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Week 1 is done and dusted and there’s so much to discuss so here are my impressions of the fantasy stars in each game.
Dallas Cowboys vs New York Giants
Kevin Ogletree starred here for fantasy and is going to be a popular pickup but I urge caution – it’s one week, the Giants secondary was really bad and Jason Witten will return to form. Speaking of Witten, he will get better. A spleen injury is no joke and I expect him not to disappear as he did. DeMarco Murray looked very good – buy him while you can. To finish up on the Cowboys – Tony Romo is a starter but one who should still make you nervous, Dez Bryant is still a dodgy high upside WR2 and Miles Austin is a flex play so nothing changes for those three.
For New York, Victor Cruz got targeted heavily although Hakeem Nicks was a little injured leading up to the game. I am not entirely convinced the targets keep up after Cruz had a bad case of dropsies. For me, Nicks is the WR you want. Ahmad Bradshaw was reasonable while not spectacular – which is what you expect – but David Wilson had a bad fumble early and didn’t see the field afterwards. I’ve said it once and I will say it again – you don’t want to own him. Eli is still reliable despite a less than fantastic fantasy day but I wouldn’t jump off the bandwagon just yet.
Indianapolis Colts vs Chicago Bears
After all the hype, the Luck to Fleener connection wasn’t the biggest story for fantasy. Luck got you just 8 points in standard leagues and while Fleener was handy for 8 points it was veteran Reggie Wayne who emerged as the receiver to own as he hauled in 9 receptions on 18 targets for 135 yards. I like Wayne as a flex going forward but I would stay away from Fleener or Luck unless you have a decent starter at the position and simply want to gamble. Donald Brown brought a nice return for fantasy thanks to a TD but I’m not convinced he’s for real – he’s still a wait-and-see benchwarmer for me.
I hear fantasy owners and their unhappiness surrounding Michael Bush getting the short TD. I’ve said it all preseason – Bush and Forte are going to be an effective DUO. You own Forte because he gets lots of open play ball and receptions while Bush is also ownable as he spells Forte and should be more of a between tackles runner. I am firmly convinced both are startable most weeks. The revelation for the Bears was that while we knew Cutler to Marshall would be good, we never thought it’d be THIS good. Going forward, Cutler is a borderline starter while Marshall is a WR1 most weeks. Finally, Alshon Jeffery had a stunning debut but be wary that this was against the Colts and their terrible secondary – his biggest play was against the newly acquired Vontae Davis who looked terrible. Don’t overpay for him – yet.
Philadelphia Eagles vs Cleveland Browns
Argh – Michael Vick has made fools of so many of us and he really looked bad in this game. It looks like the bad Vick is back and going forward you have to wonder if he’ll get back to his previous fantasy superstardom. He’s still a fantasy starter but on a knife-edge. I recommend selling – but not too low as I still believe there’s a chance he makes us all look bad again by suddenly re-emerging as a stud. He did score 15 points after all. Also scoring 15 was receiver Jeremy Maclin who had a pretty good game – albeit with Joe Haden on DeSean Jackson most of the day. Still, Maclin is what he is – a reliable WR2 who’ll get you numbers most weeks. As mentioned, Jackson had Joe Haden all over him in this game and only finally broke free when shifted to the slot – something the Eagles won’t make a habit of. Consider him a sell-high candidate. Finally, LeSean McCoy, despite an off day, is still a super-stud and a must-start in all formats.
For the Browns, the only player to talk about is Trent Richardson. He looked human in this game but that was what we expected from a rookie going against the ferocious Eagles D with a knee issue. Stand pat with him though – he’ll get healthy and better matchups are ahead. Just don’t set your expectations TOO high.
St Louis Rams vs Detroit Lions
I watched quite a bit of this game and was impressed with Bradford’s play. He had a reasonable fantasy day too and should remain on your radar as a backup. His receivers did fairly well as a result and although Brandon Gibson got the TD, the player to own is now very obviously Danny Amendola who Bradford looked to early and often. Amendola should be owned in all leagues and a flex starter in most. Steven Jackson is still a fantasy starter in every league having received 21 carries but his backup now appears to not be Iasaiah Pead but rather Daryl Richardson – take note as there’s a good chance Jackson misses time at some point.
