Weekly Game Previews: Week 2
Aaron Rodgers struggled in the opening week, and he meets a Bengals secondary that held the Broncos to 156 passing yards, (not counting the miracle 87-yarder to Brandon Stokley). But the blossoming fantasy stud is too talented not to post 20-plus points in a game the Packers should win going away. Donald Driver is settling in as a reliable possession guy for Rodgers, and is a fine option as a WR3/Flex play. While his numbers weren't eye popping against the Bears (61 yards and a touchdown), Ryan Grant ran with the quickness and authority he lacked last year. Consider him an RB1 going forward.
Chad Ochocinco looked refreshed on his way to five catches and 89 yards in Week 1. He's a certifiable WR2 on the rise. Carson Palmer remains on the fringe of startability in 12-team leagues, and after watching the Packers confuse Jay Cutler into four interceptions, he's benchable if you have other options. Cedric Benson continues to tote the rock in hefty chunks (he's averaging 26.2 carries per game over his last four outings), and is a steady double-digit point option with limited upside. Neither Chris Henry nor Laveranues Coles should be counted on in a starting role quite yet.
Adrian Peterson is so dominant that he's rendering the rest of the Vikings useless for fantasy purposes. Only Percy Harvin managed to surpass 10 points in Week 1, and while he's an unreliable pass catcher, his versatility is intriguing in the Flex spot. Visanthe Shiancoe is a bottom tier option at best in 12-team leagues. Bernard Berrian has yet to catch a pass from Brett Favre, and until he does, he shouldn't be bothered with. For those playing deep, Chester Taylor could see extended action if the inevitable blowout occurs.
Calvin Johnson saw 13 targets in the opener, but hauled in just three of those balls -- albeit for 90 yards. Matthew Stafford will continue to fling passes his way, and double-team or not, Johnson will find a way to produce enough to be a WR1 regardless of the match-up. Kevin Smith is the only other Lion worth mentioning, but considering he managed just 1.3 yards per carry against the Saints and is facing the vaunted Vikings rush defense, his main value lies in PPR leagues.
With Jake Delhomme struggling, Steve Smith saw his usual number of targets (13), but his reception and yardage totals were way down (3 for 21), in Week 1. It's too early in the season to give up on Smith, but it may be best to consider him a WR3 until the QB situation is corrected. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart were back in a full time-share in Week 1, with Williams seeing five more touches and scoring the lone touchdown for the Panthers. As long as he's receiving double-digit touches, Stewart's a nice Flex play this week in Atlanta, while Williams is still a must-start, regardless of the match-up.
With a heavy workload, Michael Turner will have no trouble topping the century mark against a Carolina defense that allowed 185 yards on the ground to Philadelphia. Jerious Norwood, who saw only two carries in the opener, is an intriguing candidate in an RB3 role based on his utilization in the passing game (5 catches for 49 yards last week), and his breakaway speed. Matt Ryan hasn't reached "start...no matter what" status yet, but he can be comfortably played in all formats in Week 2. Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White remain top options at their positions, and Michael Jenkins has established himself as a low-risk WR3 candidate in PPR leagues based on his steady reception totals.
With a hobbled Anquan Boldin and no Steve Breaston, the Arizona passing attack really struggled last week against the 49ers. With both players expected to be healthy enough to play at or near 100 percent on Sunday, the Cardinals aerial game will return to its dominating ways, and all four participants (Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald included), should be started in their normal roles. Beanie Wells appears to be the most assertive runner in the Arizona backfield, but Tim Hightower's versatility (he caught 12 passes last week) will keep him in a prominent role in the offense. Neither is more than a RB3 this week.
The fantasy goodness in Jacksonville begins and ends with Maurice Jones-Drew. He accounted for over 50 percent of the Jaguars total yards in the first game, and scored their only touchdown. As long as he's healthy, he's a Top Five back in any format. David Garrard won't kill you with turnovers, but he's only appealing in two-quarterback leagues at this point. Torry Holt will produce enough to warrant a Flex start, but not much more than that.
Don't expect anything close to the 272-yard, one touchdown effort that Mark Sanchez put up in his debut. The Patriots will throw a multitude of different looks at him, which should result in an unappealing fantasy game for the rookie. Sanchez's struggles, coupled with an emphasis on the running games, will limit Chansi Stuckey and Jerricho Cotchery to WR3 plays only. Dustin Keller will be the top target and should be in your starting lineup. With almost 40 touches between the two, Thomas Jones and Leon Washington proved in Week 1 that they're both viable, every-week fantasy starters, (Jones as an RB2 and Washington as a Flex/RB3 play).
