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Game Capsules: This Could Get Ugly

Luke Hoover

Luke Hoover has covered fantasy football for 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.

Kansas City (+3.5) @ Philadelphia, Thursday 8:25 p.m.

The story here is obvious. Andy Reid returns just two games into his second head-coaching job to the place he ran - very successfully for the most part - for 14 years. After awful 2012 seasons, the Eagles and Chiefs are both off to promising turnarounds under their new leaders and this game could be pivotal to keeping that momentum going for two franchises with realistic playoff aspirations. Michael Vick, his athletic offensive line and gifted skill weapons have been highly explosive in racking up 31.5 points per game, but they will be hard-pressed to repeat that success against a Kansas City defense with an excellent blend of speed and physicality. Four 2013 Pro Bowlers - Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali, Justin Houston and Eric Berry - along with 2012 first-round pick, behemoth nose tackle Dontari Poe, figure to do a better job plugging the running lanes that have made LeSean McCoy a yardage machine for two weeks. And when Philly turns to the pass, Berry and an improved secondary will give DeSean Jackson his greatest test thus far after two dominant weeks (a league-leading 297 receiving yards!), while the likes of Hali, Houston and Poe may have Vick running for his life instead of first downs... In the last six quarters the Eagles defense has allowed 53 points and hemorrhaged yards. The Chargers set the formula for Kansas City and the rest of the league to beating Philly, dominating time of possession last week by more than 2-to-1 with a ball control offense that focused on creating and converting shorter third downs to keep the Eagles explosive offense off the field. That style fits Alex Smith perfectly, so a lot of quick-hitting passes and Jamaal Charles runs should be expected against a Philadelphia defense still trying to get the kinks out in their transition to a 3-4 system. Dwayne Bowe figures to be a prime beneficiary if the Chiefs do make a focused effort to control the clock and slow the game, as his big body and strong hands are awfully tough to stop with an accurate passer like Smith.

Prediction: Charles totals 125 yards and runs one in, while Smith connects with Bowe and Dexter McCluster for touchdowns in a 271-yard performance. Vick passes for 306 yards with scores to Jason Avant and Zach Ertz. McCoy notches 122 total yards and finds paydirt rushing. Chiefs 27-24 in OT.

Green Bay (-2) @ Cincinnati, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

The influx of young talent in Cincinnati has continued into 2013. Giovani Bernard has the look of a young Ray Rice, while Tyler Eifert presents the type of mismatch nightmare that, when paired with Jermaine Gresham, gives the Bengals the top tight end duo in the league. Those rookies combined with a core of Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu will make this one of the game's premier offenses sooner rather than later. And while they may not be able to keep pace with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers surgical passing attack, they are all solid options for fantasy play versus a Green Bay unit ranked 29th with 458 yards allowed per game. The rushing attack may suffer some should the Pack get an early lead, so that means Bernard should once again top BenJarvus Green-Ellis in fantasy points despite the latter receiving more carries... The Packers four primary receiving options - Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jermichael Finley - really should not be benched in any week, regardless of matchup. So although the Bengals defense presents a challenge, start them confidently. With the exception of Jones not registering a catch Week 1, Rodgers has been superb at spreading the ball around to these four. Moreover, Mike McCarthy finally has Rodgers slinging it as much as his talent warrants. Though it's only two games and one of those was versus a 49ers defense they simply couldn't run on, Rodgers has averaged nearly nine more attempts per game than he did over the previous two seasons. Those extra throws go a long way in netting fantasy points for his targets. After stepping in for a concussed Eddie Lacy and turning in a monster game against the league's worst defense, James Starks figures to come back down to earth against a stingy Cinci unit allowing just 2.8 YPC, so even though he'll likely dominate the backfield duties, he's no better than a flex option.

Predictions: Lacy sits while Starks tallies 64 total yards. Rodgers connects with Finley (2), Nelson and Jones for scores in a 352-yard effort. Dalton passes for 326 yards and finds Green, Eifert and Sanu for touchdowns. Bernard totals 91 yards while Green-Ellis chips in 54 rushing. Packers 31-27.