If Sam Bradford looked pretty good, Matthew Stafford was the opposite as he gave up three picks early on. That said, he had the highest yardage of any QB in the league as he led the Lions back from the brink in the second half so I’d still believe in Stafford as a high-end fantasy starter. Calvin Johnson is still a fantasy stud but wily vet Nate Burleson looks to be an interesting pickup for this week if you need immediate WR help as Titus Young looked pretty lost while Burleson had a healthy 69 yards. My main concern – while Brandon Pettigrew got plenty of looks, Tony Scheffler got just as many and I worry that this will eat into Pettigrew’s fantasy value going forward so be wary. My last point here – Kevin Smith is a great back but you are playing with fire as he’s always injured – sell-high while you can.
Miami Dolphins vs Houston Texans
There is only one player for fantasy owners on Miami this week and it was Reggie Bush who not only got 69 yards on the ground but also got a legitimate number of receptions. Bush is a must-start in PPR but in standard leagues the one concern has to be the lack of carries – just 14 this week. I would also say that the Dolphins offense revolves around Bush as both a runner and receiver and you have to be worried he’ll wear out at this pace. Outside Bush, there is little to nothing to pay attention to here.
After pre-game injury worries, Arian Foster came out this week and looked like… well, like Arian Foster. Two TDs on 26 carries for good yardage is a sure sign that going forward he’s the #1 back. Ben Tate was an afterthought despite the Texans getting a big lead as Houston left Foster in. Speaking of injury-type players, Andre Johnson went out and played like… Andre Johnson. Look, when he is healthy he’ll put up numbers. The worry as always is health. Ride him while he’s hot. Matt Schaub looked pretty good and played the whole game and Owen Daniels looked pretty good too and is someone fantasy owners should strongly consider going after as he’s still relatively cheap. Just remember – this is still a running team so don’t have your expectations too high.
New England Patriots vs Tennessee Titans
Tom Brady gave you a good number this week for fantasy but his average performance in terms of actual stats meant that there wasn’t the usual numbers to share around the plethora of receivers with Wes Welker being the odd man out on this occasion. Hernandez, Gronk and Lloyd all had ok numbers but this highlights the main point on owning a receiver from the Patriots – there won’t be enough passes to feed everyone each week so there is an inherent risk there which must be factored in. What should not be concerning is the supposed running back committee as, in the absence of Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley not only took the main job but effectively claimed it outright. I recommend investing heavily as going forward I believe in Ridley as a fantasy starter.
Oh dear – is Chris Johnson really this bad? 4 yards on 11 carries? My advice for fantasy owners is that CJ2K is getting plenty of catches so he is still a certain PPR starter but in non-PPR I’d give serious thought to benching him if you have a good alternative. I would not trade him for less than he is worth previously though – hang in there for a few more weeks. Jake Locker was ok but not awesome so stem the hype on him – and he may miss time this week after an injury in week 1. On that same play, Nate Washington got hurt and possibly may also miss time. With Kenny Britt on the way back, sell Washington while you can. The man I think you should invest in here – Jared Cook. He was in on the majority of passing plays and wasn’t asked to block which suggests he’s becoming a primary receiver on this team. A name to be aware of.
Washington Redskins vs New Orleans Saints
It’s all about Robert Griffin III for Washington who looked more like a seasoned pro than a rookie – 300 yards, 2 TDs and most importantly no interceptions. He’s still around that borderline starter territory but if you own him I would strongly advise against trading him unless your trading partner is willing to overpay by quite a lot. His primary receiver, Pierre Garcon, looked very good in the early going and had the longest touchdown of any player in the NFL this week, hooking up with RG3 on an 88 yard score. He did leave the game with an injury but is reportedly fine for next week and a solid pick-up if you can get him. I’d also keep an eye on young Aldrick Robinson who appears to have the inside running as RG3′s other main squeeze as he put on a nice performance in the absence of Garcon. Of the running backs, it was Alfred Morris who continued his strong form from the pre-season and put up big yards and 2 TDs off an NFL high 28 carries. I’d still avoid Washington’s RBs for now but Morris does appear to have that job in the bag at this point – you just never know with Mike Shanahan.
