Fantasy Football Fast Forward: Wacky Week 1 means the NFL is back
The NFL is back and as wacky as ever. You want proof? I've got your proof.
Raise your hand if you predicted that the two leading rushers after Week 1's Sunday action would be Terrelle Pryor and Shane Vereen. Now look around. The people with their hands in the air probably aren't the most honest folks in the world.
Vereen was the only running back to rush for more than 100 yards. That equals the number of 200-yard receivers (Anquan Boldin) and is one less than the number of tight ends to rack up 100 yards through the air (Jared Cook and Jordan Cameron).
The first score on Sunday was a safety by the Steelers. Before the first quarter of all the early games ended, there were two more safeties. The last time there were three safeties in Week 1 was 1999. Oh, and the Jaguars' safety represented their only points of the game.
The AFC North, considered one of the best divisions in the league, is 0-4.
So yeah, like I said, it was pretty wacky. And we still have two more games Monday night before we can tie a bow on the first week of the 2013 season. But we already have plenty of good, bad and ugly events from Sunday's action to discuss.
In last year's divisional playoff game between the 49ers and Packers, Colin Kaepernick shredded Green Bay for 263 passing yards, 181 rushing yards and four total touchdowns. With that performance still fresh in their minds eight months later, the Packers limited Kaepernick to 22 yards on the ground on Sunday. Unfortunately for the Pack, though, he threw for 412 yards and three touchdowns in San Francisco's 34-28 win.
Facing a defense that was determined to take away the run, Kaepernick displayed what makes him such a dangerous quarterback. He bought time when he needed to, threw effectively on the run and showed how the Niners will be able to get by without Michael Crabtree. New toy Anquan Boldin had 13 catches for 208 yards and a touchdown, while Vernon Davis caught six balls for 98 yards and two scores.
Green Bay may not feature the best defense in the league, but we're not talking about the 2012 Saints here, either. Kaepernick didn't force the issue with the run, and instead carved up the Packers through the air all day, picking up a ridiculous 10.6 yards per attempt. We still need to be wary about anointing a guy with 11 career starts, but it sure looks like Kaepernick is a star in the making.
Early in the summer, Lamar Miller found himself on plenty of sleeper lists. Before long, you couldn't credibly call him a sleeper because he was going in the fourth or fifth round of most mock drafts. Even though Joe Philbin swore he was in a competition with Daniel Thomas, the fantasy community, myself included, insisted he was a guy you could trust. Well, he produced the biggest stinker of the week Sunday, running for three yards on 10 carries and catching one pass for seven yards.
Despite his putrid Week 1 performance, I'm here to caution against benching him out of spite against the Colts next week. First of all, the Browns have a very good defense, and Miller won't be the first back to struggle against them this year. Second, Thomas didn't exactly set the world on fire, running for 14 yards on eight carries, though he did punch in a 1-yard touchdown. Week 1 always feels bigger than it is because it's 100 percent of the season right now. As poorly as Miller played this week, the silver lining is he led the team in carries, signifying his role in the offense. In my mind, he's a worthy flex play next week.
The Steelers may not have been the top survivor pick this week, but they certainly eliminated a lot of people from their pools with one of the worst offensive performances of Week 1. Playing in front of a home crowd, Ben Roethlisberger went 21-of-33 for 191 yards (5.8 YPA) with one touchdown and one interception. Isaac Redman and LaRod Stephens-Howling combined for 28 rushing yards on 14 carries. Antonio Brown gave his owners a useful day, hauling in five passes for 71 yards, but it was reasonable to expect more against a Tennessee defense that was one of the worst against the pass last year.
If there was a winner in this whole situation, it was anyone with the foresight to draft Le'Veon Bell. He's expected to return sometime in the first month of the season, and it's safe to say that he'll be the workhorse back once he's on the field. Unfortunately for the entire offense, starting center Maurkice Pouncey was lost for the season to a torn ACL and MCL. Brown remains a safe guy to start. Other than that, you'll want to stay away from the Steelers when they visit Cincinnati next week.
