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Houston Texans: Week 1: A conclusive Fantasy Football prelude

Andy Rioux

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Which Houston Texans should you have on your Fantasy Football roster? You’ll be surprised as to who to start or sit. Plus, join the journey in a whip-around of the latest NFL injuries. Top 5 matchups for points? Take a look.

Houston Texans faithful — for many fantasy owners out there, draft day has come and gone.  Hopefully you are happy with your roster and confident you have a championship contender.  If not, be aggressive with making moves on the waiver wire and pursue trades that you think will steady the ship.

If your league has not held your draft event yet, or you want to know more about the ramifications of last weekend’s headlines around the league, we have you covered, along with a look ahead at some of the most interesting games on tap for week one.

None of the headlines generated by the Houston Texans dominated the overall NFL news, but there is considerably more clarity on the roster at key fantasy positions.  Running back D’Onta Foreman was officially placed on the reserve/PUP list and will miss the first six games of the season, locking Lamar Miller into a lead role.  Veteran Alfred Blue would be next in line should something happen to Miller.

At wide receiver, the release of Braxton Miller ensures Bruce Ellington and rookie Keke Coutee of a larger involvement in the Houston offense.  Neither player is roster-worthy in most formats at the moment, but could eventually offer some help on the waiver wire when rosters get tighter.  With Coutee being limited during the preseason, Ellington has more viability right now.  However, Coutee may have more upside once he settles in.

Houston also waived tight end Stephen Anderson, which means Ryan Griffin and rookie Jordan Akins are atop the depth chart.  Akins gained notoriety when he scored two touchdowns against Kansas City in the preseason, but neither Akins nor Griffin needs to be occupying space on your roster.

Additionally, the Houston Texans released kicker Nick Rose.  Rose did not mount much of a challenge to incumbent Ka’imi Fairbairn, who has been going undrafted in most leagues.  He does not show up on ADP data at the Fantasy Football Calculator website.  Nonetheless, with the Houston Texans’ offense expected to show improvement, Fairbairn might be a useful roster addition at some point, especially when bye weeks set in.

Of course Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins are no-brainer starters for opening day up in New England.  Miller and Will Fuller are also worthy starters.  It is a tough draw for the Houston Texans defense and you need to have an alternative lined up.  Tom Brady will lean heavily on Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan with Julian Edelman serving a suspension.  Running backs Rex Burkhead and James White will also be factors in the passing game in what could be a high-scoring affair.

Now it’s time to tour the rest of the league:

Don’t Ring the Bell?

It was assumed that Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, holding out for the second year in a row, would report by Labor Day weekend just as he did last year.  Many fantasy owners calmly selected Bell with a top five pick based on that scenario.

But the weekend passed, and Bell never reported.  There was panic at the disco and all throughout the fantasy world.  As of midweek, he still hadn’t shown up.  And now owners are forced to ponder a question that was unfathomable not that long ago – should we bench Le’Veon Bell for week one?  The Steelers seem tired of his act and Bell will have plenty of rust.  Even last year on opening day, he generated a meager 47 total yards against a Cleveland team that finished 0-16.

In the end it would be hard to bench Bell.  However, if you are in good shape at running back beyond Bell, you need to strongly consider it.  The decision would also be easier to make if you handcuffed Bell with James Conner.

Reeling Raiders

Could the Oakland Raiders have picked a worse way to head into the season?  There was the stunning trade of superstar pass rusher Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears.  There was the release of wide receiver Martavis Bryant, who was acquired from Pittsburgh earlier this year for a third-round pick and will now never play a down for the Silver and Black.

On paper, the departure of Bryant takes a weapon away from Derek Carr, but with the Oakland defense now in a higher state of decay, Carr is going to be facing larger deficits and will be forced to throw more.  Even if Oakland is not trailing by a large margin, they are going to have to score victories by the shootout route.  He should be a solid QB2 for your team.  Jordy Nelson may be the biggest beneficiary, as Nelson and Amari Cooper are locked in as Oakland’s top receivers.  Bryant was always a wild card capable of being a fantasy superstar on any given week, but now, he is just part of a wretched Raiders offseason.

Jerick McKinnon Suffers Torn ACL

San Francisco signed former Minnesota runner Jerick McKinnon with plans to make him their lead back, letting Carlos Hyde get away to Cleveland.  Unfortunately, McKinnon was lost for the season after suffering a torn ACL during a Saturday practice.  As a result, backup running backs Alfred Morris and Matt Breida immediately became hot commodities.

When Morris was originally signed by San Francisco, some cited it as a classic case of Morris landing the job because he “knows the system.”  When 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was Washington’s offense coordinator in 2012 and 2013, Morris rushed for 2,885 yards and scored 20 touchdowns during that span.  Indeed, it was the highlight of Alfred’s career to this point, but he did average 4.8 yards per carry last year with Dallas and saw a decent amount of playing time during Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension.

The problem with Morris is that he is not much of a receiver.  His single-season high for receptions is 17.  Breida, who spelled Hyde last year, had 21 receptions.  It must be noted that fullback Kyle Juszczyk hauled in 33 passes, but had seven rushing attempts in 14 games.  Given the complete lack of running opportunities, Juszczyk only deserves a home in deeper PPR leagues.  The San Francisco backfield show will larger belong to Morris and Breida now.  On the surface, Morris is better in standard leagues and Breida is better in PPR.  While Morris will indeed likely get more touchdown chances, a case can be made that Breida has more upside, since he will get carries and catch passes.  Both have the potential to be regular options for flex spots.

