It seems that, every time the Eagles travel to Dallas, they are destined to shake up the fantasy world somehow.
Well, at least this week, the gaffe in question didn't happen during the fantasy playoffs. No one will ever forget Brian Westbrook's infamous "kneel at the one yard line" last December during the thick of the fantasy postseason. In Week 2 of 2008, Philadelphia rookie WR DeSean Jackson committed a pure mental error that far outdistances Westbrook's kneel for sheer befuddlement. Nothing personal against Jackson, but at least Westbrook's "take a seat" act was strategic, not ludicrous.
Jackson scored what appeared to be a 61-yard touchdown in the second quarter Monday night, but his score was nullified. After further review, the officials found that he had the audacity to flip the ball behind him in celebration ... just before crossing the goal line. If you started Jackson last night and lost by say, five points, you are one angry fantasy owner this morning. Jackson's total of 110 receiving yards may be nearly forgotten in light of his "rookie mistake."
Then, as if the fantasy football gods (who could they be, I know I'm not one of them) decided to attempt to somehow make things right in the universe, Westbrook himself then charged in for one of his three touchdowns. If you own Westbrook in a keeper league, maybe you felt just a slight tinge of redemption last night. If you own Westbrook in any league, you're very happy that Jackson is so darn cocky and has a lot to learn, despite all his apparent pure talent.
I would have expected such a riotous act from Terrell Owens, who was on the other sideline, but I'm sure even he got a chuckle out of it afterwards. Despite all the hoopla he will stir this week, though, Jackson's second 100-yard game to begin his career has marked him as an instant fantasy standout. When he had a promising preseason, we were intrigued, but not convinced. When he torched the St. Louis "Lambs" defense in the opener, many of us simply chalked it up to the matchup. Last night, though, Jackson burned a secondary that will prove to ultimately be much better than that of St. Louis, and Jackson is indeed "for real." Well, he is for as long as Donovan McNabb stays healthy.
McNabb was missing his "top two" WRs again last night, yet he didn't hesitate to rifle the ball downfield when he had the opportunities. Jackson was a prime target again, and I can't imagine his role decreasing much in the near future. While he may be the thinnest Eagle to suit up since Todd Pinkston (6-3, 180 lbs.), he's more than just a guy who can get open deep. Jackson isn't afraid to make possession grabs, and he's going to progressively emerge as a quality all-around target this season. If you get any trade offers for Jackson this week (and you will get a few if you own him), turn them down.
McNabb threw only one touchdown pass, yet his fantasy owners should be encouraged by this performance. He spread the ball around well despite a "depleted" receiving crew and made some fine decisions when pressured. McNabb also showed a willingness to scramble and to expose himself to big hits. He survived, and more good performances are ahead. Just in case, though, you should always have that solid backup available.
There was really nothing surprising on the Dallas side of the ball, as Marion Barber III eventually finished with quality numbers again, even though the Eagles limited him early. Yet being a good fantasy owner isn't just about reviewing the obvious from any game and putting in your waiver claims. You also have to look further ahead and envision who can be the next fantasy standout.
Unless you had the Dallas defense/special teams last night, Felix Jones' 98-yard kickoff return for a score in the first quarter didn't mean much, initially. Yet savvy fantasy owners will see it as a sign of things to come. Jones may have more pure upside than any other No. 2 running back in the league right now. His explosive highlight was a clear signal that you should trade for him, especially if you own Barber.
Barber is widely admired for his punishing running style, yet it also exposes him to possible injuries. He is more physical than most runners, and that also makes him more of a concern than the average RB. If Jones ever gets a chance to start this year, he'll deliver an amazing performance or two, because he's that good.
The Cowboys' braintrust has already fallen in love with Jones, despite Barber's obvious value to the team. Jones was the center of attention every time he touched the ball in training camp. Not only can he outrace defenders as we saw last night, but he also has excellent vision, displays nifty cutback moves, and can make defenders look foolish in short space. All he needs is regular carries to get into a rhythm, and Jones is capable of posting outstanding numbers. Once Jones gets his chance to shine, the Cowboys staff will simply have to get him more carries. Dallas will ultimately have two running backs who can excite fantasy owners, even though Barber's outstanding short yardage prowess will no doubt sting those who elect to start Jones in the future.
