Fantasy Football Today - fantasy football rankings, cheatsheets, and information
A Fantasy Football Community!

Create An Account  |  Advertise  |  Contact      

Eli Mack, Sal Marcoccio, Chris Eakin, Joe Kilroy

Inside The Matchup: Wk 3

TEN @ NYJ | KC @ PHI | NO @ BUF | ATL @ NE



 Predictions - YTD
Rk Staffer W L %
1 Joe 7 2 77.8
2 Eli 6 2 75.0
3 Chris 5 2 71.4
4 Sal 5 3 62.5

Note: FF Pts Allowed are shown as +/- percentage relative to the NFL average. Green equals a positive matchup, grey a neutral matchup and red a negative matchup. Also note the sample size (2 weeks) is very low. The FF Pts Allowed percentages will become more meaningful as the season progresses.

Titans @ Jets (Marcoccio)

Kerry Collins/ Lendale White/Chris Johnson
Justin Gage/Nate Washington/Kenny Britt/Bo Scaife (vs. NYJ)

NYJ FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -46.4%
NYJ FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -51.8%
NYJ FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -36.5%
NYJ FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -56.2%

Passing Game Thoughts: The Titans passing game has been surprisingly effective in 2009. Kerry Collins (460 yards, 3 TDs on the 2009 season) was asked to be nothing more than a game manager in 2008, but this season he’s been asked to do more passing. The fact that the Titans sit at 0-2, should tell you that HC Jeff Fischer would like the passing game to return to the backseat behind the defense and running game on the Titans pecking order of how they would like to win games. However Pittsburgh’s tough run defense and last week’s shootout with Houston has forced Tennessee to go to the air more than they would have liked the last two weeks. The Titans WR trio of Justin Gage, Nate Washington and rookie Kenny Britt isn’t striking fear into anyone but it is a more talented unit than the Titans have had in place in recent years and all have unique skills that help Collins move the ball downfield. Gage is likely the only worthy fantasy starter at this point, but even he is best suited as a WR 3. TE Bo Scaife missed last week and it is unknown if he’ll be able to play in Week 3. With rookie TE Jared Cook also injured the Titans have no viable TE to speak of if Scaife does not play.

The new look Jets defense has now kept the high powered Houston offense and the even more high powered New England offense out of the endzone in consecutive weeks. Darrelle Revis (with occasional help) has now held Andre Johnson and Randy Moss to a mere 8 harmless catches combined in two weeks. Needless to say fantasy owners may want to consider benching even your top-end studs when matched up with Revis. CB Lito Sheppard got nicked up last week and was replaced by second year pro Dwight Lowery but the defense did not miss a beat. Rex Ryan’s blitzing schemes simply do not allow a QB to get comfortable in the pocket and even with the Pats needing to drive the field with a minute to play for a TD which would tie the score, Ryan sent as many as seven pass rushers at Brady instead of playing a prevent defense. There may come a week when the Jets get burned by the blitz, but it will not be this week with Kerry Collins at the helm.

Running Game Thoughts: Last week I was one of the unlucky owners who faced Chris Johnson, and despite being that league’s second highest scoring team in Week 2 , I did of course lose. Chris Johnson had a game for the ages, rushing for 197 yards and two scores while also totaling 87 yards and a score via the pass. With Johnson taking chunks of yardage off the field with each carry, only scraps were left for platoon partner Lendale White (6 carries for 25 yards). The Titans 1-2 punch is amongst the best in the league and if they had their way they would run 30-35 times a game behind their superior o-line. Look for them to try and establish the run early and often in Week 3 in order to negate the blitz.

The Jets were one of the top 7 run defenses in 2008 and while only technically ranked 6th so far in 2009, it would be tough to find 5 run defenses that have looked better thus far. Kris Jenkins is a force on the interior of the line and LBs David Harris and Bart Scott are tacking machines. Steve Slaton a similar (but less dynamic) runner to Chris Johnson was held to only 17 yards on the ground in Week 1, so it will be one of the game’s more intriguing matchups to see if he can make the speedy Jet LBs and ball hawking safety Kerry Rhodes miss him and then try to catch him.

Kerry Collins: 175 yds passing 1 Int.
Justin Gage: 35 yds receiving
Nate Washington: 20 yds receiving
Kenny Britt: 15 yds receiving
Bo Scaife: 10 yds receiving
Chris Johnson: 85 yds rushing, 1 TD / 20 yds receiving
LenDale White: 15 yards rushing, 1 TD

Mark Sanchez/ Thomas Jones/Leon Washington
Chansi Stuckey/Jerricho Cotchery/Dustin Keller (vs. TEN)

TEN FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +52.7%
TEN FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -61.8%
TEN FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +96.0%
TEN FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +46.3%

Passing Game Thoughts: Mark Sanchez has joined last season’s rookie QBs Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco on the side of the argument that disputes the long held belief that you cannot win NFL games with a rookie QB. As in week 1, once again, only 4 Jet “receivers” caught the ball on Sunday (Chansi Stuckey, Jericho Cotchery, TE Dustin Keller and RB Leon Washington) – ok Thomas Jones caught one but it went for a negative yard. It’s apparent that the game plan is scaled back for Sanchez, but he has done more than anyone could have expected. This week it was TE Dustin Keller that hauled in Sanchez’ lone TD pass, but Chansi Stuckey was also targeted in the endzone, however his TD catch was over-turned when the replay showed one foot was not in bounds.

The Titans have been surprisingly vulnerable through the air this season thus far. In fact they are dead last in passing defense, allowing 339 yards per games and 5 TDs through the air. In fairness to this proud unit, teams have been stymied attempting to run on Tennessee so they have had no choice but to attack through the air. Still if Cortland Finnegan and Nick Harper don’t start covering better and if the Titans fail to generate a pass rush against the better o-lines, this team’s 0-2 record may not be a mirage.

Running Game Thoughts: The Jets were not very effective running the ball last week against a depleted New England defense, but still managed to gain 117 yards on the ground due to the 31 attempts. Jones and Washington each broke long runs against the Titans defense last year in Tennessee. Despite the porous pass defense of the Titans, the Jets have shown so far this season that they will attack opposing defense on the ground and hope to win the battle of field position, and eventually the game. However, this week those efforts may prove futile forcing the Jets to air it out a little.

The Titans have allowed less than 50 yards a game on the ground this season and have not allowed a rushing TD, so the Jets will have their work cut out for them. Surprisingly the loss of Albert Haynesworth has not affected the middle of this defense as much as many suspected as Tony Brown, Jovan Haye and Jason Jones have rotated in effectively. Of course having strong tacklers like Keith Bullock, Stephen Tulloch and David Thorton at line-backer will keep any run defense strong.

Mark Sanchez: 245 yds passing, 2 TDs, 1 Int. / 10 yards rushing
Chansi Stuckey: 40 yds receiving, 1 TD
Jerricho Cotchery: 85 yds receiving
Dustin Keller: 75 yds receiving
Thomas Jones: 55 yds rushing / 5 yds receiving
Leon Washington: 30 yds rushing / 30 yds receiving, 1 TD

Prediction: Jets 20 Titans 17

Chiefs @ Eagles (Marcoccio)

Matt Cassell/ Larry Johnson/Jamaal Charles
Dwayne Bowe/Bobby Wade/Sean Ryan (vs. PHI)

PHI FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -5.1%
PHI FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +45.1%
PHI FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -3.5%
PHI FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -54.9%

Passing Game Thoughts: Matt Cassell made his Chiefs debut after a knee injury sidelined him in Week 1. He threw for 241 yards with a TD with 2 interceptions against a tough Raider pass defense. Cassell is a smart and accurate QB in the mold of Chad Pennington. While his arm is stronger than Pennington’s he has yet to show accuracy on his deep passes liming his effectiveness outside of a dink and dunk type of attack. Dwayne Bowe celebrated what the Chiefs hope will be the beginning of a long term partnership by finding the endzone from 29 yards out in Week 2. Bobby Wade who was the Vikings’ leading receiver last offseason and was surprising released by the team at the end of training camp led the Chiefs in receptions grabbing 6 balls for 72 yards. Wade is the type of heady route runner with sticky hands that can thrive under a QB like Cassell. Those in point per reception league should keep an eye on him.

The Eagles’ blitz packages and strong corners were unable to slow down the high flying Saints last week. The defense gave up 311 yard and 3 TDs to Drew Brees. Matt Cassell, although likely closer to Jake Delhomme than Drew Brees in ability, should be able to limit his mistakes better now that he’s had a week to shake off the rust and could keep the Chiefs in this game.

Running Game Thoughts: Larry Johnson is once again in the process of disappointing fantasy owners. Despite having great success against the Raiders in the past, he was only able to gain 78 yards on 24 carries against them last week. His burst seems to be a thing of the past and those 2 years where he was abused by Herman Edwards look like they have buried his future. Exciting second year player Jamaal Charles was a last minute “inactive” after not appearing on the injury report last week. He was replaced by the diminutive Dontrelle Savage who gained 26 yards on 3 carries and also caught 6 balls for 43 yards. It’s unclear what happened with Charles, but HC Todd Haley is known for his quick temper and strict approach so this could have been some sort of disciplinarian action – Haley is claiming that he wanted to see what Savage could do. As the 3rd down back with Cassell at QB could be a useful bye week or injury replacement, this situation should be followed.

Journeyman Mike Bell and the much maligned Reggie Bush ran for 119 yards and 2 TDs against what was supposed to be a tough Eagles D – which was also getting run over by the strong Carolina rushing attack in Week 1 before Delhomme’s turnovers allowed the game to get out of hand. Last season’s leading tackler ILB Stewart Bradley’s pre-season injury may end up being more damaging than it seemed at the time. The Eagles lacked depth at that spot and Omar Gaither playing out of position in Bradley’s place has not been the answer.

