Saturday, September 15, 2012



NFL Football is a game of trends.  Last year, that trend was the emergence of more tight ends as viable to downfield receivers than ever before.  This year it’s clear that your offense will fall into one of two categories.  You either have a mobile, athletic quarterback who can make plays with his arm and feet (names like Vick, Wilson, Newton or Griffin III), or you have a pocket passing quarterback, in which case you’re now using a hybrid RB/WR to add various looks to your offense (players like Harvin, Sproles, McCluster, Tebow, Hernandez, Benjamin).  Those trends are changing the ways defenses have to prepare for any given team, and making offenses more diverse than ever before.


What should the Buccaneers take from seeing the Cowboys dismantle the Giants in their home opener RB yard?  Stay patient with the running game.  Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray had all of 20 rushing yards at the end of the first half, yet finished with 131.  Doug Martin, the Bucs new bell-cow, didn’t score in Week 1, but had 24 carries and 95 yards.  With the Giants hardly a ball-control team, the Bucs will attempt to control the tempo on the road, and are going to give Martin a good shot at his first 100- game.  However, don’t forget about LeGarrette Blount.  Blount has never faced the Giants, he’s only 25 years old, and Martin wasn’t able to score on two tries on Tampa Bay’s red zone possession starting first and goal at the Carolina four yard line.  That could easily mean goal line duties for Blount.  Though Josh Freeman showed prowess in their West Coast passing game in the opener, don’t be shocked if Schiano’s squad takes a few early shots at Vincent Jackson deep downfield due to a Giants depleted secondary.  Jackson should see increased numbers this week, but so should Dallas Clark and Preston Parker.  The Giants face a tough Tampa secondary, which intercepted Cam Newton twice last week.  Tom Coughlin will try to get more of Ahmad Bradshaw and yes, David Wilson into this week’s game, particularly when you consider Tampa was dead last in 2011 containing the run.  Bradshaw’s a solid lock for over 125 all purpose yards and a score.  Look for Eli Manning’s attempts to drop this week into the twenties, with Martellus Bennett continuing his strong start.  Hakeem Nicks is likely to play with his foot injury, and Victor Cruz will make amends for last week.


There’s only one question on the Oakland faithful’s mind: who the heck is the long-snapper this week?  All kidding aside, the Raiders have won just one of their last five matchups in Miami, and should LS Jon Condo remain unable to play, the Raiders have a real concern on their hands.  Will they just abandon punting?  This game matches two teams whose offenses need a lot of work, because as of now, both the Dolphins and Raiders have running backs leading their offenses in both rushing and receiving.  Miami’s rushing defense isn’t bad, but they couldn’t keep a semi-healthy Arian Foster from sniffing the end zone twice.  Darren McFadden is just as talented as his aforementioned peer, and should be able to amass decent rushing totals against Miami’s younger 4-3 defense.  The return of starting center Stefen Wisniewski is good news on that front.  The bigger problem is Carson Palmer and the receivers group, who failed to get anything going against the Chargers until the game wasn’t in question.  Denarius Moore is back on the practice field and should play, giving Oakland a deep threat.  Problem is Palmer’s still not throwing with the accuracy and zip he used to.  Miami is grooming-by-fire QB Ryan Tannehill, who for some reason was charted by Offensive Coordinator Mike Sherman to throw the ball 36 times against a very opportunistic and speedy Houston defense.  The results spoke for themselves, and even though Reggie Bush averaged 4.9 yards for his 14 carries, Bush wasn't given more of an opportunity due to the fact the wheels had come off by the second half.  He'll be given ample opportunity to take this game over and relieve pressure on Tannehill.  That in itself makes him a solid play this week for what I believe will be a 150 yards of total offense.  I've made the case that Oakland's defense was overlooked as a huge positive in their Week 1 loss to San Diego, snuffing the Chargers for the entire turnover-fulfilled second half.  If Oakland can get out of its own way, Darren McFadden should lead them to victory.  None of the Dolphins receivers merit much love in fantasy, but if you're desperate, Brian Hartline is the guy you're playing here, as he's the biggest and most physical of the Dolphins depleted receiving group.  For the Raiders, I'm not giving up on Darius Heyward-Bey just yet, but disappearing in the opening week against a division rival has me thinking there's someone better.  Assuming he plays, I like Denarius Moore for a deep touchdown against a Dolphins secondary that gave up five plays of greater than 20 yards last Sunday.


