September 14, 2010

Week 1 is in the books. Let's take a look at what Monday's matchups mean fir the weeks ahead.

Even the most casual fantasy player could tell you that points would be hard to come by in Monday's early Ravens-Jets game. What nobody knew, was that watching Baltimore's 10-9 win too long would make your eyes bleed. Well, almost. The Jets offense crashed and burned in its debut with the only positive fantasy footnote, besides Nick Folk (pun intended), being everyone's favorite off-season piñata, LaDainian Tomlinson. LT looked effective in his new co-starring tailback role, while Baltimore showed flashes but also struggled with Ray Rice held in check. New York's defense might have caused three turnovers and two sacks, but it was the offense that was offensive, converting only 1 out of 10 third down conversions while averaging 2.9 yards per pass completion.

It's way too early for knee-jerk reactions, but some of the biggest fantasy trends have the tone set in Week 1 and roll from there.

First, the good ...

What I loved: Despite the defensive drudgery, one of the saving graces was watching Anquan Boldin's debut with the Ravens. The ex-Cardinal was targeted 10 times, caught seven passes for 110 yards, averaging 16 yards a reception and looked every bit the No. 1 option through the air for an improved passing game. Quarterback Joe Flacco (20 of 38, 238 yards, one interception) regularly looked for Boldin in the second half when the two combined for eight completions including his longest of the night.

What I liked: It was good to see Tomlinson rip off some vintage runs, despite the questions it raises about the backfield workload with the underperforming Shonn Greene. In the fourth quarter Tomlinson had two of his longest runs, which begs the question: how would he have looked with 20 carries? Also, fantasy afterthought Todd Heap was a pleasant surprise and makes a nice waiver wire tight end option in larger leagues. The fact he was targeted a team-high 11 times speaks volumes that his role won't be that diminished despite a deep Ravens receiving core.

What I didn't like: How bad did Greene look? Bad enough to make Tomlinson's 78 total yards seem like he drank from the fountain of youth in pregame. Two fumbles and a pass drop, combined with the fact he looked like he was running in sand all night, was troubling.

• Nobody should be counting on Mark Sanchez (10 of 21, 74 yards) as your fantasy quarterback, but the fact he was this bad despite playing against a great defense is disconcerting. It calls into question his ability in fantasyland to even be a viable QB2, while those with Jets' receiving targets on their team (Braylon Edwards, Dustin Keller) should shelve them indefinitely. One silver lining could be Santonio Holmes' return in a few weeks, after he showed signs of being their top receiver in preaseason.

Obviously, Rice is outstanding and just had a bad game in a tough matchup. But the Willis McGahee 1-yard touchdown run is the exact reason I thought he was overvalued from the start on preseason lists and on draft day. If I'm spending a top-five pick overall on a back, he better be the go-to goal line guy, and Rice isn't. He's still a yardage beast and a PPR ace in the hole, but his touchdown numbers might not improve a whole lot from last year's eight total. In the meantime, those in larger leagues with McGahee on their bench or those looking for a possible free agent off the wire in smaller leagues, should feel safe going after the goal-line vulture. McGahee could be a decent flex option off the bench, even though with short-yardage specialists remember that it's feast or famine.

The late end of Monday's double feature with Chiefs and Chargers was exciting enough to revive those who stayed up late. Hardly a work of art, Kansas City's 21-14 win featured big plays, had some nice fantasy performances and a swirling rain storm that didn't interfere too much with the offenses. A terrible passing attack by the Chiefs brought with it the unintentional comedy of ESPN play-by-play announcer Brad Nessler's Charlie Weis story. Upon joining the team as its offensive coordinator, Weis boldly announced he "was here to fix the quarterback," Nessler explained, all while Cassel floundered, completing 10 of 22 passes for 68 yards and a touchdown.

What I liked: Jamaal Charles is still in charge. As the preseason came to a close, Charles' stock slipped as Thomas Jones' looming role reached boogeyman status. He touched the ball 12 times and delivered 100 total yards including a scintillating 56-yard TD run. Jones had 11 carries for 39 yards and still got his share of time in what looked like a timeshare. The good news is that Jones' workload will help keep Charles fresh for big plays, but one also has to wonder how great Charles would have been with all 22 carries.

• The Chargers passing game still has some bite. With WR Vincent Jackson out of the picture and tackle Marcus McNeill holding out, there were a few fantasyland questions to be answered. Despite the loss, QB Philip Rivers delivered 298 yards and two touchdown passes while tight end Antonio Gates got some help from fantasy sleeper Legedu Naanee, who looked good catching five passes for 110 yard and a touchdown on a blown coverage.

• Kansas City's defense looks improved and the special teams unit might make the duo a situational starter to pick up off the wire down the road. Linebacker Derrick Johnson was all over the field with 12 tackles, 11 solo and one for loss as the unit contained Chargers' rookie Ryan Mathews and flustered Rivers at times. On returns, Javier Arenas and Dexter McCluster looked like human blurs. McCluster's 94-yard punt return touchdown was huge, and Arenas averaged 30 yards per punt return in his own right.

What I didn't like: While the Chiefs' passing game was abysmal, it pulled WRs Dwayne Bowe and Chris Chambers down with it. The duo combined for two catches for 27 yards despite nine targets.

Arian Foster exploded against the Colts, bolstering panic buyers on draft day who were wise to jump on his fantasy stock before it went into orbit. Foster rushed for 231 yards on 33 carries with three touchdowns in the Texans' win. The second-year back from Tennessee still has a lot to prove, (including putting two good games together, for starters) but could become this year's biggest breakout player.

Honorable mention: WR Hakeem Nicks, Giants. Only time will tell if his break out (four catches, 75 yards, three touchdowns) is a trend to becoming the team's lead receiver or if he'll be fall back and be part of the New York ensemble.

The "Double Trouble" nickname apparently cuts both ways for the Panthers running back duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. The pair combined for 74 yards on 21 carries against the Giants, with zero catches and went scoreless. Williams saw most of the work (16 carries, 62 yards) while Stewart watched (five carries, 12 yards).

There's no telling how long Kevin Kolb will be out after his concussion, but it's not like he was tearing it up before he was hurt Sunday (5-for-10 passing 24 yards). Enter Michael Vick, who pulled off a vintage effort (175 passing, 100 rushing) in limited time as his replacement. Vick, should he continue to play well in Kolb's place, might be on the verge of claiming the job, or at the very least in the discussion as part of an old-fashioned QB controversy. Those with Kolb should sprint to the waiver wire, while others looking for QB insurance with a high ceiling should consider him, too.

I also endorse and am intrigued by Packers' RB Brandon Jackson, who will replace Ryan Grant for the short-term after his ankle injury, and the Rams' WR Mark Clayton, who just days after arriving in St. Louis, was a go-to target for Sam Bradford (10 catches, 119 yards) and is playing on a bad team that will throw every game, just to keep up.

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