Eric Mack
Monday September 12th, 2011

Week 1 is like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates: You never know what you're going to get.

We should now have a pretty good idea about the woeful Colts offense, the brutal Chiefs defense and the strange and limited touches by the likes of Chris Johnson, Jamaal Charles, Ahmad Bradshaw, LeGarrette Blount and Joseph Addai.

The Titans, Chiefs, Giants, Bucs and Colts are going to be bad sources for fantasy owners if those offenses don't get the ball to their linchpins.

We break down the fantasy news and notes game-by-game in the Week 1 Fantasy Fast Forward.

• Well, we saw exactly why Tom Brady is going to be the No. 1 quarterback in fantasy this season. The tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski are hellacious, and Wes Welker is another year removed from serious injury. Chad Ochocinco didn't even need to make an impact, with Deion Branch looking like the more favored target on the outside. The Pats are going to rack up yardage among those targets. They should remain active in most leagues next week even against that great Chargers secondary that leads the NFL after one week. Maybe Ochocinco is the only one to sit until his woes picking up the Pats scheme resolve.

• Chad Henne has proven to be a nice sleeper with an underrated supporting cast. It sure helps that the Dolphins don't have much of a short running game. Henne can get rushing and passing scores for that reason. He will also rack up completions and targets as the Dolphins play catch-up. The Texans' secondary was the worst in the NFL last season -- even if they looked better against the Colts in Week 1. Henne and his receivers should be decent options once again at home.

• BenJarvus Green-Ellis was mostly ineffective and the Pats gameplan used Danny Woodhead on draws in some passing formations. The Pats aren't going to always play this wide open. Green-Ellis will be more of a factor against the Chargers.

• Reggie Bush is a must-start running back in PPR leagues. He is going to be productive for fantasy owners as a receiver out of the backfield as long as he stays healthy. The key to that could be avoiding the pounding between the tackles. Daniel Thomas (hamstring) needs to get healthy for that to happen. Don't count on it in Week 2, though. Larry Johnson just isn't a factor at this point.

• Darren McFadden took advantage of a favorable matchup, but Knowshon Moreno (hamstring) could not. The injury really hampered him in the second half. Moreno is going to be a bad play in Week 2, which makes Willis McGahee a sleeper for fantasy owners as a flex option.

• Jason Campbell and the Raiders receivers looked as bad as they are. There is nothing to like about the receivers, even supposed "sleeper" Jacoby Ford. The Raiders offense is all about McFadden and Sebastian Janikowski. Heck, the woes in the passing game are even dragging those two down from potentially being elite. There just won't be much scoring from this club against a decent team.

• Kyle Orton didn't look incapable of moving the ball through the air, but he didn't get any red-zone help from his mediocre receiving corps. Despite the 300-yard game, Orton is still a marginal fantasy backup this season. He will rack up yardage but his fantasy scoring will be limited to that in garbage time.

• We saw what keeps Tony Romo from being among the elite quarterbacks in fantasy: Boneheaded turnovers. Romo single-handedly lost the game for the Cowboys, despite rewarding loyal fantasy owners with a strong performance against one of the NFL's elite defenses. A year of health for Romo makes himself, Jason Witten, Miles Austin and Dez Bryant must-starts in all leagues, regardless of matchups.

• It looks as if Santonio Holmes will be the possession receiver, while Plaxico Burress and Dustin Keller will be the red-zone targets. This could be a big year for Mark Sanchez, who was mostly outstanding in this one. Sanchez just might be a viable starter, say if you lost a Peyton Manning or were trying to trust a Matt Cassel.

• Felix Jones had about as good of a day you could expect against an elite run defense. It sets him up nicely for a breakthrough season, especially since the Cowboys will be playing a weak schedule and the backup running backs just aren't taking touches from Jones at this point.

• Yet another stinker for Shonn Greene, who gets outpointed by LaDainian Tomlinson again. L.T.'s damage was mostly done in the passing game at least, though. Give Greene another shot against the weak Jags defense next week.

• Nick Folk is one of the unheralded kickers in fantasy. He is a great replacement if you lost Nate Kaeding of the Chargers for the season. Folk is due for another productive week coming up against the Jags.

