Jay Clemons
Friday September 17th, 2010

For everyone who pegs Arian Foster as a sure bet for 150-plus yards every week, or believes that Matt Hasselbeck has tapped into the fantasy fountain of youth, or thinks Michael Vick represents a stronger seasonal fantasy play than Kevin Kolb, Kyle Orton or Vince Young, may I present a few time-tested rules about what to believe in -- and what to ignore about fantasy football after Week 1.

1. Play your stars: There's a reason why you drafted Michael Turner as high as No. 4 overall in standard-scoring leagues. There's a reason why you danced a jig in front of your buddies after landing Randy Moss at the beginning of Round 2. And there's a reason why Frank Gore remains the most attractive fantasy talent after the Big Four of Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, Ray Rice and Maurice Jones-Drew. Superstars have earned the right, in time, to deserve the benefit of the doubt every week. No questions asked. No overthinking necessary.

The best example of this creed comes in the story of Hall of Famer Barry Sanders, circa 1997. After two sub-Sanders-esque games of 33 and 20 yards to begin the season, Sanders went on an alltime rampage, rushing for a "low" of 105 and high of 216 yards for the next 14 weeks ... on the way to a 2,053-yard campaign. But I'd be willing to bet that a few owners traded him out of haste after Week 2, simply because some no-name scrub looked great coming out of the gate.

2. What goes up usually comes down: Here's a list of Week 1 studs from recent years who crashed and burned immediately after amazing showings on Opening Day -- Frisman Jackson (8 catches, 128 yards, 1 TD with Cleveland in 2005), Glenn Foley (415 yards, 3 TDs as the Jets' QB in 1998), Joey Harrington (195 yards, 4 TDs as Detroit's QB in 2003) and Bucs tight end Alex Smith from 2005 (4 catches, 34 yards, 2 TDs) -- in a performance remarkably similar to Marcedes Lewis last week against Denver. For what it's worth, Smith's two scores were his only touchdowns that season.

3. Respect the East Coast bias: Did you know that in 2008 West Coast teams had a record, by our unofficial count, of 2-18 against East Coast clubs for 1 p.m. kickoff times (EST)? For whatever reason, the Cardinals, Raiders, Chargers, 49ers and Seahawks have had a miserable time adapting to the early Sunday starts, and that malaise trickles down to fantasyland, as well.

4. Don't be intimidated by rain: Wet balls still travel well amid the warm September air. In fact, it's probably a little slice of heaven for some quarterbacks -- especially ones with large hands -- who know the cornerbacks and safeties will be slip-sliding out of their breaks all day.

Here's a list of prominent players who'll bounce back in Week 2: 1. RB Frank Gore, 49ers 2. RB Michael Turner, Falcons 3. RB Steven Jackson, Rams 4. WR Andre Johnson, Texans 5. QB Brett Favre, Vikings 6. RB LeSean McCoy, Eagles 7. QB Matt Schaub, Texans 8. WR Brandon Marshall, Dolphins 9. RB C.J. Spiller, Bills 10. QB Chad Henne, Dolphins 11. WR DeSean Jackson, Eagles 12. RB Jonathan Stewart, Panthers 13. WR Calvin Johnson, Lions 14. TE Vernon Davis, 49ers 15. WR Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars

1. Tony Romo vs. Chicago 2. Aaron Rodgers vs. Buffalo 3. Kyle Orton vs. Seattle 4. Philip Rivers vs. Jacksonville 5. Tom Brady @ N.Y. Jets 6. Peyton Manning vs. N.Y. Giants

