The toughest part of any given week in fantasy football is estimating a certain player’s production. Although I can’t go through every player, I have five matchups I love and five that I don’t like.
Matchups I Love:
1. RGIII at the Rams
Robert Griffin, III deserves a recap. The Redskins won 40-32 in New Orleans and RGIII had 24 fantasy points, which was good for second-most overall. With his fellow rookies not faring nearly as well—Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson had eight points apiece; Ryan Tannehill, two; and Brandon Weeden, negative two—Griffin’s performance really stands out; he finished the opener with 320 yards passing, 42 yards rushing, and two passing touchdowns. He read the defense really well and didn’t get run-happy when he didn’t immediately see an open receiver. Bottom line: he looked great in a high-pressure game and you can’t teach that. This week, he’ll face St. Louis, who did intercept Matthew Stafford three times last week, but I think that is more due to Stafford’s reckless nature and not the Rams D. I would be hard-pressed to tell you to start Eli Manning over Griffin. I know that I may be jumping the gun but I believe in him for the rest of the season, as well as in week two versus the Rams’ 27th-ranked defense.
2/3. Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin at the Colts
The Indianapolis defense picked up right where it left off in week 1. 2011’s 31st ranked defense gave up 41 points to the Bears offense on Sunday. The Bears admittedly don’t have the same team as last year, but it is worth noting that they never scored 40 points in one game during the 2011 season. Meanwhile, Adrian Peterson surprised everyone by coming back just nine months after tearing an ACL and MCL. He had 17 carries and two touchdowns against a stingy Jacksonville defense. Harvin got five carries of his own and caught six passes for a combined 104 yards. I also love their usage. Peterson and Harvin are the only feasible options for offensive production for the Vikings, so the bulk of offensive plays will involve these two. Assuming Peterson is totally healthy—and I am—I think the Vikings are due for a huge week versus the Colts.
4. Reggie Bush versus the Raiders
Bush was the only bright spot for the Dolphins last week when they were dominated 30-10 by the Texans. Despite the poor team effort, he accrued 14 carries and six receptions for a combined 115 yards. Bush didn’t find the end zone in week one, but I expect him to change that this coming week at home against the Raiders. Oakland owned the 29th-ranked defense last season, which bodes well for Bush to get a touchdown this week. Oakland is coming off of a week where they played really well against the Chargers, and I think they will beat the Dolphins. Luckily, Reggie doesn’t need his team to win to be productive for our purposes.
5. Patriots D/ST versus the Cardinals
I picked the Patriots to be a top-scoring defense last week, and they finished second with 17 points. I also picked the Bills to be a top defense so I was on both ends of the spectrum. It’s a guessing game, but the Patriots D looked amazing last week. They forced two turnovers, one being a strip-sack by rookie Chandler Jones, which led to the recovery and score for fellow rookie Dont’a Hightower. Their week two opponent, the Cardinals, looked stagnant against a decent Seattle defense but did manage to put up 20 points in their win. John Skelton left the game in the fourth quarter with an injury and backup Kevin Kolb led them to the win. Despite Arizona’s win last week, I think the Patriots will get up big on them early, and the Cards will struggle to come back, turning the ball over along the way.
Matchups I Don’t Like
1. Matthew Stafford at San Francisco
Stafford led a game-winning drive for the Lions in their season opener. This sounds like good news, right? Well, it was against the Rams, who aren’t exactly a relevant team in the NFL. Stafford threw three interceptions in the first half and didn’t look comfortable at any point. To his credit, he didn’t turn the ball over in the second half, but like I said, he never really settled in like we were accustomed to him doing last season. Next week he has the best defense in the league coming at him. A consensus top-five quarterback coming into this season, I don’t expect a top-five performance in San Fran. He is still a good option, but I would rather have Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, or Matt Ryan, to name a few. I mention these players because they are all ranked worse than Stafford in ESPN rankings.
2. Maurice Jones-Drew versus Houston
MJD actually looked pretty fantastic in the opener for the Jags considering he missed all of training camp and the preseason. The trouble is, he will run into a really good Houston team, against whom he hasn’t had MJD-like performances in the recent past. He didn’t crack the century mark rushing in either game versus the Texans last season and only scored once. Again, I don’t think he is a bad play or that you should sit him, but I don’t think he is going to produce like the double-digit performer we have come to count on. I also think this game is going to be a blowout, which means fewer carries in general. Houston faced a similar offense last week when they played Miami, and they kept Reggie Bush out of the end zone. Bush got decent yardage when you add his rushing and receiving yards, but MJD doesn’t catch as many balls as Bush does. The offenses are similar in the sense that both teams have only one real option.
3. Michael Vick versus the Ravens
Well, Vick played absolutely horribly last week against the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland had the 23rd ranked defense in 2011 and made no huge additions this offseason. They still managed to baffle Vick and force five turnovers. You are naïve if you think Vick will fare much better against the Ravens this week. He probably won’t throw four interceptions, but he can still have a pretty bad day with just a couple picks. He’ll face Baltimore, who was outstanding against their rival Bengals in week one, allowing only 13 points. If you have Vick, I am sorry, I really am, but you have to bench him in favor of a bunch of quarterbacks this week. I would play Joe Flacco, Carson Palmer, Matt Schaub, or Peyton Manning, among others, over Vick.
4. Michael Turner versus Denver
Turns out, I may have been wrong about Michael Turner; he only got 11 carries for an abysmal 32 yards with no receptions or touchdowns. Given that the Falcons were winning big on Sunday, you would think they would have run the ball more, but that wasn’t the case. I think it might be time to accept the fact that Atlanta has changed their offensive philosophy to a more aerial attack with the emergence of Julio Jones. As for Denver, they allowed less than 100 yards rushing Sunday night against the Steelers, so expect similar results out of Turner. Unless he shows any signs of life in the next few weeks, Turner becomes tradable and will be a consistent pick to underwhelm.
5. Jets D/ST at Pittsburgh
This pick has more to do with Pittsburgh than it does with the Jets. With Rashard Mendenhall probably coming back against the Jets, and Big Ben looking to prove that his week-one performance against the Broncos was a fluke, I think the Steelers will come out hot and put up serious points. A Pittsburgh team that didn’t even approach 100 yards rushing last week will be motivated to play a hard-nosed game, and I believe they will have the ball a lot. I predict the Jets high-flying offense from week one crash-lands in Pittsburgh, as the Steelers force multiple turnovers. The only reason the Steelers aren’t the defense I love this week is because you don’t need me to tell you to play the Pittsburgh defense. With the Steelers offense on the field a lot, the Jets D probably won’t have a typical high-scoring fantasy day.
Join me again next week for my take from week 2 and a look ahead to week 3.