Well, it’s sure nice to see some other first-rounders play like they deserve to be on your team, isn’t it? Although Steve Slaton and Matt Forte need a wake-up call before it’s too late, nobody is going to complain about the games Chris Johnson, Frank Gore and Andre Johnson turned in for Week 2! And while you shouldn’t freak out after two weeks (even if you’re 0-2), there is a plethora of information inside each game-by-game breakdown which pertains to early-season trends, upcoming matchups and positional battles. Before week three can start and your quest to the championship can continue, it’s always a good idea to move forward by looking back at the place from where you just came, so pull on your fantasy GM hat and join me for the next thirty minutes of in-depth analysis, statistical trends and occasional random pop-culture references! If you’re a Cleveland Browns fan, you might want to skip those two paragraphs, but other than that, I wish you all happy reading and the best of luck in Week 3!
So without further ado, let’s dive into this week’s games. I will update this article with the Monday night game on Tuesday morning, so be sure to check back then! Also, there will be an e-mail address set up for WaCougMBS sometime this week, so check back soon if you’d like to send a question/comment/etc!
• Falcons 28, Panthers 20
Is it just me, or does the Falcons budding passing attack have an almost unlimited ceiling? Matt Ryan torched the Carolina secondary for three touchdowns in the first half, allowing Atlanta to ride Michael Turner to an easy finish in this game (Turner finished with 105 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries). Ryan now has five touchdowns in his first two games of the season, and more importantly, he seems to have two favorite targets (one old and one new). Tony Gonzalez may have a new team, but he picked up right where he left off last year, with his second game over five catches, 70 yards and a touchdown. Roddy White topped 50 yards this week and found the end zone on a nifty play down inside the Panthers’ 10 yard line. Mike Peterson topped 10 fantasy points again and has proved he is a relevant top-flight IDP producer once again. Random side note: with one catch for 5 yards through two games, Michael Turner is now on pace for a career-high eight receptions this season – if that’s not a PPR gold mine waiting to happen, I don’t know what is …
The good news? Well, from a fantasy perspective, there’s only really good news for owners of Panthers players. Jake Delhomme found Steve Smith eight times for 131 yards in this game while only throwing once to the other team. And he cemented his status as the starter, which keeps Smith’s value high. Also, Jonathan Stewart (12) and DeAngelo Williams (19) both had double-digit touches and made them most of them, with Williams proving he’ll still get his fair share of carries inside the five yard line (he scored on a three-yard touchdown scamper in the second quarter). The two-headed monster in Panthers’ backfield managed 190 combined yards from scrimmage in the game. Carolina ran the ball quite effectively, which will bode well for the continued fantasy success of their three premium fantasy players. The only real bad news in this game? The Panthers still lost and now sit at 0-2, tied in the win column with the NFL’s current franchise in Los Angeles.
• Vikings 27, Lions 13
Alright, everyone who took the Vikings in their suicide pool this week can take a deep breath! Adrian Peterson had a nice game (116 yards and a score), but maybe not what you had expected against the lowly Lions, a week after he destroyed that silly team from Ohio named after a color. Seriously, no sports franchise should ever be named after a color, EVER! Brett Favre proved he can throw a couple of touchdowns while managing the game, finding Percy Harvin and Visanthe Shiancoe (and his famous cash-and-prizes) for scores. The Vikings seem dedicated to getting Harvin the ball, which should be music to the ears of his soon-to-be-fantasy-owners – Harvin had seven touches for 54 yards in this game and scored a touchdown, giving him scores in each of his first two games. He is also the Vikings early leader in targets, with nine through two games (this will go up as the Vikes face opposition they will have to pass against to beat). Put those nine targets with four rushing attempts and a pair of scores, and you have yourself a dynamic flex player with some big-time upside – it might be too late to grab him, but if it’s not, don’t be that guy who misses out on him while waiting for a Marvin Harrison comeback.
