As we do each week, we recap the week's winners and losers from a fantasy perspective, complete with applicable game and historical data. Here are our picks of the week's best and worst through Sunday's games.
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs look like geniuses, first for selecting Mahomes 10th overall in the 2017 NFL draft knowing full well he would serve as Alex Smith's backup for the entirety of his rookie season, then for trading Smith in January to pave the way for Mahomes to take over despite Smith's having enjoyed a career year in 2017. Mahomes has been the real deal through his first three career NFL starts -- the first came in Week 17 of last season -- but it's his Weeks 1 and 2 performances this year that are far and away the top story in fantasy football. He finished second among quarterbacks in fantasy points (through Sunday) in Week 2 with 38.8, which gives him 67.1 through the first two weeks of the season. That's the second-most by any quarterback since 1950, and his 10 passing touchdowns through two games are also a record during the Super Bowl era. Naturally, Mahomes isn't going to maintain an 80-touchdown, zero-interception seasonal pace, but he is now a locked-in weekly starter with his cannon arm and bevy of big-play receivers to whom to throw.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The only reason Mahomes doesn't now top the aforementioned list of fantasy points by a quarterback through Week 2 is that this guy does. Fitzpatrick, the star of Week 1, followed up with another eye-popping effort, as his 30.0 fantasy points Sunday gave him 72.3 through two games. What's more, he has done this while facing a pair of defenses that were expected to have stingy pass defenses in the New Orleans Saints (on the road, no less, in Week 1) and Philadelphia Eagles (Week 2). Fitzpatrick has taken his Buccaneers to 2-0, rekindling the debate as to whether he or Jameis Winston should be the team's starter once the latter returns from suspension in Week 4, and frankly, there's no denying the answer to that question today is Fitzpatrick. For fantasy, regression is obviously coming, but he needs to be rostered in a lot more than the 26.0 percent and started in more than the 9.1 percent of ESPN leagues in which he was on Sunday.
Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers: That's back-to-back outstanding games for Gordon, who did most of his damage during the first half and -- for the second consecutive week -- via the receiving game. He scored a second-most-at-his-position (through Sunday) 30.6 PPR fantasy points, marking only the second time in his career he has scored at least 25 in consecutive games (2017 Weeks 5-6), and giving him 58.2 points, as well as 15 receptions, through his first two games of the season. While Gordon did capitalize upon two extremely favorable matchups (KC, @BUF) to begin the season and now faces a much tougher matchup in Week 3 (@LAR), his involvement in the receiving game is an extremely encouraging sign for his full-season value. He's a locked-in RB1.
Michael Thomas, WR, Saints: Among the many "hot starting" feats accomplished on Sunday was Thomas' 12 receptions, giving him an NFL-record 28 through his first two games of 2018, breaking Andre Rison's 24-year-old record (26) set in 1994. From a fantasy perspective, Thomas' performance in the first two weeks has also been historically impressive, as his 68.9 PPR points earn him a spot on the list among the 10 best wide receivers since 1950 (see right). Drew Brees has been targeting Thomas as often -- and more, actually, if you consider his targets seasonal pace is now 240 -- as he did in 2017, making the wide receiver one of the most reliable weekly plays in the game.
Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs: Whew, silence the alarm bells. Just a week after he tallied 1.6 PPR fantasy points, the third-fewest in a game in his NFL career, Kelce rebounded with a tops-among-tight-ends -- and second-best in his own career -- 29.9 points on Sunday. Most encouraging was that Mahomes targeted Kelce on deeper throws on the tight end's 19- and 25-yard touchdowns, as well as on a 31-yard reception during the third quarter. Kelce remains a critical part of this offense, has a quarterback with a cannon arm and should be locked into every lineup weekly.
A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals: The star of this week's Thursday Night Football game, Green scored three receiving touchdowns, the first time in his career that he had managed that many in a single contest. Those amounted to three of his five catches (on nine targets), however, so Green's final total was 29.9 PPR fantasy points, still fifth-best among wide receivers (though Sunday). He now has 49.1 PPR fantasy points through two games, which is the most he has had through that many in his eight NFL seasons.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers: There's that breakthrough game for the second-year player, as McCaffrey's 27.9 PPR fantasy points set a personal best for him, as did his 14 receptions and 15 targets. McCaffrey, the No. 17 player selected on average during the preseason (18.3 average pick), continues to be one of the most reliable weekly options in PPR leagues thanks to his receiving ability. He faces the Bengals next.
