The NFL is back, and after a full slate of games it can be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. Who was a flash in the pan, and who should be in your plans?
Fortunately, SB Nation Fantasy is here to help. We've got a look at all 16 games from Week One, with perspective on what it all means for next week as well as the games to come.
Let's get to it.
John Skelton played surprisingly OK in making the solid throws and good decisions necessary to convert Arizona's good defensive effort against Seattle into a win. Naturally, he got hurt late in the game because Cardinals. Moving from surprising to surprisinger, Kevin Kolb came in cold off the bench and looked downright surgical on the game-winning TD drive. It would be surprisingest if Kolb managed to put up #1 QB stats against the Pats and Eagles, however, and with Skelton likely back in a few weeks you should stay away from this mess unless you're starting Brandon Weeden in a 2-QB league. Which you definitely should not be doing.
The race for the #1 running back job between Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams looks like the chase scene between Marsellus Wallace and Butch after the car wreck in Pulp Fiction - they're both staggering along, making poor speed and about to get taken into the basement to meet the Gimp. Not a lot of clear upside for either one in the near term.
Larry Fitzgerald is, as always, Larry Fitzgerald - he didn't dazzle this week largely due to strong work from Seattle's oversize corner duo of Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, but he'll do good things despite a mish-mash at the QB situation. Andre Roberts could hold down the #2 job for the forseeable future as Malcolm Floyd seems to have 'underwhelming rookie campaign' written all over him. Roberts is worth a look in deep leagues, especially if the Cards' OL continues to show much better in pass pro than run blocking.
Speaking of the Arizona OL, they showed much better in pass pro than run blocking. It's worth noting that Seattle has a stout run defense but struggled to get any kind of pressure last year, and that may be the case again this year. But you still have to feel a little better about Arizona's pass game prospects than you did coming in with this bunch. Not a LOT better, but a little.
The Arizona Defense certainly has the look of being spot-start worthy. Calais Campbell and Darnell Docket are hell for most guards to block, and the OLB combo of Sam Acho and O'Brien Schoenfeld showed some frisk even if it was left to the ILBs to rack the sack stats in Week One. With Patrick Peterson looking like he may be fully weaponized as a corner as well as a return man and a great safety like Adrian Wilson in the mix, the Cards are an intriguing option if your league scoring system makes it remotely worth carrying a second defense. I wouldn't elevate them to every-week starter status or anything, but games with the Rams, Dolphins, Vikes, and Bills have some real appeal.
Wow. I had Matt Ryan seventh in my Preseason Fantasy Guide rankings, and I think I may have missed low. He was facing a somewhat outmanned KC defense that was lacking its only edge rusher in Tamba Hali and its best cover man in Brandon Flowers, but the Falcons' new-found willingness to throw the ball all over the yard was not a mirage. Right now he's looking like he could hit Eli Manning's 2011 stats with several more TDs thrown in courtesy of a legit receiving TE and the outright monstrousness of Julio Jones.
The wide-open offense giveth, and it also taketh away - and what might have gotten takeneth was Michael Turner's viability as an every-week starter. KC does have a stout defensive front, but Turner's 'Burner' moniker has joined the Grits Blitz and the Dirty Bird in the not-all-that-hallowed halls of Falcons' history. Revise your expectations to around 800 yards and 8 TDs, and if he can't show a little more zip even his goal line role could be in jeopardy. Jacquizz Rodgers didn't make much of a Week One impact, but his seven carries (to Turner's eleven) and natural fit in an up-tempo pass attack should tell you which way the wind is blowing here.
DAT JULIO JONES. I had him #2 among WRs, and I may have missed low there as well. Jones' size, speed, hands, open-field shake and possession of Matt Ryan's man-love were all on display Sunday - we may be looking at early 2000's Terrell Owens transported into a future where you're no longer allowed to play pass defense. Roddy White had a strong game of his own and he's an every-week starter as Ryan will continue to spin it with regularity. But DAT JULIO JONES. Tony Gonzalez still has plenty in the tank to exploit the collection of linebackers that will be trying to cover him this season as the safeties' attentions are firmly elsewhere.
The Atlanta OL struggled somewhat in the run game, and they'll definitely have tougher tests than a Hali-less Chiefs pass rush. If LT Sam Baker can play close to his pre-injury form, however, the front five shouldn't hinder the Atlanta air show.
The Atlanta defense had a slow start, a great second half and then horrid news as they lost stud corner Brent Grimes for the year with an ACL tear. Dunta Robinson will be making an appearance in this week's (and probably every week's) Fantasy Targeter report. The loss of Grimes is major, and it really impacts Atlanta's viability as a fantasy defense as better QBs than Matt Cassel could really get after the holes in the secondary. It could mean even more tasty shootout potential for the Atlanta pass game, however.
I kind of poor-mouthed Joe Flacco in my preseason writeup, but started to reconsider late as buzz around the Ravens' new up-tempo approach began to build. Flacco proceeded to shove my poor-mouthing right down my throat with a terrific display against the Bengals on MNF. Like Matt Ryan, he was facing a defense lacking its best pass rusher with some messiness in the secondary, but also like Matt Ryan he did some things that were not flashes in the proverbial pan. His deep shots to Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin were on-the-money Predator drone strikes that showed off the arm that Baltimore coveted in the '07 draft. More on his weapons below, but 4100 yards and 28 TDs are absolutely on the table despite a tough schedule.
Ray Rice is fantasy's most reliable back, and he'll continue to rack yards on the ground with great burst and vision while hauling in 4-7 catches a game. The shift to up-tempo would hinder some backs, but Rice's skill set will allow him to thrive. Whether it's on the ground, in the air or at the goal line, Rice is a great bet to get his each week.
Torrey Smith had a quieter game than I'd expected, but the jets were on full display in the Raven's opening series. He's still a good bet for a true #1 wideout role and should flirt with 1000 yards and 9 TDs. Anquan Boldin still has enough in the tank to be a solid flex play depending on matchups, and while Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson still figure to cap each other's production there's growing evidence that Pitta is the more accomplished receiver - if you need a TE2, give him a good long look.
The Baltimore OL showed well in the run game, and were solid on the edge in pass protection despite some late shuffling of personnel. Maybe since the Oakland A's are currently reprising 'Moneyball' in the AL West, they felt like they should go all Michael Lewis and re-insert Micheal Oher on the Blind Side. The interior was a bit messy, although you won't see many inside pass rushers with the gifts of Geno Atkins. No real worries here.
While other defenses look hot for a while and then go all post-pregnancy Jessica Simpson on you, the Baltimore D continues to age like the love child of Jennifer Aniston and Legolas. (And Jen - give Legolas a shot! He's kind, he's faithful, and despite the whole elf thing he's 10 times the man John Mayer will ever be! Ignore the rumors about Gimli - it's just a bromance). It may take a village to replace injured DPOY Terrell Suggs, but the Ravens appear to have a village. An angry, purple village.
While it was a tough task against a motivated Jets defense, there's no way to spin Ryan Fitzpatrick's day as anything other than a nightmare from a football standpoint as his three INTs basically ended the game before it started. His three TDs made things better from a fantasy standpoint, but it was still an ugly show to be sure. Buffalo has nothing behind him so his job isn't in jeopardy and the Chan Gailey spread-em'out will generate some solid stat days, but his flirtation with upper-tier QB2 status just had a hose turned on it.
