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Eli Mack, Sal Marcoccio, Chris Eakin, Joe Kilroy

Inside The Matchup: Wk 2




| TB @ BUF
 Predictions - YTD
Rk Staffer W L %
1 Joe 6 0 100
2 Eli 5 0 100
3 Sal 2 0 100
4 Chris 2 1 67

Patriots @ Jets (Marcoccio)

Tom Brady/Randy Moss/Wes Welker/Joey Galloway/Ben Watson
Laurence Maroney/Kevin Faulk/Fred Taylor (vs. NYJ)

Passing Game Thoughts: Tom Brady picked up right where he left off in 2007 during the opening week’s contest after missing virtually all of 2008. He hooked up with his two favorite targets, Randy Moss and Wes Welker, a dozen times each to finish with 378 yards passing and 2 TDs. Both TDs came late in the game and both went to TE Ben Watson who has never quite lived up to his immense talent level, but should now likely be a hot waiver wire pickup in many leagues where he wasn’t drafted. Brady did appear to be slightly hesitant in the pocket at times (with a brace supporting his injured knee), but he definitely got his groove back in the game’s late stages. The young and talented Buffalo secondary had no answers for the dynamic duo of Moss and Welker who combined for 24 catches and 234 yards. The ancient Joey Galloway finished the contest catchless, but teams will still need to account for his still better than average deep speed or get burned while over compensating for Moss and Welker.

The new look Jets defense absolutely devastated a very talented Houston offense in Week 1. They pitched a virtual shut out when you consider that Houston’s only score came on an interception (and fumble) return. Darrellle Revis held Andre Johnson to only 4 harmless catches. Revis matched up one on one with him for about 60% of the snaps. When Lito Sheppard got the assignment of covering Johnson he was usually supported by safety Jim Leonard or a nickel back in an effort to double team Johnson. It’s likely the model the Jets will use against Randy Moss this week. The middle of the Jets defense NT Kris Jenkins, ILB David Harris and ILB Bart Scott made life a living hell for QB Matt Shaub as they pressured and hit him all day – including Scott knocking him down to the ground on the very first series to set the tone. Shaub was held to only 166 yards passing on the day and was intercepted by Lito Sheppard. Will reality set in when the Pats come to town? The Patriots o-line is not what it once was and Rex Ryan’s blitzing scheme was effective against them back in 2007 as the Raven’s DC, so while another “shut-out” is unlikely don’t be surprised if the Jets are able to at least keep the Meadowlands scoreboard from lighting up like a Christmas tree.

Running Game Thoughts: Last week I stated that I was just guessing when it came to projecting the New England RB stats and even after Week 1 is in the books the statement is still relevant. Against the Bills it was a mix of Laurence Maroney and Fred Taylor, but Bill Belicheck and his OCs are famous for handing off to a different ball carriers based solely on the game situation, during the last couple of seasons. Maroney looked to have finally learned his lessons from past dog house experiences and aggressively tried to hit the holes in front of him instead of dancing around as was his penchant in the past. Old man Fred Taylor found the endzone in Week 1 at the goal-line, and was also an effective part of the limited running game. Sammy Morris was completely left out of the mix and I’m sure he’ll be finding his way to the waiver wire pool in many leagues where he managed to get drafted – and then go for 100 and 2 TDs this week.

The Jets were one of the top 7 run defense in 2008 and looked even better last week holding the dynamic second year player Steve Slaton to only 17 yards on the ground while forcing him to cough up the ball in a critical situation. The aforementioned middle of the Jet defense was all over him and when he tried to take it outside he was met by equal resistance. Kris Jenkins was a candidate for defensive player of the year in 2008, before he once again succumbed to his balky back, and looks primed to be a contender once again this year. There’s no reason to take a chance on any NE RB this week in this tough matchup, especially in light of all the mystery regarding who will actually get the carries.

Tom Brady: 275 yds passing 2 TDs
Randy Moss: 95 yds receiving, 1 TD
Wes Welker: 70 yds receiving
Joey Galloway: 30 yds receiving
Ben Watson: 45 yds receiving, 1 TD
Laurence Maroney: 65 yds rushing
Fred Taylor: 35 yards rushing
Kevin Faulk: 10 yds rushing / 25 yds receiving

Mark Sanchez/Chansi Stuckey/Jerricho Cotchery/Dustin Keller
Thomas Jones/Leon Washington (vs. NE)

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s safe to say that Mark Sanchez passed his audition last week. While Jet fans start carving his bust for his spot in the Hall of Fame, fantasy owners need to temper their enthusiasm a little. It’s true that Sanchez showed tremendous foot work, arm strength, poise and leadership in his first NFL game, but teams will now have some game film on him and it’s still tough to move effectively from college QB to the NFL with immediate success. Sanchez was an incredible 9 of 10 on third down situations with at least 7 yards from conversion. He moved well in the pocket when pressured and was able to make throws from all arm angles. He did at least earn the right to move from waiver wires to your fantasy backup QB in seasonal leagues if you want to take the chance that he is “for real”. Only 4 Jet “receivers” caught the ball on Sunday (Chansi Stuckey, Jericho Cotchery, TE Dustin Keller and RB Leon Washington) so Sanchez hasn’t quite mastered reading the entire field, but he did make mostly good decisions in Houston. Chansi Stuckey is starting to show a nose for the endzone and is a tough little receiver who gets the job done. Keller who had a fine rookie season is one of the new breed TEs that cause matchup headaches for opposing defenses as they are too big for CBs to cover and too fast for LBs to keep up with. He has as much upside as any second tier TE in the league.

As I implied last week Bill Belicheck has way of messing with quarterbacks’ heads and I’m sure late Monday night he was already scheming up ways to bring the former Trojan back down to Earth. The Pats secondary was not very good last season, as only the Arizona Cardinals allowed more passing TDs than the 27 allowed by New England, and they allowed two passing TDs in Week 1. Trent Edwards moved the ball well by dinking and dunking down the field, but never tested them deep. This week that may change as Sanchez is not afraid to sling it. While the Pats were able to get to Edwards, the Jets o-line is far superior and should keep Sanchez upright for the most part. However, I do expect Sanchez to take a step back this week against New England as Belicheck just knows how to get things done.

Running Game Thoughts: Thomas Jones was held in check until two second half 30 plus yard TD runs made his final stat line look very nice (107 yards, 2 TDs). However in fairness to Jones, in the first half the Texans really stacked the box looking to make the rookie QB beat them. Once Sanchez started doing just that the defense loosened up a little allowing Jones room to run. The 31 year old back looked quite youthful shaking and baking before turning the corner and beating the secondary downfield on his two longs runs. Meanwhile Leon Washington showed just how important he is to the Jets offense as he kept the running game moving while Jones struggled and was also a nice check down option for Sanchez. The Jets were very effective running screen passes to Leon (and others) while Sanchez gained confidence.

The Patriots played the run effectively in 2009 allowing 107.6 yards per games and only 8 TDs on the season. However, even with a porous o-line backup RB Freddy Jackson was able to gain 57 yards against a depleted defensive crew in New England. The unit has now lost LB Jerrod Mayo as well further weakening it. The Pats surely missed Richard Seymour’s presence on the D-line and have lost solid veteran linebackers Teddy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel this offseason. The loss of Mayo for 4-6 weeks just may be the final nail in the coffin for this once proud defense.

Mark Sanchez: 195 yds passing, 1 TD, 2 Ints. / 20 yards rushing
Chansi Stuckey: 30 yds receiving
Jerricho Cotchery: 45 yds receiving, 1 TD
Dustin Keller: 85 yds receiving
Thomas Jones: 105 yds rushing, 1 TD / 5 yds receiving
Leon Washington: 40 yds rushing / 30 yds receiving

Final Score: Patriots 20 Jets 17

Rams @ Redskins (Marcoccio)

Marc Bulger/Donnie Avery/Laurent Robinson/Randy McMichael
Steven Jackson (vs. WAS)

Passing Game Thoughts: There wasn’t much to like about this unit heading into 2008 and Week 1 did not change that perception much. Marc Bulger was expectedly rusty after missing a good portion of training camp and preseason with a finger injury. Facing a banged up Seattle secondary Bulger only managed 191 yards passing without hitting pay dirt. While he hasn’t been the same QB since former coach Mike Martz made him a piñata (Martz showed a genuine disdain for leaving in blockers at the expense of sending players out in pass patterns), he is still capable when protected. This season his protection should be better with free agent Jason Brown at center and second overall pick Jason Smith stepping in at right tackle. The wide-outs did give some hope to fantasy owners as Atlanta castoff Laurent Robinson finally lived up to his message board hype and grabbed five balls for 87 yards. Donnie Avery who like Bulger also missed a portion of camp grabbed six balls for 46 yards. The fact that the Rams should be playing from behind most weeks gives some value to the duo and both have enough speed to get behind the secondary when teams cheat up to contain RB Steven Jackson.

Washington’s pass defense finished 7th in passing yards allowed (193.4 ypg) in 2008. In Week 1 however, Eli Manning was able to complete 20 of 29 passes for 256 yards and a TD throwing mostly to inexperienced WRs. Mario Manningham made DeAngelo Hall look silly when he juked his way around him down the sideline for a score when all Hall had to do was bump him out of bounds. LaRon Landry’s aggressive play helped keep the Skins in the game and the newly acquired Albert Haynesworth was effective if not dominant. If the Redskins do not do a better job getting to the passer than they did last season and in Week 1 this game may not be the blowout many expect.

Running Game Thoughts: Steven Jackson is one of the more talented RBs in the NFL today, but the knock against him has been his inability to stay healthy. Well he’s healthy so far but disappointed his fantasy owners last week as despite the offseason rhetoric that he would be the centerpiece of this offense, he only touched the ball 16 times (despite gaining nearly 4.2 ypc), and he did not see the ball in the passing game. If the Rams have any hope of protecting their still subpar defense and winning some games, Jackson must see more touches.

