Monday Morning Takeaway; Week 1

Monday Morning Takeaway; Week 1

By, Eric Hartvigson

 

Dallas 24, New York Giants 17

Cowboys

The big surprise in the opening of the Thursday night game was the insertion of Jason Witten into the starting coming off a spleen injury. Although a poor fantasy outing, Witten is a warrior on par with Big Ben and Steve Smith. He should be back to full recovery next week after ten days to recover.

The even bigger surprise was the coming out party for Kevin Ogletree. The fourth year wide receiver led the Cowboys with 114 yards and 2 touchdowns, nearly scoring a third. With Laurent Robinson now departed, and Miles Austin and Jason Witten slow to recover, Ogletree has fascinating value and will be added in almost every league (don’t forget to drink your Ogletree).

I was more than impressed with the play from the Cowboys defensive unit. We typically find a defense with so much turnover takes time to synch, but the additions in the secondary came up big holding Nicks and Cruz to a total of 96 yards. All around solid performance.

Giants

With 11 targets this game quickly reminded us Victor Cruz will be a target monster. But three drops?

Ahmad Bradshaw was unable to punch in a short yardage touchdown early in the second quarter, but did score from 10 yards out later in the game. Bradshaw’s talent continues to negate a sub-par Giants offensive line. Also aiding Bradshaw was rookie David Wilson putting the ball on the carpet, only to find himself benched for the remainder of the game.

After garnering 6 targets totaling 40 yards along with a red zone touchdown, Martellus Bennett may have moved off the “watch list to the “worth a flier list”.  Eli Manning has a history of making ordinary tight ends such as Jeremy Shockey, Kevin Boss and Jake Ballard fantasy worthy. Bennett is an above ordinary talent.

The Giants pass defense is in serious trouble with the loss Terrell Thomas and Prince Amukamara. Replacement Michael Coe struggled before suffering a hamstring injury of his own and leaving the game.  All three Cowboys wide receivers had a solid outing torching the Giants secondary. The moral of the story is; start your wide receivers against the Giants defense until further notice.

 

Indianapolis 21, Chicago 41

Colts

The Colts offense struggled in this game unable to sustain drives against a good Bears defense. Despite passing for over 300 yards, Andrew Luck tossed three interceptions forcing the ball downfield in what could explained as “growing pains”.  I’m still impressed with the rookies play keeping his eyes down the field amidst the constant pressure from the pass rush. Luck should be viewed as a high end QB2 with solid spot start potential in the future.

Reggie Wayne put his pro-bowl hands on display snagging 9 receptions for a total of 135 yards.  Wayne is clearly Luck’s go-to-guy making for an excellent weekly fantasy starter.

Much to my surprise, Donald Brown looked awesome averaging just over 5 yards, but limited to only 9 carries as the Colts fell behind early.  Brown has become the lead pony in what was projected to be an RBBC. He possess mid / lower RB2 value.

Despite his preseason absence, rookie tight end Coby Fleener was heavily involved in the Colts passing games as seen by his 6 receptions for 82 yards. A mid / high TE2 and climbing.

Bears

The Cutler to Marshall connection was slow to develop but soon caught fire as Brandon Marshall totaled 119 yards and 1 touchdown.  This was actually poor production considering Jay Cutler threw Marshall’s direction 15 times including multiple red zone targets.  We can safely say the relationship has been rekindled.

As expected Michael Bush vultured goal line carries from Matt Forte stealing two touchdowns from one yard out. Forte still managed 18 fantasy points, but his ceiling will be limited by the continued RBBC in Chicago.

Rookie wide receiver Alshon Jefferey continues to split time with Devin Hester, but is a far more dynamic playmaker as seen by this 42 yard touchdown reception.  Although still a WR4, Jefferey is on the brink of emerging, also increasing the fantasy value of Jay Cutlers.

 

Philadelphia 17, Cleveland 13

Eagles

The Eagles offense struggled mightily throughout this contest almost dropping a game to the hapless Browns. The problem was 4 interceptions thrown from Michael Vick, but I place much of the blame on the play calling from head coach Andy Reid. With LeSean McCoy averaging 5.5 yards per carry, I wonder if Reid’s “pass first ego” is the limiting factor holding back the Eagles efficiency. McCoy is a potent weapon and looks like he could break it to the house every time he touches the football.

