NFL Fantasy: Week 2 Start ‘em, sit ‘em running backs

Week 1 saw some standouts and some slackers. What will these running backs bring to Week 2?

Like every opening day, some sleepers and second-stringers produced fantasy magic in Week 1, often at the expense of established stars. Just like every opening day, we overreact to these events and worry if backs like Jordan Howard or Frank Gore are being replaced by their upstart teammates. Let’s get through a few more weeks and see if life returns to normal. 

Right now, here’s a look at Week 2 projections. 

START THIS GUY: Devonta Freeman, Atlanta (vs. Green Bay)

Atlanta’s star running back shouldn’t breed much doubt as a worthy starter. But against the Chicago Bears last week, Freeman scored a touchdown and still came up short of a double-digit fantasy points day. (9.9) Meanwhile, this week’s opponent, the Green Bay Packers, held the Seattle Seahawks without a touchdown and made their running game look completely discombobulated. 

In Week 2, we will learn that Green Bay’s defense is not as improved as they looked against the Seahawks and Devonta Freeman is not as bad as his numbers looked against the Bears. Freeman will have a big game at home in this NFC championship rematch.

SIT THIS GUY: Carlos Hyde, San Francisco (at Seattle)

For all the talk of how good Hyde looks in Kyle Shanahan’s system, last week’s game against the Panthers showed the system needs a little work. It doesn’t help that Seattle’s defense is a little dismayed by their performance of a week ago. They will take it out on the 49ers this week. 

The potential rout could limit running opportunities and give Shanahan a reason to look at some of his other young running backs. 

START THIS GUY: Thomas Rawls, Seattle (vs. San Francisco) 

Seattle coach Pete Carroll listed Rawls as the RB-1 coming into the season with Eddie Lacy and Chris Carson as co-RB-2. Carroll seems very happy to have Rawls back. The coach may be done with the running back-by-committee approach already.

Rawls, for his part, sounded like he assumed the starting gig was his, even when he was injured in the preseason. He watched what happened to the other three backs last week and realizes this is his job to lose. He won’t blow the opportunity against San Francisco in front of his home crowd. Look for some explosive plays from Rawls early in the game.

SIT THIS GUY: Jacquizz Rodgers, Tampa Bay (vs. Chicago)

Rodgers will fill in for the suspended Doug Martin over the next three games. He figures to get the lion’s share of touches and has been more than competent in previous years. How Rodgers and the rest of the Buccaneers respond to the disruptions of Hurricane Irma will make or break their game. I expected Houston to come out emotionally charged last week against Jacksonville. Instead, they looked like a team who was worn down by Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath. 

But the biggest reason I have Rodgers on my sit list is the Chicago defense. They did a good job against Devonta Freeman and the Falcons’ rushing game last week. They also came within a short pass of upsetting the defending NFC champions, which might have them believing in themselves more than expected. Be wary of Rodgers in this game. 

START THIS GUY: CJ Anderson, Denver (vs. Dallas)

Anderson ran well in the first half against the LA Chargers Monday night. When new head coach Vance Joseph’s team pulled out to a 24-7 lead, he went ultra-conservative. Jamaal Charles spelled Anderson. The strategy almost backfired as only a blocked field goal kept the lead from being lost. 

Joseph won’t make that mistake again, but he probably won’t need to make such a decision against the favored Cowboys. Anderson will get more touches than he saw in Week 1. He will also hope that his quarterback doesn’t vulture a goal-to-go touchdown from the one-foot line like he did last week.

SIT THESE TWO GUYS: Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick, Detroit (at NY Giants)

The Giants defense let Ezekiel Elliott enjoy his season opener to the tune of 140 total yards. Don’t expect to see that this week in the Giants’ home opener on Monday night. 

Abdullah’s “guaranteed” 1,000-yard season did not get off to a great start against the Cardinals last week (30 yards on 15 carries). Don’t expect him to get it going before Week 3 this year, though it won’t be for lack of trying. Detroit wants to run more and get Riddick involved, too. But it will be too tough a task against a wounded and angry Giants’ defense.

Top starters we shouldn’t have to mention

Le’Veon Bell takes back his top running back status, even against a tough Minnesota defense. Ezekiel Elliott is chomping at the bit after watching how Melvin Gordon’s ran against the Denver defense. LeSean McCoy will continue to run until he drops, which shouldn’t be for a few more weeks. Gordon takes advantage of Miami’s extended inactivity. The Oakland Raiders will showcase Marshawn Lynch against the Jets. And I hear that Kareem Hunt guy is pretty good, too.

So, there you have it. There are lots of other worthy starters, but these are the ones who made me stop and think. Now, you won’t have to think about them. You’re welcome. 

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Pat Opperman


Pat recently retired from real life to watch sports and write. Look for references to games and events from ancient times as memories of an earlier Age of Sport tend to pop into his head.