Each week of the NFL season, I will preview matchups, give my point-spread predictions, and offer fantasy advice for the day ahead.
Week 2 is always tough – It’s easy to draw conclusions from opening week performances, but those can be misleading. Don’t forget, the Giants were 0-2 in 2007, and heading for a third straight defeat against Washington. Suddenly, they’re Super Bowl champs. Similarly, players can significantly impact expectations in Week 1. Yes, Mark Sanchez dominated the Texans, while Andre Johnson struggled. I’m seeing some changes in the immediate future.
With that said, here are the 1 p.m. game previews. Picks are in bold:
Oakland at Kansas City (-3)
Despite the Raiders heartbreaking loss to San Diego, I was impressed. Richard Seymour made an immediate impact on the defensive side of the ball and Oakland’s running game looked good. Michael Bush and Darren McFadden should combine for nice totals in their platoon against a Kansas City defence that struggled to stop Baltimore’s rushing attack in Week 1. Considering this will be Matt Cassel’s first game back from a sprained MCL, it’s hard to recommend any Chiefs player aside from Larry Johnson. Dwayne Bowe caught a touchdown against Baltimore and should have a nice season, but it might take a game before Cassel is back in rhythm. JaMarcus Russell has a strong arm but the majority of his passes will be short tosses to Bush and McFadden, while tight end Zach Miller caught six balls against the Chargers.
Houston at Tennessee (-7)
It’s a tough spread to pick, because it’s hard to believe Houston will replicate Week 1′s bad offensive performance against the Jets. Still, the Titans had plenty of chances to beat the Steelers in Week 1 and will be fired up for their home opener. Tennessee should cover, but barely, since they love to pound the ball on the ground. It’s an especially good idea against a weak Texans defence as Chris Johnson and LenDale White should do plenty of damage. Justin Gage has been a favourite of Kerry Collins and should continue to provide solid numbers. Kevin Walter returns for Houston and will help free up Andre Johnson, who was quiet in Week 1. And while Tennessee smothered the Steelers’ running game, Steve Slaton was surprisingly effective against the Titans last season. I would play Slaton in most formats, but especially if your league counts points-per-reception.
New York Jets at New England (-3.5)
New England was lucky to escape with a win against Buffalo and will be fired up against a division rival and rookie quarterback. Sanchez looks headed for plenty of future success, but I would stay away against the experienced Patriots. The running game should be plenty effective, though, as Thomas Jones and Leon Washington provide the Jets with a formidable tandem. While their stats looked similar last week, Washington was easily the better back throughout the game, but Jones is the better play in touchdown-centric leagues that ignore points-per-reception. Tom Brady will throw a ton on Sunday, making Randy Moss and Wes Welker must-starts, while Bejamin Watson and Kevin Faulk could make an impact. Faulk is a great play in points-per-reception leagues.
Cincinnati at Green Bay (-9)
The Bengals offence was stagnant in a rough Week 1, as Laveranues Coles failed to produce as the No. 2 receiver. I got burned playing Chris Henry but I’m sticking with him against the Packers. After Chad Ocho Cinco, Henry should be Carson Palmer’s second favourite target. Cedric Benson had a decent game against Denver but will struggle against the Packers’ defence. Green Bay has a habit of making things interesting, but Aaron Rodgers and the offence should provide plenty of fireworks. Expect big things from Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and Ryan Grant.
Minnesota (-10) at Detroit
The Lions will win a game this year, but it won’t be this week. Look for Adrian Peterson to manhandle Detroit, while Chester Taylor will make a nice flex play and most likely see the endzone. With a big lead, don’t expect to see Brett Favre air it out, but pay plenty of attention to rookie Percy Harvin. I was glad I used Harvin in Week 1 and he will continue to line up all over the field against the Lions. With Favre sticking to short passes and screens, look for Harvin to break at least one huge play. He also has a history of relying on tight ends, meaning Visanthe Shiancoe could be useful. I wouldn’t hesitate to play Bernard Berrian either – yes, there are plenty of options when you are facing the Lions. Calvin Johnson is still an obvious play for Detroit, while Kevin Smith will have the ball in his hands all game and will produce especially well in points-per-reception leagues.
New Orleans (-1.5) at Philadelphia
Philly plays at home and dominated the Panthers in Week 1, but I like the Saints to keep rolling against the Kevin Kolb-led Eagles. Barring a surprise start from the injured Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia should lean even heavier than usual on Brian Westbrook, while DeSean Jackson and the rest of the receivers won’t have as much value against an improved Saints’ defence. Drew Brees isn’t facing the Lions anymore but should still be successful against Philadelphia. Jeremy Shockey already has two more touchdowns than last season and will be targeted plenty, while Marques Colston is the best of New Orleans’ deep receiver corp. I wouldn’t touch any of the Saints’ running backs, considering Philly has success defending the run, while a three-way platoon is tough to read. If I had to choose, Mike Bell is the short-term favourite to get redzone carries, but every TD came through the air in Week 1.
Arizona Cardinals at Jacksonville Jaguars (-3)
The Cardinals played nothing like the 2008 model in Week 1, as Kurt Warner and the vaunted offence struggled in a loss to the 49ers. I expect Arizona to rebound against a Jaguars squad that allowed Peyton Manning to complete over 70% of his passes last week. Larry Fitzgerald is a stud, but he and Warner will be impacted by the health of Anquan Boldin, who is questionable with a hamstring injury – keep an eye on his status. Running back Tim Hightower caught a boatload of passes against San Francisco, but that was probably an aberration. I would expect Jacksonville to try and run the ball with Maurice Jones-Drew, who is an absolute monster in points-per-reception leagues, while producing very well in other formats. Still, I expect the Cardinals to stack the box and force the Jags to throw – something I think results in Arizon’s first win.
St. Louis at Washington (-9.5)
The Rams really stink and I think Washington dominates this game. Jason Campbell struggled to find his rhythm against the Giants but should have more time to throw against a defence that will have trouble stopping Clinton Portis. I wouldn’t normally recommend Campbell, but this would be a good time to use him if your other quarterback has a bad matchup. I love Chris Cooley against the Rams, while Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El should have plenty of opportunities to make plays. In touchdown-centric leagues, Ladell Betts would be a solid flex option and has a good chance to see the endzone. There’s not much to like about St. Louis aside from Steven Jackson – He was solid in Week 1 and continues to be one of the most productive players in any format, especially point-per-reception leagues. Tough luck for those who invested in Donnie Avery… it appears that Laurent Robinson is Marc Bulger’s favourite target and is a threat to make a big play on Sunday.