By Mike Cannici
TEN @ NYG
This matchup will be interesting after both teams were badly beaten last week; the Giants trounced in Indianapolis and the Titans home loss to the Steelers. Vince Young was benched in the second half of that game, with Kerry Collins coming on in relief and not fairing any better than Young. I’d look for both teams to bounce back and play better this week. Chris Johnson and Nate Washington are the only real fantasy starters for Tennessee. If Young can stay calm, he can play well. His speed can create plays on the ground, allowing the passing game to open up.
On the Giants side, Eli Manning didn’t make a lot of mistakes Sunday; he just couldn’t get into a rhythm with his receivers. Expect a bounce back game from him as well. The Titans rank first in pass defense, but have faced the likes of Jason Campbell and Dennis Dixon. Ahmad Bradshaw should have a good week this week and is a solid flex play, as well as Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks. Mario Manningham has looked good so far this season with 8 catches for 160 yards and a TD. He also makes for a nice flex play this week at home. TE Kevin Boss is likely to return but I don’t expect him to make a big fantasy impact. I don’t see RB Brandon Jacobs making much of an impact either as long as his head isn’t in the game.
SF @ KC
Who would have expected that this matchup would feature a winless 49ers team vs. the undefeated Chiefs? The Niners have faced Seattle, who they were favored to beat, and played well against the defending champion Saints. The Chiefs upset the Chargers at home in week 1 and barely squeaked by the Browns on the road. The 49ers showed their potential last week with QB Alex Smith playing possibly his best game as a pro. He made quick decisions, got the ball to his open receivers and used his legs late in the game to pick up important first downs. Smith is a decent option to start against KC. Frank Gore and Vernon Davis are obvious must-starts and even Josh Morgan is worth a look this week. Certainly Michael Crabtree has been non-existent so far but I expect him to make a big splash against the Chiefs secondary. He has been facing double coverage a lot which is a major factor in his low target rate, but feel confident in starting him this week.
Matt Cassell has struggled mightily thus far and is not an option this week. Jamaal Charles is a solid RB2 this week especially in PPR leagues. Charles will struggle in the running game but Cassell will check down to him often out of the backfield, similar to what Pierre Thomas did last week vs. this 49er defense. Thomas Jones should not be started this week. Dwayne Bowe is only a decent WR3 as the 49ers can be passed on, but Cassell’s inability to find him recently makes Bowe an iffy play. Rookie TE Tony Moeaki could possibly have the best day of the receiving corp, especially in the red zone.
HOU @ DAL
A must win game for 0-2 Dallas, this matchup has fantasy juggernauts throughout both lineups. Tony Romo is in line for a big day, as Houston’s pass defense has allowed an average of 411 YPG so far and Romo could end up being the top QB in week 3. Miles Austin and Dez Bryant are great starts as Austin has 26 targets and 20 catches so far. Heck, even veteran Roy Williams could have decent stats this week. Dallas’ run game won’t find many holes, although Marion Barber could find the end zone once or twice this week and is a fine flex play. The inconsistent Felix Jones should be kept on the bench for this matchup. Jason Witten is fine after his concussion scare last week against the Bears and is a must start as well. Backup TE Martellus Bennett is a sneaky play too after having 7 catches for 45 yards in relief of Witten.
The Texans escaped by the skin of their teeth last week against the Redskins with a FG by Neil Rackers in OT. They trailed 27-10 at one point and marched back in the second half to win 30-27. Matt Schaub is a must start this week along with the entire receiving corp of Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones who all had huge games against Washington. Look for TE Owen Daniels to get back into the mix as well and put up 4-5 catches for 60 yards. Arian Foster has ran for 300 yards and 4 TDs in 2010 but is a weak RB2 against a very good Cowboy run defense. You obviously cannot bench Foster, but his stats will be more in line with a flex option, as opposed to a RB2.
