1. Tom Brady vs. Jac – 10
This one is a no brainer, as the NFL's leading touchdown passer faces a Jaguars' secondary that just gave up 359 yards to Ryan Tannehill last week. At home. After he dismantled an outstanding Bills defense on the road. My time is valuable. I'm not going to try to manufacture some obscure angle for Brady to flop in a matchup that is very likely as obvious as it looks.
2. Carson Palmer vs SF – 9.75
We spent the whole preseason talking about Carson Palmer's marshmallow early-season schedule, and now that it's here, it's played out exactly to form. He's crushed two cupcakes so far, and here comes another defense is disarray. I give the Niners little credit for holding Teddy Bridgewater in check in Week 1. The test they received last Sunday, to Ben Roethlisberger, is much more telling. Ben posted a perfect passer rating en route to 369 yards and three touchdowns. The Niners retooled secondary is so bereft of talent, this game might be his best of the season.
3. Andrew Luck @ Ten – 9.75
There may be no bigger talker in the NFL than Andrew Luck's struggles. Now we find out whether his uncharacteristically crappy performances are a product of two very good defenses, or not. Tennessee isn't a half bad pass defense, but Luck has traditionally hammered his division-mates. Last year, he played six quarters against the Titans (he only played the first half of the Week 17 game), and ripped 'em up for six touchdowns and 550 yards. So far this year, the Titans have faced Jameis Winston in his first-ever start, and Johnny Manziel in his third-ever start. The result? Multiple passing touchdowns by both.
4. Aaron Rodgers vs. KC (MNF) – 9.5
The Kansas City defense can be tenacious, as evidenced by their eight sacks, two picks, and one fumble recovery already this year. Undoubtedly, they'll create some problems for the Packers front four, sans Brian Bulaga. Last Sunday night, Don Barclay took over Bulaga's spot at right tackle, and was brutal. ProFootballFocus rang him up for 10 QB hurries allowed. If Barclay is going to be asked to protect Aaron Rodgers again, I'm worried. Rodgers just played against a similarly talented defense, and managed a decent game. It's Aaron Rodgers. He's the best quarterback in the game, and he almost always finds ways to finish with a strong performance.
5. Matt Ryan @ Dal – 9.5
Let's start by acknowledging that the Cowboys secondary has been a lot better than anyone expected. They've held Eli Manning and Sam Bradford to a combined one touchdown. They managed to get the home fans in Philly turned against their own team. Granted, it's Philly, so it doesn't take much. If the nacho vendor runs out of liquid cheese, the Philly fans will turn on the home team. Meanwhile, Ryan now faces his third straight NFC East opponent, after posting very solid games against Philly and the Giants. The presence of Julio Jones means that Ryan always has a chance of a big game, but the Giants rank as the fourth best team in pass coverage by ProFootballFocus, and I think he's more likely to have a good, not great, game.
6. Ben Roethlisberger vs. StL – 9.5
Through two weeks, the Rams defense has played in two pretty favorable situations. They saw the Seahawks while their offensive line was a disaster. And then they saw Kirk Cousins, who works awfully hard to lose games. It's a whole different situation now, as they face the high-flying Steelers offense. Ben has thrown for 351 and 369 yards, and a similar output is possible this week, barring a meltdown by the Steelers offensive line. The Rams ferocious defensive line is always a concern, but the Steelers offensive line (even without Maurkice Pouncey) is done a great job this year, ranking as the No. 2 pass blocking line by ProFootballFocus. But here's the chilling matchup issue: Aaron Donald vs Pouncey's replacement Cody Wallace. Let's hope the Steelers can contain Donald (and Long, Brockers, & Quinn) long enough to let Ben get his numbers.
7. Russell Wilson vs. Chi – 9.25
When everything is working for Russell Wilson, his fantasy line looks just like last week's: really good rushing numbers, and enough passing to help out. This week, he may not need the rushing numbers. The Bears have allowed the most passing touchdowns, seven already. And Wilson's arm has been uncharacteristically active, with 30 and 41 attempts. He had never thrown 71 passes in a two game stretch in his career, before now. My only worry about Wilson is that this Bears defense is so bad that Marshawn Lynch may just run the Seahawks to a one-sided victory.
8. Eli Manning vs. Was – 9
Through two games, the Redskins secondary has looked much improved over last year's horrible version. But, last year, they had allowed two touchdowns through the first two games too, and then they went on to allow the most passing touchdowns in the entire league. Working in the Redskins favor is the return of cornerback Chris Culliver, by far the secondary's best player. Working against the Redskins is Eli's remarkable two games against this same team last year: 550 yards and 7 touchdowns. The Giants offense still moves through his arm, and enough of his weapons are in place that I see another sizable game coming.
9. Philip Rivers @ Min – 8.5
The Chargers should look at the Vikings two games, and see a blueprint for success. The Vikings were hammered by Carlos Hyde in a lopsided loss. Then in Week 2, the Lions abandoned the running game quickly and they were never really in the game. If I'm Mike McCoy, I'm dialing up a whole lot of Melvin Gordon and Danny Woodhead. If everything goes to plan, Rivers should be deemphasized. I don't see him throwing a ton of passes, but he can still find his way to fantasy success. Last week, Philip Rivers travelled to Cincinnati, faced a great defense, and still walked away with two touchdowns, while completing 78% of his passes. Now he faces a defense that isn't as good as the Bengals', and he can still ring up solid numbers.
