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Inside the Matchup
Week 2

By: Bill Andereson | Sal Marcoccio | Nick Caron | Kyle Smith




 Predictions - YTD
Rk Staffer W L %
1 Anderson 5 1 83.3
2 Caron 3 1 75.0
3 Marcoccio 1 1 50.0
4 Smith 2 2 50.0

Bears @ Packers - (Anderson)

Passing Game Thoughts: Against an overmatched Colts defense, the Bears put up 333 yards through the air, including two touchdowns. Jay Cutler, after a slow start to the game, quickly got into midseason form and ravaged the defense for 9.5 yards per attempt. As expected, Cutler looked toward his best weapon, Brandon Marshall, the most, completing 9 passes (out of 15 targets!) for 119 yards and a score. The rest of Cutler’s passes were pretty evenly distributed, with Jeffery, Forte, Bennett, and Hester all getting multiple looks. On the other hand, the Packers pass defense let up a healthy amount of yardage and touchdowns (211/2), especially considering that their opponent, the 49ers, are not much of a passing team. Look for the Bears to pick up and improve upon where the Niners left off, since Cutler is an upgrade over Alex Smith and the game plan should favor the pass a bit more. For fantasy purposes, Cutler should be an excellent start as a top 10 QB this week, even if he gets sacked more (as opposed to just twice against the Colts). As for the receivers, Marshall also looks like a top ten choice right now, although no other Bears WR should be considered at this point since Marshall hogs so many targets.

Running Game Thoughts: Against the Colts, the Bears ran for 114 yards and two touchdowns, including two runs of more than 20 yards. While Matt Forte did most of the damage yardage-wise (80 yards/5.0 avg), Michael Bush provided some punch at the goal line, scoring twice. The carries were pretty evenly split, with Forte getting 16 and Bush getting 12. Going forward I expect to see very similar numbers, with Forte being more involved in the pass game and Bush being the man near the end zone. As for the Packers run defense, they got gouged by the 49ers, giving up 186 yards with a very healthy 5.8 per carry average. While the Bears will probably not run quite as much as the 49ers did, they certainly have the players to put up similar numbers on the ground. The game should be close enough that neither team will have to abandon the run. I see Forte as a mid-range top 10 RB this week and Bush as a decent flex option who should get at least a few shots near the goal line.

Jay Cutler: 275 pass yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Brandon Marshall: 105 rec yds, 1 TD
Alshon Jeffery: 60 rec yds
Matt Forte: 90 rush yds, 1 TD, 30 rec yds
Michael Bush: 45 rush yds, 1 TD

Passing Game Thoughts: Even against an elite 49ers defense, the Packers threw for 303 yards and two touchdowns. While he was not quite as efficient as usual, Aaron Rodgers still put up nice numbers and managed to spread the ball around evenly to five different receivers. And he threw to each of those receivers six or more times, with Jermichael Finley leading the way (11 rec). The thing to watch here is the health of Greg Jennings, who sustained a groin injury Sunday and did not practice Tuesday. Because this is a Thursday game, I would be hesitant to start Jennings with such little recovery time, and the Packers may feel the same way. While the Bears pass defense did give up 309 yards and a touchdown versus the Colts last week, it took Andrew Luck 45 attempts, of which he only completed about half (23) while being picked off three times. The Bears do have the guys to pressure Rodgers, but the yardage totals should be pretty easy to come by since Chicago does not have the personnel to matchup with the Pack’s plethora of skill position players. Rodgers is once again a must start and a top 3 option at the position, while Finley makes a good, safe start at TE. As for the other receivers, watch Jennings’ status before the game, but look for better options ahead of time in case he sits, which is likely. Nelson makes a solid WR2 start either way, and both James Jones and Randall Cobb make decent flex starts, especially if Jennings is ruled out.

Running Game Thoughts: The Packers run game struggled mightily against San Francisco (45 yds, 3.2 avg), although, to be fair, many teams will probably have similar troubles against last year’s top run defense. While the going should be a bit easier against the Bears, the game plan will once again be pass-heavy, making any Green Bay runner a risky start. The Chicago run defense performed well last week, giving up just 63 yards to the Colts, although the run game was mostly abandoned after the Bears went up big in the third quarter. Besides Rodgers' scrambling for yardage, Cedric Benson was the only Packer to receive a carry. Look for the run game to produce more opportunities and numbers, but temper your expectations for Benson; he's nothing more than an RB3 until he has an amazing matchup or shows us a couple of big games.

Aaron Rodgers: 310 pass yds, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 25 rush yds
Jordy Nelson: 80 rec yds, 1 TD
Jermichael Finley: 55 rec yds, 1 TD
James Jones: 55 rec yds
Randall Cobb: 65 rec yds, 1 TD
Cedric Benson: 45 rush yds, 1 TD

Prediction: Packers 34, Bears 27 ^ Top

Browns @ Bengals - (Anderson)

Passing Game Thoughts: There are so many words that can be used to describe the state of the Browns passing game right now: ugly, terrible, embarrassing, and ouch all come to mind. Against the Eagles, the Browns managed just 118 passing yards, no touchdowns, 4 interceptions, and a meager 34 percent completion rate. Now, to be fair, the Eagles have one of the league’s better defenses, and this was Brandon Weeden’s first NFL start, but it's hard to imagine this passing game improving much in the foreseeable future. Weeden’s 35 attempts were spread widely among 10 different receivers, though only Massaquoi (3 catches, 41 yards) and Gordon (2 catches, 32 yards) totaled more than 20 yards. The Bengals' pass defense is certainly a step down from the Eagles', as they gave up over 300 pass yards and two touchdowns on Monday night to the Ravens. While the Browns passing game has nowhere to go but up, don’t expect them to go way up, even in this matchup. Do not start any member of the Cleveland passing game in this matchup unless you are purposely trying to lose or you are in a 32-team league with a ton of starting positions.

Running Game Thoughts: While last week marked the first career game for the much-hyped Trent Richardson, it was probably not the debut he (or we) might have hoped for. With 19 carries, Richardson managed just 39 yards and failed to find the end zone or post a run of longer than nine yards. While it was a good sign that the Browns trusted him to carry the load after a recent knee scope, Richardson lacked elite burst as he frequently faced stacked boxes of eight and nine defenders. Unfortunately for the Browns run game, this is probably a trend that will continue until the passing game puts any amount of fear into opposing defenses. On the flip side, the Cincinnati run defense was average in Week 1, giving up 122 yards and two touchdowns to the Ravens, who mainly did their attacking through the air. While Richardson should get better as a player as time goes on and he gains more experience, he is nothing more than an RB3 or a flex option for this matchup. No other Cleveland runner should even be considered at this time.

Brandon Weeden: 140 pass yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Mohamed Massaquoi: 40 rec yds
Josh Gordon: 35 rec yds
Greg Little: 30 rec yds
Trent Richardson: 55 rush yds, 1 TD, 20 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Against one of the better defenses in the league, the Bengals passing game put up average numbers last week. Andy Dalton threw for 221 yards, no touchdowns, and a pick, while Andrew Hawkins (8 catches, 86 yards) and A.J. Green (5 catches, 70 yards) were the only two receivers to make any significant contribution. Against the Browns the passing game should improve a bit, especially now that we know Joe Haden, their best defensive back, will be suspended. The Browns surprisingly held the potentially explosive Eagles passing game to just two touchdowns with four interceptions, although they did give up 317 passing yards. While the receiver pecking order after Green is still a work in progress, look for Dalton to put up decent overall numbers and for Green to get back to WR1 status in this matchup. For now, Green is the only recommended start in this passing attack.

Running Game Thoughts: In his regular season debut as a Bengal, BenJarvus Green-Ellis actually put up decent numbers against the Ravens (91 yards, 1 touchdown), who were a top 5 rushing defense last year. Against the Browns this week, the ground numbers should improve a bit, especially if Bernard Scott makes his return as expected. Last week the Browns let up 150 yards rushing to the Eagles, and it was a very sloppy game by Philadelphia. One thing we should be able to count on is that the Browns will not score a ton of points, meaning the Bengals shouldn't need to abandon the run at any point in this contest. Green-Ellis should continue to get the bulk of the carries and receive enough work to make him an excellent RB2 option this week. Bernard Scott may contribute more and more as the season goes on, but for now he is off the fantasy radar.

