Bears @ Saints
Game Thoughts: Jay Cutler passed for 312 yards and a pair
of touchdowns, along with one interception in Chicago’s
surprising blowout win over the Falcons in Week 1. Cutler was
still sacked too many times (five, which was tied for most in
the league), but he utilized all of his targets well, with no
player receiving more than six targets (Matt Forte), and six players
receiving between 4-6 looks. Roy Williams may not play this week,
but even if he doesn’t, the team should be fine with Johnny
Knox and Devin Hester on the outside. The duo combined to catch
six passes for 120 yards against Atlanta.
As for the Saints’ pass defense, well, it struggled –
to say the least – against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers
on Thursday night. No team allowed more fantasy points to opposing
wideouts than New Orleans did, and that was in a week in which
eight NFL teams threw for at least 300 yards. All of which bodes
well for Knox, Hester and Williams, should he suit up.
Running Game Thoughts: With Mike Martz calling the offense, the
Bears are not a ground and pound team, and never will be. Still,
they did rush for 88 yards against Atlanta, with 68 coming from
Forte, and another 24 from Khalil Bell (we realize that total
adds up to 92, but Dane Sanzenbacher lost four yards in his only
carry). Maybe more importantly, the duo ran the ball a total of
27 times, keeping Atlanta honest in the process.
Green Bay had 27 carries against New Orleans, with the Packers
gaining 103 yards with those totes. The Saints held the Packers
to 3.8 yards per carry, but were one of just three teams to give
up two rushing touchdowns in Week 1.
Jay Cutler: 270 yds passing, 2 TD, 1 INT
Johnny Knox: 85 yds receiving, 1 TD
Devin Hester: 75 yds receiving, 1 TD
Roy Williams: 40 yds receiving
Matt Forte: 65 yds rushing, 1 TD / 40 yds receiving
Kahlil Bell: 30 yds rushing
Game Thoughts: You would have thought that Drew Brees’
419 passing yards would be the highest mark during Week 1, but
it wasn’t, as a man named Brady chucked the pigskin for
over 500 yards. In fact, Brees’ total wasn’t even
second, as rookie Cam Newton threw for three more yards than Brees.
Nonetheless, the Saints’ passing game was in midseason form
against what is supposed to be a very good Packers secondary.
The loss of Marques Colston certainly hurts, but the Saints have
so many receiving options, including the possible return of Lance
Moore this week, that it’s hard to believe that Brees is
in any trouble minus his top wideout.
Chicago did allow over 300 passing yards to Atlanta quarterback
Matt Ryan, but that number is a bit deceiving. The Falcons were
down big early in the game, and had to throw the ball a lot more
than they wanted to. The Bears have skill all over the defensive
side of the ball, but maybe not quite enough to keep up with all
the weapons that New Orleans employs.
Running Game Thoughts: Outside of a 21-yard scamper by Pierre
Thomas, the Saints didn’t run the ball effectively against
the Packers. Overall they had 81 yards on 21 carries, but taking
away Thomas’s big play would leave them with just 60 yards.
Most notably, rookie Mark Ingram failed to pound the ball in from
the one-yard line at the end of the game, and he had just 40 yards
on a team-high 13 carries.
The Bears did not have a great game holding down Atlanta’s
running game, allowing Michael Turner to gain 100 yards on just
10 carries. Overall, the Falcons ran the ball 14 times for 110
yards, a gaudy YPC average of 7.9, and Chicago will need to shore
that up against the Saints in order to try and make them a bit
more one-dimensional, even if that dimension is an explosive one.
Drew Brees: 310 yds passing, 3 TD, 1 INT
Devery Henderson: 85 yds receiving, 1 TD
Jimmy Graham: 80 yds receiving, 1 TD
Robert Meachem: 65 yds receiving, 1 TD
Mark Ingram: 50 yds rushing, 1 TD
Pierre Thomas: 35 yds rushing / 35 yds receiving
Darren Sproles: 10 yds rushing / 45 yds receiving
Prediction: Saints 31, Bears 24 ^ Top
Ravens @ Titans
Game Thoughts: Joe Flacco picked apart a stellar Pittsburgh
defense last week, helping the Ravens dismantle the Steelers.
Flacco threw for 224 yards and a trio of scores, connecting once
with Anquan Boldin, once with Ed Dickson and once with Ray Rice.
Newly acquired Lee Evans did not have a reception in the game
despite being targeted four times, but that should change quickly,
especially against a Tennessee pass defense that was among the
league’s worst last season.
We still don’t know if the Titans are much improved in pass
defense after Week 1, because though they held Luke McCown to
175 yards through the air, he hasn’t exactly been the second
coming of Joe Montana in his career, has he? Flacco and the Ravens
should be a much stiffer test in Week 2.
Running Game Thoughts: Rice and backfield mate Ricky Williams
carved up the Steelers defense on the ground much the same way
that Flacco did through the air, with the pair combining for 170
yards on 31 carries (5.5 YPC). The duo, with the diminutive Rice
and much larger Williams, should be a formidable combination all
season, with Rice having become a fantasy darling who went first
overall in numerous fantasy drafts this season.
It will be tough for Tennessee to stop the two, just as they struggled
against the Jacksonville running game last week. The Titans allowed
a total of 163 yards on the ground to the Jags, and though Maurice
Jones-Drew is talented, he and teammate Deji Karim aren’t
nearly as tough to conquer as Rice and Williams will be.
Joe Flacco: 250 yds passing, 2 TD
Anquan Boldin: 85 yds receiving, 1 TD
Lee Evans: 65 yds receiving, 1 TD
Ed Dickson: 40 yds receiving
Dennis Pitta: 20 yds receiving
Ray Rice: 105 yds rushing, 1 TD / 30 yds receiving
Ricky Williams: 40 yds rushing, 1 TD
Game Thoughts: It may have surprised some observers to
find out that Matt Hasselbeck threw for 263 yards and two scores
in his debut with the Titans, but a bit of perspective is needed.
Jacksonville’s pass defense was just as bad last season,
if not worse, than the aforementioned Tennessee pass defense.
Thus, Hasselbeck, with Kenny Britt available to throw to, excelled.
Britt had 136 receiving yards and two touchdowns, and he’s
too good to hold down completely, but he’ll find it more
difficult to get the ball from Hasselbeck this week.
The reason for that is because the Ravens defense was utterly
dominant against the Steelers, forcing seven turnovers in the
game, including three interceptions and two forced fumbles of
Ben Roethlisberger. The fact that Big Ben threw for 280 yards
is irrelevant, as he was forced to chuck it all day after the
Steelers fell behind by such a large margin.
Running Game Thoughts: Many fantasy owners were wondering if Chris
Johnson’s holdout during training camp would have an effect
on him. The quick answer is yes, it clearly did. The speed demon
looked a bit tentative and had less explosiveness than we’ve
seen in the past, and it culminated in a 24-yard effort, with
his long run being just nine yards. It’s unlikely that Johnson
is up to full speed this week, but an uptick in his numbers seems
likely, if only because it’s inevitable that he’ll
see many more carries this week than the nine he received in Week
Baltimore’s run defense was very good against the Steelers,
holding Rashard Mendenhall to 45 yards on 12 carries, with more
than half of his yards coming on one 23-yard run. Overall, they
allowed 66 yards on the ground, and Johnson will likely find it
a tough go against Ray Lewis and Co.
Matt Hasselbeck: 170 yds passing, 1 TD, 2 INT
Kenny Britt: 55 yds receiving
Nate Washington: 45 yds receiving
Jared Cook: 40 yds receiving, 1 TD
Chris Johnson: 65 yds rushing / 25 yds receiving
Prediction: Ravens 28, Titans 13 ^ Top
Browns @ Colts
Game Thoughts: On the periphery, Colt McCoy’s numbers
against the Bengals last week didn’t look so bad –
213 passing yards, two touchdowns and one pick. But upon closer
inspection, you’ll notice that McCoy threw the ball 40 times,
and completed only 19 of those throws. His average of 5.3 yards
per attempt is well below what you’d like to see, and it
was that low despite a 56-yard completion to Mohamed Massaquoi,
who wound up with 77 yards on three catches.
The Colts pass defense didn’t fare poorly against Matt Schaub
last week, holding him to one touchdown and intercepting him twice
as he threw for 220 yards, but they allowed far too many big plays.
Schaub’s average yards per attempt was 9.2, which is in
sharp contrast to McCoy’s numbers. But McCoy doesn’t
have nearly the weapons that Schaub does, so don’t expect
him to match Schaub in big plays this week.
Running Game Thoughts: Peyton Hillis is on the cover of Madden,
and is one of the more exciting players to watch in the game due
to his style, but he didn’t get a whole lot done against
the Bengals, with only 57 yards on 17 carries, which is a below-average
YPC mark of 3.4. Maybe the most disappointing thing about Hillis’s
game is that he failed to find the end zone in what was a solid
His matchup this week is even better, though, considering what
the Texans did to Indy last week on the ground. Ben Tate ran for
116 yards and a score, and overall Houston rumbled to 167 yards
on the ground, and in the process made Indianapolis the only team
in the league last week that allowed at least 105 rushing yards
and two touchdowns. Needless to say, this is a matchup that fantasy
owners who have Hillis in the fold should be looking to exploit.
