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In New England — and in the NFL generally — you can get away with doing lots of questionable and/or socially irresponsible things before they kick you to the curb. BUT YOU CANNOT BE A FUMBLER, Stevan Ridley. No, you cannot.
Fumble once, it's a reprimand from Bill Belichick. Do it twice, they put you on the next bus to wherever the hell they sent Laurence Maroney.
Ridley, right now, seems to be treading very close to the Maroney line. He was off to a respectable start on Sunday at Buffalo, gaining 46 yards on his first nine carries. But then he put the ball on the ground with disastrous results in the second quarter, untouched by any defender. And that was the last we saw of him.
Shane Vereen ran extremely well against the Bills' user-friendly defense, finishing with 101 rushing yards on just 14 carries, adding seven catches for 58. LeGarrette Blount took seven hand-offs, but did very little with 'em (15 yards).
Unfortunately, Vereen reportedly broke a small bone in his wrist on Sunday, according to Jay Glazer of Fox Sports. Vereen will require surgery, so he'll be sidelined multiple weeks. Terrible news for him and his fantasy investors, obviously. But if you're a Ridley owner, this is an unexpected reprieve.
"I thought Shane stepped up and did a good job for us," said Belichick in postgame comments, following a surprisingly narrow win. "We counted on him a lot and he came through for us. He got us down in field goal range in the end, kept the ball in bounds, forced [Buffalo] to use another time out. It was a good play, a smart play."
And Ridley's benching?
"That's the NFL. You've got to take care of the ball better."
Ridley has been placed on notice before, so Sunday's banishment wasn't his first strike. With Vereen dinged, he now needs to reassert himself atop this backfield hierarchy. Brandon Bolden is probably worth a waiver flier in deeper formats; he had a few nice moments last year, before injury and suspension derailed his season. The versatile Julian Edelman seems like the player most likely to pick up targets (and perhaps carries) that would have gone to Vereen.
Honestly, New England's biggest issues in the opener didn't involve Ridley or Vereen or any other back. Rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld was barely a rumor, failing to crack the box score (but unofficially credited with an assist on Tom Brady's INT). I'd drop Sudfeld just for the pure pleasure of doing it. Kenbrell Thompkins looked like the undrafted rookie that he is, catching just four passes on 14 targets, gaining 42 yards. I suppose you can make the case that 14 looks in the Pats offense is a promising beginning, no matter the results. But Thompkins didn't look like a guy who deserves to see double-digit targets again.
Danny Amendola battled through a groin injury to post a classic Welkerian stat line (10-104-0) and Edelman made some noise as well (7-79-2), forcing his way into your mid-week FAAB bidding. But my guess is that this team's offense will have a flavor-of-the-week feel going forward. It badly needs another dimension.
• Terrelle Pryor basically looked like the Ohio State version of himself in Oakland's opener, piling up numbers like it was a Saturday afternoon in Bloomington, not a Sunday in Indianapolis. As of this writing, Pryor actually leads the NFL in rushing. He delivered an impressive 329 combined yards against the Colts — 112 on the ground, 217 through the air. For fantasy purposes, numbers like those will pay the bills.
No, the Raiders didn't win, but they were much more competitive than most of us imagined they'd be. And they were certainly more competitive than a Matt Flynn-led team would have been. Of course it helped that Pryor was facing a lower-tier defense, but he'll see another one of those next week, when Oakland hosts Jacksonville. Suddenly, Pryor isn't merely some flier from the Brad Evans/Team Huevos™ fringe. We need to consider Terrelle a legit asset, at least when the matchup is right. He'll put up some ugly turnover numbers on occasion — he threw two picks on Sunday, in fact. But we can't dismiss any dual-threat quarterback with wheels like Pryor's.
Rod Streater led the Raiders in targets (8), catches (5) and receiving yards (70), we should note, backing up the preseason reports about his connection with Pryor. In a deeper fantasy league, he's certainly on the map.
One final Raiders thought: Oakland gave a pair of goal-to-go carries to Rashad Jennings in the second quarter, setting up Darren McFadden's 1-yard score. The series obviously ended well for DMC owners, but no one wanted to see Jennings on the field, inside the 5. McFadden had a good-not-great day, gaining 66 total yards, rushing for only 2.8 per carry. He had a TD reception wiped out by replay review (a definite no-catch),
• I'm basically on board with the whole running-backs-are-fungible thing, but it all breaks down when you get to this dude. Adrian Peterson should have been flagged for face-planting a defenseless defender right there. Welcome to the league, Darius Slay. You'll only see AP twice each year; not every week is so rough. Peterson finished his day with three scores and 111 scrimmage yards (and four catches, too). Still, somewhere I'm sure there's an AP owner who feels like it wasn't enough.