St. Louis (+3.5) @ Dallas, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

The Cowboys fought hard in Kansas City - one of the league's toughest places to play - but ultimately came up short largely due to their inability to run the ball. DeMarco Murray continued to prove himself an excellent PPR option after hauling in five passes for 49 yards but he also turned in another erratic rushing performance. It's true the Cowboys never committed to the run, as they rarely do, but Murray's play is a big reason why. He never got going on 12 carries that netted 25 yards. Dallas will need to run more efficiently and more often to keep Sam Bradford and his explosive new toys off the field and on the low end of the scoreboard. That's a tall order versus the 6th ranked St. Louis run defense, but Murray has the talent to make it happen. Of course, Tony Romo continuing to heat up his connection with a seemingly injury-free Dez Bryant will help open up some rushing lanes. Getting Miles Austin and Jason Witten more involved wouldn't hurt either... Speaking of the name Austin, don't be surprised when the dynamic rookie, Tavon Austin, is the better of the two in both real and fantasy play this weekend. The diminutive playmaker registered his first two career scores versus Atlanta and is clearly a focal point of Jeff Fisher's offense after seeing 12 targets and two carries in that game. Like Dallas though, the Rams may struggle to run the ball. Daryl Richardson has been below average with 3.3 YPC in two games and is dealing with a foot injury. He's expected to start but if he's limited much the ground game may see another long day. That should please Jared Cook owners, however, as the freakishly athletic tight end would likely find himself more involved after pulling a Houdini act in Week 2 following a monstrous opening game. Ultimately, a Rams victory will only be had if Bradford continues his terrific start.
Predictions: Richardson tallies 88 total yards and a rushing score. Bradford hooks up with Cook and Austin Pettis for TD's in a 307-yard day. Romo throws for 340 yards and touchdowns to Bryant and Terrance Williams. Murray notches 101 total yards and finds the end zone. Cowboys 24-21.

San Diego (+3) @ Tennessee, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Kenny Britt has made more noise with coach Mike Munchak's criticism of his "lackadaisical" blocking and his own mouth than he has with his play, but don't be surprised if that changes Sunday. Despite his troubles with knee swelling, Britt is still a phenomenal physical specimen capable of taking over games. If he's focused we may just have a flashback to his dominating start to the 2011 season versus a Chargers defense that's been burned by opposing No. 1 receivers for a combined 339 yards and a score in two weeks. Granted, those wideouts were Andre Johnson and DeSean Jackson, but if the Titans are wise enough to instruct Jake Locker to feed Britt, the numbers will be there - especially if Kendall Wright sits due to concussion symptoms. Of course the only Tennessee skill guy to truly count on is still Chris Johnson, who's seen 25 carries in each game so far. After facing two stingy defenses he may feast on a San Diego unit ranked 31st in yards allowed and generously giving up 4.7 YPC to opposing tailbacks... Philip Rivers has been fixed by quarterback-whisperer Mike McCoy. Gone is the Rivers that threw 35 combined interceptions between 2011 and 2012. Back is the Pro Bowler who averaged over 4,300 yards and 30 touchdowns the three years prior. And coming along with Rivers for the ride has been Eddie Royal and his out-of-nowhere five touchdowns and Antonio Gates and his youthful-looking legs. The pair should carry the San Diego passing game with Malcom Floyd out after suffering a scary neck injury last week. The way Rivers is playing though, don't be surprised if Vincent Brown steps up to get in the act as well. On the ground Ryan Mathews looks like a solid flex or even No. 2 running back with all the tailback injuries league-wide, and Danny Woodhead is even worth a flex in PPR leagues after snatching eight of nine targets last week.

Predictions: Mathews rushes for 85 yards and a touchdown. Rivers hits Gates and Brown for scores in a 273-yard performance. Locker passes for 284 yards and TD's to Britt and Nate Washington, while Johnson sprints for 142 yards and a score. Titans 26-24.

