Kickoff: Sunday, September 26th at 1:00 PM ET
Location: Ford Field, Detroit, MI
Betting Odds: BAL -9, 49 total via Oddsshark
Lamar Jackson (Start, QB1)
Lamar Jackson provides one of the safest floors in all of fantasy football. That is one of the benefits of rostering Jackson because it doesn’t matter what happens to the skill position players around him he still provides QB1 value because of his incredible rushing ability. Case in point: Week 1. Heading into the game in Las Vegas, the Ravens lost both Gus Edwards and Justice Hill to season-ending injuries during practice on the Thursday before the game after losing J.K. Dobbins earlier in the preseason. Jackson went into Week 1 on a team that has designed much of its offense around RPO plays and relying on Jackson and his RBs to make the correct decisions with a rookie RB that had barely any work with the first-team offense. Jackson still accumulated 321 total yards and one passing TD in the loss, good enough to finish among the QB1 tier. Jackson had a markedly improved Week 2 and simply can not be benched in any format. Start Jackson with confidence this week.
Ty’Son Williams (Sit, possible low-end Flex), Latavius Murray (Sit)
That rookie RB that was mentioned above has become Baltimore’s #1 RB out of necessity and the team is showing more and more trust in Ty’Son Williams. With a full week of practice under his belt and the confidence of the Ravens’ coaches, Williams looked much more comfortable last week despite an early-game fumble that cost him a short TD. Baltimore brought in a cavalcade of veteran RBs when the injury bug decimated their team, but Williams has been able to hold off his biggest challenger in Latavius Murray to this point, earning about one-third more snaps than the veteran. Unfortunately for Williams, losing some snaps to Murray and attempts to Jackson puts a dent in his fantasy value. Unless Williams commands a larger share of the backfield snaps going forward, it’s hard to trust him as an every-week plug-and-play. Consider Williams an upside Flex play for at least this week.
Murray was a priority late-round RB in most fantasy drafts heading into this season based on his role within the Saints’ offense, but a disagreement over how much he was worth led to a surprising cut. Murray was quickly snapped up by Baltimore when a trio of RBs went down with an injury and almost immediately became part of the team’s weekly plan. Murray is still the lesser part of the timeshare with Williams which means Murray has less fantasy value. Unless something changes with the RB rotation or another injury strikes, Murray is a fine handcuff but simply doesn’t have the volume to consistently be considered an option in most leagues.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Marquise Brown (Start, WR3/Flex), Sammy Watkins (Sit), Mark Andrews (Start, TE1)
Injuries didn’t just affect the RB depth chart in Baltimore as both Miles Boykin and rookie Rashod Bateman landed on injured reserve at the start of September. There is a chance one or both can return following this week’s game, but that doesn’t help fantasy managers looking for options in Week 3. Marquise Brown still sits atop the WR depth chart and provides the most value this week, albeit not much. Baltimore is still the most rush-heavy team in the NFL as they have run the ball on more than 55% of their plays through two games this season. Brown has provided nice value in the passing game, scoring a TD in each week, and has seen a team-high 16 targets. Brown has amassed 12 receptions for 182 yards and those two TDs and gets to face a Lions defense that loses CBs like Baltimore loses RBs. Brown might not see as much action this week as Baltimore is expected to handle Detroit rather easily, but his game-breaking speed means he only needs one opportunity to provide a fantasy-worth start. Brown is a viable WR3 or Flex option for fantasy managers this week.
Baltimore made a conscious decision to give Jackson more weapons in the passing game both in the draft with Bateman and through free agency with veteran Sammy Watkins. Watkins has had an up and down career since being selected fourth overall in the 2014 NFL Draft and has struggled to stay healthy for a full season. Through two games, Watkins has been targeted 15 times and has eight receptions for 140 yards but has been held out of the end zone. With a low-volume passing attack, being the second or third option doesn’t lead to much in the way of fantasy production and that is where Watkins finds himself. Fantasy managers would be wise to seek out alternative options this week.
The one constant in Baltimore’s passing game over the past four seasons has been Mark Andrews. Andrews has been a favorite target for Jackson, especially near the end zone, and regularly finishes inside the top 10 of fantasy TEs year after year. Andrews has averaged around seven targets per game over his career and scores a TD every other game. Given those numbers, Andrews is slightly off his career pace with 10 targets on the season and no TDs but Andrews is almost involved in passing play, running a route 92.6% of the time. It is hard to find a reliable option at the TE position given the volatility of it, but Andrews is among the safest. Run Andrews out as a top option this week.