Week 1 observations
• They may not be Andrew Luck, Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson, but how about a hand for this year's crop of first-year starting quarterbacks. EJ Manuel, Terrelle Pryor and Geno Smith all played well, and Smith helped his team get an upset win over the Buccaneers. Manuel and Pryor both had their teams ahead late in games that would have been ever bigger shockers than Jets over Bucs. The trio's fantasy impact may be limited the rest of the season. Quarterback is deep, and it's hard to imagine any of these guys as regular starters in one-QB leagues. However, they all proved they're worthy of picking up, and at the very least they could be solid bye-week replacements or matchup plays. They're all worthy of regular consideration in two-QB leagues, too.
• Though he's not the same type of mobile quarterback as his counterparts in the class of 2012, Luck continues to make plays with his feet. His 19-yard touchdown run gave Indy the lead for good late in the fourth quarter. He won't have it quite as cushy this week when the Dolphins come to town.
• Jay Cutler looked comfortable in Marc Trestman's offense, completing 21-of-33 passes for 242 yards, 7.3 YPA, two scores and an interception. Most importantly, he wasn't sacked once.
• Atlanta-New Orleans wasn't the shootout many expected, but Matt Ryan and Drew Brees both threw for more than 300 yards with two touchdowns apiece. Brees is my No. 1 quarterback next week with the Saints taking on the Buccaneers.
• Speaking of the Bucs, it may have been a tough matchup for Josh Freeman, but 15-of-31 for 210 yards and one touchdown isn't going to convince anyone he's the quarterback of the future in Tampa Bay.
• Old faces in new places: Alex Smith led the Chiefs to a win, going 21-of-34 for 173 yards and two touchdowns. The Cardinals lost in Carson Palmer's debut with the team, but the veteran had a great day, completing 26-of-40 passes for 327 yards and two touchdowns. They may not be Pro Bowlers, but they're huge upgrades over what their respective teams had last year.
• Tony Romo suffered a rib injury late in the first half Sunday night. He was able to finish the game, so expect him to play next week.
• After a dreadful first half against Dallas, Eli Manning lit it up in the second, finishing the game with 450 yards and four touchdowns, though he did have three interceptions (the last of which was not his fault). He's well worth starting against the Broncos next week.
• My man Jamaal Charles was having a banner day before leaving with a quad injury. Reports out of Kansas City suggest the injury isn't anything serious. He ran for 77 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, and caught three passes for 23 yards.
• Reggie Bush showed why the Lions pursued him so aggressively this offseason, running for 90 yards and adding another 101 and a touchdown through the air. Joique Bell stole two goal-line scores, but Bush will be an animal this year. He dislocated his thumb and pulled his groin, but he's expected to play next week.
• Adrian Peterson ran for a 78-yard touchdown on Minnesota's first play from scrimmage. The dude is unreal.
• Seattle-Carolina wasn't the most exciting game in the world, but don't overlook DeAngelo Williams' 17-carry, 86-yard performance. Even without Chris Clemons and Cliff Avril, the Seattle defense is nothing to sneeze at, and Williams posted useful numbers. He's a great flex play at Buffalo next week.
• There was plenty of intrigue on the other side of the field in that game. Stevan Ridley was running well early, but lost a fumble in the second quarter and didn't see the field the rest of the game. Meanwhile, Shane Vereen ran for 101 yards and caught seven passes for 58 yards. Looks like he's going to be a solid flex play all year.
• DeMarco Murray quietly had a nice day, going for 125 yards from scrimmage and eight catches. We all know the story here. If he can stay healthy, he's a reliable RB2.
• I was dubious about Daryl Richardson as a reliable flex play even after Jeff Fisher named him the starter, and I feel even stronger about that after Week 1. The Cardinals have a good defense, but he didn't have much burst, running for just 63 yards on 20 carries.
• Eddie Lacy saved his fantasy day with a touchdown in the fourth quarter, and it had to be encouraging for his owners to see the Packers stubbornly stick to the running game even though the 49ers handled it with ease most of the game. Lacy looks like a reliable flex or RB2.
• David Wilson: seven carries, two fumbles. Yikes. And he didn't see the field after his second fumble. Still, the Giants need him to play. They can't honestly rely on Da'Rel Scott. But Wilson can't let ball security be an issue.
• Of all my bold predictions, the one in which I was most confident was Jordy Nelson over Randall Cobb. They were both great Sunday. We'll update their stats every week in this space. Nelson: seven catches, 130 yards, one touchdown. Cobb: seven catches, 108 yards, one touchdown.
