NFL Skinny: Week 2 Preview

Picking up where I left off last season, the Skinny will provide an early look at the matchups for the coming week. Let’s dive in …

Week 2 Preview
A snapshot of each Week 2 matchup

Key Stats: PANTHERS – 5.8 YPC allowed in Week 1
FALCONS – 4 Sacks, 4 TOs in Week 1
What to watch for: Look for CAR to get back to what it does best – run the football. QB Jake Delhomme(notes) has 11 turnovers in his past two games, last postseason included, and the team needs to take the attention away from him. The Falcons allowed 4.4 yards per carry to Miami in Week 1, so there could be some decent production to be gained from DeAngelo Williams(notes) and company. The team also has to get the ball in the hands of WR Steve Smith, who had just 3 catches for 21 yards in Week 1. Last season, Smith averaged 132 yards and scored a TD in his two meetings with ATL. The quick toss to Smith in the flat could be used prominently to get the ball in Smith’s hands as well as get Delhomme some confidence-building easy completions. Also, for history card enthusiasts, it should be noted that WR Muhsin Muhammad(notes) averaged 93.5 yards and scored 2 of his 5 TDs in his two meetings with ATL, but I’m not particularly bullish about him this week

ATL is likely to try to beat CAR at its own game, leaning heavily on RB Michael Turner(notes). Last week, against a strong MIA run defense, ATL turned to QB Matt Ryan’s(notes) arm 36 times, a total number of passes eclipsed just twice in his rookie season. One of the most run-heavy teams in the league last season, expect ATL to try to untrack “The Burner” this week against a CAR run defense that was run over in Week 1 by PHI. WR Roddy White(notes) averaged 80 receiving yards in his two contests vs. CAR in ’08, but TE Tony Gonzalez(notes) (5/73/1 in Week 1) might once again be the biggest fantasy beneficiary when Ryan, who did not throw a TD pass against CAR in ’08, goes to the pass in Week 2. CAR has long struggled against opposing TEs, and PHI TE Brent Celek(notes) found the end zone against them this past Sunday.

Green Light: Michael Turner, DeAngelo Williams, Steve Smith, Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White
Yellow Light: Atlanta Defense, Jonathan Stewart(notes), Matt Ryan
Red Light: Michael Jenkins(notes), Jake Delhomme, Carolina Defense
Sleeper: Muhsin Muhammad, Jerious Norwood(notes)
Injuries:None of significance

Key Stats: VIKINGS – 4.5 YPC allowed, 5 Sacks in Week 1
LIONS – Bottom six in FAN PTS allowed to QB/RB/WR/TE in ’08, and in Week 1
What to watch for: As expected, MIN flexed its Adrian Peterson in Week 1. AP ran 25 times at CLE, and MIN finished with 37 carries on the day, 3rd-most in Week 1. There’s no need for MIN to come out of Brett Favre(notes) preservation mode this week facing a DET defense that allowed 4.5 YPC this past Sunday. Last season, Peterson averaged 23.5 carries in two meetings. Expect another 20-plus totes in Week 2. Rookie WR Percy Harvin(notes) provided the creativity and electricity in Week 1 that had been touted. Expect even more of him against DET, as he provides a variety of safe options (reverses, screens, etc.) for Favre other than Peterson.

DET QB Matthew Stafford(notes) was sacked just once in his debut in Week 1, but was intercepted three times. You can beat DET will be extra cautious with its No. 1 overall pick this week – MIN sacked DET QBs nine times in two meetings in ’08. RB Kevin Smith(notes) should be the show on Sunday. He caught a career-high 7 passes as Stafford’s safety valve in Week 1, and that should continue to be a weapon the team will turn to in Week 2 in an attempt to counter the heavy pass rush of MIN – MIN allowed a healthy 63 receiving yards to CLE in Week 1 and gave up the 8th-most receiving yards to RBS in ’08. WR Calvin Johnson(notes) is, obviously, a must-start every week. He had at least 84 receiving yards and a TD in each of his ’08 meetings with MIN.

