By Taylor Maxton (@TMaxston)
*Deep breath… exhale.* What a crazy week of football!
The start of the NFL regular season had literally everything a football fan could possibly want: some key rivalry games, a few major upsets, and plenty of touchdowns. Perhaps one of the craziest moments was Tom Brady getting out-gunned in Foxborough by Alex Smith on Thursday night, with the Kansas City Chiefs putting up 42 points in a win over New England. Rookie runner Kareem Hunt broke out for 246 all-purpose yards after fumbling on his opening carry while speedster Tyreek Hill exploded for 133 yards and a touchdown, ultimately proving to be too much for the Patriots’ defense.
Thursday Night Football in Week 1 didn’t disappoint, but what should we expect from this week’s matchup when the Houston Texans take on the Cincinnati Bengals? It seems a lot less sexy on paper, but there are quite a few interesting takes to be had on how successful their starting players can be. Without further ado, let’s dive in!
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Houston Texans @ Cincinnati Bengals
Date and Start Time: Thursday, September 14 at 8:25 p.m. EST
Notable Injuries and Status:
- Will Fuller (WR, HOU) – Collarbone – Inactive
- C.J. Fiedorowicz (TE, HOU) – Concussion – Inactive (IR)
- Ryan Griffin (TE, HOU) – Concussion – Active
- John Ross (WR, CIN) – Knee – Active
Offensive and Defensive Rankings (2016):
Top Performers That Have To Be In Your Lineup
Lamar Miller (RB, HOU)
Miller was the definition of mediocrity last week with his 17-carry, 65-yard effort. However, that doesn’t mean there is no reason to get excited about a matchup against the Bengals who gave up over 150 yards on the ground against the Ravens in Week 1. Rookie running back D’Onta Foreman was a non-factor with his lone carry going for four yards, meaning you can fire up Miller with confidence.
DeAndre Hopkins (WR, HOU)
This Texans’ offense is shaping up to be the Miller-Hopkins show now that receiver Will Fuller is expected to miss another week and top tight ends’ C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin are both dealing with concussion issues. Hopkins was targeted over 20 times against the Jaguars last week and although you shouldn’t expect that kind of volume every game, it is an extremely promising sign for his usage going forward. He offers a safe floor play this week with huge upside against a Bengals defense that looked to be in shambles without linebacker Vontaze Burfict.
A.J. Green (WR, CIN)
Death, taxes, and Green being the most targeted player on the Bengals. These are things to expect week-in and week-out, especially considering how Andy Dalton will have to resort to the passing game to keep the offense on schedule. The 10-plus target passing volume for Green is something that rings top-5 fantasy production, but the lack of red-zone work is troubling. Regardless, he should be a mainstay in your lineup so long as he can remain healthy.
Players To Avoid Putting In Your Lineup At All Costs
Andy Dalton (QB, CIN):
It seems I may have underestimated how much of a problem the offensive line would be for Dalton, who managed to throw four interceptions in an atrocious performance at home last week. He looked shaky, missing open receivers and facing constant pressure with no ground game to keep the defense honest. Expect much of the same this week from an underrated Texans’ pass rush led by J.J. Watt and Jadaveon Clowney.
Tyler Eifert (TE, CIN):
Eifert was targeted a grand total of ONCE against the Ravens last week, leading to questions about whether he truly has returned to full health. Although Eifert has been renowned in the fantasy community as a boom/bust type of tight end, this matchup against the Texans is one that will produce numbers more on the bust side of things. Houston surrendered the third least fantasy points to tight ends in 2016 and have enough speed on defense to eliminate him from the game plan.
Are we really that surprised that this backfield has become a full-blown committee? The Bengals are notorious for deploying a near 50-50 split for snaps with a power back trucking out yards and a spell back playing a Swiss army knife role. With Mixon and Hill splitting carries at the power back spot (8 for Mixon, 7 for Hill last week), it’s not a good idea to have either in your lineup except for games with plenty of touchdown upside. This is not one of them.
Which Players Will Have Solid Games and Which Could Surprise?
Solid Option – Giovani Bernard (RB, CIN)
Bernard showed last week that he still produces yardage incredibly efficiently with the workload he gets. He received seven carries for a team-leading 40 rush yards and caught a lone pass for 39 yards against the Ravens. If there is one player from the Cincinnati backfield that I would feel remotely comfortable starting this week, it’s the guy with the guaranteed workload that Mixon and Hill won’t eat into.
Solid Option – Tyler Ervin (RB, HOU)
I’m slightly hesitant to put Ervin in the solid option category, but his five targets and three carries last week make clear that he will have a role to play in this Houston offense. Factor into the equation that the game script will largely favor the run and you have a decent flex play in Ervin for the week if you are in an deep league.
Sleeper – DeShaun Watson (QB, HOU)
Lots of rookies put their skills on display in Week 1. Watson was one such player, who led a 75-yard touchdown drive at the start of the third quarter in relief of Tom Savage. He may have finished the game with 102 passing yards and an interception, but it took very little time for him to be named the starter against the Bengals. In his first NFL start, I would expect Watson to help spark an offense that needs his added mobility to put extra pressure on defenses and throw somewhere around 220 yards with a passing or rushing touchdown to boot.
Other Notable Sleepers: John Ross (WR, CIN)
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