Poor Fred Jackson got six carries into the 2012 season before injuring a knee ligament. The latest reports have him missing maybe a month, so don't drop him unless you're in an outright roster emergency. CJ Spiller ran wild in his absence, and he's the #1 waiver wire option in any league where he happens to be available. He figures to establish himself enough over the next few games that he and Jackson will probably be a part of the dreaded time share once FJax is back.
Stevie Johnson salvaged his fantasy day with a garbage time TD, but Revis got the better of this matchup. Johnson remains a target-dependent low-end #2 WR, and Donald Jones deserves some waiver wire consideration after the loss of David Nelson to a blown ACL just because of how much the Bills will whip it around. Rookie TJ Graham has some deep-league intrigue for the same reason, but I'd let him put up some good game tape before making a move there.
The Buffalo OL was always going to have something of a tough day against a vicious Jets' run D - it was tough sledding for Fred Jackson before Spiller got to start ripping off big gainers against nickel and dime looks. They held up pretty well in pass protection, and it was encouraging to see Cordy Glenn not look overmatched in his first start at LT.
The Buffalo D, on the other hand, got outright eviscerated. Rookie CB Stephon Gilmore and nickel man Leodis McKelvin got it absolutely fed to them, combining for 10 catches, 155 yards and three TDs allowed on TWELVE throws their way. By Mark Sanchez. TWELVE. SANCHEZ. The defensive front has too much talent to let the team get abused like this and Mario Williams was hot in the post-game about a spate of uncalled holds, but even if they bring it strong they'll need much better efforts from the skinny guys lined up behind them.
High-scoring Panthers offense met horrendous Bucs defense, and the result was BUHHHHH?????? While there were failures at every level, Cam Newton did nothing to quiet the whispers that a lot of his hype - particularly as a passer - was built on an unsustainable first-month showing against lockout-addled defenses. His owners were placated by a 300-yard day, but if he continues the poor decision-making he showed he'll short-circuit a lot of TD chances.
DeAngelo Williams did his darndest to wrestle the Most Shocking Fantasy Disappointment prize away from Chris Johnson. Obviously both guys' OLs were complicit in their respective fiascoes, but vastly higher expectations were on the table against Tampa. Williams started last season slow as well, but Jonathan Stewart certainly gets a bit of a bump when he comes back - he'll get plenty of chances to right the Panthers' run game ship after it took a full on broadside from the Bucs' pirate vessel.
Steve Smith isn't slowing down any time soon at age 33, and Brandon LaFell also showed pretty well in working open for some long gainers and a TD. LaFell should be owned in 12-team leagues, and his value could creep even higher if Carolina has to lean more heavily on the pass game - which they will if they can't do better with the run than this week's abominable showing. Greg Olsen hauled in six of the seven balls that came his way and looks to be the second or third target on every passing play - he's a low-end TE1 now that Jeremy Shockey is out of Carolina.
The Panthers' OL was never as good as last season's stats made them out in the run game since a lot of the value came from the built-in constraint of Cam Newton keeping at the mesh point of the handoff. But good grief, they were never THIS bad. Gerald McCoy's return had a big impact, but he's not he only good DT in the league and if Carolina's interior OL doesn't get it together quick it will mean a serious decrease in expectations for their entire run game.
The Carolina D didn't get shoved all over the field like last year's version, but neither did they step up and make a game-changing play against a fairly plodding Bucs' offense. Higher-octane offensive attacks shouldn't have too much to fear from this bunch until further notice.
If anybody anywhere was happier about a free agent acquisition than Jay Cutler must have been about the Bears' acquisition of Brandon Marshall, I'd like to have that person pointed out to me. Cutler wasted no time getting his new toy out of the box, firing the ball Marshall's way 15 times on the way to a 333 yard, 2 TD performance. The Indy secondary is a cesspool even with the addition of Vontae Davis, but the addition of a legit weapon means Cutler can hit QB1 production any week his OL gives him remotely acceptable blocking.
Matt Forte's owners had their hopes and fears both stoked as Forte ran tough, hauled in 40 yards' worth of receptions but still got 2 TDs vultured by Michael Bush. TDs will be a season-long challenge for Forte, but he'll also enjoy gains from a more productive Bears' offense overall thanks to Marshall's addition. Bush proved he'll have flex value on many weeks, and Forte owners shouldn't be afraid to turn a mid-grade receiver or two over in a trade to make sure Bush is on their roster should Forte go down.
The aforementioned Marshall toyed with Vontae Davis, and while he'll face tougher coverage tests he's still the best bet to lead the league in targets and will be a WR1 in almost every week. Alshon Jeffrey also got off to a strong start, and by no later than midseason he should fully own the WR2 job and threaten flex-caliber production in a lot of weeks.
The Chicago OL got off to their typical dire start, getting Cutler annihilated on the game's first series. Their lives got easier once Dwight Freeney was lost to an ankle injury, and they didn't stand in the way of a strong fantasy day for the Bears' air and ground games. Tougher tests await, but it was at least a good first outing for a much-maligned bunch.
The Chicago D enjoyed the fruits of facing a rookie QB behind an OL as shaky as their own, notching three sacks and three picks as they gave Andrew Luck a hard welcome to the league. You never want to get lit up by a 33-year old receiver the way the Bears got touched by Reggie Wayne, but it took 18 targets and they kept the rest of the Colt's O pretty well contained.
The lockout-induced defensive chaos of September 2011 produced a few mirages, and 'Andy Dalton, viable fantasy QB' may have been one of them. I don't want to bag on the Ginger Avenger as he's a heady, accurate guy, but his iffy arm strength and lack of real weapons outside of AJ Green combined with a brutal schedule means that he's not likely to be among the top 20 QB options in most weeks.
Benjarvus Green-Ellis fought Geno Atkins tooth-and-nail for Bengals Player of the Game, and if he's able to run this tough he's going to put talk of a Bernard Scott time-share in the rear view mirror. It was a particularly impressive effort given the iffy state of his interior OL in this game while facing a monster like Haloti Ngata. He's another guy I wasn't too high on due to speed, schedule and time-share concerns, but he's a no-doubt starter until further notice.
AJ Green had a solid day, and given that he was facing the best secondary in the league there are many bigger days ahead (like a Joe Haden-less Browns team in Week Two, for example). Andrew Hawkins was one of fantasy's biggest Week One surprises, and given that Binn-Tate have gotten less combined traction than Simpson-Bowles as a #2 wideout combo it's not out of the question that Hawkins steals that gig. Don't break your free agent budget going after him, but if you're dropping someone like David Nelson he's worth a look (though guys like Jerome Simpson should be higher on your priority list).
Jermaine Gresham. Meh.
The Cincinnati OL had something of a tough time of it, but their showing in the run game was impressive. You shouldn't have high hopes for any Bengals' pass weapon outside of AJ Green anyway, but if they can continue to show cohesion then BGE's prospects get brighter.
The Cincinnat D has better days ahead, but they need to get healthy. Missing Carlos Dunlap along with Dre Kirkpatrick is not a recipe for success. They actually have their best stretch of the season coming up with Cleveland twice along with Jacksonville and Miami in their next five games, so you could do worse than to grab them if your starting D has a tough slate and hope Carlos Dunlap gets well soon.
If your league is so deep that you held your draft in a bathysphere and could see those fish that make their own light swimming outside, you might have drafted Brandon Weeden. Assuming you didn't, however, let's not spend too much time on his performance other than to say that while this may be his worst outing of the season, it sure won't be his only bad one.
