1:00PM ET Games
St. Louis @ Atlanta
The Falcons' offensive line deficiencies flashed in August and were startlingly evident in Week 1 against a New Orleans defense that lacks even mediocre talent. The Saints hit or sacked Matt Ryan on nearly a quarter of his dropbacks. While returning home can't hurt the team outlook, Atlanta is in for a much stiffer test versus outstanding Rams edge pass rushers RE Robert Quinn, coming off a three-sack game, and LE Chris Long, returning from an 11.5-sack season. Their adversaries, respectively, will be swinging-gate RT Lamar Holmes and mediocre LT Sam Baker. I would not be surprised if Ryan had a number of rough moments in this game. He'd be more of a borderline QB1 for me than locked-in starter. I'd play Jay Cutler over Ryan in Week 2. ... Ideally, Falcons OC Dirk Koetter would draw up fast-hitting pass plays to get the ball out of Ryan's hands quickly, offsetting the impact of Quinn and Long. Julio Jones can be dominant on wide receiver screens, and St. Louis' defensive weakness is at outside linebacker. With Roddy White badly hobbled, Jones is Atlanta's unquestioned No. 1 wideout. ... Targeting Tony Gonzalez heavily would be another sound way for Koetter to scheme up passing offense that attacks the Rams' shaky outside 'backers and replacement-level safeties. Gonzo is a recommended TE1 start.
"It's hard to cut," said White of his high ankle sprain after being used as a Week 1 decoy. "It's hard to do just about everything ... It will be maybe a few more weeks before I can go out there and be myself." White revealed he was supposed to be on a snap count of 10-15 plays against the Saints, but wound up with about 30 because the coaching staff "wanted me in certain areas to do certain things so that they couldn't just bracket guys." It could be a week or three until White is a fantasy asset. Roddy cautioned his Twitter followers this week to bench him for now. ... Slot man Harry Douglas had four Week 1 catches for 93 yards, just Douglas' second time clearing 50 yards in his last 24 games. Give Douglas a butt-pat and leave him on waivers. ... Steven Jackson played 36 snaps compared to Jacquizz Rodgers' 16 in Week 1 and broke off a wide-open 50-yard run, although S-Jax was limited to 27 yards on his remaining ten carries and dropped two passes. Still, fantasy owners should be pleased he came away with over 120 total yards, and Jackson is going to remain a solid bet for weekly touchdowns as long as he's healthy. He's a strong RB2 facing his old team. The "revenge" factor more often than not makes no difference, but can't hurt.
I've been skeptical of Jared Cook's chances of ever becoming a high-volume receiver based on his lack of ideal short-area movement, but Cook's preseason and Week 1 usage certainly suggests the Rams intend to make him one. Cook parlayed a team-high ten targets into a 7-141-2 line against the Cardinals, and he would've had a third score if not for Tyrann Mathieu's brilliant hustle play to strip Cook from behind, turning a 47-yard gain into a turnover. Nevertheless, St. Louis is getting Cook matched up on linebackers and safeties down the seam, and the Falcons' linebackers and safeties are not exceptional cover men. They gave up seven catches for 76 yards and a score to Saints tight ends in Week 1. Start Cook confidently. ... Rams top wideout Chris Givens was far quieter in the opener, primarily because he was shadowed by Cardinals top CB Patrick Peterson. Peterson allowed Givens to make just one catch for 12 yards; Givens' only other grab (for 15) came when a bunch formation forced RCB Jerraud Powers to follow him in coverage. Better days are inarguably ahead, but fantasy owners could not be faulted for reserving Givens as a WR4 until his production picks up. I'd still start Givens as a WR3 at Atlanta unless I had a great alternative.
Whereas Cook (91.5 snap percentage) and Givens (81.7%) are essentially every-down players, Tavon Austin isn't there yet. Austin played 63.4% of the Rams' Week 1 downs and secured 6-of-7 targets for 41 yards. Austin is St. Louis' chain-moving receiver; Cook and Givens are the big-play threats. Until we see Austin in an expanded role, he'll be a relatively low-ceiling WR3. ... Dating back to last season, Sam Bradford has completed 202 of his last 340 throws (59.4%) for 2,204 yards (6.48 YPA) and a 15:7 TD-to-INT ratio. Far from sterling, but they're solid QB2 numbers. Coming off a strong opener, I'd view Bradford as that with room for more. He's not yet trustworthy as a legit fantasy starter. ... A poor tackling team, Atlanta surrendered 863 rushing yards after contact in 2012, the second highest total in football. The Falcons were much better in run defense against New Orleans in Week 1, but few mistake the Saints for an efficient run-ball offense. As Isaiah Pead returns from suspension, expect 20 or so more touches from Daryl Richardson in perhaps his make-or-break opportunity to establish feature-back security. Richardson received 25 touches versus Arizona, but averaged 3.2 YPC and the Rams have not seemed sold on him as an NFL starter. Treat Richardson as a shaky RB2/flex and hope he picks up his productivity.
