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In The Spotlight: Week 1

Wednesday Night Game

Dallas Cowboys 24 |
New York Giants 17

Summary: The Dallas Cowboys (1-0) shocked the world with a convincing triumph over the flat defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants (0-1) at MetLife Stadium. Are the Cowboys really this good? We’ll see. Are the Giants really this bad? No.

Fantasy Focus – Cowboys: As predicted, the Cowboys’ plan to use DeMarco Murray (20 carries, 131 yards; 2 catches, 9 yards) as a workhorse. Aside from one pick, Tony Romo (307 yards, 3 TD, INT passing on 22-of-29 completions) played an excellent game. Kevin Ogletree (8 catches, 114 yards, 2 TD) surprised as the Cowboys’ new slot receiver. Miles Austin (4 catches, 73 yards, TD) contributed a 34-yard touchdown grab. On the downside, Dez Bryant (4 catches, 85 yards) made what unfortunately has become his almost usual second-half disappearance in a game. Jason Witten (2 catches, 10 yards) was disappointing, but in fairness he is trying to comeback from a spleen injury.

What you should know: Despite a boat load of offensive line injuries, the Dallas offense played surprisingly well overall. Can this continue? Murray is a must-start until further notice, and here is hoping he can stay healthy. Ogletree has fantasy potential. He knows the offense and Romo loves to throw to his slot guy. Is it uh-oh time again for Jason Witten (2 catches, 10 yards) owners? Laurent Robinson (Jacksonville) cut into Witten’s looks big time last year as the Dallas slot receiver, and it looks like Ogletree could do it to him this year.

Fantasy Focus – Giants: They seemed stuck in second gear the entire night on both sides of the ball. Perhaps this humiliating loss to Dallas is just the thing to wake up the defending world champs. Ahmad Bradshaw (17 rushes, 78 yards, TD; and 2 catches, 15 yards) was the only New York fantasy star who played well. After watching much heralded rookie David Wilson (2 rushes, 4 yards) get the hook after losing a fumble, it’s hard to see any big changes in Bradshaw’s workload during the short-term. Eli Manning (213 yards, TD on 21-of-32 completions) has played better, but stud receiver Victor Cruz’s (6 catches, 58 yards) case of salsa fingers (three dropped passes) obviously didn’t help. Although Hakeem Nicks’ (4 catches, 38 yards) foot is still bothering him, he looked solid in his first serious action of 2012. Domenik Hixon (3 catches, 55 yards) made some nice grabs, and Martellus Bennett (4 catches, 40 yards, TD) impressed.

What you should know: If you own any New York fantasy stars, relax – they’ll be fine. Wilson, however, may need to earn back the trust of the coaching staff before he receives regular playing time again.

Early Sunday Afternoon Games

Chicago Bears 41 |
Indianapolis Colts 21

Summary: Flashing a more aggressive passing attack but not straying far from their trademark running game, the Chicago Bears (1-0) toyed with the undermanned Indianapolis Colts (0-1) most of the afternoon, spoiling highly touted rookie triggerman Andrew Luck’s debut. The Bears jumped ahead 24-14 at the half and didn’t look back.

Fantasy Focus – Bears: Granted, Indianapolis’ reshuffled and undermanned defense is arguably Chicago’s easiest matchup of the season, but we got to see the new-look Bears offense in action. The role of Matt Forte (16 rushes, 80 yards, TD; 3 catches, 40 yards) should continue to be a huge part of the offense, despite the presence of Michael Bush (12 rushes, 42 yards, 2 TD). After shaking off a slow start and a first-quarter pick-six, Jay Cutler (333 yards, 2 TD, INT on 21-of-35 completions) took regular shots down the field to favorite target Brandon Marshall (9 catches, 119 yards, TD), and the chemistry between the two former Denver Broncos looks rock solid. Rookie Alshon Jeffery (3 catches, 80 yards, TD) caught a 42-year scoring strike from Cutler while Earl Bennett (3 catches, 50 yards) and Devin Hester (2 catches, 27 yards) played secondary roles in the passing attack.

What you should know: Granted, the Bears won’t enjoy this level of offensive success each week, but this is not a super conservative offensive attack anymore. Forte, Cutler and Marshall are obviously the meat and potatoes of this offense, but tougher matchups are ahead for them. Even if Forte doesn’t find the end zone regularly, he should pile up good yardage numbers most of the time. Don’t expect big rushing numbers from Bush each week.

Fantasy Focus – Colts: Despite what you saw on the scoreboard, Indianapolis did put up a fight against Chicago, and there is some fantasy talent here. A tough-as-nails Andrew Luck (309 yards, TD, 3 INT on 23-of-45 completions) amassed a good chunk of his fantasy stats in garbage time while playing in comeback mode facing an almost non-stop Bears’ pass rush. With Austin Collie (concussion) sidelined, Reggie Wayne (9 catches, 135 yards) served as Luck’s favorite target. Yes, the aging Wayne can still play; he made several impressive one-handed catches. Donnie Avery (3 catches, 37 yards, TD), who filled in for Collie, caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Luck in the final quarter. Rookie Coby Fleener (6 catches, 82 yards) made his mark against a Bears defense that still struggles to contain tight ends, but fellow rookie tight end Dwayne Allen didn’t catch a ball. Donald Brown (9 rushes, 48 yards, TD) scored on an 18-yard run.

What you should know: The Indianapolis offensive line is not a strong unit, so fantasy production from Brown could be hit-or-miss each week, but Luck, Wayne and possibly Fleener are legitimate fantasy options thanks to garbage-time production. Hurray for garbage time!

Houston Texans 30 |
Miami Dolphins 10

Summary: After falling behind 3-0, the Houston Texans (1-0) erupted for 24 second-quarter points to overwhelm the undermanned Miami Dolphins (0-1) at Reliant Stadium, spoiling new Miami head coach Joe Philbin’s debut.

Fantasy Focus – Texans: With Matt Schaub (266 yards, TD on 20-of-31 completions) and Andre Johnson (8 catches, 119 yards, TD) both healthy again, Houston utilized a more balanced attack than we saw at the end of 2011, throwing it 31 times and running it 35 times. Owen Daniels (4 catches, 87 yards) also continued his success against the Dolphins. Despite playing with a sore knee, Arian Foster (26 rushes, 79 yards, 2 TD; 1 catch, -4 yards) reminded us all why he is the engine that drives the Houston offense. Ben Tate (5 rushes, 6 yards; 3 catches, 22 yards), however, had a quieter-than-expected game. The impressive Texans defense sacked Miami rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill three times and picked him three times. Foster, Johnson and the Houston defense obviously are must-starts going forward.

What you should know: Although Schaub looked good, Houston probably won’t throw it enough for him to achieve stud status. Daniels’ success was the product of a favorable matchup, so he likely will remain No. 2 tight end material.

Fantasy Focus – Dolphins: As predicted, Reggie Bush (14 rushes, 69 yards; 6 catches, 46 yards) was the only legitimate weapon and fantasy starter in a Miami offense that is clearly devoid of playmakers. Rookie Ryan Tannehill (219 yards, 3 INT on 20-of-36 completions) didn’t look sharp at all. Davone Bess (5 catches, 45 yards) and Brian Hartline (3 catches, 50 yards) were Tannehill’s top two targets.

What you should know: Did I mention Bush is the only fantasy-relevant starter here? Bess offers some value in deeper points per reception leagues. It’s going to be a long season for the Dolphins.

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