New Orleans 14, Minnesota 9
1. Super Bowl success hasn't changed Drew Brees one bit: I don't know if this fully translates to the fantasy realm, but Brees will probably flirt with 70 percent passing again this year while hitting every eligible Saints receiver/tailback/tight end at least once per game (hello, Devery Henderson). Against Minnesota, Brees located nine New Orleans targets for 237 yards and one touchdown (75 percent completion rate). On the surface, Brees' 1-TD night seems like a fantasy failure; but let's remember what's awaiting him in October: My fearless prediction of 19 passing TDs in that five-game stretch (Carolina, Arizona, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Pittsburgh).
2. I have little empathy for fantasy owners who invested a Round 4/5/6 pick on Bernard Berrian. I'm going to be wrong plenty of times this season with certain ill-conceived gut feelings and fruitless man-crushes -- there's really no way around it. But I never thought Berrian (1 rec., 3 yards) could possibly cure the Vikings' ills with Sidney Rice sidelined from hip surgery. Berrian has top-end speed and looks great when coming off the team bus on gamedays, but he's not a starting option in 12-team leagues and barely worth your roster consideration in 14-teamers.
3. Visanthe Shiancoe has added another dimension to his game. Who's to say if this is a long-term transformation, but Shiancoe (4 rec., 76 yards, 1 TD) was more than a short-yardage target for Brett Favre -- he was Favre's safety blanket during red-zone trips and between-the-20s snaps of crises. And for the next six weeks -- or whenever Rice returns to the lineup -- I fully expect Shiancoe to shine in all passing situations. Yes, Adrian Peterson (3 catches for 14 yards) is slowly becoming a better pass-catcher and, yes, Percy Harvin will undoubtedly fare better than one measly catch in the coming weeks; but right here, right now, Shiancoe has Favre's most invaluable pair of hands.
4. Adrian Peterson justified his No. 1 or 2 preseason ranking. And he did soby having the quietest 101 total-yard outing of his career. That's the true definition of a fantasy stud: He can still dominate when seemingly running with a piano (or three Saints defenders) on his back.
Here are the revised rankings for all 32 starting QBs: 1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers2. Drew Brees, Saints (I'm serious about the 19 TDs in October)3. Peyton Manning, Colts4. Tom Brady, Patriots5. Matt Schaub, Texans6. Tony Romo, Cowboys7. Philip Rivers, Chargers8. Jay Cutler, Bears9. Brett Favre, Vikings10. Kevin Kolb, Eagles11. Matt Ryan, Falcons12. Donovan McNabb, Redskins13. Eli Manning, Giants14. Joe Flacco, Ravens15. Matthew Stafford, Lions16. Chad Henne, Dolphins17. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers18. Kyle Orton, Broncos19. Vince Young, Titans20. Carson Palmer, Bengals21. Alex Smith, 49ers22. Matt Cassel, Chiefs23. Mark Sanchez, Jets24. David Garrard , Jaguars25. Jason Campbell, Raiders26. Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks27. Josh Freeman, Buccaneers28. Matt Moore, Panthers29. Trent Edwards, Bills30. Sam Bradford, Rams31. Jake Delhomme, Browns32. Derek Anderson, Cardinals
1. Green Bay @ Philadelphia 2. Detroit @ Chicago 3. Indianapolis @ Houston 4. Miami @ Buffalo 5. Cincinnati @ New England
On Thursday morning, we launched the first of 15 weekly chats on Facebook, taking lineup questions from the fantasy masses. Here are some of the highlights from Chat No. 1, which comes with a reminder for next Thursday's open forum (11 a.m. to 1 p.m. EST):
@ Chris Juzwik: What do you make of Matt Cassel this year? He's on a couple of my teams, but for the life of me, I don't know why.
Answer: I know Cassel was a train wreck last year; but I assume he's on your team as a backup quarterback, his rightful spot -- for now, at least. The kid has talent; more important, he has playmakers around him (Jamaal Charles, Thomas Jones, Dwayne Bowe, Chris Chambers, Dexter McCluster and the TE Tony Moeaki). And let's not forget who's calling the plays and shaping the tone of the offense: Head coach Todd Haley and OC Charlie Weis. This is a recipe for Cassel fantasy goodness -- as long as you give it time to happen.