Andy Dalton: 230 pass yds, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
A.J. Green: 85 rec yds, 1 TD
Jermaine Gresham: 45 rec yds
Andrew Hawkins: 45 rec yds
BenJarvus Green-Ellis: 90 rush yds, 1 TD

Prediction: Bengals 27, Browns 17 ^ Top

Jets @ Steelers - (Anderson)

Passing Game Thoughts: If you saw the Jets offense in preseason action, you would never have thought they were the same team that played last week against Buffalo. Mark Sanchez and the passing game put up 266 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception while not getting sacked at all. In addition, three of the Jets receivers, Hill (89 yards, 1 TD), Holmes (68 yards), and Kerley (45 yards, 1 TD) had very relevant fantasy games. The big difference this week is that Pittsburgh is a proven, near-elite defense, and the Jets will not be playing at home this time. In his regular season debut, Peyton Manning had a decent game against the Steelers (253 yards, 2 TDs), but they were playing without Ryan Clark and James Harrison. Clark will surely play this week and Harrison is probable. Also, news flash: Sanchez is not Manning, and Denver has more weapons and a better offensive line than the Jets. In other words, do not expect anything close to a repeat this week. I would not recommend starting any player from the Jets passing offense in this matchup unless you’re feeling very lucky and want to gamble on Hill catching a long bomb for a touchdown, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Running Game Thoughts: The Jets run game, led by Shonn Greene, put up respectable numbers against the Bills last week, compiling 118 yards and a touchdown, although their yards per carry was an underwhelming 3.3. From a team that was up by a considerable amount, one might expect the rushing totals to be greater, although fantasy owners were probably thrilled with Greene’s performance since he put up solid RB2 numbers—he was probably no more than a flex player on most teams after a disappointing preseason, however. The Pittsburgh run defense was solid last week despite missing the aforementioned Clark and Harrison, holding the Broncos to just 94 yards on the ground. At home, and much closer to full strength, I expect the Steelers to put the clamps down on the Jets run game and perform like the strong defense that they really are. Greene may still deserve flex consideration because of the volume of touches he will likely receive, but I wouldn’t expect numbers near last week’s successful performance.

Mark Sanchez: 190 pass yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Stephen Hill: 50 rec yds, 1 TD
Santonio Holmes: 35 rec yds
Dustin Keller: 30 rec yds
Shonn Greene: 55 rush yds

Passing Game Thoughts: While the Steelers did not post huge numbers in the pass game against an above-average Denver pass defense (245 yards, 2 TDs 1 INT, 5 sacks allowed), Big Ben did spread the ball around enough to make four receivers fantasy start-worthy. Brown (74 yards), Sanders (55 yards), Miller (50 yards, 1 TD), and Wallace (37 yards, 1 TD) all posted decent fantasy numbers thanks to 40 pass attempts in a throw-first attack. With a very mediocre run game, look for the Steelers to continue with a pass-first game plan in order to use their most talented players. Trying to stop the Steelers will be a Jets pass defense coming off an excellent start, holding the Bills to just 195 yards while picking off three passes. The main thing to watch in this matchup will be whether All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis is able to play after sustaining a mild concussion on Sunday. If he is out, you should certainly upgrade the whole pass offense. But even if he does play, the Steelers have enough weapons to exploit the Jets in the middle of the field. I would not expect huge numbers from the pass game either way, but Roethlisberger, Wallace, and Brown are all decent starts, as the volume of passes should be near the 35-40 mark again.

Running Game Thoughts: The Steelers backfield is capable of putting up some decent numbers, and they have a bit of talent, but for fantasy purposes it’s a mess right now because of the instability of the way the workload will be divided. Last week Dwyer and Redman received the most touches but Dwyer looked like the more explosive player. The return of Rashard Mendenhall is bound to come soon, but it may not be this week. It’s too bad there isn’t a clear-cut workhorse in the Pittsburgh backfield because the Jets defense is coming off a game where C.J. Spiller ran all over them for 169 yards (12.1 ypc) and a touchdown. While the run game as a whole may not approach those numbers, there is certainly the opportunity for at least one Pittsburgh RB to be a decent fantasy start this week. The question is, who will it be? Coach Tomlin stated that Dwyer has earned a bigger opportunity, but Redman will certainly see some touches, and Mendenhall may cloud the picture even more if he returns. If I were going to gamble on one of them this week, it would certainly be Dwyer. But unless Mendenhall is ruled out, I would not expect more than low-end RB2 numbers at best from any Pittsburgh RB.

Ben Roethlisberger: 255 pass yds, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
Mike Wallace: 70 rec yds, 1 TD
Antonio Brown: 60 rec yds
Emmanuel Sanders: 55 rec yds
Heath Miller: 40 rec yds, 1 TD
Jonathan Dwyer: 55 rush yds, 1 TD
Isaac Redman: 40 rush yds

Prediction: Steelers 30, Jets 17 ^ Top

Saints @ Panthers - (Smith)

Passing Game Thoughts: The Saints may have lost to the Redskins last week, but fantasy owners still reaped the benefits of the team’s passing game. Drew Brees was fifth among quarterbacks in fantasy scoring after he threw for 339 yards and three touchdowns (though with a pair of interceptions as well), Jimmy Graham led tight ends with 14 points after compiling 85 receiving yards and a touchdown, Lance Moore was fourth among wideouts with his 120 yards and a score, Marques Colston amassed 71 yards, and Darren Sproles caught a touchdown. And if last season is any indication, they’ll keep rolling against Carolina.

In two games against last year against the Panthers, a number of Saints put up huge numbers. Brees threw for a massive total of 748 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions, Graham caught 16 passes for 226 yards and a touchdown and Colston had 12 catches for 214 yards and two scores. Though Carolina only allowed 128 passing yards last week against Tampa, the Bucs focused on pounding the ball, throwing it 24 times and running it 36. That won’t be the case this week.

Running Game Thoughts: New Orleans did nothing on the ground last week against Washington, running the ball a league-low 10 times for 32 yards, and they were one of four teams who didn’t have at one rush for at least 10 yards. Mark Ingram ran the ball six times for 15 yards, and Pierre Thomas ran it four times for 17 yards. Oddly, Sproles didn’t have a single rush. We find it difficult to believe that will be the case this week.

Though the Panthers gave up 130 rushing yards to Tampa, they only allowed 3.6 yards per carry. The Saints ran the ball well in their Week 17 contest against the Panthers last season, compiling over 200 rushing yards, but Chris Ivory did most of the damage with 127 yards, and he was inactive last week, and may be again this week. Still, you have to believe the triumvirate of Sproles, Ingram and Thomas will be far more productive against the Panthers this week than they were against the Redskins.

Drew Brees: 335 pass yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Jimmy Graham: 95 rec yds, 1 TD
Marques Colston: 80 rec yds, 1 TD
Lance Moore: 55 rec yds
Devery Henderson: 30 rec yds
Mark Ingram: 50 rush yds, 1 TD
Darren Sproles: 35 rush yds / 45 rec yds
Pierre Thomas: 25 rush yds, 1 TD / 15 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Unlike Brees, Cam Newton didn’t pick up where he left off last season. Though he threw for 303 yards and a touchdown in his team’s loss to Tampa, he also tossed two picks, and was just 22nd among quarterbacks in fantasy scoring. Wideout Steve Smith remained Newton’s favorite target, catching seven passes on 11 targets for 106 yards, while Greg Olsen was targeted seven times, catching six balls for 56 yards. Neither of those players managed to catch a touchdown, but Brandon LaFell did to go along with his 65 receiving yards, and former Raider Louis Murphy amassed 63 yards.

The Saints were shredded by the Redskins and rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III last week, allowing the fourth-most passing yards and the highest quarterback rating in the league to the rookie. That’s a good omen for Newton owners, despite the fact that in his pair of games against the Saints last season, Newton tossed two touchdowns, two picks, and a total of 382 yards, which is seven fewer than the total that Brees had against them – in one game. But Smith held up his end of the bargain for fantasy owners in those games, scoring a touchdown in each game, and hauling in a total of nine catches for 186 yards.

Running Game Thoughts: Shockingly, no team ran for fewer yards last week than the Panthers, who amassed only 30 feet of offense on the ground. Granted, Jonathan Stewart didn’t play, but that’s still no excuse for a team with Newton, DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert. In fact, somebody named Kealoha Pilares – a wide receiver – led the team in rushing with five yards on one carry. Newton had four yards on five carries, Tolbert ran for two yards with one carry and Williams ended the day with six carries but losing a yard.

That number is in stark contrast to what Williams did last season against the Saints, rushing for 168 yards and one touchdown in two games. Stewart had 99 yards and a score, and Newton ran for 59 yards and a touchdown. Stewart is expected to play this week, and that should help get Carolina’s ground game rolling against a Saints defense that let the Redskins roll up 153 rushing yards last week.