Colt McCoy: 190 yds passing, 1 TD / 15 yds rushing
Mohamed Massaquoi: 70 yds receiving
Ben Watson: 50 yds receiving, 1 TD
Evan Moore: 35 yds receiving
Peyton Hillis: 115 yds rushing, 1 TD / 25 yds receiving
Game Thoughts: Going into the Colts’ game against
the Texans last week, it’s a safe bet to assume that very
few people thought Kerry Collins would throw the ball 31 times.
But that’s just what happened, and Collins wound up with
respectable numbers of 197 yards and a touchdown without throwing
a pick. But he barely completed over 50 percent of his passes,
and the Colts simply aren’t going to win with him throwing
the rock that many times. Fantasy owners who have Reggie Wayne
or Dallas Clark may want to see him continue to chuck it, however,
because Wayne was the recipient of seven passes for 106 yards
and a score. Clark wasn’t as successful, with just 39 yards
on four receptions.
On the defensive side of the ball, Cleveland wasn’t shredded
by the quarterbacking duo of Andy Dalton and Bruce Gradkowski
(who came in after Dalton left with an injury), but each Dalton
had a QB rating of 102.4 in his first start, and Gradkowski followed
up with a QB rating of 96.5. That should give the owners of Wayne,
Clark, Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie a little bit of hope this
Running Game Thoughts: As usual with the Colts, there wasn’t
a whole lot of running game to speak of last week against the
Texans. Joseph Addai ran for 39 yards on eight carries, while
Delone Carter ran the ball seven times for 25 yards. We expect
to see Addai get a bunch more carries this week against the Browns,
because Cleveland can be run on.
The Bengals proved last week that the Browns can be exploited
on the ground, rushing for 139 yards on 33 carries. The Colts
may want to follow a similar game plan, one that they were unable
to use last week because they got down by too many points early
in the game. But a lot more of Joseph Addai, and to some extent
Carter, will only help Indy, and will only help the fantasy owners
are looking for more from the team’s running backs.
Kerry Collins: 185 yds passing, 1 TD, 1 INT
Reggie Wayne: 70 yds receiving, 1 TD
Dallas Clark: 40 yds receiving
Pierre Garcon: 30 yds receiving
Austin Collie: 25 yds receiving
Joseph Addai: 55 yds rushing, 1 TD / 25 yds receiving
Delone Carter: 25 yds rushing
Prediction: Colts 20, Browns 14 ^ Top
Packers @ Panthers
Game Thoughts: With the exception of New England, there
may be no other passing offense that is in synch quite like that
of Green Bay’s. Aaron Rodgers was superb against the Saints,
throwing for 312 yards and three scores in the shootout, and hooking
up with 10 different receivers. Greg Jennings had the biggest
game, with seven catches for 89 yards and one touchdown, but Jordy
Nelson had a surprisingly hot hand as well, catching six passes
for 77 yards and a score. Tight end Jermichael Finley wasn’t
used as much as his fantasy owners may have liked, but they probably
won’t have to wait for long to see him get involved.
That’s because the Panthers allowed a total of 101 yards
and a touchdown to the Arizona tight end duo of Jeff King and
Todd Heap; and if those two can take advantage of the Carolina
secondary, so too should Finley. In all, Carolina allowed Kevin
Kolb to throw for 309 yards and two touchdowns without an interception,
so just imagine what Rodgers is capable of.
Running Game Thoughts: The Packers running game isn’t an
afterthought in their offense, as some people may believe. Fantasy
owners know better, especially those who gambled and took James
Starks as part of their backfield. He rewarded them with 57 rushing
yards and one score, while Ryan Grant ran for 40 yards. Starks
had 12 carries to Grant’s nine, but we don’t necessarily
believe that Starks will continue to be the one with more carries
as the season goes on.
It may not matter a whole lot which back gets the ball more in
this contest, not when the Panthers allowed a player many were
ready to call a bust, Beanie Wells, gain 5.0 yards per carry and
run for 90 yards. The success that Wells had against Carolina
bodes well for fantasy owners who want to give the Green Bay running
backs a shot at success. They should have big games, especially
if the Pack get up big early, and pound the rock to kill the clock.
Aaron Rodgers: 320 yds passing, 3 TD / 25 yds rushing
Greg Jennings: 100 yds receiving, 2 TD
Jermichael Finley: 65 yds receiving, 1 TD
Donald Driver: 60 yds receiving
Randall Cobb: 50 yds receiving
Jordy Nelson: 45 yds receiving
Ryan Grant: 70 yds rushing, 1 TD
James Starks: 40 yds rushing, 1 TD
Game Thoughts: There’s nobody in fantasyfootballland
who believed Cam Newton would absolutely set the NFL on fire in
Week 1, and if they did, just hand them the championship trophy
right now, because they’re smarter than the rest of us.
Newton, in his first game, threw for 422 yards and two touchdowns,
along with one interception. This came after he looked lost in
the preseason, leading many fantasy owners to pass on him, despite
the potential he had, especially to run the ball. The one thing
that Newton did well is find wide receiver Steve Smith, who caught
eight passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns, delighting the
fantasy owners who took a chance on Smith despite his declining
And there’s no doubt that Smith’s numbers will decline,
at least from Week 1 to this week, against a Packers secondary
that is far more talented than it showed against the Saints. They
were beaten badly by Drew Brees and his gaggle of offensive options,
but that simply won’t be the case for Newton and Smith this
Running Game Thoughts: DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart
make a dynamic running back duo, but they didn’t get much
going in Week 1. Williams ran for only 30 yards on 12 carries,
while Stewart had seven totes and trudged to 26 rushing yards.
It won’t get a lot easier for them against a stout Packers
run defense, one that held the Saints to 81 yards last week. So
while we think Williams and Stewart will eventually put up the
numbers we’re all used to seeing from them, it may not be
Cam Newton: 180 yds passing, 1 TD, 2 INT / 30 yds rushing
Steve Smith: 60 yds receiving, 1 TD
Brandon LaFell: 45 yds receiving
Greg Olsen: 40 yds receiving
Jeremy Shockey: 20 yds receiving
DeAngelo Williams: 55 yds rushing, 1 TD / 15 receiving yds
Jonathan Stewart: 40 yds rushing
Prediction: Packers 35, Panthers 17 ^ Top
Eagles @ Falcons
Game Thoughts: You can forget the fact that Michael Vick
completed less than half of his 32 pass attempts last week against
the Rams, or that he threw for just 187 yards. He was scintillating
as usual, with two touchdowns through the air, and made all the
plays you would expect out of him with his feet. He’ll never
have the biggest passing numbers, but that’s not what makes
him so special to fantasy owners.
He only had trouble when he was blitzed by the Rams, so if the
Falcons want to have any type of success, they’ll need to
follow that game plan. It will be emotional for Vick to be back
in Atlanta, so the Falcons will need to perform much better than
they did last week against the pass, when Jay Cutler threw for
over 300 yards and two scores and had a QB rating above 100.
Running Game Thoughts: As good as LeSean McCoy is, Vick is the
most dangerous runner the Eagles – or any team, for that
matter – currently has. He ran for 97 yards on 11 carries
against the Rams in Week 1, and constantly brought them first
downs when St. Louis had them at third and long. Those are the
type of plays that Vick’s fantasy owners drool over, but
so are 49-yard touchdown runs, like the one McCoy had in the fourth
quarter against the Rams. For the game, he ran for 122 yards and
Atlanta didn’t give up any rushing touchdowns to the Bears,
and in fact held them to 3.3 yards per carry, so that should make
McCoy’s fantasy owners stand up and take notice, but he’s
still a good play in this contest. The Falcons will key in on
Vick, and that should allow McCoy plenty of room to do his thing
whether he gets the ball on the ground or through the air.
Vick: 225 yds passing, 2 TD, 1 INT / 65 yds rushing, 1 TD
Jackson: 90 yds receiving, 1 TD
Maclin: 60 yds receiving, 1 TD
Avant: 30 yds receiving
Celek: 15 yds receiving
McCoy: 85 yds rushing, 2 TD / 25 yds receiving
Game Thoughts: Matt Ryan threw for 319 yards last week
against the Bears, but it took him 47 passes to do so, and that’s
not the way the Falcons are built to compete. Though Ryan’s
fantasy owners undoubtedly loved the yardage he put up, they probably
didn’t enjoy the fact that he didn’t connect for a
single touchdown in those nearly 50 throws. The owners of Roddy
White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez probably didn’t like
that very much either, and it will be tough for them to get a
lot going in this game as well.
The Eagles are very difficult to pass against, due to their nearly
impregnable cornerback triumvirate of Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante
Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. They held the Rams to
188 passing yards last week, and though the Falcons have infinitely
better playmakers out wide than St. Louis, it’ll still be
a difficult task for the likes of White and Jones.
Running Game Thoughts: Michael Turner ran for 100 yards on 10
carries last week against Chicago, though he didn’t quite
live up to his “Burner” nickname after being caught
from behind with nothing but open field in front of him. If not
for that, and the fact that the Falcons were down so big, his
day would have been much bigger.
And it may in fact be very big this week because the Eagles are
vulnerable in the running game. That was made evident when Steven
Jackson ran for a 47-yard touchdown on the Rams’ very first
play from scrimmage, and when he went out with an injury, Cadillac
Williams came out of the garage to run for 91 yards on 19 carries.
Philly can be pushed around, and the Falcons surely know this,
so fantasy owners who own Turner should expect to see a heavy
dose of their guy pounding the rock, and making things happen.
