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Inside the Matchup
Week 2

By: Bill Andereson | Brian Thorne | Nick Caron | Kyle Smith



NO @ TB | MIN @ CHI | WAS @ GB | CLE @ BAL

 Predictions - YTD
Rk Staffer W L %
1 Caron 4 0 100
2 Smith 3 1 100
2 Thorne 2 2 100
4 Anderson 2 2 100

Jets @ Patriots - (Thorne)

Passing Game Thoughts: Not a bad start for QB Geno Smith in his rookie debut: 256 yards passing, 1 TD, 1 INT, and a last minute drive to set up the winning field goal. He connected with eight different receivers, completed 63% of his passes and was only off target on four of his 38 attempts. Over half of his completions went to TEs or RBs, but considering the secondary of Tampa Bay, this looks less like a rookie leaning on his security blankets and more like a QB taking what the defense gives him. The top three WRs were all involved in the passing game, including Santonio Holmes who made his first appearance of the 2013 season after missing all of the preseason with a foot injury.

Smith and the Jets will face a much tougher test against a New England team that only surrendered 150 passing yards on the road to a Bills team that is considered to be more gifted at both the WR and RB positions. The Jets will need to do a better job protecting the QB after surrendering five sacks to the Buccaneers, but thankfully the Patriots are coming off a zero sack performance and don’t have overwhelming pass rushers. For New York, the offensive line might be able to keep Smith on his feet but it will come down to the QB making quick accurate decisions for the team to have success in the passing game. New England Coach Bill Belichick puts together clever defensive packages and if the rookie QB does not correctly identify his reads and get rid of the ball on time, it will be hard to replicate his week one production.

Running Game Thoughts: Chris Ivory isn’t the problem but he also isn’t the answer; he was acquired in the offseason to be the team’s star RB but he wasn’t able to even secure the starting role. In game one, Bilal Powell was the leading RB rusher with 29 yards on 12 carries but the best ball carrier for the Jets was QB Geno Smith (47 yards on 6 carries) despite his sloppy fumble. In total, New York recorded 90 rushing yards on 29 attempts, barely averaging three yards per carry. While the Jets are not the “ground and pound” team they wish to be it is imperative that they are able to establish the run better than they were able to do against Tampa Bay. Production from Smith should be a bonus and a drive extender, not a staple of the running game and certainly not enough to make him the leading rusher.

Week two may not be any more accommodating to the Jets rushing attack as the Patriots are coming off a game in which they gave up 136 yards on the ground and a 4.0 yard per carry average to the Bills. They also allowed no plays of 20 yards or greater along with forcing two fumbles. In many ways the Jets offense is reminiscent of that of the Bills without the upside presented by the Buffalo running backs. Expect the Patriots to effectively limit what the Jets are able to do on the ground and for that to be the foundation of frustrating the New York offense as a whole.

Geno Smith: 200 pass yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs / 30 rush yds
Bilal Powell: 70 rush yds
Chris Ivory: 30 rush yds; 10 rec yds
Santonio Holmes: 50 rec yds
Kellen Winslow: 70 rec yds, 1 TD

Passing Game Thoughts: It may have taken an extra quarter or two for QB Tom Brady to get into regular season form but when the game was on the line he executed a perfect final drive to set up a winning field goal. Most of the mistakes made by New England can be attributed to the new receivers and not to the veteran quarterback who completed only 55% of his passes and was credited with an interception while compiling 288 yards against a weak Bills secondary. WR Danny Amendola stepped into the slot receiver role extremely well, gaining 104 yards on 10 receptions, but he re-aggravated his groin injury and is expected to miss the game against New York. With TE Rob Gronkowski still sidelined that leaves New England without their top two receiving targets so players such as Julian Edelman and Kenbrell Thompkins will be called upon to make up for the missing production.

Facing Brady on a short week is a tough proposition but the Jets will do their best to slow down the future Hall of Famer. New York has a strong defensive line who expects to get good pressure in the pass rush and Coach Rex Ryan is one of the best when it comes to scheming against the Patriots offense with unique defensive looks and late adjustments. The game of cat-and-mouse generally favors the New England quarterback but the Jets defense usually does well to hold him reasonably in check. It is unlikely for Brady himself to be beaten by whatever the defense has in store but his young receivers may not be so lucky. Their miscues and mistakes will keep this game close despite Brady’s performance.

Running Game Thoughts: Against the Bills, the top rusher was backup RB Shane Vereen (14 carries for 104 yards) but he broke a bone in his wrist and was placed on short term IR; he won’tl be unavailable until week 11. Vereen was given that opportunity due to two fumbles from the starter Stevan Ridley, one of which was negated by a penalty. This leaves the Patriots running back situation in a state of uncertainty heading into Thursday but the most popular estimation is that Ridley will be given the start and will receive the majority of the carries unless he is stricken with butterfingers again. The Patriots line is built to protect the QB but Brady does a good job of adjusting plays at the line of scrimmage to put his team into the best situation and that is probably the biggest reason why New England is able to run the ball so well.

In the opening game, the Jets surrendered only 65 yards on the ground, the majority of which came on QB scrambles and improvised plays. The Patriots passing attack should help prevent the Jets from stacking the box against the run which in turn will open up running lanes for New England, but if the young receivers struggle then the running game will likely struggle as well. The front seven of New York will prove to be one of the best units in the league this season.

Tom Brady: 260 yards passing, 2 TDs
Stevan Ridley: 40 rush yds, 1 TD; 40 rec yds
Julian Edelman: 110 rec yds, 1 TD
Kenbrell Thompkins: 50 rec yds, 1 TD

Prediction: Patriots 27, Jets 13 ^ Top

Cowboys @ Chiefs - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: The Cowboys got off to a strong start in Week 1 as they earned a big win over the New York Giants. Unlike 2012, however, it really wasn’t because of the productivity in the passing game. Sure, Tony Romo had a decent night - throwing for 263 yards and two touchdowns. But his 5.4 yards per pass attempt doesn’t inspire much confidence in a passing game that was, numbers-wise, one of the best in the league just a season ago. It was nice to see the continued success between Romo and tight end Jason Witten, who caught eight passes including both touchdowns. Romo was also able to find receiver Miles Austin an impressive 10 times on the night and although those completions only results in 72 yards, Austin showed that he is finally healthy and perhaps ready to reestablish himself as an every-week option in the passing game. It was a “take what the defense is giving you” week from Romo who was only able to find Dez Bryant four times on the night as he was blanketed by double coverage before suffering a foot injury in the fourth quarter. Bryant was a full participant in practice on Wednesday and Thursday, so it appears that he will be ready to go on Sunday.

Even if he is fully healthy, Bryant will still have a tough task as he will likely see a lot of attention from Kansas City cornerback Brandon Flowers, who was part of a defense that allowed the fewest points to opposing wide receivers in Week 1. Of course, that number is also skewed considering that they were up against Blaine Gabbert and the Jaguars sans Justin Blackmon. Romo and the Cowboys do bring a significantly more talented offense to the table and an offensive line that already appears to be much improved from a season ago, which should make for some interesting battles up front with the Chiefs’ front seven having a nice performance in Week 1 as well. What could be the most important matchup of the afternoon will be the Chiefs’ safeties and linebackers as they try to cover Jason Witten. They conceded receptions on four of six of the Jaguars’ pass attempts to tight ends in Week 1 and it should go without saying that Witten is significantly more skilled than the Jaguars’ backup tight ends.

Running Game Thoughts: One week down, fifteen more to go for Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray who escaped Week 1 without finding himself listed at all on the injury report going into Week 2. Not only did he perform well, but he did so while carrying nearly the entire workload, playing 90 percent of the team’s offensive snaps. In addition to a solid 86 yards on the ground, Murray also picked up where he left off in 2012, displaying his pass-catching skills with eight receptions for another 39 yards. Even though he was held out of the end zone, with 125 total yards of offense, it was a nice start to the season for Murray, particularly in PPR formats. Those who have rostered other Cowboys running backs, however, will likely have to hope for an injury to Murray before they see any return on their investment.

Kansas City’s defense was a powerhouse in Week 1 and improved play by their front seven could cause problems for the Cowboys’ running game, even if their offensive line plays as well as they did against the Giants. Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew was held to just 45 rushing yards on 15 carries in Week 1 and even though they gave DeMarco Murray 20 carries against the Giants, we still don’t know if the Cowboys are fully committed to running the ball in 2013. The Chiefs did allow eight receptions for 53 yards to Jaguars running backs , so there might be some room for Murray to contribute again as a receiver in this contest.

Tony Romo: 275 pass yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
DeMarco Murray: 70 rush yds, 40 rec yds
Miles Austin: 60 rec yds
Dez Bryant: 50 rec yds, 1 TD
Terrance Williams: 30 rec yds
Jason Witten: 70 rec yds, 1 TD

Passing Game Thoughts: It was a spectacular start for the Chiefs in Week 1 as they were easily able to fly into Jacksonville and steamroll the Jaguars. New quarterback Alex Smith and head coach Andy Reid are getting a lot of praise this week as they looked much better than what we saw from the team in 2012. As advertised, Smith was very safe with his throws, rarely looking deep or taking chances in a game the team was up by multiple scores. Smith finished the game 21 of 34 with 173 yards and two scores. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, those touchdowns went to receivers Donnie Avery and Junior Hemmingway, both of whom are unowned in almost all leagues. It was a tough day for Dwayne Bowe who pulled in just four receptions for 40 yards. It wasn’t particularly needed as the Chiefs were up multiple scores through most of this game.

Bowe’s skills to beat defenses down the field might be needed more in Week 2 as the Chiefs will need to put points on the board to keep up with the Cowboys’ high-powered offense. The Cowboys surrendered a number of deep passes in Week 1, allowing over 100 receiving yards to each of the Giants’ top three receivers. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, they do not have anywhere near the talent at receiver that the Giants do and instead of Eli Manning throwing the ball, they have the weak-armed Alex Smith. Dallas is certainly beatable through the air but attacking their biggest weakness of defending the long pass is going to put a lot of pressure on Smith to do something he’s not known for. With tight end Anthony Fasano likely spending additional time as a pass-protector against a fierce Cowboys pass rush, Smith will need to rely on his receivers to find holes in the coverage quickly. This could mean additional opportunities for Dexter McCluster who played just 52 percent of the team’s offensive snaps a week ago. One area of concern is that the Kansas City offense, despite scoring 21 points, really did not move the ball well. In fact, other than the two drives where they started within the Jacksonville 30 yard-line, Kansas City only had one drive all day where they came away with points on offense.

