One Big Thing – AFC – Week 2

Updated: September 23rd 2020

Every week we learn a little bit more about how a team sees each player as a part of their offense allowing fantasy footballers to react (positively or negatively) to those actions. Each week I will look to capture the “One Big Thing” that should have an impact on each team going forward and how you, the savvy fantasy player, can use that to your advantage.

AFC East

Buffalo

The switch seems to have flipped on this offense’s philosophy as Josh Allen has looked superb over his first two games. Hopefully, this was not just the product of playing two mediocre teams (Jets and Dolphins) but rather Allen’s growth from a one-read and go quarterback to a proper franchise passer. It is probably no coincidence the addition of Stefon Diggs has had a positive impact on his ability to pass with greater efficiency as well. This may be the difference between the Bills being a playoff hopeful, and a playoff contender in 2020.

 Miami

Through two games Ryan Fitzpatrick has not had the usual “Fitz-magic” swagger that elevates the talent around him to be fantasy relevant. This team, and more specifically this offense, needs a spark if they are going to show improvements for second-year head coach Brian Flores. A competitive Thursday night game against the Jaguars might help boost this team’s confidence. If not we may be on the verge of a Tua sighting with the mini-bye after.

 New England

As Randy Quaid put it in the movie Independence Day, “Hello boys, I’m Back”! Cam Newton has looked even better than where he was projecting back in 2018 before injuries led him to miss most of the last two seasons. He is averaging over a 71 percent completion rate showing how much he has worked on his fundamentals as a passer all while returning to his past “Superman” form in terms of running capabilities. He may have been stopped on the goal line at the end of the game last week but we can all assume that Josh McDaniels was thrilled with all his other jumbo formation success. The Patriots do scheme changes better than anyone week to week so we should expect more creative play-calling to give teams headaches when presented with similar formations moving forward.

  NY Jets

This team looks dreadful and if it was not for the history of not firing coaches mid-season my money would be on Adam Gase for the first head coach to go. The Jets have failed to put any playmakers around Sam Darnold which likely puts his own career with the Jets in limbo at this point. There has been a recent trend of drafting a second, first-round quarterback even with the first still on his rookie deal and the Jets may be in line to do the same in 2021. Not that this is a knock on Darnold but when a generational talent like Trevor Lawrence is available it will be hard to pass up if he makes it to them. In any case, Darnold will need to show a lot more over the next two seasons if the Jets are even going to consider picking up his fifth-year option. There are just too many holes to fill on this roster to have franchise-level money committed to an average-below average starter.

AFC North

Cincinnati

I will quickly say that although Joe Burrow has started his career 0-2 he already looks the part of the franchise quarterback. If you can acquire him on his cheap rookie contract do it now. Having said that the thing that stood out was that A.J. Green, despite the announcers saying that he thinks he has four (4) more years of elite play in him, appears as if he is already spent. His role in this younger offense reminds me of what Rob Gronkowski’s was in his final season in New England where he was on the field for what seemed like a great portion of the game but his only contributions came during big moments. This is great for real football but in terms of fantasy, Green is now at best a rotational flex player based on matchups. The window to sell was a long time ago but if you can find another owner who will buy on name brand alone it would be worth seeing what he is worth.

 Cleveland

Maybe the Ravens are just that good. Or maybe Cincinnati is just terrible on defense still. Either way, the Browns had a much-needed tune-up game that allowed both their running backs to rush for over 200 combined yards and score a combined 50 fantasy points on Thursday night. It remains to be seen how the game script will affect the usage of both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt but when they can, this offense moves through these two. Baker Mayfield did just enough to sustain drives and make key throws when needed but as mentioned Cincinnati is not the standard of defensive excellence that we should be judging quarterbacks on. We should get a better read on this team by week 3 as they face a tough Washington front seven.

Pittsburgh

This was another game where the Pittsburgh defense looked really strong but it was a surprisingly close game despite the Broncos’ injury misfortunes on their offense.  When the opponent loses its starting quarterback and primary wide receiver you should be able to take advantage of his backup’s lack of preparation and timing with his other receivers. The offense is strong enough that several wide receivers look like they should be WR2 most weeks, however, it will be difficult week-to-week to pin down who will be the best. Week 1, Juju Smith-Schuster looked to be heading back to the elite tier of receivers but then Dionte Johnson stole the spotlight in week 2, commanding thirteen (13) targets. We know Pittsburgh has been able to support multiple high-end wide receivers in fantasy seasons’ past so there should be no concerns owning either.

