What a weekend!?! There’s nothing quite like the excitement of the first week of the NFL season, and while we can finally say the weekend we’ve anxiously awaited for the last 223 days has come and gone, we’re only left wanting more! All of you graced with the number-one pick this season are feeling like geniuses right now, and those of you who took a certain Saints signal caller in the first round are feeling equally brilliant –- Adrian Peterson and Drew Brees shined in the first week, that is for sure, but many stars also struggled out of the gates in Week 1. All of their performances will be under the microscope in the first-ever writing of WaCoug’s Weekend Wrap-up, where we’ll turn back the clock a few hours and break down each and every NFL game from the past week, highlighting scintillating performances, so-so efforts and clunkers alike (there’ll even be some IDP love here and there)!
So without further ado, let’s dive into this week’s games. I will update this article with the two Monday night games on Tuesday morning, so be sure to check back then!
• Steelers 13, Titans 10
For a team that loves to run the ball down the throat of weaker opponents, the Steelers are also masters of mixing things up when they need to grind out a tough win. Ben Roethlisberger’s top targets all turned in nice games against a porous Tennessee pass defense, which got little help late in the game from its four-man pass rush. Santonio Holmes had a fantastic start to his 2009 season, grabbing nine passes for 131 yards and a touchdown. Even though he almost fumbled away the game and then looked like he was singularly chosen to solve the nation’s health-care crisis, Hines Ward managed a nice game with eight receptions and over 100 yards receiving. Heath Miller also turned in a solid effort with eight catches for 64 yards for the Men of Steel. Keyaron Fox had a great game at linebacker for the Steelers, tallying 10 total tackles. Troy Polamalu owners better find a replacement quickly, as the “Madden curse” has struck early in 2009, knocking the Pro-Bowler out for three-to-six weeks.
There wasn’t a whole lot to like about the Titans offensive production from a fantasy standpoint, but what did you expect with them facing the Steelers’ ferocious D? Chris Johnson turned in a pedestrian effort after a nice regular season game in 2008, and LenDale White was almost non-existent in Tennessee’s rushing attack. Justin Gage made a nice grab for a touchdown and was really the only standout offensive performer for the Titans. Gage closed 2008 with three straight strong games (including the playoffs), so hopefully this is a trend that will continue. Rookie wideout Kenny Britt looked scrappy and overcame a couple of drops to post four catches for 85 yards. Without a great second option at wide receiver in Tennessee, you’d be well served to keep an eye on the young man from Rutgers. IDP owners can’t complain about the production of Stephen Tulloch or Cortland Finnegan; they should simply ask for more!
• Falcons 19, Dolphins 7
Matt Ryan started 2009 right where he left off in 2008, turning in a strong performance of over 225 yards and two scores. While he didn’t hit on any big plays to Roddy White, he connected with Tony Gonzalez five times (including a score), which should be music to the ears of those who drafted him with some trepidation. Michael Turner failed to impress, but Miami’s run defense is no slouch, and there will be many better games than the 22 carries for 65 yards we saw Sunday. I sincerely hope Jason Elam didn’t cost any fantasy GMs a win this week. The highly-touted kicker did his best to mar an otherwise well played game by the Falcons, missing on two field goal attempts and an EXTRA POINT! He still managed to hit two other field goals (and his other extra point) on the game, but until he can show me something better, I trust him about as much as New Yorkers should trust their next gubernatorial candidate.
There certainly aren’t a lot of positives about a Miami team that was shut out until the final four minutes of the game and could have easily lost by three scores. The Dolphins seem intent on splitting carries pretty evenly between Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, which makes both nothing more than flex plays in all but the softest of matchups. Williams did score twice (one rushing and one receiving), and both ran for an effective average, but until a clear leader emerges I can’t recommend either of them with confidence. Pat White was only involved in one offensive play of consequence (an incompletion), but it will take time for the utility player to find his niche with the Dolphins – don’t give up just yet.
