How was your NFL Sunday? Better yet, how’s your team? If you weren’t impacted by one of the seemingly dozens of injuries the past two weeks, you’re probably sitting pretty right now. If you your entire team is on IR, well, you’re probably not feeling that excited.
In these weekly posts I look at three things to take away from the NFL Week that was, and preview the Monday night game for those in need of a miracle, which is probably most of us. And yesterday’s injury apocalypse led me to my first take away from Week 2.
Injuries will define this NFL Season and this Fantasy Football Season.
I know what you’re thinking, that’s true every year. Teams that stay healthy win on the field and on the virtual field because they can outperform the rest. The thing is, that feels particularly true this year. If you have a First Round pick that’s still on the field and performing as expected, congratulations. Most of us aren’t that lucky. In one of my leagues, I took Michael Thomas, Chris Godwin and Courtland Sutton as my first three picks… if you follow the season you know how that’s going for me. Christian McCaffery came away injured yesterday, Saquon Barkley is likely gone for the year and it’s hard to find a top-end receiver that hasn’t been banged up or missed time. All this is wreaking havoc for NFL teams and fantasy owners, and it’s only Week 2. When you’re unironically starting Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Quintez Cephus and we haven’t even hit bye weeks, you know it’s a problem.
The Undefeated Teams So Far
So far there are 10 undefeated teams that started 2-0. (The Saints and Raiders are currently 1-0, and one will join this group.) Many are the usual suspects—The Seahawks, Rams, Packers, Chiefs, Titans, Ravens, Steelers and Bills were all teams considered playoff contenders pre-season. But there are two others I want to focus on, the Chicago Bears and Arizona Cardinals. I thought a team other than the Packers would be a playoff contender in the NFC North. I was banking on the Lions, who I thought could win the division. Instead, I’ll be talking about the Lions in a minute. The Bears, meanwhile, have seen a better Mitch Trubisky, which led to a division win over the Lions and a home opening win over the Giants. The Bears still have a solid defense and look like they’re again putting it together on offense. The team is only two seasons removed from a 12-4 finish that found them in the playoffs, and they look like a team poised to get there again. The Cardinals, meanwhile, earned a Week 1 win over the 49ers in San Francisco then looked solid in a Week 2 home win over Washington. Kyler Murray is clicking, and DeAndre Hopkins still looks like one of the league’s best receivers. The NFC West may well be the toughest division in football, but the Cardinals look like a solid contender.
The Winless Teams So Far
There are 11 teams among the winless in the NFL to this point, and all of them face a long road if they want to compete. For teams like the Dolphins, Jets, Panthers, Giants and Bengals, they’re still in the midst of re-building. The Broncos have been ravaged by injuries, and the Texans have faced a brutal schedule starting with the Chiefs and Ravens. But let’s look at a few others who might be in trouble. The Falcons, Lions, Vikings and Eagles were all set to be potential contenders, but all have flopped and looked pretty poor in doing it. The Falcons ended 2019 on a surge to save their coach’s job and figured to need to make the playoffs to do the same in 2020. Instead, they got crushed by Seattle at home on opening week and blew a HUGE lead to the Cowboys on Sunday. Not great. The Lions, meanwhile, have had double-digit leads in both their games, division games no less, and blown them both. They lost to the Packers going away in Week 2, but hopefully the return of Kenny Golladay will help the offensive production. The Eagles and Vikings, meanwhile, were playoff teams in 2019 that got blown out in Week 2. The Eagles’ line is a mess and the passing game is sputtering, while the Vikings can’t protect Kirk Cousins or stop anyone on defense. Not a great start. For these 0-2 teams, the season is quickly fading.
You might be facing your own potential 0-2 start, in need of a miracle. Well, fortunately this Monday Night Football matchup between the Saints and Raiders could well provide some chances for miracles.
New Orleans Saints (1-0) at Las Vegas Raiders (1-0)
The Raiders open their new stadium in Las Vegas, and they’ll do it in style versus the Saints. Both teams got wins in Week 1—with the Raiders outlasting the Carolina Panthers thanks to an incredible three-touchdown day from Josh Jacobs, while the Saints beat the division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Tom Brady, at home. And both teams have some issues at receiver.
For the Saints, star Michael Thomas tweaked his ankle and is out for Week 2. For the Raiders, rookie receiver Henry Ruggs III is questionable with a knee injury. We’ll find out if he’ll play tonight, but even if he does, presumably you have better options you already played. But what about the options in the game?
If you waited to play a quarterback from tonight, hopefully you’re in a Superflex league. I like both Drew Brees and Derek Carr as QB2s this week. Both have challenges in the receiving corps. That being said, Brees looked for receiver Emmanuel Sanders quite a bit in Week 1, including hitting him for a touchdown, and I think he’s got WR2 upside this week.
Still, the best receiving options for both might be at tight end. I like both Darren Waller, for the Raiders, and Jared Cook, for the Saints, as Top 5 options at the position this week. Cook led the Saints in receiving in Week 1, and Waller is the most steady option for the Raiders. Also solid starts are running backs Alvin Kamara, of the Saints, and Jacobs, for the Raiders. I had both a Top 5 starts at their position for Week 2 as well. Kamara scored two touchdowns and nearly a third in Week 1, and Jacobs did get three for the Raiders. With the receiving corps in question, the backs and tight ends should feast tonight, and all four are your best hope for an elusive Monday Night Miracle.
Prediction: Saints ruin the Raiders’ home opener tonight.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.