September 11, 2011
In Cam Newton's Heisman-winning 2010 season at Auburn, his best single-game passing performance was a 335-yard effort at South Carolina. He topped that mark by nearly 90 yards in his NFL debut on Sunday, torching the Arizona defense for 422 yards via the air.
Newton made accurate throws on the move, he appeared comfortable in the pocket, and he flashed plenty of arm strength — check the tape on this low-trajectory missile to Steve Smith. Newton connected with Smith twice for first-half touchdowns, then later rushed for a 1-yarder to give his team a lead. He had a veteran's composure in the final minutes, too, hurrying to run a play just ahead of the two-minute warning, connecting with Brandon LaFell(notes) for a long gain.
The Panthers ultimately lost to the Cardinals, 28-21, but we can't assign any blame to the rookie quarterback. He was exceptional — in fact, you can probably throw out the rookie qualifier in this performance, because Newton was great by any standard. He shattered Peyton Manning's(notes) record for passing yards by a first-year QB playing his first game, and he destroyed Otto Graham's 60-year-old record for a passer in his NFL debut. (Graham was a four-year pro when Cleveland made the jump from the All-American Football Conference to the NFL). Newton's fantasy upside has been evident since the day he was drafted — this is a quarterback with linebacker-size, elite rushing skills, a huge arm, great O-line, and he's surrounded by talent. But few of us expected his potential to express itself so fully, so soon. He led the field in fantasy scoring in Week 1.
Of course it helps that Newton was facing an Arizona defense that ranked in the bottom-third of the league against the pass last season (228.4 YPG). Carolina receivers were not exactly blanketed on Sunday. Newton gets a much tougher test against the Packers next week; I can't recommend using him there, even if he passed his first NFL exam with ease.
Still, Newton is the sort of QB who can eventually emerge as matchup-proof, thanks to the rushing contributions. We should note that he drew back-to-back carries on the goal line before his TD plunge in the third quarter. Newton's short-yardage skills make him a nightmare for anyone who owns DeAngelo Williams(notes) or Jonathan Stewart(notes). If Cam remains healthy and plays a full season, it's hard to believe he won't give us five or six rushing scores (or more). If you need a comp, think of Vince Young's(notes) rookie campaign; he finished as the No. 12 fantasy QB in 2006, with just 2,199 passing yards. Newton is going to cruise past that yardage total, and the rushing stats should be similar.
Just in case you're planning to pick on the Cards D until they prove they can stop someone, here's a look at their upcoming schedule: at Washington, at Seattle, vs. Giants, at Minnesota. There's no shortage of unowned Redskins available for use next Sunday, many of them discussed below...
• Rex Grossman(notes) had a big day against a Giants defense that had been hit by injuries at every level (Tuck, Osi, Goff, et al). Rex finished 21-for-34 with 305 passing yards, connecting for TDs with Jabar Gaffney(notes) and Anthony Armstrong(notes). (Grossman and Gaffney, you'll recall, were teammates at Florida). Tight end Fred Davis(notes) was a monster, hauling in five passes for 105 yards. Tim Hightower(notes) gained less than 3.0 yards per carry in what seemed like a throwback performance, but he broke the plane on a short score in the first half, saving his fantasy day. In Week 2, when the 'Skins face Arizona, you can start pretty much everyone mentioned in this blurb.
• Mike Tolbert(notes) visited the end zone three times in San Diego's comeback win against the Vikes — once on the ground, twice via pass — but he came away with a right leg injury of as-yet-unknown severity. The early reports have suggested that the injury isn't too serious, but there's little clarity about the nature of his malfunction. Let's hope he's OK, because we all enjoy his unique post-TD celebratory stylings (pictured).
"He's got a chance to be a fine player," Kubiak said. "To step on the field and have a 116-yard day …He has explosion. He's got big-play capability. He needs to learn how from a pro standpoint to play week-to-week, go recover this week and be ready to go in Miami on Sunday. But he's got a lot of ability."