BUF @ NE
This matchup has “over by halftime” written all over it. The Bills have benched Trent Edwards in favor of former Harvard QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. The change to Fitzpatrick may have a Bruce Gradkowski type feel and the team could actually step up and put on a decent performance. I still believe the game will be a blowout, but Fitzpatrick should make Lee Evans a viable fantasy option, at least for this week. Marshawn Lynch, according to Coach Chan Gailey, will receive the bulk of the carries this week as they slowly work rookie CJ Spiller into the mix. Spiller should currently be on all benches as Lynch and Fred Jackson look to shoulder most of the load out of the backfield. Jackson will have some production in the receiving game, but Lynch will receive any goal line carries along with I’d say a 70-30 split with Jackson running the ball. Lee Evans and Lynch could surprise and put up pretty good flex numbers, so if you’re feeling like taking a gamble, start these guys. It may pay off.
Tom Brady will look to rebound this week at home against the Bills and is in store for a big day. I have him ranked as my 7th QB this week, only because the game may be over by halftime, allowing New England to run the ball for most of the second half. Brady should post solid numbers early on, finishing with about 220 yards and 3TDs. Fred Taylor would be a solid flex play this week if only we knew Belichick would stick with him after a poor run. Randy Moss and Wes Welker are obvious starters, along with Rookie TE Aaron Hernandez who is coming of a 6-101 performance at the Jets.
CLE @ BAL
Both these teams are coming off of tough losses; the Browns losing at home to Kansas City 16-14 and the Ravens losing on the road 15-10 to the Bengals. The Ravens will rebound in a big way this week after Joe Flacco was brutal, throwing 4 interceptions, against the Bengals defense. Flacco is a good start this week as he is my #13 QB. Ray Rice is also in for a big day and Willis McGahee could get into the end zone. Anquan Boldin also looks to rebound along with Derrick Mason. T.J. Houshmanzadeh still doesn’t appear to have a firm grasp on the offense and isn’t a starter until further notice. TE Todd Heap appears healthy and isn’t a bad option at TE in leagues where you can start two.
The Browns woes will continue this week. The good news is that Jake Delhomme will not play and Seneca Wallace will be under center. Wallace is no superstar, but his mobility and arm gives Cleveland a better chance to win. Wallace can’t be trusted against the Ravens but does have some matchup value going forward if he can keep the job after Jake returns. Jerome Harrison missed his 3rd consecutive practice Friday and is doubtful Sunday. That means Peyton Hillis will shoulder the load with second year man James Davis getting involved as well. Hillis is a decent Flex play this week as he may be able to get into the end zone. James Davis is the wild card here; he’s a guy they were very high on last year before he landed on the IR. WR Mohammed Massaquoi is a below average WR3 this week and should be left on the bench unless your receiving corp consists of third and fourth string receivers.
DET @ MIN
Two more teams coming off tough losses at home and looking to rebound. Brett Favre was limited in practice Thursday with some ankle soreness, but like every other week in his career, he will be out their starting Sunday and should finally put up solid numbers. Favre is a quality start this week, as is Adrian Peterson, who should have a field day on the ground and is a must start. In the receiving corp, Percy Harvin is the only receiver worth starting, as you know Favre will be looking his way often. Favre must have been bothered by the news Wednesday that he wouldn’t have Vincent Jackson as a new weapon to replace Sidney Rice. This matchup should be easy enough that it won’t matter. Greg Camarillo and Bernard Berrian just haven’t shown any consistency yet and should remain either on your bench or on the waiver wire. TE Visanthe Shiancoe is the other must start on this offense as he should get 60-70 yards and a score.
Detroit will still be without QB Matthew Stafford, but for fantasy purposes, Shaun Hill was solid last week posting 335yards and 2 TDs. The Vikings defense is much better than Philly’s but he should still be able to throw for around 250 and a score. Jahvid Best is a mediocre option at your flex spot except in PPR leagues where he could prove to be a quality low-end RB2. Calvin Johnson is a very good play this week, along with Brandon Pettigrew who Shaun Hill seemed to have taken a liking to last week.
