We're starting to see the reality check from the natural optimism fantasy drafts and the preseason bring. It's always great to see lesser known names come into fantasy prominence, but at the same time, what do you do with veterans who struggled in Week One? That's why we break it down for you.
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (vs. Seahawks)
It has been years since the Steelers had suffered an embarrassing loss like the one the Ravens handed to them in Week One. Most can't remember the last time they were soundly beaten and dominated. Look for the Steelers, a Super Bowl-quality team, to come out looking for payback. Their victims are the Seahawks, who held 49ers QB Alex Smith to 124 passing yards and one rushing touchdown. It doesn't matter, the Steelers are that much better. Look for Big Ben to use more no-huddle, giving him more opportunities to air it out.
Lions QB Matthew Stafford (vs. Chiefs)
Stafford is now healthy and showcasing the tools everyone believed he had. Last week, he threw for 305 yards and three touchdowns. Imagine his value if he had connected with WR Calvin Johnson on a 60-yard bomb that fell incomplete. While the Chiefs allowed only 201 passing yards to the Bills, they gave up four passing touchdowns.
Redskins RB Tim Hightower (vs. Cardinals)
Hightower left the Cardinals to get an opportunity to start. Ironically because of an injury to rookie Ryan Williams, Beanie Wells is finally seeing his opportunity to be the bellcow back in Arizona. The Cardinals' defense is not very good, despite the fact that they held the Panthers' running backs to 80 combined yards. That number is deceiving because they could not stop the pass. They let QB Cam Newton throw for 422 yards. Hightower's Week One numbers were nothing to highlight with 28 utilizations (rush attempts and targets) for 97 yards. I expect him to be up for this game. He's a quality No. 3 back.
Packers RB James Starks (at Panthers)
Starks is a great play with the Panthers losing MLB Jon Beason (Achilles). Starks will hammer away at the line with the potential for a few targets over the middle or as a check-down option. The Packers are going to try to get him more touches after gaining 57 rushing yards on 12 carries (4.8 yards per carry) last week. The Panthers allowed Cardinals' backs 108 combined yards and one touchdown. Starks makes a solid No. 3 fantasy back.
Dolphins RB Reggie Bush (vs. Texans)
Bush has greater value in PPR leagues. In Week One, he could muster only 38 rushing yards but he saw 10 targets in the passing game, converting them into nine receptions and one touchdown. The Texans held the Colts' running backs to 77 total yards but the Colts were reeling without Peyton Manning. It's still tough to gauge how strong the Texans' defense is. Look for Bush to get work as a check-down receiver and get his share of dump-off passes as QB Chad Henne looks to avoid the Texans' pass rush.
Saints WRs Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson (vs. Bears)
Lance Moore (groin) is practicing but limited, so expect a repeat of last week, having to wait until game time before knowing if he can play. If he can't go, and with No. 1 Marques Colston (collarbone) out, Henderson and Meachem will start. Last week, Henderson had nine targets, converting them into six receptions for 100 yards and one touchdown. Meachem had eight targets for five receptions, 70 yards and one touchdown. The Bears beat up on the Falcons last week, limiting their wideouts to only 142 yards and no touchdowns. However the Saints aren't the Falcons and I expect a high-scoring affair.
Packers WR Jordy Nelson (at Panthers)
Kevin Kolb carved up the Panthers for 309 yards and two touchdowns. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers might have a field day, especially with the season-ending loss of Panthers MLB Jon Beason. Nelson had eight targets for six receptions for 77 yards and one touchdown. He's one of Rodgers' steadiest receivers and, as long as opposing defenses focus on Greg Jennings, he'll see opportunities to beat one-on-one coverage.
Giants WR Mario Manningham (vs. Rams)
Eli Manning has not been playing well but if Hakeem Nicks (knee) can't play, then Manningham has the opportunity to post some numbers. The Rams allowed opposing wideouts to grab 10 receptions for 162 yards and one touchdown in Week One. Manningham is the Giants' best receiver after Nicks and should see most of the targets.
Panthers TE Greg Olsen (vs. Packers)
I expect the Packers to mount one scoring drive after another this week. Look for Olsen to be an integral part of the passing attack as the Panthers try to keep up. In Week One, the Packers allowed Saints TE Jimmy Graham to make four catches (on seven targets) for 56 yards and one touchdown. Olsen, who had four catches for 78 yards on six targets against Arizona, has the talent and role in this offense to post solid numbers this week but he's a larger league start.