Matt Cassell: 255 yds passing 2 TDs, 1 Int.
Dwayne Bowe: 85 yds receiving, 1 TD
Bobby Wade: 60 yds receiving
Sean Ryan: 15 yds receiving, 1 TD
Jamaal Charles: 45 yds rushing / 30 yds receiving
Larry Johnson: 60 yds rushing, 1 TD

Kevin Kolb/Brian Westbrook
Kevin Curtis/Desean Jackson/Jason Avant/Brent Celek (vs. KC)

KC FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -7.6%
KC FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +48.9%
KC FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -20.3%
KC FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -13.6%

Passing Game Thoughts: Donovan McNabb’s broken rib caused him to miss Week 2 and its unknown whether or not he’ll be able to play in Week 3. If he doesn’t third year QB Kevin Kolb should get another start, but bear in mind Michael Vick is eligible to take the field now that his suspension has ended and may see a few plays. Kolb did not protect the ball well (3 Ints.) but he did manage to accrue 391 passing yards and 2 TDs while trying to keep up with the high flying Saints. Desean Jackson made a case for why he should be more involved in the Eagles attack by scoring on a 71 yard catch and run and contributing 101 yards overall. He is suffering from a groin injury however and could miss the game. A couple of Kolb’s practice buddies from last season were featured prominently in the offense with TE Brent Celek grabbing 8 balls for 104 yards and slot man Jason Avant going for 79 yards and a score. If Kolb does get the start again, Celek and Avant could be sneaky plays against a poor Chief’s secondary.

Even after Jamarcus Russell played like…well…Jamarcus Russell last week, the Chiefs pass defense still only ranks mid-pack in the NFL (201 ypg and 3 TDs allowed). They do not have enough depth in the secondary to deal with the many targets that the Eagles will put out there – which this week may include Michael Vick in pass patterns. Bear in mind when looking at the low FF Points allowed to opposing QBs (as seen above) that Russell only completed 7 of his 24 passes last week and it wasn’t because of a strong KC secondary – so take those numbers with a grain of salt until a larger sample size is accumulated.

Running Game Thoughts: Brian Westbrook is playing better than I expected so far after missing most of pre-season recovering from an ankle surgery (he also had knee surgery this offseason), but he hasn’t been the game changer that he once was. Personally I’m not sure that he will be all year, as outside of a few games and big plays, he didn’t look the same last season either. While he’s no longer the most dynamic back in the league he’s still a solid back and a must start if you drafted him. LeSean McCoy is waiting in the wings, but isn’t ready quite yet and its no guarantee he’ll ever be more than a third down back at this level. Keep it in mind that Westbrook reportedly re-injured the ankle that he had the surgery on and could miss the game, in which case rookie RB LeSean McCoy would take over and be a decent spot starter.

The Chiefs have allowed 132 yards per game and 3 TDs on the ground during this young season. DE Tyson Jackson was raw coming out of college despite getting picked in the Top 5 of the NFL draft. NT Tank Tyler does not make much of an impact despite his size and LB Mike Vrabel who came over from the Patriots with Matt Cassell is a good leader but has seen his better days on the field. It should be another long season for Kansas City until GM Scott Pioli is able to get enough of his players in place to turn the franchise around.

Kevin Kolb: 265 yds passing 3 TDs, 1 Int.
Kevin Curtis: 30 yds receiving
Jason Avant: 45 yds receiving, 1 TD
Desean Jackson: 80 yds receiving, 1 TD
Brent Celek: 75 yds receiving, 1 TD
Brian Westbrook: 75 yds rushing, 1 TD / 45 yds receiving
Prediction: Eagles 34 Chiefs 21

Saints @ Bills (Marcoccio)

Drew Brees/Marques Colston/Robert Meachem/Devery Henderson/Jeremy Shockey
Mike Bell/Reggie Bush (vs. BUF)

BUF FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +47.1%
BUF FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -6.7%
BUF FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -6.4%
BUF FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +182.3%

Passing Game Thoughts: Drew Brees (311 yards passing, 3 TDs, 1 Int. in Week 2) was not slowed down by the Eagle’s blitzing defense, and instead showed why he is a legit MVP candidate for this season. As I said last week Brees is match-up proof, as he is smart, accurate, has a well equipped arm and has a plethora of weapons that are always willing to step up when needed. That WR depth may be on display this week, as Lance Moore tweaked a hamstring in Week 2 and may miss the Week 3 contest. Marques Colston caught 2 TDs and now has 3 on the season – so much for worries about off-season micro-fracture surgery. Bottom line is, that its hard to game plan to stop this offense as there isn’t really a “go to” option for Brees and in any given week, Colston, Shockey, Moore, Bush, Henderson, Meachem or even FB Heath Evans (2 TD receptions in 2009) could be the weapon of mass destruction that does the opposing defense in.

Buffalo’s passing defense has been torched for 664 yards and 5 TDs through two games this season. Its one thing to get lit up by Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Ben Watson, but it’s embarrassing when the beat down is coming from Byron Leftwich, Maurice Stovall, Michael Clayton and Kellen Winslow. The Bills have allowed 4 TDs to opposing TEs so far in 2009 – so it just may be a good idea to get Jeremy Shockey in your Week 3 lineup.

Running Game Thoughts: Waiver wire hero Mike Bell who had gained 229 yards and a TD in the first two weeks, ironically sprained his medial collateral ligament -- the same injury that gave him his opportunity when it kept teammate Pierre Thomas out of the line-up. Thomas who suited up last week should now get the chance to take his job back, but he still may not be 100% so his owners may want to wait a week until getting him back in their line-up. Of note is a report circulating on the internet that hard rung rookie RB Lynell Hamilton is claiming that he will see significant carries this week – who knows? Reggie Bush actually ran hard once Bell went down and even looked capable of gaining some tough inside yardage on a few carries. He should be in your line-up in ppr leagues, as Cadillac Williams caught 7 balls on this defense last week.

The Bills run defense has gone untested for the most part, because of the aforementioned sieve of a pass defense. They have only allowed 65 yards per game and 1 TD in 2009 after a very poor showing in 2008 where they where in the league’s bottom half in yards allowed. With Thomas and Bell not quite healthy expect the Saints to continue the aerial assault on the Bills defense, sparing the run defense for another week – it isn’t like that goes against what NO likes to do anyway.

Drew Brees: 345 yds passing 3 TDs
Marques Colston: 75 yds receiving, 1 TD
Robert Meachem: 40 yds receiving, 1 TD
Devery Henderson: 60 yds receiving
Jeremy Shockey: 85 yds receiving, 1 TD
Reggie Bush: 20 yds rushing, 1 TD / 40 yds receiving
Pierre Thomas: 60 yds rushing / 15 yds receiving

Trent Edwards/Fred Jackson
Lee Evans/Terrell Owens/Shawn Nelson (vs. NO)

NO FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +18.0%
NO FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -32.2%
NO FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +32.8%
NO FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -25.9%

Passing Game Thoughts: Trent Edwards has been a surprisingly good late round fantasy QB (422 yds, 4 TDs), effectively running the no-huddle offense installed by the Bills this offseason. He even hooked up with his two big play WRs for long TDs last week after failing to stretch the field in Week 1 where he worked the middle of the field. TE Derek Shouman who grabbed 6 balls in Week 2 was placed on IR this week opening up more time for talented rookie Shawn Nelson. Those in deeper league may want to keep an eye on Nelson.

The Saints, with Will Smith and Charles Grant, can get after the QB but have allowed over 288 passing yards a game despite facing two inexperienced QBs the last two weeks, in Matt Stafford and Kevin Kolb. That does not bode well for the Saints when they face better QBs down the road, but for now with a couple young QBs on the schedule the next two weeks (Edwards and Mark Sanchez) they will rely on their offense to outscore their opponents and hope their defense does enough.

Running Game Thoughts: Fred Jackson was once again the best offensive player on the field for the Bills just as he was in Week 1. He gained 163 yards on the ground and 25 yards receiving the ball. It’s going to be tough to get him off the field when Marshawn Lynch returns from suspension in Week 4, but his owners must be dreading that day as he’s been a fantasy force so far. Jackson runs with great determination, and his vision is outstanding. It will however be a good problem for the Bills as a Lynch/Jackson combo will be among the league’s best 1-2 punches out of the backfield.

Getting out to early leads has helped mask some of last season’s deficiencies in the Saints’ run defense. They have only allowed 118 yards and 2 TDs on the ground through two weeks. The Saints have a talented line backer unit with Jonathan Vilma and Scott Fujita supporting a big defensive line and the safety play has been strong as well. So don’t be surprised if this unit meshes into a better than average unit even when teams do start trying to attack them via the ground in an effort to keep Brees and his boys on the sideline.

Trent Edwards: 225 yds passing, 2 TDs, 1 Int. / 10 yards rushing
Lee Evans: 60 yds receiving
Terrell Owens: 65 yds receiving, 1 TD
Shawn Nelson: 35 yds receiving, 1 TD
Fred Jackson: 95 yds rushing, 1 TD / 35 yds receiving
Prediction: Saints 37 Bills 27

Falcons @ Patriots (Marcoccio)

Matt Ryan/Michael Turner/Jerious Norwood
Roddy White/Michael Jenkins/Tony Gonzalez (vs. NE)

NE FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -11.0%
NE FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -14.1%
NE FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -46.9%
NE FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +26.3%

Passing Game Thoughts: Matt Ryan continue to grow as an NFL QB each week. He has not allowed the Falcons to take the step back that some expected after their miraculous turnaround last season and now leads his team into Foxboro Stadium to meet the Patriots in what would be a real statement win for the 2-0 Falcons. Ryan sees the field like no other young QB has in a long while. He is cool in the pocket and throws strikes to his talented receiving corp. which has added another versatile weapon in the ageless Tony Gonzalez. Gonzo has picked up right where he left off last season, as the best TE in the game. In two weeks he has 12 receptions for 144 yards and 2 TDs. Gonzalez matched up against either a LB from the depleted unit or a nickel back, combined with the speedy and acrobatic Roddy White on the outside is going to cause serious matchup problems for the declining Patriot defense.

The Pats secondary allowed more passing TDs than all but one team (Arizona) last season and has already allowed 3 already with 1 coming from rookie Mark Sanchez (who nearly completed a second score when Chansi Stuckey landed just out of bounds in the back of the endzone). Matt Ryan will be the best QB that the Pats have faced so far and they will need to come up with a good game plan to keep Atlanta at bay if they want to avoid a 1-2 start to the season.

Running Game Thoughts: Michael Turner is one of the more unique backs in the NFL today. At 244 pounds, he has the strength to run defenders over or push his way across the goal-line. However he also has the break away speed that even much smaller backs can only dream about. Last season he did struggle against some of the tougher defenses in the league, but simply ate up the weaker ones. Jerious Norwood has been teasing fantasy owners for four years now. Each year he is fawned over by fantasy football message board posters who dream of an expanded role and big stats, due to his elusiveness and speed which allows some eye popping long runs. Then the reality of the season sets in and a 40 year old Warrick Dunn keeps him on the bench. Norwood is what he is at this point a nice change of pace option but not a feature back.