In real-life, Peterson's three-TD effort actually wasn't enough to overcome an embarrassing performance by Minnesota's defense. The Lions somehow managed to gain 474 total yards on a day when Calvin Johnson accounted for just 37. New addition Reggie Bush was a monster, rushing 21 times for 90 yards, catching four balls for 101 yards and a score. Joique Bell poached a pair of short-yardage TDs, but Reggie's owners really have nothin' to complain about.
Also worth mentioning: Christian Ponder did lots of the usual Ponder-ish things, finishing with four turnovers and absorbing three sacks. He threw for 236 yards, 140 of which belonged to Jerome Simpson. If I were a Greg Jennings owner (and I'm not, anywhere), I might sell low.
• In an act of criminal negligence, the Browns gave Trent Richardson just 15 touches on Sunday, even though the game was never out of reach. I'm not actually much of a Richardson zealot, but it's tough to imagine why that team wouldn't find a way to give him 20-25 chances.
Cleveland tight end Jordan Cameron had a mostly excellent day, hauling in nine of his 13 targets for 108 yards and one score, beating double-coverage on the TD. He also had a pass skip off his hand, leading to one of Brandon Weeden's three picks (not a good throw, but Cameron didn't adjust). Even when Josh Gordon is back in the mix, you have to imagine Cameron will see plenty of targets — maybe not perfect targets, delivered with precision. But he'll have opportunities under Rob Chudzinski and Norv Turner, longtime friends to tight ends.
• Lamar Miller had a nightmarish day against a Browns defensive front that wasn't even playing at full strength (no Ahtyba Rubin). Miller rushed for only three yards — THREE — on 10 carries. And Daniel Thomas vultured a late 1-yard score. The nicest thing we can say about Miller's day is that at least he wasn't fuming after his team's win, like Mike Wallace...
Wallace was asked about the lack of targets in the first half. "Ask coach," he said. "It's not my game plan."
Brian Hartline, not Wallace, had the big day against Cleveland, catching nine balls for 114 yards and a touchdown. He out-targeted Wallace 15 to five. If you have a problem with that, ask coach.
• The Steelers were brutal in their opener, in all the ways you feared they could be. Ben Roethlisberger was sacked five times, and Pittsburgh's longest run went for just eight yards. The team put just nine points on the board, two of which came via safety. They also lost Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, linebacker Larry Foote and running back LaRod Stephens-Howling to season-ending injuries. If you can offer a ray of hope to Steelers fans, please do so in comments. I got nothin'.
• Welp, David Wilson gave us another opening week gem, complete with multiple fumbles and near-tragic mistakes in pass-protection. Of course he did. The best thing we can say about Wilson's night is that his replacement, Da'Rel Scott, did not exactly cover himself in glory, either. Scott allowed a short pass to doink off his hand on a potential go-ahead drive, and the ball was returned by Brandon Carr for a Dallas score. The Giants are going to have to kick the tires on various vets this week. Or simply sign one of 'em, unseen.
Here's Tom Coughlin, when asked if Wilson would start in Week 2 vs. Denver:
"I’m not going to answer that question now. Give us a little time to work on this thing. He’s still very much in our thoughts. He’s got to play. He’s a very talented young man as I said. But you just can’t do that. Every time they touch you, you’re going to turn the ball over? The plays looked like they were over to me."
Not quite a full endorsement right there. Which, of course, is completely understandable.
• AJ Green was an unyielding beast at Chicago on Sunday (162 yards, 2 TDs), again propping up Andy Dalton. Rookie Tyler Eifert had a respectable game for the Bengals as well, catching five balls on as many targets, generally serving as a decent secondary option. If it weren't for the fact that every tight end blew up in Week 1, Eifert would really be an interesting waiver claim.
Jay Cutler maintained radar-lock on Brandon Marshall in the Bears' comeback win, targeting his bestie 10 times, completing eight. Marshall finished with 104 yards and a go-ahead fourth quarter score. But give Cutler credit for recognizing a few other eligible receivers, as Martellus Bennett caught an early TD pass, and Alshon Jeffery snagged five balls on eight targets.
• Andrew Luck completed 18 of 23 attempts on Sunday against the Raiders, passing for two scores and rushing for another. He's not quite a dual-threat at the level of other young, mobile QBs, but the guy has demonstrated a nose for the end zone. Last year's rushing scores weren't flukes. If Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw continue to split the backfield work as they did in the opener (13 carries to 7) then I'd give Luck a decent shot to repeat as his team's leader in rushing TDs.