• Broncos 12, Bengals 7
What a wild finish! Denver relinquished the lead with 38 seconds left in the game, only to score via one of the freakishly lucky plays in recent history. Brandon Stokley had only one catch in the game, but he made it count, taking a tipped pass 87 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 11 seconds left. It was a nice play for sure, but don’t be deceived by the stat line and please don’t go picking him up as a result of this play. Kyle Orton managed to play a whole NFL game without turning the ball over, but his numbers were more than pedestrian before the Broncos’ final offensive play. He is nothing more than a second quarterback in fantasy terms. Brian Dawkins and D.J. Williams both turned in nice games for Denver with double-digit tackles apiece.
Carson Palmer didn’t do much to cement his breakout-in-the-making status in this game, but he did manage to find Chad Ochocinco five times for 89 yards, which was one of only two real bright spots for the Bungles, er, I mean Bengals. Cedric Benson ran somewhat effectively, though I think any self-respecting running back should be able to top 75 yards on the Broncos’ rush defense. Still, Benson got the lion’s share of the touches with 21 and found pay dirt, so you can’t complain about that as your second or third running back.
• Vikings 34, Browns 20
Adrian Peterson is awesome. There, now that I got that out of the way, I won’t mention anything else about him. Well, other than the fact that he rushed for 155 yards and three touchdowns after the first quarter, of course! Ok, now that I got that out of my system, I’d like to point out the pure and simple fact that Brett Favre CANNOT be counted on as a starting fantasy quarterback at ANY Point this season. Favre seems content to be a game manager and handoff specialist for the Vikings, and while he will be forced to win some games with his arm, do you really want to pick and choose when this will happen? He certainly boosts the value of rookie Percy Harvin (who scored and had five touches for 58 yards), but other than Visanthe Shiancoe, I don’t trust any other Vikings pass catcher.
Other than that foolish looking empty-handed throw towards the end of the game, Brady Quinn didn’t look horrible against the Vikings defense. But, then again, I think Scarlet Johansson wouldn’t do too badly against their stop-the-run-first-and-only defense either (but don’t even get me started on that)! Tight end Robert Royal stood out for the Browns, grabbing four balls for 60 yards and a score. If you missed out on a tight end and thought Donald Lee was still a good option, I would suggest picking up Royal and seeing how things pan out in the weeks to come. Braylon Edwards apparently played, though his one catch for 12 yards easily disappears in the stat sheet. Jamal Lewis appears to be the chosen starter at tailback for now, but James Davis is waiting in the wings and was able to play after suffering minor injuries in a car wreck earlier in the week.
• Colts 14, Jaguars 12
The Colts had to make it interesting in this one, but they did just enough in the passing game to win. Reggie Wayne hauled in 10 receptions for 162 yards and a nice touchdown grab — he could be in for a huge ’09 campaign, but it will be up to Dallas Clark to keep defenses from focusing on stopping Wayne with Anthony Gonzalez sidelined for the near future with a knee injury. Peyton Manning had a workman-like 301 yards and an interception to go along with his lone touchdown pass, but there should be greener pastures ahead for ol’ reliable. Joseph Addai got the majority of the carries (17), but rookie Donald Brown also tallied 11. Neither back did much with their workload, but Addai was able to score on a 3-yard run. If he’s getting the goal line work, he’s still the Colts back I want to own, although I’d rather own a 52-inch LED television, an Audi S8 and a more reliable second running back, if that was an option instead.
This is kind of what we’ve come to expect from the Jaguars in fantasy terms. David Garrard has too many four-point games to offset his nice outings, their receiving corps is unreliable and about as exciting as watching Drew Carey butcher The Price is Right and Maurice Jones-Drew finds a way to remain highly productive despite all of their shortcomings. MJD topped 120 total yards and found the end zone for Jacksonville, and is really the only offensive player I can trust for this team until further notice. IDPers should take note that third-year linebacker Justin Durant turned in a nice effort with 11 tackles.
