Five up, five down for Week 2
Andrew Luck had a rough NFL debut in Chicago, but he could rebound in a big way in Week 2. Our Nathan Zegura shares his five must starts and sits for the upcoming week.
Disclaimer ... Before you start reading, please understand that we are not in the business of stating the obvious and wasting your time (or ours), so you won't be reading here why you need to start Aaron Rodgers, Arian Foster, Calvin Johnson or any other top-tier players. We're here to help you make a decision on players you are on the fence about.
Week 2 will feel a lot more like Week 1 should have felt as many of our top running backs have returned to action and are good to go. Fantasy Football is a game of matchups, so some of our heroes from Week 1 will be sitting down this week, while some Week 1 disappointments will be ready to break out.
Here's a look at my top five starts and sits for Week 2 to either keep your winning streak alive or get you back to even.
Get 'em active ...
Andrew Luck, QB, Colts (vs. MIN)
Current own/start %: 96/11
I'd start him over: Matt Schaub (at JAC), Ben Roethlisberger (vs. NYJ), Robert Griffin III (at STL)
Going with a rookie quarterback seemed to work pretty well in Week 1, as RG3 had a huge 28-point game against the Saints, so I am doing it again in Week 2. Andrew Luck had a tougher time with the Chicago Bears in his NFL debut, producing only 10 points, but he will at least double that in his home opener. The Minnesota Vikings gave up a league high 22.75 points per game to opposing quarterbacks in 2011 and started things off by allowing Blaine Gabbert to throw for 260 yards and two scores in Week 1. Gabbert produced 22 points in Week 1 and outscored Tom Brady, Cam Newton, Eli Manning and Michael Vick to name a few, thanks to the generous Minnesota defense. Luck was harassed by the Bears' pass rush in Week 1 and that led to four turnovers. The Vikings do not get after the quarterback like the Bears and they have just two interceptions in their last 12 games. Don't forget that he did throw for 309 yards and a touchdown against Chicago, so with fewer turnovers and less pressure in the pocket we could see Luck go for 300 with two scores on Sunday, making him a great start in all formats.
Jay Cutler, QB, Bears (at GB)
Current own/start %: 98/42
I'd start him over: Philip Rivers (vs. TEN), Alex Smith (vs. DET), Michael Vick (vs. BAL)
I was not expecting Cutler to have a monster game in Week 1 and boy was I wrong, as he torched the Colts for 333 yards and two scores. I love the fact that the Bears let Cutler throw the ball up close and he really almost had four touchdowns in the season opener. Having Brandon Marshall is a world-changing event for Cutler, because he now has a true No. 1 receiver to rely on in all situations. Marshall also opens things up for the rest of the offense including exciting rookie Alshon Jeffery, which is great news for Cutler as he heads into a Thursday night showdown with the Packers. The Pack just let Alex Smith have a 21-point effort in Week 1 on only 26 pass attempts, because he completed 20 (77 percent) of them for 211 yards and two scores. The Packers have now given up an average of 33 points per game to opposing quarterbacks in their last three games and have surrendered 10 touchdowns during that span. Cutler himself threw for 307 yards and two touchdowns (with two picks) in his only meeting with Green Bay last year. Look for another 300 yards with multiple touchdowns for Cutler, who is a great quarterback to kick off Week 2 if you don't have Mr. Rodgers.
C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills (vs. KC)
Current own/start %: 96/48
I'd start him over: Michael Turner (vs. DEN), Doug Martin (at TB), Frank Gore (vs. DET)
When Spiller took over for Fred Jackson in Week 12 a year ago, all he did was average 105 total yards, 0.83 touchdowns and most importantly 15.6 Fantasy points per game. He was the fourth ranked Fantasy back over those final six weeks and helped to key many a championship run. Well, it looks like we could get similar production from Spiller again this year as he stepped in against a stout Jets defense and promptly produced 194 total yards and a touchdown on just 16 touches. Spiller averaged over five yards per carry as the starter in 2011 and carried a 12.1 yards per carry average in Week 1 over the Jets. Even if you take away his 56 yard touchdown scamper, Spiller still averaged 8.1 yards per carry last Sunday. Now he faces the Chiefs, who just held Michael Turner to 32 yards in a game where the Falcons scored 40 points. That does not deter me at all, because Spiller is the running back thriller and no one has ever said he looks like he runs with ankle weights on. When Buffalo played the Chiefs last year, the running backs produced 164 total yards and a touchdown, which is good for 24 points. That is the upside for the dual-threat Spiller, who is a good bet to exceed 100 total yards and find the end zone against Kansas City this week, so you should get him in your lineups.