• We definitely saw some low-quality games in Week 1, but Green Bay-San Francisco wasn't one of 'em. That was excellent. I'm not gonna complain that those teams had the late-game spotlight. Colin Kaepernick was brilliant again against the Packers, passing for 412 yards and three scores, gaining 22 yards on the ground. So much for all that fretting about the loss of Michael Crabtree. Kaepernick is a bad, bad dude. Huge arm, great escapability, and he's in absolute control of the field. Anquan Boldin turned back the clock to 2005, hauling in 13 balls on 17 targets for 208 yards (plus he blocked a couple of Packers into oblivion); Vernon Davis fell into playoff mode, catching six passes for 98 yards and two scores.
Aaron Rodgers was terrific for the Pack, per his usual (333 yards, 3 TDs), and Jordy Nelson was as good as ever, if not better. This full-extension reception was just silly. James Jones was curiously quiet, but there's no obvious issue there. Eddie Lacy bounced back from an early fumble (and short-term benching), eventually breaking the plane on a 2-yard fourth quarter score. All things considered, a satisfying game. More like that, please, NFL.
• The Chiefs smoked the Jaguars on Sunday, winning a 28-2 laugher. You should probably be worried about any/all of your Jacksonville assets. Let's hope you didn't acquire many. Or any. Cecil Shorts saw a million targets, yet only caught three; Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for just 45 yards. Blaine Gabbert was his typical combination of bad and slightly injured.
Jamaal Charles suffered a dented quad in KC's win, but the injury doesn't sound at all serious. When he checked out on Sunday, his team was at no risk of losing and he'd already gained 100 yards from scrimmage. He also scored on a short-range carry, which many of you seem to think he can't (or won't) do with much frequency.
• I'll assume none of you were surprised to see Larry Fitzgerald deliver a huge fantasy line (8-80-2), given the upgrade he received at quarterback. The bigger story for Arizona's offense was the fact that multiple receivers proved useful. Andre Roberts caught eight of his nine targets, finishing with a team-high 97 yards. Michael Floyd delivered 82 receiving yards, and a catch of the day candidate (ridiculous one-hander, worth a look). Of course the Cards still lost their opener, but that's only a minor footnote for the fantasy community.
As for St. Louis, well...the Rams offense was basically the Jared Cook show, with a few minor distractions. Cook filled the stat sheet with seven catches for 141 yards and two scores (and nearly a third). He was fantastic, worthy of his five years of relentless hype. Tavon Austin was targeted seven times, catching six balls for 41 yards. Daryl Richardson dominated the backfield work (unspectacularly), carrying 20 times for 63 yards, catching five passes for 33.
• EJ Manuel was something less than a mad bomber in his regular season debut, failing to connect on any pass that covered 20 yards or more. But the kid completed 18 of 27 throws, he protected the football (0 INTs), he passed for two scores and ran for 23 yards. It certainly wasn't an empty performance. He showed us enough to make me feel less-terrible about Stevie Johnson's outlook. Plenty of you are steamed about CJ Spiller's dud day (55 total yards), but let's note that he still had 22 touches. It's not as if he's slipped back into a part-time role. Based on the disgusted tweets I've seen from his owners, I'd say there's a buying opportunity here.
• If the Seahawks and Panthers would have given us a few more points, they'd get a bigger blurb. That's just how it goes. Russell Wilson had the useful day we all expected, connecting with eight different receivers for 320 yards and a score. Somewhat surprisingly, Doug Baldwin (longtime Funston favorite) led Seattle in catches (7) and receiving yards (91). Apologies to anyone who started Golden Tate on my recommendation (4-51-0); he was just another face in the crowd.
• Atlanta-New Orleans wasn't my primary early watch, but every moment I caught was entertaining. No shock to see both Drew Brees and Matt Ryan top 300 yards, with all the usual suspects involved (Julio, Gonzo, Colston, Graham). Roddy White played through his ankle injury, though he was uncharacteristically quiet. Harry Douglas led Atlanta in receiving yards (93), while Steven Jackson delivered 122 scrimmage yards on 16 touches. Sean Payton followed through on his preseason commitment to run the ball, distributing 26 carries to his three-man committee. Mark Ingram was notably useless, with just 11 yards on nine carries.
Of course Lamar Miller dreams of days like that, so it's all relative.
PRIORITY PICK-UPS FOR WEEK 2
TE Julius Thomas, Den (at NYG)
WR Marlon Brown, Bal (vs. CLE)
QB Terrelle Pryor, Oak (vs. JAC)
WR Rueben Randle, NYG (vs. DEN)
WR Julian Edelman, NE (vs. NYJ)
WR Rod Streater, Oak (vs. JAC)
RB Joique Bell, Det (at ARI)
WR Andre Roberts, Ari (vs. DET)
RB Knowshon Moreno, Den (at NYG)
RB Brandon Bolden, NE (vs. NYJ)
DEF Detroit Lions (at ARI)