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Flex Appeal: Flex Appeal

Luke Hoover

Luke Hoover

Luke Hoover has covered fantasy football for Rotowire.com since 2011 and is most proud of recommending Victor Cruz as a starter in his breakout game against the Eagles. He's a lifelong fan of Notre Dame, the Packers and, unfortunately, the Knicks.

With Week 1 behind us, there is plenty of information to consider when making the tough choices on that last starter or two. Does one defense already have injury issues that could plague it versus a particular position, like we saw with the Giants and Chiefs struggling mightily to slow the pass with their top corners out? Meanwhile, other teams, like Baltimore without Terrell Suggs, looked as dominant as ever without a star, while some defenses saw an infusion of rookie talent make a big difference (New England and Dallas come to mind).

Defensive trends are difficult to peg so early in the season, so it's crucial to weigh the importance of an individual player's presence and what it means to a team's ability to slow the opponent. For example, No. 1 wideouts facing Cleveland should have a much easier go of things with elite cover corner Joe Haden losing his appeal of a four-game suspension, but that in turn means second and third targets suddenly don't look like promising flexes against Cleveland. While quarterbacks who don't have to deal with Haden should see their stock rise for that week, Andy Dalton still narrowly missed the cut for this week's top QB2s, as he doesn't have quite enough established weapons after A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham in the Bengals' face-off with the Browns this week.

The theme of this week, at least for flex recommendations, is to follow the offense. Shootouts provide ample opportunity for those fringe starters to post big games, and the classic Packers-Bears rivalry on Thursday night has the makings of just that with two powerful offenses squaring off. So take your chances with the offensive juggernauts, pounce on a gimpy defense like a lion targeting the weakest link of the herd and don't be afraid to take a risk - it's still just Week 2 after all.

FLEX PLAYS

1. Randall Cobb vs. Chicago -
Greg Jennings is doubtful for Thursday's matchup with the Bears after suffering a groin injury late in Sunday's game. He didn't practice this week and is a game-time decision, so it's likely he doesn't play. If that's the case, Cobb, who caught all nine of his targets against San Francisco, becomes a must-start. He's so dynamic with the ball in his hands that even if Jennings suits up he could post big numbers for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense. In PPR formats and leagues that reward for return yards he won't be considered a flex start for long.

2. Jonathan Dwyer vs. New York Jets -
The Jets let C.J. Spiller shred them for almost 170 yards on the ground. Although this happened largely while the Jets were in prevent to protect a big lead, it's not like they are going to stack the box against another reserve rusher and let Big Ben beat them with his speedy receivers. Dwyer was head-and-shoulders better than Isaac Redman (4.8 YPC to Redman's 2.1) versus Denver as he showcased nice burst, great physicality and a relentlessness that did not escape Mike Tomlin, who already declared that Dwyer will see an "increased opportunity."

3. Peyton Hillis at Buffalo -
Don't be fooled by the lackluster performance versus Atlanta. Hillis is a big part of the Kansas City offense and gameplan. Against a physical front four in Buffalo the Chiefs need his battering-ram presence to soften the defense for Jamaal Charles. And when they get in close, he should have a chance to prove he's one of the league's best goal-line backs.

4. Cedric Benson vs. Chicago -
The Packers need to create a ground game to force opposing defenses to respect the threat of a run and at least occasionally commit another player to the box. Benson will provide that. Last week was not evidence of this, but hey, no one runs on the Niners. Expect a much more energized and active Benson to get those tough yards for Mike McCarthy this week and stick it to the first pro team to give up on him. Don't discount the chip that will be on Benson's burly shoulders, and definitely don't disregard the holes that Rodgers' dangerous arm will open.

5. Michael Bush at Green Bay -
Matt Forte's career ineptitude near the goal line has already been Bush's gain to the tune of two vultured scores last week. The huge upgrades Chicago made offensively combined with the yardage-sieve that is the Packers' defense should lead to more opportunities for Bush on Thursday night. Oh, and it doesn't hurt that Green Bay allowed a whopping 186 yards rushing last week at a very generous 5.8 per try.

