Fantasy Football: 5 Bold Predictions for Week 2
One of the things that makes fantasy football so captivating is the variance. Derrick Henry was the RB1 in all of fantasy in 0.5 PPR in 2020, but Henry himself only had 3 weeks as the top fantasy scorer. That means, on individual weeks, some very strange players may lead the league in fantasy points at their positions.
That opens the door for some room to be "spicy" and make some fun predictions. In a landscape increasingly set ablaze by "hot takes," it can be difficult to understand the difference between a bold prediction -- based on a particularly strong spot for a team or player -- and a senseless take with the prayer of becoming correct based on variance.
Let's shoot for the former with five interesting spots to target during this weekend's 16 NFL games.
(All predictions are for half-PPR and FanDuel scoring for quarterbacks.)
1. Nick Chubb Will Be a Top-5 Running Back for Week 2
But Chubb is in a fantastic spot this weekend, and it is one that could potentially go overlooked given how the Texans performed Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Despite that big Houston win, the Texans are 12.5-point underdogs in Cleveland on Sunday, and their run defense is still a concern. Houston allowed 0.11 Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per carry against Jacksonville, but they were not burned by it because of the Jags' pass-happy attack. Jacksonville threw the ball all seven snaps in a neutral game script within seven points, and their pass rate was 76% overall.
Normally, a large spread might be undesirable for running backs, but for Chubb, it is his only path to a 60-70% snap share in a given game. Chubb saw 14 of his 15 carries last week against Kansas City when tied or ahead, but just a single carry when Cleveland trailed.
Chubb led the entire NFL in rushing yards above expectation (1.25) in 2020, so his talent is always capable of a monster game if provided the right opportunity and a decent number of snaps. He figures to see both this weekend in a perfect script for him.
2. Derrick Henry Will Finish Outside the Top-10 Running Backs (Again)
Is there more of a concern with Derrick Henry's Week 1 performance than just his game script?
According to NFL's NextGenStats, Henry's rushing success rate -- defined as the percent of runs that boosted NGS's expected points value -- was just 23.5%. That is not the type of effort we are accustomed to seeing from Henry, who has made a living shrugging off contact to find positive yardage anyway.
There are several factors that could have contributed to that rate outside of Henry's control, but there is not much time to try and solve them. Tennessee now travels to face the high-flying Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, and the Titans are 5.5-point underdogs in the contest.
Like Chubb, Henry needs a certain game script due to his pass-catching limitations, and trailing on the road likely is not it. Henry only saw 17 carries and 63% of the snaps last weekend trailing from the opening minutes.
Tennesee figures to trail again given that Kyler Murray just torched them for 0.43 Passing NEP per drop back, and Russell Wilson just posted 0.59 Passing NEP per drop back on a stingier Colts defense. That means that while a fantasy manager would feel inclined to still start their top pick, Henry likely slides outside the top-10 running backs for a second consecutive week.
3. The Raiders/Steelers Game Contains No Top-20 Quarterbacks in Week 2
This one appears less bold on the surface, but Ben Roethlisberger is numberFire's consensus 16th-ranked quarterback entering Week 2, and Derek Carr just tossed 435 yards on a tough Ravens defense, yet both are primed to struggle this weekend.
Roethlisberger struggled in Week 1 to just 0.11 Passing NEP per drop back, which was 25th in the NFL. Part of that may have been the Bills' energetic defense at home, but the Raiders' defense held Lamar Jackson to just 0.12 Passing NEP per drop back, as well. Roethlisberger's 5.7 average depth of target (aDOT) was also tied for third-lowest last week, continuing his 2020 trend of becoming less vertical in the passing game.
Carr's matchup is simply brutal. The Steelers contained Josh Allen to -0.01 Passing NEP per drop back. Carr's offensive line allowed 21 pressures and 3 sacks last week, and now he faces PFF's top preseason defensive line. On that basis, it is fair that numberFire has him projected as the 25th-ranked quarterback this weekend.
This game figures to be popular in DFS formats, as well, because of its higher 48.5-point total, but buyer beware with sketchy quarterback play projected against two of Week 1's strongest defenses.
4. Jonathan Taylor Posts Over 100 Yards Rushing and a Touchdown
The story of Week 1 with fantasy running backs was largely how many saw tremendous workloads. Najee Harris saw 100% of his team's snaps, even. No days off!
Ironically, two of the five predictions this week are of course centered around running backs with lower snap shares, with Chubb earlier and now Jonathan Taylor. Taylor did see only 55% of the Week 1 snaps, but encouragingly, he and Nyheim Hines were the only two backs to see work for the Indianapolis Colts. With the Colts trailing the entire second half, Taylor only saw eight carries in that period, and that leads to the potential train of thought that Taylor would see even more work if the script of the game was different.
Taylor still saw 17 carries and 7 targets in that below-average snap share, so when he was on the field, he was utilized often. The Colts are only four-point underdogs to the Rams, so this game script theoretically should stay tight throughout.
Surprisingly, the Rams struggled against the run in Week 1. Despite their wide margin of victory over the Chicago Bears, they finished 31st in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play after the opening week, which has to be harrowing with the Colts' strong offensive line and Taylor waiting for them in Indianapolis.
Therefore, the pick is for Taylor to break 20 carries this week against a struggling Rams rush defense. That easily could lead to over 100 yards rushing and a score -- especially with Marlon Mack seemingly out of the fold to snatch any goal-line work.
5. Tyler Higbee Finishes as a Top-5 Tight End
Higbee split time with Gerald Everett for years from the same draft class, but Higbee now officially has a monopoly on the Rams' tight end work. In Week 1, he played every snap and earned six targets. He caught 5 of those for 68 yards, and with Robert Woods only playing 77% of the snaps, there is an argument to be made that Higbee has climbed to second in the Rams' pass-catching hierarchy.
The matchup against Indianapolis appears tremendous after a single week, as they posted the third-highest adjusted fantasy points per target allowed to tight ends in Week 1, and it was to the aforementioned Everett. The Rams' absurd 0.90 Passing NEP per drop back against Chicago -- over double the mark of Kyler Murray and Arizona in Week 1 -- demonstrates how dangerous an offense they are, and Higbee is a unique way to garner exposure to it at a position that is always scarce.