• The Giants' offensive players, save for Hakeem Nicks, looked pitiful. The running game should have been used a lot more and Eli Manning's lack of rhythm from the preseason carried over against a suspect Redskins secondary. They did hit some big plays but they got nothing in the way of consistency. The Giants offensive line did not have a good day and that could make Manning the bust everyone -- except this writer, unfortunately -- thought he would be.

• Tim Hightower didn't have great numbers but he made good on his productive preseason and looks like he could have a very solid year for fantasy owners. Only Roy Helu received a touch; Ryan Torrain was completely unused.

• Rex Grossman abused a Giants secondary that clearly is still trying to overcome significant injury losses. He is a decent backup fantasy QB, particularly if he can continue to spread the ball around and avoid turnovers. He was gashing the Giants pretty consistently, which bodes well for using him in fantasy next week against a team that gave up the only 400-yard passing game to a rookie QB in his debut in NFL history -- the Cardinals.

• Fred Davis needs to be considered the Redskins' tight end of choice in fantasy now. He looked outstanding and Chris Cooley looked a bit lame. Cooley has been dogged by injury and Davis looks ready to break out in a more wide-open Redskins passing game. Davis is among the tight end surprises in Week 1.

• This game was supposed to be about running games. Instead, it was about surprisingly effective passing games, namely by rookie Cam Newton. He is the first rookie to pass for 400 yards in his debut, which says more about the resurgence of Steve Smith and the awfulness of the Cardinals secondary. Newton is obviously viable in fantasy now, although Week 2 against the Packers will be a difficult matchup to trust him in. At the very least, he will be trailing and playing catch-up again.

• As mentioned before, Steve Smith is back. He was the star among receivers in Week 1 and the big plays are back.

• The frustration with the Panthers offense continues for its RBs in fantasy, though. D'Angelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart were supposed to be productive here. The Cardinals were one of the worst teams in fantasy against RBs last season. You cannot use Williams or Stewart against the Packers next week in any leagues.

• The Panthers are going to feature the tight end heavily with Newton. The rookie's big day makes Greg Olsen and even Jeremy Shockey interesting for fantasy owners. Smith will hit the home runs but Olsen and Shockey will be used to set the table.

• Beanie Wells is headed for a career year, assuming he stays healthy. Kevin Kolb takes the pressure off and he is going to get a lot of token short-yardage TDs from an offense that looks like it can be fairly productive week to week.

• Early Doucet isn't really a big sleeper, despite his huge game. He is more of a flash in the pan. Larry Fitzgerald will get the go-to throws in future games, Doucet just happened to break that long one. Jeff King broke one, too. Ordinarily, Fitzgerald would have eaten up drives and gotten those yards.

• Kolb is pretty clearly a viable starter for fantasy in the right matchup.

• Donovan McNabb and the Vikes passing game should be ashamed of themselves, mustering only 39 yards. It says a lot about the Chargers pass defense -- easily the best in the league. It will be an interesting battle of wills in the Chargers-Pats game next week. McNabb should be a lot better at home against the Bucs, but he won't be good enough to start -- like all of the Vikings receivers. Michael Jenkins led them and caught a TD but he really isn't intriguing enough to consider off waivers.

• The bowling ball Mike Tolbert had a huge game as a part-time runner, full-time pass receiving back. He was one of the stars of Week 1 before leaving with an injury that put his status for Week 2 in question. Ryan Mathews might have been the better-looking runner, but his owners really need a Tolbert injury to get Mathews more involved in the passing game and take off as a fantasy star.

• Philip Rivers did most of his damages with backs and tight ends. Vincent Jackson is going to have a much better week against a suspect Pats secondary in Week 2.

• For a game that featured 50 total points, there sure wasn't much in the way of fantasy production -- unless you count David Akers and the 49ers D/ST with turnovers and the pair of returns by Ted Ginn. The 49ers defense is a sneaky good fantasy option because of what it can do against the run and the number of suspect QBs it has on its schedule. Week 2 against the Cowboys doesn't figure to be as promising, though.

