Evan Silva


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Week 2 Game Matchups

Friday, September 18, 2009

We can't draw sweeping conclusions from opening-day NFL games. It's the season's most unpredictable week, and well-prepared teams usually come out on top. It's just difficult to tell which teams have prepared the best. The 2008 Lions are the ultimate case in point. They went 0-16 after finishing the exhibition season 4-0.

What we can do is recognize trends and weaknesses. Zach Miller's 96-yard Monday night effort plus San Diego's failed offseason attempts to upgrade at safety say the Chargers will struggle to stop tight ends again this year. Mike Bell's 143-yard gashing of the Lions all but confirms that new DTs Grady Jackson and Sammie Lee Hill won't cure Detroit's run defense woes. The Patriots (moving to a 4-3), Chiefs (moving to a 3-4), and most surprisingly the Ravens (moving to a 4-3) are all works in progress defensively. Free safety Tanard Jackson's four-game suspension has adversely affected the Bucs' secondary.

Applying information like this, we can make educated guesses about which matchups are to be exploited, and which we should avoid. Let's go.

1:00PM ET Games

Houston @ Tennessee

Despite generating no Week 1 points (S Dominique Barber's 48-yard fumble return was Houston's lone score), all is not lost for the Texans' offense. Kevin Walter's (hamstring) absence caused a ripple effect, allowing the Jets to shadow Andre Johnson with Darrelle Revis and mix in double teams, mitigating Johnson's impact. Walter's return is major for Gary Kubiak's club...Titans RCB Cortland Finnegan has a big name, but Johnson has his number. In their last meeting, A.J. went for 207 yards and a touchdown on 11 catches. Finnegan was also burned repeatedly last Thursday night by Santonio Holmes (9-131-1) and Hines Ward (8-103). Expect a monster rebound game for Johnson...Matt Schaub and Owen Daniels need to stay in fantasy lineups. Finnegan's bookend is declining 35-year-old LCB Nick Harper. Other than FS Michael Griffin, there's not much to love about Tennessee's pass defense...It's not surprising that a Rex Ryan defense shut down Steve Slaton in the season opener. Slaton should get it going against an undersized Titans front four.

It's probably old news to offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, but Justin Gage has emerged as the Titans' clear No. 1 receiver. Seeing a team-high 11 targets in Week 1, Gage rang up seven catches for 78 yards and a touchdown against a typically stingy Pittsburgh secondary. The Texans return LCB Jacques Reeves this week, but he will likely struggle coming off a fractured fibula. Start Gage against a Houston pass defense that made Mark Sanchez look like a rookie Pro Bowler last Sunday...Chris Johnson will get back on track against a Texans team that served up 190 rushing yards in the opener. LenDale White is worth consideration as a flex play...Nate Washington is off the injury report and will resume seeing starter's snaps, pushing rookie Kenny Britt back into a third receiver role. We'd take a wait and see approach before using Washington.

Arizona @ Jacksonville

Kurt Warner's health remains a major concern, but he gets another ripe matchup to prove doubters wrong. The Jags' pass defense is in a sorry state, with LCB Rashean Mathis already getting torched and third-round rookie RCB Derek Cox in the starting lineup. Jacksonville also expressed concern with its secondary earlier this month by signing journeyman Brian Russell, who may threaten FS Reggie Nelson's job. Expect the Cards' pass attack to bounce back, Anquan Boldin included...It's worth noting that the Cardinals use Larry Fitzgerald similar to how the Colts employ Reggie Wayne. Wayne busted loose for 162 yards and a touchdown on 10 receptions last Sunday. Arizona plans to increase Chris Wells' usage this week, but the Jags are playing the run well with new 321-pound nose tackle Terrance Knighton leading the way. Wells only saw seven carries in the opener. Check-down magnet Tim Hightower remains a safer fantasy start.