Still, Jones reminds me of what I saw in Shaun Alexander early in his career. He sat behind Ricky Watters, yet every time he touched the ball, you could see he was destined for stardom. When he finally got his chance to seize the spotlight, Alexander became a fantasy superstar. Most people seem to have forgotten that in light of his recent decline, but Alexander was a fine player for a long time. Jones will soon sparkle, although the presence of Barber will hold him down statistically at times.
Both the Cowboys and Eagles face stiff tests again in Week 3 as they recover from the Monday night shootout. The Cowboys take on the surprising Packers, and you shouldn't see any major letdown from the Dallas offense. The Green Bay linebackers are indeed formidable, but they won't deter Barber. The Packers cornerbacks have difficulty with big, physical pass-catchers, so Owens is due for another big game. That means another fine outing for Tony Romo, who threw three TD passes on Monday and can now be regarded as the premier QB in fantasy. Tom Brady's injury and health issues regarding the supporting casts in Indianapolis and New Orleans keep Peyton Manning and Drew Brees off the top of the list for now.
Still, we have to wonder when Patrick Crayton (two catches for 23 yards vs. Philly) will start living up to increased expectations. I don't foresee an outstanding performance from him against the Packers, who should be able to effectively shadow him while Owens and Jason Witten get the bulk of Romo's prolific tosses. Meanwhile, the Eagles will host the "Battle of Pennsylvania" as they take on the Steelers. Despite Pittsburgh's rep as a stalwart defensive team against the run, no one should be benching Westbrook, who will do his best work in open space as a pass-catcher.
McNabb won't post great numbers, as the Steelers should do a better job of containing the passing game than Dallas did overall on Monday. Yet McNabb is also doing an obviously fine job of valuing the football, so he won't hurt you if you don't have a clearly better option on your roster. It will be yet another firm test for Jackson, as the Pittsburgh defense is sure to give him more respect than the average rookie. The defensive backs will certainly try to jam him and push him around. It's not the best-looking matchup for Jackson, but there is no real way you can justify reserving him at this point.
Until then, owners of top Eagles players can be thankful there will be no more regular season trips to Texas Stadium. Maybe the new home of the Cowboys won't be haunted by unusual fantasy hijinks -- Scott Engel
Matt Cassel completed 16-of-23 passes for 165 yards and did a nice job of managing the offense, but his fantasy value is very limited. Wes Welker was the recipient of numerous Cassel screen passes and remains especially valuable in point-per-reception leagues, but Cassel's unwillingness to take risks down the field severely hinders Randy Moss, who finished the game with just two catches for 22 yards. The Patriots' backfield is turning into an absolute nightmare for fantasy owners. With Laurence Maroney sidelined for two quarters with a shoulder injury and Sammy Morris ineffective (eight carries for zero yards), New England turned to LaMont Jordan, and he responded by gaining 62 yards on 11 carries. None of the four Patriots running backs are worth starting (Kevin Faulk had 66 total yards as well), and if you own Maroney you should look to pawn him off on someone else if you can.
Brett Favre struggled all day and looked like a man still getting used to playing with a new group of receivers. His early season favorite target, Jerricho Cotchery, only managed one catch for 20 yards, and outside of a 54-yard catch and run by Laveranues Coles, Favre couldn't get anything going down the field. On the bright side, Chansi Stuckey caught his second touchdown pass in as many weeks and led the Jets in receptions with four. His early-season production has him worth a roster spot if you're hurting at the WR position. Overall, don't let the poor showing this week dampen your enthusiasm for Cotchery, Favre or Coles. There will be some rough patches as they continue to get acclimated to each other, but as a whole, they'll make for a potent aerial attack. -- Chris Ryan
If Ben Roethlisberger can remain effective in rainy, windy conditions with a separated shoulder, then nothing should be able to slow him down this year. With the winds swirling at over 60 miles per hour, Roethlisberger attempted only 19 passes, but still finished the game with 186 yards and a touchdown. The shoulder did seem to be causing him pain throughout the game, so if you're a Roethlisberger owner make sure you're not neglecting your backup QB position. Hines Ward found the end zone for the second straight week and continues to be Roethlisberger's possession receiver. He looks poised to have his first 1,000-yard season since 2004. Willie Parker grinded his way to another 100-yard rushing day, while Rashard Mendenhall didn't register a single carry. There's no timeshare going on in Pittsburgh at all, and Mendenhall is only worth a roster spot in deep leagues.