Score Prediction: Falcons 24, Rams 21
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San Diego @ Philadelphia
Coming off Monday night's meltdown loss to the Texans, Chargers DC John Pagano had a short week to prepare for Chip Kelly's smash-mouth zone-read attack in a cross-country matchup. Kelly's offense looked for real in preseason, and was confirmed to be for real in Philly's opener as Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, and Bryce Brown combined for 263 yards and two touchdowns on a whopping 49 carries (5.37 YPC). With Adrian Peterson traveling to Soldier Field, a case can be made for McCoy as Week 2's top fantasy running back play. Kelly's scheme springs him into space, where laterally gifted McCoy is perhaps the most dangerous runner in football. McCoy's weekly head-to-head fantasy opponents are in for a long year. ... Vick needs to be considered a top-10 fantasy quarterback until he stops producing like one or gets bitten by the injury bug. Kelly's designed and option runs give Vick free-access open-field opportunities, and the passing game is similarly dangerous because back-seven defenders blow assignments due to their run-game responsibilities. Kelly's offense may not revolutionize the NFL long term, but fantasy owners need to ride it while it's working. Pagano's defense was picked apart in Week 1 by Matt Schaub, who set ten-game highs in passing yards (346) and touchdowns (3) with a 75.6 completion rate.
The Eagles ran an NFL record 53 first-half offensive plays in Week 1, and a straight-faced Kelly insisted afterwards they played too slow. "I felt like it was slow. I'm not joking," he said. "We need to do a better job. We left the ball on the ground too much. We didn't get the ball to the officials. We could have sped things up in between plays." Bryce Brown is going to be a factor during bye weeks, at which point the Eagles should be playing even faster. Week 1 showed Brown is clearly ahead of Chris Polk. ... DeSean Jackson played 80-of-83 snaps at Washington, ending on a 7-109-1 line despite zero second-half production because Philly was sitting on a big lead and didn't need to throw. Lock in pass-game focal point D-Jax as a WR2 and every-week starter. ... No other Eagles pass catcher saw more than six targets in D.C., and Brent Celek and Zach Ertz are already hurting each other's production. They were targeted three times apiece against the Redskins. Any decidedly run-heavy offense is going to struggle to support more than one serious, consistent fantasy-contributing receiver. For the Eagles, Jackson is that one guy.
Philip Rivers deserves credit for an awesome first half in Week 1 against Houston, and every bit of the blame for one of the worst second-half choke jobs you'll see. Rivers went to pieces in the final two quarters, crumbling under duress and making inexplicable throws, like on ILB Brian Cushing's fourth-quarter pick six. Rivers came away with four touchdown passes, but he hasn't changed. I'd view him as a risky two-QB league play against the blitz-heavy Eagles. Rivers looks like a shell-shocked player. ... Ryan Mathews caught a diving 14-yard touchdown on a wheel route against the Texans, but otherwise was bottled up; not just on the field but by his own team. The Chargers gave Ronnie Brown a team-high 25 running back snaps, while Mathews only played 20 and Danny Woodhead 10. San Diego's backfield is a fantasy value-draining timeshare. I believe the Eagles' defense can be run on, but would view Mathews as no more than a Week 2 flex.
Woodhead was mentioned in some circles as a 2013 sleeper. I just never saw it. He's a change-up back in a suspect offense who would not get featured work if Mathews went down. Behind Brown on the depth chart as well, Woodhead is safe to drop. ... Someone should ascend atop the corps eventually, but the Chargers' passing game was a spread-the-wealth distribution in Week 1. Eddie Royal led the way with six measly targets, while Vincent Brown and Antonio Gates each saw four. Until Rivers commences peppering one of them with footballs, these players are bench fodder. I'd confidently ignore Royal's two-score fluke opener. He hasn't been an effective receiver in years. ... Gates would be my pick to lead San Diego in catches versus a Philly defense deficient in second- and third-level coverage. I still think there are a dozen better tight end plays for Week 2. ... Malcom Floyd was predictably inefficient in Week 1, managing to secure 1-of-5 targets for 47 yards. While I think he should catch one or two more passes than that on a weekly basis, Floyd will be a deep ball-dependent, struggling player all year as a misfit for San Diego's new offense. Floyd is capable of teasing with a big game here or there, but that isn’t what we want in fantasy.
