NFL

NFL Fantasy Picks: Russ to cook the Titans, Kittle in line to clip Eagles

By Sports Desk September 15, 2021

Week 1 can be strange. Not everything goes to plan and, for NFL coaches and fantasy owners alike, it's best not to overreact to the weekend just gone.

However, avoiding falling 0-2 is just as important as keeping your cool. In the high-pressure world of the NFL and amid the considerably lower stakes of fantasy football, nobody wants to fall into a hole early in the season.

And, in both cases, identifying the players who can be relied on to produce a big performance is the key to victory.

In this week's edition of Fantasy Picks, Stats Perform looks at the players who should be considered sure things to deliver the goods.

QB: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks vs. Tennessee Titans

Wilson could hardly have been more impressive as the Seahawks swept aside the Indianapolis Colts on the road in Week 1.

Continuing his remarkable rapport with Tyler Lockett, who had two receiving scores, Wilson threw for 254 yards and four touchdowns as his marriage with new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron got off to a spectacular start.

Second in air yards per attempt (10.43) among quarterbacks with at least 10 attempts, Wilson carries substantial upside as one of the best deep-ball throwers in the NFL and should receive ample opportunity to demonstrate that prowess against an extremely vulnerable Titans defense shredded by the Arizona Cardinals for 280 net yards passing and four touchdowns through the air in their opener.

RB: Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions

Nothing went right for the Packers in their 38-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints, with Jones held to nine yards on five carries on a miserable day for the entire offense.

Yet a Week 2 clash with the Detroit Lions should prove the perfect tonic. Detroit gave up 131 yards on the ground to the San Francisco 49ers in the opener, with sixth-round rookie Elijah Mitchell gashing the Lions for 104 yards and a touchdown at a rate of 5.5 yards per carry.

The Packers operate a zone running game akin to that of the Niners, so Jones should be confident of finding room to rack up similar numbers. Jones has topped 100 yards in two of his past three games against the Lions, including a 168-yard, two-touchdown effort at Lambeau Field last year.

WR: Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers vs. Dallas Cowboys

Justin Herbert's rapport with a receiver who has a case for being the premier route runner in the NFL continues to blossom, with the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year going to Allen time and again as the Chargers edged out the Washington Football Team in their opener.

Allen was targeted 13 times and caught nine passes for 100 yards in a 20-16 victory. He registered a burn, which is when a player wins his matchup with a defender on plays where he is targeted, on 12 of those 13 targets.

He did that against a Washington defense that allowed the second-fewest yards per pass play (5.33) in the NFL last season. Now he gets to face a Cowboys defense that ranked 21st in that same metric with 6.69 yards and gave up 7.58 per play in their opening loss to the Buccaneers. Book in Allen for another big day.

TE: George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers @ Philadelphia Eagles

Deebo Samuel overshadowed Kittle in the Niners' win in Detroit, but the top all-round tight end in football still produced with four catches for 78 yards and should be salivating at the prospect of facing the Eagles.

Last season, in a home loss to the Eagles, Kittle hauled in all 15 of his targets from Nick Mullens for 183 yards and a touchdown.

He might not see the same level of targets at Lincoln Financial Field this year but, with a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo under center, he should see enough of the ball to excel in a matchup with an Eagles defense that has consistently struggled to defend tight ends.

Defense: New England Patriots @ New York Jets

The Patriots may have come up short against the Miami Dolphins, but there was much to admire about their performance on defense.

With the likes of Matthew Judon and Josh Uche excelling at getting pressure on Tua Tagovailoa, New England's front is likely to have great success against the Jets' offensive line, which will be without left tackle Mekhi Becton.

Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson was sacked six times in their loss to the Carolina Panthers, which saw him throw an interceptable pass on 5.56 per cent of his attempts, according to Stats Perform data.

Expect New England's defense to create more interception opportunities and make it another long afternoon for Wilson and the Jets.

Related items

  • Niners defense to provide stiff test of Wentz's misleading resurgence Niners defense to provide stiff test of Wentz's misleading resurgence

    The Indianapolis Colts appeared destined for a lost season back in Week 3.

    Indianapolis started the year with three successive defeats and the Colts' gamble on their ability to revive Carson Wentz's career looking misjudged.

    Since then, the Colts have enjoyed wins over the Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans, sandwiched by a heartbreaking defeat to the Baltimore Ravens in which they let slip a 19-point lead and lost in overtime.

    The performances in those last three games have led to renewed optimism around a team that has reached the playoffs in two of the last three seasons.

    Should Indianapolis knock off the San Francisco 49ers on the road in primetime, then the hype around the Colts will only grow.

    Yet the 49ers figure to prove a difficult matchup for a quarterback whose performances in recent weeks have perhaps been slightly overrated.

    Sub-par accuracy

    Ninth in the league in yards per attempt (8.01) and with nine touchdowns to one interception, the numbers through six games for Wentz are impressive.

    Yet his completion percentage is 64.2, 21st among 32 qualifying quarterbacks and that is reflected by his accuracy numbers.

    Wentz, per Stats Perform data, has produced an accurate, well-thrown ball on 77.7 per cent of his passes, below the league average of 78.8 for quarterbacks with at least 10 attempts.

    And he is set to face a Niners defense that has once again been among the league's best this season.

    An intimidating defensive line

    While the 49ers are themselves an underwhelming 2-3 and riding a three-game losing streak, their defense is excelling under new coordinator DeMeco Ryans.

    The 49ers rank sixth in the NFL by yards per game allowed (329.8) and eighth in yards per play (5.29) and, while they are 30th in the NFL with only 76 pressures, they boast defensive linemen who can get Wentz out of rhythm.

