If you are like me, then you woke up this morning feeling a little bit more complete than you have all year. Football is officially back and in full swing and weekends for the next four months are set. You shouldn't have to worry about whether or not you have anything planned for the next 19 or so weekends, as we have a full NFL and college football season ahead plus playoffs and bowl games. Thank God for football.
Much of yesterday was spent on rememberance and reflection on the 10-year anniversary of you-know-what, and then we remembered what's so great about this country. We get to sit on our couches for 10 hours a day and do nothing but watch football without worry that a cruise missile is going to be shot into our living room and destroying our 52" LCD flat-screen. That's some serious peace of mind and we are quite lucky.
For every person that was jumping up and down because they went with their gut about Kenny Britt being a #1 WR there was a person who had to be talked down from a ledge because he kept Steve Smith (CAR) on his bench.
But we should all step down from that ledge if you had a bad week, and those of us that dominated shouldn't start spending that prize money just yet. Cam Newton isn't going to lead the NFL in passing yards this season and Arian Foster will return. This is just one week and it's no different than any other regular season game. Few of us will go undefeated and few of us will go winless. It's the moves you make right now that will make the difference between fantasy glory and fantasy failure. Free agent pickups and buy-low/sell-high trades are going to make the difference.
You had a great draft? That's awesome. But it's not the end of the road, because if you just sit back and gloat while your league-mates make deals and pickups then you're going to find yourself right back with the rest of the pack. We are all just one injury away from throwing our computer out of the window. Here's what we learned in week one:
LeGarrette Blount is LeLimited
We already knew that Blount was a one-dimensional back after he totaled 5 catches for 14 yards all of last season, but yesterday we were reminded that he may also completely disappear from games given the wrong situation. Yesterday the Lions went up 20-10 just before the first half and then 27-13 early in the second half. That meant the Bucs would change to a hurry-up offense, something that Blount apparently sucks at because Earnest Graham spent all of the time on the field in the second. Blount finished with 5 carries for 15 yards. Right now he looks strictly like a week-to-week matchup start. If it seems like the Bucs could fall behind early, you wouldn't want Blount in your starting lineup.
Matthew Stafford is Not Going to be a #1 Pick Bust
Barring an injury-prone career, Stafford will fall into the category of "Success stories" and not "Ryan Leaf stories." I made the terrible decision of playing Matt Ryan over Stafford in one of my leagues and now my fate comes down to Monday Night. I also played Stafford and Calvin Johnson together in another league and I have a 70-point lead. Stafford threw 3 TD's and had 305 yards, he might be a rare case of a quarterback being amongst the leagues elite before he turns 25. If you drafted Stafford to be your backup, now might be a good time to trade your starter. (Also, the Lions as a 10-win team this year?)
Joe Flacco Wanted to Make a Statement, Then He Made One
A lot of offseason talk this year from Flacco who wanted to stop being disrespected. He had his opportunity to showcase his talent right off the bat against division-rival Pittsburgh, and he didn't squander it. Flacco completed 17 of 29 passes for 224 yards, 3 TDs and no picks against what is supposed to be one of the leagues best defenses. Troy Polamalu signed an extension with the Steelers yesterday, is it too late for the organization to take that back? Also having no problems yesterday was Ray Rice who was perhaps the fantasy player of the day with 107 yards rushing, 42 yards receiving and 2 TDs. Rice was a legit top 5 pick this season.
Are the Steelers Done For?
Big Ben threw three balls to Raven defenders, barely completed half of his passes and the Ravens forced four fumbles in the game. Rashard Mendenhall was a complete no-show with just 45 yards rushing. This is the Ravens defense however, and perhaps they are just going to dominate all year long. (That would be quite scary considering how good the offense looked.) The one highlight of the day was Mike Wallace's 8 catches for 107 yards, especially good considering he was the only Steeler to do anything all day long. However, don't panic just yet. Pittsburgh faces Seattle, Indianapolis, Houston, Tennesee, Jacksonville, and Arizona in the coming weeks and none of those defenses quite strike fear like Baltimore.
