"Pro football is like nuclear warfare. There are no winners, only survivors."--Frank Gifford
Alarm. Panic. Hysteria. Whatever adjective owners used to describe losing in Week 1, one thing is for certain: Nave fantasy football followers are first week drama queens.
As the famous saying goes, patience is the companion of wisdom. Take a deep breath. Step away from the ledge. And survive. Selling low on a star after one game in order to chase a previously unknown or unproven upstart is fantasy blindness. Be the intelligent owner and avoid hasty moves by sticking to your draft-day guns.
In order to decipher what Week 1 events were fact and what were fiction, here are six concrete opening week observations you can take to the bank.
1. Shaun Alexander misses Steve Hutchinson. The acquisition of Deion Branch will help, but thoughts of 25 or more TDs this season are comical. However, this week "The Great" bounces back with a vengeance against a Cardinals squad he ripped for 313 rushing yards and six touchdowns in '05.
2. Fire up the deep-fryer, I'm going to eat a crispy Reggie Bush crow. Mr. Razzle-dazzle hit the juke button repeatedly on the Browns en route to a sensational 119 total yard debut. Yes, he will exceed my 1100 total yard prognostication, but you may want to sell high soon in yearly leagues. The Saints have a brutal schedule with Carolina (twice), Tampa (twice), Baltimore and Pittsburgh all on the docket.
3. Steve Smith is the axle grease of the Carolina offense. Without him, nothing works. Throw in the loss of massive offensive tackle Travelle Wharton for the season and the Panthers offense is in a bit of trouble.
4. The Titans and Packers will combine for eight wins and over 1,000 pass attempts. Bet the house on it.
5. Wes Welker is Frisman Jackson in sheep's clothing. Don't even bother wasting a top waiver priority or a roster spot to acquire the services of Miami's fourth wide receiver. He'll be forgotten in two weeks.
WEEK 2 FANTASY FLAMES
Do you want to look like a pigskin profit? Each week the Noise will dig deep for five no-so-obvious names to turn you into a gridiron guru. Here are this week's flame candidates:
Philip Rivers, SD, QB – Opponent: Ten
Fearless Forecast: 209 YDs, 2 TDs
Notes: Conservative in his starting debut, Rivers will flood a Titans secondary that helped Chad Pennington regain his mojo. Blasted for 319 passing yards and two scores, the Tennessee pass defense is the AFC version of San Francisco. Given the sad state of affairs in Nashville and Marty Schottenheimer's desire to decrease Tomlinson's workload, look for Rivers to double his pass attempts from a week ago. The hard-nosed San Diego D and LT may get the pub, but for fantasy owners weeping over the loss of Trent Green, Rivers makes the ultimate plug n' play.
Drew Brees, NO, QB – Opponent: at GB
Fearless Forecast: 241 YDs, 2 TDs, INT
Notes: When a secondary gives up over 260 yards and a touchdown to Rex Grossman, you know there are serious issues. Finishing with 176 yards, one touchdown and one interception against the Browns – the NFL's fourth-best pass defense in '05 – Brees was subpar in his first game in black and gold. Given the inexperience of Green Bay linebacker Brady Poppinga in pass defense – the Bears Desmond Clark totaled 77 receiving yards against him last week – look for Brees to exploit the Packers weakness with several across-the-middle passes to tight end Ernie Conwell and running back dynamo Reggie Bush. Deep performance and two-QB leagues need to activate the Saints savior.
Dominic Rhodes, Ind, RB – Opponent: Hou
Fearless Forecast: 20 carries, 81 YDs, TD
Notes: This is one Colt you need to bet on. Although Indianapolis had difficulties establishing a ground presence against the Giants, they should have little trouble facing a Houston defense that was spurred for 130 rushing yards by the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday. Scoring the lone Colts rushing touchdown and totaling nine more touches than rookie Joseph Addai in Week 1, Rhodes is comfortably in command of the timeshare. Last year, the Colts creamed Houston twice, with Edgerrin James averaging nearly 133 yards-per-game. With Indy likely to jump out to a big early lead, look for the Rhodes-Addai combo to be pack mules in the second-half. Start the seven-year vet as a middle-tiered No. 2 in 12-team and larger leagues.
Laurence Maroney, NE, RB – Opponent: at NYJ,
Fearless Forecast: 15 carries, 69 YDs, TD
Notes: The office of fantasy man-crushes has officially raised the Maroney alert level from yellow to orange after his sensational 17-carry, 86-yard (5.1 YPC) debut. A slashing, yet powerful, back with incredible top-end speed, the rookie had just one less carry than veteran starter Corey Dillon against the Bills last week. Based on his initial performance, Bill Belichick will likely stick with a similar 50/50 timeshare. The recent trade of Deion Branch to Seattle should put more weight on the shoulders of the ground game and increase Maroney's touches. The Jets ranked 29th in the league against the rush in '05 and gave up two rushing touchdowns last Sunday to a turbid Titans offense. Although billed as a clash between student and teacher, Maroney will steal the show in the Big Apple. Activate the youngster as a first-rate flex option in all formats.
Isaac Bruce, StL, WR – Opponent: at SF
Fearless Forecast: 6 REC, 68 YDs, TD
Notes: A Week 1 candidate for my all-ninja team, Bruce quietly was targeted 10 times and totaled five catches for 64 yards against the Broncos. This week, "Reverend Ike" travels to San Francisco and faces an unholy 49ers secondary that Bruce racked up 9 receptions, 134 yards and a touchdown against in two 2005 clashes. Although he's lost a step at 33, Bruce is still a superior route runner who can tally big games against soft defenses. Given Marc Bulger's success against San Fran in his career – he ripped them for 362 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1 last year – this is one of the few weeks you can trust Bruce as a strong No. 3 wide receiver play.
