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Cullen: Week Two NFL Preview

Scott Cullen
9/12/2013 10:39:54 AM
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Another 16 games on the schedule in Week Two, with Steven Jackson facing the Rams, an epic San Francisco-Seattle matchup and the latest installment of the Manning Bowl.

Here are the Week Two NFL previews:

N.Y. JETS (+12) at NEW ENGLAND

The good news for the Jets is that rookie QB Geno Smith was better than expected in their Week One win but it's not easy to mount a passing attack with WR Jeremy Kerley out and veteran WR Santonio Holmes still getting healthy. TE Kellen Winslow, who played one game for the Patriots last season, could be Smith's prime target after his strong showing (7 REC, 79 YDS, 1 TD) in Week One.

It's not as though Tom Brady has a full complement on offence either. Already short-staffed with offseason losses and TE Rob Gronkowski still sidelined, they added RB Shane Vereen to the IR and WR Danny Amendola is doubtful, leaving a lot of pressure on wide receivers Julian Edelman and Kenbrell Thompkins. Jets CB Antonio Cromartie had trouble with Bucs WR Vincent Jackson last week but neither Edelman nor Thompkins presents the same physical mismatch.

The lack of proven offensive options for the Patriots could at least bode well for RB Stevan Ridley, who was benched after fumbling against Buffalo. If the Patriots' passing game isn't up to the challenge, then Ridley and LeGarrette Blount could play a big role in the running game.

It's a big spread considering the depleted Patriots offence, but the Jets may not have the personnel to take them down.

ST. LOUIS (+7) at ATLANTA

Falcons RB Steven Jackson faces his old team after an efficient first week (however with no touchdowns) against the Saints. The Falcons are already going with a hobbling Roddy White at wide receiver (he was targeted just twice, making two catches, against New Orleans) and Julio Jones missed practice with a knee injury. Both should play against St. Louis, but the Rams have some capable cover corners, Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins, so if the Falcons' wide receivers are hurting, it could be a day for the Falcons to use Jackson and TE Tony Gonzalez more frequently.

If the Rams are going to keep up with Falcons, they need TE Jared Cook to continue what he showed in Week One and with a couple of rookies, Desmond Trufant and Robert McClain, getting regular work in the Falcons secondary, maybe the Rams can take advantage with deep threat WR Chris Givens. RB Daryl Richardson, who effectively replaces Jackson as the Rams' starter, had 96 yards from scrimmage in Week One; this should be a good test against a quality opponent.

CLEVELAND (+7) at BALTIMORE

Baltimore's secondary was the epitome of vulnerable in the second half against Peyton Manning and the Broncos in the season opener, the Browns may elect to run RB Trent Richardson more than they tried against Miami in Week One. Browns TE Jordan Cameron had a big game against the Dolphins and, considering the success of Julius Thomas against the Ravens, Cameron should be Weeden's prime target. Cameron, like Thomas, also happens to be a former college basketball player.

Rookie WR Marlon Brown steps into the starting lineup for injured Jacoby Jones and gives the Ravens enough in the passing game. QB Joe Flacco could try more to the outside this week after making TE Dallas Clark the primary target against Denver.

CAROLINA (-2.5) at BUFFALO

After a pedestrian effort against the Seahawks in Week One, QB Cam Newton needs to be better against the Bills. Working in his favour is that the Bills' secondary is missing two corners (Stephon Gilmore and Ron Brooks) as well as FS Jairus Byrd. Patriots RB Shane Vereen had such a productive game last week vs. Bills, gaining 159 yards from scrimmage, that the Panthers will likely give RB DeAngelo Williams an opportunity to grind out some yards on the ground this week.

If the Panthers don't open up their offence (they didn't last week), then the Bills can continue to play it safe with QB E.J. Manuel, throwing short routes and focusing on the running game, which could be enough to hang with the Panthers.

The challenge facing the Bills is that Carolina handled Seattle's running game last week so if the Bills can't get big production out of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, Manuel may have to attempt more downfield passing to wide receivers Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods.

MINNESOTA (+6.5) at CHICAGO

After he struggled in Week One, Vikings QB Christian Ponder has to be better. WR Jerome Simpson had a big game (7 REC, 140 YDS) last week. Will he be able to do it again if Greg Jennings can't get loose on the other side?