Green Light: Adrian Peterson, Kevin Smith, Calvin Johnson, Minnesota Defense
Yellow Light: Visanthe Shiancoe(notes), Bernard Berrian(notes), Brett Favre
Red Light: Bryant Johnson(notes), Matthew Stafford, Detroit Defense, Sidney Rice(notes), Brandon Pettigrew(notes)
Sleeper: Percy Harvin, Chester Taylor(notes)
Injuries:None of significance

Key Stats: BENGALS – 3.8 YPC allowed, 3 Sacks in Week 1
PACKERS – 2.8 YPC allowed, 4 INTs, 47.2 Comp% allowed in Week 1
What to watch for: CIN ran one of the more balanced attacks in Week 1 (27 rushes/33 passes). But, facing a formidable GB pass defense that was 3rd in INTs in ’08 and picked Jay Cutler(notes) four times in Week 1, look for CIN to try to lean more heavily on RB Cedric Benson(notes), despite GB looking clearly much better up front on defense. Benson carried 21 times for 76 yards this past Sunday. What may have caught the attention of CIN is that CHI No. 3 WR Johnny Knox(notes) caught a couple deep balls (2/82) against the GB secondary on Sunday night. Expect CIN to check and see if that door is still open, targeting preseason sensation WR Chris Henry a few times downfield – he had just one catch for 18 yards in Week 1.

GB has a balanced offense and it should remain equitable with its run and pass offenses against CIN, a team that looks much improved defensively. Someone that we didn’t see much in Week 1 who could be a bigger factor in Week 2 is TE Jermichael Finley(notes). CIN was suspect against TEs last season and allowed 69 receiving yards combined to Daniel Graham(notes) and Tony Scheffler(notes) in Week 1.

Green Light: Ryan Grant(notes), Greg Jennings(notes), Aaron Rodgers(notes)
Yellow Light: Cedric Benson, Chad Ocho Cinco(notes), Green Bay Defense, Donald Driver(notes)
Red Light: Cincinnati Defense, Laveranues Coles(notes)
Sleeper: Chris Henry, Jermichael Finley
Injuries:Packers SS Atari Bigby(notes) is expected to be out with a knee injury

Key Stats: TEXANS – 4.5 YPC, 462 yards total offense allowed in Week 1
TITANS – 1.6 YPC, 321 passing yards allowed in Week 1
What to watch for: In the battle of the old Oilers versus the new Oilers, expect the old Oilers to let it fly early and often. Against the NYJ in Week 1, HOU delivered the second-fewest yards on offense in the league behind CAR. With WR Kevin Walter(notes) expected to return from a hamstring injury this week, I’d look for HOU to set up the run by establishing a quick-hitting passing game, with QB Matt Schaub(notes) spreading the ball around. HOU has issues on the offensive line and it will have its hands full against a TEN defense that sacked QB Ben Roethlisberger(notes) 4 times on Thursday. TEN also allowed just 33 rushing yards to PIT RBs in Week 1, but HOU RB Steve Slaton(notes) did top 100 rushing yards in each of his meetings with TEN last season, the only RB to top the century mark against the Titans in ’08. Still, given his struggles in Week 1, he’s no slam dunk in this one.

TEN averaged 32 carries a game last season, but fell 7 carries shy of that mark against a tough PIT run defense in Week 1. Against a HOU defense that allowed 4.5 YPC in ’08 and in Week 1 to the NYJ, the team should get that carry total back over the 30 mark in Week 2. That said, HOU did a good job defending the run in two meetings with TEN in ’08, not allowing LenDale White(notes) or Chris Johnson to exceed 74 rushing yards in either meeting. But TEN flashed viable passing game threats in WRs Justin Gage(notes) and Kenny Britt(notes) and TE Bo Scaife(notes) against PIT in Week 1, and that’s should keep the HOU defense honest. My guess is that TEN follows the blueprint of the NYJ, who ran 42 times on HOU in Week 1.