The Patriots played the run effectively in 2009 allowing 107.6 yards per game and only 8 TDs on the season and have continued to play the run relatively well despite losing many impact players. So far this season they are allowing 103 yards per games and have not allowed a runner to cross the endzone stripe. Given Turner’s up and down performances based on matchups it will be interesting to see if the Patriots are really this good on defense or have just been aided by the circumstances of the games they’ve played in so far.

Matt Ryan: 255 yds passing, 2 TDs
Roddy White: 80 yds receiving, 1 TD
Michael Jenkins: 45 yds receiving
Tony Gonzalez: 85 yds receiving, 1 TD
Michael Turner: 105 yds rushing, 1 TD / 5 yds receiving
Jerious Norwood: 10 yds rushing / 30 yds receiving

Tom Brady/Randy Moss/Wes Welker/Joey Galloway/Ben Watson
Laurence Maroney/Kevin Faulk/Fred Taylor (vs. ATL)

ATL FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -13.3%
ATL FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +8.6%
ATL FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -17.6%
ATL FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +3.1%

Passing Game Thoughts: Tom Brady was unable to get into any rhythm last week due to the constant pressure applied by Rex Ryan’s defense. Though the Jets did not record a sack they hit Brady often and did not allow him to step up into the pocket to complete his throws. Wes Welker was a surprise last minute inactive, but former college QB and Welker clone Julian Edelman (8 catches for 98 yards) stepped in and performed admirably in his place. Welker will likely be questionable again this week. Randy Moss had Darrelle Revis draped all over him and was virtually invisible at the Meadowlands. It’s tough to imagine Moss having back to back poor efforts. Many people will blame last week’s game on Brady being rusty and tentative. I’m not sure if they missed his opening night performance, where he seemed to quickly shake off the rust and forget all about his knee by the games’ 4th Quarter. I think it was just the case of running into a buzzsaw where things broke right for the Jets who have now shut down two top offenses in consecutive weeks. Brady should come out with something to prove and a motivated Brady is an effective Brady.

Atlanta has stud DE Jonathan Abraham to get after opposing QBs, but they lack the overall depth and schemes to put as much pressure on Brady as the Jets did – although I’m sure the heady HC Mike Smith will try and replicate what he sees when watching the game tape this week. The Falcons are giving up 229 passing yards per game thus far and allowed Jake Delhomme who had thrown 9 interceptions in his previous two games to bounce back to respectability in Atlanta last week. This will not be an easy matchup for the birds in black.

Running Game Thoughts: I hope the Pats are playing on the road next week against a non AFC East or NFC East opponent because my head is starting to hurt attempting to figure out in this column how the carries will be distributed between the Pats many mediocre backs. Last week it was Fred Taylor with 8 carries, Laurence Maroney with 6, Kevin Faulk with 3 and Sammy Morris with 2. None of the backs were particularly effective against the staunch Jets defense, but New England can get it done on the ground when they choose to go in that direction. By now my guess is that no one reading this article is starting any New England backs unless they have been hit by serious injuries, but if you have to choose it seems Fred Taylor is the back that Billy Belicheck trusts the most right now.

Atlanta has allowed 240 yards and a TD on the ground so far this season and they have faced two strong running teams in Miami and Carolina, so they have played reasonably well. However they have now lost rookie DT Peria Jerry for the season and are not deep along the interior D-line so they could be vulnerable up the middle going forward. Will the Pats who like to take advantage of opposing team’s weakness attack the Falcons on the ground? That is certainly possible, but not worth the risk for fantasy owners.

Tom Brady: 285 yds passing 3 TDs
Randy Moss: 105 yds receiving, 2 TDs
Wes Welker: 60 yds receiving
Joey Galloway: 30 yds receiving
Ben Watson: 45 yds receiving
Laurence Maroney: 35 yds rushing
Fred Taylor: 75 yards rushing
Kevin Faulk: 20 yds rushing / 35 yds receiving, 1 TD
Prediction: Patriots 24 Falcons 21

Panthers @ Cowboys (Marcoccio)

Jake Delhomme/D’Angelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart
Steve Smith/Mushin Muhammad/Dante Rosario (vs. DAL)

DAL FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +15.3%
DAL FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +5.8%
DAL FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +61.6%
DAL FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -7.2%

Passing Game Thoughts: Jake Delhomme bounced back from a miserable Week 1 where he threw 4 interceptions and also fumbled to have a pretty decent Week 2 (308 yards, 1 TD, 1 Int.). This news is probably not much relief to his fantasy owners (because lets face it how many fantasy players actually rely on Jake Delhomme), but it was music to the ears of Steve Smith (8-131) owners. Jake Delhomme famously locks into his No. 1 WR – when he’s not throwing to the other team of course. This makes the aging Mushin Muhammad and TEs Dante Rosario and Jeff King unreliable players to roster, but gives Steve Smith a legit top 10 potential each season. Bottom line is Delhomme is a much better player than he is given credit for and had a very good 2008 season when you look at numbers such as yards per attempt. He should bounce back now that he got the turnover monkey off his back and make Steve Smith a player your opponents will not like seeing in your line-ups.

The Dallas defense ranked 5th in passing yards allowed last season (187.7 ypg), but are allowing over 300 yards per game this season – due mainly to Eli Manning’s big game last Sunday Night. The Dallas defense amassed a league leading 59 sacks last year and features Marcus Spears and DeMarcus Ware, but did not records a sack so far in 2009 in large part because they have faced two of the better offensive lines in the Giants and Buccaneers. However, Carolina has a very good o-line as well, so Dallas will need to find a way to pressure Delhomme into mistakes in order to help protect their suspect secondary.

Running Game Thoughts: Jonathan Stewart spent most of training camp resting his surgically repaired ankle that continued to give him problems, but so far he has looked as good as could be expected. D’Angelo Williams has yet to put up the eye popping games that his owners were accustomed to down the stretch last season, but has scored a TD each week and seems to be more involved in the passing game. He is arguably the second best pure runner (after Adrian Peterson) in the NFL today, and should start breaking some of those big runs that he has just missed breaking so far this season soon.

Dallas allowed Cadillac Williams and Derrick Ward to run all over them for a combined for 159 yards and two TDs in Week 1. In Week 2 they seemed hell bent on stopping the Giants’ Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, which they did. Of course that cost them dearly as Eli Manning looked more like Peyton Manning as he shredded their defense through the air. So it will be interesting to see if Wade Phillips looks to “sell out” to stop the vaunted Carolina rushing attack or if he looks to balance out his schemes a little.

Jake Delhomme: 225 yds passing, 1 TD, 1 Int.
Steve Smith: 90 yds receiving, 1 TD
Mushin Muhammad: 40 yds receiving
Dante Rosario: 35 yds receiving
D’Angelo Williams: 135 yds rushing, 2 TDs / 15 yds receiving
Jonathan Stewart: 65 yds rushing / 10 yds receiving

Tony Romo/Felix Jones/Tashard Choice
Roy Williams/Patrick Crayton/Jason Witten (vs. CAR)

CAR FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +22.6%
CAR FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +19.8%
CAR FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -32.5%
CAR FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +46.9%

Passing Game Thoughts: Tony Romo who had his best game as a pro – statistically at least (353 yds and 3 TDs) – in Week 1, had one of his worst games as a pro in Week 2 when he almost single handily cost the Cowboys a win with his poor passing (3 Ints.). Romo channeled his inner Brett Favre by making some head scratching decisions that were completely unnecessary in the context of the game. TE Jason Witten is off to a somewhat disappointing start to his 2009 campaign, but is much too talented to not start putting up nice numbers soon. The WRs who did so much in Week 1, did nothing in Week 2, due to Romo’s poor game and a couple of drops on their part. Once Romo gets his head straight the offense should get rolling again, as he is a talented QB with a lightning quick release and the weapons to make some noise.

Carolina has only allowed 302 yards passing during the first two weeks, but have allowed 5 passing TDs. Both of those stats are a reflection of the poor field position the defenses has been put in (especially in Week 1) because of Delhomme’s turnovers. TE Brent Celek and TE Tony Gonzalez have scored TDs in consecutive weeks against the Carolina defense, so this may be Witten’s breakout week.

Running Game Thoughts: Marion Barber appeared to get shot in the leg as he fell down to the ground just short of scoring his second TD of the night. The prognosis is a strained quadriceps muscle and there have been conflicting reports as to his availability for Monday Night. Tashard Choice would take up some of the slack while Felix Jones would likely have an expanded role in his absence. My guess is that Barber sits out at least one game, but keep an eye on the situation. Choice showed last season that he is more than capable of filling in for barber when he put up big games against three of the NFL’s top defenses of last season – New York Giants, Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Because of their depth expect the Cowboys to play it safe with the Barbarian.

Carolina is down to its 57th string DT for Week 3. Ok it isn’t that bad, but the loss of Ma’ake Kemoeatu, Corvey Irvin and Louis Leonard has depleted their interior defense and it shows in the 168 yards per game and 2 TDs they have allowed on the ground. Barber potentially missing this game could be a boost as Jones is not as equipped to run it up the gut and Choice isn’t nearly the wrecking ball that Barber is.

Tony Romo: 275 yds passing 2 TDs, 1 Int. / 25 yds rushing
Roy Williams: 85 yds receiving, 1 TD
Patrick Crayton: 30 yds receiving
Jason Witten: 75 yds receiving, 1 TD
Tashard Choice: 35 yds rushing, 1 TD / 15 yds receiving
Felix Jones: 80 yds rushing / 35 yds receiving

Prediction: Panthers 24 Cowboys 21

Browns @ Ravens (Eli Mack)

Brady Quinn / Jamal Lewis
Josh Cribbs / Braylon Edwards / Mike Furrey / Robert Royal (vs. Baltimore)

BAL FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: 28.9%
BAL FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -24.3%
BAL FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +26.9%
BAL FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -0.1%

Passing Game Thoughts: Remember the so-called head games that Cleveland’s head coach Eric Mangini played with everyone late in the pre-season when he wouldn’t identify who his starting QB was? What a joke; as if there’s a discernable difference between Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson. And how in the world did Mangini get another gig so fast after his underwhelming stint in New York? I’m sorry, I digress. Cleveland’s passing game has been a non-factor so far in 2009. Quinn has looked average at best, throwing only 1 TD through the first two games. Braylon Edwards leads a crew of unheralded (and unproductive) WRs, but it is kick return extraordinaire Josh Cribbs who, along with Edwards, leads the team with seven receptions.

