September 13, 2012

Well that was an exciting Week 1, huh?

Five teams scored at least 40 points. Robert Griffin III started his case for Offensive Rookie of the Year with a bang. The Matt Ryan for MVP bandwagon got off to a roaring start. Adrian Peterson looked like Adrian Peterson and Peyton Manning looked like Peyton Manning, two great developments for the NFL as a whole. The 49ers showed up in Green Bay and made a statement that 2011 was no fluke, while the Ravens, Texans, Patriots, Bears and Cowboys all made statements of their own, as well.

So yes, it was an exciting Week 1. But for our purposes here, the headiest developments of all were the fluctuations in the flex barometer. (Quick aside: "heady" means exciting or intoxicating, not smart. Please take note, sports broadcasters everywhere). We saw some players burst onto the flex scene and others solidify their places in our collective flex consciousness. On the flip side, a few players granted opportunities to impress fell flat. Let's get to the upgrades, downgrades and new faces in Week 2's Flex Spending.

Stevan Ridley, Patriots -- It looks like the Patriots just might have a running game this year. Ridley racked up 125 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries and also caught two passes for 27 yards. The Patriots have had plenty success in the past letting Tom Brady carve apart defenses with short passes to supplant the run game, but they also haven't had a weapon of Ridley's caliber in the backfield for a long time. He's immediately a must-start every single week, and has the look of a top-12 back. Playing in an offense as high-powered as New England's, he could easily end the year within the top 10.

C.J. Spiller, Bills -- The Bills may have been Week 1's most disappointing team, but Spiller was one of the fantasy community's brightest stars, running for 169 yards and a score on 14 carries, and his 25 receiving yards brought him just short of 200 total yards on the day. With Fred Jackson out three-to-eight weeks with a knee injury, Spiller's stock is through the roof. Like Ridley, he is now a must-start every week, regardless of matchup. He should become a mainstay even when Jackson comes back, at least in the flex discussion, with a few more strong performances in Jackson's absence.

Kevin Smith, Lions -- The question with Smith has never been about ability and always been about health. Well, he stayed on the field last week, and that gets him an upgrade in my book. He piled up 91 total yards on 17 touches and found the end zone twice, pre-emptively striking down any claim Mikel Leshoure might hope to stake to the Lions' running back job when he returns from suspension. The Lions didn't shy away from using Smith, and though they remain a pass-happy offense, his skill as a pass-catcher makes him a constant threat. His next injury is always around the corner, but as long as he's healthy, he's a weekly flex option, and quite often an RB2.

Alfred Morris, Redskins -- Put the Redskins' running back roulette away, at least for one week. Morris got 28 carries, compared with just four for Evan Royster and Roy Helu combined, and gained 96 yards to go along with two touchdowns. There are a few caveats here. First, the Saints defense looked terrible. Second, the Redskins were nursing a lead the entire second half, and volume was undoubtedly Alf's best friend, evidenced by his 3.4 yards per carry. Still, Mike and Kyle Shanahan clearly trust Morris at the goal-line and to salt away the clock, and Papa Shanahan has always shown a tendency to stick with the hot hand. We're counting Morris as a safe flex play for the time being, but remember a Shanahan backfield is constantly in flux.

Jonathan Dwyer, Steelers -- Dwyer looked like Pittsburgh's best running back against the Broncos on Sunday night, carrying the ball nine times for 43 yards and catching two passes for 11 more. Meanwhile, Isaac Redman plodded his way to 20 yards on 11 carries. Rashard Mendenhall will undoubtedly be in the mix in the near future, but until he's back Dwyer is the Steelers running back you want to own. Mike Tomlin said Wednesday Dwyer would see an increased role in Pittsburgh's Week 2 game against the Jets, who were gashed by the aforementioned C.J. Spiller last week. More news may be coming later in the week as to what an increased role for Dwyer might entail, but consider him a fringe flex option this week.

Randall Cobb, Packers -- Let me first say this. I believe Cobb's outsized role in Week 1 -- he caught all nine balls thrown his way for 77 yards -- had as much to do with the 49ers' defensive scheme as it did with Green Bay's desire to get the ball in his hands. Having said that, Cobb will be a part of one of the league's best passing offenses every single week, and he makes a great flex play this week. Greg Jennings is listed as doubtful for Thursday's game against the Bears, meaning Cobb will be on the field for all of the Packers' multitude of three-receiver sets. Not only is he a flex option this week, he could be considered a WR2 or WR3 given your personal circumstances.

