Friday Night Football
Tennessee 30, Tampa Bay 7
Quarterback Jake Locker took the start under center for the Titans. Like many young players, Locker’s decision making was questionable forcing the ball into tight windows and starring down his reads. Many of his throws were inaccurate including a bad interception over the middle of the defense. Although Matt Hasselbeck was slightly more efficient, he does not excite confidence as a fantasy starter. Neither quarterback is recommend but also makes it difficult to know which Titans’ wide receivers to trust.
Coming off a poor performance in preseason Week 1 Chris Johnson seemed more determined, gaining 46 yards on 10 carries. He also managed two touchdowns both from 14 yards. We should be skeptical of his performance as Tampa Bay was the league’s worst rushing defense in 2011. We should also note that backups Jamie Harper, Darius Reynaud and Herb Donaldson were also highly effective out of the Titans’ backfield, thus furthering our skepticism of Johnson.
What a difference a week makes as the Bucs first team offense played downright awful producing 42 yards and two turnovers in the first half. Josh Freeman struggled mightily trying to get in synch with his receivers only completing four passes on 10 attempts totaling 21 yards. He did find Mike Williams for a 2-yard touchdown, which came as the result of a Titans turnover down near the goal line.
LeGarrette Blount opened the game yet again in the Tampa backfield and took early goal line carries. He would sustain a left knee injury forcing him to leave the game, and likely has him missing an extended period of time. He was able to walk off the field but was seen limping on the sidelines in the second half.
Even before the injury Blount was a straight line runner as Doug Martin appears to be the more complete running back displaying both power and agility. The difference between these two is noticeable as Blount simply cannot match Martin’s allusiveness. Combined with Blount’s injury, Martin is the preferred choice in Tampa Bay.
Detroit 27, Baltimore 12
With Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure still absent, it was Kevin Smith once again starting for the Lions. Smith is a puzzling selection in fantasy drafts because his talent is undeniable, but so is the injury history. Keiland Williams continues to take backup carries and played solid in relief of Smith. The question remains, “What role will Mikel Leshoure play after missing both preseason games and a ton of practice time due to lingering injury, but also suspended for the Lions opening two games of the season?” The answer is; “If you land Smith, handcuff Leshoure”.
Matthew Stafford is a fantasy stud, plain and simple. He has a lightning fast release, pin point accuracy and a cannon arm that rivals the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks.
Calvin Johnson was equally impressive as he and Stafford connected five times including a pass deep down the sidelines followed by an 18-yard touchdown in tight coverage. Stafford continues to display willingness to throw Johnson the ball regardless of the coverage, down, distance, score and/or field position. I wasn’t high on drafting Megatron inside the Top 7 picks, but my opinion has been swayed.
Titus Young finally showed up catching one pass for a 24-yard touchdown after a missed tackle from two Ravens’ defenders. Billed as an offseason “sleeper”, Young flashes the ability to develop into a solid mid WR3.
Joe Flacco played “OK” as the Ravens toyed with the no-huddle offense hooking up with Anquan Boldin twice. We should note the absence of No. 1 wide receiver Torrey Smith. Replacing Smith was LaQuan Williams (a Smith lookalike) who garnered six targets including two red zone attempts. Although the Lions had exceptional pass coverage, the Ravens’ anemic offense simply does not generate production to consider Flacco as anything more than a QB2.
Ray Rice struggled running the ball, unable to find space in the Lions front four. He was able to pick up a short yardage conversion moving the chains indicating a role as the Ravens’ goal line back. Bernard Pierce could be the Rice handcuff with decent gains. Pierce’s statistics are askew after taking a 14-yard loss while trying to get the edge and being forced backwards by the Lions’ pursuit.
Jacksonville 27, New Orleans 24
Much to my surprise, Blaine Gabbert’s exceptional play continued completing 13-of-16 passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns. Gabbert certainly wins the award for preseason comeback player after looking timid in the pocket last season, but now standing tall, moving through is progressions and hitting his wide receivers in stride. We should also give credit to the excellent play calling from the coaching staff and solid pass blocking from the offensive line.
Rashad Jennings remains the starter in Jacksonville with the prolonged holdout of Maurice Jones-Drew. Jennings is impressive carrying the ball with excellent vision, shiftiness and power while possesing the ability to get outside for nice gains. Jennings is a must handcuff to those owners who take a chance on MJD. Second stinger Montell Owens also appears quick and shifty with excellent maneuvers while making tacklers miss. Owens is a player worth monitoring.
Entering this game we read reports that Justin Blackmon wasn’t in “game shape”. I didn’t see it as Blackmon put on display his velcro hands, superior size and powerful run after the catch, converting a 16-yard touchdown on the Jaguars’ opening series. Blackmon is certainly worth a late round flier.
The Saints offense has struggled over the past two games. They opened their matchup with Jaguars unable to sustain drives as the running backs were consuming much of the play calling. It took until the end of the first half before the Saints offense finally kicked into gear marching down the field with multiple passes to Colston and Henderson resulting in an 8-yard Henderson touchdown.
The Saints patented RBBC continued (minus Darren Sproles). Pierre Thomas started the game and took most the early passing downs. Ingram spelled Thomas for tough running between the tackles. Backups Travaris Cadet and Chris Ivory continued to impress and are likely fighting each other for one roster spot.
Garrett Hartley converted the Saints lone field goal and now looks to be taking a lead on John Kasay.
Although he didn’t record a single reception, it was nice to Jimmy Graham in the lineup. Brees went to him once near the goal line, but was unable to convert.