Ryan: 220 yds passing, 1 TD, 1 INT
White: 80 yds receiving
Jones: 55 yds receiving
Gonzalez: 50 yds receiving, 1 TD
Turner: 115 yds rushing, 2 TD / 15 yds receiving
Snelling: 25 yds rushing / 10 yds receiving
Prediction: Eagles 31, Falcons 27 ^ Top
Cowboys @ 49ers
Game Thoughts: While there is a storm of debate over Tony
Romo’s ability to win games, there is little doubt about
his fantasy value. With two of the best 15 WRs and arguably the
leagues 2nd or 3rd best TE, The Cowboys offense and Romo are lethal.
Dez Bryant was nicked up from a thigh bruise but is listed as
probable to play. Miles Austin seems to have made it through week
one without any hamstring setbacks, so all systems are go.
The 49ers have a big physical corner in Carlos Rogers that can
match up athletically with either of Bryant or Austin. If last
week is an indication, they may elect to put him on Bryant rather
than Miles. Whoever doesn’t draw Rogers is going to have
a big advantage and likely very productive day facing smallish
Terrell Brown and Tramaine Brock. Both of who are more suited
for the slot in Nickel coverage, not matching up against the big
receivers that Dallas employs. San Fran will look to zone up and
disguise blitzes to cover up their weakness but I don’t
like their chances. Dallas just threw up and down the field on
one of the best pass defenses in the league in the Jets, and is
motivated having lost the close game. The Niners generally cover
TEs well, so this isn’t a match-up that favors TE Jason
Witten, though he’s not someone to bench because of the
high volume of targets and his talents. It may not be and all
out track meet, but the Cowboys will score enough to overcome
anything the 49ers muster up offensively.
Running Game Thoughts: I’m sure they would love to get
RB Felix Jones going after a sub par outing against the Jets,
but the 49ers defense led by MLB Patrick Willis is another tough
run defense. Look for Dallas to try to get Felix into open spaces
through screens, draws, and sweeps, away from the lurking Willis.
Willis can roam free with the very large Isaac Sopoaga manning
the nose in front of him. The new Cowboy line is smaller and quicker,
which is great in protecting Romo but not ideal in moving a huge
NT off the point. Sopoaga and Willis should control the middle
Tony Romo: 315 yds passing, 3 TDs / 1 Int.
Miles Austin: 95 yds receiving / 1 TD
Dez Bryant: 80 yds receiving
Jason Witten: 65 yds receiving / 1 TD
Felix Jones: 65 yds rushing, 1 TD / 40 yds receiving
Game Thoughts: The passing game is how you attack the Cowboys,
which isn’t strength for the 49ers with Alex Smith at QB.
They didn’t throw much against Seattle and didn’t
really need to once they got out to an early lead. They have some
nice weapons in Josh Morgan and Braylon Edwards that should be
capable of beating the 2nd string CBs Dallas is throwing out with
starters Terrence Newman and Mike Jenkins hurting. Jenkins played
last week but was in and out of the game. Newman missed with a
groin and is still questionable.
The key will be protection. Can San Francisco give Smith time
to exploit the Cowboys secondary? LT Joe Staley vs. DeMarcus Ware
is the match-up to watch. Ware wreaks havoc on opposing QBs and
Alex Smith seems to struggle with pocket presence and pressure.
Ware will get to him or occupy enough attention to free up the
others. Smith will be flustered enough to keep the Niners from
consistent drives. The benefactor of pressure will be Frank Gore
and TE Vernon Davis. Both will see lots of targets as the Niners
play from behind and Smith feels the heat of the pass rush.
Running Game Thoughts: After getting shutdown by the Seahawks
Week 1 there is some concern over the prospects for Frank Gore
in 2011. Gore has made a career feasting on Seattle. It’s
a bit soon to a make sweeping judgments with players that have
been consistently elite producers. Teams like the 49ers that had
limited time to install new coaching systems are prone to get
off to slow starts. The Cowboys aren’t as big and physical
as the Seahawks, and they play a 3-4 base. They are typically
tougher to run on but in this case, I think it helps the Niners
establish some rush lanes.
Alex Smith: 245 yds passing, 1 TDs, 1 INT / 25 yards rushing
Braylon Edwards: 40 yds receiving, 1 TD
Josh Morgan: 40 yds receiving
Vernon Davis: 85 yds receiving
Frank Gore: 65 yds rushing / 45 yds receiving / 1 TD
Prediction: Cowboys 24, 49ers 17 ^ Top
Bengals @ Broncos
Game Thoughts: Well first of all, the fantasy points allowed
are skewed from playing the heavy run-based offense of the Raiders
week one. However, the Bengals are similar to Oakland. They will
be limited in the passing game as they break in Rookie QB Andy
Dalton. To do so they employ a lot of high percentage routes like
screens, slants, and checks to the TE Gresham. The Bengals still
targeted their WRs often enough to make them effective. Jerome
Simpson saw 9 targets, and talented rookie A.J. Green just missed
on a deep post. There is more than a little chance that Andy Dalton
sits this game out after jamming up his wrist last week. Bruce
Gradkowski won’t change the game plan or statistics much.
The Broncos took a page out of the Green Bay plan. Much like
the Packers use Charles Woodson, Champ Bailey (hamstring) was
moved all around the field, in the slot and outside. Bailey is
still dangerous and can be aggressive if Dalton or Gradkowski
get caught staring down his primary target. The Broncos strength
is the pass rush combo of Dumervil and Miller. That advantage
is somewhat limited if Dalton is getting rid of the ball quick.
They will also be slowed be LT Joe Thomas, perhaps the best tackle
in the game with apologies to Jake Long.
Running Game Thoughts: The Raiders ran all over the Broncos who
have been drafting defense for three years and still can’t
stop the run. Nate Irving drafted in the third round this year
was supposed to step in at MLB but has not won the job. With Cedric
Benson coming of a big 125 yard day, he looks to be in for another
full dose of carries. By running effectively on downs one and
two the Bengals can keep Dalton from having to do too much. As
long as the Cincinnati defense keeps the Broncos from getting
out to a multiple possession lead the Bengals will pound Benson.
Andy Dalton: 215 yds passing, 1 TDs / 1 INT
A.J. Green: 55 yds receiving
Jerome Simpson: 70 yds receiving
Jermaine Gresham: 65 yds receiving / 1 TD
Cedric Benson: 115 yds rushing, 1 TD
Game Thoughts: No player in the league would rather be
playing on the road this week than Kyle Orton. He will yet again
have his hands full with a talented pair of Bengals cornerbacks
and the Denver crowd cheering for a Tim Tebow entrance. The organization
has to be discouraged they didn’t move on this offseason.
If they bench Orton they lose the locker room and several more
games; if they don’t they lose their fan base. Tough situation.
To make things worse, Orton may be without his star WR Brandon
Lloyd due to a groin strain. If he sits, Eric Decker makes a decent
fill in and gets his best shot to make a name for himself. He
is a big target and plays the ball in the air well but overall
the advantage goes the Bengals CBs Nate Clements - a veteran corner
and one of the more physical coverage guys at his position.
Running Game Thoughts: With or without Lloyd, Denver will need
to do a better job than they did versus the Raiders in establishing
a ground attack. However, starting tailback Knowshon Moreno is
questionable with a sore hammy. I want to find some reasons that
Denver wins this game, but it’s tough to see where their
points come from. If Moreno is slowed, one of my favorite college
players, Willis McGahee, will fill in. He’s crafty at this
point in his career but not explosive.
The Bengals did a solid job of bottling up Madden cover boy Peyton
Hillis. That seems like a bigger challenge than what Denver presents.
Great news for Browns that MLB D’Qwell Jackson is back and
looked like he hadn’t missed a beat after missing almost
the entire 2010 season. Jackson led the way with 11 tackles last
week and should be an IDP machine.
Kyle Orton: 245 yds passing, 1 TDs, 1 INT
Eddie Royal: 40 yds receiving
Brandon Lloyd: 70 yds receiving / 1 TD
Daniel Fells: 35 yds receiving
Knowshon Moreno: 65 yds rushing / 35 yds receiving
Willis McGahee: 25 yds / 1 TD
Prediction: Denver 20, Bengals 17 ^ Top
Cardinals @ Redskins
Game Thoughts: Kevin Kolb put up better numbers in Week
1 this season (309 yards, 2 TDs) than all of the atrocious quarterbacks
the team trotted out there last season put up in sixteen weeks.
Ok, hyperbole aside, and in all seriousness, the Cardinals got
everything they wanted when they made the offseason move to acquire
a new quarterback. Kolb was poised and accurate and surprisingly
put up those numbers without involving star receiver Larry Fitzgerald
in the game plan very much. Early Doucet was thought to be the
heir apparent to Anquan Boldin for years, but his inability to
stay healthy hurt his ability to contribute consistently. He caught
three balls for over 100 yards last week and just may finally
live up to his potential now that the team has a franchise-type
quarterback and has opened the door to playing time for him.
The Redskins’ secondary was hit-and-miss last week, but
the team did manage to put a lot of pressure on Eli Manning (4
sacks). If that trend continues, they should at least be an average
pass defense, as there is some talent in the secondary—even
if that talent is slightly over-rated. Last season the Redskins
were better than only the historically bad Houston Texans, finishing
as the 31st-ranked pass defense, so there really isn’t anywhere
to go but up. Rookie linebacker Ryan Kerrigan got off to a good
start, making the play of the game when he tipped a Manning pass
and returned it for a touchdown. The team will head into Week
2 with a renewed confidence.
