Guessing games always suck. Take Guess Who?, for example. That game was terrible. Out of the 30 or so little cartoon people on the cards, three guys had to stick their tongues out while their pictures were taken, trying to be deviants. I’d always get either one of those three, or one of the five who refused to take their hat off. Game over.
In Week 1, we had a bit of guessing game on our hands. Player judgments were based primarily on either last year’s performances after an offseason of lockout languishing and change, or a bunch of vaguely meaningful preseason stats. Now the sample size may be extremely small after just one week, but at least we have something.
That guarantees we won’t be wrong on anything again this year, and we won’t do something like tell you to lower your expectations for Greg Jennings.
And if we are wrong, we’ll give you a free subscription to GLS for one full year.
1. Aaron Rodgers @ CAR — You know what could actually make Aaron Rodgers better in Week 2? Getting even more support from a backfield that’s facing a weak rushing defense playing its first game without Jon Beason.
2. Michael Vick @ ATL — If Matt Forte can carve up the Atlanta secondary for 90 receiving yards out of the backfield, then right about now LeSean McCoy is as giddy as a pretentious, highly cultured hipster on the eve of the Toronto International Film Festival (sorry, The Score is seconds away from the epicenter of TIFF douchebagery). Vick also enjoys the month of September.
3. Drew Brees vs. CHI – The loss of Marques Colston will hurt, but this offense is far too diverse at wide receiver to feel a heavy impact from the absence of one player.
4. Ben Roethlisberger vs. SEA – In their three trips to an easterly destination last year the Seahawks gave up an average of 30.6 points per game and nine passing touchdowns.
5. Tony Romo @ SF — There are more than enough weapons at Romo’s disposal to capitalize on a juicy matchup if Dez Bryant doesn’t play, and even if he does play he could be limited, despite Jerry Jones’ confidence.
6. Tom Brady vs. SD — Last week I ranked Brady low by Brady standards, and that worked out well. He remains slightly lower than it feels like he should be again this week due to more appealing matchups elsewhere. But the New England fans will be lubed up for the Patriots’ home-opener, so Brady could throw for 800 yards regardless of his opponent.
7. Philip Rivers @ NE — Rivers is also getting the Brady treatment because Albert Haynesworth is actually beginning to look like an NFL player again, and a rather talented one.
8. Matthew Stafford vs. KC — Eric Berry is gone, and suddenly the Chiefs’ secondary is about as scary as a cat playing with an iPad.
9. Matt Schaub @ MIA – The Dolphins faced a prolific passing offence in Week 1 and gave up 517 passing yards. But the possible return of Arian Foster could shift the focus away from the Schaub/Andre Johnson show.
10 Rex Grossman vs. ARI – Gagnon is aware of my inexplicable Grossman infatuation, and has advised me to seek help. But he had a 110.5 QB rating against an injury-riddled and weak Giants defence in Week 1, and Grossman now faces an equally weak Cardinals defense that allowed Cam Newton to break a rookie passing record.
Notable omission(s): Sure, it would be easy to cut your forehead while jumping aboard the Jay Cutler bandwagon (when we jump, we don’t mess around, and we go head first every time). But let him prove himself further against a better pass defense, and New Orleans was one of just five teams to give up less than 200 yards per game last year through the air.
1. Ray Rice @ TEN — The Titans gave up 163 rushing yards against Jacksonville last week, showing that there will be an adjustment period with Stephen Tulloch gone up the middle.
2. Darren McFadden @ BUF — The Bills have nowhere to go but up in terms of their run defence after allowing a league-worst 169.6 yards per game last year. But what they did to Jamaal Charles last week was likely an aberration. Running is a pretty poor strategy when you’re down 20-7 at halftime.
3. Rashard Mendenhall vs. SEA — Remember that whole bit about the Seahawks and their travels to the far east? Well, they’re mediocre against the run when they jump a few time zones too, coughing up an average of 127 yards over three games in 2010.
4. Adrian Peterson vs. TB — I still think there’s a major running mismatch to capitalize on here every week after the Bucs let Ruud walk, and giving up 128 yards to Detroit only grew that belief.
5. Michael Turner vs. PHI — The Eagles’ defense is scary, except for the linebackers and their ability to defend the run against a powerful, downhill runner.
6. LeSean McCoy @ ATL — The memory game continues, and that bit about McCoy likely being more productive as a pass-receiver than a runner this week clearly applies even more here.
7. Arian Foster @ MIA – It’s looking like he’s ready to go, which means you’re ready to play him with confidence again.
8. Chris Johnson vs. BAL — CJ did little (24 rushing yards) against an improved but still average run defense in Jacksonville. Overreacting to one week is dangerous, but so is expecting major production when Johnson faces the Ravens after Tennessee’s rushing offense generated nothing against an inferior opponent.
9. Peyton Hillis @ IND – The Colts haven’t stopped the run since the days when Bob Sanders was healthy with any degree of consistency. They’re not going to start now.
10. Jamaal Charles @ DET — He’s too talented, too quick, and too damn good to be silenced for two straight weeks. But he falls because we’ve seen the early signs of the difference a Tulloch can make in Detroit.
Notable omission(s): The Felix Jones revolution will be televised, but we’ll wait yet another week. With Bryant either out or limited there’s one less aerial weapon to occupy attention for a 49ers defense that held opponents to just 3.5 yards per carry last year.
Matt Forte and Maurice Jones-Drew have equally unappealing matchups, with the former facing Jonathan Vilma and new run-stuffer Shaun Rodgers in New Orleans, and the latter against a Jets defense that already postponed that Jones breakout once.
