Posted: Thursday September 20, 2012 4:17PM ; Updated: Thursday September 20, 2012 6:25PM
Michael Beller

Flex Spending: Jackson finding a happy new home with Buccaneers

Story Highlights

As teams look to stop Aaron Rodgers, Packers have turned more to Cedric Benson

Mikel Leshoure will make his debut in Week 3 and could soon start for Detroit

After lofty early hopes, Eric Decker has only 107 receiving yards in two games

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Vincent Jackson
In his first two games with the Buccaneers, Vincent Jackson has 175 receiving yards while averaging 19.4 yards per catch.
Elsa/Getty Images

After two weeks, a handful of superstars look like certain downgrades in Flex Spending. However, you won't see their names here. You know why? They're still superstars and they've played only all of 12.5 percent of their seasons.

There are legitimate reasons to worry about Darren McFadden, Jamaal Charles, Wes Welker and Larry Fitzgerald. Oakland's offensive line has been terrible this year, and no running back in the history of the game has had any success without the five guys in front of him doing their jobs. Charles has also suffered behind an underachieving line, but the Chiefs being blown out in their first two games have exacerbated his struggles. Kansas City has been forced to throw the ball all over the place in the second half, and that has resulted in fewer carries for Charles.

Turning our attention to the receivers, Welker has surprisingly seen his role in New England's offense diminish in the first two weeks. Julian Edelman even started ahead of him last week. The song remains the same for Fitzgerald, who again is playing the Russell Hammond to Kevin Kolb's rendition of everyone else in Stillwater. Fitz can't play all that he can play because of the lack of talent around him.

Despite their struggles, I'm not downgrading McFadden, Charles or Welker a bit, and only sliding Fitzgerald down a couple spots for the rest of the season. McFadden and Charles are just too good not to get theirs, and their teams will continue to build their offenses around their talented backs. Both should get back on track this week. Bill Belichick is a master of adjustments, and a little dose of Welker is just what the Patriots ailing offense needs, especially with Aaron Hernandez on the shelf. If anyone in your leagues has lost faith in these guys, now is the time to pounce.

Let's get to the changes.


Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers -- All the talk of Jackson getting lazy after getting paid and struggling without Philip Rivers appears to have been completely off-base. He exploded against the Giants, catching five passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. Yes, he did this against a depleted secondary, but he's clearly Josh Freeman's favorite target, and with the Buccaneers looking like a much-improved team this year, everyone on the squad gets a bump in fantasy. He's a great option against Dallas this week, and should be considered a weekly starter in nearly all formats, depending on your depth. It's hard to see him not garnering flex consideration, at the very least.

Cedric Benson, Packers -- This one is a bit tricky. I don't necessarily like Benson any better than I did coming into the season, but the book is out on how to shut down Aaron Rodgers, and it basically says to take away the deep ball at all costs. We saw the 49ers do it in Week 1, and the Packers adjusted with a series of short passes to Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley. The Bears did the same thing last week, and the Packers answered by feeding Benson 20 times, which he turned into 81 yards on the ground. Both the 49ers and Bears turned in great defensive efforts against the Packers, and while not every team can match their talents on defense, you can bet they'll be cribbing from their playbooks. That should mean more opportunities for Benson to do damage. Green Bay will remain a pass first, pass second and pass third team, but they'll have to turn to Benson more often to keep teams honest.

Dennis Pitta, Ravens -- Pitta might be the fantasy surprise of the first two weeks. The third-year tight end has caught 13 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown while being targeted 25 times by Joe Flacco. He looks like his quarterback's favorite target, and has become a must-start player every single week. You need to be in a unique position to be considering him as a flex option, but if you happen to have him along with one of the elite tight ends in the league, he's certainly a possibility. Start him over flex standards such as Ben Tate, Lance Moore and Michael Crabtree.

New faces

Michael Bush, Bears -- Matt Forte's ankle injury may not be as bad as initially thought, but he'll still likely miss at least a game or two, making Bush a must-start while he's out. He had a great year in place of Darren McFadden last year, running for 977 yards and scoring nine touchdowns. In two games this year, he has 96 yards and two scores on 26 carries. He has a great matchup against the Rams this week, and draws the Cowboys next week should Forte remain out. Get him in there with confidence this week.

Andre Brown, Giants -- Like Bush, an injury has opened the door for Brown to burst onto the fantasy scene. Ahmad Bradshaw will miss Thursday's game against the Panthers with a neck injury, making Brown the starter. After Bradshaw left last week's game, Brown helped lead the Giants to victory, running for 71 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. He also caught two passes for 19 yards. With rookie David Wilson having trouble holding onto the ball, Brown could be in for a ton of work as long as Bradshaw is out. He makes a solid flex option against the Panthers this week.

Mikel Leshoure, Lions -- Leshoure will make his NFL debut on Sunday after serving a two-game suspension, and is expected to contribute in some capacity against the Titans. This will be an interesting situation to monitor. Kevin Smith had a great game against the Rams Week 1, but predictably sputtered against the 49ers last week. There's no shame in struggling against the Niners, but the Lions drafted Leshoure last year with an eye on him providing some stability in the backfield, and he has yet to see an NFL field. Smith is one of the more injury-prone backs in the league, giving Leshoure immediate value. He's not worth starting this week unless you're very short on options, but keep an eye on how the workload is spread between the two of them.