Running Game Thoughts: After two years of struggling through
injuries and lack of trust by the coaching staff, Beanie Wells
was finally handed the starting gig this offseason and took advantage
of the opportunity right away. Wells rushed for 90 yards on Sunday,
including a seven-yard scamper into the end zone, and looked the
part of an NFL feature back. Wells has the rare size and speed
combination that some of the best backs in the league possess,
and if he can stay healthy, he should end the season with well
over 1,000 yards and double-digit TDs. He was even used a bit
in the passing game, catching four balls on the day. With only
the undersized LaRod Stephens-Howling and the aging Chester Taylor
behind him on the depth chart, expect a bell-cow workload every
week for Wells.
The Washington run defense held the Giants to only 78 yards rushing
last week and looks to be much improved over last season’s
poor unit. Defensive tackle Barry Cofield is a strong inside presence
that should help the interior line, and ageless inside linebacker
London Fletcher just keeps making tackles. LaRon Landry, a safety
much more useful in stopping the run than in pass protection,
missed last week’s contest, making the team’s showing
that much more impressive. His return will only help the overall
Kolb: 255 yds passing 2 TDs
Fitzgerald: 95 yds receiving, 1 TD
Roberts: 30 yds receiving
Doucet: 70 yds receiving, 1 TD
Heap: 25 yds receiving
Wells: 85 yds rushing, 1 TD / 15 yds receiving
Taylor: 15 yards rushing / 15 yards receiving
Game Thoughts: Rex Grossman (305 yards, 2 TDs) performed
very well in Week 1, outplaying Eli Manning and getting a W for
his team. Rex handled the Giants’ pressure well and threw
accurate passes to his two wideouts, Santana Moss and Jabar Gafney.
Gafney, Grossman’s former college teammate, caught a nicely
thrown fade pass in the end zone for one score while No. 3 receiver
Anthony Armstrong hauled in another. The real star of the day,
however, was backup (for now) tight end Fred Davis, who, despite
Chris Cooley’s being able to play, caught five balls for
105 yards. Davis has great downfield speed for his size and more
athleticism than the aging Cooley; don’t be surprised if
he ends up being the TE to own in Washington this year.
What can you say about a pass defense that allowed a rookie,
thought to be a project as a passer, to throw for over 400 yards
in his pro debut? The answer may contain a few words that FFToday
Mike may frown upon printing in this piece. Rookie Patrick Peterson
looked good in the return game but was beat repeatedly on the
defensive side of the ball. Steve Smith was left wide open for
a 77-yard touchdown in the first quarter, on his way to a 178-yard
and two-touchdown day. The blitz just wasn’t getting to
Cam Newton, allowing him to find mismatches all day. Rex Grossman
couldn’t ask for a better matchup as he attempts to follow
up on his solid opening-day performance.
Running Game Thoughts: Tim Hightower wasn’t as effective
as he was during his stellar preseason, but he did get the job
done to the tune of 97 total yards with a rushing score. The “Mike
Shananhan loves RBBCs” rhetoric was put to rest for one
week at least, as the only other back to receive a carry (and
only one at that) was rookie Roy Helu. Shanahan may work Helu
in a little more as the season progresses, but for now this is
the Tim Hightower show. And this week Hightower gets to run against
the team that jettisoned him to Washington in the offseason. Expect
him to run hard, as usual, and once again put up some nice numbers.
Last week the Cardinals stacked the box to try to stop D’Angelo
Williams and Jonathan Stewart from running on them, daring the
rookie under center to beat them. You know how well that strategy
paid off. They did hold the dynamic Carolina duo to just 56 yards
rushing, but they may need to rethink that strategy this week
as they face a more balanced offense. Teams were able to run well
against Arizona’s defense last season, so expecting them
to shut down Hightower is unrealistic, unless they want Rex to
go off for over 400 yards as well.
Rex Grossman: 295 yds passing, 2 TDs, 1 INT / 10 yards rushing
Santana Moss: 70 yds receiving, 1 TD
Jabar Gaffney: 45 yds receiving
Anthony Armstrong: 30 yards receiving
Chris Cooley: 25 yards receiving, 1 TD
Fred Davis: 85 yds receiving
Tim Hightower: 85 yds rushing, 2 TDs / 30 yds receiving
Roy Helu: 20 yds rushing
Prediction: Redskins 31 Arizona
24 ^ Top
Jaguars @ Jets
Game Thoughts: For the second time during his tenor as
head coach in Jacksonville, Jack Del Rio shocked football fans
by cutting his starting quarterback right before the season started.
While David Garrard was not a true franchise quarterback, he did
have some success in Jacksonville and likely deserved better.
In steps Luke McCown, younger brother of mediocre journeyman Josh
McCown. Luke kept the McCown family reputation intact by throwing
for a very uninspiring 175 yards with no TDs. The Jacksonville
passing attack is one of the least exciting in the NFL, but it
does possess some talent in the diminutive, quick, and strong
receiver Mike Thomas and the big, sure-handed tight end Mercedes
Lewis. Still, not much to see here folks, especially if Lewis
is forced to miss the game. He’s currently listed as questionable.
The New York Jets were the sixth-ranked pass defense in the NFL
last season, but they allowed Tony Romo and the Cowboys to move
the ball against them last Sunday night. Darrelle Revis moved
back and forth between covering Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, limiting
Bryant to one catch against him and shutting down Austin. However,
Antonio Cromartie allowed each to grab a touchdown—although
in fairness he couldn’t have defended either score much
better than he did. The Jets still have some issues defending
the middle of the field, but if last week was any indication,
they should improve in that regard. This week looks like a fairly
easy matchup for the their pass defense in what should be a low-scoring
Running Game Thoughts: Raise your hand if the constant negative
news regarding Maurice Jones-Drew’s surgically repaired
knee resulted in your avoiding him at all costs in fantasy leagues
this year. You can’t see it, but my hand is raised. MJD
did prove his doubters wrong—for the time being, at least—by
rushing for 97 yards in Week 1, which included a 21-yard touchdown.
Rashard Jennings was lost to a knee injury of his own this offseason,
leaving Deji Karim, who looks like an MJD clone, as the Jaguars’
backup running back. Kareem has looked good when given the chance,
and owning him should make MJD owners feel a whole lot more secure.
The Jaguars should rely on the running game more heavily than
ever this season.
The Jets were the third-ranked run defense in 2010, and they
bottled up Felix Jones reasonably well last week. Sione Pouha
eats up a lot of space in the interior of the line and the tandem
of inside linebackers David Harris and Bart Scott look as solid
as ever. If the Jets are able to shut down the Jags’ running
game and force them to the air, they should easily win this game.
Luke McCown: 205 yds passing 1 TD, 2 Ints.
Mike Thomas: 55 yds receiving
Jason Hill: 20 yds receiving
Marcedes Lewis: 40 yds receiving, 1 TD
Maurice Jones-Drew: 65 yds rushing / 30 yds receiving
Deji Karim: 15 yards rushing / 45 yards receiving
Game Thoughts: While Mark Sanchez still showed some inconsistency
and was responsible for a few turnovers, he did show the team
that he could lead them to a victory even when their running game
was not working well. Sanchez threw for 335 yards and two TDs
on 44 pass attempts. Plaxico Burress got off to a slow start,
but he and Sanchez found some rhythm in the second half as they
connected for some longer strikes, including a down-the-sideline,
back-shoulder touchdown reception by Burress. Sanchez also found
his favorite target, tight end Dustin Keller, for a score in the
first half on a very nicely placed ball in the back of the end
zone. With the running game not quite gelling yet, it may be necessary
for Sanchez to carry the offense for the first few games. As the
season progresses, I expect Sanchez to grow more and more as a
The Jaguars struggled last season to stop the pass, ranking 28th
in the NFL (250.3 ypg and 28 TDs). Things haven’t changed
so far, as the team allowed veteran Matt Hasselbeck and wide receiver
Kenny Britt to move the ball through the air last week. The defensive
line failed to get consistent pressure on the quarterback, exposing
the Jacksonville’s below-average secondary. Expect teams
to consistently attack the Jags through the air all season.
Running Game Thoughts: The Jets were not effective running the
ball last week, as Shonn Green was constantly met in the backfield
after taking the handoff. Greene isn’t the type of back
that has a lot of wiggle or quickness, and he was unable to make
anything happen on his own. Right tackle Wayne Hunter, who is
replacing the retired Damien Woody, struggled to clear a path
for Greene and fellow back LaDainian Tomlinson, and the rest of
the O-line wasn’t all that much better. Perhaps it had something
to do with Rex Ryan’s twin brother Rob knowing his tendencies
and employing many run blitzes; in any case, the Jets can’t
afford to lose their identity and must do a better job creating
running lanes. Ryan said after the game that a 44-to-18 pass-to-run
ratio will not happen again, and I tend to believe him.
The Jaguars controlled dynamic back Chris Johnson last week—although
that could have been because Johnson received only nine carries
on the day. The Jags have shored up their front seven during the
last two offseasons and should be tough to run on, nevertheless.
The team was heavily criticized for “reaching” for
defensive tackle Tyson Alualu in the 2009 draft, but the move
has worked out well thus far as he’s been quite disruptive
along the line. They also added former Bills inside linebacker
Paul Posluszny, who has had issues staying healthy but has never
had issues making tackles.