You know what you're getting with Tom Brady, Randy Moss, and Wes Welker -- top-tier fantasy production week-in and week-out. The biggest surprise last week was the involvement of Ben Watson, who had six catches for 77 yards and two scores. We've been teased by Watson before, but as long as he's playing regularly, and you're lacking at the position, he's more than worth a starting gamble. The Patriots backfield is still too messy for any self-respecting fantasy owner to attach himself to.
Matt Hasselbeck tore it up against the Rams, but can he toss three TDs against a 49ers team that kept the NFC Champion Cardinals under wraps? Umm...probably not, but he's a worthy start if you're a Donovan McNabb owner and have Hasselbeck as a backup, because he should hook up again with John Carlson and either T.J. Houshmandzadeh or Nate Burleson. Julius Jones is a worthy start at RB3, but hopefully you've got better options at RB2. As always, San Fran's Frank Gore and Isaac Bruce should find opportunities, although I'm not expecting much from Josh Morgan as he works out his kinks. You want a sleeper play? How about perennial underachieving TE Vernon Davis, who caught five passes against the Panthers in Week 1. Davis has a good shot since Seattle LBs Leroy Hill is out for at least six weeks with a groin and Lofa Tatupu is nursing a hammy.
This game might play out a lot like Denver's Week 1 game in Cincinnati, where both teams moved pawns for 58 minutes before a last-minute, roundabout Stokley score decided the winner. This week, Kyle Orton should connect frequently with Stokley, Eddie Royal and the much-beleaguered Brandon Marshall -- who's still the best WR3 money can buy. While the Broncos rush defense last year and in Week 1 was hideous, they'll probably stack the box against the Browns, who have serious issues with RBs Jamal Lewis and James Davis. The Browns didn't do much better, allowing 6.1 yards per carry against the Vikings on Sunday. Do not confuse Denver's rushing game with Minnesota's. Cleveland's best hope is for Brady Quinn to pressure the Broncos aging secondary with Braylon Edwards and test the LBs in coverage with TE Robert Royal. Denver will most likely prevail, and their offensive players will put up the best fantasy numbers in what will likely be a defensive battle.
While Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw and the Giants try to grind out a win with their fabulous running game, the Cowboys and Tony Romo will try to repeat their success from Week 1 through the air with Roy Williams and Jason Witten. Even if Romo's ankle is okay, he'll be forced to deal with the NFC's best pass rush, besides well, the one Dallas boasted last year. The problem for Dallas is that the Giants' offensive line is a heckuva lot better than the reanimated corpses protecting Romo and punching very few gaping holes for RBs Marion Barber and Felix Jones. This week, the Cowboys will be forced to use Jones more in the passing game, and rely on Barber more inside the red zone to find pay dirt. Still, the Cowboys will need to keep the Giants from developing a rhythm in the passing game, and consequently, they'll be successful shutting down Eli Manning, Steve Smith and associates.
The Colts are undoubtedly anxious to get their offensive juggernaut going, but they'll do it without No. 2 WR Anthony Gonzalez. Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, and Dallas Clark are primed for a huge game, and while WRs Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie are being pitched as the new sleepers in Indy, it'll take a while for them to adjust to the NFL game. Chad Pennington and the Dolphins, on the other hand, need to shake off a brutal Week 1 loss where they generated little offense and didn't show any of the vitality they showcased with last season's Wildcat offense. Neither team will be especially successful on the ground, mainly because there's little point running the ball when you're the Colts and little reason not to crowd the line of scrimmage if you're the Colts defense. I still like Ronnie Brown, even though Ricky Williams stole a few carries and had a receiving TD against the Falcons.
The Rams must get Steven Jackson at least 20 touches a game to even compete, so expect him to be very active from the beginning. I'm not certain the Redskins defense is as bad as the Giants made it look in Week 1, so there should be opportunities for Jackson and possession WR Donnie Avery (especially in PPR leagues), to crack double-digit fantasy points. Deep threat Laurent Robinson will be hounded by the Redskins capable secondary, and while any defense can have lapses, I'm not banking on any huge plays from him. Jason Campbell, on the other hand, should be able to connect a few times with Santana Moss, who had a quiet Week 1, tussled frequently with the Giants' DBs and looked like a petulant child when Campbell didn't get him the ball. Clinton Portis will get his, although he said he felt overworked on Monday morning -- even though he only had 16 carries -- a low number compared to some of the 30-carry games he's handled in the past. Ladell Betts will give him a break, but still shouldn't crack any starting lineups.
