Flex Spending: Patriots find yet another offensive weapon in Ridley

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 JAC 2. Ray Rice at PHI 3. LeSean McCoy vs. BAL 4. Darren McFadden at MIA 5. Julio Jones vs. DEN 6. Calvin Johnson at SF 7. Matt Forte at GB 8. Adrian Peterson at IND 9. Jimmy Graham at CAR 10. Brandon Marshall at GB 11. Victor Cruz vs. TB 12. Andre Johnson at JAC 13. A.J. Green vs. CLE 14. Steve Smith vs. NO 15. Rob Gronkowski vs. ARI 16. Jamaal Charles at BUF 17. C.J. Spiller vs. KC 18. Doug Martin at NYG 19. DeMarco Murray at SEA 20. Maurice Jones-Drew vs. HOU 21. Percy Harvin at IND 22. Stevan Ridley vs. ARI 23. Jordy Nelson vs. CHI 24. Aaron Hernandez vs. ARI 25. Larry Fitzgerald at NE 26. Hakeem Nicks vs. TB 27. Ahmad Bradshaw vs. TB 28. Dez Bryant at SEA 29. Marques Colston at CAR 30. Marshawn Lynch vs. DAL 31. Wes Welker vs. ARI 32. Jeremy Maclin vs. BAL 33. Frank Gore vs. DET 34. Steven Jackson vs. WAS 35. Donald Brown vs. MIN 36. BenJarvus Green-Ellis vs. CLE 37. Demaryius Thomas at ATL 38. Reggie Wayne vs. MIN 39. Kevin Smith at SF 40. Roddy White vs. DEN 41. Steve Johnson vs. KC 42. Pierre Garcon at STL 43. Reggie Bush vs. OAK 44. Antonio Brown vs. NYJ 45. Malcom Floyd vs. TEN 46. Brandon Lloyd vs. ARI 47. Vernon Davis vs. DET 48. Torrey Smith at PHI 49. Randall Cobb vs. CHI 50. Trent Richardson at CIN 51. Alfred Morris at STL 52. Antonio Gates vs. TEN 53. Michael Turner vs. DEN 54. Darren Sproles at CAR 55. Chris Johnson at SD 56. Mike Wallace vs. NYJ 57. Eric Decker at ATL 58. Miles Austin at SEA 59. DeSean Jackson vs. BAL 60. Nate Washington at SD 61. Vincent Jackson at NYG 62. Willis McGahee at ATL 63. Jermichael Finley vs. CHI 64. Jonathan Dwyer vs. NYJ 65. Lance Moore at CAR 66. Anquan Boldin at PHI 67. Brandon Pettigrew at SF 68. Fred Davis at STL 69. Dwayne Bowe at BUF 70. Owen Daniels at JAC 71. Kenny Britt at SD 72. Sidney Rice vs. DAL 73. Stephen Hill at PIT 74. Michael Crabtree vs. DET 75. Ryan Williams at NE 76. Santonio Holmes at PIT 77. Shonn Greene at PIT 78. Michael Bush at GB 79. Danny Amendola vs. WAS 80. Ben Tate at JAC 81. Peyton Hillis at BUF 82. Jacob Tamme at ATL 83. Coby Fleener vs. MIN 84. Tony Gonzalez vs. DEN 85. Kyle Rudolph at IND 86. Cedric Benson vs. CHI 87. DeAngelo Williams vs. NO 88. Greg Little at CIN 89. Brent Celek vs. BAL 90. Jared Cook at SD 91. Jermaine Gresham vs. CLE 92. Laurent Robinson vs. HOU 93. Darrius Heyward-Bey at MIA 94. Isaac Redman vs. NYJ 95. Knowshon Moreno at ATL 96. Kendall Hunter vs. DET 97. Braylon Edwards vs. DAL 98. Beanie Wells at NE 99. Brandon LaFell at NO 100. Mike Williams at NYG

Chat with me on Twitter, @MBeller.

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