First, I’ll list the Fantasy Points based on ESPN scoring, and what the defense they are facing gave up last week to their opposing signal-caller. Finally, I’ll project the rankings for week 2.
1. Matthew Stafford, Lions, vs. Chiefs. Last week: 8th, Chiefs defense 27th.
I actually have quite a bit of faith in the Chiefs defense. Romeo Crennel does a good job with that unit and the Bills only had to gain 364 yards – a total they reached four times last year – to get those 41 points, due to the short fields. That said, Eric Berry – their undisputed most important defensive player – is on IR and the aerial assault will be striking early and often. As I mentioned in “Sit ‘Em, Start ‘Em”, Nate Burleson is a good play as well.
2. Rex Grossman, Redskins, vs. Cardinals. Last week: 10th, Cardinals defense 30th.
Arizona has a new defense with new starters and players both yet to reach their prime (Toller, Peterson) and some past their prime (Wilson, Porter). I was high on them before this season and am picking Rex more based on Rex’s weapons than the weak spots on the Cardinals team.
3. Tony Romo, Cowboys, @ 49ers. Last week: t-12th, 49ers defense 11th.
Romo is ready to prove his critics wrong. If Dez doesn’t play, move him down to fifth but I think Romo could be looking at a 5 TD, 0 INT game.
4. Philip Rivers, Chargers, @ Patriots. Last week: t-12th, Patriots defense 31st.
rookie Ras-I Dowling, nursing a back injury, and LB Jerod Mayo. These are some of the defenders charged with stopping Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd, Mike Tolbert, and Antonio Gates. The numbers allowed to Chad Henne on “Monday Night Football”, garbage time or not, have to be a little troubling considering Chad Henne’s 75.4 QB rating last season and the new weapons and coordinator Henne worked with.
5. Eli Manning, Giants, vs. Rams. Last week: t-17th, Rams defense t-25th.
Monday Night Football (Eli’s 6-2 on Monday night). Must-win. St. Louis’ starting corners will be Justin King and Bradley Fletcher now that their best corner Ron Bartell (45% comp. allowed for 2010) is on IR. Manning drops to 6 if Nicks doesn’t play. There’s also a chance the Giants defense gets lit up, which makes for great fantasy stats for Manning.
6. Matt Schaub, Texans, @ Dolphins. Last week: t-23rd, Dolphins defense 32nd.
The Dolphin defense was abused but there was a myriad of reasons for it: Brady’s accuracy, the up-tempo offense, the muggy temperature, the fact that this was the first game, even the speed of the Dolphins’ offensive drives. Moreover, the Patriots had 99 yards on one stupid defensive play call, when something smarter might have held Welker to 16 yards on the play, maybe less. Schaub lost Walter, but Anderson knows this offense and they won’t miss a beat. The main reason I don’t see Brady-type numbers (other than that yardage being inflated by a bad defensive call) would be that the Texans feature a much more balanced attack.
7. Aaron Rodgers, Packers, vs. Panthers. Last week: t-5th, Panthers defense t-21st.
The Panthers had a few coverage breakdowns that led to a mediocre game of pass defense. That’s good news, because the big TD to Early Doucet is something that can be cleaned up. Otherwise, they only allowed one passing TD. It’s still a gloomy forecast, though, with the monolithic offense of the Packers hosting them on Sunday. Rodgers got off to a slow start last season, but has scored at least twice in every non-Bears game that he started and played at least a half in since Week 9 of last year (Matt Flynn filled in week 15). That’s a streak of nine straight games.
8. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers, vs. Seahawks. Last week: t-31st, Seahawks defense 10th.
The Steelers are looking for a bounce back and whether it’s the deep passing game – attacking an inexperienced secondary – or a fired up defense – causing short fields – that ends up setting the table, Ben Roethlisberger is going to have himself a fantasy feast.
9. Joe Flacco, Ravens, @ Titans. Last week: 9th, Titans defense t-3rd.
The main reason Flacco has emerged as a top-10 fantasy QB (and when he has Bengals, Browns or NFC West games, he may be top 3) is the decision by Cam Cameron to start using Flacco’s deep arm. However, last season he was a great play because – after week 2 – he was 2nd only to Tom Brady in INT % and the Ravens threw a lot in the red zone.
10. Drew Brees, Saints, vs. Bears. Last week: 4th, Bears defense t-23rd.
Brees is 0-3 vs. the Bears but has never had them at the Superdome. Brees had a bad taste in its mouth all off-season and his numbers against the Packers showed it (32-49, 419 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT). Peppers will likely get a sack and the Bears will likely find a way to get a takeaway, but this is really one of the softer secondaries the Saints will play against all year. Darren Sproles, Jimmy Graham and Robert Meachum are all Cover-2 busters. This isn’t a must-win for the Saints – as the rest of the division lost last week, too – yet I they will look at this as a statement game and have the right game plan and adjustments. With Chris Harris out, the Bears will need gargantuan efforts from Peppers, Melton, Idonije, and Adams to offset the weaknesses at safety.
Also: If Derek Cox can’t go, Mark Sanchez against the Jags (who are 7-1 in their last 8 against the Jets including the famous Mojo fantasy apology game) is a great play. Ryan Fitzpatrick kicks off the Bills home schedule vs. the Raiders, who looked very susceptible to the pass when Orton had time to throw. The Raiders’ only interception was due to miscommunication with Brandon Lloyd. Obviously, Tom Bradycan put up numbers on anyone, but I have the Chargers projected as my #2 defense in the NFL this year and they could take advantage of the new center for New England. He’s not a bad play and I wouldn’t be surprised if he has the 2nd or 3rd best weekend, but I doubt he will.
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