Running Game Thoughts: After an unbelievable 2012 campaign, things picked up quickly for Jamaal Charles in 2013 as he rushed for 77 yards on 16 carries, including a touchdown. He also added 23 yards as a receiver, bringing his total to a cool 100 for the afternoon. Charles did miss some playing time due to a quad injury but returned to the contest. As expected, with Charles out, it was primarily Knile Davis who saw increased playing time, although he only touched the ball five times while third-string back Cyrus Gray received three touches. Either way, it appears that Charles will be ready for action against Dallas this week in what could be a big game for him.

If we concede that their impressive Week 1 performance against the Giants running backs was a mirage more than it was a trend, the Dallas Cowboys defense has had a lot of trouble stopping the run in recent memory. They conceded the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs in 2012, including double-digit points to the position in each of their final 12 regular season games. Key run defender Sean Lee missed all but two of those final 12 games and is healthy now, along with other players who do make this a better defense all around. Nevertheless, the Chiefs have invested heavily in their offensive line and likely will lean heavily on Charles.

Alex Smith: 175 pass yds, 1 TD, 1 INT, 15 rush yds
Jamaal Charles: 115 rush yds, 1 TD, 25 rec yds
Dexter McCluster: 45 rec yds
Dwayne Bowe: 40 rec yds, 1 TD
Donnie Avery: 30 rec yds
Anthony Fasano: 15 rec yds

Prediction: Cowboys 23, Chiefs 17 ^ Top

Lions @ Cardinals - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: A subpar 2012 season which saw Matt Stafford throw for just 20 touchdowns with 17 interceptions got off to a much better start in 2013 as the Lions quarterback threw two touchdown passes. He did also throw an interception, but the major positive is that despite the Vikings holding Calvin Johnson to just 37 yards receiving, Stafford was still able to torch them for 357 yards. He completed passes to eight different targets, including all six of his intended passes to Nate Burleson who missed much of the 2012 season due to injury. Fantasy owners of “Megatron” were likely frustrated by the performance from the star receiver, but as often happens with football, the box score really didn’t tell the story in this one. The Vikings made it very clear that it was their goal to shut him down and they still weren’t able to. If it wasn’t for another “only in the NFL is this not a touchdown” type play and another touchdown that was overturned, Johnson would’ve had a huge performance.

In Week 2, Johnson will have a chance to do his fantasy owners right by coming through for them against a Cardinals secondary that looked pretty solid in Week 1 against the Rams. Sure, they were completely abused by tight end Jared Cook who toasted them for 141 yards and what could have very easily been three touchdowns, but the Cardinals did an excellent job of slowing down the Rams wide receivers as they allowed just 100 total yards to the entire group. It might come as a bit of a surprise to those who don’t see them play much, but it’s really not anything new to see the Cardinals secondary playing well. As a team, they allowed the second-fewest amount of fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in 2012. In addition, they were one of only five teams who intercepted more passes than they allowed touchdown passes. With Stafford being relatively mistake-prone, including a game against these same Cardinals where he threw three interceptions and zero touchdowns last year, this could be a surprisingly difficult matchup for the Detroit signal-caller. Continue to start Johnson as you would normally, however, as he is as matchup-proof as they come at wide receiver.

Running Game Thoughts: After years of suffering on offense despite having some of the most physically skilled players in the league, the Detroit Lions may have finally put it all together in 2013 with the addition of Reggie Bush to the offense. Bush put together an absolutely monster day, rushing for 90 yards while also adding 101 yards and a touchdown as a receiver. It would have been an even bigger day for Bush, who was stopped just shy of the goal line a couple times on Sunday, leading the way for Joique Bell to snipe two goal line touchdowns. Bush owners might be a little frustrated with Bell likely to get the majority of goal line touches going forward, but Bush’s is still the team’s primary ball carrier and is a very good RB2 going forward in standard-scoring leagues, while being a potential stud RB1 in PPR formats.

Although Arizona has been very good against the pass in recent history, their run defense has not been quite as stellar. They did shut down the Rams backs in Week 1, but that’s not particularly surprising considering the relative lack of talent in that backfield. Week 2 will be a completely different story as they go up against Bush and Bell, who have both proven that they can be matchup nightmares for defenses. The Cardinals were one of only two teams (Saints) that allowed opposing running backs to rush for over 2,000 yards against them in 2012. While they kept the total number of touchdowns to a relatively low number of 12, the 126 yards per game that they allowed per game on the ground has to have Bush and Bell licking their chops. Look for the Lions to use their talented running backs all over the field, both as runners and receivers as they look to find holes underneath to move the chains.

Matthew Stafford: 280 pass yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Reggie Bush: 50 rush yds, 40 rec yds, 1 TD
Joique Bell: 25 rush yds, 1 TD, 30 rec yds
Calvin Johnson: 110 rec yds, 1 TD
Nate Burleson: 50 rec yds, 1 TD
Brandon Pettigrew: 30 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: The new and drastically improved Arizona passing game was on display in Week 1 as Carson Palmer got his first start in a Cardinals uniform. In that contest, Palmer did something that happened only twice all season for the Cardinals in 2012 when he threw for two touchdown passes. Yes, things were that bad a season ago and that’s why many fantasy experts pegged Larry Fitzgerald for a return-to-glory in 2013. Fitzgerald showed off, catching eight passes for 80 yards both of Palmer’s two scores. For Fitz, it was his first multi-touchdown game since Week 10 of the 2011 season. But it wasn’t only Fitzgerald who impressed in Week 1. Both Andre Roberts (eight catches for 97 yards) and Michael Floyd (four catches for 82 yards) made impressive plays throughout the game. Neither Roberts nor Floyd can necessarily be relied on as a week-to-week starter until we see a bit more, but the increased production down the depth chart at wide receiver should help to give Fitzgerald more opportunities to score.

In Week 2, the Arizona passing attack will be up against a Detroit Lions defense that looked ugly at times against Christian Ponder and the Vikings. Although they were able to turn three Ponder mistakes into interceptions, the fact that Jerome Simpson pummeled them to the tune of seven receptions for 140 yards has to be a bit concerning for the Lions as they will now have to try to stop three dynamic receivers and a quarterback who is actually competent. The Lions conceded 26 touchdowns while intercepting only 11 passes on the year in 2012. While their best game of the season came against the Cardinals in Week 15, it’s probably safe to say that it will only take Carson Palmer about a quarter of football to out-produce the 2 fantasy points that Ryan Lindley put up in that contest.

Running Game Thoughts: While the passing game appears to be vastly improved, the Cardinals running game doesn’t appear to be significantly better than they were a season ago. Even with the addition of Rashard Mendenhall, Arizona rushed for a lackluster 86 yards on 26 carries and no back caught more than one pass. What’s noteworthy about Week 1 is that Alfonso Smith, who had just 30 total carries in his three-year career in Arizona, carried the ball 10 times in this game. Although he turned those 10 carries into just 26 yards, the important thing is that fantasy owners should be aware that Mendenhall is not the only back in town. Whether it’s Smith, backups Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington or the soon-to-be-returning Ryan Williams, it appears that Mendenhall may only be a lock to take around 65 percent of the team’s carries in what is already a lackluster running game.

Mendenhall and the Cardinals will be up against a Detroit Lions run defense that allowed three touchdowns and 93 rushing yards to Adrian Peterson a week ago. Those numbers sound good on the surface, but what’s concerning for Mendenhall owners should be that after a 78-yard touchdown on his first carry, the Lions bottled up the 2012 league MVP, holding him to just 15 rushing yards on his final 17 carries. There was speculation that Ndomukong Suh could be suspended following a dirty hit he laid on a Vikings offensive lineman player during the Vikings game, but he was fined instead and will remain on the field for Sunday’s game. As such, fantasy owners of Rashard Mendenhall would be wise to look elsewhere for production in Week 2.

Carson Palmer: 270 pass yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rashard Mendenhall: 45 rush yds, 10 rec yds
Alfonso Smith: 20 rush yds
Larry Fitzgerald: 90 rec yds, 1 TD
Andre Roberts: 65 rec yds
Michael Floyd: 50 rec yds, 1 TD

Prediction: Lions 27, Cardinals 20 ^ Top

Jaguars @ Raiders - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s hard to believe that Chad Henne would be an obvious upgrade at quarterback, but for the Jacksonville Jaguars, that is very likely the case. The team suffered through Week 1 with Blaine Gabbert behind center for a majority of the day. A cut on the hand of Gabbert will keep him out in Week 2, however, leading the way for Henne to step in and at least be a threat to move the ball down the field. Henne played just six snaps, compared to Gabbert’s 65, yet the two quarterbacks scored the same number of fantasy points (1). For receivers like Cecil Shorts, the switch to Henne will be a welcome upgrade. Shorts produced double-digit fantasy points (standard scoring) in five of the Jaguars’ final eight games when Henne was the team’s primary quarterback. With Justin Blackmon still under suspension until Week 5, Shorts remains the only player in the Jacksonville passing game worth owning.

Henne, Shorts and the Jaguars will have a chance to prove themselves fantasy relevant in Week 2 as they go up against an Oakland Raiders defense that resembles a Junior Varsity squad more than they do an NFL defense. Oakland actually put up a valiant effort in Week 1 against the Indianapolis Colts, but still surrendered three total touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) to opposing quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck’s 178 yards through the air and 38 on the ground don’t look particularly menacing, but his 18-of-23 completion number was certainly impressive. Unfortunately, Chad Henne isn’t Andrew Luck and his targets aren’t Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton. Still, there is the potential for a decent fantasy day here from Henne, especially if the Jaguars fall behind and need to play catch up in the second half.

Running Game Thoughts: Those who had high hopes for the healthy return of running back Maurice Jones-Drew might be wavering a bit after a lopsided Week 1 loss to the only team that finished as bad as the Jaguars a season ago, the Kansas City Chiefs. Jones-Drew was swallowed up in the backfield countless times by a Chiefs front seven that has notoriously underachieved for years. His 45 yards on 15 carries averages out to just 3.0 yards per attempt, a terrible number by any standard. It wasn’t as if he was losing significant touches to other players, either. Jones-Drew took all but four of the team’s carries on Sunday. He was, however, only targeted on two pass attempts while Justin Forsett, Will Ta’ufo’ou and Jordan Todman combined for 10 pass targets. Obviously there is no running back controversy in Jacksonville, but Jones-Drew’s lack of production last week begs the question—if he can’t do it against the Chiefs, who can he do it against?