Atlanta's Offense Missing Dirty Bird Swagger, Bird is Barely Dusty.
So the Falcons go out and get Julio Jones and the leagues 5th-highest scoring offense in 2010 was supposed to come out swinging this year. Instead, the Bears held the Falcons offense to two field goals in 60 minutes. Is Chicago just that good? Da Bears are probably going to be a top rated defense this year, but let's not forget that the Falcons were middle of the road in total offense (16th) last season and that one rookie wide receiver isn't going to make all the difference. One the flip side of the coin, the Falcons individual efforts included a lot of yards: Ryan had 319, Michael Turner had 140 total yards, Tony Gonzalez had 72, Jones had 71, and Roddy White had 8 catches for 61. I wouldn't downgrade any Falcons, they'll be just fine. It's worth noting that they have Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, and Green Bay coming up so they might not light it up until the second half.
Da Bears Offense is Good, but They Share Da Love
On the flipside, the Bears offense put up 23 points against the Falcons defense (I'm not including Urlachers TD of course) and Jay Cutler had a good game. Matt Forte had 90 yards receiving and a TD to go with his 68 yards rushing. As for Bears wide receivers, there may not be a consistent #1 option. Six players had at least 2 catches, and other than Forte, no player had more than four catches. Without a true #1 WR, Mike Martz will continue to spread the ball around. There are four WRs that you might consider good on this team, but none that stands out above the rest. A big upgrade day for Forte and Cutler, but we learned nothing new of the wide receivers.
The Bengals aren't Awfully, Horrifically Terrible
Considered by many to be the worst team in the NFL, the Bengals went on the road yesterday and won. Something they did only once last season and that was against the Panthers. Even if the Browns aren't the Patriots, they were considered to be a team on the rise while the Bengals were seen as a team in desperate never-ending tailspin. Instead, the Bengals took a 13-0 lead early, then came back with 14 points in the fourth to win by 10. Andy Dalton was 10 of 15 in his NFL debut but left with a wrist injury that's not expected to keep him from missing a start. Cedric Benson was also a fantasy stud of the day with 121 yards rushing and a score.
The only question I have left to ask is what the hell are the Bengals thinking by not trading Carson Palmer at this point? Look at their first half schedule again:
Now tell me there's a game on that schedule that they definitely can't win? The Bengals should move forward with Andy Dalton and get as much value as they can out of Palmer. I'm seriously considering upgrades to players like AJ Green and Jermaine Gresham thanks to that schedule.
The Browns are Mad Disappoint
Cleveland was looking at a cupcake schedule this season (Except for their ridiculous last 5 games which include Baltimore and Pittsburgh twice each. Who worked that out?) and an up-and-coming quarterback that could have led them to be the surprise team of the year. But what happened now that they're already 0-1 on the season, 0-1 at home, and 0-1 in the division? Well the Browns start two rookies on the defensive line, which means I'm going to start giving serious upgrades to running backs going against them, and they have a terrible punter. It's a reminder that the NFL isn't just about QB play but it's also about the little things which the Browns sucked at. They nearly won the game in the fourth quarter when Josh Cribbs looked set to return a punt for a TD and then he got tackled by Greg Little. In case you missed it, Greg Little plays for the Browns. This is a totally Cleveland way to lose. Colt McCoy completed less than half his passes and Peyton Hillis only rushed for 57 yards but I haven't really changed any of my grades on Browns players. The schedule is still soft, however you may want to consider a trade because in the fantasy playoffs their schedule gets a little ridiculous.
The Colts will Follow the 1996-1997 San Antonio Spurs Model
The early 90's Spurs were a very good team with David Robinson but they needed a little something extra in order to get over the hump. When Robinson missed all but six games of the 96-97 season, they lost 62 games and wound up with the number one pick. They used that to draft Tim Duncan and then went on to win four NBA titles. Will we one day say that about the Colts, Peyton Manning, and the 2011 season? Of course, you can't play two QB's at the same time but with Andrew Luck perhaps being the most sought-after #1 pick since Manning himself, the Colts would do well to lose 15 games this season. If yesterday was any indication, that won't be a problem.