Green Light: Chris Johnson, LenDale White, Andre Johnson(notes), Owen Daniels(notes)
Yellow Light: Steve Slaton, Tennessee Defense, Matt Schaub, Kevin Walter, Justin Gage
Red Light: Houston Defense, Kerry Collins(notes)
Sleeper: Bo Scaife
Injuries:HOU WR Andre’ Davis(notes) suffered a concussion in Week 1 and is likely out

Key Stats: RAIDERS – 3.3 YPC allowed
CHIEFS – 4.8 YPC, 303 passing yards allowed
What to watch for: This one falls in the hands of the running game, a group (mostly Michael Bush(notes) and Darren McFadden(notes)) that hung a respectable 148 rushing yards (4.6 YPC) on a typically stout SDG run defense in Week 1. Bush and McFadden complement each other well and this looks like a full-blown platoon, but at least it’ll be a run-heavy co-op. Both backs also provide solid options as receivers out of the backfield for QB JaMarcus Russell(notes) and against a KC defense that allowed the 4th-most receiving yards to RBs in ’08, that is likely to be a heavily-explored outlet in Week 2. Russell showed that he still has a long way to go in his QB education, so he’ll likely keep to the dump passes to RBs and exploiting mismatches with TE Zach Miller, who caught all six passes Russell threw him in Week 1. But, because of his cannon arm, OAK will be sure to take several deep shots again. However, Luis Murphy was the only WR to catch a pass for OAK in Week 1 – and his big gainer came on a late 4th-and-15 Hail Mary that completely caught SDG off-guard. You just can’t get excited about their vertical game yet.

Give OAK credit for limiting an elite SDG offense to 317 yards in a near-upset in Week 1. The Richard Seymour(notes)-infused defensive line allowed just 3.3 YPC and the pass defense still has elite CB Nnamdi Asomugha(notes) contributing to what was the 8th-toughest fantasy defense against WRs in ’08. KC is most likely to attack with the running game considering that QB Matt Cassel(notes), if he can go, would be in his first game since going down with a sprained MCL. RB Larry Johnson(notes) has typically destroyed OAK in his career, as he’s averaged more than 100 yards from scrimmage and has 12 TDs in nine career meetings. He should see extensive work in Week 2. And, if KC was watching the way the OAK LBs dropped away from SDG RB Darren Sproles(notes) on Monday Night Football when he came out into the passing game, it will look to exploit them with RB Jamaal Charles(notes) in exactly the same manner. WR Dwayne Bowe(notes) has never scored a TD against OAK in his four career meetings, but his yardage totals have been decent and he did come up with a TD last week against a tough BAL defense. You probably have to keep rolling with him unless you are stacked at WR.

Green Light: Darren McFadden, Michael Bush, Larry Johnson, Zach Miller
Yellow Light: Matt Cassel, Dwayne Bowe, Oakland Defense
Red Light: Kansas City Defense, JaMarcus Russell, Darrius Heyward-Bey(notes)
Sleeper: Jamaal Charles, Mark Bradley(notes), Luis Murphy
Injuries:KC QB Matt Cassel looks like a likely Week 2 return from his sprained MCL injury

Key Stats: PATRIOTS – 4.7 YPC allowed, 4 Sacks in Week 1
JETS – 2.9 YPC, 145 passing yards allowed in Week 1
What to watch for: We found out very little about the NE backfield in Week 1, and that will likely remain the same in Week 2. QB Tom Brady(notes) threw 53 times on Monday night, but was sacked just once by BUF. With quality pass protection and Brady’s ability to make quick decisions, don’t be surprised if NE finishes among the top-five most pass heavy offenses in the league, as it was in ’07. The RBs here are garnish. The NYJ shut the door on the HOU running game in Week 1 and it was very adept in that department in ’08. Therefore, count on head coach Bill Belichick going all in with Brady once again. WRs Randy Moss(notes) and Wes Welker(notes) each caught a dozen passes in Week 1. Don’t be surprised if both push double digits once again. As for the RBs, forget about ‘em.

If you saw the discomfort that BUF RB Fred Jackson(notes) caused the NE defense on Monday night, you can’t help but be excited for RB Leon Washington(notes) this week, especially with LB Jerod Mayo(notes) out with an MCL injury. Expect head coach Rex Ryan to try and out-tough NE, leaning heavily on RB Thomas Jones(notes) to wear down the NE front line, while mixing in Washington and TE Dustin Keller(notes) heavily. That BUF QB Trent Edwards(notes) was able to post a 114 passer rating at NE in Week 1 should inspire some confidence in letting rookie QB Mark Sanchez(notes) take some shots downfield like he did in Week 1 at HOU.