Cam Newton: 305 pass yds, 2 TD, 1 INT / 25 rush yds, 1 TD
Steve Smith: 90 rec yds, 1 TD
Brandon LaFell: 65 rec yds
Greg Olsen: 60 rec yds, 1 TD
Louis Murphy: 35 rec yds
Jonathan Stewart: 65 rush yds, 1 TD / 20 rec yds
DeAngelo Williams: 50 rush yds / 25 rec yds

Prediction: Saints 35, Panthers 31 ^ Top

Vikings @ Colts - (Smith)

Passing Game Thoughts: Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder didn’t throw a touchdown pass last week against the Jaguars, but he didn’t throw a pick either, and compiled 270 yards through the air, a solid total, but it still left him tied for 26th in fantasy scoring among quarterbacks. Percy Harvin was the team’s leading receiver, with 84 yards on six catches, followed by a player fantasy owners should definitely have on their roster – tight end Kyle Rudolph, who caught five passes for 67 yards, and whose huge frame should make him a red zone favorite for Ponder in the future.

Ponder and Co. will take on a Colts defense that allowed 333 yards to Jay Cutler in their loss to the Bears, and ranks 30th in the league in pass defense after one week. Ponder shouldn’t be able to replicate what Cutler did, but he still has an opportunity to put up decent numbers, and Harvin is definitely a fantasy starter this week.

Running Game Thoughts: Adrian Peterson slid in fantasy drafts (compared to past seasons), and rightly so, considering he was coming back from a serious knee injury, but the fantasy owners who gambled on him in the late first or early second round could end up with a steal, as he looked like the Peterson we know and love with 84 yards and a pair of scores against the Jaguars last week.

The Colts gave up 114 rushing yards to the Bears on Sunday, with Matt Forte running for 80 yards and a score, and Michael Bush bruising his way to a pair of touchdowns and 42 yards. Peterson should be able to take similar advantage of Indy’s defense and once again reward his fantasy owners.

Christian Ponder: 235 pass yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Percy Harvin: 90 rec yds / 15 rush yds
Kyle Rudolph: 70 rec yds, 1 TD
Devin Aromashodu: 40 rec yds
Michael Jenkins: 25 rec yds
Adrian Peterson: 115 rush yds, 2 TD

Passing Game Thoughts: Andrew Luck didn’t have quite the debut of fellow rookie RG3, and despite throwing for 309 yards and a touchdown, he completed just 51 percent of his passes and tossed a trio of interceptions. He targeted Reggie Wayne a whopping 18 times, and completed nine of those throws for 135 yards. Also effective was rookie tight end Coby Fleener, who Luck targeted 10 times. Fleener came down with six of those throws for 82 yards, and wideout Donnie Avery got in the mix as well, with one touchdown on three receptions and 37 yards.

Luck has a chance to be much better this week, especially when you consider that the Vikings made Blaine Gabbert look good. He threw for 260 yards and two scores without an interceptions, which are otherworldly numbers considering the garbage stats he put up on a near-weekly basis last week.

Running Game Thoughts: The Colts were down big to the Bears for most of the second half last week, so the team’s rushing opportunities were limited. Donald Brown had just nine carries, but was effective, gaining 48 yards (5.2 ypc) with one touchdown. If he can get more carries, Brown should be an effective flex or RB2 option for most games this season.

That includes this week, because last week the Vikings allowed Maurice Jones-Drew, who had zero preseason preparation, to run for 77 yards on 19 carries (an average of 4.1 yards per carry). He’s a better back than Brown, obviously, but it’s still a notable number.

Andrew Luck: 255 pass yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Reggie Wayne: 80 rec yds, 1 TD
Coby Fleener: 75 rec yds, 1 TD
Donnie Avery: 35 rec yds
Donald Brown: 75 rush yds, 1 TD / 25 rec yds

Prediction: Vikings 24, Colts 21 ^ Top

Texans @ Jaguars - (Smith)

Passing Game Thoughts: The Texans didn’t need Matt Schaub to do a whole lot to beat the woeful Dolphins, but he still gave his fantasy owners 14 points with 266 passing yards and one touchdown. Andre Johnson remains a beast when healthy (which is a big caveat, of course), and he caught eight of the 10 passes thrown his way for 119 yards and one touchdown. There was another positive development for fantasy owners in tight end Owen Daniels, who led al tight ends with 87 receiving yards in Week 1, and after he failed to live up to expectations last season, may prove worthy of being a fantasy starter.

Jacksonville didn’t allow a touchdown pass last week, but that was against the Vikings and their tepid passing attack. The Texans are a different story, and capable of doing a lot more damage through the air. Schaub didn’t play when these two teams met up in Week 12 last season, but in Week 8 he had a solid game, with 225 passing yards, one touchdown and no picks. Johnson was out in Week 8, and though he played in Week 12, compiled only two catches for 22 yards. Both players should put up better numbers this week, especially Johnson.

Running Game Thoughts: Arian Foster ran for a pair of touchdowns last week against the Dolphins, but gained only 3.0 yards per carry with 79 yards on 26 totes. Ben Tate didn’t fare well either, with only six yards on five carries. But they remain an explosive duo, and more success should be expected this week against Jacksonville.

The Jags allowed Adrian Peterson, who was coming off a knee injury, to score twice and gain 84 yards on 17 carries, so this is a team that Foster should be able to exploit. He was held in check – somewhat – by the Jags last year, gaining 177 yards on the ground in their two games and scoring once, but he didn’t average 4.0 yards per carry in either contest, and didn’t break 25 receiving yards in those games either.

Matt Schaub: 290 pass yds, 2 TD
Andre Johnson: 115 rec yds, 1 TD
Owen Daniels: 65 rec yds, 1 TD
Kevin Walter: 40 rec yds
Keshawn Martin: 20 rec yds
Arian Foster: 110 rush yds, 2 TD / 25 rec yds
Ben Tate: 25 rush yds / 15 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Either the Vikings have a bad pass defense or Blaine Gabbert really improved in the offseason, because he threw for 260 yards and a pair of touchdowns without an interception last week. He was helped by offseason acquisition Laurent Robinson, who had five receptions for 66 yards, and rookie wideout Justin Blackmon added three catches for 24 yards. But the biggest contributors were Cecil Shorts, of all people, who had 74 yards and a touchdown on four catches, and last year’s fantasy bust Marcedes Lewis, who had five catches for 52 yards and one touchdown – which is one more than he had all of last season.

Don’t expect the same numbers from any of the Jaguars this week, not against a stout Texans pass defense that harassed Miami rookie Ryan Tannehill into throwing for only 219 yards and three interceptions. Gabbert was his typical awful self last season against the Texans, and in two games went 23-for-59 (a laughable 39 percent) for 233 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.

Running Game Thoughts: Maurice Jones-Drew was impressive against Minnesota last week considering he had exactly zero snaps in the preseason, and ran for 77 yards on 19 carries. Rashad Jennings (knee) had eight carries for 31 yards, but he should touch the ball less now that MJD has had time to acclimate himself.

The Texans allowed Reggie Bush to run for a harmless 69 yards on 14 carries, and they should continue to be stout against the run. Jones-Drew was solid in his two games against Houston a season ago, rushing for 162 yards and one touchdown while catching five passes for 78 yards.

Blaine Gabbert: 200 pass yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Laurent Robinson: 55 rec yds, 1 TD
Justin Blackmon: 40 rec yds
Cecil Shorts: 35 rec yds
Marcedes Lewis: 25 rec yds
Mike Thomas: 15 rec yds
Maurice Jones-Drew: 80 rush yds, 1 TD / 20 rec yds
Rashad Jennings: 15 rush yds

Prediction: Texans 34, Jaguars 17 ^ Top

Broncos @ Falcons - (Smith)

Passing Game Thoughts: Peyton Manning returned to form in his first game back in over a year, helping the Broncos beat the Steelers by throwing for 253 yards and a pair of touchdowns without an interception. He was helped by Demaryius Thomas – a player with fantasy stud written all over him – who caught five passes for 110 yards and a score. Eric Decker had five receptions for 54 yards, and Jacob Tamme chipped in with 43 yards and a touchdown on five receptions.

The Falcons were solid against the pass in Kansas City, picking off Matt Cassel twice and allowing only one touchdown throw and 241 passing yards. But they suffered a serious blow with corner Brent Grimes injuring his Achilles and being put on injured reserve, so Manning should be able to do damage for his fantasy owners.

Running Game Thoughts: Willis McGahee ran for 64 yards on 16 carries, but it was Knowshon Moreno who scampered in for a seven-yard touchdown, and fantasy owners who took McGahee to be their RB2 have to be a little concerned that his age and Manning’s prowess will damper his numbers this season.

But McGahee does have a chance to put up some points for his fantasy owners this week, because the Falcons allowed 152 yards on the ground to the Chiefs, with Jamaal Charles gaining 87 yards on 16 carries.