The problems continued for Derek Anderson and the Browns' offensive playmakers. Anderson looked shaky yet again, while throwing two picks and failing to get his team into the end zone. He should be benched in fantasy leagues everywhere and it's only a matter of time before he's benched for real if he doesn't turn things around quickly. Like Anderson, Braylon Edwards has had a dismal start to the season, and he dropped two more passes on Sunday night against the Steelers. It's not time to bench him just yet, but it's getting close to that point. The only Browns player that you can rely on right now is Kellen Winslow Jr., who had a seven-catch, 55-yard performance on Sunday. -- C.R.
Darren McFadden, welcome to the NFL. McFadden rushed for 164 yards and a TD. The Oakland rushing game accumulated 300 total yards, including 90 yards and a TD from Michael Bush and 43 yards from Justin Fargas. He left the game with a groin injury. JaMarcus Russell (6-for-17, 55 yards) looked uncomfortable and rattled most of the game. It doesn't look like any Raiders receiver will be productive enough to be considered a weekly start in most fantasy formats.
Larry Johnson's fantasy demise continued on Sunday, as he ran for only 22 yards. Johnson is barely a RB2 at this point. Dwayne Bowe had 90 yards on six receptions, while Tony Gonzalez had 39 yards and a touchdown. Sebastian Janikowski made three field goals, including a 56-yarder. -- Brad Rysz
Peyton Manning looked more comfortable in the pocket and seemed to have better timing with his receivers, throwing for 311 yards and a touchdown. Anthony Gonzalez had nine catches and 137 yards. Gonzalez is emerging as a premier wide receiver in point-per-reception leagues and has the perfect skill set to be Manning's slot receiver. Reggie Wayne had 93 yards and a touchdown, while Marvin Harrison had only one catch for 16 yards. Joseph Addai was unable to produce against the stingy Minnesota run defense, rushing for only 20 yards on 15 carries. Addai has struggled to start the season, but Chicago and Minnesota have two of the best defenses in the league.
Adrian Peterson ran for 160 yards, but was unable to find the end zone. Tarvaris Jackson was ineffective again, throwing for only 130 yards. Neither Sidney Rice nor Bernard Berrian had a catch in this game. As long as Jackson is behind center, look for better options than Minnesota receivers. -- B.R.
Eli Manning is making a strong case to be considered a starting fantasy quarterback after passing for three touchdowns and 260- ards against the hapless Rams defense. Plaxico Burress scored for the second straight week, while Amani Toomer added 67 yards and a TD of his own. Brandon Jacobs rushed for 93 yards, but sat much of the second half as the Giants were in control of the game. Ahmad Bradshaw benefited from some increased action, scoring twice on 70 total yards. The Rams were forced to pass most of the game and Steven Jackson was unable to get heavily involved in the offense for the second week in a row. Jackson ran for only 53 yards, but did catch seven passes out of the backfield. Torry Holt improved on his poor Week 1 performance, catching six passes for 76 yards and a TD. Marc Bulger passed for only 177 yards, suggesting his days as a fantasy contributor may be coming to an end. Randy McMichael had 24 yards on two catches. -- B.R.