@ Jimmy Nall: Currently involved in a slow PPR draft. Start 3 WRs, 2 RBs, TE and RB/WR/TE. Have starters as Randy Moss, Miles Austin, Jabar Gaffney, Arian Foster, Ahmad Bradshaw, LeSean McCoy and Antonio Gates. We have no trades allowed and 8 bench spots. Any tips for loading that bench?
Answer: How can you still be "involved" in a sl-sl-sl-sl-slow draft on the morning of the first game? If you're the commish of this league, the other owners should overthrow you. If you're just a regular owner, you should fire the big kahuna. (deep sigh) That aside, if you want to fill your bench with solid PPR prospects, grab any combination of the following (without reaching): Dexter McCluster, Reggie Bush, Julian Edelman, Brandon Gibson, Laurent Robinson, Derrick Mason, Legedu Naanee, Fred Jackson, Mohamed Massaquoi, Davone Bess, Greg Camarillo, Tampa's Mike Williams, and Sidney Rice after Round 11. They're all running around with magnets sutured to their backs on gameday -- and can be had at a reasonable cost in drafts.
@ Hayden Kane: Which two RBs should I start -- Rashard Mendenhall, Ray Rice or Arian Foster?
Answer: As a rule, I don't overthink starting choices in Week 1 -- and neither should you! There's a reason you invested Round 1 picks in Rice and Mendenhall, so start 'em. If Foster should have a monster outing against the Colts, then fine, you'll have a great decision to make in Week 2. But until then, you always play your healthy studs. The regret of NOT playing 'em is far greater than any guilt associated with taking the intelligent, conservative approach.
@ Joe Kopcha: Should Jay Cutler owners be more worried about interceptions or injury? That O-line is going to get him killed.
Answer: As fantasy owners, we cannot control injuries or an O-Line's stellar/woeful play; we can only control our feelings for certain players. I happen to think Cutler will register 4,000 yards/29 TDs in 2010, and I'm willing to accept all the bad stuff that may accompany the adventure (maybe 18 interceptions/tons of sacks/possible injury). Bottom line: With Mike Martz in Chicago, you have to take a fantasy leap of faith on Cutler. Thanks!
1. Andre Johnson vs. Indianapolis 2. Reggie Wayne @ Houston 3. Anquan Boldin @ N.Y. Jets 4. Calvin Johnson @ Chicago 5. Greg Jennings @ Philadelphia 6. Mike Sims-Walker vs. Denver 7. Brandon Marshall @ Buffalo 8. DeSean Jackson vs. Green Bay 9. Larry Fitzgerald @ St. Louis
... The 2010 Sports Illustrated Fantasy Football Game (presented by Finish Line and GMC). For those who haven't accessed this amazing application on Facebook yet, what are you waiting for? Week 1 has already begun! Duh.
1. Jamaal Charles vs. San Diego 2. C.J. Spiller vs. Miami 3. Matt Forte vs. Detroit 4. Rashard Mendenhall vs. Atlanta 5. Jerome Harrison @ Tampa Bay 6. Chris Johnson vs. Oakland 7. Ahmad Bradshaw vs. Carolina 8. DeAngelo Williams @ N.Y. Giants 9. Steven Jackson vs. Arizona 10. Ray Rice @ N.Y. Jets
Playing in 14 fantasy leagues isn't all it's cracked up to be. I mean, you can only get excited about landing Raiders tight end Zach Miller in Round 10 or Rams wide receiver Laurent Robinson in Round 16 so many times -- when matching wits with savvy, yet faceless owners.
But all of this preseason drudgery gets wiped away when thoughts turn to the famed SI.com & Friends league, comprised of six SI.com worker bees in Atlanta (our frat-house-of-an-office is a haven for trash talking), one Golf.com shaman (Jeff Ritter), two NBA.com gurus (Scott Wraight/Drew Packham), one top-notch producer for Atlanta's biggest sports radio station (Jason Cofar), the country's pre-eminent brother-brother combo of fantasy owners (Bob/Charles Kight), a future NBA play-by-play announcer (Brandon Marcus) and three of Detroit's most insightful media marvels (George Sipple, David Komer, Jon Machota). Simply put, our league is the most fun that 16 guys who live for cutting each other down, via message-board taunts, could ever want.