Trent Richardson joined the Week One Quick-Healing RB Corps by logging 19 carries following a knee scope in the pres-season. They were 19 utterly futile carries thanks to the savage beating the Eagle's front put on Cleveland's OL, but it was a good sign for his owners that he'll at least get full usage early. It may take him a little longer to recover his burst, and it may take a lot longer for him to see good blocking on a consistent basis. It's going to be hard to count on him for more than flex production over the next couple of weeks.
You shouldn't have been counting on much from Browns' receivers this season, but owners who took a targets-based WR 4/5 flier on Greg LIttle can't have been happy to see the lackluster show he put on. He won't be facing Nnamdi Asomugha each week, but it's not too early to cut bait in favor of someone like Alshon Jeffrey - this is just going to be bug-ugly all year long.
The Browns' OL took a hard beating from the Eagles' deep and nasty defensive front - the guards and rookie RT Mitchell Schwartz did not look remotely ready for prime time. If you needed another reason to doubt the Browns' skill position players, you've got it.
The Browns' D put on a tremendously game effort, tormenting Michael Vick with four INTs and keeping LeSean McCoy from the 200-yards-from-scrimmage outburst that was on the table with the shaky state of their LB corps. Emmanuel Stephens and Juqua Parker at end absolutely wore out the Eagles' tackles. The loss of Joe Haden to a suspension will make things a lot tougher for the next four games, however.
Tony Romo is good. Real good. And the work he does to elevate the Cowboys' offense has seldom been on better display than it was in Dallas' big-time road win over the defending champs. Dodging rushers behind a leaky OL and coping with a crippled tight end, Romo connected with a pair of receivers he'd barely thrown to in a month while also making a waiver wire hero out of Kevin #FearTheTree Ogletree. The interior OL in particular may make things dicey at times, but as Witten heals and Ogletree emerges Romo should flirt with Top Five production at the position each week.
CJ Spiller jacked stats while down 28 points, Stevan Ridley gobbled TDs and Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson defied medical science, but DeMarco Murray turned in Week One's showcase running back performance. Burst, lateral quicks and long speed were all on display, as well as the desire to punish defenders at the end of literally every run. Mix in a couple of catches, and I feel pretty good about my #6 preseason RB ranking for Murray.
I'm going in a QB/RB/WR order on these things, but I definitely feel like I'm burying the lede by not putting Kevin Ogletree front and center. There's not going to be a more hotly-debated waiver wire guy for Week Two than the Tree, and I'd put a pretty solid value on him. That's not because his week-to-week production will look anything like this - Witten was a shell of his former self, the Giants' one decent corner was tracking Dez Bryant and the New York secondary was basically reduced to a collection of pound puppies. But there are a couple of other key facts to consider:
A) Breakout receivers happen on teams with good QBs
B) They (apparently) don't teach stretching in the Cowboys S&C program
C) They (apparently) don't teach risk/reward concepts at Princeton
Point A) means that Ogletree's potential upside is greater than many other guys in a comparable or even more advantageous depth chart situation. Point B) means that Miles Austin's ill-starred hamstrings could pop at any time. Point C) means that in defiance of literally all logic and sense, Dallas will continue the unforgiveable idiocy of risking Dez Bryant's health as a return man, which has only seen him injured in 100% of the seasons where they've previously tried it. All THOSE points mean that Ogletree has a better than average chance of finding himself in a VERY advantageous spot at some point in the season. If I'm a Bryant or Austin owner, I'd consider the rarely seen "WR handcuff" move since Ogletree really could challenge Laurent Robinson-type production during any stretch when one of those guys is down. Speaking of those guys, Austin got his piano-wire hamstrings tuned in time to contribute a strong 4/73/1 stat line, while Bryant flashed athletic brilliance (as is his wont) in the first half (as is also his wont). The Cowboys only had four second-half possessions that were pretty run-heavy, but a lone target did nothing to dissuade concerns that Bryant simply has mental processing issues that make it tough to keep him involved in second-half game plans where you have to impart information in 15 minutes rather than six days.
Dallas' OL wasn't pretty at times, but they held up against the Giants' vaunted front. There was more room to run for Murray than expected, and while Tyron Smith struggled at times with JPP you can be forgiving when a guy's first start at LT comes against a Top Three edge defender in the entire league. The interior guys will struggle enough that Romo shouldn't put away his dancin' shoes, but the group as a whole alleviated some concerns about potentially torpedoing Dallas' offensive capability.
Dallas' D put on a pretty impressive show, even if they were aided and abetted by a shoddy Giant's OL, an out-of-practice Hakeem Nicks and a "you don't think I got a little distracted living the life of a Super Bowl winner in Manhattan, do you?" showing by Victor Cruz. The secondary is light years ahead of last year's horror show, Mo Claiborne seems to be traversing the rookie growth curve nicely and Jason Hatcher could finally be the second pass rusher DeMarcus Ware has pined for. They've got more growth to do, but they aren't likely to singlehandedly hand fantasy titles (or division titles) to Eagles' and Giants' owners this season.
Welcome back, Peyton Manning! The vet signal caller looked to have missed nary a beat as he took total charge of the Broncos' offense in a highly efficient pantsing of the Pittsburgh defense (who would probably just as soon not visit Mile High again for a long, long time). He showed a good connection with Eric Decker and Jacob Tamme, and while he still hasn't answered questions about his downfield velocity (that 71-yarder to Demaryius Thomas was a well-blocked screen throw) he still has the accuracy and chops to put up low-end QB1 stats even if he keeps things short.
Willis McGahee didn't light the world on fire, but he was facing a still-stout defense in Pittsburgh. More importantly, it appears that his big backfield challenger will be Knowshon Moreno. Moreno's history of injuries, missed assignments and outright face-plants when presented with any kind of opportunity should keep the job securely in McGahee's hands for the forseeable future.
Eric Decker and Jacob Tamme predictably showed some good click with Manning on the short and intermediate stuff, and both should see a wealth of targets as the season rolls on. Demaryius Thomas was the statistical hero after his 71-yard TD jaunt, but I still want to see Manning deliver one laser 45 yards in the air before I pencil Thomas in for the high-WR2 production many have projected for him. As he showed, however, his size and speed can still make hay even if the initial throw is a short one.
The Broncos' OL held up better than expected, though they certainly benefitted from the absence of James Harrison for Pittsburgh. They already showed far better awareness and coordination on blitz pickups than they had in the past, and if their tackles can hold up in pass protection Manning will enjoy a fine season.
The Denver D got marched on in the first half of the game, but they were able to turn it up and get after Roethlisberger in the second half. They were helped by the fact that the Pittsburgh OL's blocking sled apparently sits atop an Indian burial ground, as the perpetually cursed unit lost RT Marcus Gilbert and RG Ramon Foster to in-game injuries. They'll need to prove that the loss of Brodrick Bunkley won't compromise them against healthier OLs, but it was certainly a good start for the Denver D.
Matthew Stafford certainly did his best to inject high drama in what had figured to be a fairly boring beatdown of the Rams. He threw three picks, ranging from "ill-advised" to "is he shaving points?" on the Pick-O-Meter, but all (or mostly all) was forgiven thanks to his 355 yard passing day and thrilling late-game heroics. He'll need to tighten up that decision-making in a real hurry, but there's little to suggest that Detroit won't be an outright air show again in 2012.
