1:00PM ET Games
St. Louis @ Atlanta
The Falcons' offensive line deficiencies flashed in August and were startlingly evident in Week 1 against a New Orleans defense that lacks even mediocre talent. The Saints hit or sacked Matt Ryan on nearly a quarter of his dropbacks. While returning home can't hurt the team outlook, Atlanta is in for a much stiffer test versus outstanding Rams edge pass rushers RE Robert Quinn, coming off a three-sack game, and LE Chris Long, returning from an 11.5-sack season. Their adversaries, respectively, will be swinging-gate RT Lamar Holmes and mediocre LT Sam Baker. I would not be surprised if Ryan had a number of rough moments in this game. He'd be more of a borderline QB1 for me than locked-in starter. I'd play Jay Cutler over Ryan in Week 2. ... Ideally, Falcons OC Dirk Koetter would draw up fast-hitting pass plays to get the ball out of Ryan's hands quickly, offsetting the impact of Quinn and Long. Julio Jones can be dominant on wide receiver screens, and St. Louis' defensive weakness is at outside linebacker. With Roddy White badly hobbled, Jones is Atlanta's unquestioned No. 1 wideout. ... Targeting Tony Gonzalez heavily would be another sound way for Koetter to scheme up passing offense that attacks the Rams' shaky outside 'backers and replacement-level safeties. Gonzo is a recommended TE1 start.
"It's hard to cut," said White of his high ankle sprain after being used as a Week 1 decoy. "It's hard to do just about everything ... It will be maybe a few more weeks before I can go out there and be myself." White revealed he was supposed to be on a snap count of 10-15 plays against the Saints, but wound up with about 30 because the coaching staff "wanted me in certain areas to do certain things so that they couldn't just bracket guys." It could be a week or three until White is a fantasy asset. Roddy cautioned his Twitter followers this week to bench him for now. ... Slot man Harry Douglas had four Week 1 catches for 93 yards, just Douglas' second time clearing 50 yards in his last 24 games. Give Douglas a butt-pat and leave him on waivers. ... Steven Jackson played 36 snaps compared to Jacquizz Rodgers' 16 in Week 1 and broke off a wide-open 50-yard run, although S-Jax was limited to 27 yards on his remaining ten carries and dropped two passes. Still, fantasy owners should be pleased he came away with over 120 total yards, and Jackson is going to remain a solid bet for weekly touchdowns as long as he's healthy. He's a strong RB2 facing his old team. The "revenge" factor more often than not makes no difference, but can't hurt.
I've been skeptical of Jared Cook's chances of ever becoming a high-volume receiver based on his lack of ideal short-area movement, but Cook's preseason and Week 1 usage certainly suggests the Rams intend to make him one. Cook parlayed a team-high ten targets into a 7-141-2 line against the Cardinals, and he would've had a third score if not for Tyrann Mathieu's brilliant hustle play to strip Cook from behind, turning a 47-yard gain into a turnover. Nevertheless, St. Louis is getting Cook matched up on linebackers and safeties down the seam, and the Falcons' linebackers and safeties are not exceptional cover men. They gave up seven catches for 76 yards and a score to Saints tight ends in Week 1. Start Cook confidently. ... Rams top wideout Chris Givens was far quieter in the opener, primarily because he was shadowed by Cardinals top CB Patrick Peterson. Peterson allowed Givens to make just one catch for 12 yards; Givens' only other grab (for 15) came when a bunch formation forced RCB Jerraud Powers to follow him in coverage. Better days are inarguably ahead, but fantasy owners could not be faulted for reserving Givens as a WR4 until his production picks up. I'd still start Givens as a WR3 at Atlanta unless I had a great alternative.
Whereas Cook (91.5 snap percentage) and Givens (81.7%) are essentially every-down players, Tavon Austin isn't there yet. Austin played 63.4% of the Rams' Week 1 downs and secured 6-of-7 targets for 41 yards. Austin is St. Louis' chain-moving receiver; Cook and Givens are the big-play threats. Until we see Austin in an expanded role, he'll be a relatively low-ceiling WR3. ... Dating back to last season, Sam Bradford has completed 202 of his last 340 throws (59.4%) for 2,204 yards (6.48 YPA) and a 15:7 TD-to-INT ratio. Far from sterling, but they're solid QB2 numbers. Coming off a strong opener, I'd view Bradford as that with room for more. He's not yet trustworthy as a legit fantasy starter. ... A poor tackling team, Atlanta surrendered 863 rushing yards after contact in 2012, the second highest total in football. The Falcons were much better in run defense against New Orleans in Week 1, but few mistake the Saints for an efficient run-ball offense. As Isaiah Pead returns from suspension, expect 20 or so more touches from Daryl Richardson in perhaps his make-or-break opportunity to establish feature-back security. Richardson received 25 touches versus Arizona, but averaged 3.2 YPC and the Rams have not seemed sold on him as an NFL starter. Treat Richardson as a shaky RB2/flex and hope he picks up his productivity.
Score Prediction: Falcons 24, Rams 21
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-week $25,000 Fantasy Football league for Week 2. It's $25 to join and first prize is $5,000. Starts Sunday at 1pm ET. Here's the link.
San Diego @ Philadelphia
Coming off Monday night's meltdown loss to the Texans, Chargers DC John Pagano had a short week to prepare for Chip Kelly's smash-mouth zone-read attack in a cross-country matchup. Kelly's offense looked for real in preseason, and was confirmed to be for real in Philly's opener as Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, and Bryce Brown combined for 263 yards and two touchdowns on a whopping 49 carries (5.37 YPC). With Adrian Peterson traveling to Soldier Field, a case can be made for McCoy as Week 2's top fantasy running back play. Kelly's scheme springs him into space, where laterally gifted McCoy is perhaps the most dangerous runner in football. McCoy's weekly head-to-head fantasy opponents are in for a long year. ... Vick needs to be considered a top-10 fantasy quarterback until he stops producing like one or gets bitten by the injury bug. Kelly's designed and option runs give Vick free-access open-field opportunities, and the passing game is similarly dangerous because back-seven defenders blow assignments due to their run-game responsibilities. Kelly's offense may not revolutionize the NFL long term, but fantasy owners need to ride it while it's working. Pagano's defense was picked apart in Week 1 by Matt Schaub, who set ten-game highs in passing yards (346) and touchdowns (3) with a 75.6 completion rate.
The Eagles ran an NFL record 53 first-half offensive plays in Week 1, and a straight-faced Kelly insisted afterwards they played too slow. "I felt like it was slow. I'm not joking," he said. "We need to do a better job. We left the ball on the ground too much. We didn't get the ball to the officials. We could have sped things up in between plays." Bryce Brown is going to be a factor during bye weeks, at which point the Eagles should be playing even faster. Week 1 showed Brown is clearly ahead of Chris Polk. ... DeSean Jackson played 80-of-83 snaps at Washington, ending on a 7-109-1 line despite zero second-half production because Philly was sitting on a big lead and didn't need to throw. Lock in pass-game focal point D-Jax as a WR2 and every-week starter. ... No other Eagles pass catcher saw more than six targets in D.C., and Brent Celek and Zach Ertz are already hurting each other's production. They were targeted three times apiece against the Redskins. Any decidedly run-heavy offense is going to struggle to support more than one serious, consistent fantasy-contributing receiver. For the Eagles, Jackson is that one guy.
Philip Rivers deserves credit for an awesome first half in Week 1 against Houston, and every bit of the blame for one of the worst second-half choke jobs you'll see. Rivers went to pieces in the final two quarters, crumbling under duress and making inexplicable throws, like on ILB Brian Cushing's fourth-quarter pick six. Rivers came away with four touchdown passes, but he hasn't changed. I'd view him as a risky two-QB league play against the blitz-heavy Eagles. Rivers looks like a shell-shocked player. ... Ryan Mathews caught a diving 14-yard touchdown on a wheel route against the Texans, but otherwise was bottled up; not just on the field but by his own team. The Chargers gave Ronnie Brown a team-high 25 running back snaps, while Mathews only played 20 and Danny Woodhead 10. San Diego's backfield is a fantasy value-draining timeshare. I believe the Eagles' defense can be run on, but would view Mathews as no more than a Week 2 flex.
