Evan Silva


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Matchups: Miles Evokes Smiles

Friday, September 24, 2010

Just 8-of-32 teams remain undefeated through two weeks. Teams with talent-rich offenses like the Cowboys and Ravens have performed well below expectations. Even the Packers and Saints haven't hit their strides.

But talent rises in the NFL. Tony Romo and Drew Brees aren't going to finish outside the top-10 fantasy quarterbacks, and it'll be a quick climb for receivers and running backs like Randy Moss, Ray Rice, and DeAngelo Williams, who all rank in the 24-30 range at their respective positions. Keep your studs going.

With two games in the books, however, we're beginning to formulate a good idea as to which front sevens are leaky and pass defenses soft. As the weeks go by, difficult matchups will become easier to separate from the cinches. We'll kick off the Week 3 breakdown with a tilt between an overachieving 2-0 team and a winless underachiever.

1:00PM ET Games

San Francisco @ Kansas City

A week after a surprise stifling by Seattle, Frank Gore reasserted himself as a top-five RB1 in a 168-yard Monday night thrashing of the Saints. It would've included three TDs as opposed to two had Gore not uncharacteristically "tapped out" after a third-quarter rumble down to the goal line. Anthony Dixon executed, but Gore atoned a quarter later from seven yards out. The reinvigorated Chiefs defense isn't as easy a matchup as usual this season, but Gore still figures to blow through it. He created explosive plays seemingly at will against New Orleans, and Niners first-round rookie linemen Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati are demonstrating impressive nastiness up front.

Michael Crabtree continued to disappoint (1-32, three targets) against the Saints, but the first step for Crabtree to realize his potential was for Alex Smith to improve. Smith certainly did in one of the better performances of his career. It'd be hard to blame owners for benching Crabtree after two slow weeks, but he'll get it together soon enough. He's a WR3 at Kansas City. ... Vernon Davis is the No. 7 fantasy tight end through two games. He's picking up the slack with Crabtree yet to emerge from his shell. ... Josh Morgan stepped up for a 6-70 line on eight targets Monday night after a three-catch, 32-yard opener. Don't get excited. The torch will soon pass to Crabtree.

Thomas Jones took over as the Chiefs' lead back in Week 2, garnering 23 touches to Jamaal Charles' 12. Jones is the favorite for between-the-tackles carries, so the best guess is that coach Todd Haley saw something on tape to convince him Cleveland was vulnerable up the gut. Haley has made it clear that his priority is winning games -- not necessarily playing the best player -- so Charles owners can't count on an imminent changing of the guard with Kansas City sitting at 2-0. Charles should still reassume a major role against a 49ers defense that is leakier on the exterior than inside. You just can't bench Charles' big-play ability. Jones is totally hands-off for this one.

The Chiefs' passing game was lifeless for a second straight week against the Browns, with Matt Cassel throwing for a scoreless 176 yards on 28 attempts (6.3 YPA) and two interceptions. Tony Moeaki was his primary receiver, seeing a game-high 10 targets. Moeaki will be inconsistent as all rookie tight ends are, but he's becoming a serious drain on Dwayne Bowe. Regardless of the opponent, it's hard to consider Bowe more than a WR3 when he's caught five passes for 58 yards and no touchdowns in two games. ... Chris Chambers has been even less visible, sitting on four grabs for 47 yards. Chiefs targets so far: Moeaki 14, Bowe 10, Chambers 9, Dexter McCluster 7.

Buffalo @ New England

Tom Brady ranks sixth among fantasy QBs despite starting the season against back-to-back top-six 2009 pass defenses (Jets, Bengals). Brady defines the term "matchup-proof starter." He now squares off with a Buffalo team that allowed three Aaron Rodgers TDs in Week 2. ... Losing DC Perry Fewell and DE Aaron Schobel has turned a once impenetrable Bills pass defense into a mediocre unit. George Edwards' group has produced just three sacks in two games, and it's almost shocking that Edwards is sticking with burnable Drayton Florence over Leodis McKelvin at RCB. Randy Moss and Wes Welker should run wild on the Buffalo back end. The Jets had to use double teams to contain both in Week 2. Welker and Moss still had a touchdown apiece.

The Bills have also shown vulnerability to tight ends, allowing Dolphins plodder Anthony Fasano to account for over 25 percent of Miami's receiving yards in Week 1 before Packers TEs combined for a 5-102 line last Sunday. Aaron Hernandez's snap counts will be up-and-down as a rookie, but he's running far more pass routes than Rob Gronkowski and Alge Crumpler. Hernandez is, at the very least, a high-upside TE2. ... Kevin Faulk's year-ending ACL tear doesn't impact Fred Taylor, but Taylor remains the best bet for semi-consistent carries in the backfield. BenJarvus Green-Ellis certainly didn't earn a bigger role moving forward with 19 yards on 10 totes in Week 2.

50 on the Wonderlic and all, so he's got the intelligence thing going. Ryan Fitzpatrick's insertion probably won't net Buffalo wins, but he's at least smart enough to throw the ball to the Bills' best receiver. Fitzpatrick, whose value lies in his ability to add a brief "spark" to an offense (he's done it throughout his career in spot duty), hooked up with Lee Evans five times for 75 yards and a score in his first of eight starts last year. Evans, typically the Bills' LWR, also gets a favorable matchup with Patriots RCB Darius Butler. Butler was burned relentlessly by Chad Ochocinco in Week 1 (12-159-1), and according to Pro Football Focus yielded a 5-74-1 line in Week 2 with two pass-interference flags against a previously inept Jets passing game. Evans is a WR3 sleeper.

