4:25PM ET Games
NY Jets @ Pittsburgh
Last Sunday's perfect storm of no pressure and bad coverage by Buffalo's secondary miraged the Jets as a passable offense -- for a week at least. The Bills' inability to collapse the pocket was pathetic against an average-at-best New York offensive line. Mark Sanchez didn't take a single sack or quarterback hit, unless you include contact after throws were made. I think it's safe to say the jury remains very much out on the Jets' passing offense. Its mettle will be tested by a Steelers team that led the league in pass defense last season and gets back FS Ryan Clark this week. ... Chris Wesseling's takeaways after watching tape of Shonn Greene's 27/94/1 opener: "Not impressed despite solid fantasy outing. Fumbled twice, left yards on field. TD came deep in garbage time. Turner-esque." Greene is an ideal sell-high candidate. Move him before Sunday's kickoff. ... Dustin Keller isn't recovered from his preseason hamstring strain. He played on a snap count against the Bills and was targeted once. Particularly after experiencing a setback on the practice field this week, I’d consider dropping Keller for healthier options in more reliable passing attacks.
Friday Update: Keller has been ruled out for Week 2.
I did some game watching on Stephen Hill at Georgia Tech ahead of April's draft. He looked like the best player on the field at times, and the worst at others. He definitely looked like the Jets' best skill-position player against overwhelmed rookie CB Stephon Gilmore in Week 1. Hill can run by coverage and make plays on seemingly uncatchable throws. While I'm hesitant to crown Hill despite the impressive 5/89/2 line, he has a favorable Week 2 matchup with Steelers LCB Keenan Lewis, whom Peyton Manning picked on relentlessly last Sunday. Hill is a boom-or-bust fantasy play. ... Santonio Holmes has a more difficult draw in RCB Ike Taylor, who may shadow the Jets' $45 million receiver all over the field. Pittsburgh won't let the player it traded away for a fifth-round pick amid Steel City groans beat them on their home turf. Keep Holmes plastered to your bench.
Pittsburgh went three-wide on 52 of its 71 snaps in Week 1, vaulting Emmanuel Sanders to the status of "regular" as he tied Antonio Brown for team highs in targets (8) and catches (4). Sanders is an intriguing gambling man's WR3 this week. Whereas Brown and Mike Wallace will contend with New York's impenetrable outside corners, Sanders will work the slot against liability nickel back Kyle Wilson. Sanders is a sleeper to lead the Steelers in Week 2 receiving. ... If the opener was any indication, the Steelers will indeed be a pass-first team under new playcaller Todd Haley. Only 25 of their 71 plays were designed runs in a matchup with Denver that went down to the wire. Jonathan Dwyer is the guy to use if you're willing to roll dice on a Steelers back, but he's just a flex option. Isaac Redman looks so worthless in the ball-carrying department that he should be dropped in standard leagues. Rookie Chris Rainey got three Week 1 touches, gaining four yards. Baron Batch had one carry. Rashard Mendenhall (knee) isn't due back until Week 4 at soonest.
Heavier reliance on passing may bode well for Ben Roethlisberger's 2012 fantasy outlook, but the pass-pro problems aren't going away. First-round pick David DeCastro is shelved until at least midseason, and second-rounder Mike Adams gets eviscerated every time he takes the field. While it isn't QB1-caliber production, I do think it's worth noting for won-loss prognosticators that Roethlisberger has had a fair amount of past success against Rex Ryan. In nine career meetings with defenses overseen by the Jets' coach and former Ravens coordinator, Big Ben has a 6-3 record, completing 152-of-278 passes (54.7 percent) for 1,848 yards (6.65 YPA), 12 touchdown passes, and eight interceptions. In light of Ryan's dominant defensive track record, they're decent stats all things considered. ... We'll know by Saturday whether Darrelle Revis ("mild" concussion) will play. Let's assume he does. I'd think Ryan sticks Antonio Brown on Revis Island with Antonio Cromartie shadowing Mike Wallace because those are the most reasonable skill-set matchups. Wallace is a deep-ball specialist, or at least viewed as such, and Cromartie is a long corner who can really run. Brown is more versatile. Revis has shown an ability to track receivers on all portions of the field, from Wes Welker inside the numbers to Andre Johnson outside. Wallace is the superior Week 2 fantasy play.
Friday Update: And with the release of Friday's injury report, everything has changed. The Jets ruled out Revis for Sunday's game, and he will not make the trip to Pittsburgh. The Jets figure to keep Cromartie on Wallace while turning to Wilson and Ellis Lankster to stay with Brown. Brown now looks like the best bet for production in Pittsburgh's passing attack. Be sure to start Brown in Week 2.
