Cleveland @ Baltimore
Early indications out of Browns camp were that Brandon Weeden had successfully taken to new OC Norv Turner's offense, but the second-year passer has hit a sizable speed bump. Combine his third exhibition stats with Week 1, and Weeden has completed 38-of-78 throws (48.7%) for 394 yards (5.05 YPA), one touchdown, and three picks in his last two extended games of play. He took six sacks in Cleveland's opener. Weeden is going to get benched if he keeps it up. ... On a more positive note, Jordan Cameron led the Browns in Week 1 targets (13) and receptions (9), and in Week 2 takes on a Baltimore defense that was gutted by Julius Thomas for a 5/110/2 line in the NFL opener. Thomas abused safeties Michael Huff and James Ihedigbo. Like Thomas, Cameron is a former college basketball player. He's a recommended TE1. ... Go back as long as you want and Turner's offenses have always been decidedly vertical in nature. They push the ball downfield. The Browns have no vertical presence with Josh Gordon on suspension, which means they can't run Turner's offense until he gets back. I like Baltimore's fantasy defense in Week 2.
Even when Greg Little isn't dropping passes -- he opened the year with two of them including one that got Weeden picked -- I've found his talent and production unimpressive. He is an inefficient possession receiver lacking big-play ability and has never been a touchdown scorer. Slot man Davone Bess has even less statistical upside, and I'd take Bess over Little on my fantasy team. ... Inexplicably, Turner and coach Rob Chudzinski minimized Trent Richardson's Week 1 role in an apparent attempt to attack the Dolphins with the pass. The results were six Weeden sacks and three interceptions, with 77 total yards for their best offensive player. While Baltimore does not present an inviting run defense matchup -- the Ravens are loaded with up-front talent and held Broncos backs to 67 yards on 21 carries (3.19 YPC) in the opener -- I would expect Norv and Chud to tailor their Week 2 game plan to increasing Richardson's involvement. On the verge of an 0-2 start, the Browns can't afford to put their fate in the hands of a badly-struggling quarterback.
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton used Patrick Peterson to shadow opposing top receivers in Arizona, and is doing the same with Joe Haden in Cleveland. I charted all of Mike Wallace's Week 1 targets and Haden was on him every play, even when Wallace moved to the opposite side of the formation. Wallace's results? One catch for 15 yards. Expect Torrey Smith to get the same treatment. While I wouldn't necessarily bench Smith without a great alternative, I'd definitely downgrade him from WR2 to WR3 in an unfavorable matchup. ... On the other side, rookie Marlon Brown is the premier sleeper of Week 2. With Wallace on Haden Island, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson combined for 16 receptions, 191 yards, and a score versus the Browns' RCB/slot duo of Chris Owens and Buster Skrine. Depending on nickel or dime sets, they're with whom Brown will match up Sunday. A physical, 6-foot-4, 213-pound specimen with some Boldinian traits, consider Brown a high-ceiling WR3 play. ... With a tough coverage draw on his lone truly threatening wide receiver and RT Michael Oher battling a painful ankle injury, Joe Flacco is shaping up as a two-QB league option only. Baltimore is woefully short on weapons. To move the ball and generate any semblance of sustaining offense, the Ravens are going to have to be a run-foundation team.
Game watchers know TEs Dallas Clark and Ed Dickson had atrocious openers, despite 100 total yards between them, most of which came in throw-happy comeback mode. Back at home versus a struggling Browns team, it's safe to expect less catch-up passing. Flacco dropped back to pass an unruly 66 times against the Broncos. Clark, Dickson, and 37-year-old slot guy Brandon Stokley are not advisable Week 2 fantasy plays. ... Ray Rice owners were discouraged by his Week 1 rushing attempts, although game flow was more to blame than OC Jim Caldwell's playcalling, and Rice still racked up 71 total yards and a touchdown on 20 touches. The Browns showed against the Dolphins that they're not a pushover run defense, but Rice's volume and versatility keep him among the top-dozen fantasy running backs. ... Bernard Pierce's fantasy outlook has not changed after his nine-carry, 22-yard Week 1 effort. He is Rice's more powerful change-of-pace complement and will need a Rice injury to be a worthwhile weekly fantasy start. Keep Pierce rostered as an RB4. There are better performances ahead, with lots of injury-dependent upside.