He’ll have a chance to answer that question in Week 2 as he goes up against another AFC West defense, the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders defense didn’t look particularly great against a less-than-stellar Colts run game a week ago, holding Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard to a combined 89 yards on the ground on 20 total carries. Going back further, the Raiders were absolutely dreadful against the run in 2012, when only four other teams allowed more fantasy points to opposing running backs. They allowed 23-or-more fantasy points to the position on six separate occasions, including games where they were completely humiliated by Willis McGahee, Reggie Bush and Doug Martin. While Maurice Jones-Drew doesn’t appear to be the same guy he was when he led the league in rushing back in 2011, he is still a talented, smart player who can make the Raiders pay if they give him an opportunity.

Chad Henne: 160 pass yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Maurice Jones-Drew: 70 rush yds, 10 rec yds
Cecil Shorts: 70 rec yds, 1 TD
Ace Sanders: 40 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: With Carson Palmer and Darrius Heyward-Bey now in new homes, the Oakland offense looked pretty rough coming into the 2013 season. Then Terrelle Pryor won the starting quarterback job and things got very interesting. Pryor, one of the best athletes at the position in the league, is not nearly the passer that Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson or Robert Griffin III are, but what he can do is run the football. He proved that in Week 1 when he led all quarterbacks with 112 rushing yards—more than twice as many as any other quarterback. He also threw for 217 yards and a score. While he did throw two interceptions in the loss to the Colts, what Pryor did is create some excitement in the Oakland offense. Although both Rod Streater and Denarius Moore caught five passes, neither is worth starting at the moment. They could be worth roster additions, however, if you’re in a deep league and are looking for a lottery ticket.

Pryor will have a chance to prove his fantasy worth in Week 2 as he goes up against a Jacksonville defense that was, very quietly, not bad in Week 1 against the Chiefs. The Jaguars did lose 28-2, but 7 of those points came on a pick-six by Blaine Gabbert and another 14 points were surrendered on drives where the Chiefs started within the Jaguars 30 yard line. The Jacksonville defense actually played fairly well, forcing the Chiefs to punt nine times throughout the game. This was already a major improvement from what we saw from the unit in 2012, where they were third-worst in the league in both yardage and points given up to opposing offenses. Jacksonville’s defense might be better than they were before, but their offense might also be worse, which could make this defensive unit look worse than they really are.

Running Game Thoughts: Much has been made about the Raiders changing from a zone-blocking scheme into a more power-blocking scheme, and what it would mean for running back Darren McFadden this season. We got our first glimpse of the new offense in Week 1, but unfortunately McFadden really didn’t perform much better than he did in 2012. “Run DMC” had just 48 yards on the ground on 17 carries, which translates to fewer than 3.0 yards per carry. He did make it into the end zone once, which made his fantasy owners happy, but the lack of production on the ground against a mediocre Indianapolis front seven is something to pay attention to. One other note from Week 1 is that McFadden nearly made a spectacular, long touchdown catch but barely stepped out of bounds.

McFadden will look to follow up on what Jamaal Charles did against the Jaguars in Week 1, when he put together a nice day of 100 total yards and a touchdown. Jacksonville wasn’t good against the run in 2012, either, when they allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. They surrendered over a touchdown per game to the position (18 total touchdowns allowed) and allowed over 100 total yards to the position in 14 of their 16 games. When these two teams played in Week 7, McFadden had a mediocre night, rushing for just 53 yards. He did add 28 yards as a receiver, but certainly did not have his best game. What McFadden now has that he didn’t in 2012 is a quarterback that can make defenses worry with his speed. With Pryor behind center, McFadden should see wider running lanes as the Jaguars’ front seven will need to keep an eye on this highly mobile QB.

Terrelle Pryor: 170 pass yds, 1 TD, 1 INT, 65 rush yds
Darren McFadden: 70 rush yds, 1 TD, 35 rec yds
Denarius Moore: 55 rec yds
Rod Streater: 30 rec yds, 1 TD

Prediction: Raiders 17, Jaguars 10 ^ Top

49ers @ Seahawks - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: Season 2 of the Colin Kaepernick project got off to a great start with the quarterback punishing the same Green Bay Packers defense that he embarrassed in the playoffs last year. This time it was his arm that did the majority of the damage, however, as he threw for 412 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers. He ran for only 22 yards—a weak number for a player such as Kaepernick—but still nothing that his fantasy owners can complain about. One of the biggest positives for fantasy owners is that Kaepernick made use of his perceived top two options in the passing game, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis. Boldin hauled in an impressive 13 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Davis made six grabs for 98 yards and two scores. The Packers defense is one of the worst in the league, but it was still good to see this passing game clicking on all cylinders so early into the year.

They’ll have a much bigger challenge in Week 2 as they travel to go up against what might be the best secondary in the league, the Seattle Seahawks.

Kaepernick was a very productive fantasy quarterback a season ago, but did struggle when he went up against this Seattle defense in Week 16. In that game, he completed just 53 percent of his passes for 244 yards and a score, with an interception. He also was not too productive on the ground, rushing for 31 just yards and did not score. It wasn’t a horrible game, but the Seahawks have shown that they are capable of containing this dynamic quarterback. Seattle, as a whole, was the absolute best in the league in slowing down opposing quarterbacks in 2012. They allowed only three quarterbacks all season to throw for multiple scores against them and only two threw for more than 260 yards in a game. They continued that this season in Week 1 as they held Cam Newton to just 125 passing yards, one touchdown and 38 rushing yards. Newton doesn’t have quite the offensive weapons that Kaepernick does, but they are relatively similar in their playing style. Kaepernick remains a must-start on most teams, but expectations have to be tempered against this very good Seattle defense.

Running Game Thoughts: While the 49ers passing game got off to a good start, the running game was a little rough to start the season. Veteran tailback Frank Gore rushed for just 44 yards on 21 carries. He did score a touchdown on the ground and added 21 yards as a runner, but the fact that he barely cracked 2.0 yards per carry is an obvious concern behind one of the league’s best offensive lines. Gore just didn’t seem to have the burst that he needs to be effective. It’s not particularly surprising to see an older back like Gore lose a step, but he will definitely need to step up if this team hopes to be able to control the clock in games the say way they have over the past few seasons.

The Seahawks/49ers contests were certainly the tale of two games for Gore in 2012. Not surprisingly, Gore destroyed the Seahawks for 182 total yards in their first contest in San Francisco. But in Week 16, when his team went to Seattle as they are this week, Gore barely touched the ball. He ran just six times for 28 yards and did not catch a pass. We don’t exactly know which game this one will more closely emulate, but one has to assume that Gore’s performance will fall somewhere between those two extremes. Seattle was very good against the run a season ago, holding opposing running backs to just eight total touchdowns all year. As long as he is healthy, Gore will be a major focal point of the offense, but he might only be a low-end RB2 this week.

Colin Kaepernick: 235 pass yds, 1 TD, 1 INT, 50 rush yds, 1 TD
Frank Gore: 70 rush yds, 15 rec yds
Anquan Boldin: 90 rec yds
Kyle Williams: 30 rec yds
Vernon Davis: 60 rec yds, 1 TD

Passing Game Thoughts: It had to be one of the most dink-and-dunk 300-yard games in recent memory, but Russell Wilson got it done in Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers. Wilson did what he does best, though, as he protected the football through the air, and did not throw a pick all afternoon. Most analysts expected a blowout win for the Seahawks, though, and the 12 points the Seahawks scored on offense had to be disappointing, even in a win. Doug Baldwin led all Seahawks receivers with seven catches for 91 yards, surprising fantasy owners who had been led to believe that Golden Tate and Sidney Rice were the Seattle receivers to own. The numbers show that Tate and Rice were still on the field more than Baldwin, although only marginally so. If Baldwin can produce like this against the 49ers in Week 2, he might be worth fantasy consideration, but as of right now the Seattle receiver situation is still wide open. Wilson is a smart player who doesn’t lock in on any one player, meaning that there could be weeks where certain players seem to disappear in the offense.

Seattle will look to get their stride back against the 49ers, which is easier said than done. Wilson failed to throw for even 200 yards in either game against San Francisco a season ago and ran for just a total of 39 yards in those games. He did, however, make those yards count in the second contest as he threw for a season-high four touchdown passes. Wilson is the kind of player who will take what a defense gives him and a defense like San Francisco doesn’t often give up four touchdown passes. In fact, only one other quarterback, Drew Brees, threw for even three touchdowns against them a season ago.

Running Game Thoughts: Marshawn Lynch was one of the NFL’s most dominant runners a season ago, as he finished third in the league in rushing with 1,590 yards on the ground. He also had his second straight season of double-digit rushing touchdowns. Everyone expected Lynch to get off to a big start in Week 1 against the Panthers, but that didn’t happen. Fantasy owners were frustrated to see their first round pick run for just 43 yards against a defense that surrendered double digit fantasy points to opposing teams’ running backs in 13 of their 16 games a season ago. There’s not necessarily much to worry about as Lynch did have a couple stinkers in 2012 and still finished as one of the very best fantasy running backs in the league.

Lynch will have his chance for redemption in Week 2 against a team that he has done surprisingly well against since coming to Seattle in 2011. He’s rushed for 100-plus yards in three of his four games against this defense as a member of the Seahawks roster, including both contests in 2012. The 49ers have been very stingy against opposing running backs for years now, and finished second in the league in points allowed to the position in 2012. For whatever reason, Lynch and the Seahawks just have their number. Given that they are not a prolific passing game quite yet, look for Seattle to lean heavily on Lynch in Week 2 while allowing Robert Turbin only a few carries in relief. Until we see otherwise, this offense still runs through Lynch and he should be started in all formats even against this very stout run defense that held rookie runner Eddie Lacy the Packers to just 44 yards on the ground in Week 1.

Russell Wilson: 215 pass yds, 1 TD, 25 rush yds
Marshawn Lynch: 90 rush yds, 1 TD
Golden Tate: 60 rec yds, 1 TD
Sidney Rice: 50 rec yds
Doug Baldwin: 40 rec yds
Zach Miller: 40 rec yds

Prediction: 49ers 20, Seahawks 17 ^ Top

Rams at Falcons - (Smith)

Passing Game Thoughts: The Rams’ new and improved offense, which finally features real weapons for quarterback Sam Bradford, was on full display last week in the team’s win over Arizona. Bradford had 299 passing yards and connected with new tight end Jared Cook for a pair of touchdowns and 141 yards on seven catches, while rookie Tavon Austin caught six passes, though for only 41 yards. Cook was vastly underutilized in Tennessee and he should be in starting lineups for fantasy owners this week against a decent but not intimidating Falcons defense.

