Welcome to Week 3! Here are some game previews from myself and several Cafe members — enjoy!
Atlanta Falcons at New England Patriots
A focused Patriots team after they lost a tough divisional game will welcome back Matt Ryan to Boston.
Who to start: Tom Brady (84.10%)
Don’t let last week bother you. The Jets may have a top-five defense this year and were constantly harassing Brady. Atlanta, however, can’t apply nearly the same level of pressure to knock him off rhythm. Talk of Welker “expecting” to play brightens Brady’s prospects. Be aware, though — it would be entirely Belichik-ian to attempt to revive the running game — currently, the Patriots average 3.6 y/carry, less than the Lions.
Who to start: Matt Ryan (79.20%)
Matt Ryan goes back to where he played college, but he won’t be treating this game as a vacation. He’s visited the area twice since the 2008 draft and even switched his cell number — old college teammates, such as Patriots DL Ron Brace, haven’t been successful calling him. This is a business trip for him.
Others to start: Michael Turner (85.80%), Randy Moss (89.40%), Roddy White (86.00%), Tony Gonzalez (91.60%)
Who to sit: NE Def (70.40%)
Until this year, NE’s defense was loaded with veteran, proven performers. A slew of them have left the team, highlighted by Tedy Bruschi and Richard Seymour. Now, they are trying to incorporate youngsters like LB Jerod Mayo, S Brandon Meriweather and S Patrick Chung. Stats-wise the Patriots seem impressive, ranking third in yards allowed. So early in the season, with games against Buffalo and the Jets being the only games completed, total yards allowed isn’t usually the best measure of a defense. Instead, yards per play often is, and the Patriots rank 26th in yards per completion (8.0) and 16th in yards per rush (4.1).
Others to bench: Atl Def (67.00%)
Wild Cards: Fred Taylor (59.80%), Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis, Laurence Maroney (58.60%), Ben Watson (62.40%), Michael Jenkins (61.60%)
Indianapolis Colts at Arizona Cardinals
Peyton Manning and Co. (2-0) are moving from Monday night to Sunday night, the tropics to the desert, and a Miami rushing attack to an Arizona passing attack. Arizona is averaging 231 yards allowed in the air. Constant threats Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark, along with newcomers Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon, have combined to make Indy’s pass attack third in the league, and they will look to shred the Cards’ 18th-ranked pass defense for big numbers. Arizona’s rush defense is a different story, fifth in the league allowing 56.5 yards per game. Indy’s rushing rating? 29th. Don’t expect much from Joseph Addai or Donald Brown as Indianapolis continues to move the ball through the air.
Kurt Warner and his receiving corps (1-1) are ranked seventh in the league and look to change Indy’s first-ranked pass defense rating. With Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, and Anquan Boldin, Arizona can and will make big plays. The Cards 25th-ranked rush attack could get a bump this week against Indy’s 30th-ranked rush defense. I wouldn’t say Tim Hightower or Beanie Wells are must-starts, but this week is a prime opportunity for them to put up numbers. The big question here is whether or not Warner can stay on his feet with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis coming at him from both ends.
So, have your usual expectations for Manning, Wayne, and Clark, with a pickup touchdown from Collie or Garcon. Use caution with Addai or Brown. Warner, Fitz and Boldin might otherwise see a difficult time, but with their running game having a soft defense to work against and therefore keeping the Colts’ defense honest, expect adequate production across the board.
Tennessee Titans at New York Jets
Last year, the Jets preened after two tough wins, highlighted by a game against then-division leading Patriots. Then, the collapse began and the Jets fell out of the playoffs. Jets coach Rex Ryan is making all the appropriate noise of putting last week’s win behind them. Tennessee, meanwhile, desperately need to avoid an 0-3 hole.
Who to start: Chris Johnson (82.00%)
Sure, he has a tough matchup his first week, but since he was likely your first-round pick, you’d have to have amazing secondary options to consider benching him. (Copy, paste!)
Others to start: NYJ Def (86.20%), Ten Def (81.60%), Nate Washington (56.74%), Leon Washington (62.20%), Jerricho Cotchery (68.20%),
NYJ CB Darrelle Revis locked down Andre Johnson and Randy Moss in consecutive weeks. Bench whoever he’s locked up on- Gage has been widely perceived as their #1 WR, but Britt had a great week 1, while Washington came back from injury and in Week 2 was repeatedly targeted as the most explosive WR. Tenn plays the run tough, but they can be victimized in the air. Cotch has 177 yards receiving in 2 games, while Little Leon can catch passes out of the backfield.
Who to sit: LenDale White (60.00%)
The Jets rank 6th in rushing yards per game allowed and 12th in yards per carry.
Others to bench: Kerry Collins (56.20%)
Wild Card: Mark Sanchez (64.00%)
The stats say to start Sanchez against the worst pass defense in terms of yards, 29th in yards per completion. A passionate defense fighting to avoid the 0-3 start suggests that’s a bad idea.