• Saints 45, Lions 27
If Drew Brees is involved in a game, I think I will bet the “over” every time until I am wrong, which by my calculations shouldn’t be until sometime in 2017. Brees tied a modern-era record with SIX passing touchdowns and he did a great job of spreading the ball around as well. He hit Jeremy Shockey for not one, but two touchdowns in this game, which is roughly infinitely more touchdowns than he caught in all of 2008 (zero). Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem and Heath Evans all got in on the fun by catching a touchdown as well. All of them should be owned, except for the no-named fullback – I’ll let you figure out which one he is. Mike Bell, not Reggie Bush, got 80 percent of the carries and gained a whopping 143 yards on those 28 totes. If Pierre Thomas misses Week 2 , Bell could be a nice flex option against the Eagles. Remember to take the over in that one too…
Um, so let’s start out with the positives. Matthew Stafford threw ONLY three interceptions, Kevin Smith averaged OVER 1.2 yards per carry and the lions FAILED TO WIN by only 28 points. Wait, those aren’t positives, they’re just what we’ve come to expect from the losers of 18 straight games. Calvin Johnson had a big 64-yard reception and finished with three catches for 90 yards, and Kevin Smith was more effective in the passing game (7 catches for 54 yards), but other than that there is nothing positive I can say about the Lions from a fantasy perspective until Stafford gets some games under his belt. Smith did salvage a decent points total due to his short rushing score and involvement in the passing game, and I think he’s done enough to prove he can be productive, even if not exciting, in the Lions’ offense. Anthony Henry made 12 tackles and added an interception from the cornerback position and looks like he might get PLENTY of opportunities this season for the Lions.
• Cowboys 34, Buccaneers 21
No T.O.? No problem! After the Nick Folk show ended, roughly 46 seconds before halftime, Tony Romo and the Cowboys offense shined in this game. Romo had a nearly perfect game, topping 350 yards and throwing for three scores. Patrick Crayton had four grabs for 135 yards and a long touchdown, and Roy E. Williams, Jason Witten and Miles Austin all totaled at least seven fantasy points in the game as well. Marion Barber took the majority of the carries and gained 79 yards on just 14 totes with a touchdown of his own. No one really stood out on the defensive side of the ball, and allowing 20 points to the Byron Leftwich-led Buccaneers is a bit disconcerting for Cowboys D/ST owners, but I am confident that with the offense on the field more in future games, that the results will improve as well.
Bring out that shiny, good-as-new Cadillac! A year removed from another major knee surgery, Carnell Williams looked like a fresh young rookie for the Buccaneers. He turned his 13 carries into 97 yards and a touchdown and overshadowed highly-touted free-agent acquisition Derrick Ward. Ward ran effectively too, to the tune of 12 carries for 62 yards, and it appears that both will be decent options going forward. Earnest Graham looked kind of like a Ben Stiller character in the Meet the Parents series, as he hasn’t really done anything wrong, but all of the wrong things have happened to him. While I would wait a week or two before dropping him, his one carry for a singular yard is horrifying for the owners who took him as a top-40 back a month ago. Michael Clayton had five catches for 93 yards in the game, and while I wouldn’t waste a high waiver claim on him, he might be a nice pickup in deep leagues.
• Eagles 38, Panthers 10
Well, this one wasn’t even close! But in the big win, the unthinkable happened for the Eagles. Donovan McNabb had a rib broken after being dog-piled by Panthers defenders after scoring a rushing touchdown in the third quarter (he also passed for two). With Michael Vick still suspended for a week, and about as ready to play quarterback as Bud Selig is to play a good commissioner, Kevin Kolb looked like he would be the guy in Philly if McNabb cannot go next weekend. But the team just signed Jeff Garcia off the street, a guy very familiar with their offense. Which QB will start on Sunday will be a subject of much debate this week. Brian Westbrook looked serviceable, gaining 72 yards on 16 touches and finding the end zone, but rookie LeSean McCoy also got 10 touches and turned them into 47 yards of his own. Brent Celek was the favorite target of Eagles signal callers, catching six of the seven passes thrown his way and finding the end zone. Look for this trend to continue.