Mark Sanchez: 265 yds passing, 1 TD, 1 Int. / 10 yards rushing
Santonio Holmes: 85 yds receiving, 1 TD
Plaxico Burress: 60 yds receiving
Derrick Mason: 20 yards receiving
Dustin Keller: 45 yds receiving
Shonn Greene: 75 yds rushing, 1 TD / 5 yds receiving
LaDainian Tomlinson: 40 yds rushing / 35 yds receiving
Prediction: Jets 20, Jaguars 10
Texans @ Dolphins
Game Thoughts: Over the last two seasons, Houston has changed
its identity from a high-flying passing attack into a more grounded
offense, which has limited quarterback Matt Shaub’s numbers
to some degree. Shaub is still a good NFL quarterback, but from
a fantasy perspective, he’ll be very inconsistent as long
as the team relies heavily on their successful ground game. Andre
Johnson is a beast that most defensive backs just can not cover,
so he’ll still get his—especially since Houston has
never really been able to find that second receiver to lineup
opposite him. Kevin Walter was believed to have suffered a broken
collar bone, but recent news states it’s just a bruised
chest and he may even be back this week, although its likely he
misses at least a game or two. Jacoby Jones has always had loads
of potential but has yet to put together a full solid season.
Over the next two weeks he’ll get a chance to step up and
show that the sum can be equal to his parts. Tight end Owen Daniels
was disappointing for his owners in his return from last season’s
injury, but his lack of production is likely due to the Texans’
big halftime lead over the Colts, which allowed them to run the
clock off during the entire second half.
Miami faced a New England buzzsaw in Week 1 as they gave up over
500 passing yards to Tom Brady and his minions. The Dolphins’
young defense was one of the highlights of last season, however,
and my guess is that this was a one-week aberration and they will
bounce back. The team finished eighth and allowed only 209 yards
per game and 22 TDs against the pass in 2010. Undersized defensive
end Cameron Wake (only 236 pounds) had trouble early with rookie
offensive tackle Nate Solder, but his persistence paid off as
he eventually started making plays. Cornerback Vontae Davis suffered
cramping and missed a big chunk of last week’s game, which
certainly didn’t help stem the rolling Pats passing attack.
Things better turn around quickly starting this week, or the Phins
could find themselves in an uphill battle chasing the Pats and
Jets in the AFC East.
Running Game Thoughts: No Arian Foster. No problem. Foster’s
hamstring injury kept him out of last week’s contest, but
veteran Derek Ward and second-year back Ben Tate stepped in and
combined for over 150 yards and two TDs. Tate did most of that
damage after Ward left the game with an ankle injury. He looked
fast and powerful and one can only wonder what would have happened
if he hadn’t succumbed to a knee injury in the preseason
of his rookie year. Would Arian Foster have become a household
name in the fantasy community if Tate had stayed healthy? Foster
has been practicing and looks like he will be ready for Week 2,
but fantasy owners will need to follow the news and set their
The Miami run defense was even better than their fine pass defense
in 2010, as they allowed only 100.1 yards per game and a mere
eight rushing TDs. Last week they weren’t really tested
on the ground since the Pats were able to throw at will, but they
performed well when called upon. Expect the Texans to test the
Dolphins’ run defense much more this week in what will be
a key divisional matchup.
Matt Schaub: 205 yds passing 1 TD
Andre Johnson: 85 yds receiving, 1 TD
Jacoby Jones: 30 yds receiving
Owen Daniels: 50 yds receiving, 1 TD
Arian Foster: 85 yds rushing, 1 TD / 35 yards receiving
Ben Tate: 35 yards rushing, 1 TD / 5 yards receiving
Game Thoughts: Chad Henne looked the part for most of Week
1, and while he put up monster statistics, most of them came while
the Dolphins were in full catch-up mode. Fantasy owners, of course,
only care that Henne had a hell of a game statistically—416
yards passing and two TDs while also leading the team in rushing
with 59 yards and another score on the ground. Henne looked more
comfortable in the pocket and made an effort to get Brandon Marshall
more involved. He did show some of his downside in the red zone,
where his passes to Marshall were off the mark or poor choices.
He didn’t throw the ball where his receiver could out-leap
the defensive backs, thus failing to take advantage of Marshall’s
height and athleticism. Brian Hartline was a lot more involved
in the offense than last season, but that may not be the case
on a week-to-week basis. However, he could make for an interesting
pick-up because Miami seems more focused on passing the ball this
Houston was one of the worst all-time passing defenses last season,
but they made some changes to improve their dismal unit. They
signed arguably the second-best corner on the market in Jonathan
Joseph, picked up free safety Daniel Manning, and hired Wade Phillips
as defensive coordinator. Did it work? The answer is still unknown,
despite very positive results in Week 1. Kerry Collins looked
like an old man that rolled off his couch just a few short weeks
ago (which makes sense because that is indeed the case), so it’s
hard to say the defense was really challenged. This week will
be more telling.
Running Game Thoughts: The Phins stubbornly tried to make Reggie
Bush something he’s not: a feature back. Not surprisingly,
Bush struggled to run inside and only looked effective when used
on screen passes. The team had little choice, however, as Daniel
Thomas sat out with hamstring issues. They were so desperate for
bodies, in fact, that they brought 31-year-old Larry Johnson in
on a guaranteed contract. In Bush’s defense, a lot of running
backs struggle to run against Vince Wilfork and Jerrod Mayo. Bush
can be a very effective weapon as a target out of the backfield
and will continue to run behind a very good O-line, so fantasy
success is still more than possible. Still, the team will need
Thomas to recover or for either Larry Johnson or Lex Hilliard
to step up as the power back, or it will be tough for the Dolphins
to extend drives.
Houston’s extremely poor pass defense made their run defense
appear respectable last season, finishing 13th in the rankings.
Once again, last week was not the game to gauge how successful
the team can be this season, as the Colts were down big in a hurry
and unable to establish a running game. The defense is loaded
with young talent, and with the mind of Phillips running the show,
don’t be surprised if they do turn it around quickly.
Chad Henne: 255 yds passing, 2 TDs, 1 INT / 20 yards rushing
Brandon Marshall: 80 yds receiving, 1 TD
Davone Bess: 40 yds receiving
Brian Hartline: 40 yards receiving
Anthony Fasano: 35 yds receiving, 1 TD
Larry Johnson: 25 yds rushing / 5 yds receiving
Reggie Bush: 40 yds rushing / 35 yds receiving
Prediction: Texans 24, Dolphins
20 ^ Top
Chargers @ Patriots
Game Thoughts: Phillip Rivers had his typical game last
week: 335 yards passing and two TDs (although he did also throw
two picks). The San Diego offense has all its pieces back in place
this season after being devastated by holdouts and injuries in
2010. Since Rivers didn’t skip a beat while throwing to
the likes of Patrick Crayton, Seyi Ajirotutu, and Randy McMichael
last season, it was one of the safer bets in the NFL that he would
come out firing right away. This time it was tight end Antonio
Gates and running backs Ryan Matthews and Mike Tolbert who were
responsible for the bulk of the passing yards. Wideout Malcom
Floyd saw a team-high eight targets but only caught three of them
while Vincent Jackson was held to 31 yards on two receptions.
Seeing as Brandon Marshall, a receiver built like Jackson, was
able to abuse the Pats secondary last week, don’t be surprised
if Jackson bounces right back and leads the way in Week 2.
The Patriots’ pass defense picked right up where it left
off last season, which isn’t a good thing. They finished
last year ranked 30th in the NFL, allowing 258.5 yards per game
and 25 passing TDs. In Week 1, the Pats allowed Chad Henne to
break the 400-yard mark. Even when the game was still in hand,
Henne was able to move the ball against the Pats, as the talented
Devin McCourtney found Brandon Marhsall just a little too big
and strong for him. This week the team will face two other big,
strong receivers in Jackson and Floyd and will also have to account
for Gates in the middle of the field. If San Diego can get rolling
early, they could pull off the upset here.
Running Game Thoughts: Ryan Mathews had a solid debut in his
sophomore season but was overshadowed in fantasy circles by his
backfield mate, Mike Tolbert, who scored three times on Sunday.
Mathews rushed for 45 yards on 12 carries (3.7 ypc) and added
73 yards receiving on three catches (24.3 ypc). However, it was
the bruising Tolbert who made fantasy waves despite only rushing
for 35 yards on his own 12 carries (2.91 ypc). Touchdowns will
help fantasy owners ignore a low ypc. Tolbert was also targeted
often, ending up with 58 receiving yards on nine receptions (6.44
ypc). It’s clear that this will be a RBBC for the season,
with Tolbert getting the valuable red zone work and the receptions.
Mathews is capable of contributing in both aspects, but in order
to increase his usage, he’ll need to excel when given the
The Miami running attack was largely unsuccessful against the
Patriots in Week 1. Vince Wilfork played extremely well, as usual,
but the Dolphins running game leaves a lot to be desired while
featuring Reggie Bush. The speed and power combinations both Mathews
and Tolbert bring to the table should create a far greater challenge
to Jarrod Mayo and his boys.