Washington which was very quietly an extremely tough run defense in 2007 (finishing 8th in yards allowed with 95.4 yards per game and only allowing 12 rushing TDs), held a very good Giant rushing attack in check last week. Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw combined for only 106 yards on the ground in Week 1. It seemed the Giants game plan was to avoid running into Haynesworth so they spent much of their time trying to spring Bradshaw outside. While Jackson is a powerful runner, he does have the speed to get to the corner so the Rams may look to go in that direction as well.

Marc Bulger: 240 yds passing, 2 TDs, 1 Int.
Donnie Avery: 90 yds receiving, 1 TD
Laurent Robinson: 75 yds receiving
Randy McMichael: 45 yds receiving
Steven Jackson: 95 yds rushing, 1 TD / 25 yds receiving, 1 TD

Jason Campbell/Santana Moss/Malcolm Kelly/Antwaan Randle El/Chris Cooley
Clinton Portis (vs. StL)

Passing Game Thoughts: Jason Campbell drew the wrath of Jim Zorn a couple of times last Sunday after turning over the ball over with an interception and a fumble. He did show some signs of putting things together however and gets to face a much softer defense this week. He was able to find TE Chris Cooley in the endzone for a TD late in the game to salvage his stat line, but the Skins had difficulty moving the ball through much of the game. In fact the Skins passing game was only able to attack the middle of the field with Cooley and slot WR Antwaan Randle-El, despite the fact that the Giants starting CB Aaron Ross missed the game. Santana Moss pulled one of his disappearing acts catching only two balls and only made his presence felt on the side of CB Corey Webster’s helmet when the two got into a slap fight.

The Rams were poor against the pass last season giving up 217.2 ypg and 20 TDs through the air. After an aggressive start to 2008 where they forced Matt Hasselbeck into two interceptions they regressed back to form and allowed Hasselbeck to gain 279 yards and 3 TDs through the air, including 2 TDs to second year TE John Carlson. Expect the Skins to exploit this weakness and use Chris Cooley early and often.

Running Game Thoughts: Clinton Portis struggled last week after gaining 34 yards on his very first carry, finishing with only 62 yards on the day. However the fact that Steve Spagnola was the Giants DC last season and is now the Rams Head Coach is the only connection between the two defenses that couldn’t be more night and day otherwise. Let’s put it this way, Julius Jones (yes that Julius Jones) gained 117 yards and scored a TD last week.

The Rams allowed 154.7 ypg and 26 rushing TDs last season and have done little to improve outside of new defensive schemes - In fact DT Adam Carriker was placed on IR before the season hurting the interior line. If you have Clinton Portis you couldn’t ask for a better matchup.

Jason Campbell: 205 yds passing, 1 TD, 1 Int. / 20 yards rushing
Santana Moss: 55 yds receiving
Malcolm Kelly: 15 yds receiving
Antwaan Randle El: 60 yds receiving / 25 yds rushing, 1 TD
Chris Cooley: 65 yds receiving, 1 TD
Clinton Portis: 155 yds rushing, 2 TDs / 15 yds receiving

Prediction: Redskins 34 Rams 21

Giants @ Cowboys (Marcoccio)

Eli Manning/Dominek Hixon/Steve Smith/Mario Manningham/Kevin Boss
Brandon Jacobs/Ahmad Bradshaw (vs. DAL)

Passing Game Thoughts: Eli Manning (256 yds, 1TD/1 Int.), Steve Smith and Mario Manningham temporarily put all the “Plaxico Burress” talk to rest on Monday morning in New York. Eli spread the ball around to seven different targets but relied heavily on third year former Trojan Steve Smith who ended the day with 6 catches for 80 yards. Meanwhile former Wolverine Manningham juked and tiptoed his way down the sideline for a 30 yard TD and finished with 58 yards receiving. The only dark cloud on an otherwise sunny passing day was when rookie WR Hakeem Nicks – who was having a solid day – left the game with a sprained foot that will keep him out of action for at least two weeks. TE Kevin Boss should pick up some of that slack and could be a useful player this week as the Tampa Bay TEs combined for 9 catches, 71 yards and a TD against Dallas in Week 1.

The Dallas defense ranked 5th in passing yards allowed last season (187.7 ypg) but did allow 19 TDs through the air. The loss of safety Roy Williams could actually help the Cowboy pass defense, as the big safety was always a liability in pass coverage. The Giants strong o-line will face a bigger challenge than they did in Week 1 when they line up against a Dallas defense in Week 2 that has amassed a league leading 59 sacks last year and features Marcus Spears and DeMarcus Ware. With a crowd that may be well over 100,000 fans in the new stadium and a fierce pass rush Eli may be rattled into making a few mistakes that could be costly in what should be a close contest.

Running Game Thoughts: Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw combined for 106 yards rushing last week with Bradshaw gaining more yards on more carries. This may have been due to the Giants offensive game plan which was to avoid Albert Haynesworth in the middle of the field and try to run to the outside more. However, Bradshaw coming off a great preseason did look like the better back regardless, and should be rostered in all but the shallowest of leagues. In an NFC slugfest expect the Giants to try and wear down the Cowboy defense while keeping the Cowboy offense on the sideline by running both backs a great deal more than they did last week.

Dallas was an above average defense against the run last year finishing 12th while allowing 106.6 ypg and 11 TDs. They did lose a few key pieces to their run defense though in DL Greg Ellis and S Roy Williams. Last week they allowed similar running backs to the ones they’ll face this week – Cadillac Williams and Derrick Ward to combine for 159 yards and two TDs. The Giants line is slightly better than the TB line and neither Ward nor Williams run with the power of Brandon Jacobs so it stands to reason that the Giants rushing attack should have some success this weekend.

Eli Manning: 215 yds passing, 1 TD, 2 Ints.
Steve Smith: 50 yds receiving
Dominek Hixon: 45 yds receiving
Mario Manningham: 35 yds receiving
Kevin Boss: 45 yds receiving, 1 TD
Brandon Jacobs: 85 yds rushing, 1 TD / 5 yds receiving
Ahmad Bradshaw: 75 yds rushing, 1 TD / 20 yds receiving

Tony Romo/Roy Williams/Patrick Crayton/Jason Witten
Marion Barber III/Felix Jones (vs. NYG)

Passing Game Thoughts: The 2008 Cowboys offense started off 2009 just like they did in 2008 looking like a top unit in the league. Tony Romo who had his best game as a pro – statistically at least (353 yds and 3 TDs) – looked a lot more comfortable spreading the ball around to his many weapons than having to keep a certain WR (who’s initials rhyme with “B.O.”) happy by force feeding him the ball. Romo has one of the quickest releases in the league and the ability to leave the pocket to make plays both of which make it extremely difficult for the opposition to get and/or keep good coverage on the Cowboy receivers and which may help neutralize the Giants fierce pass rush. TE Jason Witten had a somewhat disappointing game but is one of the best TEs in the league and should start putting up nice numbers soon. Fourth year WR Austin Miles had a 42 yard TD reception showing why many thought he was on the verge of stardom this offseason. Meanwhile, the two starting and much maligned WRs - Roy Williams and Patrick Crayton – each also scored long TDs of 66 and 80 yards respectively.

It didn’t take Osi Umenyiora long to show the impact that his return will make to an already dangerous defense. Osi recorded the “triple crown” for a DE when he sacked, stripped and recovered Jason Campbell’s fumble – which he returned for a TD. Chris Canty managed to play after missing most of the offseason with injury and will face his old team in Week 2. The Giants pass defense ranked 8th last season allowing 196.2 yards per game and only 17 TDs and made Jason Campbell look bad last week despite most of the secondary being banged up. It looks like Aaron Ross will miss the game again this week and now S Kenny Phillips is hurting as well which will make things tough for the Giants against Romo this week.

Running Game Thoughts: Marion Barber was back to his impressive self after an injury plagues second half of 2008. He rushed for 79 and a TD against the Bucs on his 15 carries. RB Felix Jones disappointed many owners predicting his breakout, gaining only 22 yards and suffering a thigh bruise which has kept him out of practice this week. Jones however has great vision and speed which compliments the take no prisoners approach of Barber well. The massive Cowboy offensive line should get some credit as well as they could make any RB look good, however they will all be tested by the Giants depth on the defensive line this week.

Clinton Portis struggled mightily last week against the Giants finishing with only 62 yards on the day. New York ranked 7th in the league in run defense in 2008 and only gave up 95.8 yards per game and 14 rushing TDs, but as implied above this week they face a tough test in Dallas. The battles in the trenches could go a long way in deciding this one and I’m guessing the Boys eventually take the path of least resistance and attack through the air where the Giants will be more vulnerable this week.

Tony Romo: 295 yds passing 2 TDs, 1 Int. / 25 yds rushing
Roy Williams: 85 yds receiving, 1 TD
Patrick Crayton: 30 yds receiving
Jason Witten: 75 yds receiving, 1 TD
Marion Barber: 65 yds rushing, 1 TD / 15 yds receiving
Felix Jones: 20 yds rushing / 25 yds receiving

Prediction:: Cowboys 27 Giants 24

Colts @ Dolphins (Marcoccio)

Peyton Manning/Reggie Wayne/Austin Collie/Pierre Garcon/Dallas Clark
Joseph Addai/Donald Brown (vs. MIA)

Passing Game Thoughts: It must be nice to trot Peyton Manning out each and every season for your franchise. In fact the Colts basically taunt the rest of the NFL about how nice it is by continuing to employee Jim Sorgi as a backup QB. Manning has consistently been an elite talent that carries his team into the playoffs each year. Reggie Wayne now the undisputed No. 1 WR in Indy with the “retirement” of Marvin Harrison, showed he can shoulder the load by grabbing 10 Manning passes for 162 yards and a TD last weekend. Marvin’s heir apparent, OSU alum Anthony Gonzalez, went down with a knee injury last week so it will be up to a couple of unheralded youngsters to keep defenses honest for the next couple of weeks – rookie Austin Collis and second year player Pierre Garcon. Collie is a nice route runner with sticky hands who will likely work the slot, while Garcon is built like an Anquan Boldin and has some real sleeper potential if he earns the trust of Manning. Dallas Clark has already earned the trust of Peyton Manning and his role should only increase with this latest news. My guess is the well oiled machine keeps chugging along.