Much like the Carolina game, there is not a lot for fantasy owners to be angry about when it comes to the two start-able Lions players. Kevin Smith ran about as well as one can against the Vikings, tallying 83 rushing yards on 24 carries. Smith also caught two more Matthew Stafford passes, giving him the early team lead with nine receptions. Smith has virtually no challenge to his carries, and will have easier days against softer rush defenses from outside the NFC North. Calvin Johnson caught five balls for 51 yards and a score, and should be started with confidence as the only big-play threat on this team. There will be plenty of passes thrown his way as Stafford runs for his life, and while Johnson might occasionally leave you holding the bag when Stafford has poor games, the rewards far outweigh the risks with Megatron. Even though the Lions have lost 19 consecutive games, there are parts of this offense that are pretty enticing in fantasy land going forward. It should be noted that rookie tight end Brandon Pettigrew caught four passes for 40 yards – he should be watched closely going forward, as Stafford will need more than one target for the passing game to “succeed”. On the defensive side of the ball, Larry Foote made 10 tackles and added a sack, giving him back-to-back games with nine or more fantasy points.
• Bengals 31, Packers 24
The protagonist of this game is a name that makes many a fantasy owner cringe: Cedric Benson. The Bears expat ran the ball 29 times for 141 yards on a Packers defense that held Matt Forte to 2.2 yards per carry in week one. Benson didn’t find the end zone in Green Bay, but his 14 fantasy points give him five straight games (dating back to last season) with at least that many fantasy points. Oh yeah, and I almost forgot to mention, there is no threat to Benson’s touches in Cincy, as rookie Bernard Scott only mustered seven yards on two carries. Though he made a couple of absolutely horrific throws for interceptions, Carson Palmer more than made it up to his fantasy owners by accounting for all four of Cincinnati’s touchdowns (three passing, one rushing). We all know what a healthy Palmer can do when given an effective running attack and some talent in the receiving corps, so you are officially on notice that this is the last week you can buy low on the comeback QB of 2009. Though I seriously doubt sixth-year defensive end Antwan Odom can keep up his sack total (he has seven through two games this season, including a mind-boggling FIVE against the Pack), you could do a whole lot worse at your DL spot in IDP leagues.
Not only did Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense take a step back after an impressive home win last week, it looks as though they forgot what had gotten them to that point in the first place. Greg Jennings did not make a reception in the game and was only targeted four times, after eight in a brilliant game in Week 1. Donald Driver turned in the fantasy effort of the day for Green Bay with six catches, 99 yards and a touchdown, but you might not have even played him after a pedestrian first game. Ryan Grant failed to impress with his 14 carries for 46 yards, but at least he found the end zone. He also caught three passes for 22 yards – it will be interesting to see how Rodgers involves him in the passing game going forward, but I would have to think some five-six reception games are in the future for Grant if the Packers only manage 16 rushing attempts by their tailbacks. Don’t be fooled by Charles Woodson’s 20-point effort, as the gambling corner is far to unreliable to be started in all but deep IDP leagues.
• Texans 34, Titans 31
Now there’s some vindication for Matt Schaub owners! After a Week 1 where you would have been better off starting the portly host from ESPN’s failed attempt at a trivia game, the Texans quarterback stumped the Tennessee’s porous secondary with an impressive aerial attack. Schaub amassed 357 passing yards and threw four touchdowns (zero turnovers) to a receiving corps missing number two man Kevin Walter. Andre Johnson was, predictably, the beneficiary of this outburst, catching 10 passed for 149 yards and two touchdowns, all on a whopping 16 targets! After a quiet start to the season, tight end Owen Daniels broke out with six catches for 72 yards and a touchdown. The only negative for the Texans in this game was their inability to establish a running game for the second straight week. Steve Slaton had nowhere to run and only managed two yards per carry on his 17 touches. Slaton only has 51 rushing yards in his first two games (just a TAD off his expected production as a top-12 pick), but with Houston’s next four games against Jacksonville, Oakland, Arizona and Cincinnati, this could be the opening you needed to buy low.
What a difference a week makes for Chris Johnson owners?! A week after facing the Steelers’ nearly-impenetrable rush defense, Johnson had a welcome sight in the form of the Texans, turning in the best fantasy performance in a losing effort, ever. Johnson was all over the field, amassing an absurd 294 yards from scrimmage (on just 25 touches) and scoring three touchdowns (two rushing). I’d be more sure of this stat if my abacus didn’t max out a 50, but I think that gave him 54 fantasy points in a PPR league, and that’s if you don’t count yardage bonuses or long touchdowns! The truly remarkable part about Johnson’s effort is the fact he scored his touchdowns from an alternate universe, scampering from 57, 69 and 91 yards out. It’s hard to read too much into the pedestrian performances of Justin Gage or LenDale White since Johnson hogged the spotlight like Robin Williams on a Late Show appearance, so stay tuned for a more balanced attack next week as the Jets will bring Johnson back to Earth.