Alfred Morris, RB, Redskins (at STL)
Current own/start %: 81/33
I'd start him over: Trent Richardson (at CIN), Reggie Bush (vs. OAK), Willis McGahee (at ATL)
"Alfamania" is no longer confined to Melmac or Dave Richard's house after the rookie started his NFL career with 96 yards and not one, but two touchdowns in Washington's huge Week 1 victory over the Saints. While it is true that he only averaged 3.4 yards per carry on his 28 totes of the rock, you have to love that Shanahan gave him 28 carries compared to just four combined for Roy Helu and Evan Royster. Shanahan gushed about Alf and how he got better as the game went on, going so far as to already name Morris the starter for Week 2 against the St. Louis Rams. Last year, the Rams gave up 22.1 points per game to opposing running backs, third most in the NFL, and they picked up where they left off, allowing Kevin Smith and Joique Bell (one carry, one yard, one touchdown) to produce 26 running back points against them in Week 1. This is a great matchup for Morris, who could cement his status (for as long as one can cement their status under Mr. Shananan) as the team's starter and a Top 20 Fantasy running back for the near future.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Bengals (vs. CLE)
Current own/start %: 100/65
I'd start him over: Chris Johnson (at SD), Jamaal Charles (at BUF), Kevin Smith (at SF)
The Law Firm was very impressive in his Cincinnati deubt as he rushed for 91 yards (5.1 yards per carry) and a touchdown against a stout Ravens run defense on 18 carries. I love that BGE had a heavy workload even in a blowout loss and I can guarantee you that the Bengals will not be blown out by the Browns in Week 2. In the season opener, the Browns allowed LeSean McCoy to run for 110 yards on just 20 carries (5.5 yards per carry) and finished with 13 total points. That marked the 10th time in the last 11 games against the Browns that the opposing leading rusher has produced double digit Fantasy points. During that stretch, opposing runners are averaging a healthy 22.2 points per game due in large part to a ridiculous pace of 179 total yards per game. Cedric Benson produced 18 Fantasy points in each of his matchups with the Browns a year ago and I think the Law Firm will give you at least 100 total yards and a touchdown, making him a great start.
Some WRs and TEs with favorable matchups: A.J. Green (vs. CLE with no Joe Haden), Vincent Jackson (at NYG), Eric Decker (at ATL), Steve Johnson (vs. KC), Michael Crabtree (vs. DET), Alshon Jeffery (at GB), Randall Cobb and James Jones (vs. CHI), Brandon LaFell (vs. NO), Danny Amendola (vs. WAS), Donnie Avery (vs. MIN), Coby Fleener (vs. MIN), Jermaine Gresham (vs. CLE), Jacob Tamme (at ATL)
Ride the pine ...
Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens (at PHI)
Current own/start %: 93/16
I'd rather start: Andrew Luck (vs. MIN), Peyton Manning (at ATL), Robert Griffin III (at STL)
I loved what I saw from Joe Flacco in Week 1 and have really upgraded my expectations for him the rest of the year. In fact, if he plays all 16 games there is no doubt in my mind that Flacco will throw for 4,000 yards for the first time in his career in the new up-tempo Ravens offense. While he was able to abuse the Bengals on Monday night, I think Flacco will find things to be a bit more challenging against the Philadelphia Eagles excellent pass defense. Only Tom Brady has scored more than 16 Fantasy points against the Eagles in their last eight games and they have held five quarterbacks under 200 yards passing during that span. In their last six games, the Eagles have allowed only six passing touchdowns and have recorded 10 turnovers (seven interceptions and three fumbles). Even if you throw out Brandon Weeden's league low -2.0 points in Week 1 against this defense, opposing quarterbacks averaged just over 12 points per game in the final five games of 2011. The defense in Philly needed time to come together and it has, so I would go with a higher upside option than Flacco in Week 2. If he bombs out this week and you need a backup quarterback, buy low on Flacco because he is on his way to a career year.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers (vs. Jets)
Current own/start %: 98/26
I'd rather start: Eli Manning (vs. TB), Josh Freeman (at NYG), Matt Schaub (at JAC)
The offensive line of the Steelers is in scary shape as Ben heads into Week 2 against a very aggressive Jets pass defense. Yes, the Jets allowed three garbage-time passing touchdowns in their blowout win over the Bills in Week 1, but they kept Ryan Fitzpatrick below 200 yards passing and 20 Fantasy points thanks to three interceptions. Only four quarterbacks have reached the 20-point mark against the Jets in their last 17 games and opposing quarterbacks are averaging just over 13 points per game against them during that span. The Broncos got to Ben for five sacks in Week 1 and the constant pressure limited him to just 55 percent completions and 6.1 yards per attempt. The Jets should be able to get to Ben given the state of his offensive line and with their lockdown corner backs Revis and Cromartie, this could be a very long day at the office in what looks like a low scoring affair. It's tough to bet against Ben, but in today's Fantasy Football you want a quarterback with a lot of upside, not one who has only three multiple passing touchdown games in his last nine. The last time that Ben faced the Jets, he was held to 133 yards and no touchdowns passing and while he will be better in Week 2, I would look for a higher upside option.