10. Peyton Manning vs. Det – 8.5
This game features a battle between Peyton Manning's devolving arm and the Lions' tattered defense. Manning's horrific downfield passing has been a major story line, and it's legit. The past three seasons, he's averaged 7.9, 8.3, and 8.0 yards per pass attempt. This year it's at 5.1. His lousy offensive line is part of the problem, for sure. But his arm strength and accuracy are also sizable issues. Last week, he found his way to three touchdowns with sheer guile. He definitely didn't play as well as those three touchdowns suggest. Meanwhile, everyone thought that the Lions defense would take a step back this year, but, wow, this is really bad. Philip Rivers gashed 'em for 400 yards in the opener, and then Teddy Bridgewater nearly doubled his passer rating from Week 1. There's plenty of reason for worry with Manning, but I still expect him to cobble together a decent fantasy game, one way or another.
11. Andy Dalton @ Bal – 8.25
You could look past Andy Dalton's excellent game in Week 1 by pointing at the opponent, Oakland. But then, last Sunday, he had an even better game, this time against a very good San Diego secondary. He faces another good defense, but as the Ravens showed last week, they're not impenetrable. Dalton's track record against the Ravens is pretty consistent. He's thrown between 266 and 301 yards in four straight meetings. Those are good numbers. And, with four legitimate receiving options, he's never had more reliable targets.
12. Tyrod Taylor @ Mia – 8
Tyrod Taylor was a fantasy gold mine last week, with three passing touchdowns and one rushing. But, his three picks are troublesome, and I worry that as opponents accumulate tape on him, his flaws will be exposed. Taylor leaves the comfy confines of home, and hits the road, although the tepid fan base in Miami is about as comfortable a destination as Taylor could hope to find. The Dolphins gave up a strong game Blake Bortles last week (273, 2, 0), and Taylor's got a chance for another solid outing.
13. Ryan Tannehill vs. Buf – 7.75
14. Cam Newton vs. NO – 8.0
If Cam Newton had anyone to throw to, I'd view this as a great opportunity for him, since each of the top four (!) of the Colts cornerbacks are hurt. But, with Jerricho Cotchery now out, and Kelvin Benjamin on IR, it leaves Philly Brown and Ted Ginn as the only receivers for this matchup. They're not good. Sure, Greg Olsen will provide some upside, as always, but tight end coverage doesn't come cornerbacks. Still, Newton will throw 1-2 touchdowns, and hopefully find some opportunities to run.
15. Matthew Stafford vs. Den – 7.75
This might be Matthew Stafford's lowest ranking of the year. He's coming off a game in which he was battered and bloodied, as the Vikings hit him six times and hurried him 15 more (via ProFootballFocus). And he now faces a Denver defense that leads the league in sacks. That's a bad combo. Denver's secondary ranks No. 1 in passing yards allowed (154 per game) and No. 1 in passing touchdowns allowed (zero). He's going to need some breaks to find his way to a decent fantasy outing.
16. Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Phi – 7.75
It's good to know that I'm not the only advocate of Ryan Fitzpatrick's. Earlier this week, head coach Todd Bowles decreed him to be the permanent starter, and rightfully so. He's thrown multiple touchdowns in both games this year, and in five of his past seven games. I like Fitzpatrick better if Eric Decker can play through his knee injury, obviously. The Eagles secondary was really bad last year, and they're merely below average this year. Matt Ryan posted 300 and 2 in Week 1, and the Romo-Weeden combo put up 270 yards.
17. Kirk Cousins @ NYG – 7.75
No team has allowed more passing yards than the Giants, 360 per game. Although in fairness, Tony Romo and Matt Ryan are heading for Hall Of Fame careers. Kirk Cousins isn't. But, in fairness to Cousins, he's played better than hoped. Cousins is mostly know more his mistakes, yet through two games, he's completed 68% and 85% of his passes. And, while he's only managed one touchdown in each of the two games this year, he threw multiple touchdowns in four of his six starts last year. So, there's some sneaky upside to his game this week.
18. Nick Foles vs. Pit – 7.75
This ranking for Foles is based almost entirely upon the opponent, Pittsburgh. You'll remember that last week I urged you to play Colin Kaepernick against this defense, and you're going to be hearing a similar story most weeks. The Steelers have given up explosive games to both quarterbacks they've faced, and it happened a lot last year, too. The Steelers have allowed the most passing touchdowns, and the fifth-most passing yards. Foles disappointed us last week in a favorable matchup, but he was sharp against the Seahawks in the opener. There's plenty of risk here, but pretty much everyone has some measure of success against the Steelers secondary.
19. Marcus Mariotta vs. Ind – 7.75
20. Derek Carr vs. Cle – 7.75
21. Ryan Mallet vs. TB – 7.75
22. Sam Bradford vs. NYJ – 7.75
23. Jameis Winston @ Hou – 7.75
24. Colin Kaepernick @ Ari – 7.5
25. Brandon Weeden vs. Atl – 7.5