Miami’s pass defense left a lot to be desired last season despite the rebirth of Joey Porter wreaking havoc on opposing QBs. They finishes the year near the bottom of the league allowing 227.8 ypg and 18 TDs. Last week was no different as second year phenom QB Matt Ryan tore them up for 229 yards and 2 TDs in a route by the Falcons.

Running Game Thoughts: Joseph Addai did not go quietly last week after being left for dead by many fantasy owners who were enamored by the shiny new toy in the backfield, Donald Brown. Addai outgained Brown 42 yards to 33 yards on the ground (albeit on 6 more carries) and scored a rushing TD. This situation may eventually cause headaches for fantasy owners as both backs are capable of carrying the load and it may come down to the proverbial “hot hand”. This week could be tough sledding for both though against a strong Miami run defense, and even with the Gonzalez injury, I expect the Colts to attack Miami through the air.

Miami’s run defense was stout last season (ranked No. 9 in yards allowed) and in Week 1 where they held Michael Turner to only 65 yards rushing. NT Jason Ferguson eats up space allowing Channing Crowder, Joey Porter and Akin Ayodele to eat up ball carriers. With the Colts line starting to get banged up once again expect the Colts run game to be mostly ineffective in the Miami humidity.

Peyton Manning: 310 yds, 3 TDs
Reggie Wayne: 120 yds receiving, 1 TD
Pierre Garcon: 60 yds receiving, 1 TD
Austin Collie: 40 yds receiving
Dallas Clark: 65 yds receiving, 1 TD
Joseph Addai: 40 yds rushing / 20 yds receiving
Donald Brown: 35 yards rushing

Chad Pennington/Ted Ginn Jr./Greg Camarillo/Davone Bess/Anthony Fasano
Ronnie Brown / Ricky Williams (at IND)

Passing Game Thoughts: Chad Pennington isn’t a gunslinger. He gets by on smarts and accuracy. Those traits may win NFL games, but generally not fantasy games. While his lack of arm strength is somewhat over-rated on fantasy message boards (as it doesn’t take a rocket arm to get the ball downfield, and his deep ball accuracy is among the best in the league), his propensity to dink and dunk has hurt Ted Ginn’s chances of being a fantasy stud (although I have my doubts that any QB would help accomplish that). Instead possession WRs like Greg Camarillo and Davone Bess have become useful point per reception leagues flex players with Pennington behind center. Anthony Fasano scored 7 TDs last season and is the only true redzone option in Miami. He may not be the most consistent fantasy TE, but should be a good bye week filler with chance to add 6 points on any given week.

The Colts allowed only 6 TDs through the air last season and did not allow Jacksonville a passing TD last week. It should be interesting to see if the if the massive Dolphins o-line can deal with the smaller quicker DEs, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, of the Colts. Expect Chad to see some pressure at times during the night, but with his short quick passes it shouldn’t be that much of an issue. I know that no one reading this is expecting Chad Pennington to light it up on Monday Night, but if you are forced to start him, hope that he some how manages to find the endzone at least once because, its going to be quiet night for Chadwick and the ‘Phins passing game.

Running Game Thoughts: Everyone touting Ronnie Brown as a bounce back player in 2009, after a down 2008 while still recovering from his ACL surgery had to be a little surprised to see him outplayed by the ancient Rastafarian. It seems Brown (43 yards on 10 carries) may still be splitting time with Ricky Williams (39 yards on 7 carries), however the Dolphins being behind big most of the game limited both RB’s touches. Nevertheless the coaching staff seems to really like Ricky Williams and it may be tough for Brown to push Ricky out of the picture altogether, so perhaps expectations should be tempered a little. Ideally the Dolphins would like to use their talented o-line to overmatch the smallish Colt defenders and run the ball 30+ times in this contest (which also keeps Peyton Manning on the sideline), and without Bob Sanders in the line-up they just may be able to do that.

The Colts are a Jekyll and Hyde run defense depending on whether or not Sanders is healthy. When he is on the field they are tough to run on. When’ he’s not, not so much. Unfortunately for the Colts, Sanders has had issues staying healthy and once again he is out of action.

Chad Pennington: 190 yards, 1 TD, 1 Int.
Ted Ginn Jr.: 35 yds rec.
Greg Camarillo: 25 yds rec.
Davone Bess: 55 yds rec.
Anthony Fasano: 20 yds rec., 1 TD
Ronnie Brown: 80 yds rushing, 1 TD / 20 yds rec.
Ricky Williams: 40 yds rushing

Prediction:: Colts 30 Dolphins 17

Saints @ Eagles (Marcoccio)

Drew Brees/Marques Colston/Lance Moore/Devery Henderson/Jeremy Shockey
Mike Bell/Reggie Bush (vs. PHI)

Passing Game Thoughts: That Drew Brees cat is pretty good, eh? I’ll assume that no one is benching Drew Brees coming off a 6 TD performance no matter what the match-up shows, but let’s all realize that the Lions only appear once on the Saints schedule. Brees is virtually match-up proof, as he is smart, accurate, has a well equipped arm and has a plethora of weapons, the likes of which has not been seen since the US/Soviet Cold War. I could probably list a few more WRs for the Saints above and in the projections below, but Mike isn’t paying me by the word. Shockey shocked the fantasy world last week by retuning from a disappointing 2008 marred by injury in a big way – 2 TDs. Marques Colston caught a TD, but he and Lance Moore likely disappointed their fantasy owners as Brees’ ability to spread the wealth is what makes him so good. And spreading it out is just what he did last week (tossing TDs to Devery Henderson, Robert Meacham and Heath Evans as well). To further illustrate this point, Brees threw for over 5,000 yards last season and the Saints did not have one 1,000 yards receiver. Amazing stuff there.

The Eagles and their famous blitz packages are probably one of the few teams in the league that can slow down the high flying Saints. Jake Delhomme threw four picks against this unit last week leading the way to a laugher by the Birds. They ranked third in the NFL in passing yards allowed last season and sacked opposing QBs 48 times. Don’t be shocked when the Saints don’t come close to last week’s aerial show.

Running Game Thoughts: Offseason hype-machine Pierre Thomas missed Week 1 and may have “earned” himself a lesser role as “pre-season MVP” Mike Bell racked up 146 yards in his absence and earned the praise of HC Sean Payton. The talk is that Bell and Thomas will now share carries going forward, but Bell may earn a larger share this week if Thomas is not 100%.

The Eagle defense was ranked 4th in the league in rushing yards allowed last season (92.3 ypg) and only gave up 7 TDs on the ground. In Week 1 they nullified the vaunted Carolina rushing attack, however it must be noted that Delhomme’s 5 turnovers caused the game to get out of hand quickly which limited the Panthers rushing attempts. The Saints have never thought of themselves as a smash mouth type of team, and are not likely to challenge the tough Eagle defense on the ground – however Payton may try and soften them up a little with the hard charging Bell.

Drew Brees: 285 yds passing 2 TDs, 1 Int.
Marques Colston: 65 yds receiving, 1 TD
Lance Moore: 40 yds receiving
Devery Henderson: 60 yds receiving
Jeremy Shockey: 35 yds receiving, 1 TD
Reggie Bush: 20 yds rushing / 30 yds receiving
Mike Bell: 60 yds rushing, 1 TD

Donovan McNabb/Kevin Curtis/DeSean Jackson/Brent Celek
Brian Westbrook (vs. NO)

Passing Game Thoughts: Will he or won’t he? If not, who will? Those are the questions on fantasy football player’s minds this week concerning this matchup. Donovan McNabb broke a rib last week and it’s unknown whether or not he’ll be able to play in Week 2. If he doesn’t third year QB Kevin Kolb should get the start, but the Eagles didn’t exactly send him a vote of confidence when they rushed out to sign former Eagle Jeff Garcia. If Garcia plays (and isn’t too rusty) the offense shouldn’t skip a beat. Kolb on the other hand is a virtual unknown in that he hasn’t looked sharp thus far in his career but was talented enough to be the Eagles first pick in the draft (in the 2nd Round) in 2007. DeSean Jackson is pure dynamite with the ball in his hands, but sometimes get’s lost in the Eagles spread it out attack and hasn’t yet become a sharp route runner. Kevin Curtis is always capable of a big game but also disappears at times. Reggie Brown survived a roster cut necessitated by Garcia’s signing (Hank Baskett was let go instead) but hasn’t done much in years. TE Brent Celek continued where he left off last postseason catching a TD pass in Week 1 and should develop into a low end TE1 for fantasy purposes, as he’s a big sure handed target that gets open – and is a good redzone presence.

The New Orleans defense should be improved a little over last season, but still gave up 27 points to a bad team lead by a rookie QB in Week 1. They allowed 221.7 passing ypg last season and 21 passing TDs so they can be quite vulnerable through the air. The league has announced that they will not enforce DEs Charles Grant and Will Smith’s suspensions for as long as the Williams Wall appeal is in the legal system due to the fact that they were suspended for taking the same diuretic as the Williamses – so if McNabb does play there is always the risk of a quick exit if he takes a hard shot. I am projecting this game as if he will play, but check in at FFToday on Sunday morning to get the real scoop.

Running Game Thoughts: Brian Westbrook played better than expected in Week 1 after missing most of pre-season recovering from an ankle surgery (he also had knee surgery this offseason). In the past when healthy he was the most dynamic back in the league but enters this season at 30 years of age and coming off an inconsistent 2008. Westbrook surprisingly wasn’t pulled much at the goal-line last season which sat well with his fantasy owners. With his current backup (LeSean McCoy) being even slighter of build than he is, that may be the case this season as well, at least until FB Leonard Weaver gets healthy.

The Saints weren’t all that much better against the run last season (117.8 ypg allowed) than they were against the pass, and didn’t do much to help their chances this year besides hiring Greg Williams as the new DC. Last week the Lions didn’t get a chance to establish a running game after falling behind early so we have yet to see if Williams’ schemes will make any difference this year. Westbrook should be able to help pick up any slack in the passing game against this defense.

