NFL Week Two Games (Part Two)
Tampa Bay at Atlanta – Just looking at the teams, you’d probably expect to see a bunch of single digits in the score column. Not so fast. Last season, both teams scored 24 points or more in both games. The Bucs won each contest, and did so behind Carnell Williams. Cadillac ran hard last week, but it didn’t really show up in the stats. He’s battling a back injury now, so if you have another option, monitor his health status. I’ll go ahead and put Michael Clayton as a deep sneaky start. He sort of quasi-established himself as a better option than Joey Galloway, catching three passes for 36 yards compared to Galloway’s goose egg. It’s all relative. Chris Simms’ value is at an all-time low, and if you still have him on your roster, you’re much too kind.
The Falcons, meanwhile, couldn’t have played much better last week against the Panthers. Mike Vick tossed two touchdowns and no interceptions, something that hasn’t happened very much in his career. The Bucs are a team he has played quite well against in recent years. In their first meeting in 2005, he had the first and only 300-yard passing performance of his career. He’s a sneaky start, but his counterpart Warrick Dunn is a surprising sit. After scorching the Panthers, Dunn faces his former team, and they know something about containing the shifty runner. Dunn has never had more than 100 yards rushing or a touchdown against the Bucs. Michael Jenkins is a start. He caught two touchdowns in two games against Tampa last season. Alge Crumpler is an obvious start, plus he has a cool name.
Arizona at Seattle – Boy, I love the NFC West. And if you are reading this, you are probably a fantasy football player, which means you probably love the ‘we don’t need defense’ division also. The Cardinals showed off their sleek offense last week, and all the major components contributed. Kurt Warner is reminding people just how good he can be, and should be in your starting lineup until he gets hurt. Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald are both studs and deserve nationwide respect. Edgerrin James struggled in the first half against the ‘Niners, but finished with a passable game. Essentially, start anyone you normally would from the Cardinals.
Seattle, on the other hand, might as well have been your junior varsity high school team last week. They averaged 4.3 yards per play against the Lions, which ranked 28th in the league. That’s not quite what the fantasy world has come to expect from this team. But it’s important not to push the panic button yet. There are a lot of reasons why people were down on the Seahawks, but it will take more than one (albeit bad) week to gauge how the season will go. Matt Hasselbeck is a start this week, as the Cardinals give up plenty of yards and points. Shaun Alexander averaged more than 150 yards and three touchdowns per game against Arizona. I’ll go out on a limb and say he is somewhat more successful this week. Deion Branch is reportedly not going to play, but that could just be some gamesmanship from Seattle. Darrell Jackson showed better last week than than the team thought he would. Start him as a second fantasy receiver.
St. Louis at San Francisco – What did I tell you about the NFC West? The Rams did everything but actually score a touchdown last week, something they will rectify against the ‘Niners. Marc Bulger is a start as he should put up nearly 300 yards and one or two scores. Stephen Jackson and Torry Holt are studs, so treat them that way. Isaac Bruce made it through one game without any serious injuries. He’s probably on borrowed time, so you should start him as a third wide out or flex player. Leave Kevin Curtis on the bench since he didn’t record a catch last week.
The 49ers established that their offense is going to get in on the fun in these shootouts. Unless you are very strapped at the quarterback position, leave Alex Smith on your bench. There could be a point during the season where he becomes a fantasy starter, but we’re not there yet. Someone around these parts pegged Frank Gore as a sleeper (just bypass the Billy Volek stuff), and he did not disappoint last week. In fact, Gore was the top scoring running back from Week One. As long as he’s healthy, start him with confidence. Antonio Bryant and Vernon Davis form a formidable receiving duo, and both can be counted on again against the Rams.
Kansas City at Denver – Damon Huard. If that doesn’t send chills down your spine, I don’t know what will. How Huard plays, filling in for the injured Trent Green, will greatly affect both Larry Johnson and Tony Gonzalez. Both are obvious starters, but Johnson might have some trouble finding holes to run through. Gonzalez is actually probably helped by Huard playing quarterback. Inexperienced signal callers often rely on their tight ends as a safety blanket. Sit Eddie Kennison.
The good news for Denver is that it pretty much can’t play any worse. The Broncos were kicked all over the field by the Rams and could only tally 10 points. That’s sort of scary. The running game as a whole worked, but the rushes were split between Tatum Bell and Mike Bell. Running back by committee is vitriol to fantasy football owners. Barring injuries, you can not treat either Bell as anything other than a marginal flex player. Jake Plummer should remain on your pine, but Javon Walker is still a decent third wide out or flex player.
New England at N.Y. Jets – If J.P. Losman knew how to stick his arm out five inches, the Patriots may have lost last week’s game against the Bills. Regardless of that outcome, some red flags went up in the struggle. The first is that it is possible, and this may sound strange, but it’s possible Tom Brady needs someone to throw the ball to. Ben Watson underperformed, and is still a legitimate fantasy option, but Doug Gabriel needs to fill the departed Deion Branch’s shoes. As for the running game, another committee is shaping up. If neither emerges, it will be a frustrating situation all season for fantasy owners.
I will admit I didn’t anticipate a big offensive game for the Jets, but perhaps I should have. The Tennessee Titans are as bad as defense can get, and even the limp-armed Chad Pennington was able to exploit it. Trade Laverneous Coles. Trade Pennington. Trade any Jet you might have. This is the height of their value. Needless to say, I won’t endorse starting any of them.
Tennessee at San Diego – This one is very easy. The Titans stink. Losing to the Jets is tantamount to NBA all-stars losing to, say, a Grecian basketball teams. Woops. Bench every Titan except maybe Drew Bennett. As for the Chargers, LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates are obvious. If Marty-Ball allows the Chargers to throw more than 10 times, I’d say Philip Rivers is worth starting. Since I am not confident that will happen, let Rivers watch the game. Which, when you think about it, is basically what he does on the field as well.
Washington at Dallas – A pre-season shoulder injury caused many jumpy fantasy owners to abandon the Clinton Portis ship this year. Portis played sparingly on Monday night against the Vikings, but looked pretty good. Shoulder injuries hurt, but they don’t take away speed and running ability. As long as he progresses well, he’ll get 18 to 20 carries against Dallas, which re-establishes him as a top 10 running back. Santana Moss will get his yards since he knows how to run past Cowboy defenders, but bench Mark Brunell and Chris Cooley.
The Cowboys’ offense faced a tough Jacksonville defense and even though the team lost, Julius Jones and Terrell Owens played well. Owens is a starter until he is injured, kicked off the team, etc. Jones is a marginal start this week. The Redskins played well against the run last week, but did give up a rushing touchdown.
Pittsburgh at Jacksonville – The Steelers and Jaguars are best known for one thing: defense. That means yards and points will come at a premium. Willie Parker is a starter and should at least have a shot at 100 yards. Hines Ward and Heath Miller may get touchdowns, but neither will put up huge numbers. Sit Ben Roethlisberger since even if he plays, the Steelers will do their best to not expose him to big hits.
The Jaguars, meanwhile, played extremely well against a solid Cowboys defense last week. Unfortunately, the Steelers defense is significantly tougher. Byron Leftwich will be unspectacular, so leave him on the fantasy sideline. Fred Taylor is dynamic when healthy, but Pittsburgh allowed next to nothing on the ground last week. Matt Jones makes for perhaps a serviceable third option. Someone might actually score a touchdown in this game, and he’s the most likely target for that.
Good luck in Week Two and go ahead and laugh at this guy.
– Andy Goldstein