Welcome back Phinest fans! Could we have asked for a better start to the season than we got with this past week (except for my Packers)? We saw it all both good and bad between head-scratching coaching decisions, tough injuries, fantasy busts and breakouts, and above all else, excellent on-the-field football with fans in the stands. It all was bookended by two incredible games which hopefully continue this week with a battle between two 0-1 teams as the Giants head to the nation’s capital to take on the Washington Football Team and new starter Taylor Heinicke. Before we get into the breakdown for Thursday’s game though please make sure to check out last week’s breakdown for help with the confidence rating scale! So without further ado or delay!
Taylor Heinicke: Easily one of the biggest fantasy and real-life storylines heading into this week’s TNF Matchup is the impact that Taylor Heinicke taking over the reins after Ryan Fitzpatrick was injured in Week 1 and placed on IR with a hip injury he suffered during the second quarter. One of the silver linings of this is that we did get to see a full half and change of the offense led by Heinicke which should help provide a base as to what to expect. While this is sure to change as Ron Rivera is given a chance to game plan for Heinicke, we saw a healthy dose of Antonio Gibson on the ground which we will talk about shortly. Overall Heinicke looked like an adequate NFL option which is not something you look for in your fantasy quarterback but is at least not alarming for the skill position players that Washington has to offer.
The biggest concern if thinking about starting someone like Heinicke might come from the fact though that his matchup is not one you want to bet your fantasy matchup against with so much uncertainty surrounding him. The Giants followed a top 10 defensive performance against QBs in 2020 with a respectable enough start against the Broncos team with arguably better pass catchers than WFT has to offer. Overall this is not someone you want to have in your lineups with better streaming options such as Kirk Cousins, Jameis Winston, or even Big Ben who are all under 50% rostered on NFL.com. Final Confidence rating: 1.
Daniel Jones: On the opposite side of the field we have Danny Dimes who did not show much promise even surrounded by solid receiving options at his disposal. Jones came out up and down to start this past week against a stout Denver defense and seemed to get back on track with a long touchdown drive in the second quarter before having the wheels fall off and committing a what seems inevitable costly turnover in the red zone. Jones did manage to save his fantasy performance with a rushing score on the final play of the game but even then this is not someone to target in single QB leagues by any means.
Daniel Jones now has over 40 turnovers in just 28 games played and has been the model of inconsistency in this Giants offense and with a matchup with Chase Young and the WFT on tap and on the road to boot, this week seems like a no brainer in the start sit column. Overall I would explore some of the options mentioned above that are available instead of rolling out Jones against a defense that just held Justin Herbert and company mostly in check and created multiple turnovers. Final Confidence rating: 2.
The Running Backs
Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic, and Jaret Patterson: This game should have been a complete breath of the freshest air for all of the Antonio Gibson truthers that were anxiously awaiting the second-year leap for the young back out of Memphis. Gibson saw 65% of the snaps and looked explosive on the ground averaging a cool 4.5 YPC against a respectable Chargers rushing defense that got much healthier than last season. On top of the 87% running back carry total (AMAZING), Gibson also led the backfield in receptions and targets which is big for a team that features pass-catching specialist J.D. McKissic (one target).
With the loss of Fitzpatrick from the offense, it should be expected that the WFT will look to simplify the attack some to start as Heinicke gets acclimated with the offense more. This could mean more work for McKissic and rookie Jaret Patterson, but I am projecting another monster workload for Gibson coming off the 108 total yard performance we just watched on Sunday. The only other remotely rostered back on this team is McKissic with a just under 30% roster rate on NFL.com and at this point, he is more of a drop unless you are in deeper formats for me. Only one rush and one target are not going to get it done obviously and it appears this is Gibson’s backfield completely now.
All this being said and pairing it with facing a defense that just got thrashed by Melvin Gordon even Javonte Williams to the tune of just under 6.0 yards a clip does not worry me in the slightest. I am all aboard the Gibson hype train this week so choo choo! My Final Confidence ratings: Gibson: 5, McKissic: 1, and Patterson: 1.
