Kickoff: Thursday, September 16th at 8:20 PM ET
Location: FedExField, Summerfield, MD
Betting Odds: WAS -3, 41 Total on Oddshark
New York Giants
Daniel Jones (Sit)
Third-year quarterback Daniel Jones got off to a relatively effective start in 2021 despite a 27-13 loss against the Broncos on Sunday. Jones scored both a passing and rushing touchdown, threw for 267 yards, and picked up an extra 27 yards on the ground. With Saquon Barkley struggling for most of the game, largely as a result of a niggling knee injury, Jones was forced to take greater responsibility in the offense and that should continue into his week-two matchup against Washington. However, Washington’s defense is likely to present a tough challenge for Jones, particularly with the Giants’ vulnerabilities at offensive line. The likes of Chase Young and Montez Sweat make up one of the best defensive lines in football and will likely put Jones under pressure all game. It doesn’t help that Jones also showed that ball security was still an issue this year as he coughed up a crucial fumble, his 18th in only 28 games in the league. He is likely to struggle against Washington and should be avoided if possible in fantasy.
Saquon Barkley (Start, Flex), Devontae Booker (Sit)
Whatever comes out of the Giants camp, Saquon Barkley is clearly not 100% healthy. Still recovering from the ACL injury that kept him out of most of last year, Barkley was eased into the season with a reduced role against the Broncos. Now facing a shortened week, the turnaround is just too quick to expect to see a much different Barkley. In week 1 the 4th year RB rushed 10 times and only managed to gain 26 yards rushing and 3 receiving. Lacking some of the explosiveness he is known for, it showed that we might not see him back to the kind of production owners expect for quite some time. That concern is not helped by his ineffective offensive line. PFF ranked the Giants at dead last in the league for the position as the team looks for to get better play out of their young players. They are up against a Washington team that gave up the 4th fewest amount of points to RBs last year and prevented a good Chargers ground game from being particularly productive in week 1. It is always hard not to start Barkley but there are a huge number of question marks coming into this week. For now, he is a Flex option but if you have other good options don’t be afraid to stay away.
If Barkley is ruled out for whatever reason, Devontae Booker is his backup, but his performance in week 1 looked even more worrisome, having only 1.8 yards per carry across 4 carries.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Sterling Shepard (Start, WR2), Kenny Golladay (Sit), Darius Slayton (Sit), Kadarius Toney (Sit), Kyle Rudolph (Sit)
After what feels like decades of waiting, Sterling Shepard truthers were finally given a glimpse of confirmation after the many years of “what-ifs”. Going into this sixth year, Shepard had shown a lot of positive signs but never really got everything together, but in week 1 Shepard was the first option in this Giants offense for arguably the first time. He received 9 targets, more than anyone else on the team, and picked up 113 yards and a touchdown on the way. With 7 receptions, Shepard showed his value in PPR leagues and gives a positive sign about his usage in the upcoming season. Some had expected Kadarius Toney to eat into his playing time but the first-round rookie was only used on 5 snaps and ended the game with negative yards.
The rest of receiving group comprises of Kenny Golladay and Darius Slayton. Both had fairly productive games, picking up 64 and 65 yards respectively, but neither reached the endzone and they both finished with below-average points. Reports suggested Golladay had a difficult preseason while Slayton has seen his effectiveness slightly drop off since his rookie year. The group is hard to predict because any of the three could surprise with a big game from week to week but the opener suggested Shepard may be the one to trust for now.
Due to the injury to Evan Engram, the starter at tight end is Kyle Rudolph. The game against the Chargers did not suggest he would have much fantasy potential, hauling in just 2 of his 5 targets for only 8 yards.
Washington Football Team
Taylor Heinicke (Sit)
With Ryan Fitzpatrick headed to the injured reserve list, Taylor Heinicke becomes Washington’s starter for the foreseeable future. The 28-year-old signed a two-year, $8.75 million contract extension this offseason after his impressive wild-card game performance against Tampa Bay. It wasn’t enough to win the game against the Chargers, but Heinicke largely continued from where he left off last season, putting together a good, if unspectacular, end to the game which finished with a stat line of 11/15 for 122 yards and a TD. A good sign for fantasy is that he also had a few rushes to pick up 17 yards, adding an extra element to his game. It is far too early to be thinking of starting Heinicke in fantasy, even against a Giants defense that made Teddy Bridgewater look like a god, but there are some positive signs to look out for.
Antonio Gibson (Start, RB1), J.D. McKissic (Sit)
Over the past year, the hype around Antonio Gibson has been steadily building, and week 1 of the 2021 season will not have done much to quell that hype. Gibson rushed for 90 yards and had 3 catches for 18 yards. The performance lacked any touchdowns to really shine but demonstrated that he was going to have a major role in the Washington offense. His rushing attempts were the joint highest of any game in his career and his percentage of snaps also equaled its highest level. Gibson is going to get plenty of chances in 2021 and we already know from 2020 that he has the talent to be successful. The Giants were unsuccessful in shutting down Denver’s ground game last week, particularly with a 70 yard touchdown run by Melvin Gordon, so the door could be open for Gibson to have a big game.
Washington tends to use J.D. McKissic in obvious passing situations, but he was very quiet in the season opener. Despite playing in over 35% of snaps, McKissic has just one rush and failed to catch a pass. Owners should be worried that more of his work might be handed over to Gibson.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Terry McLaurin (Start, WR1), Adam Humphries (Sit), Dyami Brown (Sit), Logan Thomas (Start)
Going into his third year in the NFL, it is pretty clear that Terry McLaurin is a star. Washington’s best receiver by a mile, he is going to see a lot of the ball throughout this season. His stat line in week 1 does not seem great at first glance, only picking up 62 yards over four catches and not scoring a touchdown, But Scary Terry played a lot better than it first might appear. The offense had to quickly change their plans after Fitzpatrick went down with an injury and made only 21 passes all game. Despite playing with the backup QB, McLaurin still scored a 78.6 rating per PFF and made a pretty ridiculous sideline catch in the third quarter. Whether Heinicke can generate a high level of offense is still a legitimate question mark, but McLaurin is always going to see a lot of targets regardless and you have got to feel fairly confident in his ability to bring them in.
Rookie Dyami Brown immediately saw a lot of playing time for Washington, appearing in over 92% of offensive snaps. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to turn that playing time into much production, with just one catch in 4 targets that led to a negative gain. His time on the field suggests that Washington has a lot of confidence in him, but he has yet to show any signs of being a viable fantasy option. It was a similar story for Adam Humphries, who appeared like he could find a sizeable role after the injury to Curtis Samuel, but failed to make any real impact.
After his breakout year in 2020, Logan Thomas continued his form into the new season. Thomas was the only player on the team to find the endzone, adding to his 30 yards receiving. Expect him to be the second option after McLaurin and get plenty of targets in the redzone. The Giants were relatively effective at stopping TEs last year but gave up 85 yards to the position in their season opener so Thomas could look to continue that trend.
Statistics courtesy of Fantasy Data.
-Patrick McAndrew (@PMcAndrewNFL on Twitter)