throw the ball a lot. It seems like they might have to in order to win games given the inexperience of their secondary. Gage faces another middle-of-the-road secondary next week as Atlanta takes on Dallas. Consider him a potential flex option, with even more value in PPR leagues.
Corey Davis, TEN, WR You don’t want to overreact to one game, but it seems like Ryan Tannehill and Davis have developed a lot of trust in the offseason. The fourth-year receiver caught seven of his eight targets for 101 yards against the Broncos. With A.J. Brown commanding a lot of attention and teams stacking the box to stop Derrick Henry, Davis could be a huge beneficiary. He will face stiffer tests eventually, but he gets a Jaguars secondary that lacks depth and a very inexperienced Vikings group in his next two games. He has fantasy value this week and going forward.
Paris Campbell, WR, IND It was unclear how Indianapolis would use its receivers outside of T.Y. Hilton heading into Week 1. Between Campbell, Zach Pascal and Michael Pittman, it seemed like the Colts were almost approaching the WR2 spot by committee. Campbell emerged as the best of those options against a young Jaguars secondary. He posted solid numbers (six catches for 71 yards), and more importantly, tied Hilton with a team-leading nine targets. Clearly, Frank Reich intends to get the ball in Campbell’s hands. He was an intriguing fantasy option a year ago before injuries derailed his rookie season. Minnesota just got torched by Aaron Rodgers and company in Week 1 and that is who Campbell and Indy will face next. Consider him a low-end WR2 option for this week and a solid flex consideration in the future.
Mike Williams, WR, LAC There were a lot of fantasy managers who dropped Williams after he suffered a preseason shoulder injury. He rewarded those who stuck with him with a solid performance in Week 1. Four catches for 69 yards is not spectacular, but the target share was very promising. He had nine targets from Tyrod Taylor against the Bengals. Williams is a major red zone option as well, so he carries additional upside. He faces the Chiefs next, who will likely be without top cornerback Charvarius Ward. Williams will get a young Panthers secondary the week after that. He has a few weeks of really good fantasy viability ahead of him.
Dallas Goedert, TE, PHI If Goedert is available in your league, go get him. He was the top scoring fantasy tight option in PPR formats in Week 1, but was on only 21.8 percent of rosters in ESPN leagues. You can’t count on him to replicate these numbers (eight catches, 101 yards and a TD) consistently, but even if Goedert puts up half as many points per week, he is a tight end worth having in fantasy. With Carson Wentz clearly still favoring his tight ends over wide receivers, Goedert has the potential to be a top-tier fantasy option. His upcoming matchups are not great, but he is still worth stashing on your roster.
Logan Thomas, TE, WAS A tight end on the other side of this Week 1 matchup is my other top pickups for the week at the position. Thomas hauled in four passes for 37 yards and a touchdown. Now most of his scoring was dependent on that trip to the end zone, but he had a very healthy eight targets in Washington’s season opener. It is clear he has developed a good rapport with Dwayne Haskins. With few other reliable pass catching options outside of Terry McLaurin, Thomas could be a fringe TE1 and carries a ton of value in any league that places a premium on tight end scoring. I can almost guarantee you he is available, as he is currently rostered in just 0.4 percent of ESPN leagues. In Week 2, he faces a Cardinals defense that allowed the most points to opposing tight ends a year ago.
Football is back! The NFL finally made its triumphant return. Between social justice initiatives, COVID-19 protocols and a lack of fans, it felt very different, but it was still fun to watch an entertaining weekend of football. I want to touch on those social justice initiatives before I dive into actual football. It is a nice gesture by the league and its players, but I really think more needs to be done. The conversation has been started and players are clearly passionate about the issue, but I would like to see the league do something more substantive than playing different songs and putting names on their helmets. The NFL is the most powerful sports league and one of the most powerful businesses in the world. Baltimore had one of the best calls to action of any team I have seen. I hope we see more of this. This conversation cannot afford to stop.
Amidst the conversation, hopefully we can discuss some football as well. We saw some major clashes, unexpected upsets and lots of big plays. With one week of action officially behind us, here is how the league stands.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: 1-0 (Last Week: 1) Won 34-20 vs. Houston The champs are here! Kansas City opened its title defense with a convincing win over Houston. Patrick Mahomes tossed three touchdown passes and rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire looked like the real deal. After one week of action, he leads the league in rushing yards. There are definitely still question marks on the defense, especially with Charvarius Ward suffering a hand injury. However, the front seven is good enough to mask some of those concerns. And if he needs to, Andy Reid can just ask the offense to outscore pretty much any team they face.