Cleveland (+5.5) @ Minnesota, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Adrian Peterson was the No. 1 overall pick in probably 99.9% of fantasy leagues this year, but he will be the No. 2 fantasy producer on his own team this week. The Vikings defense will be first. They may only have one measly sack so far, but that number could jump to six or seven after facing a Browns team that's allowed a league-high 11 in two games. And while they've given up a ton of yards and points, they've done so against strong Detroit and Chicago offenses and offset those poor numbers with six forced turnovers and a touchdown (another score was added by Cordarrelle Patterson on a kickoff return). The Browns will get back a dangerous deep threat in Josh Gordon, but they'll be giving Brian Hoyer just his second career start while relying on the likes of an off-the-street, 30-year-old Willis McGahee who signed Thursday, career reserve/fullback Chris Ogbonnaya and former Ravens practice-squader Bobby Rainey to spark a ground game that was only averaging 3.4 yards per carry WITH Trent Richardson. Instead of squaring off with Peterson, the young stud that was supposed to be the next AP will be in San Francisco after being shockingly shipped to the Colts. The real "All Day" will be in Minnesota - where he is the only worthwhile Vikings skill option - even though he figures to struggle versus a Browns defense that's held the likes of Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce and Lamar Miller to a league-low 2.0 YPC... With Richardson out of town there really is little to say about the Browns offense. Hoyer will surprisingly get the call over veteran Jason Campbell who has more than 70 career starts, but that may be a positive for Gordon in his return from suspension. In Hoyer's lone start, which came in Week 17 at the 49ers last year, he locked onto Michael Floyd - a receiver in a similar physical mold to Gordon - to the tune of 14 targets, eight grabs, 166 yards and a score. And since the Browns will have to throw it often with no ground game worth mentioning, Jordon Cameron remains a solid play given his 203 yards over two games.

Predictions: Christian Ponder passes for 186 yards and a touchdown to Kyle Rudolph, while Peterson churns out 92 hard-earned yards and a short score. Hoyer slings it for 212 yards and a touchdown to Cameron. Ogbonnaya leads a tailback committee with 60 total yards. Vikings 23-10.

Tampa Bay (+7) @ New England, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

The Patriots needed a break for an offense struggling to find a rhythm and hone its execution with inexperienced wide receivers being pressed into heavier duty. They received it in the form of All Pro Bucs' safety Dashon Goldson earning himself a one-game suspension for a personal foul versus the Saints last week. And then that break was promptly dissolved when Goldson won his appeal and was just slapped with a hefty fine. A bigger break may yet come if Rob Gronkowski can make his much-anticipated return to the lineup. If given the green light in a likely game-time decision, Gronkowski would be almost impossible to bench given the state of Tom Brady's receiving corps and the hurting Jimmy Graham put on the Tampa defense last week (179 yards and a score). Of course, the Bucs did cause numerous struggles for Drew Brees with the Hall-of-Famer's full contingent of weapons, so regardless of whether he has Gronkowski, Brady will still need young wideouts Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson to correct their route errors and eliminate drops to keep the offense moving the chains. Julian Edelman will no doubt remain heavily involved as he tries to replace a still injured Danny Amendola (groin), but don't expect to see much Stevan Ridley against a Tampa squad allowing just 2.7 YPC to opposing running backs with no TD's allowed on the ground... If Josh Freeman cannot throw on the Saints (a pitiful 9-for-22 for 125-yard showing), there may be no hope for this pass attack. Doug Martin ran well behind good blocking and gave them a chance to win a brutally close game, but if a beefy Patriots defense focuses on Mr. Martin the way they did C.J. Spiller in Week 1, expect a highly stagnant Tampa offense. However, if New England worries more about dropping into coverage to let Freeman beat himself, Martin could post consecutive 100-yard outings. After all, without any serious threat from Geno Smith's arm, Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell still totaled 100 yards and a score on 25 carries. So continue starting Martin and Vincent Jackson as you normally would and cross your fingers for few stacked boxes.