Kevin Smith made the most of his presence as the lone man who could walk and chew gum in the Lions' backfield, combining 63 yards on the ground with four catches and a TD each way. His rushing role is somewhat up in the air with the looming return of Mikel Leshoure in Week Three, but at minimum he should keep hauling in targets going forward.
Calvin Johnson enjoyed a strong 6/111 showing, but his owners still probably wanted more given the Rams' shaky secondary. TDs won't be long in coming, however. Most preseason expectation had Titus Young grabbing the de facto #2 role in the Lions' air attack, but he had a very quiet 2012 debut while old hand Nate Burleson hauled in a solid 6/69 on 8 targets. I'm not backing off my predictions for a big season for Young just yet, but he belongs on the bench until it's proven that he'll be a bigger part of the game plan. Brandon Pettigrew just isn't that skilled, but if Stafford keeps targeting him 8-10 times a game he'll keep producing TE1 stats.
The Detroit OL had a great day in pass protection against a Rams' front with some sneaky-good pass rushers in Robert Quinn and Chris Long. The run game is borderline irrelevant in Detroit, but if they can keep Stafford fairly clean he'll challenge 5,000 passing yards with ease.
The Lions' defense had a little trouble corralling Danny Amendola, but other than that they said no to just about everything the Rams wanted to do offensively. Their secondary is still vulnerable against more accomplished passing attacks, but their fierce rush covers a number of sins and sets them up well to prey on the weak.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packer came up on the short end of Week One's marquee showdown. Rodgers threw an uncharacteristic pick to Navorro Bowman and dealt with tough coverage on his top two wideouts, but still managed a strong 300-yard, 2TD showing. With James Jones appearing to have figured things out and Randall Cobb adopting an interesting role as a kind-of-wingback in the backfield, Rodgers may be more fully stocked with weapons than ever.
Cedric Benson was never going to run wild on a front as stout as San Fran's, but something north of 2.0 yards a carry would have been nice. While Mike McCarthy is a great offensive mind, he showed a frustrating tendency to go 'run-for one, pass, pass, run-for-two, pass, pass, run for none, pass, pass' last season and this game was no different. Benson is no speedburner and that OL is pass-first to say the least, so McCarthy will need to call some more runs off-schedule if Benson is going to find consistent success. The advent of Cobb as a possible run-game substitute on short throws is also alarming for Benson owners (while welcome for those with Rodgers).
It was a tough day for Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, as Carlos Rogers and Tarrell Brown put on some sticky coverage. James Jones and Randall Cobb were the main beneficiaries as they put up 4/81/1 and 9/77/0 lines, respectively. It's too early to worry about receivers of Nelson and Jennings' caliber in a pass attack this ferocious (though Jennings' groin may keep him out in Week Two), but a Saints'-level spread-it-out offensive approach could make WR1 performances from these two more of an inconsistent prospect. Predictably, the only man on the field who could stop Jermichael Finley was Jermichael Finley. He's still a tremendous weapon, but much more in the way of dropsies may just cause Rodgers to hand his targets to Jones and Cobb.
The Packers' OL won't face a tougher test than they did in Week One. You almost have to write off the run game against the 49ers, but it was still not a pretty show. The good news was that LT Marshall Newhouse held up pretty well after a horrifying rookie season.
The thinking was that Dom Capers would heal the Packers' defense through wizardry, but there's never been a 'genius' coach who didn't have great players under his command. The Packers' down linemen were again terribly unproductive, and BJ Raji in particular gives the impression of a dude who's more than happy with one Super Bowl ring and a State Farm commercial to his credit. Clay Matthews was the only guy putting up a semblance of a pass rush, and the secondary flashed both poor individual coverage and outright confusion.
After a sluggish start to the game, Houston got it together and laid some hard knocks on the pitiful Dolphins. Matt Schaub didn't light up the stat sheet, but he was cool and efficient in picking apart a shoddy Dolphins' secondary. The Texans are far too run-heavy for him to achieve passing-stat dominance, but he's a tremendously dependable QB2.
Arian Foster was one of a host of backs to shrug off injury concerns and keep his backup planted on the bench as he ground out 79 hard yards and 2 TDs on 26 carries. His owners love to see the touches, toughness and TDs, but would no doubt like to see more from the rebuilt right side of the Texans' OL. Ben Tate will have bigger days than this even when Foster is healthy, but he looks to be a pure handcuff right now rather than a potential flex play.
Andre Johnson made the most of his happy renuion with Schaub, torching the Dolphins for an 8/119/1 line that pleased the owners who were smart enough to grab him while shrugging off injury concerns in a league where every single player is an injury risk. There's not a lot of food left on the table for other receivers in this offense, but Owen Daniels' 4/87 day calls into question why he fell to the mid-TE2 ranks in most draft rooms considering his track record and the departure of Joel Dreessen.
The Texans' OL was not up to its usual standards - the Miami defensive front is stout even in a new 4-3 look, but the right side of Antoine Caldwell and Derek Newton did nothing to dissuade the people who actually understand how successful running games are built (hint - it's seldom because of the running back) from thinking that Arian Foster's big money might have been better spent keeping Eric Winston and Mike Brisiel in the fold. The Kubiak system should make them look better in coming weeks, but 2009-2011 ground game dominance may be a little ways away.
The Houston D took a little while to spin up, but then they unleashed the hounds on overmatched rookie Ryan Tannehill and bagged three quick INTs. They let Reggie Bush get loose a few times in the run game, but put the clamps on a sorry Dolphins' pass game. They won't face an opponent this inept every week, but they remain a very strong fantasy defense.
It was a rough start for Andrew Luck, but there was a whole lot to like in the rookie's performance. 300 yards and a TD on the road against one of the league's toughest - and most schematically sound - defenses is a great showing, even if RGIII grabbed the headlines. This won't be his last multi-interception day as the Colts figure to fight from behind most weeks and his OL will have him under frequent duress, but Luck already has the look of a solid QB2.
Donald Brown managed a reasonable day considering his team was getting housed, putting up 5.3 YPC and scoring from 18 yards out. He also outshone rookie Vick Ballard to help keep a solid hold on the #1 gig, but Ballard is a hard charger and could cut into Brown's work as the season goes on.
Reggie Wayne turned back the clock with a 135-yard receiving effort, and he's certainly the apple of Andrew Luck's eye as he saw a tremendous 18 targets. Wayne looks to be a very solid WR2 for as long as his body can take the pounding. There wasn't a lot else to get excited about in the Colts' WR corps, although it was nice to see Coby Fleener live up to some of his TE2 hype with a 6/82 line. There was nothing to suggest that Andrew Collie won't own the #2 job for as long as his health permits.
The Colts' OL actually exceeded expectations in this one given who they were facing - a special shout-out to LT Anthony Costanzo for a game effort in keeping Julius Peppers' hands off his young franchise QB. This group figured to struggle tremendously, so if they can gel ahead of schedule it adds some further upside to the Colts' weapons.
The Indianapolis D started out hot with a sack of Cutler and a pick-six on a head-scratching throw into the flat. Then...things got worse. They'll need Dwight Freeney to get well soon if they aren't to be outright victimized through the air going forward.
