NFL Week 2 betting tips: Five props that pop

Remember the high drama, butterflies and big feels I promised in Week 1? Those delivered. So did three out of five of my picks. (And yes, I will be keeping track.)

We’ve got four quarters of data to cull heading into Week 2. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough to identify snatchable opportunities. Utilizing ESPN’s metrics database and with some assistance from stats ace Kyle Soppe, I’m here to help you win in fantasy and at the books.

Carolina Panthers at New York Giants (-2, 43.5)
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.

Pick: Daniel Jones OVER 23.5 rushing yards (-135)

Dak Prescott’s thumb injury sent fantasy fans scurrying to the waiver wire. After tossing four TDs at Detroit, Carson Wentz emerged as managers’ top replacement option (+36.6%). The ESPN fantasy staff agrees, as Wentz is ranked the consensus QB10 heading into a plus matchup at Detroit.

But what if you didn’t snag Wentz? Could there be an overlooked option languishing on the wire?

Give Jones a look. At the time of this writing, he’s available in over 85% of ESPN leagues. Jones wasn’t efficient as a passer in Week 1, but he did scramble for 25 rushing yards (QB8). That part of his game, which is often overlooked, could be key on Sunday.

When Saquon Barkley is healthy, Jones’ rushing stats spike. In fact, Jones has cleared six attempts and posted at least 25 rushing yards (42.6 average) in each of Barkley’s past five (fully healthy) contests. The Panthers struggled mightily against the run last Sunday, allowing 217 total rushing yards (including 10 on four attempts to Jacoby Brissett) to the Browns last Sunday.

Even if Carolina adjusts and crowds the box, Jones is alarmingly deft at getting to the outside. Since 2019, the Duke product has averaged 8.8 YPC on perimeter runs. For context, he has bested Lamar Jackson (7.2 YPC) and Josh Allen (7.0) in that same category over the past three years. Given the Panthers’ proclivity towards blitzing and noting Jones’ wheels, there’s a betting chance he rips off a few long runs upon entering a wide open second level.

Give me the over and top-15 fantasy numbers.

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New York Jets at Cleveland Browns (-6.5, 39.5)
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland

Pick: Nick Chubb OVER 83.5 rushing yards (-131)

Chubb is arguably the best pure rusher in the NFL, but his lack of work in the passing game makes him a frustrating fantasy player. Despite drawing just a single target and losing out to Kareem Hunt in the red area, however, Chubb posted RB2 numbers in Week 1. Three breakaway runs certainly helped, but the 22 totes is what sings for fake footballers. Chubb is in line for similar volume (and production) heading into Week 2 versus the Jets.

It’s no secret that the Browns have been a run-friendly operation. It’s also no secret the team figures to stay that way with Brissett under center.

Cleveland recorded the ninth-most rushing attempts and the fifth-most RB fantasy points in 2021. Not surprisingly, the backfield’s most robust fantasy outputs came in the first half of the season, before injuries and the grind of the game took its toll. That trend figures to continue this Sunday when a fresh-legged squad hosts a Jets club that allowed the fourth-most rushing yards to opposing RBs as well as multiple RB runs over 10 yards.

If Mike Davis can rip off a 10-yard run in Week 1, then Chubb has at least five in his back pocket. Expect the 26-year-old to juke his way past 83 yards and a top-15 fantasy finish.

Pick: Donovan Peoples-Jones longest catch OVER 18.5 yards (-119)

I love an underdog (it even says so in my Twitter bio). That means you’re going to get at least one sleeper pick in every article. DPJ fits the bill as a deep league dart throw in Week 2. He’s a physical player with plus speed (4.48) who also led the Browns receiving corps in looks (11) last Sunday.

