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Moving the Chains: Ready to Start

Derek VanRiper

Derek is the Director of Media for, where he's been a two-time finalist for the FSWA's Baseball Writer of the Year award, and winner of the Best Football Article on the Web (2009) and Best Baseball Article on the Web (2010) awards. Derek also co-hosts RotoWire's shows on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (XM 87, Sirius 210).

What can we make of the Patriots after their first two games? The distribution of playing time against the Jets worked out as follows over the team's 65 offensive snaps:


Julian Edelman, 63 (97%)
Kenbrell Thompkins, 54 (83%)
Aaron Dobson, 33 (51%)
Josh Boyce, 2 (3%)

Of course, the Edelman show at receiver was the function of 18 targets from quarterback Tom Brady, which led to 13 catches for 78 yards Thursday night. Dobson's role significantly increased, as he was targeted 10 times against Thompkins' seven, while the rookies hauled in a combined five catches on those 17 chances.

Running Backs:

Stevan Ridley, 38 (58%)
Leon Washington, 14 (22%)
LeGarrette Blount, 13 (20%)

In what was likely the byproduct of facing an underrated Jets run defense, Ridley picked up just 2.5 YPC on 16 totes, but that the Patriots ran the ball just six times otherwise suggests that he has a firm grip on the majority of the touches in New England while Shane Vereen (wrist) is on IR through at least Week 11. Does the potential return of Rob Gronkowski in Week 3 significantly increase your interest in Tom Brady? For the rest of the season, would you rather lean on Brady or Eli Manning each week?

One last thought on Brady, and this one is from Yahoo's Scott Pianowski:

Streaming Defense Alert: The Jets host the Bills on Sunday before visiting the Titans in Week 4. The author does not recommend viewing significant portions of either game.

Trailing 24-3 at halftime, the Rams had to abandon the run, but short-term concern about Isaiah Pead taking away carries from Darryl Richardson should be erased by Richardson's 10-1 edge in carries Sunday. To Richardson and David Wilson owners out there, who is your preference the rest of the way?

While the Falcons have yet to provide details regarding the extent of Steven Jackson's thigh injury, is it fair to wonder if a timeshare would emerge between Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers should Jackson miss time? Rodgers saw more snaps (40-29) and was given the edge in carries (11-2), but Snelling's 11-yard TD run came when the Falcons had a seven-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. When called upon in the past, Snelling has been a useful contributor as a receiver out of the backfield, and that was the case Sunday as he matched Rodgers with four targets and four catches.

Before departing with a strained hip flexor, Ray Rice was struggling for the second straight week, picking up 2.8 YPC over 13 carries. Despite the comments from head coach John Harbaugh suggesting otherwise, the injury looked like one that could be problematic for Rice at least in the short term, although I will leave that angle for Jeff Stotts because his injury insight is fantastic and mine is probably worthless.

Perhaps the lack of efficiency from Rice and Bernard Pierce (3.0 YPC) and the non-existent running game of the Dolphins in the season opener are an indication of the Browns possessing and elite run defense? Big tests are on the horizon with the Vikings on tap in Week 3 and the Bills visiting Cleveland in Week 5. On a difficult to find positive offensive note for the Browns, Jordan Cameron's five-catch, 95-yard follow-up was much better than most of the other tight ends who broke out in Week 1. Just ask your local Jared Cook owner.

Yes, Ginn was targeted eight times by Newton in the Panthers' loss to Buffalo on Sunday. As Stopa pointed out above, there is a lack of talent on the offensive side of the ball in Carolina. After drafting Newton first overall in 2011, the Panthers (including that draft) have made 19 other selections. No draft pick in the first three rounds of the past three drafts in Carolina have led to the addition of a skill-position player. As noted above with Brady, the supporting cast has to be accounted for and can be a limiting factor, but in Newton's case, it's always been this way for him.

Citing that he's been dealing with poor quarterback play for the past three seasons, I ended up with a few shares of Stevie Johnson over the course of my drafts. Looking back at his ADP in the RotoWire Online Championship (12-team, PPR), it's puzzling that he was checking in at #72 overall behind Antonio Brown (55th overall) and Greg Jennings (71st) among others. Is it fair to say that after two games of E.J. Manuel, he is no worse than Ryan Fitzpatrick as far as the value of the Bills' pass-catchers?

Another week, another day where Christian Ponder was the limiting factor for the Vikings. They're too good for the "Fail for Manziel" campaign, but when does head coach Leslie Frazier opt for Matt Cassel instead? (More on Manziel below.) Fortunately for Greg Jennings owners, he was able to get on track in Week 2 with five catches for 84 yards on six targets. Much less surprisingly, Jerome Simpson came back down to normalcy with a two-for-49 effort on five looks.

Bears fans are undoubtedly happy with their 2-0 start, even if it was a one-point win at home against Minnesota in Week 2. Perhaps the most interesting and important number when looking at this team through two games is that Jay Cutler has been sacked once. Over the past three seasons, Cutler has been sacked 2.8 times per game, as shoddy offensive line play has largely been a culprit in the team's inconsistent offense.

