1. DO Keep Faith In Your Stud Quarterback
Here are the top eight quarterbacks by Average Draft Position, paired with their current QB ranking in total points scored:
1. Aaron Rodgers (14)
2. Tom Brady (15)
3. Drew Brees (3)
4. Matthew Stafford (22)
5. Cam Newton (5)
6. Eli Manning (4)
7. Michael Vick (6)
8. Peyton Manning (19)
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN. Does it mean that black is white, cats are dogs, and we should all accept Alex Smith as our new Dark Lord? Should we trade Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning for scraps of bread and/or old Simple Plan CDs? The answer is… no! It’s been two weeks. Rodgers and Manning both faced two of the leagues’ best defenses in Weeks 1 and 2 — Rodgers had San Francisco and Chicago, and Manning tore up Pittsburgh before having a tough time with Atlanta. Meanwhile, New England dominated Tennessee and struggled against a surprisingly good Arizona defense, explaining Brady’s difficulties. All three of these guys should get their sea legs pretty soon, and you shouldn’t panic.
Meanwhile, Eli Manning and Drew Brees owners should feel pretty swell — both of those guys should be doing a ton of passing this year.
(Stafford’s a slightly less clear-cut case: I’ve been saying for weeks that the Lions are due for a downturn, and though he understandably struggled against the 49ers, his Week 1 debacle vs. St. Louis is a little less easily excused — Robert Griffin III fared far better than he did.)
3. DON’T Go Nuts Over Two Weeks Of Defense
I’ve actually read in two different places this week that the Houston Texans’ secondary has suddenly become this dominant, suffocating force of nature. Yes, they’ve allowed zero touchdowns in two games so far, and that’s great. 124 yards per game? Wonderful. But those achievements came against the league’s two worst starting QBs, Ryan Tannehill and Blaine Gabbert. ESPN’s prognostication for the Texans’ D right now is, “With Denver coming off a short week to prepare for this unit, expect Houston to have a field day giving Peyton Manning and his receiving corps fits.” This is hyperbole. Houston’s D was a very good-but-not-great squad last year that feasted on a cupcake schedule. This year, they’re good, again, but they’re also not the behemoths they’re being made out to be. You can also file the Seahawks and the Patriots in this category.
5. DO Start Injury Replacements On Great Offenses
One thing should be obvious to anyone paying even a mite’s worth of attention to the NFL this year: the New York Giants gon’ throw the damn ball. Aside from an atrocious first half vs. Tampa Bay — seriously, what was going on for those 30 minutes? was he hungover? — Eli Manning has been playing MVP-caliber football, and it really doesn’t matter who’s catching his passes; whoever it is is going to break 100 yards receiving. Sure enough, last night, Ramses Barden — filling in for Hakeem Nicks and Domenik Hixon — had 9 receptions for 138 yards, even though nobody, not even his own mother, had heard of him before kickoff. (Fun anecdote: I placed in a waiver request for Barden at 11:02 am in the BuzzFeed league. Unfortunately, to get a player the day of, you need to claim him before 11 am. Looks like you’re on deck, Greg Little.)
This extends beyond the Giants, though. Both Roddy White and Julio Jones on the Falcons are questionable, meaning that Harry Douglas could be worth keeping an eye on; same goes for Jason Avant, who should see increased looks with Maclin out. Matt Ryan and Mike Vick gon’ throw the damn ball.
7. DON’T Ignore The Best Players On Bad Teams
We usually like to fill our fantasy squads with players on great teams, because then we know that they’ll at least be likely to receive some of the largesse from those teams every so often. (Also, we can bask in their success and glean some of it for our own, taking solace in the fact that even if they have a bad week, their team won, and really, that’s what matters in sports, to just win, and we’ll know that we too are winners for picking winners, even though our team ends up only scoring 57.3 points and we went 1-13 from the floor that morning playing basketball at the local Y. Not that anyone was keeping track.)
As good of an idea as this can be sometimes — see above — you can take it too far. Starting the Packers’ bottom-of-the-bench WRs, i.e. James Jones, Donald Driver, and Randall Cobb, will pay off those weeks when Aaron Rodgers throws for 5 TDs and 400+ yards, but when Green Bay’s leading by halftime or struggling, those guys are going to be afterthoughts. With a bad team, they’ll often be trailing, and so throwing, much of the second half, meaning that the top targets will generally get their stats even if they aren’t technically, you know, good. The best examples of this right now are guys like Dwyane Bowe on the Chiefs and Brian Hartline (MIA), Greg Little (CLE), and Danny Amendola (STL).
9. DO Start Alfred Morris
I wasn’t sold on Alfred Morris last week. I am now. Through two games, Morris has been Shanahan’s go to guy when running the ball — not necessarily in the passing game, though, in which Evan Royster and Roy Helu have also seen some action — and last week, he improved on his dreadful Week 1 yards per carry, averaging over 5 YPC. Somehow, 6% of ESPN leagues still have a free agent Morris; if you’re in one of those, pick him up. Otherwise, play him, and if you can, trade him — his value’s unlikely to be as high again this year as it is now.
11. DON’T Start Chris Johnson If You Can Avoid It
I know, I know — he was your first-round pick. He’s the centerpiece of your team. He’s so fast. None of this matters. Right now, Chris Johnson is the worst starting running back in the league, and your team has no shot of winning if you’re wasting a roster spot on his 3 points a game. If you have no viable alternative, then you can leave him in and pray that Detroit’s shoddy run D finally gives him the chance he needed to explode. But if you have any, and I mean any, guy on your bench who you can reasonably expect 10+ points out of, put him in instead.
13. DO Pick Up Martellus Bennett, Dennis Pitta, Or Kyle Rudolph
Earlier today, my editor told me he picked up Martellus Bennett this morning and I laughed in his face, insulting the quality of the league he plays in — how could nobody have Martellus Bennett? He’s scored a TD in every single game so far this year! But sure enough, Bennett’s only owned in 64.9% of ESPN leagues. If Bennett isn’t available, get Dennis Pitta (36.2%) or Kyle Rudolph (12.4%). These guys are more valuable than all but five or so TEs in the league, and they’re young guns who should get better as the season goes on.
15. DON’T Get Distracted By Name-Brand Tight Ends
Yeah, OK, we know: Jason Witten, Todd Heap, Dallas Clark, and Antonio Gates have been four of the leagues best TEs basically your entire life. I don’t care. It’s time to move on. Witten and Gates could conceivably be effective players again this year, but right now they shouldn’t be starting; Clark and Heap should be discarded like yesterday’s large plodding pass-catching detritus. Get those new guys I mentioned above instead.
17. DO Pick On The Saints, Chiefs, And Redskins
As early-season favorites for defenses that will make even the most pedestrian QBs look like golden gods, the Saints, Redskins, and Chiefs will provide good opportunities to plug up a fantasy QB hole, if you have one. I mean, the Skins turned Sam Bradford into a dynamo last week, and the Saints got shredded by a rookie in the first game of his career. (Even if that rookie is RGIII.) This week, Andy Dalton should be able to rain bombs on Washington, and Matt Cassell has the Saints in what will almost certainly be a track meet, since it involves two teams without defenses.
19. DON’T Start Blaine Gabbert
I don’t care that he’s playing against Indy. I don’t care that he had a good Week 1. I don’t care if he was injured last week. I don’t care that his WRs are still coming on. DON’T START BLAINE GABBERT.