Evan Silva


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Matchups: Climb & Ride Hillis

Friday, September 16, 2011

Chicago @ New Orleans

Mark Ingram needs the Saints' defense to play better to realize his fantasy potential. New Orleans got down early to Green Bay last week, and Ingram only saw 18 snaps because he doesn't play on passing downs. Darren Sproles led the backfield with 30 plays. The good news for Ingram is that his team will have the lead more often than not over the course of the season. Expect big increases in snaps and touches going forward. The Saints are a better team than the Bears and should not play from behind on Sunday. Ingram remains the heavy favorite for goal-line carries. ... Anyone else notice how small Olin Kreutz looked in the NFL opener? Down to 260 pounds -- tops -- Kreutz got pushed around by Green Bay's powerful interior tandem of B.J. Raji and Howard Green. The Saints may continue to struggle against mammoth nose tackles, but the Bears prefer quick, gap-shooters inside. Starters Matt Toeaina and Henry Melton combine to average 37 fewer pounds than Raji and Green. Expect better push for Ingram on short-yardage and goal-line plays.

I saw some Sproles hype after his seven-reception opener, ostensibly from box-score readers (not game watchers). Owners need to understand that game flow dictated Sproles play far more than he normally will. In 78 games with the Chargers, Sproles topped five receptions three times. Sproles was an excellent addition for the Saints and is an upgrade on Reggie Bush, but he won't play and get the ball that much on a regular basis. He's a risky flex in PPR. ... Pierre Thomas remains a candidate for 9-12 touches, but a poor bet to score. ... Jimmy Graham worked as a pass-blocking H-back all too often Thursday because the Saints went to pass-heavy mode after getting down 21-7 in the first quarter. Drew Brees still looks for Graham when he's in trouble, and Chicago's Cover 2 is susceptible to tight ends. Graham's targets will rise with Marques Colston (collarbone) out until Week 6. ... It's a week to wait on Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson. Meachem is the preferred WR3, but deep threats fare poorly against the Bears' scheme. ... Lance Moore (groin) will be too much of an in-game injury risk for confident Week 2 fantasy usage. His groin has been balky since August 25 and incurred a setback a week later. Moore will be a strong bet for consistent snaps and targets once he proves his health, but he's hands-off this Sunday.

The Saints' defense generated no Week 1 pressure, so look for playcaller Gregg Williams to dial up creative blitzes as his Week 2 focus. Chicago's front five is ripe for an attack after serving up five sacks and eight quarterback hurries to an Atlanta team that played from behind all game (reducing pass-rush chances). As well as Jay Cutler performed in the opener, his porous line will haunt him sooner rather than later. The Bears aren't built to withstand an aggressive defense or play without the lead. On both sides of the ball, a better Saints team will get Chicago out of its comfort zone. I wouldn't trust Cutler as more than a QB2. ... Roy Williams (groin) appears headed for a game-time decision in Week 2. Williams is a terrible player and non-factor in fantasy, but keep an eye out if he's declared inactive. Johnny Knox is Williams' backup at the X receiver, and he'll square off with RCB Patrick Robinson if Knox draws the start. Robinson was demolished by Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson last Thursday. Per Pro Football Focus, Robinson allowed all five balls thrown in his direction to be completed for 80 yards and Jennings' seven-yard touchdown.

Matt Forte may hover around 4.0 YPC for most of the year, just because Mike Martz's system is rushing unfriendly. There is no lead blocker, and running lanes are small on the rare occasion the line creates one. But Forte is a candidate to lead the NFL in total yards because of his difference-making versatility. Forte caught all of his five Week 1 targets for 90 yards, knifing through the Atlanta defense for his 56-yard TD on a first-quarter screen. Kahlil Bell got ten carries, though five came in late fourth-quarter garbage time, and none in the red zone. ... Marion Barber (calf) was held out of Thursday's practice after being limited Wednesday, indicating a setback. He shouldn't be any kind of factor, if he's even active Sunday. ... Devin Hester saw 46 Week 1 snaps, finishing with five targets. Earl Bennett had 50 snaps and four targets. These guys cancel each other out.

Score Prediction: Saints 24, Bears 13

Oakland @ Buffalo

Not to take away from Chan Gailey's tried-and-true offensive system, but key to Buffalo's Week 1 scoring bonanza was a Chiefs defense that generated no pressure. Monday night watchers may have noticed ESPN's Trent Dilfer raving about the Oakland front seven last week. It's a legit force. A Raiders defense that quietly ranked second in the NFL in sacks last season hung four of them and a forced fumble on Kyle Orton, also holding Broncos backs to a paltry 25 yards in 12 carries (2.08 YPC). The talent differential between Oakland's trench men and Buffalo's is sizable. I'd have trouble using the Bills-Chiefs Week 1 game as basis to start Buffalo skill players, most notably Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson. ... Blowout wins skew backfield distribution, as teams tend to give weaker players more reps with a comfortable lead. But Jackson started and got 11 first-half touches, compared to C.J. Spiller's four, before the game got out of hand. I'm not bullish on using Jackson against the Raiders, but he's the clear-cut feature back and Spiller is the pace change.