Donovan McNabb: 245 yds passing 2 TDs, 1 Int. / 15 yards rushing
Kevin Curtis: 70 yds receiving, 1 TD
DeSean Jackson: 70 yds receiving
Brent Celek: 35 yds receiving, 1 TD
Brian Westbrook: 85 yds rushing, 1 TD / 45 yds receiving

Prediction:: Eagles 27 Saints 24

Panthers @ Falcons (Kilroy)

Jake Delhomme / DeAngelo Williams / Jonathan Stewart
Steve Smith / Muhsin Muhammad (vs. Atlanta)

Passing Game Thoughts: Jake Delhomme’s performance in the season opener at home proved to be a disaster. The Eagles defense swarmed the Carolina quarterback and forced him into throwing four interceptions. He also lost a fumble near his own end zone which the Eagles recovered for a touchdown. After being picked for the fourth time late in the third quarter, head coach John Fox had seen enough from his starting QB and benched him in favor of back-up Josh McCown. Delhomme finished the afternoon completing just 7 of his 17 attempts for 73 yards and zero touchdowns.

Despite Delhomme’s troubles last week he remains the Panthers starter heading into the second game of the season. Against Atlanta, Carolina’s offensive line will have to provide much better pass protection than they had versus Philadelphia in order for Delhomme to post meaningful stats. The Panthers will also need to establish their ground game, something they failed to do against the Eagles, as a means of setting up their air attack.

Running Game Thoughts: If DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart can’t combine for more than the 72 yards they had on 25 carries (2.9 ypc) last week against Philadelphia, it will be another long day for the Carolina offense. Their week two opponent however, the Atlanta Falcons, allowed the Miami Dolphins duo of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams to average a robust 4.8 yards per carry against them in the opener as the pair rushed for 82 yards on 17 carries.

With that in mind, and in knowing the Panthers offense will only go as far as their rushing attack can take them, expect to see a heavy dose of both Williams and Stewart in this contest. If Carolina ran the ball 25 times in a game they eventually lost 38-10, you can rest assured they will push the 30+ carry mark in closer contests, which this week’s outing should be. You can also expect them to do so with more success as long as the passing game provides a little support.

Jake Delhomme – 180 yards passing / 0 TDs
DeAngelo Williams – 85 yards rushing / 15 yards receiving / 1 TD
Jonathan Stewart – 35 yards rushing / 1 TD
Steve Smith – 90 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Muhsin Muhammad – 45 yards receiving / 0 TDs

Matt Ryan / Michael Turner / Jerious Norwood
Roddy White / Michael Jenkins / Tony Gonzalez (vs. Carolina)

Passing Game Thoughts: Matt Ryan’s performance in the opener was a sign of his continued progression from last year. Though only in his second season, the 2008 first round pick out of Boston College already has the poise of an established veteran within the league.

After a highly regarded rookie campaign, the Falcons wasted no time in adding to Ryan’s arsenal of weapons this offseason by acquiring future Hall of Famer, Tony Gonzalez, at the tight end position. Ryan made quick use of this new wrinkle in the Falcons offense as he connected with Gonzalez 5 times, for 73 yards and a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins last week. Ryan also spread the ball amongst receivers Roddy White (5 catches, 42 yards) and Michael Jenkins (4 catches, 41 yards), while making use of Jerious Norwood out of the backfield (5 catches, 49 yards) as he compiled 229 yards through the air with 2 touchdown passes on the day.

As the Falcons prepare to host the Panthers this Sunday one should expect another solid outing from the second-year signal caller. In terms of fantasy value however, Ryan may leave his owners wanting a little more this week dependant upon the number of touchdown passes he throws.

Running Game Thoughts: The Dolphins may not have been able to contain Matt Ryan, but they did do a good job of bottling up running back Michael Turner. Turner carried the ball 22 times in Miami, but he managed only 65 yards on the ground with his attempts. And while Jerious Norwood made himself a factor in the passing game, he never got the opportunity to do much damage on the ground as he rushed for 7 yards on his 2 carries.

Things should go better for the Falcons rushing attack this week, however. Their opponent allowed the Eagles tandem of Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy to total 110 yards on 22 carries – an average of 5.0 yards per attempt. With the straight ahead rushing style of Michael Turner complimented by Norwood’s breakaway speed, look for the Falcons ground game to crack the century mark against the Panthers while punching it into the end zone once or twice.

Matt Ryan – 215 yards passing / 1 TD
Michael Turner – 100 yards rushing / 2 TDs
Jerious Norwood – 30 yards rushing / 30 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Roddy White – 80 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Michael Jenkins – 40 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Tony Gonzalez – 60 yards receiving / 1 TD

Prediction:: Atlanta 27, Carolina 17

Texans @ Titans (Kilroy)

Matt Schaub / Steve Slaton / Chris Brown
Andre Johnson / Kevin Walter / Owen Daniels (vs. Tennessee)

Passing Game Thoughts: Nothing went right for the Houston Texans offense during their 2009 debut. In the passing game, Matt Schaub was sacked twice and knocked to the ground eight more times as the Jets defense put on an impressive display. As a result, Schaub completed just 18 of his 33 attempts for a meager 166 yards, with no touchdowns, and 1 interception. With such little production from the quarterback position, Houston’s targets in the passing game failed to produce any meaningful stats. Tight end, Owen Daniels, was the most productive Texan on offense with his 4 receptions for 44 yards.

For as poorly as the Texans offense performed last week though, there is some reason to believe they’ll rebound with a solid outing against the Titans this Sunday in Tennessee.

While the Titans defense is regularly regarded as one of the better units in the NFL, they failed to live up to that standard last Thursday against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL’s season opener. Although they stamped out Willie Parker in the rushing game, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was allowed to throw for 363 yards while completing 76.7% of his attempts (33 of 43). While relying on a 4-man rush for much of the game, Tennessee failed to pressure Roethlisberger on a regular basis, leaving one to wonder if it was a direct result of Albert Haynesworth’s departure in the offseason.

If the Titans fail again to pressure the quarterback, Matt Schaub and the Texans receivers will produce some good statistics.

Running Game Thoughts: If Steve Slaton’s to have a big day on the ground, it will only come as a direct result of the Texans opening things up with their air attack. Either that or he’ll have to break off a long run at some point in the game to shake up the Titan defenders. For the most part though, this isn’t an attractive match-up for the second-year back out of West Virginia.

As was mentioned earlier, for all the troubles the Titans defense had in defending the pass last week, they did a stellar job against the run. Pittsburgh running backs Willie Parker, Rashard Mendenhall, and Mewelde Moore combined for just 33 yards on 22 carries. When we combine that with Slaton’s 9 carry, 17 yard output against the Jets in week one, there is little reason to be enthused about his prospects this Sunday.

Matt Schaub – 260 yards passing / 1 TD
Steve Slaton – 55 yards rushing / 40 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Chris Brown – 10 yards rushing / 1 TD
Andre Johnson – 100 yards receiving / 1 TD
Kevin Walter – 40 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Owen Daniels – 60 yards receiving / 0 TDs

Kerry Collins / Chris Johnson / LenDale White
Justin Gage / Nate Washington / Kenny Britt / Bo Scaife (vs. Houston)

Passing Game Thoughts: Kerry Collins has had some relevant outings with the Titans since taking over as their starting quarterback last season, but it’s rare that Tennessee will ask him to do anymore passing than is necessary for the team to win the game. He posted notable statistics against the Steelers (244 yards passing, 1 touchdown) as the NFL kicked off its season, but part of that was due to the struggles of Chris Johnson and LenDale White on the ground. Had White and Johnson managed better than the 3.7 yards per carry they combined for on the day, it’s likely Collins production would have been significantly reduced.

Against the Texans defense, a unit that just allowed 107 yards on the ground to Thomas Jones and yielded 60 more to Leon Washington, expect the Titans to run early and often with their duo of backs. As a result, Collins’ production will be limited, although one of his receivers could end up with stats worthy of a number three receiver in fantasy leagues. It should also be noted that tight ends Bo Scaife and Jared Cook have injuries that may prevent them from playing.

Running Game Thoughts: Titans running backs Chris Johnson and LenDale White should be frothing at the mouth for the chance to run wild against the Texans defense this week. Not only did Jones and Washington total 167 yards on 35 carries between the two of them versus Houston last Sunday, they also allowed Jones to punch it into the end zone twice. These numbers coincide with a Texans unit that ranked 23rd in the league last year against the run (allowed 122.6 rushing yards per game) and allowed 18 scores via the ground in 2008.

As an added incentive, the two backs had an extra three days rest as a result of playing in the NFL’s Thursday night opener. Needless to say, both White and Johnson can be relied upon to produce this Sunday.

Kerry Collins – 175 yards passing / 1 TD
Chris Johnson – 110 yards rushing / 20 yards receiving / 1 TD
LenDale White – 60 yards rushing / 2 TDs
Justin Gage – 70 yards receiving / 1 TD
Nate Washington – 30 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Kenny Britt – 40 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Bo Scaife – 15 yards receiving / 0 TDs

Prediction:: Tennessee 34, Houston 14

Cardinals @ Jaguars (Kilroy)

Kurt Warner / Tim Hightower / Chris Wells
Larry Fitzgerald / Anquan Boldin / Steve Breaston (vs. Jacksonville)

Passing Game Thoughts: Kurt Warner got off to a slow start last week, but he managed to salvage the rough outing by finishing with 288 yards passing and 1 touchdown. The two interceptions he threw in the game, however, may have offset that production in leagues that penalize for turnovers. It also couldn’t have helped that Steve Breaston missed the game with an injured knee while Anquan Boldin played at less than 100% do to troubles with his right hamstring. For this weeks contest against the Jaguars, both receivers are expected to play, but the lingering injuries could limit their productivity.

All that said, Warner should have a fairly productive outing against the Jaguars this week. Peyton Manning just got done carving the Jacksonville unit up for 301 yards passing and a touchdown, and Warner should prove capable of doing nearly the same. He’s going to have to considering the Cardinals running back tandem of Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells did little to prove they can provide Arizona with the meaningful ground attack they have lacked for the past few years.