It’s no surprise that Atlanta had their troubles against the Saints last week, as Drew Brees threw for 357 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Falcons are relying on young corners and the speed that the Rams now have on the outside and the match-up nightmare that is Cook presents should prove to be a challenge for the Falcons-D.

Running Game Thoughts: St. Louis will face off against its all-time leading rusher in Steven Jackson this week. He’s been replaced by unproven talent with the lead role going to Darryl Richardson. He ran for just 63 yards on 20 carries last week but had outstanding speed and is a focus in the passing game, having caught five passes for 33 yards. Former second-round pick Isaiah Pead returns from a one-game suspension, but Richardson will still get the majority of the carries against Atlanta, who allowed just 78 yards on the ground last week to the Saints and held them to 2.7 yards per carry.

Sam Bradford: 305 pass yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Chris Givens: 85 rec yds, 1 TD
Jared Cook: 80 rec yds, 1 TD
Tavon Austin: 65 rec yds
Austin Pettis: 40 rec yds
Daryl Richardson: 70 rush yds, 1 TD, 25 rec yds
Isaiah Pead: 20 rush yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Matt Ryan had 304 passing yards along with a pair of touchdown throws during Atlanta’s loss to the Saints last week. He was playing with a largely ineffective (due to injury) Roddy White, who had only two catches for 19 yards. Julio Jones had 76 yards and a touchdown, Tony Gonzalez hauled in three passes for 36 yards and a score and Harry Douglas stepped up with 96 yards on four catches. Both White and Jones missed practice time this week so fantasy owners should check their status going into Sunday against the Rams.

St. Louis had some difficulty with the Cardinals’ passing game last week, giving up 327 yards and two touchdowns to Carson Palmer and allowing at least 80 receiving yards each to the Arizona wide receiving trio of Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts. So if White and Jones are mostly healthy, there should be some opportunity there for the dynamic duo.

Running Game Thoughts: Steven Jackson left St. Louis as a free agent for the Falcons and had a mixed opening week. Though he ran for 77 yards, he only carried the ball 11 times and 50 of those rushing yards came on one play. He had 45 yards on five receptions but dropped a potential game-winning touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter. Nonetheless, this will be a special game for him, but he needs more than 11 carries against a Rams team that held Arizona to 86 rushing yards and 3.3 yards per carry last week.

Matt Ryan: 315 pass yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Julio Jones: 105 rec yds, 1 TD
Roddy White: 65 rec yds, 1 TD
Tony Gonzalez: 45 rec yds
Harry Douglas: 35 rec yds
Steven Jackson: 80 rush yds, 1 TD, 35 rec yds
Jacquizz Rodgers: 15 rush yds, 20 rec yds

Prediction: Falcons 27, Rams 21 ^ Top

Dolphins at Colts - (Smith)

Passing Game Thoughts: There was a lot to like about the Miami passing game last week in their win over the Browns. Ryan Tannehill threw for 272 yards and one touchdown, Brian Hartline had 114 yards and one score on nine receptions and a free agent addition had a solid game as well with 77 yards on seven catches. Only that free agent was Brandon Gibson and not Mike Wallace, who had just 15 yards on a single reception. That’s not exactly the bang for the buck that the Fins were hoping for after signing Wallace but there’s no reason for fantasy owners to rush to judgment – Wallace will eventually get going and I like his chances this week against Indianapolis.

The Colts weren’t supposed to have much of a challenge against the Raiders last week and Terrelle Pryor is not exactly known for his passing prowess, yet he completed 19 of his 29 attempts for 217 yards and one score, though he was picked off twice.

Running Game Thoughts: It would probably be easier to leave this spot blank because the Dolphins have yet to introduce us to their running game. Much to the chagrin of Lamar Miller’s fantasy owners, he produced only three yards on 10 carries and as a team, Miami gained 20 rushing yards - on 23 carries, which is 0.9 yards per carry. If the 6-foot-4 Tannehill had simply taken the snap and fallen down 23 times he would have gained more yards. I doubt the Colts will put up that type of challenge this week as they were scorched by Pryor for 112 yards and though they held Darren McFadden in check for the most part, he did score a touchdown and gain 48 yards.

Ryan Tannehill: 230 pass yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Brian Hartline: 80 rec yds
Mike Wallace: 65 rec yds, 1 TD
Brandon Gibson: 40 rec yds
Charles Clay: 20 rec yds
Lamar Miller: 60 rush yds, 1 TD, 15 rec yds
Daniel Thomas: 35 rush yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Andrew Luck completed all but five of his 23 pass attempts last week in the Colts’ win over the Raiders, threw a pair of touchdowns and was not picked off, but amassed just 178 passing yards. Ninety-six of those yards were to Reggie Wayne and no other Indy player topped 35 receiving yards. This is surprising considering how well the team threw the ball last season. I think the team will have more success airing it out this week against Miami.

The Dolphins picked off Brandon Weeden three times last week, held him to a completion percentage less than 50 percent and sacked him six times, though he did launch 53 passes. Miami can get to the quarterback, so the Colts will have to do better than last week when they allowed four sacks.

Running Game Thoughts: With Ahmad Bradshaw still getting healthy, Vick Ballard led the Colts with 63 yards on 13 carries, while Bradshaw chipped in 26 yards on seven totes. The team’s lone rushing score was brought in by Luck, who continues to impress with his running ability. Fantasy owners probably don’t have a lot of use for either Ballard or Bradshaw this week; not with their timeshare and against an opponent who held Trent Richardson to 47 yards last week.

Andrew Luck: 275 pass yds, 3 TD, 1 INT, 25 rush yds
Reggie Wayne: 100 rec yds, 2 TD
T.Y. Hilton: 70 rec yds, 1 TD
Darrius Heyward-Bey: 40 rec yds
Coby Fleener: 25 rec yds
Dwayne Allen: 15 rec yds
Ahmad Bradshaw: 45 rush yds, 15 rec yds
Vick Ballard: 35 rush yds

Prediction: Colts 24, Dolphins 20 ^ Top

Titans at Texans - (Smith)

Passing Game Thoughts: The Titans had little to show for their passing attack in the team’s win over the Steelers last week. Jake Locker completed 11 of his 20 passes for 125 yards, did not throw a touchdown and was not intercepted. Those aren’t exactly the type of numbers that make fantasy owners’ dreams come true. Their leading receiver was Nate Washington, with 46 yards on four receptions, and tight end Delanie Walker had 40 yards on three catches, while Kenny Britt and Kendall Wright combined for 26 yards on three receptions. Their prospects for improvement aren’t great against a potentially difficult Texans defense.

Houston did allow four touchdown throws to Philip Rivers in their win over the Chargers last week but they also held him to fewer than 200 passing yards and a completion percentage under 50 percent. With J.J. Watt and company dialing up the pressure, don’t expect a whole lot from Locker.

Running Game Thoughts: Chris Johnson was far from explosive last week and though he gained 70 yards on the ground, it took him 25 carries to do it. Tennessee is clearly committed to running the ball as they did so 42 times compared to just 20 passes against the Steelers. Jackie Battle scored the team’s lone touchdown as Shonn Greene went down with an injury, but Greene could be back this week and Battle is number three on the team’s depth chart. Things won’t get easier this week for Johnson and Co. against a Houston team that bottled up Ryan Mathews for 33 yards on 13 carries a week ago.

Jake Locker: 190 pass yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Nate Washington: 60 rec yds
Kendall Wright: 45 rec yds, 1 TD
Kenny Britt: 35 rec yds
Delanie Walker: 25 rec yds
Chris Johnson: 80 rush yds, 1 TD, 15 rec yds
Shonn Greene: 30 rush yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Things could not have started worse for Matt Schaub, as he threw an interception on his first play of the season last week during Houston’s win over San Diego. Things got better from there… much better. He went on to throw for 346 yards and three touchdowns, two of which went to Owen Daniels. Andre Johnson added 146 yards on 12 catches, rookie DeAndre Hopkins chipped in 66 yards on five receptions and Arian Foster had 33 yards on six catches. They’ll play a Tennessee defense that seems to be improved.

At least it looks like they are improved, but against a Pittsburgh team with a lousy and injured offensive line, it’s hard to know. The Titans held Ben Roethlisberger to 191 passing yards and sacked him five times, but the team doesn’t have much of a running game or offensive line or weapons on the outside, so it’s difficult to truly gauge Tennessee’s defensive performance considering how bad they were last year.

Running Game Thoughts: Houston excels in their zone-blocking scheme, which has helped Foster become a fantasy star. Yet he had just 57 yards on 18 carries last week, while Ben Tate had 55 yards with half the carries. This has led Texans coach Gary Kubiak to publicly state he would like to get Tate more touches. This is good news for Tate’s fantasy owners but whether that plan comes to fruition remains to be seen considering how well Foster has performed. Either way, I think both backs should have some success against the Titans this week.

Matt Schaub: 310 pass yds, 2 TD
Andre Johnson: 105 rec yds, 2 TD
Owen Daniels: 70 rec yds
DeAndre Hopkins: 55 rec yds
Garrett Graham: 25 rec yds
Arian Foster: 75 rush yds, 1 TD, 25 rec yds
Ben Tate: 45 rush yds, 1 TD, 20 rec yds

Prediction: Texans 28, Titans 20 ^ Top

Saints at Buccaneers - (Smith)

Passing Game Thoughts: With head coach Sean Payton having returned, it looked like he didn’t miss a beat after a year’s suspension as Drew Brees threw for 357 yards and a pair of scores in the Saints’ win over the Falcons last week. As usual, Brees spread the ball around with seven players getting at least three targets and the leading receiver being running back Darren Sproles, a PPR magician who had 88 yards on six catches. Rookie Kenny Stills had 86 yards on just two catches and was targeted five times, which is just one fewer than Marques Colston. Colston caught five passes for 68 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Jimmy Graham also caught a touchdown and gained 45 yards on five receptions and should have a big day against the Bucs.

