Demos: Week 2 fantasy projections

Khari Demos

It was a compelling week one of the NFL season, with upsets coming from Washington, Jacksonville and Arizona and former MVPs Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes and Cam Newton grabbing the spotlight. Some other superstars like Tom Brady, Saquon Barkley and Carson Wentz still have some fine tuning to do.

We also saw some unfortunate injuries take place. Michael Thomas, George Kittle, Marlon Mack and Le'Veon Bell are all on the shelf, and that doesn't include some units that have already been ravaged like the Jets' receiving core or Philadelphia's offensive line.

So here are some names to take note of as we enter into the middle of September.

Start 'em — Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis

This was a no-brainer decision after the aforementioned Mack tore his Achilles tendon against the Jaguars. Taylor had a solid performance to start, totaling 89 yards from scrimmage (22 rushing, 67 receiving) on only 15 touches, for a 5.9 yards per touch average.

Head coach Frank Reich already confirmed that Taylor will step into a larger role, naming him the new No. 1 back on Tuesday. Although two-time All-Pro Quenton Nelson has been dealing with a back injury, he still leads an o-line considered by many to be one of the top three units in the league.

Taylor's numbers could also spike in a matchup against Minnesota, which is coming off a week where it was torched for 522 yards, including 158 on the ground. The Colts may want to get back to a run-first mentality, too, after Phillip Rivers got off to an up-and-down start in his team debut (363 passing yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 56.2 QBR).

I know Nyhiem Hines may take some touches away from Taylor after totaling 73 yards from scrimmage (28 rushing, 45 receiving) and two TDs in week one. In a matchup like this, though, both backs may be in line for big days, but Taylor should prevail with early-down carries and goal-line looks.

Sit 'em — Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston

Listen y'all, I get it. Watson is a top five QB in the NFL and salvaged a decent fantasy output in week one with two fourth-quarter scores. But let's be honest, the Texans 'O' looked hopeless for most of the season opener, a few days before traded wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins went nuts with Kyler Murray and the Cardinals (14 receptions, 151 receiving yards).

Outside of the oft-injured Will Fuller V, no Houston receiver topped 40 yards through the air or more than three catches.

Watson will lead the Texans into battle against Baltimore after the latter crushed Cleveland, 38-6. Browns QB Baker Mayfield had a nightmarish day (21 of 39, 189 passing yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 33.3 QBR) as the Ravens forced three turnovers and allowed just one offensive touchdown — the fifth occurrence for that defense since the start of 2019.

Who else was one of those five victims? Watson's Texans, who were brutalized during a 41-7 rout last season in week 11.

The Clemson alumnus was dreadful (18 of 29, 181 total yards , 2 TOs) and although he could put up better numbers this time around with the Ravens coming into NRG Stadium, don't expect him to light up a secondary that still features Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith. His o-line could be in trouble too, after giving up four sacks and eight QB hits against Kansas City.

Sleeper of the week — Emmanuel Sanders, WR, New Orleans

We already talked about the loss of NOLA's stud wideout in Thomas, who's expected to miss several weeks with an ankle injury. Sanders will be an ideal replacement in the Saints' highly-efficient attack, specifically in the slot.

Thomas is a slot demon, lining up there for 20.5% of his snaps during the 2019 season (according to playerprofiler.com), when he broke the single-season receptions record (149). Sanders will be key to working underneath for Drew Brees, with the former posting a 22.7% snap rate in the slot last season.

Sanders was effective both in Denver and San Francisco last year, posting the third lowest drop rate in the league (1.4%) according to Pro Football Focus. He's already shown he'll have a role this year too, as he scored in his Saints' debut against Tampa Bay.

Most people could assume Jared Cook would be the name to add here, but in comparison, Cook was the more coveted player throughout fantasy drafts. Sanders has been rostered in 79.8% of ESPN leagues, while Cook has posted a whopping 92.6%.

With an offensive mind like Sean Payton calling plays and the ultra-accurate Brees under center, Sanders and the Saints are in line to break out against Las Vegas. Especially after the Raiders allowed 30 last week in Carolina, which was the 14th time they've yielded 30 or more since Jon Gruden's return in 2018. The Raiders secondary has struggled in that span and yielded a huge day to the Panthers' Robby Anderson (6 catches, 115 receiving yards, 1 TD) in week one.

Sanders also knows the Vegas D better than most, having been AFC West rivals with them for six seasons with the Broncos. He's scored five touchdowns against the Raiders in his career, which is tied for the most he's scored against any NFL opponent.

Bills fantasy outlook

That Josh Allen was only good — not great — when posting a 369 total yards (312 passing, 57 rushing) and three-TD effort (2 passing, 1 rushing) against the Jets doesn't bode well for the rest of the AFC. He did fumble twice and overthrew other TD opportunities, but he was about as efficient as we've ever seen him, posting a completion percentage over 70% for just the fourth time.

I know it was against the lowly Jets, but it felt different. He set career highs in completions and attempts, and looked to be in control for most of the game. Allen also spread the ball around, with five Bills receivers registering four or more targets.

The guys outside really shined, with Stefon Diggs (8 catches, 86 yards), John Brown (6 catches, 70 yards, 1 TD) and Cole Beasley (4 catches, 58 yards) all proving their worth.

It was concerning seeing the RB tandem of Zack Moss and Devin Singletary struggle, combining for 41 yards on 18 carries (2.3 yards per carry), and I'd much rather see Allen carry the ball 7-10 times, not 14 (which was a new career high). But Buffalo shouldn't be worried about the ground game heading into this one after Miami got hammered to the tune of 217 rushing yards and three TDs against the Patriots.

We do need to see improvement from the o-line, especially with Daryl Williams and Cody Ford swapping spots at right tackle and guard, respectively. But the Bills should be looking forward to the matchup due to Allen's career fantasy dominance against the 'Phins.

In four games against Miami, Allen is averaging 307.8 yards of total offense (228.3 passing, 79.5 rushing) as well as accounting for 13 total TDs (10 passing, 3 rushing). He also holds a 3.3-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio in those games.

Although the passing attack may be slowed down a bit with corners Byron Jones and Xavien Howard roaming the backfield, the running game could get back on track in short order.

Defensively, my only concerns are the injuries. With Josh Norman missing time on the injured reserve, and both Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano both exiting last week's game early, they're starting to pile up.

But after only mustering up 269 total yards against New England, and the bad Ryan Fitzpatrick showing up again with three INTs, the Bills should follow the Pats' plan of locking down the run and forcing Fitz to beat them through the air. The Buffalo D should still be a viable start in this divisional battle.

Respond to sports reporter Khari Demos on Twitter @riri_demos or at khari.demos@gnnewspaper.com. Also, be sure to listen to the GNN Sports Podcast, on Spotify, Anchor, Apple Podcasts and more.

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