Saquon Barkley and Devonte Booker: I might have buried the lead at the beginning of this article when talking about Ryan Fitzpatrick being out being one of the biggest fantasy storylines. Possibly the biggest question mark fantasy owners are asking themselves after week one is “what the heck to do with Saquon Barkley!”. All of the off-season the news out of the Giants camp was that Saquon was progressing but it was unclear whether he would be ready for week one. Giants beat Ryan Dunleavy said that Saquon would not have a pitch count in week one. Hopefully, this was quite true as Barkley only saw 49% of the snaps per pro football reference in week one. What he did with those snaps was not inspiring either as he posted just 27 total yards on 11 touches, not what you want to see out of possibly your RB1.
So what does this mean moving forward? While I do not think we are quite at sounding the alarms and full panic mode, and we certainly are not at the point of benching Saquon, it does appear this is going to be a situation Barkley owners need to monitor closely in the next coming weeks. This will be a tough matchup once again for the Giants as the WFT gave up a very hard-earned 3.1-yard rushing average against the Chargers and a banged-up Austin Ekeler so Saquon owners need to temper expectations and again, monitor closely; and just so it is said, do NOT start Devonte Booker. My Final Confidence ratings: Barkley: 3, Booker and the rest of the backfield: 1.
The Wide Receivers
Terry McLaurin, Dyami Brown, Adam Humphries, and Cam Sims: Perhaps the biggest fantasy fallout from the Fitzpatrick injury is what the impact could be on Terry McLaurin who many drafted in the first three rounds of their fantasy drafts this off-season. The expectation would be that McLaurin would be hyper-targeted by the gunslinger mentality of Fitzpatrick and the breakout season everyone has wanted from the young Ohio State product would finally be fulfilled. Now enter Taylor Heinicke and all bets are essentially off.
One thing that should give McLaurin owners respite (talking to myself here included!) is that looking at Heinicke’s last start and how the second half of the week one went, McLaurin was arguably his top receiving target only behind someone we will be getting to shortly in Logan Thomas. All four receptions for Terry came from Heinicke who even threw a few “go get’em” balls including one hail mary of a play resulting in an incredible grab that I still am not sure makes any sense. This is with what has to be assumed is very limited first-team reps during this off-season and a Terry McLaurin who was not 100% during the playoffs last year. McLaurin is the alpha talent-wise in the receiver room and with consistent if not pedestrian play from the quarterback position should be able to maintain high-end consistent WR2 numbers even if the super breakout season is not in the cards.
So McLaurin is a start, but what about the rest of the pass catchers? When you look at the other wide receiver options here it is going to be interesting who else emerges if anyone from this group is Heinicke’s second favorite option. With the news of Curtis Samuel being placed on IR, a lot of hype was given to Dyami Brown who the WFT drafted out of North Carolina and shows promise of being a big-play threat at the NFL level. After one game of tape though it is hard to expect much from Brown at this time until we see some of those targets hauled in for positive yardage (currently at -2 on the year… yikes). This leaves Cam Sims and Adam Humphries left and I think fantasy managers might want to keep an eye on Sims in this one for future weeks. Sims has been a perennial back on this team which means that he and Heinicke have shared most of their reps and it showed in the NFC wildcard game where Sims led the team in targets with 13, receptions and yards against a tough Tampa defense. Overall I think you can only start McLaurin with any real confidence as we just have not seen it from Brown yet, Humphries offers close to zero upside unless he lucks into a touchdown and Sims is too much of a wildcard for my taste at this time. My Final Confidence ratings: McLaurin: 4, Brown: 2, Sims: 2, and Humphries: 1.
Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, and Darius Slayton: When the biggest free-agent wide receiver name of this past off-season signed with the G-Men I think some fantasy managers were a little disappointed, to say the least. After watching the Giants performance Sunday, it is probably safe to say those fears were justified after the first look at the Giants’ new offense. Against Denver, we saw Shepard, Slayton, and Golladay get a respective nine, seven, and six targets each. When breaking down this passing attack it was hard to see a road to fantasy stardom for any of the pieces with how many mouths there are to feed there. Daniel Jones had to throw the ball nearly 40 times against the Broncos which can not be the formula that Joe Judge wants to follow the entire season if he wants to keep his job so fantasy managers have to expect the volume to drop for each receiver. Then you add in the fact Saquon only received one target and that is even more alarming for the group.
