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Avoid Vick, Stafford in Week 2
Can we get a replay of the Thursday night open to Week 2?
Fantasy owners and football fans nationwide welcomed the arrival of the expanded Thursday night schedule. The Bears and Packers were expected to light up the scoreboard and get the fantasy week started with a shootout. That, quite obviously, didn’t happen.
J’Marcus Webb became a human turnstile and was absolutely obliterated by the Green Bay rush, thereby forcing Jay Cutler into multiple bad throws while absorbing a ton of punishment. I still question why the Bears didn’t shift play-calling or personnel to try to stave off the rush or get Webb some help, but that’s a discussion for another time.
Both Cutler and Aaron Rodgers produced a single touchdown pass in this strange contest, a disappointing all-around effort. The best player in the game was Cedric Benson, who produced 116 total yards (81 rushing) on 24 touches. Did you start Tom Crabtree?
With one game in the books and a number of fantasy failures to note from it, I’ll turn my attention back to the field. Owners facing Cutler or Rodgers this week have been presented with a golden opportunity in Week 2.
Let’s look ahead to the weekend.
Robert Griffin III at STL
RGIII demonstrated great poise and precision in his debut against the Saints on the road. Griffin III was aided by a quarterback’s best friend: YAC! Pierre Garcon caught a short pass and raced 88 yards to the end zone to get the RGIII era off right in Washington.
This is clearly not a huge spot, as we watched the Rams limit the explosive Lions and Matthew Stafford in Week 1. However, Griffin III’s decision-making against the Saints and ability to move the chains with his legs make it a more palatable road test. The potential absence of Garcon is something to note, but I suspect that Santana Moss and Fred Davis deliver downfield.
Philip Rivers at TEN
Rivers was hardly dominant against the Raiders in the now-famous “long snapper” game, but he was efficient. He completed 24-of-33 attempts for 231 yards with a single touchdown pass to Malcom Floyd.
I’m moderately concerned about the health of Antonio Gates (ribs). However, the combination of Floyd, Robert Meachem, Eddie Royal and perhaps Ryan Mathews’ return offer enough options to frustrate Jerry Gray (Tennessee defensive coordinator).
Joe Flacco at PHI
Flacco and the no-huddle Baltimore offense opened up the passing game against the Bengals in a dominant performance. He passed for 299 yards (21-of-29) with two touchdowns, including an early 52-yard strike to Torrey Smith.
The Philadelphia defense was untested in the opener against the Browns. They limited Brandon Weeden to a passer rating of 5.1. That’s an apple-to-oranges comparison, however, as the Browns offered nothing offensively. Ray Rice presents a much more significant challenge for the Philadelphia front. I don’t expect this to be a laugher by any means, but the wide-open offensive approach being employed by Cam Cameron is mighty enticing.
Ben Roethlisberger vs. NYJ
Roethlisberger looked good in spots against the Broncos in Week 1, though the interception returned for a touchdown by Tracy Porter served as the final nail in the proverbial coffin. He passed for 245 yards with two touchdowns, an interception and five sacks in the road loss. Roethlisberger effectively worked the ball to his receivers across the middle.
Why would I go against the New York defense? Roethlisberger likely faces a New York secondary that will be without Darrelle Revis, who has yet to be cleared for contact (concussion). I know that the Jets also changed up coverage after establishing a lead, but Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buffalo offense did present multiple big plays. Look for another strong game from Miller and perhaps a breakout performance from Emmanuel Sanders.
Andrew Luck vs. MIN
Luck struggled, as expected, in his debut on the road against Chicago, but we certainly saw some great things in his hookups with Reggie Wayne and Coby Fleener. He’s a strong plug-in option against the Minnesota secondary that surrendered 260 passing yards to Blaine Gabbert, including several big plays downfield (Cecil Shorts for 39 yards).
Matt Schaub at JAC
It took a while, but Schaub finally broke through against the Dolphins in Week 1. He completed nearly two-thirds of his pass attempts and found Andre Johnson for several big plays (eight receptions for 119 yards with a touchdown).
The Jaguars surrendered 270 passing yards to Christian Ponder in Week 1 on 20-of-27 attempts. Arian Foster (with tag-team partner Ben Tate at the ready) will pose the same physical challenge that Adrian Peterson presented in Week 1. The balanced attack will create problems for the Jacksonville secondary and allow Schaub to make plays downfield. Will we have a Lester Jean coming out party?