I pegged Kerry Collins as a sleeper for this week and he certainly was asleep. He barely completed half of his passes and only Reggie Wayne (7 catches for 106 yards) was safe from his path of destruction. The Colts will go how long before they start Curtis Painter? Four weeks or less?
No Foster, No Problem for Texans
When news came out that Arian Foster would be inactive for the game, fantasy owners were left scrambling if they hadn't already took him out of the starting lineup. For me, I don't own Foster in any leagues but I do own Ben Tate in one league. I decided that because the Colts defense sucks and because they Texans offense runs a perfect system for running backs, that I would take a chance and replace Stevie Johnson in my flex position with Tate. Even though Derrick Ward was getting the start, I knew that Tate would get the majority of the carries as long as he played better. Ward played nicely but Tate went off for 116 yards and a TD. I don't think it's cool to root for a guy to get injured but if Arian Foster needs more time to heal his hamstring, so be it. If you own Tate and not Foster, you might want to offer him up to Foster owners right now as they could be in panic mode. If you own Foster and not Tate, you should take care of that.
Chris Johnson Thanks Titans Owners by Giving them 49 Total Yards in Loss
If you thought you were disappointed to be a Johnson owner in fantasy yesterday, think about how disappointed the Titans executives were after handing him over that massive contract? Matt Hasselbeck looked good in his Titans debut (2 TD, 263 yards) thanks in part to having Kenny Britt, perhaps the best wide receiver he's ever worked with (136 yards, 2 TD.) Meanwhile, Johnson had just 9 carries for 24 yards and 25 yards receiving. If you own Johnson, don't fret. After Baltimore in week 2, he gets to face Denver, Cleveland, the just-destroyed Steelers, Houston, Indianapolis, and then a number of other not-so-scary defenses. They didn't pay CJ not to have him get his touches. Maybe you try to buy-low after their week 2 game against the Ravens.
Luke McCown Not Terrible, but Still Luke McCown
Despite not having started a game since 2007, Luke McCown did pretty much all you could ask of him. He completed 17 of 24 passes (he had 23 pass attempts in the last three years TOTAL) for 175 yards and 0 interceptions. McCown will probably never be fantasy relevant this season unless the headline reads "Blaine Gabbert to Start, McCown to Sit" The franchise is eventually going to head that way, but so far Gabbert looks far too raw to give Jack Del Rio any hopes of winning enough games to save his job. While McCown won't ever wow you, the hope is that he won't throw games away as if he were Tony Romo or something. This team is counting on defense and Maurice Jones-Drew (97 yards and a TD) and that's it. For me, MJD is the only safe Jaguars fantasy play.
Well that didn't take very long. I didn't expect the Chiefs to win more than 8 games this season, and I'm not going to overreact that much to a single game, but goodness gracious. What are they going to do when they have to play from behind? Kansas City posted excellent yards per carry averages and had they not been down 20-0 to start the game then Jamaal Charles could have had the big game I predicted, but then the pressure fell onto Matt Cassel and the wide receivers. Their response was non-existent and Cassel finished with 119 yards passing and an interception. Unbelievably their leading receiver was Steve Breaston with 2 catches for 26 yards. Have the Bills rebuilt their defense that well? Are the Chiefs that much worse? Was Matt Cassel still hurting?
Meanwhile Ryan Fitzpatrick stole the day with 4 TDs and 0 INTs. I made a joke about the Bills tight end situation and I suppose they were listening because total unknown Scott Chandler had 5 catches for 63 yards and 2 TDs. Chandler was drafted in the 4th round of the 2007 NFL draft and in his career going into this season had 1 catch for 8 yards. What am I supposed to make of that Buffalo? PLEASE TELL ME! It's curious that a 6'7, 263-pound player would go unnoticed for this long, but he's someone you have to watch for now. Or it could be a fluke. I'd waste a bench spot on him if I was open for a tight end.