Despite the 4 interceptions, Vick managed to salvage an OK fantasy performance with a late game scoring drive capped of by a Clay Harbor touchdown.

Jeremy Maclin had himself an excellent day hooing up with the Vick for a long reception followed immediately by a 18 strike for a touchdown. The lone knock on Jeremy is the lack of size as he was seen grimacing on numerous plays after falling hard to the turf. However, he kept getting back on his feet, dusting himself off and coming back for more. The young man is fantasy stud so long as he can stay upright.

Browns

If this game is any indicator, it’s going to be a long season for all Browns players. Brandon Weeden had a tough introduction as a starting NFL quarterback equaling Vicks 4 interceptions. Weeden made matters worse after missing a number of wide open receivers including endzone looks that would have won this game for the Cleveland faithful.

Mohamed Massaquoi was the preferred wide receiver targeted 8 times by his quarterback. I would imagine this will be a fluid situation making it hard to recommend any Browns wide receiver until Weeden’s play improves.

The struggles of the Browns offense also carried over to the running game as Trent Richardson averaged a paltry 2.1 yards per carry.  The good news is Richardson played the whole game and the Cleveland coaching staff never wavered from the rushing attack.

 

St. Louis 23, Detroit 27

Rams

Hard to find any silver lining in this game for the Rams offense. Steven Jackson struggled churning out 53 yards on 21 carries. Sam Bradford couldn’t top 200 yards passing as Danny Amendola led all receivers with 70 yards. The Rams lost their best offensive linemen, Roger Saffold, to a neck injury that required he be carted off the field and likely to miss games. Other than the pick six of Mathew Stafford on defense, this Rams team has a long way to go and could challenge Miami for the #1 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Lions

I’m chalking this game up to an off day for the Lions as Stafford managed to through three interceptions and only one touchdown (I didn’t know that was possible).  He did find Calvin Johnson 6 times totaling 111 yards.

I’ve said it all along, Kevin Smith is a beast. He was the pivotal cog in this game for the Lions scoring two touchdowns in the late fourth quarter to salvage a win against a very beatable opponent.  Like so many fantasy running backs (DMC, Murray, Mathews) Smith’s value is completely predicated upon his durability. If he stays healthy, he’s a beast. If he doesn’t, he could wreck your day. Start him with confidence until that day arrives.

 

Miami 10, Houston 30

Dolphins

While watching this game I said aloud; “what can I possibly write about the Dolphins?” My buddy quickly replied; “they need to fire their GM”.

Reggie Bush remains a pleasant surprise running hard between the tackles picking up 4.9 yards per carry against a swarming Texans rush defense. He will be a solid start against easier matchups.

The lone highlight for Miami was a kick return for a touchdown in the early third quarter. That should surmise how bad the Dophins played.

Texans

Many expected the Texans to blow the doors off the Fins. Except for a two minute stretch right before halftime, that was not the case. Thankfully during that two minutes Foster managed to punch in two touchdowns while Andre Johnson added a third. The only scoring after that came from kicker Shayne Graham. However, both Foster and Johnson ended the day with acceptable yardage totals.

Owen Daniels had a very quite 4 catches for 87 yards. Playing inside the classic West Coast Offense, Daniels is worth a roster spot in most every league, but only as a very low end TE1.

 

Atlanta 40, Kansas City 24

Flacons ,

The Falcons delivered on their offseason promise of throwing the football as Matt Ryan racked up 299 yards and three passing touchdowns, also tacking on a rushing TD. They also delivered on their promise of making Julio Jones the feature target with 108 yards and 2 touchdowns. Don’t fret Roddy White owners, when Ryan struggles its right back to old faithful opening up the defense for other options. We should also note the Flacons continued throwing even when crushing the Chiefs.

Turner is damn near useless in this offensive system, only made worse by a terrible run blocking offensive line. Gaining a measly 32 yards on 11 carries, it looks as though his run as an elite fantasy option is quickly coming to an end. He will have some good games, but mixed in with stink bombs like today.