TAKE FIVE:

With the regular season soon to be underway, we will take a look at five notable NFL games that might offer a lot of fantasy fireworks:

Atlanta at Philadelphia:

Playoff hero Nick Foles is officially getting the start for Philadelphia.  His heroics were not based on his performance against the Falcons, as Atlanta limited him to 246 yards and zero touchdown passes.  Coming off a down preseason, Foles is not a great option this week.  If you picked Carson Wentz in your league, hopefully you drafted someone who can fill in as a starter until Wentz returns.  As far as the rest of the Eagles are concerned, at least Foles will not torpedo the offense, ensuring Zach Ertz remains one of the top tight end plays on the board.  Nelson Agholor is worth starting with Alshon Jeffery and Mack Hollins out and Jay Ajayi will probably be leaned on more to take some pressure off of Foles.

In his last two starts in Philadelphia, Matt Ryan has thrown for just 477 yards and two touchdowns.  While Ryan ought to rebound this year overall, you can do better at quarterback during week one.  Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones are also looking to rebound somewhat in 2018 and need to be in your opening week lineup.  Tevin Coleman is an acceptable flex, but Mohamed Sanu, Austin Hooper, and rookie Calvin Ridley should stay on your bench.  Naturally, the Atlanta defense gets a boost with Foles in the lineup.

Dallas at Carolina:

The main double-header game on FOX will feature a battle between two squads dealing with depleted offensive lines.  It will also feature one elite fantasy running back in Ezekiel Elliott and one hoping to become elite in Christian McCaffrey.

Elliott is the only must-start on the Dallas side of the equation.  Quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receivers such as veteran Allen Hurns and rookie Michael Gallup largely landed on fantasy teams as backups.  This game will give you an opportunity to see how Prescott clicks with his new targets before you might have to use him down the line.  Hurns and Gallup may force their way into lineups sooner than Prescott if either of them can dominate target share.

We are still stunned the Cowboys cut kicker Dan Bailey, who had been outstanding for them up until last year when injuries caused a decline.  Unless there is something we do not know about regarding Bailey, the decision to waive him must have amounted to cost-cutting by owner Jerry JonesBrett Maher is now the kicker for the Cowboys.

Carolina quarterback Cam Newton is happy to have tight end Greg Olsen back after Olsen missed significant time in 2017 due to injury.  The duo could get off to a hot start against a Dallas defense that is typically not daunting.  McCaffrey will get his first chance to prove all of the hype was justified and we suspect he will perform well.  Playing Devin Funchess as your WR3 or flex makes plenty of sense.  This game will also mark the debut of Carolina’s first-round draft pick, wide receiver D.J. Moore out of Maryland.   At the moment, Moore is not someone to rely upon, but he is someone to watch closely.

San Francisco at Minnesota:

We have touched on the situation at running back for San Francisco already, but there is another pressing question for the 49ers.  Will this be the first game quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo loses as San Francisco’s starter?  After coming over from New England last year, Jimmy G was 5-0, including victories over three playoff teams.  When we last saw the Minnesota defense, they were melting down in Philadelphia in the NFC championship game.  Nevertheless, the Vikings still have one of the top defenses in the league and Garoppolo’s undefeated streak could come to an end.  At a minimum, you should consider another choice at quarterback this week.

All of the passing game components are set in place for the Vikings, with quarterback Kirk Cousins, tight end Kyle Rudolph, and wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen poised to produce good numbers for fantasy managers.  The main thing to watch for Minnesota is the distribution of carries in the backfield.  Although Dalvin Cook was great last year before suffering a season-ending injury, Latavius Murray has proven to be a capable if not great back throughout his career and there has been talk of Murray still getting a decent amount of carries despite Cook’s return.  While we would have no qualms with starting Cook against San Francisco, Murray is worth a look if he’s out there on your league’s waiver wire in the event he gets enough carries to be used as a flex.

Seattle at Denver:

Five years is an eternity in the NFL.  Five years ago, these teams were on a collision course for a Super Bowl showdown with each other.  Now, they are retooling teams trying to get back in an elite position.  And both teams have no shortage of fantasy story lines.

In Seattle, Russell Wilson remains one of the NFL and fantasy football’s best quarterbacks.  Nonetheless, the Seahawks lost Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson in free agency.  Top returning target Doug Baldwin missed the entire preseason with a knee issue.  Wilson is probably going to regress some statistically, but how much?  It really depends on Baldwin.  There was a tweet recently from a Seattle Times reporter saying Baldwin was at 80-85% health and the knee was something he was going to be dealing with all season.  As Wilson’s most trusted target, any significant issues with Baldwin would cause headaches for Wilson.  Tyler Lockett and potentially Jaron Brown are capable of stepping up to some degree, but the team does not have much at tight end and probably will not get much out of veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall.  Wilson is going to remain a QB1, but he may be more steady than sensational, especially this weekend with the imposing Denver defense on the other side of the field.