Can the Bills ever get a break?  Can Chan Gailey actually become a head coach that wins?  Is Boo Berry perhaps the most disgusting cereal ever created?  These are all important questions, especially since the Bills are being haunted not by a little blue blob, but injuries of seasons past.  Just one week into the season, wide receiver David Nelson has become this year's Donald Jones, and he’ll miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury.  Running back Fred Jackson, has a sprained MCL ligament, which will keep him out at least four weeks.  For the Chiefs, life actually improves with their best rusher LB Tamba Hali returning to the lineup after missing a game due to suspension.  There is also hope that CB Brandon Flowers will return, firming up what was a loose secondary on opening Sunday.  The defenses are crucially important in this game, as neither team brings a whole lot of offensive firepower.  Though both teams were perfect in the red zone last week against good defenses, don't expect a high scoring affair.  The Bills spent muchos dollares to bring in Mario Williams, who registered just one tackle last week, while Marcell Dareus will certainly have a lot on his mind after his brother was tragically murdered.  He returned to the team, and I suspect his anger and anguish will join him in this game.  The Bills will count on C. J. Spiller to add to his league-leading rushing tally, while using their spread offense to get Stevie Johnson and Donald Jones involved.  The Chiefs will also look to keep ball control with Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis, while using Dexter McCluster in a variety of packages to draw attention away from Dwayne Bowe.  I have to think Jon Baldwin will show up in this contest, because the Chiefs are so limited, but Bowe makes an excellent play against Bills defensive backfield sporting no one taller than six feet.  This one should be close, and if Fitzpatrick can limit the mistakes, I see the Bills pass rush making a difference this week.


The Texans have taken the last three contests over the Jaguars by a combined score of 78-44 and won each game by no less than seven points. Maurice Jones-Drew has been a thorn in the Texans side, putting up no less than 13 fantasy points the last three times he's faced them.  Jones-Drew was limited a bit last week, though that became an afterthought after Rashad Jennings left with a knee injury.  With Jennings ruled out for this game he won't be limited Sunday.  Arian Foster has been just as big of a pain to the Jaguars, registering no less than 14 fantasy points in each game; in two of the games he carried the ball over 30 times.  And while the two of them fight it out on the turf, the true difference in the game will be which quarterback makes the fewest mistakes.  Matt Schaub missed the last meeting, where a combined effort from Matt Leinart and T.J. Yates pulled out a 20-13 victory.  Schaub was turnover free in his first effort, completing 20-of-31 passes for 266 yards and a TD.  Andre Johnson, whose health has kept him out of two of the last three contests, figured little last year without Schaub behind center.  The question will be how Jaguars QB Blaine Gabbert fares against DE J. J. Watt and the Houston defense.  Laurent Robinson has truly arrived, as he led the team last week in total receptions.  However, I don't like him or Cecil Shorts' chances against this secondary.  Marcedes Lewis should be one of the receivers who could cause problems for Houston, especially in the red zone.   While Gabbert is no doubt improved, Houston's top-notch defense forces a few turnovers at crucial times and takes this one to move to 2-0.