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens
Autobots, transform and move out! That’s exactly what the Ravens have done the first two weeks of the season by becoming an offensive monster. Thanks to an amazing Rayenthal game-saving tackle the defense held up its end last week. It will be much easier this week versus the Brownies. The ugly Brown passing attack will not do much — Brady Quinn will dink and donk it before fumbling or throwing to the wrong team. Braylon Edwards looks like he remembers that WRs are not supposed to drop the ball. He should pick up most of Quinn’s non-INT lobs and probably will score since I’m facing him in two leagues. Joe Flacco is doing his darndest to disprove the Sophomore Slump theory and should break 300 yards easily. Ray-Ray Rice, Derrick Mason, Mark Clayton and Todd Heap all should perform admirably, with Rice having the highest combined yards total. Unfortunately for you, I own Rice in three leagues so the jinx is going strong — Willis McGahee will vulture all of TDs Ray-Ray set up. I can see Jamal Lewis retiring before he rushes for 100 yards again, let alone accomplishing anything close to that against the Ravens. Robert Royal seems to be the #2 receiving option for the Browns, but that doesn’t mean fantasy viability. In short: start your Ravens and sit your Browns.
Green Bay Packers at St. Louis Rams
Green Bay looks to compensate for last week’s failure against the Bengals. The Rams struggle to prove they belong in the CFL.
Who to start: Ryan Grant (81.80%)
The Packers face problems with LT Chad Clifton’s injury. To compensate, they’ll call more run plays to ease the pressure on their weakened offensive line. An ineffective Rams defensive line will apply little pressure. Without much work, Green Bay’ll gain the lead and pound out the clock.
Others to start: Aaron Rodgers (91.00%), GB Def (84.80%), Steven Jackson (79.80%), Donald Driver (76.00%), Laurent Robinson (62.20%)
Who to sit: Marc Bulger (56.00%)
Yes, he is a starting QB. He is also an injury-prone QB playing behind a young, rebuilt offensive line, has yet to regain his preseason WR1 (Donnie Avery) and has only one offensive weapon to relieve the pressure. Oh, and those preseason questions about how Green Bay’s players will adapt to Dom Capers’ 3-4 scheme? 12th in sacks, second in passes defensed, tied for first in INTs.
Others to bench: Donald Lee (66.80%)
Wild Cards: Greg Jennings (91.00%), Jermichael Finley (55.40%), James Jones (43.20%)
Check Jennings’ status. There have been some reports that his wrist was injured, perhaps even broken. Last week, he went catchless. Should he perform that poorly again, Finley could immediately benefit; he had 4 receptions for 56 yards in Week 2. Donald Driver also had a good week, while Jones has sealed up the WR3 spot and could see more time if Jennings is, in fact, injured.
Washington Redskins at Detroit Lions
by Dan Lambskin
A lot of people in Detroit think this is a game the Lions can win, even will win; however, many still remain skeptical. In classic Lions fashion, expect Clinton Portis to rattle off 100+ yards and a touchdown or two. Look for Jason Campbell to have a modest day through the air yardage-wise, but you can expect him to hook up for a TD with Chris Cooley as well as a long TD pass to Santana Moss. The Lions will continue to try and run the ball, and they actually had some success against the vaunted Vikings rush defense last week, but don’t be at all surprised to see Albert Haynesworth and company shut them down. Matt Stafford continues to look like a rookie making rookie mistakes, but chances are he can hook up with Calvin Johnson for a score … and maybe one with the Redskins DBs as well as the Lions losing streak hits 20. Redskins 31, Lions 13
Kansas City Chiefs at Philadelphia Eagles
An offense with all sorts of issues faces a defense with its ears pinned back. With two premier Philly offensive players facing injury issues, bench players and gimmick players could be featured.
Who to start: Phi Def (91.80%)
Yum yum! A shaky QB who was, until just recently, out with a knee injury faces a defense that helped Jake Delhomme regain his 2008 playoff form. Oh, and he has only one receiving option, as Larry Johnson isn’t a threat at RB. Coach Todd Haley says, “You’ve got to ultimately do what you think gives your team the best chance to win. If that means another quarterback being in there other than Matt Cassel, then sign me up.”
Others to start: Kevin Kolb (60.44%), Dwayne Bowe (75.20%)
Kolb and Bowe aren’t particularly appealing, but you drafted Bowe to start him and if you need a QB, KC’s defense doesn’t offer much resistance: the Chiefs have allowed the eighth most points in the league.
Who to sit: Matt Cassel (49.23%), Larry Johnson (60.80%)
Wild Card:- Brian Westbrook (64.43%), LeSean McCoy (71.40%), Michael Vick (8.80%), Jeff Garcia, DeSean Jackson (73.30%), Jeremy Maclin (34.60%)
Philly could give Westbrook two weeks off, resting him for this cake-walk followed by the bye next week. McCoy, like Kolb, could get major time in relief of the starter. Jackson suffered a strained groin against the Saints in Week 2, and the Eagles have a history of resting players proactively. Maclin, and other WRs, could get more looks if Jackson is rested.
