Welcome to the Week 2 Walkthrough.
In this article, published every week from Week 2 - Week 17, I'll outline critical fantasy football context for what will hopefully be an entertaining and injury-free week of football.
- Raiders at Bills 1 PM
- Seahawks at Lions, 1 PM
- Packers at Falcons, 1 PM
- Chiefs at Jaguars, 1 PM
- Chargers at Titans, 1 PM
- Bears at Buccaneers, 1 PM
- Colts at Texans, 1 PM
- Ravens at Bengals, 1 PM
- 49ers at Rams, 4:05 PM
- Giants at Cardinals, 4:05 PM
- Jets at Cowboys, 4:25 PM
- Commanders at Broncos, 4:25 PM
- Dolphins at Patriots, 8:20 PM
- Saints at Panthers, 7:15 PM, Monday
A Quick Note on First Read Targets
This week, I rely pretty heavily on first-read targets. (A first-read target occurs when a receiver sees a target on the quarterback's first read).
A few notes:
The reason I like this stat, most simply, is that first-read targets per route run (or first-read target rate) is stickier than targets per route run (TPRR). It may essentially be a version of TPRR with less noise.
But I also think first-read targets are especially interesting early in the season. Reason being, they can help us understand which receivers are running routes that are early in the progression. This element of team intent is critical in the early season as we try to decipher target pecking orders more quickly than our opponents.
In discussing this stat with Ben Gretch, he's noted that a "first read" isn't as simple as: "If Player A is open, throw to Player A."
For example, a QB could be reading the reaction of a defender and then deciding between two receivers. In this scenario, we will credit the targeted receiver and learn nothing about the untargeted receiver, even though it was really up to a defender to determine which receiver was targeted. This makes the stat a bit harder to lean on since what are we even measuring?
But hey, we're analyzing a game with 22 dudes hitting each other and running around very quickly. There are no clean football stats. And yet, I do think Ben is correct to point out that first-read targets are not a silver bullet. (And I reference them enough below that you might start wondering if I think that).
But ultimately, I'm a fan of diving into the first-read data. Even in the example above, I like knowing that the targeted WR was early in his QB's progression, even if "first read" might not be as simple as it sounds.
Presumably, a QB's first look in his progression will usually involve receivers the coaches believe in. And, as much as possible, we want to know which receivers are in their team's plans going forward. We're sometimes going to be fooled by small sample noise, but that's true of anything we look at from Week 1.
Let's get to it.
(The stats below are from PFF, NFLfastR, rbsdm.com, RotoViz, FantasyLabs, ESPN, NFL Next Gen, and Fantasy Life).
Raiders at Bills, 1 PM
Raiders Implied Team Total: 19.25
In Jimmy Garoppolo's first game with the Raiders... he looked like Jimmy Garoppolo. I've never been a big Jimmy G fan, but the dude has been consistently efficient. And he was impressively efficient against the Broncos.
He now gets a Bills defense that looks solid against the pass and terrible against the run. But the Bills got to play Zach Wilson at QB and had to deal with Breece Hall at RB, so it's hard to know who they really are.
Garoppolo was buoyed by having two strong options in the passing game. And once cleared from the concussion protocol, Jakobi Meyers looks well positioned to build on his strong Week 1 production.
Garopplo wasn't looking Meyers' way randomly. The former Patriot was a major part of Josh McDaniels' Week 1 game plan, earning a first-read target on an elite 29% of his routes.
Adams' 24% rate was also very strong, indicating that the Raiders plan to run a concentrated passing game through him and Meyers. If Meyers misses this game, Adams looks like an elite play.
And the Raiders may not run from a fight with the Bills offense. Against the Broncos, Las Vegas passed 9% more than expected on 1st-and-10, indicating that they could be a solidly pass-first team this year.
