Saturday, September 17, 2011

2011 Fantasy Football: Week 2 NFL Preview

It happens every year, and I'm guilty of it, fantasy football owners jump to conclusions after just one week. While there are some situations that become more clear once real football starts (i.e. Mike Tolbert > Ryan Mathews, James Starks > Ryan Grant), it's too soon to consider your season a disaster just because Matt Ryan melted in Chicago or Chris Johnson ran like a guy who's still holding out.

As you're watching the games this weekend, here are five things to keep your eye on. They aren't the sexiest topics and Terry and Howie won't be tackling them on Sunday morning, but they might just give you an advantage in your fantasy league going forward. And really, that's what's most important.

The Atlanta Falcons offense vs. Philadelphia
Falcons QB Matt Ryan threw for over 300 yards in Atlanta's opening weekend loss to Chicago, but failed to toss a touchdown. Ryan also looked shaky in the pocket throwing an interception and losing a fumble. I'm sure if the Bears defense is that good or if I've overstated Ryan's fantasy value. One thing I noticed from the cheapseats (and again, maybe it was the Bears defense) was the Falcons offense needs to get more creative and less conservative. I'd like to see Ryan force the ball downfield more to Roddy White and Julio Jones. Also, ten carries for Michael Turner won't cut it. He's the guy who helps the passing the most. When he's running well defenses are on their heels. Again, all this may have been the result of Chicago's defensive scheme - that's why I want to see this game this week.

Greg Salas replaces Danny Amendola in St. Louis
I'll be watching this game primarily because it's the only game on TV at the time. St. Louis and the New York Giants play on Monday night and I'll be watching to see if Rams rookie Greg Salas (pictured) can be a PPR machine like Danny Amendola was before his elbow injury. Amendola suffered an elbow injury in week one that could keep him out a couple of a weeks (six weeks was the last I read). If Salas can fill that slot role for St. Louis, he has value in PPR leagues. More importantly I want to watch this game to see if the Rams passing offense can get on track. QB Sam Bradford looked like a lost man on the field throwing for 188 yards and zero touchdowns. The Rams have a brutal schedule ahead, a ton of injuries and an offense that is still new. I want to see how they respond against a very good Philadelphia team.

Cam Newton vs. Green Bay's defense
Newton threw for 400 yards in week one and the Packers gave up 400 yards through the air in week one to Saints QB Drew Brees. This match-up intrigues me for a couple reasons, first, I want to see how Cam Newton handles the Packers' complex defensive schemes. You can count on Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers to mix-up coverages and personnel to try and confuse the rookie QB. If Newton can handle the Packers pressure and keep the Panthers close in this game, then I have high hopes for the young man. The Packers are much better than the Arizona Cardinals who Newton torched last Sunday. The other reason why I'm interested in this game is because the Packers defense showed very little resistance against a very good New Orleans offense in week one. I want to see if the Saints were that good or if the Packers were that bad. Sunday's game at Carolina should provide us with some clarity.

Cincinnati's WRs
This is probably the least sexy topic of the bunch, but I want to see what Cincy's WR Jerome Simpson and rookie A.J. Green do this week against the Denver Broncos. Simpson led the post-Chad Ochocinco/Terrell Owens/Carson Palmer-era Bengals with nine targets in week one and could be a PPR league sleeper. As for his running mate Green, he was quiet for most of the last weekend's game until the third quarter when caught his only pass (4 total targets), a 41-yard game-winning TD (from QB Bruce Gradkowski not Andy Dalton). In Green's defense he was being covered most of the afternoon by Cleveland's Joe Haden, who's one of brightest young cover corners in the league. I want to see if Dalton and Green can establish a rapport - and maybe the rookie duo can connect on their first pass.

Rex Grossman and the Washington wideouts (and tight end)
Rex Grossman is a poor man's Eli Manning, at least when it comes to his standing in the court of public opinion. Not sure why people dislike Grossman so much, especially when you consider in his last four games (including the three he started last season), he's thrown for more than 280 yards per game on average and two touchdowns. This week, Grossman and the Skins face an Arizona defense that got shredded by a quarterback who is nine months removed from kissing the Waterford Crystal football after leading Auburn to a national championship (Cam Newton's line vs. AZ: 422 yards passing, 3 TDs (2 pass/1 rush). Grossman is a sneaky fantasy play this week, but I'm more interested to see which one of his receivers he targets the most. Santana Moss led the way with 8 targets (6 catches for 76 yards), Jabar Gaffney was next with 7 targets (3 catches for 54 yards) and Fred Davis, who looks like a real player, had 6 targets (5 catches for 105 yards). These are all guys you should look at in PPR leagues, Moss and Davis should be considered in most standard leagues as well.

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