The second week of the NFL season concluded with Monday night’s Philadelphia Eagles 30-27 win over the Indianapolis Colts. A high scoring affair is what many fantasy footballers expected. Yet, it was Sunday evening’s games that made for even more mayhem. A large number of injuries to key players may have greatly affected the outcome of some marquee games. However, some analysts predictions were flat-out wrong. Here are some of the highlight’s of the fantasy football’s studs vs. the disappointing duds, during week 2.
Fantasy Football Stud: Darren Sproles – The diminutive Eagles running back showed us that his week 1 performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars was no mirage. Sproles was dynamite for fantasy owners during the Eagles Monday night victory over the Colts. Sharing the backfield with last season’s NFL rushing leader LaSean McCoy has not bothered Sproles one bit. The lightning rod carried the ball four times for 26 yards and a touchdown. However, where he made his real presence felt was in the passing game, as he caught all seven of his targets and burned the Colts for 152 yards, including a career high 57 yard catch. With Chip Kelly’s high-octane offense, Sproles is the perfect backfield mate for McCoy and by the looks of things he will be making a fantasy killing this season.
Fantasy Football Dud: Reggie Bush – The versatile ruining back was supposed to help lift the Detroit Lions offense this season. Unfortunately, after a poor showing against the Giants in week 1, Bush was only marginally better in the Lions 24-7 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Bush appears to be losing carries to not only trigger Matthew Stafford’s arm but also seems to be getting his snaps and targets taken away by running back Joique Bell. As a fellow versatile pass catching back, Bell is still listed as number two on the Lions depth chart but played more snaps than Bush in both contests. The journeyman caught six of his 11 targets for 61 yards and posted 10 carries for 36 yards. Bush managed just six carries for a total of 26 yards and caught two passes for three yards. Going forward, despite Lions coach, Jim Caldwell’s claims, fantasy owners have to be concerned about Bush’s ineffectiveness and a clearly diminishing role. It may not be time to hit the waiver wire if Bush is third running back for owners but if he is set as a number 1/2 back, the waiver wire is the best place to go for fantasy owners.
Fantasy Football Stud: DeMarco Murray – With Tony Romo slowly returning from his back injury, the Dallas Cowboys have shown a new dedication to their running game. Leading that charge Sunday was Murray, who obliterated the Tennessee Titans run defense to the tune of 167 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries. For the second straight week the speedy running back fumbled in the first quarter, however, that has been the only knock on Murray thus far this season. Now that he is being featured steadily and no longer fighting for carries in the Cowboys offense, he has already turned in his second consecutive 100 yard rushing performance. The dominant display of downhill running was the driving force in the Cowboys 26-10 win. Analysts predicted Murray would have a big year after a breakout 2013 campaign, but, with 285 yards and two touchdowns in his first couple games, the ceiling is higher than ever for fantasy owners.
Fantasy Football Dud: Eddie Lacy – Owners of the sophomore running back should have been weary of starting Lacy, given the fact that he was returning from a week 1 concussion. The 2013 AP Offensive ROY was able to carry his fair share of the load, but managed just 43 yards on 13 carries and two receptions for 18 receiving yards. Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson helped save the day in the Packers improbable comeback home victory against the New York Jets 31-24, however, Lacy was not a major reason for the triumph. The Packers number 1 back was valued very highly coming into this season. Fantasy Football analysts pegged the stocky runner to be a sure-fire high scorer across the board, but thus far he has stumbled out the gate. After having trouble with both the Seattle Seahawks and New York Jets run defenses, the job does not get easier for Lacy in week 3, as the Packers will be facing the Panthers.
Fantasy Football Stud: Jordy Nelson – Nelson is now the preferred target of Rodgers and the Packers ace wideout delivered big time on Sunday. He caught nine passes and had 209 yards, including the go ahead touchdown in the win over the Jets. The highlight play for the 29-year-old wideout came in third quarter, when he leaped for an 80 yard catch and run pass, cut across the field and trotted into the end zone. Owners of Nelson were pleasantly surprised to see he had the most receiving yards of any player in NFL in week 2, solidifying himself as a solid number 2 or flex receiver across fantasy football leagues.
Fantasy Football Dud: Marques Colston – The New Orleans Saints fell to 0-2 after losing another heart wrenching game to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday by a score of 24-26. Most analysts would point to Billy Cundiff’s game winning 29 yard field goal, following a brilliant 85 yard set up drive by quarterback Brian Hoyer. However, perhaps the biggest detail that many missed was the absence of the Saints number one wide receiver.