Running Game Thoughts: Although Joseph Addai found his way into the end zone last week against the Jaguars, Jacksonville did an excellent job of keeping the Colts running game in check. Addai carried 17 times in all for just 42 yards (2.5 ypc) while rookie Donald Brown gained 33 yards on his 11 carries (3.3 ypc). With that in mind, and in knowing the Cardinals rushing attack has been amongst the worst in the league for a number of years now, there is no reason to expect much on the ground in this game from either Wells or Hightower.

Kurt Warner – 315 yards passing / 2 TDs
Tim Hightower – 30 yards rushing / 45 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Chris Wells – 30 yards rushing / 0 TDs
Larry Fitzgerald – 130 yards receiving / 2 TDs
Anquan Boldin – 40 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Steve Breaston – 80 yards receiving / 0 TDs

David Garrard / Maurice Jones-Drew
Torry Holt / Troy Williamson / Marcedes Lewis (vs. Arizona)

OPP FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -19.7%
OPP FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -9.7%
OPP FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -26.0%
OPP FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -26.9%

Passing Game Thoughts: David Garrard’s 2009 campaign got off to a poor start last week against the Colts. He threw the ball 28 times, completing just 50% of those attempts, while totaling only 122 yards through the air. He should have a better outing this week against the Cardinals, but it’s hard to recommend him as a starter until we see him produce better than he had in the opener.

If the Cardinals passing arsenal allows them to establish a big lead early in the game, it may force the Jaguars to abandon their run first approach. Jacksonville’s defensive unit did hold the Indianapolis Colts to just 14 points last Sunday however, and with Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston attempting to play through injuries, the Jaguars might be able to limit the points Arizona puts up against them as well. If that’s the case, then Garrard isn’t likely to throw for many yards.

Running Game Thoughts: The Cardinals did an excellent job of limiting Frank Gore to 30 yards on 22 carries last week, but it’s doubtful they’ll achieve that level of success against Maurice Jones-Drew. While Garrard struggled to get anything going through the air against the Colts, Jones-Drew kept the Jaguars in the game as he carried 21 times for 97 yards and 1 touchdown. As the sole playmaker in Jacksonville’s offense following the offseason departure of Fred Taylor, it’s safe to expect another 20 carries from Jones-Drew this week as he approaches the century mark on the ground.

Should the Cardinals defense place a stranglehold on Maurice Jones-Drew, maybe then we can discuss them as one of the better run stopping units in the league. As of now, a one game sampling is far from being enough to make that assumption.

David Garrard – 190 yards passing / 20 yards rushing / 1 TD
Maurice Jones-Drew – 85 yards rushing / 40 yards receiving / 2 TDs
Torry Holt – 60 yards receiving / 1 TD
Troy Williamson – 40 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Marcedes Lewis – 30 yards receiving / 0 TDs

Prediction:: Jacksonville 24, Arizona 20

Vikings @ Detroit (Eli Mack)

Brett Favre / Adrian Peterson / Chester Taylor
Bernard Berrian / Percy Harvin / Visanthe Shiancoe (vs. Detroit)

Passing Game Thoughts: In a week 1 game against the Cleveland Browns that was dominated by the running game, Brett Favre’s role in the win was minimal at best. He attempted only 21 passes, and as a result, his tendency to turn the ball over was kept out of the equation. Games in which he throws only 21 times will be more the rule this season than the exception, and that trend should continue this week against a bruised and bewildered Lions team. This game will be put on the shoulders once again of Adrian Peterson, leaving the graying QB to rest his aging arm at least another week.

If Favre doesn’t throw for a score early in the game, chances are he won’t at all. This should be a conservative game plan for the Vikings, even though they should get a healthy Bernard Berrian back from limited action last week. The versatile rookie Percy Harvin could score his second TD in as many games. Head coach Brad Childress will utilize Harvin on end-arounds, wide receiver screens and any other creative way he can dream up. TE Visanthe Shiancoe may be the team’s leading receiver in this contest. Although the Lions upgraded their dreaded LB corps from last year, none of them are capable of keeping up with the fleet-footed TE. A conservative game plan is in order to be sure, but if you’re looking to take a chance on a couple of week 2 sleepers, put Harvin and Shiancoe in your line-up.

Running Game Thoughts: I had to chuckle during the fantasy draft season when a so-called “expert” actually had the audacity to proclaim Matt Forte fantasy’s top RB. Another hailed Michael Turner as such. In a word: laughable. Adrian Peterson should have put all that nonsense to rest last week, as he torched the Cleveland Browns for 180 yards and 3 scores, including one ridiculously silly 64 yarder. This guy is in a league by himself. And the scary part is he could easily duplicate those numbers this week. After all, this is a defense that gave up 143 yards to Mike Bell last week.

The biggest weakness on a Lions team that’s full of them is their defensive line. The greatest strength of the Vikings—besides their RB—is the offensive line. That’s a great combination for Peterson owners. You should pencil in 150 yards and at least 2 scores for AP. The Vikings’ running game will toy with Detroit all game long. There was even a thread on this Web site’s fantasy forum earlier this week where an owner planned to start both Peterson and Chester Taylor. While on the surface that may seem a bit daring, it’s not altogether that far-fetched a thought. Taylor himself could get a score late in garbage time.

Brett Favre – 165 yards / 1 TD
Adrian Peterson – 165 yards / 2 TDs
Chester Taylor – 45 yards / 1 TD
Percy Harvin – 60 yards rec / 30 yards rushing
Bernard Berrian – 40 yards rec
Visanthe Shiancoe – 55 yards rec / 1 TD

Matt Stafford / Kevin Smith
Calvin Johnson / Bryant Johnson / Casey Fitzsimmons (vs. Minnesota)

Passing Game Thoughts: There were more than a few people on this Web site that downgraded Calvin Johnson after rookie Matt Stafford was given the reigns to the offense. The rook’s performance last week certainly gave credence to that thinking. Stafford had one or two nice throws, but he struggled mightily through his first NFL game. His missteps weren’t a huge surprise, especially considering the aggressive game plan of Saints’ defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. The young fella was under siege all day, and that will certainly happen again this week and into the foreseeable future.

Besides a 64 yard catch-and-run by Johnson last week, the aerial game was nonexistent. The Lions almost assuredly will struggle running the football against Minnesota, meaning Stafford, Johnson and the rest will have to bail out the offense. Detroit’s offensive line will have to play better. They surrendered only one sack last week, but that doesn’t begin to tell the story. A defender was in Stafford’s face almost every time he dropped back. With one of the league’s best defensive fronts paying a visit to Ford Field on Sunday, that doesn’t bode well for the prospects of a productive outing through the air for Detroit. Look for a repeat performance by Stafford and crew this week. Obviously, Johnson is a must-start each week regardless of the opponent. But don’t be shocked or disappointed if he gives you another 3-catch gem.

Running Game Thoughts: Kevin Smith had no running room against the Saints. His reward for such a below-average game: a battle against a stout run defense. Smith scored on a short run last week, but he did the most damage as a pass catcher. In a preview of what should be a trend all year (the Lions behind early and having to throw the ball to get back in the game), Smith got a boatload of receptions out of the backfield. His seven receptions led the team. Look for that to be the case this week too. Minnesota boasts one of the toughest front sevens in the NFL, and Smith’s touches will be tougher to come by. But whether on a short run for a score, or a half-dozen receptions, Smith will get production from somewhere.

Perhaps what’s lost most in Smith’s potential as a solid RB2 in fantasy football is his vice grip grasp of all the “money carries” on his team. There’s no threat of a RBBC here. FB Jerome Felton may steal a TD or two during the season, as he’s been used as a short yardage running both in the preseason and against the Saints. But for the most part, Smith is the bell cow in Motown. That’s great news for Smith owners. Smith vowed early this week that he will play much better against the Vikings than he did against New Orleans. Whether that translates into 40 yards on the ground vs. the 20 from last week remains to be seen. One thing is certain: Smith is flirting with the “must start” label. He will put up numbers some kind of way. Put him and keep him in your line-up.

Matthew Stafford – 190 yards / 1 TD / 2 INTs
Kevin Smith – 45 yards / 1 TD / 50 yards rec
Calvin Johnson – 80 yards rec / 1 TD
Bryant Johnson – 45 yards rec
Casey Fitzsimmons – 10 yards rec

Prediction:: Minnesota 31, Detroit 20

Bengals @ Packers (Eli Mack)

Carson Palmer / Cedric Benson
Chad Ochocinco / Laveranues Coles / Andre Caldwell / Daniel Coats (vs. Green Bay)

Passing Game Thoughts: The last five games in which Carson Palmer has played (last week’s season opener and the first four games of last year), he has thrown for only 3 TDs and 6 INTs. What once was a fantasy QB on the fast track to a perennial top five finish has now morphed into a #2 QB. Last week’s game against Denver was underwhelming for Palmer, as he threw no TDs but tossed a couple of picks. Green Bay’s secondary is as good as Denver’s—if not better—so he could be in for another tough outing. They forced Jay Cutler into four turnovers last week. The Packers’ Atari Bigby will be out, so for Palmer owners, hope that that will help.

Perhaps the biggest result from last week’s game was the disappearing act of Laveranues Coles. The free agent pick-up had a grand total of one reception for 11 yards. Meanwhile, second year WR Andre Caldwell outperformed Coles, finishing with 6 catches for 54 yards. Palmer needs Coles to fill the void left by the departed TJ Houshmandzadeh for the offense to reach its potential. Coles is going to have a difficult time with this week’s opponent, however. Going up against the CB duo of Charles Woodson and Al Harris will be a tall order. Their battle with Chad Ochocinco will draw the most attention, but he will get his.

Running Game Thoughts: Cedric Benson was one of my sleepers heading into this season, and he didn’t disappoint in week 1. Benson was selected in most fantasy drafts as a RB3, and his 76 yards and one TD was excellent production from that position. Benson’s success is crucial to the rest of Cincy’s offense against Green Bay. His powerful, between-the-tackles running style acts as a good complement to the Bengals’ passing attack. The Packers’ new 3-4 defensive scheme created four sacks against Cutler last week, so Benson’s role in keeping the pass rush at bay is key.