Shonn Greene, RB, Jets (at PIT)
Current own/start %: 99/57
I'd rather start: Alfred Morris (at STL), Kevin Smith (at SF), Doug Martin (at NYG)
I am one of the strongest believers in the very mediocre Shonn Greene as the focal point of the Tony Sparano attack, and while it is never exciting to start him, more often than not it is a good idea as he showed in Week 1 with 94 yards and a touchdown. Much like Alf, Greene needed a high volume of carries to get his 90-plus yards and averaged only 3.5 yards per carry. The Steelers may be slowing down on defense, but they are better than the Bills and there is little chance that the Jets will be milking a huge lead for the entire second half this Sunday. We saw the Steelers give up a rushing touchdown in Week 1 to Knowshon Moreno, but that came out of a shotgun formation when the defense was clearly worried about what Peyton Manning was going to do to them. Greene's game is similar to that of Willis McGahee, who was held to 64 yards on the ground in the Denver win. In his last meeting with the Steelers, Greene produced just 52 yards in the Jets 2010 AFC Championship game loss. For his career, Greene has only scored a touchdown in four games (out of a possible 38) in which he has seen 18 or fewer carries and I don't think the Jets will be in the position to have a 20-carry workload for their runner in Week 2. He is not a big factor as a receiver and therefore I would stay away from Greene against the Steelers, who have allowed only three runners to reach 10 points in their last 14 games.
Kevin Smith, RB, DET (at SF)
Current own/start %: 97/56
I'd rather start: Darren Sproles (at CAR), Reggie Bush (vs. OAK), Stevan Ridley (vs. ARI)
Kevin Smith delivered a solid 20 points as one of the starts of the week against the St. Louis Rams. Unfortunately, he will be lucky to be half as productive in Week 2 against the San Francisco 49ers. Only one running back has topped 100 yards rushing against the 49ers in their last 41 games and that same runner, Marshawn Lynch, was the only one to top 80 yards rushing in the last 19 games as well. Jahvid Best was able to hit 10 Fantasy points against the 49ers in the team's last meeting thanks 73 yards receiving on six catches. Smith is a fine pass catcher in his own right, but he has topped 50 yards receiving only four times in 43 career starts. Add in the fact that the 49ers have given up only two running back rushing touchdowns in their last 19 games as well and you can see that this may not be the week to go with Smith. After all, when the Lions got to the one-yard line against the Rams, Smith was replaced by Joique Bell, who promptly pounded in the short score. I am fine with Smith in a PPR league, because he will likely catch five passes, but the 49ers are like the Bermuda triangle for running back production and you'd be better off letting Smith cool down naturally on your bench.
Peyton Hillis, RB, Chiefs (at BUF)
Current own/start %: 97/31
I'd rather start: Michael Bush (at GB), Willis McGahee (at ATL), Trent Richardson (at CIN)
I am not giving up on Peyton Hillis after one week, but I will have to see him be in a more advantageous work split before I recommend starting him. In Week 1, Jamaal Charles took 16 carries and ran for 87 yards compared to just seven carries for 16 yards for Hillis. Peyton was not really involved with the team's comeback effort against the Falcons, which means he will seemingly have his highest value when the Chiefs are in the lead or in a close game. That could happen this week against the Bills, but I want to see it in action before I believe it, especially when Charles looked so good. Despite getting blown out, the Bills run defense certainly looked stout in Week 1, giving up only one run of 10 or more yards and limiting the Jets to just 3.3 yards per carry. I don't think the Chiefs will get to run it 36 times like the Jets did in Week 1, so I am not sure what kind of opportunity Hillis will get. Yes, he could score, but unless he is the clear goal line back and is seeing 12-15 touches per week, he will be tough to trust when the Chiefs take on a good run defense.
Good luck this week!
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