Michael Turner, Falcons -- Turner has had an absolutely dreadful start to the season, carrying the ball 28 times for 74 yards. He has one touchdown, but even that was an uninspiring score as it took him three attempts to get in from the one-yard-line. To make matters worse, he was arrested and charged with DUI after Monday night's game against the Broncos, so he could be facing a suspension at some point this season. Atlanta was once a power-running team, but this is Matt Ryan's team now, and he's got some fancy weapons in Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. Turner is a fringe flex option until further notice.

Eric Decker, Broncos -- I still believe in Decker, but until he actually does something this year, he has to be downgraded in the flex rankings. Manning has looked to Demaryius Thomas more frequently than Decker, and old friend Brandon Stokley has been his security blanket on third down. He hasn't been a total afterthought, catching nine passes for 107 yards, and his downgrade is partially the result of lofty expectations for him at the start of the season. Decker is a strong WR3 this week, and remains on the fringe of the flex discussion.

Week 3 flex rankings

1. Arian Foster at DEN
2. C.J. Spiller at CLE
3. LeSean McCoy at ARI
4. Ray Rice vs. NE
5. Maurice Jones-Drew at IND
6. Darren McFadden vs. PIT
7. Calvin Johnson at TEN
8. Victor Cruz at CAR
9. Trent Richardson vs. BUF
10. Julio Jones at SD
11. Jimmy Graham vs. KC
12. Brandon Marshall vs. STL
13. Reggie Bush vs. NY
14. Marshawn Lynch vs. GB
15. Rob Gronkowski at BAL
16. Doug Martin at DAL
17. A.J. Green at WAS
18. Adrian Peterson vs. SF
19. DeMarco Murray vs. TB
20. Jordy Nelson at SEA
21. Reggie Wayne vs. JAC
22. Steve Smith vs. NYG
23. Wes Welker at BAL
24. Roddy White at SD
25. Stevan Ridley at BAL
26. Steve Johnson at CLE
27. Miles Austin vs. TB
28. Michael Bush vs. STL
29. Antonio Brown at OAK
30. Vernon Davis at MIN
31. Frank Gore at MIN
32. Dwayne Bowe at NO
33. Donald Brown vs. JAC
34. Alfred Morris vs. CIN
35. Ryan Mathews vs. ATL
36. BenJarvus Green-Ellis at WAS
37. Percy Harvin vs. SF
38. Andre Johnson at DEN
39. Andre Brown at CA
40. Greg Jennings at SEA
41. Dez Bryant vs. TB
42. Willis McGahee vs. HOU
43. Kevin Smith at TEN
44. Darren Sproles vs. KC
45. Vincent Jackson at DAL
46. Marques Colston vs. KC
47. Brandon Lloyd at BAL
48. DeMaryius Thomas vs. HOU
49. Larry Fitzgerald vs. PHI
50. Danny Amendola at CHI
51. Brandon Pettgrew at TEN
52. Malcom Floyd vs. ATL
53. Brent Celek at ARI
54. Chris Johnson vs. DET
55. Dennis Pitta vs. NE
56. Brandon LaFell vs. NYG
57. DeSean Jackson at ARI
58. Torrey Smith vs. NE
59. Mike Wallace at OAK
60. Kyle Rudolph vs. SF
61. Martellus Bennett at CAR
62. Michael Crabtree at MIN
63. Tony Gonzalez at SD
64. Cedric Benson at SEA
65. Ben Tate at DEN
66. Eric Decker vs. HOU
67. Jeremy Maclin at ARI
68. Anquan Boldin vs. NE
69. Brian Hartline vs. NYJ
70. Michael Turner at SD
71. Jonathan Stewart vs. NYG
72. Shonn Greene at MIA
73. Sidney Rice vs. GB
74. Lance Moore vs. KC
75. Mike Williams at DAL
76. Greg Little vs. BUF
77. Daryl Richardson at CHI
78. Santonio Holmes at MIA
79. Owen Daniels at DEN
80. Jason Witten vs. TB
81. Randall Cobb at SEA
82. DeAngelo Williams vs. NYG
83. Isaac Redman at OAK
84. Jared Cook vs. DET
85. Nate Washington vs. DET
86. Aldrick Robinson vs. CIN
87. Donnie Avery vs. JAC
88. Ryan Williams vs. PHI
89. Beanie Wells vs. PHI
90. Pierre Thomas vs. KC
91. Peyton Hillis at NO
92. Dexter McCluster at NO
93. Darrius Heyward-Bey vs. PIT
94. Donald Jones at CLE
95. Mikel Leshoure at TEN
96. Jonathan Dwyer at OAK
97. Knowshon Moreno vs. HOU
98. Jackie Battle vs. ATL
99. Jacquizz Rodgers at SD
100. Andrew Hawksin at WAS

Chat with me on Twitter, @MBeller.
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