The Browns last three trips to Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati have resulted in losses, albeit close ones, including last year’s 23-20 disappointment in November.  This year’s Browns sport yet another rookie quarterback in Brandon Weeden, joined by first round draft pick RB Trent Richardson.  Pat Shurmur gets a pass last week for having his rookie QB throw 36 passes in his first game as an NFL starter only because Richardson probably shouldn’t have been on the field after having a second knee surgery about four weeks ago.  This week Richardson will be asked to carry more of the load.  Anything less than 25 carries would surprise me, and if he gets more, it means Cleveland’s on the way to a victory.  There’s no one worth starting of the Cleveland receivers, but keep an eye on newcomer Travis Benjamin, as he could become an impact slot receiver a la Roscoe Parrish, and may become fantasy worthy in deep leagues soon.  The Cleveland defense rattled Michael Vick, forcing four interceptions and a fumble, but couldn’t hold on late after an ill-timed roughing the passer penalty on Ahtyba Rubin pushed the Eagles to midfield.  Regardless, D’Qwell Jackson and company are for real, and the only worry they have is losing CB Joe Haden, who had seven tackles and an interception.  Dimitri Patterson will have to replace Haden, and will face matchups against the Bengals A.J. Green, or Andrew Hawkins.  Hawkins, the speedy second-year man out of Toledo, had eight receptions and 86 yards in Week 1.  Quarterback Andy Dalton won’t have a ton of time to throw against this Cleveland front seven, but expect him to work his shots downfield, taking advantage of Haden’s absence.  BenJarvus Green-Ellis did as much as he’s ever done to keep Cincy alive against Baltimore, with 91 rushing yards and a touchdown.  However, I think Cleveland’s front seven may be better than Baltimore’s this year, and his lack of ability to make people miss worries me.  He’s still a decent play here, but I’d be looking for Jermaine Gresham, and A. J. green to get their first touchdowns of the year.  Cleveland managed just two third-down conversions Sunday and things won’t get easier here.  Inexperience of the Browns offense will likely kill their chances in Cincinnati of stealing a “W".


The Eagles defense appears to have put last year behind them, and now look like that stout, tough unit of promise they were supposed to be 2011.  The problem has shifted to the offense.  The loss of LT Jason Peters, which gets more press than it probably should, is having an impact.  King Dunlap, who is filling in, struggled in game one with a holding penalty, not to mention the fact LeSean McCoy could get nothing going rushing behind the left side of the line, losing a fumble once.  Meanwhile, Michael Vick looked rusty and inconsistent against the Browns, and now faces another aggressive secondary with WR Jeremy Maclin hobbled by a hip pointer. Maclin’s been injury prone, but I suspect he’ll show up for a big game like this, and should make an impact.  The good news is that Vick is mobile, and that can cause a pass rush like Baltimore’s trouble.  Baltimore safety Ed Reed is struggling with a hamstring injury, which provides a great opportunity for a speedy receiver like DeSean Jackson to slip in behind the coverage on a broken play for a deep score.  However, after watching BenJarvus Green-Ellis run up 91 yards on just 18 carries, Andy Reid’s group is likely to use LeSean McCoy all over the place this weekend.  This will be the first time the Ravens have seen McCoy, and unlike Green-Ellis, McCoy can make people miss, has strong acceleration and great hands.  Even against a tough Baltimore defense, you’re keeping McCoy active as he averaged over five yards per carry at home last season, and over six yards per attempt in the month of September. This weekend will be the Eagles first true test defensively, as the Ravens were in sync at home in their opener.  Unlike the first time he played them in 2008, Ray Rice is now a seasoned veteran, and although the Eagles kept Trent Richardson at bay, Rice, much like McCoy, is a different story.  Joe Flacco proved he has more weapons at his disposal than we thought, with Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, and Anquan Boldin making up a strong trio, and TE Dennis Pitta showing soft hands and an imposing pres ence in the middle of the field.  Opportunities will be limited for both offenses, making both QBs risky plays, but Vick’s tendency to make bad plays puts Baltimore as a favorite, even on the road.  Baltimore will make the entire day tough on McCoy and Vick, and Flacco finally gets credit for stepping to the next level.


Carolina welcomes a Saints team that gave up the most points and yards in the NFL last week.  But before you condemn the Saints defense to worst in the league, here are some numbers you should consider.  The Saints yielded just 3.5 yards per carry to the Redskins.  The Redskins converted just four of 15 third down tries, and the Saints forced three fumbles but recovered none of them.  Enter the Panthers, who according to downgraded RB Jonathan Stewart from probable earlier in the week to questionable.  Without Stewart, Ron Rivera’s team attempted just 13 rushes, five of them from QB Cam Newton, for a meager 10 yards.  Against the Saints, the way to victory is long sustained drives, keeping Drew Brees off the field; exactly what the Redskins did when they won time of possession by nearly 19 minutes.  However, Carolina’s offensive will have to do a better job holding blocks to help sustain drives, as the Panthers registered six plays of negative yardage in their four first half possessions last week.  Steve Smith is questionable with a knee issue, so keep an eye trained on the injury report before starting him.  If he plays, he will stretch the same secondary that failed to contain Pierre Garcon.  Watch for Brandon LaFell also to get a few shots downfield as the Saints had problems containing the sidelines, and LaFell is a large target that can go up and take passes away from defenders.  The Saints meanwhile, are likely to use Mark Ingram as best they can, while mixing in a good dose of Pierre Thomas, their best all-around back on the team.  They’ll also likely look to exploit rookie Josh Norman in Carolina’s secondary by working matchups to their favor.  The last time these two teams met at Bank of America Stadium, the Saints escaped a three point winner.  This time, it won’t be nearly as close.


