By: Kevin Lewis
Chicago Bears @ Green Bay Packers
Jay Cutler had 333 yards and 2 touchdowns last week against the Colts. The Green Bay secondary looks like they still haven’t figured out how to stop any halfway decent passing attack. With Brandon Marshall back in the fold, I expect Cutler to go for over 300 again, with a couple of touchdowns. Start him in all formats.
Brandon Marshall, in his first game back with Jay Cutler, played like he never left him. Marshall was the most targeted WR in football for the two years he played with Cutler for the Denver Broncos. That trend seemed to continue as Cutler targeted Marshall 15 times and he caught 9 passes for 119 yards. Marshall, much like his QB, should have a huge game against a beleaguered Packers secondary. I expect 6+ catches, 80+ yards and a touchdown. Start him in all formats confidently.
While the 49ers running game is a different animal, Frank Gore did average 7 yards per carry on Sunday. Matt Forte had a solid game against Indianapolis as he touched the ball 18 times for 120 yards (15 carries for 80 yards and 3 carries for 40 yards). Michael Bush had 12 carries for 42 yards but scored two touchdowns. Forte is a viable play in any league format, while Michael Bush may be a decent flex play in deeper leagues.
Randall Cobb had nine catches for 77 yards and a punt return for a touchdown. The Packers are employing him in a similar fashion to the Vikings with Percy Harvin. Cobb was essentially the Packers third down back last week, and with Greg Jennings probably out he should see more touches. I’d start Cobb as a flex this week with confidence in PPR leagues and probably sit him for now in standard leagues unless return yardage is counted.
Cedric Benson had a snoozer in the game against the 49ers as he had 9 carries for 18 yards. I think Benson will have some kind of value this year even with that. The 49ers are the best defense in football for a reason and the Packers were behind for the entire game. That said, the Bears are no cupcakes either, and I wouldn’t start Benson this week unless you’re absolutely desperate which shouldn’t be the case in Week 2.
With Jennings likely out, the onus of the Packers passing offense in the WR corps is now on Jordy Nelson. He had 5 catches for 67 yards last week, and I don’t see any reason why Nelson won’t do at least that this week. Yes the Bears defense is really good, but Aaron Rodgers is the best QB in the sport, and Nelson will be targeted early and often. I’d expect a cool 6 catches and 90 yards or so.
New York Jets @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Despite the fact that Mark Sanchez looked really good in the win over the Buffalo Bills last week, I’d hesitate having him as anything more than a QB2 this week. The Pittsburgh Steelers defense, headlined by Dick Lebeau, is a different animal. They are going to be angry after the undressing by Peyton Manning last week, and the Jets won’t have much of a running game to take pressure off Sanchez. I’d keep Sanchez on my bench and keep him in mind when the matchups become more favorable.
Even with a lack of confidence in Sanchez putting together a good fantasy line against the Steelers, I have confidence in Santonio Holmes this week. I find it hard to believe that Stephen Hill will have the success that he did last week, and Dustin Keller seems to be more of a decoy than anything. Jeremy Kerley is also battling a bad back. But besides that Holmes can just flat out get open. He was open several times last week, and nearly had two touchdown catches. I expect him to have a nice game in his old stomping grounds. I think he’ll have something to the tune of 5 catches for 75 and a touchdown. If you’re looking for a guy to start and have Santonio Holmes, start him with confidence. I’d stay away from every other Jet however.
Last week the Steelers played it close to the vest and ran the ball quite a bit despite the fact that it wasn’t bringing them good returns. It was a bit odd, but I expect the Steelers to open it up going forward, starting this week.
Despite the fact that I think the Steelers will open it up after realizing they can’t run on the Jets, I’d still be hesitant to start Ben Roethlisberger because the Jets pass defense is still excellent and the Steelers offensive line is still shaky. He may put up #s on sheer volume but I wouldn’t bank on it. If you have a comparable or better option, sit Ben Roethlisberger this week.
With Darrelle Revis’ status up in the air for the game, it’s hard to definitively say anything about the Steelers WRs, but I’ll try my best. Assuming he plays, I think he’ll draw a lot of Antonio Brown. In that case I wouldn’t start him. If he doesn’t play, Brown will probably see a lot of Kyle Wilson and Brown would probably run wild in that instance. I don’t expect much from Mike Wallace as Antonio Cromartie has been very effective against him since joining the Jets, so if you have a better option sit Wallace.