• Raiders 13, Chiefs 10
Can anyone think of any fantasy-related positives for the Raiders in this game? Well, let’s see: Zach Miller had zero catches and was only targeted twice. Oh wait, that’s not a positive! Um … what about JaMarcus Russell’s seven completions and 109 passing yards against an inexperienced Chiefs defense? No? O.K., How about Darren McFadden’s 55 yards on 14 touches? No, that’s not it either, but a bit warmer – not exactly what you expected against the lowly Chiefs after Oakland ran for over 140 yards on the ground against San Diego. I’ve got it! Kirk Morrison had 13 solo tackles on the game! Now if the only Oakland positive only affected more than 0.7 percent of the fantasy football players of the world, we’d really be onto something. Oh well, I guess there’s always next week. Maybe Michael Bush can play just good enough to warrant a flex start in the following week and then score a whopping four points (which was sadly good for the second best offensive performance of Week 2 for the Raiders).
It’s a sad state of affairs in Kansas City – this team actually had a couple of positives in the game, but still managed to lose a home game to the inert Oakland offense! Dwayne Bowe took advantage of Matt Cassell’s regular-season debut, catching five passes for 56 yards and a touchdown, but I still haven’t seen enough to justify him as a number one receiver. Newcomer Bobby Wade might be an intriguing pickup for the Chiefs as he caught six passes for 72 yards. There’s no doubt in my mind this offense can be more explosive with Cassell under center, but it will be a learning process for a while, and one that should mostly avoided as anything other than bye-week cover. Larry Johnson had 119 total yards in the game on 27 touches, but before you get too excited, you should remember the Chiefs play the Eagles, Giants and Cowboys in their next three games, and they will be way over their skis on those matchups.
• Jets 16, Patriots 9
It wasn’t pretty, but the Jets and their ferocious defense got the job done in this one. Thomas Jones and Leon Washington split 28 carries for 54 and 58 yards respectively, while Jerricho Cotchery and Dustin Keller proved why they should be started on a weekly basis. Keller grabbed a touchdown and has at least eight fantasy points in the first two weeks of 2009, while Cotchery topped the 85-yard mark for the second straight week. Mark Sanchez will continue to get too much attention in fantasy circles as he leads this team to big wins behind the strength of its running game and defense, and you’d be best served to avoid that bandwagon until further notice – he’s still a game manager and not fantasy starter material … yet.
Quick, take a stab at the receiving leader for the Patriots in Week 2. If you guessed Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Ben Watson, Joey Galloway or anyone else you’ve ever heard of, you’re not even close! The correct answer? Julian Edelman. That’s right, the last-minute injury fill-in for Wes Welker (a surprise late scratch), Edelman led the Pats with eight catches for 98 yards in a very Welker-like game. At this point, Edelman is just a name you should file away in the recesses of your mind, but if Welker is to miss any significant portion of time, the former Kent State quarterback-turned-receiver could be a sneaky addition to your receiving corps. Tom Brady certainly had no magic in this one, turning in a performance that smelled worse than those annoying Stetson perfume pullouts in your favorite sports magazine. Brady connected on less than 50 percent of his 47 passing attempts, throwing one interception and no touchdowns to go with his paltry 216 passing yards. No grounds for worry at this point, a lot of Brady owners were left holding the proverbial bag after this one.
• Saints 48, Eagles 22
Remember that old saying about not being able to stop someone and hoping only to contain them? That might even be too lofty of a goal versus the Saints’ offense this season! Drew Brees racked up another 300-plus passing yards and added three more touchdowns to his total (he has nine through two games), and Mike Bell had another solid game in relief of the still-injured Pierre Thomas at tailback. Brees found Marques Colston eight times for 98 yards and two touchdowns, while Heath Evans caught Brees’ only other score, giving the fullback two on the season. Reggie Bush played O.K. in this game, gaining 75 total yards on 13 touches and scoring a touchdown, but it looks like either Bell or Thomas will indeed be the workhorse backs with the most value in non-PPR leagues. For the record, I told you Jeremy Shockey wouldn’t score twice every game, so I thought I’d take a minute to rub that in.