O.J. Howard, TE, Buccaneers: Though his wasn't the highest PPR fantasy point total among tight ends, nor close to it, his 18.6 points were a rather promising sign for his future value. It was Howard's 75-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter that seemed to seize momentum for the Buccaneers in an eventual victory, and he was also Fitzpatrick's clear tight end of choice on Sunday, as Cameron Brate managed nary a target in the game. We'll see what the postgame snap and route counts bring, but keep in mind that Howard ran more routes (12-10) and played twice as many snaps (42-21) as Brate in Week 1, signaling that the second-year player is Fitzpatrick's preferred option between the two. And with Fitzpatrick looking more and more like the Buccaneers' long-term starter, that could be great news for Howard, who should be one of the week's more popular pickups.
Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota Vikings: Want an eerie statistic? Diggs faced the Green Bay Packers in Week 2 of the 2016 and 2018 seasons, and he scored 33.2 PPR fantasy points in the former and 35.9 in the latter Sunday. That represented the second-best single-game effort of his career, and it topped all wide receivers through Sunday's games. Better yet, teammate Adam Thielen also managed 30-plus fantasy points, scoring 31.1 of his own in the same game (keep in mind it went the distance in overtime in an eventual tie). The Vikings face the Buffalo Bills in Week 3, which is another favorable matchup for the duo, though the team might not need to throw quite so often in that one.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers: For the 12th time in his 15-year, 202-game NFL career, Roethlisberger reached the 30-point fantasy threshold, the eighth-most by any quarterback in the game's history. Unfortunately, while this one seemed like destiny considering how his game against the Chiefs and Mahomes unfolded in the first quarter, few could've seen it coming in advance, evidenced by his 57.0 start percentage in ESPN leagues, only barely top-10. Roethlisberger topped all quarterbacks with 39.0 fantasy points, thanks in large part to his attempting a whopping 60 passes, the second-most attempts in his career (66, 2017 Week 14). Don't expect him to be asked to throw nearly that often most weeks, but he's again a worthwhile starter in Week 3 when he faces the Buccaneers.
Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings: His Vikings career has gotten off to quite a good start, with back-to-back games of at least 20 fantasy points and 33.5 in Week 2, the third-most among quarterbacks through Sunday's games. Granted, some of that lofty score came thanks to an overtime period that concluded in a 29-29 tie with the Packers, but Cousins' eight-play, five-completion, game-tying touchdown drive and two-pointer with less than a minute to play in regulation capped what was an impressive day for him. He'll now get the Bills, an extremely favorable matchup, with the only drawback to it being that he might not need to throw 48 times in that game.
Todd Gurley II, RB, Los Angeles Rams: With 32.3 PPR fantasy points, Gurley was the highest-scoring running back through Sunday's games, and he did it despite missing the entirety of the fourth quarter due to cramps (presumably because of the mid-80s temperatures), as well as perhaps the Rams' 27-0 lead through three quarters. He now has 56.0 fantasy points through two weeks, and to put that into perspective, he had 47.2 through Week 2 of last season, which he concluded by leading all players with 383.3 fantasy points.
Matt Breida, RB, San Francisco 49ers: Did he just wrap up starting duty in the wake of Jerick McKinnon's season-ending knee injury? Breida's 24.9 PPR fantasy-points day was capped by a 66-yard touchdown scamper, but he did average 7.2 rushing yards on his other 10 carries and chipped in three catches on his four targets. Alfred Morris managed just 10.0 PPR fantasy points on his 16 total touches, the second consecutive week he scored fewer points and averaged fewer yards per touch than Breida. Breida's skill in the receiving game remains his more valuable contribution, but coming off this game and with an eye-popping matchup against the Chiefs due up in Week 3, he's well worth the add and start.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers: You'd think that in a game in which Roethlisberger threw 60 times, Antonio Brown would be the Steelers' wide receiver star, but no, it was Smith-Schuster's time to shine. The second-year player scored 31.1 PPR fantasy points, the third time in his young career of 16 games that he has reached the 30-point threshold. In fact, he now has 187.6 points since Week 8 of last season, ninth-most at the position during that time span despite his having missed two of 10 games. Smith-Schuster is a surefire weekly WR2, and his ceiling might be that of a top-10 player at the position.
Blake Bortles, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars: His 32.6 fantasy points came within two-tenths of a point of matching his personal best (32.8, 2015 Week 13), and he did it against the New England Patriots, who shouldn't have presented him with one of his better matchups (despite the prospect of him having to throw a decent amount playing from behind). Bortles, too, became the sixth quarterback of the day to score at least 30 fantasy points, which matched that same 2015 Week 13 for the most QBs to accomplish that within the same week -- and that was before the Sunday night and Monday night games were in the books!
Duke Johnson Jr., RB, Cleveland Browns: He's off to a completely forgettable start to a season in which he was drafted 72nd overall (and RB28) on average (77.1 average pick), his 3.0 PPR fantasy points on Sunday giving him a second consecutive week finishing with fewer than 4.0. To put that into perspective, Johnson scored at least four fantasy points in 15 of his 16 games last season, and at least 10 points in 12 of those contests. One might've thought he would see an increase in receiving work with Josh Gordon scratched, but Johnson saw only two targets in addition to his three rushing attempts on Sunday.
