Before we get into the top 5 fantasy performances from a busy opening Sunday in the NFL, let me start with a few quick disclaimers:
A) Honorable mention goes to Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Kevin Ogletree, who had a great opening game against the New York Giants on Thursday night catching eight passes for a total of 118 yards and 2 touchdowns.
B) The fantasy football league I play in has slightly customized rules for team defenses and we also reward players with one point per reception as well as points for kick and punt return yards, with a full 10 points being awarded to a player who scores on a return.
So without further ado, here are the top 5 performers from Sunday's games:
1. Matt Ryan - Atlanta Falcons QB
2. Cleveland Browns Defense
Matt Ryan - Atlanta Falcons QB
Ryan managed to rip apart the Kansas City Chiefs defense at Arrowhead Stadium in a 40-24 victory. In addition to three touchdown passes, Ryan also scored a touchdown rushing the ball. Before the start of the season many fantasy experts predicted that Ryan would be the one quarterback to make the jump from the second tier to the elite this season as the Falcons are going to be more committed to running the ball than they have been in previous years. That theory proved correct yesterday afternoon as Michael Turner ran the ball 11 times and rookie Jacquizz Rodgers posted 7 rushes for a combined total of 54 yards for the two running backs. Matt Ryan owners should be excited to see Ryan come into his own this year and it seems like he definitely will be in that top tier after all. The prospects for the next three weeks in terms of Ryan's future performance look great as the Falcons take on the Denver Broncos at home and then face the San Diego Chargers and Carolina Panthers after that. Each of those three games should be high-scoring, meaning that Ryan will be throwing the rock on the regular for the rest of the month.
Cleveland Browns Defense
The Cleveland Browns came very close to upsetting last year's "dream team" Philadelphia Eagles at home and the reason was not their rookie quarterback or their rookie running back as Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson both delivered lackluster performances. It all came down to defense. The Browns managed to pick off Michael Vick four times in the game including a 27 yard interception for touchdown from Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson. The Browns also managed to get LeSean McCoy to cough up a fumble. Although a late touchdown pass to Clay Harbor gave the Eagles a 17-16 victory, Cleveland's defense has been above average in recent years and they can put up fantasy points. The problem has always been their offense which means that there are going to be weeks when the score is run up on them. However if you own individual players, namely the aforementioned Jackson, you should be able to count on guys like him for points every week. As for selecting the Cleveland Browns as your team defense, a lot depends on the match up and the weather conditions.
C.J Spiller - Buffalo Bills Running Back
Spiller had 169 yards rushing on just 14 carries including a touchdown as the Bills lost to the New York Jets by a score of 41-21. Fred Jackson injured his knee after just a few carries in the game and the early diagnosis is that Jackson is out indefinitely, although there appears to be no structural damage to his knee. The Buffalo Bills main backup rusher is Tashard Choice, who is not a threat to rack up significant fantasy numbers should Jackson sit out more than a week or two, so you can count on Spiller to be the workhorse running back in the interim. it remains to be seen what Spiller will be able to do when the Bills are not getting blown out of the water. With that said, C.J. is a talented running back and because Jackson managed to breakout last season, Spiller has been used sparingly since. This might be a chance for him to show what he can really do when games still matter and if you own Jackson you have no choice but to pick up Spiller and hope he can carry the load for you.
Here's the player in this list that might cause you to have a difference of opinion from mine. Cobb gets rewarded in my fantasy league for return yards and receptions and it looks like he will be the main guy when it comes to getting those short yardage touches on little slant routes from Aaron Rodgers. It also helps that he busted out for a 75 yard punt return touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers yesterday. The Green Bay Packers are one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL and they lack a lot in terms of defense through the air, meaning that they will be involved in a lot of high-scoring games and you can bet they won't be running the ball very much this season as has been their forte for the last few years. There will be some weeks where Cobb doesn't produce because the ball will get spread around but if you're in a PPR league you should take a look at picking him up if he is available. Furthermore, if your league rewards players for getting return yards he should definitely be on your roster.
Although I personally am not a fan of drafting a starting quarterback that is only in his rookie season, Robert Griffin does have the potential to be your starting quarterback as long as you're willing to take a gamble and realize that there may be occasional weeks where he makes mistakes and has a bad game. It might especially be worth the risk if you decided not to have a second quarterback on your team. The Redskins have the St. Louis Rams, Cincinnati Bengals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coming up on the schedule in the next three weeks, and if putting up 40 points on the New Orleans Saints is an indication, they could easily be 4-0 by the end of the month. You can start Griffin with confidence going forward as he has enough upside for you to risk the occasional rough outings.
Of the players on this list, only Matt Ryan is guaranteed to be beneficial for the rest of the season, but of course picking up key guys along the way to win your fantasy championship at the end of the year. With that in mind, Randall Cobb and Robert Griffin are the safest bets for now with a slight edge over C.J. Spiller, whose contribution to the Buffalo Bills depends on the health of Fred Jackson's knee.
As always leave your comments below and feel free to contact me anytime for a healthy debate.