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Fantasy football Risers, Sliders: Running backs struggle in Week 2

Photo: Al Tielemans/SI

Philip Rivers threw for 419 yards and three touchdowns against the Eagles on Sunday.

It seems that even the most casual fantasy owners follow the fantasy axiom of drafting a running back early. However, through two weeks this season, several big-name running backs are disappointing their owners; Maurice Jones-Drew, Stevan Ridley, Frank Gore and Ray Rice were taken early in most drafts, and have yet to put up the gaudy numbers their owners anticipated. Let's see who's struggling and who's shining after Week 2.

Quarterbacks

Risers:

Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers -- Rivers put up strong numbers for the second straight week, throwing for 419 yards and three touchdowns with just one sack. He had four touchdown passes and one interception in the first week. Rivers wasn't drafted highly (or at all) this year, but might still have some fantasy value left in him.

Sliders:

Eli Manning, New York Giants -- His three interceptions were mostly overlooked by his fantasy owners last week because he also threw four touchdowns. But his Week 2 was subpar: His completion percentage dropped and he threw four interceptions with just one touchdown.

Running backs

Risers:

James Starks, Green Bay Packers -- Filling in after Eddie Lacy left with a concussion, Starks had the first 100-plus yard rushing day in 45 games for Green Bay. He averaged 6.6 yards a carry, rushing 20 times for 132 yards. He racked up quite a few carries because the Packers were ahead, but that could happen many times this season. If Lacy has issues returning, it looks like Starks will be the starter.

Ahmad Bradshaw, Indianapolis Colts -- With Vick Ballard out for the year, Bradshaw will be starting for Indianapolis. He rushed 15 times for 65 yards and a touchdown.

Sliders:

Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars -- Jacksonville's offense didn't fare much better with Chad Henne under center. Jones-Drew sprained his ankle in the first half in Sunday's loss to the Raiders, but he only had 27 yards on 10 carries before leaving. Jones-Drew is looking less like a fantasy starter after rushing for just 72 yards on 25 carries so far through two games this season.

Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots -- The good news: He didn't fumble (though he bobbled a pitch late in the fourth quarter). The bad news: He rushed 16 times for just 40 yards, which was six fewer than he had against Buffalo when he was benched. The Patriots' offense looks lost right now; however, with Shane Vereen out, Ridley should keep his starting job for a while.

Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens -- Rice strained his hip flexor in Sunday's win over the Browns, and wasn't very effective before leaving, rushing just 13 times for 36 yards. Bernard Pierce was only mildly more effective -- rushing 19 times for 57 yards and a touchdown. But Rice's slow start to the year (25 carries for 72 yards over 2 games) is concerning. He's also no longer a fan of fantasy football.

Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers -- Just nine carries and 16 yards for Gore, in the wake of just 44 yards in Week 1. San Francisco faced a tough Seattle defense, but with the hard NFC West schedule this season the 49ers will play a lot of good defenses. The good news: San Francisco doesn't seem to have any other options at running back right now.

Montee Ball, Denver Broncos -- Along with a fumble, Ball had only 12 carries to Knowshon Moreno's 13. Moreno also had two scores and one more target than Ball. A split like that makes it tough to start either Denver running back, unless Moreno continues to score the touchdowns.

INJURY UPDATE: Johnson still under evaluation, no MRI for Rice, more news

Wide receivers

Risers:

Marlon Brown, Baltimore Ravens -- The rookie wideout had four catches for 45 yards and a touchdown on six targets -- very similar numbers to his first game (he had 20 more yards in Week 1). With Jacoby Jones out for at least a month, he could work as a third or fourth receiver on a fantasy squad.

Eddie Royal, San Diego Chargers -- The ex-Broncos wide receiver has five touchdown through the first two weeks, including seven catches for 90 yards and three touchdowns on Sunday against the Eagles. Philly's secondary doesn't look good, but Royal's been targeted 14 times in the first two games. His value goes up even more if Malcom Floyd is slow to return from his neck injury.