Peyton Manning: 285 pass yds, 3 TD, 2 INT
Demaryius Thomas: 110 rec yds, 2 TD
Eric Decker: 80 rec yds
Jacob Tamme: 60 rec yds, 1 TD
Brandon Stokley: 25 rec yds
Willis McGahee: 85 rush yds
Knowshon Moreno: 20 rush yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Matt Ryan has a chance to be a top-tier fantasy quarterback this season, and proved it in Week 1, throwing for 299 yards and three scores, not to mention running for 25 yards and one touchdown to lead all quarterbacks in fantasy points. He has dominant receivers to throw to in Julio Jones and Roddy White, and Jones is already rewarding fantasy owners who chose him over White. Jones had 108 yards and two scores against the Chiefs, while White had 87 yards. Oh, and let’s not forget Tony Gonzalez, who notched a touchdown catch against his old team among his five catches and 53 yards.

The Broncos allowed Ben Roethlisberger to throw for 245 yards and two scores, but did return one of his picks for a touchdown and overall rank 10th in the league in pass defense after Week 1. Still, the Steelers don’t have Jones and White, and this week will be a much stiffer test for them.

Running Game Thoughts: Like McGahee, Michael Turner gave his fantasy owners reason for concern last week, as he ran for only 32 yards on 11 carries. Jacquizz Rodgers had seven carries for 22 yards, and fantasy owners can’t enjoy seeing that Turner had just four more totes than his backup.

There’s more reason for worry this week among Turner’s owners when you consider that the Broncos shut down the Pittsburgh running game, allowing only 75 yards on 26 carries, for an average of 2.9 yards per carry.

Matt Ryan: 300 pass yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Roddy White: 115 rec yds, 1 TD
Julio Jones: 95 rec yds, 1 TD
Tony Gonzalez: 40 rec yds, 1 TD
Harry Douglas: 25 rec yds
Michael Turner: 35 rush yds, 1 TD
Jacquizz Rodgers: 20 rush yds / 15 rec yds

Prediction: Falcons 31, Broncos 27 ^ Top

Titans @ Chargers - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: Following a disastrous week which saw the Titans score just 13 points against the Patriots - one of the worst defenses in the league from a year ago - fantasy owners may find themselves scratching their heads about this offense. Newly anointed starter Jake Locker did throw a touchdown pass to Nate Washington, but left the game with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder during the blowout loss.

Though he is expected to start on Sunday, Locker doesn’t make a particularly strong play on the road against the Chargers defense, which repeatedly kept the Raiders offense in check on Monday night. If he couldn’t light up the Patriots defense as just about everyone did in 2011, Locker’s likely going to continue to struggle. He will have Kenny Britt back in the lineup, but on a limited snap count, which could make it difficult for the two young playmakers to create much chemistry.

Running Game Thoughts: A disappointing 2011 campaign seems to have spilled over into 2012 in what might be the end of the road for Titans’ back Chris Johnson as a fantasy football stud. As one of the highest-paid offensive players in the league, fantasy owners and the Titans themselves had to expect that Johnson would give them more than four yards on 11 carries. Sure, the offensive line was brutal and Johnson did add 47 yards in receptions, but the performance was abysmal.

It’d be nice if we could confidently predict that things are going to turn around for the former 2000-yard rusher, but a matchup against the Chargers doesn’t look like the best way to do that. San Diego held another one of the league’s most skilled offensive weapons, Darren McFadden, to just 32 yards on 15 carries in Week 1. Expect Johnson to produce some as a receiver again, but unless he rips off a big gain at some point, it could be another slow day for “CJ2K.”

Jake Locker: 210 pass yds, 2 TD, 2 INT, 15 rush yds
Nate Washington: 45 rec yds, 1 TD
Jared Cook: 40 rec yds, 1 TD
Kenny Britt: 50 rec yds
Kendall Wright: 30 rec yds
Chris Johnson: 50 rush yds, 30 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: In a game in which his opposition failed to score a single touchdown until the fourth quarter, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers didn’t really do much to give fantasy owners the impression that he had returned to his formerly-elite self. The entire offense rested on his shoulders and while Rivers did get the win, his fantasy owners were rather disappointed in his single touchdown and mediocre 231 yards. It was good to see that his lone touchdown pass went to Antonio Gates who finally seems to be healthy, but Rivers still needs to get back to producing big games before he becomes an every week must-start.

Without Cortland Finnegan, the Titans looked a bit lost in Week 1 against Tom Brady and the Patriots. Of course, that could simply be due to the ridiculous number of offensive weapons New England has, but there may be a chance for Philip Rivers after all. Though Brady only threw for 236 yards and two scores against the Titans, he did so while his team’s running game was moving and controlling the clock. Don’t expect that from the Chargers who are still without Ryan Mathews. We could see Rivers throwing many, many times in this one. The question is whether or not his receivers will find ways to get open.

Running Game Thoughts: Given Mathews’ injury, the Chargers were expected to rely heavily on the veteran experience of former Dolphins stud Ronnie Brown in Week 1 against the Raiders. That didn’t happen, as Brown was given only five carries while rookie Curtis Brinkley took double that number. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, neither back was productive.

Brown and Brinkley might have a chance this week against the Titans who allowed the pass-happy Patriots to switch things up and run all over them to the tune of 156 yards in Week 1. Although neither Brinkley nor Brown has the skillset of Stevan Ridley, the two of them should be able to find more space than they did against the Raiders. We’ll just have to play the guessing game on which back gets more touches.

Philip Rivers: 265 pass yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Robert Meachem: 75 rec yds
Malcom Floyd: 45 rec yds, 1 TD
Antonio Gates: 70 rec yds, 1 TD
Ronnie Brown: 40 rush yds, 25 rec yds
Curtis Brinkley: 30 rush yds, 35 rec yds

Prediction: Chargers 23, Titans 17 ^ Top

Lions @ 49ers - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: Those who bit the bullet and drafted Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford knew that there was a risk that the former No. 1 overall NFL draft pick could end up on the injury list at any time. What they didn’t expect is that their top fantasy pick would perform as poorly as he did in his season debut against the St. Louis Rams who have been one of the worst defenses in the league for years. Stafford threw just one touchdown with three interceptions in the performance.

Fortunately, he still threw for an impressive 355 yards so we know that there remains light at the end of the tunnel for this highly talented signal caller. His top receiver, Calvin Johnson, achieved step one of his 16-step plan to have 100+ yards receiving. Unfortunately, step two will be significantly more difficult as the Detroit will challenge perhaps the best defense in the league, a defense which held the high-powered Green Bay Packers offense in check in Week 1. If there’s a passing game that can break the 49ers though, it just might be Stafford, Megatron and the Lions.

Running Game Thoughts: After a highly-productive Week 1 performance, Detroit Lions running back Kevin Smith may have found himself in the good graces of desperate fantasy owners who started him over their injured studs. Smith ran the ball 13 times for 62 yards and a touchdown while adding a handful of receptions that also included a touchdown. We’ve seen it before—when Smith is healthy, he’s a solid RB2.

Although Smith is healthy at the moment, his matchup this week is as bad as it gets. The 49ers defense has simply been unbelievable against the run in recent times and it’s hard to believe that a pass-happy offense like Detroit is going to commit to the run against Patrick Willis and the boys. Kevin Smith is a solid option going forward, but unless you’re in a desperate situation, this is not the week to roll the dice on the Lions running game.

Matthew Stafford: 315 pass yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Calvin Johnson: 105 rec yds, 1 TD
Nate Burleson: 50 rec yds
Titus Young: 35 rec yds
Brandon Pettigrew: 60 rec yds, 1 TD
Tony Scheffler: 20 rec yds
Kevin Smith: 50 rush yds, 20 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s not always the fanciest, but Alex Smith has been the quarterback that simply gets the job done since the start of 2011. Smith and the 49ers controlled the clock and came out with a victory on the road against Green Bay in Week 1. Smith’s 211 yards and two touchdowns aren’t particularly impressive on their own, but it’s the lack of interceptions that Smith has thrown that has made him a surprisingly decent fantasy quarterback.

Even with new weapons in Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, Smith is not likely to be one of the top fantasy quarterbacks this week as the 49ers will almost certainly try to play ball control offense to keep the ball out of Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson’s hands. The Lions defense held Sam Bradford to under 200 yards and only one touchdown in Week 1, so more of the same is likely in store for Smith in Week 2.

Running Game Thoughts: It seems like every year we hear about how Frank Gore’s career is on the decline. He’s too old, he’s not quick enough anymore, he’s too injury-prone. But year after year, he continues to produce and Week 1 of 2012 was no different. Gore ran for 112 yards and a touchdown on just 16 carries. The only concern is that Kendall Hunter did break into Gore’s carry totals, tabulating nine of his own touches.