You can catch a few of Tate's post-game thoughts right here, in an interview with Yahoo! Sports Radio. At this point, it should be perfectly clear that you'll want to own anyone who's getting carries for Texans. That scheme and that line gives any back a shot at a big day. Tate's fantasy ceiling is obviously tied to Arian Foster's(notes) health, but he should be almost universally owned. Instead, he's rostered in just 43 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Can't imagine letting him sit on the wire, if I were a Foster owner.
• Kevin Kolb(notes) had a huge day for Arizona (309 yards, 2 TDs), connecting with fourth-year receiver Early Doucet(notes) for 105 yards and game-tying fourth quarter score. Doucet is widely available and may have just played his way into a more significant role; he and Andre Roberts(notes) have battled for the No. 2 spot in the Cards receiving hierarchy, behind Larry Fitzgerald(notes).
• I'm not sure what you'd call the certain something that Tarvaris Jackson(notes) possesses. "Pocket un-presence," maybe? He's a brutal watch, and I don't expect the fantasy lines to get much better than Sunday's 197-yard, 2-TD, 3-turnover effort on the road. Marshawn Lynch(notes) finished with just 33 yards on 13 carries ... and you can probably expect a few more of those lines, too.
• We knew Donovan McNabb(notes) faced a rough Week 1 match-up, versus the league's best 2010 pass defense. But I doubt anyone suspected McNabb would deliver just 39 passing yards in the opener, completing just seven passes on 15 attempts. Ragnar is most displeased. "It's embarrassing to have the numbers that we had, whatever we had," McNabb later said. "I can do that in one series." Normally I'd mock him for that last comment, but he'll no doubt top 39 in a series or two next week against the Bucs.
• IDP leaguers may have lost a pair of top-tier commodities for a while. Jon Beason(notes) suffered a left foot injury, and head coach Ron Rivera described his situation as "dire." In KC, Eric Berry(notes) checked out early with a knee injury that's also believed to be serious.
• We don't have clear recovery timelines on all those injured Rams just yet, but you'll find a summary of the damage right here at the Post-Dispatch. It's ugly. John Clayton is suggesting that Danny Amendola(notes) (elbow) could miss 8-10 weeks; Mike Florio calls it a likely season-ender. Don't expect actionable info on Steven Jackson (quad) or Sam Bradford(notes) (finger) until later this week.
• OK, this bullet is all for you, Guy Incognito: Ted Ginn Jr.(notes) had a pair of return TDs on Sunday. I hereby acknowledge them. These touchdowns happened, and they were glorious. And I will continue to not own Ted Ginn Jr.
Early Week 2 waiver adds...
QB Rex Grossman, WAS (vs. ARI)
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes), BUF (vs. OAK)
QB Cam Newton, CAR (vs. GB)
RB Darren Sproles(notes), NO (vs. CHI)
RB Carnell Williams(notes), STL (at NYG)
RB Deji Karim(notes), JAC (at NYJ)
WR Robert Meachem(notes), NO (vs. CHI)
WR Early Doucet, ARI (at WAS)
WR Randall Cobb(notes), GB (at CAR)
WR Jabar Gaffney, WAS (vs. ARI)
TE Ed Dickson(notes), BAL (at TEN)
TE Fred Davis, WAS (vs. ARI)
TE Jermaine Gresham(notes), CIN (at DEN)
DEF Houston Texans (at MIA)
DEF Detroit Lions (vs. KC)
-posted at 11:00 pm ET
• Well, the Chargers special teams are in mid-season form, allowing improbable TDs as if they're in the game script. Percy Harvin(notes) returned the opening kickoff 103 yards for a TD, as at least four would-be tacklers thought they were playing two-hand touch. Oh, and kicker Nate Kaeding(notes) was carted off with a knee injury after the play.
So this is shaping up as another classic Norv Turner opener. The Vikes led at half, 17-7. Mike Tolbert and Ryan Mathews(notes) are splitting the rushing workload, as expected. The Kool-Aid Man (Tolbert) gets the edge in fantasy scoring, as he caught a 1-yard score from Philip Rivers(notes).
