Week One Ramblings
Just before kickoff on the first Sunday of the 2011-12 NFL season, many fantasy owners were dealt a vicious, if not lethal, blow. When the Houston Texans’ inactive list came out and it included Pro Bowl running back Arian Foster (hamstring), thousands of owners were left scrambling to find a replacement. Many turned to one of Foster’s backups on the Texans, either Derrick Ward or Ben Tate, who each ended up with a touchdown in Houston’s 34-7 victory over Indianapolis.
If you are trying to win your league, and I assume you are, then now is the time to trade for Foster. His stock will never be lower than it is right now, because he has another monster year ahead of him. The Texans offense marched all over the Colts, who weren’t missing any future Hall of Famers on the defensive side of the ball. Plug Foster into the Tate/Ward/Steve Slaton role and he probably finishes with numbers greatly resembling last season’s Week One shellacking of the Colts, when he rushed for 231 yards and three scores. I’m telling you, if you can dupe your league-mate into giving you Foster for anything besides one of the top four running backs (Peterson, Charles, Rice, and Johnson), you go do it…now!
Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning is a completely different story. He missed Week One after having another neck surgery, and it seems like a legitimate possibility that he will miss the entire season (enjoy Kerry Collins, Colts fans!). Manning is getting old, and neck problems are nothing to mess around with. With that in mind, you have two options: lock down a solid fantasy backup to deploy each week until #18 comes back, or scour the free agent pool each week for a quarterback with a solid matchup. Personally, I’m in favor of the latter, unless you play in a really deep league where good quarterbacks aren’t available. Picking up the guy playing Kansas City or Arizona seems like it will yield some good results. Regardless of which route you take, don’t count on Manning to be your savior this fantasy season or anytime in the future.
Green Bay 42, New Orleans 34 (Thursday)
This was a real shootout, but I think that’s what you can expect from these teams this year. There will be a lot of quick drives and a lot of passing touchdowns for both Aaron Rodgers (312 yards, 3 PaTD) and Drew Brees (419 yards, 3 PaTD). On the flip side, I don’t want anything to do with the running backs for either team. The Packers backfield, while good in real life, looks like a true timeshare between Ryan Grant (45 total yards) and James Starks (57 yards, TD). That means bad things for fantasy owners. For the Saints, no one stood out to me in the running game. Mark Ingram (40 yards) got the bulk of the work, but he didn’t do much of anything with it. Fantasy owners just need to realize that these are two all-out passing teams.
Philadelphia 31, St. Louis 13
The Rams looked like they got hit hard by the short preseason prep time; three key players were injured (Steven Jackson, Sam Bradford, Danny Amendola). Cadillac Williams (140 yards) looked great after Jackson went down. Jackson’s had injury problems in the past, so keep an eye on Williams. Michael Vick appears to have picked up where he left off last year (187 passing yards, 2 PaTD, 98 rushing yards). The only way he’ll disappoint this year is if he gets hurt, but unfortunately that’s always a risk. LeSean McCoy (137 yards, 2 TD) had a HUGE fourth quarter to save what would have been an unremarkable game for him.
Buffalo 41, Kansas City 7
The scoreboard doesn’t show it, but the Chiefs running game was actually quite successful. They averaged six yards per carry, and Jamaal Charles even found the end zone once to slightly redeem his mediocre 65 yards. If you own Charles, don’t panic. The Chiefs were down for the whole game and were forced to pass to try to catch up. Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (208 yards, 4 PaTD) had a great day. If you’re a Bills fan, enjoy it. I don’t expect that to happen very often this season. C.J. Spiller rushed for a late touchdown, but Fred Jackson (112 yards) is definitely the guy you want in the Bills backfield.
Chicago 30, Atlanta 12
Both Matt Forte (158 yards, TD) and Jay Cutler (312 yards, 2 PaTD, 1 Int) took advantage of what I assume was offseason rust on the part of the Atlanta Falcons defense. I really like Forte going forward, he has the potential to be a top 10 running back this year. For the Falcons, I was pleasantly surprised by rookie wideout Julio Jones. Five catches for 71 yards in his debut ain’t too shabby. He should be able to take advantage of all the attention opposing defenses give to Roddy White after his breakout performance last season.
Detroit 27, Tampa Bay 20
This was a bad week for all of the Buccaneers. No one was very impressive as Mike Williams was on the receiving end of their lone touchdown, but he only finished with four catches for 50 yards. Maybe Josh Freeman (255 yards, 1 PaTD, 1 Int) will come back to earth this year in a sophomore slump. He had such a great season last year, but the Bucs offense this week was totally inept against a team that’s hardly a powerhouse. I’d be very concerned if Freeman were my number one quarterback. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (305 yards, 3 PaTD, 1 Int) will be a great player this year as long as he stays healthy. It’s a big “if,” but I think it’s worth the gamble.