Green Light: Randy Moss, Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, Dustin Keller
Yellow Light: Jerricho Cotchery(notes), New England Defense, New York Jets Defense,
Red Light: Benjamin Watson(notes), Fred Taylor(notes), Laurence Maroney(notes), Sammy Morris(notes)
Sleeper: Kevin Faulk(notes), Chansi Stuckey(notes)
Injuries:NE LB Jerod Mayo (knee) is out

Key Stats: SAINTS: 3 INTs, 1.7 YPC allowed in Week 1
EAGLES: 5 INTs, 5 sacks, 83 passing yards, 2.9 YPC allowed in Week 1
What to watch for: Injured QB Donovan McNabb(notes) is holding out hope he can play with a cracked rib in Week 2. If he does, PHI can take heart in the fact that NO is not particularly strong at rushing the passer. PHI allowed just 23 sacks in ’08 as it thrives on the short passing game (its average of 11.2 yards per reception last season ranked in the lower half of the league). For this reason, McNabb or backup Kevin Kolb(notes) could still take to the air a fair amount in Week 2, but the injury makes McNabb too risky even if he is given the thumbs up – the possibility he gets pulled early is too strong. It’s probably not the best game for WR DeSean Jackson(notes) to hook up on a long-distance connection, but he can do damage in a variety of ways and still has to be considered. RB Brian Westbrook(notes) looked good in Week 1 despite dealing with recovery from ankle surgery this summer. This game has all the earmarks of a heavy workload for the PHI featured back.

PHI was a dominating run defense in ’08 and they handled one of the league’s best rushing attacks in Week 1, holding CAR to just 2.9 YPC. For that reason, expect NO to lean heavily on what it does best – passing the rock. QB Drew Brees(notes) threw more passes (635) than any other QB in the league in ’08 and he opened ’09 with 6 TD passes – a first in the NFL’s history of Week 1. Physical backs like Brandon Jacobs(notes), LeRon McLain, Frank Gore(notes) and Clinton Portis(notes) did have success against PHI in ’08, which would provide some hope that RB Mike Bell(notes) could post serviceable numbers, but RB Pierre Thomas(notes) is expected back from a sprained MCL injury and the workload for any of the Saints RBs is unlikely to be substantial enough to count upon.

Green Light: Brian Westbrook, Drew Brees, Jeremy Shockey(notes)
Yellow Light: Marques Colston(notes), DeSean Jackson, Mike Bell, Lance Moore(notes), Brent Celek, Philadelphia defense
Red Light: Reggie Bush(notes), Pierre Thomas, Donovan McNabb, Robert Meachem(notes), Devery Henderson(notes)
Sleeper: LeSean McCoy(notes)
Injuries:PHI QB Donovan McNabb has a broken rib and his availability for Week 2 is in serious question

Key Stats: RAMS – 4.9 YPC, 279 passing yards allowed, 0 Sacks in Week 1
REDSKINS – 3.3 YPC allowed in Week 1
What to watch for: STL averaged a respectable 4.3 yards per carry against SEA in Week 1, but it couldn’t stick with the run because it was playing with a minimum of a 14-point deficit the entire second half. RB Steven Jackson is the center of the offense and given the less than dynamic ability of the WAS offense, STL should expect to be able to stick with the run longer in Week 2. QB Marc Bulger(notes) was hurried often and sacked three times in Week 1 and given the state of the pass protection, limiting Bulger in the passing game right now is ideal. I fully expect former veteran of NFC East wars and current STL head coach Steve Spagnola to try to win a smash-mouth contest with Washington, and Jackson could net 25-30 touches as a result. When Bulger does go to the air, it’s clear that he likes WR Laurent Robinson(notes), who came away with a couple tough catches in traffic and nearly tacked on a Hail Mary reception on the last play of the SEA game as the ball got knocked out his hands in the fray.

STL has issues on the defensive front, which should prove advantageous for RB Clinton Portis. It should also afford QB Jason Campbell(notes) an opportunity for more time to throw the ball than he had against NYG in Week 1. STL didn’t prepare anything special for handling SEA TE John Carlson(notes), and it cost them big-time. If they give TE Chris Cooley(notes) the same treatment, it could be equally as disastrous for STL.