Chiefs

As we know the Chiefs want to be a running team that sprinkles in the pass. They were effective early with an even mix of Peyton Hillis and Jamal Charles. The smaller Charles is much more electric player able to get into the next level in a hurry while breaking longer runs. I anticipate Hillis to have increased value when the Chiefs play less explosive teams.

Matt Cassell proved once again that he is not a viable fantasy option. In game that should have been a shootout, the Chiefs quarterback managed only 258 yards and one passing touchdown, although he did add a rushing touchdown of his own.

 

Jacksonville 23, Minnesota 26

Jaguars

Many fantasy owners were scared off from starting MJD this week after the coaching staff inferred that “he won’t top 10 carries”. This game was proof once again that coaches lie as MJD picked up 95 yards on 22 touches.  Rashad Jennings can safely be sent back to handcuff status.

Jags quarterback Blaine Gabbert’s unexpected play carried over from the preseason compiling 260 yards and 2 touchdowns. Gabbert did an excellent job spreading the ball around to multiple options finding Cecil Shorts and Mercedes Lewis on each of the touchdown passes. Although good for Jag fans, utilizing multiple threat is a bad sign for those of us who banked on the fantasy value of Justin Blackmon.  Although one game is never the measuring stick, should this trend continue next week Blackmon would fall to a low end WR4.

Vikings

Christian Ponder struggled in the first half but came alive in the second making a point to get the ball to both Percy Harvin and the big bodied tight end Kyle Rudolph. Ponder has very minimal fantasy value but lends credence to the Vikings pass catchers.

Adrian Peterson should be considered a miracle of modern science after returning from late season knee surgery to classic AP form. Peterson was decisive between the tackles while running with fierce power totaling 84 yards on 17 carries including 2 touchdowns. Peterson is yet another case of the coaches lying as we heard all week tht he would see limited production, at best. Don’t feel bad if you sat this guy, feel good that your beast mode RB1 is back.

 

Washington 40, New Orleans 32

Redskins

How about the NFL debut for Robert Griffin III? He quickly found his favorite player Pierre Garcon for a long scoring play on a catch-and-run across the middle. Garcon was injured on the play and would not return. We’re already hearing that x-rays came back negative.

Those who gambled on Alfred Morris in the later rounds of the draft were rewarded with 96 yards and two touchdowns. The problem we find is Shanahan is likely to start Evan Royster next week just to mess with fantasy owners. All kidding aside, temper your Morris expectation, but continue to start the Skins new feature back until the Shanahan’s indicate differently.

Saints

What happened to the Saints offense? Through a majority of the game Jimmy Graham was the only semblance of production.  Fortunately for fantasy owners they play 60 minutes as Brees hooked up with Lance Moore and Darren Sproles for late fourth quarter touchdowns. After compiling 120 yards on six receptions, Moore looks to have moved up a notch.  He should now be considered a mid / upper WR3 with near must start potential.

We should give credit where credit is due and recognize the Redskins game plan. They did an excellent job of playing keep-away with their offense grinding out the clock letting Drew Brees watch the game from the sidelines. The defense also played well locking down many of the Saints weapons until late in the game.

 

Buffalo 28, New York Jets 48

Bills

Ryan Fitzpatrick struggles look to have carried over from the preseason throwing three terrible interceptions, the third of which resulted in a Antonio Cromartie touchdown. It wasn’t until the Jets built a big lead, and almost quit on defense that the Bills finally generated some offensive production.

Steve Johnson is best player on this team having a solid performance catching a late touchdown.  Johnson will be a solid start as a low end WR2 from here on out.

Fred Jackson took a ugly shot to the side of his knee in the mid 2nd quarter. He was seen limping on the sidelines, but walking on his own power.  Spiller immediately came in the game and ripped a 56 yard touchdown straight through the Jets rush defense breaking tackles showing off that 4.3 speed. Spiller may not get tough yards between the tackles, but his explosion is dangerous and without F-Jax in the lineup could be eleveated towards becoming a mid RB2.

Scott Chandler was heavily targeted late in the game when the Bills needed to move the football catching a 5 yard touchdown. He remains a player of intrigue.