Jacksonville 16, Tennessee 14
Well, we’ve seen Luke McCown’s best game of the year (175 yards, 0 PaTD, 0 Int) … Mike Thomas (55 yards) is the only wide receiver you want to own in Jacksonville. Eight catches is a pretty solid day at the office. Chris Johnson (49 yards) was a very frustrating player to own on Sunday. Don’t fret however, he’ll still a great talent and he’ll get his numbers. He remains an every-week start in fantasy.
Cincinnati 27, Cleveland 17
Colt McCoy (213 yards, 2 PaTD, 1 Int) had an ugly completion percentage (19-40, 47.5 %), but I think he could be one of those guys who loses almost every game but still puts up decent fantasy numbers. Popular preseason sleeper pick A.J. Green was bailed out by grabbing a late 41-yard touchdown catch for Cincinnati as he currently held a goose egg to his name before the touchdown reception. I wouldn’t start him with any confidence in future weeks, mainly because he is attached to those atrocious Bengals quarterbacks.
Baltimore 35, Pittsburgh 7
Wow, Ray Rice (149 yards, 2 TD) looked good. If you can get him for anyone besides Adrian Peterson, I’d pull the trigger. Ben Roethlisberger (280 yards, 1 PaTD, 3 Int, 2 Fum) accounted for five turnovers by himself! That offensive line in Pittsburgh is brutal, I’d trade any Steeler besides Mike Wallace (8 catches, 107 yards) if I thought I was getting decent value for them.
Washington 28, New York Giants 14
Tim Hightower (75 yards, TD) had 24 of the Redskins 25 total rushes, a sign that bodes well for the future. Hopefully head coach Mike Shananan doesn’t do his normal mix-and-match routine at the running back position this year, because Hightower could be a fantasy stud. Eli Manning (268 yards, 0 PaTD, 1 Int) had a terrible day, throwing the go-ahead pick-six on a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage. He’s a very streaky fantasy quarterback, and I don’t I’d trust him to lead my team unless he has a VERY favorable matchup.
San Diego 24, Minnesota 17
The Chargers averaged less than three yards per rush, a startling number since the Vikings were without the “Williams Wall” on their defensive line. Ryan Mathews (45 rushing yards, 73 receiving yards) was bailed out by some nice receiving numbers and Mike Tolbert (93 total yards) somehow found the endzone three times. If you are in a deeper league, I think Michael Jenkins (26 yards, TD) is the wide receiver you want after Percy Harvin on the Vikings, not Bernard Berrian. Jenkins caught almost half of Donovan McNabb’s seven completions.
Arizona 28, Carolina 21
This game had some serious fireworks, with four touchdowns of 48 yards or longer. Above all else the result can attribute to the horrible defenses both teams possess. If you have players going against either the Cardinals or the Panthers in the near future, start them for sure. Cam Newton (422 yards, 2 PaTD, 1 Int, 1 RuTD) had some gaudy numbers, but he was playing against a true Swiss cheese defense in Arizona. I doubt he’ll top 350 yards ever again this season, but Steve Smith (178 yards, 2 TD) is baaaack! He remains one of my favorite players this year, and Newton certainly targeted him above anyone else throughout the game. His numbers were inflated by an offensive shootout of a game, but I think he has a very reasonable shot at being a top 15 wide receiver as long as Newton is running the show.
San Francisco 33, Seattle 17
I hope your league counts return touchdowns for your defense, because San Francisco (1 KOR TD, 1 PR TD) just had a field day. Don’t rush to pick up the 49ers as your defense just yet though, Seattle still remains a putrid offensive team. Until Sidney Rice returns from his shoulder injury no one on Seattle is worthy of being started in your fantasy league. No one.
New York Jets 27, Dallas 24
If you don’t have a better option at quarterback, go out and trade for Tony Romo (352 yards, 2 PaTD, 1 Int). He had a good night that would have been great if not for a couple of late turnovers (including a fumble at the goal line, ouch!) against the best defense in the league last year in the Jets. I predict big things for him this year … Plaxico Burress (72 yards, TD) made a few very nice plays for the Jets, including a 26 yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter. What is it with guys coming back from a prison stint and immediately doing well? Still, Santonio Holmes (70 yards) should remain your number one guy in the Jets receiving core.