Blaine Gabbert had one of the unexepectedly good showings of Week One, looking like a real NFL QB at times and going for 260 and 2 TDs. While this may say a lot more about the Vikings' secondary than it does Gabbert, you have to give him credit for a good showing and feel better about Justin Blackmon's season prospects.
Maurice Jones-Drew put to rest any concerns about being ready to shoulder a full load as he carried the ball 19 times, getting 71 yards the hard way against the Vikes' tough front seven. With Rashad Jennings on the shelf for a bit, MJD should see yeoman's work going forward.
Justin Blackmon had a quiet 3/24/0 debut while being trailed by Chris Carr, but he's still the guy to own in Jacksonville. Laurent Robinson threw in 5/66, but the hero of the day was Cecil Shorts - 4/74/1 outdoes what I figured Shorts would put up for the whole month of September. I'm far more inclined to downgrade my expectations for Minnesota's secondary after this one than to think there are going to be a lot of fantasy-viable Jags running around, but fair play for a strong Week One.
The Jacksonville OL held its own against one of the tougher DL's in the league, and LT Eugene Monroe gets a gold star for throwing down with reigning sack champ Jared Allen and keeping the league's most high-energy DE completely off the stat sheet. If they're able to keep Gabbert clean long enough for some football courage to develop in the man, the Jags' offense will exceed the preseason's modest expectations.
The Jaguars D didn't have as good a time of it, allowing 10YPA from Christian Ponder while surrendering over 4YPC and 2 TDs to Adrian Peterson in his medical science-defying return. Jacksonville doesn't excited much from a fantasy D standpoint, and while they aren't a defense to completely target yet they may not reach last year's heights.
Oy. The day started out well for Matt Cassel and then, like Count Chocula exposed to sunlight he just kind of left a brown mess everywhere. He has a few bad pass defenses on his schedule that could make him a viable spot starter for a few games, but you can never trust him not to just totally melt down.
Jamaal Charles joined Adrian Peterson to make the score Genetic Freaks 2, Medical History 0 in predicting a viable return from ACL surgery. If Charles had lost much burst it wasn't visible to the naked eye - he looks like a strong RB2 most weeks, though Dexter McCluster may harvest some passing targets. Peyton Hillis will do better once the Chiefs' D is back to full strength and they aren't getting blowed out, but it's a little scary how quickly his role can evaporate if KC is down double digits.
Dwayne Bowe remains the lead dog in KC, but you'd like to see more than 3-53-0 with the Chiefs in catch-up mode all game. The Falcons had the NFC's best secondary up until the second Grimes went down so that's something to consider, but the sad fact is that Cassel's ineptitude puts the specter of a subpar week over Bowe almost every time out. The next two secondaries on his slate showed no ability to cover anyone, however, so start him with confidence the next couple of weeks. Dexter McCluster was the only other bright light in the KC passing game, but on a week to week basis you're still probably better off with someone like Davone Bess or Danny Amendola as a cheap PPR backstop.
The Chiefs' OL looked fine - 4.6 YPC against Atlanta's fine run D is nothing to sneeze at, and the tackles held up fairly well in pass protection. No concerns for Jamaal Charles or Peyton Hillis owners here, and Matt Cassel owners have far bigger things to worry about.
The Chiefs' D was behind the 8 ball in this one with Hali and Flowers out, but you still don't like to see a roasting of that degree take place. They'll be strong against the run and better against the pass, but their primary value as a fantasy D remains a tasty CLE/OAK/IND playoff slate.
Shockingly, 19 college starts and the ability to complete passes in shorts against air do not an immediate success at NFL QB make. Ryan Tannehill could have been worse (see Weeden, Joe) and he was facing one of the league's stoutest pass defenses, but considering his inability to tell what's happening in front of him and his pitiful collection of WRs, Tannehill is a guy to target with your fantasy defenses rather than one to stick on your roster.
Reggie Bush had his typically strong all-purpose show, and he'll be in line for a ton of work against Oakland with Daniel Thomas on the shelf with a concussion. I'm not ready to write off Thomas as an NFL runner, but over the course of writing that previous half-sentence I realized that I am, in fact, ready to do just that. Pencil in Bush for a big workload every week for as long as he's able to withstand the pounding.
Hopefully you weren't counting too heavily on any Dolphins' wideouts this season. They'll manage a few decent stat games as Miami will be trailing a LOT this year, but Davone Bess as a PPR flex play is the only thing you want to involve yourself with here.
The Dolphins' OL was walking into the lion's den against a tough Texans' front seven, and while they weren't disastrous their guards basically got worked all game long. LT Jake Long is a stud, but expect pressure to arrive from more places than Tannehill can cope with all season long.
The Dolphins' D - particularly the front seven - played a strong game but had their throats cut by their own offense. The Dolphins' DL features some strong performers, and although the secondary is messy you can start them in games against Arizona, St. Louis, Indy, Jacksonville and the Jets and feel good about your prospects for sacks and turnovers.
Christian Ponder showed some signs of life in the preseason, and he certainly stepped up to the plate with a 270 yard, 10YPA performance against the Jags. While he'll need to start dropping some TDs to become a viable fantasy performance, he was also without his best deep weapon in the suspended Jerome Simpson. He showed a good rapport with Percy Harvin and the emerging Kyle Rudolph, and assuming the run game holds up once Simpson is back Ponder has the look of a very viable bye-week fill in agains tthe right matchup.
Adrian Peterson delivered the week's most stunning performance in carrying the ball 17 times for 84 yards and 2 TDs less than 9 months out from tearing up multiple knee ligaments. While he didn't have all the burst you're used to seeing, he is probably the only human alive who could have looked anywhere close to how he did that soon after surgery. Everyone who placed their bets on superhuman genetics over decades of medical science and scooped AP up as a RB2 deserves a pat on the back. Toby Gerhart is back to handcuff status, and a lot of owners hoping for a cheap Week One flex play fill-in have learned their lesson about trusting every single injury recovery projection known to man,
Percy Harvin enjoyed a strong day, and Kyle Rudolph is really developing the look of a guy who will flirt with TE1 production in a lot of weeks. There's not much else on the receiving radar in Minnesota, but this wouldn't be a bad week to sneak Jerome Simpson on to the bottom of your roster.
The Minnesota OL had a solid showing, opening good holes for AP and holding the Jags to a mere 2 sack, 1-hit day on Ponder. There are defenses who will put a much tougher test on slow-footed Phil Loadholt and rookie Matt Kalil on the outside, but they held up admirably in Week One.
The Minnesota Defense had a mix of good and bad. The best of the good was a dominating day on the edge for DE Brian Robison and an all-around good perfomance from OLB Chad Greenway. The worst of the bad was a shutout for Jared Allen and allowing Blaine Gabbert to look like an NFL QB. I had some fairly high hopes for Minnesota's secondary considering the CB talent they got back from injury, but I'm much readier to believe that was a terrible outing than I am that Blaine Gabbert is ready for prime time. Go after these guys with your WRs until further notice.
People were picking an upset in this one? Really? Tom Brady and company quickly put paid to that nonsense and efficiently dispatched the Titans. Brady didn't rack the massive stats that his owners hoped for as the run game had its due, but those days are coming.