Coach Jack Del Rio criticized David Garrard's inaccurate season opener after he missed multiple open receivers and generated a measly 4.3 yards per attempt against a Colts secondary that started rookie Jerraud Powers at right corner. Aging Torry Holt (3-47) was the Jags' only semi-productive receiver. Avoid Jacksonville's passing game completely until it shows something...The Cardinals are transitioning to a full-fledged 3-4 defense under new coordinator Bill Davis and were fantastic against both the run and pass in Week 1. Time will tell if the change pays season-long dividends, but it's something to keep in mind...Maurice Jones-Drew won't have many truly bad games this year because his week-to-week workloads will be massive. No. 2 back Rashad Jennings didn't play a single snap in Week 1, and Greg Jones didn't touch the football once.

New Orleans @ Philadelphia

Coming off a cake matchup against the Lions, Drew Brees squares off against an Eagles defense that made Jake Delhomme look like a retirement candidate in Week 1. Philadelphia's fire-zone blitzes remain intact under new coordinator Sean McDermott. Brees is an every-week play, but the Birds will pose problems for fill-in LT Jermon Bushrod, who isn't 100 percent...Stay away from the Mike Bell-Pierre Thomas situation this week, unless Thomas (knee) is inactive. If both backs are up, they will likely share carries. Reggie Bush is a must-start in PPR leagues, but is only a changeup back between the tackles and won't see goal-line work...Don't chase Jeremy Shockey's Week 1 stats and use him over an Owen Daniels or Chris Cooley, but Shockey's two-touchdown effort is further proof of the fantasy depth at tight end. Consider selling high on a Tony Gonzalez or John Carlson type if you have Shockey in reserve and can upgrade a thinner skill position.

The Eagles plan to start Kevin Kolb with Donovan McNabb (cracked rib) likely to be inactive. Kolb has a 0:4 TD to INT ratio with three fumbles in eight career spot appearances, keeping the Saints' fantasy defense playable for another week...Philadelphia will rely heavily on the run Sunday. It's worth noting that Brian Westbrook would've received more than 16 touches last week had the Birds not obliterated Carolina. LeSean McCoy (47 yards on 10 touches) was only in for mop-up duty...Kolb is a fairly accurate passer, but has below-average arm strength. It's a concern for speedy wideouts DeSean Jackson and Kevin Curtis, neither of whom topped 21 yards in Week 1. Brent Celek (6-37-1 in the opener) and slot receiver Jason Avant are nice sleepers.

Oakland @ Kansas City

Michael Bush got the first carry in Week 1, but the Raiders started in a two-back set. Darren McFadden is the first-team tailback. He may need to score his touchdowns from 10+ yards away, but is a threat for major yardage against a Chiefs defense that allowed Ravens backs to gain a mind-boggling 237 total yards and score twice in Week 1. K.C. is also playing musical chairs at inside 'backer, while defensive backs Maurice Leggett and Mike Brown are the club's top two tacklers -- a bad sign...Zach Miller will lead Oakland in receiving for a second straight year. The Chiefs let Todd Heap rack up 74 yards and a score last Sunday (his best game since Week 2 in 2007) and won't have any answer for Miller. Miller dominated San Diego's safeties on Monday night...Rookie Louis Murphy, who should've had a second TD against the Bolts, is the Raiders' lone wideout worth consideration, but will lose significant snaps when Chaz Schilens (foot) returns.

Look for Matt Cassel (knee) to debut in Week 2, but this is not a favorable matchup. You already know about RCB Nnamdi Asomugha, but the rest of Oakland's secondary is playing at a very high level. FS Michael Huff appears reborn and speedy SS Tyvon Branch may be the surest tackler on the roster...Chiefs coach Todd Haley has a knack for putting players in the best position to excel, so don't expect Bowe to square off against Asomugha all day. Bowe will likely go in motion often as Haley tries to get him singled up against LCB Chris Johnson or oft-burned nickel back Stanford Routt. Start Bowe with confidence...Street free agent signee Bobby Wade is no threat to flanker Mark Bradley's snaps. Wade might be active to return punts this week, but doesn't know Haley's offense...Larry Johnson, coming off an 11-carry, 20-yard effort, is merely a low-end RB2 play against the Richard Seymour-led Raiders front seven. The K.C. line isn't creating any holes.

