Lineup Calls for Week 2: QBs
With few exceptions, quarterback play dominated the games of Week 1.
– Fourteen quarterbacks passed for 300 yards.
– Twelve of those players completed multiple touchdown passes (Matt Ryan was shut out and Kyle Orton threw one touchdown pass).
– Eighteen quarterbacks, including Tarvaris Jackson and Matt Hasselbeck, threw multiple touchdown passes (two each). Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tom Brady ruled the day with four touchdown strikes.
Are we set up for a repeat performance? Can defenses adjust in one week, or will the pyrotechnics budgets continue to soar?
Let’s get rolling with Lineup Calls for Week 2.
Week 2 Heroes
(Exclude: Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Michael Vick)
Rex Grossman vs. Arizona: I barked out Grossman’s name for this week’s “STARTS” in the video segment for FOXSports.com and swear I heard people in the control booth doing spit-takes. Grossman took advantage of a huge opportunity against the banged-up New York Giants defense in Week 1 (305 yards and two touchdowns) and has another golden chance on the schedule.
When last we saw the Arizona defense, Carolina wide receivers were standing alone in a field of green and the secondary was building a case for Cam Newton’s enshrinement in Canton. It’s shootout city in our nation’s capital.
Ben Roethlisberger vs. Seattle: Things couldn’t have gone any worse for the Steelers in Week 1 against the Ravens. You couldn’t ask for a better “get right” opponent in Week 2 than the Seahawks.
The “old” Pittsburgh defense will dominate the field position battle and set Roethlisberger up with opportunities to show off his myriad speed options.
Matthew Stafford vs. Kansas City: Stafford had proud owners strutting like peacocks in the Week 1 victory over Tampa Bay (305 passing yards and three touchdowns). Of course, their heart rates rose as if they’d hit the treadmill for a few minutes when he cramped up and hopped to the sideline.
He’s back for an encore performance in Week 2 against the injury-depleted Kansas City secondary that was torched by Ryan Fitzpatrick in the opener. The absence of Eric Berry to lead the back-seven portends to a big effort from Stafford.
Tony Romo at San Francisco: It certainly wasn’t Tony Romo’s finest hour against the Jets, nor was it his worst. Romo displayed great touch and arm strength in passes to Dez Bryant and Miles Austin over the course of the game. Unfortunately, he squandered a golden opportunity at the goal line and completed a pass to a wide-open Darrelle Revis. Mop the sarcasm up for me, will you?
Bryant’s health is mildly concerning, though he expects to be ready for Sunday. San Francisco is overmatched on the edges and obviously faces a much more complete offense than that of the Seahawks (Tarvaris Jackson had 155 yards and two touchdowns).
Mark Sanchez vs. Jacksonville: I swear that Sanchez has some Ali in him. He plays at a slow pace and suckers you in with the “rope-a-dope” strategy. He then fires bullets to the sidelines (frozen ropes, as they’re sometimes called) and finds Plaxico Burress or one of his other receivers. Sanchez passed for 335 yards with two touchdowns and two turnovers (one interception) in the comeback win over Dallas.
Sanchez will make you sweat most weeks, but you’ll get your points early against the Jacksonville secondary. He tops 250 yards and goes for two or three touchdowns without requiring a lucky bounce to boost the yardage total. I like the receivers on the edges this week, but look for big contributions from LaDainian Tomlinson and Dustin Keller.
Jay Cutler at New Orleans: He’s one of the more polarizing figures at the position, but given time, Cutler has the gunslinger mentality that keeps you at the edge of your seat. Cutler produced a strong opening effort against the Falcons (312 yards with two touchdowns and one interception) and would have made more headlines had he not overshot a wide-open Kellen Davis on a beautifully designed rollout-throwback. He’s ready to open things up against a New Orleans defense that lost its identity in Week 1 against Green Bay. I don’t know that 10 days was enough time to find it.
Matt Schaub at Miami: Fantasy owners who didn’t watch the Texans’ opening win over Indianapolis probably saw the final score and patted themselves on the back for their selection of Schaub. His 220-yard, one touchdown and two-interception performance hardly moved the needle and left Schaub as one of the outcasts from what played out as “The 300 Club.”
Schaub looks to get his individual stats rolling this week against a Miami defense that was ultimately carved up by Tom Brady in Week 1. The Dolphins shuffled cornerbacks after that collapse and re-signed Will Allen. Not often will you see such a quick hook for a player, but Tony Sparano wasted no time in making the call.
I am mildly concerned about the Texans’ receiving corps after losing Kevin Walter for an extended period and the utter disappearance of Owen Daniels against the Patriots. Still, I have hope that this turns into a wide-open shootout.
Kevin Kolb at Washington: Lost in the hyperbole of describing Cam Newton’s debut was the fact that Kolb passed for 309 yards, two touchdowns and won the game. He’s back for an encore performance in a marquee matchup against Rex Grossman and the Redskins. I typed that with nary a smirk. This had shootout potential for giddy fantasy owners.
The Redskins may be without leader Laron Landry in the secondary, and I suspect that the Cardinals work to get Larry Fitzgerald off and running early.
Joe Flacco at Tennessee: Flacco shook off the 800-pound gorilla that is the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1, if only for a day. He was more decisive in working downfield and trusted his arm. The fact that the Ravens were able to win at the line of scrimmage and find running room for Ray Rice certainly didn’t hurt.