Predictions: Brady hooks up with Thompkins for a touchdown in a 264-yard effort, while Gronkowski rests another week. Ridley chips in 51 yards and a short score rushing. Martin doubles Ridley with 102 yards on the ground and another 40 receiving, snagging one of Freeman's two TD's. The other goes to Jackson as Freeman goes for 244 yards passing in the upset win. Buccaneers 20-17.

Arizona (+7.5) @ New Orleans, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

The Saints offense has struggled to stay consistent through two weeks as they've failed to run the ball with any effectiveness or commitment. While Pierre Thomas' 5.1 YPC has been impressive, he's somehow seen the fewest carries of New Orleans' trio as Mark Ingram has turned 17 attempts into an embarrassingly weak 31 yards (1.8 YPC) and Darren Sproles has gone 15 for 48 (3.2 YPC). The sledding doesn't get any easier though with a physical Arizona defense coming to town that's currently ranked 3rd versus the run and allowing a measly 2.6 YPC. The onus will remain on Drew Brees to move the ball, and while that's normally no issue, the super signal caller hasn't been at his sharpest given how defenses have teed off on him. He's taken numerous big hits and matched his three touchdowns with three picks as a result. The Cardinals offense is worlds ahead of where it was last year, so Brees cannot afford to lose the turnover battle in this one... The Saints are going to be run on this year just as they were pummeled last season by opposing ball carriers. They simply don't have enough size or talent in their front seven defensively. Thus far New Orleans has allowed 5.3 YPC - albeit it to the likes of Steven Jackson and Doug Martin - so there may be no better week to start Rashard Mendenhall, who has run with power and quickness in his first two games as a Cardinal. Moreover, with Larry Fitzgerald hampered by a hamstring injury, Arizona may lean on the run more to keep the chains moving (they were a miserable 1-for-11 on third downs last week) and keep Brees on the sidelines. Though Fitzgerald's day may be a disappointment because of the injury, Carson Palmer's numbers should remain solid, as Bruce Arians has displayed a deep group of skill weapons to which Palmer can spread the wealth.

Predictions: Thomas totals 70 yards though Ingram vultures the team's first rushing score of the year. Brees slings it for 315 yards and touchdowns to Graham, Sproles and Marques Colston. Mendenhall rumbles for 108 yards and two touchdowns, while Palmer hooks up with Michael Floyd for a TD in the narrow loss. Saints 28-24.

Detroit (+2) @ Washington, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Robert Griffin is becoming the new king of garbage points. With a defense that couldn't stop a grandma on one of those motorized shopping carts, the Redskins have fallen into huge holes against talented offenses. That trend doesn't seem likely to stop at all with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson coming to town, so count on RGIII, Pierre Garcon and Alfred Morris to provide their usually strong numbers in the second half against a Lions defense that isn't exactly formidable. The Skins could even help their defense out tremendously if they'd ever think of converting a third down, as their 5-for-21 mark is only better than a pathetic Jacksonville offense. To help spark his troops, Griffin claims he'll be running more, but Mike Shanahan will have the final say on that and from a fantasy perspective it may be best to file that in the "believe it when you see it" folder... Stafford hasn't had that huge game yet, but with Washington's defense on tap and Ryan Broyles poised to return, it could well be coming this week. Johnson returned to his usually dominant form in Week 2 and with Reggie Bush (knee) going to be limited if he plays at all, another mega Megatron performance will be needed for Detroit to keep Washington winless. The bigger impact of Bush's injury though will obviously be felt by Joique Bell owners, who now have a must-start running back on their hands. The Redskins were gashed by James Starks last week for nearly 170 total yards and a score, and granted Aaron Rodgers' presence had a lot to do with the running lanes, Bell is a more gifted runner and receiver any day of the week than Green Bay's backup. It would be a major surprise to not see Bell top 100 total yards in this one.