The Bills probably aren't smart enough to capitalize, but the Pats' pass defense has soft spots over the middle and underneath. So far, Jordan Shipley (5-82), Jermaine Gresham (6-25-1), and Dustin Keller (7-115-1) have exploited them. Though Buffalo lacks a pass-catching tight end, it would be smart to work C.J. Spiller on frequent slot routes. But that's too much wishful thinking. ... Coach Chan Gailey has vowed that Marshawn Lynch will "play a lot" in Week 3 after starting and leading the team in Week 2 touches. Lynch does appear to be the favorite for carries in Buffalo, but it's not like he's playing well (3.9 YPC, no scores) or has a favorable matchup. This is a situation to avoid. The Bills' line can't block, and all the roles are up for grabs week to week.

Atlanta @ New Orleans

The Saints' fantasy production hasn't been up to their usual standards, but the offense has been pretty darn good. New Orleans has yet to turn the ball over, and Drew Brees' 74.3 completion rate is better than his NFL-record mark from 2009. Touchdowns will come. Brees lit up Atlanta for an average of 302 yards per game with a 5:1 TD-to-INT ratio in last year's meetings. ... Reggie Bush's 4-6 week upper fibula fracture locks in Pierre Thomas as the Saints' workhorse. Thomas was already the heavy favorite for goal-line carries, and now inherits passing-down work. P.T. will flirt with 30 touches against a Falcons defense surrendering a league-worst 5.9 yards per carry.

Keep an eye on Lance Moore. He's New Orleans' second-best slot option, and has capitalized in Bush's past absences. Moore has 23 yards through two games, though, so he can't be counted on yet. ... Robert Meachem has been almost as quiet as Moore, seeing five targets on the year and catching three balls. He continues to play behind Devery Henderson (5-66-1, eight targets). ... In 2008 and at times in 2009, some owners wondered if Marques Colston had "lost" his role as the Saints' No. 1 receiver. Colston has clearly regained it, seeing nearly double the targets of any other New Orleans wideout. He also scored in each of the Saints' 2009 games against Atlanta.

Matt Ryan's confidence in Roddy White is unwavering. Despite being shadowed by Cardinals top CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in Week 2, White saw 12 targets for a 7-78-1 line. White's 35 targets through two weeks lead the league, and he's tied with Miles Austin for first in receptions. ... The outlook is much worse for Tony Gonzalez. Despite 37 throws from Ryan last week, Gonzo managed just two catches for 19 yards after a two-catch, 35-yard opener. Gonzalez can't be dropped, but there has to be some concern that the 34-year-old has lost a step. If not two.

In their last five games dating back to January, the Saints have a 4:6 TD-to-INT ratio against. Matt Ryan isn't an awful QB1 in what could be a Superdome shootout, but someone like Michael Vick would be better. ... Atlanta's receiver corps, including Gonzalez, continues to be a fantasy wasteland after White. Eric Weems started over Harry Douglas in Week 2, and Michael Jenkins is coming back. ... Jason Snelling's three-TD effort off the bench was a nice story against Arizona, but there's no doubt that Michael Turner is the better early-down backfield option. Turner (groin) will start against a Saints team allowing the fifth-highest yards-per-carry average (4.8) in football.

Pittsburgh @ Tampa Bay

Josh Freeman is impressive in the face of pressure, but he'll see more of it this week than he has in his young career. The Steelers' defense has been dominant. In two games they've picked off four passes and allowed one passing touchdown -- and not until they'd already knocked Vince Young out of last week's game. OLBs James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley have combined for five sacks, three forced fumbles, and an interception. ILB Lawrence Timmons ranks second in the league in tackles. Woodley, in particular, could have a monster game against struggling Bucs RT Jeremy Trueblood. Freeman will have a tough time going deep to wideout Mike Williams.

Cadillac Williams opened the year with what appeared to be back-to-back favorable matchups in the Browns and Panthers. He's managed just a 2.57 yards-per-carry average with no scores, and it's scary to think how badly he'll fare against the Steelers. Pittsburgh has held Michael Turner and Chris Johnson to 2.17 YPC in the first two games. ... Playing on no practice time due to pain in his six-times surgically-repaired knee last week, Kellen Winslow was a medical marvel with four catches for an explosive 83 yards. It's getting hard to doubt him as at least a low-end TE1.

With Ben Roethlisberger suspended until Week 6 and Dennis Dixon (knee) out, Mike Tomlin has somewhat surprisingly tabbed Charlie Batch over Byron Leftwich at quarterback. We can safely expect the Steelers to go run heavy. Rashard Mendenhall has received 24 touches in each of the first two weeks, and should flirt with 30 against the Bucs. It could be a long day for Tampa, which served up 170 total yards to Panthers RBs in Week 2. ... Heath Miller, who caught two balls for three yards last Sunday, will continue to focus on blocking as opposed to pass-route running with LT Max Starks coming off an injury and RT Flozell Adams struggling across the board.

Bucs CB Aqib Talib returned from his suspension in Week 2, and was immediately pressed into shadow coverage duty against Carolina's Steve Smith. After shutting him down for four yards on one grab in the same role last year, Talib helped hold Smith to three catches on eight targets, though the cornerback slipped on a second-quarter route in the slot, resulting in Smitty's 35-yard TD catch. It remains to be seen which Steelers receiver Talib will cover. Mike Wallace is more dangerous, while Hines Ward has the better track record. With Batch under center, owners should steer clear of Wallace. He relies more on big-play ability at quarterback than Ward.

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