Score Prediction: Steelers 17, Jets 7
Tennessee @ San Diego
Jake Locker's accuracy woes were a much bigger issue in preseason than they have been in real games. Locker still hasn't played an extended stretch with a viable running game, and through six career appearances has averaged nearly 8.0 yards per pass attempt with six all-purpose TDs and two turnovers. Cleared to play after last week's non-throwing shoulder injury, Locker is a strong two-quarterback league option in sunny San Diego. The Chargers lack an imposing pass defense, so Locker should be considered by risk-taking QB1 streamers, as well. ... Game watchers are aware of the factors that worked against Chris Johnson in Week 1. He was bottled up for three yards or worse on 9-of-11 Week 1 carries, including two for no gain and three negative runs. C.J. received two rushing attempts after halftime as the Titans trailed 21-3 at the break. Johnson's talent remains, but Tennessee's offensive line is seemingly incapable of preventing penetration and Johnson has been all too willing to go down on first contact behind the line of scrimmage. Falling behind early also didn't help, but Johnson looks destined for another roller-coaster year.
Jared Cook's relatively quiet opener saw him catch 4-of-6 targets for 64 yards, but his usage was promising. Cook played 60-of-65 snaps (92 percent), more than any other Titans non-lineman and an individual career high for Cook. He's a virtual lock to reach TE1 fantasy production if this keeps up. Grab Cook quickly if he is on your waiver wire. His breakout game can come as soon as this week. ... In his return from suspension and three knee surgeries, Kenny Britt is scheduled for 15-25 snaps against the Bolts, which equates to something between 25 and 40 percent of the plays. While Britt possesses talent to produce through adverse situations, I'm putting him on a wait-and-see week in fantasy football. He's never caught a pass from Locker beyond the practice field, and has rarely even done that. Britt remains on track to be a fantasy asset sooner rather than later. ... One of Kendall Wright and Nate Washington is likely to have a productive Week 2 game, but your guess is as good as mine as to which receiver it'll be. They'll both play a heavy majority of snaps and have favorable matchups. Neither stood out as a particularly superior player in the opener.
Friday Update: Washington did not practice all week due to a leg injury and is listed as questionable on the injury report. Tennessean beat writer Jim Wyatt suggested he could be "limited" if he's active against San Diego. While Britt will remain on a "pitch count," this could be the opening Cook and Wright need for breakthrough games. They're certainly the two favorites for Locker's Week 2 pass targets.
Ryan Mathews' increased practice work is promising and so is the fact that he stands an outside chance to face the Titans. But I own Mathews in a number of leagues and will be starting Alfred Morris instead. While the matchup is favorable, my best guess is Mathews will initially be on a pitch count, before recapturing full-time duties in his second game back. It's early in the year and there haven't been many NFL injuries yet. Most fantasy owners can afford to exercise caution. With only Ronnie Brown (done) and Curtis Brinkley (ineffective) behind him, Mathews can't be reliably handcuffed in a game with a late start. The Chargers host Atlanta next week. ... Robert Meachem beat Raiders CB Ronald Bartell for a 46-yard bomb in Week 1, but I found his overall usage unsettling. Eddie Royal played first in the rotation, as Meachem finished with just 36 snaps (61 percent) and two targets. Royal was also targeted twice and was a 37-percent player. Royal can be waived in standard leagues. Meachem is a WR4 until we see him produce and play more.
Friday Update: Mathews is listed as questionable on the injury report, but is now not expected to play. Expect Brinkley and Brown to struggle for a second straight week while San Diego leans on its passing game to move the chains. Mathews’ Week 2 unavailability is good news for Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates.
Malcom Floyd led the Chargers' wideout corps with an 86-percent Week 1 snap rate, also pacing the group in targets (6) and yards (66) while scoring a second-quarter TD from six yards out. Look for Meachem to square off with consistent Titans LCB Jason McCourty while Floyd contends with RCB Alterraun Verner. Neither has a plus matchup, but I continue to prefer Floyd of the two. ... Philip Rivers and his offensive line looked better than I expected against Oakland, and the Titans' pass rush is even less imposing than the Raiders'. Rivers is a low-end QB1, but I was skeptical he'd even get there this year after looking at his 2011 performance. ... Tennessee's pass defense got shredded for 12 catches, 129 yards, and two touchdowns by New England tight ends in the opener. Antonio Gates isn't quite as good as Gronk or Hernandez, but he's about as close as the rest of the NFL can get. Keep an eye on Gates' rib injury, but I fully expect him to start Sunday.
