4:15PM ET Games
Cincinnati @ Denver
Andy Dalton will apparently start despite a sprained throwing wrist. Playing two quarters in Week 1, Dalton didn't complete a pass to A.J. Green, who notched his lone catch on an essentially broken play after Bruce Gradkowski's quick snap caught the Browns' defense off guard. While Champ Bailey's (hamstring) possible absence would improve Green's matchup, you can safely expect the Bengals' offense to be extremely run-heavy in Week 2. It's their M.O. anyhow, and will be even more so with a rookie quarterback who isn't 100 percent. You're banking on a deep ball from a banged-up, weak-armed passer if you're starting Green. ... Coming off a 6-58-1 line on eight targets (six from Dalton), Jermaine Gresham will be a bigger fantasy factor than he was last season. His explosion is back two years removed from a college knee injury, and Gresham is an excellent complement to Dalton's arm over the middle. He should push for top-12 tight end stats.
Cedric Benson ranked second in the league in Week 1 touches (26), trailing only Tim Hightower. The Bengals want to keep it that way. What Benson has lost in short-area burst he can make up in volume, particularly in a favorable matchup. The banged-up Denver front seven was slammed for 191 yards on 30 carries (6.37 YPC) by Oakland backs last Monday night, and is now playing on a short week. You don't have to particularly like Benson to start him in fantasy. ... With Green getting shut down last week, Jerome Simpson saw a team-high nine targets. Expect regression for both Bengals wideouts. Simpson is a far lesser fantasy option than the rookie. ... Slot man Jordan Shipley only played 49% of the Bengals' Week 1 snaps, seeing two targets. Jay Gruden's extremely conservative system has weeded Shipley out of the offense in favor of a run blocker.
The Broncos' backfield should be avoided this week. While Willis McGahee may appear headed for lots of carries because of Knowshon Moreno's bum hamstring, McGahee has done nothing recently to justify fantasy start-ability. McGahee finished last season with a career-low 3.76 yards per carry, including the playoffs, and there is little burst left in his legs after over 1,700 career touches. He had three yards on four Week 1 attempts. The matchup isn't enticing after Cincinnati stumped Browns rushers for 83 scoreless yards on 26 carries (3.19 YPC) last week. I wouldn't be surprised if Lance Ball outplayed McGahee on Sunday. ... Kyle Orton didn't do enough in his first start under John Fox to make anyone think he'll be more than a mid-range to low-end QB2 without Josh McDaniels. Take this to the bank: Tim Tebow will make starts at some point this season.
Even if he plays, Moreno isn't a fantasy option after his third hamstring injury over the past two seasons. ... Denver beat writers consider Brandon Lloyd unlikely to play after pulling his groin in the opener. Fox is reticent about injury situations, so don't expect confirmation from the team until the inactives list is released Sunday afternoon. That makes it tough to count on injured Broncos skill players with healthy options available in early games, and it doesn't help that they're coming off a short week. ... If Lloyd sits, Eric Decker and Eddie Royal will get the starts at receiver. Decker's long-term upside is capped by Fox's offensive philosophy, but he showed better big-play ability than advertised on a third-quarter, 90-yard punt return touchdown in Week 1, and also hauled in three of his five targets for 53 yards. Decker would be a better bet than Royal against Cincinnati.
Score Prediction: Bengals 17, Broncos 13
San Diego @ New England
Vegas has a whopping 53.5-point over-under on Bolts-Pats, the biggest projected total of Week 2 and easily bigger than any Week 1 over-under. This is going to be a shootout, so start your Pats and Chargers. ... Look for San Diego to attack rookie RCB Ras-I Dowling, who got the surprise Week 1 start over Leigh Bodden. Vincent Jackson plays both receiver positions (X, Z) and will draw Dowling plenty. Antonio Gates was a target monster in the opener with 13 balls thrown his way. Malcom Floyd had eight. Jackson only got three balls, but these numbers will draw closer to a mean going forward. With a plus matchup in a high-scoring game, expect a monstrous rebound from V-Jax. ... Gates has at least 108 yards or a touchdown in four career meetings with the Patriots. Not even Bill Belichick has figured out how to stop him. ... With slot receiver Patrick Crayton (ankle) returning and getting Jackson the ball more sure to be a focus of Philip Rivers, Floyd's fantasy appeal will continue to dip. He's a dicey WR3, better used in bye-week crunches.