Despite trading for Amari Cooper and gifting the former Cowboy with a $20 million salary, Peoples-Jones appears to be Cleveland’s No.1 WR. The two wideouts ran the same number of routes, but DPJ garnered a target share above 36% (WR4), with 33% of those opportunities occurring in the red area. Meanwhile, Cooper failed to draw a single high-value target while also being outsnapped by the former Michigan Wolverine.

As discussed above, the Browns figure to favor the ground game. But Brissett is still going to have to throw the ball. This is the NFL in 2022, after all. Luckily for Jacoby, the Jets make opposing passers look good, allowing a completion rate of 74.2% on deep passes (fourth-highest) since the beginning of last season. That’s a perfect match for a receiver like DPJ, who ranks fourth in aDOT (14.9 yards) since 2018 (out of 172 qualifiers).

You may not be desperate enough (yet) to roll with DPJ, but you will want to track his involvement as it relates to Cooper. So while you’re doing that, why not root for him to post 20 yards and collect in the process?

Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles (-2, 50.5)
Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+), Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia

Pick: Adam Thielen OVER 0.5 TD (+170)

The elite ascent of Justin Jefferson in combination with a high-ankle sprain suffered late last year seems to have clouded fantasy managers’ memory of Thielen. His modest 3-36-0 Week 1 stat line was admittedly dwarfed by Jefferson’s monster outing, but the man posted 10 TDs over 13 starts in 2021.

That’s not all.

Thielen has ranked first — besting DK Metcalf and Mike Evans — in receiver end zone targets (14.1%) since 2020. He also has managed the second-highest red zone target rate (among wide receivers) behind only Davante Adams over that same span.

The scoring didn’t spike for Thielen until Kirk Cousins arrived in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Since the two connected, however, the homegrown talent has averaged over nine scores per season. The relationship has been mutually beneficial, as Cousins has emerged as one of just six players to post 215 passing yards and multiple TDs over at least 11 games in a season (2021). That seems unsurprising until noting his company includes Patrick Mahomes, Matthew Stafford, Justin Herbert, Tom Brady and Josh Allen.

Last Sunday was an aberration. Thielen figures to get back to his scoring ways on Monday night in Philly. The Eagles do have two quality corners in James Bradberry and Darius Slay. That’s a bit of a mirage, however, as Philadelphia has been ultra-generous to opposing passers in the red area of the field, allowing completion rates of nearly 60% (eighth-worst) in the red zone and nearly 40% in the end zone (ninth-worst).

Thielen should produce low-end WR2 or high-end WR3 numbers versus a red zone defense that has been ranked among the bottom three since the beginning of last season. He’s my WR26 in what projects to be a high-scoring game (50.5 O/U) in prime time.

Pick: Terry McLaurin UNDER 58.5 receiving yards (-125)

This one hurts. And I hate ending on a down note. But the Commanders were smart about adding talent and have (seemingly) made the offense better … which could negatively affect McLaurin’s volume and subsequent fantasy production. At least for Week 2.

We’re used to seeing F1 feast from an opportunity perspective. After all, heading into this season, the man had never recorded a game with a sub-12% target share. But in his first game with Wentz, the scariest thing about Terry (from a fantasy POV) was his measly four looks (9.8% target share).

Additionally, the matchup is misleading. Detroit’s defense has been, undeniably, awful on balance. However, the Lions have been decent versus intermediate passes. Believe it or not, they have bested the league average in completion percentage, yards per attempt and yards after contact when defending passes between five and 15 yards. McLaurin spends a solid chunk of his time in that middle space. Meanwhile Curtis Samuel, Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic and Jahan Dotson figure to thrive where Detroit is the most vulnerable.

McLaurin’s talent makes him a threat to pull off a big play at any moment. He could certainly clear the above line or save his day with a score (like he did last week). In the spirit of transparency, he’s my WR13, which is only slightly lower than the consensus.

But in fantasy we can’t count on ceilings, not with our most highly drafted players. So while these pieces are still in flux, I recommend flexing a high upside play (think Chase Claypool or Drake London) to make up for any potential deficit.

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