Despite having Darrelle Revis and facing a rookie quarterback with limited offensive weapons, Tampa Bay still allowed Geno Smith to amass 256 passing yards in their loss to the Jets last week. They gave up 79 yards and one touchdown on seven catches to Kellen Winslow, so Graham’s fantasy owners should be drooling right now.

Running Game Thoughts: The Saints continue to roll out Mark Ingram as their de facto lead back, despite all the evidence that he simply isn’t real good. He ran for just 11 yards on nine carries last week, while Pierre Thomas ran for 43 yards on nine carries and added 16 yards on four receptions. We only hope fantasy owners have stopped wasting valuable starting spots with Ingram, especially against a Jets team that limited last year’s rookie phenom, Doug Martin, to 65 yards on 24 carries.

Drew Brees: 350 pass yds, 4 TD, 1 INT
Jimmy Graham: 105 rec yds, 2 TD
Marques Colston: 70 rec yds
Lance Moore: 55 rec yds, 1 TD
Kenny Stills: 35 rec yds
Pierre Thomas: 35 rush yds, 1 TD, 20 rec yds
Mark Ingram: 30 rush yds
Darren Sproles: 25 rush yds, 55 rec yds, 1 TD

Passing Game Thoughts: There has been a lot of talk about this being a make or break year for Josh Freeman and he didn’t do much to help himself in Tampa’s loss to the Jets last week. Freeman completed only 15 of his 31 throws, for 210 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He did get the ball to Vincent Jackson seven times for 154 yards and Mike Williams scored a touchdown to go with 54 yards on four receptions, but the rest of the team combined for four receiving yards. Still, I don’t think the Saints will offer as much of a challenge this week.

New Orleans gave up more than 300 passing yards to Matt Ryan last week, and allowed more than 75 yards to two wideouts, one of which was not Roddy White. The Saints may be improved on defense but not enough for this to be anything but a great match-up for Jackson and Williams.

Running Game Thoughts: Doug Martin was given ample opportunity to produce against the Jets last week and though he did score a touchdown, he gained just 65 yards on 24 carries and lost a fumble. He also did nothing as a receiver (actually less than nothing, with two catches for -1 yard), but I expect a far different result this week. The Saints allowed a 50-yard run to 30-year-old bruiser Steven Jackson and though they did a solid job against the run the rest of the game, Martin won’t give fantasy owners two blah performances in succession.

Josh Freeman: 285 pass yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Vincent Jackson: 115 rec yds, 1 TD
Mike Williams: 85 rec yds
Kevin Ogletree: 35 rec yds
Doug Martin: 90 rush yds, 2 TD, 40 rec yds

Prediction: Saints 35, Buccaneers 24 ^ Top

Vikings @ Bears - (Anderson)

Passing Game Thoughts: Besides a surprisingly good performance form wide receiver Jerome Simpson last week (7/140/0), the Vikings passing offense picked up right where it left off last year, that is, with mediocre play. Christian Ponder was picked off three times and could not throw the ball deep downfield with any sort of effectiveness. The scary part for Vikings fans is that the Lions (last week’s opponent) are not great in pass defense, and especially not compared to this week’s matchup, the Bears, who finished among the top 10 in most defensive passing categories last year. The Vikings' No. 1 wide receiver, Greg Jennings, was ineffective last week (3/33) and rookie receiver Cordarrelle Patterson played only five offensive snaps. Even Ponder’s favorite target, tight end Kyle Rudolph, only managed a 2/27 line, showing that this offense will need to come a long way before any of its players can be started with any sort of confidence on your fantasy roster. This week, in a hostile environment and another division rivalry game, I would not go anywhere near any Vikings player other than Adrian Peterson. Sure, if you play in a big league and have to start Rudolph at tight end, I can see an argument for that, but unless he gets a touchdown he probably won’t be much of a contributor either. There will surely be people that jump on the Simpson bandwagon after last week, but remember that Simpson has not done much throughout his career, so there is little reason to believe last week was anything other than a fluke. If Ponder and Jennings can build some chemistry and the rookie Patterson can step up his game, this might be a passing team to get a bit excited about, but this is not the week to be doing it.

Runningg Game Thoughts: When Adrian Peterson went 78 yards for a touchdown in the first series, many probably thought a record rushing day was coming. While Peterson’s final line (93/2) was very good from a fantasy perspective, it was still nowhere near what it could have been with such a hot start. Of course, Peterson is fantasy’s premier RB and no matchup or circumstance would force his owners to sit him; however, I would not expect an epic day from Peterson this week against a tough Chicago run defense. Chicago is coming off a game in which they let up just 63 yards on the ground on 21 carries (3.0 ypc) to the Bengals. Chicago also ranked among the league’s top 10 rush defenses last year, and Peterson (by his high standards) has not always had his best games at Chicago (108 yards, a fumble, and no touchdowns last year). Then again, Peterson’s standards are so high that even that is a borderline RB1 game, but it’s not what we come to expect from an all-time great running back. Peterson will once again be without his lead blocker this week (Jerome Felton), who is still suspended. Peterson is obviously talented enough to overcome this, but he did average 2.3 yards per carry more when Felton was in the game last year. Start Peterson with confidence, but he is more of a low-end RB1 in this tough matchup.

Christian Ponder: 195 pass yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs, 10 rush yds
Adrian Peterson: 110 rush yds, 1 TD, 10 rec yds
Greg Jennings: 40 rec yds
Jerome Simpson: 40 rec yds
Kyle Rudolph: 45 rec yds, 1 TD

Passing Game Thoughts: With a new system and a new head coach, the Bears passing offense may take a little while to adjust, but there are signs of this unit being truly special. Last week against an excellent Bengals defense, Jay Cutler spread the ball around nicely to five different targets (four with 6 or more targets) and was fairly efficient while throwing for 242 yards and two touchdowns (1 INT). Last year at this time, wide receiver Brandon Marshall was getting about 90 percent of the targets, and while it made Marshall a fantasy star, it limited Cutler’s productivity and totally eliminated any other Bears receiver from being fantasy relevant. This season it looks like tight end Martellus Bennett should deserve at least TE2 status most weeks, and Alshon Jeffery is making a case as a decent WR3 if the matchup is right. By spreading the ball around Cutler should make his passes count more and take away the forced passes to Marshall that often led to turnovers or incompletions. With solid weapons around him Cutler should be a nice QB2 for most of the season, with the possibility of being better in stronger matchups. This week the Bears passing unit will face a Vikings defense that let up 357 yards (and 2 TDs) through the air to the Lions in Week 1. Of course, the Bears will not pass the ball 43 time like the Lions did, so the yardage upside is not as high, but it is obvious the Vikings can be passed against. They finished 24th in passing yardage allowed last year and can put pressure on the quarterback, but are not as strong in coverage. With a rebuilt offensive line, the Bears should be better suited to protect Cutler this time around, and with running back Matt Forte more involved in the pass game this year, he should have a nice dump-down option if the pressure does get to him. While this is certainly not a pushover matchup, it is a game where the Bears passing offense should have a small advantage over the Vikings defense. I would start Cutler as a higher-end QB2 in this matchup and Bennett as a solid TE2, while Marshall is once again an easy WR1 choice. As for Jeffery, there are certainly better WR3 options out there, but it would not surprise me at all if he ended up in the top 30 receivers this week, so don’t be afraid to use him if you have him, just don’t get cute with who you are benching for him.

Runningg Game Thoughts: Against the Vikings last week the Lions averaged only 3.3 ypc but stuck with the run long enough to total 112 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, even though they never managed a run longer than 12 yards. The Bears, versus an elite defense in the Bengals, averaged just 2.9 ypc and totaled just 81 yards and one touchdown on the ground, with a long run of 18 yards from Jay Cutler. It is a small sample size of course, but what I glean from these two games is that the Bears will have a rough time running the ball this week—although a rushing touchdown or two is certainly possible, which would salvage a low yardage day from a fantasy perspective. Matt Forte is the only player to worry about right now in the Bears backfield, and the good news for his owners is that the new coaching regime is dedicated to getting him the ball more, including at the goal line. While I do not think Forte’s yards per carry will be too great this week, he should get just enough work in to be considered a mid-level RB2, especially since he should see some added work in the pass game (41 yards last week). With two tough matchups in a row for Forte to begin the season, he may actually be a nice buy-low option right after this game.

Jay Cutler: 250 pass yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Matt Forte: 55 rush yds, 1 TD, 35 rec yds
Brandon Marshall: 95 rec yds, 1 TD
Martellus Bennett: 40 rec yds, 1 TD
Alshon Jeffery: 70 rec yds

Prediction: Bears 30, Vikings 20

Redskins @ Packers - (Anderson)

Passing Game Thoughts: RG3 looked very rusty and out of sync in the first half of Monday’s game but came back and salvaged a decent fantasy day. While spreading the ball around to eight different receivers, Griffin looked like a guy with a ton of talent but who was still shaking off a whole offseason without any real competition or game action. While it may take a few games, Griffin should get near last year’s level that made him a fantasy star, minus perhaps a bit of the running that may make him more susceptible to injury. The Skins' receiving corps should still be mostly about Pierre Garcon even though Leonard Hankerson made more noise in the opener (5/80/2), and I was expecting a bit more from tight end Fred Davis, although that could still be coming. Garcon and Santana Moss were the Skins' targets leaders, a soon-to-be trend that should continue throughout the year. The Packers pass defense is coming off a game where they got rocked for 412 yards and three touchdowns (no picks) through the air, courtesy of the 49ers. While many people may look at RG3 and Colin Kaepernick and think that because they have similar skill sets the Skins should be just as successful, it's just not so. The 49er offensive line is far superior to the Skins, and the unit as a whole has had a lot more time together to get on the same page and develop a chemistry that the Skins clearly do not have right now. This is not to say the Redskins will not put up some numbers, because they will, but do not expect anything close to the lines of Kaepernick, Boldin, or Davis last week. In this game I like RG3 as a high-end QB2 who should look more like the second-half player from last week than the one who looked almost lost at times in the first half against the Eagles. While the Packers can put pressure on the quarterback and seem to have a fairly stout run defense, their coverage can sometimes be suspect; therefore, I like Garcon to get on track as a decent WR2 option this week. While the other Redskins receiving options may be inconsistent week to week, I believe Moss may be a low-end WR3 option in this game, especially in PPR leagues. Even though he had a big first game, I would stay in “prove it to me again” mode with Hankerson this week, as his biggest play last week was more a product of bad defense than good skills. None of the other Redskins are worth starting this week, as there should be much better options available.