Score Prediction: Chargers 27, Titans 23
Sunday Night Football
Detroit @ San Francisco
While San Francisco's offensive philosophy is run-based and will continue to be regardless of forthcoming box scores, Jim Harbaugh has gotten Alex Smith to the point where he's on the QB2 radar simply because he's so efficient. Harbaugh has developed Smith into a precise, confident, reliable passer who capitalizes on advantageous situations where the defense is frequently on its heels to protect against the run game. Up front, the 49ers blow opponents off the football with a powerful, smash-mouth mentality. Smith has not been intercepted since November of 2011, in between posting an 11:0 TD-to-INT ratio across eight games with two more scores on the ground. Don't expect Smith to leap into top-12 quarterback production, but he is a better player than we thought he'd be and it was more evident than ever in San Francisco's Week 1 win over Green Bay. Despite talent limitations, Smith is panning out as an effective real-life quarterback. He's not Trent Dilfer. ... Vernon Davis found Week 1 pay dirt and now has six touchdowns over his last six games, on top of 31 grabs for 579 yards. It's a 96.5 yards-per-game average. He's a top-six TE1.
Friday Update: The Lions will be without FS Louis Delmas (doubtful, knee), in addition to top CBs Chris Houston (doubtful, ankle) and Bill Bentley (out, concussion) against the 49ers. While the matchup boost does not vault Smith into the QB1 realm, it helps his chances in two-quarterback leagues and also improves the Week 2 outlook for San Francisco's passing game as a whole.
Randy Moss' Week 1 box score looks serviceable (4/47/1), but there are warning signs. He played 21-of-62 snaps (33.9 percent) -- fewer than Mario Manningham -- and caught his 14-yard score on a blown coverage. I wonder if Harbaugh will use Moss as a package-type player, operating in the red zone and on specified playcalls between the 20s. He could be a headache WR3 going forward, scoring touchdowns but killing you in weeks you play him and he doesn't. ... Manningham isn't roster-worthy in 12-team leagues despite playing eight more Week 1 snaps than Moss. He's currently a rotational player with skills limited enough that Mario would require full complements of snaps to be fantasy viable in a run-first attack. ... Michael Crabtree is a volume possession receiver with more value in PPR leagues than non. The Lions do not present a difficult pass-defense matchup, but Crabtree is just a WR3. ... If the 49ers are going to keep manhandling defensive front sevens as they did in the opener against Green Bay, it may not matter that Frank Gore has lost a step. Keep starting Gore until he begins showing signs of slowing down.
The 49ers and Lions squared off in October last year and Calvin Johnson tagged San Francisco for 113 yards on seven catches. The Niners might accept a stat line like that again as long as they keep Megatron from punishing them with multiple touchdowns. Gore also had 141 yards and a score on just 15 carries in that game, while Kendall Hunter added 33 more on eight runs. The Lions made stopping Steven Jackson their defensive focus in Week 1 against the Rams and figure to do the same in this game. ... Scoop up Titus Young if he was dropped in your league after a quiet opener. I wouldn't start Young on Sunday night, but he will be an asset in the weeks ahead. He started in a three-wide set against St. Louis, and looked ticketed for heavy snaps before head-butting Rams CB Janoris Jenkins and getting benched early in the third quarter. ... Nate Burleson (6/69) and Brandon Pettigrew (5/77) picked up the slack with Young out. Burleson is a WR5 lacking playmaking ability. Pettigrew's value remains limited to PPR leagues. Both of their stats will regress once Young resumes playing more.
While San Francisco is not an easy matchup for opposing skill-position players, Matthew Stafford owners can take solace in the fact that he'll likely be firing off pass attempts early and often. The Niners' shutdown run defense forces offenses to resort to the air, and the Lions are already the NFL's pass-happiest team. Chalk up Stafford's three-pick first half against the Rams as a bump in the road. Stafford gathered himself to complete 15-of-24 second-half passes for 182 yards and a touchdown, avoiding picks and leading his team to a come-from-behind victory. ... Kevin Smith isn't going to have Week 2 rushing success -- no one does against the 49ers -- but he's different from Week 1 Niners opponent Cedric Benson in that Smith plays in the passing game. He can buoy his weekly workloads and statistics with catches and receiving yards. Smith is just a flex play in standard leagues, but he should stay in PPR lineups. Smith was targeted six times in the opener, catching four for 29 yards and a touchdown. He also gets goal-line carries, which can be another week-saving quality.
