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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.

Hopefully, nailing six of seven QB2 picks last week squares the debt I owe for pumping up Randall Cobb like he was the second coming of Victor Cruz. Which, by the way, he might still be. Both his touches went for at least 20 yards last week. Green Bay just didn't feed him the ball constantly like it did Week 1, and many who counted on him in multiple leagues - including yours truly - felt the backlash on the almighty fantasy scoreboard.

But I digress.

Overreactions might be natural, but with so much yet to learn this season, they're also, by definition, irrational. No, Victor Cruz's three drops in Week 1 did not prove he was a one-hit wonder. But Chris Johnson's and Michael Turner's awful starts look a lot more like signs of swift and major declines on the horizon. The running back formerly known as CJ2K gets one more week to show something, while Turner is now just a glorified goal-line back likely worth no more than a flex each week. And as for Cobb, he still belongs on a roster in 100 percent of leagues, but he'll require some patience.

As for offensive and defensive trends that are forming, a few things have become clear. The Saints, Bengals, Titans and Redskins (added to the list after losing Brian Orakpo to IR) can't stop anybody and should be picked on by fantasy owners all year. The Chiefs defense appears to be in a similar boat, allowing a league-high 75 points (tied) through two games, but that could be a mirage as the Chiefs are still getting healthy and may yet get it together. For those teams lacking any scoring stopgap, expect many days of heavy passing. Others, like the Bucs and Bills, are highly susceptible to the pass, while the Raiders and Panthers can't stop the run to save their lives. Conversely, the Dolphins suddenly look like about as promising a matchup for running backs as the 49ers. They've held Arian Foster, Ben Tate and Darren McFadden to a combined 42 carries for 107 yards on the ground and have the league's longest streak (16 games) of denying a 100-yard rusher. So take those matchup notes into account, particularly when sorting out those final starting spots.

No. 2 QUARTERBACKS

1. Andy Dalton at Washington -
The Redskins were already one of the league's worst against the pass (31st in yards allowed, 32nd in TD allowed), but the losses of Brian Orakpo (pectoral) and Adam Carriker (quadriceps) for the year added injury to insult. Defending the pass for Washington figures to get even uglier now. Enter Dalton, first up to the plate and fresh off a career-high fantasy day. With the Bengals equally inept defensively, and Robert Griffin III having more than enough ability to put up points, expect Dalton to be slinging it an awful lot in this potential shootout.

2. Alex Smith at Minnesota -
Bottom line, the Vikings don't have the talent in the secondary to stop or even slow the pass. It looks like any quarterback in the league can take advantage of the miserable Vikings secondary. And in the case of Smith, the former No. 1 overall pick finally looks the part and has the weapons and the confidence of his coach to use them. Expect another quietly productive, turnover-free day.

3. Andrew Luck at Jacksonville -
If Luck had better weapons he'd be a No. 1 option many weeks. But he doesn't, so get used to seeing him here. Regardless of matchup, he's one of the two or three QB2s every week, and a ho-hum Jaguars defense doesn't change that. The Jags are not particularly aggressive, have no special pass rushers or cover corners and no answer for the receiving duo of Reggie Wayne and Donnie Avery.

4. Ryan Fitzpatrick at Cleveland -
No Joe Haden, no problem. Cleveland can't cover without him, so Fitzpatrick should have little trouble involving his top targets. The threat of C.J. Spiller busting a long run out of the backfield will also open up the deep middle of the field to burn Browns safeties, particularly with T.J. Ward's eagerness to provide run support. So despite a surprisingly good pass rush from Cleveland, it looks like a great opponent for quarterback production. Indeed, Michael Vick and Andy Dalton combine for 635 yards and five touchdowns against the Browns.

5. Matt Cassel at New Orleans -
This game sets up beautifully for Cassel. The Chiefs and Saints defenses haven't come close to stopping anyone and are tied for the most points allowed thus far, each with 75 in two games. Cassel has been productive with his arm in garbage time and has even done some damage with his legs (45 yards and a score on six carries), so when Drew Brees and the Saints jump out to an early advantage, expect Cassel to throw Kansas City back into it using his deep assortment of weapons.