Stevan Ridley already looks like a good bet to outperform the lower-end RB2 ranking I gave him in the preseason as he ran tough for 125 yards and a TD while also grabbing a couple of tosses from Brady. The Pats got lucky to get Brady in the sixth round, have enjoyed success with castoffs like Moss and Lloyd at wideout and Belichick's defensive 'genius' has been in short supply since HOF DE Richard Seymour left, but if there's one thing the franchise deserves full marks for it's putting together great offensive lines. This will be another good one despite the departures of Brian Waters and Matt Light, and so long as Ridley doesn't put the ball on the ground he'll be in for strong and consistent production all season.
Brandon Lloyd hauled in 5/69 on eight targets, but he's still waiting for his first signature deep shot TD. He may wait another week with Patrick Peterson on him in Arizona, but Wes Welker should see a ton of attention after largely serving as a game plan afterthoguth against Tennessee. Gronk was Gronk, and Hernandez' 7-target day helped assuage concerns that his role would diminish with Lloyd's arrival.
The New England OL got some love above, but their pass protection was a little shaky. Alll available history says they'll tighten that up, but the interior guys in particular will need to be on their game against Dockett and Campbell for Arizona.
The Patriots D more or less overwhelmed the Titans, and if they're able to at least be average in they places they were awful in 2011 then this team will be hell on wheels. Rookies Chandler Jones and Donte Hightower already look like great fits, and Vince Wilfork looked like he was stil in the midst of his playoff demolition of the Ravens. The secondary will have to prove it against tougher challenges than a scatter-armed Jake Locker, but the early returns are promising across the board for this group.
I've been one to largely discount the notion of a Saints' implosion this year considering how well they did during Sean Payton's injury absence in 2011, but that was by no means the start they were looking for. Rare is the owner who'll complain about a 339-yard, 3 TD day from his QB, however, so no worries on Drew Brees' score. His day would have been even bigger if Marques Colston hadn't let a ball get punched out en route to the end zone, and there's no reason to believe the Saints won't air it out all year long.
Getting down on the scoreboard caused the Saints to more or less abandon the run, and Mark Ingram's owners couldn't have been happy with that or the fact that Pierre Thomas inexplicably started the game. It's too early to think Ingram can't achieve flex production in a lot of weeks, but it's scary to see how quickly his role can evaporate. Darren Sproles slavaged his day with a late TD, but he'll need a minimum of 5 targets a week and at least some roel on the ground to come close to justifying his draft status in most leagues.
Jimmy Graham made two of the ten best catches you'll see from a tight end this season in Game One, and he'll probably have seven of the top ten by season's end. He is completely unfair to the opposition. Marques Colston short-circuited an otherwise solid day by fumbling away a likely TD toss, but Lance Moore was the Week One stud in New Orleans. With Robert Meachem gone, Moore should put up low-end WR2 production or better just about every week, as he has a rapport with Brees that guys like Devery Henderson and Adrian Arrington will never replicate.
The Saints' OL hardly got a chance to run block, and had some issues in pass protection agains the Redskins' OLBs. It's too early to say whether Ben Grubbs will be much of a downgrade from Carl Nicks, but with a pair of sub-par tackles and a thoroughly average center there's only so much more you can put on Drew Brees' shoulders.
The Saint's D would like to burn the tape for this one, although they provided some valuable tape to the rest of the league on the kinds of college spread-style tactics the Redskins would like to use to keep things easy for Robert Griffin III. If the Saints can't conjure some semblance of a legitimate pass rush, this won't be the last track meet they'll take part in this season.
If you expected bigger things from Eli Manning in Week One, you were not alone. There's no reason to get concerned about his season prospects, particularly as Hakeem Nicks works back into shape and Victor Cruz gets some stern words from Tom Coughlin, but those expecting a stat-jack based on last year's Cowboys annihilations were let down.
Ahmad Bradshaw salvaged a solid fantasy day thanks to a comically inept Mo Claiborne tackle attempt on a TD run, but other than a tremendously-blocked 33-yard scamper he didn't look all that impressive. His near-term fantasy fortunes got a boost when rookie David Wilson coughed up the ball, but Bradshaw didn't show the kind of speed and burst to make you think he'll keep Wilson planted on the bench all season. Factoring in a pretty sorry-looking Giants OL, Bradshaw might not be a bad sell-high candidate.
Both the Giants' lead wideouts turned in subpar showings. It's far too soon to worry about either - in fact, you could try and snake one of them if their owner is in a panic - but something about Cruz' overall demeanor makes me think he's a prime candidate for that post-championship "Disease of More" that Phil Jackson always talks about. Keep any eye on any further dropsies. Cowboys fans everywhere gasped in horror when Martellus Bennett of all people hauled in a TD, but one catch vs. four years of jackassery lead me to believe that success will continue to be the exception rather than the rule in the pass game.
The Giants' OL was flat-out bad last Wednesday, and was pretty poor all of last season as well. Getting LT William Beatty back will help, but some of these guys are past their prime and others never had a prime. They figure to make life tougher on Manning and Bradshaw for the forseeable future.
The Giants' D was at less than full strength as they were missing a host of corners as well as 2 key guys from their DT rotation. Things will get better, but they're a very iffy fantasy defense until A) they get Prince Amukamara back and playing well in the secondary and B) their DL shows that they aren't going wait until December to turn up the heat this season.
Huh????? The league's most shocking passing line of the day had to be Mark Sanchez' 266 yard, 3 TD effort. As we decode this one, let's not rush to crown Sanchez before we throughly condemn a non-competitive effort from several members of the Bill's secondary. Don't get used to this.
Shonn Greene got the chance to bludgeon the Bills with a big lead, and his 3.5 YPC average was actually not too bad given the strong players lining Buffalo's front four. He may not log a run longer than 20 yards all season, however, and remains a low-end RB2 at best most weeks.
Stephen Hill enjoyed a strong debut after barely being able to run a route in the preseason, housing 2 TDs and putting up a solid 5/89 to boot. Full marks for outplaying fellow first-rounder Stephon Gilmore, but when you see five baseball turns by a corner in 'coverage' it's safe to say Hill won't have this easy a time of it again in 2012.
Carson Palmer wasn't playing wtih clsoe to a full complement of weapons, but still did a solid statistical job in amassing close to 300 yards and a TD. In what has become a rarity, he also managed a clean sheet in the INT department. With the Raiders' secondary in bad shape after the loss of Ron Bartell, there will be shootouts on the horizon and once Denarius Moore is back in the fold you may see Palmer put in some very strong showings.
After a full day of watching college football, it only takes a few NFL snaps on Sunday to make you recognize the superior caliber of athlete on display. After watching a full slate of NFL games featuring over 60 starting tailbacks, it only takes a couple of snaps to make you realize Darren McFadden is playing a different physical game than just about everyone else. While he lacks the full degree of punshing power and violence, in terms of pure size and speed he's the closest thing the league has seen to Bo Jackson. While his OL couldn't get their act together in executing a new zone-based run scheme, the Raiders' coaches were happy to feed McFadden the ball for an absurd 13 catches. Full marks to the Chargers' D for keeping him from completely taking over the game, but McFadden owners will enjoy even bigger days in the near future.
It's hard for Darius Hewyard Bey's owners not to be disappointed in his Week One showing - he had to be the #1 option by far heading into the game, and despite facing a Chargers' secondary that was pillaged last season he turned in a yawn-inducing 3/43 line. Don't panic yet, but don't start him unless you have to until he can prove that he'll have a strong role with Denarius Moore returning to the starting lineup.