Surprisingly, Baltimore has given up a total of 50 points through the first two games, including 24 to the offensively-challenged Kansas City Chiefs. That at least gives the Browns a glimmer of hope in trying to score points this week. The Ravens will certainly give Quinn a variety of looks and a multitude of blitz schemes. Can he handle it? And can the WRs shed their “unproductive” label in this AFC North showdown? We’ll see. Look for Edwards to be locked down, but also look for Mike Furrey to be a sneaky play this week. His shallow crossing routes and underneath curl patterns could help counter the attacking Baltimore defense. Don’t be surprised to see Cribbs in the wild cat formation either.

Running Game Thoughts: Surprise, surprise. So Jamal Lewis isn’t washed up just yet after all, huh? His normally slow-footed running style shows signs of being nimble and quick, which is quite a departure from 2008. What’s more shocking is his 25 carries so far are 21 more than any other RB on the roster. Will that trend continue this week? Don’t count on it. Lewis’ running style, however, is a nice anecdote for the physicality that the Ravens’ defense will bring. He must be counted on to give Quinn and the passing game a chance to be successful.

Based on what Baltimore’s defense has done so far vs. the run, things look grim for Lewis. The Ravens held Darren Sproles to 26 yards last week, and surrendered only 20 yards to Larry Johnson in week 1. First of all, if you have to rely on Jamal Lewis as a starter, you have my condolences. If you have no other choice, don’t expect much. He should be held in check all game. Jerome Harrison and James Davis are both battling injuries and may not be factors either. Run away as fast as you can from anything resembling a Cleveland Brown RB in week 3.

Brady Quinn – 165 yards / 1 TD / 2 INTs
Jamal Lewis – 55 yards
Mike Furrey – 65 yards / 1 TD
Braylon Edwards – 40 yards
Josh Cribbs – 30 yards
Robert Royal – 20 yards

Joe Flacco / Ray Rice / Willis McGahee
Derrick Mason / Mark Clayton / Todd Heap (vs. Cleveland)

CLE FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -28.5%
CLE FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +92.3%
CLE FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -14.9%
CLE FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -41.3%

Passing Game Thoughts: Ok, I’ll admit. I didn’t know Joe Flacco was THIS good. The second year QB has looked poised and veteran-like through the season’s first two games. This franchise has been in search of a player good enough to build its offense around. The search is over. Flacco’s five TDs ties him for second in the league, and he’s looked damn good in the process. Long throws, shorts throws, touch passes, side-stepping the rush in the pocket, he’s shown it all. If you were lucky enough to draft him in the late rounds, congrats. Here’s the tough part, however. Chances are, he’s outperforming the QB you chose ahead of him. So when do you start him? The easy and short answer: this week.

Cleveland hasn’t been too stellar on the defensive side of the ball so far, especially against the pass. They have yet to intercept a pass, and last week Kyle Orton—Kyle Orton!—torched them for 263 yards and a score. But here’s what I like most about the Ravens’ passing game. They have three players with seven receptions each, and three players with six receptions each. So who do you key on? Flacco spreads the ball around beautifully, keeping the pass defense honest. He will torch the Browns this week, so be sure to get him and his receivers in your line-up.

Running Game Thoughts: As balanced as the Ravens’ passing game is, their running game is just as balanced. Starter Ray Rice has 27 carries and Willis McGahee has 27. Their roles are starting to come into focus, with Rice getting the start and most of the third down snaps, while McGahee plays the role of short yardage and goal line back. Both also play a role in the passing game, as Rice’s seven catches and McGahee’s six catches would attest.

Cleveland has given up huge plays in the running game. Adrian Peterson sliced them up in week one, and even Correll Buckhalter looked great against them on a nice 45 yard run last week. Rice is more of a homerun hitter than McGahee, and for that reason I’d give him a slight edge. Rice may not score—that would go to McGahee—but he should have a nice yardage total. Suffice if to say, both are quality starts in week 3 and should be in your line-up against an overmatched opponent.

Joe Flacco – 225 yards / 2 TDs
Ray Rice – 115 yards / 35 yards rec
Willis McGahee – 65 yards / 1 TD
Derrick Mason – 70 yards / 1 TD
Mark Clayton – 60 yards
Todd Heap – 45 yards / 1 TD

Prediction: Baltimore 27, Cleveland 13

Redskins @ Lions (Eli Mack)

Jason Campbell / Clinton Portis / Ladell Betts
Santana Moss / Antwaan Randle El / Chris Cooley ( vs. Detroit)

DET FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +56.4%
DET FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +30.5%
DET FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +54.1%
DET FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +51.5%

Passing Game Thoughts: I don’t get it. Jason Campbell continues to get lambasted as a QB, as if he’s the second coming of JaMarcus Russell. This guy is completing almost 70 percent of his throws and he looks a lot more comfortable in this offense than he did last season. People are trying to make him out to be a gun-slinging QB who tosses TDs at will, but he’s not that kind of player. He’s a glorified game manager who won’t win you many fantasy championships. Nothing more, nothing less. Perhaps what could be the cause of his perceived struggles is the lack of production from his outside weapons.

Antwaan Randle El is nothing more than an NFL role player. There’s nothing wrong with that. And Santana Moss’ middle name is inconsistent. Those two need to step up their game if the ‘Skins are to do anything through the air. Chris Cooley is one of the top fantasy TEs in the league and no doubt should be in your line-up. He could easily have 10 receptions in this game. No other team has given up more TD passes than Detroit, so perhaps this is the week that Washington’s aerial assault gets on track. But please, stop trying to make Campbell to be some future Hall of Famer who’s incapable of having a bad game. Campbell is a spot starter as a fantasy QB, and this week is his “spot.” Keep Moss sidelined, however, until he shows something.

Running Game Thoughts: Clinton Portis is the lead dog in Washington’s running attack. His 35 carries are 29 more than the next RB on the team, and although his 35 carries have not led to a score yet, they have been productive enough for opponents to respect the threat of the run. Portis won’t give you much as a receiver, so don’t expect much in that area. It’s easy, though, to see Detroit as the opponent and automatically claim all skill positions viable fantasy starters. But keep in mind what the Lions did to Minnesota last week. I, like so many others, predicted a Vikings—and specifically, Adrian Peterson—offensive explosion. Well, the detonation never happened.

I won’t go so far as to say bench Portis. That’d be ludicrous. But don’t expect any earth-shattering stat lines from Portis that would make Barry Sanders blush. Instead, look for Portis to be the nice RB2 you drafted him as. I think Washington’s passing game will do the most damage, leaving Portis and the Redskins’ running game their to pick up what’s left.

Jason Campbell – 235 yards / 2 TDs
Clinton Portis – 90 yards / 1 TD
Antwaan Randle El – 65 yards
Santana Moss – 50 yards
Chris Cooley – 90 yards / 2 TDs

Matt Stafford / Kevin Smith
Calvin Johnson / Bryant Johnson / Brandon Pettigrew (vs. Washington)

WAS FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -25.5%
WAS FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -32.2%
WAS FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +1.9%
WAS FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -51.0%

Passing Game Thoughts: Predictably, rookie QB Matt Stafford has struggled mightily in his first two NFL games. He shows one or two throws during a game that makes the viewer see why he was the draft’s top overall selection. But everything else in between leaves those same viewers scratching their head. Stafford’s not even in the fantasy universe in 2009, but let’s look at his affect on someone who is: Calvin Johnson.

The beauty about having Johnson on your fantasy team is Stafford has no other wide-out of any significance on the team. While Johnson hasn’t blown us away with his numbers, he has at least been “startable” despite the obvious struggles of his QB. I think Washington gets up quick in this game, meaning there will be many reception opportunities for Johnson. He could match his season total in receptions (8) in this game.

Running Game Thoughts: The first thought that may come to mind when you peer at Kevin Smith’s rushing stat line for the season is, ‘wow, he sucks.’ While it’s difficult to defend his 2.6 yards per attempt, Smith’s fantasy relevance is found beneath the surface. There is no RBBC in Detroit, nor is there another RB on the roster worthy of anything more than the crumbs they’re already getting in the running game. So the Lions’ running attack will sink or swim with Smith.

Here’s what I like most about Smith. Even against tough opponents, he can still find ways to make a contribution to your team. Smith leads the team with nine receptions, and his 62 receiving yards are those hidden points that RBs often get. Look for a solid outing from Smith, as he should have his best game of the season so far. This dual threat RB should be a solid fixture at your RB2 position all season long.

Matt Stafford – 190 yards / 1 TD / 2 INTs
Kevin Smith – 75 yards rushing / 1 TD / 35 yards rec
Calvin Johnson – 90 yards / 1 TD
Bryant Johnson – 40 yards
Brandon Pettigrew – 25 yards

Prediction: Washington 24, Detroit 20

49ers @ Vikings (Eli Mack)

Shaun Hill / Frank Gore
Isaac Bruce / Josh Morgan / Vernon Davis (vs. Minnesota)

MIN FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -22.8%
MIN FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -31.9%
MIN FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -48.3%
MIN FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +19.9%

Passing Game Thoughts: Shaun Hill’s strong finish last year catapulted him to the starting position again this year. While that gives the Niners a solid presence under center, it does little from a fantasy perspective. Hill is as unspectacular and run-of-the-mill as his receiving options. His first two games have been nothing to write home about, and now he gets to go against the Vikings and their formidable defense.

But when your most feared receiving threat is a 37-year-old Isaac Bruce, chances are you’re going to struggle. To Bruce’s credit, though, he’s been ok so far. Josh Morgan and Vernon Davis round out the top targets, but neither of whom pose much of a threat to your fantasy opponent. Davis, however, is at least showing signs of coming around, and he remains a low-end option in TE-required leagues. Bottom line: look elsewhere for your receiving options.

