Week 2 Fantasy Football Projections: Best Matchup Plays

Vincent Frank@VincentFrankNFLCorrespondent ISeptember 12, 2012

Week 2 Fantasy Football Projections: Best Matchup Plays

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    As most fantasy football owners know, it is extremely important to look at matchups as it relates to setting your lineup for a given week. Outside of a few elite players at each position, one must come to the conclusion of who to start based on the opponent their team is playing that week. 

    This is much harder to gauge when it comes to the early part of the NFL season. 

    Many people expected the Carolina Panthers to run all over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week. After all, Tampa finished dead last in the NFL in rushing defense in 2011. The Panthers, led by Cam Newton, ended up with a total of 10 yards on the ground. 

    With that in mind, let's take a look at 15 favorable fantasy matchups heading into the second week of the season. 

Adrian Peterson, Running Back, Minnesota Vikings

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    Adrian Peterson surprised the football world by scoring two touchdowns in his return from a devastating late-season knee injury. Fantasy prospects for one of the best running backs in the NFL wasn't too high heading into the season, but he proved skeptics wrong. 

    Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings now travel to Indianapolis in order to take on a Colts' defense transitioning to a 3-4 scheme. 

    Indianapolis allowed just 114 yards on 33 rush attempts against the Chicago Bears last week. This indicates that the Colts might be able to control the Vikings running game. 

    I just don't see it that way. 

    Peterson has another week to get his legs back and should be much stronger than what we saw against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the season opener. 

Alex Smith, Quarterback, San Francisco 49ers

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    Alex Smith is the primary backup to Peyton Manning on one of my fantasy teams. Looking at matchups heading into the initial week of the season I made the decision to go with Smith over Manning last weekend.

    My primary reason for inserting Smith into the lineup was the fact that he was going up against the Green Bay Packers, not the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

    It ended up being a draw as both quarterbacks threw two touchdowns and accumulated quarterback ratings over 120. 

    The San Francisco 49ers now take on a Detroit Lions defense that has yielded an average of over 300 passing yards in their last six games, postseason included. 

    Additionally, Alex Smith has racked up 24 touchdowns compared to just three interceptions in his last 13 home starts. 

Matthew Stafford, Quarterback, Detroit Lions

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    Much like last season, it is becoming readily apparent that teams just cannot run on the San Francisco 49ers defense. While this doesn't equal success in terms of wins for opposing teams, it will help fantasy numbers for their quarterbacks. 

    San Francisco yielded five 300-yard passing games last season and allowed Rodgers to surpass that number in the season opener. 

    Of course, when opposing quarterbacks are putting the ball up 50-plus times on a consistent basis, they are going to put up some yards. 

    Added to the equation is the fact that Matthew Stafford averaged over 40 pass attempts last season.

    This equates to a solid fantasy output from the young quarterback Sunday night as long as he avoids throwing multiple interceptions. 

    I expect a rebound performance from the elite fantasy quarterback this weekend. Detroit will rely on it and so can you. 

Andre Johnson, Wide Receiver, Houston Texans

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    Andre Johnson appears to be 100 percent as evidenced by his superb performance (eight receptions, 119 yards and a touchdown) against the Miami Dolphins last week. He seems to have rekindled that connection with Matt Schaub that was readily apparent before an injury-plagued 2011 season. 

    The Houston Texans will be going up against a Jacksonville Jaguars defense that allowed Christian Ponder to throw for 270 yards in the season opener. Needless to say, the Minnesota Vikings are nowhere near the level as Houston.

    Johnson will be lining up against an aging Rashean Mathis, who doesn't seem to be up to the task at this point in his career. After all, Percy Harvin accumulated six receptions for 84 yards on eight targets against Jacksonville last week.

    Who here thinks Harvin is at the same level as Johnson? The one person—probably a Florida Gator fan—can put their hand down now. 

Peyton Manning, Quarterback, Denver Broncos

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    There really isn't any reason to question Peyton Manning's fantasy value after his stellar performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the season opener. 

    The future Hall of Fame quarterback compiled 253 passing yards on just 26 attempts against a pass defense that ranked No. 1 overall in 2011. 

    He now goes up against an Atlanta Falcons defense that is going to be without No. 1 corner Brent Grimes for the remainder of the season. Considering how much Manning loves to spread the ball around, this is going to cause a tremendous amount of mismatches for Atlanta. 

    You can also expect this to be a high-scoring affair, which indicates Manning will definitely throw more than 26 passes. 

Antonio Brown, Wide Receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    It really doesn't matter if Darrelle Revis is going to play on Sunday or not, Antonio Brown will be a primary target for Ben Roethlisberger.

    No matter which way you look at it, Brown provides better fantasy value than his teammate and counterpart Mike Wallace this weekend.

    Revis, if he does play, will go up against Wallace. As a shutdown corner, Big Ben will not be going in his direction all too often.

    I can easily envision Brown racking up double-digit targets, which will probably lead to a 100-yard receiving performance and a touchdown or two. 

Cam Newton, Quarterback, Carolina Panthers

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    Cam Newton might have been held in check against a surprising Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense in the season opener, but you can bet that the young quarterback is ready to breakthrough big time. 

    It helps that the Carolina Panthers are going to be going up against what appears to be a weak New Orleans Saints defense. They gave up 464 total yards against Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins last week. 

    Considering that RGIII was making his NFL debut in the Saints' home stadium, those are some stunning statistics. 

    I just cannot imagine New Orleans being able to hold Newton and the Panthers' passing game in check on Sunday. He is going to find seams in the back end of their defense, looking mostly in the direction of Steve Smith (more on him later). 

    Newton threw nearly twice as many touchdowns as interceptions and averaged 300 total yards per game at home last season. Don't expect that to change in the Panthers' home opener this weekend. 

C.J. Spiller, Running Back, Buffalo Bills

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    C.J. Spiller has averaged over 118 total yards and nearly one touchdown in his last seven games. Those are some great numbers. 

    With Fred Jackson out for a few weeks the Buffalo Bills are going to be relying on Spiller to be their featured back. This gives him an opportunity to pad those statistics a great deal. 

    Buffalo will also be going up against an average Kansas City Chiefs rush defense. They yielded over 150 rushing yards in seven games last season. It doesn't appear that Dontari Poe has made the impact that some thought he would make after being selected in the first round of April's draft. 

    Expect some great numbers on the ground and through the air from this former first-round pick. 

Jay Cutler, Quarterback, Chicago Bears

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    It isn't every day that you can say Alex Smith outperformed Aaron Rodgers in a head-to-head matchup. I am not sure if that had more to do with Smith's progression as a quarterback or the Green Bay Packers inability to stop the passing game. 

    I will go with a combination of the two. 

    From what we have seen with Green Bay's defense over the course of the last 18 games, it makes perfect sense to recommend starting any viable quarterback against them. 

    Jay Cutler is more than viable. 

    After starting the season opener against the Indianapolis Colts one-for-11 passing, Cutler hit on 20 of his last 24 passes, finding an immediate connection with both Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. 

    If the Bears offensive line can protect Cutler—that's somewhat of a big if—there is no reason to believe that he cannot put up 300 yards and multiple scores. Definitely QB1 numbers right there. 

Steve Smith, Wide Receiver, Carolina Panthers

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    Steve Smith has put up an average of five receptions for 88 yards in the 17 games since Cam Newton took over the reigns as the Carolina Panthers starting quarterback. Those are WR1 numbers. 

    Smith and Co. will be going up against a New Orleans Saints defense that has given up an average of over 300 passing yards in their last six games, postseason included. They are also coming off a weak home opening performance where Robert Griffin III literally ate apart what promises to be a weak secondary. 

    There is no reason to believe that this Pro-Bowl wide receiver wont be able to put up some stellar stats at home this upcoming weekend. 

    I would take it to the bank. 

Randy Moss, Wide Receiver, San Francisco 49ers

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    Randy Moss looks anything but the over-the-hill receiver that we saw with the Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans in 2010. 

    He impressed the San Francisco 49ers in training camp and carried that over into their opening season victory against the Green Bay Packers. 

    Moss caught four passes for 47 yards and a score on just four targets. As San Francisco eases the future Hall of Famer into their offense, Moss will make an even larger impact. 

    He will be going up against a lackluster Detroit Lions secondary in the 49ers' home opener, a venue that Alex Smith has dominated over the course of his last 14 starts. 

    With Michael Crabtree slated to be San Francisco's No. 1 wide receiver, Moss will be going up against Bill Bentley. I will take that mismatch any day of the week, especially with the 49ers' improved passing game. 

Calvin Johnson, Wide Receiver, Detroit Lions

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    Calvin Johnson will be targeted early and often against the San Francisco 49ers Sunday evening. He will also be looking for revenge after failing to score a touchdown when these two teams met last October. It was the only game in the first half of the 2011 season that Johnson did not score a touchdown. 

    It really doesn't matter how good the 49ers' defense might be, Johnson will still get his yards. It also helps that you can expect Matthew Stafford to put the ball up a great deal. 

    With no running game to speak of, Detroit will be forced to go to the air at least 50 times. This gives Johnson a good 15-20 targets. In that case, I like his chances of putting up elite fantasy numbers. 

Christian Ponder, Quarterback, Minnesota Vikings

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    Christian Ponder had the best game of his young career last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. While the Florida State product did not throw a touchdown pass, he did compile a 105.5 quarterback rating and completed 74 percent of his throws. 

    The Minnesota Vikings will be going up against what has to be considered one of the absolute worst pass defenses in the National Football League in the Indianapolis Colts. Despite the addition of Vontae Davis in a trade with the Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis just doesn't seem to have the personnel to match up on the outside. 

    If your QB1 option is facing a difficult opponent this week, it might make sense to suit Ponder up and see what you can get from him. After all, the Colts probably wont do much in terms of stopping him. 

Jordy Nelson, Wide Receiver, Green Bay Packers

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    Greg Jennings will probably be a game-time decision against the Chicago Bears on Thursday night. If the talented receiver isn't able to go, you can expect Aaron Rodgers to look in the direction of Jordy Nelson more than usual. 

    In short, Nelson will be his primary target in the passing game. Considering that Rodgers is the absolute best fantasy quarterback option, why not pickup his favorite weapon? 

    It also doesn't hurt that Nelson put up 115 yards and two touchdowns the last time Chicago traveled to Lambeau Field. 

Dexter McCluster, Wide Receiver, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Dexter McCluster was targeted more than any other Kansas City Chiefs player last weekend against the Atlanta Falcons. He compiled six receptions for 82 yards on 10 targets. 

    It finally appears that Kansas City has found a role for the supremely talented youngster from Mississippi. 

    With a defined role, you can easily expect McCluster to build off of a solid opening game performance, especially going up against a Buffalo Bills defense that struggled last week. 

    After all, a raw rookie such as Stephen Hill accumulated five receptions for 89 yards and two scores in his NFL debut against Buffalo.

    Pick this guy up and run with it.