The Raiders' potential to be pass first is actually good news for Josh Jacobs, who continued to dominate backfield usage. Jacobs struggled as a rusher, with very poor marks in the NFL Next Gen stats, but hoarded team attempts, while maintaining a strong role in the passing game.
Jacobs should have a lock on the backfield's high value touches like he did last year. If the Raiders are willing to keep things fun as the underdog this week, there could be plenty of high value looks for him to soak up. Despite a disappointing debut, Jacobs looks like a very strong play this week.
Bills Implied Team Total: 27.75
Josh Allen struggled against the Jets. But... he tends to do that. This week he gets a Raiders defense that was putrid against the pass last year. Only the Bears ranked lower in EPA allowed per dropback.
Facing a potentially washed Russell Wilson, Las Vegas finished 25th in EPA allowed per dropback and 25th in dropback success rate last week.
The Bills struggled to protect Josh Allen against the Jets but the Raiders also failed to generate pressure quickly last week. If the Bills can better protect Allen against a lacking Las Vegas pass rush, he should be much more effective.
Allen's three interceptions were back-breaking for the Bills and they hurt his efficiency; he finished QB18 in EPA per play. But Allen was pretty solid when he wasn't turning the ball over, finishing QB5 in success rate behind only Matthew Stafford, Trevor Lawrence, and Justin Herbert.
The Raiders provide an ideal bounce-back environment, making Allen the ultra-high-ceiling QB you drafted him to be.
Allen's potential for a huge game is big news for his receivers. Gabe Davis and Stefon Diggs are again locked in as the top two WRs, but the distance to the No. 3 WR is much wider than in 2022. Against the Jets, Deonte Harty saw just 26% route participation.
This is only surprising if you consider Dalton Kincaid a tight end. And, to be honest, I don't know why we should... the Bills clearly don't. Kincaid posted 76% route participation in his NFL debut, despite the fact that Dawson Knox had an elite 78% rate.
The Bills passed the ball out of 12 personnel (1RB, 2TEs) on 57% of their dropbacks. This is a bonkers rate considering that the Ravens led the league with a 35% rate in 2022.
Every NFL stat provider believes Dalton Kincaid is a tight end. What this article presupposes is... maybe he isn't?
Kincaid not only ran 59% of his routes from the slot, he ran 33% of his routes from the outside. If the Bills want to move Stefon Diggs into the slot, they aren't necessarily limited by having Kincaid and Knox on the field. They're willing to treat their 1st-round rookie like an all-around receiver.
Kincaid also looks to be involved in the play-action game, the bread and butter of traditional TE routes. He saw four targets against the Jets with 1-of-4 coming via play action.
I'm already chalking up Kincaid's usage as one of my biggest misses of the offseason. I spent approximately 13 hours arguing against Kincaid on live streams (12.95 hours with Liam Murphy and three minutes with Mike Leone).
My slam dunk case was that Kincaid is a tight end and would therefore need to work ahead of Knox in the passing game to earn a full-time role. But the Bills have weighed in, and... they don't care even a little bit about how he's listed on the depth chart. Kincaid looks like a clear win as a WR with TE eligibility, except on FFPC, where he'll be moved to QB.
However, I'd like to take a break from eating crow to note that the jury is still out on whether Kincaid is actually any good. Even by TE standards, his advanced stats weren't very good, outside of strong route participation.
Kincaid's 11% TPRR was very weak, as was his 8% first-read target rate. The Bills clearly like the offensive looks that Kincaid allows them to show defenses. But it's not yet clear that he will be a featured piece of the passing attack. Long term, I expect the rookie to improve his target numbers. But for this week, I remain somewhat skeptical. Then again, Kincaid will be playing a ton in a potential Allen blow-up game, so he can't be ignored.
Kincaid's usage is amazing news for Stefon Diggs. Diggs was already sharing an offense with Gabe Davis and Dawson Knox, who are both poor target earners. Kincaid may ultimately prove to be a target hog, but for now, the rookie TE only makes the more reliable Diggs a more appealing option for Allen. Against a very poor Las Vegas secondary, that creates a huge ceiling.