Woodhead was mentioned in some circles as a 2013 sleeper. I just never saw it. He's a change-up back in a suspect offense who would not get featured work if Mathews went down. Behind Brown on the depth chart as well, Woodhead is safe to drop. ... Someone should ascend atop the corps eventually, but the Chargers' passing game was a spread-the-wealth distribution in Week 1. Eddie Royal led the way with six measly targets, while Vincent Brown and Antonio Gates each saw four. Until Rivers commences peppering one of them with footballs, these players are bench fodder. I'd confidently ignore Royal's two-score fluke opener. He hasn't been an effective receiver in years. ... Gates would be my pick to lead San Diego in catches versus a Philly defense deficient in second- and third-level coverage. I still think there are a dozen better tight end plays for Week 2. ... Malcom Floyd was predictably inefficient in Week 1, managing to secure 1-of-5 targets for 47 yards. While I think he should catch one or two more passes than that on a weekly basis, Floyd will be a deep ball-dependent, struggling player all year as a misfit for San Diego's new offense. Floyd is capable of teasing with a big game here or there, but that isn’t what we want in fantasy.
Score Prediction: Eagles 27, Chargers 20
Dallas @ Kansas City
The Giants used doubles and bracket coverage to put clamps on Dez Bryant in Week 1. If teams keep this up, Miles Austin and Jason Witten will make them pay. Austin -- looking noticeably quicker this year -- combined with Witten to catch 18 passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns. Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton is from the Rex Ryan school and will likely be more aggressive than Giants DC Perry Fewell was. So Dez ought to have more one-on-one chances. But Austin is shaping up as a rock-solid WR3, and Witten is an obvious top-six tight end. ... The sledding could still be bumpy for Tony Romo at Arrowhead against a Chiefs defense showing an ability to bring both edge and middle pressure. It's a potentially lethal combination. OLBs Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, and NT Dontari Poe combined for six QB hits, 4.5 sacks, and a pick in the opener at Jacksonville, and the Cowboys' offensive line isn't distinguishably better than the Jaguars'. I'd view Romo as a shaky QB1 in Week 2. ... Rookie Terrance Williams is running as Dallas' third receiver, but may not be long for the role. He mishandled two catchable passes in Week 1 and ran a bad route that got Romo intercepted. Dwayne Harris is waiting in the wings.
Whether he can hold up physically on the workload is the bigger question, but the Cowboys have every intention of using DeMarco Murray as a bellcow back. That showed up against New York, as Murray handled 28 touches only for coach Jason Garrett to state after the game he wanted the ball in Murray's hands more. Kansas City's defense looks stouter this year, but Murray is a locked-in every-week RB2 when he's getting the ball 30 or so times a game. ... An MRI of Bryant's foot injury revealed only a minor sprain, and he practiced fully this week. Dez needs to be in fantasy lineups whenever he's active. Be aware, however, of the Chiefs' changing usage of top CB Brandon Flowers as a shadow cover man. Strictly a left corner throughout his career, Flowers noticeably moved around more in the opener, spending a lot of time against Jaguars top receiver Cecil Shorts. ... Murray is worth handcuffing in deeper leagues with change-of-pace back Lance Dunbar, who is due back from injury in Week 2. Phillip Tanner runs hard, but is just a guy. Fifth-round pick Joseph Randle is not a factor in Dallas' offense, playing zero snaps in Week 1.
Based on camp and the Chiefs' opener, coach Andy Reid is indeed asking Alex Smith to be a high-volume passer without actually asking him to execute difficult throws. The goal is for Smith to be a chain-moving quarterback and sustainer. I'm skeptical this approach will work long term, and it certainly looks better in practice when the Chiefs win games 28-2 as they did in Week 1. For now, view Smith as a low-ceiling fantasy QB2. ... Kansas City's wideout corps felt the adverse effects of the dink-and-dunk, between-the-numbers passing attack against the Jaguars, as FB Anthony Sherman (4-44) led the team in receiving. I fear it'll be a long year for Dwayne Bowe, but would start him as a WR2/3 against Dallas. Pro Football Focus charted Cowboys RCB Morris Claiborne with six catches allowed for 139 yards on nine targets against the Giants. Claiborne is playing through multiple shoulder separations. Bowe should have his number when they face off.
Jamaal Charles exited Kansas City's blowout Week 1 win with a quad injury, but returned briefly and probably would've kept playing were the scoring not so lopsided. Reid's quick-hitting passing game will get Charles into space, where he can make defenders miss with sharp lateral cuts and beat opponents to the corner with devastating burst. Charles is a top-six running back start in Week 2. Despite a strong showing in the opener -- with an assist from bust-of-the-week David Wilson -- I still don't believe Dallas' lightweight defense is an imposing matchup for run games. ... Dexter McCluster (3-43), Anthony Fasano (2-8), and Donnie Avery (2-11-1) were all quiet in the opener. They are role players behind Bowe and Charles, and unworthy of fantasy roster spots.
Score Prediction: Chiefs 24, Cowboys 23
Cleveland @ Baltimore
Early indications out of Browns camp were that Brandon Weeden had successfully taken to new OC Norv Turner's offense, but the second-year passer has hit a sizable speed bump. Combine his third exhibition stats with Week 1, and Weeden has completed 38-of-78 throws (48.7%) for 394 yards (5.05 YPA), one touchdown, and three picks in his last two extended games of play. He took six sacks in Cleveland's opener. Weeden is going to get benched if he keeps it up. ... On a more positive note, Jordan Cameron led the Browns in Week 1 targets (13) and receptions (9), and in Week 2 takes on a Baltimore defense that was gutted by Julius Thomas for a 5/110/2 line in the NFL opener. Thomas abused safeties Michael Huff and James Ihedigbo. Like Thomas, Cameron is a former college basketball player. He's a recommended TE1. ... Go back as long as you want and Turner's offenses have always been decidedly vertical in nature. They push the ball downfield. The Browns have no vertical presence with Josh Gordon on suspension, which means they can't run Turner's offense until he gets back. I like Baltimore's fantasy defense in Week 2.
Even when Greg Little isn't dropping passes -- he opened the year with two of them including one that got Weeden picked -- I've found his talent and production unimpressive. He is an inefficient possession receiver lacking big-play ability and has never been a touchdown scorer. Slot man Davone Bess has even less statistical upside, and I'd take Bess over Little on my fantasy team. ... Inexplicably, Turner and coach Rob Chudzinski minimized Trent Richardson's Week 1 role in an apparent attempt to attack the Dolphins with the pass. The results were six Weeden sacks and three interceptions, with 77 total yards for their best offensive player. While Baltimore does not present an inviting run defense matchup -- the Ravens are loaded with up-front talent and held Broncos backs to 67 yards on 21 carries (3.19 YPC) in the opener -- I would expect Norv and Chud to tailor their Week 2 game plan to increasing Richardson's involvement. On the verge of an 0-2 start, the Browns can't afford to put their fate in the hands of a badly-struggling quarterback.
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton used Patrick Peterson to shadow opposing top receivers in Arizona, and is doing the same with Joe Haden in Cleveland. I charted all of Mike Wallace's Week 1 targets and Haden was on him every play, even when Wallace moved to the opposite side of the formation. Wallace's results? One catch for 15 yards. Expect Torrey Smith to get the same treatment. While I wouldn't necessarily bench Smith without a great alternative, I'd definitely downgrade him from WR2 to WR3 in an unfavorable matchup. ... On the other side, rookie Marlon Brown is the premier sleeper of Week 2. With Wallace on Haden Island, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson combined for 16 receptions, 191 yards, and a score versus the Browns' RCB/slot duo of Chris Owens and Buster Skrine. Depending on nickel or dime sets, they're with whom Brown will match up Sunday. A physical, 6-foot-4, 213-pound specimen with some Boldinian traits, consider Brown a high-ceiling WR3 play. ... With a tough coverage draw on his lone truly threatening wide receiver and RT Michael Oher battling a painful ankle injury, Joe Flacco is shaping up as a two-QB league option only. Baltimore is woefully short on weapons. To move the ball and generate any semblance of sustaining offense, the Ravens are going to have to be a run-foundation team.