If Gore can produce like he did in Week 1 throughout the year, fantasy owners might be willing to forgive the team conceding some carries to his backup. We’ll get a second chance to take a look at the carry split on Sunday night when the 49ers battle the Lions in primetime. Though Detroit did a nice job of holding the Rams running game in check in Week 1, they do not have a great track record against Frank Gore. In four career games against the Lions, Gore has scored four touchdowns and has averaged 158 yards per game.

Alex Smith: 225 pass yds, 2 TD, 0 INT
Michael Crabtree: 75 rec yds
Mario Manningham: 45 rec yds
Randy Moss: 30 rec yds
Vernon Davis: 50 rec yds, 1 TD
Frank Gore: 100 rush yds, 1 TD, 10 rec yds
Kendall Hunter: 30 rush yds, 5 rec yds

Prediction: 49ers 27, Lions 23 ^ Top

Redskins @ Rams - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: Rookie quarterbacks are always a major concern, but the unbelievable 2011 season from Cam Newton set the stage for five rookies to start in Week 1 of the 2012 season. Though all of them had their moments, none looked better than the No. 2 pick in the draft, the Redskins’ Robert Griffin III who passed for 320 yards and two touchdowns in his debut. He also added 42 yards on the ground. Griffin hasn’t picked a favorite target as of yet, although he did connect with Pierre Garcon on an 89-yard touchdown, so look for the two of them to expand on their chemistry in Week 2, so long as Garcon (foot) is healthy enough to play. Garcon has barely practiced this week so check his status Sunday morning before setting your lineup.

St. Louis’ defense hasn’t been particularly good for quite awhile now, but it’s hard to blame the defense for what happened to them in Week 1 against Detroit. Though they allowed four touchdowns to the Lions offense, they also forced three turnovers and the newly-acquired Cortland Finnegan scored on one of them. Washington’s offense seems to be greatly improved, but we have to wonder whether Griffin and his rag-tag group of receivers will be able to replicate what they did in Week 1.

Running Game Thoughts: Perhaps the biggest surprise of Week 1 was the sudden emergence of brand new running back Alfred Morris who, despite being listed as the third back on the depth chart, received a league-high 28 carries, which he turned into 96 yards and two touchdowns. Shannahan strikes again!

Morris is expected to be the starter going forward and he actually has a good chance to replicate his impressive Week 1 totals when he goes up against a St. Louis Rams defense, which allowed Kevin Smith to abuse them for 91 total yards and two touchdowns. Of course, given the unpredictability of the Shannahan running game, we could very well see another back get the reps in Week 2, but for now, we have to go with the assumption that it’ll be Morris.

Robert Griffin III: 230 pass yds, 1 TD, 1 INT, 40 rush yds
Pierre Garcon: 65 rec yds
Aldrick Robinson: 40 rec yds
Santana Moss: 30 rec yds
Fred Davis: 50 rec yds, 1 TD
Alfred Morris: 90 rush yds, 2 TD
Roy Helu: 20 rush yds, 20 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: When a team fails badly on moving the ball against a porous defense such as the Lions’, there comes a point where you have to start blaming the quarterback. Yes, Bradford looked decent, but the complete lack of big plays kept the Lions out of trouble throughout most of the contest. Danny Amendola is back as a reliable possession receiver, but no one else in the offense has produced or seems likely to produce anything on a consistent basis.

To make matters worse, Bradford and his banged-up offensive line will be going up against a Redskins team, which forced Saints quarterback Drew Brees into numerous errant throws in Week 1. Though Brees ended the day with a nice fantasy total, the reality is, the Rams just do not have the targets that the Saints do and Sam Bradford is nowhere near the level of Drew Brees.

Running Game Thoughts: Given the Rams’ woes in the passing game, they will likely look to running back Steven Jackson to carry their offense yet again and particularly in Week 2. Jackson touched the ball 25 times against the Lions and although he didn’t have a great fantasy day, he proved that he will continue to be a reliable option to produce decent stats just about every week. Despite rumors that Jackson would be seeing a reduced workload, Rams rookie running back Isaiah Pead didn’t touch the ball a single time in Week 1, so feel free to start Jackson with confidence that he won’t drop a goose-egg on you, even if it’s unlikely that he’ll be a top scorer at any time this season.

Washington performed well against the run in Week 1 as they held the Saints to just 32 yards on the ground. Of course, we have to remember that this was the Saints we’re talking about; a team that is no stranger to throwing the ball 50+ times per game as they did in Week 1. The Rams won’t use a similar philosophy, so expect Steven Jackson to get a high number of carries, perhaps even more than a handful of receptions, as they look to get the ball into the hands of their best player.

Sam Bradford: 185 pass yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Danny Amendola: 70 rec yds
Brandon Gibson: 40 rec yds, 1 TD
Steven Jackson: 80 rush yds, 1 TD, 40 rec yds

Prediction: Redskins 27, Rams 20 ^ Top

Cowboys @ Seahawks - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: Beating the defending Super Bowl champions in Week 1? It doesn’t get much better than that and it’s exactly what the Dallas Cowboys did when they knocked off the New York Giants on the road. The star-studded Cowboys passing attack connected on three touchdowns: one to Miles Austin and two to... Kevin Ogletree? Yes, a player who had just 25 career receptions coming into the Thursday night game became the unlikely hero, replacing free agent departure Laurent Robinson as the third receiver behind Dez Bryant and Miles Austin.

The Cowboys passing game was clicking in Week 1, but things won’t be that easy in Week 2 when they head to Seattle to battle the Seahawks defense which is one of the best secondaries in the league. Romo has his own history in Seattle and he will be looking to make up for the epic fail he had in the 2006 playoffs when he fumbled a hold on a kick that cost the Cowboys the game.

Running Game Thoughts: 2011 rookie DeMarco Murray exploded onto the scene last season but it didn’t last long before he was knocked out for the year with a broken ankle. Murray picked right up where he left off in Week 1, though, rushing for 131 yards on 20 carries. Though the Giants held him in check throughout most of the contest, Murray’s explosiveness returned when he broke off a 48-yard run that proved his ankle injury is a thing of the past.

Murray might be relied on fairly heavily against a Seahawks defense, which has been so good against the pass in recent years. Although they held the Cardinals backs to just 27 yards on ground in Week 1, the Seahawks are vulnerable there. They allowed opposing teams to run the ball for over 100 yards in seven contests last season. Murray is healthy and the Cowboys know they have something special. Look for him to touch the ball quite a bit.

Tony Romo: 260 pass yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Dez Bryant: 80 rec yds, 1 TD
Miles Austin: 60 rec yds, 1 TD
Kevin Ogletree: 35 rec yds
Jason Witten: 50 rec yds
DeMarco Murray: 130 rush yds, 1 TD

Passing Game Thoughts: The Russell Wilson era began in Week 1 as the rookie quarterback officially started the very first game of his NFL career. Like most rookies, Wilson had moments of excellence as he confidently tossed a touchdown pass to Sidney Rice in the red zone. Unfortunately, when it came down to the final seconds of the game, Wilson and the Seahawks were unable to score from inside the 10-yard line and they walked away with their first loss of the season against a weak Cardinals team.

The secondary has long been the Achilles’ heel of the Dallas Cowboys defense. This past offseason was the first time they truly focus on correcting those problems as they acquired free agent cornerback Brandon Carr and drafted the top rookie cornerback in the draft, Morris Claiborne. Both players paid immediate dividends in Week 1 as they blanketed Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, refusing to allow either man to have big games. With the Seahawks having a rookie quarterback and receivers that aren’t anywhere near the skill level of Nicks or Cruz, look for them to run a fairly conservative offense which could lead to a weak fantasy day for the passing game.

Running Game Thoughts: Although he didn’t score in Week 1, Marshawn Lynch did his job, contributing 97 total yards of offense in what very well could have been a road division victory for Seattle. Lynch’s back problems during the week caused him to not be completely prepared for the game, so we have to assume that there is still more in the tank than what we saw out of him in Week 1. Rookie Robert Turbin touched the ball just three times and although he is expected to be worked into the offense more as the season goes on, for now, the job is securely Lynch’s.

With Dallas’ secondary so vastly improved, the Seahawks are likely planning to get the ball Lynch’s hands early and often. The Cowboys did concede a touchdown to Ahmad Bradshaw in Week 1 and although their front seven including Jay Ratliff and Sean Lee are good, there are still fantasy points to be had for opposing teams that opt to commit to the run. Lynch ran for 135 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries against the Cowboys in Week 9 of the 2011 season, so he has proven that he can be a big-time fantasy contributor against Dallas, even in a game where his team scored just 13 points.

