Note: Sleeper alert focuses on players who aren't considered regular starters but have favorable matchups and could produce at a high level. Owners beware focuses on prominent players with unfavorable matchups who could fail to meet statistical expectations. Players with an asterisk (*) opened the week on their team's injury report and should be monitored throughout the weekend.
START OF THE WEEK
Brett Favre, QB, Green Bay: Favre didn't do much in the regular-season opener (206 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT), but this week's contest at the Meadowlands will reverse his fortunes. The Giants are riddled with injuries on defense, which was evident in the final numbers of Dallas quarterback Tony Romo (345 yards, five total TDs) in Week 1. Favre won't be able to duplicate those immense totals, but he should throw for 250-plus yards and multiple touchdowns as the Packers look to exploit the G-Men's porous defensive backfield. Favre shouldn't start ahead of studs like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, but he is a tremendous option for fantasy owners who don't have a definitive No. 1 quarterback.
QUARTERBACKS: START 'EM
Drew Brees, New Orleans: I've received countless emails this week from owners worried about Brees after his dreadful performance against Indianapolis. He threw for 192 yards with two interceptions, recorded an awful 58.2 passer rating, averaged a mere 4.7 yards per completion, and looked nothing like the statistical machine from 2006. Well, Brees should bounce back and produce solid numbers this week against a Tampa Bay defense that can be vulnerable to the pass. Brees averaged 32.5 pass attempts, threw for a combined 485 yards and totaled four touchdowns in two starts against the Bucs last season, and the Saints will be aggressive in order to remove the bad taste of last week's failures.
Sleeper alert: Tarvaris Jackson at Detroit.
QUARTERBACKS: SIT 'EM
Matt Leinart, Arizona: Leinart has a bright future in the world of fantasy football, but last week's 102-yard, two-interception performance in San Francisco proves he still has much to learn. He completed a mere 50 percent of his passes and salvaged his stat line with a late touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin. This week he'll face a Seattle defense that held Jeff Garcia without a touchdown pass in their opener, and he'll do it without center Al Johnson, who is out due to an injured knee. Leinart should record better numbers than he did against the Niners, but it's hard to trust him when the matchup is either neutral or unfavorable. This week falls into those categories, so it's safer to keep Leinart reserved.
Daunte Culpepper, Oakland: Reports out of Oakland suggest that head coach Lane Kiffin won't make a final decision between Culpepper and Josh McCown as his starter until gametime, but neither quarterback has much value this week. The Raiders face a Broncos defense that posesses the best cornerback duo in the NFL in Champ Bailey and Dre' Bly -- they helped hold J.P. Losman to 97 passing yards and Lee Evans to five receiving yards last week. The silver and black did find some success on offense in their opener, but that was due in part to their defenseless opponent, Detroit. McCown is no more than a serviceable signal-caller and Culpepper still doesn't have a grasp of the offense, so fantasy owners should avoid whoever starts.
Owners beware: Philip Rivers at New England.
RUNNING BACKS: START 'EM
Willis McGahee, Baltimore: McGahee was a bit of a disappointment last week in Cincinnati, as he rushed for just 77 yards on 19 carries in a 27-20 loss. However, this week's contest against the New York Jets will still make him one of the better starts in fantasy football. In simple terms, McGahee has owned the Jets in his NFL career. He rushed for a combined 275 yards and one touchdown in two starts against them last season, and he's totaled 531 yards on the ground in his past four games against the Men in Green. Even with T Johnathan Ogden expected to miss the contest with an injured toe, it's hard to overlook the success McGahee has had vs. the Jets. As a result, look for the Ravens to lean on him the entire afternoon.
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota: If you missed Peterson's incredible 163-yard, one-touchdown performance in Week 1, you were either on another planet or an Atlanta fan who turned off the television. The rookie showed flashes of his collegiate brilliance against the Falcons, and that level of production should continue this week when he faces Detroit. The Lions defense made LaMont Jordan (eight receptions, 159 yards, one TD) look like a Hall-of-Fame back last week, so Vikings head coach Brad Childress will run his stud often. If veteran Chester Taylor (oblique contusion) is limited or out of the contest altogether, Peterson could have another top-notch performance.
