Last season, Philadelphia made a habit of giving away fourth-quarter leads — it happened three times in the first four weeks, then twice more by Week 10. The fourth-quarter collapse was basically the signature move of the 2011 Eagles.
In light of this fact, an argument can be made that Sunday's season-opening win at Cleveland is a positive indicator. Philly held a 10-6 lead at the end of the third quarter in a miserable game, then allowed 10 quick points to the Browns to open the fourth, setting the stage for yet another late, unforgivable loss. This time, however, the Eagles rallied to pull out a 17-16 victory, as Michael Vick connected with Clay Harbor on a 4-yard score with 1:18 on the clock.
Obviously in the NFL, there's really no such thing as a bad win, especially when it's a road win. Similarly, there's no such thing as a bad 20-point day in fantasy. Vick delivered 19.88 standard points in Week 1, thanks largely to a high-volume passing day (29 for 56, 317 yards, two TDs). Very few fantasy owners are going to complain about that number.
But unlike so many of the Vick performances we've seen in the past, there were no wow moments on Sunday, no style points. He didn't exactly deliver a clinic, even on the game-winning drive.
On the play that preceded the Harbor TD, Vick nearly tossed an interception in the end zone — he stared down a well-covered DeSean Jackson, then threw a pass that hit Cleveland's LJ Fort in the hands, but the linebacker dropped the ball. Had Fort hauled it in, the Browns would have likely had a win and Vick would have had his fifth pick.
This week, No. 7 put together a highlight reel full of things-not-to-do, complete with fall-away throws, too-late throws, across-the-body throws, and standard-issue misfires. He was pressured consistently, though he was only sacked twice. Vick played just a dozen snaps in the preseason, so perhaps we should have expected a certain level of ugliness. We have to also give credit to Cleveland's D, a group that ranked second against the pass last season (184.9 YPG). Joe Haden can play a little, as can D'Qwell Jackson.
I'm not suggesting that anyone should sell shares of Vick after one messy outing — and a win at that, with a decent fantasy total attached. But he was thisclose to a five-interception loss.
If you'll look ahead at Philly's schedule, you find the Ravens, Giants and Steelers in three of the next four weeks, and, well ... this could be a rough opening month. It would not be the worst idea to have a solid back-up QB on the roster. You just have to hope Vick can make it through this upcoming stretch undamaged.
• We covered Robert Griffin III's opening week binge earlier on Sunday, while it was in progress. It's tough to find enough superlatives to properly praise his dual-threat talent, and I'm not allowed to use the language necessary to properly discuss the Saints' defense. I'll simply give you RGIII's final line: 19 for 26, 320 yards, two TDs, 10 carries for 42 yards. That's a cool 12.3 yards per pass attempt, plus a solid rushing performance. (He took the first carry for the 'Skins, picking up 12 yards on an option keeper. Dude is live-wire quick). Pierre Garcon checked out with a foot issue following a long TD, but X-rays were negative and he reportedly wanted to return. There just isn't much bad news for Washington coming out of this game.
Rookie Alfred Morris isn't really a highlight runner — he gained only 3.4 yards per carry on Sunday — but he crossed the goal line twice, and never fumbled. (Ball security was a red flag on the scouting report). It's tough for any back to have a bad fantasy day when he receives 28 carries. This is still a Shanahan backfield, obviously, so you can't assume that Morris will be the man all year, every week. But we can't leave Morris unowned either; he's only rostered in 23 percent of Yahoo! leagues at the moment.
Here's some Morris audio via YSR's Peter Brown, for those who can't get enough 'Skins coverage.
• The first completion of Jake Locker's sophomore campaign in Tennessee went to rookie Kendall Wright, a 17-yarder over the middle that seemed like it was going to be the start of big things. But Wright only hauled in four more passes for 20 additional yards, and Locker finished with just 229 through the air (one TD, one INT). He also suffered a late left shoulder injury that knocked him from the game, while pursuing a tackle off a fumble recovery that should have been ruled an interception. (Hope that made sense. It was an odd play. In any case, the issue is with Locker's non-throwing shoulder, and it isn't likely to sideline him in Week 2). Notably, Locker led the Titans in rushing, with two carries for 11 yards. New England's defensive front made the 2012 version of Chris Johnson look suspiciously like last year's model, limiting him to 4 — yes 4 — yards on 11 carries. That won't pay the fantasy bills.
If you're worried about CJ ... well, yeah. You probably should be worried. But you can't sell anyone coming off a lousy effort like this.
Stevan Ridley had a big game for the Pats (125 yards, TD), breaking off six runs that went for at least 14 yards. New England wasn't really threatened in this one, as they led 21-3 at the break. Thus, I'm choosing not to fret about anyone's low catch totals. (Lookin' at you, Welker).
Highlights here. Matt Ryan was terrific, and he was well-protected. He's your overall scoring leader heading into the Sunday nighter. Ryan poached a rushing score, which won't happen too often, but you should get used to the passing totals (299 yards, three TDs).