You can't name four better Week 2 quarterback plays than Rivers against a Patriots defense that Chad Henne just smoked for 416 yards and two touchdowns. ... Mike Tolbert owners should be thrilled with his Week 1 game. The backfield distribution confirmed that he plays on all passing downs and dominates red-zone work for an offense that will consistently move the chains. He's just not nearly as good as his Opening Day fantasy points indicate. Particularly if Tolbert punches in another goal-line carry or two in this game, he'll be an ideal sell high to a running back-needy owner heading to Week 3. ... Ryan Mathews got 36 Week 1 snaps, "good" for a 42.8 percentage. I'd still play him over Tolbert because Mathews has so much more talent as a runner. The Chargers' coaching staff gave Mathews a big vote of confidence this week. His snaps will rise.
Both Patriots tight ends look like plug-and-play TE1s. Aaron Hernandez is slightly more subject to down weeks because he only plays in passing and shotgun formations, but when you combine his game-breaking athleticism and soft hands with a pass-heavy attack and the NFL's most efficient passer, it's all you need. And let's get this straight: Hernandez, coming off a 7-103-1 shredding of Miami, is a wideout. He never blocks. ... Rob Gronkowski is more the manchild of the two. He levels ends and linebackers in the run game, then uses his physicality and deceptive vertical speed to make plays downfield. Gronkowski is just unstoppable. He had six catches for 86 yards and a touchdown against the Fins. ... If you read this column last year, you may recall discussion of Wes Welker's post-Randy Moss production dip. Defenses began double teaming Welker after the Week 5 Moss trade, and he didn't score a touchdown or top 53 yards in the next four games. Then, Gronk Nation and Nando happened. Welker will prey on single coverage in the slot all year long.
San Diego held Donovan McNabb to 39 yards last Sunday, but the Vikings asked for it by using Percy Harvin as a part-timer, leaving McNabb with only the worst outside receiver duo in football to throw to. Tom Brady is a no-brainer top-five QB1. ... It wasn't a great sign for BenJarvus Green-Ellis, the Pats' "keep the lead" back, that Danny Woodhead played over him with New England controlling the Monday nighter. Law Firm only played 23-of-80 snaps (28.8%), and Woodhead is being used between the tackles more. Sell BJGE if he scores this week. He's also got Stevan Ridley to worry about. ... It's worth noting the Patriots often divvy up backfield playing time based on week-to-week game plans. Perhaps they identified a heavy Dolphins front line of Paul Soliai, Randy Starks, Kendall Langford as a better fit to run the shiftier Woodhead against. Who knows, really? What we do know is Green-Ellis can hold his own in a non-PPR league with red-zone TDs. Woodhead will probably get 14-17 touches. ... Feel free to drop Chad Ochocinco. He's clearly behind Deion Branch, putting Ocho sixth in line for receiving targets behind Welker, Gronkowski, Hernandez, Branch, and Woodhead. I wouldn't bet on Ochocinco picking it up soon, either.
Score Prediction: Patriots 38, Chargers 35
Houston @ Miami
Jacoby Jones gets the playing-time bump with Kevin Walter (shoulder) out indefinitely, but Owen Daniels is the most fantasy-viable beneficiary. Daniels now has a clear path to possession targets while Andre Johnson burns defenses with the deep stuff. ... We discussed this last week: The Texans' offense is headed for a major drop in pass attempts, because they can impose their will with the run. Arian Foster and Ben Tate are good players, but it barely matters the back. The zone-blocking scheme wears teams out. Matt Schaub is going to need better opposing play to approach top-ten QB stats. Sell now. ... Dolphins CB Nolan Carroll got whipped for six receptions and 103 yards in last week's loss to the Patriots. Carroll often mans the right corner, where Johnson plays in the base offense. That's quite a mismatch, even if they only face off five times on Sunday. ... Jones is worth rostering to see what happens, but don't expect much. There won't be enough volume in the Houston passing offense to support more than two big receiving games.
All signs point to Foster (hamstring) returning this week, and he's a plug-and-play RB1 if all goes well Friday. Coach Gary Kubiak has been clear that Foster will dominate the workload when he's in the game. ... Tate needs another blowout to accrue a worthwhile number of touches. The Texans will take out Foster if they get a big lead, but the Dolphins' offense was competitive enough Monday in New England that you can't count on it. Tate needs to be on fantasy benches. Barring a surprise inactive listing for Foster on Sunday ... Derrick Ward can be dropped. He's injured and not remotely as effective as Foster or Tate.