Jets

The Jets passing game came alive just as Mark Sanchez promised finding Jeremy Kerley and Steven Hill totaling three touchdowns. Sanchez was aided by poor play from the Bills offense unable to sustain drives and missed coverage on defense. The Jets even started toying with the Bills running a flea flickers for 30 yard gain. Looks like the the “Tebow” chants will have to wait another week.

Santonio Holmes remains the wide receiver to own after leading the team with eight targets. However, in this funky Tony Sparano wildcat offense, Holmes remains a low end WR3.

How about Tim Tebow lining up at Tight End for the first play of the game. We did see 5 “wildcat” plays with very little success.

Shonn Greene continues his plodding ways fumbling a goal line run, but atoned for his mistake punching in the next attempt. So long as the Jets coaching staff is giving Greene 20+ carries he will remain a mid / upper RB2.

 

New England 34, Tennessee 13

Patriots

The Patriots are who we thought they are, except they now have a running game.  We all know about the tight ends, and yes they added Brandon Lloyd. However it was Steven Ridley who was the real surprise stealing the show tearing through the Titans rush defense for a total of 125 yards on 21 carries. So much for the old Belichick RBBC (tricked me).

Titans

Jake Locker looked good early in this game, but started making mistakes including a lost fumble returned by New England linebacker Dont’a Hightower for a touchdown. Locker would later leave the game with an apparent separated shoulder while tackling Patrick Chung after an incomplete pass (ouch). We’ll learn more as the week moves along.

In classic Bill Bellichick fashion the Patriots defense focused on taking away Chris Johnson, the opposing team’s most threatening weapon. 2000 yards seems a long ways away.

 

Seattle 16, Arizona 20

Seahawks

After much anticipation Marshawn Lynch did indeed start in the Seattle backfield. He was seen running with prototypical power and shiftiness, but the zone blocking was unable to open up any lanes forcing Lynch to grind out 85 yards on 21 carries. Fantasy owners are just thankful to have their RB1 back on the field and hoping the back spasms are now a thing of the past.

Rookie Russell Wilson started under center for the Hawks. The high flying rookie was quickly brought back to earth by the Arizona starting defense. The hopes of Wilson becoming a viable fantasy commodity should be put on hold.  Wilson’s growing pains will also kill the Seattle pass catchers. Although Sydney Rice is worth owning, he should be viewed as low end WR4, bordering on a WR5.

Cardinals

As promised John Skelton started under center for the Cards.  Skelton played above average in the first half considering it was against a solid Seattle pass defense that includs 3 pro-bowlers from a year ago. However, Skelton would suffer an ankle injury in the mid fourth quarter giving way to Kevin Kolb. Entering the game, and down by a field goal, Kolb led his team to a go ahead touchdown connecting with Andre Roberts that sealed the victory for Cardinals. Can you say QB controversy?

Ryan Williams started in the Zona backfield but finding tough running lanes amidst a swarming Seattle defense. Beanie Wells later entered, but also found limited success including a failed attempt at a goal line carry. Instead it was LeRod Stevens Howling taking a one yard plunge into the endzone on a third down play. Arizona should be considered a strong RBBC until something changes.

 

San Francisco 22, Green Bay 30

49ers

The 49ers reaffirmed they are a running team as Kendall Hunter and Frank Gore shared the load. On this night it was the wily veteran Gore putting on a show in Lambeau Field amassing 112 yards on 16 carries including a 23 yard scamper for a touchdown.

San Fran also found success through the air as Alex Smith connected with multiple receivers highlighted by a touchdown to newcomer Randy Moss. Moss was seen rotating in and out of the game and should be considered a low end WR4 until further evidence suggests otherwise.

In fact, Smith’s favorite player on the day was Michael Crabtree going his direction nine times, connecting on seven for a total of 76 yards.  If targets are the indicator, and I believe they are, Crabtree is the player to own in the SF receiving core.

How about David Akers tying the record for the longest field goal in NFL history after boinking it off the cross bar.  Hard to imagine the Eagles cut this guy because he “didn’t have enough leg strength”. Congratulations to David Akers.

 

Packers

We should preface by stating the 49ers defense is arguably the best in the NFL. They challenged Aaron Rodgers all game long taking away the rushing attack, and the deep pass. The 9ers offense also did a good job playing keep away with long sustained drives on dictated by good play calling.