For those confident in Robert Griffin's ability to return to form this season as he gets further away from knee surgery, my optimism is shaky at best after watching his performance against the Packers on Sunday. Understandably, the number of designed run plays for him is down significantly, but his mechanics were consistently poor and the offense sputtered until the Green Bay defense eased up with a huge lead in the second half.

Considering his long history of injuries, James Starks' opportunity to handle the workload and give the Packers their first 100-game on the ground since Brandon Jackson (2010) is a nice story. Eddie Lacy was the victim of a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit from Brandon Meriweather – a hit that would have likely led to the safety's ejection for targeting based on college rules – opening the door for Starks to have an expanded role. For the most part, Starks took advantage of steady offensive line play, but there were a couple of runs in particular where he found a way to make something positive out of a potential loss. A 10-15 percent FAAB bid might not be enough to land Starks most places, but Lacy's health will ultimately determine his value, and the Washington run defense is looking like a bottom-end unit through the first two games.

Ben Tate continues to do everything in his power to remain the most desirable handcuff option (10.3 YPC on nine carries Sunday), but it appears as though the Texans have their workload split sorted out. Arian Foster played 60 of the team's 82 snaps Sunday (73%) while Tate saw 21 snaps (26%) after a 52-20 split (76 total offensive snaps, 68-26% favoring Foster) in the Texans' Week 1 victory over San Diego on Sunday. Also of note, DeAndre Hopkins played 61-of-76 snaps in the Texans' opener before a bump to 75-of-82 (91%) in the overtime win Sunday when Andre Johnson was forced to leave with a concussion. A pair of surprisingly close games have forced Matt Schaub to throw 93 passes, and while that trend seems unlikely to continue, can Hopkins see enough targets each week to reliably fit as a WR3 in 12-14-team leagues?

Kenny Britt is in Ubaldo Jimenez territory for me. Hopefully when he figures it out later this season, you are better positioned to disregard the recent track record of disappointment than I am. While Britt was targeted nine times in Week 2, he finished with four catches for a mere 28 yards. Assuming both play 16 games this season, what are the odds that Britt manages to outscore Kendall Wright this season?

Lamar Miller owners have to be pleased with the rebound against the Colts on Sunday. In addition to a 14-8 carry edge over Daniel Thomas, Miller was more efficient (4.9 v. 3.8 YPC) and found the end zone in the Dolphins' win. Miami's run blocking has graded out poorly through two games, however, and the limited involvement in the passing game for the running backs is a concern. If Miller recouped enough of his value with the showing Sunday to where you can move him to an owner in your league currently hurting at the position, this could prove to be a great time to get out.

Regardless of what the depth chart said going into the game, a shoulder injury for Darrius Heyward-Bey might have enabled T.Y. Hilton to move himself into the No. 2 target role behind Reggie Wayne. Hilton played 49 of the Colts' 72 offensive snaps (68%) while the injury limited Heyward-Bey to 33 plays (46%). Not surprisingly, Coby Fleener emerged in the absence of Dwayne Allen (hip) to catch four passes for 69 yards and a score on eight targets, while having another TD called back due to a penalty.

Alex Smith outrushed Jamaal Charles (57-55) and more importantly, did not turn the ball over Sunday. Meanwhile, the Kansas City defense held Tony Romo at the Dallas passing game to a 7.1 YPA in Week 2 after earning the “let's see it against a real offense" award for their work in the season opener in Jacksonville. It speaks more to the lack of depth in the AFC than to the body of work in the first two games, but are the Chiefs good enough to be a Wild Card team this season?

An off-shoot of the discussion about the quality of the Chiefs' defense focuses on the quality of the run-blocking in front of DeMarco Murray. He was held to just 25 yards on the ground over 12 carries Sunday, but consider that the Cowboys had Murray on the field for 56 of the team's 64 offensive snaps in Week 2. As competition for carries go, Murray has very little to worry about and his 13 catches to this point have helped bump up his value significantly in full-point PPR formats.

Nothing but questions regarding the Chargers. 1. Did the Eagles defense laugh at the idea of Eddie Royal being heavily utilized just as many fantasy owners did last week when making their waiver claims? 2. Are they a lot better than I thought? A couple of fumbles in the red zone – including one near the stripe from Antonio Gates at the end of the first half, kept the Chargers from having as much as a 17-point lead at halftime. As for Royal, he played 61 of the 83 offensive snaps, second only to Vincent Brown (79) among receivers, but five touchdowns on 10 receptions through two games? The yardage total (114) is acceptable, but the volume doesn't suggest anything close to even a steady PPR option over the course of the season and at 5-foot-10, he's far from an ideal red-zone target as evidenced by the five TD catches he amassed over the last four seasons (138 catches) combined.

How much will the Eagles miss Jeremy Maclin over the course of this season? DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy combined for 14 catches (21 targets), 307 receiving yards and a touchdown Sunday while all other Philadelphia pass catchers hauled in nine passes (15 targets) for 121 yards on a day where tight end Brent Celek was shut out.

