Steven Jackson: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
If I didn't know any better ... I would have sworn the putrid fantasy numbers posted last week by the Bengals' Big 3 (Carson Palmer, Chad John ... er, Ochocinco, T.J. Houshmandzadeh) and Rams' Big 3 (Marc Bulger, Steven Jackson, Torry Holt) were the direct result of Tropical Storm Hanna -- which swept through the Eastern seaboard during that time frame -- and not an inexplicable malaise which contributed to bad losses for both clubs.
What to make of Palmer's 99-yard passing day ... or Housh's 66-yard output ... or Ocho Cinco's one-catch afternoon? And how does Holt only pull down one catch, while Bulger nets 158 passing yards, even after the Eagles retreated to a bend-but-don't break prevent defense once up by four touchdowns -- in the third quarter? (Jackson, who had 74 total yards, gets a partial-free pass since he?s still rounding into game shape after a lengthy contract holdout.)
The stench of failure surrounding the Rams and Bengals is so profound that I'm no longer prepared to rubber-stamp Palmer, Housh, Ochocinco, Bulger or Holt for any road games this year. In fact, the respective meltdowns were so stunning and disheartening that I'm even considering putting these clowns -- not counting Jackson (I think) -- on "double-secret probation" (thank you, Animal House) for home games ... until further notice.
I realize we're in the middle of Salute To Eddie Royal Week, but I'm having trouble embracing Eddie the Eagle as this year's receptions-mad version of Wes Welker (2007), Mike Furrey (2006) or Muhsin Muhammad (2004). Why, you ask? Well, let me count the ways:
1. His nine-catch, 146-yard, one-TD performance came against the Raiders -- hardly a quality opponent. And before someone rattles off the names DeAngelo Hall or Nnamdi Asomugha, Oakland's capable corners (in spurts) ... I will simply respond by saying, "It's the Raiders ... having weak links sprinkled throughout the roster is their strength!"
2. Broncos WR Brandon Marshall missed Week 1 (NFL-imposed suspension) but will return on Sunday to face the Chargers, while reclaiming his post as Jay Cutlers automatic go-to receiver.
3. Royal's backside will undoubtedly be a little bruised this week, after receiving so many 'Attaboy! pats from Denver-area fans and media.
4. Defensive coordinators finally have substantial tape on Royal -- instead of relying on old clips of him running circles around The Citadel while in college.
5. Royal's not even the better season-long option among the Virginia Tech rookie receivers, a distinction that should belong to the 49ers' Josh Morgan.
Just so there's no confusion here, I strongly endorse grabbing Royal as a backup/spot-starting option for the season, just like I did for Wednesday's Clicks. At the same time, though, I should never have to field another ludicrous fan question in the neighborhood of ... Who's the better play -- Eddie Royal or (insert top-5 fantasy WR here)?
1. Terrell Owens vs. Philadelphia
2. Randy Moss vs. N.Y. Jets
3. Calvin Johnson vs. Green Bay
4. Reggie Wayne vs. Minnesota
5. T.J. Houshmandzadeh vs. Tennessee
6. Andre Johnson vs. Baltimore
7. Santonio Holmes vs. Cleveland
8. Braylon Edwards vs. Pittsburgh
9. Dwayne Bowe vs. Oakland
10. Joey Galloway vs. Atlanta
11. Torry Holt vs. N.Y. Giants
12. Brandon Marshall vs. San Diego
13. Larry Fitzgerald vs. Miami
14. Anquan Boldin vs. Miami
Matt Ryan will someday be the real deal for the revamped Falcons; and at the very least, he already gets major kudos for the greatest first pass thrown by a rookie in NFL history (a 62-yard TD to Michael Jenkins, expertly threaded between the corner and safety, that jump-started Atlanta's surprisingly easy 34-21 over Detroit). But even with Ryan's solid debut in Week 1 (9 of 13 for 161 yards and 1 TD), the realities are that he'll likely attempt 25 or more passes only a few times this season -- as the Falcons coaches spoon-feed him the offensive reins, similar to Ben Roethlisberger's transition into the league with the Steelers in 2004 -- meaning you'll probably see a lot of 175-yard, 1-TD outings, decent numbers that don?t translate well to the fantasy realm (even for backups). After all, why throw the ball 30 times (in non-blowout situations) ... when you can hand off the rock to Michael Turner and/or Jerious Norwood 30-35 times?
Last week, I offered specific predictions for Week 1 -- some pure gold and others that flopped worse than Caddyshack 2, quite possibly the worst movie ever made ... and easily the worst golf-themed flick ever conceived. Here's the breakdown:
Five Kickers Who'll Hit 3 Field Goals
Nate Kaeding, Chargers (1 -- way off!)
Josh Scobee, Jaguars (1 -- way off!)
Jason Hanson, Lions (0 -- wayyy off!)
Adam Vinatieri, Colts (2 -- incorrect)
Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots (1 -- way off!)
Five Unsung Playmakers Who'll Score 1 TD
WR David Patten, Saints (Correct!)
WR Kevin Walter, Texans (Correct)
TE Ben Utecht, Bengals (Incorrect)
RB Tim Hightower, Cardinals (Correct!)