Also for the Seahawks, the tilt with the Broncos will be Chris Carson’s first chance to further distance himself from rookie Rashaad Penny as Seattle’s lead running back.  Seattle head coach Pete Carroll seems high on Carson.  It is not the greatest matchup of all-time, but you should not be scared to start Carson if you rolled the dice with him on draft day.

Shifting over to the Denver side of the equation, the hope is that new quarterback Case Keenum will prop up the values of wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.  By himself, Keenum may not have a lot of fantasy value, but Thomas and Sanders have struggled in a post-Peyton Manning world.  With Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor gone, the Legion of Boom has become a memory, with only Earl Thomas still around and he’s just coming back from a holdout.  Do not overvalue the Seattle defense based on their past reputation.  Sanders and Thomas should both be started.

There is also lots of hope in Denver (and for fantasy footballers) that rookie running back Royce Freeman will provide an instant impact.  While Devontae Booker is still around and will probably siphon some carries, Freeman is simply better and capable of producing a proficient week one performance.

 

Kansas City at Los Angeles Chargers:

The defending AFC West champion Chiefs will be squaring off against the team most likely to steal their crown in a battle of high-powered offenses.  It will be the second career start for Kansas City’s second-year signal caller, Patrick Mahomes.  Both the Kansas City brass and fantasy owners have high hopes for Mahomes, who played high school ball at Whitehouse High School outside of Tyler, but the Chargers defense can be formidable, especially with first-round pick Derwin James poised to make an impact in the secondary.  If you think Mahomes can generate some plays that will override his mistakes, he’s worth starting, albeit more as a streamer based on your roster than a must-start.  Kareem Hunt scored three touchdowns against the Chargers defense last year and had 389 total yards.  Hunt was going to be in your lineup anyway, but we thought that was a nice tidbit.  Tyreek Hill also had success against the Chargers last year.  Travis Kelce did not, with just 47 receiving yards, but sitting him would be silly.  We would tread lightly with Sammy Watkins.

The big story for the Chargers is the return of Antonio Gates.  The future Canton inductee was long rumored to be returning for a reunion with Philip Rivers after Hunter Henry was lost for the season, but now it is official.  While his career accomplishments speak for themselves, Gates is essentially a fantasy backup at this point in his career who will catch an occasional touchdown.  Veteran quarterback Philip Rivers has a favorable matchup as the Kansas City defense will be weaker in 2018.  Keenan Allen and Melvin Gordon will be fantasy fixtures all across the landscape, with unrelated Tyrell and Mike Williams probably good for spot starts along with Gates.

HIRED/FIRED

Starting next week, we will begin a feature called Hired/Fired.  “Hired” players are ones you want to acquire off the waiver wire or through trades, while “Fired” players are the ones you need to send packing.

Are you ready for the upcoming season?  Let me know what you think by sounding off in the comments section below!

Interested in writing for Locked on Texans?  Tweet us: @LockedOnTexans, Facebook: Locked On Texans or drop us a line at [email protected]

Andy participated in his first fantasy football league before he was even eligible to vote. Andy is a graduate of the prestigious University of Missouri School of Journalism who has contributed to fantasy football sites for many years. Naturally, he is a big Mizzou fan. He's a bit of a food fanatic, who's known to seek out the best burgers, barbecue, and pizza. With almost three decades of fantasy football experience, his knowledge base and ability to strategize will help your team find success.

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Houston Texans

Houston Texans vs. New York Giants: Week 3: Three things to watch

Calvin Crawford

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Houston Texans
Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Texans will take on the New York Giants in their Week 3 matchup this Sunday. What are the most important things to know for this game? Here are three things to watch so take a look and find out more.

New York Giants vs. Houston Texans
My bookie line – Texans -6.5
Sunday, Sep. 23 at 12 p.m. on FOX

The Houston Texans are playing their 1st game of the 2018 season at NRG Stadium and they could certainly use some home cooking. Week 2 did not go according to plan and whether it be fans, local media, or national media, everyone agrees that the Houston Texans should not have lost that game. This week they face the New York Giants who they have not seen since the 2014 season. The Giants are also 0-2 and are coming off a 20-13 loss to the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday night. Both teams are looking to get their 1st win and get their season back on the right track. Let’s take a look at matchups, fantasy outlook and gambling advice for this Week 3 meeting.

Matchups to watch for

QB Deshaun Watson vs. the New York Giants’ defense

The last time the Houston Texans played the Giants, Ryan Fitzpatrick was the man under center for Houston; it feels weird to say but I bet the Texans wish they still had him instead of Watson for these first two weeks of the season. This sounds like a very general matchup to watch for but given the disappointing way Watson has played the first two games.  But with how pedestrian the Giants’ defense looked defending the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott, I’m hoping this could be a coming out party for Deshaun.

The Cowboys were able to exploit the Giants’ secondary in the first 90 seconds of the game with a deep touchdown pass and Watson has his own deep threat in Will Fuller. Prescott was able to rush for 45 yards with an average of 6.4 yards per carry and Watson should be able to use his legs against this defense as well; they simply cannot cover dual-threat quarterbacks. Even Blake Bortles in Week 1 had 42 yards on the ground with a 10.5 YPC, so Watson should be frothing at the mouth to face the Giants.