Rashard Mendenhall looks like BenJarvis Green-Ellis sans a Gio Bernard positioned to threaten his playing time in the near future. The distribution of carries in Week 2 was more indicative of what I expected in the leagues where I took the plunge on him this summer. Mendenhall had 15 carries while the field (Andre Ellington, Stepfan Taylor and Alfonso Smith) had eight against the Lions.

The early indications Monday point to Reggie Bush potentially playing against Washington in Week 3. if he doesn't, Joique Bell gets an extremely favorable matchup is a must-start.

There was no shortage of criticism around the Bucs after another last-second loss Sunday, while a good portion of it was directed at quarterback Josh Freeman. Without access to Sunday Ticket for Week 2, I have not had a chance to review this game, but considering the weapons at his disposal and the expectations of a shootout in this matchup, was there a bigger healthy disappointment in the league this week? Even with my previously mentioned concern about the Bucs - specifically, Doug Martin at No. 2 overall - Freeman felt like a QB2 with significant matchup upside against the Saints, Falcons and Panthers. Martin was the Bucs' lone bright spot offensively with another huge workload Sunday, getting 5.0 YPC on a day where the Saints' defense had to be well aware that the run was the focal point of the Tampa Bay offense.

Lance Moore has been doing Lance Moore things through two weeks, catching just three passes on eight targets to this point. Last season, Moore was targeted at least seven times in six of the 15 games that he played. Conversely, he was targeted five or fewer times on six occasions. Feast or famine PPR targets are a dime a dozen, and my poor judgment of Moore on draft day was based entirely on the quality of the offense he plays in. Lesson learned.

With the disclaimer that I'm a bitter current owner of David Wilson (is there any other kind?) the Giants' 7-7-5 carry split with Wilson, Brandon Jacobs and Da'Rel Scott is silly. Jacobs turned his seven carries into four yards, Scott picked up a mere two. Wilson is a forced hold – even a buy where owners are impatient (and they will be) – if only because he's significantly more talented than the other backs on the depth chart around him. Perhaps my fellow scribe Sigmund Bloom (who analyzes as much game film as anyone in the business said it best last night in 140 characters:

So what if Knowshon Moreno is everything that we expected Montee Ball to be back in June and July? Moreno at least grades out as average, if not slightly better in pass protection. If you are re-ranking the top-25 running backs for a draft today for Week 3 and beyond, does Moreno make the cut? Count me among those surprised to see him ranked 16th among running backs on the RotoWire cheat sheets, as I would still take DeMarco Murray and Stevan Ridley (not even one of my guys) ahead of him, and possibly others. Moreno's value may fluctuate wildly from league to league (most players' value does), but his could create a very nice buying opportunity if his current owner needs an upgrade elsewhere doesn't view him as a long-term source of production.

Check the milk carton – Denarius Moore was shut out Sunday and targeted twice. Thus far, no injury is being reported. Perhaps blaming the Jags is appropriate, since the Raiders never trailed in Week 2 and had little incentive to risk mistakes through the air with Darren McFadden (6.8 YPC) and Terrelle Pryor (5.6 YPC) having productive days on the ground. With a Monday night game against Denver on tap in Week 3, many dumpsters of garbage time may help to get Moore back on track.

The only good news from Jacksonville on Sunday – Maurice Jones-Drew's X-rays came back negative after he suffered an ankle injury. Jordan Todman is the next in line if you are a glutton for punishment. While the “Fail for Manziel” movement might pick up steam here, would the Jags be better off taking Jadeveon Clowey at No. 1 overall and attempting to trade up for a quarterback since Teddy Bridgewater (perhaps the first QB off the board in April), Taj Boyd, Brett Hundley, Marcus Mariota and Manziel will all be available?

Your Sunday night was probably better than mine – I don't watch Breaking Bad – and I was leaning on Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick in more than a few leagues. Aside from the hour-long weather delay, the game was a complete bust. Since the start of the 2011 season, the Niners have allowed a 100-yard rusher on five occasions – three times it has been Marshawn Lynch (Ahmad Bradshaw and Steven Jackson have the other two 100-yard games). Although Lynch fell short of that mark Sunday night, his 28-for-95, two-TD showing was yet another impressive one against a strong San Francisco defense.

Since taking over as the starting quarterback against the Bears in Week 11 last season, Kapernick has scored at least 15 fantasy points in all 12 games that he's played. Even with the lowest full-game completion percentage (46.4%) mark of his young career, Kaepernick managed to avoid a disastrous game by picking up 87 yards on nine runs. The San Francisco offense has a fantastic matchup to turn things around with the Colts visiting the bay area in Week 3.

What I'm Watching Tonight

How will the Bengals utilize Giovani Bernard?

Can Ben Roethlisberger (and the Steelers' receivers) overcome a suspect offensive line?

Who will lead the Steelers' backfield in carries this week?

Prediction: Bengals 27 (-6.5), Steelers 17