Under new head coach Marc Trestman, the Bears' offence wasn't all that different -- QB Jay Cutler still passed a lot to WR Brandon Marshall -- but they did use TE Martellus Bennett. Against the Vikings' secondary, WR Alshon Jeffery should have value and, considering Reggie Bush's monster performance against Minnesota, Matt Forte will have appeal as both runner and receiver.

WASHINGTON (+7.5) at GREEN BAY

Redskins QB Robert Griffin III struggled for three quarters against Philadelphia, and it would have been easy to write him off as not ready for game action, but then the Redskins had three late scoring drives so there is at least some hope going up against a Packers defence that couldn't contain 49ers WR Anquan Boldin and QB Colin Kaepernick in Week One. If RGIII is going to have success, wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Leonard Hankerson become interesting plays against the Pack.

Though the Packers lost at San Francisco, they showed well and will likely be tough for the Redskins to cover. Green Bay may not operate as fast as Philadelphia, and rookie RB Eddie Lacy isn't as dangerous as Eagles RB LeSean McCoy but, even if TE Jermichael Finley isn't able to play, the Packers have better receiving options, especially if they get WR James Jones involved after he was a non-factor in Week One.

TENNESSEE (+9.5) at HOUSTON

Given the trouble that the Texans defence had for three quarters against San Diego, there is a chance for the Titans to be more productive than they were against Pittsburgh. QB Jake Locker will be trying to avoid pressure from DE J.J. Watt and the Houston secondary is pretty strong, but there should be opportunities for wide receivers Kenny Britt, Kendall Wright and Nate Washington to get down the field.

If the Titans are really going to shake the Texans, though, they need a strong effort from RB Chris Johnson, who delivered 70 rushing yards against the Steelers in Week One.

Tennessee's defence was successful in keeping the Steelers in check in Week One, but face a tougher test in the Texans. Houston shared carries carries between Arian Foster and Ben Tate in Week One and that may continue, as long as they are effective, while Foster gets accustomed to game action.

MIAMI (+3) at INDIANAPOLIS

Miami moved the ball with some success against Cleveland, at least through the air, so they should be able to get up and down the field against a Colts defence that ran into problems at times with Oakland's offence. Though he was nearly an afterthought in Week One, the Dolphins may get WR Mike Wallace more looks against the Indianapolis secondary.

The biggest problem the Colts had with the Raiders offence was the mobility of QB Terrelle Pryor. While Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill isn't going to make a difference on the ground, that could offer some hope that the Dolphins' ground game, led by RB Lamar Miller, might have some success after it was shut down by the Browns.

Similarly, the Colts may have some difficulty running the ball as well, as RB Ahmad Bradshaw works his way back to full health, that will leave QB Andrew Luck vulnerable because he can count on Dolphins DE Cameron Wake getting into the backfield to break up plays.

DALLAS (+2.5) at KANSAS CITY

The Cowboys can't count on six turnovers like they got against the Giants, but Dallas has lots of weapons offensively and they were impressive enough in that win over the G-Men. Dallas' biggest concern, on offence, is the health of No. 1 WR Dez Bryant, who has a sprained foot. If Bryant's hurting, WR Miles Austin and TE Jason Witten will get more targets.

Kansas City's defence dominated against the Jaguars, but the Chiefs can't count on Dallas to be as inept as Jacksonville and the Cowboys' offensive talent should force the Chiefs to open up more in their own right. The Giants had some success throwing the ball against Dallas -- at least when they weren't turning it over -- so Alex Smith could give wide receivers Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery more work in Week Two.

SAN DIEGO (+7) at PHILADELPHIA

The Chargers looked good for a while before collapsing late against Houston. Philadelphia was unbelievably good before cruising to a closer-than-expected finish against Washington. If Philadelphia's go-go style is too fast for the Chargers, like it was for the Redskins, then it could get ugly.

The good news for the Chargers is that they shouldn't be surprised by the Eagles' pace but, even so, there is plenty of appeal on the Eagles' side of the field, where their offensive mainstays -- QB Michael Vick, RB LeSean McCoy, WR DeSean Jackson -- are seen as increasingly valuable because it appears that Philadelphia will consistently be running more plays than their opposition.