Flacco returns to action against a Tennessee defense that played well against the Jaguars. However, the Jaguars played with a limited Marcedes Lewis and few true downfield weapons. That’s not the case this week, particularly with tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta expanding their roles. Flacco’s follow-up to his Week 1 brilliance gets the “What’s different about Joe?” segment rolling on Monday.
Kyle Orton vs. Cincinnati: Don’t let coverage of Monday’s game dissuade you from starting Orton against the Bengals. Sure, he put the ball on the carpet, unprovoked, on a play that screamed “TOUCHDOWN!” Orton was also betrayed on a number of occasions by his receivers. He silences the Tebow devotees for a day by lighting up the Bengals (even if Brandon Lloyd is unavailable).
Chad Henne vs. Houston: Henne served us well from this spot a week ago against New England, and I’m going back to the well for a second time. He passed for 416 yards with two touchdowns and one interception while adding 59 rushing yards. Lost in the gaudy numbers and final score of that Monday night game, Henne and the Dolphins played nearly even and that 14-point swing from a failed goal-line play to the 99-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Welker cannot be dismissed.
I’ve banged the drum harder for Wade Phillips’ defense to rise up as a force in 2011. I don’t know that Indianapolis was the true test under Kerry Collins. For all of the chatter in Miami about the changing of the guard, Henne has been THE guy all the way through. The Miami passing game represents a stiffer test.
Kerry Collins vs. Cleveland: Speaking of Collins, I can’t help but think that the Colts improve with another week of work and a date in front of the home crowd. Collins passed for 197 yards and a touchdown with two lost fumbles in the Week 1 disaster against Houston. He did connect frequently with Reggie Wayne, who was the most outspoken critic of his arrival. Collins staves off the calls for Curtis Painter with a 225-yard, two-touchdown performance this week.
Cam Newton vs. Green Bay: Newton sent tongues wagging with his gaudy statistical output in Week 1 against Arizona. He faces a much more significant challenge here against Clay Matthews and the dominant Green Bay defense. I don’t anticipate that this game is pretty early, but he’ll scramble for yardage and possibly put up some saver stats at the back end of a game of catch-up.
Drew Brees vs. Chicago: I know. You still have to start Brees, but let me tell a cautionary tale. Brees has played three regular season games against Chicago in his career, averaging 200.3 passing yards with five touchdowns and six turnovers (five interceptions). He comes to this game without Marques Colston (shoulder), while the Bears will be at full strength following Brian Urlacher’s return to the team.
Brees and the Saints enjoyed an extended break after appearing the in “NFL Kickoff” game against Green Bay and will be in front of the home crowd. Still, my “Who Dat?” chant is a bit muted.
Matt Ryan vs. Philadelphia: As expected, Ryan struggled in Week 1 against the Chicago defense on the road. He posted a quiet 300-yard performance and led the only offense to finish Week 1 without a touchdown.
Ryan faces another daunting task in Week 2 against a Philly defense assembled to trump the Falcons’ selection of Julio Jones in the NFL Draft. I know that Ryan’s home-road splits are markedly different. That fact allows a sliver of hope to shine through as we approach the weekend. Still, I can’t endorse him as more than a QB2 this week.
Sam Bradford at New York Giants: It’s the battle of teams affected most by early-season injuries (Peyton Manning’s situation notwithstanding). Bradford insists that he’ll play on Monday night despite sustaining a finger injury on his throwing hand in Week 1.
The sea of red tags noting injuries in the New York defense cannot be ignored, but the Rams will enter Monday’s game without their most consistent options. Running back Steven Jackson may play, but wideout Danny Amendola is sidelined indefinitely. We’ll revisit Bradford at a later date. Lest we forget, the Giants have ample options at the ready on the defensive line.
Josh Freeman at Minnesota: Freeman faced persistent pressure from the Detroit defensive line and posted an uneven performance (he was also shaken up and left the game for a short time). He passed for 259 yards with an interception and received a tremendous individual effort from Mike Williams on his lone touchdown pass. Freeman rushed for 26 yards while absorbing two sacks.
He faces another tough defensive front and will see pressure from Jared Allen. Top target Williams will be locked in a fierce one-on-one battle with Antoine Winfield. As a result, Freeman’s success will be predicated on distributing the ball effectively. Will the secondary options answer the call?
Donovan McNabb vs. Tampa Bay: I am not going to bother elaborating on this entry. McNabb passed for 39 yards against the Chargers. He short-armed his pass attempts to receivers in Week 1 and failed to generate results downfield. McNabb’s touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins was the lone bright spot in an otherwise dismal showing.
Might he find more success on the fast track in Minnesota? Perhaps, but I’m certainly not betting on it.
Matt Cassel at Detroit: Cassel struggled to pick up the new system during the preseason, and those issues continued in Week 1 against Buffalo in a blowout loss. I’m not ready to toss Cassel into the rubbish pile for 2011, but he’s certainly tough to endorse here.
The Detroit defensive line is fierce, to say the least. However, the secondary has its holes if a quarterback is given time to settle in the pocket. I just have to ask. Could you settle in the pocket with Ndamukong Suh running you down?
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