More running backs with favorable matchups: Travis Henry vs. Oakland, Rudi Johnson at Cleveland, Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Atlanta, LaMont Jordan at Denver, Willie Parker vs. Buffalo.
RUNNING BACKS: SIT 'EM
Thomas Jones, N.Y. Jets: Jones didn't have much of a start to his Jets career last week, as he rushed for a mere 42 yards on 14 carries in a 38-14 loss to New England. Based on the defensive explosiveness of this week's opponent, Baltimore, Jones could be in for another difficult afternoon. The Ravens held Rudi Johnson to a mere 50 rushing yards in their opener, and he had an advantage over Jones -- Johnson was at 100 percent health. Jones has been limited in practice due to an injured calf, so it's questionable whether he can even be a viable fantasy starter against a so-so defense, much less Baltimore. With Kellen Clemens expected to start, Jones will see stacked fronts as well.
Tatum Bell, Detroit: Bell had a nice debut with the Lions last week with four receptions, 87 rushing yards and a touchdown run in Oakland, but this week's matchup against Minnesota doesn't bode well for another solid stat line. The Vikings boasted the top-rated run defense in the NFL last season, and it held Atlanta to a mere 96 rushing yards in Week 1. Furthermore, Warrick Dunn was held to a miniscule 2.5 yards per carry against what looked like a brick wall in purple and white. The Vikes aren't as solid vs. the pass, however, so Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz will no doubt look to throw the football far more than he runs it. Another reason to bench Bell is the potential presence of Kevin Jones, who could be active this week.
More running backs with unfavorable matchups: Ahman Green at Carolina, Julius Jones at Miami, Marshawn Lynch at Pittsburgh, Laurence Maroney vs. San Diego, Cadillac Williams vs. Seattle.
Owners beware: Larry Johnson at Chicago.
WIDE RECEIVERS: START 'EM
Chris Chambers, Miami: Chambers was a serious disappointment for fantasy owners last season, but he started 2007 season on a positive note. He recorded a team-best six receptions for 92 yards in a 16-13 loss to Washington, and he seems to have developed a nice rapport with new quarterback Trent Green. Chambers has a chance to post a second consecutive solid stat line this week against Dallas, which allowed four receiving touchdowns and a monster performance to Plaxico Burress last week. The Cowboys don't cover deep well, so look for Dolphins head coach Cam Cameron to utilize Chambers' speed and take chances downfield. He'll be less attractive if CB Terence Newman returns, but overall Chambers is a nice No. 3 fantasy wideout.
Joey Galloway, Tampa Bay: Despite his extended age, Galloway still has incredible speed and the burst to stretch defensive backfields. He also has owned New Orleans in recent seasons, which makes him a valuable asset for fantasy owners this week. Galloway has scored at least one touchdown in each of his past six contests against the Saints. What's more, the veteran out of Ohio State has recorded 451 yards and has found the end zone a total of eight times in that time frame. Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden will look to utilize his lone reliable wideout in a game where the Bucs need to score to survive. Much like Chambers, Galloway should be considered an attractive No. 3 fantasy wideout this week.
More wide receivers with favorable matchups: Donald Driver at N.Y. Giants, Darrell Jackson at St. Louis, Javon Walker vs. Oakland, Hines Ward vs. Buffalo, Roy Williams vs. Minnesota.
Sleeper alert: Bernard Berrian vs. Kansas City.
WIDE RECEIVERS: SIT 'EM
Plaxico Burress, N.Y. Giants: While I wouldn't sit Burress if I had little depth at the wide receiver position, fantasy owners shouldn't be shocked if he doesn't post attractive numbers against Green Bay. Burress, who recorded eight receptions, 144 yards and three touchdowns in last week's 45-35 loss to Dallas, must now face one of the NFL's better cover corners in Al Harris and an underrated Packers defense. It also won't help that Eli Manning (shoulder) is not expected to start, so the G-Men will have to lean on Jared "The Pillsbury Throwboy" Lorenzen. The Kentucky product has never made a start at the NFL level. Here's another little nugget on Burress -- in the games after his two 100-yard performances last season, Burress recorded a combined two catches.