You can’t say Kevin Kolb wasn’t productive in a fantasy sense, but still, those three interceptions look bad (even on paper). Kolb amassed 391 passing yards and threw two touchdowns, proving only that if he faces the Saints when Donovan McNabb is out with broken ribs that he might be worth a start. Brent Celek and DeSean Jackson were the big producers for the Eagles in Week 2, with each topping 100 yards. Celek was the recipient of a team-high eight receptions on 11 targets and has at least nine fantasy points in both games this season. Jackson scored on a nifty 71-yard pass in the first quarter and was pretty quiet after that, which could be because Kolb only hit Jackson with three of his next eight targets. Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy both ran the ball decently, but with only 70 yards between them, there’s certainly nothing to write home about after this game.
• Redskins 9, Rams 7
I had to check the FOX ticker three times to make sure this wasn’t a Washington-St. Louis baseball game, but then I thought about the Nationals scoring nine runs and laughed so hard I almost peed. This was a brutal game with not a lot of fantasy positives. Jason Campbell left much to be desired in this game, tallying 11 points (all on yardage) in a cake matchup where he was supposed to shred the Rams like a wedge of Parmesan. Clinton Portis was supposed to run wild and only managed seven points, but I still have faith in a solid season for Kid Bro Sweets. Chris Cooley’s seven catches for 83 yards further exposed a trend for fantasy tight ends who face the Rams – in two games, opposing tight ends have averaged seven catches, 90 yards and a touchdown. I see no reason why this will change going forward.
Steven Jackson had a nice run, a 58-yarder, which padded his 104-yard rushing total, but added to his four catches, it made for a nice game for Action Jackson. Laurent Robinson improved on last week’s performance, grabbing six Marc Bulger passes for 54 yards and the game’s lone touchdown. Donnie Avery might as well have not showed up to the game, because he caught one pass on six targets and managed just four yards with a lost fumble. That’s right, he fumbled his one catch for the game, yikes! He looks like he might be the second fiddle (to Robinson) in this passing attack, and might be more of a flex play most weeks than anything else. At this point, if you are starting anyone other than Jackson, you are probably asking for it, but if you must start a Rams wideout you should know your gamble would be better served taking the point on a Lions prop bet. On the IDP front, it’s nice to see Will Witherspoon getting 10 of the numerous tackle opportunities thrown the Rams’ way.
• Cardinals 31, Jaguars 17
Newsflash! Matt Leinart led Arizona in all passing statistics — that is, in the fourth quarter! Kurt Warner played in the real game during the first three quarters, leading the Cardinals to a rare East Coast win. Warner topped 240 yards and had a pair of scoring tosses to Larry Fitzgerald and Jason Wright. Steve Breaston (five catches, 83 yards) and Anquan Boldin (eight grabs, 69 yards) were the biggest surprises in this game, both contributing solid numbers after being game-time decisions. As for the Cardinals’ rushing attack, it looks like this is going to be Tim Hightower’s job to lose. Hightower ran for 72 yards on 15 carries and found pay dirt. While he didn’t factor in the passing game much this week, he out-shined rookie Chris Wells again and will be the starter in Arizona until/if injury or wear and tear catch up with him. Wells ran for 44 yards on seven carries, but fumbled twice and lost one of those, so he certainly didn’t cement his case for a bigger workload in the coming weeks. If you can sell high on his name and/or potential, you might want to do so before his poor ball security costs him further carries.
David Garrard put up some nice statistics in this game, but aren’t you still left with the feeling that the Jaguars would be better off if Jimmy Smith was still doing his whole play some football, snort some coke thing? This week Mike Sims-Walker broke out with a big game for the Jags, posting 106 yards and a score, but if you put that together with the bagel he posted in Week 1 I think that means a whole lot of nothing this early in the season. Troy Williamson was disappointing after some big games in the preseason, but you won’t have to worry about that now as he could miss the rest of the season with what reports say is a torn labrum. As for Tory Holt, I think he will move into a reliable WR3/flex role when given more time with Garrard, but I still think you have to be as desperate as a Megan Fox fanboy to actually start him at this point. Maurice Jones-Drew ran the ball effectively (13 carries, 66 yards) but it’s hard to post solid fantasy numbers when your team is down 24-3 at halftime. There will be big days for MJD, but thinking he would be as consistent as others drafted around him was just crazy talk.