Predictions: Stafford hooks up with Johnson, Bell and Pettigrew for touchdowns in a 330-yard day. Bell adds a score rushing to go with his 126 total yards in Bush's absence. Morris rushes for 95 yards and a TD, while Griffin slings it for 284 yards and scores to Garcon and Leonard Hankerson. Redskins 30-28.

New York Giants (+1.5) @ Carolina, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

One thing is for sure in this battle of 0-2 teams: the Giants will not run the ball on this power-packed Panther front seven like they did last year when Andre Brown went for 113 yards and two touchdowns. Luke Kuechly and Co. will smack down any chance of that, so unless David Wilson or Da'Rel Scott get loose for a huge run, expect very little out of the G-Men's league-worst ground game. On the flip side though, Eli Manning's yardage numbers should remain high, as a healthy Hakeem Nicks ( he returned versus Denver after a dislocated finger) changes the dynamic from that 2012 matchup. Nicks, Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle are too much for most secondaries to handle, and with the back end being Carolina's key weak point defensively, anticipating a big day from Manning and his top targets feels like a safe bet, especially after Russell Wilson and EJ Manuel combined for 616 passing yards with much more limited receiving corps... The Panthers offense was somewhat improved in Week 2, but they are still hamstrung by a limited receiving corps. Steve Smith and Greg Olsen have seen more than half of Cam Newton's targets because there simply aren't any other talented options. If a defense can take away just one of them - and even the Giants mediocre unit can - it makes the Panthers O one-dimensional. As talented as old man DeAngelo Williams is, he simply cannot carry an offense any longer. Fortunately for Carolina, Manning looks poised to lead the league in turnovers, which could set up some shorter fields and easier scores for Cam and Co.

Predictions: Wilson gets his chance to lead again but tallies just 56 total yards behind a weak offensive line. Manning passes for 331 yards and touchdowns to Cruz, Nicks and Brandon Myers. Newton throws for 212 yards and a score to Olsen, while running one in with 52 yards on the ground. Mike Tolbert vultures a TD away from Williams in the latter's 90-yard day. Giants 27-21.

Houston (-2.5) @ Baltimore, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

The words "bench Ray Rice" have never come out of my mouth before, but should the usually steady veteran grit it out with his strained hip flexor this Sunday he'll be lucky to see any better than a 50/50 split with talented backup Bernard Pierce, be facing a stingy Houston front seven and could see Joe Flacco throw it 40-plus times. That's not the recipe for fantasy success. Pierce, however, is a must-start if Rice is ruled out despite the tough matchup. He's been mediocre through two games (2.8 YPC), but backs with the opportunity for 20 touches are hard to find. If the average Ravens defense puts them in an early hole, however, the best fantasy production figures to come from Torrey Smith and Marlon Brown as Flacco and Co. play catch up... Arian Foster continues to be significantly less effective than backup Ben Tate (8.2 to 3.7 YPC favoring Tate), but he was still the one called upon at the goal line when the Texans needed a crucial touchdown and two-point conversion to tie Tennessee in what was a dramatic overtime victory. Given how efficient Tate has been and how much Houston runs the ball, both remain worthy starts despite the roughly 70/30 split limiting Tate's upside. The Ravens run defense has been pretty stiff versus talented runners like Knowshon Moreno and Trent Richardson, but they simply haven't seen a scheme or offensive line more fit to move the ball on the ground. And with the quick emergence of DeAndre Hopkins and the sharp play of Matt Schaub keeping the offense balanced, Baltimore cannot sell out to stop the best 1-2 rushing tandem in football. Of course, if Andre Johnson isn't cleared from the concussion he suffered last week, that could change.

Predictions: Schaub passes for 248 yards and hits Johnson and Keshawn Martin for touchdowns. Foster totals 90 yards and nets a short score while Tate adds 65 rushing. Rice plays but only enough to rush for 25 yards, as he mostly watches Pierce total 101 yards and find paydirt. Flacco finds Smith for a TD in a 220-yard day. Texans 24-20.