It was a stark contrast for the Saints as Drew Brees posted one of his worst QB performances in several years with his accuracy dipping to around only 50% – certainly not the Drew Brees we are used to seeing. Don’t overreact too soon however – he did play reasonably well but just got bullied by the Redskins defensive front seven and still scored 21 points while posting 339 yards. Lance Moore was the pick of the receivers with 120 yards and a score and Jimmy Graham as per usual played well and scored a TD. Darren Sproles didn’t get a single carry but still scored 11 fantasy points as part of the passing game so he’s still a stud no matter what. The player to be concerned about is Marques Colston who disappeared for most of this one. He and Moore are now much closer in value. I’d also say that Mark Ingram was a zero impact in this game but this may have been a function of going against a Redskins defense that played against the run well and forced the Saints to abandon the run early.
Atlanta Falcons vs Kansas City Chiefs
Matt Ryan had a terrific game here and was the top fantasy QB this week but I would urge caution. Ryan has solidified his place as a fantasy starter but it’s one week against a depleted Chiefs secondary. Julio Jones was the main benefactor and justified the preseason hype. I would recommend Julio Jones as a WR1 from here on. Roddy White also played well but is clearly no longer Ryan’s top target – he is still a reliable fantasy starter though. Tony Gonzalez wasn’t as involved but did get 5 receptions and a TD and has shown he can be a good low-end starter at TE. On the fli[ side, the running game was almost fogotten by Atlanta in this game and Michael Turner had a bad fantasy day. If you own Turner, go get Jacquizz Rodgers because if Turner can't get going, I expect Rodgers to get more chances and potentially take over the job.
For the Chiefs, Matt Cassel looked reasonably comfortable and is a solid fantasy backup and a possible starter if he gets a good matchup. Despite throwing for 253 yards, his passes were spread around a lot and as such Dwayne Bowe isn't a reliable starter and is a flex starter for fantasy until we see his targets pick up. Kevin Boss scored a TD in this game and may be a sneaky play some weeks although I fully expect Tony Moeaki to assert himself as the season goes on. In the running game, Jamaal Charles got the vast majority of the carries and had over 5 yards per carry while surprising not being a factor in the passing game. He's still a top fantasy RB. Peyton Hillis on the other hand struggled as he had in the preseason and I'd recommend leaving him on your bench until he shows himself as getting enough carries and making more of them.
Buffalo Bills vs New York Jets
Fred Jackson got hurt early in this game and in his stead C.J. Spiller stood up and was the NFL's leading rusher this week with 169 yards and capped it off with a TD. I'm comfortable saying he's a must-start while Fred Jackson is on the shelf. Ryan Fitzpatrick looked poor in this game with some bad picks and the only thing that saved him was some garbage time yards and TDs. Steve Johnson was affected by this and despite getting a TD in this game he's a flex starter at best right now. The only other receiver on this team I'd own at this point is TE Scott Chandler who looked good in the short game and got a red zone TD.
Mark Sanchez surprised everyone by having a stellar game as the Bills defense had a horrible day. I'm still not a believer but the big take-away was that Tim Tebow was a non-factor and Sanchez's job appears safe for now. Speaking of non-factors, Santonio Holmes is clearly not trusted by Sanchez and I believe is dropable in most leagues. Rookie WR Stephen Hill had an exceptional game with 2 TDs and should be picked up but the receiver on this team I want most is now Jeremy Kerley who scored on a punt return while also getting a receiving TD. Pick him up and if Sanchez can keep up good production he could be a sneaky good play in the right matchup. In the running game, Shonn Greene finally emerged as a solid fantasy starter as he took advantage of the Bills. He had a whopping 27 carries and if this keeps up he is worth trading for as he is clearly the #1 RB for the Jets at this point. Just be ready to trade him if his production drops off.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs Minnesota Vikings
So much for Maurice Jones-Drew not being a fantasy starter - Rashad Jennings got hurt early but even before this MJD was getting regular looks. I have no problem saying MJD is a RB1 in pretty much all leagues. QB Blaine Gabbert looked a lot better than we have seen in the past and I like him enough to say he's worth picking up if you have a spare bench spot as he has much better weapons than he had in 2011. With that said, I wouldn't start any of those receivers as this appears to be an offense that spreads the ball around. Marcedes Lewis could be a sneaky play at TE as he had a TD in this game and had a good year for this in 2010 before falling off a cliff in 2011.
For Minnesota, Adrian Peterson came out and had a massive game after reportedly pleading with his coach for more playing time. My advice on Peterson is the same as it has always been - he's coming off an ACL, I expect him to get hurt again and I wouldn't trust him. For me, AP is a sell-high. Aside from Peterson, Percy Harvin is the only other Viking who had any real impact for fantasy with six receptions for 84 yards and he also had 5 carries - which surprisingly was only one less than Toby Gerhart who was forgotten in this game. For now, bench Gerhart but hold onto him - he's gonna pay off before long.
Seattle Seahawks vs Arizona Cardinals
Here we have another example of preseason hype going way too far and Russell Wilson was not only a non-factor for fantasy but was one of the worst fantasy QBs of the week with only 8 points. The one thing he did manage was hitting Sidney Rice for 4 receptions and a TD which has made me hopeful that Rice may come back to fantasy prominance. Rice is a nice buy-low to grab and sit on. Marshawn Lynch also had a come-back of sorts as the back spasms did not keep him from playing and he had 21 carries for 85 yards so you can start him with some confidence but be aware the back issues could come back as they have before.
For Arizona, the QB problems continued with John Skelton carted off meaning Kevin Kolb had to come in. This did affect Larry Fitzgerald somewhat although he still had four grabs for 63 yards. Andre Roberts had a good day with 12 fantasy points but I wouldn’t count on this going forward and I wouldn’t pick him up for fantasy. The running game showed nothing for fantasy as Ryan Williams and Beanie Wells played poorly and of all thing LaRod Stephens-Howling got the goal-line carry for a TD. Stay away from Arizona runners.
Carolina Panthers vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The big story on Carolina for fantasy was the disaster in the running game – Jonathan Stewart was out but surprisingly DeAngelo Williams had -1 yards on 6 carries and Mike Tolbert had 2 yards on 1 carry. Avoid this situation until improvement is seen and if Jonathan Stewart returns and has a big game I’d be going to get him based on week 1. The passing game had a pretty good day thanks to some garbage time yards as Cam Newton threw for over 300 yards in a very close game but didn’t help your fantasy team very much as Cam had a pultry 12 points which was fairly average. Steve Smith benefited with over 100 yards receiving and finally Brandon LaFell came through as a genuine WR2 getting 65 yards and a TD. LaFell is worth owning in most leagues although I’d hold off starting him unless you’re desperate.
Tampa Bay may have kept this game close but overall they had little impact on fantasy. Doug Martin did have an impact in his first game as the Panthers run defense struggled and should be at least a flex starter in all fantasy leagues for now. Aside from Martin, there was little else as Vincent Jackson had little impact and Mike Williams isn’t worth owning despite getting a red zone TD. Forget about Josh Freeman – only 138 yards and 1 passing TD makes him an afterthought in fantasy.
San Francisco 49ers vs Green Bay Packers
Frank Gore may have only had 16 carries in this game but he ran for over 100 yards and a score showing that despite being in a timeshare he is still a dominant RB who is worth starting in all fantasy leagues. Kendall Hunter did look very good though and is the obvious handcuff that must be owned. The revelation for fantasy was Alex Smith playing very well and passing Steve Young’s 49ers record for having the most completions without a pick. His accuracy in this game was the highest in the NFL for week 1 – 76.9% – and despite throwing for only 211 yards he had 17 fantasy points. Right now, I’m not elevating Smith to starter status but he is in the upper echelon of fantasy backups. Randy Moss is interesting as he was obviously being used as the primary red zone target in this game which is good for his fantasy value but bad for Vernon Davis – I am downgrading VD to being a borderline fantasy starter. Michael Crabtree had a huge game by his standards and his seven receptions bodes well – he’s a must-start in PPR leagues.
