One Big Thing – NFC – Week 2

Updated: September 25th 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.

NFC EAST

 NY Giants

Daniel Jones thus far through the Giants’ first two games has not taken the second-year leap that many thought he would have. It does not help that his receivers cannot seem to stay healthy as he only briefly had all of his offensive starters available before Sterling Shepard went down with a toe injury and of course Saquon Barkley is now out for the remainder of the season. Devonta Freeman was signed this week to provide a better all-around back compared to Dion Lewis who finished off the game last week but it is still a significant downgrade. Expect teams to focus more on putting pressure on Jones via their pass rushers. With how mediocre their offensive line has looked the team’s first two games it could be a long season for Daniel Jones’ fantasy owners.

Dallas

On a positive note, Dallas was able to come back and win a game in which they were down by twenty points but it should never have come to that. The offense made some bad turnovers in the first half and special team failures allowed the Falcons to have several series start deep in Dallas’ territory. Once they stopped causing self-inflicting damage Dallas was able to start working the ball down the field with ease, scoring points on seven (7) of their final (8) drives. Their severe deficit was the reason that Dak Prescott threw nearly 50 attempts. He was also the benefit of three (3) short-yardage rushing touchdowns which likely left Ezekiel Elliot owners wanting more.  Dallas is a better team than Atlanta but they are probably closer to each other than Dallas is to the elite NFC teams. Shootouts are going to be their only shot of winning games until they can have a better showing on the defensive side of the ball.

Philadelphia

Through two games it is pretty obvious that this team cannot stop opponents’ tight ends. They allowed Logan Thomas to score in week 1 and then were torched by Tyler Higbee for three (3) touchdowns last week. That will be an interesting counter-stream to target with guys like Drew Sample (CIN), George Kittle/Jordan Reed (SF), and Eric Ebron (PIT) upcoming the next three (3) weeks. Their offense will be without Jalen Reagor for at least a month, maybe more, which means that Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert are going to be heavily targeted until some of their wide receivers start to return from injury. It is a tough blow for Reagor and depending on how long he is out for, may limit his use to fantasy players.

Washington

It took a week but fantasy owners who believed in Antonio Gibson were rewarded with a better performance in week 2 against Arizona. It may have been due to the game getting out of hand early and the skillset of Gibson fitting better during passing situations compared to week 1 which featured more traditional runs from Peyton Barber at the goal line. The emergence of J.D. McKissic is also one to monitor as his skillset mirrors a lot of what Gibson is and might be limiting how much his usage expands in the offense. Either way, Gibson improved his snap count from 18 to 43 from week-to-week which shows he is becoming more involved as the coaching staff trusts him more. Until we see more consistency from him in both positive and negative game script, Gibson will be treated as a low-end RB3/Flex play most weeks.

NFC NORTH

Detroit

Slowly, De’Andre Swift is becoming more involved in the offense but his usage seems to be primarily limited to the passing game at this point. He has out-snapped the other two running backs in both games this season but he has been third in the pecking order for carries. The big drop at the end of week 1 probably caused bigger trust issues with fans than with his actual teammates but it may take a while before Swift can take full control of this backfield. This situation seems similar to the 2017 Bengals that featured rookie Joe Mixon, along with veterans Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill. It took Mixon almost half the season before he was consistently receiving a 50 percent or better snap rate and even then it was not until Hill left that offseason before Mixon became what he is now. Fantasy owners should be hopeful that Swift can keep up his 12PPG total right now while also realizing that it may take a season before his true breakout can be had.

 Green Bay

“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,” said Mark Twain… and probably Aaron Jones. Many fantasy managers were panicking about Aaron Jones’ value when A.J. Dillion was drafted in the second round this year and it may have benefited some savvy owners. Jones has seen a total of 77 snaps this season to Dillon’s seven (7) and has outscored Dillon 63:3 in just two games. It is safe to say that this is still Aaron Jones’ backfield and should be for a long time. Anybody who was able to acquire Jones at a reduced cost may be looking at a championship this season.

Minnesota

Minnesota’s offense last Sunday can be summed up in two letters, P-U. Kirk Cousins finishing with negative fantasy points tells you everything you need to know about how efficiently their offense operated and his three (3) interceptions sunk the value of every other player around him. Dalvin Cook was the only player to not leave a bad taste in fantasy owners’ mouth and that was only because of a late-game 8-point touchdown and two-point conversion to boost his stats. They move on to play the Titans in week 3 but other than Cook and maybe Adam Thielen there is going to be no fantasy value to this roster until further notice.