Game watchers know TEs Dallas Clark and Ed Dickson had atrocious openers, despite 100 total yards between them, most of which came in throw-happy comeback mode. Back at home versus a struggling Browns team, it's safe to expect less catch-up passing. Flacco dropped back to pass an unruly 66 times against the Broncos. Clark, Dickson, and 37-year-old slot guy Brandon Stokley are not advisable Week 2 fantasy plays. ... Ray Rice owners were discouraged by his Week 1 rushing attempts, although game flow was more to blame than OC Jim Caldwell's playcalling, and Rice still racked up 71 total yards and a touchdown on 20 touches. The Browns showed against the Dolphins that they're not a pushover run defense, but Rice's volume and versatility keep him among the top-dozen fantasy running backs. ... Bernard Pierce's fantasy outlook has not changed after his nine-carry, 22-yard Week 1 effort. He is Rice's more powerful change-of-pace complement and will need a Rice injury to be a worthwhile weekly fantasy start. Keep Pierce rostered as an RB4. There are better performances ahead, with lots of injury-dependent upside.
Score Prediction: Ravens 27, Browns 17
Washington @ Green Bay
Rough moments were many in the first half of Robert Griffin III's 2013 debut. He's still working his way back from January's knee injury. Promising was RG3's noticeable improvement as the game progressed. Griffin settled down and found a rhythm in the final two quarters, delivering passes with more consistent velocity and accuracy. He completed 24 of his final 34 throws (70.6%) for 267 yards (7.85 YPA), two touchdowns, and no turnovers. In a likely high-scoring affair against a Green Bay defense that served up 412 passing yards and three TDs to Colin Kaepernick in Week 1, consider RG3 a top-ten quarterback. ... The Packers struggled at safety in their opener, getting gashed over the middle and down the seam by Anquan Boldin (13-208-1) and Vernon Davis (6-98-2). While this is a theoretically plus matchup for Fred Davis, his production has underwhelmed since last year's slow start. Through eight career games with RG3, Davis has 26 catches for 347 scoreless yards. Rookie TE Jordan Reed (5-38) was more involved against Philly. ... Leonard Hankerson scored two touchdowns in Week 1 fourth-quarter comeback mode, but we're going to need a bigger sample before trusting the historically inconsistent wideout in fantasy leagues. The last time Hankerson scored twice in a game, he caught one ball for ten yards the following week.
Griffin spread the ball around against the Eagles, mostly because Washington was in constant three- and four-wideout sets trying to erase a big early deficit. Pierre Garcon still paced the Skins in targets, hauling in 7-of-11 for 64 yards. Garcon is going to lead the Redskins in receiving this year, and it probably won't be close. Role players Davis, Hankerson, Santana Moss, and Josh Morgan are too unreliable for confident fantasy investment. ... Although Roy Helu excelled in blitz pickup and made the most of his two Week 1 touches, gaining 16 yards, Washington's backfield usage confirmed Alfred Morris remains the clear-cut foundation back. And he's going to get a lot more than 12 carries in most games. The Redskins will want to avoid scoreboard deficits like last week moving forward, especially with a quarterback still trying to get his legs underneath him. So look for playcaller Kyle Shanahan to establish the running attack early in an attempt to not only control the game, but keep Aaron Rodgers off the field. Alf's RB1 value has never been in doubt.
Clearly past his August 5 knee scope, Jordy Nelson was the best Packers receiver on the field in Week 1 at San Francisco, running crisp patterns and piling up yardage after the catch. Despite an injury-plagued 2012, Nelson has 13 TDs over his last 16 regular season games and is flirting with WR1 value. ... Eddie Lacy was briefly benched for fumbling in the opener, but returned to save his fantasy day with a fourth-quarter goal-line plunge. Lacy finished with 15 touches and 72 total yards. Now facing a Washington defense that was gashed by Philly for 263 yards and two TDs on 49 carries (5.37 YPC) last Monday night, Lacy is a recommended RB2 in Week 2. ... Jermichael Finley parlayed eight Week 1 targets into five catches for 56 yards and a touchdown in a difficult matchup against the 49ers. He did drop a pass that got Rodgers picked, but it's been clear since August that Finley is a bigger part of Green Bay's 2013 passing game. Although Washington's run defense received the most negative Opening Day spotlight, safeties E.J. Biggers (a converted cornerback) and Baccari Rambo (a sixth-round rookie) got burnt to a crisp by the Eagles' offense in both the run and pass games. Despite Wednesday's toe scare, it's a great week to start Finley.
James Jones was left off the Week 1 stat sheet, which is a reminder of two things: 1. RCB Tarell Brown is the 49ers' best corner, and smart quarterbacks like Rodgers are going to attack LCB Nnamdi Asomugha and slot CB Carlos Rogers instead. 2. Nelson's good health and Finley's rising usage aren't good news for Jones' value. Let's not forget Jones was a maddeningly inconsistent weekly scorer before his breakout '13 campaign, which came about in large part due to injuries to pass catchers around him. I'm not saying Jones is worthless, but these are factors to consider. View him as a risky WR3 until he picks it up. ... Nelson made more Week 1 splash plays, but Cobb beat up on Rogers inside for 7-108-1 on a team-high 12 targets. Like Nelson, Cobb can be trusted as a borderline WR1/2 until for some reason he stops producing as one. Expect Cobb to square off regularly with Skins slot CB Josh Wilson, while Nelson deals with LCB DeAngelo Hall. ... I'd consider starting only Peyton Manning and Drew Brees over Rodgers in Week 2. He is a no-brainer top-three quarterback with a favorable matchup and healthy, deep playmaking supporting cast. ... Lacy handcuffers: James Starks is the No. 2 back on Green Bay's depth chart, though I personally wouldn't waste the fantasy spot. A plodding RBBC would ensue if Lacy went down.
Score Prediction: Packers 35, Redskins 28
Miami @ Indianapolis
The much-maligned Raiders moved the ball at will in Week 1 on the Colts, which it's probably safe to assume says more about Indy's defense than Oakland's offense. The Colts looked slow, failing to generate pass rush and getting beat on the edges by Terrelle Pryor. The Raiders came away with 171 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries (5.18 YPC). Lamar Miller is difficult to trust after his Opening Day clunker -- and he's very much in a timeshare with Daniel Thomas -- but this is the kind of matchup that could springboard Miller back into fantasy owners' good graces. I'd view him as a dicey flex, and start Miller confidently in Week 3 versus Atlanta if he plays well in Indy. ... If the Fins continue to utilize Mike Wallace as they did in Week 1, his owners are in for a long year. There was nothing creative about Wallace's role as he lined up outside the numbers as an isolation receiver on every meaningful route. Wallace failed to corral 4-of-5 targets, finishing with one reception for 15 yards. The good news is Wallace isn't facing Joe Haden anymore. I'd view Wallace as a boom-or-bust WR3 against physical Colts LCB Greg Toler. ... Charles Clay is entrenched as Miami's starting tight end, where he amassed 54 yards on five Week 1 catches, garnering six targets. Clay is a possession-underneath H-back type without fantasy value.
Even when Wallace gets shut down like last week -- and Ben Roethlisberger often spoke of this in Pittsburgh -- his impact is felt because the field opens up for others. (Also why I think Wallace was the least overpaid member of GM Jeff Ireland's free-agency binge.) Brian Hartline (9-114-1) and Brandon Gibson (7-77) combined for 25 targets at Cleveland, essentially replacing the run game as Miami's primary means of chain movement. The running game and Wallace aren't going to be that unproductive on a weekly basis, making it difficult to buy Hartline and Gibson's Week 1 stats as predictive. I wouldn't start either of them against the Colts. ... Hartline and Gibson's big games are a reminder that Ryan Tannehill is working with a respectable three-receiver package after a rookie season surrounded by plodders. I don't think Tannehill will ascend to top-12 fantasy quarterback numbers this year, but he could get close. With Indy's pass rush looking anemic so far, expect Tannehill to have a clean pocket. I would start him in a two-quarterback league.