Update: Kubiak announced Friday that Foster will play against Miami, but Tate will "definitely" see carries, probably off the bench. Your best approach is to continue to monitor the situation into Sunday morning, gathering as much information as possible. A rotation is likely either way. It's still hard to imagine sitting Foster if he's active for the game. Ward has been ruled out.
Pocket poise and downfield accuracy have been Chad Henne's downfalls as a pro. Since an awful preseason opener, he seems to have turned a corner. On paper at least, Henne shredded the Pats' secondary for 416 yards, two touchdowns, and one late, inconsequential interception in the Monday night opener. This is great news for Brandon Marshall, Davone Bess, and Reggie Bush. Be wary of trusting Henne as more than a QB2, but early signs are promising. ... Marshall finished Week 1 in a three-way tie for the league lead for targets (13), equaling Antonio Gates and Roddy White. The Texans, like most everyone else, will struggle to stop him. ... Daniel Thomas will supposedly return this week. I don't get how he's a threat to Bush's workload, seeing as Thomas isn't any good and Bush adds a new dimension to the Dolphins' offense. Thomas is an RB4.
Score Prediction: Texans 30, Dolphins 20
Sunday Night Football
Philadelphia @ Atlanta
Eagles-Falcons has Week 2's second highest over-under, behind only Chargers-Pats. The Vegas oddsmakers have a better feel for NFL scoring than most folks reading or writing this column, and their confidence suggests all is not lost for Mike Smith's team after its 30-12 Week 1 drubbing in Chicago. Trot out your studs. ... Before curiously scrapping its no-huddle offense in the second half last week, Atlanta moved the chains better than the box score indicates. The Falcons opened with a 10-play drive, but unlucky turnovers (Charles Tillman strip of Michael Turner, Brian Urlacher fumble recovery of Matt Ryan) got Atlanta out of its comfort zone. The Eagles are no pushover, but Ryan owners need to keep the faith. This will be a high-powered offense when all's said and done, and this projects as a high-scoring game. It makes Ryan tough to sit unless you have a Stafford or Big Ben on the bench. ... Nnamdi Asomugha stayed at RCB for the vast majority of his Week 1 snaps. Julio Jones and Roddy White move around, so you can't say Asomugha will be "on" one of them. White tied for the league lead in Week 1 with 13 targets. Start 'em confidently.
Jones did play more snaps than White at LWR last week, the receiver spot Asomugha covers. I still like Jones as a WR3 in any potential shootout, but use that fact to break ties if you have other great options. ... Turner ran with more short-area burst than anticipated in the opener, busting up the gut for repeated long runs against the Bears. Fantasy owners need to ride Turner while he's hot, and then sell high on the 29 1/2-year-old back. This is a good matchup for Turner. Smallish in the front four with liabilities throughout the linebacker corps, Philadelphia was touched up for 169 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries (6.76 YPC) in Week 1. Eagles WLB Moise Fokou got pancaked by Rams FB Brit Miller on Steven Jackson's 47-yard TD run on first play of the game. Falcons Pro Bowl FB Ovie Mughelli might chuck Fokou into the stands. ... Tony Gonzalez's 5-72 Week 1 line should be taken with a grain of salt. The Bears' Cover 2 kept the Atlanta wideouts in check on deep routes, allowing Gonzalez to "beat them" over the middle. Gonzalez is just a TE2.
I gave you some indoor stats when the Eagles visited the Edward Jones Dome last week. Philly opens the season with two straight games indoors, so here's an update as Andy Reid's team flies south to the Georgia Dome: LeSean McCoy's last three dome games: 47 carries, 391 yards (8.31 YPC), five all-purpose touchdowns, nine catches. ... DeSean Jackson, career (five games): 124.2 total-yard average with three touchdowns. ... Falcons DT Jonathan Babineaux is out 3-5 weeks with a torn MCL, which is a very big blow to Atlanta's interior pass rush. The interior offensive line also happens to be the Eagles' most glaring offensive weakness, so Michael Vick is catching a pretty big break. In last Sunday's trouncing of the Rams, Vick improved his career TD-to-INT ratio in the month of September to 20:5, and his September yards-per-rushing attempt average to an indefensible 7.69. In Vick's return to Atlanta, he's going to shower the Falcons with fantasy points.