Chicago

The early surprise of the season is that the Chicago Bears are 2-0 and Mitch Trubisky has not looked awful yet. He played well in the fourth quarter of week 1 with three (3) touchdowns to come from behind and while he did not necessarily have a great game last Sunday he did enough to keep the Bears undefeated. It has not helped his receivers though as only Allen Robinson has caught more than six (6) passes and no receiver has over 20PPR points yet. The Bears have another favorable matchup against an Atlanta defense that has been skewered by the pass the first two weeks of the season.

NFC SOUTH

 Carolina

Like the Giants, the Panthers are going to need to find a different offensive game plan as their all-pro running back Christian McCaffrey went down with an ankle injury and will be out at least the next three (3) weeks. Teddy Bridgewater has surprisingly been passing more often and with greater depth-per-attempt than he had been in either Minnesota or New Orleans. This hopefully means that he, along with D.J. Moore, who had a nice bounce-back game, and Robby Anderson can keep this team afloat while they await McCaffrey’s return. Their performances may not be translating to actual wins right now but for their fantasy owners, it seems to be working.

Tampa Bay

After having only nine (9) snaps on offense in week 1, Leonard Fournette led the Tampa Bay backfield with 26 in his second week with the team. His increase was likely due to Ronald Jones’ fumble that put him on relief duty for much of the second half. Still, it is clear that Fournette is the better running back for the Bucs right now and will only increase that gap as he becomes more familiar with the offense. Even discounting his 46-yard touchdown to close the game out, Fournette still rushed for 5.2 yards/carry compared to Jones’ 3.3 yards. He will never receive the volume that he had in Jacksonville but Fournette should be the primary ball carrier from this point on.

 Atlanta

All passing, all the time. That looks like it will be the Falcons mantra for the 2020 season with Matt Ryan already throwing 90 passing in the first two games. Taking from our Street FA Report this should bode well for Russell Gage who played as the team’s WR3 but is one behind Calvin Ridley for targets (21) thus far. Julio Jones is also nursing an injury that may make him unavailable for week 3 against the Bears. This should be another opportunity for Matt Ryan to move the ball around the field making Gage, and may tight end Hayden Hurst, a must start this week if Jones is unable to play.

New Orleans

Maybe it was just one game but it was clear on Monday night that Drew Brees really needed Michael Thomas to be able to make plays to try and keep this offense going. The Saints were unable to move the ball down the field and were only able to generate yardage via the short dump-offs to Alvin Kamara and underneath crossing routes to Tre’Quan Smith. Once the Raiders realized this they clamped down on the offense and were able to keep them out of the endzone for all but a last-second score in the second half. It does not get much easier against Green Bay who has looked offensively dominant in the first two games. It is not often that we worry about Drew Brees in a shootout but he and Sean Payton will need to come up with a better game plan if they want to keep up with Aaron Rodgers.

NFC WEST

San Francisco

No team was hit harder by the injury bug in week 2 that the 49ers as they lost key players on both the defensive and offensive side of the ball. For fantasy purposes, the biggest one has to be Raheem Mostert who ran 80-yards on the opening play and then was done for the start of the second half. For a team that wants to run the ball and use play-action, it is going to be very difficult these next few weeks without their starting quarterback, two starting running backs, and their star tight end for at least one more week. They should be able to win against the Giants this week but any more injuries and it will be an even more uphill battle to make the playoffs in a division that currently has three (3) 2-0 teams to compete with.

 LA Rams

Like I said last week the Rams have gone back to what made them so good when they went to the Super Bowl two years ago. I see a lot of similarities between this team and the Cleveland Browns just with varying results. The difference between them right now is a) the Rams have the better head coach and b) they know what their strengths are and find the best way to use those to their advantage better. Sean McVay wants to keep Jared Goff moving the pocket and focusing on a strong running game with complimentary passing. This week against the Bills and their top ten defense will be a better test for how much they can stay with their game plan and just how “for real” this team is.

Arizona

Another strong performance from Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins has this looking like it might be the best QB-WR combo in the league. Murray’s ability to extend plays and avoid negative yardage has allowed the Cardinals to take down the defending NFC Champs and thoroughly dominate a team that looked pretty solid on defense in their own first game. If it was not for Russell Wilson tearing it up right now Kyler Murray might be the front-runner in the MVP race. Still a whole season to go though.

 Seattle

As mentioned previously, Russell Wilson has dominated his first two games this season and if not for a pick-six that bounced right off of Greg Olsen’s hands he would be near perfect. He is completing a ridiculous 83 percent of his passes and has a quarterback rating of 140. Obviously, this is sustainable through an entire season but if Pete Carroll keeps letting him be the focus of the offense he is going to run away with the MVP votes this season.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews