Fantasy Football: Matthew Stafford and 7 Other Keys in Week 2
The NFL 2011-2012 season is finally under way, which means only one thing, fantasy football is in full swing as well.
Clearly the first week of the NFL season is one of the most questionable for fantasy owners.
When you are drafting your team, there is not a lot to go off of. Preseason play does not mean much and you never know if good teams will still dominate or vice versa (just look at the Buffalo Kansas City matchup), so all an owner has to go off of is last year's statistics.
You can look at video from last year and preseason all you want, but as an owner, you really do not know what type of team you have until after Week 1. After you finally see your players playing four straight quarters in games that matter can a fantasy owner reflect on whether or not his draft was successful or not.
So with Week 2 on the horizon, it's time to take a look at some of the players that played well last week and look at next week's matchups to see who owners should start.
Some players you should start because they simply played well last week, like Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt.
Or some players should get the start because they have a much more favorable matchup this week than they did last week, like Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Houston Texans tight end Owen Daniels.
Regardless of why you should start a player or not, here are eight players that every owner should start in Week 2.
1) QB Matthew Stafford (Detroit Lions)
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The Detroit Lions are finally moving in the right direction for the first time since Barry Sanders was their starting running back.
One of the main keys to the Lions' success is the health of quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Ever since coming into the league in 2009, Stafford has dealt with injuries to his shoulder and has been sidelined for several games in his first two seasons, including 13 games last season.
The Georgia Bulldog alum showed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that his shoulder was not an issuein his first start of the season, as he went 24 for 33 and thew for three touchdowns in the Lions' 27-20 victory.
Stafford and the Lions head back to Detroit this week to face the Kansas City Chiefs, who last week, made Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick look like an MVP caliber quarterback, allowing 208 yards passing and four touchdowns in the Chiefs worst home opener loss in franchise history.
The Bills did so with a receiving core that is young and got even younger in the offseason when their leading receiver Lee Evans, signed with the Baltimore Ravens.
The Lions clearly have a more powerful receiving core than the Bills, one main reason is top receiver Calvin Johnson who caught two of Stafford's three touchdowns, as well as four other passes for 88 total yards.
Kansas City is hurting after their Week 1 loss and it didn't get any better after the game as one of their best defensive players, safety Eric Berry, tore his ACL and will be out for the rest of the season.
If the Lions can take advantage, which I am sure they will, Stafford and company could cruise to victory and the 23-year-old could have a very good fantasy week.
2) QB Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers)
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Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger may have had one of the worst season openers in his career last Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.
Prior to Sunday, Roethlisberger had won seven straight starts against the Ravens, but that streak was snapped as the he threw three interceptions and fumbled once, as the Steelers turned the ball over a total of seven times and were dominated by the Ravens defense.
Roethlisberger will have a much more favorable matchup in Week 2 when the Seattle Seahawks come town for Pittsburgh's home opener.
The Seahawks did not play terribly against Alex Smith and the San Francisco 49ers last week, but San Franciso does not have much of a passing attack, relying heavily on running back Frank Gore.
The 49ers definitely do not have a better passing attack than the Steelers do and Roethlisberger should have no problem exposing the Seahawks weaknesses.
To put it frankly, Roethlisberger and the Steelers are pissed after a good ole fashion Week 1 butt whooping and are looking to take out their frustration on someone and the Seahawks will be that team.
Roethlisberger will look more like his old self in Week 2 and put up some good numbers at Heinz Field.
3) RB Peyton Hillis (Cleveland Browns)
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Madden NFL 12 cover athlete and Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis had a decent first week of the 2011 season against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Hillis ran for 57 yards on 17 yards and caught six passes for 30 yards in the Browns 27-17 loss to the Bengals.
In Week 2, the Browns travel to Indianapolis to take an Indianapolis Colts team that is without star quarterback Peyton Manning.
In their first game of the season against the Houston Texans, it showed how much not having Manning in the lineup hurt the Colts, as their AFC South rival cruised to a 34-7 victory.
The Colts defense has always seemed to have trouble stopping the run in the past and last week was no different.
The Texans were without talented running back Arian Foster and the Colts still gave up 167 yards rushing.
Ben Tate, Foster's replacement, ran for 116 yards on 24 carries and one touchdown in his first NFL game.
Look for the Browns to focus a lot on the running game against Indianapolis, meaning Hillis' numbers will greatly improve from last week.
4) RB Cedric Benson (Cincinnati Bengals)
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Peyton Hillis was outshined in the running game last week by Cincinnati Bengals running back Cedric Benson.
Benson, who just finished a jail sentence the following week for a misdemeanor assault, did not let his off-field issues bother him as he ran for 121 yards on 25 carries and scored a touchdown in the Bengals Week 1 victory.
Benson will be a key piece to the Bengals offense this season as new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden tries to slowly implement rookie quarterback Andy Dalton into the team's new west coast offense.
The plan will not change much this week as the Bengals travel to Denver to take on a Broncos team that allowed 190 rushing yards against the Oakland Raiders on Monday night.
The Broncos could also be without two of their defense's top performers in defensive end Elvis Dumervil, who injured his shoulder, and cornerback Champ Bailey who injured his hamstring making a touchdown-saving tackle of Raiders running back Darren McFadden.
Denver clearly did not have their best game last week and if Benson can get going early, they could quickly fall into an 0-2 hole.
Look for Benson to get a lot of carries again as Dalton is trying to recover from a wrist injury suffered before halftime against the Browns.
5) WR Kenny Britt (Tennessee Titans)
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Although they came up short against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Tennessee Titans still had a decent first game of the season.
It was uncertain how well running back Chris Johnson would play after only being able to practice for a few days because of his contract holdout.
Johnson proved to be a non-factor in the game, running for only 24 yards on nine carries.
The real story of the game was the Titans' game under new quarterback Matt Hasselback and his new favorite target 22-year-old Kenny Britt.
Britt scored the Titans' only two touchdowns of the game and finished with the game with five receptions for 136 yards.
Britt may have the toughest challenges of anyone on this list as the Titans are going up against a tough Baltimore Ravens defense.
However, the Ravens are known for their dominant run defense than their pass defense and may be focusing more on the running game because we all know that Chris Johnson is soon going to get into a groove and start to look like the player that ran for 2,000 yards two seasons ago.
According to Hasselback, he believes that there is an opportunity against the Ravens defense for some big plays because their secondary seems to take a lot chances.
"There is an opportunity to take advantage of some things, particularly in their secondary. You see on film where they are gambling quite a bit. I’m sure double moves will be a part of what we are doing, especially early," he said.
If Britt can use his size, as well as his speed, he could be on the receiving end on some big plays if the Titans can catch the Ravens gambling.
6) WR Santana Moss (Washington Redskins)
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As much as the Washington Redskins have struggled in the past few seasons, wide receiver Santana Moss has been one of the few bright spots.
Moss has put together good season after good season since coming to Washington in 2005 he has recorded his fourth career 1,000 yard season.
Moss had a decent opener against the New York Giants, finishing with six catches for 76 yards. The Redskins look like they are finally turning the corner with quarterback Rex Grossman having a career resurgence under center.
In Week 2, the Skins welcome the Arizona Cardinals into town, who allowed rookie quarterback Cam Newton to throw for 422 yards, which was a rookie record for yards in a debut, in their Week 1 win against the Carolina Panthers.
Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith, who struggled last season, tore the Cardinals secondary to pieces, hauling in eight catches for 178 yards and two touchdowns.
The Cardinals secondary lost their best corner in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie this offseason in able to acquire quarterback Kevin Kolb and it showed how much the team needed him in the lineup.
Arizona's confidence is pretty much shot after a rookie dominated them, so Washington would be smart to take advantage of their weakened secondary.
Look for Grossman to take plenty of shots in the air and Moss could have himself a very impressive day.
7) TE Owen Daniels (Houston Texans)
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Houston Texans tight end Owen Daniels was pretty much non-existent in the Texans 34-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, catching only one pass for 12 yards as the Texans focused heavily on the run against a Colts defense that struggles when it comes to stopping the run.
Daniels was one of the top-ranked tight ends coming into the season, but did not do too much in his 2011 debut.
Do not count the six-year veteran out of it just quite yet as the Texans go up against a Miami Dolphins team that struggled last week against the pass.
The Dolphins gave up a Monday Night Football record for most passing yards as New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady threw for a whopping 517 yards and four touchdowns in the Patriots 38-24 victory.
Two of Brady's most consistent targets were the Pats tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, who both caught touchdowns as the Dolphins struggled to cover the two.
Hernandez finished with seven receptions for 107 yards while Gronkowski finished with six catches for 86 yards.
If the Texans were smart, they would mirror the Patriots' play calling and dial up plenty of plays that focused on getting the ball to Daniels.
With Kevin Walter still nursing a collarbone injury, Daniels should get a lot of passes his way and should improve his numbers from last week.
8) Cleveland Browns Defense (Sleeper Pick)
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The Cleveland Browns defense showed in their loss to the Bengals that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to make the switch to the 4-3 defense a successful one.
The Browns held a slim 17-13 lead late in the game and were caught off guard when the Bengals called a quick snap while they were pretty much still in the huddle.
Backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski hit a wide open AJ Green for the go ahead touchdown and momentum crusher.
As bad as the Browns played at the end of the game, there was still a lot of positives to take out of the game.
One of the most impressive performances came from second-year cornerback Joe Haden, who held Green to zero catches until the quick snap.
Haden broke up five passes and recorded three tackles and helped force several three-and-outs for the Bengals offense in the second and third quarters.
Another positive was D'Qwell Jackson, who returned from a torn pectoral muscle that kept him out for the entire 2010-11 season.
Jackson recorded 11 tackles, as well as two sacks and a forced fumble in his return after a long layoff.
Against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 2, the Browns dodged a bullet in not having to face Peyton Manning. The Browns are still trying to adjust to the 4-3 from the 3-4 and I would assume that Manning would pick the defense apart.
However, the Browns are going up against Kerry Collins, which is a completely different game plan.
Collins struggled in his first game back in the league since his retirement early on in the offseason, fumbling the ball twice, both leading to Texan touchdowns.
If Haden can control receiver Reggie Wayne, which is no easy task, and Jackson and the linebackers can put plenty of pressure on Collins, the Browns could have a much better week than they did against the Bengals.
Several people have already lost faith in the Browns young learning defense, but I am not one of them (I have heard that my optimism at times sounds downright insane).
Look for Haden to have another impressive game and the Browns defense to improve from last week's loss.