Santana Moss may once again be a WR1 in the fantasy world. Moss caught a late 67-yard TD and ended the game with 164 yards. Moss was clearly Jason Campbell's go-to receiver and looks to be fully recovered from the nagging injuries that limited his production last season. Campbell threw for 321 yards and a touchdown, a clear improvement from his week one performance. Campbell is a fully capable fantasy backup. Chris Cooley caught five passes for 72 yards, while Antwaan Randle El had four for 53. Drew Brees struggled a bit in his first game without Marques Colston, passing for 216 yards and a TD. The Saints running game was pathetic, with Reggie Bush leading the charge with 28 yards. Bush did catch seven passes for 63 yards. Robert Meachem caught a touchdown, but David Patten looked to be Brees' top target, catching five passes for 55 yards. Pierre Thomas scored the lone rushing touchdown for the Saints, but was otherwise ineffective. -- B.R.
J.T. O'Sullivan just may have been the right choice for the starting job. O'Sullivan threw for 321 yards and a touchdown in a surprising offensive battle. Frank Gore scored a touchdown and gained 99 total yards. Isaac Bruce proved there is something left in the tank, catching four balls for 153 yards. Bryant Johnson had 78 yards and a touchdown. Johnson is an excellent sleeper candidate for the rest of the season. Vernon Davis was held catchless, and continues to be an inconsistent option. Matt Hasselbeck had a rough afternoon, throwing two interceptions and passing for only 189 yards. The cupboard is bare for Hasselbeck, and it's tough to expect much from him until Bobby Engram and Deion Branch return. Julius Jones rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown and should be a solid option with Maurice Morris out for at least two weeks. T.J. Duckett vultured a goal-line TD. John Carlson was the most consistent pass-catcher for the Seahawks, catching six passes for 78 yards. With all the injuries to the Seahawks receivers, Carlson is in line to get a majority of Hasselbeck's looks and is probably on the free agent list in many leagues. No other Seahawk receiver stepped up to fantasy consideration. -- B.R.
Unfortunately for Matt Ryan, you can't play the Detroit Lions every game. The Tampa Bay defense harassed Ryan all day, leading to a 158-yard, two-interception day for the rookie. Ryan is going to have more games like this, and isn't a viable option for fantasy purposes. MichaelTurner didn't have an encore after his 220-yard week one performance, rushing for only 43 yards. Roddy White and Laurent Robinson led the Falcons receivers with 59 and 45 yards, respectively. Earnest Graham padded his stats with a fourth quarter, 68-yard touchdown run. Graham finished with 116 yards on 15 carries. Brian Griese filled in for the injured Jeff Garcia with a 160-yard, one touchdown day. Ike Hilliard and John Gilmore had 41 yards apiece. Joey Galloway had only 18 yards on two receptions, and we may finally see the end of the long-time stud as a fantasy option. Warrick Dunn is worth owning and scored a touchdown, contributing in both the running and passing games. -- B.R.
Anquan Boldin went off to the tune of three touchdowns and 140 yards, proving that both he and Larry Fitzgerald (six catches, 153 yards) are significantly more valuable with KurtWarner as their quarterback. Warner passed for 361 yards and three touchdowns. Warner is a top 10 fantasy quarterback for the rest of the season. Tim Hightower scored another goal-line touchdown, much to the chagrin of Edgerrin James' owners. James ended with 55 yards, while Hightower added 24 yards. Chad Pennington struggled, and was eventually replaced by rookie Chad Henne. Henne passed for 67 yards, but shouldn't be considered for anyone's fantasy roster. Ronnie Brown continued his comeback quest with a touchdown, but didn't find much other room to run, gaining 25 yards on 11 carries. Ricky Williams had 28 yards on 11 carries. Neither Brown nor Williams look to be great options, and both should be stashed on team's benches until the Dolphins improve. Anthony Fasano was held to no catches, further proving that tight end is the most frustrating fantasy position. -- B.R.
Brandon Marshall returned from his one-game suspension and proceeded to catch 18 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown. We laughed when Marshall claimed he was going to catch 140 balls this year. Marshall may get the last laugh. Eddie Royal caught a fourth quarter touchdown and may still put up decent stats as a WR3 in most leagues. The Denver running game was a time share between Selvin Young, Andre Hall and Michael Pittman. Young led the way with 78 yards, but Pittman scored a TD. Jay Cutler threw for 350 yards and four touchdowns, benefiting from a blown call at the end of the game. Cutler is a top option at the quarterback position and still has room to improve. For those in keeper leagues, don't sell high. Tony Scheffler had two touchdowns and 64 yards. Scheffler is legit and someone you should target if you can get him.