Running Game Thoughts: Frank Gore followed up an ugly week 1 with a dynamic week 2 in which he torched Seattle’s defense for 207 yards. Real estate like that won’t be so easy this week. Minnesota held Cleveland and Detroit in check on the ground so far this season. But while neither team has anyone the quality of Gore, the fact remains that the Vikings haven’t allowed a 100 yard rusher in more than 20 games.

Gore is the kind of back that can be productive in a multitude of ways. If his running lanes are closed, he is used as a threat in the passing game out of the backfield. If the two massive defensive tackles for Minnesota are preventing runs between the tackles, Gore has the speed and vision to bounce it outside. He’s the total package. Don’t be frightened by who this week’s opponent is. Put him in your line-up and hope that the good vibes he demonstrated last week continue into week 3.

Shaun Hill – 175 / 1 TD / 1 INT
Frank Gore – 65 yards rushing / 1 TD / 30 yards rec
Isaac Bruce – 55 yards
Josh Morgan – 40 yards / 1 TD
Vernon Davis – 50 yards

Brett Favre / Adrian Peterson
Percy Harvin / Bernard Berrian / Visanthe Shiancoe (vs. San Francisco)

SF FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -7.1%
SF FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -14.3%
SF FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -7.5%
SF FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -70.4%

Passing Game Thoughts: The primary reason why Brett Favre was targeted by the Vikings was to provide a steady influence to a position that saw its share of shaky play over the last 3 or 4 years. That’s exactly what he’s done through the first two games. He’s completed a jaw-dropping 77 percent of his passes, but most importantly, he’s yet to throw an interception. Who’d have thought that Favre could turn into a $12 million/year game manager?

It won’t be easy facing the Niners. Their head coach Mike Singletary has instilled a high degree of confidence, and no other area on the team is that more obvious than on defense. They’ve surrendered only 26 total points so far, so Favre and the passing game must remain patient. Bernard Berrian hasn’t gotten off to the best start, as his 7 yards per catch reveals. Rookie playmaker Percy Harvin is a big play waiting to happen and is often used in the running game too. Start Harvin, but hold off on putting Berrian in your line-up until at least shows something more than the below-average play he’s shown so far. Visanthe Shiancoe is always a threat, but the fast and athletic linebacker corps in ‘Frisco will make it tough for him.

Running Game Thoughts: The Vikings’ running game vs. San Francisco’s run defense will quietly be one of the best match-ups in the league this week. The Niners absolutely stymied the running game of Arizona and Seattle during the first two weeks. I know, Tim Hightower and Julius Jones are in a different league than Adrian Peterson, but San Francisco has the league’s best young linebacker in Patrick Willis and he will make Peterson and the entire Minnesota running game earn every inch of real estate they get.

Peterson will still manage to give you nice production; just don’t expect anything like the Cleveland game against the Niners’ defense. Chester Taylor has not been a force in the running game, but he remains a viable option in the passing game. His 8 receptions tie him with Harvin for the team lead. Look for Taylor’s role to remain the same this week.

Brett Favre – 180 yards / 1 TD
Adrian Peterson – 90 yards / 1 TD
Chester Taylor – 25 yards rec
Percy Harvin – 70 yards / 1 TD
Bernard Berrian – 40 yards
Visanthe Shiancoe – 55 yards

Prediction: San Francisco 20, Minnesota 17

Steelers @ Bengals (Eli Mack)

Ben Roethlisberger / Willie Parker / Mewelde Moore
Santonio Holmes / Hines Ward / Heath Miller (vs. Cincinnati)

CIN FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: 1.8%
CIN FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -44.7%
CIN FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: 9.6%
CIN FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -1.4%

Passing Game Thoughts: Ben Roethlisberger has started the season with a nice yardage total through two games, but his 2 TD, 3 INT stat line leaves a little to be desired. Part of the problem is Pittsburgh’s struggles running the ball, leaving Big Ben apparently feeling as though he has to do the heavy lifting for the offense. Cincinnati has improved too much on defense for Roethlisberger to take chances trying to fit the football in those tight areas. One thing is certain: the Steelers had better know where the Bengals’ DE Antwan Odom is. His seven sacks, including five last week, lead the league. And considering Pittsburgh’s seemingly annual inability to protect the QB, that must be job #1 if Big Ben is to enjoy any level of success.

Santonio Holmes is taking his rightful spot as the team’s most dangerous weapon in the passing game. His 14 receptions tie with Hines Ward as team leaders, but it is Holmes’ deep speed and overall athletic ability that gives defenders fits. Look for the former Buckeye to battle Cincy CB and former Wolverine Leon Hall all day. Heath Miller is starting to emerge as well and is becoming an option in the fantasy world at TE.

Running Game Thoughts: The Steelers as a team are averaging an un-Pittsburgh-like 3.1 yards per carry. And “Fast” Willie Parker’s nickname may have to be tabled until his 2.4 yards per carry gets to a respectable level. Meanwhile, it seems Pittsburgh is turning into a passing team right before our eyes anyway. They’ve already thrown the ball 28 more times than they’ve run it in the first two games—a disconcerting fact to be sure for those hardcore Steeler fans accustomed to smashmouth football.

Willie Parker gets the start, but he has shown little so far. Second year RB Rashard Mendenhall is often overlooked for veteran Mewelde Moore. None of them have even scored a TD so far, making deciding to start any of them a not-so-difficult decision. If you have to decide from this bunch, go with Parker, as he should get more snaps than the other two. Keep your expectations realistic, though.

Ben Roethlisberger – 210 yards / 2 TD / 1 INT
Willie Parker – 65 yards
Mewelde Moore – 25 yards rushing / 20 yards rec
Santonio Holmes – 90 yards / 1 TD
Hines Ward – 55 yards
Heath Miller – 60 yards / 1 TD

Carson Palmer / Cedric Benson
Chad Ochocinco / Andre Caldwell / Laveranues Coles / Daniel Coats (vs. Pittsburgh)

PIT FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -3.3%
PIT FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -50.5%
PIT FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +7.7%
PIT FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +23.7%

Passing Game Thoughts: Quick question: what in the world has happened to Carson Palmer? In his last eight games, he has thrown 10 TDs and 11 INTs. Many people—myself included—proclaimed him the heir apparent to the Brady/Manning pedestal of Best NFL QB. I don’t think Palmer got the memo. His start to the 2009 campaign makes many believe those previous eight games aren’t the exception. He’s become a shadow of his 2005 self, and the Bengals’ passing game hasn’t been the same since.

I’m sure the Cincy front office believed Laveranues Coles would soften the blow of losing TJ Houshmandzadeh to free agency. I’m also sure the Cincy front office is none too pleased with what they’ve gotten from Coles. Three catches for 20 yards in two games? Ouch. Meanwhile, little-known Andre Caldwell has outperformed him. But both of them take a back seat to Chad Ochocinco, who quietly has put together two pretty good games. It’s always a show when these two teams play; there’s never any love loss. The Steelers’ secondary continues to try and fill the void left by the injury to Troy Polamalu. Chad should be able to get loose for a couple of long gains. He is a viable start this week.

Running Game Thoughts: Cedric Benson is turning into the back that many Chicago fans hoped he could’ve been for them back in the day. A powerful, bruising between-the-tackles battering ram was all Cincy needed to lend credibility to a position that has struggled in the last couple years. Benson most certainly was drafted as a RB3, but his production so far and the lack of any RBBC has made him a suitable RB2 right before our eyes.

We all know about Pittsburgh’s tough run defense. They’ve given up a total of only 129 yards on the ground this season, so Benson has his work cut out for him. But look for him to get plenty of opportunities as the Bengals hope to make this a grind-it-out affair while keeping Big Ben on the sideline. For those desperate owners looking for a spark, perhaps Benson is an option. For those with better match-ups at RB, you may be better served going in that direction.

Carson Palmer – 185 yards / 1 TD / 1 INT
Cedric Benson – 65 yards / 1 TD
Chad Ochocinco – 80 yards / 1 TD
Andre Caldwell – 45 yards
Laveranues Coles – 30 yards
Daniel Coats – 15 yards

Prediction: Pittsburgh 24, Cincinnati 14

Jaguars @ Texans (Kilroy)

David Garrard / Maurice Jones-Drew
Torry Holt / Mike Sims-Walker / Marcedes Lewis (vs. Houston)

HOU FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +0.5%
HOU FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +104.6%
HOU FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -4.5%
HOU FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -11.5%

Passing Game Thoughts: After a disappointing outing in the opener, quarterback David Garrard posted much more relevant statistics during his Week 2 match-up against the Cardinals. His 282 yards passing, 2 touchdowns, and 27 yards on the ground provided plenty of points for fantasy owners. The only drawback, aside from the fact he was likely on many owners bench, is that most of the points he racked up came late in the game after Arizona had already established a 31-3 lead with 5:28 remaining in the third quarter.

Needless to say, fantasy owners don’t care how or when a player earns his points once they’ve made the decision to start him, but when a player grabs most of his statistics during garbage time it could become a misleading reason to start him the following week. For players on teams with a weak defense it’s a strategy that may work, but the Jaguars should be able to keep contests close more often than not, like they had against the Colts in Week 1.

In facing a Texans defensive unit that has allowed opponents to average 215 rushing yards and 2 rushing touchdowns per game against them through two weeks, expect the Jaguars to hand it off to Maurice Jones-Drew early and often throughout this game. As a result, Garrard’s production should come back down to a more pedestrian level. Considering the Texans just put up 34 points against the Titans however, Jacksonville’s signal caller should crack the 200 yard passing plateau if the game becomes a high scoring affair.

Running Game Thoughts: As mentioned above, the Texans defense currently ranks worst in the NFL against the run with an average of 215 rushing yards allowed per game. The four scores they’ve allowed on the ground are second most in the league, just one less than the Cleveland Browns. In Week 1 it was the Jets duo of Thomas Jones and Leon Washington that tallied 167 combined rushing yards against the Texans. Last Sunday it was the Tennessee Titans, Chris Johnson, blasting through Houston’s defensive unit for 197 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns on just 16 carries.

With that in mind, and given the fact Maurice Jones-Drew is the central point of Jacksonville’s offense, expect the Jaguars to find success on the ground throughout the game this Sunday. Jones-Drew should be able to find his way into the end zone for at least one score with a very strong chance of cracking the century mark on the ground.