RB Ray Rice, Ravens (Incorrect)
Roddy White: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Chris in Waukee, Iowa asks the following question: Is there such a thing as too much depth? I was lucky enough to get Brady in the second round and Moss in the third (don't know how they fell to me). I replaced Brady with Aaron Rodgers and Matt Cassel, but I have Torry Holt, Roddy White, Roy Williams, Eddie Royal and DeSean Jackson at WR. It's at the point where I keep second guessing myself on who to play.
Answer: Chris, the only time you can have too much depth comes after Week 12, as you begin to shape your roster for the fantasy playoffs (Weeks 13-16). At that time, I strongly recommend parlaying all your skilled bench depth into one or two supreme talents (even if it entails a 4-for-1 swap). As the old fantasy saying goes: Your bench can't help you in the playoffs (excluding tiebreakers, of course). Now, specifically regarding your team, Rodgers and Cassel are solid guys to alternate every week at QB, depending on the matchups. For WRs, I would start Holt (when healthy) in every home game and maybe, maybe for road games against NFC West opponents; I would start Roddy White for each Falcons home game, along with road tilts in ideal weather conditions; I'd start Roy Williams for every Lions home game; and I'd only start Royal or Jackson in games with picture-perfect weather conditions (or if Brandon Marshall gets suspended again).
It's the 25th anniversary of the Raiders' last Super Bowl title. From that '83 team, using multiple-choice format, which skilled playmaker led the club in receptions?
A) Todd Christensen
B) Marcus Allen
C) Cliff Branch
D) Malcolm Barnwell
E) Calvin Muhammad
Have you heard the news? There will be another Monday-night doubleheader this week -- with both games in Texas. In addition to the regularly scheduled Eagles-Cowboys tussle, the Texans will host the Ravens (8:30 EST) in a game postponed from Sunday, as a means to avoid Hurricane Ike. To be honest, Ravens-Texans could go either way on the fantasy scale. On one hand, the Reliant Stadium crowd might be extra-jacked for a special Monday night event, portending a flurry of points. However, with the hurricane still fresh in everyone's mind, who's to say how many Houstonites actually make the trek to the stadium -- thus dulling the game-time atmosphere? (Note: Ravens-Texans will not be shown nationally; CBS will carry it regionally, just like a regular Sunday) Just for kicks, here are AccuScore.com's projections for Ravens-Texans:
QB Joe Flacco (178 yards passing and 0.8 TD)
RB Ray Rice (49 yards rushing, 0.3 TD; Willis McGahee (48 yards, 0.3 TD)
WR Derrick Mason (4.5 catches for 53 yards, 0.2 TD)
TE Todd Heap (3 catches for 36 yards, 0.2 TD)
QB Matt Schaub (239 passing yards, 1.3 TDs)
RB Steve Slaton (50 yards, 0.3 TD)
WR Andre Johnson (7.6 catches for 96 yards, 0.5 TD)
TE Owen Daniels (3.4 catches for 43 yards, 0.2 TD)
Final Score: Houston 20 Baltimore 19
1. N.Y. Giants @ St. Louis
2. Indianapolis @ Minnesota
3. Philadelphia @ Dallas
4. Pittsburgh @ Cleveland
5. San Diego @ Denver
WR David Patten, New Orleans
WR Steve Breaston, Arizona
WR Patrick Crayton, Dallas
TE Alex Smith, Tampa Bay
RB Julius Jones, Seattle
RB Ray Rice, Baltimore
The correct response is A, Todd Christensen. Originally drafted and then released by the Cowboys, Christensen migrated west to the Raiders in 1980 and eventually became the club's heir apparent to Hall of Fame tight end Dave Casper. In nine seasons with the franchise, Christensen caught 461 passes for 5,872 yards and 41 TDs. In 1983, he led the team with 92 catches and 12 TDs -- first-rate fantasy numbers by today's standards.
Sure, I led off today's Clicks railing against the Bengals and Rams for their wretched play in Week 1. But in this age of NFL parity, hope springs eternal each week -- especially home openers. That's why I think (and wish and hope and pray) Cincinnati and St. Louis will rebound from brutal starts to defeat Tennessee and the N.Y. Giants (thus snapping the G-Men's 10-game road winning streak) on Sunday.
Final Scores: Cincinnati 30 Tennessee 16; St. Louis 27 N.Y. Giants 24
I've been harping on this since April. Fifteen years from now, NFL historians will revere the RB Class of '08 in the same way the QB Class of '83 has been deified. We're talking about 10 potential franchise backs (Chris Johnson, Darren McFadden, Kevin Smith, Matt Forte, Jonathan Stewart, Rashard Mendenhall, Tim Hightower, Jamaal Charles, Felix Jones, Steve Slaton), many of whom shined in Week 1. Here are some Week 2 projections for the '08 running back class (courtesy of PigskinAddiction):
Chris Johnson, Titans: 150 total yards, 2 TDs
Kevin Smith, Lions: 50 total yards
Ray Rice, Ravens: 50 total yards
Steve Slaton, Texans: 50 total yards
Matt Forte, Bears: 130 total yards, 1 TD
Darren McFadden, Raiders: 70 total yards, 1 TD
2. RB Michael Turner vs. Tampa Bay
3. RB Ricky Williams vs. Arizona
4. RB Fred Taylor vs. Buffalo
5. RB Laurence Maroney vs. N.Y. Jets
6. WR Hank Baskett vs. Dallas
And that if you have any additional questions, conundrums or just don't know whom to start, you can find all of the answers on SI.com's expansive fantasy page, from game projections to start 'em, sit 'em suggestions to the latest injury updates.