To complicate matters a bit, if you had to teach American football to a foreign sports enthusiast, could you properly explain why Johnson's TD was negated ... and yet Wes Welker's second touchdown against Cincinnati counted -- despite never crossing the goal line with the ball? Unreal. The funniest thing about this: In the third quarter, the Lions' PR guys were undoubtedly praying for a diversion away from Matthew Stafford's potentially season-ending shoulder injury, only to see that wish get fulfilled in the cruelest manner possible. Creepy, huh?
You know who else could've gone without the hysteria of Johnson's woulda-coulda-shoulda TD? Matt Forte. Oh sure, the Bears tailback was thrilled to open the season with a victory, but his 201-yard effort has since been relegated to footnote status -- getting overshadowed by Johnson, Stafford's injury and Mike Martz's comical play-calling on 1st and goal from the 1. On Sunday, Forte rushed for 50 yards and caught seven passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns -- ranking him 21st among rushers, but second among Week 1 pass-catchers. It goes without saying: If you landed Forte in Rounds 4/5 of fantasy drafts -- regardless of the scoring rules -- congratulations on getting Round 1 production for pennies on the dollar!. A hearty kudos also goes to the owners who treated my preseason guarantee of 1,700 total yards and eight TDs as gospel.
Tennessee 38, Oakland 13 In this crazy world, it's good to know that NFL fans can still bank on a few things, like the Raiders living down to expectations, and Chris Johnson's fantasy dominance when given 18 inches of space to maneuver. Yes, it's true WR Nate Washington scored Tennessee's first touchdown of the season and, yes, backup RB Javon Ringer tallied the club's first rushing TD, as well. But after that, it was all Johnson (150 total yards, 2 TDs) -- proving that nothing ever changes with the Titans (that's a good thing). In a bit of full disclosure, I recently floated a Johnson-trade trial balloon in a so-called-experts' PPR league; and you wouldn't believe all the low-ball offers sent my way, with owners penning similarly sullen words of doom as if taking Johnson off my hands was an act of charity. Well, it'll be interesting to see if I can drum up something better than Jason Campbell/Felix Jones, as part of a 2-for-1 swap,before Week 2's games.
Speaking of Campbell, I'm reasonably certain that he's a QB upgrade over Bruce Gradkowski in real-world circles with Oakland, but I'm a little fearful of Campbell's fantasyland impact. How does a guy not accrue better garbage-time numbers (180 passing yards, 1 TD) after trailing 24-3 at the half against a conservative club that would gladly surrender yards in small bunches in exchange for draining the clock? It's also a tad disconcerting for people involved in two-QB-starters leagues. Of course, the Raiders' best receiver is running back Darren McFadden (6 catches, 160 total yards, 1 TD), which should be reason enough to grant Campbell more time to develop his talents. At the very least, I should wait until Campbell enjoys having the same offensive coordinator for consecutive seasons -- a luckless streak that goes back to his early Auburn days. Yikes!
New England 38, Cincinnati 24 Theoretically speaking, I should be eating a movie-theater-sized bag of crow on Wes Welker (8 catches, 64 yards, 2 TDs). But I'm not going to do that -- at least not for a few weeks. Welker certainly played like his old self against the Bengals' formidable pass defense, but it still wasn't enough to signify that any receiver -- not just Welker -- can return to all-world form just nine months after major knee surgery. It's just not possible! Of course, do you really need healthy knee ligaments to take a lightning-fast bubble screen to the house for six points? (On second thought, don't answer that.) As for Tom Brady, I have great appreciation for his 258-yard, 3-TD outing, but it hardly comes as a surprise. Against the Falcons on Aug. 20, Brady was razor-sharp in a meaningless preseason game while sporting a stone-cold, remorseless game face that might've made Jack Lambert blush.
In last month's SI.com preview, I marginalized Carson Palmer's prospects for two justifiable reasons: 1) Cedric Benson was the Bengals' redoubtable force in the red zone, and 2) Cincinnati wouldn't incur any blowout losses in 2010, denying Palmer some garbage-time fun. Well, both theories took a hit on Sunday as Benson sluggishly totaled 54 yards and one TD, and the Bengals were mired in a 31-3 hole. Enter Palmer's deceptive 345 passing yards and two TDs, numbers that look great on a fantasy waiver wire but come with a caveat: Don't be surprised if Week 1 stands out as Palmer's only 340-yard/2-TD performance this season. The same dire words don't apply to Chad Ochocinco (12 catches, 159 yards, 1 TD), who seized the early lead in the unofficial 'Who's Batman, Who's Robin' competition with teammate Terrell Owens (7 catches, 53 yards). I've said it a million times on Twitter: T.O. has devolved into a between-the-20s asset only, and thus is not a threat to Ochocinco in the red zone (like Antonio Bryant might've been -- before his knee injury and outright release).