Diggs is coming off a 33% target share. Against the Raiders, he could see the highest target total of the week.
James Cook should also benefit from the Bills' improved passing game efficiency. Cook posted an impressive 15% target share, which is a very good sign given the Bills' traditional hesitancy to pass to their RBs.
Cook's rushing ability remains in question, however. Cook struggled with consistency as a rookie, posting a very poor 35% success rate (per NFL Next Gen). He was even worse against the Jets, logging a 25% success rate.
Cook should be involved in the passing-game fun, but if the Bills are in position to salt away the game, they'll likely turn to Damien Harris or Latavius Murray.
Seahawks at Lions, 1 PM
Seahawks Implied Team Total: 21.25
The Seahawks are coming off an embarrassing loss to the Rams in which they lost both of their starting tackles. Even by Week 1 standards, it was a tough week.
But the Seahawks' fantasy prospects still look fairly encouraging. For one thing, they didn't fight against a pass-first game environment last week. They had an expected pass rate of 65% and leaned into the environment with a 66% pass rate.
The 2023 season has given us teams like the Cardinals and Falcons. These squads will spend week after week hiding their QB, regardless of what playing to win would look like.
The Seahawks had a chance to curl into a ball against the Rams, but they didn't. That's a good sign for their ability to feed a deep group of weapons.
And Geno Smith's play also looks pretty encouraging.
Smith was QB14 in EPA per play, but he was very consistent, finishing QB6 in success rate.
And for now, Smith's target tree looks predictable.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba may eventually prove to be a key piece of the offensive game plan. But for now, he profiles as a part-time receiver who is not being schemed targets.
His 66% route participatition is very much a part-time number, while DK Metcalf (93%), and Tyler Lockett (90% despite leaving the field to be evaluated for a concussion) continue to record high-end route participation.
Moreover, JSN's first-read target rate (11%) was pretty weak. Metcalf and Lockett (19% for both), remain clearly ahead in the target pecking order. If the Seahawks are looking to get the ball out quickly without their starting tackles, it's possible we see more short targets to the rookie. But after JSN's underlying usage in Week 1, that feels like wish casting.
In the backfield, Kenneth Walker's underlying numbers were somewhat exciting. His 18% target share is currently tied for RB4. Paired with a strong 65% snap share, Walker looks like a potential workhorse.
But Walker is probably the guy we thought he was. After a terrible 0.63 YPRR as a rookie, Walker was somehow much worse last week, turning four receptions into just three yards (0.19 YPRR). And while it was nice that Walker saw some passing game work, the share in target share is doing a lot of work. 24 RBs saw 4+ targets in Week 1. He saw a big piece of the pie, but it was a small pie.
Still, if Walker can add a bit of receiving work to his explosive rushing ability, he should turn in some huge weeks. Predicting those games is going to be difficult, though. Walker was highly inconsistent as a rusher last season, with a 35% success rate. That red flag popped up in Week 1 as well, with Walker turning in a gross 25% success rate.
But Walker is remains a home run hitter. And although the Lions' run defense held up well against an underwhelming Chiefs rushing attack, they'll have their hands full trying to bottle up Walker's explosive rushing ability. He profiles as a boom/bust RB2.
Lions Implied Team Total: 26.25
The Lions are one of the few teams that had a genuinely good time in Week 1, and they now get a Seahawks defense that could be very poor against the pass.
Matthew Stafford carved up the Seahawks, who currently rank dead last in dropback success rate and coverage grade. The Seahawks also generated very little pressure against Los Angeles, which is highly concerning given the poor state of the Rams' offensive line last year.
For Jared Goff, matchup really matters. He finished QB9 in EPA per play in Week 1, but was far weaker in success rate, finishing 19th. Against strong defenses, that lack of consistency could get him into trouble. But he should be fine in Week 2.