Jared Goff (Sit)
Throughout his career, Jared Goff has shown he can be very good when playing with a lead but struggles when tasked with bringing a team back from behind. When leading or tied, Goff completes 64.1% of his passes and has a 45:20 TD-to-INT ratio and a QB rating of 94.5. When trailing, Goff’s completion percentage dips to 61.5%, and his TD-to-INT rate goes to 45:30 with a QB rating of 85. Unfortunately for Goff, it looks like the Lions will be trailing more than they are leading this season. If you were able to watch last week’s game on Monday night, this was on full display. Goff was very good in the first half, taking a 17-14 lead into halftime on 13-for-16 passing for 137 yards and one TD with no INTs. In the second half, Goff completed 13-of-20 passes for just 109 yards, no TDs, one INT, and fumbled twice, losing one. Goff doesn’t have much to work with at the WR position but has an elite TE, a good RB, and a very good offensive line but is on a very bad team and likely will only have occasional fantasy-worthy performances. I don’t think one of those performances happens this week and Goff should be benched in Week 3.
D’Andre Swift (Start, RB2), Jamaal Williams (Sit, possible Flex)
There was some concern heading into the season about how D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams would split the workload in the backfield for Detroit. Williams was even identified as a “1A” back by OC Anthony Lynn early in the preseason which fueled the discussion. After two weeks, it looks like we might have some answers. Swift has seen nearly double the snaps Williams has and has had seven more opportunities (targets plus carries). Each player has scored one TD on the season, Swift nabbed a receiving TD and Williams added a rushing TD in Week 1 while both were held scoreless in Week 2. Red zone usage has been nearly an even split, indicating Detroit trusts both RBs equally in that area. For fantasy managers, the biggest differentiator between the two is opportunities and Swift is simply seeing more. Players can’t produce fantasy points on the bench, and that’s where Williams is nearly 60% of the time. Given the usage data we have this season, the edge goes to Swift and he provides solid RB2 production in this offense. Williams has enough of a role to be considered a low-end Flex option for fantasy managers without a more compelling option.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Tyrell Williams (Sit), Quintez Cephus (Sit), Kalif Raymond (Sit), Amon-Ra St. Brown (Sit), T.J. Hockenson (Start, TE1)
After offseason departures of Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones, even Old Mother Hubbard would have been embarrassed by the WR cupboard in Detroit. Bare as it is, someone has to man the positions, and a mishmash of Tyrell Williams, Quintez Cephus, Kalif Raymond, and Amon-Ra St. Brown was the result Detroit elected to go with. Williams was anointed the #1 WR given his tenure in the NFL and he survived all of two receptions before a concussion knocked him from Detroit’s Week 1 game and forced him to miss their matchup in Week 2. There have been no indications of his playing status for this week, but given the state of the offense, even full medical clearance won’t make him a viable option for fantasy managers. Keep him on your bench even if he is active this week.
Cephus was a pleasant surprise for the Lions as he stepped into the role vacated by Williams and looked like a true #1 WR on Detroit’s first drive against Green Bay. Cephus finished with four receptions on seven targets for 63 yards and one TD and might have made a case for more playing time as a result. Cephus played the fewest snaps of any Detroit WR in Week 1 and it will be interesting to see if the team utilizes him more when Williams returns. Still, this passing offense runs primarily through the TE and RB positions and makes any WR hard to trust for fantasy managers. Cephus might work his way into a Flex option if Williams is out but tread carefully.
Both Raymond and St. Brown have 105 and 93 snaps, respectively, this season but have not been involved much in the passing game. Raymond has managed just six targets and St. Brown nine through two games and neither has eclipsed 70 yards. You would think Detroit is going to be playing from behind most of the time and their WRs would at least carry some value, but the position is simply too far down the target distribution chain to make an impact. Neither provides any real fantasy value this week.
The biggest part of Detroit’s passing game runs through the team’s first-round pick from 2019 in T.J. Hockenson. Hockenson eclipsed 100 targets last season en route to a fantasy top-five finish in most leagues and has continued that momentum into this season with 20 targets through two games. Hockenson managed eight receptions in both games and scored a TD in each to help boost his fantasy production. Hockenson is the first read for Goff on nearly every passing play and it will be interesting to see how defenses adapt to the fact the top receiving threat is a TE. Unless Hockenson finds himself in double-coverage on every play he should return TE1 value every week he’s on the field and there is no reason to expect less this week.