Saquon Barkley vs. Houston’s front 7

If the New York Giants didn’t have rookie running back Saquon Barkley, then their offense would be as inept as the Arizona Cardinals. They do have Odell Beckham Jr. (more on that specifically) but Saquon is seeing a huge amount of volume. He never goes down on 1st contact and has legs bigger than Eli Manning’s torso, which was something the 14-year veteran quarterback had quipped during the off season.

Barkley only had 28 yards rushing against Dallas but was able to get loose in Week 1 versus Jacksonville for a 68-yard touchdown run. He can also catch passes out of the backfield and was targeted SIXTEEN times with 14 catches for 80 yards; that’s almost unheard of for a running back. Wide receivers would kill to get 16 targets in a game. I’m very intrigued to see J.J. Watt pursue Barkley, with Zach Cunningham and Duke Ejiofor right behind him. Eli Manning was also sacked six times in Week 2 so that is another matchup to watch for, Houston’s defense only has three sacks all season.

Odell Beckham Jr. vs Houston Secondary

Odell Beckham Jr. has yet to reach the end-zone through two games this season — he did have 11 catches for 111 yards in Week 1 but was contained in Week 2 with four catches for 51 yards. Whether he matches up with Jonathan Joseph or Aaron Colvin, I expect him to see his fair share of targets and to capitalize on any missed tackles; specifically, on slant routes. If the Texans load the box to stop Barkley and he’s matched up one-on-one on the outside, we better hope he goes down on 1st contact.

Fantasy outlook

New York Giants: Saquon Barkley, OBJ, and Evan Engram. Saquon and OBJ speak for themselves and I lost my fantasy matchup thanks to a meaningless Evan Engram touchdown. Engram had more catches than OBJ last week and should be started this week as well.

Houston: Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Lamar Miller. The Trio of Watson, Hopkins, and Fuller put up solid fantasy lines last week despite the loss, and Miller is a Top 5 rusher in the league. You can count on his usage week-to-week for the time being, which is tough to find in running backs.

Gambling advice

The line for this game opened at Houston -3 and has now moved to -6.5. The public absolutely loves the Texans in this game and thinks they’re not only going to win but win by at least a touchdown.  They’re actually an even -275 on the money line. This is odd because Houston has lost eight games in a row dating back to last season. It’s almost unheard of for a team that’s gone this long without winning (even though last season’s streak was without Deshaun Watson) to be favored this much in a game.

The way the Giants performed in their first two games has apparently not given bettors any reason to back them. The over/under is currently at 42 points; so, if you’re a believer in this defense or think the Giants’ offense is just inept, then I would go with the under. I mentioned in last week’s game preview that I wasn’t going to touch the game vs. the Titans but ended up doing so anyway when I saw Blaine Gabbert was warming up (we all know how that worked out). If anything, I would probably put money on the Texans money line and the under. This team, with their slow starts in the first two games, does not give me any encouragement for them to win by at least seven points.

Houston has lost their first two games by a combined 10 points, so they are not a bad football team. The key for a Texans win will be for them to start fast and not get behind by 14 points in the 1st quarter like last week, or 21-6 at halftime in New England. Hopefully playing at home in front of their fans will give them the spark they need to go pedal to the metal and not look back.

Follow me on Twitter: @billybobcalvin

Sound off to let me know what you think in the comments section below.

Interested in writing for Locked On Texans? Tweet us: @LockedOnTexans, Facebook: Locked On Texans or drop us a line at [email protected]

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Houston Texans

Houston Texans: Fantasy Football Week 3: Who should be hired or fired?

Andy Rioux

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Houston Texans
Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Which Houston Texans players are the best plays for Fantasy Football this week? Find out more to see whom gives you the best advantage. And who should be hired or fired? Take a look and get the goods.

At this point, the Houston Texans would still be less horrifying to watch than a marathon of Progressive Auto Insurance commercials featuring the awful Flo and the even more awful Jamie, but the gap is narrowing after a terrible loss to the outmanned Tennessee Titans.

At least from a fantasy perspective, the Houston Texans had way more to offer than they did on opening weekend when they lost to New England.  Will Fuller made a triumphant return by hauling in eight passes for 113 yards and a touchdown.  DeAndre Hopkins added six catches for 110 yards and another score.  And while Houston Texans fans are haunted by Deshaun Watson’s indecisiveness on what turned out to be the final play of the game, Watson threw for 310 yards plus the touchdowns to Fuller and Hopkins.  Watson pitched in an additional 44 yards on the ground.

It’s sometimes funny to notate the difference between fantasy and reality.  In reality, Watson’s play will live in infamy.  In fantasy, there were probably owners chuckling over the play, as the 31-yard pass from Watson to Hopkins undoubtedly made the difference in some tight games.

The only significant disappointment from a Houston fantasy perspective was the performance by the Houston Texans defense.  Getting one sack and zero turnovers from a team starting their backup quarterback and with several injuries across the offensive line just is not going to cut it.