Score Prediction: Ravens 27, Browns 17
Washington @ Green Bay
Rough moments were many in the first half of Robert Griffin III's 2013 debut. He's still working his way back from January's knee injury. Promising was RG3's noticeable improvement as the game progressed. Griffin settled down and found a rhythm in the final two quarters, delivering passes with more consistent velocity and accuracy. He completed 24 of his final 34 throws (70.6%) for 267 yards (7.85 YPA), two touchdowns, and no turnovers. In a likely high-scoring affair against a Green Bay defense that served up 412 passing yards and three TDs to Colin Kaepernick in Week 1, consider RG3 a top-ten quarterback. ... The Packers struggled at safety in their opener, getting gashed over the middle and down the seam by Anquan Boldin (13-208-1) and Vernon Davis (6-98-2). While this is a theoretically plus matchup for Fred Davis, his production has underwhelmed since last year's slow start. Through eight career games with RG3, Davis has 26 catches for 347 scoreless yards. Rookie TE Jordan Reed (5-38) was more involved against Philly. ... Leonard Hankerson scored two touchdowns in Week 1 fourth-quarter comeback mode, but we're going to need a bigger sample before trusting the historically inconsistent wideout in fantasy leagues. The last time Hankerson scored twice in a game, he caught one ball for ten yards the following week.
Griffin spread the ball around against the Eagles, mostly because Washington was in constant three- and four-wideout sets trying to erase a big early deficit. Pierre Garcon still paced the Skins in targets, hauling in 7-of-11 for 64 yards. Garcon is going to lead the Redskins in receiving this year, and it probably won't be close. Role players Davis, Hankerson, Santana Moss, and Josh Morgan are too unreliable for confident fantasy investment. ... Although Roy Helu excelled in blitz pickup and made the most of his two Week 1 touches, gaining 16 yards, Washington's backfield usage confirmed Alfred Morris remains the clear-cut foundation back. And he's going to get a lot more than 12 carries in most games. The Redskins will want to avoid scoreboard deficits like last week moving forward, especially with a quarterback still trying to get his legs underneath him. So look for playcaller Kyle Shanahan to establish the running attack early in an attempt to not only control the game, but keep Aaron Rodgers off the field. Alf's RB1 value has never been in doubt.
Clearly past his August 5 knee scope, Jordy Nelson was the best Packers receiver on the field in Week 1 at San Francisco, running crisp patterns and piling up yardage after the catch. Despite an injury-plagued 2012, Nelson has 13 TDs over his last 16 regular season games and is flirting with WR1 value. ... Eddie Lacy was briefly benched for fumbling in the opener, but returned to save his fantasy day with a fourth-quarter goal-line plunge. Lacy finished with 15 touches and 72 total yards. Now facing a Washington defense that was gashed by Philly for 263 yards and two TDs on 49 carries (5.37 YPC) last Monday night, Lacy is a recommended RB2 in Week 2. ... Jermichael Finley parlayed eight Week 1 targets into five catches for 56 yards and a touchdown in a difficult matchup against the 49ers. He did drop a pass that got Rodgers picked, but it's been clear since August that Finley is a bigger part of Green Bay's 2013 passing game. Although Washington's run defense received the most negative Opening Day spotlight, safeties E.J. Biggers (a converted cornerback) and Baccari Rambo (a sixth-round rookie) got burnt to a crisp by the Eagles' offense in both the run and pass games. Despite Wednesday's toe scare, it's a great week to start Finley.
James Jones was left off the Week 1 stat sheet, which is a reminder of two things: 1. RCB Tarell Brown is the 49ers' best corner, and smart quarterbacks like Rodgers are going to attack LCB Nnamdi Asomugha and slot CB Carlos Rogers instead. 2. Nelson's good health and Finley's rising usage aren't good news for Jones' value. Let's not forget Jones was a maddeningly inconsistent weekly scorer before his breakout '13 campaign, which came about in large part due to injuries to pass catchers around him. I'm not saying Jones is worthless, but these are factors to consider. View him as a risky WR3 until he picks it up. ... Nelson made more Week 1 splash plays, but Cobb beat up on Rogers inside for 7-108-1 on a team-high 12 targets. Like Nelson, Cobb can be trusted as a borderline WR1/2 until for some reason he stops producing as one. Expect Cobb to square off regularly with Skins slot CB Josh Wilson, while Nelson deals with LCB DeAngelo Hall. ... I'd consider starting only Peyton Manning and Drew Brees over Rodgers in Week 2. He is a no-brainer top-three quarterback with a favorable matchup and healthy, deep playmaking supporting cast. ... Lacy handcuffers: James Starks is the No. 2 back on Green Bay's depth chart, though I personally wouldn't waste the fantasy spot. A plodding RBBC would ensue if Lacy went down.
