Thursday Night Football
Chicago @ Green Bay
Aaron Rodgers has faced Chicago eight times in the regular season. He's posted a 6-2 record with a 69.7 completion rate, 1,976 passing yards (7.57 YPA), and a 15:5 TD-to-INT ratio while rushing for a 16th score. You're going to start Rodgers in your fantasy league. The historical success just reinforces confidence. ... As expected, Packers movable chess piece Randall Cobb has made himself too difficult for Mike McCarthy to keep off the field. McCarthy went so far as to use Cobb at tailback on 20 snaps in the opener. Cobb responded with a near-flawless game, securing all nine of his targets and returning a fourth-quarter Andy Lee punt 75 yards for a touchdown. Cobb isn't quite as good as Percy Harvin, but he's awfully close and poised for a similar role in a better offense. Particularly if Greg Jennings (groin) is inactive on Thursday night, give Cobb a long look as a WR3. ... Cobb and Jermichael Finley are Cover-2 killers because they work the middle of the field and can find soft spots in Lovie Smith's zone defense. In Finley's last three games against the Bears, he has 19 catches for 220 yards and four touchdowns. There aren't many better tight end plays in Week 2.
Cedric Benson looked better than expected in August, but his schematic fit in the passing-based offense remains suspect, and the Packers are facing a returning top-five run defense for the second straight week. Benson might luck into a goal-line score Thursday, but he's best left on fantasy benches until we see evidence that McCarthy is willing to give the two-down back a significant workload. ... Jennings has 97-plus yards and/or a touchdown in seven of his last eight meetings with the Bears. Jordy Nelson had a relatively slow opener (5-64), but he'll step into the top receiver role if Jennings sits this one out. Nelson remains an every-week starter. ... James Jones' fantasy viability is largely dependent on Jennings' status. If Jennings is inactive, Jones becomes a high-upside WR3 option. If Jennings plays, Jones is immediately reduced to WR4/5. Jones played a ton of snaps in Week 1, but only due to game plan. The Packers can't be counted on to wholly abandon the run game again. Cobb is a better Week 2 play than Jones regardless.
Thursday Update: Jennings is listed as doubtful on the injury report and unlikely to play. I'd give Nelson a boost up Week 2 cheatsheets because he's now clearly the best receiver Rodgers will have on the field. Chris Wesseling and Mike Clay rank Jones one spot ahead of Cobb. My preference is Cobb only because I think he's assured of getting the football more and is a playmaker with the rock in his hands. A guy always capable of taking it the distance. Jones remains a strong WR3. He's plugged into one of my own fantasy lineups tonight.
The Packers fielded the NFL's No. 1 run defense in 2009, and it's gone south ever since. The unit ranked 18th in 2010 before surrendering a crisp 4.67 yards-per-carry average last season. Dom Capers' defense looked softer than ever in Week 1, getting dominated in the trenches by San Francisco's powerful man-blocking line. Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter combined to rip off 153 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries (6.12 YPC) as the Packers were consistently blown off the ball. Matt Forte has 393 total yards over his past three meetings with Green Bay. He'll build on that Thursday night. ... Jay Cutler has faced the Packers six times as a Bear. Cutler's combined stats: 104-of-189 (55 percent) for 1,257 yards (6.65 YPA), six touchdowns, and ten interceptions. His record is 1-5. Cutler finished fast after a slow start to Week 1, but not until Dwight Freeney exited with a game-ending ankle injury toward the end of the first quarter. Cutler will have Clay Matthews breathing down his neck in this one. He's more high-end QB2 than legit fantasy starter.
Cutler's Week 1 target distribution: Brandon Marshall 15, Forte 6, Alshon Jeffery 5, Earl Bennett 4, Devin Hester 2, Kellen Davis 1. ... Marshall led the NFL in targets in each of his two seasons in Denver with Cutler as the starter. Across the league, only Darren McFadden and Reggie Wayne were targeted more than Marshall in the first week, so he looks well on his way toward another monster PPR year. ... Jeffery is the only other Bears pass catcher worth a fantasy look after a 3/80/1 line in the opener against Indianapolis. Billed as lacking separation skills coming out of college, Jeffery beat the Colts' defense deep and over the top for a 42-yard scoring bomb in the fourth quarter. Jeffery will be a fantasy asset in due time. He's just a bit iffy right now playing off the bench in a rotation with Bennett and Hester. ... Michael Bush scored twice on carries deep in the red zone against Indianapolis, but didn't handle the rock much when the game was still in doubt. Operating as a change-up back only, four of Bush's dozen carries came late in the fourth quarter with Chicago up by two and three touchdowns. Bush is more of a TD-only league option.
Score Prediction: Packers 24, Bears 17
Fantasy Fix: Tiffany Simons and Matt Stroup analyze the fantasy players in Thursday's Chicago - Green Bay matchup.
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