Green Light: Clinton Portis, Chris Cooley, Steven Jackson, Washington Defense
Yellow Light: Randy McMichael(notes), Laurent Robinson, Santana Moss(notes), Antwaan Randle El(notes)
Red Light: Marc Bulger, Donnie Avery(notes)
Sleeper: Jason Campbell, Ladell Betts(notes)
Injuries:None of significance

Key Stats: CARDINALS – 0.8 YPC allowed, 4 Sacks in Week 1
JAGUARS – 2.3 YPC, 73.7% Comp% allowed in Week 1
What to watch for: Kurt Warner(notes) threw 44 times in Week 1, but ARI failed to conjure last season’s magic in the process, as the old man was sacked three times, threw two picks and finished with a QB Rating of 67.2. The Cardinals offense was clearly out of sync and it didn’t help that WR Anquan Boldin(notes) (hamstring) was forced into action because WRs Steve Breaston(notes) (knee) and Early Doucet(notes) (ribs) couldn’t play. Expect another attempt to get the aerial assault clicking this week. Jacksonville was strong against the run in Week 1, but gave up nearly 300 yards through the air. JAC DE Reggie Hayward(notes) was lost for the season with a broken shin in Week 1, which should further hinder a defense that managed just one sack on Peyton Manning(notes). JAC also starts a rookie CB in Derek Cox(notes) who, while recovering a fumble and picking off a Manning pass in Week 1, was the biggest victim of Reggie Wayne’s(notes) 10/162/1 line. There’ll be opportunities for Boldin (assuming he plays) and Larry Fitzgerald(notes) depending on where Cox lines up this week.

The Jaguars identity on offense is its running game, just like the 49ers, the Cardinals Week 1 opponent. ARI went with eight in the box in an all out effort to thwart SF RB Frank Gore, and he picked up a puny 30 yards on 22 carries. Don’t expect JAC to be as stubborn with lead RB Maurice Jones-Drew(notes). If the run doesn’t open up for MJD, he’s likely to be utilized heavily as a receiver out of the backfield, and a half-dozen receptions could very well be in the offing. WR Torry Holt(notes) has a long, and mostly successful, history against Arizona, and his veteran savvy should work to his advantage much like it did for 49ers WR Isaac Bruce(notes) in Week 1 (4/74).

Green Light: Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Maurice Jones-Drew, Torry Holt
Yellow Light:Anquan Boldin, Tim Hightower(notes), Beanie Wells(notes), Arizona Defense, David Garrard(notes)
Red Light: Troy Williamson(notes), Marcedes Lewis(notes), Jacksonville defense
Sleeper: Jerheme Urban(notes)
Injuries:ARI WR Anquan Boldin (hammy) is expected to be Questionable; JAC DE Reggie Hayward (shin) is out

Key Stats: BUCS – 4.9 YPC, 344 passing yards allowed in Week 1
BILLS – 3.2 YPC, 73.6 Comp% allowed
What to watch for: Tampa Bay ran a healthy 73 plays from scrimmage in Week 1 (41 passes, 32 rushes). QB Byron Leftwich(notes), in completing passes to 10 different players, didn’t get sacked or throw an INT. The running game, which featured carries by five different players (not including Leftwich) averaged 5.6 yards per clip. Look for the committee blueprint to continue, although there’ll likely be a greater emphasis to the run side against a Buffalo defense that will be without MLB Paul Posluszny(notes), assuming the Bills don’t jump out to a pass-forcing lead like Dallas did in Week 1 – Leftwich threw 23 times in the final 16 minutes of the game.

Given how dreadful the Bucs’ secondary was against Dallas – 3 TD passes allowed of 40-plus yards – you have to like the matchup for BUF WR Lee Evans(notes), at least on paper. Unfortunately, QB Trent Edwards does not excel in the vertical passing game and much prefers keeping things short and sweet – RB Fred Jackson led the team with 5 receptions in Week 1. By now Edwards has surely heard from WR Terrell Owens(notes) that three targets isn’t nearly enough. Expect T.O. to get some more love on Sunday, but don’t bank on Evans victimizing TB for another 40-plus yard bomb – Edwards just isn’t the man for that job.