Rams Sacrifice Key Players to the NFL Gods, Still Lose
Despite their best efforts to kill all of their important players in order to win some good will with the Gods, the Rams still got manhandled by the Eagles. Philly looked like a division favorite, and just when the Rams were supposed to take over a weak NFC West division by being slightly above-average, they failed. Not only that, but Sam Bradford hurt his finger, Steven Jackson hurt his thigh, and Danny Amendola is going to miss at least two months. For those keeping score at home, those are literally their three most important skill players on offense. Cadillac Williams looks like a fine replacement for Jackson if necessary and he had 91 yards on 19 carries and another 49 yards in the air. The Eagles run defense looked pretty terrible, so keep that in mind for future matchups. Bradford thinks he'll be ready to go by next week, but if he doesn't don't expect AJ Feeley to do anything special in the same role. Cadillac is a must-own, and I'd have no real qualms about dropping Amendola at this point. Brandon Gibson gets an opportunity upgrade.
Vick is Still Good in Fantasy
Despite only completing 14 of 32 pass attempts, Michael Vick still threw for 2 TDs and ran for 98 yards. Vick is still the centerpiece of the offense and with the skill players Philadelphia has, his only job is to get them the ball as many times as he can and use his legs otherwise. Even if Vick struggles with accuracy, he's still in the right situation to put up a ton of fantasy points this year. Additionally, LeSean McCoy was one of the top fantasy players of the day and solidified his first-round status in drafts this year. He rushed for 122 yards and a score and added another TD in the air. McCoy could wind up as a top 4 running back this season.
So that Cam Newton Guy is Pretty Good
Even with all eyes on him in his NFL debut, Newton responded big with 422 yards passing (record books!) and 2 TDs and added another TD on the ground. I doubt that more than a handful of fantasy owners started Newton and that's too bad because I have a hard time believing this will be a normal day for the highly touted rookie. Not trying to take anything away from him, but let's be honest; this is a huge day and the Cardinals pass defense isn't exactly anything special. The Cardinals started two cornerbacks making their first career starts after they traded away Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and lost Greg Toler for the season due to injury. Patrick Peterson is a prized rookie with mega-potential but he's still a rookie. Like Vick, Newton is the centerpiece of the offense so he'll have his big games, but he'll also struggle. Let's see how they do against Green Bay next week. Meanwhile, Steve Smith came back from the dead and that'll be even more interesting to watch develop this season.
The Cardinals have an Interesting Starting QB Too
Lost in the shuffle from the same gamew as that Kevin Kolb also had a big game. He threw for over 300 yards, 2 TDs and 0 picks and oh yeah, he won the game. If the Cards continue to get this kind of production from their skill players, Kolb could have the big year that some predicted. Last season it was the Bucs that got a few surprise seasons on offense, what could Kolb, Beanie Wells (90 yards and a score) and Early Doucet (105 yards and a score) do this season? The Cards face a tough schedule in the middle of the year, but when fantasy playoffs roll around they face teams like the Bengals and Browns, so you might want to hold onto or start grabbing Arizona players while you can.
Donovan McNabb Gets Weekly Award Too: Worst Player of the Week!
McNabb nearly ran for more yards than he threw for, which would be good if he had rushed for like 200 yards but he only had 32 on the ground. As a quarterback, he completed 7 of 15 passes for 39 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. And yet somehow, beyond all comprehension, the Vikings still had a chance to win this game and held a 17-7 halftime lead. How much longer can McNabb hold off Christian Ponder? If the Vikings continue to get this kind of production from their QB it will hold back all Vikings skill players, including Adrian Peterson. Continue to monitor this situation.