One Minnesota note: If you're an Adrian Peterson owner, you have to enjoy seeing your guy on the field on third downs, catching passes. Every season, promises are made about Peterson getting a bigger role in the passing game. Maybe this is the year.
• I'd watch more of the Giants-Redskins game, but Joe Buck is just as depressing today as any announcer has ever been. BE OF GOOD CHEER, Joe Buck. Enjoy something. Anything. Please. Tim Hightower had an easy 1-yard score for Washington early in the second quarter, but he gained only 23 yards on 11 first half carries. Anthony Armstrong has made two terrific catches, his second for an end-of-half TD.
• Panthers rookie QB Cam Newton had a brilliant first half, rushing for 13 yards, passing for 198, and finding Steve Smith for a pair of scores. Kevin Kolb has already connected with seven different receivers, but didn't throw a touchdown pass in the first half. Beanie Wells(notes) is off to a nice start, as we all expected, but he also put the ball on the ground in the red zone. Kolb could have easily been destroyed going after the fumble.
• When your first-half "Top Performer" in the Yahoo! box score has numbers like this...
...then you know it's been a rough day. Seattle was shut out in the first half at San Francisco. David Akers(notes) has kicked three field goals, Alex Smith had a 1-yard rushing score. Braylon Edwards(notes) has had a quiet day, but he drew a big penalty in the end zone.
• No need to react to Ricky Williams'(notes) 63-yard day. Those were late-game, run-down-the-clock stats against a beaten team. It's worth noting that Pittsburgh's defense gave up 170 rushing yards on Sunday — that's 107 more yards than they allowed on average last season.
• Decent news for a pair of young QBs: X-rays were reportedly negative for both Sam Bradford (finger) and Andy Dalton(notes) (wrist). Bradford is apparently experiencing some numbness, so that's a troubling sign. We'll update these situations throughout the week.
-posted at 6:20 pm ET
• No one ever doubted Matthew Stafford's(notes) talent — it's his health we fret about. His owners are enjoying a spectacular fantasy day, but they got a scare when he limped off the field following a 1-yard TD pass to Calvin Johnson(notes) in the third quarter. The injury turned out to be nothing more than a cramp, an issue that dogged Stafford throughout the second half. That little end zone fade to Megatron? Utterly uncoverable. Nothing you can do. Johnson can out-leap most small forwards; it's almost unfair to put him in a jump-ball situation with a DB.
• There aren't many surprising names near the top of the Week 1 scoring leader board, with just one exception: Buffalo QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Bills absolutely smoked the Chiefs, pushing past the 40-point mark early in the fourth quarter when CJ Spiller(notes) (!) visited the end zone after a 9-yard gain. Fitzpatrick tossed four TD passes, two of which went to Scott Chandler(notes), a 6-foot-7 tight end out of Iowa. (Hawks coulda used him yesterday. [Expletive]). Chandler wasn't even covered on the second score. This was an all-phases failure for KC. Stevie Johnson(notes) and Donald Jones(notes) both found the end zone for Buffalo.
• This day could not have gone much worse for the Rams. You already know about the S-Jax quad injury (see below). St. Louis later lost Danny Amendola to a dislocated elbow, an injury that puts his season in doubt. Quarterback Sam Bradford checked out late, heading to the locker room for X-rays on the fingers of his throwing hand. Bradford had a sloppy day and his receiving corps did him no favors, dropping several passes. If any team is looking for a do-over on Week 1, it's this group.
• On the other side of the Eagles-Rams match-up, Michael Vick(notes) delivered the stat line that should be named in his honor: 198 passing yards, 98 rushing yards. He passed for two short scores, the first to LeSean McCoy(notes) in the early minutes, the second to DeSean Jackson(notes). McCoy had a terrific day, adding a 49-yard rushing score in the fourth quarter.
• Kenny Britt(notes) hauled in a ridiculous 80-yard score off a broken play in Jacksonville, then added a second TD late in the fourth quarter, on a degree-of-difficulty catch. There are few on-field questions about Britt, other than the health of his hamstrings. Even in a low-yield offense, he can star. Chris Johnson had a quiet opener (9 carries for 24 yards, 6 catches for 25). Not a bad time to buy low, if possible.