Philip Rivers: 355 yds passing 3 TDs
Vincent Jackson: 105 yds receiving, 1 TD
Malcom Floyd: 60 yds receiving, 1 TD
Antonio Gates: 80 yds receiving, 1 TD
Ryan Mathews: 85 yds rushing, 1 TD / 20 yards receiving
Mike Tolbert: 35 yards rushing / 45 yards receiving
Game Thoughts: Perhaps Tom Brady heard the accolades being
heaped upon rookie quarterback Cam Newton for his 422 yards in
his first NFL start. Perhaps he realized that, after 11 years
in the league, he had yet to eclipse that mark. The typical Brady
response? Throwing for over 500 yards, of course. Second year
tight ends Rob Gronkowksi and Aaron Hernandez were the focal points
of the offense, much like last season, and both were on the receiving
end of one of Brady’s four touchdown passes. The other two
went to the diminutive Wes Welker, who showed during a 99-yard
catch and run for a score that he is obviously fully recovered
from his ACL injury of 2009. Chad Ochocinco was an afterthought
in the offense and, frankly, he just didn’t look all that
good when the team attempted to get him involved, which wasn’t
very often. His owners should be looking to sell based on name
recognition. With his diminished skills, his learning curve on
the complicated playbook, and the plethora of other weapons at
Brady’s disposal, productive games for Ocho will be few
and far between.
In a week where 14 quarterbacks exceeded 300 yards (including
four who shot past the 400-yard mark), Donovan McNabb managed
to throw for 39 yards against the Chargers. Wow! San Diego was
the league’s top-ranked pass defense in 2010, and they are
off to a great head start in defending that title in 2011. This
week could bring them back to the pack a bit, but don’t
think this will automatically be a cakewalk for Brady and the
Running Game Thoughts: BenJarvis Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead
weren’t exactly a “sexy” backfield last season,
and when the Patriots drafted two rookie runners in the first
three rounds of the draft, most thought Green-Ellis and Woodhead’s
days were numbered. Woodhead, a runner out of Chadron State with
elite speed, got the bulk of the carries in Week 1, but Green-Ellis
was heavily involved as well and added another power touchdown
run to his highlight reel. Expect Belichick to use BJGE early
to soften up the Chargers' defense before unleashing his aerial
attack. Woodhead is a great option for the team out if the backfield
and is difficult to find behind his blockers. If the Pats find
the San Diego pass defense a difficult nut to crack, the two runners
may be a bigger part of the game plan than normal.
The San Diego run defense wasn’t nearly as impressive as
their pass defense last week, but they still managed to hold their
own against one of the best backs in the league. They held Adrian
Peterson to 98 yards and kept him out of the end zone. They did
lose Luis Castillo, their big defensive lineman, for the season
last week and will have a tough time replacing him. That could
end up being a big blow to team’s run defense, starting
as soon as this week.
Tom Brady: 275 yds passing 2 TDs
Chad Ochocinco: 45 yds receiving
Wes Welker: 60 yds receiving
Deion Branch: 30 yds receiving, 1 TD
Rob Gronkowski: 40 yds receiving, 1 TD
Aaron Hernandez: 60 yards receiving
BenJarvis Green-Ellis: 55 yds rushing, 1 TD
Danny Woodhead: 35 yards rushing / 25 yards receiving
Prediction: Chargers 31, Patriots
27 ^ Top
Oakland @ Buffalo
Game Thoughts: I mentioned previously how McNabb’s
stats stood out like a sore thumb in a week where 14 quarterbacks
exceeded 300 yards. Jason Campbell joins McNabb in that notoriety
after throwing for only 100 yards in Week 1. Campbell is a decent
quarterback and was playing in terrible weather conditions, so
we should all expect more from him going forward. Wide receiver
Jacoby Ford suffered a hamstring injury and will likely miss this
week’s game, opening the door for preseason rookie standout
Denarius Moore. Darius Heyward-Bey has had the “bust”
label thrown at him ever since the Raiders spent the seventh overall
pick to draft him. While he put up numbers this past week, he
didn’t look all that good in doing so. His biggest problem
seems to be that he’s a “body catcher,” which
has and may continue to lead to some devastating drops. He does
have the speed to make big plays though, and Campbell has a strong
arm, so with the Raider receiving corps devastated by injuries
thus far, keep an eye on DHB.
The Bills came out in the season opener and stomped the Kansas
City Chiefs, annihilating their passing attack in the process.
Was that an aberration? Time will tell, but the Bills did play
the pass reasonably well last season—as teams ran all over
them—and they could be the team that comes from nowhere
this season to shock the masses. Matt Cassel was suffering from
a broken rib injury, so perhaps we shouldn’t get all that
excited quite yet.
Running Game Thoughts: Darren McFadden picked right up where
his breakout 2010 season left off as he stampeded his way to 150
yards against the remodeled Broncos defense. McFadden has top-level
speed and has learned to use a forward body lean when initiating
contact rather than keep to his upright running style at all times.
This has been the difference between his gaining valuable yards
after contact and his being knocked backwards by defenders, which
consistently occurred during his first two disappointing seasons.
McFadden is ripe for a big game this week.
The Bills were the worst run defense in the league last season,
allowing 169.6 yards per game and 18 scores on the ground. They
made some preseason moves to help out in this area, specifically
drafting defensive lineman Marcell Dareus and signing former Packer
linebacker Nick Barnett. While they should improve a bit this
year, they will more than likely continue to struggle defending
the run, at least until the unit gels.
Jason Campbell: 215 yds passing 1 TD / 20 yards rushing
Darrius Heyward-Bey: 45 yds receiving
Denarius Moore: 60 yds receiving, 1 TD
Kevin Boss: 20 yds receiving
Darren McFadden: 125 yds rushing, 1 TD / 20 yards receiving
Michael Bush: 35 yards rushing / 45 yards receiving
Game Thoughts: Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was probably
the biggest surprise of the 2010 fantasy season. On a points-per-game
basis he sat behind only Michael Vick and Philip Rivers for much
of the season before fading a bit down the stretch. Some thought
last season may have just been an aberration (hiding my head in
shame) because, while his raw stats seem nice, a closer look reveals
that his yards per attempt were very poor compared to other quarterbacks.
In other words, his stats had more to do with volume than talent.
Fitzpatrick took the first step in proving his doubters wrong
by throwing four TDs to open the season. A player whose talent
I didn’t doubt, Stevie Johnson, caught one of those TDs
as part of his 66-yard day. One of the other players on the receiving
end of a Fitzpatrick TD (two of them, in fact) probably surprised
a good percentage of the fantasy football community. Journeyman
tight end Scott Chandler had a career day as he hauled in those
scores. Chandler was likely a hot waiver wire pick up this week,
but more two-touchdown days will likely be hard to come by.
Oakland lost their star cornerback this offseason to the Philadelphia
Eagles but should still be a solid overall unit. Stanford Routt
and Chris Johnson are obviously a drop off from Nnamdi Asomugha,
but they are solid corners in their own right, helped by the fact
that Oakland can generate some heat on opposing quarterbacks.
Running Game Thoughts: Fred Jackson has been one of the more
underrated running backs for years now. All he has done is produce
when called upon, while fans talk about guys like Marshawn Lynch
and C.J. Spiller being the ones that should see the bulk of the
carries. Jackson has great instincts and vision and hits the small
creases (notice I didn’t say “holes”) hard.
He’s also a better-than-average receiver out of the backfield—the
only skill set that backup C.J. Spiller has shown he’s capable
of so far in his short NFL career. Either ownership or the front
office or the coaching staff pushed hard for Spiller to take over
the lead back role this offseason, much to Jackson’s dismay,
but the veteran convincingly proved who the better back was, and
the team had no choice but the commit to him.
The Raiders were the 29th-ranked run defense in 2010, but they
shut down the Broncos’ rushing attack last week. The team
hadn’t done much to address the issue in the preseason,
so the Week 1 performance may speak more to the performances of
Knowshon Moreno and Willis McGahee than to an Oakland improvement.
The Raiders do have a solid defensive line, and inside linebacker
Rolando McClain was thought highly of coming out of Alabama, so
there’s hope in Oaktown that Week 1 is the start of a trend
and not an outlier.
Ryan Fitzpatrick: 265 yds passing 2 TDs, 1 Int. / 30 yards rushing
Steve Johnson: 85 yds receiving, 1 TD
Donald Jones: 40 yds receiving
David Nelson: 40 yds receiving, 1 TD
Scott Chandler: 20 yds receiving
Fred Jackson: 95 yds rushing, 1 TD / 15 yards receving
C.J. Spiller: 25 yards rushing / 25 yards receiving
Prediction: Bills 24, Raiders 17
Rams @ Giants
Game Thoughts: The State of Missouri exhaled when it was
announced that quarterback Sam Bradford had merely suffered a
bruised finger on his throwing hand and not nerve damage as originally
reported. Bradford faced the new-look Eagles’s secondary
in Week 1 and ended the day in a very disappointing fashion for
St. Louis fans and fantasy owners alike. There will be better
days. Perhaps even Monday, when he gets to face a very banged-up
Giants secondary. Bradford lost his go-to guy in Danny Amendola,
but, truth be told, Amendola isn’t really all that good.
He caught 85 balls last season but averaged well under 10 yards
per reception, showing a lack of elusiveness and run-after-the-catch
ability. He is replaceable and either rookie Greg Salas or veteran
Mike Sims-Walker will take on his role. Rookie tight end Lance
Kendricks had an outstanding preseason but a disappointing first
week. The youngster has a load of ability and may be the beneficiary
of Amendola’s lost targets. Brandon Gibson only saw one
catch (but it was a deep one) and is considered to be the Rams’
No. 1 receiver. Gibson has the size and speed to take advantage
of the Giants’ reserve defensive backs. The bright lights
of Monday Night Football may just introduce him to the nation.