DETROIT (pick) at ARIZONA

A matchup of two of the game's best wide receivers, with Detroit's Calvin Johnson going up against Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald. It's not exactly head-to-head, but interesting nonetheless.

The Lions should have an advantage in the running game so long as Reggie Bush stays healthy, but second-stringer Joique Bell has some value too. For Arizona, Rashard Mendenhall was decent in his first start with the Cardinals last week, but he's not likely to break a big run and the Lions' defence really locked down against the run following Adrian Peterson's early 78-yard run for a touchdown.

Arizona's offence is at least competent with Carson Palmer at quarterback and the depth of their receiving corps -- Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts are strong complements to Fitzgerald -- may be a touch better than Detroit, even with Ryan Broyles expected back in the lineup for the Lions.

NEW ORLEANS (-3) at TAMPA BAY

New Orleans opened with a good win against Atlanta, and while their defence was good against Atlanta, they will still face a significant challenge keeping Bucs wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, along with RB Doug Martin, under wraps. Maybe the Saints defence is much improved over last season, but this will be an opportunity to prove it..

Offensively, Drew Brees may lose access to Marques Colston, if Bucs CB Darrelle Revis ends up on him, but Brees isn't afraid to spread the ball around, so wideouts Lance Moore and Kenny Stills, TE Jimmy Graham and RB Darren Sproles are all going to get targets. Most likely, the Saints will continue running their three-headed monster out of the backfield, an arrangement that ruins their value for fantasy owners.

DENVER (-4.5) at N.Y. GIANTS

In the latest installment of the Manning Bowl, Eli has to be better than he was in Week One, while Peyton has to be worse because it's just not reasonable to expect record-setting production in back-to-back games.

Both teams have an abundance of quality receiving options, but questionable running games. For the Giants, WR Rueben Randle and TE Brandon Myers have joined Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks as top targets for Eli Manning and the Broncos are trying to find enough balls to go around now that WR Wes Welker and TE Julius Thomas have been added to Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker.

Denver doesn't have a set running game, as Ronnie Hillman, Montee Ball and Knowshon Moreno continue to battle for playing time. The Giants have a more defined number one back, David Wilson, but his hold on the job is tenuous after he fumbled twice in Week One. If Wilson puts another ball on the ground this week, don't be surprised to see a lot more of Da'Rel Scott or even recently-signed former Giant Brandon Jacobs.

JACKSONVILLE (+5.5) at OAKLAND

Chad Henne gets the start at quarterback for the Jaguars, which should improve the production of WR Cecil Shorts and a little offensive competence could work in favour of RB Maurice Jones-Drew.

The Raiders had to be encouraged by what they saw from Terrelle Pryor last week and it's on Pryor to build on that performance and do it against a lowly Jaguars team. With Pryor showing some competence as a passer, there could be more value for Raiders wide receivers Denarius Moore and Rod Streater.

SAN FRANCISCO (+2.5) at SEATTLE

Definitely the game of the weekend, with two powerhouse teams set to do battle. While 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick had his way against the Packers in Week One, the Seahawks have a better secondary, a group that won't be so easy to throw for 400-plus yards against. For that reason, the appeal of WR Anquan Boldin and TE Vernon Davis isn't as high this week.

Seattle will face their own offensive challenges. QB Russell Wilson aired it out last week, with WR Doug Baldwin his favourite target, but any team going up against the San Francisco defence faces the prospect of getting shut down. RB Marshawn Lynch has had success against the Niners in the past and if he could grind out yards on the ground, that will help open up plays down the field.

PITTSBURGH (+7) at CINCINNATI

The Steelers will be trying to recover from a disastrous Week One effort while the Bengals looked pretty good in losing at Chicago. The Bengals have a difference-maker in WR A.J. Green and it falls on Steelers veteran CB Ike Taylor to keep him in check.

RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis may hold the starting job for Cincinnati, but will need to be more productive if he's going to hold off rookie Giovani Bernard for playing time.

Seeking redemption, RB Isaac Redman gets another chance to run for Steelers, but re-signed RB Jonathan Dwyer or Felix Jones could get touches if Redman falters again. This is all passing the time until rookie Le'Veon Bell is ready to return to action.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.




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