Panthers quarterbacks had a simply dreadful game in this one, going a combined 14/34 with 138 yards and five, count ‘em, FIVE interceptions. Jake Delhomme contributed four of those and was replaced, but still should be under center unless he continues to repeat these performances. If you own Steve Smith, you’d better hope so, because his value is almost completely tied to the job security and success of Delhomme at this point (Smith had three catches for a paltry 21 yards). DeAngelo Williams made the most of his 18 touches, gaining 79 yards and a touchdown for the Panthers, While Jonathan Steward managed 67 yards with his 13 touches. Williams is still the favorite for consistent production, but I firmly believe Stewart will be a first rate goal-line vulture once he gets back into the swing of things.
• Ravens 38, Chiefs 24
Though it was the second biggest point spread of the day, the this game was much closer than the final score suggests. The Ravens rode the wave of Joe Flacco’s first career 300-yard passing game, and his three passing touchdowns proved to be the difference in this one. Mark Clayton had a nice game, and we even had a sighting of the rare, nearly-extinct biped called Todd Heap. Heap caught five of his eight targets for 74 yards and a score against the porous Chiefs defense. The good news for Ray Rice in this game was he got more carries than Willis McGahee and LeRon McClain combined and turned those 19 into 108 rushing yards. The bad news is that the other two backs scored three touchdowns in the redzone (McGahee scored two and McClain one). Rice certainly won’t be shut out of the end zone, and his potential for major yards between the 20s makes him a great second/third running back, but unless he gets a vote of confidence in the red zone, he simply can’t live up to the expectations of a major breakout in fantasy land.
Brodie Croyle did throw two touchdowns in this game, but also managed to run his lifetime record as a starter to 0-9. Yikes! Dwayne Bowe should still be started as a second wide receiver no matter who’s throwing to him, but your patience should be limited. Larry Johnson ran like a man possessed (by mercury-filled quad muscles that is), and Jamaal Charles did nothing to cement his argument for more carries in a sad effort against the Ravens stout rush defense. The Chiefs totaled 29 yards on 17 carries, and hopefully will have better days ahead of them. Demarrio Williams had 10 tackles for the Chiefs, and could be a very nice option in IDP leagues that go a bit deeper than most. Mike Brown also posted an impressive 12 tackles on the game, and considering the relative youth of the defensive line and linebackers of the Chiefs, this could well be a trend that continues.
• Jets 24, Texans 7
Break in the rookie quarterback in an easy debut? Check. Demolish and demoralize one of the top offenses from 2008? Check. Run the ball early, often and effectively while killing the clock? Check to the third power! The Jets defense allowed only 183 total yards to the Texans and controlled the ball for almost 39 minutes in this game – Mark Sanchez managed a very nice game in his debut (his 272 yards are the most by a rookie quarterback in a debut win of all time) and showed us that as many as three legitimate targets loom in the Jets’ passing game. Dustin Keller caught four balls for 94 yards, while Jerricho Cotchery also topped the 90-yard mark with his six grabs. Chansi Stucky grabbed Sanchez’s lone touchdown throw and managed 64 yards on his four catches. On top of all of this, Thomas Jones gained 107 yards on just 20 carries and scored two times for the Jets. Oh yeah, and you’ll hear this lot this year – David Harris is a BEAST! With 11 tackles and a pass defended, he showed why he’s one of the best IDPers out there, on one of the best defenses in the league!
As many superlatives as I could find about the Jets, it’s quite the opposite is true for the Texans. Owen Daniels and Andre Johnson had sub-par games as a result of Matt Schaub’s struggles with the Jets’ defense, and Steve Slaton struggled mightily as well. This offense will be a terror in their easier matchups to come, and once they start clicking they might continue like an 80s-style break dancer, but that time couldn’t come too soon for the worried owners of Texans starters at this point. Rookie Brian Cushing led Houston with eight tackles, and should get plenty of opportunities going forward.
