With Week 2 getting going on Thursday night when the Chicago Bears take on the Green Bay Packers, fantasy football owners will again be searching for some players with upside this week and obviously looking to avoid players with downside. Once again this week I will look at players at the four most impactful positions for fantasy owners-quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end-and look at players who have nice upside (“studs”) and those who I feel have significant downside (“duds”).
Here are my “Studs and Duds” for Week 2 of the 2012 season.
Stud- Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Newton did not have an outstanding season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with more interceptions (two) than touchdowns (one) and just four rushing yards. But he did throw for 303 yards and complete just over two-thirds of his passes (23-for-33), which creates some optimism for him heading to Week 2 against the New Orleans Saints. In two games against New Orleans in 2011, Newton was not particularly impressive averaging just 191 yards per game through the air with four total touchdowns (three passing), but it’s safe to say the Saints’ secondary has a much different complexion with the free agent departure of ball-hawking cornerback Tracy Porter. A high-scoring affair can be expected this Sunday, so look for a nice all-around effort from Newton this week.
Dud-Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
Vick had a fairly dismal performance in Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns despite throwing for 317 yards and two touchdowns, as he threw four interceptions and completed just 29 of his 56 pass attempts. Things will not be any easier this week against the Baltimore Ravens, who held the Cincinnati Bengals to 13 points and 322 yards of offense in Week 1 while sacking Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton four times as well. If the Eagles fail to establish the running game, Vick may again be forced to throw the ball a lot and that would be music to the ears of the Baltimore defense. It’s fair to wonder if a preseason rib injury is still affecting him, and if he gets hit as many times he did last week (11 hits, two sacks) the risk of him finishing Sunday’s game on the sideline goes up.
Stud-Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders
McFadden was the centerpiece of the Raiders’ offense in Week 1 against the San Diego Chargers, with 15 carries for 32 yards along with 13 receptions for 86 yards in the game. He should be the workhorse again in Week 2 against the Miami Dolphins, who allowed 79 rushing yards and two touchdowns to Arian Foster of the Houston Texans last week. The possible return to action of wide receiver Denarius Moore (hamstring) bodes well for McFadden finding more room to run this Sunday, even if he sees less targets in the passing game. Health is always a concern for McFadden since he has never played all 16 games in a season, but there’s no reason to think he can’t have a big game against the lowly Dolphins.
Dud- Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons
Turner struggled in Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs with just 32 yards on 11 carries as he looks to be a poor fit for the Falcons’ new up-tempo offense. Things aren’t likely to be any easier against the Denver Broncos in Week 2, as the Broncos allowed less than three yards per carry to the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. If the game turns into a high-scoring shootout on Monday night, which is not out of the question, it’s safe to say Turner’s role will be reduced even more if Atlanta has to throw the ball virtually exclusively. Fantasy owners should not be afraid to bench Turner this week if they have a better option.
Stud- A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
Green had five catches for 70 yards against the Baltimore Ravens last week, and was also targeted a team-high 11 times in the game. He is clearly Andy Dalton’s top target, and a favorable matchup is coming for this week against the Cleveland Browns. The Browns will be without their top cornerback in Joe Haden, who will be serving the first of a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. So Green should not struggle against the Browns like he did last season with just four catches in two games with Haden shadowing him. You would have to have a good reason to bench Green, but this week there are not many wide receivers with greater fantasy upside.
Dud- DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles
Jackson had four catches for 77 yards against the Cleveland Browns in Week 1, but struggled to connect with Michael Vick as he was targeted 11 times in the game. A much tougher looking matchup is coming this week against the Baltimore Ravens, who limited the Cincinnati Bengals downfield passing game in Week 1 and that is where Jackson makes his living. The potential absence of Jeremy Maclin (hip) could create more opportunities for him, but whether he does anything with those potential added targets is a big question. At minimum it’s hard to envision much more than last week’s target total for Jackson whether Maclin is active or not. The risk of early struggles leading to him mentally checking out only adds to Jackson’s downside in Week 2.
Stud-Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers
Gates struggled some against the Oakland Raiders in Week 1, with four receptions (on nine targets) for 43 yards. He had a couple noteworthy drops, including one for a potential touchdown, and also left the game briefly with a rib injury. Gates was held out Wednesday’s practice due to the injury, but was slated to return to practice on Thursday and be ready to go for Week 2 against the Tennessee Titans. Not surprisingly, the Titans allowed 12 catches and two touchdowns combined to Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez of the New England Patriots in Week 1, including six receptions and a touchdown to each guy. Be sure to keep an eye on Gates’ practice status and ultimate declaration on Friday’s injury report before locking him into your starting lineup, but he has nice upside potential for his fantasy owners this week.
Dud- Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
Witten had just two catches for 10 yards in Week 1 against the New York Giants, but he had a good excuse as he continues to work his way back from a ruptured spleen. He is now practicing fully ahead of this week’s game against the Seattle Seahawks, which is obviously a good sign for his long-term health. But it looks to be a fairly tough matchup, as the Seahawks allowed just five catches to the tight ends of the Arizona Cardinals last week, though it is worth mentioning the Cardinals don’t have any tight end as talented as Witten is when 100 percent healthy. Any fantasy owner that drafted Witten certainly drafted a second tight end to cover for the potential he would miss the season opener, and I think the wise move for those owners is to go with that option while we see how Witten looks in Week 2.
Review of Week 1 Studs And Duds
Stud-Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons- 23-for-31 for 299 yards and three touchdowns; 25 rushing yards and one touchdown
Dud- Mark Sanchez, New York Jets- 19-for-27 for 266 yards with three touchdowns and one interception
Matt Forte, Chicago Bears- 16 carries for 80 yards and one touchdown; three receptions for 40 yards
Reggie Bush, Miami Dolphins- 14 carries for 69 yards; six receptions for 46 yards
Verdict: PPR Stud
Stud- Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys- four receptions for 85 yards
Verdict: Low-End Stud
Brandon Lloyd, New England Patriots- five receptions for 69 yards
Verdict: Low-End Stud
Fred Davis, Washington Redskins- two receptions for 38 yards
Jacob Tamme, Denver Broncos- five receptions for 43 yards and one touchdown