New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I look at this game like Florida versus Central-Eastern Michigan Polytechnic. The G-Men should dominate every aspect of the game, while Tampa Bay may get some scores in the 4th quarter after the contest is long lost for Raheem Morris. I look for Eli Manning to throw for over 100 yards to each of the New Blue Dynamic Duo, Mario Manningham and Steve Smith. Grab them if you still can and start ‘em this week. Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw should get a rushing TD each. The Giants’ Achilles’ heel is their run defense. Cadillac Williams is warmed up and should be the only starting Buc in your lineup, if he himself plays. I look for Leftwich’s top target to be “The Soldier” Kellen Winslow, until we know for sure Antonio Bryant’s injury status.
Chicago Bears at Seattle Seahawks
There’s no delicate way to say this: Seattle is screwed up. On offense, Matt Hasselbeck has a rib fracture. All week the reports have been non committal, but the bottom line is that you can’t count on him to play. Game-managing QBs can often play through this injury, but it’s going to have an impact on a big arm. Seneca Wallace is the expected QB. This is a major downgrade for all Seattle receivers. T.J. Houshmandzadeh was quoted as saying that the Bears DBs are going to be able to stop him “5% of the time.” Because that’s what you want to do. You want to go out there with a sub-par QB with whom you have little prime-time chemistry, and you want the defense to have something to prove. Mora is reportedly pushing for the aging, injured Walter Jones to play left tackle with Sean Locklear out indefinitely. They’re on a backup center already. This means scrambles for Wallace, dump off passes, and penetration for the Bears D.
Chicago is a team in flux right now. Built historically around defense and running the ball, we’re experiencing the shift toward somewhat more of a modern passing offense. Expect a breakout week, against what started the season looking like a great team. Seattle’s broken DBs and linebackers, Cutler’s tendency to throw deep and the emergence of a second deep threat in Knox leads me to believe that the offense is going to open up in a big way. Frank Gore ran all over Seattle last week, and Forte said earlier this week that he’s dissatisfied with his output so far this season — I think it turns around here.
Carlson should be an interesting play this week.
All other Seattle WRs take a clear downgrade.
Forte should show signs of life this week, if he isn’t a bust on the season.
No Seattle RB is a solid play.
Interest: Will a Bears WR distinguish himself this week? Could more than one?
Miami Dolphins at San Diego Chargers
It’s official, LT2 is out for this game. In theory this should help the Dolphins. But we all know about crazy theories. In reality, this will help the Chargers. A sub-100% Tomlinson is a detriment to the Chargers’ offense. I’d rather he not play at 70%, gain 30 yards on 20 carries and hurt both your fantasy team and the Chargers. The best thing coming from this news is that Darren Sproles will be the feature back. He is the man. Over 400 yards of total offense from him wouldn’t surprise me, and I expect over 275 rushing+receiving+return yards at a minimum. Vincent Jackson is becoming a man in front of our eyes, making fingertip grabs, keeping his feet in bounds and is Philip Rivers’ #1 receiver. Look for 100 yards and a TD coming his way. Sproles should get around 125 on the ground, 100 in the air via screens and wheel routes and 2 TDs total. Rivers will get his 300 yards passing, 2 TDs, and 1 unsportsmanlike taunting penalty like he usually does. Chad Pennington should be throwing a bunch of short passes and may get 150-200 total passing yards. Ted Ginn still hasn’t figured out that a catch constitutes of holding on to the football, and Davone Bess is showing us a high ceiling. Even with fewer targets they should get about 60 yards each receiving. I see the TDs going to Ronnie Brown — and Miami scores about 17 points total in my opinion. With Jamal Williams out for the year, Brown and Ricky Williams will be the heart of the offense: 100 yards total for Run Ronnie Run and 60 for the ganja man. On the TE front, Antonio Gates might catch around 7 passes for 60 yards, while Anthony Fasano just a couple grabs for 30 yards. Look for a Charger win, 34-17.
San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings
I am looking forward to this game, and you should too from a fan, not fantasy, perspective. The only two players you need to concern yourself with are the two stud backs, Frank Gore and Adrian Peterson. I like what the Niners are doing this season, but until AD gets stopped I won’t pick against them. Brett Favre is doing his best Tavarius Jackson impersonation and will throw a TD along with a handful of picks to the revitalized Niners defense. I see both Gore and AD with two TDs, Gore with 100 rushing and 40 receiving yards while AD to gain 140 rushing and 50 receiving. At best, the three SF WRs, Arnaz Battle, Josh Morgan and Isaac Bruce, combine for 125 yards with a slight chance for one TD between them. Vernon Davis will have about 5 grabs for 40 yards. Shaun Hill is not starter-worthy in this matchup and neither is Favre. Favre will probably throw one TD, most likely to his favorite red-zone target Visanthe Shiancoe. Bernard Berrian will have about 60 yards, while Percy Harvin should get 50 receiving yards and 25 rushing yards. Chester Taylor will have a few screen passes his way for 30 yards but not many rushing opportunities. Who would you rather hand off to, AD or Chester? My point exactly. This will be a close game that the Vikings will pull out thanks to their ability to control the ball, 28-21.
Kevin Pina is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Kevin in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of Kareighuis.
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