• Giants 23, Redskins 17
Eli Manning had an effective game and Ahmad Bradshaw outshined Brandon Jacobs out of the Backfield as the Giants beat the Redskins in a close one. Jacobs failed to score and only averaged 2.9 yards per carry on his 16 carries (46 yards), while Bradshaw made the most of his 12 touches while gaining 60 yards on the ground. Steve Smith had a solid game for the Giants, catching six passes for 80 yards. Young Mario Manningham also added a nifty 30-yard touchtown catch to his totals (three catches, 58 yards) and showed he could be a factor in the G-Men’s passing attack as well. New York’s receiver corps might be overly fully with moderately fast, non-flashy receivers, and you might have to wait a couple of weeks until things sort themselves out, but a top target for Eli Manning will have to emerge eventually. The triumphant return of Osi Umenyiora headlined the day for the Giants aggressive defense, as the star defensive end tallied four tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a touchdown. Granted, most of those happened on one play and you can’t bank on THAT type of production every week, but still, it’s good to see the big man back in top form.
The Redskins offense failed to impress in this game, and turned the ball over twice early on to seal their fate. Clinton Portis ran OK, but only managed 62 yards on his 16 carries – there will be better days for him in the future for sure, provided he can stay healthy. Antwan Randle El and Chris Cooley both caught seven passes and topped 65 yards (Cooley also scored), but Santana Moss threw more girly punches than he caught passes (six yards on two catches). The only real standout performance on the game was London Fletcher’s gaudy tackle total of 18 – he threw in a pass defended for good measure.
• 49ers 20, Cardinals 16
It wasn’t pretty, but San Francisco did just enough to beat the NFC’s Super Bowl representatives of 2008. Frank Gore only managed a sickeningly low yardage total of 48 on his 25 touches, but added some salve to the wounds he inflicted upon his owners by scoring on a late pass play, the eventual game winner. Rookie Glen Coffee only saw the ball one time and lost three yards, so don’t be getting too excited about your young backup running back just yet. Shaun Hill didn’t lose the game for the Niners, but he didn’t do much either. Hill barely topped 200 yards and had just the one touchdown toss to Gore. Josh Morgan caught three of five passes thrown his way and totaled 38 yards – his success should skyrocket once he and Hill have more on-field time together this year. Unrelated sidenote: Patrick Willis (13 tackles) is really, really good, but you already knew that, right?
Kurt Warner had a decent game for Arizona, but if they want to win in the long run this year, their pass/run ratio should not be 44/17. Chris Wells did the best he could with his seven carries (29 yards) and did play much better than Tim Hightower (1.9 YPC on 8 carries). But, before you go handing the running back job to Beanie, Hightower was highly involved in the passing game with 12 catches for a whopping 121 yards. This likely happened because Warner was under pressure all day from a feisty 49ers defense, but this should be closely watched as Hightower could have value as a third down back even if he is dethroned by Wells. In the meantime, this backfield situation can be best summed up by former coach Dennis Green: “They are who we thought they were.” So the real question is: will the Cards ever “let us off the hook”?
• Seahawks 28, Rams 0
Seven straight wins over the Rams for the apple of my eye? Oh, now that’s music to my ears! The Seahawks defense pitched the only shutout of the weekend, holding the Rams to 237 yards of total offense and tallying a turnover and three sacks. After a poor start to the game, Matt Hasselbeck had a very nice game with 279 passing yards and three touchdown passes. What was more impressive was the fact that he spread the ball to eight receivers and gave a lot of love to two guys in particular (sorry T.J. Houshmandzadeh owners, he wasn’t one of them — yet): tight end John Carlson and the currently-injury-free Nate Burleson. Carlson caught six of his eight targets for 95 yards and found the fancily-painted part of the field twice, while the hometown Burleson caught seven passes for 74 yards and a score. Julius Jones ran the ball effectively to the tune of 117 yards, including a 62-yard touchdown scamper in the third quarter. Once the Hawks get Housh going in the passing game, this offense will continue to surprise people this season. Oh yeah, and playing in the NFC West helps too.