The Bengals will have their hands full on the ground, however. Green Bay held Matt Forte to 55 yards on 25 carries, so they’ve adapted quite well to new defensive coordinator Dom Caper’s new, more aggressive philosophy. Benson has zero competition in the backfield, meaning whatever kind of production the Bengals get on the ground will come courtesy of Benson. For those in smaller leagues, perhaps it’s a bit too early to put Benson in your line-up, unless of course injuries dictate such a decision. But those playing in larger leagues, starting Benson this week as a RB2 is advisable. Keep your yardage totals conservative, but expecting a short TD run is not out of the realm of possibility.

Carson Palmer – 185 yards / 1 TD / 1 INT
Cedric Benson – 60 yards / 1 TD
Chad Ochocinco – 85 yards rec / 1 TD
Andre Caldwell – 45 yards rec
Laveranues Coles – 35 yards rec

Aaron Rodgers / Ryan Grant
Greg Jennings / Donald Driver / Jordy Nelson / Donald Lee (vs. Cincinnati)

Passing Game Thoughts: There are some who tout the Greg Jennings-Donald Driver receiving tandem as the league’s best. I think there’s a duo in Arizona that may have a little to say about that. But suffice it to say, Jennings and Driver are a dangerous twosome. Driver had a nondescript season debut last week while Jennings ripped it up. The most intriguing match-up in this game will be these two against the young and emerging CBs of Cincinnati in Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall. This defensive tandem held Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal to a combined 6 catches for 45 yards last week. While the Marshall-Royal combo is a notch below Jennings-Driver, it fully illustrates the lock-down ability of Cincy’s secondary stars.

Aaron Rodgers was many experts’ preseason league MVP. While he didn’t play a horrible game last week, it wasn’t one that would lead his resume tape. Other than the 50 yard bomb to Jennings, his longest completion was 14 yards. He was off on several passes and often looked like Chicago’s defense had him flustered. Cincy may not have the defensive reputation as Chicago, but they can make things rough on Rodgers. I think Green Bay utilizes more deep throws this game, but the O-line must give him time to do so. Both Jennings and Driver should have receptions of more than 20 yards in this one, with Donald Lee working the underneath routes. Rodgers will bounce back in this game with a performance worthy of the preseason hype he received.

Running Game Thoughts: Cincinnati did a wonderful job keeping the Denver Bronco running game under wraps. Allowing only 75 yards on the ground, the Bengals made QB Kyle Orton be the catalyst to Denver’s offensive success. Ryan Grant seemed to struggle at times last week against Chicago, but he made up for his lack of yards with a short TD. I think this week Ryan will continue to find running tough to come by. The underrated LB crew of veteran Dhani Jones, Keith Rivers and rookie Rey Maualuga will fill the gaps and cut off running lanes for Grant. These athletic ‘backers will also be in Grant’s hip pocket on short dump-offs as well.

Back-up RB Brandon Jackson continues to nurse an injury, leaving DeShawn Wynn to spell Grant. There was a huge drop-off when that occurred last week, leaving Grant in the game perhaps more than the team would have liked. Look for Grant to have a similar performance to last week. He’s never been much of a receiving threat, so don’t expect much there. A short TD run is possible.

Aaron Rodgers – 245 yards / 2 TDs
Ryan Grant – 70 yards / 1 TD
Greg Jennings – 115 yards rec
Donald Driver – 65 yards rec / 1 TD
Jordy Nelson – 35 yards rec
Donald Lee – 30 yards rec / 1 TD

Prediction:: Green Bay 24, Cincinnati 20

Steelers @ Bears (Eli Mack)

Ben Roethlisberger / Willie Parker / Mewelde Moore
Santonio Holmes / Hines Ward / Heath Miller (vs. Chicago)

Passing Game Thoughts: The low score of last week’s game against Tennessee didn’t do justice to how big a part the passing game played. Ben Roethlisberger rebounded nicely after a slow start, finishing with 363 yards passing. The running game struggled, but perhaps that was a blessing in disguise for the defending champs. Roethlisberger is the best offensive player on the team and putting the ball in his hands and asking him to do the heavy lifting is not a bad idea. His trademark never-give-up-on-a-play attitude in the pocket is the calling card for Pittsburgh’s aerial assault, which, it seems, is becoming a bigger part of their offensive philosophy.

If that is the case, the Steelers had better come up with a way to block DE Adewale Ogunleye. His 2 sacks last week set the tone defensively against Green Bay. WR Santonio Holmes appears to have picked up where he left off last year. He’s slowly becoming Pittsburgh’s #1 option, and the Tennessee game is the tip of the iceberg. Look for Holmes’ battle with Nathan Vasher to be a good one all afternoon. Hines Ward will continue to work the short to intermediate routes with perfection, so he’s a good play as well. So is TE Heath Miller.

Running Game Thoughts: I’m not sure if it was the stubborn defense of the Titans or the complete ineptness of the Steelers, but Pittsburgh’s running game was atrocious last week. Running for 30 yards as a team on 25 carries has not been the Steeler way. Willie Parker seems a bit off to me, and second year RB Rashard Mendenhall was a complete non-factor against the Titans. Mewelde Moore got the bulk of the action behind Parker. Look for Pittsburgh to try to establish the ground game, but when/if things go south, don’t be surprised if they dump it altogether and place the game in Big Ben’s hands.

Chicago’s run defense now has a huge gap in it with the season-long injury to LB Brian Urlacher. Pittsburgh may attempt to test out the run-stopping ability of a Bears defense that some felt was losing some of its luster even before Urlacher’s injury. This could be a game where Parker can do some damage between the tackles. That’s not his forte, but it could prove a viable option in attacking the now-vulnerable Chicago run defense. Moore should continue getting the 3rd down action, while Mendenhall’s role apparently is still being defined.

Ben Roethlisberger – 235 yards / 1 TD / 1 INT
Willie Parker – 65 yards / 1 TD
Mewelde Moore – 20 yards rushing / 40 yards rec
Santonio Holmes – 120 yards rec
Hines Ward – 55 yards rec / 1 TD
Heath Miller – 25 yards

Jay Cutler / Matt Forte
Devin Hester / Earl Bennett / Greg Olsen (vs. Pittsburgh)

Passing Game Thoughts: Jay Cutler had a not-so-good debut in the Windy City. Tossing 4 INTs against a ballhawking defense like Green Bay will be nothing like trying to figure out the chaos that is Pittsburgh’s defense. He’s vowed to pick up is play, but it’s going to be a tall order playing against a team that seems to drop defenders out of the rafters. Troy Polamalu won’t be playing, so that should give the brash Cutler a better opportunity to redeem himself.

Devin Hester is still trying to figure out the nuances of playing receiver, but while Hester continues to learn on the job, Earl Bennett is still slowly working his way into the #1 WR position on the Bears. Bennett could have an okay day. TE Greg Olsen, however, is the player to keep an eye on. TE Desmond Clark is out indefinitely, meaning Olsen is the only TE of any significance on the roster. Olsen will be moved all over the field—in the backfield, in the slot, out wide—where his athleticism can be put to proper use. It matters not that he’s playing against Pittsburgh. Get him in your line-up.

Running Game Thoughts: Chicago was force-feeding Matt Forte the ball last week, giving him 25 carries. His 55 total yards from scrimmage left a lot to be desired and certainly wasn’t what those who used a top 4 pick on him were expecting. Things go from bad to worse for Forte though, as Pittsburgh’s defense will be a stiff test for the second year RB as well as the entire Chicago offense. The Chicago offense revolves around Forte, that much is certain. They will create ways to get him the ball, so benching him—even against one of the toughest defenses in the league—is out of the question.

When players such as Forte struggle on the ground, we normally look for production via the passing game. But his goose egg in the reception column last week had to be a tough pill to swallow. If grinding it out on the ground proves a futile effort, I think the Bears force-feed him the ball through the air. He has to be the centerpiece of this offense, and as such, is a valuable member of your fantasy team.

Jay Cutler – 190 yards / 1 TD / 1 INT
Matt Forte – 65 yards rushing / 1 TD / 30 yards rec
Earl Bennett – 70 yards rec
Devin Hester – 35 yards rec
Greg Olsen – 50 yards rec / 1 TD

Prediction:: Pittsburgh 17, Chicago 14

Raiders @ Chiefs (Eakin)

JaMarcus Russell/Louis Murphy/Darrius Heyward-Bey/Zach Miller
Darren McFadden/Michael Bush (vs. KC)

Passing Game Thoughts: Inconsistency plagues the Raiders passing attack. QB JaMarcus “Nuke” Russell can wow you at times with his physical tools. I hear people talking about Jay Cutler’s and Matt Stafford’s arm strength but neither of them has anything on Russell. Just when I think I’ve underestimated him, he misses a wide-open receiver by ten yards on an out route. I can hear the immortal Bob Ueker… “juuusst a bit outside” ringing in my ears. Russell was 12 for 30 for 208 yds in the opener. He will not get the Raiders above mediocrity until he can raise his completion percentage. The Raiders got a promising performance from rookie Louis Murphy in the opener. His night should have been better if it weren’t for a questionable replay overturn of a TD catch that changed the tide of the game. Murphy could be a fringe WR3 starter this week against a defense that just surrendered a career high to Joe Flacco. Continue to ignore top pick Darrius Heyward-Bey until he registers a stat line. Chaz Schilens remains out but it looks as though Javon Walker will be activated and returning punts. Hard to say how much he plays at WR but safe to say he’s irrelevant for now. Zach Miller is the one constant with 96 yards in week one. Miller should produce another similar result as Todd Heap showed last week that TEs could be a factor against the overhauled Chief defense.

Speaking of overhaul, the release of safety Bernard Pollard was a little bit of a shocker around the league but former Bears stud SS Mike Brown erased any doubts last week by leading the team with 12 tackles. Brown was a key member on defense during the Bears Super Bowl run. He will be a great IDP DB that may be flying under the radar in your leagues. The Chiefs have a susceptible pass defense for Russell to exploit if he can hit his targets. Starting CB Brandon Flowers is expected to return after missing last week. He should be a welcome relief as his backup, Maurice Leggette, was severely picked on by Flacco and Co. last week. Kansas City needs more pass rush moving forward and it was a good sign that former DE Tamba Hali was able to get some pressure and record a sack from his new OLB position despite going against a formidable Raven O-line. I don’t see Hali being able cover McFadden in pass routes.