Atlanta (+1.5) @ Miami, Sunday 4:05 p.m.

The Dolphins are picking up steam while the Falcons are getting deflated by injuries. Ryan Tannehill just outdueled Andrew Luck in Indy and the real Lamar Miller and Mike Wallace stood up with performances true to their physical abilities. Facing a defense that just placed their leader and best player in Sean Weatherspoon (foot) on the IR/designated-to-return list and lost starting end Kroy Biermann (Achilles) for the season, the ascension of these three athletic talents figures to continue. With a swarming Dolphins defense finding its new pieces quickly gelling, the Atlanta offense could be in trouble, especially since they will be without the services of Steven Jackson who will sit with a thigh injury... Matt Ryan was somehow able to throw the Falcons to victory against a fast and tough Rams defense after losing Jackson to injury and watching his tailbacks total a measly 36 yards rushing on 13 attempts - the fewest ground yards ever in a victory in franchise history. Though Ahmad Bradshaw and Donald Brown were able to run on Miami with solid effectiveness last week, the pair brings more talent and pedigree to the table than Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling, who will also get Miami's D in its home-opener. Of the two, Snelling has the higher fantasy upside given his better efficiency and size for goal-line usage (Rodgers has been terrible with 13 carries for 16 yards in two games). At the end of the day though, "Matty Ice" will need to be awfully cool to avoid a 1-2 start for Atlanta, particularly since Roddy White's ankle is still significantly limiting him. Harry Douglas almost looks like a flex in this one while Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez are obviously lineup mainstays.

Predictions: Snelling tallies 78 total yards and takes an end-zone plunge, while Ryan hooks up with Gonzalez for a touchdown in a 310-yard effort. Tannehill finds Wallace and Brandon Gibson for scores in a 335-yard day. Miller rushes for 81 yards and a TD in the win. Dolphins 27-20.

Buffalo (+2.5) @ New York Jets, Sunday 4:25 p.m.

After a solid showing in Week 1, Geno Smith regressed versus a Bill Belichick defense that confused and rattled him into three turnovers. Drawing that matchup on a short week and dealing with some inclement weather may have contributed to Smith's struggles, however. The extra time to prepare for this contest should help him to better prepare for the disguised looks Buffalo's defense employs to generate pressure in the backfield, but that still may not save Smith from a healthy and re-energized Mario Williams who's coming off a career-best 4.5-sack performance. Expect the Jets to hammer the Bills' leaky front seven with a steady 1-2 punch of Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell. If those two can keep the down and distance reasonable with efficient running, and if Jeremy Kerley returns from a concussion that held him out last week (he's yet to receive medical clearance), Smith and the New York offense will give themselves a nice shot at a 2-1 start... The other rookie QB in this matchup has been fantastic through two weeks. The two-minute drill and game-winning touchdown EJ Manuel threw versus Carolina was simply another stepping stone for an extremely poised and smooth young signal caller who has already become the face of the Buffalo franchise. Manuel has thrown just one interception and taken one sack while connecting on a remarkable 68.2% of his passes. If he continues to work so effectively from the pocket and increases the damage he can do with his legs, Manuel will make it much easier for C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson to get out of the backfield. The emergence of Robert Woods as a capable No. 2 receiver will also open the passing attack and create more single coverage for Steve Johnson. The rookies, and the whole Bills offense, however, will have a tough go of things against the Jets 2nd-ranked defense that's allowing just 241 yards per game and holding opposing passers to a 48.6% completion rate.

Predictions: Ivory rushes for 78 yards and a touchdown while Powell chips in 62 total yards. Smith finds Stephen Hill and Kellen Winslow for touchdowns in a 226-yards outing. Manuel tosses it for 202 yards and connects with Woods for a score. Spiller totals 114 yards and hits paydirt, as Jackson adds 58 yards himself. Jets 21-17.