Fortunately, J.J. Watt and company will get an opportunity to redeem themselves against the reeling New York Giants.  The Giants, 0-2 like the Houston Texans, gave up six sacks to the Cowboys and Eli Manning also lost a fumble.  If the Houston Texans defense is unable to get much going in this game, they may be making their way onto a list you will see later in this column.  And that is not a list you want to be on.  For now, they deserve one more chance as they will be in desperation mode.

We expect most of the main cast for the Houston Texans to perform well this week.  This includes Lamar Miller, who may have a decent shot at finding the end zone for the first time this year as the Giants have already allowed scores to T.J. Yeldon and Ezekiel Elliott.

As far as the Giants go, Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram, and superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham are the only worthy starters as Eli Manning continues to struggle.

The next part of our journey will be our Take Five segment where we look at five of the most compelling games of the week.  Following that will be our Hired/Fired list that takes a look at players you need to add to your roster…and players you need to waive off your roster.  As we did last week, some players spotlighted in Take Five are capable of being hired or fired and will be addressed there as opposed to that portion of this column.  Yes, it remains a ploy to get you to read everything and we will not apologize for it because there is plenty of good content to be had by all.

TAKE FIVE

San Francisco at Kansas City:

The unstoppable Chiefs will finally be playing their first game at Arrowhead Stadium after beating the Los Angeles Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers on the road.  At some point, Patrick Mahomes may slow down somewhat…or he may not.  What more needs to be said about someone who is averaging five passing touchdowns a week?  The young superstar will be tested starting in week four with three straight matchups against Denver, Jacksonville, and New England, but San Francisco’s defense will not be able to stop the Mahomes freight train.

The 49ers will also not be able to shut down Travis Kelce, who scored two touchdowns against the Steelers.  San Francisco has allowed two tight end touchdowns, with one going to Minnesota’s Kyle Rudolph and the other against unheralded Michael Roberts of the Detroit Lions.  Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt are automatics for your lineup, but before the trip to Pittsburgh, Sammy Watkins was not.  After producing 131 yards (31 on a reverse), Watkins has earned a starting spot in fantasy leagues.  We suspect he will be a bit hit or miss, but even the third wheel in this passing game will be able to pick up a lot of points at times.

While the Chiefs need to be commended for their 2-0 start, it is not because of their defense, which has been obliterated by Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger.  The upcoming return of safety Eric Berry will be a big boost for Kansas City, but Jimmy Garoppolo is poised for his best game of the season.  If Marquis Goodwin can return, he is capable of breaking a big one.  Emerging tight end George Kittle is also capable of big things after the Chiefs just made Steelers tight end Jesse James a superstar.  James caught five passes for 146 yards and a touchdown.  In this type of matchup, Pierre Garcon probably will not win a game for you, but he will not lose one either.

After Jerick McKinnon was lost for the season, the biggest question in San Francisco would be the distribution of touches in the San Francisco backfield between Alfred Morris and Matt Breida.  Through two weeks, Breida has emerged as the preferred back to own in fantasy.  The second-year speedster out of Georgia Southern rushed for 138 yards in San Francisco’s week two win over Detroit and had an electrifying 66-yard touchdown run. On top of that, he leads the NFL in rushing yards.   In games the 49ers will be favored to win, Morris still might end up being more valuable.  This, however, is not one of those games.

Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Rams:

This will be the first battle between these teams since both moved to Los Angeles.  And it may also turn out to be the first real test for the Rams, who have looked great but have also played the lowly Raiders and Cardinals, who they just beat 34-0.  It is highly unlikely the Rams will pitch another shutout this weekend against Philip Rivers and the high-powered Chargers attack.  Rivers is averaging 340 passing yards per game.  Hockey fans and fantasy owners were thrilled with Melvin Gordon on Sunday, who had a hat trick with three touchdowns in a blowout victory over Buffalo.  And Keenan Allen remains as steady as ever.

Can the Chargers trio keep it up against the Rams?  You should not have grand expectations, but Gordon and Allen need to be started as you usually would.  Given the matchup, Rivers could be moved to your bench.  However, this could turn into a shootout and Rivers could exceed expectations.  That would help the fringe Charger players such as Mike Williams, Austin Ekeler, and Tyrell Williams.  We would not expect any of those three players to have a big day.   Stranger things have happened though.  Ekeler would be a quality addition to your roster, as he is getting enough playing time to produce value.

Terrific Todd Gurley has proven why he deserved to be the first overall pick in fantasy leagues with four touchdowns so far in 2018.  Three of those touchdowns game against the Cardinals, although Gurley was held to 42 rushing yards.  This may be a game where Gurley is more important from a yardage perspective than a touchdown one.  The Chargers had no trouble with Buffalo’s limited passing game, but they were picked apart by the Chiefs in week one.  Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp are not WR1s in fantasy, but all three are fairly dependable starters.  Jared Goff remains a QB2.  If you think this game will be a high-scoring affair, you could go with Goff.

The Rams will be without kicker Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein, who injured his groin during warm-ups before the win over Arizona.  They have signed Sam Ficken to fill in for him.  Ficken was also part of the Rams roster last year when Zuerlein was placed on injured reserve.  At this point, Zuerlein is not expected to miss a massive amount of time.  We are not big on carrying two kickers on our roster, but if you want to go that route, Ficken would be fine as a temp.

