Welcome to Tuesday Morning Buzz! After a successful first year, TMB will try to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump and deliver another great season. Week 1 was certainly exciting enough, from Tony Romo’s reprisal of his past “greatness” to Peyton Manning’s slinging touchdowns from beyond the grave, so let’s get right into it:
What a contrast between the opening game of 2012 and last year’s Saints–Packers scoring spectacular! This game started with two three-and-outs and it was almost five full minutes off the clock before we saw a first down. The credit for that goes to the Cowboys’ shockingly strong secondary and an always tough-nosed Giants defensive front.
In fact, there wasn’t a score until Michael Boley returned an interception to the 2-yard line (followed by a field goal), and there wasn’t a touchdown until 1:07 remaining in the first half, when Kevin Ogletree decided that he would be the most popular player on the waiver wire after Week 1. Speaking of Ogletree, I didn’t hear any talk about him in the preseason, but his early success should have been visible from a mile away. Tony Romo’s Cowboys always have success with the slot receiver position (Patrick Crayton, Laurent Robinson, Miles Austin). As far as the Giants go, this loss really proved nothing. Remember, this team won the Superbowl on a 9-7 record last year.
$#^% Chris Collinsworth Says, Pt. 1
Chris Collinsworth partaking of the Tony Romo Kool-Aid:
“You can say whatever you want about Tony Romo being the issue, but…that’s not the issue!”
Tony Romo is an interesting character because he has been talked about as an underachiever. It’s as though Romo has already won multiple Superbowls and has just not been performing! On the contrary: This is a quarterback who has been on his way up from past failure, not on his way down from success. Now it seems that Romo’s Week 1 performance is being heralded as a return to greatness, rather than a milestone on the long and hard road to greatness he has never been able to reach.
At first, this game looked like it was going to be a classic Saints home game. New Orleans started slow with a three-and-out, held the Skins to a field goal, and then threw a beautiful 20-yard pass to Jimmy Graham. After that, however, the Saints sputtered in a rare home loss to Subway’s favorite quarterback. RGIII had a fresh take for the Saints with a dominant Week 1 performance. Speaking of fresh, how about a fresh name for this year’s inevitably frustrating running back Shanahanigans in Alfred Morris? Shanahan considers mystery around the running back position to be a winning strategy, so plan on playing your Redskins with baited breath each and every week this year.
Forgive me for overreacting, but is this the most explosive Chicago Bears offense in history? I’m not saying the 2012 squad is the ultimate Bears team, but I think they have a higher scoring potential than any team in Chi-Town’s past. Cutler, Forte, and Marshall performed admirably, and a new man, Alshon Jeffery, took advantage of the defensive attention on Marshall. As for the Colts, Luck struggled with interceptions in his debut, but he did put up good yardage numbers. I still maintain that no rookie has looked more in control of his offense than Andrew Luck, and Wayne and Fleener appear to be settled in as his two main targets. Take Wayne and Fleener to the bank.
R.E. Shay spoke prophetically about the Eagles’ one-point escape from Cleveland long ago, saying, “Depend on the rabbit’s foot if you will, but remember it didn’t work for the rabbit.” Heed these words Dynasty-believers, as winning with a four-interception game is actually an ill omen. Consider this: How good can your opponent be if they nearly beat you after you give up four interceptions? Don’t bench your Eagles, just temper your expectations until the offense has a chance to gel.
For the Browns, it was a miserable performance in a stellar line of miserable performances. If the Steelers, Patriots, and Packers have a culture of winning, evidenced by their regular-season and playoff dominance, then certainly the Cleveland Browns have an equally prestigious culture of rolling out non-competitive teams and throwing away draft picks. If you didn’t draft a single Brown this year, then I applaud your sage-like wisdom. I don’t believe that Trent Richardson will be a top-20 running back this year.
During the broadcast, the announcers were in love with a statement they heard from the Lions: “We have the power of Calvin.” This of course is a reference to Calvin Johnson and his ability to draw defenses away from other receivers, as evidenced by receptions by eight men not named Calvin Johnson on Sunday. However, I submit to you that this also is the accepted unit of measure for general offensive effectiveness. If Calvin Johnson equals 1.0 Calvin, then Titus Young may be .4706 on the Calvin Scale. Look for the Calvin Scale to be the next big thing for measuring skill position players in years to come.
Sam Bradford performed well in a road loss on Sunday (approximately .55 on the Calvin scale), but the rest of his offense is so putrid (.12 Calvin) that his fantasy value will always be limited. Here’s hoping that Bradford gets a trade at the end of his contract.
Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory lasts forever.
The poor souls, hereby known as “The Replacements,” who have the unfortunate task of filling in for the normal referees, seem to get no love by the media. Game after game in Week 1, yours truly heard countless media members slandering The Replacements and salivating over any instance of their error. There were a few errors, but nothing more egregious than the regular referees would make without their normal offseason regimen of clinics and practice. Count me in as rooting for these guys, and I hope Shane Falco’s immortal words give them strength.
The usual suspects were out in full force for the Patkowskis, as Brady, Gronk, and Hernandez were all excellent. Also, some of the new players delivered on their promises, for one week at least, as Stevan Ridley had 145 total yards and a touchdown and Brandon Lloyd hauled in 69 yards. For the Titans, this game was no indicator of their possible success this season, as they got down early and struggled to come back. However, with Locker possibly out with a separated shoulder, the Chargers and the Lions may provide a stiff challenge for Matt Hasselbeck, who hasn’t practiced much with the starting squad all offseason.
Ah, what would an NFL season be without the annual Week 1 blowout of the Kansas City Chiefs? The Falcons were the lucky benefactors this year, and boy did they cash in! While the Chiefs struggled to knit together two consecutive touchdown-scoring halves, Matt Ryan kept hooking up with his two hyper-talented wide receivers—to the tune of 12 catches for 195 yards and two touchdowns, combined. Look for the Falcons to keep up a fantastic fantasy pace this year, and but don’t sell yet on the Chiefs. They usually have at least a short period of fantasy success, but they’re certainly not reliable for in any given week.
Outside of an intelligent quarterback, there is nothing I like more in football than the imposing force of a giant wide receiver. Dez Bryant and Brandon Marshall are fantastic examples of my favorite type of receiver. However, the elite Justin Blackmon is just as talented as those two, without the off-the-field issues, placing him a step above. In fact, Blackmon could be the next receiver to attain a 1.0 on the Calvin Scale. Also, Marcedes Lewis may have a resurgent year if the Jags’ production keeps up, so you may consider picking him up if you’re weak at TE. Suddenly, the Jags have a potentially explosive offense, something that has not been written about them in at least the past five years.
The keyword for the Vikings offense this Sunday was “relentless.” Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin refused to give up and were rewarded for it. Peterson worked tirelessly to return from an ACL and MCL injury over the offseason and was able to run for 84 yards and two touchdowns in his return performance. Harvin converted his touches into 104 total yards, including a mega-catch in which he dragged a pile of six Jaguars down the field.
Hey, remember that time yours truly waxed eloquent in Training Camp Hype about the awful preseason the Jets were having, and how terrible a team must be when one of their two starting quarterbacks played nearly every snap and they still couldn’t muster one single touchdown? Yeah, well, I don’t. The Jets looked great all preseason and Sanchez is destined for a regular season MVP. He’s like 1.75 Calvin! All right, in all seriousness, be wary of the Jets offense going forward. I doubt 48 points will be their average.
In a much bigger blow than a humiliating loss to a divisional rival, Fred Jackson went down during the game and will be out for a few weeks. C.J. Spiller owners should watch this situation closely, as the potential-heavy backup averaged more than 10 yards on 14 carries against a good Jets defense.
Of the rookie quarterbacks starting Week 1, Ryan Tannehill had the most rookie-like first game. Throwing for 219 yards with three interceptions won’t win many football games, but he did look promising against a ferocious Houston Texans team, and none of the picks were strictly his fault. This Dolphins team is taking baby steps toward forming an identity, and fantasy owners should be patient. There were no revelations for the Texans on Sunday, as the fantasy studs performed just as fantasy studs should. The true test for these Texans is the marathon of the regular season—not the sprint of a Week 1 victory against a Dolphins team that is bailing water.
For the 49ers, this is a season of dreams. Since the retirement of Steve Young, their fanbase has been praying for a winning squad. Just like Alex Smith, they narrowly survived Mike “Can’t Win with ‘Em” Singletary and are now in a much better place. The fantasy measureables are tangible now, as Smith, Gore, Crabtree, Davis, and the immortal Randy Moss each put up fantasy numbers that helped many fantasy owners win in Week 1. Keep a close eye on Frank Gore’s carries, however, and Gore owners should make sure Kendall Hunter is on tap to replace the oft-injured running back.
Packers fans are feeling abysmal early this season after some discouraging preseason play and a wallop at home in Week 1. A stouter secondary may have been able to make this game winnable, so Green Bay supporters should not be worried. Continue to start your Packers with gusto.
In the preseason and in Week 1, classic schoolyard bully Jim Harbaugh was overreacting to the maximum and trying to get into the heads of The Replacements to manipulate their calls in his favor. Do me a favor and Google the hotheaded head coach frothing at the mouth… it’s downright ghoulish! He is recklessly drawing the line with these officials and may see fines or penalties for his team based on his misconduct. Let’s just hope he doesn’t have to give any refs a mid-field handshake…
In a game that was won only because it had to be, both teams looked generally miserable on Sunday. If you have any Seahawks, it may be worth sitting them for similar options until some fantasy clarity is gleaned. Sidney Rice did catch a touchdown and Lynch did run for 85 yards, but against a team as hapless as the Cardinals, no one put up numbers worthy of their matchup. For the Cardinals, stay away. In my humble opinion, Larry Fitzgerald is not worth what you paid for him, and you should be trying to make an early trade for cents on the dollar (for someone unpopular but talented) while Fitz is still worth anything.
As is typical with any success in the NFL, it is always tempered in its second year. This is most often seen with successful rookie quarterbacks, and RGIII and Luck owners would do well to remember this lesson next year. Cam Newton may come together and be just fine as the year progresses, but this is the first offseason where teams have had the opportunity to truly plan for the preacher’s kid. He still threw for 300 yards and a touchdown, but he threw two picks and ran for only four yards. The whole Panthers offense could, and likely will, do better.
The Bucs seem to have picked up right where they left off, with little passing efficiency, albeit with a bit more running success. Speaking of running, the LeGarrette Blount ostracism seems to be complete, as he ran once for every eight of Doug Martin’s carries. Martin does look to have the skills and opportunity to be worth your pick, but don’t get too excited until you see it succeed for multiple weeks.
In what must have been incredibly painful for them and their fans, the Steelers returned to Mile High and saw a result similar to last year’s playoffs. The game ended with a big play from Bay Bay Thomas, but fantasy players should take note that Eric Decker was this close to two touchdowns. Keep in mind that they evenly split 14 targets.
Also, don’t jump to too many conclusions about the Steelers. They were without many starters in Mile High and faced the tireless Peyton Manning. The Steelers O-line looks as though it will fail them every year, and every year they find a way to fall into 10 wins and a playoff berth. Also, it appears that Todd Haley will throw more than the Steelers are accustomed to, which will show inflated numbers for Roethlisberger & co., if successful.
$#^% Chris Collinsworth Says, Pt. 2
Chris Collinsworth on the excellence of Peyton Manning:
“I don’t know how Peyton’s neck’s doin’—but his brain’s doin’ fine!”
Peyton Manning not only looked healthy, he looked downright spry—even running for a first down in the second quarter. To my bewilderment, the Denver coaching staff insisted on calling plays in the huddle in the first half, but they eventually caved to the no-huddle that Manning is famous for. Hopefully they learned their lesson and will not attempt to rein in the football genius in games to come, as their offense became twice as efficient when Manning was in charge.
If I was wrong about the Jets in the preseason, I was right about the Ravens. This team is so offensively gifted and so defensively experienced, anything less than an AFC Championship is a failure, and anything less than the Lombardi Trophy is a disappointment. The under-the-radar Ravens showed their might in Week 1, though the score belies that the Bengals actually hung around until late in the third quarter. The Bengals offense looked quite good despite the turnover issue, which should be corrected over the weeks to come. All of the Bengals skill players should see heightened success in future weeks with easier opponents.
For the Raiders, the play of Darren McFadden was more than encouraging, it was downright impressive. There is only so much a running back can do for his team, though…ask Adrian Peterson. The Raiders offense was generally efficient and also generally ineffective, but it was their special teams that truly spoiled the game by allowing three punts to fail due to incompetence; a losing method taken right out of the 2011 Chargers handbook.
The Chargers weren’t stellar, but Nate Kaeding’s leg once again carried them to victory. If Kaeding is on your waiver wire, he’s likely to be better than whatever kicker you have on your roster. He’s been largely forgotten since he was hurt during the first kickoff of 2011. Rivers threw for fewer yards than Christian Ponder or Blaine Gabbert but, hey, so did Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, so you can’t be too upset with that. The Chargers look as though the expectations that have given them fits over the years may have finally rolled off their collective back. Here’s hoping for a big Chargers season for all of those fantasy stars on their roster.
And there it is. Week 1 is done and Week 2 is only two days away, as the NFL’s ridiculous Thursday Night Football robs the poor man of a great rivalry. Short weeks favor offenses, however, and I’m excited for the Bears–Packers shootout in Green Bay on Thursday. Outside of those two teams, New England, Baltimore, New Orleans, Carolina, Washington, San Diego, and Denver should be hot in Week 2. See you next Tuesday.