Alex Smith at DET
Smith played efficiently in Week 1 against the Packers, taking full advantage of gaping holes in the secondary as Green Bay contended with the bull rush from Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter. I’m intrigued to see how Randy Moss’ role grows in this offense (he caught all four of his target for 47 yards with a touchdown in Week 1).
Smith is in a fantastic situation here against the embattled Detroit secondary and warrants spot-play consideration. Look for Vernon Davis to wreak havoc across the middle.
Matt Cassel at BUF
Cassell looked ready to match Matt Ryan in Week 1, but the Falcons hit the throttle to start the second half and the game turned quickly. He passed for 258 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. I look for the Kansas City offense to post a more consistent effort this week on the road in Buffalo.
The Jets posted a fantastic, balanced attack in Week 1. Shonn Greene rushed for nearly 100 yards and Mark Sanchez logged 266 passing yards with three touchdowns. This Kansas City offense has ample weapons to bewilder Dave Wannstedt and the defensive coaching staff. If Eric Winston and company can slow Mario Williams (watch the tape and replicate the Jets’ efforts), Cassel posts a big day.
Andy Dalton vs. CLE
Dalton and the Bengals struggled in the opener against the Ravens. They were hanging around until a pair of turnovers, including an interception returned for a touchdown by Ed Reed, blew things wide open.
This week’s “Battle for Ohio” presents a much better spot for Dalton. Joe Haden is sitting out because of four-game suspension after losing his appeal, and Sheldon Brown sustained a stinger in the opener that leaves his status as questionable. Look for Green, Jermaine Gresham and new PPR hero Andrew Hawkins to post a strong day.
Christian Ponder at IND
Ponder posted a fantastic opener against the Jaguars, completing 20-of-27 attempts for 270 yards with a lost fumble in the overtime victory. The healthy return of Adrian Peterson obviously aided his cause and afforded him space downfield against a solid Jacksonville defense.
The pass rush offered by Indianapolis obviously represents a step up in class, but I’m optimistic that AP combined with Percy Harvin, Kyle Rudolph and even a little Devin Aromashodu. The Vikings obviously don’t match the Bears in terms of personnel, but I’m optimistic that Ponder’s evolution will continue in Week 2.
Matthew Stafford at SF
Stafford struggled through a miserable day against the Rams in Week 1, tossing three interceptions before coming back with a touchdown in the waning moments. His receivers struggled (Brandon Pettigrew dropped a sure touchdown), and this is certainly no easy task against the league’s top-ranked unit. Calvin Johnson missed a mid-week practice because of a foot injury, but he’s fully expected to play on Sunday night.
Stafford remains a back-end QB1 this week, but owners with advantageous matchups for their backups on tap would be well-served to consider swapping him out.
Michael Vick at BAL
I offered Vick a tepid endorsement last week, fearing that the Cleveland defense would rise up to the challenge at home. In the end, he still posted a decent fantasy day despite a maddening total of four interceptions. Remember, that unit actually played well last season despite the ineptitude of the offense. I digress.
This Baltimore unit flew around in the home opener against Cincinnati, harassing Andy Dalton and limiting A.J. Green downfield. The Eagles may play short-handed, as both Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson have been slowed by injuries during the practice week. He’s a high-end QB2 at best this week.
Josh Freeman at NYG
The Buccaneers did a great job on that first series against the Panthers that culminated with a Freeman touchdown pass to Mike Williams. He didn’t do much after that, but did complete 16-of-24 attempts (138 yards) and led Tampa Bay to a win. Freeman faces a New York defense coming off of a long layoff and with cornerback Prince Amukamara back in the fold, though he may be limited to some degree. I’m still concerned about the health of the secondary. However, this isn’t the Dallas offense, and Freeman isn’t gunning downfield like Tony Romo.
Russell Wilson at DAL
Wilson acquitted himself nicely against the Cardinals, but was betrayed repeatedly by his receivers (Braylon Edwards). He’s in a difficult spot here against Rob Ryan’s aggressive and much-improved defense. We watched Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne manhandle and shut down the high-flying New York Giants offense. I’m not optimistic that Wilson sees much space against this defense coming off of the long layoff, particularly with Sidney Rice already ailing.
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