• Charles Tillman always presents opposing receivers with a challenge, but A.J. Green had a monster day, catching nine passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns. It's worth noting that his second score, a 45-yard strike, came with Tillman on the sideline dealing with a balky hamstring.
• So much for Brandon Marshall's banged-up hip. He caught eight passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. He's a top-five receiver week in, week out.
• I know that money was an issue, but you think the Ravens would like to have Anquan Boldin back? He had 13 catches, 208 yards and a score in the win over the Packers. No one makes those tough catches in traffic the way he does.
• As long as Danny Amendola is healthy, expect games like the one he gave owners Sunday. He'll remain a PPR beast, and his per-game numbers will be great. It's all a matter of how many games he plays.
• Still worried about Marques Colston's foot after he caught five passes for 68 yards and a touchdown? You shouldn't be. Start him with confidence.
• Still worried about Roddy White's ankle after he was a no-show, catching just two passes for 19 yards? A bit more understandable. But you still shouldn't be. Start him with confidence as well.
• Mike Wallace was supposed to be the big target in Miami, squeezing Brian Hartline out of the gameplan a little bit. Perhaps Hartline was just inspired playing in his home state of Ohio. Miami's incumbent leading receiver had nine catches for 114 yards and a touchdown while Wallace caught one pass for 15 yards in his debut with the team. Both warrant starting consideration next week.
• Carson Palmer didn't just rejuvenate Larry Fitzgerald's career. He could also make useful receivers out of Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts. Floyd had four catches for 82 yards, while Roberts led all Arizona receivers with 97 yards on eight receptions. They both should be owned, and could be started as early as next week depending on your roster composition and league depth.
• If Hakeem Nicks can avoid the nagging injuries that have plagued him his entire career, he, Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle might be the best receiving trio in the league this year. All three went over 100 yards, and Cruz had three scores. That could spell big things for Eli Manning.
• Dez Bryant rolled his left ankle late in the Cowboys' win over the Giants, but he was able to come back on the two-point conversion after the game-sealing pick six. We'll wait for word out of Dallas as to the severity of the injury, but it would be a huge surprise if he didn't play next week.
• It was an ugly performance for Brandon Weeden, but Jordan Cameron cashed in on his sleeper potential right away, catching nine passes for 108 yards and a score. He's a weekly starter.
• Jared Cook paid immediate dividends for the Rams, hauling in seven passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns. He was about three yards away from another touchdown before Tyrann Mathieu made a great play to strip him from behind. He should be considered a regular starter.
• Is Kellen Winslow back? He caught seven passes for 79 yards and a touchdown, and may have new life with Geno Smith at the helm. I wouldn't add him just yet, but make sure he's on your radar.
• Vernon Davis looked great in his first game as a hybrid tight end/receiver, notching six receptions, 98 yards and two touchdowns. He's a top-three player at the position.
• In fact, all the big names showed up this week. Jimmy Graham had four catches for 45 yards and a touchdown. Jason Witten caught eight passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns. Tony Gonzalez had just 36 yards, but he found the end zone. Even secondary options like Jermichael Finley and Martellus Bennett gave owners more than 10 fantasy points.
• The new-look Dallas defense did what Monte Kiffin's units have always done: force turnovers. The Cowboys took the ball away from the Giants six times. Dallas could be a big takeway defense all year long.
• Fun Times and Easy Livin' on the Defense Carousel, Week 1 edition: The Dolphins had six sacks and three interceptions against the Browns. The Buccaneers had one interception, one fumble recovery and five sacks against the Jets. Unless you have one of the few truly elite defenses, this is the way to go. The carousel is nearly bereft of Week 2 options, though I do like the Patriots hosting the Jets.
MORE WEEK 2 FANTASY FOOTBALL CONTENT:
BELLER: Fantasy football Week 2 player projections
STAFF: Week 2 Composite Player Rankings
GONOS: Week 2 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em
BELLER: Best NFL survivor pool picks for Week 2
FLOOD: Waiver wire -- Julius Thomas, Julian Edelman worth a pickup
McQUADE: Risers and Sliders -- Terrelle Pryor, Geno Smith worth stashing
BELLER, FLOOD: Roundtable -- Are David Wilson's owners in trouble?
BELLER: Fantasy football Fast Forward -- The NFL is back with a wacky Week 1