• Just to throw a bone to our KC friends, here's this: Jamaal Charles looked great. In fact, he looked like Jamaal Charles, pre-injury. He gained 87 on 16 carries, receiving six more touches (and nine more carries) than Peyton Hillis.
• Blaine Gabbert misfired toward a WIDE open Justin Blackmon in the end zone in the first quarter at Minnesota, which would have made the rookie receiver's fantasy day look a whole lot better. But these things are going to happen with Gabbert at QB. It's a handicap for Blackmon, no doubt. Marcedes Lewis caught his first touchdown pass since the David Garrard era, so perhaps this year's promises of red zone usage were no joke.
The big news for Jacksonville in the team's narrow Week 1 loss was, of course, the Maurice Jones-Drew takeover. MJD took 19 carries for 77 yards and caught three passes for 18. Rashad Jennings left the game with an early knee injury (initial word from his head coach: "I don't think it's serious"), but he wasn't particularly impressive when he was at full strength. Jennings was denied at the goal line twice, after Gabbert missed Blackmon.
So, bottom line: It looks like MJD is back atop the hierarchy in Jacksonville. That did not take long.
• We know without a doubt that Adrian Peterson is now firmly atop the depth chart for Minnesota, following his unreasonably great performance in the opener, just eight months after ACL surgery. AP took the ball 17 times, averaged 4.9 yards per carry, and broke the plane twice. After the game, these were his comments: "''My legs are loose. Seriously, I'm feeling really good. I'm ready to carry the load." That is absolutely ridiculous. When last we saw him, his knee had been demolished. If you drafted AP in Round 2 or 3 or wherever he fell in your league, you're allowed to take a victory lap.
• In case you were wondering (not that you were), Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham are still unfair. Check out the 20-yard first-half hookup between that pair. How much better can that route be covered? Graham's ridiculous vertical and Brees' weapons-grade precision are a silly combination.
This is what Stephen Hill can do for you, Jets fans. I'm not sure how much else he can do consistently at this stage in his development — his preseason tape wasn't completely clean — but that kid can run deep, get open and make big plays. Hill later caught a 17-yard score from Mark Sanchez, finishing with a game-high five catches for 89 yards and two scores. The Jets eviscerated Buffalo on Sunday, which I certainly did not predict. Tim Tebow was an interesting sideshow, but all the stats belonged to Sanchez (19 for 27, 266, three TDs).
Ryan Fitzpatrick, in classic fashion, was a garbage-time all-star for the Bills. He threw three TD passes, but didn't get started until his team trailed 41-7. When the game was actually winnable, Fitzpatrick did all he could to win it ... for New York. He was picked off three times, and he tried to give an interception to David Harris, too. Entering Week 2, the biggest story for Buffalo will be the health of Fred Jackson, who sustained an early injury to his left knee. Details here. The early reports suggest an LCL sprain, but he's headed for a Monday MRI. CJ Spiller, you're up.
• You will never see a kicker as pleased with himself (and deservedly so), as Minnesota's Blair Walsh after his game-tying 55-yarder, with zeros on the clock in regulation. That kid had a good day, as he also booted the game-winner in OT.
• I largely avoided the Rams-Lions game on Sunday, which was maybe not a terrible decision, based on what I've seen of Matthew Stafford's three-pick game. But Brandon Gibson's 23-yard touchdown catch was awfully impressive, and merits a link. No one expects huge things from the Rams' passing game, but Gibson has a prominent role. He's on the radar for deep leaguers. On the Detroit side, Kevin Smith had the multi-score game you should have expected, given the opponent. He finished with 91 total yards and two TDs. Now go sell him, before he breaks.
Also notable: Stafford put the ball in the air 48 times, and Titus Young had just one catch. Nate Burleson finished with six.
• Arian Foster (knee) looked healthy enough against Miami, rushing for a pair of first-half TDs and finishing with 79 yards on 26 carries. Andre Johnson gave us a vintage performance, too, catching eight balls for 119 yards and a score. If Houston can keep their key assets upright and functional, that team has clear Super Bowl potential. And after agreeing to a four-year, $62 million extension with Matt Schaub, the Texans have a guy who's compensated like a franchise QB. So there's that. Lestar Jean had a quiet day in the box score, but it's worth noting that he had a long score and a beautiful catch denied by replay review.
Miami? Yeah, that wasn't great. Ryan Tannehill tossed three picks and put together just one scoring drive. The team gained 275 total yards, 115 of which belonged to Reggie Bush. The Dolphins' sad receiving corps won't do many favors for its rookie QB. Miami hosts Oakland next Sunday, getting the Raiders in a short week, so maybe the offense can find the end zone at home. Maybe.
• Jay Cutler threw two touchdown passes to his own receivers, one to the Colts (not good), and finished with 333 passing yards in a relatively low-stress win over Indianapolis. Chicago piled up 428 total yards against Indy's shaky D, with Matt Forte rushing for one score and Michael Bush for two. (That pair divided the rushing workload fairly evenly, we should note. Forte had 16 carries and three catches, while Bush took 12 hand-offs. The new guy is definitely going to cut into Forte's goal line work, no question). Cutler targeted Brandon Marshall early, often, and without regard to coverage, which led to a nine-catch, 119-yard day for No. 15. In the fourth quarter, rookie Alshon Jeffery got deep against Vontae Davis for a 42-yard TD (and Davis then compounded his humiliation with an end zone face-plant).