Russell Wilson: 180 pass yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Braylon Edwards: 50 rec yds
Sidney Rice: 40 rec yds, 1 TD
Zach Miller: 35 rec yds
Marshawn Lynch: 110 rush yds, 1 TD, 10 rec yds

Prediction: Cowboys 30, Seahawks 17 ^ Top

Buccaneers @ Giants - (Marcoccio)

Passing Game Thoughts: Following his second season in the league, Josh Freeman appeared to be on the verge of stardom. However, he followed that season up with a poor showing in 2011, and has not gotten off to a particularly fast start in 2012. In his defense, a game plan that heavily featured the running game limited his opportunities. Freeman was efficient, completing 16 of 24 passes with a touchdown, but his yards per attempt of 5.75 was subpar and shows that he’s still not successfully attacking down the field despite the major offseason acquisition of deep threat Vincent Jackson. Most reading this were likely aware that new head coach Greg Shiano’s plan was to have a very conservative offense in Tampa Bay this year, and the Week 1 run-pass ratio of 36 to 24 fully supports the notion of a conservative philosophy. Jackson’s production was always inconsistent in San Diego. This season his big games may be even fewer and further between.

The Giants secondary, which was already depleted heading into Week 1, saw journeyman corner Michael Coe forced to the sidelines with an injury in the middle of the game. As a result, surprise breakout receiver Kevin Ogletree seemed to be matched up against the guy who was the Bud Light vendor in the stands earlier that evening. The Giants surrendered 307 passing yards and three touchdowns to Tony Romo last Wednesday night and will surely welcome a conservative Buccaneer game plan this week. They may also be welcoming back second-year cornerback Prince Amukamara, who missed Week 1. The Giants' bread and butter on defense has always been their ability to rush the passer, and they will be looking to rattle Freemen into a few mistakes—something Carolina was unable to accomplish in Week 1.

Running Game Thoughts: Rookie back Doug Martin looked fairly average against a poor Carolina run defense, but fantasy owners will surely take note of the 24 carries and four passes he hauled in as the centerpiece of the Buccaneers offense. Martin averaged only 3.91 ypc—but volume production is still production for fantasy owners. The loss of offensive tackle Joseph Davin was a tough break for a team that wants to base its offense on a power-rushing scheme, but the O-line should still be adequate enough to give Martin some running room. Last year’s starting running back, LeGarrette Blount, was seldom used to spell Martin in Week 1. Blount saw only three carries and should now be considered nothing more than a handcuff for Martin owners. The burly Blount wasn’t even used at the goal line, as Martin was given two carries inside the 5-yard line when the Bucs got in close. Unfortunately for Martin owners, he was stuffed on both his goal-line attempts.
The Giants were holding DeMarco Murray in check in Week 1 until a broken play, where Murray was able to bounce outside, resulting in a 48-yard gain. The Cowboys finished the game with 144 yards on the ground. The Giants finished 19th in the NFL against the run last season and must do a better job, starting this week, if they wish to avoid an 0-2 start to the season.

Josh Freeman: 205 pass yds 1 TD, 1 INT / 20 rush yds
Vincent Jackson: 65 rec yds
Mike Williams: 40 rec yds
Dallas Clark: 30 rec yds, 1 TD
Doug Martin: 85 rush yds / 35 rec yds
LeGarrette Blount: 20 rush yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Eli Manning didn’t play that poorly in Week 1; however, he didn’t quite match the expectations of his owners in barely cracking 200 yards passing with only one touchdown. Manning wasn’t helped by his wide receivers, particularly Victor Cruz, who dropped a few critical passes, or his O-line, which was unable to hold back a fierce Dallas pass rush. Hakeem Nicks, perhaps slowed by his healing broken foot, had a rough time gaining separation from rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne. He should fare better against an inferior Tampa Bay secondary. Cruz owners should take solace in his 11 targets and hope his lack of concentration doesn’t become an issue throughout the 2012 season. My feeling is that it will not. Tight end Martellus Bennett grabbed Eli’s only touchdown pass of the night, and while he doesn’t move all that well after the catch, he’s far more athletic than Jake Ballard and Kevin Boss, who fared well in the Giants’ system playing with Manning. After a poor Week 1 showing, the Giants passing attack should be looking to hit on all cylinders this week.

Tampa Bay’s pass defense wasn’t any good in 2011 (238.4 ypg and 30 TDs allowed) and allowed Cam Newton to throw for over 300 yards in Week 1. Steve Smith ran free for 7 catches and 106 yards during the game, which may bode well for Victor Cruz, who, while not nearly as strong as Smith, plays similarly in all other aspects.

Running Game Thoughts: Ahmad Bradshaw was bottled up by the Cowboy front seven for a large part of the night, but his hard running and persistence allowed him to finish with 78 yards rushing and a touchdown. Bradshaw is a versatile back who will produce as long as he’s healthy—which isn’t always a given. Explosive rookie David Wilson was rotated in equally with Bradshaw to start the game, but a late first-quarter fumble kept him on the sideline for the rest of the game. Wilson had fumbling issues while at Virginia Tech, and with a no-nonsense coach like Tom Coughlin, he will need to overcome this problem in order to see playing time. He should get a clean slate to start off Week 2 but will of course be on a short leash.

The Buccaneers, who struggled mightily to stop the run in 2011 (156.1 ypg and 26 TDs on the season), held the Carolina rushing attack to a meager 10 yards rushing on 13 carries in Week 1. The Carolina O-line was overwhelmed by the Tampa Bay front seven. Week 2 should start to tell us whether Week 1 was a sign of change or merely a mirage.

Eli Manning: 305 pass yds 2 TDs
Hakeem Nicks: 65 rec yds, 1 TD
Victor Cruz: 105 rec yds, 1 TD
Domenik Hixon: 30 rec yds
Martellus Bennett: 55 rec yds
Ahmad Bradshaw: 55 rush yds, 1 TD / 20 rec yds
David Wilson: 30 rush yds

Prediction: Giants 24, Buccaneers 13 ^ Top

Cardinals @ Patriots - (Marcoccio)

Passing Game Thoughts: Former Fordham Ram Jon Skelton beat out the high-priced Kevin Kolb in what was one of the least inspiring training camp quarterback competitions of all time. Skelton failed to move the team effectively in Week 1 against a solid Seattle Seahawks defense, before leaving the game with an ankle sprain. The injury is expected to keep him out of action for the next 2-3 weeks. Kolb was effective in relief, completing 6 of 8 passes for 66 yards, plus a touchdown to wideout Andre Roberts that gave the Cardinals an opening day victory. Kolb will now take over behind a porous line but with one of the premier pass catchers in the league, Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald had a quiet opening game but will clearly be the focus of the offense on a weekly basis. Kolb has a strong arm and is accurate but at times fails to stand strong in the pocket under pressure, which often leads to costly mistakes while on the run. The Arizona O-line, which lost tackle Levi Brown for the season, already isn’t likely to do him any favors against a revamped New England pass rush.

The Patriots pass defense finished last year ranked 31st in the NFL ahead of only Green Bay, after allowing 293.9 yards per game and 26 touchdowns on the season. The Patriots' young talent in the secondary, Devin McCourtney and Patrick Chung, showed flashes at times but were inconsistent under the opposition’s constant need to air it out in order to keep up with the high-flying Pats offense. The Patriots spent two first-round draft picks on rookie pass rushers Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower, who each looked like the real deal throughout the preseason. The pair further cemented their high expectations in Week 1 when Jones strip-sacked Jake Locker and Hightower recovered the fumble and ran it back for a touchdown. Expect the pair to disrupt Kevin Kolb all day in Foxboro.

Running Game Thoughts: Ryan Williams got the start at running back for Arizona in Week 1, as Beanie Wells still had some lingering knee issues forcing him to the sideline. Neither back was effective at all behind a poor effort from their O-line, as the duo combined for 23 yards on 15 carries. To make matters worse for their owners, it was the diminutive third-down back LaRod Stephens Howling who got the call at the goal line to punch in the Cards' lone rushing touchdown.

The Tennessee rushing attack was largely unsuccessful against the Patriots in Week 1. Vince Wilfork played extremely well as usual as his large body ate up space in the middle of the line, forcing Chris Johnson into the jaws of Jarrod Mayo and his boys. Johnson finished with only four yards on 11 carries and the Titans finished with a mere 20 yards rushing on the day. Don’t expect anything from any of the Cardinals' running backs this week, as last year’s totals of 117.1 ypg and 13 rushing touchdowns against the Patriots shows that the Week 1 results were not a total fluke.