Here are my up-to-the-minute rankings for the top 35 running backs: 1. Chris Johnson, Titans 2. Adrian Peterson, Vikings 3. Frank Gore, 49ers 4. Ray Rice, Ravens 5. Arian Foster, Texans 6. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars 7. Steven Jackson, Rams 8. Michael Turner, Falcons 9. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers 10. Cedric Benson, Bengals 11. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs 12. Matt Forte, Bears 13. DeAngelo Williams, Panthers 14. Ronnie Brown, Dolphins 15. LeSean McCoy, Eagles 16. Knowshon Moreno, Broncos 17. Pierre Thomas, Saints 18. Ryan Mathews, Chargers 19. Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants 20. Jonathan Stewart, Panthers 21. Joseph Addai, Colts 22. Brandon Jackson, Packers 23. Beanie Wells, Cardinals 24. Shonn Greene, Jets 25. Justin Forsett, Seahawks 26. Jerome Harrison, Browns 27. Clinton Portis, Redskins 28. Reggie Bush, Saints 29. Felix Jones, Cowboys 30. Marion Barber, Cowboys 31. Cadillac Williams, Buccaneers 32. C.J. Spiller, Bills 33. Darren McFadden, Raiders 34. Jahvid Best, Lions 35. Tim Hightower, Cardinals

Dallas over Chicago (still alive after Jacksonville's Week 1 victory)

I'll bet my life the 49ers will wipe away the wretchedness of Week 1's blowout loss to Seattle and knock off the defending champion Saints on Monday Night Football. My reasons for this bold, yet easy-to-foresee prediction are these: 1. Frank Gore is primed to have the best weekend of any NFL rusher. 2. The Niners defense will keep Drew Brees under 260 yards passing. 3. San Francisco will produce at least five trips to the red zone. 4. The 49ers possess better offensive playmakers than the Saints -- save quarterback. 5. The natural order of things dictates the Saints will have a major bullseye on their backs all year -- especially for prime-time road games. And the Niners are an elite team -- even if they didn't show it last week.

1. Frank Gore vs. New Orlaans 2. Adrian Peterson vs. Miami 3. LeSean McCoy @ Detroit 4. Jerome Harrison vs. Kansas City 5. Jamaal Charles @ Cleveland 6. Rashard Mendenhall @ Tennessee 7. Jonathan Stewart vs. Tampa Bay 8. Knowshon Moreno vs. Seattle 9. Darren McFadden vs. St. Louis 10. Michael Turner vs. Arizona 11. Cedric Benson vs. Baltimore 12. Maurice Jones-Drew @ San Diego 13. Arian Foster @ Washington

On Thursday morning, we launched the second of 15 weekly chats on Facebook, taking lineup questions from the fantasy masses. Here are some of the highlights from Chat No. 2, which comes with a reminder for next Thursday's open forum (11 a.m. to 1 p.m. EST):

@Lori Livermore asks: I drafted Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Mathews, and LeSean McCoy. I was lucky enough to get Brandon Jackson off waivers. I like Jackson's (vs. Buffalo) and McCoy's (at Detroit) matchups this week, but do I dare sit Mendenhall and Mathews?

Answer: You have four supreme backs for Week 2, and the combination of either one would be gold this week. That said, I would definitely ride McCoy, Mendenhall and Brandon Jackson over Ryan Mathews. Yes, Mathews is a great back with worlds of potential. But it's impossible to ignore McCoy's matchup with Detroit and Jackson with Buffalo. As I said earlier, I think Green Bay might score 41 points on Sunday.

@Nick Kelly wonders: I have 2 RB slots in one of my leagues with these 4 backs: Chris Johnson @PIT ... Jamaal Charles @CLE ... Jerome Harrison @KC and Jonathan Stewart @TB? Who do I start? I don't know if I can justify benching CJ but those other three are such good matchups, I'm undecided as to even start alongside him. It might be sacrilegious to even consider benching CJ, but I am stumped.

Answer: I have all four backs -- Chris Johnson, J-Charles, J-Stew, J-Harrison -- all having amazing games for Week 2. But if I could only choose two guys, I'd ride Chris Johnson (obviously) and Harrison (at home). But again, either combination will work. Thanks!

@Kelly Hoadley needs to know: I'm looking for one RB and one flex (not PPR): Jahvid Best, Knowshon Moreno, Darren McFadden, Clinton Portis and Mike Wallace.

Answer: For your quandary, I'd start Moreno and Darren McFadden over Portis, Jahvid Best and Mike Wallace, although both Portis and Best are intriguing picks in Week 2. However, I just think Moreno and D-Mac will be amazing against Seattle and St. Louis, respectively.

@Benedict Cullen wonders: I have Meachem, Jacoby Jones, Jabar Gaffney, Thomas Jones all competing for my flex spot. Who to start? (have both Steve Smiths at WR1 & 2 and McFadden and Mendenhall at RB1 & 2).

Answer: I'd start Jabar Gaffney over Meachem, T-Jones and Jacoby Jones in Week 2. I really think Denver will put up a ton of points against Seattle in Week 2, and J-Gaff should be at the center of all that fantasy goodness.

@Justen Fox poses this question: Thoughts on John Kuhn in Green Bay? If they don't bring in someone like Lynch, do you see Kuhn approaching 10 TDs this season? Jackson seems to get stuffed pretty frequently..

Answer: John Kuhn could certainly get 10 goal-line TDs with the Packers this year; but I don't see him as an every-down threat to Brandon Jackson, who could easily become a franchise back during this one-year window for potential greatness. Personally, I'm not a big fan of guys who score TDs but aren't threats for at least 500 rushing yards. Thanks!

@Jacob Hall asks: PPR questions -- Brandon Jackson against Buffalo or Jamaal Charles at Cleveland? Any update on Beanie? Also, Mendenhall at Titans, Gore vs. NO or McFadden vs. Rams? In another league, I have a stable of WRs and need to start three. I'm a big believer in Dwayne Bowe -- what is the deal with some folks ranking him 40th overall against Cleveland? I'm starting Ocho, Andre Johnson, Bowe but also have Housh, Clayton, Mike Thomas (Jax), Lloyd and Aromashodu. Hopefully Houston remembers Andre Johnson is their best player this week.

Answer: I don't possess any insider info with injuries. I merely read the work of Rotowire, Adam Caplan and Will Carroll (@injuryexpert). As for Beanie's injury, it doesn't really matter for you in Week 2. The combination of either Gore, Mendenhall, McFadden, Brandon Jackson or Jamaal Charles probably won't fail either way. Personally, I'd ride Gore, Mendenhall and J-Charles in Week 2 -- even though I also have McFadden as a "lock" for 120 total yards and/or 2 TDs.

As for Dwayne Bowe, I can't explain other people's rankings, but I am certainly not going to penalize Bowe for not posting great numbers in heavy rain on Monday night. I would start him with reasonable confidence against Kansas City; especially since the Chiefs coaches are probably dying to flex their muscles in the passing game. Thanks!

1. Miles Austin vs. Chicago 2. Legedu Naanee vs. Jacksonville 3. Reggie Wayne vs. N.Y. Giants 4. Randy Moss @ N.Y. Jets 5. Jabar Gaffney vs. Seattle 6. Greg Jennings vs. Buffalo 7. Larry Fitzgerald @ Atlanta 8. Brandon Marshall @ Minnesota 9. Steve Smith vs. Tampa Bay 10. Marques Colston @ San Francisco 11. Steve Smith @ Indianapolis

... The 2010 Sports Illustrated Fantasy Football Game (presented by Finish Line and GMC). For those who haven't accessed this amazing application on Facebook yet, what are you waiting for? Week 2 is almost here! Duh.