The Rams offense looked absolutely anemic, and other than a few nice grabs by Laurent Robinson and Donnie Avery, there is little grounds for fantasy hope outside of Steven Jackson. Jackson gained 67 yards on limited touches, but didn’t catch a single pass for the first time in six games. This should change though, as he is likely to be involved in many a screen/dump-off pass as Marc Bulger runs for his life behind the Ram’s inadequate line. The brightest spot for the Rams in fantasy land was young linebacker James Laurinaitis. The tackle machine tallied 14 stops against the Seahawks, and with the Rams’ myriad of ineptitudes across the board, this could be a trend that will reward IDP owners. Second-year linebacker Dave Vobora could also be a recipient of these increased tackles, as last year’s Mr. Irrelevant tallied eight stops against the Hawks offense.
• Packers 21, Bears 15
Aaron Rodgers finally led his team to a big win in the final minutes, and while Packers fans might have been tired of waiting, just remember the fact that your team hasn’t lost 18 straight like one of your other divisional cohorts. Oh yeah, and you don’t have an inexperienced receiving corps that makes your QB and your team look HORRIBLE (but more on that in a minute). Greg Jennings headlined an otherwise stagnant offensive effort for the Pack, grabbing six balls for 106 yards, and Ryan Grant chipped in 67 total yards and a score. There wasn’t much to get excited about in this game for Green Bay, but they won against a tough defense and they can move on. There will be some huge offensive days for this team once Rodgers starts clicking with the whole offense, and with Grant running quite well against the Bears, this might be one of your last chances to buy low on one of my favorite underperformers of 2008.
Jay Cutler’s career-high four interceptions will steal all of the headlines, but the inexperience of his wide receiver corps should be to blame. Cutler’s targets routinely cut off routes prematurely and didn’t come back to the ball, leaving him and his fantasy owners in a world of hurt. Cutler and this offense will have to get in sync before I can recommend either as legitimate starters, but at least you can count on Matt Forte, right? Well, maybe next week: Forte disappointed his owners with a 25-carry, 55-yard performance that featured zero receptions. Don’t be taken by surprise by this though, the Packers defense was stout and other than the Steelers and Vikings, Forte won’t face a challenge this stiff in ’09. The sophomore should bounce back with a nice game in Week 3, but next week’s game against the Steelers should give cause for pause if you have a better option. Earl Bennett seems to be the favorite target of Cutler, as he was thrown to 13 times, catching seven for 66 yards, but he was also responsible for a couple of the interceptions and dropped a couple of catchable balls. Devin Hester caught the flashy touchdown, but Cutler seems to want to throw to Bennett like he threw to Brandon Marshall, and while there is a bit of a talent disparity there, the numbers could be very nice considering where you drafted him.