Kevin Kolb: 215 pass yds 2 TDs, 2 INT
Larry Fitzgerald: 85 rec yds, 1 TD
Andre Roberts: 40 rec yds
Todd Heap: 30 rec yds, 1 TD
Ryan Williams: 25 rush yds / 10 rec yds
Beanie Wells: 35 rush yds / 5 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Tom Brady was effective in Week 1, but he was not required to put up the gaudy statistics that his owners have come to expect. The New England defense kept the Patriots comfortably ahead and the rushing attack was clicking on all cylinders (more on that later), thus the vaunted aerial attack took a back seat in Week 1. Is this a hint of things to come? I expect not. The Patriots passing attack is prolific, and even if their defense steps up big time in 2012 and Steven Ridley has a Corey Dillonesque season, Billy Boy will feel the need to unleash the big guns at some point. The two biggest guns, behind Brady of course, are third-year tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, who were once again the focal point of the offense much as they were last season. Each of them was on the receiving end of a Tom Brady touchdown pass. Wes Welker was uncharacteristically quiet, but the Patriots surely didn’t spend $9 million on the franchise tag option just to “phase him out of the offense in preparation of 2013,” as some crazy message board folks suggest may be the case. If any owner in your league is on board with that logic after Week 1, be sure to send out a few trade feelers.

Arizona faced a rookie quarterback in Week 1 and allowed only 139 yards passing. While the team does possess a strong defense, expect Brady to at least double those numbers.

Running Game Thoughts: Gone is the dependable BenJarvus Green-Ellis, in steps the second-year running back out of LSU, Steven Ridley, who is a more explosive version of the Law Firm minus the glue-lined hands. Ridley ran all over the Titans in Week 1 in Music City, to the tune of 125 yards and a score. Ridley runs with good instinct and pad level and should be a very useful RB2 so long as he sees a steady stream of carries. While a running back rotation has been an issue with the Patriots in past seasons, Ridley just may give the team no choice than to run with a feature back. There really isn’t any aspect of his game that is lacking. Danny Woodhead, the Cinderella story out of Chadron State, will likely hold onto the third-down role—though Ridley can still contribute in the passing game when called upon. The Pats run blocking has long been underrated, and their pass-run ratio has always been more balanced than most would believe, so there is some value here.

The Arizona run defense was middle of the road last season, allowing 124.1 ypg and 15 touchdowns on the year. They held Marshawn Lynch to 85 yards and kept him out of the end zone last week—based on last season, that's not an easy thing to do. The Cardinals are not an easy matchup for the Pats running game, so proceed with caution.

Tom Brady: 365 pass yds 3 TDs
Brandon Lloyd: 95 rec yds, 1 TD
Wes Welker: 80 rec yds
Rob Gronkowski: 70 rec yds, 2 TDs
Aaron Hernandez: 60 rec yds
Stevan Ridley: 85 rush yds / 10 rec yds
Danny Woodhead: 5 rush yds / 25 rec yds

Prediction: Patriots 30, Cardinals 17 ^ Top

Chiefs @ Bills - (Marcoccio)

Passing Game Thoughts: Matt Cassel's production generally equals the sum of his parts. He’s a smart, accurate quarterback with average mobility and a below-average arm. Thus, his production generally ends up being average to below average when compared to other NFL starters. Last week he produced well—albeit in a blowout loss—putting up 258 passing yards with a passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown. His best target, Dwayne Bowe, missed most of the preseason action in a contract holdout and will need a little time to shake off some rust. Dexter McCluster, who shifted back to running back last season after Jamal Charles was injured, is now being used exclusively as a slot receiver and was targeted often in this offense, finishing with six receptions for 82 yards. The Chiefs will need second year wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin, their first round pick of last year, to step up and contribute or it will never be a passing attack feared by opposing defenses.

The Bills ranked 19th against the pass in 2011 after allowing 232.0 ypg, and they gave up the third most passing touchdowns in the league with 30. They say “things change quickly” in this league, but often is the case that “some things never change.” The Bills pass defense was atrocious in the opening weekend as cornerback Stephon Gilmore was abused by rookie receiver Stephen Hill for two touchdowns, and the unit as a whole allowed the much-maligned Mark Sanchez to toss three touchdowns. Big free agent acquisition Mario Williams was expected to help the Bills pass rush, but he failed to pressure Sanchez at all despite lining up against inexperienced right tackle Austin Howard, who was only recently promoted to the starting lineup. It could be another long season in Buffalo unless “things change quickly.”

Running Game Thoughts: The Chiefs entered the season with two “starting” running backs in Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis, each of whom has spent one season near the top of the year-end fantasy rankings. Charles looked explosive in Week 1 despite recovering from an ACL tear that he suffered in Week 2 of last season. Hillis never really got underway, but after being reunited with his former offensive coordinator, Brain Daboll, he should work his way back into the mix against a poor Buffalo run defense.

The Bills presented an easy matchup for running backs all of last season, allowing 139 ypg on the ground and 19 rushing touchdowns. In another example of “some things never change,” the Jets ran all over the Bills last week behind Shonn Greene’s 94 yards and a score. The Chiefs' O-line should be able to handle the Bills' front seven and allow both their running backs to have productive outings.

Matt Cassel: 235 pass yds 2 TDs, 1 INT / 15 yds rushing
Dwayne Bowe: 65 rec yds, 1 TD
Jonathan Baldwin: 15 rec yds
Kevin Boss: 20 rec yds
Tony Moeaki: 40 rec yds
Peyton Hillis: 55 rush yds, 1 TD / 5 rec yds
Jamaal Charles: 80 rush yds / 35 rec yds, 1 TD

Passing Game Thoughts: Ryan Fitzpatrick ended up with a decent stat line last week (if you don't include his three interceptions). However, he really struggled up until the Jets defense relaxed behind a 41-7 lead, which allowed him to throw three late touchdowns. He signed a rather large contract extension right before ultimately collapsing last season, something the Bills must be regretting badly. Fitzpatrick is limited by a weak arm and, despite his Harvard education, his poor decision making. Stevie Johnson is on the verge of stardom and Fitzpatrick will need to rely on him to have any success this season. David Nelson was lost for the season to a knee injury last week, so Donald Jones will move inside to the slot and rookie receiver T.J. Graham will move into the spot opposite Johnson on the outside. Graham is raw but has top-level speed, which could open up the offense a little—something the passing game has lacked. Unfortunately, Fitzpatrick may not be able to get the ball deep to Graham, but the threat of it could open up the underneath routes more. Tight end Scott Chandler’s role may increase a bit with Nelson’s being void. And with his already being a good red-zone option, the extra targets could push Chandler into a low-end TE1 status.

The Chiefs defense was decimated by suspension and injuries in Week 1, and they were lit up like the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree by Matt Ryan and the Falcons as a result. If cornerback Brandon Flowers, who was out with a heel injury last week, is forced to miss Week 2, Stevie Johnson could crack the top 5 WRs this week.

Running Game Thoughts: Fred Jackson sprained his knee early in the Week 1 contest, which allowed C.J. Spiller to break out with 169 yards and a touchdown. Spiller looked unstoppable even when taking the ball inside last week, and he'll be a boon to fantasy owners who drafted him in the middle rounds for at least the next 3 to 8 weeks that Jackson is expected to miss. The Bills O-line showed vast improvement last season, which should allow Spiller, with his elite speed, to produce big numbers as a feature back.

The Chief’s 26th-ranked run defense of last season was not really tested in Week 1, as Atlanta handed the ball off to a running back only 20 times. They did hold Michael Tuner to only 32 yards on 11 carries, but Turner is looking as though he may be at the end of his NFL career, so the Chiefs run defense has an incomplete grade entering Week 2.

Ryan Fitzpatrick: 255 pass yds 2 TDs, 1 INT / 20 rush yds
Steve Johnson: 105 rec yds, 1 TD
Donald Jones: 40 rec yds
Scott Chandler: 45 rec yds, 1 TD
C.J. Spiller: 90 yards rushing / 35 yds receiving

Prediction: Chiefs 24, Bills 17 ^ Top

Ravens @ Eagles - (Marcoccio)

Passing Game Thoughts: Last year when Eli Manning called himself “elite” and “on the same level as Tom Brady,” everyone laughed. This offseason when Joe Flacco stated he was a “top 5 quarterback,” everyone laughed. Will Flacco be the one laughing at season’s end, much like Eli was? Flacco has an outstanding preseason and looked like a top 5 quarterback in Week 1. The Ravens are now featuring the no-huddle offense with impressive results. Flacco threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns as the Ravens scored 44 points on a tough Bengals defense. The Ravens are featuring two-tight end sets with Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, and like the Patriots they are doing so with a passing offense base rather than the more traditional run-based version of the set. Torrey Smith started the game with a bang, grabbing a 50-plus yard reception, but he was quiet the rest of the way. He should excel in this offense most weeks, as his game is very similar to Mike Wallace of the Steelers.