The Giants’ pass defense was overmatched against Rex Grossman,
Anthony Armstrong, Jabar Gafney, and Santana Moss last week, which
begs the question: “Can the Giants stop anybody?”
They get Justin Tuck back this week, which will help put pressure
on Sam Bradford, but the secondary is very shaky right now after
the loss of cornerbacks Terrell Thomas and Prince Amukamara. The
Giants shifted safety Antrel Rolle over to cornerback in some
packages last week, but his speed has seen better days and it
often led to mismatches. The one saving grace for the Giants may
be that the Rams lack any special talent among their wide receivers.
That didn’t really stop the Skins last week, however.
Running Game Thoughts: Starting running back Steve Jackson was
forced to leave last week’s contest with a strained calf
after breaking off a long touchdown run. He is not expected to
play this week. The old, beat-up Cadillac Williams showed that
he still has some gas left in the tank (pun fully intended) with
his surprise performance in relief. Cadillac is a great guy to
root for after he has come back from many devastating knee injuries,
but one has to worry about his being able to hold up after back-to-back
weeks with nearly a full workload. The Rams are a pass-first attack
under normal circumstances, and it’s a safe bet that will
be even more of the case on Monday Night.
The Giants’ run defense performed well last week, holding
Tim Hightower to under four yards per carry. They swarmed to the
ball, and sixth-round rookie Greg Jones performed admirably after
being thrust prematurely into a starting middle linebacker role
because of Jonathan Goff’s season-ending injury. Expect
the Giants to win the battles in the trenches, forcing the Rams
to attack via the air—which should be their game plan anyway.
Sam Bradford: 265 yds passing, 2 TDs / 10 yards rushing
Brandon Gibson: 70 yds receiving, 1 TD
Mike Sims-Walker: 40 yds receiving
Greg Salas: 30 yards receiving
Lance Kendricks: 55 yds receiving, 1 TD
Cadillac Williams: 45 yds rushing / 25 yds receiving
Jerious Norwood: 20 yds rushing
Game Thoughts: Eli Manning struggled last week and never
looked comfortable against the Redskins. The Skins sacked him
four times and pressured him into making some poor decisions,
including a pass that was tipped, intercepted, and returned for
a touchdown by rookie Ryan Kerrigan. Hakeem Nicks was Manning’s
only target that was able to produce. Nicks suffered a knee injury
that looked as though it may keep him out of this week’s
game, but recent news indicates that he should play on Monday
Night. His owners may want to add Dominick Hixon, however, just
in case a last-minute change is necessary. Victor Cruz, a second-year
wide receiver out of UMass, has been so disappointing in his bid
to be the slot receiver that the team just signed veteran Brandon
Stokely to challenge him for playing time. During the Seahawks’
playoff run last year, Stokely showed that he still has some game
in him, and he could develop into a security blanket for Manning
once they gain some chemistry.
The Rams’ secondary is nearly as banged up as New York’s
and was abused last week by Vick and the Eagles. Last season they
allowed 223.6 yards per game and 21 TDs through the air, putting
them just in the second half of the league.
Running Game Thoughts: Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw got
off to good starts last week, but the Giants abandoned the run
early. That’s something that the team will look to rectify
this week. Talk is that the coaching staff wants to lift some
of the burden off Manning’s shoulders and run the ball often.
Curiously, the Giants used Bradshaw and not the hulking Jacobs
in short-yardage situations with less than stellar results. Don’t
be surprised to see that role reversed this week.
The Rams were a middle-of-the-pack run defense last year, allowing
113.1 yards per game, but they did manage to keep opposing running
backs out of the end zone. They allowed only seven TDs on the
ground in 2010. Last week LeSean McCoy broke off some big runs
as he put up 122 rushing yards. Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis
leads the way in pursuit for a team that has some issues clogging
the middle of the line. Despite facing a banged-up St. Louis secondary,
the Giants will try to exploit the Rams’ defensive line
issues and control the clock by running the ball. That battle
should play a large part in determining the final outcome of this
Eli Manning: 245 yds passing 2 TDs, 1 Int.
Hakeem Nicks: 75 yds receiving, 1 TD
Mario Manningham: 50 yds receiving, 1 TD
Domenik Hixon: 30 yds receiving
Jake Ballard: 15 yds receiving
Ahmad Bradshaw: 105 yds rushing / 25 yds receiving
Brandon Jacobs: 45 yards rushing, 1 TD / 15 yards receiving
Prediction: Giants 24, Rams 20
Seahawks @ Steelers
Game Thoughts: Honestly, and I don’t write this to
be cruel, but does Tarvaris Jackson have pictures of Pete Carroll
in uncompromising positions? There has to be a logical explanation
why Carroll thought so much of Jackson that he decided to make
him the team’s starting QB. Jackson is nothing more than
an average backup in this league, so for him to have the reins
of this offense is baffling. He showed his true colors last week
in the first half against San Francisco when he led an offense
that mustered only 37 total yards. That won’t get it done.
Now he gets to go on the road against one of the toughest defenses
in the league.
The Steelers defense should be in a surly mood after being throttled
by a Baltimore passing game to the tune of three TDs. Pittsburgh
tallied only one sack last week too, so Jackson should expect
a heavy dose of pressure all day as a way for the Steelers to
shore up their mistakes from week one. Seattle may or may not
have Sidney Rice this week but it’s not likely to matter.
Rice is an over hyped fantasy option, so don’t expect much
from this combination. This will be an ugly game if you’re
a Seattle fan.
Running Game Thoughts: The good news for Seattle’s fantasy
running game is Marshawn Lynch got the bulk of the carries last
week. The bad news is he totaled only 33 yards on 13 attempts.
In his defense, Seattle’s offensive line hasn’t been
very good dating back to the preseason, so Lynch’s struggles
could have been predicted. This game could get out of hand early,
rendering the running game useless anyway. Lynch will have a lesser
impact this week than his putrid game from week one.
Baltimore’s running game humbled Pittsburgh in week one,
gashing them for 170 yards. Only two teams gave up more rushing
yards last week than the Steelers. Talking heads on TV have mentioned
the Steelers looked slow on defense. Whether or not that’s
true is irrelevant this week. Pittsburgh’s defense will
punch Seattle in the mouth from the first snap. I say the only
way the Seahawks get on the scoreboard is if Pittsburgh’s
offense coughs up the football deep in their territory, giving
Seattle a short field. Otherwise, this will be a great game for
those with Pittsburgh’s defense.
Tarvaris Jackson: 155 yards passing / 0 TDs / 2 INTs
Mike Williams: 55 yards receiving
Sidney Rice: 20 yards receiving
Doug Baldwin: 40 yards receiving
Zach Miller: 20 yards receiving
Marshawn Lynch: 50 yards rushing
Justin Forsett: 25 yards rushing
Game Thoughts: It was a rough beginning for Ben Roethlisberger
and the entire Pittsburgh offense. He opened the season throwing
three INTs and losing two fumbles. Ouch. No one expected a cakewalk
against the Ravens, but come on. I expect Roethlisberger to come
out firing, tossing deep passes to Mike Wallace streaking down
field. With Wallace stretching the field, underneath lanes should
be open for Hines Ward and Heath Miller to roam. Ben will have
a magnificent bounce-back game.
The numbers will show that Seattle “held” the Niners’
passing offense in check last week. San Francisco passed for only
124 yards, but threw the ball only 20 times. The Niners got the
lead early after dominating the first half, then took the air
out the ball in the second. This secondary will be tested for
sure this week. Marcus Trufant, Brandon Browner and the youngster
Earl Thomas will have their hands full in the secondary trying
to keep up with what I’m expecting to be a high-powered
offensive game plan for Pittsburgh.
Running Game Thoughts: Rashard Mendenhall was a complete non-factor
in week one. He ran for 45 yards, but only toted the rock 12 times.
The game got out of hand before they knew it, which mandated they
put the running game on the shelf. Mendenhall will be refreshed
entering this game, and like the rest of his teammates, eager
to erase the maddeningly horrible game they played in week one.
Much like Roethlisberger, expect a solid RB1 game from Mendenhall.
San Francisco tried running the ball on Seattle once they established
the big lead in the first half, but the Seahawks kept them in
check. By game’s end, San Francisco averaged well under
3 yards per carry on 32 carries. I hope Seattle enjoyed that production
because that won’t be the case this week. Pittsburgh will
have an offensive explosion and make every fantasy player on offense
a startable option.
Ben Roethlisberger: 280 yards passing / 2 TDs
Mike Wallace: 115 yards receiving / 1 TD
Hines Ward: 60 yards receiving / 1 TD
Antonio Brown: 45 yards receiving
Heath Miller: 35 yards receiving
Rashard Mendenhall: 135 yards rushing / 2 TDs
Prediction: Steelers 31, Seahawks 6 ^ Top
Chiefs @ Lions
Game Thoughts: After surprising many and being a sexy pick
to make the playoffs last season, the Kansas City Chiefs entered
2011 with a heightened sense of optimism. That optimism was dashed
by a Buffalo team that embarrassed the Chiefs at Arrowhead. Matt
Cassel had an unheard of 3.3 yards per pass attempt last week
and could never get in a rhythm. Nobody stepped up offensively
for Kansas City, disappointing many fantasy owners in the process.
