Week 1 is in the books, and I didn’t fare so hot in my fantasy leagues. In the three money leagues, I went 0-2-1, amazingly tying one of my opponents 98.42 - 98.42. Think about that. In a league with fraction points designed to not have any ties, my opponent and I got to a place where if ANY of our players got ONE YARD more or less, somebody would have won and somebody would have lost. I can’t be too upset though, as I was playing from behind from the get-go (he had Miles Austin) and needed BenJarvis Green-Ellis and Antonio Gates to have good games on Monday just to even get me to a tie. Fantasy football, you are one confusing she-devil.
Week 2 is coming up, and it’s going to be hard to predict player success and failure based on such a small sample size. Are sleepers like Kevin Ogletree, Randall Cobb and Jeremy Kerley legit? Have once-touted backup RBs like Rashad Jennings, Toby Gerhart and Ben Tate been devalued to strictly handcuff status? Were RG3’s and Matt Ryan’s great games for real? Were Andrew Luck’s and Andy Dalton’s bad games flukes? Does St. Louis have a stifling defense now? Does Philly have an anemic offense now? The longer the season goes on, the more the trends will start to reveal themselves. All we have now is one week of game footage and a whole lot of conjecture, so let’s do our best to figure it all out.
Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers
Comfortables: Jay Cutler, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Forte, Michael Bush, Brandon Marshall, Greg Jennings (if he plays), Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley
Cautions: Cedric Benson, Alshon Jeffery, James Jones, Kellen Davis, Chicago Defense, Green Bay Defense
Casualties: James Starks, Earl Bennett, Donald Driver
Sleeper: Randall Cobb
Anybody who was counting on Aaron Rodgers to single-handedly carry their fantasy team to victory last week (ahem) was sorely disappointed as Rodgers had a “pedestrian” 300 yards passing with “only” two touchdowns and an interception against a stout San Francisco defense. Things get a bit easier this Thursday as the Chicago defense is not quite as stifling as the 49ers. But this is still no walk in the park for the Cheeseheads. I expect the top three targets in this passing offense to get theirs, and Randall Cobb to find himself more and more in the mix (especially if Greg Jennings has to sit out). Cedric Benson was barely a whisper last week, and I expect the same this week. On Chicago’s end, it’s obvious that Michael Bush will vulture some touchdowns if Chicago gets close to the goal line, so I feel comfortable starting both backs. Even though Cutler is airing it out just as much as Rodgers, I still only feel comfortable with Brandon Marshall in my starting lineup out of any Bears pass-catchers. Alshon Jeffery caught a garbage time TD last week in a game that wasn’t close anymore, and Kellen Davis still needs to develop rapport with Cutler. I expect a high-scoring affair, so both defenses should give up a lot of points, but their fantasy days might be salvaged by a couple turnovers here and there.
Prediction: At home with a chip on their shoulder, Green Bay exercises last week’s demons with a win over their division rival.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Buffalo Bills
Comfortables: Jamaal Charles, CJ Spiller, Dwayne Bowe, Stevie Johnson, Buffalo Defense
Cautions: Matt Cassel, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Peyton Hillis, Kevin Boss, Kansas City Defense
Casualties: Tony Moeaki, Scott Chandler
Sleeper: Jonathan Baldwin
Here we have a game between two teams who got embarrassed last week, and are looking to bounce back. It didn’t take long in the season for fantasy’s first major running back to go down, as Fred Jackson left early with an LCL sprain, torpedoing any opportunity for his owners to claim victory (ahem ahem). CJ Spiller performed admirably in his stead, rushing for nearly 170 yards. Jackson’s out for at least three weeks, so Spiller should be in all starting lineups immediately against this Chiefs defense that was torched by Atlanta last week. One running back who actually looked good coming off his knee injury was Jamaal Charles, so he can be started safely. He got the bulk of the touches in this timeshare with Peyton Hillis. Matt Cassel was impressive last week, but I need one more week to see if his performance was a fluke or not. I didn’t expect Ryan Fitzpatrick to be this bad this early. Usually it’s at the start of November when he starts his regression. Regarding the passing options (Bowe and Stevie Johnson), the defenses both got torn up by wide receivers last week, although in Kansas City’s case, it might have had more to do with the Falcons’ receiving talent than their ineptness in the secondary (whereas the Jets may have played better than they were supposed to be because of a bad Bills secondary). Still, I’m giving Stevie the green light along with Bowe. The Big Boss Man got a TD last week, so if you have to start any Chiefs TE (not recommended), Boss would be the way to go.