Bucs TE Kellen Winslow (at Vikings)
Winslow makes a solid play this week as the Vikings allowed the Chargers' tight ends to make 11 receptions (on 16 targets) for 94 yards. Winslow had a solid game against the Lions, with six receptions (on eight targets) for 66 yards. Look for QB Josh Freeman to rely on Winslow underneath if the Vikings take away the deep ball as they did against the Chargers.
Giants QB Eli Manning (vs. Rams)
Manning hasn't been playing well and he's probably most owners' fantasy backup. On the surface, it's a good matchup but the Rams allowed Michael Vick to total only 187 passing yards, though he did toss two touchdowns. Vick had a huge day rushing, going for 97 yards and Manning won't do that. While Manning is capable of a good fantasy day, he's coming off a game that saw him throw for 268 yards, with no touchdowns and one interception. The Giants have said that they want to ease the burden on him, so look for them to run more.
Panthers QB Cam Newton (vs. Packers)
On paper, Newton has a great matchup. The Packers allowed Drew Brees to throw for 419 yards and three touchdowns. However, Newton is not in Brees' class yet. The Packers were tough against opposing QBs in 2010, ranking fifth in pass defense (194.2 yards per game) and allowing one touchdown per game. Until we see Newton do what he did in his NFL debut more than once you're better off keeping him on your bench. I can see starting him in two-QB leagues but not in typical leagues.
Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (at Steelers)
Ignore the fact that the Steelers allowed the Ravens' backs to rush for 170 yards (5.5 avg.) and one touchdown. Lynch hasn't shown much as a featured back, having mustered only 33 yards on 13 carries (2.5 avg.) last week against the 49ers. The Steelers will make a statement with this game and Lynch will struggle.
Bucs RB LeGarrette Blount (at Vikings)
While Blount has a nice matchup on paper when broken down further, the Vikings allowed Chargers running backs only 80 rushing yards and one touchdown. The Chargers' backs did their damage through the air, piling up 144 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Blount is not a pass receiver and in Week One rushed only five times for 15 yards. Temper expectations but I would rather put him on my bench if possible.
Browns RB Montario Hardesty (at Colts)
The Colts gave up a whopping 167 rushing yards to the Texans in Week One. However, Hardesty is just getting his legs back after an ACL injury and while he's rounding into form the team will lean on Peyton Hillis and the tight ends. This isn't a time-share situation. Hardesty managed only five carries last week for 18 yards and has not shown much yet. He was not a factor in the passing game. Let him prove his value as the season wears on.
Bengals WR A.J. Green (at Broncos)
Green was held in check for most of Week One by Browns CB Joe Haden. He had only four targets, but his one reception came late in the game and resulted in a 41-yard touchdown. Rookie QB Andy Dalton (wrist) will be ready to play but might not be 100 percent. Because the Raiders ran the ball so well in Week One they didn't need to throw much. As a result, the Broncos allowed only 66 yards and zero touchdowns to Raiders wideouts. Green might have fantasy promise but not this season.
Rams WR Mike Sims-Walker (at Giants)
Sims-Walker went to the Rams with hopes of possibly being the No. 1 wideout only to see that go to Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson. Amendola is out with a dislocated elbow and it looks like Gibson could become the team's go-to wideout. Word from St. Louis is that Sims-Walker is struggling to learn the offense. Rookie TE Lance Kendricks played poorly in Week One but according to reports he will have a key role in the passing offense. Let this situation play out before inserting Sims-Walker into your starting lineup.
Giants WR Hakeem Nicks (vs. Rams)
If you don't mind high-risk, high-reward decisions, wait until game time to see if Nicks (knee) will play. I see no reason for the Giants to risk further injury to Nicks this early in the season. Look what happened to Panthers MLB Jon Beason (Achilles) when the team brought him back too early. Regardless, I don't want to wait and take a goose egg if he doesn't play. Play it safe and go with another wideout. Nicks will test the knee pregame and then decide, but start someone you know will play.
Cardinals TE Jeff King (at Redskins)
Don't let the fact that King had a touchdown last week fool you. He saw only three targets and his touchdown play was the one in which Panthers MLB Jon Beason went down with a season-ending injury. King is the designated blocking tight end and though he will see time as a receiver, he'll be sharing that role with Todd Heap. He's not even worth owning on fantasy rosters at this point.
Seahawks TE Zach Miller (at Steelers)
After last week's poor showing, fantasy owners who believed that Miller would be a solid fantasy tight end are in for a reality check this week. Last week, he saw four targets, and made two receptions for 19 yards. QB Tarvaris Jackson can't get the Seahawks' offense out of neutral and won't this week. Last week, the Steelers allowed Ravens tight ends to gain 104 yards on seven receptions. Don't expect that this week. It could be a long day for Miller.