4:25PM ET Games
Jacksonville @ Oakland
Jaguars-Raiders is the lone Week 2 game with a sub-40-point over-under. Look elsewhere for fantasy sleeper plays. ... Oakland is using Terrelle Pryor in a simplistic one-read offense, where he works through a single progression before deciding whether to run or pass. While this college-like approach can successfully translate to fantasy production because he's got the green light to rush for statistics, it's worth wondering just how long it'll take defenses to catch on. I like Pryor as a back-end QB1 streamer against a Jags defense that served up 293 total yards and three TDs to an Alex Smith-quarterbacked offense last week, but Pryor isn't a bankable season-long starter, and there are certain to be bumps in the road. It's fun to play this guy in fantasy -- I'm doing it for the second straight week -- but be careful. ... Another positive for Pryor is Jacksonville's loss of top CB Dwayne Gratz for 3-6 weeks with a high ankle sprain. … I still couldn't bring myself to trust any of Pryor's receivers, at least not until bye weeks force me to. Rod Streater was Pryor's Week 1 go-to guy, securing five balls for 70 yards on a team-high eight targets. A possession-type talent who plays in the slot and out wide, Streater is the best option if you really want to roll the dice.
It's understandable that the Raiders' coaching staff has had something of a love-hate relationship with Denarius Moore. A superb talent, Moore's inconsistencies have continued into the beginning of this season. Although he dropped a 5-43-1 line on the Colts in Week 1, Moore missed on two catchable targets and his on-field performance has been unreliable seemingly ever since Dennis Allen took over. In fantasy, it'll cause headaches trying to pin down when Moore will have good games due to his play and the inaccuracy of his quarterback on a run-based team. ... Darren McFadden's opening-week stats (17-48-1, 3-18) look pedestrian on paper, but he showed burst and power when holes were there and will commence benefiting from Pryor's dual threat sooner rather than later. The Jags' Week 2 defensive approach will likely emphasize keeping Pryor in the pocket, where he is least effective. There'll be less focus on containing McFadden. Despite major deficiencies on his offensive line, I think McFadden has a great shot at a breakout Week 2 game. Jaguars coaches are going to be very worried about Pryor after watching the Opening Day tape.
So much for looking good in August. For the second straight year, the Jaguars teased with a strong preseason showing before falling flat on their face when the real stuff began. Jacksonville was outmanned and out-coached in its Week 1 28-2 loss to Kansas City, losing Blaine Gabbert along the way. Chad Henne obviously isn't a long-term solution, but he will give Cecil Shorts a better chance at short-term success. Shorts' seven stat lines in the games both he and Henne played together extensively last season: 4-79-1, 6-105-1, 3-81-1, 4-105-1, 7-77-1, 6-101, 6-54. Shorts is a quality bounce-back WR3 in Week 2. ... Also working in Shorts' favor is the fact Jacksonville is otherwise painfully thin on pass catchers. Justin Blackmon is suspended three more games. Marcedes Lewis can't get over the hump with his calf injury, an ailment that has troubled Lewis in the past. Rookie slot receiver Ace Sanders finished second on the Jaguars behind Shorts in Week 1 targets (9), but secured three for 14 yards. There's no place else to go.
The Jags trailed 21-2 by the second quarter of their opener, so it's not surprising in hindsight that Maurice Jones-Drew's Week 1 stat line underwhelmed. He rushed 15 times for 45 yards and both of his targets fell incomplete. The Raiders were susceptible to run games this preseason, and that carried over into their Opening Day loss, as the Colts stung Oakland for 127 yards rushing and a touchdown on 26 attempts (4.88 YPC). In what ought to be a much closer, hard-fought game for the Jaguars, MJD's workload and production should both rise significantly. He's a rock-solid RB2.
Score Prediction: Jaguars 23, Raiders 20
Denver @ NY Giants
In last Thursday's NFL opener, the Broncos employed Knowshon Moreno as their starter and lead back with Ronnie Hillman in the pace-change role. Montee Ball mixed in sparingly before Denver attempted to use him to kill late-game clock. Ball was unsuccessful, managing 24 yards on eight carries and at one point lining up on the wrong side of Peyton Manning for a handoff. Because none of Denver's backs distanced themselves, the backfield will remain an ongoing competition and fantasy headache. ... Coming off his ridiculous seven-score opener, Manning has a 44:11 TD-to-INT ratio in 17 regular season games as a Bronco. You might want to start him against a Giants defense that gave up 263 yards, a 73.5 completion rate, and two touchdowns to Tony Romo last week. ... The Giants may be without top CB Prince Amukamara (concussion) in Week 2, depending on his ability to gain medical clearance. Not that you needed a reason to start Demaryius Thomas, of course, but this would improve his matchup. Including January's playoffs, Thomas has registered a touchdown and/or 100 yards in 14-of-18 career games with Manning.