Jacksonville 24, Denver 17 Remember how Mike Sims-Walker's fantasy studliness came out of nowhere this time last year? Is it possible Mike Thomas (6 catches, 89 yards) could become the second Jaguar in successive seasons to realize stardom -- without advance warning to the public? Obviously, the key to Week 1 games is appreciating the efforts (or lack thereof) of certain players, but always keeping things in perspective for future matchups. And yet I might be willing to take an immediate leap of faith with Thomas given what happened to Sims-Walker last season. At the heart of Thomas's newfound fantasy fame lies the baffling case of tight end Marcedes Lewis: Was his 2-catch, 31-yard, 2-TD outing a sign of greater days ahead or is Lewis merely the 2010 version of Alex Smith, the Buccaneers tight end who caught two Brian Griese TDs on opening weekend of 2005, but essentially disappeared from Weeks 2-17? There's a lot to consider here with the Jags' second tier of potential stars -- good and bad. To borrow a phrase from late President Richard M. Nixon, thank heaven we still have Maurice Jones-Drew (113 total yards) and David Garrard (170 passing yards, 3 TDs) to kick around. Oh, and Sims-Walker and his zero catches from Sunday.
Even in defeat, the Broncos' fantasy portfolio improved Sunday. Running back Knowshon Moreno (64 total yards, 1 TD) was solid in his 2010 debut, which didn't include one preseason carry (hamstring injury). QB Kyle Orton squeezed 295 passing yards and one touchdown from just 21 completions. Receivers Eddie Royal (8 catches, 98 yards) and Jabar Gaffney (3 catches, 34 yards, 1 TD) demonstrated their worth to PPR owners, and even Brandon Lloyd announced his presence in a profound manner, pulling down five catches for 117 yards while earning the crown of "No. 1 Free-Agent Pickup Of Next Week." (Notice how we didn't get around to Tim Tebow's two rushing yards? Pretty good restraint, huh?)
Houston 34, Indianapolis 24If quoting Wikipedia is good enough for TV's 30 Rock, then it's good enough for Fantasy Clicks, too -- especially when an ironic nugget catches our eye regarding Arian Foster, the Texans' new single-game rushing record-holder (231 yards). According to Wikipedia, Foster garnered the unkind nickname of "Fumblin' Foster" while starring at the University of Tennessee, a moniker that didn't prevent him from becoming the school's No. 2 rusher of all time but likely curtailed his draft standing in 2009. And last year at this time, Steve Slaton was a borderline Round 1 fantasy pick and widely deified as Houston's franchise back for the foreseeable future until a bout with fumbleitis led to his benching, and Foster's eventual rise up the depth chart. Fast forward to Sunday: Foster toted the rock 33 times in the club's landmark win over Indy, leaving Slaton with a sparse six carries (for 29 yards) and no receptions. The moral to this convoluted story is rather simple: When it comes to Texans tailbacks, whatever goes up, must come down and vice versa. That's why fantasy owners owe it to themselves to explore Foster's trade value this week, especially if he's in the RB3 slot. Just my two cents.
Regarding the Colts, there's no cause for fantasy alarm here. Peyton Manning (433 passing yards, 3 TDs) can be the best QB on the planet, seemingly at will. Tight end Dallas Clark (11 catches, 80 yards, 1 TD) remains the consummate gift that keeps on giving in PPR leagues. Austin Collie (10 catches, 131 yards, 1 TD) and Pierre Garcon (4 catches, 75 yards, one dropped TD pass) may be the NFL's best tandem of secondary receivers. Joseph Addai (73 yards) and his lunch-pail approach to running always merits appreciation; and Reggie Wayne (7 catches, 99 yards, 1 TD) is well on his way to becoming the first receiver in history to score a touchdown in every regular-season game. OK, so that last one's not going to happpen, but it's nice to dream.
Pittsburgh 15, Atlanta 9 (OT) There's no point in deconstructing Dennis Dixon's fantasy prospects for the long term. Yes, he threw for 236 yards in only his second NFL start and earned his first-ever victory as a pro. But he's merely keeping the starter's seat warm until Ben Roethlisberger makes his high-profile return in Week 6 against Cleveland, right? That aside, it's good to know Hines Ward (6 catches, 108 yards) and Rashard Mendenhall (135 total yards, 1 TD) don't require an all-world quarterback to post elite numbers. Both stars are automatic starting considerations in standard-scoring and PPR leagues. As for Mike Wallace, as much as I love his blinding speed and dramatic flair (see last year's game-winning TD against Green Bay), his fantasy goodness likely runs in direct proportion to Big Ben handling Pittsburgh's QB duties. If you have a better starting option in Week 2, don't give Wallace's benching a second thought.