• Trent Richardson took the full workload for the Browns in Sunday's loss (19 carries), but he had nowhere to go (39 yards). If Brandon Weeden can't occasionally deliver a good impression of a league-average quarterback (he went 12 for 35 with four INTs against Philly), then there's more trouble ahead for Richardson.
And while I'm thinking of the Eagles-Browns game: Yes, Dick Stockton still has trouble matching names to numbers. That situation didn't get better in the offseason.
• As most of you know, Tampa Bay's defense was bad at everything last year. It allowed the most points (30.9 PPG), it gave up the most rushing yards (156.1), and it yielded the third-most passing TDs (30). It was bad at all levels ... but not on Sunday. The Bucs completely stonewalled a Carolina ground game that ranked first in the league in yards-per-carry last season (5.4). Tampa limited Cam Newton to just 4 yards on five carries, and they somehow held DeAngelo Williams to -1 on six carries.
I would have borrowed big money to bet against Williams putting up a negative number against the Bucs. Tip of the cap, Greg Shiano. Bigger tip of the cap, Gerald McCoy.
Cam wasn't a complete fantasy disaster, passing for 303 yards and hitting Brandon LaFell for a TD. Steve Smith got his, too, finishing with 106 yards on seven catches. Bucs safety Ahmad Black obliterated Smith on a sideline hit, but the vet walked away uninjured. Tampa's offense didn't fill the stat sheet — 258 total yards, 128 passing — but Mike Williams caught an early TD and Doug Martin rushing for 95 yards. Combine a solid defensive effort with just enough offense and three Connor Barth field goals, and there's your winning recipe.
• The Arizona-Seattle tilt wasn't the day's best watch, as the two teams combined for just 507 total yards and 36 points. The quarterbacks weren't great, the running games weren't great, the refs weren't great. Part of me thinks maybe Russell Wilson is still out there, firing incompletions into the end zone. The good news for Seahawks fans is that Marshawn Lynch carried 21 times and his back didn't explode, plus Sidney Rice caught a TD pass.
Arizona lost starting QB John Skelton to an ugly ankle injury, so, naturally, Kevin Kolb engineered a go-ahead fourth-quarter drive. Of course he did. What else would you expect? Kolb finished 6 for 8 with one TD; he'll take over for however long Skelton is sidelined, beginning next week at New England. The Cards' rushing attack was brutal on Sunday — Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams combined for 23 yards on 15 carries — but Seattle's D had something to do with that.
• Under normal circumstances, I'd say that Adrian Wilson's decision to hand the ball to Patrick Peterson following that end-of-half interception was reckless, half-crazy, and not worth the risk. But Peterson is not a normal ball-carrier, and he almost broke a big return. Of course he also almost ran into his own end zone, which seemed like a bad idea.
• San Francisco's win at Green Bay gave us a bunch of interesting fantasy storylines — Randall Cobb caught nine balls, Randy Moss hauled in a score, Cedric Benson was a dud (18 yards) — but the thing that struck me most was Frank Gore's bounce. That guy looked great, shaming would-be tacklers en route to a 112-yard day. When Gore bulled his way into the end zone for a 23-yard fourth quarter score, it occurred to me that I own shares of every Niners back, except the good one. [Expletive].
• We should also acknowledge the efforts of David Akers, who hit a 63-yarder at the end of the first half in Green Bay, and without an inch to spare. Akers' kick hit the crossbar and just bounced over (unlike Vernon Davis' post-TD spike, which was perhaps the worst in league history. Never go for the dunk unless you know, Vernon).
EARLY ADDS FOR WEEK 2
QB Alex Smith, San Francisco - vs. DET (45 percent owned)
QB Christian Ponder, Minnesota - at IND (12 percent)
QB Carson Palmer, Oakland - at MIA (51 percent)
QB Kevin Kolb, Arizona - at NE (2 percent. Yup, you'd have to be a desperate deep leaguer)
RB CJ Spiller, Buffalo - vs. KC (69 percent)
RB Michael Bush, Chicago - at GB (71 percent)
RB Mikel LeShore, Detroit (34 percent. Suspended, but we'll see him soon enough)
RB Alfred Morris, Washington - at STL (25 percent)
WR Randall Cobb, Green Bay - vs. CHI (45 percent)
WR Kevin Ogletree, Dallas - at SEA (41 percent)
WR Alshon Jeffery, Chicago - at GB (33 percent)
WR Brandon LaFell, Carolina - vs. NO (23 percent)
WR Nate Burleson, Detroit - at SF (28 percent)
WR Stephen Hill, Jets - at PIT (13 percent)
WR Aldrick Robinson, Washington - at STL (1 percent)
TE Coby Fleener, Indianapolis - vs. MIN (49 percent)
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