Game watchers noticed against Baltimore that Manning's arm strength has not returned, throwing wobblers and lacking velocity. While it isn't a concern for his stats, Peyton's inability to power throws may make Wes Welker a more inviting target than expected. Welker runs routes at short depths, where Manning can find him quickly and with precision without having to drive the ball. Lock in Welker as an every-week WR2. ... Readers of the 2012 Matchups column will recall that Manning makes it a point to keep his receivers happy by targeting them heavily the following game after they turn in quiet weeks. This is the likeliest Week 2 outcome for Eric Decker, who was Week 1's odd man out. Decker will have ups and downs -- Demaryius and Welker are clearly ahead of him in the pecking order -- but this is a great week to start him. ... Julius Thomas played 100 percent of Denver's Opening Day snaps, turned in a 5-110-2 line, and now faces a Giants defense that allowed nine catches for 77 yards and two touchdowns to Cowboys tight ends last week. One of the above pass catchers will likely be left out of the weekly box-score bonanzas, but Thomas has as good a matchup as any. The G-Men are visibly deficient in second-level pass coverage.
Two lost fumbles got David Wilson benched in the Giants' opener, but the loose balls don't tell the whole story. Wilson blew a blitz pickup, was stuffed at the goal line, committed a pre-snap motion penalty, averaged 1.9 yards per carry, and had his lone target intercepted. The Giants will keep Wilson on a short leash, but he's going to get one more opportunity to carry the mail in Week 2 versus Denver. Working in Wilson's favor is the healthy return of C David Baas from a knee injury that cost him the opener. Baas was a top-ten run-blocking center in Pro Football Focus' 2012 ratings. In fantasy lineups, I'd be willing to roll the dice on Wilson's upside unless I was loaded with starting-caliber alternatives. ... Signed Tuesday, 31-year-old Brandon Jacobs is not in football shape and will serve as Wilson's mentor with perhaps 3-5 spot carries against the Broncos. The Jacobs addition was a best case scenario for Wilson's fantasy outlook. Willis McGahee could've been much worse. ... Brandon Myers finished Week 1 with seven catches for 66 yards and a touchdown, playing every single offensive snap and piling up receptions in garbage time. That's par for the course with Myers. He's worth a shot for desperate tight end streamers versus a Broncos defense that allowed eight catches for 100 yards to Ravens tight ends in their opener.
Broncos-Giants quietly has Week 2's largest over-under at 55 points, with Denver favored by a reasonable 4.5. The Vegas prognosticators anticipate a high-scoring affair on both sides. I'm just skeptical the Giants will score big with their passing attack. The Broncos can counter Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and underrated slot CB Chris Harris, respectively, and New York's offensive line is coming off a rough game in pass protection. Rodgers-Cromartie played exceptionally well last week against Torrey Smith. The G-Men need David Wilson, alright. ... For his part, Nicks looked better in Week 1 than he has since Week 2 of last season. Nicks flashed afterburners on his first-quarter 57-yard catch and run, and finished with a 5-114 stat line -- Nicks' highest yardage total in nearly 12 months. Despite Denver's imposing cornerback play, I'd view Nicks as a locked-in WR2 until he slows down. ... While Harris has flashed shutdown slot-coverage skills in the past -- Anquan Boldin knows -- Cruz runs a diverse enough route tree that I wouldn't worry about him getting blanked. Overall, this is still an unfriendly on-paper matchup for Eli Manning. He's a QB2 in Week 2. ... Rueben Randle secured 5-of-6 targets in New York's opener for 101 yards. His outlook still hasn't changed. Randle is a WR4 whose prospective reliability as a fantasy starter is dependent on Nicks getting hurt.