ATL @ NO
The Falcons are coming off a blowout victory over the Cardinals last weekend, while the Saints had to put together a game winning drive with 1:19 to go in San Francisco. Both of their games were close last year, with New Orleans sweeping the season series. Falcon QB Matt Ryan only played in the first meeting last year in New Orleans and turned the ball over 3 times. Ryan has never played as well on the road as he does at home and I expect that to continue this week. If you own Ryan, bench him. Michael Turner has participated in practice the last few days and is fully expected to carry the load Sunday. Turner should be able to run on this Saints defense just as Frank Gore did last week. Turner is a fine RB1. Roddy White, who leads the NFL in targets through the first two weeks with 35(9 more than second place Miles Austin) is an obvious start and great WR1. White is poised to take that next step into the elite class of Moss/Fitzgerald/AJ this year. Tony Gonzalez was non-existent last week but he should bounce back and put up 55-65 yards and a TD. On the defensive side of the ball, I’d look for Falcon LB Curtis Lofton to rebound from last week’s three tackle performance and have a big game.
Drew Brees was very good last week and, unfortunately for 49er fans, was left with 1:19 on the clock. Brees will post his usual 250-280 yard game with a few TDs. Now with Reggie Bush out for 4-6 weeks, Pierre Thomas will be asked to shoulder the load and has low end RB1 potential. Look for PT to have a huge game between the tackles and catching the ball out of the backfield. Start him. Drew Brees has a ton of receivers to get the ball to, which is great for him, but isn’t good for fantasy owners. Marques Colston is the only guy you can count on week in and week out to provide solid stats. Devery Henderson, Lance Moore and Robert Meachem all have the potential to have monster games certainly, but you never know which one it will be. All three should be on benches right now until someone emerges. Jeremy Shockey isn’t a good start as his targets are inconsistent as well.
PIT @ TB
Surprisingly enough, this is a battle of two undefeated teams. At 2-0, the Steelers will have veteran journeyman Charlie Batch start at QB for the first time since 2007. It remains to be seen how much value his receivers will lose, but it may not be as significant as many think. Charlie Batch is definitely not someone who should be owned, let alone started, but Hines Ward and Heath Miller still have some value. Mike Wallace, a deep threat, takes the biggest hit with Batch in the lineup. Keep Ward and Miller in your lineup, but keep Wallace on your bench. RB Rashard Mendenhall is a solid RB2 this week and could find the end zone multiple times.
Second year QB Josh Freeman has now won his last four starts. He has shown much improvement over that stretch and he can be an every-week starting fantasy QB in the near future. This week the four game win streak will end. The Steeler defense has been dominant thus far and Freeman is going to have trouble getting anything going. Cadillac Williams is probable this week, but should be on the bench if your roster allows it. Mike Williams should probably break loose for a few catches but nothing of significance and should be on benches this week as well. TE Kellen Winslow is probably the safest best, barring an in-game injury and could be Freeman’s check down guy.
CIN @ CAR
The Bengals are coming off a big home win over Baltimore and has now won seven straight within their division. Carson Palmer is a great QB play this week against the 19th ranked pass defense. Look for Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens to stretch the field and each finish with around 70-80 yards and a score. Slot receiver Jordan Shipley could also chip in with a few catches but isn’t getting enough looks to be counted on. TE Jermaine Gresham is coming off a subpar game last week after having a big first week. Gresham is a borderline starter this week, but Palmer will look his way in the red zone. The Panthers rank 14th against the run and that means Cedric Benson should also put up solid RB2 stats. Bottom line here is, if you own a Bengal, start him.
The Panthers made a QB change this week—rookie Jimmy Clausen will get the nod at home. He came on in relief of Matt Moore last week during the home opening loss to Tampa Bay, and finished 7-13 for 59 yards and an INT. The Panthers will try and get back to the run this week to take some pressure off of the young QB and DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart should both see a good amount of touches. Williams is a great RB2 and Stewart a good flex as he was more involved last week and even had some goal line carries. Unfortunately Clausen doesn’t have a great receiving corp but he does have Steve Smith. Rookie Brandon LaFell is expected to play after missing last week’s game with a hamstring injury. LaFell has a lot of talent and could make some noise this week if the hammy doesn’t limit him. Smith and the RBs are the only guys worthy of a start however until we see something out of these rookies on a consistent basis.