David Garrard – 200 yards passing / 1 TD / 15 yards rushing
Maurice Jones-Drew – 120 yards rushing / 2 TDs / 20 yards receiving
Torry Holt – 70 yards receiving / 1 TD
Mike Sims-Walker – 75 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Marcedes Lewis – 25 yards receiving / 0 TDs

Matt Schaub / Steve Slaton / Chris Brown
Andre Johnson / Kevin Walter / Owen Daniels (vs. Jacksonville)

JAC FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +6.2%
JAC FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +16.1%
JAC FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +41.5%
JAC FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -53.8%

Passing Game Thoughts: After a dismal performance against the Jets in the opener, Houston’s offense faired much better last Sunday against the Titans. Matt Schaub connected on 25 of his 39 attempts for 357 yards and 4 touchdowns. In the process he found Andre Johnson 10 times for 149 of those yards and 2 scores. The other big beneficiaries in the passing game were tight end, Owen Daniels (6 receptions, 72 yards, 1 TD), and wide-out Jacoby Jones (2 receptions, 73 yards, 1 TD).

The Texans offense presents the third straight contest Jacksonville’s defensive unit must face against one of the better QB-WR tandems in the league. In Week 1 they allowed 301 yards through the air against Peyton Manning, but limited him to 1 touchdown and forced a rare interception against the 12th-year veteran. They did allow Reggie Wayne to get free for 10 receptions, 162 yards receiving, and 1 score during that outing, however.

Last week, the Jaguars squared off against Kurt Warner and his trio of talented wide receivers. Warner finished the day with 243 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, and no turnovers. And while none of the Cardinals wide receivers did a large amount of damage on their own, each played a significant role in the success Warner and the Cardinals offense had. Fitzgerald finished with just 4 receptions for 34 yards, but hauled in a 22-yard touchdown pass. Boldin meanwhile lead the team with 8 receptions for 69 yards. Breaston contributed with a team high 83 yards receiving and 5 receptions of his own.

Given the level of success Jacksonville’s secondary has yielded to its two previous opponents, Schaub and Andre Johnson owners should expect strong production from the two this week. If Kevin Walter is able to play, he may also get involved in the passing game. It’s always a risky option though to rely on a receiver playing in his first game back from a hamstring injury.

Running Game Thoughts: Through two games it’s been rough going for Steve Slaton and the Texans rushing attack. That said, a large part of the reason is do to the opponents they have faced. In the season opener the New York Jets nixed everything the Texans attempted on offense. Not only was Steve Slaton limited to 17 yards on 9 carries, but Matt Schaub was stymied as he completed just 18 of his 33 attempts for only 166 yards, no scores, and 1 interception. The Jets defense showed this was no fluke as they then went out in Week 2 and prevented the vaunted New England Patriots from scoring a touchdown through a full four quarters.

While the Texans passing game got on track last Sunday against the Titans, it was known beforehand Slaton would have a difficult task ahead of him. Tennessee was coming off a Week 1 performance in which they limited the Steelers to a total of 36 yards rushing on 23 carries. The fact that the unit had a few extra days rest as a result of playing in the NFL’s Thursday night opener wasn’t about to make Slaton’s job any easier either.

This week’s contest against the Jaguars, however, should result in Slaton’s best production of the season to date. Jacksonville did a solid job of limiting Indianapolis’ duo of Joseph Addai and Donald Brown to 75 yards on 28 carries, but they also let up a score via the ground to Addai. The Jaguars then allowed Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells to total 146 yards on 22 carries with a touchdown against them last Sunday.

While I wouldn’t expect a 100-yard outing from Slaton this week, he stands a strong chance of cracking the 75-yard mark while also scoring a touchdown. The only drawback would be if Chris Brown proves to be a goal line vulture.

Matt Schaub – 275 yards passing / 2 TDs
Steve Slaton – 80 yards rushing / 1 TD / 25 yards receiving
Chris Brown – 20 yards rushing / 0 TDs
Andre Johnson – 120 yards receiving / 1 TD
Kevin Walter – 60 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Owen Daniels – 40 yards receiving / 1 TD

Prediction: Jacksonville 24, Houston 21

Giants @ Buccaneers (Kilroy)

Eli Manning / Brandon Jacobs / Ahmad Bradshaw
Steve Smith / Mario Manningham / Kevin Boss (vs. Tampa Bay)

TB FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +39.1%
TB FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -4.6%
TB FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +84.3%
TB FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +1.9%

Passing Game Thoughts: Eli Manning is off to one of the better starts of his career and this week’s contest against the Buccaneers should allow him to keep that pattern going. After a season debut in which he completed 20 of 29 attempts for 256 yards and 1 touchdown, Eli followed it up with an even better outing against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. Manning connected with wide receivers Steve Smith and Mario Manningham 10 times each with both of them scoring touchdowns. The two wide-outs combined for 284 yards receiving as Eli finished the game 25 of 38, with 330 yards passing and 2 touchdowns.

The Giants opponent this week, Tampa Bay, have allowed 5 touchdown passes to be thrown against them (2nd most in the league) while yielding 282 yards per game through the air. Given the success Manning has had against two tougher defensive units already, there is no reason to expect a let down from him against the Buccaneers. It is worth mentioning, however, that Mario Manningham has been limited in practice this week due to a shoulder injury sustained against the Cowboys. Domenik Hixon (knee) and Hakeem Nicks (foot) are also dealing with injuries.

Running Game Thoughts: As poor as Tampa Bay’s secondary has performed, their efforts to contain the rush haven’t been much better. In Week 1 they allowed the Dallas trio of Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice to run for 111 yards against them with 1 score. The following week it was Buffalo’s Fred Jackson that lit them up for 163 yards on 28 carries.

So far the Giants ground attack has been lacking (Jacobs has 104 yards on 32 carries with no touchdowns, Bradshaw has 97 yards on 21 carries with no scores), but things should open up for them in this contest. Jacobs should punch it into the end zone for the first time this season while Bradshaw rips off chunks of yardage in his role as the change of pace back.

Eli Manning – 240 yards passing / 2 TDs
Brandon Jacobs – 90 yards rushing / 1 TD
Ahmad Bradshaw – 55 yards rushing / 0 TDs / 15 yards receiving
Steve Smith – 90 yards receiving / 1 TD
Mario Manningham – 75 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Kevin Boss – 25 yards receiving / 1 TD

Byron Leftwich / Cadillac Williams
Derrick Ward / Michael Clayton / Kellen Winslow (vs. New York)

NYG FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -11.8%
NYG FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +21.4%
NYG FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -57.7%
NYG FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +48.7%

Passing Game Thoughts: Tampa Bay’s air attack has managed to have some level of success thus far into the season, but most of the numbers Byron Leftwich has compiled are the result of playing from behind much of the time. In Week 1 the Buccaneers found themselves trailing against the Cowboys by 13 or more points throughout the second half as Leftwich compiled his 276 yards passing with 1 touchdown.

Last Sunday against the Bills, Tampa Bay was in a 17-point hole by the end of the first quarter and never held the lead during the game. As a result, Leftwich went on to throw for 296 yards, although it took him 50 attempts to accomplish the feat. He also threw 3 touchdown passes, but that was offset to some extent by the 2 interceptions he threw during the game.

Against the Giants this week, Leftwich will find himself facing a tougher secondary then he had in either of his first two opponents. The Giants unit is allowing an average of just 157 yards per game through the air. Their 4 interceptions are also second most in the league. With Antonio Bryant expected to miss another week of action due to an injured knee, it leaves Kellen Winslow as his only established receiving threat Sunday.

Leftwich may have put together a decent two game stretch to start the season, but it’s likely he will struggle this Sunday against the Giants.

Running Game Thoughts: The Giants secondary might be playing well, but the defensive unit is coming off a game in which they allowed Marion Barber and Felix Jones to rush for 220 yards against them with 2 scores. They did hold Clinton Portis to 62 yards on 16 carries in Week 1, but that accomplishment is lessened after watching the lowly Rams limit Portis to 79 yards on 19 carries last Sunday.

From the Buccaneers standpoint, their ground attack has had mixed results through two games. Cadillac Williams was a pleasant surprise against the Cowboys in the opener when he ran for 97 yards and a touchdown. Derrick Ward managed to add a score of his own while producing 62 yards on the ground. Last week, however, Williams and Ward totaled just 41 yards on 16 carries between the two of them.

Cadillac managed to salvage his day by producing a touchdown among his 7 receptions for 56 yards, but is now going into this contest against the Giants with a sore knee. He was held out of Thursday’s practice as a precautionary measure, but is expected to handle his normal workload on Sunday.

Byron Leftwich – 210 yards passing / 1 TD
Cadillac Williams – 60 yards rushing / 0 TDs / 15 yards receiving
Derrick Ward – 55 yards rushing / 0 TDs / 30 yards receiving
Michael Clayton – 50 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Kellen Winslow – 80 yards receiving / 1 TD

Prediction: New York 27, Tampa Bay 10

Packers @ Rams (Eakin)

Aaron Rodgers / Greg Jennings / Donald Driver /Jermichael Finley
Ryan Grant (vs. STL)

STL FF Points Allowed vs. QB: +12.2%
STL FF Points Allowed vs. RB: -1.5%
STL FF Points Allowed vs. WR: -8.2%
STL FF Points Allowed vs. TE: +85.6%

Passing Game Thoughts: The Packers passing offense dominated the preseason with such precision it appeared they were ready for greatness but they have yet to live up to their billing. Protection from the offensive line is seemingly to blame. Hard to argue with that when Antwan Odom racks up five sacks in one game. The Packers can mask their protection issues by getting the ball out quicker and establishing the run early. Top WR Greg Jennings was shutout last week. He is a too important for them allow that to happen again so they will get him some quick slants or screens early to ensure he’s involved. TE Jermichael Finley has been hyped but shown little. With fellow TE Donald Lee banged up Finley gets his chance to live up to it. He certainly has the physical tools and a nice matchup to boot.

The Rams have one sack after two weeks. Look for defensive minded head coach Steve Spagnuolo to test the GB O-line with more blitzing. Some big runs or talented Packer receivers in man coverage may gouge them by said strategy but they cannot afford to give Rodgers time either. Playing the Rams can fix many problems and I think Rodgers gets back on track in a big way here.

Running Game Thoughts: Ryan Grant has scored in each of the first two games despite pedestrian yardage totals. Green Bay needs to get back to balance on offense. They are not the ’07 Pats or ’09 Saints. For them to make a playoff run they will need to run the ball effectively come winter. The Rams are poor against the run and present a great opportunity for the Packer offensive line to fire off the ball and establish some continuity. A dominant drive or two on the ground will go a long ways in quieting the home opening crowd and opening up some play action passing.