Chargers Try Hard to Blow Early Season Game, Win Anyway
Probably one of the most commonly asked questions all week was: Do I play Mike Tolbert, Ryan Mathews, or neither? The most common answer was probably "neither" but as it turns out, Tolbert continues to mystify in fantasy and he scored three times. They evenly split carries but if that trend continues, Tolbert will be the better fantasy player because of the situations in which he'll get touches. Mathews didn't play bad and he had 118 total yards, but how many TDs can he get this year?
Seahawks Focused so Hard on Offense/Defense, Forget They Have to Play Special Teams
For most of the second half the Seahawks offense looked like it was finally clicking. After a terrible first half, Tarvaris Jackson hit Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin for touchdowns and the Hawks pulled to within two points. Then they made the mistake of kicking off to Ted Ginn Jr and then calmly walked off the field as Ginn ran it back 102 yards. In all seriousness, Ginn looked like the fastest player I've ever seen and that was basically the end of the game. For good measure, Ginn returned the next punt back 55 yards and what was just a close game became a blowout. My overall evaluation of the Seahawks is that they are a good rushing defense, a suspect passing defense, a suspect special teams, and a decent passing offense. Baldwin and Tate could be keys to Jacksons season and it'll be even better when Sidney Rice returns. The Hawks were also without guard Robert Gallery, so though the offense looked terrible in the first half, they might be just below average when they are fully healthy.
Niners Focused so Hard on Defense/Special Teams, Forget They Have to Play Offense
If the Niners are hoping to punt this season in order to re-unite Jim Harbaugh with Andrew Luck, somebody forgot to tell Ted Ginn. They nearly blew the game but in the end they pulled away with an easy victory, in no thanks to their offense. Alex Smith looked positively "Luke McCownian" out there and though he had no interceptions, he also only had 124 yards and no TD's (1 TD on the ground.) Frank Gore struggled in week 1 against the Seahawks last year, so I'm not surprised he struggled again yesterday. When the Seahawks d-line is healthy, they are above-average. I'm not sure how long the Niners will go with Smith though. In this division they have a real shot to make the playoffs, but Smith will never do more than whelm you.
So in a complete reversal of roles, Rex Grossman dominates Eli Manning's numbers and Tim Hightower outgains Ahmad Bradshaw. I liked Hightower quite a bit going into the season and I'd be perfectly content with 100 total yards a score all season long. Meanwhile Grossman picked up from where he left off last season and topped 300 yards with 2 scores and no mistakes. Fred Davis also broke out for 105 yards, meaning I have absolutely no idea what to think of this offense. In fairness, the Giants defense has suffered a lot of injuries already this season.
On the flipside, Hakeem Nicks was totally Hakeem Nicks (7 catches for 122 yards) but Eli was just 18 for 32 with 0 TD and 1 INT. I will have to re-evaluate my opinions of both teams. I'm not saying that the Redskins will finish with a better record than the Giants, it's far too early for that, but should the Giants have gone out and gotten a tight end? I'd just say that the Skins are a little better than I thought they were and I forgot that they have some pretty talented players on defense, including rookie Ryan Kerrigan.
Jets Trick Romo by Setting the Date on His Phone to "December"
Romo was looking like an upper-echelon QB all game long up until the end of the game when he gifted a victory to the Jets on a crucial interception. Overall he threw for 342 yards and 2 scores against a tough Jets defense, and Dez Bryant had some early game victories to finish with 71 yards and a TD, but in the end it wasn't enough for the Cowboys. Romo must have had his months mixed up when he went into the game on that last drive. Jason Witten and Miles Austin also had nice games, and Felix Jones added a TD. All against a pretty tough Jets D, so while you can have your doubts about the Cowboys in real football, they have solidified themselves as one of the top fantasy offenses in the NFL.
Is Jets Offense Better or Cowboys Just That Bad?
I'm still not sold on Mark Sanchez as a breakthrough QB this season. Yes, he had 335 yards and 2 TDs, but he needed 44 passes to get there and he completed just 26 of them. Even then his 59% completion is higher than his career, so I guess that's something. The addition of Plaxico Burress definitely helped so far, but where will they go from here when they faces teams like Baltimore and New England? And when are they going to run the ball? Last season they were 4th in the NFL in rushing offense, so this was not a typical game for them. I expect 335 yards and 44 passes to be the exception for Sanchez, not the rule. Shonn Greene will be just fine.