6. Alshon Jeffery at Green Bay -
The Packers did a better job putting pressure on the quarterback last week, sacking Alex Smith four times. While that could throw off Jay Cutler's rhythm and timing a bit this week, the Packers remain weak in coverage and could struggle to contain this 6-foot-3 rookie with stickum hands. With Green Bay doubling Brandon Marshall consistently, look for Jeffery to create headaches over the middle and burn the spotty back-end coverage.

7. Mike Williams vs. New York Giants -
The Giants may return some talent to their secondary if Prince Amukamara (ankle) and/or Michael Coe (hamstring) can play this weekend. The latter missed Monday's practice while the former was limited. If they are both a no-go or limited in the game, Williams could exploit inexperienced and overmatched corners Justin Tryon and Jayron Hosley the way Kevin Ogletree and Miles Austin burned them in the season's kickoff game.

No. 2 QUARTERBACKS

1. Andrew Luck vs. Minnesota -
Giving credit where credit is due, it's only fair to admit that Blaine Gabbert has made nice strides from a rocky rookie season. But the Vikings defense didn't do anything last week to suggest it improved on a 2011 unit that allowed a league-high 34 passing scores. And if Gabbert can throw for 260 and two scores without a pick, then the much more polished Luck should have little trouble matching or exceeding those numbers against the Vikings.

2. Matt Schaub at Jacksonville -
Although the Jaguars defense kept Christian Ponder from tossing any scores in Week 1, they still allowed him to complete nearly 75 percent of his passes for 270 yards and a 10.0 yard-per-attempt average. Schaub, who's proven to be a prolific passer, should have little troubling posting similar numbers, except in his case a couple scores are very attainable with the likes of Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels and Arian Foster to target.

3. Alex Smith vs. Detroit -
The Lions finished in the bottom third in both yards and touchdowns allowed through the air last season, lost their top corner in Eric Wright to Tampa Bay, did little to revamp their secondary, which is already banged up, and just let Sam Bradford post 7.9 yards per attempt despite severely limited weapons in St. Louis. Smith doesn't throw it a ton, but he has the talent in place to do so very efficiently, so another 200-plus and two scores could be his floor this week.

4. Christian Ponder at Indianapolis -
The Colts defense likely will have a rough time transitioning to a 3-4 scheme this year under new coach Chuck Pagano. The Bears provided a glimpse of how ugly it will be as they gouged them consistently on the ground and through the air. With Adrian Peterson often drawing eight into the box, don't be surprised when Ponder beats the Colts badly with his arm. Percy Harvin is one of the game's best after the catch, and promising tight-end Kyle Rudolph is a nightmare cover in the red zone, so Ponder has the weapons to put points on the board. And this week, he's got the premier matchup to do it.

5. Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Kansas City -
Fitzpatrick did most of his damage in garbage time last week, but he still produced three touchdowns after overcoming the early turnovers. And he did this against one of the best pass defenses in football in the Jets. Kansas City will return Tamba Hali to the lineup this week but could still be without top corner Brandon Flowers (foot) and starting free safety Kendrick Lewis (shoulder). Although the Bills are down two weapons in Fred Jackson (LCL) and David Nelson (ACL), there are still plenty of options for "Harvard's Finest" to get involved and the threat of a huge C.J. Spiller run to keep the defense honest. If what Matt Ryan and the Falcons did to Kansas City in Arrowhead is any indication of the Chiefs pass defense, Fitz should be in for a nice day.

6. Carson Palmer at Miami -
Palmer wasn't especially efficient versus the Chargers last week, but volume is also crucially important in fantasy and he did attempt 46 passes en route to nearly 300 yards. Granted, the team played from behind much of the game, but the Dolphins run defense did just hold Arian Foster and Ben Tate to a pitiful 2.7 yards per carry, so it's possible it could slow Darren McFadden and force Palmer's arm into a lot of work again. If Denarius Moore (hamstring) returns to the field and Darrius Heyward-Bey can get open more consistently, a big week will be on the way.

7. Matt Cassel at Buffalo -
If Mark Sanchez can torch the Bills for 266 yards and three scores with his limited receiving cupboard, what can Cassel do with his greater array of weapons? If you answered pretty much the same thing then you are correct. Although that may well be the ceiling for Cassel, the floor should be a comparable number of yards and two scores given how much Buffalo's young corners struggled in coverage against Stephen Hill and Santonio Holmes last week.

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