Joe Horn, Atlanta: It seems like forever since Horn was one of the elite wide receivers in fantasy football. The veteran hasn't had a 1,000-yard season since 2004, and injuries have plagued him in each of the past two seasons. Now in Atlanta, Horn is the No. 1 wideout in an offense that is devastated after the loss of Michael Vick. The Falcons looked awful last week in Minnesota, and chances are this unit will struggle again when it travels to Jacksonville to face the Jaguars. Head coach Jack Del Rio's defense allowed a miniscule 78 receiving yards in last week's 13-10 loss to Tennessee, and Joey Harrington won't fare well as the Jaguars will pressure him often. Unless you're desperate, Horn should be reserved.
Owners beware: Lee Evans at Pittsburgh.
TIGHT ENDS: START 'EM
Kellen Winslow, Cleveland: One of the more underrated tight ends in the NFL, Winslow was the lone bright spot for a pathetic Browns offense last week. He recorded four receptions for 83 yards in the 34-7 loss to Pittsburgh, and he'll no doubt remain prominent this week when Cleveland hosts AFC North rival Cincinnati. Derek Anderson, who has started a mere three contests at the NFL level, will be under center and should lean on Winslow often in an offense that doesn't have much of a downfield presence. Look for the Browns to run a ball-controlled offense that will attempt to keep Carson Palmer off the field -- that should mean a lot of Winslow in the short and intermediate pass attack.
Jason Witten, Dallas: Countless fantasy owners were afraid to draft Witten after his one-touchdown season of 2006, but those who did take a chance on him were all smiles after Week 1. The veteran had the best numbers at the tight end position, as he recorded six catches for 116 yards and scored a touchdown in a win over the Giants. With Terry Glenn out of action for several more weeks due to another arthroscopic procedure on his knee, Witten will remain a prominent option in the offense for Tony Romo. The Cowboys do have a tougher matchup this week in Miami against DE Jason Taylor and the Dolphins, but offensive coordinator Jason Garrett will continue to call Witten's number.
More tight ends with favorable matchups: Eric Johnson at Tampa Bay, Heath Miller vs. Buffalo, Marcus Pollard at Arizona, Jeremy Shockey vs. Green Bay.
Sleeper alert: Bo Scaife vs. Indianapolis.
TIGHT ENDS: SIT 'EM
Chris Cooley, Washington: Cooley, who is a self-proclaimed fantasy footballer himself, did not thrill owners last week with his one-catch, 10-yard dud in a 16-13 win over Miami. While his numbers can't get much worse, Cooley can't be happy about this week's matchup against Philadelphia. In two starts against the Eagles last season, Cooley totaled seven receptions, 85 yards and no touchdowns. Furthermore, he has never scored a touchdown in his NFL career against this NFC East opponent. Head coach Andy Reid's defense looked impressive last week -- it held the Packers to 180 receiving yards and no receiving touchdowns -- so fantasy owners with depth at tight end might want to put Cooley on ice.
Randy McMichael, St. Louis: Even with Drew Bennett on the sidelines with an injured thigh, McMichael didn't record impressive numbers in his St. Louis debut (two receptions, 24 yards). While he is a talented pass catcher, McMichael hasn't been consistent in recent seasons and could be in for a long afternoon against San Francisco. The 49ers showed some real improvement on the defensive side of the football in their win over Arizona, and McMichael could be asked to block a bit more now that Bennett is expected to return. The veteran out of Georgia is still well worth a roster spot on fantasy teams, but he shouldn't be active in what should be a fun NFC West contest.
Owners beware: L.J. Smith vs. Washington.
KICKERS: START 'EM
Stephen Gostkowski, New England: Gostkowski's numbers against the Jets (eight points) weren't monstrous, but he'll have a chance to be better this week in what could be the best NFL contest of the regular season. The Patriots host San Diego in an important AFC battle, and Gostkowski could be an important part of the final score. Tom Brady and the new-look New England offense should be able to move the football against the Bolts, but don't be shocked if they falter in the red zone and allow their kicker to put some points on the board. Here's another little nugget on Gostkowski -- he posted three field goals, including a 50-yarder, and 10 points in his last game against the Chargers.