The guy to start for the Steelers is Heath Miler. The Jets have had trouble covering tight ends for as long as I can remember and the Steelers have vowed to involve Miller in the offense more. Miller will be going against guys like Bart Scott, Laron Landry and David Harris. None of those guys are adept in coverage so Miller should have a nice day. 5 catches for 60 yards and a touchdown isn’t out of the realm for him on Sunday.
I’d stay away from any of the Steeler running backs until that situation clears itself up a little bit.
Tennessee Titans @ San Diego Chargers
Philip Rivers had an efficient game last week but didn’t make much of an impact fantasy wise, as the Raiders seemed content with playing a bend but don’t break kind of defense. The Chargers line looks a bit spotty, and Rivers has new weapons to navigate but I’d start him this week. I like Rivers a lot this year mainly because I thought his demise was greatly exaggerated.
Chris Johnson’s week 1 performance did nothing to silence the doubts still remaining about Johnson after his lackluster 2011 campaign. He had 11 carries for a whopping FOUR yards. I don’t know if it’s the blocking, if he’s a misfit in the scheme or what have you but he needs to play better. I’d start him again this week but I’d have a far shorter leash with him this year than last year regardless of the fact that he’s probably your first round pick.
The Titans passing game this week is question marks abound. I think Jake Locker is in for a breakout season but he is already hurt. Kenny Britt is returning from suspension/injury and should be on a pitch count. Kendall Wright is in his second professional game. The only one of the Titans pass catchers I’d start is Jared Cook. He caught 4 passes for 64 yards in the opener and in the most encouraging bit of news is that he played the vast majority of the snaps. I would trot Jared Cook out there with confidence this week.
Given Ryan Mathews plays at 4 ET on Sunday, I’d bench him until he’s no longer in question to play. It might hurt if he plays and produces but an 0-fer is not something you can take.
I wouldn’t start any of the Charger pass catchers outside of Antonio Gates. It’s too muddled with the receivers in San Diego to confidently start any of them.
Tampa Bay @ New York Giants
Not that I expect him to have a huge impact on the game, but stay patient with David Wilson. For one, he’s really talented. For two, Ahmad Bradshaw is always injured.
Buy low on Hakeem Nicks. Between his injury and his quiet week 1, you may be able to get him for a lower price than usual this week. Take advantage. Otherwise, if you have him, feel comfortable starting him in any format. He will get going eventually and it may be this week
Don’t let Victor Cruz’ drops affect your thinking on him. His #s may drop this season based on the sheer fact that last season isn’t replicable but he had 11 drops last year as well. Drops will not affect his production.
The Buccaneers gave Doug Martin 28 carries last week. Greg Schiano likened him to Ray Rice so I can see this trend continuing. Josh Freeman isn’t very good and someone has to move the ball in Tampa. I’d continue to start Martin and feel comfortable with it. The Giants let DeMarco Murray get loose on a few runs. The only problem with Martin is the passing game might not be good enough to get him in position for touchdowns.
I’m not big on Vincent Jackson this year, mainly because Josh Freeman isn’t very good. At the same time, Freeman has to throw the ball to someone. I’d start Jackson this week and hope for the best.
Buffalo @ Kansas City
The Bills secondary looked inept last week in making Mark Sanchez look like Joe Montana. While I don’t think highly of Matt Cassel, I do think there will be opportunities in the passing game for the Chiefs. I think Dexter McCluster is a nice flex play in PPR leagues this year. He started off with 6 catches for 82 yards last week. Buffalo had trouble with Jeremy Kerley last week and I expect much of the same with McCluster.
Though Dwayne Bowe didn’t do much last week, I’d start him this week. Last year he produced with Tyler Palko and Kyle Orton as his QBs for half the year. Buffalo’s secondary isn’t very good, and if their pass rush is as inept as it was last week, there should be plenty of opportunities. Much like McCluster, I’d start Bowe with confidence this week.
You obviously start Jamaal Charles, but I think Peyton Hillis is a borderline start worthy play this week. I’d let him actually prove something before I throw him in as a flex though. Kansas City will run the ball a lot.
With the Bills losing Fred Jackson and David Nelson, I’d keep an eye on Donald Jones. I think he’s a sneaky good play in deeper leagues and a guy to keep an eye on otherwise. Last season, he was open quite a bit but Fitzpatrick couldn’t find him. Now with Nelson out, Jones should see some opportunities. If you’re in need of a flex, trot him out there, especially in PPR leagues. Fitzpatrick doesn’t have a great arm, and the Bills throw a lot of short passes so he should see a lot of opportunities.
Outside of CJ Spiller, there is nobody that is a can’t miss start for Buffalo this week.