Indianapolis at Philadelphia:

The world champions dropped to 1-1 with a loss on the road to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but they are getting Carson Wentz back.  Wentz, who threw for 33 touchdowns in 13 games last season, may be rusty at first.  Nevertheless, his return is a huge boost for the entire Philadelphia offense.  If you drafted Wentz and your alternatives leave something to be desired, Wentz can be inserted into fantasy lineups right away.  The upside outweighs the rust.  With Alshon Jeffery and Mike Wallace on the shelf, Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz will continue to draw tons of looks.  Jeffery needs to continue to be stashed on your roster, but Wallace can be waived as he has been moved to injured reserve.

Outside of Wentz, the other big story for Philadelphia is the potential absence of running back Jay Ajayi, who has already rushed for three touchdowns.  Ajayi played through a back injury in week two, but as of midweek, there is talk he may not be able to play in this one.  With veteran Darren Sproles dealing with an injury of his own that kept him out of action last Sunday, it could mean a big role for Corey Clement, who had 85 total yards and a touchdown in Tampa.  Clement is someone who ought to be added to your roster if you have a need in your backfield.

As for the Colts, Andrew Luck, known in some Twitter circles as “Captain” Andrew Luck, made his way into the winner’s circle for the first time since returning to action by leading his troops to a triumph against Washington in week two.  We would expect Luck to struggle against an angry Eagles defense.  However, he has an ace in the hole in head coach Frank Reich, who was Philadelphia’s offense coordinator before taking the reins in Indianapolis.

Luck himself has not posted gigantic numbers in 2018 and we do not think he will go bonkers in the City of Brotherly Love, but his return has brought T.Y. Hilton back to life.  Hilton, who we like to call “Chainsaw” in honor of Hilton Furniture here in Houston, has already scored two touchdowns after finishing with just four last year.  The rest of the Colts attack is uneven.  At running back, Marlon Mack and Jordan Wilkins each saw 10 carries in the victory over the Redskins.  Neither found the end zone, but Nyheim Hines did.  The eventual return of Robert Turbin will create further havoc.  It’s hard to think we would live in a world where there is a backfield even more cluttered and confusing than New England’s, but here we are.  Continuing to avoid the Indianapolis backfield is a wise strategy.

At tight end, the arrival of Eric Ebron has hampered Jack Doyle.  The yardage between the two is similar, but Ebron has two touchdowns vs. zero for Boyle.  As we saw in Detroit, Ebron was more bust than boom, but there are worse choices out there.  At some point, Boyle should also get better.  Nonetheless, both of these guys are better backups than starters right now.

Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay:

Fitzmagic…that is all.  No, just kidding.  We have a lot more to say about this game, but once again, if Fitzmagic is out there in your league, put in a claim.  With each passing week, the odds of Jameis Winston getting his job back are getting smaller.  Maybe the bubble bursts for Fitzmagic next week against Khalil Mack and the Chicago Bears, but it’s hard to see it bursting against a Pittsburgh defense that gave up six touchdowns to Patrick Mahomes.  It’s easy to again like Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin, and O.J. Howard.

Not to be a downer, but what’s not to like in Tampa these days?  Tight end Cameron Brate was a valuable fantasy player when he scored fourteen touchdowns during the last two seasons, but he has zero catches in 2018.  It is time to say bye to Brate if you were hoping he could be a credible TE2.  Most importantly, the Buccaneers rushing attack has struggled.  Peyton Barber garnered lot of discussion as a sleeper, but in week two, Barber rushed for an abysmal 22 yards on 16 carries.  Banishing Barber to your bench right now is a pretty good idea.  Hopefully he will get it going.  If not, second-round pick Ronald Jones could work his way back into the mix.

With Tampa Bay’s secondary being less than stellar, Antonio Brown, Juju Smith-Schuster, and Ben Roethlisberger are capable of lighting up the stat sheet.  There has been some controversy surrounding Brown of late and it’s possible the Steelers may feature him even more than usual to appease him, even though they reportedly held him accountable for an absence.  Regardless, you know those three players are going to be in your lineup.

There should also not be a question as to whether James Conner needs to be in your lineup.  Although he backtracked from his dominating week one performance, Conner produced 65 total yards and a touchdown as Le’Veon Bell continued his stay in exile.  Yes, this one could turn into a passing marathon, but Conner will be a dependable starter until Bell comes back.

We mentioned tight end Jesse James in our summary of the San Francisco/Kansas City matchup.  We tend to think that performance may have been a bit of a fluke, especially since Vance McDonald is also capable of great receiving feats at times.  Both Steeler tight ends could be used in a pinch.  Using them as regular starters is not a strategy we endorse at this point.

New Orleans at Atlanta:

With Tampa Bay off to a 2-0 start, both of these 1-1 squads need a win to keep pace, especially since Carolina is also in the mix in the tough NFC South.  New Orleans has been very disappointing given the team was pegged by many as having a good chance to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.  The only reason they escaped with a win against Cleveland on Sunday was due to the struggles of former Browns kicker Zane Gonzalez.  Still, the Saints remain dangerous on offense and Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, and Alvin Kamara continue to be top fantasy weapons.