• Ben Roethlisberger(notes) was notably bad on Sunday, lobbing two of the ugliest interceptions we're likely to see all year. (Ed Reed(notes) had both picks. They were absolute lay-ups). Ben finished 22-for-41, tossing three INTs, absorbing four sacks, losing a fumble. Horrible, terrible, awful, no-good day. Joe Flacco(notes) was tremendous for Baltimore, throwing three TD passes. If you're scouting for potential adds, tight end Ed Dickson looked great, catching five passes for 59 yards and a score.
• The only nice thing I can really say about the Colts is that they gave us a few garbage time stats on Sunday, long after the outcome was determined. Reggie Wayne(notes) made a nifty grab at the back of the end zone on a 6-yard fourth quarter score. But obviously Houston buried that team in the first half. Tip of the cap to Wade Phillips' defense, a group that's never lacked brand name players. Ben Tate had a huge game for the Texans, gaining 116 yards on 24 carries, running behind a dominant line.
• I think I'd like to withdraw my earlier Colt McCoy(notes) praise. He did not exactly put on a clinic in the end-game. McCoy was a mess in the rain, he tossed a pass to a lineman ... just not good. The Browns put up just three points in the second half. Bengals starting QB Andy Dalton checked out with a right wrist injury, we should note, and went for X-rays. He was replaced by Bruce Gradkowski(notes), who led Cincy to a comeback win. Gradkowski connected with rookie AJ Green(notes) on a 41-yard score in the fourth quarter.
• Maurice Jones-Drew's(notes) fantasy year got off to a decent start, as he carried 24 times for 97 yards and an early score. MJD was stuffed on back-to-back goal line carries near the end of the third quarter, which did me no favors. Deji Karim was a big part of the game plan, too, finishing with 17 touches (14 rush, 3 REC) for 72 yards.
• Scott Pianowski is just having an excellent Twitter day: "Texans get a taunting penalty for letting Steve Slaton(notes) carry the ball in third quarter" ... "Middle-aged moron next to me is blathering about his fantasy team to his elderly mom. She's ready to club him over the head. Go granny go" ... "If Kerry Collins(notes) throws a second TD pass, he gets an automatic spot in the Sanford & Son remake." Give the man a follow.
-posted at 4:50 pm ET
• Steven Jackson's first carry of the season was straight from the 2006 files, as he exploded through a wide rushing lane for a 47-yard score. Here's your highlight. But that's the end of the good news. Jackson suffered a quad injury, getting just one carry after the TD. Carnell Williams has 11 touches for 66 yards in his absence. S-Jax was officially declared questionable to return. Doesn't sound like we'll see him in the second half, however. Cadillac is your clear handcuff.
Bonus Philly-St. Louis note: If you like risky throws into coverage, this is your game.
• Every time I check in with the Colts-Texans game, Kerry Collins is on the ground, the football is rolling away from him. So he's having a rough day, despite starting 5-for-5. As expected, Derrick Ward(notes) and Ben Tate are splitting the carries for the Texans; both RBs crossed the goal line in short-yardage situations in the first quarter. The Mercy Rule might come into play in Houston. Andre Johnson(notes) is feasting on the Indianapolis secondary. The Texans may not actually need his services in the second half, but he's capable of catching 20 passes for 200 today, if necessary.
• I probably would have bet the house that Sunday's first TD would not be scored in the Baltimore-Pittsburgh match-up, but it was. So I would have lost the house. (Total money pit, so there's a silver lining here). Joe Flacco connected with Anquan Boldin(notes) for a 27-yard touchdown on the Ravens' third play from scrimmage. Terrific throw into tight coverage, nice fight by Boldin. Highlight here.
• Jay Cutler(notes) opened with a five-minute, 5-for-6 series against Atlanta, finding Matt Forte(notes) three time for 31 yards. The drive eventually stalled, ending in a Robbie Gould(notes) 41-yarder. Matt Ryan(notes) answered with a 5-for-5 possession of his own, with Harry Douglas(notes) hauling in a pair of catches. Matt Bryant(notes) tied the score from 48. Keep Douglas on your watch list; he's a former sleeper, two years removed from ACL surgery, a tough assignment for opposing Ds.
