After a long week of studying film and analyzing matchups, I have arrived at my top quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends for Week 2.
These do not include the players who played in Thursday night’s matchup between the Bears and Packers.
If I have a player ranked above another, that means I am predicting a bigger fantasy performance than those placed below him.
It seems obvious, but just making sure there is no confusion.
1. Tom Brady vs. Arizona Cardinals—Tom Brady’s face might look worse, but his arm looks great as usual. The addition of receiver Brandon Lloyd to the already potent New England air attack makes Brady the man to beat once again.
2. Drew Brees vs. Carolina Panthers—Don’t expect last week’s loss to the Redskins to define the Saints' season. New Orleans started the 2011 season with a loss and went on to finish 13-3. Carolina had the 24th-ranked pass defense last season, and I expect Brees to tear it apart.
3. Matt Ryan vs. Denver Broncos—The best word to describe Matt Ryan’s first game is exceptional. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is going to let Ryan air the ball out again to Julio Jones and Roddy White, which will make fantasy owners extremely happy.
4. Eli Manning vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—Giants fans should not place any of the blame on Eli Manning for the loss against Dallas last Thursday. He played more than decent while having defensive linemen in his face all game due to a serious lack of protection. Tampa Bay allowed more than 300 yards to Cam Newton in Week 1. I see likewise stats for Eli this week.
5. Robert Griffin III vs. St. Louis Rams—The Week 1 NFC Offensive Player of the Week honor was bestowed on Robert Griffin III after an incredible debut against the Saints. RGIII faces a much weaker Rams defense this week and hopes to have his favorite weapon Pierre Garcon ready to go.
6. Cam Newton vs. New Orleans Saints
7. Matthew Stafford vs. San Francisco 49ers
8. Peyton Manning—Atlanta Falcons
9. Tony Romo vs. Seattle Seahawks—Dallas has one of the best young offenses in the NFL. With DeMarco Murray's running success opening up the air game and talented receivers like Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Kevin Ogletree, it is no wonder why Tony Romo had so much success in his first game.
10. Matt Schaub vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
11. Philip Rivers vs. Tennessee Titans
12. Joe Flacco vs. Philadelphia Eagles—Flacco is finally living up to his words as an elite NFL quarterback. He has always known how to win games, just not in the prettiest fashion. That has changed.
Flacco looked in control and as poised as I have ever seen him in the win over the Bengals. The Ravens offense looked unstoppable last weekend, and I wouldn’t want to be the team that faces them next.
13. Mike Vick vs. Baltimore Ravens—Four picks against the Cleveland Browns. Now he play the Ravens.
14. Alex Smith vs. Detroit Lions
15. Ben Roethlisberger vs. New York Jets
16. Andrew Luck vs. Minnesota Vikings
17. Andy Dalton vs. Cleveland Browns—Joe Haden’s suspension will open up the air game for Dalton. A.J. Green will be open all game.
18. Carson Palmer vs. Miami Dolphins
19. Matt Cassel vs. Buffalo Bills
20. Mark Sanchez vs. Pittsburgh Steelers—The Steelers are not going to allow a team throw successfully against them two weeks in a row. I am still not even close to convinced that Sanchez is a decent quarterback.
1. Arian Foster vs. Jacksonville Jaguars—Don’t expect Arian Foster’s illness and “probable” game status to take any toll on his game production. He practiced fully on Thursday without any setbacks.
The Jags allowed 123 yards on the ground to Minnesota, including two rushing touchdowns to Adrian Peterson. The Houston offensive line should have no problem manhandling the Jaguars and creating massive holes for Foster.
2. Ray Rice vs. Philadelphia Eagles—Ray Rice’s role in the Ravens' no-huddle offense may be even scarier than in previous years. Rice is now used much more efficiently. While he may not be getting the same number of carries, he is still racking up the fantasy points.
As opposing defenses have to pay more attention to the Ravens' passing game, Rice should have more room to run.
3. Adrian Peterson vs. Indianapolis Colts—The biggest jump of the week was made by Adrian Peterson, who proved all injury skeptics wrong with a two-touchdown, 84-yard performance against the Jaguars in his first game back since season-ending ACL surgery in 2011. Peterson cut well and looked as explosive as he did in previous years.
4. Darren McFadden vs. Miami Dolphins—Darren McFadden had no help from his offensive line against the Chargers on Monday night, but still managed to have a great fantasy day. He is the focal point of the Raiders' offense and Carson Palmer’s go-to guy. The Raiders face a weak Miami defense, which means great news for Run DMC owners.
5. C.J. Spiller vs. Kansas City Chiefs—The injury to Fred Jackson brings C.J. Spiller to the center of the conversation about this season's breakthrough running backs. His performance in the Week 1 loss to the Jets has sent shock waves throughout the NFL. Spiller has the ability to take it to the house every time he touches the ball.
6. LeSean McCoy vs. Baltimore Ravens—LeSean McCoy dropped to sixth on my list this week because of the way he was in Week 1 and the matchup in Week 2. Michael Vick threw the ball 56 times while McCoy ran only 20 times in the Eagles' win over the Browns. The Ravens' defense also looked great, but gave up 91 yards to BenJarvus Green-Ellis last Monday.
8. Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Houston Texans
9. Stevan Ridley vs. Arizona Cardinals—New England might have finally found an every-down back. Stevan Ridley averaged six yards per carry and added a touchdown in the Patriots' rout of the Titans last weekend.
10. Marshawn Lynch vs. Dallas Cowboys
11. Jamaal Charles vs. Buffalo Bills
12. BenJarvus Green-Ellis vs. Cleveland Browns—In BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ debut for the Bengals, he shined with 91 yards on the ground and a touchdown. This weekend’s matchup with the Browns should give Green-Ellis to have all the running room he wants.
