1. Adrian Peterson (MIN) – It’s difficult not to love a match up that involves the best fantasy football option on the planet against arguably the worst defense in the NFL, especially after the show Peterson put on in week 1. We should note, however, that Peterson hasn’t always lived up to expectations in similarly favorable match ups against the Lions. In 4 career games against them, Peterson has failed to score a TD in 3 of the contests, including both times he faced Detroit in 2008. Regardless, this is a new year and Peterson is a clear cut candidate for a dominating performance.
2. Michael Turner (ATL) – Following a disappointing week 1 against a stout Miami run defense, we have high hopes for the elite running back in a favorable week 2 match up against Carolina. The last time Turner faced the Panthers at home in week 12 of last season, he produced his best fantasy effort of 2008 rushing for 117 yards and 4 TD’s. While you probably can’t expect him to hit pay dirt 4 times in this one, we expect him to bounce back in a big way against a shaky Carolina run D. Consider him a high end RB1 with this match up.
3. Clinton Portis (WAS) – A mediocre week 1 performance did not come as much of a surprise considering the quality of opposition Portis was up against. The good news is that a week 2 match up against St. Louis holds promise galore and we fully expect him to rebound in a big way. Portis totaled 143 yards and 2 TD’s in the Redskins embarrassing 2008 loss to the Rams. We love the revenge factor and the fact that an unimproved St. Louis defense allowed 167 rushing yards and a TD to a lackluster Seahawks ground attack in week 1.
4. Maurice Jones-Drew (JAC) – He certainly lived up to his billing in week 1, but a week 2 match up against Arizona isn’t exactly the lock it seems to be. The Cardinals run defense completely shut down Frank Gore in week 1 limiting him to just 30 yards rushing on 22 carries. Gore’s only saving grace was that he managed to find the end zone twice (once in the passing game). Luckily, like Gore, Jones-Drew is versatile and talented enough to make up for any deficiencies he might endure in the running game. We also doubt that the Arizona run defense will be at their best following a cross country trek to Jacksonville. Can you say jet lag? Let’s hope so.
5. Brian Westbrook (PHI) – With Donovan McNabb sidelined with injury, you have to expect that the Eagles will rely heavily on Westbrook in week 2. The problem is, the New Orleans defense is expecting that as well and they did a very good job of putting the brakes on Lions RB Kevin Smith in week 1. That said, Westbrook is much more versatile than Smith and the Saints run defense probably isn’t as good as week 1 would suggest. Brian Westbrook vs. New Orleans defense, our money is on Westbrook every time.
6. Chris Johnson (TEN) – The most exciting back in football may not have the best track record against week 2 opponent Houston, but we are optimistic that will change in 2009. The Texans looked terrible against the run in week 1 giving up 190 rushing yards and 2 TD’s on the ground to the Jets. It may have been a fluke, but the simple fact that Thomas Jones was able run wild on them is a huge vote of confidence for the speedy Johnson in week 2. Needless to say, we like his chances.
7. Ryan Grant (GB) – He wasn’t amazing in week 1 against the Bears, but Grant was able to find the end zone and for the most part, he showed a good burst reminiscent of his breakout 2007 campaign. In week 2 he gets an improved, but vulnerable, Bengals run defense. Cincinnati will likely place much of their focus on stopping Packers QB Aaron Rodgers in this game so opportunities should be plentiful for Grant.
8. Thomas Jones (NYJ) – It took a late week 1 surge, but the end result (107 yards and 2 TD’s) had fantasy owners singing his praises following the Jets surprising upset at Houston. Before you get too excited, it was only one week, but so far so good and week 2 looks promising as well. The Patriots defense was not especially impressive in week 1 and it looks like they will be without their best run stopper in LB Jerod Mayo (knee injury) for week 2. In addition, Jones was solid in each of the 2 match ups in which he faced New England in 2008, especially the second meeting in which he rushed for 104 yards and a TD. Jones will likely give up more touches to Leon Washington than you would like, but there should be plenty to go around.