Mike Wallace, Miami Dolphins -- He got what he wanted, getting involved more in his second game with Miami. It also helped that Joe Haden wasn't covering him this week. Fantasy owners with Wallace on their squad can exhale after he caught nine passes for 115 yards and a score on 11 targets.

DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans -- With Andrew Johnson out, it was Hopkins who caught the game-winner in overtime. He received 13 targets throughout the game, catching seven passes for 117 yards and the score. Johnson had the same number. The Texans may have found a solid number two.

Sliders:

Anquan Boldin, San Francisco 49ers -- One week after a 17-target, 13-catch, 208-yard game, Boldin was nearly invisible on Sunday night. He had just one catch on two targets in the loss.

Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals -- Ho-hum game from Fitzgerald after a huge Week 1. Before leaving with a quad injury, Fitzgerald was targeted just five times, catching two passes for 33 yards. Not too much to worry about as long as his injury isn't serious, but it was a surprisingly disappointing week.

Tight ends

Risers:

Martellus Bennett, Chicago Bears -- Jay Cutler appears to have a good rapport already with his new tight end, targeting him nine times against the Vikings. Bennett caught seven passes for 76 yards and the two touchdowns, including the game-winner with 10 seconds left. He has 10 catches for 150 yards and three scores already this year.

Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts -- Andrew Luck targeted his college teammate eight times; Fleener caught four passes for 69 yards and a touchdown (he had a second score wiped away by penalty). He's behind Dwayne Allen on the depth chart, but if Allen continues to have problems with his hip, Fleener could become a fantasy starter.

Sliders:

Brent Celek, Philadelphia Eagles -- After scoring a touchdown in Week 1, Celek didn't register a single catch in the Eagles 33-30 loss to San Diego. Michael Vick hasn't been all that accurate this season, and Celek has only seen four targets.

Kickers

Risers:

Blair Walsh, Minnesota Vikings -- Although they're 0-2, the Vikings have put up 54 points in two games, and Walsh has 18 of them. He was 3-for-3 on field goals Sunday in a loss to the Bears.

Nick Novak, San Diego Chargers -- Four field goals and three extra points for the Chargers a week after they scored four touchdowns. If the offense continues to click, Novak could get opportunities.

Sliders:

Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens -- The second-year kicker missed both field goals he attempted in Baltimore on Sunday. He only missed three last season.

Defenses

Risers:

Baltimore Ravens -- A week after giving up 49 points and seven passing touchdowns, Baltimore didn't allow any scores in its 14-6 win over the Browns. They won't be facing the Browns every week, but neither will they have to play Peyton Manning again.

Sliders:

Philadelphia Eagles -- No one thought their defense was a juggernaut, but they looked solid for most of the game against Washington in Week 1. The Eagles gave up 33 points to the Chargers, and it could have been more if not for two fumble recoveries deep in their own territory. On Sunday, the defense looked suspiciously like it did at the end of last season in South Philadelphia.

SI Now: How dire are things in Tampa Bay?
On Monday's SI Now, Sports Illustrated assistant managing editor Mark Mravic discusses the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' early struggles, and how much of their failure can be attributed to head coach Greg Schiano.

MORE WEEK 3 FANTASY FOOTBALL CONTENT:

BELLER: Fantasy football Week 3 player stat projections
SI.COM STAFF: Week 3 composite player rankings
BELLER: Trent Richardson's fantasy value increases with trade to Colts
GONOS: Start 'em or sit 'em -- Trades and injuries alter lineups
FLOOD: Waiver Wire -- Eddie Royal's hot streak won't last forever
BELLER, FLOOD: Weekly Roundtable -- Best strategy for owners with injured running backs?
McQUADE: Risers and Sliders -- Several top running backs disappointing owners
BELLER: Fast Forward -- Crazy finishes highlight Week 2 of the NFL

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