2. Baltimore Ravens: 1-0 (Last Week: 2) Won 38-6 vs. Cleveland It didn’t take long for Lamar Jackson to recapture his MVP form. He completed 80 percent of his passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns. He added 45 yards rushing to lead the team. The backfield was a bit of a mess, but given the game situation, it was perhaps a little too predictable as to when Baltimore would run the ball down the stretch. Holding the Browns to just a touchdown is an impressive way for the defense to start as well. The Ravens get a tougher test with a road game against the Texans in Week 2.
3. New Orleans Saints: 1-0 (Last Week: 3) Won 34-23 vs. Tampa Bay Well that should quiet the hype. After a long offseason of chatter surrounding the Buccaneers, the Saints reminded everyone that the division still belongs to them. It was about as good of a performance as New Orleans could have hoped for defensively. They picked off Tom Brady twice and sacked him three times. That doesn’t even include the recovered fumble on a nifty special teams play. For as good as the defense was though, there is some cause for concern for the offense. Drew Brees threw for 160 yards, his fewest since 2018. It was his fewest while attempting at least 30 passes since 2013. Sean Payton has already voiced his displeasure regarding how he called the game and how the offense played. On top of that, Michael Thomas suffered an ankle injury late in the game. It was nice to get a win, but there is plenty of room for improvement.
4. Seattle Seahawks: 1-0 (Last Week: 6) Won 38-25at Falcons Be prepared to hear the phrase “Let Russ Cook” a lot this season if the Seahawks keep scoring points like this. Russell Wilson threw for 322 yards and four touchdowns in a comfortable victory over the Falcons. Defensively, new addition Jamal Adams was all over the field. He racked up 12 tackles, a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss. Seattle has plenty of playmakers on both sides of the ball to win a lot of games this year. Hopefully the defense, which gave up 450 yards passing to Matt Ryan, will tighten up as the year goes on.
5. Green Bay Packers: 1-0 (Last Week: 8) Won 43-34 at Minnesota Reminder: Aaron Rodgers is still really good at football. Granted, it was against a completely remodeled Vikings secondary, complete with two rookie cornerbacks, but posting a league-high 43 points in Week 1 is a good way to quiet the critics. While Rodgers made it a habit of throwing to Davante Adams early and often (17 targets for 14 catches, 156 yards and two TDs), he got some production from his other receivers too. Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdez-Scantling both found the end zone. One sign of trouble though still showed up. Green Bay’s defense gave up a leauge-worst 6.1 yards per carry and two rushing touchdowns. It is clear that the Achilles heel of the team from last year has not been fixed yet.
6. Buffalo Bills: 1-0 (Last Week: 9) Won 27-17 vs. New York I am pretty sure this is the highest I have ever ranked Buffalo. The Bills comfortably cruised past the Jets in Week 1 in an impressive defensive showing. A sizable win over an inept team is nothing to get excited about, but Sean McDermott’s group took care of business. It was far from perfect though. Josh Allen fumbled twice and the running backs struggled to get on track. Buffalo running backs ran for a dismal 2.3 yards per carry. Thankfully, the Bills get another week to figure it out before their schedule really gets tough. They face a trip to Miami before hosting the Rams.
7. San Francisco 49ers: 0-1 (Last Week: 4) Lost 24-20 vs. Arizona Welcome to the Super Bowl hangover. It’s important not to panic yet in San Francisco. This was a close game against an up-and-coming division rival. The 49ers have been decimated by injuries at the skill positions. Deebo Samuel hit the IR. Brandon Aiyuk is nursing a hamstring issue. George Kittle suffered a knee injury during the game. Jimmy Garoppolo does not get a free pass, but it might be a few weeks before we can really evaluate this team.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers: 1-0 (Last Week: 10) Won 26-16 It took quite a while for Ben Roethlisberger and the offense to knock off the rust. You could argue they never really did. Pittsburgh clearly was not hitting on all cylinders early on in the game. However, the defense stepped up like it did for much of last season. Keith Butler had the unit flying around wreaking havoc. The Steelers sacked Daniel Jones three times, hit him seven times and came up with a pair of interceptions. If the offense can find its groove earlier in games, this Steelers team is going to be tough to beat.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 0-1 (Last Week: 5) Lost 34-23 at New Orleans Through the first few drives, it really seemed like this Bucs team was as good as advertised. Then the lack of familiarity set in. Tom Brady was not sharp, with a pick-six and some horribly thrown passes. The running game was inconsistent. Todd Bowles’ defense was asked to do too much with turnovers leading to a short field for the Saints far too often. There are still positives here. The usually high-powered New Orleans offense was held to just 271 yards. If Tampa can cut out the turnovers, it should have no problem bouncing back.