9. Frank Gore (SF) – Probably the best way to describe Gore’s week 1 fantasy effort is bitter-sweet. While he did manage to hit pay dirt twice against Arizona, it is deeply concerning that he only rushed for 30 yards on 22 carries. It also concerns us that Gore’s week 2 opponent (Seattle) was able to hold super stud Steven Jackson to just 67 total yards and 0 catches in week 1. Gore was fairly effective in 2 match ups against the Seahawks last season, so we are hopeful that he can get on track in the running game and continue to find the end zone.
10. Brandon Jacobs (NYG) – Sure, he was disappointing in week 1 and it wasn’t exactly reassuring to see him lose so many carries to Ahmad Bradshaw. That said, we still like his chances in week 2 against Dallas. The Cowboys run defense was hardly impressive in week 1 giving up 174 yards and 2 TD’s on the ground, most of which came from Cadillac Williams who hasn’t played a meaningful down in 2 years, playing on a surgically repaired knee. In addition, the last time Jacobs faced the Cowboys, he rushed for 117 yards and a TD. The only thing that makes Jacobs even mildly risky in this match up is that Dallas will likely place special emphasis on stopping him to try and force Eli Manning to beat them through the air.
11. DeAngelo Williams (CAR) – Even against a young and inexperienced Falcons defense, it could be tough sledding for Williams if QB Jake Delhomme and the Panthers can’t put something together that resembles a passing attack in week 2. Williams is about as talented as they come and he has a real shot at a very productive game, but he isn’t going to be able to do it all by himself. As a side note, Williams had 120 total yards and a TD the last time he faced Atlanta in 2008. He should be considered a riskier than usual RB1.
12. Fred Jackson (BUF) – After week 1, Marshawn Lynch might have a difficult time winning his job back when he returns from suspension. Jackson’s performance wasn’t mind blowing, but he certainly had his shining moments en route to 140 total yards and a TD. He probably could have done even better had the Bills offense been able to spend more time on the field. A week 2 match up against Tampa Bay also appears somewhat favorable. Jackson should make for a solid play in all fantasy formats this week, but he will likely be especially valuable in PPR leagues if Jackson continues to be QB Trent Edwards favorite target in the Bills passing game.
13. Darren McFadden (OAK) – We aren’t fond of the potential timeshare with Michael Bush and Justin Fargas, but we love the match up against a very generous Kansas City run defense. The Chiefs were blasted on the ground last week by the Ravens giving up close to 200 rushing yards and 2 TD’s. It is also worth noting that McFadden’s best fantasy effort of the ’08 season came against Kansas City. In that game, he rushed for 164 yards and a TD.
14. Steven Jackson (STL) – It probably wouldn’t have stung as much if Jackson’s mediocre week 1 fantasy effort had been the result of facing a top shelf defense, but Seattle? Even more puzzling is how he went an entire game without a single reception. Jackson has not started a game in the last 3 seasons in which he did not record at least 1 catch. We are hopeful that week 1 was just a fluke game, but Jackson will certainly have his work cut out for him in a week 2 match up against a stingy Washington run defense led by Albert Haynesworth. While Jackson has proven on several occasions that he can bounce back against even the best defenses, this one is going to be tough if he doesn’t get some help from his supporting cast.
15. Larry Johnson (KC) – As expected, Johnson was anything but effective against the Ravens in week 1. Fortunately, he will have a favorable shot at redemption against a Raiders defense that he is very familiar with in addition to enjoying a great deal of success against throughout his career. In fact, it is fair to say that Johnson made a name for himself beating up on the silver and black. The Oakland front seven appears to be much improved in ’09 especially with the addition of DT Richard Seymour, but we still like L.J.’s chances in this match up. Kansas City will have to keep this game close for Johnson to truly reap the benefits.