 

In theory, someone else is going to step up to help that tandem at some point. There will be a few moments here and there for Ted Ginn and of course Ted Ginn’s entire family, not to mention veteran tight end Ben Watson and running back Mark Ingram when he gets back from suspension, but former Chicago Bear Cameron Meredith and rookie Tre’Quan Smith are the players who may be able to add different dimensions to the Saints attack at some point. Neither one needs to be on your roster just yet (Meredith has been inactive the first two games of the season) but the situation in New Orleans needs to be monitored.  The New Orleans defense has been highly vulnerable to long passing plays and the Saints are going to find themselves in more shootouts than they would like.

Following a disappointing week one loss to Philadelphia, the Falcons got back on track by besting Carolina.  Although it was somewhat of a quiet day for Julio Jones, a revitalized Matt Ryan threw for 272 yards and two scores.  Ryan, not exactly Russell Wilson on the ground, scored a rare rushing touchdown, his first since 2012.  Rookie Calvin Ridley caught four passes for 64 yards and a touchdown.  Tevin Coleman, assuming the lead role in the Atlanta backfield with Devonta Freeman out of action, rushed for 107 yards.  Tight end Austin Hooper accumulated five receptions for 59 yards and a touchdown.

Jones is often disappointing from a touchdown perspective.  Despite this, the Saints have given up four touchdowns of over 30 yards already this season.  A monster game is not out of the question for Julio this week.  Given that he fell out of the ranks of “automatic starter” last year, Ryan merits a serious look as a “streamer” vs. the Saints.  Coleman will be a solid option as long as Freeman is out.  Should something happen to Coleman, rookie Ito Smith is next in line and is a name to remember if you want to pull a rabbit out of your hat.  And Ridley is certainly worth a bench spot.  The talented rookie will probably be inconsistent, but is capable of giving you good numbers at times.  Speaking of inconsistent, there is no truth to the rumor that is Hooper’s middle name.

HIRED/FIRED

Welcome to Hired/Fired, our weekly rundown of who deserves a place on your roster and who deserves a pink slip.  Consider your team culture when it comes to hiring someone.  You need someone who blends into that culture.  On the flip side, maybe you spent too much money on your fantasy teams and need to layoff those who will not help you get your money back.

While in many cases it is still too early to panic after week two, things have begin to come into more focus and there is a bit more clarity on both sides of the equation.

HIRED:

RB Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals – With Joe Mixon out of action, Bernard will once again be the head rooster in the hen house for Cincinnati.  Although a matchup with Carolina is not pleasant on paper, the Panthers gave up over 100 yards to Tevin Coleman and Bernard has almost always produced when in a lead role.

RB Javorius “Buck” Allen, Baltimore Ravens – Allen’s yardage has not been all that great, but he has scored touchdowns in two straight games.  With the usage of Alex Collins by the Baltimore coaching staff being puzzling at times, Allen appears to be on his way to carving out flex value and could be a periodic spot starter for fantasy teams beset by injuries or dealing with bye week drama.

RB Latavius Murray, Minnesota Vikings – Dalvin Cook suffered a hamstring injury in Minnesota’s tie with Green Bay.  At this moment, the odds seem favorable that Cook will be able to go in a tantalizing tilt with Buffalo.  If not, Murray would be in a prime spot.  As it is, the Vikings may be able to run up a big enough lead against the Bills that Murray might yield flex value.

WR Quincy Enunwa, New York Jets – We mentioned Enunwa last week and he caught seven passes for 92 yards on Sunday in a 20-12 loss to Miami. While Robby Anderson remains New York’s most explosive receiver, Sam Darnold seems to have the most trust in Enunwa.  If Darnold continues to progress, Enunwa will be a major beneficiary.

WR D.J. Moore, Carolina Panthers – At some point, you have to think talent will win out.  Moore was scarcely used in week two as Cam Newton connected with the likes of Torrey Smith and Jarius Wright for touchdowns, but he turned his one reception into a 51-yard touchdown.  As Carolina’s first-round pick, he has stature within the organization and there was talk from Carolina head coach Ron Rivera that Moore needs to be more involved.  The passing game for the Panthers is largely centered around Christian McCaffrey at the moment, but Moore has the potential to change that.

TE Will Dissly, Seattle Seahawks – It’s a return appearance for Dissly, who got a garbage time touchdown Monday night in Chicago.  Seattle is a mess, but the tight end position is also somewhat of a mess for the most the part.  Two wrongs make a right?  So far, it looks like that is the case with Dissly.

K Dan Bailey, Minnesota Vikings – Dropped by the Cowboys in a cost-cutting move, the Vikings had to be thrilled to sign Bailey after Daniel Carlson’s misses cost them a victory over Green Bay.  We do not typically partake in deep analysis at the kicker position and we will not in this case.  Bailey is a great kicker who is now part of a great offense.  Enough said.

Green Bay Packers Defense – The Packers are not on this list for their matchup this week against a mediocre Washington squad.  While the Redskins are not a scary matchup, Alex Smith’s vanilla style of quarterbacking usually translates to a lack of turnover opportunities for opposing defenses.  The real reason you want to pick the Pack off the waiver wire is that they host Buffalo in week four.  Although the Bills are less of a disaster with rookie quarterback Josh Allen in the lineup instead of Nathan Peterman, Allen is certainly capable of serving up sacks and turnovers to the Cheeseheads.

