In "Exploit or Avoid," we take a close look at some of the week's more favorable — and tough — matchups for skill-position players. Here's a five-pack of each:
Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles (at Buffalo) — Adrian Peterson wasn't the only star running back to make a strong return from an ACL tear in Week One. Charles led the Chiefs in yards (87) and carries (16), with a long rush of 46 yards. The Bills' run defense held up well against the Jets (3.3 ypc), but they have had problems in this area in the past. Charles surely deserves starter consideration, with Peyton Hillis perhaps an option in bigger leagues as a "flex" play.
Bengals QB Andy Dalton (vs. Cleveland) — The Browns will be without CB Joe Haden, and Dalton showed well in the season opener at Baltimore before a couple of turnovers. Cincinnati's offense should be able to get on track in Week Two. Dalton's a very nice option in two-QB formats, and I'd even consider him in bigger one-QB formats.
Broncos WR Eric Decker (at Atlanta) — Was targeted the same number of times as Demaryius Thomas (seven) in Week One. Sure, Decker didn't score, but the targets speak to his importance in the scheme. The Falcons' once-enviable CB depth is gone with Brent Grimes out for the season, and Broncos QB Peyton Manning was impressive in his return to regular-season action Sunday.
Bengals RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (vs. Cleveland)— He had one of the more impressive games by a running back in Week One, racking up 91 yards and a TD on 18 carries against the respected Baltimore defense. The Browns' issues vs. the run (150 yards allowed Week One) make Green-Ellis an auto-play for most fantasy owners.
Buccaneers WR Vincent Jackson (at N.Y. Giants)— Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman threw only 24 passes in Week One, but 10 went to Jackson. The Buccaneers' go-to receiver merits a start in Week Two, what with the Giants' secondary struggling in Week One.
Cardinals running backs (at New England) — Neither Ryan Williams (8-9-0) nor Beanie Wells (7-14-0) inspired much confidence with their Week One production. Moreover, the Patriots' defense was excellent vs. the run in the season opener at Tennessee, holding the Titans to 20 yards on 16 carries. Chris Johnson, as surely you've heard, racked up just four yards on 11 carries. If you believe the Cardinals could fall behind early at Foxborough and will be forced to throw, it's all the more reason to stay away from Arizona's backs this week.
Jaguars passing game (at Houston) — I believe the Jaguars' passing game will have some fantasy value this season, but I don't believe this is a good matchup for Blaine Gabbert and Co. Gabbert performed fairly well in Week One, throwing for a career-high 260 yards, but the Texans' defense is fierce and the Jags' O-line is banged up.
Jets WR Stephen Hill (at Pittsburgh) — Hill had a wonderful NFL regular-season debut in Week One, with two TD catches against Buffalo. And, yes, he's someone who shouldn't be on the waiver wire in many leagues. Nevertheless, he doesn't have an ideal matchup in Week Two. The Steelers' pass defense had its issues in Week One, but FS Ryan Clark returns, and Pittsburgh allowed fewer pass yards than any other defense in 2011.
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (vs. N.Y. Jets) — The Steelers' offense did some nice things in Week One, including converting 11-of-19 third downs (58 percent) and holding the ball for more than 35 minutes. However, Roethlisberger was sacked five times, raising questions (again) about how well Pittsburgh can protect him. The Steelers are likely to have ORT Marcus Gilbert and ORG Ramon Foster back in Week Two, which will help this reworked line build continuity. However, the Jets figure to find ways to create pressure. Roethlisberger's a fine option in two-QB lineups — he's a blue-chip player that's capable of beating top defenses — but I'm not crazy about his upside this week.
Lions RB Kevin Smith (at San Francisco) — Smith rewarded those who started him last week with 91 yards and two TDs vs. St. Louis. That was a good matchup for Smith. Facing the 49ers' stout defense at Candlestick Park is another matter altogether. The 49ers shut down ground games all last season and limited Green Bay to 45 rush yards on 14 carries in the season opener. Smith's ability to contribute on passing downs is a positive and could help him rack up a few extra points, but he's still not nearly as strong an option as he was in Week One.