16. Steve Slaton (HOU) – He probably has more pros and cons heading into a week 2 than any other RB in the league. On the one hand, Slaton was the only RB that made Tennessee’s potent run defense look bad last season and he did it twice, exceeding the magic 100 yard rushing mark in both contests against them. On the other hand, Slaton did not look especially good in week 1 against the Jets and Tennessee’s run defense was amazing against Pittsburgh. We also don’t like the fact that Slaton probably won’t get the goal line carries. History dictates that Slaton has what it takes to get the job done against the Titans, but it isn’t a safe bet this time around.
17. Ronnie Brown (MIA) – Going back to last season, it seems like he has had more favorable match ups than any other RB in the NFL. That said, he usually disappoints. Once again we find Brown with a promising match up against a porous Colts run defense in week 2. We know the Dolphins are going to try and keep the ball on the ground against this defense and we know Brown will be featured for the most part in doing that. Still, it is difficult to get excited about his chances after so many let downs. We are going to give him the benefit of the doubt seeing as how the season is young and this is one of the few appealing match ups for week 2, but this might his last shot to stay in the good graces of fantasy owners.
18. Ray Rice (BAL) – We would be far more impressed with Rice’s 108 yard rushing performance in week 1 if it had come against a better defense, but it was a strong effort none the less and he obviously has a firm grasp on a feature role. While week 2 should prove to be a bit more challenging against San Diego, the Chargers were not exactly shut down against the Raiders running game in week 1 and unlike the Raiders, Rice actually has a decent passing game to help open running lanes. He has limited TD potential, but he should make for a solid start in PPR and yard heavy leagues.
19. Carnell “Cadillac” Williams (TB) – The Caddy is out of the shop and running like a champ, at least as far as week 1 was concerned. Fortunately, week 2 looks quite promising as well against a beat up Buffalo run defense. Williams is a bit of a risky play considering his RB by committee situation, but in a week with pretty lousy match ups across the board, he has earned a look for week 2.
20. Marion Barber (DAL) – One of the toughest calls of the week, Barber has had a thorn in his side throughout his career and that thorn is the New York Giants. He has not had a noteworthy fantasy performance against the Giants since week 1 of the 2007 season and if you take away the TD he scored in that game, that performance would go down in the books as just another among a long list of flops against New York. Barber is far from a fail safe play in this match up, but he is well overdue to produce against this defense and he is always a strong candidate to find the end zone.
21. Matt Forte (CHI) – There is light at the end of the tunnel, but Forte couldn’t ask for two worse match ups to start the season. The Green Bay defense is obviously vastly improved and you already know the potential stumbling blocks Pittsburgh presents, even without Troy Polamalu. We aren’t saying to bench him because no defense is perfect and he is still an elite fantasy RB, but there are certainly safer options out there considering the monster challenge that lies ahead. Your best hope is that he is more involved in the passing game against the Steelers. He was surprisingly left out of that mix in week 1.
22. Joseph Addai (IND) – He was able to salvage an otherwise forgettable week 1 by finding pay dirt and adding 5 receptions for 35 yards. He will likely have to do the same to salvage a quality week 2 against a stingy Miami run defense on Monday night. Yards will be at a premium, but Addai has PPR and TD potential with this match up. Keep in mind, Addai will lose a fair share of touches to Donald Brown as well.
23. Jamal Lewis (CLE) – In spite of the fact that he only had 11 carries in week 1, Lewis looked pretty good en route to a 57 yard rushing day against a very good Vikings run defense. It wasn’t vintage J-Lew, but a 5.2 yards per carry average is more than solid against Minnesota. We also liked that he was able to add 47 yards on 3 receptions last week. Lewis will have a much better week 2 match up when he heads to the mile high city to take on a generous Broncos run defense. We love the match up, but here’s the problem. In addition to Lewis, the Browns have a healthy Jerome Harrison returning this week as well as rookie James Davis. The coaching staff seems to like all three guys and considering Lewis only had 11 carries in week 1, there may not be enough touches to go around for a successful performance. He makes for a slightly risky RB2 for week 2. Check injury report: neck
24. Leon Washington (NYJ) – If week 1 was any indication, Washington is going to be much more involved in the Jets running attack this season. You add that to his strong pass catching abilities and big play potential in the return game and you have a potential recipe for fantasy success. Even better, Washington is looking at a fairly favorable match up in week 2. The New England run defense was hardly impressive in week 1 and they will likely be without their best run defender, LB Jarod Mayo, in week 2. Keep in mind that the majority of Washington’s fantasy value lies in his pass catching ability out of the backfield and his return skills, so he is not nearly as attractive in TD and yard heavy leagues. However, he makes for a very solid start in PPR fantasy leagues and leagues that account for return yards.
