Locker, Luck best among rest
Each week this season we'll pinpoint the best fringe starters for two-quarterback leagues, helping you make the tough choices that don't need to come down to coin flips.
Below are six picks for Week 1 followed by our second-QB rankings. If you're unsure about your second quarterback (yeah, Andy Dalton at Baltimore scares me too), then pull the trigger on one of these options.
1. Jake Locker vs. New England - The Patriots' pass defense will be improved over last year, but by how much is anybody's guess. The pass rush looks more imposing with Chandler Jones coming off the edge, but with Locker's ability to evade rushers with his legs and throw on the move, he should still be in store for a big game. Neither secondary is a shutdown unit so this game could become a shootout in a hurry, particularly if Tom Brady puts a couple quick scores on the board. Look for Locker to make nice use out of his myriad weapons, in particular dynamic rookie Kendall Wright, en route to one of his best passing days of the season.
2. Andrew Luck at Chicago - The big uglies that inhabit Soldier Field are no longer the "Monsters of the Midway." With the cream of the Chicago defense starting to curdle, the once feared defense looks fairly old, slow and thin at every level. Luck, perhaps the most mature, poised passer to enter the league since the man he replaced, should find plenty of success through the air and with his legs when his own shoddy defense lets Jay Cutler and Co. build an early lead and force him into constant drop backs.
3. Russell Wilson at Arizona - The moment is not too big for this rookie third-rounder. Wilson earned the start in Seattle by being not just a gifted athlete, but also a leader with great poise and presence. With Marshawn Lynch dealing with back spasms, expect Pete Carroll to put this game in Wilson's confident hands. He has nice weapons on the outside in Sidney Rice and Braylon Edwards and will use his tremendous athleticism to routinely extend plays to allow him to find open targets or scramble for first downs. Although the Cardinals defense is no pushover, Wilson looks like a safe bet for two scores because of his dual-threat abilities as a passer and a runner.
4. Robert Griffin at New Orleans - That's right. A third rookie passer in his first regular-season action. RGIII is a great upside play and has the added benefit of finding himself in a game that will force him to throw it early and often to keep pace with Drew Brees and the Saints Machine. New Orleans will throw a lot of blitzes at Griffin to rattle him, but he has the wheels to get out of pressure and make plays.
5. Joe Flacco vs. Cincinnati - The Ravens are looking to air it out more this season and speed up the tempo of their offense. Coordinator Cam Cameron won't hesitate to mix in some no-huddle early to test the Cincinnati defense and put it on its heels. With the amount of speed Baltimore now boasts on the outside with Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones and with Anquan Boldin and Ray Rice as premier check downs underneath, Flacco should have no trouble exposing the fact that Leon Hall is the only competent Bengals cover man.
6. Alex Smith at Green Bay - The Packers pass defense was a fantasy goldmine last season, and until they prove that the changes they made defensively can slow down opposing quarterbacks, any passer who faces them gets a boost. First up is Smith, and though the Niners' vaunted defense might keep the Packers from forcing a shootout, the best way to move the ball against Green Bay is still through the air. With considerably more weapons to choose from this year, that should help Smith pick up where he left off in a statement 2011 postseason run.
1. Carson Palmer OAK vs. SD
2. Jake Locker TEN vs. NE
3. Joe Flacco BAL vs. Cin
4. Tony Romo DAL at NYG
5. Josh Freeman TB vs. Car
6. Robert Griffin WAS at NO
7. Matt Schaub HOU vs. Mia
8. Christian Ponder MIN vs. Jac
9. Alex Smith SF at GB
11. Sam Bradford STL at Det
12. Matt Cassel KC vs. Atl
13. Mark Sanchez NYJ vs. Buf
14. Andrew Luck IND at Chi
15. Russell Wilson SEA at Ari
16. Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF at NYJ
17. John Skelton ARZ vs. Sea
18. Andy Dalton CIN at Bal
19. Blaine Gabbert JAC at Min
20. Ryan Tannehill MIA at Hou
21. Brandon Weeden CLE vs. Phi
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