• 49ers 23, Seahawks 10
If the 49ers could find a way to keep the playbook out of the hands of that invisible 14-year-old Madden guru that seems to want to call Wildcat plays on third and 18, they might really be onto something here! San Fran has played solid defense and handed Frank Gore the ball and let him rip off huge chunks of yardage, and Shaun Hill has looked like a genius in the process of starting the season 2-0. Gore always shreds Seattle, so take this with a grain of salt, but he gained 207 yards on just 16 carries in the game, including two touchdown runs of 79 or more yards. Yikes! That hadn’t been done in the NFL in decades, but Gore was happy to oblige anyway. He also added five catches for a team-high 39 yards, proving why he should have been one of the top eight players taken in all formats. Rookie Glen Coffee got 9 carries (for 13 yards) in this game, but don’t read into that too much, as this was mostly a side effect of Gore being winded from his two marathon touchdowns and the fact the game was over as soon as Patrick Willis dove on Matt Hasselbeck’s back just before halftime.
Matt Hasselbeck should put a hex on his brother, the likes of which we’ve never seen before! On the pregame fantasy broadcast put out by that famous four-letter sports conglomerate, Tim Hasselbeck made a tongue-in-cheek comment about how he was playing his brother (Matt) in fantasy this week and that Matt owned himself. Tim went on to say that if Matt was to suffer an injury or throw six interceptions, that would be great so he could win his fantasy matchup – wow, don’t you feel like a tool now? If not a whole tool company! Anyway, Seneca Wallace was serviceable filling in for his injured cohort, but is by no means start-able most weeks. One thing Wallace will do is further boost the value of young tight end John Carlson – Wallace threw to Carlson early and often last season when he was starting in place of the then-injured Hasselbeck, and that is great news for Carlson owners. T.J. Houshmandzadeh got in on the fun with four catches for 62 yards and was targeted in the red zone multiple times by both quarterbacks. It’s just a matter of time before he strings together some touchdown grabs.
• Bills 33, Buccaneers 20
When it was 30-14, I have to admit I was still wondering how Buffalo was going to “Bill it”, but the Bills played admirable in their home opener and many fantasy owners profited as a result. Fred Jackson ran the ball aggressively for 163 yards, adding 25 more through the air. With Marshawn Lynch only one game away from playing, Jackson’s value will fall off considerably after the Bills’ next game. So if you have a Lynch owner itching for a handcuff, now is the time to pounce before it’s too late! Terrell Owens and Lee Evans both caught long touchdowns from Trent Edwards, who posted 230 yards to go along with those two scores and an interception. With the running game rolling and a potential shootout with the Saints on the bill next week, Edwards will make for a solid start in 12-team leagues. On the defensive side of the ball, Keith Ellison followed last week’s 16-tackle performance up with 11 more this week.
It’s a good thing Cadillac Williams caught seven passes for 56 yards and a touchdown, or his owners would have wanted his head on a stake after his seven carries for nine yards on the game. The Bucs were down early and often in this game and weren’t able to establish their running game, but Derrick Ward suffered more than Williams because of equally ineffective running and a lack of involvement in the passing game. Earnest Graham rushed for 16 times more yards than last game (he had one yard in week one), but was still a non-factor with three total touches. Byron Leftwich turned in a solid effort in the blowout, throwing for 296 yards and three scores, though I don’t see this being a trend at this point in time. Kellen “The Soldier” Winslow led the Tampa Bay aerial attack with seven grabs for 90 yards and a score – he has a touchdown catch in each of the first two games of the season and should be started in all formats where you don’t own a guy named Witten or Gonzalez. Michael Clayton disappeared after a solid Week 1 and should only be bench fodder unless he strings together a few good games.
• Bears 17, Steelers 14
What a difference a week makes for Jay Cutler. In Week 2 Cutler played within himself and his receivers actually caught passes, and it’s no surprise that the Bears were able to play a much better game. Even though Matt Forte couldn’t get much going on the ground or through the air (62 yards on 18 touches), the Bears moved the ball just enough, and in the right spots, to win the game. Cutler threw for 236 yards and two touchdowns, one to rookie Johnny Knox and one to tight end Greg Olsen. Knox topped 70 yards for the second straight game, and in this performance where he caught his first-career scoring toss, looked like he could emerge as Cutler’s favorite target. Earl Bennett, who will look to factor into that decision, had only two catches for 22 yards after the mixed bag he brought to the table in Week 1. The more I think about Forte, the more I believe things will be fine once the Bears offense comes together a bit more, but after a stretch of easier matchups in eight of the next ten games, he draws the Packers, Ravens and Vikings in the fantasy playoffs – you’d be well served to sit back for the next two months, let him dominate and then deal him after the Bears play St. Louis on December 6.