New England @ NY Jets

We wondered last week whether new coach Rex Ryan would continue Eric Mangini's tactic of using LCB Darrelle Revis in "shadow" coverage against opponents' top receivers. Andre Johnson found out quickly. Don't sit Randy Moss, but his history against Revis isn't promising. Moss had just five grabs for 58 yards in last year's two meetings with the Jets...Slot receiver Wes Welker, on the other hand, went for a combined 180 yards on 14 catches in those games. Welker is already on pace to lead the NFL in receptions, and his knee "injury" isn't a concern...Ben Watson's two late-game TDs in Week 1 were fluky. The Bills ignored the middle of the field in the fourth quarter in an effort to stop Welker and Moss. Ryan definitely won't let that happen. It will probably go down as Watson's best game of the season...The Patriots are letting game plans and matchups dictate their running back pecking order. Sammy Morris now appears to be a fullback, while Fred Taylor, Laurence Maroney, and Kevin Faulk share time at tailback. Avoid the situation entirely.

The Texans paid for not taking Mark Sanchez seriously in Week 1, but Bill Belichick won't make the same mistake. New England's new 4-3 scheme allows for lots of up-field penetration, and the Pats will get more hits on New York's rookie passer. Sanchez's ceiling is similar to Matt Ryan's last year (16 touchdowns). He isn't suddenly a fantasy starter...Of course, the Patriots will have to keep in mind the Jets' ground game, which exploded in the second half of their opener. Thomas Jones went for 106 yards and a TD on 15 second-half totes, while the Jets kept their promise to involve Leon Washington (19 touches, 84 yards) more. Shonn Greene isn't a factor yet because he can't cover kicks, but Jones and Washington will be hard for the Pats to stop without ILB Jerod Mayo (knee)...Dustin Keller and Jerricho Cotchery, who's long given the Patriots fits, should stay in fantasy lineups. Make Chansi Stuckey prove he can produce against a good defense before using him.

Minnesota @ Detroit

You know the drill with Adrian Peterson...Bernard Berrian's removal from the injury report bodes well. He is a risky play after catching no passes and seeing two targets from Brett Favre on 55 snaps in the opener, but Berrian can be plugged in as an upside WR3. The Lions will have to stack the box with eight defenders and Berrian will be in single coverage all day against 32-year-old RCB Anthony Henry. For Berrian, it only takes one play...Lions nickel back Eric King, forced to start Week 1 with Phillip Buchanon (neck) a late scratch, was exposed ruthlessly by Drew Brees. King surrendered touchdowns to Marques Colston and Robert Meachem, and a 58-yard connection to Devery Henderson. With Buchanon back, King will likely be asked to cover the slot. The Vikings' inside receiver is first-round pick Percy Harvin...Now is the time to start Brett Favre. His pass attempts total won't be high, but the matchup doesn't get better.

The important thing isn't that Calvin Johnson caught just three balls in Week 1. It's that Matthew Stafford targeted him 13 times. Detroit's offense will improve by the week, and eventually the 10 incompletions will turn to catches. Keep Calvin going as he squares off against 32-year-old LCB Antoine Winfield. Who do you think wins in a race?...Kevin Smith's 20 yards on 15 carries were disappointing, but his opening-day usage was reassuring. No. 2 back Maurice Morris didn't play a snap and Smith dominated goal-line and receiving-game work, catching seven balls for 52 yards and punching in his score from four yards out. He's quietly emerging as one of the NFL's truest every-down backs and would be hard to sit even in this matchup...Brandon Pettigrew wasn't targeted once in Week 1. Stafford didn't like throwing to his tight ends in college either.

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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva

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