Indianapolis (+10.5) @ San Francisco, Sunday 4:25 p.m.

The 49ers took a beating from Seattle last week, getting pushed around in all three phases of the game. The Seahawks physicality dictated the 49ers miserable execution and in particular gave Colin Kaepernick and the offense fits. By blanketing Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis, the Seattle secondary made completely took away San Francisco's passing attack. A Colts defense that allowed a combined 536 passing yards to Terrelle Pryor and Ryan Tannehill is a far cry from the Seahawks ultra stingy unit though, and Kaepernick figures to have little issue getting back on track at home. Moreover, an equally soft run defense should finally give Frank Gore an opportunity to get going and balance out the offense, as his dreadful 30 carries for 60 yards through two weeks has allowed all the focus to be on pressuring the quarterback. One thing to keep in mind though for Kaepernick, if Vernon Davis cannot suit up because of a hamstring injury suffered in Seattle, the Niners may run it much more heavily than they pass... Until Wednesday evening, the main storyline for this matchup would have been the 49ers and Colts each trying to bounce back from disappointing losses. The Cleveland Browns changed all that when they made a shocking, out-of-nowhere trade that sent Trent Richardson to Indy. The Colts lost Vick Ballard to a torn ACL and despite the strong running of Ahmad Bradshaw and Donald Brown against a fast and physical Dolphins defense, the front office was clearly not confident with the position and took major advantage of an opportunity to upgrade. However, facing a Niners defense that undoubtedly had its pride stung by Marshawn Lynch's 98-yard, two-touchdown rushing performance last Sunday, that upgrade may not pay dividends this week despite coach Chuck Pagano's insistence that Richardson will receive "all the touches he can handle". The 49ers offense figures to resemble the explosive unit that torched Green Bay in Week 1 much more so than the disaster it was in Seattle, so when the Colts get down big, there may be few carries to go around for whichever Indy back is featured. Though Andrew Luck figures to face major pressure behind a shaky offensive line, he has the athleticism and skill to keep top targets like Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Coby Fleener involved and decent fantasy options from a yardage standpoint. Holding one's breath for many touchdowns out of Indy skill players this week is not advisable, however.

Predictions: Luck passes for 238 yards and connects with Fleener and T.Y. Hilton for touchdowns, but gives the ball away twice. Richardson and Bradshaw combine for just 68 total yards, and are easily bested by Gore's 110 and a score on the ground. With Davis out, Kaepernick hooks up with Boldin and rookie tight end Vance McDonald for TD's, while running one in himself. 49ers 31-20.

Jacksonville (+19.5) @ Seattle, Sunday 4:25 p.m.

There. Will. Be. Blood. The Seattle defense and Marshawn Lynch are must-starts after witnessing the epic beating they put on San Francisco last week. If the Raiders can limit Jacksonville to nine points and under 250 total yards it's almost scary to think what the Seahawks and "The Legion of Boom" will do. The Jags also let Darren McFadden tear through them for a full 4.0 more YPC than he averaged versus an underwhelming Colts defense in Week 1. That means Lynch should do enough damage by halftime to satisfy his fantasy owners, and he'd better since it's safe to expect a comfortable blowout by that point. The huge disparity in talent in this matchup also makes Robert Turbin a risky but tempting flex given the strong possibility of garbage time carries. Russell Wilson and his wideouts though are unfortunately bench-worthy despite the soft defense. There's just too much risk they're not needed to salt this one away... With Blaine Gabbert (throwing hand/thumb) likely out again this week, Chad Henne will command the league's worst offense against the league's best defense - a task that will be made monumentally more difficult with Maurice Jones-Drew dealing with a tendon strain in his left ankle and limited at best, if not out. Without Justin Blackmon (suspension) to give the passing game a prayer, Cecil Shorts is pretty much on his own to compete with Richard Sherman. Given that Sherman just held Anquan Boldin to 201 less yards than he posted in Week 1, it would be less surprising if Shorts spontaneously combusted than if he turned in more than the 93 yards he got in Oakland.