Runningg Game Thoughts: The Redskins running game got off to an awful start last week when Alfred Morris fumbled their first carry of the game. Additionally, Morris averaged just 3.8 yards per carry and was stuffed at or behind the line of scrimmage on several carries. It is a troubling sign because the Eagles were not looked at as a good defense in general, but they looked like the Steel Curtain at times against Washington's offensive line. Whether the Skins were just shaking off the rust or they really have running game issues is yet to be seen for sure, but I am willing to give Morris and the Redskins a few more chances before I chalk it up to anything more than early-season rust. The Packers run defense was decent last season and looks to be solid again, as they held a normally productive 49ers run game to just 90 yards despite 34 carries (2.6 ypc) last week. With a less talented front five blocking for Morris, it may be another disappointing week for the first-round fantasy pick, as his owners may need him to punch in a touchdown to have a good fantasy day. You simply can’t sit Morris at this point, and I do think he will find a way to be a decent RB2 this week, even if that is far below the production you drafted him for. I am a bit baffled that Roy Helu was not used more last week with Morris struggling, so he is not a startable option this week, even though I like his potential over the course of the season, especially in the passing game.

Robert Griffin III: 250 pass yds, 2 TDs, 30 rush yds
Pierre Garcon: 70 rec yds, 1 TD
Santana Moss: 50 rec yds
Fred Davis: 35 rec yds
Alfred Morris: 55 rush yds, 1 TD
Roy Helu: 20 rush yds, 30 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Against one of the best defenses in football last week, the Packers still managed to put up 333 yards and three touchdowns through the air (1 INT). This is despite the fact that receiver James Jones failed to record a catch and Rodgers was under pressure most of the game from an excellent 49ers pass rush. Rodgers made three receivers very fantasy relevant (Cobb, Nelson, Finley), however, and on any given play has four legitimate options to throw to. The Redskins pass defense, at least in the first half last week, looked like a total disaster, confused, tired, and out of place. Of course the Eagles' new style of offense had a lot to do with that, but they still had only three above-average skill players to deal with (Vick, Jackson, McCoy). This week they will face at least five. While the Packers offensive line is nothing special, Rodgers can get the ball out quickly and therefore should be able to avoid much of the pressure the Skins bring, especially because he has a great talent to throw to at every level of the defense. If the Packers can produce four players that make a significant fantasy splash against an elite defense, I see nothing but blue skies ahead against a weaker opponent at home. Rodgers is an easy top 3 option at the QB position this week, while Cobb and Nelson should both be considered solid WR1s. Jermichael Finley is an inconsistent player but got off to a hot start last week and had an excellent offseason by most accounts; I’d start him as a solid TE1 this week. As for Jones, it was strange to see last year’s touchdown leader have only two targets in such a big game, but I would not be discouraged yet and would still start him with confidence as a high-end WR3, which is what he was being drafted as anyway. This should be one of the better matchups of the season for this unit, so enjoy it if you have and of them on your fantasy roster.

Runningg Game Thoughts: It was not the easiest debut for a rookie running back versus one of the best run defenses in the game, but for Eddie Lacy owners, the future may be bright, as the worst may be behind him. Lacy fumbled a ball and averaged only 2.9 yards per carry but did punch in a short touchdown and looked the part of a starting caliber NFL running back on several runs. Meanwhile, on the East Coast, the Redskins were busy giving up 263 yards on the ground to the Eagles to the tune of 5.4 ypc. Now, the Packers are not going to run the ball 49 times like the Eagles did, but the efficiency at which Philadelphia ran may be duplicated, as the Skins may be more worried (and rightfully so) with Rodgers and the passing attack. While it is tough to see what the Packers really have with Lacy after just one game, the matchup is juicy enough to recommend Lacy as a high-end RB2 this week, with low-end RB1 numbers possible if they decide to run near the goal-line more than usual. The Packers are still a passing team but they seem to be committed to Lacy, as they gave only one carry to any other running back (Kuhn) last week and there is little reason to believe much will change there. Start Lacy with confidence this week.

Aaron Rodgers: 325 pass yds, 3 TDs, 15 rush yds
Randall Cobb: 95 rec yds, 1 TD, 10 rush yds
Jordy Nelson: 90 rec yds, 1 TD
Jermichael Finley: 70 rec yds
James Jones: 55 rec yds
Eddie Lacy: 80 rush yds, 1 TD, 15 rec yds

Prediction: Packers 37, Redskins 24

Browns @ Ravens - (Anderson)

Passing Game Thoughts: For fantasy purposes, there was both good and bad last week with the Browns passing unit. On the bright side, they passed 53 times, meaning lots of opportunities for production. Additionally, tight end Jordan Cameron lived up to much of the preseason sleeper hype by catching nine balls for 108 yards and a touchdown. On the downside, Weeden only completed 49 percent of his throws and was picked off three times and sacked six times while not really making any other Browns receiver fantasy relevant. One of the main problems with this unit right now is that wide receiver Josh Gordon is out until Week 3 because of a suspension, putting added pressure on an otherwise mediocre receiving corps. When Gordon gets back, I believe we will see an improvement with this unit. Until then, the talent (outside of Cameron) is just not enough to make a real impact. For Browns fans looking at the defensive ranks from Week 1, some excitement may occur after seeing the Ravens dead last in passing yards allowed. Just stop it. The Ravens played in Denver against one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, with maybe the NFL’s best receiving corps this year, in their first real game as a re-molded defensive unit. This game is in Baltimore against one of the weakest passing units in the game, and the Ravens are no doubt hungry for blood after getting lit-up on national television. The Ravens may not be an elite defense anymore, but they have the players up front to pressure and rattle Weeden much like Cameron Wake and company did last week. With no Browns player demanding a double team, the Ravens will most likely unleash an array of blitzes on passing downs that will no doubt limit the overall production of this unit. Because he is the focus of the offense, Cameron is worth another start as a low-end TE1 this week, but no other Browns receiver or quarterback should even be considered until Gordon gets back, a decent matchup is on tap, and this unit shows some kind of rhythm and productivity.

Runningg Game Thoughts: Trent Richardson was one of the handful of stud fantasy RBs that disappointed heavily in Week 1, as he rushed for just 47 yards on an even more disappointing 13 carries. The Browns were very much in the game until the fourth quarter, so it is baffling why Richardson was used so little in the second half (just five carries). Richardson did have six targets (2 catches), but this team will need to run the ball and lean on their best offensive weapon much more if they are going to have any real success this year. It is likely that after seeing what Weeden does when they throw 50 times, the coaching staff will most likely give Richardson 20-plus carries this week, and I expect him to get back to being a low-end RB1 option again as the focal point of the offense. It is tough to say how good Baltimore’s run defense is, as the Broncos did not have to run much because their passing game was so effective. Based on their personnel, I don't think it's a stretch to believe that the Ravens will be among the league’s best run-defending units. However, Richardson’s talent should be enough to turn in at least an above-average day in a tough matchup.

Brandon Weeden: 220 pass yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Jordan Cameron: 70 rec yds, 1 TD
Trent Richardson: 80 rush yds, 1 TD, 35 rec yds
Davone Bess: 40 rec yds
Greg Little: 40 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Despite putting up 362 yards through the air playing catch-up, the Ravens passing game was less than impressive with multiple drops, injuries, and overall sloppy play. Even though Denver’s defense was missing two of its best players (Champ Bailey and Von Miller), the Ravens failed to exploit many mismatches and looked out of sync the whole game. Torrey Smith, the most talented Ravens receiver, was blanketed much of the night, and Joe Flacco was forced to check down much of the game to Ray Rice and Dallas Clark, who despite putting up a decent stat line (7/87), dropped some catchable balls (including a potential touchdown), and looked like he was on his last legs much of the game. Even worse, the Ravens No .2 wide receiver, Jacoby Jones, was hurt in the game and is expected to miss four or more weeks. In his place, rookie Marlon Brown stepped up and looked ok catching four balls (6 targets) for 65 yards and a touchdown. While Brown is nowhere near an elite talent, I actually really like him this week as a sneaky WR3 with upside, as he should get a ton of targets since stud cornerback Joe Haden should be covering Smith most of the game. Haden basically shut down Miami wideout Mike Wallace last week (1 catch for 15 yards), which forced the ball to the Dolphins No. 2 receiver, Brian Hartline, who put up a monster game of nine catches for 114 yards and a touchdown (15 targets). While I don’t expect Smith to get shut down to the point Wallace did, I look at him as a very low-end WR3 this week and a player I’m avoiding if I have any other decent option. The only other Ravens receiver I see with value this week is Clark, but unless it is a deep PPR league, I think there are much better TE options out there. Flacco should be more efficient than last week but will probably score about the same as last week fantasy-wise. Consider him a mid-range QB2 this week and hope that his receivers step up a bit for him in a decent but less-than-ideal matchup.

Runningg Game Thoughts: When you are down 35-17 to a team that is seemingly scoring at will, it is tough to stick with the running game, and that’s the position Ray Rice and the Ravens were in last week. Rice carried just 12 times, basically turning into a check-down receiver more than a running back after halftime against the Broncos. This week the Ravens, in their home-opener and looking for blood, should not have to worry about playing catch-up or being blown out, as the Browns put up just 10 points last week at home. With a banged-up and average-talent receiving corps, the Ravens should lean heavily on the run game, especially if they get any kind of lead this week. While the Browns are a tough and underrated defense, the continuous pounding of Rice and Bernard Pierce should wear them down, and I look for the Ravens to run it 30 or more times. I’m starting Rice as a solid RB1 this week, as he should once again be the focal point of the offense after a tough first week. If it were a bye-week, I may even consider Pierce as a flex option, but there are certainly safer options available with a full schedule this week.