Score Prediction: Packers 35, Redskins 28
Miami @ Indianapolis
The much-maligned Raiders moved the ball at will in Week 1 on the Colts, which it's probably safe to assume says more about Indy's defense than Oakland's offense. The Colts looked slow, failing to generate pass rush and getting beat on the edges by Terrelle Pryor. The Raiders came away with 171 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries (5.18 YPC). Lamar Miller is difficult to trust after his Opening Day clunker -- and he's very much in a timeshare with Daniel Thomas -- but this is the kind of matchup that could springboard Miller back into fantasy owners' good graces. I'd view him as a dicey flex, and start Miller confidently in Week 3 versus Atlanta if he plays well in Indy. ... If the Fins continue to utilize Mike Wallace as they did in Week 1, his owners are in for a long year. There was nothing creative about Wallace's role as he lined up outside the numbers as an isolation receiver on every meaningful route. Wallace failed to corral 4-of-5 targets, finishing with one reception for 15 yards. The good news is Wallace isn't facing Joe Haden anymore. I'd view Wallace as a boom-or-bust WR3 against physical Colts LCB Greg Toler. ... Charles Clay is entrenched as Miami's starting tight end, where he amassed 54 yards on five Week 1 catches, garnering six targets. Clay is a possession-underneath H-back type without fantasy value.
Even when Wallace gets shut down like last week -- and Ben Roethlisberger often spoke of this in Pittsburgh -- his impact is felt because the field opens up for others. (Also why I think Wallace was the least overpaid member of GM Jeff Ireland's free-agency binge.) Brian Hartline (9-114-1) and Brandon Gibson (7-77) combined for 25 targets at Cleveland, essentially replacing the run game as Miami's primary means of chain movement. The running game and Wallace aren't going to be that unproductive on a weekly basis, making it difficult to buy Hartline and Gibson's Week 1 stats as predictive. I wouldn't start either of them against the Colts. ... Hartline and Gibson's big games are a reminder that Ryan Tannehill is working with a respectable three-receiver package after a rookie season surrounded by plodders. I don't think Tannehill will ascend to top-12 fantasy quarterback numbers this year, but he could get close. With Indy's pass rush looking anemic so far, expect Tannehill to have a clean pocket. I would start him in a two-quarterback league.
I was encouraged to read this week that Colts coaches went back to the drawing board on T.Y. Hilton after he was the NFL's most underutilized player in Week 1. The Colts played their most explosive weapon on under 50 percent of the snaps and got him three short catches in a game they nearly lost to the Raiders at home. If I were into speaking bluntly, I'd call that bad coaching. Of course there were signs of it in August, but it was shocking to watch Raiders-Colts and see it in action as Vick Ballard piled up 14 touches. Until we actually see rookie OC Pep Hamilton put an increased role into action, Hilton can only be considered a dice-roll WR3. Otherwise, this would be a great matchup for him. ... Reggie Wayne is the same guy under Pep he was under Bruce Arians. He's moving all over the place so defenses can't take him away, and he's running every pattern in the book. And Hilton's minimized role helps him. Start Wayne every week. ... Hamilton's vision is a two-tight end, run-based offense, and the primary reason Darrius Heyward-Bey is starting over Hilton is because he's a superior blocker. Receiver blocking is important on run-first teams. DHB finished Week 1 with three receptions for 33 yards. Until the Colts realize they need to be a pass-first team because that's where they have their best talent, Heyward-Bey will be a fantasy WR5.
Ballard carried the mail in Hamilton's Week 1 backfield and outplayed Ahmad Bradshaw, which likely means Ballard will keep the lead back job in Week 2. Unfortunately, the Colts are a virtual lock to struggle running the ball against a Dolphins defense that is annually stout and shut down Cleveland's Week 1 run game to the tune of 47 scoreless yards on 13 carries. Avoid Ballard and Bradshaw in lineups. ... Andrew Luck saved the Colts with sheer Week 1 playmaking ability, taking a 19-yard scramble to the house for the game-winning touchdown in a game against the Raiders that should not have been so close. Luck accounted for three TDs, and will certainly have more attempts than last week's 23 no matter how conservative Pep the Playcaller enters the game planning to be. Luck is a top-ten fantasy quarterback and every-week starter. ... Dwayne Allen (hip) didn't practice this week and is shaping up as a Week 2 game-time decision. It's possible Allen's absence would lead to more three-receiver sets, increasing Hilton's playing time. Though talented, Coby Fleener has not shown enough to be considered a fantasy asset regardless of Allen's availability. Fleener had a horrific preseason and one catch for seven yards in Week 1.
Update: Ballard suffered a right knee injury in Thursday's practice and has been placed on season-ending injured reserve. With the way Hamilton is calling plays, Bradshaw is now set up for 20-plus touches per game as long as his long-balky feet cooperate. The Dolphins' defense is still a very difficult run-game draw for Indy, so tread lightly on Bradshaw in Week 2. But he is very much a respectable low-end RB2/flex with high-end RB2 potential in more favorable matchups to come.