In the 16-team SI.com & Friends, where running back depth is vital to playoff contention, one particular owner (Drew Packham) made a series of trades to combat the season-ending loss of Ryan Grant from his roster (Brandon Jackson was drafted by another owner). So, this would be a good time for the analytical geniuses at Accuscore to break down both deals (stat projections from Week 2-17):

Trade No. 1: Javon Ringer for Braylon Edwards Ringer: 366 rushing yards/48 receiving yards/3.71 rushing TDs/0.31 receiving TDs Edwards: 36.7 catches/525 yards/2.52 TDs

Trade No. 2: Tim Hightower for Michael Crabtree Hightower: 638 rushing yards, 365 receiving yards, 7.04 rushing TDs, 1.79 receiving TDs Crabtree: 64.8 catches/874 yards/3.35 TDs

Since we already have the Accuscore Predictionator 5000 cranking, here are the reception-leader projections for tight ends from Weeks 2-17: Dallas Clark, Colts -- 95.92 catches Jason Witten, Cowboys -- 87.42 catches Tony Gonzalez, Falcons -- 75.24 Kellen Winslow, Buccaneers -- 73.63 Antonio Gates, Chargers -- 73.54 Jermichael Finley, Packers -- 73.25 Owen Daniels, Texans -- 73.12 Vernon Davis, 49ers -- 71.29 Zach Miller, Raiders -- 70.37 Chris Cooley, Redskins -- 69.65 Heath Miller, Steelers -- 68.56 Brent Celek, Eagles -- 64.24 Visanthe Shiancoe, Vikings -- 56.15 Todd Heap, Ravens -- 55.54 Jeremy Shockey, Saints -- 54.48 Jermaine Gresham, Bengals -- 52.84 Greg Olsen, Bears -- 52 Bo Scaife, Titans -- 51.02 Evan Moore, Browns -- 49.82 Tony Moeaki, Chiefs -- 49.47

A receiver is only as good as his quarterback and the number of opportunities he gets to make a catch. These "Targets" should factor heavily with owners when choosing to snag (or drop) a talent -- especially PPR leagues. It goes without saying, owners must bookmark this link and refer to it every week.

Here are the receivers who garnered at least nine targets in Week 1: 1. Roddy White, Falcons -- 23 targets 2. Mark Clayton, Rams -- 16 3. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals -- 15 4. Brandon Marshall, Dolphins -- 13 5. Chad Ochocinco, Bengals -- 13 6. Terrell Owens, Bengals -- 13 7. Dez Bryant, Cowboys -- 12 8. Austin Collie, Colts -- 12 9. Malcom Floyd, Chargers -- 12 10. Miles Austin, Cowboys -- 11 11. DeSean Jackson, Eagles -- 11 12. Wes Welker, Patriots -- 11 13. Devin Aromashodu, Bears -- 10 14. Anquan Boldin, Ravens -- 10 15. Pierre Garcon, Colts -- 10 16. Greg Jennings, Packers -- 10 17. Calvin Johnson, Lions -- 10 18. Eddie Royal, Broncos -- 10 19. Reggie Wayne, Colts -- 10 20. Danny Amendola, Rams -- 9 21. Santana Moss, Redskins -- 9 22. Laurent Robinson, Rams -- 9 23. Steve Smith, Panthers -- 9 24. Mike Williams, Buccaneers -- 9

1. N.Y. Giants @ Indianapolis 2. Buffalo @ Green Bay 3. Chicago @ Dallas 4. Seattle @ Denver 5. New Orleans @ San Francisco

One good turn deserves another. Here are the 16 tailbacks with 5 or more Targets from Week 1: 1. Darren McFadden, Raiders -- 9 2. Steven Jackson, Rams -- 8 3. Matt Forte, Bears -- 7 4. Frank Gore, 49ers -- 7 5. Joseph Addai, Colts -- 6 6. Jahvid Best, Lions -- 6 7. Reggie Bush, Saints -- 6 8. Kevin Faulk, Patriots -- 6 9. C.J. Spiller, Bills -- 6 10. Mike Goodson, Panthers -- 5 11. Peyton Hillis, Browns -- 5 12. LeSean McCoy, Eagles -- 5

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