What a difference a matchup can make. Fantasy owners surely took a lesson from the Baltimore Ravens' victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night, and that lesson was that a bad defense and the pace of a game can have a dramatic impact on fantasy numbers. After Week 1, Baltimore appeared destined to be a quarterback-driven team after Joe Flacco tossed a truckload 62 passes in a 23-16 loss to Cincinnati.
Less than a week later, Flacco approached the Steelers more methodically in the team's Thursday night home game. He opted to hold a dink-and-dunk clinic, averaging just 5.7 yards per pass. While it wasn't as aggressive an approach as Week 1, it was much more efficient. Flacco threw for two touchdowns and zero interceptions, going 21-for-29 with 166 passing yards. It was far from the 345 yards he threw against Cincy, but it resulted in a convincing 26-6 victory and that's what NFL teams care about most.
Even the Ravens usually average running game was efficient. Bernard Pierce recorded a respectable 96 yards on 22 carries (4.4 YPC) and Justin Forsett rattled off a nice 41-yard run. These players aren't considered fantasy juggernauts, but they played a bad defense and their team held the lead for most of the game which allowed for some nice garbage-time yards
When it comes to the waiver wire, looking for not necessarily the best player but instead choosing an average-to-above-average player with a great matchup can a lot of times prove to be a better play. That's why it's important to follow the ebb and flow of a season and know which defenses aren't playing particularly well and which ones are so you know which offensive player to use at the right time.
Here's another plate of potentially fruitful waiver wire pickups for Week 2.
Andrew Hawkins (owned in 31% of Yahoo! leagues)
Last week's stats: 8 receptions, 87 yards (against Pittsburgh)
Why he's a good pickup: All Browns' fans are ready to rejoice as it's looking like Josh Gordon will play at some point this season. But until he does return, Hawkins looks like the best receiving option in Cleveland. He led the team with 10 targets last week, plus Jordan Cameron missed practice all week and is questionable for Sunday against New Orleans. Speaking of New Orleans, the hyped Saints were shredded for 445 passing yards by Atlanta Falcons in Week 1. Not comparing Brian Hoyer to Matt Ryan, but the Browns weren't exactly slouches on offense in Week 1 either, as they scored 27 points against Pittsburgh and Hoyer marched the ball down the field effectively in the second half. Hawkins is a good WR3/flex guy in deep leagues.
Ahmad Bradshaw (owned in 38% of Yahoo! Leagues)
Last week's stats: 3 carries for 15 yards (5.0 yards per carry), 5 receptions for 70 yards
Why he's a good pickup: The Colts weren't lying when they said they wanted to throw the ball more in 2014, as Andrew Luck tossed 53 passes against the Denver Broncos. Of course, the situation of the game warranted so many passes since the Colts played from behind, but it's worth noting just how ineffective the run game was also. Starter Trent Richardson's struggles continued, as he plodded for just 20 yards on six carries with his longest run going for seven yards. The Colts offensive line continues to have problems blocking, and their poor play is what makes Bradshaw more valuable. Bradshaw is more elusive than Richardson, which makes him more likely to create holes for himself with his lateral quickness. He's also better in the pass game as evidenced by his 70 receiving yards last week. His traits just work better in the offense. He'll likely be the most productive RB in Indy going forward.
Jacksonville defense (owned in 3% of Yahoo! Leagues)
Last week's team stats: 5 sacks, 3 fumbles forced, 1 interception, 34 points allowed (against Philadelphia)
Why they're a good pickup: The Jaguars looked surprisingly effective in the first half on the road in Week 1. Linebackers Paul Posluszny and LaRoy Reynolds were quick to get off the ball and held top running back LeSean McCoy to under 100 yards. Aside from a lapse which was mostly due to Chip Kelly, who rushed the Eagles' offense to the line and caught the Jags off guard enough for a 41-yard cake touchdown run by Darren Sproles, oh and a coverage lapse that ended up in a 68-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin, the Jaguars weren't that bad. They got after Nick Foles, created turnovers and suffered no injuries on the defensive side.
In Week 2, the Jaguars are slated to play a Washington team that struggled to score against Houston and could be without starting tackle Trent Williams who's nursing a shoulder injury. Tight end Jordan Reed is also a long shot to play.
While this is definitely a risky play since the Jaguars' defense is still young and will make mistakes, there is some talent there as evidenced last week. Plus, with the Redskins already looking depleted on the offensive end, you could do a lot worse than starting the Jaguars here.