25. Julius Jones (SEA) – As expected, Jones had a pretty big week 1 totaling 136 yards and a TD. Before you go patting yourself on the back for drafting him, you should keep in mind that the Rams have one of the worst defenses in the NFL and Jones is notorious for fast starts with drastic declines thereafter. The good news is that Jones did have success against week 2 opponent San Francisco last season rushing for 127 yards and a score. The bad news is that he was terrible the second time he faced them in’08 and the 49ers run defense appears to be much improved over last year. We kind of like his chances in this match up, but we wouldn’t bet the farm on a successful outing. Consider him a risk/reward fantasy option for week 2.
26. Kevin Smith (DET) - If he couldn’t find much running room against New Orleans in week 1 rushing for just 20 yards on 15 carries, Smith is going to have a whale of a time finding space against the Williams boys and a stout Vikings run defense. The good news is that he wasn’t terrible against them last season and he does have decent value in PPR leagues with this match up. However, yards and TD’s will not be easy come by.
27. Willie Parker (PIT) – One of the more difficult reads for week 2, Parker probably has more going against him than he does in his favor. There is hope against a Bears defense playing without Brian Urlacher, but Parker did not look completely healthy in week1, his offensive line was terrible and Mewelde Moore spent more time in the backfield than Parker did in the second half against Tennessee. While wishful thinking suggests that the Titans run defense is just that good, there seems to be more to the story and it doesn’t look good. It’s too early to count him out just yet, and week 2’s performance will go a long way in forecasting his potential, but he looks like a risky fantasy play moving forward.
28. LenDale White (TEN) – As you already know, he isn’t going to get a ton of touches, but White usually makes the most of the touches he gets. He has as much TD potential as any player in the league. The problem is TD’s are not easy to come by and he provides little value otherwise. The good news is that the last time he faced the Texans at home, White managed to find the end zone, not once, but twice. We like his chances to find pay dirt in week 2, but you know the risk. He should make for a nice flex play.
29. Cedric Benson (CIN) – We had high hopes for Benson in week 1 and for the most part, he delivered. Week 2 on the other hand, does not look to be nearly as promising. Benson will face a much improved Packers defense and if you don’t believe us just ask Bears RB Matt Forte. Green Bay totally shut down the elite back in week 1 and Cedric Benson is no Matt Forte. Granted, Forte’s numbers were crippled a bit by a terrible passing game, but logic alone tells us that this is not a safe match up for Benson. The silver lining is that he should get plenty of touches as the featured back, including goal line, and you never know for sure until the game is played.
30. Darren Sproles (SD) – He should make for a decent play in PPR fantasy leagues and leagues that account for return yards, but even if LaDainian Tomlinson is out for Sunday, Sproles is going to have a hard time picking up yards on the ground against a very stingy Baltimore defense.
31. Derrick Ward (TB) – He had an impressive week 1 and is looking at a great match up in week 2 against a beat up Bills defense. That said, he has limited potential sharing the load with two other guys.
32. Tim Hightower (ARI) – If you started him in a PPR fantasy league last week you were probably singing his praises after a 12 catch 121 yard performance. Otherwise, his value was fairly limited and you can’t expect him to do that much damage in the passing game this week against Jacksonville. Bottom line, Hightower has somewhat limited potential for most of you until he proves worthy in the running game. A risk/reward fantasy play for sure. He could be a useful flex play in PPR leagues.
33. Reggie Bush (NO) – He should prove useful as a flex play in PPR fantasy leagues. We can see QB Drew Brees looking Bush’s way often as a safety valve against a high pressure Eagles defense.
34. Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG) – He could make for a sneaky flex play or RB2 play if you are in a pinch. His role has obviously been elevated in the Giants offense and he is facing a Dallas run defense that played very poorly in week 1.
35. Michael Bush (OAK) – He could be a very sneaky flex play this week against a soft Kansas City defense. At the very least, Bush should get the goal line carries and goal line carries aren’t unlikely against this defense.
36. Correll Buckhalter (DEN) – We really like the match up against Cleveland, but this RB by committee business going on in Denver may not be enough carries to go around for a big fantasy impact. Even with Mike Shanahan gone, the tradition lives on with McDaniel. We should have known, considering McDaniel is a Belichick prodigy.
37. Jonathan Stewart (CAR) – He played far more than anyone expected in week 1 and you should see more of the same in week 2, but Stewart is still #2 on the depth chart and until the Panthers passing game improves; the running game will suffer. Good match up though. Check injury report: achilles
38. Mike Bell (NO) – As expected, Bell ran all over the Lions in week 1. It’s going to be a lot more difficult to do the same to the Eagles. The potential return of Pierre Thomas isn’t going to help his cause much either. If Pierre Thomas is unable to play, Bell’s week 2 fantasy value goes up quite a bit, but he would still be somewhat risky against Philadelphia.
39. Willis McGahee (BAL) – After a surprising 2 TD performance in week 1, McGahee is out to make a point that he still has fantasy value. So far so good, but we would be more impressed if his big week 1 fantasy effort came against almost anyone other than the Chiefs. Week 2 at San Diego will be present a tougher test.
40. Chester Taylor (MIN) – Backing up Adrian Peterson isn’t going to do fantasy owners any favors, but a week 2 match up against Detroit is prime for a garbage time TD. He had one against them last season.
41. Ricky Williams (MIA) – He looked surprisingly sharp and even managed to find pay dirt in week 1. Week 2 is also somewhat favorable against Indy, but Williams isn’t a fantasy option worth trusting.
42. LeSean McCoy (PHI) – He was solid in week 1 in a limited role and we wouldn’t be at all surprised if he was even better in week 2 against New Orleans. Unfortunately, his fantasy potential will remain limited so long as Brian Westbrook is healthy.
43. Donald Brown (IND) – A great pass catcher out of the backfield, Brown also looks like he is going to get a fair number of carries moving forward as well. Unfortunately, we don’t like the match up against a stingy Miami run defense.
44. Felix Jones (DAL) – While there is no denying that Jones is a home run hitter, his role is limited and a big game against the Giants doesn’t seem likely.
45. Fred Taylor (NE) – He should be the Patriots primary RB, but when you are sharing snaps with 3 other guys, that does not add up to much. Plus, the match up against the Jets is not very favorable.
46. Knowshon Moreno (DEN) – He has the right match up against Cleveland to do some damage, but his knee still isn’t up to par and a crowded backfield limit his potential. Only time will tell if he can live up to the lofty expectations. So far not so good, but a break out game here would go a long way. Check injury report: knee
47. Chris “Beanie” Wells (ARI) – He is going to have to get more than 7 carries to find his way into starting fantasy line ups. Wells best shot at fantasy success in week 2 is probably going to be with goal line touches, but we aren’t even 100% sure he will play that role.
48. Kevin Faulk (NE) – As usual, Faulk could come in handy in PPR leagues if you are in a pinch. Otherwise, there is little fantasy value for week 2.
49. Pierre Thomas (NO) – He could return in week 2, but his role will likely be limited and the match up against Philadelphia is not a good one. Check injury report: knee
50. Mewelde Moore (PIT) – He is probably too risky for fantasy line ups just yet, but he is slowly but surely working his way back up the depth chart.
* Note: LaDainian Tomlinson is not ranked due to injury. We suspect he will be out for week 2. Even if Tomlinson plays, we wouldn’t recommend starting him. We seriously doubt he would be very effective on a sprained ankle against an elite Ravens run defense.