Score Prediction: 49ers 27, Lions 20
Monday Night Football
Denver @ Atlanta
The 51-point over-under on Broncos-Falcons is tied for the highest of Week 2, and it's a sensible projection. Vegas has regained full confidence in Peyton Manning, who stands to benefit from Atlanta's year-ending loss of top cornerback Brent Grimes (Achilles'). Although Manning has lost something off his fastball, he still controls the game in the pre-snap phase, dictating favorable matchups even before plays start, and gets rid of the ball quickly enough to compensate for pass-protection leakage. He's also armed with one big-time, playmaking receiver (Demaryius Thomas) and a slippery, precision route runner (Eric Decker). Perhaps Manning will fade as his age-36 season moves along, but I'm starting him as an elite QB1 against the shorthanded Falcons. ... Due to this game's high-scoring projection, indoor environment, and battle of two high-octane, up-tempo offenses, both Thomas and Decker are top-18 fantasy receiver plays. Decker got all the preseason hype, but Thomas got just as many Week 1 targets and more than doubled Decker's box-score production. Look for Thomas to dominate Falcons RCB Dunta Robinson on Monday night. Decker will draw more of LCB Asante Samuel in coverage. I like Thomas' matchup better.
Willis McGahee has never been a passing-game weapon and Manning's offenses are historically pass heavy. So I found it promising that McGahee played 41-of-59 (69 percent) Week 1 snaps while Knowshon Moreno (16) and Lance Ball (2) were mixed in relatively sparingly. McGahee had little rushing success against Pittsburgh's stout defense, but should find more room Monday night against an Atlanta group that surrendered 152 yards and two TDs on 33 Week 1 carries (4.61 YPC) against the Chiefs. McGahee has early-season juice in his 31-year-old legs and is a solid bet for a touchdown. He's a quality RB2/flex. ... In the opener at least, Jacob Tamme appeared to be Manning's clear No. 3 pass option while Brandon Stokley and Joel Dreessen battled for scraps at the bottom of the totem pole. Tamme finished with five catches for 43 yards and a touchdown, securing each of the balls thrown his way and playing 49-of-59 snaps. I'm not bullish on Tamme as a season-long TE1, but he played well in the first game and this offense can support three fantasy-relevant pass catchers. He can be a top-12 fantasy tight end if he stays in front of Stokley and Dreessen.
Julio Jones has now played at least 40 snaps in 13 NFL games, and in them he's combined for 64 receptions, 1,158 yards, and ten TDs while averaging 17.7 yards per catch. In fantasy scoring per game, those numbers would extrapolate to third among 2011 receivers, behind only Calvin Johnson and Kenny Britt. If the Broncos "play sides" at cornerback as they did in last Sunday's win over Pittsburgh, Jones will avoid LCB Champ Bailey's coverage for most of this game, instead facing RCB Tracy Porter. Roddy White would match up more with Denver's shutdown cornerback. I like Julio to lead Atlanta in receiving for a second straight week. ... Matt Ryan attacked Chiefs fill-in LCB Jacques Reeves with relentless success in the opener. While Ryan won't have quite as weak an opposing corner to abuse on Monday night, Grimes' loss could actually end up working in his quarterback's fantasy favor. The Falcons will not be able to halt opposing passing games nearly as effectively in the post-Grimes era, and over their next five games square off with Peyton, Philip Rivers, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, and Carson Palmer before a Week 7 bye. They're not going against Andy Dalton and Brandon Weeden. Ryan may have to keep slinging it "to keep up."
This same Denver defense surrendered four catches for 50 yards and a touchdown to Steelers TE Heath Miller in Week 1 on a slow night for Pittsburgh's pass game. Tony Gonzalez reasserted himself as the Falcons' No. 3 receiving option by ranking third on the team in Week 1 targets (6), catches (5), and yards (53), also scoring on a seven-yard throw from Ryan. Gonzo will offer low-end TE1 appeal propped up by Atlanta's more aggressive new plan of attack. He's staying well ahead of Harry Douglas in the competition for leftovers behind Jones and White. ... Read our post-game recap blurb on Michael Turner (done by Wess) for all you need to know about the 30-year-old's Week 1 performance and outlook going forward. It's not and isn't going to be pretty. ... Jacquizz Rodgers remains a role player, seeing about 7-12 touches per game and perhaps in need of a Turner injury to be start-able in fantasy leagues. See if Rodgers' role grows on Monday night against an opponent who will be more competitive than the Chiefs were in Week 1. The Falcons are going to need to make backfield changes because Turner is slowing down the team.
Score Prediction: Falcons 30, Broncos 28