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Before we get into Week 1, let’s remember this: it’s Week 1. If you lost, it’s not the end of the world. If you won, don’t get too carried away. If you sat Adrian Peterson or played DeAngelo Williams in what was to be a juicy matchup, or made any other decision that wasn’t perfect, it’s ok.
Like we’ve done for the past few seasons, we’ll discuss some of the things I found more interesting this week, but they are just observations based on this week. I’m going to talk about how well I think Robert Griffin III did, but that does not mean you trade Matthew Stafford for him. Before you make any early season trades or free agent pickups, always pump the brakes. Look at who they just played. Look at the upcoming schedule. Look at the offensive scheme, the players around them on offense, and their injury history. Consider all the information before making any move that may end up an angry email you send to me cursing me for touting Jonathan Dwyer over Chris Johnson. Believe me. These emails happen.
Now that we have the disclaimer out of the way, let’s get started.
Tony Romo looks poised for a big year. This preseason went about as poorly as it could have for the Dallas Cowboys. Their stud receiver made headlines because he needs someone to wake him up and chauffeur him to practice. Their other top receiver didn’t play a snap in the preseason because of “chronic” hamstring issues. Their dependable tight end lacerated his spleen in a preseason game. But on Wednesday night, they were all on the field, and Tony Romo was orchestrating a masterful performance against last year’s Super Bowl champs.
On the opening night of the season. In prime time. In their house. On the night they unveiled their banner. It’s ok, I bet no one was watching. Despite starting a bit slow, Romo put up gaudy numbers, posting 307 passing yards and three touchdowns. Even with the interception he threw, he made good decisions, and never looked like he was all that flustered. We may have found this year’s Week 1 fantasy darling in Kevin Ogletree, who played the Laurent Robinson role perfectly as the Cowboys third wide out. On a related note, DeMarco Murray looks like the real deal. Given the rocky preseason, I wasn’t expecting that from Romo, but the Dallas offense looks like it’s in high gear already.
Matt Forte’s value will be limited thanks to Michael Bush. Forte had a nice game on Sunday, but it could have been so much better. On two separate occasions, Michael Bush vultured touchdowns from the 1-yard line. The addition of Brandon Marshall on the outside spaces out defenders, opening up running lanes for Forte, who used those running lanes to the tune of 16 carries for 80 yards. He also caught three passes for 40 yards. And while I still believe that the Bears offense will run through him, he won’t be nearly as valuable this season as we thought, simply because he’ll have to score his touchdowns from five yards out or more. Silver lining: my brother has Forte on his fantasy team, so I can at least laugh at him. But yeah, for the rest of you, sorry.
Stevan Ridley may end up the best running back value in 2012. The Patriots looked scary good on Sunday. Tom Brady did Tom Brady things, and the two tight ends both put up numbers, but it was Stevan Ridley, in my opinion, who stole the show. His 125 yards and a score on 21 carries provided the rushing yin to compliment Brady’s yang. And because Brady and Co. scare the you-know-what out of everyone, there are wide open running lanes for any competent back. Ridley runs hard and can even be a check-down target for Brady. New England will be ahead a lot this year, and that means trying to run out a lot of clock, and having a running back that can get tough yards will pay off big, for both the Patriots and fantasy owners.
Chris Johnson looks like the crappy 2011 version. Yeah, he didn’t look good. In fairness to him, Bill Belichick and the Patriots are famous for taking away what their opponent does best. In the case of the Tennessee Titans, that would be Chris Johnson running the football. On Sunday, they did just that, limiting CJ 2K to 11 carries for four yards. You read that correctly. I did not mistype or forget to add a few numbers. He ran for four yards. He caught six passes for 47 yards, but I keep coming back to the fact that he ran the ball 11 times for four yards. Once the Patriots got a bigger lead, the Titans abandoned the run almost completely. Fantasy owners may be wishing they could abandon Chris Johnson. Like on the steps of a church. Ugh.
Adrian Peterson is not OK with Toby Gerhart touching his football. Didn’t take long, did it? When news surfaced on Sunday morning that AP would not only play, but he’d start, pundits around the league began discussing how much he’d actually contribute. I, myself, have Peterson in two leagues and didn’t start him in either, believing this to be more of an honorary start. I figured Gerhart would still shoulder the load. Not so much. Peterson ran for 84 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns on 17 carries, 11 more than Gerhart. There’s still injury risk, as he only had the ACL surgery back in December, but he’s clearly back to a level that can provide some serious value to those who drafted him.
Robert Griffin III is going to be a monster. There aren’t many quarterbacks that can say, “I went to New Orleans and out-dueled Drew Brees to get a win.” And there’s just one that can say that as a rookie. RGIII was fantastic on Sunday, throwing for 320 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his NFL debut. He was efficient with the football, completing 19-of-26 passes, but what was most intriguing to me was the 10 rushing attempts, including eight designed runs. His performance, along with some questions being answered about how Mike Shanahan would use him, make Griffin a borderline Top 10 guy going forward.
CJ Spiller just became a Top 15 running back. Spiller filled in for Fred Jackson last year when Jackson went down with a broken leg, and he filled in for him again on Sunday when Jackson appeared to injure a knee. Spiller promptly came in and broke off a 56-yard touchdown run. He wound up with 169 rushing yards on just 14 carries, but he also wound up with a starting job for the foreseeable future. There’s still no definitive word on Jackson’s injury, but he may not get his job back if Spiller runs away with it like he ran away from the Jets.
Cam Newton has an uphill battle ahead of him. In most leagues, Newton was drafted as a T op 5 quarterback. I had him at No. 5, but not as high as others were taking him. He only put up 303 passing yards and a score, plus two picks. He had a nice matchup against what was expected to be a poor Tampa Bay defense, but the Panthers offense struggled to get anything going all afternoon. The running game was non-existent. How non-existent? Jonathan Stewart ran for more yards than DeAngelo Williams. Jonathan Stewart was inactive. Williams ran six times for minus-1 yard. Newton does have Steve Smith, who was typically excellent, and Brandon LaFell and Greg Olsen are interesting options as well, but I have a feeling this will be a tough year for the Panthers' signal caller.
Jonathan Dwyer is going to be really valuable going forward. The Steelers backfield shared carries, attacking Denver’s defensive front with several backs. Isaac Redman got the first crack at it, but was unable to make any real impact. Dwyer came in and ripped off an impressive run that got brought back for a hold, but he was much more impressive than Redman who basically just takes the ball and runs into people. Redman’s 11 carries for 20 yards don’t compare to Dwyer’s nine totes for 43 yards. With Rashard Mendenhall on the mend and Redman looking incapable of carrying any real load, it stands to reason that Dwyer will be the guy going forward.
Peyton Manning is good. Newsflash, right? He looked ok during the preseason, but so did Chase Daniel. There’s a huge difference between Manning playing well in glorified scrimmages and playing well on a Sunday night against the Steelers defense. But Manning looked great, throwing for 253 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He made all the throws, was typically smart both before and after the snap, and spread the ball around to his various weapons. Manning looks like he’ll reward those who had faith that he was healthy enough to go.
Good luck in Week 2.
Drew Magyar is a FantasySharks.com staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . “What Did We Learn?” will be posted each Tuesday morning during the season, and “Rock and a Hard Place” will be posted each Friday morning.
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