The Cardinals haven’t defeated New England since they were known as the Phoenix Cardinals, and that dates back to 1991.  Their offensive line was unable to get anything going on the ground against Seattle, and with LT Levi Brown out for the season, has been a work-in-progress.  Kevin Kolb, retakes the reins now that John Skelton has been diagnosed with a high ankle sprain, and Kolb has a lot to prove.  Accused early on in the pre-season of being skittish and afraid by Oakland’s DE Tommy Kelly, Kolb has hardly been durable or consistent in his short time in Arizona.  Yet, on Sunday, he stepped in, went 6-for-8 and guided the Cardinals on a winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.  He’ll face a Patriots unit that tormented Jake Locker most of the game.  The Patriots unit will do the same to Kolb, and he’ll have to prove that he can take the heat as it’s unlikely the Cardinals will be able to do a lot on the ground.  Larry Fitzgerald is among the best receivers in the league in any week, and will likely get 10-12 targets.  But for Arizona to win, Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams must push get some quality rushing yardage to keep the chains moving.  Bill Belichick’s teams thrive on turnovers and quick strikes, as Tom Brady will often work out of a no-huddle shotgun offense.  Stevan Ridley had a terrific first game as the starter for the Patriots, but Arizona is tougher up front with Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett. The Cardinals were also the best at getting off the field on third down last year, something they’ll hope to do Sunday.  However, the Patriots weapons are varied and difficult to handle.  Tight end Rob Gronkowski can’t be defended by simply a linebacker, so it’ll be up to veteran safety Adrian Wilson to keep him in check.  That leaves Aaron Hernandez, who’s also been pulling double duty as a fullback, and Wes Welker, who saw just five targets and three receptions in Week One.  Both will be solid plays Sunday.  Arizona simply doesn’t have the weapons or the defense to keep up with this Patriots team at home.


For the second week in a row, the Vikings go up against a young up-and-comer at quarterback, while at the same time sporting their own.  Andrew Luck’s debut didn’t quite go as planned against Chicago.  Nevertheless, it’s clear Luck is pro ready, as was easily depicted in the fact Reggie Wayne garnered nine receptions for 135 yards.  Wayne is the league leader at present for receiving and may be the steal of fantasy drafts.  The Vikings won’t make things easy for Donald Brown, but the opportunities will be there.  He’s worth 80 total yards and a possible touchdown plunge.  A lot of this will again come down to Indy’s defense, a unit that was ranked 30th last year, but has started this year on a better note. Austin Collie is still fighting concussion symptoms and will miss Sunday.  Bigger problem still are the injuries to Pat Angerer and now Dwight Freeney.  The Colts gave up 41 points last week, though Luck turned the ball over four times which certainly didn’t help their cause.  The Minnesota offensive line sports rookie Matt Khalil and former Colt left tackle Charlie Johnson on the left side of their line.  The Vikings were unable to run that direction successfully all last Sunday, and now Khalil will have to take on sack specialist Robert Mathis to keep Ponder’s blind side clear.  With Jerome Simpson suspended for taking in more hash than a 1969 VW van headed to Woodstock, Percy Harvin plays a multi-dimensional role of both wide receiver and flanker, often cycling into the backfield as a running back.  Devin Aromashodu had a crucial grab in last week’s game but has always fallen just short of becoming something to believe in.  Adrian Peterson should have a strong day, and could easily spoil Andrew Luck’s home opener.  However, if Blaine Gabbert can torch the Minnesota secondary, so can Luck, who’ll use Coby Fleener to move the chains, and Wayne to deliver the fatal blow.