• Patriots 25, Bills 24
He’s back! Tom Brady led the Patriots on a furious fourth-quarter comeback against the Bills, finding the forgotten man of his receiving corps (Ben Watson) for two touchdowns in the final 2:06 of the game. Brady turned in a nice game with over 375 passing yards and two touchdowns, but the real story here is the guys on the receiving end of his passes. The aforementioned Watson caught six passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns, equaling his 2008 total in just under 60 minutes – you can’t count on him to be an elite tight end because of his hit or miss tendencies in this offense, but Watson should definitely be owned as a bye week cover if nothing else. Randy Moss pleased his owners with 12 catches for 141 yards, making for an especially great game for PPR owners. Wes Welker took no time reacquainting himself with Brady as he hauled in 12 catches for 93 yards. Welker is easily a top-10 receiver in PPR leagues, and this game shows you why – he could honestly catch 130+ passes with a healthy Brady under center this season. As most of you already suspected, none of the New England running backs can be trusted until they all get hurt and Sammy Morris somehow stumbles into a full workload, so stay tuned for further news on that front…
What is it about the Bills lately that has made them such reliable choke artists in nationally-televised games? Don’t you always get the feeling that it’s a matter of time until they mess things up and lose, and then the world they had momentarily turned on its side can go back to business as usual? This one wasn’t on par with the 2007 game where they let Tony Romo throw six picks and still somehow win, but it wasn’t too far behind! Trent Edwards wasn’t responsible this time though, as he steered the Bills’ herd with 212 passing yards, 2 touchdowns and no turnovers in a very solid effort. I still think of him as a fringe starter unless your league goes at least 14 deep, but with a few more games like this I might change my tune. Though Edwards had a nice game, neither Terrell Owens nor Lee Evans were big factors, with only five catches and 71 yards between them. Buffalo’s fantasy all-star in this game was Fred Jackson, the part-time replacement for the suspended Marshawn Lynch. Jackson gained 140 total yards on just 20 touches and was the recipient of Edwards’ second scoring toss of the game. As long as Lynch is unable to play, Jackson makes for a solid start as your second running back. Next week at home against Tampa Bay should give him another chance to produce some solid numbers. Linebacker Keith Ellison is worth keeping an eye on next week in IDP leagues. He had 16 total tackles in the game (including 11 solo) and could produce nice numbers at a cheap price going forward.
• Chargers 24, Raiders 20
So begins another frustrating season for LaDainian Tomlinson’s owners: Even in a soft matchup against one of teams he’s usually carves up like a prime rib at the Golden Corral, LT was able to muster only 13 carries for 55 yards before being relegated to the sideline with an ankle injury. From his very pricey vantage point on the sideline, he then had to watch his backup, Darren Sproles, contribute heavily to the Chargers’ game-winning drive. Tomlinson was able to find the end zone before his injury, so it wasn’t a completely disappointing night, but it’s easy to see the Chargers are willing to leave him on the bench at the first sign of trouble and let Sproles carry the load. I think there will be great games in store for LT this season, but he is no longer as consistent as he once was, and those clunkers mixed in with the good performances are why many were suspicious of the former fantasy MVP on draft day. Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson both topped eight fantasy points despite a so-so game from Phillip Rivers, and both should be started with confidence from here on out. Stephen Cooper had a great game for the Chargers defense, recording 13 tackles and two passes defended.
It makes me feel conflicted and confused to say this out loud, but the Raiders actually didn’t look horrible on Monday night. Coach Tom Cable had his boys fired up and ready to play some competitive football, and there were definitely some bright spots for the black and silver. Darren McFadden and Michael Bush split the workload on the ground, with McFadden getting more carries and yards but Bush getting the precious red zone touchdown. Both backs will probably limit each others’ maximum value throughout the season, but I like McFadden a bit more because of his explosive play-making ability and his contributions in the passing game. Still, you could do a whole lot worse at your flex position than Bush when bye weeks roll around in October. Zach Miller proved he belongs as a starting tight end with six catches for 96 yards, and might be the only trustworthy receiver on this team right now. Rookie Louis Murphy is worth a look in deep leagues, as JaMarcus Russel went to him multiple times on deep/intermediate routes, two of which went for touchdowns (although one was called back due to a loss of possession after hitting the ground). Someone else will have to emerge from this passing attack for it to be effective in the long run, but for now Miller is the only non-running back Raider that should be started until further notice.
That wraps up an eventful and exciting first week of NFL action! I hope you will join me each and every week throughout the season as we break down the games and their fantasy impacts, while always making sure to keep the clunkers of the week on their toes as well!
Michael Stephens is an avid fantasy sports enthusiast who writes for the Cafe. He hails from the Pacific Northwest and is a die-hard Seahawk and Mariner fan to the core! You can find Michael in the Cafe's forums where he actively posts under the name WaCougMBS.
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