With that said, the preseason woes of the Green Bay passing game carried over to week one of the regular season.  Climbing within 8 points after a sketchy punt return for a touchdown, Rodgers came right back with a terrible interception leading to a Frank Gore 23 yard touchdown on the next play. If history is any indicator, I loathe the fantasy owner who faces a pissed off Aaron Rodgers next week.

There is an old saying that goes; “a quarterback’s favorite receiver is the guy who’s open”. Late in this game that man was James Jones leading all Packers wide receivers with 81 yards on four receptions including a touchdown with six minutes left in the game. Hard to envision Jones surpassing Jennings, Finley and Nelson making him a tough weekly starter.

Cedric Benson was held to 18 yards on nine carries. He should fair better when facing softer defensive matchups.

 

Carolina 10, Tampa Bay 16

Panthers

Steve Smith is a manimal (half man, half animal).  Ok, so we’re all technically animals but this guy is a different breed with amazing body control and run after the catch.

Otherwise the Bucs defense came with an excellent game plan stifling the Panthers offensive production. Tampa Bay flustered Cam Newton all game long applying constant pressure while containing him in the pocket and limiting his rushing production to 5 yards.  The Bucs also stymied running back DeAngelo Williams who managed to gain -1 yard on 6 carries. Technically the inactive Jonathan Stewart outperformed D-Will on this day.

Buccaneers

The Chiefs, 49ers and0 Bucs are amongst a handful of NFL teams focused on ball control utilizing the running game to manage their opponent. This contest was dominated by Doug Martin who was given the rock 24 times amassing 94 yards. After the offseason speculation of a timeshare between he and Blount, it has become clear this backfield belongs to Martin showing impressive agility, speed and the toughness to run between the tackles and pick up tough yardage. Start him with confidence.

As proven in the preseason, Mike Williams is Josh Freeman’s preferred target in the red zone catching a six yard touchdown to open the Bucs scoring. It would be the only trip into the endzone for the Bucs who handed the ball to Doug Martin and their defense, putting this game in cruise control and coasting to a victory.

 

Pittsburgh 19, Denver 31

Steelers

The Steelers management made a public statement over that offseason that they would prefer to become a more balanced offense predicated upon the ground game.  This matchup was proof as 5 running backs touched the ball starting with Isaac Redman garnering 11 carries. However it was Jonathan Dwyer finding the greatest success averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Although Dwyer appears to be the back to own, with the obvious time share it’s hard to recommend starting any Steelers running back.

The ongoing commitment to the run, along with losing two starters along the offensive line, severely hinders the production of Ben Roethlisberger.  When he wasn’t handing the ball to a running back, Ben was under constant duress as Broncos pass rushers set up camp in the Pittsburgh backfield.

Heath Miller was on the receiving end of three red zone targets, finally hauling in one just before the halftime. Miller totaled 50 yard and 1 touchdown, but should remain a high end TE2.

On a side note; in the opening drive of the third quarter the Steelers methodically moved the ball chewing up 7 minutes of clock before kicking a field goal.  The Broncos quickly returned to action with a touchdown strike consuming 36 seconds. I know the Steelers want to be a “running football team”, but these throwback Steelers can’t win in today’s NFL. They would be much better off putting the game into the hands of their franchise quarterback. I’m just saying.

Broncos

Peyton Manning was efficient in this game leading the Colts, I mean Broncos on a number of good drives against a strong Pittsburgh defense.  We’ve still yet to see Manning uncork a ball deep down the field. However, the new Manning 2.0 seems to have found a niche with short passes methodically chewing up the defense. He remains a must start QB1.

The other notable performance from the Broncos was the defense constantly swarming Big Ben while limiting the potent threat from the Pittsburgh receivers and ground game. Undrafted in all of my leagues, the Broncos are worth consideration if you waited till late in the draft thinking a team like this would emerge.

 

 

Theme of the day; “coaches f-ing lie”.  We heard all week about a number of starting running backs sitting this game out including; Foster, Lynch, MJD, Peterson and Richardson. All of these guys played, and except for Richardson, played very well (some better than others).  This should be a stark reminder to never trust coaches.  If our studs start the game, they should also start on our fantasy team.  Enjoy the week

About Eric Hartvigson