Seattle Seahawks Defense – The glory days seem to be gone in Seattle.  That said, the Seahawks will get Arizona at home in week four.  Even if the Cardinals decide to turn to rookie quarterback Josh Rosen by that point, it’s still a nice spot for Seattle.

FIRED:

QB Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans – It might be somewhat of a risk to cut Mariota, but when is he going to truly fulfill his potential that he always seems to have?  Not this week against Jacksonville if he is able to play.  If you need help on your roster, you can probably cut him and get him back at some point, since it is highly unlikely your fellow owners will be racing to pick him up after he potentially produces a clunker in Jacksonville.

RB LeGarrette Blount, Detroit Lions – Sometimes in football, we hear about a “revenge game.”  In theory, Blount could try to exact revenge against his former employers, the New England Patriots.  However, Blount already got revenge against New England in last year’s Super Bowl as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles.  This year, the most notable thing Blount has done was get ejected in a week two loss to San Francisco.  The veteran bruiser has rushed for 35 yards and we would expect the 0-2 Lions to find themselves in comeback mode again this week, which means more playing time for Theo Riddick.  They are also going to continue taking a longer look at rookie Kerryon Johnson.  We do not see Blount exacting “revenge” and we do not want to see him on your fantasy roster any longer.

RB Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears – It was thought at times during the offseason that Cohen would become a major weapon for the Bears.  So far, the Chicago backfield has remained the Jordan Howard show.  Howard has even become more involved in the passing game, which was his one weakness.  Unless you have Howard and want to keep Cohen as a handcuff, give someone else a chance.

RB Rob Kelley, Washington Redskins – Kelley is a free agent in many leagues, but we suspect there are some owners hanging onto him thinking that Adrian Peterson would fade at some point.  That may indeed happen with Peterson, but with Kelley now on injured reserve, there is no reason to have him in your locker room.  We do not recommend adding Samaje Perine at this stage, but he is now next in line behind Peterson.

WR Jamison Crowder, Washington Redskins – Speaking of Washington…in 2016, Crowder was a revelation with 67 receptions for 847 yards and seven touchdowns.  His touchdowns dropped to three last year.  Despite some talk he would be a great fit with Alex Smith, he has five receptions for 40 yards in two games.  Jordan Reed and Chris Thompson have had injury issues in the past, but with both of them being healthy, Crowder seems to be an afterthought, especially with Josh Docton and Paul Richardson also around.

WR Jordy Nelson, Oakland Raiders – It is painful to put Nelson here, as he has won a lot of fantasy games for owners in the past, but he is not going to help owners win games in the present.  Nelson has five catches for 53 yards and is less involved in the Oakland offense than Amari Cooper and Jared Cook.  Even Seth Roberts did more against Denver in week two than Jordy did.

WR Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys – Fantasy owners who took a late-round plunge with Gallup were hoping that the rookie from Colorado State would be the top target for Dak Prescott.  Through two games, he has two catches for 14 yards.  The Cowboys have given more opportunities to Tavon Austin and Deonte Thompson and are bringing Brice Butler back, with Allen Hurns also in the mix.  In that hot mess of a situation, Gallup simply cannot be trusted.

TE David Njoku, Cleveland Browns – We had high hopes Njoku could be a find after a strong preseason, but after two weeks, Njoku has 33 yards.  Maybe you just bench him because he still has some breakout potential, but waiving him seems to be a more prudent course of action right now.

Do you agree with my assertions?  Feel free to sound off in the comments section below.

Interested in writing for Locked On Texans?  Tweet us: @LockedOnTexans, Facebook: Locked On Texans or drop us a line at [email protected]

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Houston Texans: Week 3: Exploiting the N.Y. Giants’ biggest weaknesses

Brian K. Patterson

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Houston Texans
Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

What weaknesses can the Houston Texans exploit against the Giants?  Locked on Giants Host Patricia Raina joins Robert for a Locked on Crossover.  We ask her about Eli Manning, almost Texans tackle Nate Solder, new Head Coach Pat Shurmur’s 1st couple games and the decision not to take Sam Darnold. Do the Giants have enough of an outside pass rush to exploit the Texans young tackles?  And who walks away with their 1st win?  Patricia and Robert take a look.

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Houston Texans: The good and bad news of falling to 0-2 on the season

Brian K. Patterson

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Houston Texans
Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Is there light at the end of the tunnel for the Houston Texans after falling to 0-2 on the season?  Here’s good news in regard to how the team is performing thus far.  Rob and Brian also have a discussion on some additional nuances noticed in Sunday’s match up against the Tennessee Titans.

The duo also goes over the notable player grades from Pro Football Focus as well. What streaks/records do Deshaun Watson, Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins all share?  You’ll never guess.

The early returns of Watson’s top receiving targets is quite surprising.  What’s going on?  Plus, do you want hear some bad news as well as players taking to Twitter on the status of the team?  Take a listen and find out more!

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Subscribe to us daily on Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher, Tunein and the Google Podcast app.

Email [email protected] for Questions or Comments.

Follow us on Twitter @LockedonTexans, @HSTPodcast and @HouseofHouston

 

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