10. Tennessee Titans: 1-0 (Last Week: 11) Won 16-14 at Denver The kicking woes are back! Tennessee should have comfortably won this game, but three missed field goals and one missed extra point from Stephen Gostkowski almost cost them. He just about made up for it by hitting the game-winner though. Outside of special teams woes, the Titans were not efficient offensively and had too many drives stall after reaching the opponent’s side of the field. Mike Vrabel’s defense did it’s job, limiting Melvin Gordon and stepping up near the goal line. That secondary must grow up fast though. The unit could have been hurt a lot worse if not for two Jerry Jeudy drops. This was a sluggish start to the year for Tennessee.
11. Los Angeles Rams: 1-0 (Last Week: 17) Won 20-17 vs. Dallas All the questions around the Rams this offseason were about the offense. Could the offensive line get back to its 2018 form? Is Jared Goff really a franchise quarterback? Who will take over in the backfield after Todd Gurley’s release? The offense is still a work in progress, but the defense showed out on Sunday night. Holding the Cowboys to just 17 points is an impressive way to get the season started. Three sacks and seven quarterback hits kept Dak Prescott from truly settling in. The offensive potential paired with this type of defensive performance is promising for the Rams going forward.
12. New England Patriots: 1-0 (Last Week: 14) Won 21-11 at Miami It is a new day in New England. Gone is Tom Brady, replaced by Cam Newton. Predictably, the Patriots offense looked very different as a result. Cam ran the ball 15 times and attempted just 19 passes. He was highly effective as the Pats rumbled for over 200 yards as a team. It is too soon say if the impressive defensive showing was a product of great play or facing an overmatched Dolphins offense. New England gets a much tougher test with a trip to Seattle up next.
13. Dallas Cowboys: 0-1 (Last Week: 7) Lost 20-17 at Los Angeles All the talk about this incredible offense went out the window as Dallas struggled to score in Week 1. Dak Prescott was supposed to put the league on notice with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb. Someone forgot to tell the Rams though. Injuries are already piling up as well. La’el Collins was already on IR. He is now joined by Leighton Vander Esch and Blake Jarwin. While there were a few bright spots, this was close to worst-case scenario for the Cowboys.
14. Arizona Cardinals: 1-0 (Last Week: 21) Won 24-20 at San Francisco After a dynamic offense added a big-name playmaker in DeAndre Hopkins, the expectations started to build for Arizona. Through one week, the Cardinals delivered. Knocking off the defending NFC champions on the road (whatever that really means in 2020) is a great way to indicate that the preseason hype was well deserved. Hopkins went off for 14 catches and 151 yards. Kyler Murray was far from perfect, but made more than enough big plays to lead the offense against a good 49ers defense. This is a great start for this young Cardinals team. With a couple of winnable games coming up, Arizona might just get on a roll here.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: 0-1 (Last Week: 12) Lost 27-17 at Washington That was underwhelming. Philadelphia blew a 17-0 lead and watched the injuries stack up. That second part makes this particularly difficult to evaluate. The Eagles were without Lane Johnson, Miles Sanders, Derek Barnett, Alshon Jeffrey and Javon Hargrave entering the content. Jack Driscoll, Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham all left the game on Sunday. Carson Wentz was under siege with both Johnson and Driscoll out as a result. Washington sacked him eight times in the contest. He has to play better, but he needs a lot more help from his offensive line if he is going to survive the season.
16. Minnesota Vikings: 0-1 (Last Week: 13) Lost 43-34 vs. Green Bay Could you tell the Vikings were a little green in the cornerback department? Mike Hughes returned from injury. Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler made their first NFL appearances. Without a preseason, the group was not ready for Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams. Unfortunately, it is going to take the young corners a few weeks to gel. Minnesota needs to improve and quickly if it hopes to keep the hopes of another postseason run alive.
17. Houston Texans: 0-1 (Last Week: 15) Lost 34-20 at Kansas City It wasn’t pretty, but what did you expect from the Texans? Houston made a bad offseason trade to land David Johnson, sending DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona. It was clear right away that Deshaun Watson missed his favorite target. Being overmatched by the defending Super Bowl champions should not be a shock. What Houston does next is what matters. Unfortunately, the schedule won’t get any easier with the Ravens and Steelers up next. Things are going to get worse before they get better. Expect the pressure to keep building on Bill O’Brien with each loss.