Rookie James Lauranitis jumped right in to the MLB position and looks promising as the nerve center for the St. Louis defense. The young “Buc” may end the year as a top ten tackler since most teams will look to exploit the Rams suspect run defense or be playing with a lead. If the Packer O-line woes can turn Antwan Odom into Reggie White, perhaps former top pick Chris Long can find his way to a QB as well. The wild card of the Rams defense is S O.J. Atogwe. They will move him around to blitz, support the run, or play center field. The packers will need to account for him and make adjustments at the line since he is capable of making big plays.

Aaron Rodgers: 265 yds/2 TD/1 INT
Greg Jennings: 85 yds/1 TD
Donald Driver: 65 yds/1 TD
Jermichael Finley: 50 yds
Ryan Grant: 90 yds rushing/35 yds rec/1 TD

Marc Bulger / Donnie Avery /Laurent Robinson / Randy McMichael
Steven Jackson (vs. GB)

GB FF Points Allowed vs. QB: +26.1%
GB FF Points Allowed vs. RB: -35.7%
GB FF Points Allowed vs. WR: +59.7%
GB FF Points Allowed vs. TE: -55.5%

Passing Game Thoughts: Marc Bulger is averaging 158 yds per game, has one TD, and is only completing 50 percent of his passes despite averaging a meager 4.9 yds per attempt. At this pace, they may give backup Kyle Boller a shot soon and look to the draft for help. Donnie Avery and Randy McMichael have yet to get involved much. One positive seems to be WR Laurent Robinson. He has been the top contributor and scored a nice TD grab on a fade lob where he out jumped the defender. At 6’2”, he makes for a nice red zone target when and if the Rams can get there. A key matchup will be LT Alex Barron vs. ROLB Aaron Kampman. Kampman has the skills to win this match and continue to make life difficult for Bulger. If Barron can hold him off, the Rams will attack the middle of the field where the Packers have some safety vulnerability.

Starting S Nick Collins is probable to play with a sprained shoulder while fellow S Atari Bigby is out for the next few weeks. Apparently, the Packers were not happy with back-up S Aaron Rouse as they cut him Monday and signed former Colt S Matt Giordano. This will come down to a battle between the Rams two speedy second year receivers and one of the league’s top veteran CB tandems in Charles Woodson and Al Harris.

Running Game Thoughts: Steven Jackson owners may be disappointed with his output to this point but he has played well averaging five yards per attempt. The Rams did a better job of getting him touches last week, especially in the passing game. Where Jackson will fail to live up to his draft position is in the scoring department. He hasn’t found the end zone yet and needs help from the rest of the offense to increase his opportunities or get some defense and special teams created field position. The injury to rookie T Jason Smith may cost him a couple weeks. Adam Goldberg will slide over. The injury to free agent C Jason Brown looks less serious and he is expected to play.

After looking impressive in the opener, the Packs new 3-4 system were gouged by Cedric Benson to the tune of 160 yds. You can be sure they will be looking to refocus their run defense with an 8-man front to stop Jackson. Human wrecking ball rookie B.J. Raji could be the medicine they need but has yet to play on his preseason ankle sprain. He is still questionable.

Marc Bulger: 190 yds/1 TD/1 INT
Donnie Avery: 60 yds/1 TD
Laurent Robinson: 70 yds
Randy McMichael: 30 yds
Steven Jackson: 90 yds rushing/35 yds rec/1 TD
Packer 27 Rams 17

Bears @ Seahawks (Eakin)

Jay Cutler / Devin Hester / Earl Bennett / Johnnie Knox / Greg Olsen
Matt Forte (vs. SEA)

SEA FF Points Allowed vs. QB: -49.8%
SEA FF Points Allowed vs. RB: +27.2%
SEA FF Points Allowed vs. WR: -53.6%
SEA FF Points Allowed vs. TE: -45.2%

Passing Game Thoughts: Jay Cutler’s flavor of the week against the Steelers was rookie WR Johnnie Knox. Knox timed out as the fastest player in the draft combine so there is little doubting his big play ability. We will see if Knox lines up solely in the slot or takes over for Bennett as the WR2. This will help determine if he’s simply a hit or miss big play threat or a potential waiver wire star in the making. Don’t look now but the Bears seem to have a dangerous WR group with Bennett, Forte, and Olsen as possession go-to targets and speedsters Hester and Knox downfield. Cutler certainly has the talent to create fantasy studs. That said, he has underutilized TE Greg Olsen to this point and would do well to establish him. After two tough defensive opponents to start the year, this could be the game where the Bears get everyone involved in a balanced offensive juggernaut.

The Seahawks have ten starters injured and only two healthy CBs, which is why I like the Bears passing offense this week. Marcus Trufant is out. His fellow starter CB Ken Lucas is nursing a groin injury. Their immediate backup CB Josh Wilson suffered a high ankle sprain Sunday leading the way for the battle between two former Miami Hurricanes in WR Devin Hester and CB Kelly Jennings. I like Hester in that one. At LB, the Hawks are missing Leroy Hill and Lofa Tatupu is questionable with a hamstring. Get nice and stretched out Greg Olsen, it may be your week.

Running Game Thoughts: Hopefully if you drafted Matt Forte you haven’t panicked and traded him. This is his first good matchup of the year. Forte is a steady and reliable Mr. Everything but he is not a supreme talent in the mold of Adrian Peterson or Chris Johnson. His output relies on lots of touches more than most top ten fantasy guys because he’s not a game breaker. He should get those touches this week as the Bears grind out victory against a suspect Seahawk D that surrendered 79 and 80 yard TD runs to Frank Gore.

Due to injuries, Seattle may start S Lawyer Milloy. Milloy could help the run defense out but is a little thin on tread to cover the speedy Bears receiving threats. It will be critical for the Seattle’s front seven to limit the Bear's time to develop those longer routes. When Cutler is pressured, he will force bad throws and turn the ball over.

Jay Cutler: 260 yds/2 TDs/1 INT
Devin Hester: 70 yds/1 TD
Johnnie Knox: 60 yds
Earl Bennett: 40 yds
Greg Olsen: 60 yds/1 TD
Matt Forte: 80 yds rushing/30 yds rec/1 TD

Seneca Wallace / T.J. Houshmandzadeh / Nate Burleson / John Carlson/
Julius Jones/Justin Forsett (vs. CHI)

CHI FF Points Allowed vs. QB: -4.2%
CHI FF Points Allowed vs. RB: -30.4%
CHI FF Points Allowed vs. WR: -4.5%
CHI FF Points Allowed vs. TE: -28.5%

Passing Game Thoughts: Not sure if Hasselbeck plays here. Judging from the look on his face after the rib injury Sunday, I’m guessing they save him for the rest of the year. Seneca Wallace is a capable backup of seven years and has a reasonable record of 5-7 as the fill-in. Wallace won’t do any big favors for Seattle WRs as he is sort of a check down game manager. I think RB Justin Forsett, who I forecasted to take over for Jones at some point in my week one segment, will see a lot of action in the passing game and third down situations. He is the best pass catcher out of the backfield and already began splitting reps with Jones last week. TE John Carlson should also benefit if Wallace gets the start. Inexperienced QBs tend to lean on big TEs and Carlson definitely qualifies. The oft-injured Deion Branch may make his season debut and needs to show he can hold off rookie Deon Butler as the slot starter.

Chicago’s defense stepped up nicely against the Steelers after losing their defensive leader Brian Urlacher. The Bears will be blitzing regardless of who plays QB either to pressure backup Seneca Wallace in to mistakes or to capitalize on Hasselbeck’s tender ribs. The Seattle line is still missing their best tackle Walter Jones and struggle to protect the QB. It will be important for LBs Lance Briggs and Hunter Hillenmeyer to limit TE John Carlson and RB Justin Forsett.

Running Game Thoughts: Julius Jones struggled against the 49ers and was outplayed by Justin Forsett. He needs to bounce back to prevent further loss of playing time. The Seahawks QB and O-line situation will force them to lean on the run so both backs will get their chances. The Bears have fared well against the run thus far but haven’t really been tested by pass happy Green Bay and Pittsburg. The Hawks will put them to the test but I like Tommie Harris, Lance Briggs, and Co. to limit their success.

Seneca Wallace: 190 yds/1 TDs/2 INT
Nate Burleson: 50 yds
T.J. Houshmandzadeh: 50 yds
John Carlson: 45 yds/1 TD
Julius Jones: 65 yds
Justin Forsett: 40 yds/30 rec

Prediction: Chicago 24 Seattle 13

Broncos @ Raiders (Eakin)

Kyle Orton / Eddie Royal / Brandon Marshall / Daniel Graham
Knowshon Moreno / Correll Buckhalter (vs. OAK)

OAK FF Points Allowed vs. QB: -3.2%
OAK FF Points Allowed vs. RB: +18.3%
OAK FF Points Allowed vs. WR: +18.8%
OAK FF Points Allowed vs. TE: -43.3%

Passing Game Thoughts: As fantasy players, who among us is immune to the dreaded words “running back by committee” crushing the dreams of potential fantasy gold. Well, owners of Eddie Royal and Brandon Marshall are the first to feel a new, equally devastating term, “Receiver by committee” that HC Josh McDaniels used to explain why his two pro Bowl caliber WRs have spent entire quarters watching from the sidelines. Yuck. I think I speak for all of us in hoping McDaniels does not become a trendsetter in this approach. While the Broncos are 2-0, I can’t imagine this rotation will continue throughout the entire season. It just doesn’t make sense to keep their best players in part-time roles. Only time will tell. Meanwhile, QB Kyle Orton continues to play safe, dump the ball off, and avoid turnovers. Expect this strategy to continue and the Broncos to avoid Marshall challenging Asomugha downfield. The Broncos can have some success challenging the middle of the Raiders defense with crossing routes and TE Daniel Graham.

Running Game Thoughts: The Broncos have a nice RB tandem in Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter. Moreno is trending towards more carries and may eventually become a featured force as his health improves and he gains experience. Both offenses play extremely conservative and want to establish the run. This game should be a close grinder and tough to watch for the first three and a half quarters.