I was encouraged to read this week that Colts coaches went back to the drawing board on T.Y. Hilton after he was the NFL's most underutilized player in Week 1. The Colts played their most explosive weapon on under 50 percent of the snaps and got him three short catches in a game they nearly lost to the Raiders at home. If I were into speaking bluntly, I'd call that bad coaching. Of course there were signs of it in August, but it was shocking to watch Raiders-Colts and see it in action as Vick Ballard piled up 14 touches. Until we actually see rookie OC Pep Hamilton put an increased role into action, Hilton can only be considered a dice-roll WR3. Otherwise, this would be a great matchup for him. ... Reggie Wayne is the same guy under Pep he was under Bruce Arians. He's moving all over the place so defenses can't take him away, and he's running every pattern in the book. And Hilton's minimized role helps him. Start Wayne every week. ... Hamilton's vision is a two-tight end, run-based offense, and the primary reason Darrius Heyward-Bey is starting over Hilton is because he's a superior blocker. Receiver blocking is important on run-first teams. DHB finished Week 1 with three receptions for 33 yards. Until the Colts realize they need to be a pass-first team because that's where they have their best talent, Heyward-Bey will be a fantasy WR5.
Ballard carried the mail in Hamilton's Week 1 backfield and outplayed Ahmad Bradshaw, which likely means Ballard will keep the lead back job in Week 2. Unfortunately, the Colts are a virtual lock to struggle running the ball against a Dolphins defense that is annually stout and shut down Cleveland's Week 1 run game to the tune of 47 scoreless yards on 13 carries. Avoid Ballard and Bradshaw in lineups. ... Andrew Luck saved the Colts with sheer Week 1 playmaking ability, taking a 19-yard scramble to the house for the game-winning touchdown in a game against the Raiders that should not have been so close. Luck accounted for three TDs, and will certainly have more attempts than last week's 23 no matter how conservative Pep the Playcaller enters the game planning to be. Luck is a top-ten fantasy quarterback and every-week starter. ... Dwayne Allen (hip) didn't practice this week and is shaping up as a Week 2 game-time decision. It's possible Allen's absence would lead to more three-receiver sets, increasing Hilton's playing time. Though talented, Coby Fleener has not shown enough to be considered a fantasy asset regardless of Allen's availability. Fleener had a horrific preseason and one catch for seven yards in Week 1.
Update: Ballard suffered a right knee injury in Thursday's practice and has been placed on season-ending injured reserve. With the way Hamilton is calling plays, Bradshaw is now set up for 20-plus touches per game as long as his long-balky feet cooperate. The Dolphins' defense is still a very difficult run-game draw for Indy, so tread lightly on Bradshaw in Week 2. But he is very much a respectable low-end RB2/flex with high-end RB2 potential in more favorable matchups to come.
Update II: On Saturday, the Colts downgraded Allen (hip) to doubtful on the injury report. Hilton offers a good deal of WR3 upside against a sub-par Dolphins secondary, and it's possible Allen's absence will translate to more snaps for Indy's most explosive wideout. There is risk in starting Hilton to be sure, but he is a big-play machine with a raised Week 2 statistical ceiling.
Score Prediction: Colts 27, Dolphins 20
Tennessee @ Houston
Ben Tate outplayed a rusty Arian Foster last Monday at San Diego, and after watching the tape coach Gary Kubiak expressed regret Tate didn't get more than 11 touches. (Foster had 24.) "I wish it would have come out a little more closer to even," Kubiak said. "I want to keep it somewhat close right now and watch them working to (see) what's going on." The Titans faced the Isaac Redman-led Steelers backfield in Week 1, so we don't have a great read on what kind of run defense they'll be. There's still little that suggests Tennessee is an imposing opponent. View Tate as a viable flex and Foster as an RB2. ... The Texans are a run-first team. It is their organizational philosophy and where their best talent lies. Matt Schaub was forced into an expanded Week 1 role because Houston fell behind 28-7 early in the third quarter. Forward-thinking fantasy owners can't expect 35 weekly attempts from Schaub, let alone the 45 he tried against the Chargers. He's still just a two-QB league starter. ... Numerous observers called for Andre Johnson's decline around this time last year, after a slow start. We don't hear that anymore. Johnson tagged the Bolts for 146 yards on 12 catches and enters Week 2 fifth in the NFL in receiving yards, behind Anquan Boldin (208), A.J. Green (162), Demaryius Thomas (161), and Vincent Jackson (154).
Owen Daniels deserves credit for an impressive opener. Buoyed by an unordinary number of pass attempts from Schaub, Daniels secured 5-of-7 targets for 67 yards and two touchdowns, finding pay dirt inside the ten-yard line on both scores. The Titans present a plus matchup for tight ends because they struggle in safety coverage, but I strongly believe Daniels will fall short of top-12 TE1 numbers while losing targets to DeAndre Hopkins and Garrett Graham behind Johnson on a run-first team. If Daniels has another big game, sell high. ... It could just as easily be Hopkins in the No. 2 pass-option role this week after his five-catch, 66-yard opener. Or second TE Graham (4-27-1). While consistency and reliability will almost inevitably be difficult to come by behind the running backs and Johnson, the good news is Daniels and Hopkins have favorable Week 2 matchups and Houston should have little trouble moving the ball. I'm anxious to get a bigger sample size on this team because I don't think last week's comeback mode is indicative of the 2013 Texans.
The Titans announced what kind of offense they want to play last week in Pittsburgh. Even though Shonn Greene missed snaps with an in-game knee injury, the Titans ripped off 42 running plays, using three-tight end power formations on 17 of their snaps. Jake Locker attempted 20 passes, completing 11 as Tennessee pulled out the 16-9 victory. It's going to be a weekly headache for Titans wide receivers in fantasy, because there are many mouths to feed and very little volume with a low-percentage passer at the helm. Nate Washington was the Titans' leading Week 1 receiver in targets (7), catches (4), and yards (46). Kenny Britt (1-15) and Kendall Wright (2-11) owners, I wish you the very best of luck. ... Delanie Walker is back from his training camp knee injury to contribute to the muddiness of Tennessee's pass-catching corps. He was targeted four times in the opener, securing three for 40 yards with a fumble. Walker isn't even TE2 worthy.
Under OC Dowell Loggains, the Titans view Wright as a situational slot receiver like Eddie Royal or Davone Bess. Wright played 19-of-68 (27.9%) Week 1 snaps. I'd consider dropping him in a 10- or 12-team league. ... The Texans allowed four fluke touchdown passes to Philip Rivers in their opener, but shut down San Diego's running game as Chargers backs managed 62 scoreless yards on 19 carries (3.26 YPC). Making matters more difficult on Chris Johnson is the fact that even with Greene shelved by knee woes, the Titans distributed goal-line carries elsewhere as third-stringer Jackie Battle executed on a second-quarter three-yard plunge. Optimistic CJ?K owners can point to the fact that he's had some recent success against the Texans' defense, gaining 253 yards on 53 runs (4.77 YPC) over their last three meetings. Volume is definitely on Johnson's side. He's just not getting work in scoring position, and he plays in an offense begging to be one dimensional.
Score Prediction: Texans 28, Titans 17
Carolina @ Buffalo
Most observers anticipated a slow Week 1 from Cam Newton considering Carolina's opponent. He should have an easier time this week. The Bills have lost two of their top-four cornerbacks to lengthy injuries, with Ron Brooks (foot) joining Stephon Gilmore (wrist) on the shelf, and FS Jairus Byrd's (foot) return date remaining up in the air. And for all of Buffalo's theoretical defensive talent up front, the Bills still can't stop the run. After finishing 31st in 2012 run defense, Buffalo was tagged for 162 yards on 30 carries (5.4 YPC) by Patriots tailbacks in the opening game. So the Bills look vulnerable to both the run and pass as they take on one of the NFL's most dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks. ... The Panthers' offense was ultra-conservative in Week 1, attempting only three passes of ten-plus yards against the Seahawks. Coach Ron Rivera vowed after the game to reemphasize vertical passes, which play to Steve Smith's strengths. Smitty still came away from the opener with six grabs for 51 yards and a touchdown. Moving around the formation in new OC Mike Shula's passing game, Smith has a plus matchup versus the Bills' burnable nickel-package trio of RCB Leodis McKelvin, LCB Justin Rogers, and undrafted rookie slot man Nickell Robey.