The Falcons' performance brought a batch of mixed reviews to Revelations. Matt Ryan (252 yards, zero TDs) and Michael Turner (49 total yards) struggled even more than expected, but WR Roddy White tantalized Atlanta TV viewers with 13 catches for 111 yards (with Troy Polamalu patrolling the secondary). Hmmm, methinks White might seriously challenge Larry Fitzgerald, DeSean Jackson, Calvin Johnson and Greg Jennings for the coveted crown of the NFC's best fantasy receiver. As for Tony Gonzalez, I'm not going to overreact to his desultory day of two catches and 35 yards. Gonzo was the most targeted tight end of 2009, which signals that he'll (eventually) be fine for 2010.
Green Bay 27, Philadelphia 20 File this one under the heading of Fantasy Life's Not Fair. Before the rain, before Ryan Grant's ankle injury, before Kevin Kolb's concussion symptoms, this game had all the makings of a shootout, with brand-name stars putting up sizable numbers. Well, technically, that still occurred with Aaron Rodgers (197 total yards, 2 TDs), Michael Vick (278 total yards, 1 TD), Greg Jennings (5 catches, 82 yards, 1 TD) and Philly RB LeSean McCoy (82 total yards, 1 TD), but the day essentially fell flat once Kolb had been permanently removed. The whole scene was almost as deflating as celebrating a last-gasp touchdown where the receiver caught the ball cleanly, planted both feet twice and still was overruled on the score. (File that one under Life As A Detroit Native Isn't Fair.)
So, what does the future entail for Vick and Packers backup RB Brandon Jackson? Short of someone cloning Drew Brees or Adrian Peterson, Vick and Jackson (75 total yards) are easily the most attractive QB and RB options on the open market. And if given the chance to strut their stuff in Week 2, you have to love Vick's capacity for fantasy greatness against the Lions and Jackson's easy-cheesy home date with the Bills.
Miami 15, Buffalo 10Regarding Buffalo, I'll keep this one short and sweet: 1) I was dead-wrong about rookie C.J. Spiller (11 touches, 14 total yards) having a breakout performance and consequently usurping Sabres goalie Ryan Miller as the next savior of western New York, and 2) The Bills will never experience sustained success while operating a high school offense, creativity-wise.
Forget about Ronnie Brown's 85 total yards/1 TD for a second. From a physical standpoint, Brown demonstrated the quickness, agility and explosion of his Auburn days and strongly resembled his scary-good self from 2007. And if I had known that Brown had fully recouped his amazing athletic gifts three weeks ago, I would've moved heaven and earth to take him in Round 3 of every fantasy draft. But alas, at least I can derive comfort from watching Chad Henne attempt 34 passes in a game where Miami enjoyed a double-digit lead throughout the second half. Think about it: Henne (182 passing yards, zero TDs) and WR Brandon Marshall (8 catches, 53 yards) hardly set the fantasy world ablaze Sunday, but their capacity for future greatness was also reaffirmed by the Dolphins' eagerness to pass when they didn't have to.
Tampa Bay 17, Cleveland 14 In a utopic, yet realistic society, I could accept Bucs QB Josh Freeman totaling 216 yards (182 passing) and two TDs every Sunday, numbers befitting of a decent QB2 in fantasyland. But let's be real: His current trio of stars -- Cadillac Williams, Kellen Winslow Jr.,Mike Williams -- simply don't have enough juice to consistently boost Freeman at this point, especially against quality opponents. Luckily for owners in 2-QB leagues, the Browns don't qualify as a quality foe. That was enough to free Cadillac for 98 total yards and the rookie Williams for five catches, 30 yards and one acrobatic touchdown.
As for the Browns it's hard to fathom how they lost this game. After all, good things usually happen to teams with Jake Delhomme, Peyton Hillis and Evan Moore serving as their greatest fantasy producers.
N.Y. Giants 31, Carolina 18The Jets may be the talk of the Big Apple and NFL darlings of TV right now (hello, Hard Knocks), but there's no disputing which New York team offers more fantasy bang for your buck: the Giants. Assuming you don't play in fantasy leagues where Eli Manning (263 passing yards, 3 TDs, 3 INTs) gets penalized more than one point per interception, or Ahmad Bradshaw (93 total yards, 1 TD) gets harshly docked for each fumble, there's little to dislike about this club. OK, so there is one critcism, namely guessing which top-flight receiver -- Steve Smith, Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks -- will step to the forefront each week; but look at it this way: You have a 50/50 chance of guessing which wideout (Smith or Manningham) will go off for three TDs next week against the Colts, now that Nicks (4 catches, 75 yards, 3 TDs) exhausted his short-term fantasy karma on the Panthers.