13. Frank Gore vs. Detroit Lions
14. Doug Martin—New York Giants
15. Ahmad Bradshaw vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—Tom Coughlin does not like fumbles. David Wilson fumbled in Week 1, therefore Ahmad Bradshaw saw his workload increase as the game progressed. Against a tough Dallas front, Bradshaw rushed the ball 17 times for 78 yards and a touchdown. Expect Bradshaw to break through the Bucs’ defensive line with ease.
16. Reggie Bush vs. Oakland Raiders
17. Chris Johnson vs. San Diego Chargers
18. Darren Sproles vs. Carolina Panthers
19. Willis McGahee vs. Atlanta Falcons
20. Steven Jackson vs. Washington Redskins
1. Andre Johnson vs. Jacksonville Jaguars—When Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub are clicking on all cylinders, it is special to watch. Johnson was back to his old form, grabbing eight catches for 119 yards and a touchdown in last week's win over the Dolphins. He looked powerful and, most importantly, healthy. Johnson will be a menace for the Jags’ corners to control. He should break out for the best day of any receiver.
2. Julio Jones vs. Denver Broncos—It looks like the NFL’s target leader, Roddy White, for the past two seasons is going to get surpassed...by his own teammate. Julio Jones and the Falcons’ offense were nearly impossible to stop in their opening win over the Chiefs. Matt Ryan has grown into an elite quarterback, thanks to the help of Julio Jones and White, and their offensive prowess will once again be on display against the Broncos.
3. Calvin Johnson vs. San Francisco 49ers—His drop from No. 1 to No. 3 is based on his matchup alone. Any offensive player facing the Niners’ defense is bound to have some sort of decrease in fantasy points that week.
4. Larry Fitzgerald vs. New England Patriots—Larry Fitzgerald and Kevin Kolb have a special connection that Fitzgerald and John Skelton don’t possess. Kolb will be looking to prove himself against a defense that allowed the Titans' Jake Locker to complete 67 percent of his passes. Fitzgerald will exploit the Pats’ corners and have a big game.
5. A.J. Green vs. Cleveland Browns—It is going to be raining receptions for A.J. Green in Cincinnati on Sunday when the Browns roll into town without lockdown corner Joe Haden.
6. Percy Harvin vs. Indianapolis Colts
7. Steve Smith vs. New Orleans Saints
8. Roddy White vs. Denver Broncos
9. Dez Bryant vs. Seattle Seahawks
10. Brandon Lloyd—Arizona Cardinals
11. Victor Cruz vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—Victor Cruz has a lot to play for on Sunday. If facing intense criticism for three dropped passes in the Giants’ opener was not enough, his grandmother, who inspired his Salsa touchdown celebration, passed away Monday. Players who have something to play for are always dangerous.
12. Antonio Brown vs. New York Jets—Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace are interchangeable at the No. 12 and 13 spots. Both figure to benefit from the absence of Darrelle Revis, who has been ruled out of Sunday's game because of a concussion he sustained in the win over the Bills.
13. Mike Wallace vs. New York Jets
14. Hakeem Nicks vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—I am going to attribute Nicks’ weak performance in Week 1 to a nagging foot injury. Nicks now faces a Tampa Bay defense that allowed more than 100 receiving yards to Carolina's Steve Smith last week. Nicks did miss practice Friday but will start against the Bucs.
15. Demaryius Thomas vs. Atlanta Falcons
16. Reggie Wayne vs.Minnesota Vikings
17. Wes Welker vs. Arizona Cardinals
18. Pierre Garcon vs. St. Louis Rams—The Redskins are preparing for this matchup as if Garcon will not play. He is still a game-time decision and will work out before the game and see how he feels.
19. Marcus Colston vs. Carolina Panthers
20. Torrey Smith vs. Philadelphia Eagles
1. Rob Gronkowski vs. Arizona Cardinals—Though his touchdown spike might not be in midseason form, his play sure is.
2. Jimmy Graham vs. Carolina Panthers—It is becoming more and more apparent that Jimmy Graham is now Drew Brees’ most trusted target.
3. Aaron Hernandez vs. Arizona Cardinals—Both tight ends for New England cause defenses trouble. The Cardinals will be no different.
5. Antonio Gates vs. Tennessee Titans
6. Fred Davis vs. St. Louis Rams
7. Tony Gonzalez vs. Denver Broncos
8. Jared Cook vs. San Diego Chargers
9. Jacob Tamme vs. Atlanta Falcons
10. Owen Daniels vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
11. Jason Witten vs. Seattle Seahawks
12. Coby Fleener vs. Minnesota Vikings—Andrew Luck and Coby Fleener will still be riding high off that Stanford upset of USC on Saturday.
13. Brandon Pettigrew vs. San Francisco 49ers
14. Kyle Rudolph vs. Indianapolis Colts
15. Dennis Pitta vs.Philadelphia Eagles—The chemistry between Joe Flacco and Dennis Pitta is undeniable. Pitta was targeted nine times on Monday night, more than any other receiver and caught a touchdown pass.
16. Greg Olson vs. New Orleans Saints
17. Brent Celek vs. Baltimore Ravens
18. Kevin Boss vs. Buffalo Bills
19. Scott Chandler vs. Kansas City Chiefs
20. Martellus Bennett vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—The Buccaneers allowed Carolina's Greg Olson to make six catches for 56 yards last week. Bennett hauled in a touchdown pass from Eli Manning in Week 1.
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