Meet The Henchmen Here's my roster for the SI superleague (No. 5 slot): Round 1 -- RB Frank Gore, 49ers Round 2 -- RB LeSean McCoy, Eagles Round 3 -- RB Matt Forte, Bears Round 4 -- WR Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars Round 5 -- TE Brent Celek, Eagles Round 6 -- RB Cadillac Williams, Buccaneers Round 7 -- QB Matthew Stafford, Lions Round 8 -- WR Mike Williams, Buccaneers Round 9 -- QB Chad Henne, Dolphins Round 10 -- WR Sidney Rice, Vikings Round 11 -- WR Jerricho Cotchery, Jets Round 12 -- D/ST New England PatriotsRound 13 -- PK Dan Carpenter, Dolphins Round 14 -- WR Brandon Gibson, Rams
Verdict: You really have to pick your poison in 16-team drafts. No one will possess an all-star team, and every owner could easily be exposed at two positions. Last year's personal failings involved being shorthanded at tailback and having two mediocre-at-best QB choices each week. So, to negate those once-powerful feelings of inadequacy, I systematically went RB-RB-RB in Rounds 1-3 of Wednesday's draft, while also grabbing Caddy Williams in Round 6.
Conservatively speaking, I own four workhorse backs in a league where two might be considered a triumph. I also prioritized taking a top-5 tight end (Celek) and buttressing one of the NFL's most dynamic under-24 passers (Stafford) ... with the only AFC quarterback to attempt 46 or more passes in three games last year (Chad Henne -- surprise!).
My obvious weakness resides at wide receiver. But this real-time revelation also challenged me to diversify drafting tactics -- juggling low-key upside (Mike Williams/Brandon Gibson), reliability (Cotchery) and injury-related stashees (Sidney Rice) in the latter rounds. Grade: B
1. Steve Smith @ Giants (takes short-term backseat to Carolina's big rushers) 2. Knowshon Moreno @ Jaguars (needs a week or two to find his sea legs) 3. Matt Hasselbeck vs. 49ers (get used to seeing his name in this mini-section)4. Donovan McNabb vs. Cowboys (tender ankle negates thrill of 'Skins debut) 5. Ryan Grant @ Eagles (love the player, loathe the matchup)
1. WR James Jones (@ Eagles) 2. RB Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis (vs. Bengals) 3. WR Chris Chambers (vs. Chargers) 4. TE Tony Scheffler (@ Bears) 5. WR Josh Morgan (@ Seahawks)
The polls are closed, the votes have been tabulated. None of these 20 stars -- for whatever reason -- belong to my 14 fantasy teams: 1. QB Drew Brees, Saints 2. QB Peyton Manning, Colts 3. RB Steven Jackson, Rams 4. RB Michael Turner, Falcons 5. RB DeAngelo Williams, Panthers 6. RB Ryan Mathews, Chargers 7. QB Tom Brady, Patriots 8. WR Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals 9. QB Philip Rivers, Chargers 10. TE Chris Cooley, Redskins 11. TE Tony Gonzalez, Falcons 12. WR Steve Smith, Panthers 13. RB Felix Jones, Cowboys 14. RB Shonn Greene, Jets 15. RB Arian Foster, Texans 16. QB Eli Manning, Giants 17. PK Garrett Hartley, Saints 18. WR Braylon Edwards, Jets 19. WR Steve Smith, Giants 20. RB Ricky Williams, Dolphins
... To watch the season premiere of The League, the amazing F/X comedy that's all the rage in fantasy circles -- and the dwindling masses who don't play fantasy football -- at 10:30 p.m. on Sept. 16. As luck would have it, The League immediately follows the season-opener for It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia -- the brilliant show whose Seinfeld-like randomness is truly something to behold and DVR four times every Monday on Comedy Central.