Running Game Thoughts: Darren McFadden and Michael Bush make a great thunder and lightning combo if you can forgive the overused metaphor. Both made quick decisions and finished their runs with good forward lean. The Raiders offensive lines were able to impose their will on the Charger front and the Chiefs are not as good. They surrendered the most RB FPTs last week. The Raiders will run and run often. McFadden has a chance for a great day and should be a top RB this week. Bush’s role is not as secure with the return of Justin Fargas. It remains to be seen how much Fargas will play but his touches will limit Bush more than McFadden. Treat Bush as a risky flex option despite the good matchup until we see how the carries shake out.

To defend the run safety Mike Brown will move up to the line for a 8-man front. He and LB DeMorrio Williams will make many tackles but it will likely be four yards past the line of scrimmage. It’s interesting to note that the Chiefs most talented LB Derrick Johnson is currently not starting and is listed as a third string MLB despite being a OLB his entire career. Former Patriots veteran Mike Vrabel and converted DE Tamba Hali are staring at OLB in the new 3-4 scheme. They need Johnson on the field. He intercepted a pass and returned it 70 yds in limited action Sunday.

JaMarcus Russell: 195 yds/1 TD/1 INT
Louis Murphy: 65 yds
Zach Miller: 90 yds/1 TD
Darrius Heyward-Bey: 25 yds
Darren McFadden: 90 yds/35 yds rec/1 TD
Michael Bush: 40 yds/1 TD

Matt Cassel/Dwayne Bowe/Mark Bradley/Sean Ryan
Larry Johnson/Jamaal Charles (vs. OAK)

Passing Game Thoughts: It appears Matt Cassel is ready to make his Chiefs debut. One of his strengths however is his ability to make plays on the move so he may be less effective if his knee affects his mobility. His best target, WR Dwayne Bowe, will have a tough matchup against CB Nnamdi Asomugha. Cassel may have trouble getting the ball downfield. He needs WR Mark Bradley and third down RB Jamaal Charles to have big games. Bradley had a strong Sunday with four catches for 73 yds. Bradley needs to keep it up with newly signed Bobby Wade signed and vying for his job. The Chiefs were praised for staying with the Ravens for three quarters but two scores were setup by a blocked punt and interception. Keep in mind their offense was anemic and Croyle was sacked three times. Look for the Chiefs to exploit the Raider LBs poor discipline against the short middle routes. They get too deep. Jamaal Charles could have a big day slipping out of the backfield on underneath routes in a similar fashion to Sproles last week.

The last minute surprise addition of Richard Seymour was a dramatic spark for the Silver and Black. He was all over the field and will wreak havoc on a weak Chief offensive line creating penetration and collapsing Cassel’s pocket. Paired with Greg Ellis and Gerard Warren Cassel will need his mobility to buy time in the pocket or roll out. The Raiders are most vulnerable in the middle of the field with unproven safeties but the Chiefs no longer have a Tony Gonzales at TE to exploit it.

Running Game Thoughts: This will be a good measuring stick for the viability of Larry Johnson as a fantasy back moving forward. No one expected him to find success against the Raven run stuffing D. The Raiders seemed to keep LaDainian Tomlinson in check but he did gain 46 yds on only ten carries. Johnson will look to improve his current two yds per carry average. His success will depend on his offensive line.

The Oakland defensive front won the physical battle against the Chargers offensive line. I think they can duplicate it against KC. Richard Seymour is a dominant force and is playing for a payday since he will be a free agent come 2010. More importantly, his experience may be just the leadership the Oakland defense is lacking. LBs Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard will fill the lanes to clean up after Seymour and co. redirect the point of attack.

Matt Cassel: 235 yds/1 TD
Dwayne Bowe: 70 yds
Mark Bradley: 80 yds/1 TD
Bobby Engram: 40 yds
Larry Johnson: 70 yds rushing/20 yds rec/1 TD
Jamaal Charles: 30 yds/40 yds rec

Prediction:: Raiders 21 Chiefs 17

Seahawks @ 49ers (Eakin)

Matt Hasselbeck/T.J. Houshmandzadeh/Nate Burleson/John Carlson
Julius Jones (vs. SF)

Passing Game Thoughts: The key here for Matt Hasselbeck will be taking care of the football. He can get away with two INTs against the overmatched Rams but in a potential grinder versus the Niner’s, possessions will be more limited and crucial. The Matchup between TE John Carlson and MLB Patrick Willis will be telling. Carlson is a big target and will be leaned on to keep drives alive. WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh will catch his 6-8 balls but I don’t like his chances to put up big numbers against a physical corner like Nate Clements. Too much speed there to find many openings. If the Seahawks are to get big chunks with the pass, they have a better chance with Nate Burleson vs. Shawntae Spencer. Both WR is extremely fast and both may struggle if Hasselbeck doesn’t have enough time in the pocket for their routes to develop.

The Niner’s pass rush is more talented than St. Louis’ and they will look to take more advantage of the missing Seattle LT Walter Jones and C Chris Spencer. DE Ray McDonald and OLB Parys Haralson both create pressure off the edge and will be speed problems for the Seahawk line. They need Manny Lawson to step up for their D to reach the next level though. New S Dashon Goldson is a coverage minded safety and will be heavily involved in keeping the Seahawks form big strikes.

Running Game Thoughts: Julius Jones turned his opener around by hitting a seam for 62 yds and pay dirt. Before that, the Rams had held him in check. That’s the strength of Jones. He has speed when in open space and is capable of hitting big plays. His limitation is that he’s not a grinder. After the game was in hand, Edgerrin James was called in to grind out the clock in the 4th quarter in the same stat-limiting role Marion Barber used to play in Dallas. Jones will benefit from the pass threat of Hasselbeck but I still think the league’s best MLB Patrick Willis, with apologies to DeMeco Ryans, will keep him from hitting the homerun. Treat Jones as a borderline RB2 for week two despite an improved rushing offense overall for Seattle.

Matt Hasselbeck: 250 yds/2 TDs/1 INT
T.J. Houshmandzadeh: 60 yds
Nate Burleson: 65 yds/1 TD
John Carlson: 70 yds/1 TD
Julius Jones: 75 yds rushing/20 yds rec
Edgerrin James: 20 yds/1 TD

Shaun Hill/Isaac Bruce/Josh Morgan/Vernon Davis/
Frank Gore (vs. SEA)

Passing Game Thoughts: With an impressive win over Arizona QB Shaun Hill is now 8-3 as a starter. He fits their system as a conservative manager that isn’t careless with the ball. That said he is not going to carry your team a trophy anytime soon. It appears veteran Isaac Bruce is may squeeze out one more year as the top WR in the offense. Josh Morgan is not there yet despite the preseason love coming in. As expected, it looks like TE Vernon Davis will be a bigger factor. His five catches is a good sign of things to come. He is needed this week to take advantage of the banged up Seattle LBs.

Seattle lost starting LB Leroy Hill to a potentially long-term groin tear and Lofa Tatupu is nursing a hamstring but expected to go. Will Herring is a solid replacement for Hill though and they may not lose too much other than depth. The hawks did a good job of getting pressure on Bulger and limiting their questionable secondary to exposure. They will duplicate that again but could be vulnerable if Hill gets outside the pocket to buy time and make big conversions.

Running Game Thoughts: Frank Gore was unable to find room to roam against the Cardinal front. Not good for a team that is built around a power running game. RT Adam Snyder needs to improve his play with a difficult assignment in DE Cory Redding. Redding is a disruptive force. Gore may find better holes on the left side. I think they will continue to struggle against better fronts until they can get a little more diverse in play calling and at least threaten to stretch the field with Morgan.

Shaun Hill: 220 yds/1 TDs/1 INT
Isaac Bruce: 70 yds
Josh Morgan: 60 yds/1 TD
Vernon Davis: 45 yds
Frank Gore: 65 yds rushing/20 yds rec/1 TD
Prediction:: Seattle 21 San Francisco 20

Browns @ Broncos (Eakin)

Brady Quinn/Braylon Edwards/Mike Furrey/Robert Royal
Jamaal Lewis (vs. DEN)

Passing Game Thoughts: Maybe Brady Quinn is a better game manager than Derek Anderson is but he is not as lucrative in our fantasy world. He has yet to show the capability of taking shots downfield. This does not play to Braylon Edwards’s strength. In order for Edwards to succeed, he is going to have to become very efficient in the redzone as his big play ability is severely hampered with Quinn. The benefactors of Quinn’s dump down mentality will be TE Robert Royal and possession WR Mike Furrey. Both should rack up catches but little yardage.

The Bronco defense seems to match-up well with Cleveland’s offense. They can put CB Champ Bailey on an island to control Edwards and free up LBs and safeties to blitz and confuse Quinn. The Denver LBs speed versus the solid young offensive line of the Browns is the determining factor in who wins.

Running Game Thoughts: Jamaal Lewis didn’t post big stats against Minnesota but his 5.2 yard average seems impressive. The Browns need to impose their size on the smallish Denver front in order to win. This should be a great size versus speed battle. I like Lewis to get many carries and post a solid stat line but in a losing effort. It’s worth noting that Lewis is listed as questionable along with his backup James Davis. Keep an eye on them this week to make sure they see action.

The lack of a big play threat will allow S Brian Dawkins to squeeze the line of scrimmage. He’s an excellent playmaker and will be a difference maker. He’s the type of physical presence that can thwart the run success of Cleveland.

Brady Quinn: 180 yds/1 INT
Braylon Edwards: 60 yds
Mike Furrey: 55 yds
Robert Royal: 40 yds
Jamaal Lewis: 90 yds rushing/2 TDs

Kyle Orton/Brandon Marshall/Eddie Royal/
Knowshon Moreno/Correll Buckhalter (vs. CLE)

Passing Game Thoughts: Denver should be able to build a solid passing attack under the coaching of Josh McDaniels but they are not there yet. They will continue to improve but their ceiling is lower with QB Kyle Orton. Orton is capable QB but not dynamic in the mold of Tom Brady or Jay Cutler. I’m not sure the combo of Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal can become the Moss and Welker of the West or even the Marshall and Royal of 2008. They will catch plenty of passes but need to create yards after the catch in order to reach their previous levels. Either way, Denver must find away to get them going coming off a miserable performance against the Bengals.