Jeff Fisher would like nothing more than to see less of Robert Griffin III than he has to.  After all, Fisher watched as another star QB, Matthew Stafford, wrenched a victory from him in the first week’s final seconds.  The good news for Fisher is that his defense held one of the best passing offenses in the league in check most of the day, and his new defense forced three interceptions, returning one of them for a touchdown.  Pierre Garcon is a game-time decision, leaving Griffin without an above-average receiver in the group.  Santana Moss has seen his best days already, Josh Morgan was cast off from the 49ers and rookie Aldrick Robinson has good hands and speed, but is a smaller slot receiver type.  Griffin has the ability to make plays with his feet, and he’ll test the discipline of Fisher’s unit, but I don’t expect too many errors.  Meanwhile, Fisher will again load up carries on RB Steven Jackson (he saw 21 in the opener) and will again keep Sam Bradford upright with a short, quick passing game in order to compensate for his depleted offensive line.  Bradford played error free football last week, and with limited weaponry, will have to do so again.  He’ll rely on sure-handed Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson to move the chains.  I don’t expect a lot of points from the Rams, but I also don’t see Washington blowing this one open.


The surprising Jets roll into steel town suddenly considered an offensive juggernaut having dropped 48 points on the Bills at Met Life Stadium.  This was a record for most points by a Jets team in an opener, and only one Jets QB, Neil O’Donnell, has thrown for more scores and yardage in a Week 1 contest.  The Steelers return home licking their wounds after a sour day in Denver.  Already plagued by injuries to their running game, now the Steelers defense is hurting too.  In fact, injuries are going to tell the tale in this one.  Star CB Darrelle Revis has been ruled out, leaving  a gaping hole on one side of the Jets secondary.  Though listed as questionable, LB James Harrison is unlikely to play, and safety Troy Polamalu may be a game-time decision.  The Steelers will return safety Ryan Clark to the field for his first action of the season.  Whether the Jets can exploit the lack of pass rush the Steelers have shown without Harrison, becomes Sanchez’s job.  The Steelers were a minus-13 last year in the give/take, though are even at present.  Without Clark, Polamalu was hardly a whisper, and the Broncos torched the Steelers for 240 passing yards and two scores.  Mark Sanchez is no Peyton Manning, but he does have second year speedster Jeremy Kerley looking up to form and former Steeler Santonio Holmes, who will no doubt want to show up his old team in their confines of Heinz Field.  Thus, I’m starting Holmes Sunday if I own him in the WR3/Flex spot.  Shonn Greene has faced the Steelers only once, and managed 40 yards on 12 carries.  Don’t expect more than 75 yards and a score, and that’s if the Steelers have the same pursuit problems they had last weekend in Denver.  The ‘X’ factor is Sanchez, whom I have no doubt the Steelers will blitz in an effort to try to get into his head and force some turnovers.  In 2011, Sanchez was more accurate on the road but much more tentative and turnover prone, throwing only 10 TDs  versus nine interceptions.  With Revis out, Ben Roethlisberger will look to stretch the field using Mike Wallace deep and Antonio Brown underneath.  Todd Haley will try to rush Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer but likely to no avail, even though the Jets defense allowed C.J. Spiller 169 rushing yards.  The Steelers will get some big plays, but with the state of their offensive line, and a questionable defense at present, this game will be too close.  The Jets will shock the Steelers at home.  Did I really just write that?  Sadly, yes.