Greg Olsen led Carolina in Week 1 targets (10), although his 5-56 stat line didn't quite match up to an opening-week tight end bonanza around the league. He's still entrenched as a back-end TE1. ... Not targeted on Opening Day, Brandon LaFell is a fantasy WR5 until proven otherwise. Don't bank on it. ... DeAngelo Williams only lost four Week 1 carries to Mike Tolbert and generally looked sharp with some spring in his legs against a stout Seattle front, averaging 5.1 yards per carry and securing each of his three targets. In a tasty Week 2 matchup, elevate Williams to low-end RB2/flex status. While he lacks a high-scoring ceiling and won't suddenly reenergize at age 30, it's become clear Williams is going to carry the mail in Shula's balanced to run-first attack.
Although the Bills kept their Week 1 game close against New England -- they were outlasted 23-21 -- coach Doug Marrone and OC Nathaniel Hackett didn't play the type of offense they hoped to due to losing the time-of-possession battle 38 minutes to 22. Buffalo managed only 61 offensive plays from scrimmage, a number sure to be higher in most weeks. ... While E.J. Manuel threw two touchdown passes against the Pats, the Bills used him conservatively. Manuel is directing a dink-and-dunk passing game designed to get the ball out quickly and move the chains. Manuel's dual-threat talents give him long-range fantasy appeal, but he will struggle for higher than mid-range QB2 value until he's given a longer leash. We saw a very similar scenario with Russell Wilson in Seattle last year. Manuel is a back-end two-quarterback league option against Carolina's imposing front seven ... With Manuel spreading the ball around as expected and completing a low volume of throws, Stevie Johnson (3-31-1), Scott Chandler (4-38), and Robert Woods (1-18-1) had quiet openers. T.J. Graham was held without a catch. Johnson remains the top weekly fantasy bet, but lacks more than a WR3 ceiling. Chandler, Woods, and Graham are waiver-wire material.
We'll need a bigger sample before deeming Buffalo's backfield a timeshare. C.J. Spiller still led the team with 22 Week 1 touches, though Fred Jackson handled 17 while outgaining his more ballyhooed teammate 108 yards to 55. Even the plugged-in Bills website didn't see this touch distribution coming. Perhaps Spiller's lost fumble and an in-game shot to the head explain F-Jax's one-week role increase. ... In contrast to Jackson's downhill style, Spiller's space-creating running chops would theoretically give Buffalo its best chance at an explosive rushing attack against the Panthers' heavyweight front four, keyed by Star Lotulelei (6'2/311) and Dwan Edwards (6'3/301) with 280-plus pounders Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy on the ends. Start Spiller confidently in fantasy leagues, but pick up Jackson if he's on waivers and keep an eye on his Week 2 usage. In all likelihood, Jackson's role and productivity will fade sooner rather than later. He's 32 1/2 years old with 540 more career carries on his tires than Spiller. Father Time remains undefeated.
Score Prediction: Panthers 24, Bills 20
Minnesota @ Chicago
In another sign that Marc Trestman's influence has already taken hold on Chicago's offense, Jay Cutler didn't take a single Week 1 sack against a fierce Bengals defensive front despite Cincy DC Mike Zimmer blitzing on 10 of Cutler's 33 dropbacks, per ESPN Stats & Info. Cutler went 8-of-10 passing for 94 yards and a score when Zimmer sent five-plus rushers. Cutler has entered the back-end QB1 discussion and now faces a Vikings defense that Matthew Stafford peppered for 357 and two Week 1 touchdowns, despite a replay-negated Calvin Johnson TD and another near scoring miss. This is a great matchup for improving Cutler. ... Although Trestman is emphasizing more passing-attack diversity and distribution, Brandon Marshall is still going to get his. He paced the Bears in Week 1 targets (10), catches (8), and yards (104), and scored the game winner from 19 yards out in the fourth quarter. Marshall's two 2012 stat lines against the Vikings? 10-160-1 and 12-92. Start 'em. ... Trestman is using Alshon Jeffery as a chain-moving complementary wideout as opposed to the vertical stretcher Jeffery was at South Carolina. After a five-catch, 42-yard opener on eight targets, consider Jeffery a WR4 with start-ability during upcoming bye weeks.
Although Martellus Bennett made an outstanding eight-yard touchdown catch and picked up 30 yards as a safety valve on a broken play to finish at 3-49-1 against the Bengals, I'm not quite sold on Bennett as more than a low-end fantasy TE1. He still looks to be the fourth option in the pass game, behind Marshall, Jeffery, and Matt Forte. ... Reggie Bush and Joique Bell combined to torch Minnesota's defense for a whopping 283 total yards and three touchdowns last week. Trestman uses Forte similarly to Bush's employment under Lions OC Scott Linehan, moving Forte all over the offensive formation and getting him the football in a variety of ways. Particularly notable for Forte's scoring potential was his Week 1 usage as the Bears' goal-line back, ahead of Michael Bush. Perhaps it was dictated by formation -- Chicago was on the Cincy one-yard line in a shotgun formation -- but Forte took the draw and executed from a yard out. Bush managed six carries for 15 yards and one uncaught target. Consider Bush a handcuff only in fantasy leagues.
I've tried to stay optimistic on Christian Ponder through many severe lows. After watching his preseason and Week 1 performances, I'm out on Ponder. Talent isn't the issue. Ponder lacks offensive command, drops his eyes under pressure, and makes boneheaded decisions because he's not a comfortable player. I think Matt Cassel will be starting by midseason, if not sooner. ... Avoid chasing last week's points with Jerome Simpson. Simpson is a sixth-year veteran -- we know what he is -- and he hadn't cleared 55 yards in any of his previous 18 games before last Sunday's seven-catch, 140-yard thrashing of Lions rookie RCB Darius Slay. Simpson will have a far harder time against Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, and I'd be genuinely shocked if he paid off as a Week 2 fantasy start. Here's betting Simpson has already had his most productive game of 2013. ... Putting zero heat on Simpson, Cordarrelle Patterson played five snaps in the opener and is just a kickoff returner at this point. He's a mere bench stash with purely speculative value.
With Simpson hogging the production, Greg Jennings (3-33) had a quiet opening week. I still think he'll lead Minnesota in 2013 receiving by a wide margin. Jennings is playing Z and slot receiver, where Ponder can find him on high-percentage throws closer to the line of scrimmage. (Ponder is an ineffective boundary thrower.) On Week 2 passing downs, look for Jennings to match up often with Bears first-year slot corner Isaiah Frey whilst Jarius Wright, Simpson, and Patterson do more battles with Chicago's stout outside cover men. ... Coming off a two-catch, 27-yard opener, Kyle Rudolph now has three or fewer receptions in 11 of his last 18 games. Rudolph owners are headed for a year of touchdown-dependent highs, and far more lows. He went catch-less in his last game against the Bears. ... Although Chicago has fielded strong run defenses over the years, Adrian Peterson has touched them up for 1,085 yards and 14 touchdowns on 217 carries (5.00 YPC) in his career. Peterson has scored more TDs against the Bears than any other team.
Score Prediction: Bears 24, Vikings 17
4:05PM ET Games
New Orleans @ Tampa Bay
Josh Freeman has been one of the NFL's ten least effective quarterbacks since last December. Over his last four games, Freeman has completed 90-of-167 throws (53.9%) for 1,083 yards (6.5 YPA), and a 3:10 TD-to-INT ratio with three fumbles. Fortunately for Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, Tampa Bay lacks a viable third wideout and pass-catching tight end. So V-Jax and Williams consistently pile up targets, and both have talent to capitalize. Jackson's two 2012 stat lines versus the Saints: 7-216-1, 6-81. Williams was quieter (4-36, 4-63), but I wouldn't argue with him as a WR3. Fresh off burning Antonio Cromartie and Dee Milliner to a crisp, V-Jax is a WR1. ... Freeman is playing so poorly that he'd be hard to trust even in a two-quarterback league against a weak Saints defense. He's obviously, painfully short on confidence, and Thursday's disclosure by Bucs coach Greg Schiano that Freeman has been missing team meetings certainly won't help.
Doug Martin owners should have no concerns about Muscle Hamster's relatively slow Week 1 (24-65-1). The Jets are going to play stout defense all year, and the road gets much easier versus a depleted Saints defense in Week 2. NT Brodrick Bunkley is out "several weeks" with a calf injury, costing New Orleans its fifth front-seven starter since June. Bunkley joins LE Kenyon Coleman, OLBs Victor Butler and Will Smith, and ILB Jonathan Vilma on the shelf. In addition, Martin stands to benefit from the impending return of LG Carl Nicks from his preseason toe injury and lead blocker Erik Lorig from a strained calf. Martin is a top-five running back start in Week 2.