Prediction: It’s a toss-up to me, so I’m going to go with the team who didn’t look as bad in defeat last week. The Chiefs win.
Cleveland Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Comfortables: Andy Dalton, BenJarvis Green-Ellis, AJ Green, Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati Defense
Cautions: Trent Richardson, Greg Little
Casualties: All other Cleveland players (including Defense), Brandon Tate
Sleeper: Andrew Hawkins
Both of these AFC North teams had a Week 1 they’d like to forget. At least the Browns could say that they kept the great Michael Vick in check, but it won’t take the sour taste out of their mouths for losing to the Eagles on a last-minute drive. The Bungles, on the other hand, got straight-up blown out by the superior Ravens. Like last week, I have no Browns listed as a Comfortable and want no part of that offense (or defense for that matter, at least while Joe Haden is suspended). I expect a bounce-back game for the Bengals, who are at home against an inferior team that they need to beat up on to feel better. If there’s any week to start your Bengals, this is as good as any. Dalton and the Law Firm are safe, as well as AJ Green, who’s an every-week start at this point. Cincinnati’s WR depth situation got a bit clearer, as Andrew Hawkins stepped up to assume the de-facto WR2 on this team, netting 86 receiving yards. He’s an excellent sleeper start this week. It’s too bad that my boy Mohammed Sanu from Rutgers pulled a disappearing act in this game. I never saw him on the field.
Prediction: Without Joe Haden, Cleveland can’t stop Cincinnati’s offense and the Bengals roll.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Indianapolis Colts
Comfortables: Andrew Luck, Adrian Peterson, Donald Brown, Percy Harvin, Reggie Wayne, Coby Fleener
Cautions: Christian Ponder, Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Defense, Indianapolis Defense
Casualties: Delone Carter, Jerome Simpson, Austin Collie
Sleeper: Dwayne Allen
Yeah, so much for that “Adrian Peterson isn’t going to play much” crap. All Day looked fantastic last week (albeit against Jacksonville, but still), so he’s must-start material each week until he gives you a reason not to. Donald Brown is a solid start, as he’s the workhorse back in a new Colts offense that doesn’t resemble the inept offense of 2011. I really liked that my Coby Fleener gamble paid off. The only thing that would have been sweeter was if he hit paydirt (but don’t worry, that will come in time). I actually really like Andrew Luck this week against a defense that made Blaine Gabbert look like a competent quarterback last week. Luck overthrew Reggie Wayne a few times last week, and Wayne still managed to have more than 125 yards receiving. Percy Harvin was kept quiet last week, but that won’t happen all the time. He’s still a safe bet to start. Call me crazy, but I actually like Indy’s defense here, although not enough to be comfortable starting them. I’m not buying into Minnesota’s offense too much considering they were at home last week and it was against Jacksonville. Peterson may hit paydirt, but I expect Ponder to make a few mistakes.
Prediction: Luck’s first home start is successful, and the Colts shake off the early loss to defeat the worse-than-they-look Vikings.