6. Ben Roethlisberger at Oakland -
The Raiders have actually been very effective against the pass, but they also just let Ryan Tannehill throw his first career touchdown and post a 91.0 passer rating. Big Ben is not a jittery rookie and has Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace as targets. Nuff said.

7. Mark Sanchez at Miami -
Sanchez has historically struggled versus Miami. In six career games against the division-rival Dolphins he's only twice topped 250 yards through the air, with a high of 265. That will all end Sunday when he faces a defense that's one of the league's best versus the run (4th in yards allowed) but one of the worst stopping the pass (tied 31st in yards allowed). When Shonn Greene fails, look for Sanchez to air it out with regularity en route to his first 300-yard outing in South Beach.

FLEX PLAYS

1. Brandon LaFell vs. New York Giants -
Prince Amukamara (ankle) and Michael Coe (hamstring) are limited in practice this week and questionable for Thursday on the short turnaround. Non-primary receivers Mike Williams and Kevin Ogletree combined for 173 yards and three scores against the Giants' inept reserve corners this season. Now LaFell draws the beaten N.Y. secondary on the heels of consecutive games with double-digit fantasy points and in a week too short for the Giants to fully recover. It could be a career day for one of Cam Newton's favorite new toys.

2. Andrew Hawkins at Washington -
For two weeks now Hawkins has looked flat-out uncoverable on underneath patterns. He's too quick for linebackers and his routes are precise enough to shake any nickel corner. With his video-game-like ability to elude defenders after the catch it might not be long until he's a weekly flex in all formats. Facing a Redskins defense that relies on pressuring the quarterback, expect Dalton to frequently look Hawkins' way on hot routes and scrambling dump-offs. If slot receivers Lance Moore and Danny Amendola (21 catches, 280 yards, two scores combined) are any indication, Hawkins could be the sneaky play of the week.

3. Mark Ingram vs. Kansas City -
Pierre Thomas is the better all-around player than Ingram. Nevertheless, the Saints seem committed to Ingram, giving him 16 carries last week to Thomas' nine, despite the latter's considerably better production with his runs. So the reason to like Ingram over Thomas this and most other weeks is simple: goal. line. carries. Thomas isn't going to make a habit of churning out 100-plus yards on single-digit carries, so feel free to roll out Ingram against a Chiefs defense that will let New Orleans move inside the 10 plenty.

4. Anquan Boldin vs. New England -
Joe Flacco plus no-huddle equals big passing numbers in Baltimore. With a high-scoring Patriots offense coming to town with a defensive secondary that still isn't anything special, Flacco should load his cannon early and often as the Ravens will make sure they put enough points on the board to take down Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. As the team's strongest weapon over the middle, Boldin will be heavily involved to keep the chains moving.

5. Kevin Ogletree vs. Tampa Bay -
He wasn't quite worth starting last week against an elite secondary playing it's first home game in one of the toughest stadiums in the league, but Ogletree is a good option for Dallas' home opener. The Bucs defense was just shredded by Eli Manning (510 freaking yards!) and also let Cam Newton top 300 in Week 1. With Dez Bryant not playing up to snuff and Miles Austin likely to draw significant attention, Ogletree has the chance to be Romo's best friend again.

6. Donnie Avery vs. Jacksonville -
Reggie Wayne is clearly Andrew Lucks's No. 1 target (he's seen 25 in two weeks), and as such he draws a lot of attention in coverage. That's left Avery, who many may forget was the first receiver drafted in 2008, finding himself with consistent single coverage. The speedy receiver has been beaten that to the tune of 12 catches, 148 yards and a score, with at least nine fantasy points each week. As Luck's second-most targeted receiver, he's suddenly resurfaced as a weekly lineup option.

7. Greg Little vs. Buffalo -
The Bills have allowed 567 yards and five touchdowns passing to Mark Sanchez and Matt Cassel. So why not add Brandon Weeden to the list of ordinary quarterbacks that put up good fantasy numbers on Buffalo? As Weeden's best receiving option, this should create a nice day for Little. Once C.J. Spiller and Co. run up a respectable lead, look for the Browns to sling it enough to post garbage stats a la Cassel in Week 2, with Little doing a poor man's Dwayne Bowe impression.