The task doesn’t get easier as the Chiefs take on a rejuvenated
Detroit team that will look to make life miserable for Cassel
and his receiving options.
Detroit’s pass defense was okay last week. It was a sauna
in Tampa where the Bucs threw the ball almost 50 times. That took
its toll on the pass rush, something Cassel will not have the
benefit of in Week Two. It’s been acknowledged that Detroit’s
secondary is the team’s weakness, but if pressure is applied
up front by one of the most ferocious defensive lines in the league,
the secondary’s shortcomings won’t be exposed. That
should be the plan heading into this contest as well as the balance
of the season.
Running Game Thoughts: The normally quick-darting Jamaal Charles
had limited opportunities last week. He ran for 56 yards on only
10 carries, but they simply could not concentrate on giving him
the ball when the Chiefs fell behind so fast. Charles’ production
normally isn’t tied to the ups and downs fo the Chiefs offense,
he generally gets his numbers regardless how bad the offense is
because of his dual role as a running and receiving threat. Even
though he had only nine yards receiving, he had five receptions.
Don’t expect that kind of average this week. Charles will
always carve out production some way each week, regardless of
It’s hard to gauge how well the Lions run defense performed
last week. The elements were atrocious and Bucs head coach Raheem
Morris indicated he ditched the running game too soon. Neither
will be a factor this week. KC will get off the bus running the
football in the controlled climate of Ford Field. We shall see
Detroit’s defensive line in all its glory this week. It’s
going to be difficult stopping Charles. I think he will get loose
on either a long run or a short screen pass that eats up a lot
of real estate. Start Charles with confidence.
Matt Cassel: 210 yards passing / 1 TD / I INT
Dwayne Bowe: 80 yards receiving
Steve Breaston: 45 yards receiving / 1 TD
Leonard Pope: 20 yards receiving
Jamaal Charles: 65 yards rushing / 40 yards receiving / 1 TD rushing
Game Thoughts: So far so good for those who predicted Matthew
Stafford will play his way into a top-10 fantasy QB in 2012. Despite
fighting through lower leg cramps throughout the game last week,
Stafford put up a stellar 300 yard, 3 TD performance. Perhaps
what’s most telling is his 73 percent completion percentage.
He’s the beneficiary of a pass-first offense designed by
offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. Those lucky enough to have
Stafford should get used to performances like last week. Stafford
will be a consistent top-7 fantasy QB each week—regardless
of the opponent. Calvin Johnson has yet to practice this week,
as he’s nursing an ankle injury. He played the entire game
week one with the ailment, so expect Megatron to suit up this
Kansas City’s pass defense was carved up pretty good by
Buffalo’s Ryan Fitzpatrick—not in terms of yardage,
but the 4 TD passes certainly got everybody’s attention.
If the fact that the Chiefs surrendered 4 scoring passes to Fitzpatrick
doesn’t get you excited as a Stafford/Johnson/anybody-on-the-Lions-offense
owner, perhaps this will. Safety Eric Berry was lost for the season
in week one after tearing his ACL. The Chiefs have a nice blend
of veterans and youth in the secondary, but it still won’t
be enough to tame the Lions passing offense. Stafford and company
should do a number on KC’s defense.
Running Game Thoughts: The Lions had terrific balance offensively
last week, running the ball 35 times while passing it 33 times.
But make no mistake: Detroit would rather throw the ball to set
up the run. Many of their running plays are out of the shotgun
formation when Stafford has the option of switching to a pass
play. Those running plays are essentially called to keep the defense
honest while setting them up for something later in the game.
Jahvid Best showed his versatility last week, rushing 21 times
and catching five passes. Best is a middle-tier RB2 fantasy back
with the potential some weeks of being a low-end RB1. This week,
start him as a RB2 and expect good things.
Buffalo pounded Kansas City into submission last week, rushing
39 times in the contest. Only three teams had more called run
plays. Detroit doesn’t have a bruiser like Buffalo’s
Fred Jackson to eat up clock, but Jackson’s success bodes
well for the Lions. They will run just enough to keep the defense
from charging Stafford on a regular basis. The Chiefs gave up
41 points at home to a team not known for its offensive firepower.
While I don’t expect Detroit to continue the beatdown of
KC’s defense, the Lions should be productive nonetheless.
Matthew Stafford: 285 yards passing / 3 TDs
Calvin Johnson: 120 yards receiving / 1 TD
Nate Burleson: 55 yards receiving
Brandon Pettigrew: 35 yards receiving / 1 TD
Tony Scheffler: 20 yards receiving
Jahvid Best: 65 yards rushing / 40 yards receiving / 1 TD receiving
Prediction: Lions 27, Chiefs 17 ^ Top
Vikings - (Autry)
Game Thoughts: Josh Freeman enters his third NFL season
with high hopes as the Tampa Bay signal-caller. Freeman’s
numbers last week were benefited by the fact that the Bucs threw
the ball almost three times as much as they ran it, even though
the game was never completely out of reach. I wouldn’t expect
that kind of disparity this week. Tampa Bay is sure to get back
to a more balanced attack. That’s not to say that Freeman
can’t be productive with that approach. He’s an efficient
QB who can—and should—do well against a Minnesota
secondary that has seen better days. Kellen Winslow Jr. had six
catches last week, and he should again be productive against a
defense that gave up eight catches to TE Antonio Gates.
For a head coach that once made his living coordinating defenses
to have his team open the season with a man-sized beat down had
to be disheartening for Minnesota fans. They allowed San Diego
to do pretty much whatever they wanted, keeping the Vikings’
offense on the sideline. Thirty-four-year-old CB Antoine Winfield
is getting long in the tooth but still has a knack for making
plays. He should be locked up on WR Mike Williams, which should
make for a nice battle all day. Second year player Chris Cook
continues to develop, but overall, the Vikings’ defense
doesn’t strike much fear into opponents. As a result, both
Freeman and Williams should be started in all standard leagues.
Running Game Thoughts: Workhorse RB LeGarrette Blount had a grand
total of five rushing attempts in week one… Five. Head coach
Raheem Morris has already mentioned how disappointed he was in
himself for abandoning the run so early, despite never being more
than 10 points behind. Expect Blount to be featured heavily in
this contest. No way will it be anywhere near a 3-to-1 pass/run
ratio. Twenty to 25 carries should be expected for Blount.
Minnesota allowed only 2.9 yards per rush last week vs. San Diego.
Where the Chargers gashed the Vikings was RBs out of the backfield.
Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert combined for 12 receptions, and
considering Earnest Graham finished with eight grabs against Detroit,
don’t be surprised if Tampa Bay’s RBs play a critical
role in the passing game. Blount will rebound and become the solid
RB2 many drafted as, while Earnest Graham is only relevant in
large leagues that feature flex options.
Josh Freeman: 235 yards passing / 2 TDs / 1 INT
Mike Williams: 80 yards receiving / 1 TD
Arrelious Benn: 45 yards receiving
Preston Parker: 30 yards receiving
Kellen Winslow Jr.: 55 yards receiving / 1 TD
LeGarrette Blount: 75 yards rushing / 1 TD
Game Thoughts: Donovan McNabb’s play has fallen off
the table over the last 24 months or so. Maybe the Shanihans aren’t
as cooky as we make them out to be. Perhaps they and Andy Reid
both saw something in McNabb that many of us didn’t. McNabb
“wowed” the crowed in San Diego last week with a “scintillating”
39 yard passing performance against San Diego. Sure, he only threw
the ball 15 times, but there were plays that could have been had.
Whether it is the lack of explosive play-making ability at the
WR position for the Vikings, the fast-paced decline of McNabb
as an NFL QB or a combination of the two, McNabb had better play
better than last week if he’s to keep at bay the pundits
predicting his quickly-descending skill set.
Tampa’s pick-six aside last week, the defense was less
than impressive against Detroit. They were unable to sack Stafford
and they, along with about half the league, gave up more than
300 yards passing. Minnesota won’t pressure Tampa’s
secondary the way Detroit did. Rather, Minnesota’s offense
goes where Peterson takes it, so expect less reliance on the passing
game and more on the running game.
Running Game Thoughts: The good news for AP fans was how productive
he was last week despite the absolute pedestrian offense the Vikings
fielded. He ran for almost 100 yards and appeared to be the only
threat of note on the Vikings. He too was limited in his opportunities,
but Leslie Frazier reiterated earlier in the week that this offense—and
indeed this team—will go where Peterson takes them. The
Vikings will make up for the seemingly abbreviated attempt to
get #28 involved in the game plan. Expect 20-25 touches this week.
Tampa seemed to have trouble limiting Best’s production
in week one. Running for 72 yards while also raking in four catches
for 42 yards gave this Buc’s defense all kinds of fits.
Peterson will continue to be prominent in the passing game as
Caption Check-Down leads this offense. Peterson’s numbers
should increase despite the eight and nine man fronts.
Donovan McNabb: 190 yards passing / 1 TD / 1 INT
Percy Harvin: 70 yards receiving
Bernard Berrian: 35 yards receiving
Michael Jenkins: 30 yards receiving
Visanthe Shiancoe: 45 yards receiving / 1 TD
Adrian Peterson: 110 yards rushing / 2 TDs
Prediction: Vikings 20, Bucs 17 ^ Top