Philip Rivers also had an impressive afternoon, throwing for 377 yards and three TDs. LaDainian Tomlinson spent much of the afternoon on the bench with a toe injury, and backup Darren Sproles took advantage. Sproles rushed for 53 yards and also caught a 66-yard pass for a TD. Sproles should be handcufffed to LT in any format. Chris Chambers is liking San Diego much more than Miami. Chambers caught two touchdowns and now has three on the year. Chambers is a great option as a WR2. Vincent Jackson had six catches for 73 yards, while Antonio Gates had four catches for 61 yards. -- B.R.
Brett who? Aaron Rodgers continues to dominate and should be a good play moving forward, as he completed 24 of 38 passes for 328 yards and three touchdowns. Donald Driver (seven catches for 52 yards), James Jones (four for 29) and Jordy Nelson (one for 29) each were the recipient of those touchdown passes from Rodgers. Greg Jennings, however, had the biggest day in yardage leagues, grabbing six passes for 167 yards. Do not read too much into it, but Ryan Grant continued his quiet season (15 carries for 20 yards) as Brandon Jackson outrushed him with seven carries for 61 yards and got into the end zone. Not wanting to be left out of the scoring, the Green Bay defense also scored two touchdowns on interception returns from Charles Woodson and Nick Collins to seal Green Bay's victory.
If you had any Lions playing this week, there was very little to get excited about, with the exception of Calvin Johnson, who had six catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns. Johnson is becoming a must-play. Jon Kitna did have 276 yards and two touchdowns, but also had three interceptions. Kevin Smith led the Lions rushing attach with a meager 40 yards rushing. -- Mark Strausberg
Bengals players continue to disappoint, but Chris Perry did get into the end zone, to go with his 64 yards rushing. The Bengals passing attack was once again nonexistent. The receiving corps had another quiet day with no one standing out, and Carson Palmer once again had a shoddy day, throwing for no touchdowns, only 134 yards and two interceptions. Kerry Collins was not much better, throwing for 128 yards and one touchdown to Justin Gage. Once again Chris Johnson had a good day, rushing 19 times for 109 yards. But the timeshare will continue as LenDale White rushed 18 times and scored a touchdown to accompany his 60 yards rushing. -- M.S.
If Round (Week) 1 was a tie between DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, then give Round 2 to Stewart. Stewart had three more carries than Williams and outrushed him, 77 to 31 yards. Even more importantly, Stewart scored two touchdowns. It is probably too early for Stewart to see the bulk of the carries moving forward, but consider this the beginning of the end for Williams. Waiver wire tease Dante Rosario only had one catch for six yards, and Carolina's air attack was marginal at best, with Muhsin Muhammad leading all receivers with five catches for 59 yards as Jake Delhomme completed just 12 of 21 passes for 128 yards.
There were not many bright spots for Chicago, either. A blocked punt for a TD was nice for those owners of the Chicago defense/special teams and Matt Forte had another solid day with 92 yards rushing. The rest of the Chicago offense had little value, especially Greg Olsen, who had two fumbles. -- M.S.
Rookie James Hardy (two catches for 12 yards) scored his first touchdown. Marshawn Lynch continues to be a solid back, rushing for 59 yards and a touchdown, and Trent Edwards had a respectable day against the formidable Jacksonville defense by completing 80 percent of his passes (20-for-25) for 239 yards and a touchdown. If you need any more proof that there is fantasy value to be had in Buffalo, even Lynch's handcuff, Fred Jackson, had seven catches for 83 yards. The Buffalo defense also looked good, as the only Jaguar player who might have pleased his owners is Maurice Jones-Drew. He did score a touchdown despite just 42 total yards. -- M.S.