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What Did We Learn – Week 2

Kansas City Chiefs at Cleveland Browns

The Kansas City Chiefs are a surprising 2-0. But they’re winning with defense. This marks the second straight week that the Chiefs defense/special teams scored a touchdown, but it won’t last. Their issue is their offense. Head coach Todd Haley refuses to admit that Jamaal Charles is clearly his best player, as Thomas Jones had 22 carries to Charles’ 11 last Sunday. Charles has even admitted that he’s a backup, and until he is made the starter, the Chiefs offense will continue to struggle, but he makes for an interesting buy-low candidate on the trade market.

The Browns’ running attack continues to frustrate fantasy owners. Last week, Peyton Hillis surprised everyone with his performance, but fumbled twice. This week, Jerome Harrison ran the ball twice as much, but managed just more than two yards a carry and fumbled. Seneca Wallace was mediocre at best, which is still better than Jake Delhomme. You probably don’t want to find yourself counting on any Browns players until they prove that you should.

Philadelphia Eagles at Detroit Lions

The Eagles offense looked explosive on Sunday in Detroit. Michael Vick displayed the athleticism that made him so dangerous (to defenses) in Atlanta. But Andy Reid has also worked to improve his passing skills, making him the dual threat of all dual threats, an honor once held by some Donovan McNabb guy. His impact was felt everywhere, as the Lions needed to dedicate a defender to Vick at all times. LeSean McCoy found extra running room, gashing Detroit for 120 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries. DeSean Jackson caught four balls for 135 yards and a score, and Jeremy Maclin scored for the second straight week. Unfortunately, it looks like Kevin Kolb is healthy enough to throw short checkdowns and derail the Eagles’ offensive momentum. But if Kolb can’t show something against a dreadful Jacksonville pass defense, look for Vick to get the call again.

The Lions’ offense appears to run through rookie running back Jahvid Best. Best had 230 total yards and three scores. Keep in mind he was a fringe Heisman candidate last year until getting a scary concussion midseason. If he can dodge the injury bug, he will put up gaudy numbers. It’s not surprising that Best is putting up numbers, but doing it against a good Eagles’ defense is intriguing.

Buffalo Bills at Green Bay Packers

The Bills’ offense really consists of their three running backs, and that’s it. The picture has become increasingly murky, as Fred Jackson was the starter coming in, C.J. Spiller garnered preseason attention and Marshawn Lynch was considered an afterthought. In Week 2, it seemed that the Bills wanted to limit Spiller, showcase Lynch, who was effective, and use Jackson as a No. 2, who was solid and scored. I honestly have no idea what’s going on with the Bills backfield.

The Packers are a different story. Aaron Rodgers rebounded from a shaky Week 1 performance and picked an underrated Bills pass defense apart. He also scored a rushing touchdown, which is always fun. Brandon Jackson was predictably poor running the ball, but it didn’t matter. It could become an issue in the future though, and may even result in a trade for the Ravens’ Willis McGahee, the aforementioned Lynch or a free agent pick up of Willie Parker, who would actually be kind of interesting in my opinion. The Packers remain one of the most exciting offenses in the league and should be a great source of fantasy goodness in the weeks to come.

Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals

The Ravens were supposed to make a splash on the offensive side of the ball. We chalked up a rough Week 1 to their opponents, the New York Jets. “Fool me once, shame on me,” right? Well they’ve now put up just 10 points in each of their two games this year, and while the Bengals’ defense is also good, I’m getting a “shame on you” sort of feeling. Joe Flacco was bad, completing less than half of his passes including four interceptions. Ray Rice was OK, but hasn’t scored in two games. Baltimore fans should be feeling uneasy right about now, but I ultimately think they’ll be OK. Rice will be fine and Flacco should get it together.

The Bengals’ offense looked off again. Last week, their offensive struggles were masked by the fact that they put up points after the New England Patriots started to hit the brakes. This week, they got the Ravens, which is never good, and whaddya know? Carson Palmer looked like Carson Palmer again. A few more weeks like this, and this situation might implode; but for now, the Bengals get the win and stave off the craziness. They’ll be better going forward, as they won’t face Baltimore every week. Their offense will need to get Cedric Benson going, which will set up the play action.

Miami Dolphins at Minnesota Vikings

Miami and Minnesota met in another rock fight this week. Chad Henne looked OK, but left me feeling unsatisfied. He completed 60 percent of his passes and threw a touchdown, but did nothing to show me that he’s developed from last year. The Dolphins are a running team, and Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams figure to get lots of work this year. Brown capitalized on his carries, running 13 times for 80 yards. Their game is predicated on managing the clock, protecting the ball and playing good defense. None of those things are good for fantasy.

The Minnesota Vikings are a different animal. The Minnesota offense is about running Adrian Peterson at opposing defenses and Brett Favre taking chances in the passing game. Well, Adrian Peterson was effective on Sunday. Favre … not so much. Peterson had 33 touches, 186 total yards and a score. That’s the kind of day you want from your lead back. Favre was picked off three times and really misses Sidney Rice. The Vikings are starting to figure out that Peterson is their best chance to win, but Favre can destroy their chances with his gunslinger mentality. Like I said last week, maybe that whole training camp thing would have been useful.

Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys

This game was fun to watch. Bears’ quarterback Jay Cutler continues to make me look good, as he threw three touchdown passes, spreading the ball and picking the Dallas defense apart. He’s been fantastic this season, and I think he can at least maintain some of this momentum. Matt Forte struggled running the ball, but once again scored through the air to boost his production.

Dallas was supposed to have a high-powered offense, but has now floundered in back-to-back weeks to start the season. Tony Romo put up nice yardage stats (374) but was picked off twice. Marion Barber couldn’t get going and Felix Jones was garbage. Once again, the only constant was Miles Austin, who looks like the hot chick who has ugly friends. Jason Witten left with an apparent concussion and fantasy owners will need to follow the updates as the week goes on. Actually, the offense was even worse than it seemed, because Dez Bryant ran a punt back for a touchdown. Through two games, the vaunted Cowboys’ offense has two touchdowns. Unlike some of the other teams we’ve discussed, I fear that these struggles may continue. They have so many weapons, but their offensive line is a mess, meaning the running game doesn’t get going and Tony Romo is under constant pressure. Football games are won and lost in the trenches, and Dallas’ offensive line is going to mean trouble for the foreseeable future.

Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons

The Cardinals’ offense was horrendous. Derek Anderson threw two picks, and then rookie Max Hall came in to throw one so Anderson didn’t feel bad. Tim Hightower’s numbers look great at first glance: 11 carries for 115 yards and a score. But he had an 80-yard touchdown run. Take that away, and his performance was pretty ugly. Out of curiosity, how much money do you think they’d have to offer Kurt Warner? $15 million for this season? $20 million? They should at least find out what that number is, because this offense is horrendous.

The Falcons, on the other hand, looked very good. Matt Ryan recovered from a rough Week 1 against the Steelers to throw for 225 yards and three scores. Michael Turner started off well, but left with a groin injury. This opened the door for backup Jason Snelling, who had more than 200 total yards and three scores. We’re still awaiting news on Turner, although it appears he should be fine. Snelling has proven that he’s the obvious Turner handcuff, and could be a real force if Turner “The Burner” goes down.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers

I know, bad matchup. But, Tampa Bay isn’t terrible. Josh Freeman is a serviceable QB2, throwing two touchdowns. Carnell ‘Cadillac’ Williams hasn’t done much, but he’s still the No. 1 back. Rookie receiver Mike Williams scored again. Not bad. Nothing crazy, but not bad.

Carolina looked pretty bad. Matt Moore was bad. Neither DeAngelo Williams nor Jonathan Stewart could get going. Steve Smith caught a touchdown, but left early with an injury. He’s the toughest guy in the league, so he’ll play. This week, Jimmy Clausen will get the start for the Panthers against Cincinnati. I think Clausen will be good eventually, but don’t expect much this week against a good Bengals defense.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Tennessee Titans

The Steelers dodge another bullet, winning in Tennessee with only 127 total yards. The defense looks to be back, with Troy Polamalu making plays once again. They ran back the opening kickoff for a score and kicked four field goals. Right now, they’re doing their job: get through the four weeks without Ben Roethlisberger. Rashard Mendenhall is going to be the key. And with Dennis Dixon hurting his knee Sunday, Byron Leftwich was re-signed. Look for them to pound the ball again this week against Tampa Bay, but the Week 4 matchup against Baltimore looms large.

The Titans couldn’t get much going either. Vince Young was pulled after throwing two picks. Kerry Collins had the offense moving a little but couldn’t do enough. Young will remain the starter going forward. Chris Johnson was held to less than 100 yards for the first time in 12 weeks dating back to last year, totaling just 34 yards rushing. The Titans get the New York Giants next week and will return to their running ways.

St. Louis Rams at Oakland Raiders

Sam Bradford continues to show signs of improvement. The more comfortable he gets, the better the Rams will do. Steven Jackson was off to a great start in the first half, but was shut down in the second half once the Raiders started putting seven or eight in the box. He’s used to it, and this kind of defensive approach will be used time and again this year. Jackson owners should prepare themselves. Mark Clayton caught two passes for 24 yards, but both were for touchdowns – worth keeping an eye on.

Jason Campbell’s ineffectiveness led to Bruce Gradkowski getting another shot. He put up his usual pedestrian numbers. Who knows who will start this week? Maybe only Al Davis. Darren McFadden had his second straight impressive performance. Surprisingly, he ranks second in the league only to the perhaps more surprising Arian Foster. McFadden has staked his claim to the feature back spot in Oakland.

Seattle Seahawks at Denver Broncos

This was the Seahawks we expected this year. Matt Hasselbeck looked his age again, despite scoring another rushing touchdown – a 20-yarder. Justin Forsett got the most carries, and did alright, but it’s still too crowded a backfield to depend on. Nothing else of interest.

The Broncos looked good on offense, but it may have been a product of Seattle being bad on defense. Kyle Orton turned in a strong performance with more than 300 yards and two scores. Knowshon Moreno saved a bad rushing day by scoring. Orton’s touchdowns belonged to rookie Demaryius Thomas (eight catches, 97 yards, one touchdown in his NFL debut) and Eddie Royal (five catches, 75 yards, one touchdown in his return from the dead).

Houston Texans at Washington Redskins

Houston rolled into Washington, still on a high after trouncing the Indianapolis Colts. And it showed. The Redskins jumped out early, but the Texans recovered to pull even and eventually win in overtime. Matt Schaub allayed the fears of fantasy owners by throwing for nearly 500 yards. Andre Johnson caught 12 balls for 158 yards and a score, and Kevin Walter caught 11 passes for 144 yards and a score. Jacoby Jones had Schaub’s other touchdown. Arian Foster came back down a bit, but still managed 69 yards on both the ground and through the air. This is the high-powered offense we expected, and it appears the matchup may dictate what kind of offense we see on Sundays.

Donovan McNabb decided to throw for 400-plus on Sunday also. Where he came up short was the touchdown department, only tossing one to Chris Cooley. Clinton Portis was ineffective, but scored twice on 1-yard runs. Santana Moss appears to have gained McNabb’s confidence, as he caught 10 balls. Washington’s offense is potentially worrisome, with a shaky running game, an unproven receiving corps and left tackle Trent Williams possibly missing time. McNabb is the X-factor.

Jacksonville Jaguars at San Diego Chargers

David Garrard threw four interceptions and was pulled for Luke McCown. McCown actually played well, but left with a knee injury. Maurice Jones-Drew is going to be the defensive focal point every week, and was held in check Sunday. Mike Sims-Walker had 10 catches for 100-plus yards and a score.

The Chargers put up some points, reminding everyone that they are a high-octane offense. Philip Rivers threw for more than 300 yards and three scores, but also threw two picks. Malcom Floyd had 95 yards through the air and one of those scores, while Antonio Gates had the other two. Ryan Mathews left the game with an ankle injury, but he wasn’t replaced by Darren Sproles, instead being relieved by Mike Tolbert who scored twice. The Chargers’ offense should look more like Week 2 than Week 1, but the running back situation is now in question. Tolbert may be an interesting free agent target, although I still feel like Sproles has more value.

New England Patriots at New York Jets

Tom Brady and the Patriots offense looked good in the first half, but slowed down in the second. Aaron Hernandez is making waves as a sleeper tight end with 100-plus yards. Wes Welker and Randy Moss each caught touchdowns, with Moss’ being one of the best catches I’ve ever seen. But the running game was non-existent, and New York’s offense was stifling. The Bills travel to New England next week, and I kind of feel bad for them. The Pats are gonna put up 40 on them.

The Jets played well, but it’s also a lot easier to play against New England’s defense than the Baltimore version. Mark Sanchez was much better, but then again he couldn’t get much worse. He made throws longer than six yards and seemed more relaxed. Ray Lewis will do that to you. The Jets’ running attack got on track, but it was LaDainian Tomlinson racking up yards on the ground to the tune of 6.9 yards per carry. It’s certainly an offense to track, but I want to see Sanchez do it a few more times. Next week should be interesting when the Jets travel to Miami on Sunday Night.

New York Giants at Indianapolis Colts

The Giants were bad. Apparently, the Colts didn’t like hearing about how they might not be that good anymore. The Colts’ defense took it out on Giants. Eli Manning looked shaky all night, but managed two touchdown passes. Mario Manningham looked good, and Hakeem Nicks scored again. Ahmad Bradshaw asserted himself as the Giants’ No. 1 back, but didn’t do anything near what I thought he would after the Arian Foster performance last week. Brandon Jacobs threw his helmet into the stands, supposedly out of frustration. I just think he’s crazy.

This just in: Peyton Manning is good. He had a great game, spreading the ball around and getting it done on offense. The Colts also ran the ball a ton, rushing it 43 times for 160 yards. Joseph Addai ran 20 times for 92 yards and Donald Brown ran 16 times for 69 yards and a score. This offense is still scary, but other than Manning, it’s really a guessing game from week-to-week. Dallas Clark is a matchup problem for defenses, and seems like the next safest play.

New Orleans Saints at San Francisco 49ers

Drew Brees continues to justify his first-round draft stock. He had another very efficient night, throwing two touchdowns and keeping the ball safe. Pierre Thomas struggled running the ball, as he repeatedly ran into Patrick Willis. Reggie Bush scored on a short pass over the middle which he broke for the touchdown, but left after injuring his knee trying to recover a muffed punt. The Saints’ offense is loaded with talent, and with Bush injured, Thomas becomes even more interesting.

Alex Smith actually didn’t look terrible. His numbers were deceiving. He threw a few interceptions, but one was off a tipped pass. Frank Gore looked great running the ball, scoring once on the ground and once on a screen pass. Vernon Davis is Smith’s go-to guy and is an absolute nightmare for safeties and linebackers. These guys and Michael Crabtree are probably the only potential starts, but Crabtree still needs to show more before I’m comfortable with him.

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