The Raiders' OL got it handed to them in the run game, and it may be a while before their new zone run scheme starts to click. The return of Stefen Wisniewski at C this week will help, but McFadden could face some tough sledding until this group clicks.
The Raiders' D probably feels like a shoddy special teams performance stole this one from them. Rivers had to work hard for his yards, while they absolutely stomped out the Chargers' run game. Keep an eye on this unit, although it looks like cornerback could be a season-long adventure.
Michael Vick is starting to look like a post-prison QB version of Benjamin Button. He came out of the joint a tremendously poised and accurate QB, and seems to be regressing before our eyes. His OL did give up an unacceptable amount of pressure, but there is zero excuse for heaving FOUR INTs in a game that your team should have won handily if you took no risks whatsoever. He still managed solid stats for his owners, but the upside of the whole Eagles' offense is compromised if he keeps short-circuiting drives.
LeSean McCoy had a typical strong day, though even more could have been on the table against a gutted Browns' LB corps had Vick not been so committed to rifling INTs. With King Dunlap already undergoing a field demotion to Baron and Todd Herremans looking horrendous, it's fair to get worried that the OL play in front of him won't reach last year's standards.
Jeremy Maclin turned in a gutty performance, throwing up a 7/96/1 day despite receving a pretty good battering. His hip is iffy for Week 2, so keep a close eye on the injury news. DeSean Jacson acquitted himself fairly well against a great corner in Haden, but was never able to shake loose for a signature deep ball. Andy Reid remains as pass-happy as ever, so targets will rarely be a concern for this duo.
The Eagles' OL had a very tough day at the office, and the loss of Jason Peters may sting all season long. The right side was even worse, as Danny Watkins and Todd Herremans blocked like the guys in The Longest Yard who got mad at Paul Crewe in the middle of the game. Which, considering their QB, isn't the worst comparison. Stouter defensive fronts than the Browns' lurk in the league, so they had best get things sorted out on the hop.
The Eagles' D was asked to beat down an overmatched opponent, and that's precisely what they did. With DC Juan Castillo apparently now running a sound scheme with his back seven, the array of weapons on Philly's DL makes them a great bet to lead the league in sacks by season's end.
Back in the day, Dan Marino famously rewarded his offensive line with Isotoner gloves. If Ben Roethlisberger has a glove handy, he probably wants to use it to slap the OL across the face and challenge them to a collective duel after he took another classic 5-sack, 9-knockdown beating against Denver. They were beset by an unfair run of injuries, but Roethlisberger won't last the season under this kind of onslaught. He was on the money to his wideouts whenever he had a second to throw, but until further notice his production - and health - are at risk.
Jonathan Dwyer ran angry, churning for hard yards and stiffarming Broncos' defenders like Liam Neeson pimp-slapping a wolf. With Isaac Redman dinged and ineffective, Dwyer should be the man for at least a month in the Steelers' backfield. I'd say even longer than that considering that Rashard Mendenhall is hardly 8 months out from an ACL tear, but after Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles I'm getting out of the ACL recovery time prediction business. Without a stronger OL showing, however, no one is going to look like a stud in the Steel City.
Mike Wallace didn't get loose for a deep shot, but showed very little rust in hauling in 4 out of 6 targets and putting a TD on the board. Antonio Brown faced strong coverage from a still-game Champ Bailey, but acquitted himself pretty well in a 4/74 effort.
The Steeler's cursed OL lost two men in-game to follow up on David DeCastro's preseason knee disaster. Both guys should be back for Week Two, but this bunch should be a season-long adventure yet again. HIstory says they'll have multiple guys go down, and history (and the Week One game film) says that the backups won't be up to the task.
The Steelers' defense would just as soon never go back to Mile High. Peyton Manning's pre-snap reads make him nearly unblitzable, and with James Harrison out the Steelers were never going to get great pressure with a four-man rush. The unavailability of S Ryan Clark due to altitude issues was another handicap. Even given those facts, however, it was a terrible showing for the Pittsburgh corners. William Gay's jersey never sold well in the Pittsburgh pro shop, but he was an underrated cover guy and losing him may put more responsibility on Cortez Allen and Keenan Lewis than they're ready to handle.
Sam Bradford put together a respectable outing - the Detroit secondary was outright ruined by injuries for Week One, but the Rams' receiving corps is ruined by a profound lack of talent so fair's fair. He's doing to see full secondaries before he sees a real receiving corps, however, so slow your roll on the waiver wire.
Steven Jackson took a classic beating as his OL fell apart for the umpteenth time in the last few seasons. It's fair to wonder whether he's allowed to sue the Rams for non-support, and it's also fair to wonder how often he can managed decent RB2 production with this bunch in front of him.
Danny Amendola remains a "In case of need at PPR flex position, break open glass" kind of option, and while Brandon Gibson managed a fourth-quarter TD you want to stay far, far away from the rest of the Rams' receiving options.
The Rams' OL didn't enter the game looking good, and they left looking far worse after injuries to Roger Staffold, C Scott Wells (who may be done for the year) and rookie G Rokevious Watkins. Every player on the Rams' offense is likely to get held hostage by this bunch.
The Rams' D put out a game effort, picking off Matthew Stafford three times and managing a pick six in the bargain. They have enough talent at DE and corner to manage some sacks n' picks points against the right opponent, but lack of talent at LB and S combined with their offense's ineptitude will keep them from accruing many point bonuses this year.
Philip Rivers didn't have the day he wanted to against a very suspect Raider secondary, but somewhat salvaged his stat line with a late, scambling TD toss to Malcom Floyd. The whole offense will benefit from Ryan Mathews' return, but anyone who was concerned about Rivers' deep-ball magic after last sseason's turnover-filled affair didn't find a ton of solace in the first week.
The Chargers' running backs...are keeping the chair warm for Mathews, and that's about it.
Malcom Floyd gave the Chargers' receiving corps a fig leaf to hide behind with a late TD, but on the whole it was a lackluster show against a Raider secondary that will get torched more often than not this season. The old Alvin Harper "Don't count on their #2 to become your #1" rule could be in effect for Robert Meachem. Antonio Gates will have bigger days than this in 2012 - Raiders' S Tyvon Branch put the clamps on Rob Gronkowski last year, and may be one of the best safeties in the league at short-circuiting elite TEs.
The Chargers' OL had a mixed showing - backup LT Michael Harris hedl his own in the pass game, but the interior Ol really struggled to make anything happen on the ground. Mathes' return will help, but this doesn't look like an elite bunch.
The Chargers' D underwent a major overhaul after last season's fiasco, and the early returns were pretty solid. Although they faced a depleted Oakland WR corps, they held Carson Palmer to 6.5YPA and contained Darren McFadden on 15 rushes and a ridiculous 13 catches. Against most defenses, McFadden will manage a lot more than 118 combined yards if he touches the ball 28 times. The Chargers' secondary will have to prove their worth against more dynamic dudes than Rod Streater and Derek Hagan, but it was a good start for a unit that got absolutely lit up too often in 2011.
A round of applause for Alex Smith, who was given a little bit more to do in Lambeau Field and responded well with a 211-yard, 2 TD performance. With the SF defense and Jim Harbaugh's conservative game plans in the house Smith is rarely a guy you'd want to start, but the same reasons make him a dependable backup who won't just spit the bit if you have to spot start him.
Frank Gore served notice that he's not dead yet, turning in some vintage runs to help bury the Packers. Kendall Hunter also showed well on his nine carries, and while he's still likely to eat into Gore's run totals the veteran weill keep him at bay with more games like this one.