    Defensive tackle Arik Armstead and edge rushers Nick Bosa and Dee Ford have each dominated in 2021 when it comes to winning their individual matchups.

    Armstead has a stunt-adjusted win percentage of 52.63 from his 49 pass rush matchups this year. Ford is next on 45 per cent while Bosa has an adjusted win percentage of 41.54 from 60 matchups. The league average for defensive linemen is 22 per cent.

    They will each look to prosper against a Colts offense that has allowed the ninth-most pressures in the NFL (105) while the numbers suggest the Niners should excel at limiting the explosive plays on which Wentz has found joy in recent weeks.

    Big plays not a guarantee

    On passing attempts of 21 or more air yards, Wentz has the highest passer rating in the NFL (144.7).

    He has completed 11 of 18 such attempts for 377 yards and three touchdowns and showed off his deep-ball prowess during last week's rout of the Texans.

    Wentz hooked up with Parris Campbell for a 51-yard touchdown and connected with T.Y. Hilton for a 52-yard reception; however, such plays are partially a reflection of the struggles of a Texans defense allowing 7.6 yards per pass play.

    The 49ers, despite a spate of injuries to their cornerbacks, have allowed 43 pass plays of 10 yards or more, the fewest in the NFL. San Francisco's defense has conceded 16 pass plays of 20 yards or more, the seventh-fewest in the league.

    Wentz, therefore, may be forced into a more conservative approach in a game expected to take place in inclement weather. Helpfully, he may be able to lean more on the running game, with San Francisco 16th in yards per rush allowed (4.26) and running back Jonathan Taylor fifth in the NFL in yards per carry (5.43) for players at his position as he enjoys a superb start to his second season.

    Indianapolis' signal-caller can also afford to at least have confidence in his ability to avoid turnovers. His pickable pass percentage of 1.68 is the fourth best among quarterbacks with a minimum of 10 attempts and the 49ers have a league-low two takeaways to their name.

    A closer look at the evidence from his reunion with Colts coach Frank Reich indicates Wentz might find success difficult on Sunday should the Colts need to win the game on his arm. If he contradicts the statistics and thrives against a tough defense on the road, then the optimism around Indianapolis will be more justified.

  • Brown and David out for Bucs with Gronk set to miss fourth straight game Brown and David out for Bucs with Gronk set to miss fourth straight game

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be without Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski and Lavonte David when they face the Chicago Bears this Sunday.

    Defending champions Tampa Bay look bound for another deep playoff run, the Bucs having started the year 5-1.

    However, they will have to cope without a clutch of stars against the 3-3 Bears, with tight end Gronkowski (ribs) set to miss a fourth successive game.

    Brown, who leads the Bucs with four receiving touchdowns, has an ankle injury, as does linebacker David, a second-team All-Pro last year.

    Cornerback Richard Sherman (hamstring) is out, but the Buccaneers will receive a boost with secondary Antoine Winfield Jr. available having passed through the NFL's concussion protocol.

    The Bucs have started 5-1 for the fifth time in franchise history, having made the playoffs in each of the previous four seasons (2005, 2002, 1997 and 1979).

    Tampa Bay will look to go 6-1 for the first time, but head coach Bruce Arians is not underestimating the Bears and rookie quarterback Justin Fields.

    "Real good week of practice, and obviously this is a team that I think is on the rise," Arians said. "It's going to take our best to make sure we beat them."

  • Tua is our quarterback – Dolphins coach Flores responds to Watson trade talk Tua is our quarterback – Dolphins coach Flores responds to Watson trade talk

    Tua Tagovailoa has received public backing from Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores as rumours over a trade for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson intensify.

    A report this week in the Houston Chronicle suggested the Dolphins were on the brink of completing a trade for Watson with the Texans.

    Watson is rated among the elite QBs in the NFL after a fantastic 2020 season but has not been active for any games this season.

    The 26-year-old requested a trade from the Texans in January and is facing 22 civil lawsuits that remain unresolved as the NFL conducts its own investigation into sexual assault and misconduct allegations against him.

    Tagovailoa, meanwhile, has had a difficult second season, missing three games with fractured ribs while the Dolphins, who had playoff ambitions, collapsed to a dreadful 1-5 start.

    The former Alabama standout returned to action in London last week but could not prevent the Dolphins going down to defeat against the previously winless Jacksonville Jaguars. 

    Their hopes of a successful season therefore look bleak ahead of Sunday's must-win home game with the 2-3 Atlanta Falcons.

    A change at the QB position has been mooted, but when he was asked about the Watson reports on Friday, Flores replied: "I don't really get into rumours - Tua is our quarterback.

    "We're happy with the quarterback, our quarterback situation. I'll leave it at that, which I've said multiple times."

    Tagovailoa threw for 329 yards, two touchdowns and one interception against the Jaguars after completing 33 of his 47 pass attempts.

    "I thought he played very well last week," added Flores. "His preparation, the way he practices and the way he performs has been good.  

    "I think his psyche is in a good place. He's a confident kid, he's a tough kid. He's played in two games this year so he should have a lot of confidence in the way he's played. 

    "We have a lot of confidence in him. He's developing, I think this kid is smart, he's talented, he's accurate, I think he definitely has the opportunity to be a very good NFL player. 

    "There's always bumps in the road for anyone in any career, any profession. You have to work through those and you become better for it."

    Tagovailoa started nine games in his rookie season, winning six of them as he threw 11 touchdowns to five picks with some steady but unspectacular performances.

    In 2020 he was battling for snaps with Ryan Fitzpatrick, but a clear path to the starting job emerged when the veteran moved on to Washington and Miami opted not to pick a QB in the draft.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.