My Predictions in Review:
On Friday I made a few predictions for this weekend. How'd I do so far?
- My sleepers were Josh Cribbs, Jeremy Kerley, Kerry Collins, Damian Williams, and Michael Bush. Cribbs had a big game in the returning department but continues to not be utilized on offense. Kerley was non-existent on offense and had a few forgettable punt returns. Kerry Collins turns out to be terrible, so I guess that's no big surprise. Williams had just 1 catch for the Titans. We'll see what Bush does tonight.
- I said LeGarrette Blount would struggle, and he was a major disappointment. I said the same of Miles Austin but he had 90 yards and a TD. I didn't like Dwayne Bowe this week and he had 2 catches for 17 yards. I also said to stay away from Rams wide receivers (poor Amendola) and Arian Foster.
- My predicted stars of the week were: Vernon Davis (below average), Matt Schaub (Houston had a huge day but Schaub didn't get in on the fun so much), Vincent Jackson (almost non-existent), Darren McFadden, and Jamaal Charles (great YPC but few opportunities)
- Personally, I have four teams. Three of them I will win easily and have a chance to be the leading scorer in all three of the leagues. In my other league I started Matt Ryan over Matt Stafford and I'm down 17 points with McFadden, Jerrod Mayo, and Devin McCourty going tonight and my opponent has Brandon Marshall.
- My play of the day was probably putting Ben Tate into my flex position. He only had a few more points than Stevie Johnson, but bragging rights over a bold move like that are priceless.
- My screw-up of the day was Ryan over Stafford.
- The surprise of the day is a tie between Scott Chandler and Steve Smith. Can Smith rebound to have a huge year again now that he has a real QB? Will Chandler continue to be utilized in the offense? How many of you picked up Chandler yesterday? Who was your biggest pickup?
- The player of the day is also Steve Smith. Great games from LeSean McCoy, Ray Rice, and Ryan Fitzpatrick, but give props to Smith who was probably borderline undrafted in many leagues.
- The disappointment of the day is Blount. Not only for barely posting any numbers, but for doing it without getting hurt and for getting less carries than Graham. Owners are left scratching their head over what to do with Blount right now. Jamaal Charles saved himself by catching a TD pass, because otherwise he was expected to dominate the Bills. Honorable Mention to Peyton Hillis.
- Other injuries: Nate Kaeding is done for the year. Other than the big three, the Rams also lost Jason Smith who was expected to have a breakout year at LT. Texans WR Kevin Walter has a broken shoulder.
I had a lot of fun with my first year of tweeting during games. Perhaps you enjoy what I will have to say, so please do feel free to follow @casetines for all the updates and need-to-knows and general quips while I try to be serious about all the action and also lighten the mood like a late-night romance DJ.
Please also give us your comments on how your week 1 has gone so far, what you need tonight, etc. We're here to listen. I'm not your therapist or anything though, so keep that stuff to yourself. Fantasy football only. Okay fine, you get one chance to tell me about your childhood but that's it. I charge by the hour. Come on, I seriously just gave you 5,000 words, you can give me a couple and a follow.
Happy Monday Night Football double-header to you.
Writers note from Humbled Fan: I just want to thank all of you for reading here. I have spent a lot of time in the past month working and writing in preparation for the season and I do it all because it's in my blood. The same goes for the rest of the staff at Faketeams, and I truly believe that this is the number one place you'll want to come for fantasy advice. We all appreciate you reading here and the continued development of this community is something I really look forward to. I hope that you guys have enjoyed what I and the rest of the team have done and that you'll continue to spread the word about faketeams. I think it's going to be a great season and being a part of this will probably make it my favorite year of football ever. Thanks again and good luck. (Not that you'll need it as long as you keep coming back!)