New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers
Comfortables: Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Darren Sproles, Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Steve Smith, Jimmy Graham, Greg Olsen
Cautions: Mark Ingram, DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Brandon LaFell, New Orleans Defense
Casualties: Pierre Thomas, Mike Tolbert, Carolina Defense
Sleeper: Devery Henderson
Both teams lost last week. One was a shocker (Saints), while the other I expected (Panthers). I told you all that teams were now game-planning for Cam Newton after having a full season of game tape to study. Carolina’s rushing attack was anemic, even with Jonathan Stewart out and DeAngelo Williams handling the majority of carries. Again, stay far, far away from this backfield. I can imagine that Drew Brees is pissed off and plans to go off (much to my chagrin, I’m playing against him in two money leagues this week), with the big three (Sproles, Colston, Graham) to reap the benefits. And where the hell did Lance Moore come from last week? Going from no catches to a 100+ yard, TD day in 0 to 60 in the fourth quarter. Moore’s a speculative Comfortable, because he’s shown in the past that he’s feast or famine, and rarely does he ever follow up a big day with another big day. Aside from Newton, Steve Smith and Greg Olsen, I don’t trust any part of the Carolina offense, even at home.
Prediction: Brees is pissed and takes it out on the poor Panther D, and the Saints roll.
Houston Texans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Comfortables: Matt Schaub, Arian Foster, Maurice Jones-Drew, Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, Houston Defense
Cautions: Ben Tate, Justin Blackmon, Laurent Robinson, Mercedes Lewis
Casualties: Blaine Gabbert, Rashad Jennings, Jacksonville Defense
Sleeper: Kevin Walter
What’s more plausible? That the 2012 Jaguars are turning the corner or that the Minnesota Vikings just aren’t that good and kept a bad team in the game until the end? I’ll go with the latter. The Jags aren’t going to repeat this performance, even at home, against a complete Texans team that whooped on the Dolphins. The cupcake schedule continues, and I wouldn’t start any Jag other than Maurice Jones-Drew. Rashad Jennings is hurt, and even if he can play, he’s already lost his starting job to MJD. I’m dumping all shares immediately. Speaking of backup running backs I thought would contribute, Ben Tate barely saw the field last week, even when the game was well in hand. I don’t know what Gary Kubiak’s thought process was leaving Foster in the game, especially with a balky knee. But Ben Tate no longer becomes starting material. Of course, this being the week I bench him, he’ll go off because fantasy football likes to eff with me like that. But all of the Texans starters are safe picks, including Owen Daniels, who reaffirmed the fact that he’s Matt Schaub’s number 2 option.
Prediction: Houston puts another whoopin as their cupcake schedule continues.
Oakland Raiders vs. Miami Dolphins
Comfortables: Darren McFadden, Reggie Bush, Oakland Defense
Cautions: Carson Palmer, Ryan Tannehill, Daniel Thomas, Darius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore (if he plays), Anthony Fasano, Miami Defense
Casualties: Mike Goodson, Any Dolphins Wide Receiver (except Davone Bess in PPR), Brandon Myers
Sleeper: Rod Streater
Oakland wasn’t nearly as bad as they looked on Monday night. It wasn’t the offense’s fault that their backup long-snapper couldn’t…you know…long-snap the ball. Special teams doomed the Black and Silver against the Chargers. You’d think this would be a tastier matchup against the Dolphins, but I’m actually not buying it. First off, always beware the west coast team having to travel east for a 1 PM game. Second, while Oakland wasn’t bad, they certainly weren’t great. I think this is a winnable game for Miami, although I don’t expect it to be too high scoring. The starting running backs are going to dictate the pace of this game, and I think both Defenses are going to do very well (but only Oakland’s D gets the must-start tag, as Ryan Tannehill will be prone to making mistakes). So it’s basically McFadden, Bush, Oakland D, and not much else. Oh and hey, I figured out who Oakland’s starting Tight End was! Brandon Myers! Yeah, you’re still not starting him though.
Prediction: Upset special…Dolphins shock the Raiders on the back of Reggie Bush.