Joe Flacco: 270 pass yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Ray Rice: 80 rush yds, 1 TD, 45 rec yds
Torrey Smith: 40 rec yds
Marlon Brown: 85 rec yds, 1 TD
Dallas Clark: 50 rec yds
Bernard Pierce: 40 rush yds, 20 rec yds

Prediction: Ravens 27, Browns 20

Steelers @ Bengals - (Anderson)

Passing Game Thoughts: The Steelers in general looked horrible last week at home, and that was versus an average Titans defense. This week they face a Bengals defense on the road that is near-elite talent-wise and is most likely playing with a chip on their shoulders after losing a close game with the Bears last week. While Ben Roethlisberger is a great quarterback talent, and the receiving corps is not bad, the chips are certainly stacked against them after losing their best offensive lineman, center Maurkice Pouncey, for the year with an ACL tear. On top of that, Ben’s favorite target, tight end Heath Miller, is still out and the Steelers never really got any rhythm going last week. This week’s matchup has all the makings of a “kick them while they’re down” feel to it, as the Bengals are fierce division rivals and will most likely be relentless all four quarters. The only redeeming thing from a fantasy perspective is the fact that Pittsburgh will probably be forced to throw 35 or more times with no run game to speak of and while probably playing from behind. Big Ben will have a huge target on his back and the front seven of the Bengals will have him on the run all day, probably meaning a bunch of sacks and bad throws. I would avoid Ben in this game, as there are way better matchups out there and this one could get ugly. Both Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders should see a ton of targets, but I don't expect either to be more than a mid-tier WR3 this week. No other Steelers receiver is worth a look at in one of the tougher matchups of Week 2.

Runningg Game Thoughts: The Steelers run game last week put up an epically-bad stat line of 15 carries for 32 yards with two fumbles (1 lost). It did not matter who carried the rock, it was pitiful and hard to watch. The sad but ironic thing is that the Steelers' leading rusher, LaRod Stephens-Howling, is now out for the season with a torn ACL. Isaac Redman will remain the starter this week, although that is more because there is no other real option at this point. Even if the Steelers were playing the weakest run defense in the NFL, I would probably not recommend any of their running backs simply because of the lack of talent, beat-up offensive line, and poor game-plan. To make matters worse, the Bengals may actually have one of the very best run defenses in the league, making any Steelers RB a total waste of roster space this week. If the line can get some chemistry, the passing game opens up a bit, and Le'Veon Bell comes back from injury, this could be a whole new team in a few weeks, but for now they are a fantasy wasteland and should be completely looked over as a running team.

Ben Roethlisberger: 215 pass yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Isaac Redman: 25 rush yds, 10 rec yds
Antonio Brown: 55 rec yds
Emmanuel Sanders: 70 rec yds
Jerricho Cotchery: 35 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s a new year but it looks like basically the same Bengals passing attack; Dalton is fairly efficient but unexciting, A.J. Green is a total stud, and the rest of the crew are basically just warm bodies filling roster spots but not really contributing much statistically. Versus a solid Bears passing defense last week, the Bengals were average—outside of the ridiculous 9/162/2 line that Green put up. For the team to be successful, a second receiver really needs to step up and give Dalton another option for defenses to worry about. For fantasy owners, a second option would increase Dalton’s value and perhaps create another startable player, but for now this unit is all about Green and his sky-high potential. While Green is a must-start every week as a matchup-proof WR, this is actually a fairly tough test for him, as he was held to one catch when these teams first met last year (though he had 10 catches in their second meeting). While Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor is a top-notch cover corner, the sheer volume of passes that are thrown Green’s way make him a low-end WR1 at worst. There is some talent among the rest of the Bengals receivers, but most of it is at the tight end position, where Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham split too much of the workload to make either a viable fantasy option at this point. Andy Dalton has a stud wide receiver, but with a still conservative game plan, average arm strength, and a mediocre supporting cast outside of Green, he is no more than a low-end QB2 this week versus a fairly strong Pittsburgh pass defense.

Runningg Game Thoughts: The Bengals did not fully commit to the run last week, and versus a tough Bears defense they managed just 63 yards on the ground. If it wasn’t for BenJarvus Green-Ellis punching in a short touchdown, it would have been a total dud of a day fantasy-wise as well. Rookie Giovani Bernard was given only four carries, but chances are his workload will slowly but steadily increase as the season goes on and he becomes more comfortable in the offense. This week the running game faces a Steelers defense that was very good against the run last year and was also fairly solid last week against the Titans (112 yds and 2.7 ypc allowed). The Steelers did lose linebacker Larry Foote for the year with a bicep injury, so the middle of the field may be a bit more vulnerable for the Cincinnati runners, but it is still a less-than-ideal matchup. In a game that is always a physical divisional rivalry, the run game should produce more than the 21 carries they had last week against the Bears (think 30+). I still like Bernard much better than BJGE for the season, but until he gets more work, the Law Firm is the RB to start on this squad, even though he is little more than a decent RB3 this week in a tough matchup.

Andy Dalton: 240 pass yds, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
A.J. Green: 90 rec yds, 1 TD
Tyler Eifert: 40 rec yds
Jermaine Gresham: 40 rec yds
BenJarvus Green-Ellis: 55 rush yds, 1 TD
Giovani Bernard: 35 rush yds, 25 rec yds

Prediction: Bengals 24, Steelers 13

Panthers @ Bills - (Thorne)

Passing Game Thoughts: Against one of the toughest defenses in the league the Panthers managed only 125 passing yards. Between the game plan and the opposing team, Cam Newton attempted only four throws of greater than ten yards, representing his second lowest game total of such passes for his career. Newton did not commit any turnovers and completed nearly 70 percent of his attempts despite two drops from the usually sure-handed tight end, Greg Olsen. Carolina has yet to establish a legitimate second wide receiver across from Steve Smith, as evidenced by only five total players being targeted on 23 pass attempts. Of those passes, four went to running backs, ten were to Olsen, eight were to Smith (including a 15-yard TD), leaving only one pass that went to someone else (Ted Ginn Jr., for a 10-yard reception). Until better balance can be achieved, the Carolina passing game will have limited explosive potential.

The Bills don’t have the dominating defense that Seattle does, so Newton should have an easier time throwing the ball Sunday. Buffalo has a reasonable pass rush and is weaker in the secondary, so if the Carolina offensive line can protect him reasonably, there should be more attempts downfield. The loss of Gary Williams on the O-line (ACL, season) was handled well through a rotation of Panthers players against Buffalo, so given a week of practice, the injury should not create additional problems. Against Tom Brady the Bills gave up 288 yards on 55 percent passing, so barring a heroic effort by Newton, it would be hard to imagine a performance much better than that.

Runningg Game Thoughts: With running back Jonathan Stewart on the PUP list, backfield responsibilities are being handled by DeAngelo Williams and, despite a late fumble, he performed well against Seattle, recording 86 yards on 17 carries for an average of better than five yards per attempt. Coaches made a point of limiting the rushes from Newton, but the duel threat quarterback still managed 38 yards on five carries. Play-calling balance was achieved with 26 runs and 23 passes being called, and this near 50-50 split will continue to benefit the Panthers as the season goes forward. Opposing defenses will not be able to protect against both the run and the pass simultaneously, and this will continue to open up opportunities as it did in Week 1.

This coming Sunday should provide much more ground success for Carolina. The Bills gave up 158 rushing yards to New England, including two plays of over 20 yards. Across the offensive line the Panthers are better equipped to run the ball compared to the Patriots, so the ability to gain yards between the tackles will be central to the game plan. Buffalo is weak on the back end, so once through the front seven, Williams will have opportunities to turn a solid gain into a huge play. Assuming ball security won’t be an issue two weeks in a row, monster production isn’t out of the question.

Cam Newton: 250 pass yds, 1 TD; 30 rush yds, 1 TD
DeAngelo Williams: 120 rush yds, 1 TD / 30 rec yds
Steve Smith: 100 rec yds, 1 TD
Greg Olsen: 80 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Even though he did not earn a victory, E.J. Manuel had a good showing in his first NFL game, throwing two touchdowns and gaining 150 yards through the air while not committing a turnover or being sacked. He connected on two thirds of his attempts while completing passes to six different receivers on 27 throws. Four different receivers were targeted five or more times and all of them had at least one play of over 14 yards, though none recorded a gain of 20 or more. The short- to mid-range passing game was executed well and accounted for both scoring plays (18-yard TD receptions to Johnson and receiver Robert Woods); Buffalo only reached the red zone twice, but both visits were converted into six points on the arm of Manuel and protection from the offensive line.

Last week the Panthers were burned for 320 yards through the air by a quarterback who had a career-best day. Surpassing 150 yards should not be a problem for Manuel, and an aerial attack might be the best way for Buffalo to find success on offense. Putting the game on the shoulders of a rookie is a risky strategy, but after his performance against Coach Belichick and the Patriots, confidence is high for the young signal caller. The team’s third receiver, Marquise Goodwin, fractured his hand against New England and will miss the next several weeks recovering from surgery, leaving Johnson and Woods as the primary receivers against Carolina.

Runningg Game Thoughts: In Week 1 the Bills leaned on the running game with 34 attempts compared to 27 passes, largely because they had relative success with it (4 ypc) and didn't want to overwhelm Manuel in his debut. Starting running back C.J. Spiller was fairly limited in his 17 touches, but veteran backup Fred Jackson picked up the slack with a 5.2-yard average on his 13 carries. Buffalo has one of the best backfield one-two punches in the league and Coach Marrone has demonstrated that he’ll use both running backs for the skill sets each brings to the team.

Against the Panthers front seven, rushing yards will be much harder to come by, as they allowed only 70 rushing yards against one of the league’s premier running backs in a rush-heavy offense. Unfortunately for Buffalo, the strength of Carolina is their linebackers, followed closely by the defensive line, so while Buffalo might want to implement a balanced attack, they won't find much success on the ground in Week 2. The Bills should try to establish the pass early so that, as the game goes on, their rushing opportunities become more plentiful and handoffs can be used as an effective change of pace as the Panthers adjust to protect their weak secondary.

EJ Manuel: 210 pass yds, 1 TD, 1 INT / 10 rush yds
C.J. Spiller: 40 rush yds / 30 rec yds, 1 TD
Fred Jackson: 30 rush yds / 30 rec yds
Steve Johnson: 80 rec yds
Scott Chandler: 20 rec yds

Prediction: Panthers 24, Bills 10

Chargers @ Eagles - (Thorne)

Passing Game Thoughts: In Week 1, Philip Rivers completed passes to seven different receivers for a total of 195 yards while only taking two sacks against a strong Texans defense. Through 45 minutes of Monday’s game, the Chargers passing attack had a great thing going, but unfortunately the biggest impression was made in the final quarter. Philip Rivers threw four touchdown passes on 13 of 22 passing through the first three quarters but finished the game 1 for 7 with an interception and no additional points. To make matters worse, the interception was returned for a touchdown and a lead of 21 points had by that point been erased, as the game was tied up with nine minutes to play, strangely reminiscent of a Monday night game from last year in which the Chargers blew a 24-point lead with a fourth-quarter collapse.