The Raiders will want to continue to move Richard Seymour around to keep the Broncos from avoiding his area. With little down field passing threat from Orton, they can afford to crowd the line of scrimmage with gap control. OLBs Thomas Howard and Ricky Brown need to keep containment. The Bronco tackles are terrific blockers on the outside and both Buckhalter and Moreno can create big plays off tackle.

Kyle Orton: 220 yds/1 TDs
Brandon Marshall: 40 yds/1 TD
Eddie Royal: 55 yds
Daniel Graham: 25 yds
Knowshon Moreno: 60 yds/30 rec/1 TD
Correll Buckhalter: 35 yds/15 rec

JaMarcus Russell / Darrius Heyward-Bey / Louis Murphy / Zach Miller
Darren McFadden / Michael Bush (vs. DEN)

DEN FF Points Allowed vs. QB: -43.4%
DEN FF Points Allowed vs. RB: -31.2%
DEN FF Points Allowed vs. WR: -23.2%
DEN FF Points Allowed vs. TE: -79.4%

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s an exercise in existentialism at this point by asking what I think about something that doesn’t exist; the Raiders passing game. Maybe this is the wrong audience for such a discussion? How about this? JaMarcus Russell is completing just 35 percent of his passes. His only reliable option, TE Zach Miller, registered zero catches last week. He has only completed 8 passes to his WRs, six of them to rookie Louis Murphy. They passed up on worldwide consensus number on one WR Michael Crabtree for less qualified Darrius Heyward-Bey because of his superior 40-yard sprint ability. He has one catch for 18 yards despite starting and playing two games. They are not good at the forward pass. They can attempt to throw some screens and swing passes to McFadden out of the backfield to keep the Bronco’s blitzing honest.

OLB Elvis Dumervil has NOT left the building; in fact, he announced his presence in a big way with four sacks last week. He is small with elite quickness for a pass rusher, and will be a problem when Oakland is in passing situations. The Broncos will have the luxury of man coverage on the outside to free up blitzing LBs and safeties.

Running Game Thoughts: McFadden and Bush both struggled to find running room against the Chiefs. It’s a real shame the Raiders can’t provide a legit passing threat because both of them are special talents but are forced to face defenses selling out to stop them. McFadden is more a breakaway threat but is only averaging 3.6 YPC to Bush’s 4.3 YPC. The Raiders are good at running the ball despite opposing defenses focus on stopping them. Part of their struggle last week was a lack of possession. Together, Bush and McFadden were limited to only 21 carries last week. The defense will need to get the ball back quicker and the offense must do a better job of sustaining drives for them to succeed.

The jury is still out on Denver’s run defense. Skeptics will point to the fact that they have faced Cincinnati and Cleveland as poor competition. While Cleveland is less than impressive, they are capable of running the ball and Cedric Benson just ripped off 160 on the vastly improved Packers 3-4 last week. I think the additions of S Brian Dawkins and MLB Andra Davis are vast improvements. Enough to prevent them from being the auto-start opposing defensive turnstile they were last year and enough to squeak this one out on the road.

JaMarcus Russell: 120 yds/1 INT
Louis Murphy: 40 yds
Darius Heyward-Bey: 30 yds
Zach Miller: 65 yds
Darren McFadden: 60 yds rushing/35 yds rec
Michael Bush: 50 yds/1 TD

Prediction: Denver 17 Oakland 13

Dolphins @ Chargers (Eakin)

Chad Pennington / Ted Ginn / Davone Bess / Anthony Fasano
Ricky Williams / Ronnie Brown (vs. SD)

SD FF Points Allowed vs. QB: -9.4%
SD FF Points Allowed vs. RB: +35.4%
SD FF Points Allowed vs. WR: -15.7%
SD FF Points Allowed vs. TE: +14.7%

Passing Game Thoughts: The Dolphins are somewhat limited with Pennington. They have not shown the ability to make big plays in the passing game. His lack of arm strength may be partially to blame, but some responsibility falls on WR Ted Ginn. He has game breaking speed but hasn’t developed great deep routes. Ginn has improved on his activity in short and intermediate distances as evidence in his 11 catch 108 yd performance Monday night so it’s only a matter of time. If Ginn is taken away, Davone Bess is capable of being a steady possession target.

The Chargers have the CBs in Antonio Cromartie and Quentin Jammer to lock up man-to-man on the Dolphins. Shawne Merriman is yet to record a sack. If the Chargers can get steady improvement from rookie OLB Larry English, they will have the freedom to move him in the offseason. It looks like he’s lost a step.

Running Game Thoughts: The Dolphins will look to pound the Ball as they did against the Colts. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams have both been explosive. Brown continues to lead the wildcat formation. The key element with the wildcat is that it provides and extra blocker with no QB on the field. The dolphins like to run Ricky Williams as a sweep action option, so San Diego must keep containment to account for him.

The Loss of Jamal Williams and Igor Olshansky are big. So far, the Chargers have not shown the ability to stop the run. MLB Stephen Cooper will be responsible for keeping Brown and Williams in check. This game looks to be similar to Monday night, with the Dolphins pounding the ball at will and facing a highflying aerial counter attack.

Chad Pennington: 180 yds/1 TD
Davone Bess: 40 yds
Ted Ginn: 70 yds
Anthony Fasano: 30 yds
Ronnie Brown: 90 yds/25 rec/1 TD
Ricky Williams: 70 yds/1 TD

Phillip Rivers / Chris Chambers / Vincent Jackson / Antonio Gates
Darren Sproles (vs. MIA)

MIA FF Points Allowed vs. QB: 14.5%
MIA FF Points Allowed vs. RB: -9.7%
MIA FF Points Allowed vs. WR: -38.1%
MIA FF Points Allowed vs. TE: 142.3 %

Passing Game Thoughts: Coming off a career high 436 yds passing last week, Rivers will again be relied upon to carry the offense. The Chargers are sure to take notice of TEs Tony Gonzales and Dallas Clark ripping the Dolphins big in the first two weeks. Antonio Gates could be the next in line. Vincent Jackson is looking like a must start stud WR. At 6’5, he is an incredible downfield weapon against smaller DBs. Darren Sproles is a good receiving target as seen last week on his 80 yd jaunt off a swing pass. WR Chris Chambers is off to a poor start and needs to make some plays or will be in danger of losing his position.

The Dolphins need improvement in their pass rush. Joey Porter is playing well but Jason Taylor has been invisible. If they can’t get something going out of their base defense they will start bringing some extra numbers to make Rivers get rid of the ball. He is too talented to allow time in the pocket.

Running Game Thoughts: Without LaDainian, the Chargers will struggle to run the ball on good run defenses. Miami is one of those good run defenses. Sproles is not built to grind out carries. Michael Bennett may get increased touches this week assuming Tomlinson remains sidelined.

Phillip Rivers: 330 yds/3 TDs/ 1 INT
Chris Chambers: 40 yds
Vincent Jackson: 90 yds/1 TD
Antonio Gates 70 yds/2 TD
Darren Sproles: 35 yds/40 yds rec

Prediction: San Diego 24 Miami 21

Colts @ Cardinals (Eakin)

Peyton Manning / Dallas Clark / Pierre Garcon / Reggie Wayne
Donald Brown / Joseph Addai (vs. ARI)

ARI FF Points Allowed vs. QB: +5.7%
ARI FF Points Allowed vs. RB: -36.5%
ARI FF Points Allowed vs. WR: +5.9%
ARI FF Points Allowed vs. TE: +15.4%

Passing Game Thoughts: Can’t wait to see this one. What a great matchup featuring two of the NFL’s best offenses. With two elite QBs, all the high-powered WRs, and solid runners, the tackle versus DE matchups will decide this game. The Colts O-line needs to keep Des Bertrand Berry and Darnell Docket off Manning. If they can, Manning will sustain long drives and keep his defense off the field. Manning is an expert at taking what the defense give him. If the Cardinals double Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark will have a big day. If they take Clark out, Wayne will be just as deadly. The Cardinals must get pressure out of their base set to force Manning to get rid of the ball before he wants to.

Running Game Thoughts: To this point, Joseph Addai is the starter and Donald Brown the closer. Brown looks like a beast. He is always moving forward with speed and really does a nice job of squaring his shoulders to deliver blows and finish his runs. Brown is extremely efficient and does not look fun to tackle. His role will only continue to expand if he can block and make catches.

Peyton Manning 270 yds/2 Tds
Reggie Wayne: 80 yds/1 TD
Pierre Garcon: 30 yds
Dallas Clark: 80 yds/1 TD
Donald Brown: 35 yds/20 rec/1 TD
Joseph Addai: 60 yds/20 rec

Kurt Warner / Larry Fitzgerald / Anquan Boldin / Steve Breaston
Tim Hightower / Beanie Wells (vs. IND)

IND FF Points Allowed vs. QB: -54.1%
IND FF Points Allowed vs. RB: +43.0%
IND FF Points Allowed vs. WR: -37.3%
IND FF Points Allowed vs. TE: -84.5%

Passing Game Thoughts: After a slow start, Kurt Warner appears to be back on track. The improved health of Boldin and Breaston surely help. Hightower showed in week one he can be a legitimate safety valve for Warner by catching 12 balls. There is some concern that the Cards have yet to get their vertical passing attack going. Only Jeremy Urban has registered a catch over 25 yds. Look for them to make adjustments and give Fitz a couple jump balls down field.

As I said earlier, this game may come down to DEs versus tackles. The Colts have an advantage here. LT Mike Gandy will have his hands full with speed rusher Dwight Freeney. When he is not getting to the QB, Robert Mathis is no slouch himself. He will have a tremendous speed advantage on mauling RT Levi Brown.

Running Game Thoughts: One way the Cards can neutralize the speed rushing of Freeney and Mathis is to run right at them. The Colts are poor in run defense. The Hightower and Wells combo can give the Cardinals the balance they need to buy Warner time, allowing Fitz time to get downfield off play action. The Cards like to pass but I don’t think they want Warner being crushed off the edge so they must see if they can impose their will on the smaller Colt defenders.

Kurt Warner: 240 yds/2 TD/2 INT
Larry Fitzgerald: 85 yds/1 TD
Anquan Boldin: 70 yds/1 TD
Steve Breaston: 40 yds
Tim Hightower: 65 yds/35 rec
Beanie Wells: 65 yds/1 TD

Prediction: Indianapolis 27 Cardinals 24