Watch For: Vikings at Steelers, 1 PM
Both teams started the season with a win, but it was the Steelers who did not look like their typical juggernaut offense. The Steelers walked into Cleveland as nine point favorites, but escaped with only a three point victory. Maybe it was because the Browns aren’t as bad as people thought this year. The more likely resolution is the lack of usage of Le’Veon Bell. The superstar running back held out most of the offseason in search of a new contract, but finally joined the team on September 1st. While it’s unclear if his measly 10 handoffs and six targets were a “punishment,” Bell will have to be utilized more against a very good Vikings defense. Speaking of Minnesota, they are coming off a stellar home win against the Saints where rookie Dalvin Cook broke Adrian Peterson’s franchise rookie rushing record in a season opener. Cook got the rock 22 times and even garnered five targets. Cook should match that against the Steelers’ 29th ranked rush defense, per 4for4.com. In the air, the Steelers feature arguably the best receiving options in the league. Superstar Antonio Brown, stud and personal favorite Martavis Bryant, youngsters Eli Rogers and JuJu Smith-Schuster, and tight end Jesse James, who is coming off a two touchdown performance, all will look to penetrate a Vikings’ pass defense ranked 2nd in the league, per 4for4.com. Don’t forget the guy tossing them the pigskin, Ben Roethlisberger, who seems to excel at home and falter in other games. Meanwhile, the Vikings boast a not-so-underrated-anymore receiving core headlined by Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, the latter who always finds a way to get open, evident by his nine reception for 157 yards last Monday night. The Vikings also have Jarius Wright and former first round pick Laquon Treadwell, neither of whom have fantasy relevance unless you are in a really deep league. The big name in the passing game is tight end and red zone demon Kyle Rudolph, whose position in an offense emphasizing short-yardage plays allowed for him to have the most targets (132) among tight ends last season. Under center is former first overall pick Sam Bradford, who apparently has another knee issue but should be ready to take on an improved Steelers defense. The team added veteran Joe Haden a couple weeks ago and first round pick T.J. Watt had a superb first game, recording two sacks and interception. However, it is the Vikings defense who have stolen the show, headlined by star defensive backs Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes as well as rising superstar Danielle Hunter on the defensive line. Overall, this game has an abundance of fantasy relevant players who could make a huge impact for their respective fantasy teams.
Verdict: Cook has a big game but it is not enough to beat Le’Veon Bell and the Steelers at home.
Ignore: Cardinals at Colts, 1 PM
Unlike the Vikings and Steelers, these teams just suffered horrible losses. The Colts were humiliated by the Rams in a half-empty stadium and the Cardinals blew an early lead to give up 18 straight points to the Lions. Arizona’s biggest loss, however, was losing superstar David Johnson for 8-12 weeks to a wrist injury. Never fear Cardinals fans, because Kerwynn Williams is here! No, that is certainly something to be scared about, because Williams has nowhere near Johnson’s skill level, as I explained in last week’s fantasy notebook. In all likelihood, the Cardinals will probably settle for a committee between Williams and veterans Andre Ellington and Chris Johnson. A committee is a fantasy owner’s worst nightmare, because each player’s potential for fantasy points in the committee is capped by his limited touches and his obvious lack of a certain skill. Luckily, the Cards have somewhat of a potent receiving core with veteran and future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald and his young but talented teammates in John Brown, Jaron Brown, and J.J. Nelson. Jermaine Gresham also starts at tight end, but he has never been fantasy relevant. Unfortunately for them, the guy throwing them the ball just tossed three interceptions. Are we witnessing the end of Carson Palmer’s strange 15-year career? Ironically, we might be witnessing the end of two young careers in Indianapolis. As of now, the Colts have Scott Tolzien and Jacoby Brissett duking it out for the title of worst starting quarterback in the NFL, although the Jets’ quarterbacks are making it a close competition. Veteran Frank Gore has slowly been on the decline, despite rushing for over 1,000 yards for the ninth time in his career last year. The guy to own in the Colts’ backfield is rookie Marlon Mack, as I also explained in last week’s fantasy notebook. T.Y. Hilton had a successful year last year with 1,448 receiving yards but was also very inconsistent. The same can be said for Donte Moncrief, whose fantasy relevance depends solely on touchdowns. The last viable option on the Colts is another one of my fantasy darlings, tight end Jack Doyle, who broke out last year with a whopping 75 targets. The Colts love throwing to tight ends in the red zone, but Doyle is a tough start this week. Over the past three seasons, the Cardinals have been the best at stopping tight ends, allowing far and away the least amount of fantasy points per tight end. Defensively, the Cardinals were a high pick in most leagues and it is not hard to see why on paper. Their defense features stars Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson and first round pick and former Temple standout Hasson Reddick. Is it enough to fill star Calais Campbell’s gap after he left in free agency? The Cards did give up 35 points last week, although it was to the pass-happy offense of the Detroit Lions. While time will tell just how good Arizona can be on defense, the Colts defense sucks now and probably for a long time. Cornerback Vontae Davis is aging and always banged up while defensive lineman Henry Anderson, the most underrated player on the team, has also dealt with injuries. The entire Colts defense seemingly hangs on by a single thread each week; they just gave up 32 points to the Rams (actually 46 but 14 of them were defensive scores.) The last time a Colts defense was fantasy relevant was when Peyton Manning was calling the shots. A couple players in this game have potential to produce big numbers, but the keyword is potential, meaning there is a strong chance they produce a dud for your fantasy team. Although, the game is indoors and features terrible defenses, so kickers Phil Dawson and Adam Vinateri might be good streaming options. This game will likely be highlighted by terrible plays and many candidates for ESPN’s C’mon Man on Monday night.
Verdict: The Cardinals’ offensive experience outplays a horrendous Colts’ defense. The only positive for the Colts is Marlon Mack’s continued rise to fantasy relevance.