1. Andre Johnson @ MIA — One day we’ll be given a reason to move Johnson out of the top three because of some matchup that’s supposed to make him cry. There won’t be any tears shed over Vontae Davis after his performance against the Patriots. Much like Chad Ochocinco, he watched in awe.
2. Miles Austin @ SF — Again, the possibility of a limited or absent Bryant has both positive and negative impacts for the Cowboys’ key offensive contributors. This time it’s very, very, positive.
3. Calvin Johnson vs. KC — Show me anyone who can match Johnson’s physicality in the Chiefs’ secondary with Berry out, and I’ll show you an NFL player that you just made up.
4. Greg Jennings @ CAR — The ripple effect created by the Beason injury will also lead to a defence possibly focused on compensating for their weakness against the run, thus opening up more opportunities down field.
5. Mike Wallace vs. SEA – Let’s cast aside the Week 1 egg laid by the Steelers offense as an early season hiccup against a tough divisional opponent. After all, even with that stinker Big Big has still been pretty, pretty good over his last six games.
6. DeSean Jackson @ ATL – If anyone can match Jackson’s speed, or at least come kind of, sort of close, it’s Brent Grimes.
7. Larry Fitzgerald @ WAS –DeAngelo Hall likes to take risks, and that’s the kind of corner Fitz can feast off of now that Kevin Kolb has restored some sense of relevancy to the Cardinals’ passing game.
8. Brandon Marshall vs. HOU — It feels like this is too high for Marshall since he’ll likely be matched up against Johnathan Joseph, with Danieal Manning rounding out a revamped secondary in Houston. But Chad Henne just looked too damn good against New England, and Marshall was on the receiving end of 33.4 percent of his passing yardage.
9.Vincent Jackson @ NE — Jackson gets to tee up a secondary that’s still woefully average, a flaw that received little discussion following Tom Brady’s video game performance.
10. Stevie Johnson vs. OAK – Life without Nnamdi Asomugha will start to suck this week when the Raiders face a far more potent passing offence. Life possibly without Michael Huff and Chris Johnson will be even worse.
Notable omission(s): I was ready to rank Brandon Lloyd stupid high, like top three high despite Denver’s offensive struggles last week. You see, last year in Week 8 when Lloyd looked up and same Nate Clements he smiled, and it was one of those really big Grinch smiles too. He had seven catches for 169 yards and a touchdown, tying his largest yardage output of the season.
But alas, Lloyd is hobbled by a groin injury, and while it’s likely not serious, a groin injury in Week 2 for a wide receiver isn’t something you want to mess around with by making Lloyd your No. 1 wideout this week. Hakeem Nicks also didn’t make the cut because of a similar injury situation, one that requires an even more cautious approach because the Giants play Monday night.
A matchup against Green Bay and a hesitancy to overreact to Cam Newton’s record-setting Week 1 game held Steve Smith off the list, but favorable matchups could restore Smith’s fantasy relevance in the very near future.
1. Antonio Gates @ NE — Anthony Fasano posted his second-highest yardage total over the past two years (82 yards) against the Patriots, the same Anthony Fasano who had only four games over 40 yards last year.
2. Jason Witten @ SF –See Austin, Miles.
3. Jimmy Graham vs. CHI — Graham makes a major jump due to Colston’s absence.
4. Jermichael Finley @ CAR — Similar to Fasano against New England, if Jeff King can post 61 yards against Carolina, Finley should do alright. And maybe even much, much better than alright.
5. Vernon Davis vs. DAL — Still the only 49er that can be started consistently with confidence regardless of the opponent, a category that even eludes Frank Gore.
6. Brandon Pettigrew vs. KC — Berry’s absence helps the entire Detroit offense, and Pettigrew presents another physical mismatch for a secondary that’s now missing a major physical element.
7. Owen Daniels @ MIA — Daniels often posts a handful of painful stat lines every year, and last year there were three games when he had a combined three receptions for 25 yards. Consider last week (one reception for 12 yards) to be one of Daniels’ few disappearances of the season.
8. Dallas Clark vs. CLE — Yes, putting any Colt in any top 10 is dangerous right now. But I’m still stubbornly believing that Clark will retain most of his value. He’s the glass Kerry Collins will routinely break in his many emergencies.
9. Kellen Winslow vs. MIN — He’s still getting yardage, and he’s still not getting into the end zone.
10. Jermaine Gresham @ DEN — It’s now sounding like Andy Dalton will start. But even if Bruce Gradkowski has to step in, starting a tight end who’s playing against a poor run defense is always appealing. Cedric Benson will carry Cincy to the red zone, leaving Gresham to cash in.
Notable omission(s): Newton and the entire Carolina offense will return to reality this week, and that includes Greg Olsen. That reality won’t be too harsh, and quality numbers will still be posted. Just not starting TE numbers.
And I think we’ve already started to see Brent Celek fade into his role as a forgotten option in the embarrassment of riches that is the Philly offense.
Team Defenses/Special teams
1. Green Bay @ CAR
2. Pittsburgh vs. SEA
3. Detroit vs. KC
4. New York Jets vs. JAC
5. Tampa Bay @ MIN
6. Chicago @ NO
7. Houston @ MIA
8. Philadelphia @ ATL
9. New York Giants vs. STL
10. Baltimore @ TEN
1. Alex Henery @ ATL
2. Mason Crosby @ CAR
3. Stephen Gostkowski vs. SD
4. Shaun Suisham vs. SEA
5. Jason Hanson vs. DET
6. Nick Folk vs. JAC
7. Rian Lindell vs. OAK
8. Dan Carpenter vs. HOU
9. Sebastian Janikowski @ BUF
10. Adam Vinatieri vs. CLE