Update II: On Saturday, the Colts downgraded Allen (hip) to doubtful on the injury report. Hilton offers a good deal of WR3 upside against a sub-par Dolphins secondary, and it's possible Allen's absence will translate to more snaps for Indy's most explosive wideout. There is risk in starting Hilton to be sure, but he is a big-play machine with a raised Week 2 statistical ceiling.
Score Prediction: Colts 27, Dolphins 20
Tennessee @ Houston
Ben Tate outplayed a rusty Arian Foster last Monday at San Diego, and after watching the tape coach Gary Kubiak expressed regret Tate didn't get more than 11 touches. (Foster had 24.) "I wish it would have come out a little more closer to even," Kubiak said. "I want to keep it somewhat close right now and watch them working to (see) what's going on." The Titans faced the Isaac Redman-led Steelers backfield in Week 1, so we don't have a great read on what kind of run defense they'll be. There's still little that suggests Tennessee is an imposing opponent. View Tate as a viable flex and Foster as an RB2. ... The Texans are a run-first team. It is their organizational philosophy and where their best talent lies. Matt Schaub was forced into an expanded Week 1 role because Houston fell behind 28-7 early in the third quarter. Forward-thinking fantasy owners can't expect 35 weekly attempts from Schaub, let alone the 45 he tried against the Chargers. He's still just a two-QB league starter. ... Numerous observers called for Andre Johnson's decline around this time last year, after a slow start. We don't hear that anymore. Johnson tagged the Bolts for 146 yards on 12 catches and enters Week 2 fifth in the NFL in receiving yards, behind Anquan Boldin (208), A.J. Green (162), Demaryius Thomas (161), and Vincent Jackson (154).
Owen Daniels deserves credit for an impressive opener. Buoyed by an unordinary number of pass attempts from Schaub, Daniels secured 5-of-7 targets for 67 yards and two touchdowns, finding pay dirt inside the ten-yard line on both scores. The Titans present a plus matchup for tight ends because they struggle in safety coverage, but I strongly believe Daniels will fall short of top-12 TE1 numbers while losing targets to DeAndre Hopkins and Garrett Graham behind Johnson on a run-first team. If Daniels has another big game, sell high. ... It could just as easily be Hopkins in the No. 2 pass-option role this week after his five-catch, 66-yard opener. Or second TE Graham (4-27-1). While consistency and reliability will almost inevitably be difficult to come by behind the running backs and Johnson, the good news is Daniels and Hopkins have favorable Week 2 matchups and Houston should have little trouble moving the ball. I'm anxious to get a bigger sample size on this team because I don't think last week's comeback mode is indicative of the 2013 Texans.
The Titans announced what kind of offense they want to play last week in Pittsburgh. Even though Shonn Greene missed snaps with an in-game knee injury, the Titans ripped off 42 running plays, using three-tight end power formations on 17 of their snaps. Jake Locker attempted 20 passes, completing 11 as Tennessee pulled out the 16-9 victory. It's going to be a weekly headache for Titans wide receivers in fantasy, because there are many mouths to feed and very little volume with a low-percentage passer at the helm. Nate Washington was the Titans' leading Week 1 receiver in targets (7), catches (4), and yards (46). Kenny Britt (1-15) and Kendall Wright (2-11) owners, I wish you the very best of luck. ... Delanie Walker is back from his training camp knee injury to contribute to the muddiness of Tennessee's pass-catching corps. He was targeted four times in the opener, securing three for 40 yards with a fumble. Walker isn't even TE2 worthy.
Under OC Dowell Loggains, the Titans view Wright as a situational slot receiver like Eddie Royal or Davone Bess. Wright played 19-of-68 (27.9%) Week 1 snaps. I'd consider dropping him in a 10- or 12-team league. ... The Texans allowed four fluke touchdown passes to Philip Rivers in their opener, but shut down San Diego's running game as Chargers backs managed 62 scoreless yards on 19 carries (3.26 YPC). Making matters more difficult on Chris Johnson is the fact that even with Greene shelved by knee woes, the Titans distributed goal-line carries elsewhere as third-stringer Jackie Battle executed on a second-quarter three-yard plunge. Optimistic CJ?K owners can point to the fact that he's had some recent success against the Texans' defense, gaining 253 yards on 53 runs (4.77 YPC) over their last three meetings. Volume is definitely on Johnson's side. He's just not getting work in scoring position, and he plays in an offense begging to be one dimensional.
Score Prediction: Texans 28, Titans 17