18. Denver Broncos: 0-1 (Last Week: 19) Lost 16-14 vs. Tennessee New year, same late-game heartbreak for the Broncos. Vic Fangio mismanaged the clock in the closing minutes to cost Denver a chance to come back. After all the excitement surrounding the Broncos offense, this was a bit of a lackluster debut. Drew Lock was efficient, but far from spectacular. Melvin Gordon picked up more than 30 percent of his rushing yards on one run. Thankfully, the defense picked up the slack and Stephen Gostkowski forgot how to kick. Derrick Henry did rumble for 116 yards, but it took him 31 carries. Denver kept it close, but that only counts in horseshoes.
19. Atlanta Falcons: 0-1 (Last Week: 18) Lost 38-25 vs. Seattle Turns out that throwing a bunch of rookies out to defend Russell Wilson is not a great plan. Atlanta should be encouraged by the start for its offense though. Matt Ryan leads the NFL after one week with 450 yards passing. Once again, it was the secondary that held the Falcons back. Tak McKinnley was the only player to register a pass deflection for the defense. Dan Quinn saved his job last year with how the Falcons played down the stretch. Losing to one of the best teams in the league won’t put him at risk yet, but the defense needs to step up quickly. Dallas is up next.
20. Las Vegas Raiders: 1-0 (Last Week: 22) Lost 20-16 vs. Jacksonville A new era is underway for the Raiders. Las Vegas won it’s first game since relocating, but it wasn’t always pretty. The Panthers were breaking in a new coach, quarterback and defense, yet the Raiders needed a late touchdown to seal the win. Josh Jacobs looked like a bellcow back, toting the rock 25 times and scoring a career-high three touchdowns. The defense is still a work in progress. Carolina tallied 31 points and hit on a 75-yard passing touchdown. In a division featuring the proven Chiefs and the promising Broncos, Vegas is going to need to figure things out on the back end.
21. Chicago Bears: 0-1 (Last Week 23) Won 27-23 at Detroit For three quarters, the Bears looked hapless on offense. Detroit led 23-6 entering the fourth quarter. Mitchell Trubisky conjured up some Nick Foles-type magic with the three touchdown passes in the final period to somehow lead Chicago to a win. It helped that the Bears played a Lions team who had a tendency for collapsing late last season. Chicago almost blew the comeback too. Lions’ rookie D’Andre Swift had the game-winning touchdown in his hands with 11 seconds left and dropped it. This win should not inspire too much confidence in this team, but a road divisional victory is never a bad thing.
22. Los Angeles Chargers: 1-0 (Last Week: 25) Won 16-13 at Cincinnati It was ugly, but the Chargers started their 2020 season with a win. Tyrod Taylor posted a woeful 26.5 QBR and failed to find the end zone. Thankfully, rookie running back Joshua Kelly stepped up down the stretch and scored Los Angeles’ only touchdown. The defense looked solid, forcing a fumble and holding the Bengals to just 13 points. However, this game should have gone to overtime. If not for an injury suffered by Randy Bullock on the potential game-tying field goal, Cincy would’ve extended the contest. This is still a rebuilding year for the Chargers and it looks like it is going to be rough.
23. Cleveland Browns: 0-1 (Last Week: 16) Lost 38-6 at Baltimore Oh boy. Losing to the Ravens is understandable. Losing by 32 is not. Baker Mayfield struggled again and the banged up Browns secondary stood no chance against Lamar Jackson. While this was a brutal way to start the season, I don’t think we will see Cleveland blown out like this too often. Baltimore built an early lead and Kevin Stefanski had to abandon the run. If the defense can get healthy and prevent an early deficit, this team should be much more competitive. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for 132 yards rushing on 5.7 yards per carry. Unfortunately, the little bit of buzz about Cleveland turning things vanished quickly.
24. Indianapolis Colts: 0-1 (Last Week: 20) Lost 27-20 at Jacksonville The Colts might be in a lot of trouble. 19.33 percent of their cap is tied up in two quarterbacks who are likely not the future at the position. Philip Rivers struggled mightily against a stripped down Jaguars defense on Sunday in his first start with the team. Those two interceptions he threw were incredibly costly as the Colts lost by seven to the team just about everyone in the football world viewed as one of the three worst in the NFL. Indy is close to having a roster capable of competing for a Super Bowl (they could use an upgrade at corner), but lack a championship-caliber quarterback. On top of that, Marlon Mack is out for the season with a torn Achilles. Terrible start for Indianapolis.
