Baltimore Ravens (Lamar Jackson/Mark Andrews)
Baltimore certainly embarrassed itself Monday night against Kansas City. The Ravens offense was just a fraction off throughout the game, missing ever so slightly on big plays. Expect legendary coach John Harbaugh to ensure his squad rights the ship against the lowly Washington Football Team. Baltimore is the largest favorite of the weekend, and for good reason. They project for a deep playoff run, while Washington is rebuilding this season. Harbaugh led teams tend to dominate against lower end squads, and this Sunday’s game should be no different.
If Washington has one redeeming quality, it’s their defensive front. They have a crop of veteran pass rushers and promising young players. However, last weekend was not kind to this unit, as they lost second overall pick Chase Young to a groin injury. Young was beginning to blossom, and not having him suit up against Baltimore will set this unit back. Lamar Jackson will be even more difficult to contain than usual, which benefits his rushing floor. In fact, Washington’s respectable pass rush actually helps Lamar’s fantasy prospects, as he will likely be forced to run more frequently. He was approaching 100-yards rushing against the Chiefs, but had a few runs negated due to penalties. Baltimore will clean up their sloppy play, and Jackson should have some big runs in this contest. Look for him to call his own number around the goal-line as well.
While not racking up points with his legs, Jackson will utilize the play action passing game to attack Washington’s pedestrian secondary. Wide receiver Marquise Brown will certainly see targets downfield, but he’s a bit pricey for my taste. It’s entirely possible Brown has a big performance here, as he is always live for a big play on any given catch. However, Washington has performed surprisingly well against opposing receivers this year, save for a game against DeAndre Hopkins. I prefer tight end Mark Andrews, who has a higher ceiling than Brown in terms of position. Andrews is certainly pricey, but a deflated ownership makes the cost worth it. He and Lamar Jackson barely missed on some huge plays, and would carry more ownership had they translated to fantasy points. Washington also ranks in the top ten in points allowed to opposing tight ends, which gives Andrews an extremely high floor. A multi-touchdown performance is within the realm of possibility here, as is 100-yards receiving.
This stack is quite expensive, which is why I have included only two players. However, savings can be found at other positions this week. That makes the cost viable, and allows you to capitalize on one of the largest favorites we have seen this season.
Houston Texans (Deshaun Watson, Will Fuller, David Johnson)
Perhaps no other team in the league has had a tougher opening schedule than Houston. After losing to the Chiefs week one, the Texans dropped their next two games against Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Each of those teams are some of the best in the AFC with formidable defenses. Finally, things appear to open up a bit for Deshaun Watson and company. An ailing Vikings team comes to town, with their defense a shell of its former self. Gone are the days when teams feared this Minnesota unit, as they are one of the worst defenses in the league.
On paper, the Vikings rank as one of the better defenses against fantasy quarterbacks though. However, these numbers are skewed, as they’ve faced Ryan Tannehill and Philip Rivers the past two weeks. With all due respect, these players are just not on the same level as Deshaun Watson. A more accurate example would be Aaron Rodgers, who absolutely torched this unit week one. Watson has displayed a similar ceiling throughout his career, and a 300-yard passing day is a realistic expectation. Minnesota has also struggled to apply pressure, ranking near the bottom of the league in sacks. This will buy Watson the time he needs to find his receivers downfield. For a while now, the knock on Houston’s offense has been it’s poor offensive line. With a positive matchup such as this, Watson should flash the MVP upside we know he is capable of.
Will Fuller is healthy for this game, which means he should be played. Fuller is the most talented wideout on this roster, and will benefit from a tremendous matchup. Minnesota has one of the worst secondaries in the NFL, and continues to be torched week after week. Fuller’s elite speed and solid hands should allow him to dominate in this game, making him a great play for his price. Expect Watson to look for him early and often to get this offense going.
Meanwhile, David Johnson is a very interesting play. Not only is he reasonably priced, he has an excellent matchup as well. The Vikings continue to be run over by opposing running backs, ranking in the top ten in points allowed to the position. Johnson will receive a large majority of rushing work, as well as a few targets in the passing game. He will also have opportunities in the red zone, giving him touchdown upside against this soft defense. The strategy here is to count on the Watson/Fuller connection to give Houston a nice lead, and follow that up with Johnson to grind out the game.
Two other players could be considered to make this a game stake. Both Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson are viable plays at the wide receivers position. Minnesota projects to be in catch-up mode, meaning they should see plenty of targets. I prefer Jefferson simply because he is cheaper. However, his price will undoubtedly make him more popular. That makes Thielen a natural pivot if you’re willing to spend up.