The Steelers really looked befuddled in many parts of this game, but they still probably would have won if kicker Jeff Reed hadn’t left six pretty easy points on the field in the form of two missed field goals. Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t able to do much against a stout Chicago defense, throwing for only 221 yards and a lone score. His touchdown went to backup tight end Matt Spaeth, so there’s about a 100 percent chance that you didn’t even cash in on that either. About the only useful performance for the Steelers was Santonio Holmes’ 5-catch, 83-yard game, but even he dropped a catchable touchdown that led to one of the missed field goals. Holmes and Hines Ward (in deeper leagues) are the only two Steelers I’d feel confident starting until there is some sign of life in the Pittsburgh backfield. Willie Parker ran lethargically and Rashard Mendenhall made the most of one of his three carries, but a consistent option has not yet materialized for the men of steel.
• Ravens 31, Chargers 26
Did you see Ray Lewis flat-back Darren Sproles at the end of this game? Wow, that was a resounding “walk-off” tackle if I’ve ever seen one! Lewis led a solid Baltimore defensive attack with 12 tackles (10 solo) and the Ravens made all the plays when it counted to win this game. Willis McGahee made a strong case for re-taking the first and second down duties for the Ravens, carrying the ball 15 times for 79 yards and two more touchdowns (he has four total TDs already this season). Ray Rice hasn’t played himself out of the job, but with the way McGahee has played, Rice looks more like a third down back with a few extra touches here and there. Rice ran for 36 yards and had 5 catches for 46 more, but he’s still probably a McGahee injury from living up to his preseason hype. Joe Flacco didn’t live up to the over-hype he received this week, but did throw for 190 yards and two touchdowns. Todd Heap found the end zone again but only had 9 yards receiving, so you probably only got those six points from him. Not that I’m complaining, at least he’s finally healthy for two consecutive games!
Man, is Darren Sproles electric or what? Playing in the stead of injured former star LaDainian Tomlinson (yeah, you heard me), Sproles wasn’t able to do much on the ground, gaining only 26 yards on 10 carries. That sure didn’t stop him from making a big play in the passing game though – Sproles had an 81-yard touchdown catch and added six other catches for 43 more yards, for a grand total of 150 total yards and a score for the game. While he might be as consistent as Maurice Jones-Drew, the potential for huge games, especially if Tomlinson sits, makes him well worth the start on Sundays. Vincent Jackson had a superb game with six catches for 141 yards and a touchdown, and has proved why he should be considered as a top-15 wide receiver from here on out. Antonio Gates had five more catches for 78 yards, and it’s only a matter of time until the big tight end finds the end zone and gets addicted to scoring again. Just you wait!
• Broncos 27, Browns 6
This one wasn’t even as “close” as it looked on paper, as Denver held the Cleveland (I’ll spare you my rant for a second time in this piece) to only 200 yards of total offense. Correll Buckhalter ran effectively with nine carries for 76 yards and a score, but the real story was the fact that rookie Knowshon Moreno was the featured back for much of the game and he ran the ball quite effectively. Moreno tallied 75 yards on 17 carries and added two catches for 22 more yards. Brandon Stokley decided that catching more than one pass would make him look more credible, so he caught a team-leading five passes for 70 yards from Kyle Orton. Although he didn’t fill up the stat sheet, Orton did what he does best in this game – he didn’t lose it for his team. Orton threw for 263 yards and a lone touchdown (to Tony Scheffler), and should still be on the outside looking in for your fantasy squad unless you’re desperate for a fill-in. Don’t get too excited about Scheffler’s touchdown, as it was a two yard catch and his only grab of the day.
Can someone check Braylon Edwards for crazy glue on his gloves? The butter-fingered Cleveland receiver actually caught six of seven balls thrown his way (for 92 yards) and was the only Cleveland (notice how I won’t say it) player on offense worth mentioning in a positive light. Brady Quinn looked confused and ineffective, Jamal Lewis ran poorly against an average Denver defense and none of the other Cleveland starters on offense did anything worth noting. With no sacks, no turnovers forced and nobody even in double figures in tackles, it’s hard to find anything to say about an IDPer for Cleveland. But I feel like I have to throw a bone to someone, so I’ll give some props to Eric Barton for posting eight tackles for the second-straight game.