Baltimore

It is not too often that Lamar Jackson is held to under 19 fantasy points in a week but I guess that is the blissful experience that even his lackluster games are still better than your average quarterback. The offense didn’t need him to be a superstar as the defense and running game controlled the Texans wire to wire. Jackson should bounce back to top-5 QB in week 3 as an early “game of the year” candidate against the Kansas City Chiefs will likely require him to go toe-to-toe with Patrick Mahomes if they want to win.

AFC South

Tennessee

We finally got the post-hype breakout from Jonnu Smith and Corey Davis that we were expecting last year. The two combined for three (3) touchdowns against the Jaguars in week 2 and are the focus for Ryan Tannehill with A.J. Brown sidelined. In RSO leagues both Smith and Davis are likely to be heavy re-sign candidates when the feature opens up after week 4. Either may be a great building block if you do not already have another candidate for resigning or could also fetch a good return on the trade market, depending on their re-sign value.

 Jacksonville

The ‘Stache did not get the win in week 2 but he went toe-to-toe with the AFC runner-ups which shows that he has the talent to keep his team going. The big surprise has to be the use of Keelan Cole (check out our Street FA Report this week) and how he is being used as one of the primary passing options thus far. He leads the team in targets, receptions, and touchdowns over the first two weeks. For a team that most thought were tanking for Trevor, they have looked anything but bottom rung the first two weeks of the season. Seven (7) or eight (8) wins is not out of reach for this team.

Indianapolis

It only took one game of Marlon Mack’s absence for Jonathan Taylor to take full control of the Colts’ backfield. Taylor played on 49 of Indy’s 73 offensive snaps and had 28 touches compared to the other running backs’ combined ten (10) touches. It would have been interesting to see how the snaps were split with Mack still available but much like the Chargers and their rookie’s performance I do not see how they hold Taylor back from being their bell-cow running back.

Houston

The Texans have had a brutal schedule to start the season against three of the best teams in the AFC. This has likely exposed more of the flaws that this team has which puts real pressure on the team to turn things around quickly if they want to save their season. The offense just does not have that big-play capability any more that DeAndre Hopkins offered and it has forced the team into having to spread the ball around to less talented players. Especially when the team’s best receiver, Will Fuller, can not stay on the field consistently enough to be available for DeShaun Watson it will be difficult for this team to make another playoff run.

AFC West

Denver

Last week I talked about how exciting this offense could be with all this young talent showing promise in week 1. With the injuries to Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and Drew Lock though it does not look like it will come to fruition this season. The bright spot is that Noah Fant looks like he will be a great receiving tight end and is a steal in RSO leagues where most have him on a second-round rookie contract through the next two seasons. He did not seem to have much of a production drop off once Jeff Driskel took over at quarterback either so he should continue to see high volumes of targets while Lock is out for a few weeks.

 Kansas City

Patrick Mahomes had to pull out a big comeback win against rookie Justin Herbert in his first career start (more on him in the next blurb). The offense looked pretty sluggish through the first three quarters but luckily they have the quick score ability to come back from almost any deficit. Clyde Edwards-Helaire also came back down to earth with only 38 yards rushing; luckily he caught six (6) passes to bolster his PPR weekly score. This does remind us that some weeks there just will not be enough opportunities to go around and other than Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce, there may be down weeks for KC’s other weapons.

 LA Chargers

Justin Herbert was thrust into starting week 2’s games moments before kickoff and he surprisingly was going toe-to-toe with one of the best quarterbacks in the league for most of the game. He provided a much-needed spark to an offense that looked average at best against a Bengals team that was just torched in week 2. Some discussions suggest Head Coach Anthony Lynn will return to Tyrod Taylor once he becomes healthy again which does not make a lot of sense. The only reason you do not allow a rookie quarterback to start is that you believe that he is not ready or he lacks the confidence to handle the ups and downs that come with learning to be a rookie quarterback in the NFL. Herbert showed he is ready and willing to learn quickly from mistakes. I just do not see how benching him for Taylor if he looks good in his second start this week benefits the team either in the short or long term.

 Las Vegas

The Raiders looked like they might be blown out early but methodically scored 24 unanswered points once the game settled down in the second and third quarters to have maybe what some considered a sure Saints victory. Derek Carr looked surgical as he found just about every open receiver with ease. Of those receivers, it looks like this is going to be the Darren Waller show in Las Vegas as he now has the second-most receptions (18) of any receiver and is the clear #1 target for Carr moving forward. His re-sign contract value will be an interesting one to monitor since most leagues do not have big tight end contracts to pull the algorithm’s value up to what he should cost at auction next season. A lucky break for any team that currently has him on their roster.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews