One of the more intriguing matchups of Week 2 pits Chicago against New Orleans. The Bears' run defense was awful against Atlanta last Sunday, allowing a league-worst 7.9 yards per carry. New Orleans' rebuilt rushing attack, meanwhile, sputtered against the Packers in the Thursday opener (81 yards on 21 carries). It's the kind of matchup fantasy owners should fear, as neither performance is consistent with what was expected from each unit this season.
There are, however, other Week 2 matchups that offer fantasy owners a strong indication for where success can be found and misery can be avoided:
These matchups suggest success is around the corner for a number of suspect fantasy starters ...
Detroit's passing attack vs. Kansas City's defense
Maybe the Chiefs had an off day against Buffalo last week. It happens. It's more likely, however, that Kansas City's secondary is as bad as it appeared to be. Three Bills receivers collected 60 or more yards receiving, and Ryan Fitzpatrick exited Week 1 with the best QB rating in the league. The loss of Eric Berry only makes matters worse for Kansas City, as the team was already thin at safety.
• Expect a big day from: Quarterback Matthew Stafford was superb on the road in the opener. Playing at home this week, he should shred the Chiefs. Brandon Pettigrew (six targets in the Buccaneers game) is ready to make the move from TE2 to TE1.
NY Giants' rushing attack vs. St. Louis' defense
No unit allowed more rushing yards in Week 1 than St. Louis (236). No other team was even close. True, part of this had to do with the Rams' inability to contain Michael Vick -- something all defenses struggle with. But the Rams also failed to keep LeSean McCoy in check (8.1 yards per carry).
• Expect a big day from: Ahmad Bradshaw is coming off a rough performance (44 yards on 13 carries). Some suspect he'll lose carries to Brandon Jacobs, but Bradshaw's style matches up better against this defense.
Washington's receivers vs. Arizona's defense
With Adrian Wilson and Top 5 pick Patrick Peterson, one would think Arizona's secondary would be a strength. That wasn't the case last week against Carolina, which racked up 422 passing yards on 37 attempts. Most of those yards came on big plays thanks to blown coverage. Wilson is playing with a torn bicep muscle, and the inexperience at corner is alarming.
• Expect a big day from: Like Steve Smith, Santana Moss is quick and slippery. He won't have 178 yards like Smith, but Moss will earn enough points to keep fantasy owners happy. Fred Davis is worth considering, if nothing else for the fact that both Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey had 50-plus yards receiving last week.
Houston's rushing attack vs. Miami's defense
The way Tom Brady dismantled the Dolphins secondary, one would expect this selection to favor Houston's passing attack. Times will be good for the ground game, too. Both Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis averaged 4.9 yards per carry (21 carries total) against Miami on Monday. Here's the icing: The Patriots did not have a single negative rushing play (Woodhead and Green-Ellis each had one carry for no gain). Meanwhile, the departure of Vonta Leach hasn't had the impact on the Texans rushing attack that some expected -- the unit appears as strong as it was a season ago.
• Expect a big day from: Whoever starts. Right now, Arian Foster appears to be a game-time decision due to his hamstring. If he is not 100 percent, the Texans will again turn to Ben Tate. Somebody is in for a big day; soon we'll find out who.
Cleveland's rushing attack vs. Indianapolis' defense
Peyton Hillis was a favorite for fantasy flop of 2011. He showed signs of it against Cincinnati, averaging 3.4 yards per carry. Not this week, however. Even though the Colts only allowed 4.1 yards per carry in Week 1, the more important stat is the number of times Houston kept the ball on the ground in that game (41). And let's not forget the Colts allowed an unproven player (Ben Tate) to gain 116 yards in his first NFL action.
• Expect a big day from: Hillis. Get the getting while it's good.
These fantasy stars might need a rest this week due to an unfavorable matchup on the horizon ...
Atlanta's receivers vs. Philadelphia's defense
The "Dream Team" limited St. Louis to just 181 net passing yards in the opener, and no Rams receiver found the end zone. Not only was the secondary strong, but the Eagles got to the quarterback five times. The combination of Philadelphia's all-world 1-2 punch at cornerback and an aggressive front seven will scare a lot of teams this season, continuing this week with Atlanta.
• Who to bench: It's never advisable to sit Roddy White, but fantasy owners with Tony Gonzalez have reason for pause. St. Louis' tight ends, Billy Bajema and Lance Kendricks, caught a total of three balls last week. It might also be a week to consider swapping out Matt Ryan for your backup. A year ago against Philadelphia, Ryan completed just 23 of 42 attempts -- and he didn't have to face Nnamdi Asomugha in that game.
Tampa Bay's rushing attack vs. Minnesota's defense
The Vikings do the two things championship-caliber football teams are supposed to: They run the ball and defend the run (too bad for Vikings fans that's all they do well). Minnesota's front seven corralled San Diego's Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert (24 carries, 80 yards), and often made plays in the backfield. It's really nothing new; Minnesota ranked ninth in rushing yards allowed last year, and permitted opposing rushers just 3.9 yards per carry.
• Who to bench: Fantasy owners may already have been prepared to bench LeGarrette Blount after his Week 1 blunder (15 yards). That game exposed the real problem with Blount -- the bruising back becomes useless when Tampa Bay is playing catch-up and the game's tempo intensifies. This contest will be closer, but Blount may not be any more effective.
Tennessee's passing attack vs. Baltimore's defense
For those who didn't know, Baltimore's defense is pretty good. It made Pittsburgh's Super Bowl-caliber offense look silly last week, and the Ravens pass defense collected a league-best three interceptions. Imagine what this unit will do with over-the-hill Matt Hasselbeck and the Titans' ragtag offense.
• Who to bench: Hasselbeck is a non-play, regardless, but Kenny Britt is the player fantasy owners will struggle with. After an eventful offseason, Britt put all of it behind him with one gigantic splash in Week 1 (136 yards and two touchdowns). Pittsburgh receiver Mike Wallace had a nice game against the Ravens last week, but he is part of a deep and talented group of weapons; Britt walks alone.
Buffalo's rushing attack vs. Oakland's defense
The Raiders were one of eight NFL teams to allow fewer than 3.0 yards per carry during opening weekend. Oakland squashed a Denver unit hoping to re-establish the running game this season. Instead, Knowshon Moreno gained just 22 yards on eight carries, and no back had a carry of 10 or more yards (quarterback Kyle Orton did scramble for 13 yards on one play).
• Who to bench: Sorry, Fred Jackson fans, but the versatile veteran back is week to week, based on the Bills' matchup. This week, the matchup indicates Jackson should stay on the sideline.