Regarding the Panthers, no one was expecting Jonathan Stewart to replicate his 206-yard effort from last year against the Giants -- especially with a healthy DeAngelo Williams sharing the rushing load. But five carries and 12 yards?Really? And what about D-Will's pedestrian 62 yards? How does that happen in a rainy game featuring two conservative coaches? As I sit here, curiously staring at my computer screen in the wee hours of Monday morning, I'm struggling to understand how Carolina arrived at this point of having a lackluster successor to Jake Delhomme (Matt Moore's stat line: 182 yards passing, 1 TD, 3 INTs) and no certifiable No. 2 receiver behind Steve Smith (5 catches, 75 yards, 1 TD). Oh, how I miss Muhsin Muhammad and Ricky Proehl!
Seattle 31, San Francisco 6Here's a question for the masses: What's the greater shock from Week 1 -- the Seahawks holding the 49ers to six points and winning by 25 or Matt Hasselbeck turning in an incredibly efficient outing of 18-of-23 passing for 170 yards and three total touchdowns? Sarcasm aside, this rhetorical question embodies my skepticism toward Carson Palmer and Hasselbeck as consistently viable assets; and frankly, that's more maddening than guys like Derek Anderson or Jake Delhomme, whose time-tested mediocrity can be strangely soothing to fantasy owners. Nothing beats owning (or disowning) a talent who routinely lives up (or down) to expectations. On the receiving front, I am continually amazed by Mike Williams' body transformation, five years after being drafted into the NFL. Bottom line: Williams (4 catches, 64 yards, one near-miss TD) has never looked so cut and trim and explosive. It goes without saying: If you can still grab Williams off waivers, feel free to purge a lethargic third QB or unproductive fifth receiver from your roster.
The "lethargic third QB" crack wasn't intended for Alex Smith (225 yards, zero TDs), but if the shoe fits, you know? There are no words to describe the malaise of Josh Morgan (3 catches, 32 yards, one near-miss TD), Ted Ginn Jr. (1 catch, 19 yards) and, most notably, Michael Crabtree (2 catches, 12 yards) from the Seattle debacle. If that's what fantasy owners can expect from the above wideouts, we could be looking at the first 6-10 division winner in NFL history -- in the form of a four-way tie between Seattle, San Francisco, St. Louis and Arizona.
Arizona 17, St. Louis 13 Just think of all the money someone could've made in Vegas betting that Steve Breaston and new Rams wideout Mark Clayton (10 catches, 119 yards) would finish among the top-10 receivers for Week 1 while trouncing superstars Larry Fitzgerald (3 catches, 43 yards, 1 TD) and Steven Jackson (87 total yards) in the process. And how about Sam Bradford (253 yards, 1 TD, 3 INTs) and Derek Anderson (297 yards, 1 TD) attempting 96 passes in a game that produced only 30 points? Surely, that has to be some kind of dubious record. Instead of calling the Guinness people about Bradford/Anderson, though, perhaps I'll spend time finding a clue about Breaston and his seven catches for 132 yards. I was super-high on the kid last year with Kurt Warner as the Cards' quarterback but opted to avoid him for 2010 because of Anderson. And yet the duo has already developed a special chemistry that's usually found with twins, roommates (Kevin Kolb/Brent Celek) or longtime scout-team teammates (Kerry Collins/Justin Gage).
The follow-up question is rather obvious: Are Anderson and Breaston must-haves on the waiver wire, or should we take coach Ken Whisenhunt at his word about the Cardinals morphing into a run-first operation once Beanie Wells returns from a bruised knee? For once, I'm speechless.
Washington 13, Dallas 7It's never easy to see a prime-time game involving heated rivals come down to a holding penalty that nullifies the game-winning touchdown with no time left; and yet, that's a pretty, pretty, pretty good ending for the latest installment of Cowboys v. Redskins. Let's be honest: If Roy Williams' TD catch had come without a yellow flag at the end, Tony Romo (282 yards, 1 TD) would've been carried off the field on Andrea Kremer's shoulders, Miles Austin (10 catches, 146 yards, 1 TD) would have been caught -- on camera -- cutting out a small sliver of the FedEx Field turf, and owner Jerry Jones would have ripped off his $2,000 suit -- David Banner-style -- to boast the results from his Randy Couture-endorsed Tower 200 workout center. (You gotta door, you gotta gym! -- best cheesy tagline ever.)
Instead, we're left with a Redskins victory that feels like a loss for all parties involved -- fantasy owners included. (Anyone notice the goose-egg travails of Redskins Fred Davis and Devin Thomas and/or underwhelming usage of Cowboys Jason Witten and Felix Jones?)
No, this way probably works better in the long run. The last thing we want is NFL Network remembering this snoozefest as a "classic" 10-20 years from now.
Jay Clemons can be found on Twitter, day and night, accessing your fantasy questions and comments. You can read his award-winning Revelations every Sunday/Monday during the NFL season.