Randy Moss sighting! Benefitting from comically confused coverage, Moss snuck open in the end zone for an easy TD toss from Smith. He's still locked into a time share with Mario Manningham, however, so he's a roster stash and nothing more right now. Michael Crabtree had a solid day, and while the 49ers' offense won't be this wide-open all the time (26 passes!) he's clearly the #1 WR option and can be a strong flex play against the right corner. Vernon Davis got on the board with a TD and remains one of the league's toughest covers, but the throwback nature of the Harbaugh attack will keep him from amassing the targets to challenge the position's elite.
The San Francisco OL turned in a great game, consistently opening holes in the run game and keeping Smith relatively clean despite Clay Matthews' best efforts. Alex Boone may be a major upgrade at guard, and if RT Anthony Davis decides to keep showing pride in his career the way he did on Sunday then the 49ers offense will have fixed a couple of major problems from last season.
The San Francisco D won't have a tougher task all year than battling Rodgers in Green Bay, and despite a 300-yard day from the cyborg QB they acquitted themselves well. Their run defense may not give up an 80-yard performance on the ground all year, and it's the rare left side of an offensive line that can keep both Justin Smith and Aldon Smith from wrecking shop in the pass rush.
Russell Wilson finished a respectable third amongst the five rookie starting QBs in Week One, and while his individual caliber of play may have been closer to Andrew Luck, his fantasy stats were closer to the execrable displays put on by Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill. I'm pretty high on his long-term prospects, but there is a reason that New Orleans moved heaven and earth to put two monsters like Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans in front of Drew Brees - if you're around 6'0" as a QB, you HAVE to be able to step up and have very clean windows in front of you to throw. Paul McQuistan and JR Sweezy are, um, not quite the same caliber of dudes. Wilson didn't get much help from his WRs either, but it's not like the return of Golden Tate is going to elevate this bunch into world-beaters. With as many strong options as are out there, Wilson doesn't have much immediate appeal as a #2 QB in standard leagues.
Marshawn Lynch shrugged off back concerns to post his typical bump n' grind strong day on the ground, and for now it looks like he's keeping Robert Turbin planted firmly on the bench. Turbin's still the handcuff to have, but he won't be carving out any kind of larger role in the near term.
Braylon Edwards had more in the tank than I thought he did, but he'll be splitting time with Golden Tate going forward so don't rush to the waiver wire for either of these dudes. Sidney Rice is the only startable option here when he's healthy, but he's a flex play at best right now until the Seattle passing game starts running at higher RPMs or they catch a shakier defense.
The Seattle OL did not exactly inspire confidence, and we were again reminded that Russell Okung's lower extremities are about as brittle as the T-1000's after a liquid nitrogen bath. He should play in Week Two, but this bunch again look to be a limiting constraint on Seattle's pass game upside. I'm a little too old-school to have kept up with what all the 'eezys' and 'izzles' in hip-hop vernacular mean when they're appended to words, but rookie guard JR Sweezy's name doesn't appear to translate to 'sweet'. Unless it's, "Sweet Jesus, why is this dude letting Darnell Dockett run wild on his QB?"
The Seattle Defense didn't play poorly, but you really hoped to see MOAR HAVOC against an OL as dire as Arizona's. Pete Carroll darling Bruce Irvin was basically on the side of a milk carton for this game, and DE Chris Clemons again looked like the only Seahawk capable of generating any kind of pressure. That's a talented back seven, and the whole unit was hell on the run, but if they can't get after the QB they won't blow anyone's fantasy socks off.
'Workmanlike' can be considered damning with faint praise, particularly in Fantasy contexts, but it beats 'outright horror show' any day of the week. The Bucs' offense and Josh Freeman in particular turned in too many of the latter last season, so seeing the former was a welcome relief for Bucs fans. Freeman took care of the ball as Tampa took care of business. While his day did nothing to indicate that he's more than a low-end QB2 who should be matched with a good starter's bye week, he at least seemed like he won't destroy value for Tampa's other fantasy options.
Foremost among those options is rookie runner Doug Martin, who had a workmanlike per-carry average but who showed good patience, vision and acceleration. More importantly, he's clearly #1 with a bullet (or a cannon ball in Tampa Bay's case) in the Bucs' backfield and should see 15-20 run touches a week along with 3-5 targets out of the backfield. If you can sneak him away from an owner who's silly enough to be concerned about his YPC average or lack of a TD, absolutely do it. LeGarrette Blount is relegated to fantasy purgatory until further notice. After his classless cold-cocking of a Boise State player during his last game at Oregon, it's kind of fitting that a former Bronco has relegated him to the bench.
Vincent Jackson came into the season with some lofty expectations, but given the run-heavy nature of the Tampa offense and Josh Freeman's iffy accuracy he may struggle to put up consistent WR2 production. Mike Williams bagged a TD, but he's a spot play at best most weeks as it will be run first, run second for the Bucs under Schiano.
The Tampa Bay OL did what it had to against what looks to be a still-sorry front seven for Carolina. Carl Nicks showed well in his Tampa debut, and so far it doesn't look like they'll be a performance impediment during Doug Martin's chase for 1400 combined yards.
The Tamap Bay D turned in another of the week's most surprising performances as they largely put the clamps on a potent Panthers' offense. The return of DT Gerald McCoy was the biggest reason why, but this game was as much about the Panthers' inteior OL outright embarassing themselves as any Warren Sapp-type flashbacks for the Bucs' D. Don't be scared to go after this defense until they've put some more good tape together.
So is the Rookie of the Year race over, or is it REALLY over? Robert Griffin III and the Redskins marched all over the Saints, handing New Orleans their first loss in the Superdome since the 2010 season. RGIII got to take advantage of some easy candy on quick hitches and screens that featured pathetic work from the Saints' back seven, but he also showed some great poise, great feet and set up some great expectations going forward.
Alfred Morris could start for almost half the teams in the SEC, but something about his plodding style has caught Mike Shanahan's famously fickle eye. Morris managed an anemic 3.4 yards per rush despite the bult-in defensive constraint of a running QB, but opportunity almost always trumps talent in fantasy and he got enough opportunities to put up 96 yards and 2 TDs. He's a tremendous bet to be scapegoated in classic Shanahan fashion after the Skins' first loss, but until then he figures to handle the bulk of the work. Or maybe he doesn't. If you can sell high, do it and start enjoying the hobby rather than trying to guess Shanny's whims each week.
Pierre Garcon showed early that the Skins view him as a major weapon, and if he continues to get opportunities on hitches and screens as well as deep shots he'll have no trouble managing consistent WR2 production each week. His foot injury puts his role into question this week, but his prospects ave very bright in 2012. Fred Davis still has yet to develop a connection with RGIII, but with Chris Cooley no longer a threat he'll get more opportunities.
The Redskins' OL couldn't get a ton going in the rung game, but got enough chances to enable a decent raw stats performace. They faced no challege from New Orleans' pathetic pass rush, but they'll need to step up their game agaisnt tougher defenses if RGIII is to keep playing the game on his terms.
The Redskins' D came out looking good against one of the NFL's most potent offenses. They gave up a lot through the air, but mixing in a couple of INTs and sacks along with a timely forced fumble helped them come out on top. They're an intriguing play this week against a Rams OL that is absolutely in tatters.