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Fantasy Game Recaps: Week 1

My vision with this fantasy football recap is to write a weekly article that digests the fantasy impact of players who may have been picked too early, too late or not at all. It is not intended to be just a stat digest. Accordingly, I immediately will identify those who performed at top round levels, those who performed as expected and those who laid an egg given their draft positions. Because of time constraints, these articles will not focus on IDPs or team defenses.

The Week of the Rookie QB and the Invigorated RB...

Falcons 34 – Lions 21

Fantasy Superman: Michael Turner
Fantasy Performers: Jon Kitna, Calvin Johnson, Roy Williams, Kevin Smith
Hens: Roddy White

Not since I selected Jamal Lewis in his 2000-yard year have I been so excited about one of my fantasy players. The Burner looked like Jamal, Jr. turning 22 carries into an average of 10 ypc for 220 yards and 2 TD. At any position in a fantasy draft Michael Turner was a gem, as a fourth rounder, he was priceless. It could just be the Lions defense as Norwood also ran for 94 yards and a TD, so I am keeping my fingers crossed. Matt Ryan is looking a lot like Ben Roethlisberger in his rookie season. Maybe he’s not a fantasy QB quite yet, but he ran the offense pretty successfully against a questionable Lions defense. Roddy White only caught two balls for 54 yards.

Both Lions wide receivers did okay, with Calvin Johnson going 7 for 107 yards and Roy Williams going 3 for 47 and a 1 TD. Kevin Smith is not yet threatened by the arrival of Rudi Johnson – Smith averaged 3 ypc on 16 carries with 1 td and 4 catches for 32 yards. Kitna passed for 262 yards, 2 TDs and one pick.

Ravens 17 – Bengals 10

Fantasy Superman: No one – I might consider Joe Flacco and Le'Ron McClain as players who outperformed their fantasy value, but then again, they had none, so anything would have been an outperformance.
Fantasy Performers: Ray Rice
Hens: Willis McGahee, Chad Ocho Cinco, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Carson Palmer, Chris Perry.

A real fantasy yawner here, but Joe Flacco blazed into the end zone on a 38-yard TD run that looked more like a walk. Otherwise, this was really a game of what did not happen. Chad Ocho Cinco could not get his new name on the jersey, which clearly affected his play with only one catch. TJ Houshmandzadeh caught only 3 balls for 44 yards and accordingly Palmer’s numbers were horrid with 99 yards, no TDs and one pick. Chris Perry averaged 2 ypc for 37 yards.

All the Ray Rice fans who were excited about their great sleeper pick with McGahee out, must have gotten quite a rude awakening when they looked at the statline to see the name LeRon McClain as the leading running back with 110 yards (86 on the ground and 24 in the air). Ray Rice was not awful, putting up 64 yards on the ground and grabbing 3 catches for 19 yards. Mark Clayton didn’t have much to write home about in the passing game, but a 42-yard reverse for a TD.

Saints 24 – Buccaneers 20

Fantasy Superman: Reggie Bush, Drew Brees
Fantasy Performers: Earnest Graham, Jeremy Shockey, Ike Hilliard, Devery Henderson, David Patten
Hens: Marques Colston

Some very nice stats for the Saints against perhaps their nemesis defense. Drew Brees hooked up for touchdowns of 84 yards to Devery Henderson, 42 yards to Reggie Bush, and 39 yards to David Patten. Brees ended the day with 343 yards and 3 TDs. Another 3rd-4th round running back, Reggie Bush took awhile to start putting up stats, but in the second half he gave Saints fans hope that he will be the running back they drafted. In a PPR league he really showed value with 163, 112 of which came on 8 catches. Shockey fans have to be excited with his 6 catches, even though it was only 54 yards and no TDs.

On the Tampa Bay side of the ledger, there were no fantasy superstars, but no one laid an egg. Earnest Graham who was drafted as a RB2 or even RB3 put up 91 yards. Galloway and Hilliard who are for the most part WR3 or WR4 each had 6 catches for 56 and 45 yards respectively. Garcia threw 221 yards and a TD and interception.

Steelers 38 – Texans 10

Fantasy Superman: Willie Parker, Hines Ward
Fantasy Performers: Andre Johnson, Ben Roethlisberger, Kevin Walter
Hens: Santonio Holmes

Once again, a 3rd to 4th round running back ruled the day. All of the worries that Parker was going to lose caries to Mewelde Moore and Rashard Mendenhall proved false. 25 carries for 138 and 3 TDs, more TDs than he had all last season. Given the fact that Hines Ward was a forgotten receiving stud who fell deep into drafts, his 6 catches for 76 yards and 2 TDs (along with a 60+ yarder that was called back), elevates him to Superman this week. Santonio Holmes crept up the draft boards and was selected in the same position as Fast Willie, but his performance wasn’t even close to Parkers. I list Roethlisberger as a fantasy performer, even though his final stat lines were limited because he did everything asked of him. He connected on 13 of 14 throws for 2 TDs. I suspect that even the run oriented Steelers will have to have a more balanced offense when playing other defenses this year.

On the Texans side, Walters and Johnson got some garbage receptions, but they still put up good numbers, especially Johnson in a PPR league. Steve Slaton looks like a good fit to be the starter in the Texan offense and given the fact that he was inaugurated against the Steelers defense, who has held RBs like Tomlinson in check, Slaton may go through the NFL thinking it will never be tougher than it was today.

Patriots 17 – Chiefs 10

Fantasy Superman: Randy Moss, Randy Moss, Randy Moss
Fantasy Performers: Wes Welker, Tony Gonzalez, Dwayne Bowe
Hens: Tom Brady, Larry Johnson

I may not be very popular after this statement, but my buddy and I both looked at each other when Brady went down and uttered: “That is why you never pick a QB in the first round.” Of course injuries can’t be predicted, but when you decide to wrap up your fantasy future all in one position, at the expense of the others, and you can’t truly handcuff that player, this kind of injury is that much more devastating than one to a top tier RB. Given the fact that Brady may be done for the season and given the fact that I saw him picked in the first six picks in three different drafts, his first quarter departure makes Brady the mother of all hens.

Randy Moss on the other hand makes you realize that Andrew Walter could have been a good QB if Moss cared. Matt Cassel, who looked simply pedantic in the preseason, threw 13 of 18 for 152 and a TD…to Moss of course. Moss went for 116 yards and a score. Welker did what Welker does, He made his six catches, which was okay if you picked him as a WR3 in a PPR league.

Larry Johnson may have had 74 yards, but he did it on 22 carries and was a 2nd round draft pick. That’s just not enough and he is on pace to carry for nearly 370 carries again. Tony Gonzalez and Dwayne Bowe each made enough catches to justify their draft position in PPR and non-PPR leagues.

Eagles 38 – Rams 3

Fantasy Superman: Brian Westbrook, Donovan McNabb, DeSean Jackson
Fantasy Performers: I should put Greg Lewis and Hank Baskett here, but who had them on their squad?
Hens: Steven Jackson, Torry Holt

I have to start out with the bad here. Its hard to say that Torry Holt laid an egg given the fact that this former perennial 2nd rounder, went in the 4th and even 5th rounds of drafts this year. But all you need to do is look at Hines Ward’s performance and the sympathy card is out the window. Holt’s 1 catch for 9 yards may not be so bad given the number of benches I saw him riding today. Steven Jackson got his looks today and ran 14 times for a total of 40 yards, not one of which was a double digit run. Not good for a top 6 draft choice by any stretch of the imagination. Since Marc Bulger had little fanfare coming out this preseason, his performance deserves little mention.

The Eagles may be scaring Cowboy fans as they looked good on the ground and in the air. McNabb’s 361 yards and 3 TDs put him amongst the elite QBs this week, only with Drew Brees. Westbrook was……Westbrook with 2 TDs and 91 yards on the ground, but only 1 in the air (which went for a TD). The biggest surprise was DeSean Jackson, the Cal rookie who ran some great routes, got separation and hauled in 6 for 106. It was the Rams defense, but he may really be for real. I’m not impressed by Greg Lewis’ inflated numbers. Other than a 52-yard catch, he basically was not heard from until the last drive of the game when the Eagles were up 38-3 and they were giving Kevin Kolb some regular season action.

Titans 17 – Jaguars 10

Fantasy Superman: Chris Johnson, Bo Scaife
Fantasy Performers: Matt Jones, LenDale White
Hens: Maurice Jones Drew, David Garrard, Fred Taylor, Vince Young

Did I really say that David Garrard could be a hen? The problem is that he was touted as a very safe pick with 6 TDs for every interception and an ability to make plays on the ground. Today…not so much. As many yards on the ground as he had interceptions (2) and only one TD. Matt Jones on the other hand would make PPR owners happy with his 6 catches for 80 yards. Either the Titans have the toughest run defense (which they may) or the Jags running game was anemic. MJD barely did it in the air with 4 for 37 and did not do it on the ground (13 yards). Taylor only eked out an additional 5 yards on the ground and Greg Jones got the goal line look with a 1-yard TD strike.

While at the end of the game, it appeared that Chris Johnson and LenDale White were splitting carries, Johnson got most of the first half carries. Now that could be a good strategy – tire the Defense with speed and then send the Whale down the gut. Johnson performed very well in his rookie debut, with 93 yards on the ground and 34 in the air for 1 TD. LenDale only went for 40 yards but crossed the goaline. Bo Scaife turned out to be the number one receiving threat with 6 catches for 105 of the 175 passing yards. Vince Young got nothing on the ground, threw two picks, one fumble and oh yeah, he got injured.

Jets 20 – Dolphins 14

Fantasy Superman: Anthony Fasano, Thomas Jones
Fantasy Performers: Jerricho Cotchery, Brett Favre
Hens: Laveranues Coles

Who says Brett Favre does not sell? I’m here on the west coast and of the AFC games televised on CBS, I think I would have loved to see any of the following games: Steelers – Texans, Patriots – Chiefs, Jaguars – Titans. Instead I was stuck with these two crappy teams (sorry Jets and Dolphins fans, but the only excitement I got out of this game was a last minute drive which could have had Pennington beating his former team).

Right now Anthony Fasano looks like the number one waiver wire pick up with 8 catches for 84 yards and 1 TD. Since only three teams in every league have Tight Ends to appreciate, letting Fasano pass you by might just be a bad idea. The Dolphins tight ends accounted for 137 of Pennington’s 251 yards. If you have a Dolphin wide receiver on your squad, it may be time to dump them without a single good performance among them. Where the preseason hype had Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams both looking like good late round pick-ups, they proved exactly why they were late rounders, neither reaching 25 yards on the ground and neither scoring.

Thomas Jones turned out to be as advertised averaging 4.5 ypc, crossing the 100 yards barrier and scoring a TD. While Cotchery had 80 yards and a TD (meriting his mid round draft selection), his 3 catches should have Cotchery owners worried. Coles owners should be even more worried since he was outperformed by Torry Holt. I guess all that matters with fantasy football is the numbers in the book, but did anyone see Favre’s second TD pass to Chanci Stuckey. I think the fact that the wounded duck wobbled to a guy named Chanci is ironic [which never would have happened if Jeff Nugent hadn’t been injured – okay, that is the only place you will see a kicker discussed here).

Bills 34 – Seahawks 10

Fantasy Superman: Lee Evans
Fantasy Performers: Marshawn Lynch, Robert Royal, Trent Edwards
Hens: Maurice Morris

Yes, I said Lee Evans was a superman. Granted it was only on 4 catches for 102 yards, but given the fact that Lee Evans got drafted later than he has in the past and given the fact that he lays eggs at the beginning of every year, a 100 yard performance should make Evans owners super excited. Marshawn Lynch performed decently for a late first round pick with 76 yards and a TD. Robert Royal proves to be a solid Tight End with 6 for 52 and a TD. Edward made no mistakes and threw for 215 yards and a TD.

Just when you can’t afford to lose another wide receiver, Nate Burleson goes for 5 catches, 60 yards and a TD, before going out with a knee injury. Maurice Morris gets labeled the starter and ends up carrying the rock for all of 6 times and 31 yards. No receivers made a name for themselves yet.

Cardinals 23 - 49ers 13

Fantasy Superman: Frank Gore
Fantasy Performers: Edgerrin James
Hens: Kurt Warner

This was a game where Kurt Warner made owners think of benching Drew Brees. But all he did was throw for one TD and 197 yards. Edgerrin James ran for 100 yards on 26 carries, which made me reconsidered my philosophy on 31-year-old running backs, but the fact is that Hightower got the important carries. The receivers both performed okay, but not to their expectations. Fitzgerald hauled in a TD, but only on 3 catches for 31 yards, while Boldin hauled in 8 for 82, but no TDs.

I’m considering Gore a superman only because the concerns attached to him in a Martz system. He broke of a nice 41 yard TD run, 96 yards on the ground and 4 catches for 55 yards. If it’s good enough for Bush to be a superman, it’s good enough for Gore. Otherwise, this offense should go unmentioned.

Panthers 26 – Chargers 24

Fantasy Superman: Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates, Dante Rosario
Fantasy Performers: Chris Chambers, Vincent Jackson, Jake Delhomme, DeAngelo Williams
Hens: LaDainian Tomlinson

Okay, I am a huge Tomlinson fan, but less than 100 yards and no TDs for the number one pick of a draft, is an egg to me. The Chargers came into this game with a banged up passing game, yet Rivers looked healthy with 217 yards and 3 TDs, Gates 4 catches for 61 yards and a TD and Chambers and Vincent Jackson each with 40+ yards and a TD.

Dante Rosario? Everyone was sleeping on Jeff King. Yet Rosario caught 7 for 96 and a TD. DeAngelo Williams got the bulk of the carries with 18 for 86 making his selection in the late middle rounds payoff. Delhomme showed no ill effect from Tommy John surgery with 247 yards and a TD.

Cowboys 28 – Browns 10

Fantasy Superman: Marion Barber, Felix Jones
Fantasy Performers: Jason Witten, Terrell Owens, Patrick Crayton, Kellen Winslow, Tony Romo
Hens: Braylon Edwards, Derek Anderson

The Cowboys really controlled this game, in the air and on the ground. Marion Barber made those who drafted late in the first round and those who traded studs to move down to get him, very happy with his 2 TDs on 100 yards in the air and on the ground. He got the bulk of the carries and did not relinquish to Felix Jones until he went out for rib x-rays. But Jones proved worth the handcuff carrying 9 for 62 and a TD. Owens was Owens with 87 yards and a TD and while Romo threw for 320, he only crossed the end zone once, which equaled his turnovers.

The Browns looked rusty, not having played together for most the summer and going up against the Cowboys was a tough start. But Winslow caught 5 for 47 and a TD meriting his early tight end selection.

Bears 29 - Colts 13

Fantasy Superman: Matt Forte, The Bears D
Fantasy Performers: Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne
Hens: Joseph Addai

This is being submitted with two minutes left in the game and frankly the Bears D seemed to rule the Colts. Matt Forte surprised with a strong 123 yards and a TD.

Harrison and Wayne both looked good, but Addai, for an early to mid first round pick only got 44 yards.

Giants 16 – Redskins 7

Fantasy Superman: Plaxico Burress, Brandon Jacobs
Fantasy Performers: Clinton Portis
Hens: Eli Manning

If the first drive of this game were the stage setter for the season, Eli Manning could be moving aside his Super Bowl MVP Trophy to make room for a league MVP trophy. 4-7 for 67 yards and a 1 yard TD run made the relatively few Eli Manning owners who played him this week (except in 2 QB leagues) anoint themselves as their respective league’s fantasy guru. The only problem is that in most formats, Manning’s production for the remainder of the game was one-third his production on the first drive. If Zorn had remembered to load stick’em on the flight to New York, Manning would have thrown at least four picks. However, on the positive side of the slate for New York, Plaxico got targeted 13 times and made the best of them with 10 nabs for 133 yards and 0 TDs. While the Manning-Plaxico hook-up had fantasy owners licking their chops, Manning threw twice as many balls to his WRs, RBs and TEs and came up with less receptions (9) and significantly less yards (83). Jacobs also produced nicely with a tough 116 yards and a 5.5 yards per carry. John Carney signs after Tynes goes out and immediately goes 3 for 3.

Very little to speak of on the other end of the ball. Considering the utter lack of a passing game, Clinton Portis’ 84 yards were pretty impressive. While I would like to get excited that Randle El caught 7 balls for 73 yards, nearly half his catches and yards came on the last drive of the game, when the Giants were giving up the short passes.