CB Brandon McDonald remembers all too missing a tackle allowing a 93 yard TD pass to Brandon Marshall last season. He and fellow CB Eric Wright both had poor showings last year and look to make amends. The Browns do not have a dominant pass rush in year past but did register three sacks on Favre despite the limited chances. They need to be strong in coverage and tackling to prevent another poor showing. They have yet to be tested since Minnesota barely needed the forward pass to beat them in the opener.

Running Game Thoughts: Correll Buckhalter and Knowshon Moreno are expected to split carries. They need to get outside to find success with giant nose tackle Shaun Rogers clogging up the middle. I like Moreno to have the bigger game since he has the better speed and agility. That said younger RBs tend to struggle more against the 3-4 defenses, which Cleveland incorporates.

MLB D’Qwell Jackson is a tackling machine but needs his OLBs to keep containment when Denver tries to get outside. Safety Abram Elam will not be able to help on runs as much as in Minnesota with the threat of Marshall and Royal on the outside. They should be out to prove they are better than their “posterizing” they got from Adrian Peterson last week.

Kyle Orton: 220 yds/1 TD
Brandon Marshall: 70 yds/1 TD
Eddie Royal: 60 yds
Knowshon Moreno: 60 yds rushing/35 yds rec
Correll Buckhalter: 40 yds/1 TD

Prediction:: Denver 23 Cleveland 14

Ravens @ Chargers (Eakin)

Joe Flacco/Derrick Mason/Mark Clayton/Todd Heap
Ray Rice/Willis McGahee (vs. SD)

Passing Game Thoughts: Flacco went wacko on the Chiefs last week throwing for 307 yards and 3 TDs. I think he mirrors Ben Roethlisberger a little bit. Both are big, have strong arms, have quick feet for their size, and both came into great situations with great defense and running games. It looks like Flacco will also keep getting a greater amount of passing opportunity. I like his match-up here. If the Raiders can have some success through the air on the Chargers than certainly Flacco can with a much better receiving core at his disposal.

Sand Diego could not generate much disruption against the Raider line. Shawn Merriman is not the explosive player of old. We'll see if as the season progresses, he can get back to form. For now, the Chargers are suffering in the trenches. They were less physical than the Raiders and Baltimore has a very good young line that may duplicate the effort. TE Todd Heap could have another good game given the Chargers struggle to control TEs. Antonio Cromartie likes to gamble and get picks but can be beaten when over aggressive. Look for WR Mark Clayton to get behind the defense for a big play or two.

Running Game Thoughts: Between the 20’s, this is a Ray Rice offense. He will get the yards and catches in bunches. Once in scoring position it Willis McGahee gets the nod. He vultures two scores from an otherwise nice day by Rice. As a result, Rice makes for a much better PPR starting back then standard scoring leagues. Both will continue the pattern this week as the Ravens should be able to have some room to run against the no longer dominant run defense of the Chargers. The Ravens need to establish the run early to open the passing routes or they could struggle to score.

The ability of NT Jamaal Williams to tie up blockers creates a lot of freedom for MLB Stephen Cooper. He is a good tackler and excellent IDP option. He needs some help from his fellow LBs to help slow the Raven rush. Safety Eric Weddle is unbelievable. He is always around the ball and a real bright spot for an aging defense. It’s never a good sign when your safety racks up so many tackles because it means the D-Line isn’t.

Joe Flacco: 225 yds/1 TD/1 INT
Mark Clayton: 60 yds
Derrick Mason: 70 yds
Todd Heap: 60 yds/1 TD
Ray Rice: 65 yds/30 rec
Willis McGahee: 35 yds/1 TD

Phillip Rivers/Vincent Jackson/Chris Chambers/Antonio Gates
Darren Sproles/LaDainian Tomlinson (vs. BAL)

Passing Game Thoughts: Phillip Rivers needs a big game here. He got off to a slow start against the Raiders but showed his savvy in the late 4th quarter drive for a game winning score. With a formidable run defense the Chargers are going to need to move the ball in the air. The loss of C Nick Hardwick is big. The Ravens are terrific in the middle with Kelly Gregg and Haloti Ngata and may struggle to keep them at bay. They may have to double them, which will free up Ray Lewis to roam and make plays. The Chargers will need to shorten up their routes. Quick hits to Sproles in space on the edges and a lot of looks to Gates may be in order. Gates will have a tough matchup with safety Ed Reed, both elite players at their position. Chris Chambers was nowhere to be found last week. Legedu Naanee outshined him. Naanee had two crucial tough catches in the final minutes to aid the Chargers comeback. Keep an eye on that position battle to see if Chambers continues to be outplayed.

Running Game Thoughts: I think L.T. plays despite his tweaked ankle. I don’t like his chances of having a good game. Aside from him not being at 100 percent, his offensive line is banged up and the Ravens are good at shutting down the running game. Part of Tomlinson’s lack of fantasy greatness is Sproles’ role as the third down man. In his heyday, Tomlinson was extremely versatile and accrued a lot of points off receptions. If he continues as a two down back, his ceiling is limited regardless of his skill.

Phillip Rivers: 270 yds/2 TDs/1 INT
Vincent Jackson: 80 yds
Chris Chambers: 40 yds
Antonio Gates: 50 yds/1 TD
Darren Sproles: 30 yds/40 yds rec
LaDainian Tomlinson: 40 yds/20 rec/1 TD

Prediction:: Ravens 23 Chargers 20

Buccaneers @ Bills (Marcoccio)

Byron Leftwhich/Antonio Bryant/Michael Clayton/Kellen Winslow, Jr.
Cadillac Williams/Derek Ward (vs. BUF)

Passing Game Thoughts: Michael Clayton woke from the dead to become this week’s hot waiver wire pickup. Clayton who had the third best fantasy season for a rookie WR in the last 15 years grabbed 5 balls for 93 yards in Week 1. The talent is there and the situation just may be conducive to him maintaining some value this season. The Tampa Bay passing game wasn’t as ineffective as many pundits guessed as Byron Leftwich threw for 276 yards and a TD to TE Kellen Winslow, Jr. Antonio Bryant dealt with a banged up knee for most of the preseason and was manly ineffective in Week 1 and remains a question mark for Week 2.

Buffalo’s passing defense was ranked 13th in yardage allowed last season (204.4) and only gave up 14 TDs through the air. In Week 1 they allowed Tom Brady to throw for 378 yards and two TD’s, but before Brady’s late game magic they were effective in keeping the Patriots from going downfield. CB Leodis McKelvin was effective as a rookie, and if it wasn’t for a bonehead mistake in deciding to run the last Pats kickoff out of the endzone, and fight for extra yardage before fumbling he may have been a hero instead of the goat. DE Aaron Schoebel got to Brady in the late stages of the game, but the Buffalo pass rush was mostly ineffective. The Bills will need to apply some pressure so they can get to Leftwhich and his notoriously slow delivery.

Running Game Thoughts: The story of the year in the NFL could be the return of Cadillac Williams from his myriad of injuries some of which were considered to be potentially career ending. He showed tremendous burst and speed for a back with his history. He combined with fellow backfield mate and free agent acquisition Derrick Ward to form a formidable running game – they accrued a combined 159 yards and two TDs on the ground.

The Bills were ranked 22nd against the run last season. LB Paul Posluszny was once again lost for the season, the second time during his three year career, and that certainly cannot help an already poor unit. The Patriots were effective running the ball against the Bills but used their aerial attack more keeping the final rushing stats to a minimum.

Byron Leftwhich: 235 yds passing 1 TD
Antonio Bryant: 25 yds receiving
Michael Clayton: 60 yds receiving, 1 TD
Kellen Winslow: 85 yds receiving
Cadillac Williams: 75 yds rushing
Derrick Ward: 55 yds rushing, 1 TD / 35 yds receiving

Trent Edwards/Lee Evans/Terrell Owens/Shawn Nelson
Fred Jackson (vs. NE)

Passing Game Thoughts: Trent Edwards (212 yds, 2 TDs) looked effective running the no-huddle offense, but must learn to trust his arm and his WRs enough to start throwing the ball downfield to his two talented WRs or this offense will struggle. He dinked and dunked his way down field and is a smart (He did go to Stanford afterall) and accurate QB. The much maligned (by me last week) Bills o-line did an adequate job, although Edwards was sacked 4 times.

The Tamp Bay Buccaneers were one of the most feared defenses for years, but age caught up with them and they are trying to start over. Last season they were the 4th ranked pass defense from a yardage perspective (187.3 ypg), but that stat is a little deceiving since their 23 passing TDs allowed were amongst the league’s worst. Tony Romo had a filed day last week against this declining unit as he tossed 3 TDs that exceed 40 yards in length.

Running Game Thoughts: Fred Jackson was the best offensive player on the field for the Bills last week. He gained 57 yards on the ground and 83 yards and a TD receiving the ball. He runs with great determination, and his vision is outstanding. He wasn’t given many holes but he found the ones that were there and got through them quickly. He is startable for fantasy owners at least until Marshawn Lynch comes back in Week 4, and after that he may still be worth a spot start or two based on his usage in the passing game.

The Buccaneers ranked 19th in rushing yards allowed last season (118.8 ypg) but like their passing stats this one is relatively incongruous with their real value as they only allowed 8 rushing TDs on the season. Marion the Barbarian found the endzone last week against TB, but the boys were too busy lighting up the air to really concentrate on running the ball.

Trent Edwards: 225 yds passing, 2 TDs, 1 Int. / 10 yards rushing
Lee Evans: 80 yds receiving
Terrell Owens: 45 yds receiving, 1 TD
Shawn Nelson: 15 yds receiving, 1 TD
Fred Jackson: 85 yds rushing / 55 yds receiving

Prediction: Bills 20 Buccaneers 17