Green Light: Fred Jackson, Terrell Owens, Kellen Winslow(notes) Jr., Carnell Williams(notes), Derrick Ward(notes)
Yellow Light: Lee Evans, Trent Edwards, Antonio Bryant(notes), Michael Clayton(notes), Byron Leftwich
Red Light: Shawn Nelson(notes), Buffalo Defense, Tampa Bay Defense
Injuries:TB C Jeff Faine(notes) (triceps) is out; TB WR Antonio Bryant is still dealing with swelling in his surgically-repaired knee; ;BUF MLB Paul Posluszny (arm) is out

Key Stats: SEAHAWKS – 4.3 YPC, 170 passing yards allowed, 3 Sacks in Week 1
49ERS – 2.4 YPC allowed, 2 INTs, 3 Sacks in Week 1
What to watch for: SEA rushed 34 times and averaged 4.9 yards per clip against STL in Week 1, but the identity of this offense is clearly it’s passing game. It was only after QB Matt Hasselbeck(notes) had broken the Rams’ will by making liberal use of WRs Nate Burleson(notes) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh(notes) and TE John Carlson that RB Julius Jones(notes) broke free late in the third quarter for a 62-yard TD run. Against a SF defense that allowed just 2.4 YPC to Arizona, SEA will likely play to its passing strength once again. And don’t be surprised if RB Edgerrin James(notes), who has rushed for at least 92 yards at San Francisco in each of the past four seasons, gets even more reps in Week 2 because of his ability to help out Hasselbeck in pass protection. The expected return of LT Walter Jones(notes) and C Chris Spencer(notes) would also help in that department.

SEA sacked SF QBs a total of 13 times in the two meetings last season. Pass protection is a major weakness for SF as it led the league in sacks allowed in ’08 (55) and allowed 4 sacks in Week 1. But SF showed in Week 1 that it is committed to a more conservative offensive approach this season as it ran the ball 25 times against ARI despite averaging just 0.8 yards per carry. This team isn’t built for playing catch-up, so it’s ideal to get an early lead like it did against ARI and rely on the defense to keep pressure on the SEA offense. Don’t be surprised if RB Frank Gore handles the ball 30-plus times on Sunday. And TE Vernon Davis(notes) might have some payback in mind – it was the Week 8 game against SEA in ’08 in which head coach Mike Singletary sent Davis to the showers before the game was over.

Green Light: Frank Gore, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Matt Hasselbeck
Yellow Light: John Carlson, Nate Burleson, Seattle Defense, San Francisco Defense, Isaac Bruce
Red Light: Julius Jones, Shaun Hill(notes), Josh Morgan(notes)
Sleeper: Vernon Davis, Edgerrin James
Injuries:SEA LB LeRoy Hill(notes) (groin) is out

Key Stats: STEELERS – 3.4 YPC allowed in Week 1
BEARS – 3.5 YPC, 150 passing yards allowed, 4 Sacks in Week 1
What to watch for: PIT has major issues in the running game, not to mention pass protection issues. The logical solution against CHI this week would seem to be more of the same as Week 1 – let Big Ben Roethlisberger fire away somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 times. CHI will be without two starting LBs (Brian Urlacher(notes) and Piso Tinoisamoa) so that will help definitely help PIT in the short passing game and might even give it a little extra boost on the ground.

CHI QB Jay Cutler, intercepted four times in the opener, catches a break in that PIT S Troy Polamalu(notes) is sidelined for the next few weeks with a torn MCL. Cutler was down-right awful in his decision-making on Sunday night – that he completed a combined one pass to RB Matt Forte(notes) and TE Greg Olsen(notes) was a travesty. With Polamalu out, both those players should be heavily involved in the passing game plan.

Green Light: Heath Miller(notes), Hines Ward(notes), Santonio Holmes(notes), Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Defense
Yellow Light:Chicago Defense, Matt Forte, Greg Olsen, Jay Cutler, Earl Bennett(notes), Devin Hester(notes)
Red Light: Willie Parker(notes), Rashard Mendenhall(notes)
Sleeper: Mewelde Moore(notes)
Injuries:CHI LB Brian Urlacher (wrist) and Piso Tinoisamoa (knee) are out; PIT S Troy Polamalu (knee) is out