The Bucs are moving new toy Darrelle Revis around the formation, using him at right corner on 28 snaps in Week 1 and LCB on 24 downs, per PFF's Mike Clay. Because Saints pass catchers also move around a lot, it's going to be difficult to pinpoint whom Revis will cover. He trailed Santonio Holmes in the opener, holding him to one catch for 13 yards. My best guess is Marques Colston, though Colston often aligns in the slot and Revis didn't play any of his Opening Day downs inside. I think the best fantasy approach is to simply start your studs -- Colston, Jimmy Graham, obviously Drew Brees -- and hope Revis doesn't eliminate one pass catcher for the entire game. I might downgrade Colston from the top-15 fantasy receivers into the high 20s. ... Tampa's defense got gashed last week by Jets tight ends for eight catches, 86 yards, and a touchdown. That's right, they gave up a 7-79-1 to shot-kneed Kellen Winslow. As usual, Graham is the top fantasy tight end start of the week. ... Could the emergence of rookie outside burner Kenny Stills render Lance Moore a fantasy non-factor? Stills and Moore essentially play the same position -- Stills does sprint down the seam more -- and each failed to top five Week 1 targets. Neither role player is a viable fantasy starter.
The Jets moved the ball with the pass on the Bucs' defense last week, which is concerning as Tampa Bay gets set for Brees. Brees is a top-three fantasy QB1 this and every week. ... Nothing has changed for Mark Ingram this year, at least not based on his Week 1 usage. He played 18 snaps, rushed nine times for 11 yards, and wasn't targeted in the passing game. Ingram is not a flex consideration against Tampa Bay's backfield-penetrating run defense. ... Darren Sproles led the Saints' Week 1 backfield in snap percentage and the team in touches, parlaying 14 into 110 yards. Every Bucs linebacker who took the field in Week 1 graded out negatively in Pro Football Focus' pass coverage ratings. That bodes poorly for their chances of slowing down Sproles, who is an every-week fantasy starter, PPR or no. ... Pierre Thomas is capable of a big game every now and then, but he's a better real-life than fantasy player. He's part of a three-way running back committee on a pass-first team, and an asset in the screen game. Thomas' typical 2013 stat line will involve roughly 9-13 touches and 60 scoreless yards. Aim higher until you're desperate.
Score Prediction: Saints 28, Bucs 20
Detroit @ Arizona
Asked in last Sunday's post-game presser whether he's contemplating a change at left tackle, coach Bruce Arians replied, "To whom?" (Almost as if Arians were open to suggestions from reporters.) Rams RE Robert Quinn beat LT Levi Brown for three sacks and two forced fumbles in the opener, and Arizona will now face arguably the NFC's most talented defensive line. There are less than a handful of NFL backs who could successfully generate yards behind Arizona's front five, and Rashard Mendenhall isn't one of them, particularly when he's losing significant carries to special teamer Alfonso Smith (10 in Week 1). Arians is going to give up on the run sooner rather than later, and the hope then will be that Carson Palmer stays healthy. Mendenhall is a poor flex option. ... On a much brighter note, Larry Fitzgerald is back. Targeted 14 times by Palmer in St. Louis, Fitz secured eight for 80 yards and two touchdowns. He gets an easier matchup in Week 2, where Fitzgerald should see frequent coverage from shaky slot CB Bill Bentley and rookie RCB Darius Slay because the Lions don't move top cornerback Chris Houston off his LCB island. Per Pro Football Focus, 12 of Fitzgerald's Week 1 targets came against right-side (Slay) and slot defenders (Bentley).
Update: Fitzgerald is listed as questionable with a hamstring injury tweaked during Wednesday's practice. He did participate in Friday's session on a limited basis, after stating Thursday "everything's good" with the muscle. I would pencil Fitzgerald into my fantasy lineup and closely monitor Sunday morning reports. Fitzgerald is the focal point of Arians' voluminous, explosive passing attack, and I'd badly want to play him in fantasy if he's going to be active.
Arians is moving underrated Andre Roberts around like he did T.Y. Hilton in Indianapolis. Though not officially a "starter," Roberts played 72 percent of Arizona's Week 1 snaps and virtually every passing down, catching eight balls for 97 yards. With Rob Housler (ankle) out another week, both Roberts and Michael Floyd (4-82) have a chance to deliver consistent WR2/3 stats. The volume is generous and the scheme is very wide receiver-friendly. ... Palmer's circumstances are not quite ideal because his pass protection is an inevitable problem. But he has attempts and "weapons" on his side. Arians dropped Palmer back on 44 occasions against the Rams despite the fact Arizona had a lead for most of the game and Quinn was eating Brown alive on his signal caller's blindside. Expect Palmer to absorb a ton of hits versus the Lions, and still provide high-end QB2 numbers.
The Vikings' Week 1 approach to defending Detroit's famously pass-happy offense was to drop their safeties 20 yards off the line of scrimmage. Reggie Bush and Joique Bell loved it, shredding the six-man box for 115 yards and two scores on 27 carries. Bush had two more TDs overturned on replay. The Lions can't expect Arizona defensive playcaller Todd Bowles to play the exact same way, but it's a reminder that Bush will see favorable running looks all year due to the nature of Detroit's base-shotgun offense. ... I love Bell's game and versatility, but he's a change-of-pace back who may see sporadic goal-line work in a given week. Unless Bush goes down, Bell is not a bankable fantasy starter. In attempts to "chase" last week's points, I have a feeling many owners will start Bell as an RB2 or flex this week. And I'd bet they'll emerge disappointed. He's not going to get the ball enough. ... As expected, Lions tight ends played diminished passing-game roles in Week 1 with Bush and to a lesser extent Bell supplanting them as Matthew Stafford's safety valves. Brandon Pettigrew (2-6) was targeted four times and can be dropped in fantasy leagues. Tony Scheffler (0-0) was targeted once. UDFA Joseph Fauria (3-27-1) was the most productive of the trio, though he only saw three targets and played 11-of-83 snaps (13.3%). Detroit tight ends are a fantasy situation to avoid.
Stafford picked up where he left off last year in the opener, making a number of head-scratching throws and trusting his arm too much at times. No big deal for fantasy owners. Stafford dropped 357 yards and two touchdowns on the Vikings, and narrowly missed a four-score day due to a Calvin Johnson Rule TD deletion and second play where Megatron just barely failed to get his second foot into the end zone. The Lions now do battle with an Arizona defense that generated little pressure in Week 1 versus the Rams as Sam Bradford stung them for 299 yards and two scores. Stafford is a top-ten fantasy quarterback. ... Johnson's Week 1 was slow by box-score standards (4-37), and he's a mortal lock to be mirrored by Patrick Peterson on Sunday. Megatron, of course, got the better of this battle in Week 15 last season, lighting up the Cardinals' top corner for a 10-121 line. Confidently start Megatron this and every week. ... Until Ryan Broyles (knee) gets completely healthy, Nate Burleson and Patrick Edwards will round out the Lions' three-wide package. Burleson had six grabs for 78 yards against Minnesota, but is a 32-year-old possession receiver without big-play ability. Edwards (3-30) was quiet in the opener and lacks physical tools to win consistently outside the numbers. Neither should be bothered with in fantasy football lineups.
Score Prediction: Lions 27, Cardinals 24
4:25PM ET Games
Jacksonville @ Oakland
Jaguars-Raiders is the lone Week 2 game with a sub-40-point over-under. Look elsewhere for fantasy sleeper plays. ... Oakland is using Terrelle Pryor in a simplistic one-read offense, where he works through a single progression before deciding whether to run or pass. While this college-like approach can successfully translate to fantasy production because he's got the green light to rush for statistics, it's worth wondering just how long it'll take defenses to catch on. I like Pryor as a back-end QB1 streamer against a Jags defense that served up 293 total yards and three TDs to an Alex Smith-quarterbacked offense last week, but Pryor isn't a bankable season-long starter, and there are certain to be bumps in the road. It's fun to play this guy in fantasy -- I'm doing it for the second straight week -- but be careful. ... Another positive for Pryor is Jacksonville's loss of top CB Dwayne Gratz for 3-6 weeks with a high ankle sprain. … I still couldn't bring myself to trust any of Pryor's receivers, at least not until bye weeks force me to. Rod Streater was Pryor's Week 1 go-to guy, securing five balls for 70 yards on a team-high eight targets. A possession-type talent who plays in the slot and out wide, Streater is the best option if you really want to roll the dice.
