It is hard not to panic. For the Cincinnati Bengals coming off a Super Bowl, the offseason was supposed to provide answers for their offensive line. But the team sits at 0-2 with losses to the Mitch Trubisky-led Steelers and the Cooper Rush-led Cowboys. Most importantly, Joe Burrow has been sacked 13 times through the first two games, more than any two-game stretch in his career. Those sacks extrapolated to a 17-game season put Burrow on pace for 110, soaring past David Carr's NFL record of 76. Burrow is not getting help from his run game either; Joe Mixon is averaging a career-low 3.0 yards per attempt, amassing just 82 yards through two games with no touchdowns.
The Carolina Panthers are another team facing a panic situation. The team has signs of life; Christian McCaffrey's 102 rushing yards was the first time he topped 100 yards since November 10, 2019. Matt Rhule's seat is one of the hottest in the league though the team has lost by a combined five points on back-to-back 50+ yard fourth-quarter field goals. Baker Mayfield has struggled, completing just 54% of his passes through two weeks. The last player to finish a season with a completion percentage this low was Josh Allen's rookie season in 2018.
D.J. Moore salvaged a touchdown in Week 2, but he has posted identical lines of three catches, six targets, and 43 yards back-to-back. Those numbers are well below Moore's per-game career averages of 4.9 catches, eight targets, and 69.6 yards but bear an eerie resemblance to Odell Beckham Jr's Browns career: 7.24 targets, 3.93 receptions, and 54.69 yards. While Mayfield's production concerns Moore, another driving factor is the presence of Robbie Anderson, who Moore out-targeted to a 60/40 split in 2021. Anderson saw five targets and has out-targeted Moore 13 to 12 on his way to a 3-32 game.
The Colts are another team on the verge of panic, losing to the Jaguars 24-0. The shutout was the Jaguars' first since 2018, and they extended an eight-game home winning streak against the Colts. The voodoo extends even further as the Jaguars' last three shutout wins have all been over the Colts. The Colts came into the game decimated at the wide receiver position with Michael Pittman Jr and Alec Pierce out. Frank Reich decided to feature a 30/13 pass/run split, a baffling decision with running back Jonathan Taylor healthy. This split was not even a case of the Jaguars jumping up big early; the Colts came out in a 7/3 pass/run split to start. Ashton Dulin was mentioned last week as a deep add, and he took the forefront in the passing game with five receptions and 79 yards, both career highs. Dulin was a preseason drumbeat and can claim a meaningful role in the offense moving forward with his ability to stretch the field. The game was the only time he threw three interceptions in Matt Ryan's career while failing to gain 200 passing yards.
But no situation stokes more panic than Atlanta. The Falcons dropped to 0-2, and despite close losses to the playoff-hopeful Saints and Rams and an offense that ranks third in the NFC currently at 53 points scored, the team failed to involve tight end Kyle Pitts in any meaningful way. Pitts has recorded back-to-back two-reception, 19-yard games. After the game, Arthur Smith was asked about Pitts' involvement and said, "It's not fantasy football; we are just trying to win." This is a situation our Kevin Coleman summed up perfectly:
Well you’re not doing that either Arthur— Kevin (@Daboys_22) September 18, 2022
Pitts never recorded back-to-back games like that in his rookie season. Most concerning for Pitts shareholders is the immediate emergence of wide receiver Drake London. London became the fourth rookie in NFL history to record 13 receptions through the first two weeks of his rookie season: Eddie Royal, Michael Clayton, and Anquan Bolden. London has seen a dominant 33% target share, far outpacing Pitts' 17%.
Much like these teams, it is natural for a sense of panic to set in with fantasy players. Most leagues feature a 14-week regular season and two weeks represent 14%. But a quick rewind to last season shows reasons for patience. Through two games, Jonathan Taylor sat as RB24 with 12.0 PPR points per game, Josh Allen was QB18 at 17.43 points per game, Mark Andrews was TE17 at 7.9, and Cooper Kupp was WR1 at 30.3 PPR PPG (sometimes early reveals are just that). All four players finished at the top of their respective positions.
At 0-2, it is time to act. Many recommend trading players who carry elite ADPs who have underperformed for immediate production but recognize the inherent randomness in a week-to-week game. Get weird. Instead of chasing points from the first two weeks, recognize teams and players off to slow starts and buy in on panicked fantasy managers. Your league mates may see an opportunity to put the nail in your coffin, giving you an advantage in negotiations. If you play in a league that awards waivers in reverse standings, a slow start can present a blessing in disguise, especially if your team has maintained health through the first two weeks. It is human nature to panic about players like Joe Burrow, Joe Mixon, DJ Moore, or Kyle Pitts, but the law of averages suggests better days are ahead.
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