• Tarvaris Jackson was fortunate to have Stanford rookie Doug Baldwin break a long one out of nowhere. Jackson's ineptness makes the Seattle offense pretty worthless for fantasy owners. Not one Seattle player should be starting at Pittsburgh in Week 2, especially with the Steelers at home and coming off an embarrassing loss.

• As bad as Jackson is, Smith was even less impressive. He didn't make mistakes, though, and merely needs to manage games the way he did here. Vernon Davis and Frank Gore should remain active in all leagues, but Smith makes the likes of Braylon Edwards and Michael Crabtree merely fantasy fall-back options.

• Kenny Britt has his quarterback and his third-year breakout season is well under way. He has come out of the gate as Matt Hasselbeck's go-to guy and looks like a must-start receiving ace to have active in most weeks.

• The Jags didn't get much out of the passing game under Luke McCown, mostly because Maurice Jones-Drew carried the load on the ground, but Mike Thomas clearly is headed for a third-year breakthrough, too. He is the go-to-guy on the outside. McCown needs to develop something more significant with Marcedes Lewis, who was almost non-existent.

• Chris Johnson clearly wasn't in enough of the game plan in this one. The Jags usually allow RBs to go wild, but Johnson got just nine carries and a handful of a short passes. His long gain in 15 touches was just 11 yards. He is not someone to worry about. He is going to pay you back in future weeks.

• The Ravens let Todd Heap go and were rewarded for their faith in Ed Dickson, who looks like a viable sleeper tight end in all leagues. Even the backup TE Dennis Pitta caught a big ball. Joe Flacco is going to have a big year and someone other than Ray Rice and Anquan Boldin need to be at the other end of the targets. Dickson can be that guy -- at least until Lee Evans gets a handle of the system.

• The preseason made Antonio Brown a sleeper, but it really just took the emphasis off Emmanuel Sanders. He is the real sleeper behind Mike Wallace with Hines Ward finally showing his age. Sanders warrants being owned in more leagues.

• The Steelers struggled with turnovers here, but they play a fairly weak schedule and Ben Roethlisberger and Rashard Mendenhall are going to have bigger weeks against lesser defensive teams.

• Michael Vick wasn't overly impressive, making Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek and Steve Smith busts in Week 1. It should take awhile for the passing game to take off, because of the preseason absences.

• Even in a blowout, Ronnie Brown didn't get a big chunk of the touches compared to LeSean McCoy, who was outstanding. McCoy is headed for an outstanding year, especially with Brown taking some of the beatings in short yardage and blowouts.

• Steven Jackson looked great, but injury found him and made Cadillac Williams a productive backup in Week 1. Williams is going to be a solid play against the banged-up Giants next week. Jackson figures to be questionable. He is at the age of breakdown.

• Sam Bradford looks like he dodged a serious injury. His index finger isn't broken and he might be left with just nerve damage. That saves the value of the mediocre Rams receivers. There will be some sleepers here, but Mike Sims-Walker doesn't look like one of them right now.

• The Bears faced an elite offense, allowing a 300-yard passer and a 100-yard rusher, but their defense also forced three turnovers, racked up five sacks and scored a defensive touchdown. The Bears are one of the most underrated D/STs in fantasy. They are a must-start at home against anyone but the Packers.

• Julio Jones had a respectable debut, catching five passes for 71 yards. Not many Falcons games will play out like this one -- where they have to throw from behind -- but it gives Jones owners enough confidence to use him as a starter against most opponents.

• Jay Cutler had a productive day but it wasn't because of his receivers on the outside. Roy Williams led the way, but the ball was spread around too much and Matt Forte was the big playmaker in the passing game. It will be tough to gauge which Bears receiver to ride in a given week -- even if Cutler throws for 4,000 yards.

• Jermaine Gresham looks like a bad quarterback's best friend. He has wide receiver-caliber talent at tight end. He was easily the most effective target, even though A.J. Green caught his one and only pass on a 41-yard touchdown from Bruce Gradkowski. Like most young quarterbacks, Andy Dalton struggled to get the ball to the outside guys. Dalton left with a wrist injury, but he should be fine for Week 2. Green owners might get the most value if Gradkowski plays more in the coming weeks, though.