In my game reviews, I entered Bills-Chiefs expecting to find reasons why Scott Chandler was a fluke. Another Frisman Jackson or Dante Rosario -- flash-in-the-pan Week 1 stars of the past. Chandler caught all five of his targets for 63 yards and two touchdowns at Kansas City. Long (6-foot-7), lean, and pretty athletic, Chandler worked often in the slot and was heavily involved in the passing game. Chandler's downside is that he's a rotational player, seeing only 38-of-57 (66.7%) offensive snaps on Opening Day. I still wouldn't be surprised if he scored 5-7 more touchdowns this season. Gailey's Pistol Spread offense floods the field with receivers, and Fitzpatrick gets the ball out quickly. Chandler is a nice post-up target deep in the red zone. Just don't expect much yardage. ... The Bills' one must-start skill player remains Steve Johnson, who's scored 11 TDs in the 15 games since Fitzpatrick became Buffalo's starter. His latest, in Week 1, came on a 27-yard go route with Chiefs top CB Brandon Flowers in coverage. Johnson is a legit playmaker and WR2.

With Jacoby Ford nursing a bum hamstring, Chaz Schilens an unsafe bet to stay healthy for the next hour, Kevin Boss coming off a lost preseason, Louis Murphy out indefinitely, and Darrius Heyward-Bey injuring his own knee in Thursday's practice, Denarius Moore's opportunity may be nigh. The camp sensation is listed directly behind Heyward-Bey on the Raiders' depth chart, so Moore will be in line to start if DHB misses the game. Though obviously a roll of the dice, Moore has superior big-play ability and should be able to get open against the Terrence McGee-less Bills secondary. It'd be a real stretch to start Moore at Buffalo, obviously. Just don't be surprised if this is his breakout game. ... The Raiders figure to employ a run-heavy game plan just as they did in Week 1, limiting Jason Campbell to 13 completions for a measly 103 yards. He's a weak QB2.

The Bills limited Kansas City to 108 yards rushing in Week 1, but Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster's combined 7.0 YPC suggests they remain vulnerable to the run, even post-M.D. (Marcell Dareus). Odds are, Darren McFadden will light them up. ... Michael Bush received nine Week 1 carries, but Hue Jackson is clearly still employing a one-back system. Bush wouldn't have played as much if not for a mid-game McFadden shoulder injury caused by a Broncos defender foolishly ripping his helmet off, before late-game clock-killing mode. Bush is just a handcuff.

Score Prediction: Raiders 21, Bills 17

Arizona @ Washington

The Rex Grossman bandwagon is becoming popular again with three 300-yard games in his last four starts. I've seen too many flops over the years to join in, but wouldn't discourage a desperate Peyton Manning drafter from using Grossman against perhaps the league's worst pass defense. Shredded by Cam Newton for 24-of-37 (64.9%) passing, 422 yards, and two TDs last Sunday, the Arizona secondary is a nightmare with two first-year starting corners and an Adrian Wilson of whom coach Ken Whisenhunt said this week, "it looks like he hasn't played in awhile." Playcaller Kyle Shanahan has let Grossman attempt an average of 40 passes in his four Redskins starts. Rex offers sneaky upside in a plus matchup with what projects as plenty of volume. ... Santana Moss led Washington in Week 1 targets (8), hauling in six for 76 yards. He's an every-week WR3.

Playing time has long been Fred Davis' insurmountable obstacle, but the Shanahans are rolling away the stone. Davis is playing even more snaps than Chris Cooley, and after his 105-yard opener a thrilled Grossman observed that Davis "stretches the field vertically as well as any tight end in the league." Arizona was gashed by tight ends all last year, and promptly coughed up 129 yards on seven catches to Carolina's Greg Olsen-Jeremy Shockey duo in Week 1. Davis is a top-ten option in this matchup. ... Feel free to drop Cooley in all leagues. ... No running back in the NFL had more Opening Day touches than Tim Hightower, who rang up 97 yards and a touchdown on the Giants. Hightower is a true every-down back and borderline RB1 until proven otherwise. ... Jabar Gaffney is purely a possession receiver and Anthony Armstrong is fourth or fifth in line for targets in the Redskins' offense. Don't be hoodwinked by their Week 1 red-zone touchdowns.

Larry Fitzgerald had a quiet 62 yards on three Week 1 catches, walled off by Carolina's bracket coverage with Chris Gamble pressing him at the line. Defenses will think twice about copying the Panthers' approach, because the fallouts were 5.0 yards a carry for Beanie Wells, 105 yards and a touchdown for Early Doucet, and a win for Arizona. Expect Fitz to rebound big against a Skins defense that let Hakeem Nicks get loose for 122 yards on seven receptions on Opening Day. ... Doucet's measly three targets and 37.3 snap percentage against Carolina suggest a notorious Week 1 fantasy tease. Doucet is a nice player, but Fitzgerald will catch more than three passes in the majority of games, and Todd Heap will have more than two targets going forward. Andre Roberts is getting considerably more playing time than Doucet. Look elsewhere for sleepers.

The Redskins have pieces to field a formidable run defense, but Beanie Wells is going to be near-impossible to sit when he's running with as much purpose and burst as he did in Week 1. Healthy after last year's season-long knee injury, Wells is the key to keeping double teams off Fitzgerald. The coaches know it. Wells played 50-of-59 offensive snaps (84.7%) in Week 1, suggesting the staff is pleased with his pass protection and receiving, as well. It's a boon to Wells' value across the board. He set career highs in receptions and snap count in the opener. ... Kevin Kolb threw for 309 yards and two TDs last week, averaging 11.44 yards per attempt with a 66.7 completion rate against a hapless Carolina pass defense. The Redskins' pass rush is much more fierce with an array of ballhawks in the back end, so give Kolb another week before anointing him a QB1.

Score Prediction: Redskins 24, Cardinals 20

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