• Giants 33, Cowboys 31
Don’t you just love it when a new $1.1 billion stadium is christened with a last-second loss to your bitter divisional rivals? I can’t say I’d be happy if it happened to “my” team either, but that is surely what the Giants did to the Cowboys on Sunday night. Two diminutive Giants receivers turned in the games of their young careers and Eli Manning guided the New York offense to do just what it had to do to win this game. Second-year receiver Mario Manningham and third-year wideout Steve Smith each caught 10 of Manning’s 25 completions, both going over 130 yards with a touchdown for the G-Men. Manningham looks like the more explosive of the two, but the real point here is that both should be owned immediately. Both have had two quality games for the Giants, and with Domenik Hixon now hampered by an injury, they will be relatively unchallenged for the starting WR spots. Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw both ran O.K. but neither put in a performance worth exalting at this point. Bradshaw sure does look explosive though, and we’ll certainly hear from the fireplug soon. Lawrence Tynes was under-drafted in the last-round kicker sweepstakes’, but with seven makes (and four extra points) in the first two weeks, he should get noticed now.
There wasn’t a whole lot to like about the fantasy performances of any Dallas player not playing the running back position. Marion Barber ran hard and effectively, collecting 155 total yards and a touchdown, but could have had an even bigger game if not for multiple pass plays being called inside the two yard line on two separate occasions. Felix Jones was the other bright spot for the Cowboys – he turned his seven carries into 96 yards and a touchdown. It isn’t too often you see a team rush for 251 yards and lose, but Dallas managed to pull it off. Jason Witten caught five balls for 33 yards and score, so no complaints there. Roy Williams, Patrick Crayton and Miles Austin, on the other hand, left much to be desired with their combined three receptions (one apiece). Tony Romo was misfiring early and often, completing only 13 passes on 29 attempts and throwing three interceptions. He did manage a rushing TD to go along with the pass to Witten, but you can’t get too excited when there are 64 points on the board and your start quarterback only gets 11 fantasy points out of it!
• Colts 27, Dolphins 23
What’s not to like about Peyton Manning? Seriously, the guy just does what he must to win games, and he usually hooks up at least one fantasy star on his team in the process! And, didn’t you like it when they tried to catch him off guard with the “have you ever thrown a game-opening touchdown pass” question and he sheepishly answered, “yeah, I have”? Though the Colts only held the ball for 14:53 (that’s not a typo), Manning threw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns. Dallas Clark was the main beneficiary, posting gaudy numbers of seven catches for 183 yards and a touchdown. That should be right near the top as far as best games of the year by a tight end when the season is over, though he might be one of the biggest challengers to his 24-point night. I think there are some more big nights in store for Clark, but they usually won’t come at the expense of Reggie Wayne (three catches for 37 yards) if the Colts defense can stay off the field for more than 15 minutes! Did you see Wayne on the sideline in the third quarter, where the Colts only ran three plays, wondering if he’d ever get to play again before dropping dead from old age? Oh, it was priceless alright, but his fantasy owners will hope to see no more of it in weeks to come, that’s for sure! Joseph Addai made the most of his 6 carries (32 yards), but it was rookie Donald Brown taking the big-time snaps at the end of the game and scoring a huge touchdown in the fourth quarter that tied things at 20. Just in case you didn’t know, this is a trend that will likely get worse for Addai owners and better for Brown owners.
It isn’t too often that you see a team hold the ball as long as the Dolphins did, run the ball very effectively and still lose the game, but Miami somehow pulled it off. Ronnie Brown carried the rock 24 times for 136 yards and two touchdowns, outshining Ricky Williams’ 19 carries for only 69 yards. Brown will still get the majority of the carries in this offense, which means he is worth a start in most leagues every week, but don’t forget that he accomplished these numbers against a Colts team missing Bob Sanders. Everyone, everyone knows how the Colts play against the run with Sanders out of the lineup, and it usually equates to an extra 35-40 yards for opposing running backs. So, with all of that said, take great joy in the performance of Brown, but don’t delude yourself into thinking it’ll happen every week. Ted Ginn was the only other Dolphin to stand out in the game, catching 11 passes for 108 yards, most of those in garbage time. It’s good to see a solid game out of him, but you can’t trust him with a start in shallow leagues just yet, as I think Davone Bess will still lead the team in catches most weeks. With only 28 team tackles on the game, it’s hard to point out an IDP star for the Dolphins, but since their offense won’t be running 84 plays most days, this is bound to change for next week as well.
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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