• Colt McCoy didn't make good on his preseason promise, although he used his tight ends effectively. Ben Watson and Evan Moore are nice sleepers in deeper leagues. Greg Little and Brian Robiskie did nothing, while Mohamed Massaquoi made the big plays. Massaquoi isn't worth your trust yet, but someone is going to emerge on the outside for the Browns, particularly if McCoy can finally take off.

• Cedric Benson broke a long one late and proved to be a real bad sit suggestion by this writer. The Bengals are going to lean on him more heavily than almost any other running back in the NFL.

• If Jamaal Charles cannot get off to a good start against the Bills, the Chiefs are going to have a long season. He was a factor in the passing game at least. Matt Cassel just couldn't get the ball down field to the receivers against an underrated Bills secondary. The score took the Chiefs' running game out of it, but Thomas Jones wasn't getting any looks. It bodes well for Charles owners, maybe Jones just won't be in the way this season.

• Ryan Fitzpatrick is in for a huge season under Chan Gailey. The QB's supporting cast isn't great behind Steve Johnson, but tight end Scott Chandler was a huge Week 1 surprise. He might be a flash in the pan, but someone needs to benefit from the Gailey/Fitzpatrick mojo.

• C.J. Spiller even got into the mix, but he didn't get a very big share of the touches with Fred Jackson.

• Matthew Stafford cramped up but he enjoyed a big opener in what should be a breakthrough season. Calvin Johnson was spectacular and the tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler made contributions.

• The surprise in this game was the limited use of the Bucs' running game. LeGarrette Blount is just too important to the Bucs to get five touches. This should have been a big game for him. Instead, he was one of the biggest busts of Week 1.

• Josh Freeman was another relative disappointment. These kind of matchups at home should be ones where he takes off. Instead, he looks like a mere fantasy backup.

• So much for the Colts. Kerry Collins looked incapable of playing in this league, even if he did finally get Reggie Wayne on the board with touchdown late. Collins' ineffectiveness apparently makes mince meat out of Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon and backs Joseph Addai and Delone Carter. The Colts should have worked more on establishing the run. They will be useless otherwise. For what it is worth, Addai outplayed the rookie Carter.

• Arian Foster's absence wasn't felt by the Texans as much as fantasy owners. Ben Tate made good on his promise with a huge debut and starter Derrick Ward scored but didn't take a big chunk out of him. Tate is going to be a viable flex player even in weeks Foster is healthy.

• The Texans' secondary receivers didn't make an impact in this one, which keeps Matt Schaub from being a truly elite fantasy QB. Andre Johnson and the backs are good, but great fantasy QBs are born from teams with deeper supporting casts. Owen Daniels, Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones just don't warrant being every-week starters. Walter is now out for the entire season. You can cut him in all leagues. Jones should be picked up as the beneficiary of this.

• If that was the best secondary in the NFL, Aaron Rodgers is in for some sort of year. It's not just Rodgers' talent, but his supporting cast as well. Jermichael Finley proved healthy and Jordy Nelson looks like he could be a burgeoning star. He really distanced himself over the aging Donald Driver and almost-invisible James Jones. Even rookie Randall Cobb looks like he could be a fantasy factor.

• Devery Henderson always tends to be overlooked and we're guilty of it here, too. Marques Colston was the primary target and Robert Meachem has the talent, but Henderson outperformed both. Colston's broken collarbone makes Henderson and Meachem must-haves in fantasy now. Brees is so good, those two and Lance Moore and Jimmy Graham should all prove to be productive options on a regular basis.

• Graham's breakthrough season got off to a great start. He looks like he is going to be a very significant part of Brees' attack. He is an every week starting TE candidate now.

• James Starks didn't start or play much until late in the first half, but he had the most important carries and the best looks in the red zone. The Packers rotate series for the most part and not play-to-play with Grant, but they vow to get Starks more touches going forward. He earned them.

• Mark Ingram is like Starks in that he is the backup, but he got the bulk of the duty over starter Pierre Thomas. This should be more expected. Ingram is going to be much better against a non-elite run defense like the Packers have (Thomas, too).

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