The Arizona Cardinals hit the road for Week 2 of the NFL season, traveling to FedEx Field to take on the bizarrely revitalized Rex Grossman and the undefeated Washington Redskins on Sunday afternoon. With the aid of our pals over at numberFire.com, we've evaluated the Cardinals chief fantasy football options leading into the second game of the 2011 campaign. From Kevin Kolb, Beanie Wells, and even Larry Fitzgerald, the Redbirds carry some painstaking question marks for owners still agonizing over who to sit and who to start.
numberFire.com Projections: 173.92 passing yards, 0.98 touchdowns, 0.72 interceptions, 9.01 rushing yards, 10.94 fantasy points
Analysis: If we learned anything from last weekend's spectacle against the Carolina Panthers, it was that: A) Kevin Kolb is the most capable quarterback the Cardinals have started since Kurt Warner (doesn't really say much), and B) The Arizona defense is absolutely atrocious.
In the real world those two factors don't make for a happy camper, but fantasy football is quite different. A porous defense means only one thing. If the Cardinals are going to win games, it's going to be through high-scoring shootouts.
Last year the Washington Redskins gave up the third-highest weekly average to quarterbacks, and this year figures to be no different. Expect this one to be a back-and-forth affair that'll have Kolb throwing the ball upwards of 40 times.
numberFire.com Projections: 5.37 receptions, 72.88 yards, 0.48 touchdowns, 10.23 fantasy points
Analysis: Bear in mind that this is a ‘start with extreme reservation.' Fantasy owners of Fitzgerald should fear the very real prospect that last week was no accident. As we witnessed against Carolina, Ron Rivera's entire defensive game plan was focused around ‘put everybody on Fitz and dare someone else beat us.'
In the past, coordinators invoking that plan did so with extreme trepidation, due to the team's legitimate accompanying threats -- Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston. But now, with the not-so-fearsome tandem of Andre Roberts and Early Doucet flanking the All-Pro, defenses appear less nervous about loading the coverage over to Fitzgerald. Last week the plan backfired with Early Doucet's 70-yard scramble. Still, it seems unlikely that one play would be enough to convince coordinators around the league that the Cardinals' ancillary cast of wideouts is the real deal.
Start him only because his name is Larry Fitzgerald. But be wary that this fluke could quickly become a trend.
numberFire.com Projections: 2.97 receptions, 38.22 yards, .21 touchdowns, 5.11 fantasy points
Analysis: Call this one a gut pick. Last Sunday Heap caught two passes for 20 yards each. Not a great debut, but not necessarily a bad one either. Still, owners should be encouraged because the two-time Pro Bowler appeared to be fully recovered from the thumb injury that hampered him throughout the preseason.
All indications are that Heap's workload will increase as the coaches learn how to better utilize his skills. Look for that to begin this week. Last year the Washington Redskins allowed the 13th-most points in the league to opposing tight ends. A sixty-yard, one touchdown day isn't out of the question.
numberFire.com Projections: 19.09 points allowed, 1.65 sacks, 1.39 turnovers, .11 touchdowns, 6.11 fantasy points
Analysis: This one is the riskiest pick of the bunch, especially after what we saw last week. Everyone who started the Cardinals defense under the guise that Arizona would rip Cam Newton to shreds in his NFL debut was undoubtedly shell-shocked, and screaming at the TV screen by the middle of the third quarter (myself included). Luckily a last second Patrick Peterson return touchdown saved the day and gave us all a decent point total, but still -- what the hell kind of defense was that?
Yet isn't that exactly what this team did last year? Arizona had one of the worst defenses in the NFL in 2010, but a top-6 fantasy unit purely because of defensive and return touchdowns -- the most unreliable of all pretend currency. So here we are again, facing the exact same situation, with the exact same result thus far. But after a certain point, if the unreliable happens reliably, doesn't that make it fairly reliable? (I swear that sentence made sense in my head.)
This one comes down to whether you believe the Redbirds can trick old Sexy Rexy into a mistake or three. In some bizarre Cardinals fashion, I think it's bound to happen.
numberFire.com Projections: 10.22 rushes, 38.52 yards, 1.05 touchdowns, 1.05 receptions, 5.55 receiving yards, 6.34 fantasy points
Analysis: Last week Beanie Wells went a long way to proving that he could be a legitimate starter in this league, gashing the Carolina front line for 102 total yards and a touchdown. Yet, the reality is as the game tightened-up due to the porous Arizona defense, the former-Buckeye's opportunities became fewer and fewer. When it was all over, Wells ran the ball just eight times in the second half for 19 yards.
A similar situation could play out this week against a much more capable Washington attack. If the Cardinals fall behind early, Ken Whisenhunt has shown his willingness to turn to the air and completely abandon the run. Stay away from Wells this week, as a repeat performance is unlikely.
numberFire.com Projections: 2.41 receptions, 30.50 yards, .14 touchdowns, 3.96 fantasy points
Analysis: Right now Andre Roberts looks like the odd man out. With Early Doucet inserting his name into the fray, and Larry Fitzgerald just generally being Larry Fitzgerald, the youngster's opportunities were few and far between last Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Now facing a Washington Redskins secondary that held firm against the New York Giants, it would be wise to wait on Roberts until he can develop a more defined role within the Cardinal offense.
numberFire.com Projections: 1.03/1.22 field goal attempts, 1.42 extra points, 4.92 fantasy points
Analysis: Thus far the Cardinals offense has proven its ability to seal the deal within scoring range. What that means is less field goals and more extra points. Not bad in real life, but definitely not good for fantasy owners.