Score Prediction: Broncos 33, Giants 27
Sunday Night Football
San Francisco @ Seattle
Despite physical limitations -- he doesn't run 4.4 or get separation -- Anquan Boldin is shaping up as a terrific fit for Colin Kaepernick's passing ability. Kap has a cannon and is willing to throw to "covered" receivers. Boldin is usually "covered" because he doesn't outrun anyone, winning instead by manhandling defensive backs. Boldin did so throughout January's playoffs and again in Week 1, securing a game-high 13-of-17 targets for 208 yards and a touchdown. OC Greg Roman also deserves credit for using stack and bunch concepts against Green Bay to help Boldin beat coverage. Over his last six games, Boldin has 42 catches, 681 yards (16.2 YPR), and five scores. Extrapolated to 16, that's good for an insane 112/1,816/13.3 line. Per PFF's Mike Clay, Boldin played 43% of his Week 1 snaps in the slot, where he can avoid lockdown LCB Richard Sherman because Walter Thurmond III is Seattle's slot corner. Boldin and Sherman will match up plenty when Boldin lines up outside, but I'd consider him a WR2 until he stops producing like one. ... Vernon Davis is well on his way to leading all tight ends in touchdowns, emerging from Week 1 with a 6-98-2 line. I found this PFF stat interesting, as well: Whereas Davis ran a pass route on only 38.3% of his offensive snaps in last year's Week 7 game versus Seattle, he upped that rate to 56.8% in San Francisco's opener. Now more receiver than blocker, Davis is headed for a monster year.
Coach Mike McCarthy admitted after Week 1 the Packers game planned to stop the run, only to watch as Kap shredded them with the pass. It helps explain why Frank Gore (21-44-1) was bottled up. Gore has had recent success against Seattle, carrying 45 times for 242 yards (5.38 YPC) and a touchdown in their last three meetings. The Seahawks also looked vulnerable on the ground in their opener, as Carolina stung them for 134 yards on 26 runs (5.15 YPC). ... 49ers role-playing wideouts Kyle Williams and Marlon Moore ran clear-out routes versus Green Bay so Boldin and Davis could work the seams. Neither is worth a roster spot in 12-team leagues. ... Quinton Patton only played four Week 1 snaps, compared to Williams' 55 and 16 for Moore. If you're desperate to play a complementary Niners pass catcher, Williams is your best bet. ... The sky is the limit for Kaepernick, who after one game doesn't look so "short on weapons." Including January's playoffs, Kap has completed 125-of-208 throws for 1,951 yards (9.4 YPA) with a 14:4 TD-to-INT ratio and three more rushing touchdowns over his last five games. He is an every-week fantasy starter.
Russell Wilson heated up the 49ers for 71.4% completions, four touchdowns, one pick, and 29 rushing yards in Week 16 last year, although it should be noted San Francisco's defense was a completely different animal without "Cowboy" RE Justin Smith. Smith is back now. When Smith did play in these teams' October meeting, Wilson completed 9-of-23 throws for 122 yards and an interception. Wilson remains in the back-end QB1 hunt, but I'd play consensus preseason QB2s Michael Vick, Jay Cutler, and Terrelle Pryor over him this week. ... Interestingly enough, Seattle's receiving star of the aforementioned Week 16 game was slot man Doug Baldwin, who caught four balls for 53 yards and two touchdowns, and is returning from a 7-91 opener. Be careful with Baldwin because he's a rotational wideout who only plays about 55% of the snaps on a run-first team. But Baldwin has a favorable coverage draw versus declining 32-year-old 49ers slot corner Carlos Rogers and is worth WR3 consideration. ... The Niners held Golden Tate to 2012 stat lines of 0-0 and 2-27 last season, and fantasy owners should be concerned that Tate might get stuck in RCB Tarell Brown's coverage. Brown played a major role in James Jones' goose egg last week.
Seahawks Z receiver Sidney Rice will run most of his routes into 49ers LCB Nnamdi Asomugha's coverage. Jordy Nelson had success versus Asomugha in the opener, but I looked at all of those targets and thought Aso played solid, physical press coverage for the most part. Rice obviously isn't the player Nelson is, and is coming off a three-target first game. Still battling knee problems, Rice is low-end WR3. He may struggle to get off Asomugha's jam. ... Jermaine Kearse caught the game-winning touchdown in Week 1 at Carolina, but is Seattle's No. 4 receiver and has no shot at consistency in that role. He played 42.4% of the snaps. ... Zach Miller's 42 yards in Week 1 were his most in the regular season since early last November. Aim higher. ... Marshawn Lynch turned in a Week 1 clunker (17-43), but has had more recent success running on San Francisco than you may think. Over their last three meetings, Lynch has ripped off 321 yards and two touchdowns on 66 attempts (4.86 YPC), going for over 100 yards each time. Lock in Lynch as a low-end RB1.