• Near the end of the first quarter in Chicago, Forte took a simple screen 56 yards to the house, shrugging off contact, splitting defenders. So Forte looks just as lively as he did last season, potentially a huge PPR asset. Check the tape. Let's keep in mind that the Bears really don't have the receivers or the O-line to run the full Martz playbook. Some days it's gonna be all Forte, all the time.
• AJ Green didn't walk away from the play with points, but the rookie drew a penalty on Sheldon Brown(notes) in the red zone, early in the first quarter. Green made a filthy move near the line, spinning Brown like a top. The DB had to hold in order to prevent a TD. Green later drew a target in the end zone from Andy Dalton, but the play was well read by the Browns, the pass swatted out of bounds. Cincy settled for three. Dalton later connected with Jermaine Gresham for
• Here's a horrible sequence for the Lions, in an otherwise great day: Detroit had a 2nd-and-6 setup from the Tampa Bay 10-yard line when Matthew Stafford misfired to a wide-open Calvin Johnson in the corner of the end zone. Overshot him by a mile, too. Then on third down, Stafford fired a bullet over the middle to Brandon Pettigrew(notes), hitting the tight end in the hands, in stride, in the end zone ... and the pass was dropped. Awful. Ick. Detroit shoulda had seven, walked away with three.
Calvin later hauled in a 36-yard score down the right sideline on 4th-and-2, however, with Stafford dropping a throw just over the outstretched paw of a defender. Stafford is having a massive first half — no huge shock, considering the opponent. The former No. 1 overall pick is 18-for-25 for 265 yards and two scores. And the Bucs defense is gassed. We could have a 400-yard line on our hands here.
• I'd been a skeptic, but the early returns are promising for Colt McCoy and the Shurmur offense. McCoy hit tight ends Benjamin Watson(notes) and Evan Moore(notes) for a pair of second quarter scores; Moore's TD was setup by a long gainer to Mohamed Massaquoi(notes). If McCoy keeps up the pace, he might just play his way into a top-16 rank for Week 2 at Indy.
• Oh, hey, whodathunkit: Ray Rice(notes) can score touchdowns in short yardage. Here's the evidence. Rice needed only 30 minutes of football to top 100 total yards against Pittsburgh, the league's top run defense from a year ago. Bryant McKinnie(notes) and Vonta Leach(notes) are clearly paying dividends, setting the table for a huge line for Rice. That guy won the fantasy lottery this off-season.
-posted at 2:55 pm ET
The NFL served us an artful 76-point appetizer on Thursday night, and today it delivers the main course: 13 games, a never-ending bowl of fantasy goodness. Get comfortable, gamers. We'll be here all day.
The early reports (like this one and this one and this one) suggest that Arian Foster is not likely to play in the opener against the Colts. This means Ben Tate and Derrick Ward should get the rushing workload, so they're obviously both on the fantasy radar. They'll run behind an outstanding line, against a friendly defense. If we could re-rank the field right now, I'd slot Tate in the 18-22 range at RB, maybe 8-10 spots ahead of Ward. Both backs will get work.
And here's another match-up note: The New York Daily News reports that Jets corner Darrelle Revis(notes), an absolute fantasy plague, will cover Miles Austin(notes) in the Sunday nighter. Antonio Cromartie(notes) will draw Dez Bryant(notes). Edge to Dez, clearly.
If you're looking for start/sit advice and late-breaking injury info, please join us at noon ET for Fantasy Football Live. You can also find our recently updated Week 1 position ranks right here. And please check back with Sunday Scene a time or two for gameday observations and quick-react fantasy spin. (Note: This is never the right place to look for active/inactive info. That's not the mission here. If you're looking for official injury status info, here's a link). I'll update this monster 3-4 times throughout the day, finishing with an early look at pick-ups for Week 2.
OK, go set some lineups, fill your plate, grab a beverage, join us in comments ...
Photo via US Presswire
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