Steve Smith got five Week 1 snaps and isn't on the fantasy radar. ... Jason Avant is a pedestrian slot receiver. It's a big week when Avant tops 60 yards. ... Brent Celek was such a non-factor on Opening Day that our Eagles-Rams game charter didn't even deem him worth a post-game blurb. Celek saw three targets, catching one for 13 yards. ... I'd be concerned about Jeremy Maclin's strength and speed after an offseason on the couch nursing a mysterious illness. Can he get open? Vick apparently didn't think so in the opener, targeting Maclin three times with one completion. I'd be hesitant to consider Maclin a great buy low, though more glass half-full owners can fall back on his last game against Atlanta for a short-term confidence boost. Maclin busted up the Falcons for seven catches, 159 yards, and two touchdowns in Week 6 last year. He's still a high-risk WR3.
Score Prediction: Falcons 34, Eagles 27
Monday Night Football
St. Louis @ NY Giants
Sam Bradford has targeted Danny Amendola 120 times since Week 1 of last season -- easily a team high -- so the slot receiver's dislocated elbow creates a combustible powder keg for other Rams wideouts. While a committee approach involving Brandon Gibson, Mike Sims-Walker, Greg Salas, and Lance Kendricks may emerge, what we do know is Gibson and Sims-Walker are the outside receivers with Salas in Amendola's old slot position. It's a week to hold off on starting any of them. But observe closely. ... Sims-Walker can expect a snaps increase at the very least after playing 44-of-73 (60.3%) in the opener. Coaches have talked up MSW's versatility, and he's the Rams' best wideout bet in Week 2. Only start Sims-Walker if you're desperate. ... Kendricks saw 63 Week 1 snaps (86.3%), which is the positive news. The negative is that Kendricks dropped two balls, including a would-be six-yard touchdown. Games like that get rookie tight ends benched, and not just in fantasy.
Salas is worth grabbing in all leagues, particularly PPR, to at least see what happens. Amendola wasn't a difference maker, and Salas could make it a competitive situation if he plays well over the next few weeks. Salas was handpicked by Josh McDaniels; Amendola is a holdover. ... Steven Jackson (quad) is expected to miss this game, but is pushing the medical staff to let him play. With a Monday start, S-Jax's toughness makes Cadillac Williams not worth the risk as what will probably end up a one-week spot start in an unfavorable matchup. A Justin Tuck-less Giants front seven stuffed Redskins backs for 74 yards on 26 carries (2.85 YPC) in Week 1, and Tuck is back now. ... Bradford might have been an intriguing QB1 play against New York's battered pass defense had Kendricks not bombed the opener and Amendola gotten hurt. Instead, Chris Wesseling and Gregg Rosenthal had no choice but to rank Bradford 19th among Week 2 quarterbacks -- a low-end QB2.
Eli Manning has looked befuddled since former Giants slot receiver Steve Smith went out for the season late last year. Since Week 16 of 2010, Manning is 52-of-94 (55.3%) with a 3:6 TD-to-INT ratio. Include the 2011 preseason, and Eli's numbers plummet even further to 79-of-149 (53.0%) with three touchdowns and eight picks. This matchup looks good on paper, but I'd want to see Manning play well before using him. He hasn't done that in awhile, and Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo knows all about Eli's deficiencies after coordinating the Giants' defense in 2007-2008. ... The Rams lost LCB Ronald Bartell (neck) for the season in Week 1, and it was reported early this week that RCB Bradley Fletcher (toe) will "probably" miss Monday night's game. My bet is on Fletcher playing, but it's conceivable that he'd be in and out of the lineup if the ailment is turf toe. Hakeem Nicks (knee) is worth the wait as a game-time decision. Mario Manningham could go bonkers if Nicks sits out.
The Giants' Week 1 loss didn't provide an ideal snapshot because they played from behind for 2-of-4 quarters, but I charted Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs' usage anyway. Bradshaw got the start and 14 touches. Jacobs only had six carries, but was in for Manning's early two-yard touchdown run (goal-line offense). Bradshaw scored deep in the red zone late in the first half, immediately following a 14-yard Jacobs run to the Redskins' six. Bradshaw got more second-half work due to game flow, and the fact that Jacobs doesn't play on passing downs. The takeaway is that the backfield, from early appearances, is an early-down rotation and the Giants seem to view Bradshaw and Jacobs as interchangeable in short-yardage and red-zone situations. I wouldn't be surprised if the two finished close together in final fantasy back rankings, assuming good health. Bradshaw and Jacobs are still both worthwhile flex options against a Rams defense that couldn't stop the run in August, then gave up 236 yards (7.38 YPC) and a TD to Eagles runners last week.
Score Prediction: Giants 20, Rams 16