Jason Elam, Denver: One of the most consistent kickers in the NFL, Elam has been a fantasy football staple for much of his career. The strong-legged veteran kicked three field goals, scored nine points on the field and 11 for fantasy owners last week in Buffalo, and he should continue that success against Oakland. The Raiders allowed Jason Hanson to record the best performance from a kicker last week, as he scored 14 points on three field goals and three extra points. Jay Cutler and the Broncos should be able to move the ball on the silver and black defense, so Elam should be allowed more than his share of opportunities in this old-school AFC West battle.
Sleeper alert: Nick Folk at Miami.
KICKERS: SIT 'EM
Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland: One of the more dubious first-round selections from the NFL Draft over the past decade, Janikowski has become a serious disappointment in Raider Nation. He converted on a mere 72 percent of his field-goal attempts last season, and he started 2007 with three missed field goals in a loss to Detroit. Whether it's Daunte Culpepper or Josh McCown under center, the Raiders will have a hard time on offense against an aggressive Broncos defense, so Sea Bass could see limited chances to produce between the white lines. Even if he is allowed those opportunities, his past performances point towards him missing more field-goal attempts than he converts.
Jeff Reed, Pittsburgh: Reed was one of the better kickers in fantasy football last week with 10 points on two field goals and four extra points, but he is a different player at Heinz Field. The veteran out of North Carolina converted on a mere 58.5 percent of his field-goal attempts at home last season. The field is said to not be conducive for kickers, and Reed's awful conversion percentage seems to prove that to be true. The Steelers should score a ton of points against a Buffalo defense that is riddled with injuries, so Reed is a viable option for owners in leagues with 12-plus teams. Just don't be shocked if his career struggles at home make him a statistical disappointment.
Owners beware: Nate Kaeding at New England.
DEFENSES: START 'EM
Colts defense: The Colts looked ultra-impressive in their regular-season opener, which was a surprise when you consider all of the new parts in prominent roles. With additional time to rest and headed to Tennessee, this unit should now be considered fantasy relevant and a nice option. The Titans offense has a lot of questions outside of Vince Young, so the Colts should hold them to under 20 points and record a few turnovers in this AFC South contest.
Jaguars defense: The Jaguars were surprisingly horrid against the run in last week's loss to the Titans, but they're still an attractive choice for fantasy owners in Week 2 against Atlanta. The Falcons were putrid at best on offense in their opener, and Joey Harrington is always good for a few turnover when faced with the kind of pressure Jacksonville can apply. While the Jaguars defense is too inconsistent to start on a week-to-week basis, this is one of those weeks that makes them an attractive unit.
More defenses with favorable matchups: Carolina defense vs. Houston, Denver defense vs. Oakland, Green Bay defense at N.Y. Giants, Pittsburgh defense vs. Buffalo.
Sleeper alert: Cincinnati defense at Cleveland.
DEFENSES: SIT 'EM
Miami defense: The Dolphins still field some talented players on the defensive side of the football, but this unit is not an attractive option in Week 2 when it hosts Dallas. The Cowboys exploded last week on offense with 45 points and 478 total yards in a win over the Giants, and they should be able to score some points on a Miami defense that can be vulnerable to competent pass attacks. The Fins will be a better fantasy option next week against the Jets, but this is one week where they should be reserved.
Tampa Bay defense: The names Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice are nostalgic reminders of a once great defense for all Buccaneers fans, but the 2007 version of that unit isn't close to being on the same level. While it does have some talent in rookie DE Gaines Adams, LB Cato June and CB Ronde Barber, the Bucs don't have the same fantasy value as its had in the past. With a contest against New Orleans and its explosive offense next on the schedule, the Buccaneers are one defense to avoid this week.
More defenses with unfavorable matchups: Buffalo defense at Pittsburgh, Houston defense at Carolina, N.Y. Giants defense vs. Green Bay, San Diego defense at New England.
Owners beware: Minnesota defense at Detroit.