Arizona Cardinals vs. New England Patriots
Comfortables: Tom Brady, Stevan Ridley, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, New England Defense
Cautions: Kevin Kolb, Beanie Wells, Ryan Williams, Todd Heap
Casualties: Shane Vereen, Michael Floyd, Arizona Defense
Sleeper: Danny Woodhead
The Pats looked good last week on the road against Tennessee. That wasn’t much of a surprise. What was a surprise, though, was how effective Stevan Ridley was in the running game. Now, Bill Belichick has some Shanahan-like tendencies regarding his running backs, but until you see otherwise, you have to assume that Ridley is now a big part of a high-powered offense. Brandon Lloyd owners (ahem ahem ahem) who watched last week’s game have to be frustrated by the easy touchdown pass that Brady overthrew when targeting Lloyd. The chemistry will come, and I still feel safe starting Lloyd each week. Both Hernandez and Gronk scored last week. Wes Welker was a little quiet (as I expected him to be), but he’s still a comfortable start. I’d stay away from any Cardinal not named Larry Fitzgerald. It’s possible Kolb might get a garbage time TD (remember, there is no such thing as garbage time in fantasy!). The Pats run D looked excellent against Chris Johnson last week, so they’ll most likely contain Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams.
Prediction: It’s another romp for New England against an overmatched Arizona team.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New York Giants
Comfortables: Eli Manning, Doug Martin, Ahmad Bradshaw, Vincent Jackson, Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Martellus Bennett, New York Defense
Cautions: Josh Freeman, LeGarrette Blount, David Wilson, Mike Williams
Casualties: Dallas Clark, Tampa Bay Defense
Sleeper: Domenik Hixon
I’ve already given my thoughts on the Giants’ poor start last week. It’s bounce-back time. Tampa Bay looked good against Carolina, but I think the Giants are going to be too pissed off to let the Bucs out of the blocks early. Tampa Bay’s new weapons, Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson, looked good, and I expect them to continue to produce the yardage, but I also expect Josh Freeman to make a few mistakes (which he didn’t make last week), and the Giants D to capitalize. People are quickly disembarking from the David Wilson bandwagon after the big fumble last week. It’ll take some time for him to get back into Tom Coughlin’s good graces, but the talent is there. He’s a caution until he builds up the trust. Domenik Hixon is the WR3, a role Victor Cruz really excelled in last year. Hixon (and Martellus Bennett), are two very good sleepers that might warrant starting.
Prediction: New York takes out their frustrations on Tampa Bay and wins big.
Washington Redskins vs. St. Louis Rams
Comfortables: Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris, Steven Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Fred Davis, Washington Defense
Cautions: Sam Bradford, Danny Amendola, Santana Moss, Lance Kendricks, St. Louis Defense
Casualties: Roy Helu, Evan Royster, Isaiah Pead, Josh Morgan
Sleeper: Brian Quick
Ugh, I really feel awful for putting Alfred Morris in the must-start territory considering how many times I’ve been screwed by Shanahan when it comes to running backs, but I’ve talked myself into Morris as I’ve got him on a team where I’ve lost Fred Jackson for the foreseeable future, so I need to believe in the power of positive thinking. The Rams run defense is atrocious, and they got lit up by Kevin Smith last week. Start Helu or Royster at your own peril, but you just might hit it big. Aside from RB, I’m all in on Washington here. If they can beat the Saints in the Superdome, surely they can beat the lowly Rams in their dome, right? I’m not buying the Rams’ performance last week as any sign that they’ve turned the corner as a team; more likely it was an undisciplined Lions team that was playing down to its opponent. I don’t think Washington makes the same mistake this week. RG3 will be a Top 5 QB on the rankings this week, for good reason. Anybody who took a mid-round flyer on him in the drafts will reap the benefits this week.
