Start 'em, sit 'em: Week 2
Colts' focus on run D, Bob Sanders' injury will open offense for Eli Manning
Brandon Jackson's ability to catch out of backfield will ease transition as starter
Return of Brian Urlacher will help Bears defense stymie Cowboys' running game
The dominant factor that separates NFL football from all other forms of the game is speed. It's no different in fantasy football. Things change so fast that you must stay on top of the action in order to have any chance of success. Players such as Seattle's Mike Williams and St. Louis' Mark Clayton go from being epic busts to fantasy boons in one game, while players you count on as the cornerstones of your roster, such as Green Bay's Ryan Grant, can be lost in the blink of an eye. It's because of these factors that every game matters and every player in your lineup each week could mean the difference between winning and losing. Here are players to insert and remove from your active lists this week.
Eli Manning, QB, Giants at Colts
It's been four years since the Manning Brothers faced off in the NFL, a 26-21 Colts win on Sept. 10, 2006. Since then Peyton, not surprisingly, leads the NFL in passing touchdowns (124) and is second to Drew Brees in yards (17,096 to 18,365) and has two Super Bowl appearances, and one title, to his credit. Eli, coming off a spotty three-touchdown, three-interception performance at home against the Panthers last week, ranks seventh since the last matchup both in yards (13,855) and TDs (96) -- an impressive fact given the Giants have primarily been a running team -- while also winning a Super Bowl.
Last week the Colts got torched by Houston's Arian Foster and surely have been concentrating on plugging the holes in the front seven to avoid seeing Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs run wild. Another huge factor in Eli's favor is Indy's loss of oft-injured All-Pro safety Bob Sanders, who tore a biceps tendon in Houston. This game is shaping up to be a showcase of the talents of the NFL's most famous brothers, and we expect to see a lot of production from them both.
Sam Bradford, QB, Rams at Raiders
The Sooners were boomin' last weekend in St. Louis when the greatest passer in Oklahoma history, Bradford, found the greatest receiver to hail from Norman, Mark Clayton, 10 times -- two more receptions than the former Raven had in any single game during his five seasons in Baltimore -- against a good Arizona secondary. On the other hand, the Raiders allowed only 13 receptions last week in Tennessee. But with Bradford, the top pick in the draft, throwing to weapons like Clayton, Steven Jackson and slot man Danny Amendola, St. Louis will be much less conservative on offense this week than Tennessee. Expect Clayton to be blanketed by All-World cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, but Bradford, who has shown why he was the nation's best passer in college, will move the ball against the rest of the Silver and Black.
Brandon Jackson, RB, Packers vs. Bills
The Packers' line manhandled the Eagles last week, rushing for 132 yards on 33 carries, including 63 yards on 18 attempts by Jackson. In his fourth season with the Pack, Jackson inherits the starting running back job as a result of Ryan Grant being placed on Injured Reserve with ligament damage in his right ankle. Due to Grant's previous durability (until this Sunday his record of never missing a game due to injury remains intact) Jackson has been used sparingly, rushing 20 times in a game just once, but in that 2007 game he managed 113 yards. The former Nebraska Cornhusker has averaged 3.9 yards per carry and has proved to be useful as a receiver out of the backfield as well, so the Packers shouldn't have to change their running game approach.
He has a favorable matchup this week with a Bills squad minus injured linebacker Paul Posluszny (sprained right knee) in front of what should be a pumped up home opening crowd at Lambeau. If you were smart enough to draft him or lucky enough to get him off waivers this week, by all means insert him into your lineup.
Jacoby Jones, WR, Texans at Redskins
The two big stories coming out of the Texans' breakthrough victory against the Colts were 1) Arian Foster's big day; and 2) Andre Johnson's relative lack of production. For those who follow the Texans closely, the most promising development was that Jones, the fourth-year man from Florida, was clearly in the game plan as he was targeted six times by Matt Schaub, four more than the two balls thrown Kevin Walter's way. Yes, Foster's gigantic game was an aberration, and yes, Johnson will continue to be one of fantasy football's best weapons. But Jones should be on your roster and in your lineups as he looks to be a big part of one of the NFL's most dangerous offenses this week against Carlos Rogers, DeAngelo Hall and the Redskins.
LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets vs. Patriots
The lone bright spot on offense for the anemic Jets last Monday night, Tomlinson showed he is far from done, running for 5.6 yards per carry against the Ravens vaunted run defense. In fact, only four runners (Sammy Morris, Brandon Jacobs, Adrian Peterson and Edgerrin James) who carried at least 10 times against the Ravens over the last five seasons averaged more per rush in a game against Baltimore, a fact easily overlooked given the 10-9 snore-fest of a game.
Rex Ryan has said publicly that Tomlinson will now split carries with starter "Fumbling Shonn" Greene this week against a Patriots defense that neutralized Cincinnati's Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott by taking a commanding lead and forcing Carson Palmer to play catch-up. But Tomlinson's success will be his downfall, as Bill Belichick, who has managed to keep LT out of the end zone in their last three meetings, will make stopping the NFL's third-best alltime touchdown scorer the priority of his weekly defensive scheme.
Marion Barber, RB, Cowboys vs. Bears
Last season the Bears placed 23rd in the league against the run, allowing an average of 126.4 yards per game, but that was without linebacker Brian Urlacher, who missed all but one contest with a dislocated right wrist. However, in 2008, with Urlacher and Tommie Harris as the core of the defense, they were fifth overall against the run, allowing 93.5 yards per game and holding eight of 16 opponents below 100 yards. In Week 1, the Lions managed just 20 yards in 21 carries on the ground (albeit with two rushing touchdowns from point-blank range), the sixth-lowest opponent's rushing average for a Chicago opponent since 1960, signaling the return of the Bears dominance on D.
The Cowboys' committee, running behind a banged up offensive line, failed to produce anything against Washington, and despite his late-first half fumble, Tashard Choice will cut into the already crowded backfield of Barber and Felix Jones. Miles Austin and Jason Witten are good Dallas picks this week. Barber is not.
Nate Washington, WR, Titans vs. Steelers
The ex-Steelers split end had a pretty good game last week with three catches and 88 yards last week against the Raiders as the only Titans wideout to catch a ball. Meanwhile Pittsburgh's secondary (primarily cornerback Bryant McFadden) was lit up by Atlanta's Matt Ryan and Roddy White, who connected on 13 of 23 pass attempts. The Steelers' only defensive weakness is in the secondary and Vince Young and Co. will have to exploit this in order to have a chance. Washington is no Roddy White, though, and the Steelers know him well and held him to one catch for eight yards in their meeting last season. With Troy Polamalu healthy, Pittsburgh's defense is among the best in the league again and should be too much for Young and Washington this week.