Talk about a game featuring two of the bigger storylines in fantasy football through two weeks! On one side, we have a rookie receiver in Puka Nacua doing his best Cooper Kupp impression and breaking records for the Los Angeles Rams. On the other side, we have a potential Super Bowl contender Cincinnati Bengals team struggling out of the gate and dragging fantasy teams down in the process.
Is this a regression spot for either, neither, or both under the bright lights of Monday Night Football?
Looking to make a trade in your fantasy league? Having trouble deciding who to start and who to sit? Check out PFN’s Free Fantasy Football Trade Analyzer and Start/Sit Optimizer to help you make the right decision!
Los Angeles Rams at Cincinnati Bengals
- Spread: Bengals -3
- Total: 43.5
- Rams implied points: 20.3
- Bengals implied points: 23.3
Burrow’s efficiency is frustrating on all levels, given the talent he has by his side (72 passes for 304 yards this season). I remain skeptical of this Rams defense, so if word comes out that Burrow is reasonably healthy, he gets one more week of my faith.
How can you not start him? His role alone (52 routes and a 98% snap share last week) puts him inside the top 25, and his ability to cash in when close has him sitting as my RB16 for the week.
I don’t love that he doesn’t have a 10-yard run yet this season, but the lack of per-carry rushing upside is offset by his fluid route running (TD on a screen pass last week, LAR didn’t have a running back touchdown reception once in 2022).
He’s been a top-10 running back in each of the first two weeks this season, and it doesn’t seem like a fluke. Plug him in and embrace the value of volume and versatility.
This offense getting on track would go a long way toward helping Mixon produce the top-10 numbers that I thought he was capable of this preseason and the top-10 production that I have him penciled in for this week.
MORE: Fantasy News Tracker
Even with Cincinnati’s struggles, the veteran back has seen five targets in both games, a role that gives him elite upside. He has a 10-yard rush and a 10-yard catch in both games this season, something he didn’t do a single time in the prior 15 games he’s played in. He’s a great buy-low right now and should be started with confidence in all formats.
Savvy fantasy football managers might be asking themselves: Should I trade for Kupp? I made the case earlier this week that it is a way to give your roster league-winning upside!
An oblique injury landed him on the injury report ahead of Week 2. It didn’t matter. The rookie racked up 15 catches on 20 targets, breaking the record for catches through two career games. He’s “get open in a phone booth” shifty off the line of scrimmage, and Matthew Stafford clearly trusts his current WR1.
Of course, how long Nacua will hold that WR1 label is anyone’s guess. Will Kupp return when first eligible off of IR? Will the league adjust to the skills he has shown up to this point?
Here are the *Expected* Fantasy Point leaders via my model through 2 weeks.
Some huge surprises at each position, starting with Puka Nacua (LAR) leading all WRs: pic.twitter.com/be7oXgej1a
— Michael Leone (@2Hats1Mike) September 19, 2023
For the purposes of Week 3, Kupp’s status isn’t a factor. It’s impossible to ignore what the rookie is doing (40% target share, consecutive weeks as a top-10 WR), and he needs to be starting in all lineups until we have a reason to pivot.
I don’t care what your scoring structure is, 35 targets through two weeks is insane usage that carries a high floor, given the types of routes Nacua runs. The oblique injury is not believed to be too serious, but it is clear that he has not fully recovered. Check back over the weekend for the updates (should you be waiting until Monday night to make a decision?) and check out the Sunday stream on the PFN Fantasy YouTube Channel.
What he’s doing has been underappreciated due to the success of Nacua, but we are talking about a player who has at least 12 points in both weeks and has racked up 13 catches.
It is certainly possible that we misevaluated this offense, but Atwell producing on a consistent basis would mean we completely air-balled. That’s certainly possible, but I’m not ready to call the 5’9” Atwell a locked-in asset just yet.
Undersized receivers have flashed before, but it’s rare that they are able to sustain value. He’s outside of my top 40 at the position this week – I’m willing to be wrong again.
I’m old enough to remember when we all thought the Kupp injury would elevate Jefferson to a point where he needs to be rostered in all leagues. Yeah, that’s not the case. Stafford has thrown the ball 93 times this season, and Jefferson has a whopping 33 yards to show for it.
There is no reason he needs to be rostered in any league: This role just doesn’t carry enough of a ceiling.
The fantasy numbers are worse than the on-field play has suggested. Chase has yet to finish as a top-45 WR this season, but he nearly had a score last week on an end zone target.
We’ve had a two-year sample of Chase’s targets paying off in a significant way (1.21 fantasy points per target), so I’m willing to forgive an ugly two-game stretch (0.71). If you had the confidence to select Chase in the top five of your draft this summer, you’re smarter than worrying about consecutive duds.
Burrow hasn’t had many moments through two weeks, but the good moments we saw from him last week directly benefited Higgins (eight catches for 89 yards and two scores). Higgins struggled to open last season and then was a consistent fantasy asset until he laid an egg in Week 17 last season. Lock in Higgins, the Week 1 donut was nothing but an aberration.
The eight targets (six catches for 52 yards) were good to see last week against the Ravens, but him earning a target share north of 20% isn’t something I’m banking on.
He is a professional receiver and will be an ok bye week filler when the time comes. There’s value in that. There just isn’t a path to consistent usage when both Higgins and Chase are healthy, even if/when Burrow returns to top form.
The target share ticked up from 7.9% in Week 1 to 12.7% last week against the 49ers, a number that remains too low to be considered a viable option.
Our hope was that he would earn targets at a high rate with Kupp out like he did last season, but it is clear that the presence of Nauca is directly taking food off of Higbee’s plate. He won’t be ranked as a starter for me most weeks — you can do better by joining the TE streamers.
Irv Smith Jr.
Better times are ahead for this Bengals offense, but with three receivers ahead of him and Joe Mixon’s usage, there isn’t much of a path to him offering much in the way of upside. If he can remain healthy and Burrow finds his form, maybe we are looking at a bye-week filler for those tough weeks — nothing more.
Who Should You Start in Week 3?
Should You Start Tutu Atwell or Jakobi Meyers?
I understand if you’re skittish about Jakobi Meyers due to the ugly Week 1 concussion, but all talk out of Las Vegas has been positive, and that has me looking in his direction. Jimmy Garoppolo loves to throw to the slot and that is where Meyers often lives, but he also targeted him on a designed fade-type of route in Week 1, something that told showed me just how comfortable he is with Meyers.
Atwell has over 200 yards of offense on his 2023 resume and has been able to win targets through two weeks. Will it sustain? Will this Rams team continue to have this level of success through the air? I think the path to consistency is more clear for Meyers and that is why he gets the nod for me here.
Should You Start Kyren Williams or Rhamondre Stevenson?
How can you be anything but impressed with what Williams is doing? It was 12 months ago that Adam Schefter hinted that he could be “the guy” in Los Angeles, but an injury stunted his development. Now? Now he is producing at a level that has the Rams overachieving and it all looks legit!
I’m leaning toward his usage and scoring potential over that of Rhamondre Stevenson this week. The New England Patriots have yet to give their lead back much room to work with and in a game against the New York Jets that figures to have a low possession count, I fear that he carries more risk than potential reward in Week 3.
Listen to the PFN Fantasy Podcast
Listen to the PFN Fantasy Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms. Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review! Rather watch instead? Check out the PFN Fantasy Podcast on our Fantasy YouTube channel.