Baltimore Ravens defense/special teams: Historically speaking, Thursday Night Football games have had a reputation for being low-scoring, defensively minded affairs. That hasn't been quite as much the case between this and last season, with teams combining to average 46.6 (scoreboard) points per game compared to 44.4 in the 10 seasons that preceded those (2007-16). The Ravens defense/special teams was just the latest high-profile defense -- they were the second-most-started D/ST of the week in ESPN leagues (88.1 percent) -- scoring minus-2 against the Cincinnati Bengals. That represented a real letdown compared to the team's 17-point opener against the Buffalo Bills, and it casts some doubt upon the defense's trustworthiness in future matchups against tougher matchups, such as Week 4 at the Pittsburgh Steelers and Week 7 versus the New Orleans Saints.
Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts: While a 11.4 point fantasy performance is hardly catastrophic, to put it into perspective, 16 of the 18 quarterbacks to start during the Sunday 1 p.m. ET games scored more than that. Luck's fantasy stock had seemed on the rise in recent weeks, his preseason ADP improving to eighth among quarterbacks and 79th overall (83.1 average pick) as of the Sept. 6 kickoff, and he was started in 61.8 percent of ESPN leagues in Week 2. Sunday's game was a step backward for him, and he now has three interceptions through two weeks, casting some doubt upon his usefulness in 10- and 12-team leagues, with games against the Eagles, Houston Texans and New England Patriots due up the next three weeks.
Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers: Though his late-preseason signing with the Chargers forgives him somewhat his sluggish start, zero PPR points on one target, in fantasy terms, isn't going to keep him around on many rosters. Gates has now been shut out (or provided a negative score) in four of his past nine regular-season games, and he next goes up against the Rams.
Jack Doyle, TE, Colts: As Luck goes, so -- often -- does his tight end. Doyle's 4.0 PPR fantasy points represented one of the position's bigger disappointments from the 1 p.m. ET games, especially considering fellow Colts tight end Eric Ebron was the one who had the touchdown, an 11.6 point score and only one fewer target (5-4). This was Doyle's fifth-worst score from the past three seasons (2016-18), and it was a sign that Luck seems likely to split up the position's workload between the two players.
Peyton Barber, RB, Buccaneers: He makes the list for the second consecutive week, not that the Buccaneers are hurting for it. Interestingly enough, Ronald Jones, Barber's projected backup (and originally expected to challenge him for starting duties) was inactive for a second straight week. Barber scored just 3.9 PPR fantasy points as the Buccaneers spent much of the day throwing, though his 1.4 yards-per-carry average on 16 attempts was rather disappointing, even in light of the bad matchup. There could soon be competition for carries in Tampa.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots: Tom Brady's performance on Sunday left quite a bit to be desired, but his playing from behind rescued him from a miserable fantasy point total (Brady finished with 16.4). Gronkowski, however, wasn't so lucky, as he wasn't the beneficiary of Brady's late-game throws, finishing Sunday's contest with a mere 3.5 PPR fantasy points on four targets. That was his worst score in any non-Week 17 and non-injury-shortened game since 2016 Week 4 (2.1), and even then, that was a game in which he played limited snaps after returning from a groin injury. Gronkowski, who was started in a tops-among-tight-ends 99.8 percent of ESPN leagues, at least has four consecutive favorable matchups coming up: @DET, MIA, IND, KC.
David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals: Johnson's Cardinals did not face a good matchup -- the opposing Rams have one of the game's stingiest defenses -- but a 6.1 PPR fantasy-point effort in Week 2 is a concern because it illustrates his downside in games when the rest of his offense can't get anything done. The Cardinals totaled just 137 yards on Sunday, 51 of which belonged to Johnson, and despite trailing by a significant amount on the scoreboard for most of the day, they got him only one catch on two targets. The schedule is the worry: The Cardinals next draw the Chicago Bears, and they have games against the Vikings (Week 6) and Denver Broncos (Week 7) in the season's first half. Johnson remains a special talent, but team-related ups and downs appear more likely.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals: Typically, I don't include players who departed games with injuries, as Fitzgerald did when he left in the third quarter with a hamstring issue, but part of the reason he didn't return probably involved his team's huge deficit on the scoreboard at the time. The veteran wide receiver managed just 5.8 PPR fantasy points on five targets, only the fourth time in his past 50 regular-season games that he was held to fewer than 6.0. As with Johnson, Fitzgerald faces those same challenging matchups in the upcoming weeks, and with the possibility he might be on the Week 3 injury report while facing a bad matchup, he's looking like a shaky play against the Bears.