The NFL tees up a Monday Night Football doubleheader to close out Week 2, and Pro Football Network breaks down six of the tougher start/sit calls in fantasy football for the two prime-time divisional clashes.
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Week 2 MNF: Saints vs. Panthers, Browns vs. Steelers
Rashid Shaheed, WR, New Orleans Saints | Start
Rashid Shaheed’s quest to prove his unexpectedly strong production as an undrafted rookie in 2022 was no fluke got off to a good start against the Titans in Week 1. The speedster posted five receptions for 89 yards and a touchdown while showing immediate chemistry with Derek Carr.
The Panthers are down star cornerback Jaycee Horn, who went on injured reserve (IR) with a hamstring issue Friday. That means their one healthy starting corner, Donte Jackson, will have his hands full covering either Chris Olave or Michael Thomas.
In turn, Shaheed likely sees plenty of converted safety Jeremy Chinn or Troy Hill, the latter who has plenty of experience but has also historically yielded high completion rates in primary coverage.
Factoring in Shaheed can also provide return yardage for those whose league formats count such stats, he’s an intriguing starter who could help you make up some ground on your opponent or create some breathing room.
Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Cleveland Browns | Start
Monday night, Donovan Peoples-Jones heads back into a starting role he often showed well in during the 2022 campaign. The speedy fourth-year pro is slated to work alongside Elijah Moore, with Amari Cooper not expected to play due to a groin injury he aggravated in Saturday’s practice.
Peoples-Jones posted a career-best 61-839-3 line across 17 games last season, a tally that included 14 receptions of 20+ yards. All three of Peoples-Jones’ touchdowns came while working with Deshaun Watson over the final eight games, as did 26 of his catches and 323 of his receiving yards.
The Steelers were repeatedly tormented by the 49ers’ Brandon Aiyuk in Week 1, a receiver DPJ is very similar to in size and speed. Pittsburgh will devote its fair share of attention to Moore and tight end David Njoku, not to mention star running back Nick Chubb.
As such, Peoples-Jones could see his fair share of targets. He’s certainly capable of popping off for a chunk play anytime he has the ball in his hands.
Allen Robinson, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers | Start
Like Peoples-Jones on the other sideline, Allen Robinson is the beneficiary of an injury to a fellow receiver. The hamstring strain Diontae Johnson suffered in Week 1 against the 49ers bumps Robinson to the role of starter alongside George Pickens and opens up plenty of targets overall, considering the typical volume Johnson usually enjoys.
It might be easy to forget due to his mostly forgettable 2021-22 body of work, but Robinson has been a fantasy juggernaut in a couple of different seasons during his long career. While the last such instance came in 2020 with the Bears, poor QB play and injury have been largely to blame for Robinson’s recent struggles.
Robinson naturally still possesses excellent size and looked healthy and effective over 54 Week 1 snaps, logging five receptions for 64 yards against a tough San Francisco defense.
Cleveland is likely to have top cornerback Denzel Ward spend plenty of time covering Pickens on Monday night, which should give Robinson some beatable 1-on-1s against Greg Newsome, who gives up two inches in height and nearly 30 pounds to the veteran wideout.
Adam Thielen, WR, Carolina Panthers | Sit
Adam Thielen’s fit as a true No. 1 receiver has been in doubt since he signed in Carolina, as he thrived for years in Minnesota along true alphas Stefon Diggs and Justin Jefferson, who diverted no shortage of defensive attention their way.
Not only does Thielen not have anywhere near the same luxury in his new Panthers digs — DJ Chark, who may be making his season/team debut Monday night, has always had impressive speed but isn’t anywhere near the level of Diggs or Jefferson — but he’s also stuck with a talented but still very inexperienced Bryce Young as his quarterback.
Young showed flashes but frequently struggled in his Week 1 pro debut against the Falcons. The Saints present an even stiffer defensive challenge. Consequently, Thielen’s production is very likely to suffer by extension, and if Chark does indeed return, the former could have an even tougher time generating meaningful production.
Pat Freiermuth, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers | Sit
Pat Freiermuth’s talent is undeniable, and he theoretically will have a path to a bump in targets Monday night with Johnson sidelined. However, this matchup is actually a poor one for tight ends based on both Cleveland’s numbers against the position a year ago and Freiermuth’s individual body of work versus the Browns.
The third-year pro recorded just two receptions for 41 yards over 84 snaps against the Browns in last season’s two meetings. On the season, Cleveland surrendered the fourth-fewest receptions (64) and 11th-fewest receiving yards (760) to the position, along with the third-fewest touchdowns (two).
In Week 1, Freiermuth posted just one reception for three yards in Week 1 and also exited the game briefly with a chest injury. While he’s off the injury report heading into this game, Cleveland’s talented linebackers and safeties could make it another largely unproductive night for Freiermuth.
Hayden Hurst, TE, Carolina Panthers | Sit
Hayden Hurst was Young’s top target in Week 1, a surprise to some but not necessarily an outlier to those who’ve followed the tight end’s solid career. The veteran has a pair of 50+ catch seasons on his résumé and is a dependable route runner, making him a natural security blanket for a young QB.
Those thinking of going back to the well with Hurst in Week 2 would do well to reevaluate the matter, however. The Saints were even more effective against tight ends than the Browns in 2022, allowing the fewest receptions (58) and receiving yards (509) to the position, along with just two touchdowns.
Holdover linebackers Demario Davis and Pete Werner, who definitely had a hand in those stingy numbers, are still roaming the middle of the field, while safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye certainly don’t lack for cover skills.
Hurst is a trustworthy safety valve, but he doesn’t exactly have threatening speed. Therefore, while his savvy could allow him to outmaneuver coverage for a handful of catches, New Orleans’ defense, which blanked the much more athletic and explosive Chigoziem Okonkwo on two targets in the Week 1 win over Tennessee, is well-equipped to limit Hurst to short gains.
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