25. Washington: 0-1 (Last Week: 31) Won 27-17 vs. Philadelphia Good coaching makes a huge difference apparently. That is far from a new concept in the NFL or any sport for that matter, but Ron Rivera provided a great example of it in Washington. This would have been the most shocking result of the weekend if not for the Jaguars knocking off the Colts. Even with all the Eagles’ injuries, it was an impressive showing. Washington followed San Francisco’s blueprint to defense building with a deep and talented defensive line. The offense was rough to say the least. Dwayne Haskins barely completed 50 percent of his passes and the team averaged a league-worst 2.2 yards per carry. There is room for optimism, but Washington has a lot of room for improvement as well.
26. New York Giants: 0-1 (Last Week: 24) Lost 26-16 vs. Pittsburgh The Giants offensive line continues to be an issue. Dave Gettleman invested significant resources in Daniel Jones’ protection, but with Nate Solder opting out and no preseason, the unit has not had time to gel. Facing an aggressive Steelers defense was not the best way to break it in either. Pittsburgh sacked Jones three times and Saquon Barkley was held to the second-fewest rushing yards of his career with six positive yards on 15 carries. Jones had some good moments and looked much better than last year, but New York is still clearly at least a year away from truly competing.
27. Detroit Lions: 0-1 (Last Week: 26) Lost 27-23 vs. Chicago Matt Patricia’s seat is unquestionably the hottest in the league right now. Detroit blew a 17-point fourth quarter lead in spectacular fashion. D’Andre Swift had the chance to be a hero and erase the collapse, but dropped the ball in the end zone. Matthew Stafford did not look sharp in his return from injury and the defense got shredded. For all the improvements the Lions made in the offseason, they are still in the NFC North cellar.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars: 1-0 (Last Week: 32) Won 27-20 vs. Indianapolis Forget tanking. Trevor Lawrence can go rescue a different franchise. Gardner Minshew has this under control! I am somewhat kidding, but it was a masterful performance from the second-year quarterback. He completed 19 of his 20 passes for three touchdowns. James Robinson looked solid in NFL debut and Jacksonville suddenly has a decent group of receivers to work with. First-round pick CJ Henderson is already paying dividends with an interception in his first game. This team is definitely not built to compete for a division title, but they might not be as far away from the pack as we all initially thought.
29. Carolina Panthers: 0-1 (Last Week: 29) Lost 34-30 vs. Las Vegas This was almost a dream start for the new-look Panthers. Teddy Bridgewater engineered a pair of scoring drives to take a fourth quarter lead, but the defense could not hold up down the stretch. Still, there were a lot of positives to take away from this game. Bridgewater acclimated decently well to his new system. Robby Anderson provided the field-stretching ability Carolina had been hoping for. The defense still has a long way to go though. Giving up 34 points and failing to register a sack or turnover is a tough start. With so many new starters though, there were always going to be growing pains. In time, this Panthers team should be just fine.
30. Miami Dolphins: 0-1 (Last Week: 28) Lost 21-11 at New England Ryan Fitzpatrick did what he often does when he enters Year 2 with a team: he fell apart. Three interceptions and no touchdowns is not how the veteran quarterback would have wanted to start the season. Defensively, Miami held New England to just 21 points, but surrendered a league-high 217 rushing yards. However, the offensive line that was terrible a year ago gave up just one sack and Myles Gaskins flashed some potential. This rebuild was always going to take a few years, but this was an uninspiring start.
31. Cincinnati Bengals: 0-1 (Last Week: 30) Lost 16-13 vs. Los Angeles The Joe Burrow era is underway and already there is more optimism around this team than there was all of last year. Burrow had his far share of mistakes, but he scored a rushing touchdown and led the team on a potential game-tying drive before Randy Bullock missed the field goal. Cincy was never going to turn things around quickly. Patience is going to be needed with this team.
32. New York Jets: 0-1 (Last Week: 27) Lost 27-17 at Buffalo A quick glance at the scoreline does not tell you the full story for the Jets. New York had just three points at halftime, Sam Darnold posted a worrisome 19.3 QBR and the running game floundered even before Le’Veon Bell exited with a hamstring injury. Defensively, the Jets came up with two important fumbles, but otherwise did not have an answer for Josh Allen. Adam Gase should have been fired a year ago and the Jets seem to be set for another mediocre season. The fact that in Year 3, New York does not know if Sam Darnold is truly a franchise quarterback is pathetic. It didn’t take long for the Jets to end up back in the NFL’s basement.
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Chris is finally back recording the show! He breaks down the decisions of Caleb Farley, Rashod Bateman, Rondale Moore, Gregory Rousseau and Micah Parsons to opt out of the 2020 season. He also discusses the impact of the Pac-12’s player demands and how the Big Ten followed suit. Plus, catch up on the latest regarding the Power 5 conference schedules for the upcoming season. Listen to the latest episode now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. https://anchor.fm/theaftermath