Score Prediction: Eagles 27, Chargers 20
Dallas @ Kansas City
The Giants used doubles and bracket coverage to put clamps on Dez Bryant in Week 1. If teams keep this up, Miles Austin and Jason Witten will make them pay. Austin -- looking noticeably quicker this year -- combined with Witten to catch 18 passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns. Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton is from the Rex Ryan school and will likely be more aggressive than Giants DC Perry Fewell was. So Dez ought to have more one-on-one chances. But Austin is shaping up as a rock-solid WR3, and Witten is an obvious top-six tight end. ... The sledding could still be bumpy for Tony Romo at Arrowhead against a Chiefs defense showing an ability to bring both edge and middle pressure. It's a potentially lethal combination. OLBs Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, and NT Dontari Poe combined for six QB hits, 4.5 sacks, and a pick in the opener at Jacksonville, and the Cowboys' offensive line isn't distinguishably better than the Jaguars'. I'd view Romo as a shaky QB1 in Week 2. ... Rookie Terrance Williams is running as Dallas' third receiver, but may not be long for the role. He mishandled two catchable passes in Week 1 and ran a bad route that got Romo intercepted. Dwayne Harris is waiting in the wings.
Whether he can hold up physically on the workload is the bigger question, but the Cowboys have every intention of using DeMarco Murray as a bellcow back. That showed up against New York, as Murray handled 28 touches only for coach Jason Garrett to state after the game he wanted the ball in Murray's hands more. Kansas City's defense looks stouter this year, but Murray is a locked-in every-week RB2 when he's getting the ball 30 or so times a game. ... An MRI of Bryant's foot injury revealed only a minor sprain, and he practiced fully this week. Dez needs to be in fantasy lineups whenever he's active. Be aware, however, of the Chiefs' changing usage of top CB Brandon Flowers as a shadow cover man. Strictly a left corner throughout his career, Flowers noticeably moved around more in the opener, spending a lot of time against Jaguars top receiver Cecil Shorts. ... Murray is worth handcuffing in deeper leagues with change-of-pace back Lance Dunbar, who is due back from injury in Week 2. Phillip Tanner runs hard, but is just a guy. Fifth-round pick Joseph Randle is not a factor in Dallas' offense, playing zero snaps in Week 1.
Based on camp and the Chiefs' opener, coach Andy Reid is indeed asking Alex Smith to be a high-volume passer without actually asking him to execute difficult throws. The goal is for Smith to be a chain-moving quarterback and sustainer. I'm skeptical this approach will work long term, and it certainly looks better in practice when the Chiefs win games 28-2 as they did in Week 1. For now, view Smith as a low-ceiling fantasy QB2. ... Kansas City's wideout corps felt the adverse effects of the dink-and-dunk, between-the-numbers passing attack against the Jaguars, as FB Anthony Sherman (4-44) led the team in receiving. I fear it'll be a long year for Dwayne Bowe, but would start him as a WR2/3 against Dallas. Pro Football Focus charted Cowboys RCB Morris Claiborne with six catches allowed for 139 yards on nine targets against the Giants. Claiborne is playing through multiple shoulder separations. Bowe should have his number when they face off.
Jamaal Charles exited Kansas City's blowout Week 1 win with a quad injury, but returned briefly and probably would've kept playing were the scoring not so lopsided. Reid's quick-hitting passing game will get Charles into space, where he can make defenders miss with sharp lateral cuts and beat opponents to the corner with devastating burst. Charles is a top-six running back start in Week 2. Despite a strong showing in the opener -- with an assist from bust-of-the-week David Wilson -- I still don't believe Dallas' lightweight defense is an imposing matchup for run games. ... Dexter McCluster (3-43), Anthony Fasano (2-8), and Donnie Avery (2-11-1) were all quiet in the opener. They are role players behind Bowe and Charles, and unworthy of fantasy roster spots.
Score Prediction: Chiefs 24, Cowboys 23