When it comes to Seattle, does anyone talk about anything but the weather?  They do now, as  rookie QB Russell Wilson has excited the Seattle fan base.  Meanwhile, just nine days after helping to defeat their division rival, Tony Romo, arguably the most tormented quarterback in America finds Dallas opening contract talks for an extension.  Historically, Seattle is 4-9 all time against Dallas, and has lost the last three contests, all in Texas.  However, the last time Dallas won in Seattle it was 2004, and they have lost the last two meetings in the great northwest.  Pete Caroll and Darrell Bevell fed Marshawn Lynch 20 carries last week, and it’s likely they attempt to do the same to keep the Dallas pass rush at bay.  Eighteen of Lynch’s 20 attempts last week were over to the center or left side of the line.  With NT Jay Ratliff, a hulking presence in the middle of their 3-4 defense, out for Dallas this week, expect more of the same.  They Seahawks will run right at DeMarcus Ware in order to keep him busy.  The good news for Seattle fans is Wilson is a mobile quarterback, one who can avoid the pass rush and take off if he needs.    This game has a scare feeling to it, as Dallas has been known to lapse just when you think won’t (see their loss to Arizona Week 13 last year).  Romo’s offense will spread out the Seahawks defense, attempting to take advantage of his size (Dez Bryant) and speed (Miles Austin) advantages.  Jason Witten should be in better condition this week adding to Seattle’s woes.  The Seahawks had no answer for Larry Fitzgerald down the stretch, so I anticipate this is a big day for Bryant, who is not listed on the Dallas injury report.  The experienced Dallas defense may bend but won’t break against the rookie Wilson, and though they’ll make a few mistakes, the Cowboys will escape with a win.  Romo will put up another 300 yards and a few touchdowns, but will also have his first turnover.  I don’t expect easy going for DeMarco Murray, so don’t anticipate anything more than 75 yards or so.



The Chargers faithful will always applaud a win over the division rival Raider, a team they hold in as high regard as sensitivity training, but they have to be hoping that the disturbing statistics of going 1-for-5 in the red zone, not to mention adding another field goal after starting on the Raiders 41, is not a trend.  The Chargers offense is again without Ryan Mathews, leaving Ronnie Brown and Curtis Brinkley to carry the load.  Against a Titans defense that yielded over 100 yards to Stevan Ridley, that should mean something, but Brown doesn’t have the kind of acceleration he used to after all his leg issues, and Brinkley doesn’t shake contact well.  Malcom Floyd and Antonio Gates will see plenty of targets, with Gates favored to star after seeing what New England’s tight ends did to the Titans.  Chris Johnson will attempt to be better than Darren McFadden, who managed just 32 rushing yards in 15 attempts.  Johnson looked terrible Week 1, and color me dubious that he’ll be better after a cross-country flight.  Jake Locker definitely showed he’s got a cannon arm, but could do a little work on his targeting.  The return of Kenny Britt can definitely tip the balance, especially when you consider the Chargers lost Quentin Jammer to thumb surgery.  Britt is questionable with a knee injury but expected to play.  Jared Cook should also play a factor, as he’s not-so-quietly become a known entity among fantasy players and was targeted six times last week.  Ronnie Brown is worth a start this week, but I expect the game to be another one decided by quarterbacks, and I actually like Locker’s weapons better than Philip Rivers.  Still, I’m going to stick with the veteran Rivers and the Chargers at home.



For the second week in a row, the Broncos will feel the white hot spotlight of a prime time matchup that comes with owning a league-wide headline that is Peyton Manning’s return to glory.  The Denver defense, ranked in the top ten in nearly every category right now, will have its hands full against an Atlanta offense that looked primed to be a scoring machine in 2012.  Julio Jones has officially arrived after his two touchdown performance last week, and Tony Gonzalez added the 96th touchdown of his illustrious career.  Michael Turner nearly split the rushing load with Jacquizz Rodgers last week, not the kind of numbers Turner owners wanted to see.  Expect more of the same against Denver’s tough front seven led by second year stud LB Von Miller.   Matt Ryan had a brilliant season debut, providing three touchdowns with his arm and one with his legs.  In Denver, fans were treated to a deep sigh of relief, as Peyton Manning played efficient football and survived a few tough hits in leading Denver over the Steelers.  While Manning doesn’t have the zip on the ball he once had, he is still the league’s best field general, the benefactor of which will be Demaryius Thomas, assuming he stays healthy, and Jacob Tamme. Thomas is nursing a shoulder injury but is probable for Monday night.  Besides his early fumble, Willis McGahee looked like he’s ready for solid season as an RB2, but he won’t add any value to PPR rosters.  He’ll get his shots against Atlanta, which yielded over 100 total rushing yards to Kansas City.  This should be a high scoring affair, but I don’t yet trust that Manning is 100%, nor has the weaponry Ryan does.  Roddy White should show up in this game even more in this game, as Atlanta’s size advantage against the Denver secondary is substantial.  White tallies his first score, Turner adds nearly 20 carries and 65 yards, and Gonzo finds pay dirt again.