Game Previews: All Fantasy Relevant Players For Week 2
Chargers vs. Bills
Can the Chargers replicate the Ravens offensive production of last week?
The Ravens pounded the Buffalo Bills last week behind a very strong effort from QB Joe Flacco.WRs Willie Snead, John Brown and Michael Crabtree all managed to find the end zone despite none of them catching more than 4 passes or surpassing 50 yards. These small yardage and catch numbers were the result of Bills QB Nathan Peterman handing the ball to the Ravens in favorable positions throughout the game. I am trying to express that the Bills defense is not a push-over, and it would be hard to score 47 points on them if their offense was capable at all. Most likely, the Chargers will have a hard time scoring this many points, although their strong defense should play similar to the Ravens of last week. QB Philip Rivers and the elite surrounding cast should have no trouble producing this week, however, this matchup is not nearly as good as most analysts would project after the Bills rough week 1.
275 yards, 3 TD’s, 1 INT
Will we see the full Mike Williams breakout?
If you did not check the box score from last weeks game you probably did not realize that WR Mike Williams had a pretty exciting day. He caught 5 passes for 81 yards and looked very comfortable for the first time in his career. Granted, this did come in the 4th quarter when the Chargers were chasing, so we still need to see more. Compared to last year, Williams played in 10 games and only caught 5 balls once. In that game, he only amassed 38 yards. The point is, even with a favorable game flow last week, it was still undoubtedly the best game he has ever had. The Bills generally do not shadow, and the Chargers deployed Williams mainly on the outside, with Keenan Allen often in the slot. Depending on which side Williams lines up on for a given play will greatly determine the favorability of his matchup. Bills CB Tre’Davious White was unbelievable in coverage last year (some of you would remember him as the guy that pissed off Gronk because he actually could cover him) and that could be a very tough matchup for Williams. Lining up on the other side against the Bills other CBs Phillip Gaines or Vontae Davis would be more favorable matchups that Williams could win. If the Chargers are smart they would simply stay away from White—like the Ravens did—and go after Gaines on the outside with Williams and attack the slot with Allen. The most important aspect of any fantasy performance is the volume that a player will receive. Mike got enough volume last week because the Chargers were losing the whole time. This week, Travis Benjamin is in a walking boot which means Mike could see the field a lot more. Not to mention Tyrell Williams brutal game last week that included multiple drops, and the result is that Mike Williams could finally have the huge breakout week.
Mike Williams: 6 catches, 90 yards, 1 TD
Travis Benjamin: Does not play
Tyrell Williams: 3 catches, 30 yards
What happened to this defense? Should there be any concern against the Josh Allen and the Bills?
So the problem was WR Tyreek Hill. That much is obvious. Against defensive backs, Derwin James, Desmond King and Casey Hayward Jr. he combined for 2 catches on 3 targets and 54 yards, nothing spectacular. Against linebackers? 5 targets, 5 catches, 115 yards, and 2 touchdowns. This truly speaks to the Chiefs exceptional scheme and play design that allowed them to attack the Chargers without going into the teeth of their impressive secondary. The Bills neither have the talent nor the offensive scheme capable of dismantling this defense. The addition of Derwin James looks as promising as it did on draft day and this defense should be a must-start against an inaccurate rookie QB. If anyone in your league overreacted enough to drop the Chargers, they need to be picked up.
13 points allowed, 3 turnovers
Will Austin Ekeler eat into Melvin Gordon’s production?
RB Austin Ekeler was arguably the best player on the field for the Chargers last week. He was impressive in the receiving game, as usual, taking a short pass and turning it into an impressive 30-yard touchdown. Like WR Mike Williams, it is possible that Ekeler’s 5 targets were more of a result of the game flow and the Chargers need to pass than anything else. Even with Ekelers performance RB Melvin Gordon III still saw a team-leading 12 targets and 15 rushing attempts. Gordon touched the ball 27 times, while Ekeler touched it only 10. For people claiming Ekeler this week on waivers, do not get too excited. Ekeler is a useful handcuff at best. The Chargers are and have been, committed to Melvin Gordon III as their every down back. Even in games like this, Gordon is going to significantly out snap Ekeler and continue to touch the ball more than anyone else not named Philip Rivers. Rest easy Gordon owners, this week he will find the end zone to go along with his gaudy yardage totals.
Melvin Gordon: 22 carries, 110 yards, 1 TD; 5 catches, 40 yards 1 TD
Austin Ekeler: 3 carries, 15 yards; 3 catches 40 yards.
The Buffalo Bills name Josh Allen the starting QB for this week, what will he do in his first NFL start?
QB Josh Allen has officially been given the keys to the car, too bad the Buffalo Bills offense around him is more like a 1988 4-door Honda Civic rather than a Lamborghini Veneno Roadster. Nonetheless this is exciting news for both the Bills franchise and fantasy owners alike. Expectations should be low for Allen going into his first NFL, he was after all considered a project despite being drafted 7th overall in the 2018 NFL draft. He does offer a much more explosive skill set including a rocket arm and good mobility when compared to week 1 starter Nathan Peterman and he should help elevate the Bills skill position players going forward.