The Eagles secondary lived up to its billing last week, but that had a lot to do with their facing rookie Brandon Weeden, who looked historically bad. The Eagles pass defense wasn’t as “shut-down” as expected last season after they signed Nnamdi Asomugha and traded for Dominick Rodgers-Cromartie, but they did start to jell as the season wore on. On paper this should be one of the top units in the league.

Running Game Thoughts: Ray Rice was built for the two-minute offense, as he is one of the best running backs in the league catching passes out of the backfield. While he only saw ten carries in the new-look offense, he made up for it with his usage in the passing game and by scoring two touchdowns. You drafted Rice with one of the first four picks, so you are going to play him no matter what the matchup is.

The Eagles held rookie sensation Trent Richardson in check last week, but Richardson was coming off of knee surgery and had some trouble pushing off and exploding into space. Just like one could not ascertain much info about what the Eagles pass defense will look like due to Weeden’s play, the same can probably be said about facing a gimpy Richardson. The Eagles did bring in DeMeco Ryans this offseason to solve the middle linebacker issues that have been plaguing them for a few years, so it also appears to be a very good unit on paper.

Joe Flacco: 265 pass yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT / 10 rush yds
Torrey Smith: 95 rec yds, 1 TD
Anquan Boldin: 50 rec yds
Dennis Pitta: 35 rec yds, 1 TD
Ed Dickson: 20 rec yds
Ray Rice: 65 rush yds, 1 TD / 35 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Michael Vick threw four interceptions against the Browns last week and should have been picked off a fifth time as well. A Cleveland linebacker dropped a ball that hit him right in the hands on the drive that culminated with the game-winning touchdown toss to tight end Clay Harbor. The speed possessed by Vick and wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin will make them a very difficult matchup each week, as long as all are healthy. Speaking of which, Vick and Maclin have each had issues with that. Maclin, after suffering a hip flexor injury in Week 1, is in danger of missing Week 2. Jason Avant and rookie Damaris Johnson would pick up Maclin’s slack should he miss the game. The re-signing of preseason cut Mardy Gilyard this week is not a good sign if you're worried about Maclin’s status. Tight end Brent Celek was asked to stay in and block on a large percentage of the Eagles passing plays early last season, but he became more involved as the season went on. Celek isn’t as athletic as some of the new breed of tight ends, but he does possess decent speed, has great hands, and finds a way to get open.

The Ravens defense stymied Andy Dalton and the Bengals passing game in Week 1, but the Bengals don’t have the weapons that the Eagles bring to the table. The Ravens finished fourth in the league in pass defense last season. If Vick is as sloppy with the ball as he was last week, safety Ed Reed will be happy to add to his all-time lead in interception return yards after setting the record last week.

Running Game Thoughts: Like his counterpart, Rice, LeSean McCoy doesn’t need a lot of carries to be a big part of the offense. An Andy Reid offense likes to involve its running backs in the passing game, and McCoy is adept at catching passes and making something happen afterward. McCoy has all the quickness, lateral movement, and deceptive strength of his predecessor Brian Westbrook, who was also the unsung hero of the Eagles of the 2000s. McCoy had 20 total touchdowns last season, a number he’ll be hard-pressed to match, but he should end up in double digits when all is said and done, even after being shut out of the end zone last week.

The aggressive Ravens defense finished as the second-ranked run defense in 2011 after allowing only 92.6 ypg and just 10 rushing touchdowns. They did, however, allow a very average BenJarvus Green-Ellis to have a big game last Monday Night, so McCoy owners shouldn’t have any fears about inserting him into their lineups.

Michael Vick: 245 pass yds, 1 TD, 1 INT / 35 rush yds, 1 TD
DeSean Jackson: 80 rec yds
Damaris Johnson: 35 rec yds
Jason Avant: 30 rec yds
Brent Celek: 40 rec yds, 1 TD
LeSean McCoy: 105 rush yds / 30 yds receiving
Bryce Brown: 10 rush yds

Prediction: Ravens 27, Eagles 20 ^ Top

Raiders @ Dolphins - (Marcoccio)

Passing Game Thoughts: Last week, Carson Palmer seemed hesitant to throw the ball downfield and dumped it off 13 times to running back Darren McFadden. While Palmer has never really looked the same after he tore his elbow and decided against having it surgically repaired, the lack of a deep ball may have had more to do with the Raiders' missing many of their weapons in the passing game. Wide receiver Jacoby Ford will now miss the season following foot surgery for a lis franc injury, but fellow speedster Denarius Moore should be able to return to the lineup in Miami. Moore is an explosive player that should help the passing game, but if Palmer does not return to form, it may not matter much. Undrafted rookie Rod Streater generated a lot of camp buzz and started in place of Moore last week. He was kept quiet for most of the game until a late touchdown grab salvaged his fantasy numbers. He should still be a big part of the game plan, with Ford being put on the shelf.

Miami allowed 249.5 passing yards per game and 24 passing touchdowns during the 2011 season. The unit performed much better when cornerback Vontae Davis was healthy and on the field last season, but unfortunately for Phins’ fans, Davis was shipped off to the Indianapolis Colts for a second-round pick.

Running Game Thoughts: McFadden was held in check as a runner by the San Diego defense last week, but as mentioned above, his incredible number of pass receptions saved the day for his fantasy owners. McFadden is one of the most dynamic runners in the league and will not be held down long, so long as he remains healthy. Of course, anyone that has followed this sport knows that health has been an issue for the former Razorback. The battle for the No. 2 spot behind McFadden is reportedly still up for grabs, but it was Mike Goodson, who was acquired from the Panthers this offseason, who received the only other running back carries on Monday night. In all likelihood, Goodson and Taiwan Jones would work in a committee should McFadden succumb to injury.

Miami allowed only eight rushing touchdowns all of last season, but Arian Foster found pay dirt twice against them in Week 1. The Dolphins lost hard-hitting safety Yeremiah Bell during the offseason, but the linebacking crew of Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett and Seam Smith is a solid unit and the Dolphins should continue to be tough against the run.

Carson Palmer: 240 pass yds 1 TDs, 1 INT
Denarius Moore: 85 rec yds, 1 TD
Darrius Heyward-Bey: 60 rec yds
Rod Streater: 40 rec yds
Brandon Myers: 5 rec yds
Darren McFadden: 95 rush yds, 1 TD / 35 rec yds
Mike Goodson: 20 rush yds / 5 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Well, I guess Dolphins’ fans can take solace in the fact that rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill wasn’t the worst quarterback starting on Sunday. While that distinction goes to fellow rookie Brandon Weeden, Tannehill’s 20 of 36 attempts with three interceptions left a lot to be desired. In his defense, the Dolphins probably had the second worst group of pass catchers on the field as well last Sunday. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall was jettisoned over the offseason for two third-round picks, leaving role players like Brian Hartline, Davone Bess and Legedu Naanee as the top options at wideout and the below-average Anthony Fasano manning the tight end slot. You want no part of this passing game, even as a bye week filler.

The Raiders aren’t nearly in the same league as their Bay Area brethren San Francisco 49ers when it comes to the defensive side of the ball; but in Miami this weekend you may not be able to tell the difference. Cornerbacks Pat Lee and Shawntae Spencer are not likely to have an easier time shutting down wide receivers in their careers than they will have in Week 2.

Running Game Thoughts: Reggie Bush set a career high in rushing yards last season, finally producing like everyone thought he would when New Orleans made him the second overall pick in the 2006 draft. To his credit, he proved his doubters wrong in taking the starting running back role away from rookie Daniel Thomas and running hard with it all season before missing Week 17. Bush finally decided to stop trying to make the big play and put his head down and ran North-South, and he was one of the better backs in the league last season because of it. He continued where he left off last season in Week 1 of this season, totaling 115 yards of offense despite being the only player that the Houston defense had to be concerned about. Bush should be a monster in PPR leagues this season, as he should be the team’s leading receiver as well their leading rusher.

Ryan Tannehill: 205 pass yds, 1 INT / 25 rush yds
Legedu Naanee: 10 rec yds
Davone Bess: 60 rec yds
Brian Hartline: 40 rec yds
Anthony Fasano: 25 rec yds
Lamar Miller: 10 rush yds
Reggie Bush: 75 rush yds, 1 TD / 45 rec yds

Prediction: Raiders 17, Dolphins 13 ^ Top