The Texans don't stand much of chance to beat the Titans on the ground, so expect a Matt Schaub-Andre Johnson show on offense, with upwards of 10-12 targets headed "Big Andre's" way. If Kevin Walter (hamstring) is ready for action, he'll also see a lot of looks on quick outs, giving the Texans a chance to stay in the game and rely on a few big plays to turn the tide. Tennessee will rely on its running game and possession plays to WR Justin Gage early, and will take a few shots downfield with rookie Kenny Britt. You obviously can't sit either first-round specials Steve Slaton or Chris Johnson, but LenDale White won't be used that much unless the Titans grab a big early lead. Want another starter? How about Owen Daniels? The perpetually under-the-radar TE should post good numbers against Titans LBs that'll be challenged to stay with him.
You were probably going to start Dwayne Bowe anyway, but if All-Everything Oakland CB Nnamdi Asomugha is still trying to recover from his wrist injury, expect a big day from Bowe. Mark Bradley will rarely draw even a healthy Asomugha, so he too should have a decent day. This past week the Raiders struggled with Darren Sproles, a shifty little back. Larry Johnson is not a shifty little back, so keep your expectations in check. Darren McFadden had a career high 164 yards last time he faced Kansas City. That might be a little high, but I expect a big day from McFadden again. With JaMarcus Russell still inconsistent on his downfield throws, Zach Miller should continue to be a valuable TE start. Numbers similar to last week's six catches for 96 yards seem likely.
It's just a hunch, but I think Donovan McNabb will play. Cracked ribs hurt like a motherbrother and make it difficult to even breathe. However, it doesn't affect your arms or legs, so I expect McNabb to play if he wants to -- or can. Andy Reid and the rest of the Eagle brass however will want the ball out of McNabb's hands as quickly as possible, so expect a lot of handoffs and short passes. I would try to go with other receiving options if I were considering an Eagle receiver. New Orleans did give up a decent share of points to Detroit last week, so I don't think they'll keep Brian Westbrook out of the end zone. Start him. Call it a hunch also if you want, but Drew Brees will not have six touchdown passes against the Eagles. 2 touchdown passes is reasonable, and I'd expect at least one of them to go to Reggie Bush. Pierre Thomas is probably going to suit up as well, but I'd hold off on starting him at least one more week.
The Bucs defensive warship seems to have been slowly taking on water since Monte Kiffin left late in the 2008 season, culminating in last week's 462-yard sinking by the Cowboys last week. They'll keep Terrell Owens to a fairly quiet day, but I do see him scoring a touchdown to make him worth starting. With Tampa Bay looking to keep T.O. quiet (talk about a daunting task!), Lee Evans should see tons of action. Fred Jackson should have a very good day with over 125 combined yards. Surprisingly, this is the first time that the Buccaneers have come to Buffalo, but they'll do it riding a Cadillac. Carnell Williams will have another solid day with Buffalo's big linebacker Paul Posluszny lost indefinitely. I hope you don't actually have to start Byron Leftwich, but if you do, he could give you a touchdown. This will probably be a game decided by the kickers.
I "tucked 'em back" last week and didn't call the upset by the 49ers over the Cardinals like I thought. Not this week. I'm picking the Ravens to upset the Chargers and to do it easily. Due to injuries, San Diego's offensive line has bigger holes than the Titanic. You're going to put that line up against Haloti Ngata and the rest of that Baltimore defense? Expect a huge day from the Ravens Defense and a very bad day from any Charger running backs: LaDainian Tomlinson, Darren Sproles, or anyone who takes LDT's place. I'd also be scared to start Phillip Rivers as well. I wouldn't be surprised to see 60-plus yards or a TD from Vincent Jackson or Antonio Gates, but it's not a match-up I'd look forward to. On the other side of the ball, let's not forget that the Ravens OC, Cam Cameron, used to call plays against the San Diego defense in practice all the time. I think he'll use that advantage and the Ravens will easily put up more than 20 points against San Diego. It is Ray Rice's turn to score and he will, as will Derrick Mason. Todd Heap will make it two solid weeks in a row. Joe Flacco won't pass for 300 yards again, but he should have at least two touchdown passes.
From the "Take it for what it's worth" file: Pittsburgh has lost 11 of its last 12 in Chicago. Just remember these two teams haven't played since 2005. Expect the Steelers to take advantage of the loss of Brian Urlacher. Don't be surprised to see Heath Miller catch a lot of balls underneath or some quick inside slants to Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward. If those three are having a decent day, you can go ahead and make the leap that Ben Roethlisberger will also have a decent day. With Pittsburgh's passing game working so well, the Bears will be able to at least keep not-so-fast Willie Parker (it wasn't just me who thought Parker had difficulty breaking it to the outside was it?), from a big day. Nearly any running back sees a dip in his numbers against the Steelers, so I'd keep your expectations modest for Matt Forte as well. If the Bears are going to win this game, Devin Hester will have to step up. I don't see Hester having a big day, but a trick play or two may be all it takes to make him worth the start, especially with Troy Polamalu out. Earl Bennett should also be targeted often again and makes a good WR3.