DeAngelo Williams, Panthers -- Listen, you don't want to overreact to just one week of play. Still, if I'm a Williams owner, he's excommunicated from my starting lineup. Given a chance to shine with Jonathan Stewart out with an ankle injury, Williams turned in a dreadful performance Sunday, carrying the ball six times for a loss of one yard and catching one pass for five yards, truly earning the DeAngeLOL moniker. It's true that Tampa Bay's defense is much improved from a year ago and the Buccaneers did an effective job in shutting down Cam Newton, but Williams showed absolutely nothing last week. The return of Stewart will only further marginalize him in the offense. I wouldn't cut him, but I'd plant him firmly on the bench.

Darren Sproles, Saints -- If one stat made me do a double-take last week, it was the zero carries Sproles received in the Saints' loss to the Redskins. Of course, the Saints were chasing the Redskins all game, and Sproles' value to the offense largely comes from his role in the passing game. But the fact that he did not get one carry is still worrisome for a guy who was already swimming upstream in trying to match his lofty numbers from a season ago. He had a respectable eight targets, catching five passes for 35 yards and a touchdown, but it was easy to see a regression coming from Sproles, and Week 1 did nothing to convince me otherwise. He's still a guy I would start this week, but he's not an automatic go in my book.

1. Arian Foster at JAC2. Ray Rice at PHI3. LeSean McCoy vs. BAL4. Darren McFadden at MIA5. Julio Jones vs. DEN6. Calvin Johnson at SF7. Matt Forte at GB8. Adrian Peterson at IND9. Jimmy Graham at CAR10. Brandon Marshall at GB11. Victor Cruz vs. TB12. Andre Johnson at JAC13. A.J. Green vs. CLE14. Steve Smith vs. NO15. Rob Gronkowski vs. ARI16. Jamaal Charles at BUF17. C.J. Spiller vs. KC18. Doug Martin at NYG19. DeMarco Murray at SEA20. Maurice Jones-Drew vs. HOU21. Percy Harvin at IND22. Stevan Ridley vs. ARI23. Jordy Nelson vs. CHI24. Aaron Hernandez vs. ARI25. Larry Fitzgerald at NE26. Hakeem Nicks vs. TB27. Ahmad Bradshaw vs. TB28. Dez Bryant at SEA29. Marques Colston at CAR30. Marshawn Lynch vs. DAL31. Wes Welker vs. ARI32. Jeremy Maclin vs. BAL33. Frank Gore vs. DET34. Steven Jackson vs. WAS35. Donald Brown vs. MIN36. BenJarvus Green-Ellis vs. CLE37. Demaryius Thomas at ATL38. Reggie Wayne vs. MIN39. Kevin Smith at SF40. Roddy White vs. DEN41. Steve Johnson vs. KC42. Pierre Garcon at STL43. Reggie Bush vs. OAK44. Antonio Brown vs. NYJ45. Malcom Floyd vs. TEN46. Brandon Lloyd vs. ARI47. Vernon Davis vs. DET48. Torrey Smith at PHI49. Randall Cobb vs. CHI50. Trent Richardson at CIN51. Alfred Morris at STL52. Antonio Gates vs. TEN53. Michael Turner vs. DEN54. Darren Sproles at CAR55. Chris Johnson at SD56. Mike Wallace vs. NYJ57. Eric Decker at ATL58. Miles Austin at SEA59. DeSean Jackson vs. BAL60. Nate Washington at SD61. Vincent Jackson at NYG62. Willis McGahee at ATL63. Jermichael Finley vs. CHI64. Jonathan Dwyer vs. NYJ65. Lance Moore at CAR66. Anquan Boldin at PHI67. Brandon Pettigrew at SF68. Fred Davis at STL69. Dwayne Bowe at BUF70. Owen Daniels at JAC71. Kenny Britt at SD72. Sidney Rice vs. DAL73. Stephen Hill at PIT74. Michael Crabtree vs. DET75. Ryan Williams at NE76. Santonio Holmes at PIT77. Shonn Greene at PIT78. Michael Bush at GB79. Danny Amendola vs. WAS80. Ben Tate at JAC81. Peyton Hillis at BUF82. Jacob Tamme at ATL83. Coby Fleener vs. MIN84. Tony Gonzalez vs. DEN85. Kyle Rudolph at IND86. Cedric Benson vs. CHI87. DeAngelo Williams vs. NO88. Greg Little at CIN89. Brent Celek vs. BAL90. Jared Cook at SD91. Jermaine Gresham vs. CLE92. Laurent Robinson vs. HOU93. Darrius Heyward-Bey at MIA94. Isaac Redman vs. NYJ95. Knowshon Moreno at ATL96. Kendall Hunter vs. DET97. Braylon Edwards vs. DAL98. Beanie Wells at NE99. Brandon LaFell at NO100. Mike Williams at NYG

Chat with me on Twitter, @MBeller.

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