The fantasy football regular season is only 13 weeks long, so every single week is of huge importance when it comes to evaluating the information available from the prior weeks and applying it to upcoming matchups.
With just one week in the books, some initial impressions can be formed which will likely hold true throughout the majority of the season. When we’re talking about only 13 weeks in which to learn, adjust, and then adjust again, early recognition of trends is of utmost importance.
Below we’ll discuss the top three passing matchups for Week 2.
Green Bay Packers
There will be few weeks this season where the Packers don’t have a good matchup. In Week 2, the Packers travel to Charlotte to take on the Carolina Newtons—er, Panthers.
The Carolina secondary ranks in the bottom five of the NFL. Panthers CB Chris Gamble is relatively young but has a declining skill set, and will likely matchup against Packers WR Greg Jennings most of the afternoon. The Packers could find multiple ways to exploit Gamble, but with Jennings’ superior skill set, he simply has to line up and run to win the matchup.
Packer WR Donald Driver played twice as many snaps as WR Jordy Nelson in Week 1, but you shouldn’t expect that split to continue. Nelson has clearly emerged as the better receiver, and will get more time on the field. Nelson was targeted on eight of his 19 snaps that were passing plays.
Nelson will line up opposite of Panthers CB Captain Munnerlyn. Munnerlyn was beaten multiple times by Arizona Cardinals receiver Early Doucet in Week 1, and Nelson should have plenty of opportunities to make plays on Sunday.
While Jennings and Nelson are quality receivers that will pose plenty of issues for Carolina cornerbacks, the real test for this Carolina defense will come with TE Jermichael Finley. Finley is an absolute matchup nightmare, and is will have multiple opportunities to abuse defenders.
In Week 1, Arizona tight ends Jeff King and Todd Heap combined for four receptions, 101 yards and a touchdown. Even if you combined the best of Jeff King and Todd Heap, and created a Jefftodd Kingheap monster clone, it wouldn’t be half the beast that Finley is.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers should have a clean pocket most of the afternoon, and enough time to do a crossword puzzle if he wants. The Panthers were only able to dirty Arizona QB Kevin Kolb’s jersey twice in Week 1 against a much softer offensive line.
Expect solid production from the Packers passing attack on Sunday against an overall weak defense.
The Chiefs defense proved to be an incoherent “unit”, and that term is used loosely, in Week 1 and the loss of Pro Bowl Safety Eric Berry will only further exacerbate their short comings.
Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers is approaching “shutdown corner” status, but has a massive task in trying to contain Lions WR Calvin Johnson on Sunday. As good as Flowers is, he will be simply outmatched physically against one of the most highly skilled receivers in the NFL.
Lions WR Nate Burleson will have to deal with Chiefs CB Brandon Carr for most of the afternoon, but Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will keep him in motion and in the slot to avoid constant coverage by Carr.
The glaring weakness of this Chiefs defense comes in the back half of the secondary manned by safeties Kendrick Lewis and Jon McGraw. The downgrade from Berry to McGraw is palpable. In 2010, Berry was the 20th best safety in the NFL, while McGraw checked in at number 71.
The Chiefs will have no choice but to focus extra defensive attention toward Johnson, leaving plenty of opportunities for single coverage on Burleson when he lines up outside or in the slot.
Kansas City allowed two touchdowns to Buffalo Bills TE Scott Chandler in Week 1, so to expect extra focus on Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew would be logical. While that plan is good in theory, the Lions present so many receiving options, including RB Jahvid Best out of the backfield, the Chiefs likely won’t be able to devote any additional attention to Pettigrew.
The Chiefs broke through a weak Buffalo offensive line five times to put a hit on QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, but only successfully sacked him once. Expect more of the same on Sunday, which should allow QB Mathew Stafford to stay up right and effective throughout the contest.
The Cardinals secondary will provide a dream matchup for opposing offenses throughout the 2011 season. Lining up outside for the Cardinals are top five rookie selection CB Patrick Peterson and CB AJ Jefferson.
In Week 1, the Cardinals secondary surrendered 398 receiving yards to Carolina Panther receivers. While the Redskins do not have a wide receiver as talented as the Panthers Steve Smith, they no doubt do have the ability to make plays.
Wide receiver Santana Moss should face off with Patrick Peterson most of the afternoon. After being roasted like a fat pig at a Hawaiian Luau by Smith, one has to think that Peterson will be hesitant to let Moss get behind him, providing plenty of intermediate opportunities, of which Moss is the master.
Redskins wide receivers Jabar Gaffney and Anthony Armstrong will likely rotate opposite Moss, and will primarily deal with coverage provided by Jefferson, a second year player who spent most of the 2010 season on the practice squad. Jefferson may have a little more success than he did in Week 1, but probably not much.
Strong Safety Adrian Wilson will likely draw coverage duties on TE Fred Davis, who had a monster game in Week 1 abusing a depleted New York Giants secondary for 108 yards and a score. Wilson, along with the Cardinals secondary, allowed four receptions and 78 yards to Panthers TE Greg Olsen, so Davis is likely in line for another very solid performance.
Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman should time to operate, and plenty of opportunities over the middle of the field, as the Cardinals starting linebackers Clark Haggans and Joey Porter were two of the worst in the NFL last year at their respective positions.
Everything seemingly shapes up for a solid passing day out of the Redskins offense. Grossman should be able to at least repeat, if not improve, his Week 1 stat line of 305 yards and a two scores, and at least one Redskins wide receiver should top 100 yards and cross the stripe.
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