Aaron Rodgers didn’t have his best day as a QB but for fantasy he was as studly as ever with 22 points. The concern for fantasy owners is Greg Jennings who wasn’t doing well and now has a groin injury that makes him unstartable for week 2 and someone who could be a fantasy bomb as the rest of the receiving corps has caught up. The main issue for fantasy owners is that with so many weapons, Rodgers is spreading the ball around and no-one is really dominating although I like what I saw of Randall Cobb in this game and believe he’s a solid buy-low who is the obvious pretender to Jennings’ spot. Once again, the running game was non-existent and as predicted Cedric Benson was as bad as he’s ever been – stay away.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs Denver Broncos
Let me save you some time – the Steelers running game is abysmal and with their banged up offensive line you want no part of their RBs for fantasy purposes. Jonathan Dwyer did look fine out there but there’s no way you could start him in most fantasy leagues. Big Ben didn’t have much of a game either as the Broncos D held him to less than 250 yards. I’m downgrading Ben to being merely a bench QB at this point who you might start based on match-up. Despite this, Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown are still performing well and while they didn’t get good numbers, both played well and should be fantasy starters – that goes double for Brown in a PPR league.
Peyton Manning, welcome back to be a sure-fire fantasy starter. After watching his performance this week, I can easily say he is a fantasy starter no matter what the match-up as he looks like the Peyton Manning of old and flashed his arm strength in this game. Demaryius Thomas was impressive and obviously has the trust of Peyton as he was frequently targeted, particularly on deep balls. Eric Decker had a fairly average game although he found himself well covered – you should be fine starting him in most leagues as he’s going to get work. The sneaky play from this team in PPR leagues might be vet and former Colt Brandon Stokley who Peyton looked to early and appears to be his security blanket as well as the other formers Colts receiver on the team TE Jacob Tamme who had a slow start but when he got open Peyton often found him. The running game wasn’t used prolifically as Willis McGahee had only 16 carries but he was effectively and is a solid flex player. My only concern – Knowshon Moreno was made the team’s #2 RB and appears to be the short yardage back so forget Hillman for now and devalue McGahee a tad.
Cincinnati Bengals vs Baltimore Ravens
Andy Dalton got found out in this game as the Ravens shut him down most of the time and his short passing style didn’t work against their defense. This had an obvious affect on A.J. Green. I wouldn’t worry about Green yet – this was one of the tougher matchups he was going to get. What was interesting was the receiver Dalton relied on most was little known Andrew Hawkins who 8 receptions for 86 yards. Hawkins is a must-own in PPR leagues and worth a free bench spot in most other leagues. The running game had issues against the big Ravens line but Benjarvus Green-Ellis performed well despite this and did find holes going for 91 yards and a TD on 18 carries. He should be a starter in all leagues.
Joe Flacco was finally given the keys to the Baltimore offense and ran the no-huddle efficiently against a Bengals defense that had difficulty keeping up. My concern with this is that at times Flacco tried too much and I want to see more of him before I start believing this is for real. The surprising recipient of Flacco’s big game was TE Dennis Pitta who had 5 receptions for 73 yards and a TD. I’m staying away from the Ravens TEs for now as this could easily switch to between Pitta and Dickson as we saw at times in 2011. Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith both put up some numbers but didn’t get a high number of targets – leave both on your bench for now but both could also be cheap trade targets who develop into starters as the season progresses. In other news, Ray Rice is a super stud and looked amazing with 2 TDs despite a light workload – only 10 carries.
San Diego Chargers vs Baltimore Ravens
Ronnie Brown looked awful and didn’t get the large number of carries Norv Turner promised – do not invest in him if you can help it. Leave the Chargers RBs alone as none looked good and the offensive line is porous. That same line affected Philip Rivers who had some bright points but in current circumstances in not really a fantasy starter – his receivers let him down in this one with Malcom Floyd the only one worth considering fantasy relevant. Antonio Gates did look good at first but left with a rib injury. He came back but looked uncomfortable so I’m now convinced I don’t want to own him as he seems to always get hurt.
If San Diego’s offense was bad, Oakland’s was putrid. There was no oomph to their play apart from Darren McFadden who received such a heavy workload – a massive 13 receptions to go with his 16 carries – that I fear he’ll be injured again sooner rather than later. Carson Palmer looked good at times although he did have some bad decision making at times and was let down very badly by his receiving corps with the chief culprit being rookie Rod Streater who had a fumble and dropped a number of good opportunities. Avoid the Oakland Raiders offensive players like the plague if you possibly can.
That’s it for this week’s review. I’ll be back this evening with my week 2 rankings and then on Friday I’ll have this week’s fantasy mailbag – send your questions to [email protected] for that.
Until next time, this is the Fantasy Guru signing off.