Key Stats: RAVENS – 1.7 YPC, 159 passing yards allowed, 3 Sacks in Week 1
CHARGERS – 4.6 YPC, 43.8 Comp% allowed in Week 1
What to watch for: BAL led the NFL in rush attempts in ’08 (592 carries) and its 41 rushes in Week 1 trailed only the New York Jets (42). This team will run the ball, and if SDG hopes to stop them, it’ll have to do much better than it did against OAK on Monday night. That QB Joe Flacco(notes) threw 43 times for 307 yards and 3 TDs in Week 1 should only help the ground game, as SDG will have to treat the passing game honestly. Flacco will almost certainly be reined in a bit in this one, but when he does go to the air, expect TE Todd Heap(notes) (5/74/1 in Week 1) to continue to be a prominent part of that picture. SDG has three times in the past eight years allowed the most fantasy points to TEs, and they’ve ranked among the 10 worst in that department in each of those eight seasons. In Week 1, SDG allowed a league-high 109 yards to TEs.

SDG RB LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) tweaked his ankle in Week 1, and the offensive line suffered some damage as well. That’s not exactly the condition you want to be in prior to a meeting with Baltimore. Look for SDG to keep backup RB Darren Sproles, who caught 5 passes for 43 yards on Monday night, actively involved on passing downs, and he is likely to shoulder a healthy chunk of the rushing burden as well in light of LT’s injury. TE Antonio Gates(notes) went for 83 yards in Week 1 and he’s likely to be very busy on Sunday, as well. When these two teams met in ’07, Gates topped 100 yards and scored two touchdowns. Under heavy BAL pressure, his size and skills as a receiver are a no-brainer for QB Philip Rivers(notes). Speaking of Rivers, he was intercepted just 3 times and sacked 10 times in 8 home games in ’08. He’s got excellent weapons of all variety at his disposal to help combat the heat of the BAL defense. He’s likely to have to rely on his arm often in this contest, but that could very well prove lucrative for his fantasy owners.

Green Light: Ray Rice(notes), Todd Heap, Antonio Gates, Philip Rivers
Yellow Light: Darren Sproles, Willis McGahee(notes), Joe Flacco, Vincent Jackson(notes), Derrick Mason(notes). Mark Clayton(notes)
Red Light: Chris Chambers(notes), LaDainian Tomlinson, Le’Ron McLain
Sleeper: Legedu Naanee(notes)
Injuries:SDG RB LaDainian Tomlinson is dealing with a sore ankle; SDG C Nick Hardwick(notes) is expected to be out with a leg injury and OG Louis Vazquez is also dealing with a foot injury which could threaten his playing status in Week 2

Key Stats: BROWNS – 6.1 YPC, 85 passing yards allowed, 4 Sacks in Week 1
BRONCOS – 3.2 YPC allowed, 2 INTs, 3 Sacks in Week 1
What to watch for: CLE RB Jamal Lewis(notes) showed a lot more life in Week 1 (11 for 57 rushing, 3 for 47 receiving) against MIN than most people thought he still possessed. DEN was the 2nd-worst run defense in fantasy last season and it it’s hard to imagine CLE not looking to see if that remains an exploitable aspect of the DEN defense, especially since the CLE passing game is in absolute shambles. TE Robert Royal(notes) did connect with QB Brady Quinn(notes) for 4 catches for 60 yards a TD in Week 1, but Quinn showed no chemistry with his only legitimate weapon in the passing game, Braylon Edwards(notes) (1 catch for 12 yards). Quinn might be a better all-around QB than Derek Anderson(notes), but he doesn’t throw a good deep ball, and that’s a big problem for Edwards owners. Facing DEN CB Champ Bailey(notes), you don’t want anything to do with Edwards this week.

While it should get some slack for having to face Adrian Peterson, CLE did give up a league-high 6.1 yards per carry in Week 1. There should be opportunities for the DEN rushing attack, but the backfield committee is a pretty cloudy picture still. RBs Correll Buckhalter(notes) and Knowshon Moreno(notes) split the load evenly (8 carries each) against CIN in Week 1 and it’s likely that a similar timeshare will be in place on Sunday. A healthier and more experienced Buckhalter was much more productive in Week 1, and he’s probably a slightly better option for Week 2, as well. QB Kyle Orton(notes) didn’t fare too bad in his DEN debut in Week 1, although much of his production came on the final Hail Mary of the game (87-yard prayer answered by WR Brandon Stokley(notes)). WR Brandon Marshall(notes) showed rust in Week 1, the most glaring example being a perfectly thrown bomb by Orton that he let slip right through his hands. That said, head coach Josh McDaniel complimented his effort and things should only improve for Marshall in Week 2.