He’s coming off an up and NFL down pre-season in which he went 24-for-44 with 210 yards and 2 TDs against 0 INTs. He also filled in last week in mop-up duty against the relentless Baltimore Ravens going 6 for 14 for 74 yards with notably no INTs plus a couple of nice scrambles. He notably led the league with a 12.4 yards in air per attempt in week 1 which shows his willingness to push the ball deep. He has made some impressive throws that do give hope for this week and the future like this one against the Carolina Panthers in the pre-season:
The Bills offensive line will have to step up and protect their new franchise QB better if they want to get the best out of him though and I think that will be the main factor that dictates his success in his first NFL start. The good news is that pass rush specialist Joey Bosa is trending to be out for this week’s game, the bad news is that the Chargers defense remains strong with Melvin Ingram and Pro Football Focus’ top-rated CB last year Casey Heyward. Even if the O-line doesn’t protect Allen super well this week, Allen showed well with a 91.8 passer rating in the pre-season while under pressure and he has that special ability to extend plays with his legs. If you’re in a 2 QB league and need him, I guess roll the dice but I think this is a matchup to avoid in 1 QB leagues if you can.
Will LeSean McCoy bounce back from a mediocre week 1?
I wrote in the “what we saw week 1” article that I thought LeSean McCoy looked a little rusty in week 1 after a poor pre-season while dealing with an off-the-field issue. He was unable to get much going against the Ravens, and a lot of that was due to the offensive line in front of him but he also didn’t help himself with a bit of indecisiveness in the backfield. He did have a nice 12 yard run at the beginning of the 2nd half that earned the Bills their first, first down of the game. He still has the explosiveness to pick up chunk yards and be a fantasy asset, he just needs better help from the big guys up front and he needs to be more decisive in attacking his running lanes.
I do feel good about the matchup this week as the Chargers rush defense has been and continues to be the weakness of their defense. According to Pro Football Focus, the Chargers had 4 linebackers play last week and none rated better than a mediocre 62. On the defensive line, it was bad news. DT Justin Jones received the fourth-worst interior grade in the NFL. Defensive Ends Isaac Rochell and Chris Landrum were both the fourth and fifth worst graded edge players. All this suggests that there could be running lanes available for McCoy to exploit both out of the backfield and in the flats on screen passes.
I expect the Bills to turn to McCoy early and often in this game and will frequently use him in the quick passing game as well with the goal of helping to keep Allen upright throughout the game. Anticipating a good bounce-back game for Shady on Sunday! Also, watch to see if RB Marcus Murphy gets many shares of the workload and continues to push RB Chris Ivory into the 3rd RB role.
With Josh Allen now at the helm, do the pass catching threats receive any bump up to fantasy relevance?
The Bills receiving group was very lackluster in week 1, top receiving option WR Kelvin Benjamin notably secured just 1 of 7 targets and finished 2nd worst in the league in terms of average yards of separation at target. He also was criticized on Twitter for multiple lazy routes among other things and in general, he needs to up his compete level to help his rookie QB. Benjamin had consistency issues while on a better team in Carolina and I anticipate he’ll be consistently boom/bust week to week making him a risky flex play. 2nd-year WR Zay Jones was the top receiver for the Bills last week and I thought he showed the best effort of the receiving group. If that continues, I expect Jones to start stealing targets from the more established veterans on the team. TE Charles Clay was a main target of Josh Allen in the pre-season catching 3 of 6 targets in the main pre-season tune-up game against the Cincinnati Bengals. I think he’s very likely to bounce back from his 0 catch outing of week with a decent game, perhaps with TE 1 upside this week.
Can the Buffalo Bills D/ST recover from an embarrassing week 1 game in which they gave up 47 points?
The Bills strength on defense last year was their secondary including CB Tre’Davious White, Jordan Poyer, and Micah Hyde. While White was generally avoided by QB Joe Flacco, the rest of the secondary had rough days in coverage but I don’t believe you can just lose that skill-set from year to year and so I expect them to figure things out soon. The good news is that LB Lorenzo Alexander ranked elite last week in terms of coverage rating by PFF which should help slow the Chargers potent passing attack. Rookie LB Tremaine Edmunds had a strong first NFL game statistically with a sack, a forces fumble, and 2 passes defended, but struggled in pass coverage and may have trouble against an offense led by steady veteran QB Philip Rivers. The interior defense continued to be an issue for the Bills in week 1 despite the signing of DT Star Lotulelei in the offseason to try and shore that up. Lotulelei struggled to a 48.7 PFF grade and did not register a tackle. The Bills strengths and weaknesses on D point to a potential focus on the running game for the Chargers and that could mean a quality day for RB Melvin Gordon.