Still, we shouldn't expect a ton of passing volume for the Lions this week, especially if the Seahawks have trouble putting up points.
The Lions turned in a -6% pass rate over expected (PROE) against the Chiefs and posted a very conservative -10% rate on 1st down. Dan Campbell's Lions can be counted on to play to win. Campbell doesn't hide from better teams like Arthur Smith does. But when the game script allows, Campbell is also quite happy to pound the rock. With an improved defense, Detroit is a strong contender to be one of the NFL's biggest establishers.
But overall passing volume isn't a huge concern for Amon-Ra St. Brown, given how important he is to the Lions' passing attack.
The Chiefs were fully aware that St. Brown would be leading the charge in the passing game, doubling him on 31% of his routes. But St. Brown still saw 28% of the Lions targets with a 22% TPRR. Against a Seattle pass defense that could be worse than the Chiefs, he should have no trouble operating as a high-end fantasy WR1.
Sam LaPorta looks like the second-most interesting play in the passing game. Josh Reynolds led the rookie in route participation (81% to 71%), target share (21% to 17%), and first-read target rate (17% to 15%). But TE eligibility goes a long way. And LaPorta looks like the Lions clear TE1.
Goff's upside for an efficient passing day should mean good things for Jahmyr Gibbs as well. The rookie recorded just a 27% snap share against the Chiefs, but he was involved when on the field, especially as a receiver, with a 22% TPRR.
This isn't typically an eye-test type of article... but Gibbs also passed the eye test with flying colors. And Dan Campbell agrees, saying after the game that Gibbs will "begin to get more touches now, so that was just the beginning last night." Gibbs profiles a low-floor play this week, but his athleticism and receiving ability make him a risk worth taking.
But if the Lions play from ahead, David Montgomery could easily outproduce his backfield mate once again.
The Seahawks don't look particularly strong against the run. Last week, they primarily faced off against the famously unathletic Kyren Williams, yet they finished 25th in EPA allowed per rush.
And even with a reduction in snaps, Montgomery looks like a potential early-down workhorse this week, who could also catch a few passes. Despite not seeing any targets last week, his 53% route participation indicates some hidden upside.
As Gibbs earns more work, Montgomery may eventually become a very unappealing play. But he's a solid RB2 option this week.
Packers at Falcons, 1 PM
Packers Implied Team Total: 19.5
A lot of weird things happen at the start of an NFL season. But I still find it genuinely shocking to see Jordan Love at the top of the EPA per play leaderboard.
But it makes sense, sort of.
Love just faced a Bears defense that was absolutely atrocious against the pass in 2022.
Because the Bears' offense was also bad and they couldn't stop the run either, teams ran on them both regularly and successfully. The Bears ranked 25th in rushing success rate and 28th in EPA allowed per rush. But were even worse against the pass, ranking dead last in dropback success rate and EPA allowed per dropback. Their flailing pass defense was truly in a league of its own last year.
The Falcons defense wasn't great in 2022 either, but it acquitted itself far better in Week 1. Although the unit's performance was almost certainly inflated by facing a rookie QB, the Falcons currently rank fifth in dropback success rate and second in PFF's coverage grades.
Love was highly efficient against the Bears, but he wasn't especially consistent, finishing QB1 in EPA per play but just QB24 in success rate. From a consistency standpoint, Love trailed Zach Wilson and Sam Howell.
Passing volume is another concern. The Packers posted a -5% pass rate over expected against the Bears, and very much embraced the run-heavy game script the Bears afforded them.
This week, we can confidently say that the Falcons will offer the Packers plenty of rushing opportunities. I'm willing to bet that the Packers will happily take them up on it, limiting passing volume on top of a potential drop in efficiency.
I get it... we're all expecting Love to regress after an elite Week 1 showing. But what I'm driving at is that Love could regress significantly in Week 2.
With volume and efficiency concerns, I'd strongly caution anyone looking to chase last week's glory.