It's understandable that the Raiders' coaching staff has had something of a love-hate relationship with Denarius Moore. A superb talent, Moore's inconsistencies have continued into the beginning of this season. Although he dropped a 5-43-1 line on the Colts in Week 1, Moore missed on two catchable targets and his on-field performance has been unreliable seemingly ever since Dennis Allen took over. In fantasy, it'll cause headaches trying to pin down when Moore will have good games due to his play and the inaccuracy of his quarterback on a run-based team. ... Darren McFadden's opening-week stats (17-48-1, 3-18) look pedestrian on paper, but he showed burst and power when holes were there and will commence benefiting from Pryor's dual threat sooner rather than later. The Jags' Week 2 defensive approach will likely emphasize keeping Pryor in the pocket, where he is least effective. There'll be less focus on containing McFadden. Despite major deficiencies on his offensive line, I think McFadden has a great shot at a breakout Week 2 game. Jaguars coaches are going to be very worried about Pryor after watching the Opening Day tape.
So much for looking good in August. For the second straight year, the Jaguars teased with a strong preseason showing before falling flat on their face when the real stuff began. Jacksonville was outmanned and out-coached in its Week 1 28-2 loss to Kansas City, losing Blaine Gabbert along the way. Chad Henne obviously isn't a long-term solution, but he will give Cecil Shorts a better chance at short-term success. Shorts' seven stat lines in the games both he and Henne played together extensively last season: 4-79-1, 6-105-1, 3-81-1, 4-105-1, 7-77-1, 6-101, 6-54. Shorts is a quality bounce-back WR3 in Week 2. ... Also working in Shorts' favor is the fact Jacksonville is otherwise painfully thin on pass catchers. Justin Blackmon is suspended three more games. Marcedes Lewis can't get over the hump with his calf injury, an ailment that has troubled Lewis in the past. Rookie slot receiver Ace Sanders finished second on the Jaguars behind Shorts in Week 1 targets (9), but secured three for 14 yards. There's no place else to go.
The Jags trailed 21-2 by the second quarter of their opener, so it's not surprising in hindsight that Maurice Jones-Drew's Week 1 stat line underwhelmed. He rushed 15 times for 45 yards and both of his targets fell incomplete. The Raiders were susceptible to run games this preseason, and that carried over into their Opening Day loss, as the Colts stung Oakland for 127 yards rushing and a touchdown on 26 attempts (4.88 YPC). In what ought to be a much closer, hard-fought game for the Jaguars, MJD's workload and production should both rise significantly. He's a rock-solid RB2.
Score Prediction: Jaguars 23, Raiders 20
Denver @ NY Giants
In last Thursday's NFL opener, the Broncos employed Knowshon Moreno as their starter and lead back with Ronnie Hillman in the pace-change role. Montee Ball mixed in sparingly before Denver attempted to use him to kill late-game clock. Ball was unsuccessful, managing 24 yards on eight carries and at one point lining up on the wrong side of Peyton Manning for a handoff. Because none of Denver's backs distanced themselves, the backfield will remain an ongoing competition and fantasy headache. ... Coming off his ridiculous seven-score opener, Manning has a 44:11 TD-to-INT ratio in 17 regular season games as a Bronco. You might want to start him against a Giants defense that gave up 263 yards, a 73.5 completion rate, and two touchdowns to Tony Romo last week. ... The Giants may be without top CB Prince Amukamara (concussion) in Week 2, depending on his ability to gain medical clearance. Not that you needed a reason to start Demaryius Thomas, of course, but this would improve his matchup. Including January's playoffs, Thomas has registered a touchdown and/or 100 yards in 14-of-18 career games with Manning.
Game watchers noticed against Baltimore that Manning's arm strength has not returned, throwing wobblers and lacking velocity. While it isn't a concern for his stats, Peyton's inability to power throws may make Wes Welker a more inviting target than expected. Welker runs routes at short depths, where Manning can find him quickly and with precision without having to drive the ball. Lock in Welker as an every-week WR2. ... Readers of the 2012 Matchups column will recall that Manning makes it a point to keep his receivers happy by targeting them heavily the following game after they turn in quiet weeks. This is the likeliest Week 2 outcome for Eric Decker, who was Week 1's odd man out. Decker will have ups and downs -- Demaryius and Welker are clearly ahead of him in the pecking order -- but this is a great week to start him. ... Julius Thomas played 100 percent of Denver's Opening Day snaps, turned in a 5-110-2 line, and now faces a Giants defense that allowed nine catches for 77 yards and two touchdowns to Cowboys tight ends last week. One of the above pass catchers will likely be left out of the weekly box-score bonanzas, but Thomas has as good a matchup as any. The G-Men are visibly deficient in second-level pass coverage.
Two lost fumbles got David Wilson benched in the Giants' opener, but the loose balls don't tell the whole story. Wilson blew a blitz pickup, was stuffed at the goal line, committed a pre-snap motion penalty, averaged 1.9 yards per carry, and had his lone target intercepted. The Giants will keep Wilson on a short leash, but he's going to get one more opportunity to carry the mail in Week 2 versus Denver. Working in Wilson's favor is the healthy return of C David Baas from a knee injury that cost him the opener. Baas was a top-ten run-blocking center in Pro Football Focus' 2012 ratings. In fantasy lineups, I'd be willing to roll the dice on Wilson's upside unless I was loaded with starting-caliber alternatives. ... Signed Tuesday, 31-year-old Brandon Jacobs is not in football shape and will serve as Wilson's mentor with perhaps 3-5 spot carries against the Broncos. The Jacobs addition was a best case scenario for Wilson's fantasy outlook. Willis McGahee could've been much worse. ... Brandon Myers finished Week 1 with seven catches for 66 yards and a touchdown, playing every single offensive snap and piling up receptions in garbage time. That's par for the course with Myers. He's worth a shot for desperate tight end streamers versus a Broncos defense that allowed eight catches for 100 yards to Ravens tight ends in their opener.
Broncos-Giants quietly has Week 2's largest over-under at 55 points, with Denver favored by a reasonable 4.5. The Vegas prognosticators anticipate a high-scoring affair on both sides. I'm just skeptical the Giants will score big with their passing attack. The Broncos can counter Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and underrated slot CB Chris Harris, respectively, and New York's offensive line is coming off a rough game in pass protection. Rodgers-Cromartie played exceptionally well last week against Torrey Smith. The G-Men need David Wilson, alright. ... For his part, Nicks looked better in Week 1 than he has since Week 2 of last season. Nicks flashed afterburners on his first-quarter 57-yard catch and run, and finished with a 5-114 stat line -- Nicks' highest yardage total in nearly 12 months. Despite Denver's imposing cornerback play, I'd view Nicks as a locked-in WR2 until he slows down. ... While Harris has flashed shutdown slot-coverage skills in the past -- Anquan Boldin knows -- Cruz runs a diverse enough route tree that I wouldn't worry about him getting blanked. Overall, this is still an unfriendly on-paper matchup for Eli Manning. He's a QB2 in Week 2. ... Rueben Randle secured 5-of-6 targets in New York's opener for 101 yards. His outlook still hasn't changed. Randle is a WR4 whose prospective reliability as a fantasy starter is dependent on Nicks getting hurt.