Predictions: Shorts does not catch on fire, but also doesn't catch more than four passes as Henne goes for just 131 yards with three turnovers. Jones-Drew is rested and gives way to Jordan Todman, who totals 38 yards. Lynch and Turbin each top 100 yards on the ground with a touchdown apiece. Wilson throws for 163 yards and hits Golden Tate for a score. No letdown. Seahawks 30-0.

Chicago (-2.5) @ Pittsburgh, Sunday 8:30 p.m.

The Steelers just don't have any offensive firepower. Plain and simple. The personnel is not there to help Ben Roethlisberger move the chains with any consistency or put the ball in the end zone. If Heath Miller can suit up this week he may help Pittsburgh improve on a miserable 28% third down conversion rate, but that won't necessarily translate to points for the 30th-ranked scoring offense. His return to full practice for the first time as he comes back from a torn ACL must be a welcomed sight for a frustrated Roethlisberger even if Miller can't go this week. The Steelers could use some kind of boost, even a small one, for an offense that can't block or run the ball to save its life... Jay Cutler and the Bears offense won't have an easy go of things facing a Steelers defense that's 10th in both yards and points allowed so far. Still, with the most weapons Cutler has ever had at his disposal as a Bear, a savvy play-caller in Marc Trestman and a greatly improved offensive line, Chicago figures to move it well enough to outscore a Pittsburgh team that's seen the end zone just twice this year. Brandon Marshall remains uncoverable and Martellus Bennett looks like he could become Cutler's best friend inside the red zone. Bennett is a particularly appealing start in fantasy after witnessing the Bengals tight ends pile up over 130 yards on the Steelers. Matt Forte meanwhile has the look of a top-5 fantasy back - particularly in PPR - after seeing him tally 53 touches and over 250 total yards in two weeks.

Predictions: Felix Jones stays at the head of a Steeler backfield rotation, but that only amounts to 52 yards. Roethlisberger pitches it for 269 and hits Antonio Brown for a score. Cutler connects with Bennett and Alshon Jeffery for touchdowns in a 250-yard effort. Forte notches 128 total yards in the win. Bears 17-13.

Oakland (+15) @ Denver, Monday 8:30 p.m.

Terrelle Pryor was a letdown in Week 2 versus a bad Jaguars defense, but he's still doing everything he can to make the Raiders competitive and watchable with his remarkable athleticism. But unless he can morph into some superhuman blend of a young Lawrence Taylor and Ronnie Lott and make, oh say 30 tackles in this one, don't expect the Raiders to stop Peyton Manning and one of the most potent offenses. Even with Manning's left tackle, Ryan Clady, landing on IR with a Lisfranc foot sprain and the surprisingly productive Oakland pass rush, the odds are highly against the Raiders preventing the onslaught in the thin Denver air. So while Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Julius Thomas and Eric Decker all have a shot at finding the end zone before the blowout is in full effect, the safest Bronco play figures to be Knowshon Moreno, who clearly established himself as the lead back with a magnificent two-touchdown performance last week that looked even better in comparison to Montee Ball's fumble-into-the-end-zone, 1.2-YPC stinker... Darren McFadden ran wild on Jacksonville after finding himself mostly contained by the Colts in Week 1, but facing Denver's top-ranked run defense in a contest that won't be close will likely translate to a down performance. In the event of a blowout - which feels impending - Pryor would be a solid start in two quarterback leagues because he will almost certainly post a career-high in passing attempts, and the more he drops back, the more yards he ultimately adds on the ground. Given his limitations as a passer though, none of the Oakland targets are advisable fantasy starts.

Predictions: Manning passes for 290 yards with four touchdowns going to the Thomases, Decker and Moreno. On the ground Moreno adds 84 yards and another score. McFadden totals 68 yards, while Pryor throws for 221 yards and scrambles for 74 and a touchdown. Broncos 35-10.