Green Light: Jamal Lewis, Brandon Marshall
Yellow Light: Correll Buckhalter, Knowshon Moreno, Eddie Royal(notes), Denver Defense, Kyle Orton
Red Light: Brady Quinn, Cleveland Defense, Braylon Edwards
Sleeper: Robert Royal, Mike Furrey(notes)
Injuries:None of significance

Key Stats: GIANTS – 187 passing yards allowed, 3 Sacks in Week 1
COWBOYS 5.6 YPC, 276 passing yards allowed in Week 1
What to watch for: Considering how good DAL made Carnell Williams look in Week 1, expect NYG to lean heavily on RBs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw(notes), something they’d be inclined to do anyways. The offensive line run blocking was a disappointment in Week 1, and it will be motivated to improve in Week 2. There’ll be opportunities for QB Eli Manning(notes) in the passing game but the closest thing to a go-to WR for him appears to be Steve Smith, who was targeted twice as often (8 targets) as any other receiver on the team in Week 1. It should be noted that Smith caught five passes in both of his ’08 meetings with DAL.

DAL QB Tony Romo(notes), who has 10 TD passes and just 2 INTs combined in his past 3 meetings with the NYG, is dealing with a sore ankle, so he’s probably not going to be asked to improvise out of the pocket like he so often has in the past. RB Marion Barber(notes), who carried 14 times for 79 yards in Week 1 against a Tampa Bay defense geared up to stop him, should be very active on Sunday. RB Felix Jones(notes) could also be in line for steady work, but he’s dealing with a sore groin suffered in Week 1 and he’ll have to prove this week that he’s healthy enough to handle it. If he struggles with the injury, No. 3 RB Tashard Choice(notes) could see a beefed up role.

Green Light: Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw, Marion Barber, Jason Witten(notes)
Yellow Light: Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Steve Smith, Felix Jones, Mario Manningham(notes), Kevin Boss(notes), New York Giants Defense, Dallas Defense, Patrick Crayton(notes)
Red Light: Roy Williams
Sleeper: Tashard Choice, Martellus Bennett(notes)
Injuries:DAL QB Tony Romo is dealing with an ankle sprain, but is expected to play; DAL RB Felix Jones has a thigh bruise which may limit his playing time in Week 2

Key Stats: COLTS – 4.4 YPC, 114 passing yards allowed in Week 1
DOLPHINS – 2.5 YPC allowed in Week 1
What to watch for: IND is in a tough spot on the road without WR Anthony Gonzalez(notes) against a stout MIA run defense that held the vaunted ATL ground attack to just 2.5 YPC in Week 1. QB Peyton Manning is likely to hoist it 40-plus times on Monday night. WR Reggie Wayne and TE Dallas Clark(notes) will benefit most, obviously, but the likelihood that either WR Pierre Garcon(notes) or Austin Collie(notes) surprises with a big day in Gonzalez’s absence seems very high.

MIA struggled to get the ground game firing on all cylinders in Week 1, Wildcat or otherwise. And QB Chad Pennington(notes) was afforded very little time in the passing game. The offensive line is a problem at the moment. Considering that IND allowed just 6 TD passes last season and did not yield one in Week 1, MIA is likely to explore success opportunities on the ground. The team doesn’t have much of an offensive identity right now and it seems like a good time to go with a straight-forward, run-heavy approach against a team that has struggled to stop the run.

Green Light: Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Ronnie Brown(notes)
Yellow Light: Ricky Williams(notes), Miami Defense, Indianapolis Defense,
Red Light: Joseph Addai(notes), Donald Brown(notes), Chad Pennington, Anthony Fasano(notes), Davone Bess(notes), Ted Ginn Jr.(notes)
Sleeper: Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie
Injuries:IND WR Anthony Gonzalez (MCL) is out; MIA LB Jason Taylor(notes) has a sore knee that could effect his Week 2 playing time

Brandon Funston is a Yahoo! Sports fantasy expert. Follow him on Twitter. Send Brandon a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Wednesday, Sep 16, 2009