If you believe in that logic, which I do, and couple it with a WFT pass rush that should force Jones into a handful of mistakes and sacks this Thursday night in what most likely will be a ground-it-out slugfest of a game. I am looking at this group and right now am thinking of ways I can avoid these receivers if possible as they can not provide a consistent floor at this time. If looking at them in a vacuum though, Golladay is who I have the most faith in continuing to provide steady flex numbers as he has a proven track record over his career when healthy. Looking back at his time with Detroit, Golladay never saw more than eight targets a game which is what he should expect if not slightly lower this Thursday and this season. With that volume, he was a viable fantasy option and should continue to provide flex-worthy value in plus matchups.
The other two receivers of note between Shepard and Slayton are essentially strong dart throws at this point until we get a better picture of how the offense will look when at full power. Until then it looks like Shepard might be the safest of the two and as seen against the Broncos, could offer the highest upside as a target and reception hog over the middle with Evan Engram sidelined. My Final Confidence ratings: Golladay: 3, Shepard: 3, Slayton: 2, and all other receivers: 1.
The Tight Ends
Logan Thomas: As alluded to earlier, Logan Thomas might be the biggest beneficiary of Heinicke taking over at quarterback for the WTF. Going back to the NFC Wildcard game, Thomas saw nine targets and then caught the only touchdown that Washington scored against LA. Thomas is fresh off of a TE6 half-point PPR finish in 2020 and the current tight end landscape fantasy managers could be in much worse hands than one of the more consistent performers out there. As if managers need more confidence in starting Thomas, the Giants gave up a total of nine receptions, 78 yards, and a touchdown to the Broncos’ tight end position, which does not matter the talent that Thomas brings to the table. The theme of the tight end position in 9/10 leagues is to not overthink the simple options. If Thomas is on your roster, odds are you have no better options unless you have someone named, Kelce, Waller, Hockenson, or Gronkowski. My Final Confidence rating: Thomas: 4.
Evan Engram and Kyle Rudolph: Continuing the theme of not overthinking the tight end position, there is nothing to look at in the Giants tight end room. But because there are managers in every situation, we will explore the options none the less starting with Evan Engram. Ever since Engram’s breakout rookie campaign fantasy managers have been hoping to see that potential more consistently; and ever since that season Engram has disappointed those managers. So far 2021 is shaping up to continue that trend as Engram has already turned in one missed game and is looking like he will be absent again. Per a report from Zach Rosenblatt, Engram has turned in more DNP’s this week during practice and with a Thursday night game, things do not look promising.
Update! Evan Engram has been ruled OUT for TNF.
Next in line would be newly acquired veteran Kyle Rudolph, who translates more to a better football player than a fantasy asset for your team. The final verdict for this positional group, stay away and find better options if you roster these players. My Final Confidence ratings: Evan Engram: 0, and Kyle Rudolph: 1.
Washington Football Team: Having said everything that has been discussed so far in the article, especially regarding the Giants quarterback play, it seems like a given that the WFT D/ST is a lock for solid fantasy production this week. Chase Young and company looked dominant at numerous points against the Chargers turning in multiple sacks and turnovers and that trend should continue come Thursday in primetime at home as they look to get in the win column against a division rival. The front four alone should feast after a Broncos unit minus Bradley Chubb applied pressure to Jones Sunday. Finally, the Giants ranked in the top five last season in points allowed to opposing D/ST’s and that trend is continuing this year. I would not be surprised if they turn in 3 sacks, a fumble recovery, and a pick-six against Jones and the Giants in what is an A+ matchup for the unit. My Final Confidence rating: 5.
New York Giants: The WFT counterparts on the defensive side of the ball present a more interesting decision heading into their TNF matchup. With Heinicke at the helm, there will surely be some growing pains as the offense tries to reset and regroup on a short week after losing their starting quarterback. But, will that be enough to bring them into fantasy relevance? If last season was any indicator then yes! The Giants posted a 2-0 record last year against the WFT and if they can get any help from their offense they could see that winning streak continue with the state of the WFT. The question will be whether or not the Giants can shut down Gibson and the running game and force Heinicke to have to beat them through the air. If that is the case, I think this Giants secondary could have a good night with the new starter. Overall, I think you could find worse options and if you are holding the Giants for a potential juicy matchup with the Falcons who appear to be struggling currently, you might not have to panic too much in this matchup. My Final Confidence rating: 3.5.
With that, the table is set! I hope by the time you are reading this you have had a successful waiver wire period and are hoping this helps you with those last-minute start/sit decisions as we head into week 2 of the NFL season! As always thank you for reading and do not forget to take your Thursday night players out of your flex spot!