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TRAPS & TRENDS: Week 2

How did you enjoy that wacky Week 1 of the NFL? Our Traps & Trends guy, senior FantasySharks.com writer Matt Wilson, is always here to serve as our voice of calm during these crazy fantasy football weekends. He takes a close look at 10 fantasy players who either made you pump your first in wild celebration or made you throw things at the television. Some are names that you already know, and some are names that you need to know.

 

1) The Dude: Philip Rivers

The Damage: Rivers’ final numbers from his team’s frustrating 33-27 overtime loss to Kansas City look decent overall (25-of-36 for 243 yards and one touchdown against no interceptions), but this isn’t about Rivers – it’s about the injury loss of his lead wideout, Keenan Allen (torn ACL). With Allen playing just about the entire first half, Rivers and the San Diego offense looked strong. He went 16-for-20 for 151 yards to help the team roll up 21 points. With Allen missing the entire second half, the offense sputtered, amassing just three points. Rivers completed 9-of-18 throws for just 92 yards. Is it time for his fantasy owners to worry?

The Diagnosis: TREND

Not necessarily. During the last couple of seasons, Rivers has struggled against the Kansas City defense. Losing Stevie Johnson during the preseason was a huge blow, but losing Allen stings. Taking the No. 1 wideout away from any quarterback is obviously a huge blow, but Rivers should remain a usable fantasy QB2 – as long as Travis Benjamin and Antonio Gates remain healthy. How did Rivers perform last season when Allen went down in Week 8 with a season-ending lacerated kidney?

PHILIP RIVERS 2015 SEASON GAME LOGS
WEEK OPPONENT PASSING LINE
9 Chicago 280 yards, TD
11 Kansas City 178 yards, INT
12 at Jacksonville 300 yards, 4 TD
13 Denver 202 yards, INT
14 at Kansas City 263 yards, INT
15 Miami 311 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT
16 at Oakland 277 yards, TD
17 at Denver 228 yards, 2 TD, INT

The Denver and the Kansas City matchups, as mentioned, were obviously difficult, but Rivers held his own in the more favorable ones. Travis BenjaminDanny WoodheadAntonio GatesDontrelle Inman (waiver-wire prospect) and Tyrell Williams (waiver-wire prospect in larger leagues) will all see increased workloads.

 

2) The Dude: Dez Bryant

The Damage: Bryant owners … are you getting a sense of déjà vu? Last season when good ‘ol No. 88 wasn’t cooling his jets on the sideline because of a foot injury, an admittedly less-than-100-percent healthy Bryant usually failed spectacularly to cobble together fantasy outings that were worthy of his first-round average draft position during the combined 11 contests with Matt Cassel and Kellen Moore under center in relief of the ailing Tony Romo. During Bryant’s nightmarish 2015 campaign, he either scored or amassed more than 65 receiving yards in just three games. With Romo (back) obviously sitting on the injury shelf again, rookie Dak Prescott put it up 45 times in Week 1 during Dallas’ 20-19 setback at the hands of the New York Giants, but Bryant compiled one reception for 8 yards on five targets. By the way, the seventh-year pro just missed hooking up with Prescott on a touchdown grab. Are these dud outings the new normal for Bryant as long as Prescott is starting?

The Diagnosis: TREND

While better days are likely ahead for the Prescott-to-Bryant connection, it looks like Dallas is wisely going to use the rookie passer in a caretaker role and continue to encourage him to take the check-down throws to waiver-wire prospect Cole Beasley (8 catches, 65 yards on 12 targets) and Jason Witten (9 catches, 66 yards on 14 targets) with an occasional shot down-field to Bryant. For now, downgrade Bryant to fantasy WR2 status for his Week 2 matchup against Washington and Josh Norman, who limited him to two catches and 26 yards while playing for Carolina last season.

 

3) The Dude: Devonta Freeman

The Damage: Atlanta spent the offseason vowing to lighten Devonta Freeman‘s workload a bit by using Tevin Coleman, but assured us that Freeman would still be the main man in their backfield. Even though he got the start in Week 1 during Atlanta’s 31-24 loss to Tampa Bay, there’s reason for Freeman owners to hit the panic button. Freeman played 36 snaps and touched the ball 15 times compared with Coleman’s 32 snaps and 13 touches. The difference in their production was a shocker. Coleman, who was active in the passing game, out-gained Freeman 117 yards to 40 yards.

The Diagnosis: TREND

It’s a no-brainer. The Atlanta backfield has morphed into a full-time hot-handed timeshare with Freeman operating the “main man” in title only. Downgrade him to low-end fantasy RB2 status and upgrade Coleman to flex status.

 

4) The Dude: Tajae Sharpe

The Damage: The popular rookie preseason fantasy darling topped all Tennessee Titans pass catchers with seven catches for 76 yards on 11 targets during his team’s 25-16 loss to Minnesota. The surprisingly solid showing has sparked talk that Sharpe is Marcus Mariota‘s true No. 1 target over Rishard Matthews and Delanie Walker. Does Sharpe deserve a spot in starting lineups now?

The Diagnosis: TRAP

Seriously? While Sharpe, a possession guy, definitely deserves to be owned in all leagues and will be a fantasy asset this season, his performance against Minnesota was a product of the elite Minnesota defense containing the veterans Matthews and Walker, who is Tennessee’ top receiving option. If you own Sharpe, use him as a matchup-play fantasy WR4.

 

5) The Dude: Gary Barnidge

The Damage: Last season, Barnidge came out of nowhere to rank fourth among all tight ends in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown grabs on his way to finish as a Top 4 fantasy tight end in both standard scoring and points-per-reception formats. With a new head coach, a new playbook and a new starting quarterback, nobody expected Barnidge to duplicate his 2015 numbers. However, the ninth-year pro’s disappearing act during his team’s 29-10 loss to Philadelphia – Barnidge was targeted twice but didn’t catch a pass – was still very surprising. Should you cut your losses and dump Barnidge into the free-agent pool?

The Diagnosis: TOSSUP

Unless the tight end situation on your team is a complete disaster, I’d hold onto Barnidge for now but park him on the bench. When Cleveland coach Hue Jackson directed Cincinnati’s offense in 2015, he used Tyler Eifert in his scheme, so there’s hope for Barnidge. On the other hand, Robert Griffin III doesn’t seem interested in using Barnidge or the tight end position, period. Griffin seems to prefer challenging down-field with Terrelle Pryor and Corey Coleman. If Josh McCown makes some starts, Barnidge should recapture his 2015 form. The tight end racked up his best outings with the 37-year-old McCown under center.

About Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson has played NFL fantasy football since 1994 and has been a featured columnist at FantasySharks.com since 2008. His 18 combined years of professional writing experience includes a five-year stint as a contributing writer/editor at KFFL.com. He has been a featured contributor to The Fantasy Football Guide since 2008 and has been published regularly in the award-winning USA Today Sports Fantasy Football preview. Matt is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and holds a degree in journalism from Northern Illinois.