Score Prediction: Broncos 33, Giants 27
Sunday Night Football
San Francisco @ Seattle
Despite physical limitations -- he doesn't run 4.4 or get separation -- Anquan Boldin is shaping up as a terrific fit for Colin Kaepernick's passing ability. Kap has a cannon and is willing to throw to "covered" receivers. Boldin is usually "covered" because he doesn't outrun anyone, winning instead by manhandling defensive backs. Boldin did so throughout January's playoffs and again in Week 1, securing a game-high 13-of-17 targets for 208 yards and a touchdown. OC Greg Roman also deserves credit for using stack and bunch concepts against Green Bay to help Boldin beat coverage. Over his last six games, Boldin has 42 catches, 681 yards (16.2 YPR), and five scores. Extrapolated to 16, that's good for an insane 112/1,816/13.3 line. Per PFF's Mike Clay, Boldin played 43% of his Week 1 snaps in the slot, where he can avoid lockdown LCB Richard Sherman because Walter Thurmond III is Seattle's slot corner. Boldin and Sherman will match up plenty when Boldin lines up outside, but I'd consider him a WR2 until he stops producing like one. ... Vernon Davis is well on his way to leading all tight ends in touchdowns, emerging from Week 1 with a 6-98-2 line. I found this PFF stat interesting, as well: Whereas Davis ran a pass route on only 38.3% of his offensive snaps in last year's Week 7 game versus Seattle, he upped that rate to 56.8% in San Francisco's opener. Now more receiver than blocker, Davis is headed for a monster year.
Coach Mike McCarthy admitted after Week 1 the Packers game planned to stop the run, only to watch as Kap shredded them with the pass. It helps explain why Frank Gore (21-44-1) was bottled up. Gore has had recent success against Seattle, carrying 45 times for 242 yards (5.38 YPC) and a touchdown in their last three meetings. The Seahawks also looked vulnerable on the ground in their opener, as Carolina stung them for 134 yards on 26 runs (5.15 YPC). ... 49ers role-playing wideouts Kyle Williams and Marlon Moore ran clear-out routes versus Green Bay so Boldin and Davis could work the seams. Neither is worth a roster spot in 12-team leagues. ... Quinton Patton only played four Week 1 snaps, compared to Williams' 55 and 16 for Moore. If you're desperate to play a complementary Niners pass catcher, Williams is your best bet. ... The sky is the limit for Kaepernick, who after one game doesn't look so "short on weapons." Including January's playoffs, Kap has completed 125-of-208 throws for 1,951 yards (9.4 YPA) with a 14:4 TD-to-INT ratio and three more rushing touchdowns over his last five games. He is an every-week fantasy starter.
Russell Wilson heated up the 49ers for 71.4% completions, four touchdowns, one pick, and 29 rushing yards in Week 16 last year, although it should be noted San Francisco's defense was a completely different animal without "Cowboy" RE Justin Smith. Smith is back now. When Smith did play in these teams' October meeting, Wilson completed 9-of-23 throws for 122 yards and an interception. Wilson remains in the back-end QB1 hunt, but I'd play consensus preseason QB2s Michael Vick, Jay Cutler, and Terrelle Pryor over him this week. ... Interestingly enough, Seattle's receiving star of the aforementioned Week 16 game was slot man Doug Baldwin, who caught four balls for 53 yards and two touchdowns, and is returning from a 7-91 opener. Be careful with Baldwin because he's a rotational wideout who only plays about 55% of the snaps on a run-first team. But Baldwin has a favorable coverage draw versus declining 32-year-old 49ers slot corner Carlos Rogers and is worth WR3 consideration. ... The Niners held Golden Tate to 2012 stat lines of 0-0 and 2-27 last season, and fantasy owners should be concerned that Tate might get stuck in RCB Tarell Brown's coverage. Brown played a major role in James Jones' goose egg last week.
Seahawks Z receiver Sidney Rice will run most of his routes into 49ers LCB Nnamdi Asomugha's coverage. Jordy Nelson had success versus Asomugha in the opener, but I looked at all of those targets and thought Aso played solid, physical press coverage for the most part. Rice obviously isn't the player Nelson is, and is coming off a three-target first game. Still battling knee problems, Rice is low-end WR3. He may struggle to get off Asomugha's jam. ... Jermaine Kearse caught the game-winning touchdown in Week 1 at Carolina, but is Seattle's No. 4 receiver and has no shot at consistency in that role. He played 42.4% of the snaps. ... Zach Miller's 42 yards in Week 1 were his most in the regular season since early last November. Aim higher. ... Marshawn Lynch turned in a Week 1 clunker (17-43), but has had more recent success running on San Francisco than you may think. Over their last three meetings, Lynch has ripped off 321 yards and two touchdowns on 66 attempts (4.86 YPC), going for over 100 yards each time. Lock in Lynch as a low-end RB1.
Score Prediction: 49ers 27, Seahawks 24
Monday Night Football
Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati
Few offensive lines played worse in Week 1 than Pittsburgh's, which is a red flag for two reasons: 1. They faced the Titans. 2. Their problems are exacerbated by C Maurkice Pouncey's ACL and MCL tear. So the Steelers head to Cincy without their best lineman to face arguably the NFL's most ferocious D-Line. I'd start the Bengals' fantasy defense with excitement. ... Albeit injury shortened, Ben Roethlisberger quietly had one of his most productive seasons in 2012. He still struggled mightily against Mike Zimmer's Cincinnati defense. Big Ben was limited to 41-of-65 passing for 498 yards, two touchdowns, and four turnovers, absorbing seven sacks in their two meetings. I would not be surprised if Roethlisberger were sacked five-plus times Monday night. ... Antonio Brown was one of Pittsburgh's few skill-position players who played well in the two 2012 Bengals matchups, registering stat lines of 7-96 and 5-97-1. Lock in Brown as a WR2. ... Rookie Markus Wheaton had a highly impressive preseason, but still has depth-chart climbing to do. The explosive third-rounder played just seven snaps against Tennessee and wasn't targeted.
Emmanuel Sanders is somewhat appealing as a Week 2 WR3 candidate. Big Ben targeted him a team-high 12 times in Week 1, and Sanders will primarily face 35-year-old Bengals LCB Terence Newman in coverage. ... The Steelers are getting no production from their tight ends with Heath Miller (knee) still on the shelf, which means Sanders and Brown are going to see consistent heavy targets. It's just something to keep in mind. Miller is not expected back until October, possibly in Week 6. ... Pittsburgh's running game is essentially a non-factor, and likely to remain that way in this difficult matchup. The Bengals held Bears backs to 65 yards on 25 Week 1 runs (2.60 YPC), and the unholy triumvirate of Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer, and Felix Jones is much worse. This Steelers offense is simply going to struggle to sustain and create big plays. I think they need to start giving Wheaton more snaps. And they definitely need second-round pick Le'Veon Bell back.
The over-under on Steelers-Bengals is 41, one of the lowest of Week 2. I'd still take the under. Whereas Pittsburgh is in rough shape on offense, they are loaded and vicious on defense, and Dick LeBeau has unfailingly had Andy Dalton's number. In his four career Steelers games, Dalton is 64-of-123 passing (52%) for 688 yards (5.59 YPA), and a 4:5 TD-to-INT ratio. Dalton isn't on the QB2 radar this week. ... A.J. Green was one of the most impressive players on a Week 1 football field, torching Bears CBs Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings for a touchdown apiece en route to a 9-162-2 line. Green's battles with Steelers RCB Ike Taylor have gone either way, but Taylor, 33, is getting up there in age while 25-year-old Green is getting better. Green is a top-five fantasy wideout in Week 2. ... At least from a fantasy perspective, the fear for Bengals TEs Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham is that they will cancel each other out in the box score, and such was the case in Week 1. Both had five targets and five catches, and Eifert led the way with 47 yards. The Steelers annually defend the tight end as stingily as any team in the league. Eifert is probably going to end up with the most 2013 production, but he is not a fantasy TE1.
Possession receiver Mohamed Sanu is vying for targets with Eifert, Gresham, and Marvin Jones behind Green. While Sanu is a respectable red-zone target, his role doesn't lend itself to high-end production. Sanu caught 4-of-5 targets in the opener for 19 yards. Look elsewhere. ... The single biggest surprise of Cincinnati's opener was Giovani Bernard's minimal usage. While BenJarvus Green-Ellis plodded his way to 25 yards and a goal-line score on 14 carries, the Bengals' most explosive runner was limited to five touches and 22 offensive snaps. Until Bernard establishes a larger role, he can't be trusted as a flex play. Perhaps that'll begin as soon as Week 2, but the matchup makes it a wait-and-see fantasy week. The Steelers ranked No. 2 in the NFL in 2012 run defense, and in Week 1 stuffed the Titans for 112 yards on 42 carries (2.67 YPC). Green-Ellis would be a poor flex option. Keep Bernard stashed on your bench, because his time is coming.
Score Prediction: Bengals 17, Steelers 14