Prediction: Washington continues to roll on the road.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Comfortables: Michael Vick, Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, Torrey Smith, Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson
Cautions: Anquan Boldin, Brent Celek, Baltimore Defense, Philadelphia Defense
Casualties: Bernard Pierce, Dion Lewis, Jacoby Jones, Jason Avant
Sleeper: Ed Dickson
This is my pick for game of the week. You’ve got a firing-on-all-cylinders Ravens team coming off a dominant win at home going on the road to a Philly team that underachieved in Cleveland and got out with a win by the skin of their teeth. The marquee matchup here is the Philly offense vs. the Ravens Defense. Baltimore’s D is an every-week start, even though I don’t list them as a Comfortable here. The Eagles offense looked pretty shaky last week, especially Vick. Believe it or not, I’m going against all evidence and logic and predicting that this will be a high-scoring shootout, because this is the NFL and things aren’t supposed to make sense. I do feel confident starting both QBs (yes, even Flacco), both RBs, and the top passing options for both teams (Torrey, Maclin and DeSean). This one is going to be fun.
Prediction: Michael Vick makes one crucial mistake down the stretch and the Ravens take advantage to win on the road.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Seattle Seahawks
Comfortables: Tony Romo, Russell Wilson, DeMarco Murray, Marshawn Lynch, Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Dallas Defense
Cautions: Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin, Jason Witten, Seattle Defense
Casualties: Felix Jones, Robert Turbin, Braylon Edwards, Zack Miller
Sleeper: Kevin Ogletree
What to make of the Kevin Ogletree conundrum? He obviously benefitted from the increased coverage on Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, but because of his big game, he may have extra attention focused on him. But if that’s the case, then less attention will be focused on Austin and Bryant, allowing them to get more looks. And where the heck does Jason Witten fit into all this? I still list Ogletree here as a sleeper. Hopefully you nabbed him off the waiver wire, but I’d keep him on the bench to see if Week 1 was a fluke or if he’s the new Victor Cruz. I do feel really good about Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch, considering they’re at home at Qwest Field, one of the biggest home-field advantages in the league. I’d be higher on Seattle’s defense, but Dallas’s offense is that potent.
Prediction: With the loud crowd rooting them on, Seattle keeps it close, but Dallas pulls it out.
New York Jets vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Comfortables: Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Dustin Keller, New York Defense, Pittsburgh Defense
Cautions: Mark Sanchez, Shonn Greene, Jonathan Dwyer, Santonio Holmes, Heath Miller
Casualties: Tim Tebow, Isaac Redman, Stephen Hill, Emanuel Sanders
Sleeper: Jeremy Kerley
As much as my Jet-fan friends would love to think that New York has turned a corner, I just don’t see it. You heard me, I’m absolutely calling Week 1’s domination of the Bills a fluke, and I think that on the road in Pittsburgh, they’ll be exposed for what they truly are: an anemic offense. My bold claim is made easier by the news that Darelle Revis may not play due to a small concussion, so I’ve actually moved Mike Wallace from a Caution (due to Revis Island) to a Comfortable. Revis is the heart and soul of this defense. Without him, Big Ben has the opportunity to really sling it. I don’t really like either team’s running game, and I’m certainly not sold on Shonn Greene even after his garbage time TD last week. This is a below-average back playing behind a below-average offensive line. Call me a bitter Giants fan, but I’m a big believer that the sun can shine on a dog’s ass every once in a while. Let’s see what Gang Green can do against an elite D.
Prediction: Sanchez comes back down to earth and has a multi-turnover game as Pittsburgh wins at home.