But the Packers do offer a couple of interesting plays.
Aaron Jones' usage was ultimately limited by a hamstring injury, but as Dwain McFarland notes, his usage before the injury was very encouraging.
"Jones was operating as the No. 1 with 70% of the snaps and 73% route participation before the hamstring injury. He looked as spry as ever in the passing attack with a 5.38 YPRR and 25% TPRR."
But that hamstring injury may cost Jones Week 2. Jones was a DNP on Wednesday and Thursday. If his misses this game, A.J. Dillon could have a big workload as part of a conservative game plan. Dillon would likley consolidate most of Jones' work, and his Week 1 receiving involvement was encouraging. He looks like a rock-solid RB2 if Jones is out.
Even with limited passing volume and middling QB play, Luke Musgrave already looks like a very solid TE option.
In his very first game, Musgrave logged elite 80% route participation, a 15% target share, and was heavily involved in the play-action passing game. As I covered this summer, play-action routes are crucial for TD upside at the TE position. Musgrave's role already looks borderline elite. Hopefully, the talent is there as well.
Falcons Implied Team Total: 21
The NFL offseason offers a wide menu of things that probably won't happen... but if they did happen, oh man can you imagine?
This menu is not for the squeamish. It mostly leads to upset stomachs and severe heartburn. Trust me, I order off it a lot. Because, while this menu is risky, when a dish hits it hits.
Unfortnately, our family style order of the Falcons passing game has given everyone explosive diarrhea.
The Falcons are who we feared they were.
With a -18% PROE on 1st-and-10, only the Broncos established it more on 1st down. And Atlanta's overall PROE of -12% was the lowest of Week 1. As they did in 2022, the Falcons will make run-heavy teams look balanced by comparison.
But it's hard to blame Arthur Smith for his offensive approach. The man has Desmond Ridder as his starting QB.
Ridder didn't embarrass himself against the Panthers, but Smith is clearly worried that he could make a mess of things with more opportunity.
Ridder ranked QB26 in success rate and QB24 in EPA per play. It was not an encouraging 2023 debut.
Ridder now gets a Packers defense that played well against the Bears. In particular, they showed an ability to generate pressure quickly last week. This is a concern, given Ridder's struggles against pressure dating back to his play at the University of Cincinnati.
With the need to quickly beat the pass rush, Ridder is less likely to hit shots downfield. This is bad news for Kyle Pitts, who continued to operate as a deep threat, with a 16.3 aDOT against the Panthers.
Pitts' Week 1 underlying usage was encouraging; his 91% route participation is tied for TE2. Many of us spent the late summer worried that he would be a part-time player due to limited preseason snaps, but Pitts saw elite route participation in Week 1.
Due to the Falcons' offensive nature, it's going to be a bumpy ride with Pitts, but you knew that when you drafted him. He should at least be on the field at an elite rate, even if Ridder mostly ignores him.
Speaking of ignored, Drake London saw just one target in the season opener, which he failed to secure. His Week 1 goose egg is a big victory for those who thought the Falcons' offensive issues would supersede his immense talent.
But London also logged 91% route participation. And it's worth zooming out here. London was drafted No. 8 overall, delivered 2.07 YPRR as a rookie, and Mack Hollins is his biggest target competition at WR . Like London, it'll be a bumpy ride, and this game script doesn't look ideal, but there will be better days ahead.
But for this week, Bijan Robinson looks like the best play – by far – in Atlanta. Robinson posted an absurd 35% target share to begin his NFL debut. Yes, Tyler Allgeier led the backfield in carries, but Robinson's passing game involvement remains highly encouraging entering a matchup where Ridder will be looking to get the ball out quickly.
And Robinson's usage could spike if the Packers can keep things more competitive than the Panthers did.
Robinson profiles as a clear-cut RB1. But the Falcons should be able to run enough this week to keep Tyler Allgeier in play as a potential TD scorer.