Score Prediction: 49ers 27, Seahawks 24
Monday Night Football
Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati
Few offensive lines played worse in Week 1 than Pittsburgh's, which is a red flag for two reasons: 1. They faced the Titans. 2. Their problems are exacerbated by C Maurkice Pouncey's ACL and MCL tear. So the Steelers head to Cincy without their best lineman to face arguably the NFL's most ferocious D-Line. I'd start the Bengals' fantasy defense with excitement. ... Albeit injury shortened, Ben Roethlisberger quietly had one of his most productive seasons in 2012. He still struggled mightily against Mike Zimmer's Cincinnati defense. Big Ben was limited to 41-of-65 passing for 498 yards, two touchdowns, and four turnovers, absorbing seven sacks in their two meetings. I would not be surprised if Roethlisberger were sacked five-plus times Monday night. ... Antonio Brown was one of Pittsburgh's few skill-position players who played well in the two 2012 Bengals matchups, registering stat lines of 7-96 and 5-97-1. Lock in Brown as a WR2. ... Rookie Markus Wheaton had a highly impressive preseason, but still has depth-chart climbing to do. The explosive third-rounder played just seven snaps against Tennessee and wasn't targeted.
Emmanuel Sanders is somewhat appealing as a Week 2 WR3 candidate. Big Ben targeted him a team-high 12 times in Week 1, and Sanders will primarily face 35-year-old Bengals LCB Terence Newman in coverage. ... The Steelers are getting no production from their tight ends with Heath Miller (knee) still on the shelf, which means Sanders and Brown are going to see consistent heavy targets. It's just something to keep in mind. Miller is not expected back until October, possibly in Week 6. ... Pittsburgh's running game is essentially a non-factor, and likely to remain that way in this difficult matchup. The Bengals held Bears backs to 65 yards on 25 Week 1 runs (2.60 YPC), and the unholy triumvirate of Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer, and Felix Jones is much worse. This Steelers offense is simply going to struggle to sustain and create big plays. I think they need to start giving Wheaton more snaps. And they definitely need second-round pick Le'Veon Bell back.
The over-under on Steelers-Bengals is 41, one of the lowest of Week 2. I'd still take the under. Whereas Pittsburgh is in rough shape on offense, they are loaded and vicious on defense, and Dick LeBeau has unfailingly had Andy Dalton's number. In his four career Steelers games, Dalton is 64-of-123 passing (52%) for 688 yards (5.59 YPA), and a 4:5 TD-to-INT ratio. Dalton isn't on the QB2 radar this week. ... A.J. Green was one of the most impressive players on a Week 1 football field, torching Bears CBs Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings for a touchdown apiece en route to a 9-162-2 line. Green's battles with Steelers RCB Ike Taylor have gone either way, but Taylor, 33, is getting up there in age while 25-year-old Green is getting better. Green is a top-five fantasy wideout in Week 2. ... At least from a fantasy perspective, the fear for Bengals TEs Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham is that they will cancel each other out in the box score, and such was the case in Week 1. Both had five targets and five catches, and Eifert led the way with 47 yards. The Steelers annually defend the tight end as stingily as any team in the league. Eifert is probably going to end up with the most 2013 production, but he is not a fantasy TE1.
Possession receiver Mohamed Sanu is vying for targets with Eifert, Gresham, and Marvin Jones behind Green. While Sanu is a respectable red-zone target, his role doesn't lend itself to high-end production. Sanu caught 4-of-5 targets in the opener for 19 yards. Look elsewhere. ... The single biggest surprise of Cincinnati's opener was Giovani Bernard's minimal usage. While BenJarvus Green-Ellis plodded his way to 25 yards and a goal-line score on 14 carries, the Bengals' most explosive runner was limited to five touches and 22 offensive snaps. Until Bernard establishes a larger role, he can't be trusted as a flex play. Perhaps that'll begin as soon as Week 2, but the matchup makes it a wait-and-see fantasy week. The Steelers ranked No. 2 in the NFL in 2012 run defense, and in Week 1 stuffed the Titans for 112 yards on 42 carries (2.67 YPC). Green-Ellis would be a poor flex option. Keep Bernard stashed on your bench, because his time is coming.
Score Prediction: Bengals 17, Steelers 14