Tennessee Titans vs. San Diego Chargers
Comfortables: Philip Rivers, Chris Johnson, Ryan Matthews (if he plays), Kenny Britt, Malcolm Floyd, Jared Cook, Antonio Gates
Cautions: Jake Locker, Nate Washington, Kendall Wright, Robert Meachem, San Diego Defense
Casualties: Ronnie Brown, Tennessee Defense
Sleeper: Damien Williams
San Diego looked good last Monday against Oakland, but they got a lot of help from the Raiders’ shoddy special teams giving them great field position. On the other hand, they’re supposedly getting Ryan Matthews back from a broken clavicle. If he’s active, he should start, but I’d make sure I have a backup RB going at 4 PM or any of the night games before I’d take Ronnie Brown again, who didn’t show much in his starting gig last Monday. So far my Floyd over Meachem proclamation looks solid, so I’d feel comfortable rolling with Floyd again this week against Tennessee. Jake Locker is going to play, but he’ll be far from 100%. He shouldn’t be starting in standard leagues anyway. Chris Johnson provided his owners with a little scare as he posted another pedestrian day, but Darren McFadden ran roughshod over this Chargers D last Monday. This is certainly a put-up or shut-up game for the former CJ2K. Kenny Britt is back from suspension, but it’ll be interesting to see how healthy he feels. Nate Washington exited the Patriots game last week with an injured leg, but the collision certainly made it look more serious with a possible head injury. It looks like Nate will be fine for this game, but with Britt back, it’s tough to imagine he’ll get the same number of looks. I felt good about Jared Cook last week and was somewhat rewarded, so I’ll continue to ride the wave. Hopefully nobody has to start either of these defenses, but if you have to pick one of the two, go with San Diego.
Prediction: Rivers and company continue their momentum with a win over the Titans.
Detroit Lions vs. San Francisco 49ers
Comfortables: Matthew Stafford, Kevin Smith, Frank Gore, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Pettigrew, Vernon Davis
Cautions: Alex Smith, Kendall Hunter, Titus Young, Michael Crabtree, Detroit Defense, San Francisco Defense
Casualties: Brandon Jacobs, Nate Burleson, Mario Manningham
Sleeper: Randy Moss
Right here you have two teams who came off wins last week, one more convincing than the other. Given the fact that San Fran is playing at home, you have to figure that they’ve got the advantage in this game. Frank Gore looked better than I’d seen him in a long time last week, and he proved he’s still at the top of the food chain of the 49er backfield. San Francisco also unleashed Randy Moss as a red zone target, so there’s obvious sleeper material there (especially in deep leagues). Vernon Davis proved he can still catch touchdown passes, even if he hasn’t got a handle on touchdown celebrations yet. I like the starters on the Detroit offense (Smith, Megatron, Pettigrew), and I would like Titus Young if he could get in the game. His temper made him headbutt a Ram player last week and earned him a ride on the pine for the second half. You can’t catch any passes if you’re not out there.
Prediction: San Francisco’s defense keeps Stafford in check for the second week, and the Niners pound out a close victory at home.
Denver Broncos vs. Atlanta Falcons
Comfortables: Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan, Demariyus Thomas, Eric Decker, Roddy White, Julio Jones, Jacob Tamme, Tony Gonzalez
Cautions: Willis McGahee, Michael Turner, Denver Defense, Atlanta Defense
Casualties: Knowshown Moreno, Joel Dreessen
Sleeper: Jacquizz Rodgers
This is a serious fantasy smorgasbord here. Two QBs coming off excellent games, an arsenal of weapons at their disposal, ready to duel it out on Monday night. I’m fully expecting a shootout here. Atlanta’s defense took a big hit when Cornerback Brent Grimes went on IR for the year, and I expect Atlanta’s fast-paced offense to beat Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil before they can get to Ryan. You gotta like Julio Jones and Demariyus Thomas here as the homerun threats, and I expect possession receivers like Roddy White and Eric Decker to get theirs as well. Even the Tight Ends seem like safe picks. Unfortunately, because of all the throwing, I have both starting running backs listed as Cautions, as well as the Defenses. Ohhhh no, Knowshown Moreno, don’t think you can convince me you’re back! I’ve been burned enough. Back, back, get back where you came from!
Prediction: It’s hard to bet against Matt Ryan at home, so I’ll say the Falcons win the shootout.
This week, I was a bit more generous with my comfortables than last week on offense. I think it’s safe to start 19 QBs, 25 RBs, 33 WRs, 17 TEs, and 10 Defenses, allowing for starters and flexes all across the league.
Good luck during Week 2!