If fantasy football owners were only scoreboard watching they may not have known that Colston played on Sunday. A quick glance at the box score would lead one to think that perhaps the 6’4″ 225 pound wide receiver was injured. Unfortunately for fantasy owners and Colston, he in fact did play and failed to register a single catch. After managing five receptions for 110 yards during week 1 vs. the Atlanta Falcons, the 32-year-old failed to catch a pass for the first time in 87 games. Regardless, that may not be solely Colston’s fault as he was not targeted even once on his 44 offensive snaps. Saints quarterback Drew Brees targeted rookie wideout Brandin Cooks six times rather than the veteran, who has five 1,000 yard receiving seasons under his belt. While many of Brees’ targets now go to his dynamic tight end, Jimmy Graham (13), that is for good reason, but it looks as though Colston’s days as a starting fantasy wide receiver are numbered.
Fantasy Stud: Jimmy Graham – Graham was the only positive in the crushing loss for the Saints. The red-headed tight end had 10 catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns in the loss. Graham showed off his athleticism on back shoulder fades and was his usual dominant self. The Browns apparently knew they were not going to be able to shut down Graham but they did a great job of limiting big plays with extra defensive backs for much of the game. Colston, Cooks, and wide receiver Kenny Stills for the Saints were virtual non-factors, so ultimately the Browns defensive game plan worked.
Fantasy Dud: Ladarius Green – The San Diego Chargers number 2 tight end was projected to be a fantasy sleeper by many analysts. In a season where experts pegged Antonio Gates to lose snaps and targets to Green, the 12 year pro has turned back the clock this season. While Green failed to get targeted by his quarterback, Phillip Rivers, Gates destroyed the Legion of Boom’s secondary in a 30-21 upset over the Seattle Seahawks.
Fantasy Football Stud: Aaron Rodgers – Rodgers reverted back to his MVP form, following a pedestrian week 1 performance. The outing came just in time to save the Packers from falling to 0-2. After fumbling on the game’s first offensive possession and watching his defense give up three consecutive scoring drives, Rodgers seemed destined for failure. However, he quickly erased an 18 point deficit with aerial attacks. The mobile quarterback made plays in and out of the pocket. He went 25-42 with three touchdowns and picked up 28 yards on the ground. In a week that was dominated by running backs and tight ends, Rodgers was just one of two only quarterbacks to register a 300 yard game.
Fantasy Dud: Jake Locker – Jake Locker was impressive in his week one win vs. the Kansas City Chiefs. However, his week 2 performance was far below expectations for the Titans. Those who decided to pick up Locker in Week 2 or elected to start him were in for a rude awakening. Facing what experts pegged as the worst secondary in football, the former first round pick of the 2011 draft looked every bit of a career back up. Locker’s final numbers of 18-34 for a touchdown, two interceptions and two sacks in the loss, does not tell the full story. The Cowboys were still without their best cover corner in Orlando Scandrick and are already without linebacker Sean Lee for the season due to a torn ACL. Add in the absence of Justin Durant to a groin injury and many would have made a forgone conclusion that the Titans quarterback would be in for a big night. Locker’s dreadful first half put his team too far behind when he registered just 26 yards, while completing only four of his 12 pass attempts, one of which was intercepted. For a player still trying to solidify himself as a full-time starter, this performance was a head scratcher.
Honorable Mention Notes – Week 2 of NFL fantasy football saw a number upsets and shockers . While many of this week’s studs were not a surprise, some of the dud performances can also be attributed to injuries. Robert Griffin III (dislocated ankle), DeSean Jackson (bruised shoulder), A.J. Green (toe), Jamaal Charles (foot), Doug Martin (knee), and Carson Palmer (shoulder) all either failed to suit up or exited early with injuries. All of the injured players are not only primary offensive weapons on their respective teams, but also had high fantasy projections coming into the season. Owners have been left in the dark for the futures of many of these players.
Meanwhile, Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall battled through an ankle injury, after being a game time decision. In a gutsy performance, a slowed Marshall disappointed many fantasy owners who chose to sit him and managed three touchdowns for 48 yards on five receptions. His contributions, along with Colin Kaepernick’s four costly turnovers, helped push the Bears to a 28-20 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
The biggest shocker of Week 2 may have come at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks defense surrendering 30 points, including 96 yards, seven catches and three touchdowns for the aging veteran Gates. While Gates was as unstoppable as any offensive player this week, Rivers routinely picked apart the highly praised Seahawks secondary. The prolific fantasy quarterback did not shy away from throwing at arguably the NFL’s best cornerback, Richard Sherman. Rivers was a perfect 6/6 for 60 yards when throwing to receivers guarded by Sherman. Following another wild week, Fantasy owners will need to make quite a lot of substitutions and waiver wire pickups to bolster the possible absence of star players in week 3. Fantasy football owners should not be surprised if more new faces emerge amongst the top scorers in the coming weeks.
Commentary by Brandon Wright