Philadelphia should provide less resistance through the air, as they gave up 329 yards to a Redskins team whose quarterback was making his first appearance of the year and clearly wasn’t in mid-season form. Eight different receivers made catches against the Eagles defense and all but one made plays of greater than ten yards. In obvious passing situations toward the end of the game, the Eagles surrendered two touchdowns to bring the score within one possession, after forcing two interceptions earlier in the contest. As time progressed, Robert Griffin III grew more comfortable and was able to take advantage of the weak Philadelphia secondary. Rivers will see similar success Sunday.

Runningg Game Thoughts: Lost in the passing success was that the Chargers averaged 3.2 yards per carry (if Rivers’ 19-yard scramble is excluded from the total). Ryan Matthews carried 13 times for only 33 yards against a stout Houston front seven, and Ronnie Brown had a slightly better time, averaging over five yards on his limited touches. The San Diego offensive line isn’t great, but the Texans made them look worse than they actually are. Holes weren’t abundant and running lanes weren’t plentiful, but ball carriers ran the ball with determination and made the most of what was available to them. Given a little more success up front, the pieces are in place for a solid rushing attack.

On Sunday the Chargers will face a less formidable defense all around, but the drop-off along the defensive line will be most noticeable, suggesting that rushing yards will be more plentiful and easier to come by. Washington was able to run with a decent amount of success despite Griffin's being somewhat limited. The Eagles will be cognizant of the Chargers passing game and will take steps to prevent another four-touchdown game from Rivers, so look for them to pay less attention to the Chargers running backs. Traveling east with only six days off is always difficult, but if the O-line can get a decent push early in the game, Matthews has the speed to turn his opportunities into yards and points.

Philip Rivers: 280 pass yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Ryan Mathews: 80 rush yds, 1 TD / 30 rec yds, 1 TD
Vincent Brown: 90 rec yds
Antonio Gates: 110 rec yds, 1 TD

Passing Game Thoughts: The most impressive aspect of the Chip Kelly offense is that, of the 77 plays run, only 25 of them were passes (with three sacks allowed). Of those attempts, 15 were caught for 203 yards and two touchdowns as Michael Vick completed 60 percent of his passes to six different receivers. His favorite target by far was DeSean Jackson (7 rec, 104 yds, 1 TD), but he was also the most open as he ran through the Redskins secondary. Vick was sacked three times by the talented Washington pass rush, but the offensive line did a reasonable job holding back the pressure overall. The hype surrounding the speed of play helped to disguise some of the clever wrinkles and strange formations used by the Eagles, but it is the combination of pace and game plan that created an atmosphere in which the team can excel.

In the season opener, San Diego allowed 329 yards passing and a 75 percent completion rate to quarterback Matt Schaub. By all accounts, Vick is considered a more gifted passer who also deserves respect as a dangerous duel -threat scrambler. Presumably the only thing preventing the Eagles from throwing for half a dozen touchdowns and 500 yards is the play calling from Coach Kelly. The Eagles offense is predicated on the run and wearing down the opponent, so in a way, the best defense the Chargers could put up would be a suspect run defense. If Week 1 is any indication San Diego's caliber of defense, forcing Vick to throw the ball frequently will result in his shredding the defense for as many yards and scores as his coach will allow.

Runningg Game Thoughts: In case you missed it on Monday night, LeSean McCoy rushed for 184 yards on 31 carries, scoring a touchdown and averaging just less than six yards per touch. Vick added another 54 yards on nine carries, also averaging six yards per run. To summarize, McCoy nearly doubled the average rushing production (94 yards) of every team in the NFL for Week 1—and that average includes his totals! Washington had seemingly no answer for whatever McCoy, Vick, and Coach Kelly tried to do on the ground. Part of the rushing success can be attributed to the up-tempo offense, but the bulk of the production came from the O-line beating the D-line and running backs taking advantage of the holes which opened in front of them.

In the same game in which they allowed so many passing yards, the Chargers were better than expected against the Houston rushing attack, allowing only 3.2 yards per carry to one of the league’s best running backs on a team that heavily utilizes the run. Unfortunately San Diego also yielded 55 yards on nine carries to the backup, bringing the Texans rushing total to 112 yards (discounting the rush on a fake punt). The front seven did a reasonable job containing the rushers and preventing big plays, but they weren’t able to come up with many significant stops other than a fourth-and-one situation near midfield. The Eagles offensive line blocked extremely well in Week 1, and if that carries over into Sunday, I expect to see Philadelphia pounding the ball between the tackles and wearing down the defense until the gains become longer and lead to scoring plays. Pushing the play calling pace will only hasten the defensive demise.

Michael Vick: 270 pass yds, 2 TDS / 20 rush yds
LeSean McCoy: 180 rush yds, 3 TDS / 60 rec yds
DeSean Jackson: 120 rec yds, 1 TD
Brent Celek: 70 rec yds, 1 TD

Prediction: Eagles 38, Chargers 21

Broncos @ Giants - (Thorne)

Passing Game Thoughts: The third (and final?) installment of the Manning Bowl is Sunday afternoon and features two quarterbacks coming off games where they each threw for 4 or more touchdowns and at least 450 yards. Big brother Peyton opened the season against the defending Super Bowl champs and threw seven touchdowns with no interceptions, with two scores going to each of tight end Julius Thomas. Wes Welker and Demaryius Thomas each caught one themselves. Two seasons removed from neck surgery and nerve damage, Manning appears to be once again at the top of his game. Manning has proven he’s all but unstoppable when given time and adequate protection.

The score from the season opener for New York is misleading in that they gave up 36 points but 14 of them came from a pair of defensive touchdowns. Against the Dallas offense, the Giants surrendered only two touchdowns and three field goals (23 points) in addition to recording two sacks and an interception; not a stellar outing but not a liability either. For Week 2, the Broncos will take encouragement from those two touchdowns having been scored by the tight end, meaning that in addition to the best trio of wide receivers in the NFL, the Denver tight ends should find ample opportunities to contribute in the passing game. New York is weak at linebacker and is dealing with injuries to a secondary that was already average at best, so while another seven-touchdown performance shouldn’t be expected, it also isn’t an unreasonable possibility.

Runningg Game Thoughts: For all of the production they saw through the air, Denver was almost comically futile on the ground. As expected, they played all three running backs and none of them were able to gain more than 30 yards, average more than four yards per carry, or break a run of double-digit yardage. In total, the Broncos carried for 65 yards on 23 carries against a tough Baltimore front seven. Through training camp it became evident that no running back distinguished himself as the top runner, so the coaching staff was forced to employ a committee situation for the opening game. With the results from Thursday, it is clear there is still no leader in the position battle and another running back time-share is to be expected.

Against the Cowboys during Week 1, New York also faced 23 carries but yielded a slightly higher 87 yards. However, they also did not allow more than four yards per carry and allowed only one play longer than ten yards. On the whole the Giants were effective in limiting the rushing attack of their opponent, and it's hard to see Denver being any more effective than Dallas was on Sunday. The strength of New York is their defensive line, so other than for trying to maintain balance, it would be best for the Broncos to exploit the weakness on the back end rather than try to force it on the ground.

Peyton Manning: 430 pass yds, 4 TDs
Knowshon Moreno: 50 rush yds / 30 rec yds
Demaryius Thomas: 120 rec yds, 1 TD
Wes Welker: 140 rec yds, 2 TDs
Julius Thomas: 100 rec yds, 1 TD

Passing Game Thoughts: In Week 1, Eli Manning was credited with three interceptions to go along with his four touchdowns and 450 passing yards. At least one of the turnovers (off the hands of Da’Rel Scott) wasn’t his fault, but it did lead directly to a touchdown. The Cowboys pass rush generated a fair amount of pressure and recorded three sacks, but when he had time, Manning found each of his top three receivers for five completions and over 100 yards each. Like the rest of the NFC East, Dallas has more problems in its secondary than other defensive areas, so the game was put in Manning’s hands early on. If it hadn't been for the three interceptions, he would have had a great game, and it is likely that the Giants would have left with a victory. New York turned to the passing game early and often to try to overcome six total team turnovers, and Manning once again proved he could handle being the centerpiece of the offense.

On opening night the Broncos faced 66 pass attempts which resulted in only 34 completions (53%, 362 yrds) plus four sacks. They allowed two touchdowns and forced two interceptions, one of which should have resulted in a touchdown, but cornerback Danny Trevathan dropped the football prior to crossing the goal line and it ultimately resulted in a touchback. Excluding that accidental Leon Lett tribute, Denver did well limiting the passing success of the Ravens and prevented the top wide receiver, tight end, and running back from recording a receiving touchdown. The Broncos defense will present a similar challenge to what the Cowboys put forth, though the secondary should be a bit better and the pass rush less daunting.

Runningg Game Thoughts: New York abandoned the run earlier than planned following two fumbles from running back David Wilson and falling behind 10-27 only two and a half minutes after halftime. Da’Rel Scott saw extended time after Wilson was benched, but Scott picked up an injury and may not be fully available for Sunday. During the week, the Giants signed a former running back (Brandon Jacobs) to potentially see time against the Broncos. Wilson is expected to get a second opportunity to be the primary back and will stay on the field barring any more turnover issues. Against Dallas, the Giants attempted only 14 rushes and recorded 50 yards on the ground, a meager 3.6 yards per carry. Had the game stayed closer, New York would have rushed more, but their success in doing so may not have been any better.

Denver did an excellent job limiting the Baltimore rushing attack to only 58 yards on 21 carries, less than three yards per attempt. The Ravens offensive line isn’t as dominant as they were last season, but they’re still very good and have the best fullback in the league lead blocking for one of the best running backs in the NFL. In the first half, the running game was used effectively and helped to build a three-point lead at halftime. Afterward, the game plan seemed to favor the pass, and that is where things turned south for the Ravens. The running game wasn’t dominating Denver, but the balance was able to keep the Broncos from loading up against the pass and forcing mistakes. If the Giants are able to maintain a balance between the pass and the rush and avoid the same horrendous turnover performance, they’ll have a fighting chance.

Eli Manning: 380 pass yards, 3 TDs
David Wilson: 50 rush yds, 1 TD / 20 rec yds
Victor Cruz: 120 rec yards, 1 TD
Hakeem Nicks: 90 rec yards, 1 TD

Prediction: Broncos 41, Giants 31