As per the norm, the NFL season got off to its roller-coaster start, leaving fantasy footballers in two states of mind: excited or panicked. In which camp you fall matters not—what matters is using what you have learned from the first week to improve your team(s). If you look back at our Week 1 storylines, some of them are continuing into Week 2, while some thumbed their nose at us for questioning their outcome. They include:
· As long as Pittsburgh can run the ball and play defense, it looks like they’ll be OK regardless of the QB.
· Houston’s big happy running back family just got larger—although it probably won’t translate into wins or production for you. Welcome, Samkon Gado.
· A missing Steve Smith led to a disappearing offense for Carolina. The problems are beginning to grow with the loss of their starting LT and an injured center.
· It didn’t take long for the Drew Bledsoe Watch to start—and T.O. didn’t even need to point it out. Could he be benched by the bye?
· Tennessee is in a whole heap of trouble, whether it be at QB or RB. I mean, did you see Kerry Collins? Chris Brown was supplanted by Travis Henry at the goal line, and now Creaky Chris (™ Nick Pavlou 2006) has a turf toe injury. By the way, they lost to the Jets.
· Can the Colts run the ball successfully enough to make Rhodes and Addai viable? They sure didn’t against the Giants. Conversely, how many rushing TDs is Brandon Jacobs planning on taking from Tiki Barber this season?
· The only stud RB to be hindered by injury thus far is Cadillac Williams—as we predicted last week—who has back spasms. Michael Pittman could still be available in some leagues if this becomes a major problem.
But what are the new, juicy storylines going into Week 2? There’s a bunch, and many are especially important to you Sharks out there.
Green injury = bust status for LJ?
It wasn’t like things were going great for KC before the injury to Trent Green, but now the deterioration of the Chiefs offense could continue at an accelerated pace—destroying Larry Johnson and his No. 1 RB status. With an offensive line missing Willie Roaf and featuring a couple of declining players, yards seem to be hard to come by for LJ over the next few weeks. This is compounded by having Damon Huard at QB, whom no defense will respect. Oh, and I almost forgot, Herm Edwards is coaching the Chiefs. Owners that spent a No. 1 pick or upwards of $40 on LJ are sweating right now, hoping the cornerstone of their franchise isn’t ready to crumble.
Rocky Mountain mayhem
Jake Roberts could’ve played better than Jake Plummer last week, and the calls for Jay Cutler have begun. But before all Denver fans get hysterical, they should give the Snake a shot in Week 2. With Jim Haslett as defensive coordinator, could the Rams be better than everybody thought? But if Plummer stinks it up again, owners of Rod Smith and Javon Walker will be quick to join the Cutler Caravan. Meanwhile, Mike Shanahan has decided to have the Bells split carries, with Tatum getting the starts and more of the yardage. Mike Bell has a broken finger, but it seems the dreaded Broncos RBBC will continue. Stay tuned.
How high will the Eagles offense fly?
McNabb, Westbrook and company made their owners very happy this week. They looked like the pre-T.O.-meltdown juggernaut of 2004. Donte Stallworth made owners who took a mid- to late-round flier on the former Saint very happy customers. The ball was also spread around to L.J. Smith and Reggie Brown (who got into the act with a TD catch). But this all came against the Houston Texans. How will they face against the stingier defenses of the NFC East? We’ll find out this week, as the Eagles face the Giants. This prognosticator sees Westbrook’s rushing yardage down against the Giants D, but lots of receiving yards for the rest. The Giants D can’t get off the field on third down, you see.
No “O” in Oakland
Oh my, did the Raiders look terrible Monday night. The offensive line took a beating that should be indicative of how it will perform for the rest of the year. And now Robert Gallery has a calf injury. That doesn’t help offset the presence of one Aaron Brooks, who was his usual putrid self. Randy Moss and Lamont Jordan owners are sweating bullets right now, wondering if this team will produce any offense whatsoever. In Moss’ defense, the Raiders traded Doug Gabriel to the Patriots and Jerry Porter is busy burning bridges, so he’s basically on his own out there. The other receiving options are Alvis Whitted (one catch last week) and Ronald Curry, who can produce but can’t stay on the field. Jordan will still be viable because of receiving yards, but he may not be the top 10 back envisioned during the preseason.
The Branch Effect
So the Deion Branch holdout ends with him out of New England and joining the slew of smaller receivers in Seattle. It probably will take the course of the season to see how this trade plays out for both teams. However, we don’t have time for that here in fantasyland. Does Branch’s arrival mean bigger things for Seattle’s offense? Or will the offensive line problems that led to a paltry 9 points against the Lions continue? Hasslebeck and Alexander owners should be optimistic for now, while those who have Darrell Jackson, Nate Burleson and Bobby Engram should be wary of Branch’s effect on their production. Remember, in addition to Branch, TE Jerramy Stevens will return next month to take even more opportunities from the Seattle receiving corps. As for New England, I think Tom Brady will spread the ball around to a lot of players—Reche Caldwell and Doug Gabriel at WR; Dillon, Faulk and Maroney at RB; and most importantly, Ben Watson at TE. Does Watson become Ben Coates version 2006? Keep an eye on him as a potential trade target.
Are these Week 1 winners really that good?
Rams, Cardinals, Ravens and Jets. All Week 1 winners, but what kind of season will they really have, especially offensively? I think you should go with the obvious, the first things that stand out. The Rams will be more of a running team with Steven Jackson, so you may see a slight slide with Bulger and Holt, but also more FGs from Wilkins. The Cardinals will be in a lot of high-scoring games, so put your trust in Warner, Boldin and Fitzgerald. The Ravens will run the ball, throw intermediate passes and play defense, stay with Jamal Lewis and Todd Heap. The Jets look to have a dink-and-dunk offense, centering on Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery. But can Chad Pennington keep it up his end of the bargain? Remember, they were playing the Titans.
It’s still early, but making ahead-of-the-curve trades or waiver pickups can stop a dismal season before it starts. If you have any comments or thoughts, send an e-mail to email@example.com or post a topic in the Article Discussions section of the Fantasy Sharks forum.
Fantasy Sharks Pick’em selections for this week: Lions, Ravens, Vikings, Saints, Bills, Falcons, Giants, Bengals, Colts, Rams, Seahawks, Pats, Broncos, Chargers, Redskins and Steelers.
Last week: 8-8