Marques Colston, NO, WR/TE – Opponent: at GB
Fearless Forecast: 5 REC, 58 YDs, TD
Notes: Feel free to send me your love letters. A full two weeks before Colston was a twinkle in fantasy owner's eyes, I projected a 700-yard, 5-6 touchdown campaign for the Saints wideout after Donte' Stallworth was shipped to Philadelphia. Catching four passes for 49 yards and a touchdown against Cleveland last week, my prediction is no pipe dream. Colston's large 6-foot-4, 233-pound frame will be utilized heavily against a Packers defense that gave up a combined 11 receptions and 179 yards to the Bears two biggest targets, Muhsin Muhammad and Desmond Clark. Confide in the rookie upstart as a borderline top-ten tight end.
Cincinnati Bengals – Opponent: Cle
Fearless Forecast: 16 PA, 3 Sacks, 3 Turnovers
Notes: The striped cats are going to get fat off Charlie Frye this week. In Week 1, the Bengals mangled Herm Edwards' club, yielding seven sacks and three turnovers, while holding the Chiefs to just 10 points and 289 yards of total offense. Anchored by defensive end Justin Smith, the Bengals should easily penetrate a suspect Browns O-line that had great difficulty creating lanes for Reuben Droughns against the Saints. Also, Frye has been turnover prone in his young career. Since Week 14 of 2005, the inexperienced quarterback has tallied at least one turnover per game.
WEEK 2 FANTASY LAMES
Worried about your awful matchups this week? The Noise lists five players that should be relegated to clipboard duty for your fantasy team. Here are this week's lame candidates:
Drew Bledsoe, Dal, QB – Opponent: Was
Fearless Forecast: 231 YDs, 1 TDs, 2 INTs
Notes: Tony Romo must haunt Drew's dreams. The aggressive Jags defense frustrated Bledsoe in Week 1, limiting him to a horrible 48.5 completion percentage and forcing three picks. Cries for Romo have already lit up phone-lines in Dallas, but the Tuna said on Tuesday there is no planned quarterback change "right now." Bledsoe faces a Redskins club he averaged a marginal 207 passing yards-per-game and totaled three interceptions against in two contests last year. Some would argue Bledsoe could have a big day to secure his job, but I'm not one of them. With the Cowboys offensive line in peril, the Redskins should create headaches for the running game and for the heavy-footed Bledsoe. The hook is near for this fading Dallas star.
Edgerrin James, Ari, RB – Opponent: at Sea
Fearless Forecast: 21 carries, 68 YDs, 2 REC, 11 YDs
Notes: Edge better hold off upgrading his grill from gold to platinum with Seattle on the schedule this week. In James' eight-year career, he has averaged a marginal .57 touchdowns-per-game and an eight percent decline in rushing yards-per-game in outdoor venues. Led by the shaggy-haired Grant Wistrom, the Seahawks are an inflexible frontline that only allowed five rushing touchdowns a year ago and limited the Lions to a lowly 38 rushing yards in Week 1. Only producing 2.8 yards-per-carry average against a vulnerable San Francisco 49ers defense last Sunday, Edge is at best a low-tiered No. 2 in the Seahawks' nest with a shaky Cardinals offensive line.
Chester Taylor, Min, RB – Opponent: Car
Fearless Forecast: 22 carries, 73 yards, 3 REC, 22 YDs
Notes: Vikings head coach Brad Childress' dedication to the run last week was unforeseen. Against Washington, Taylor looked great totaling a career-high 31 carries for 88 yards and a touchdown along with three receptions for 43 yards. Obviously, the addition of $49 million pancake producer Steve Hutchinson has helped the Vikings ground game immensely. So why am I down on Taylor in Week 2? After taking a knee to the groin against Atlanta, the highly touted Carolina defensive front will look to reassert their reputation as one of the league's best in Minnesota. The Panthers only allowed nine ground scores a year ago, making the odds of Taylor finding pay-dirt in consecutive weeks minimal. Count on "The Cheetah" as a solid flex play, but bench him in shallower leagues.
Eddie Kennison, KC, WR – Opponent: at Den
Fearless Forecast: 3 REC, 31 YDs
Notes: Let's see. Leap into a fire doused in gasoline or put my faith behind Damon Huard. Hmm. Aside from the handful of Washington Huskies football fans that watched Huard in college, few have seen productive days from the Chiefs back-up QB. With Trent Green sidelined after nearly beheaded by a vicious Robert Geathers hit, Huard is penciled in to start his first game in six years against a Denver team hungry to bounce back. Kennison has historically branded the Broncos in his career, totaling a prolific 12 receptions for 220 yards in two games last year, but not this time. With a shaky passing game, Herm Edwards will likely turn to his strength and run Larry Johnson some 30-35 times in order to move the chains. Use common sense and send EK to the showers.
Randy Moss, Oak, WR – Opponent: at Bal
Fearless Forecast: 2 REC, 27 YDs
Notes: Good thing Moss has smoothies to fall back on. The abysmal Raiders offense was a joke last week against the Chargers. Amazingly, Aaron Brooks was sacked more times (9) than he had completions (8). The decrepit state of the Oakland offensive line and running game will surely send Al Davis and Brooks to the grave at some point this year. With LaMont Jordan unable to take pressure off Brooks, the swarming Ravens secondary led by Chris McAllister and Ed Reed will key on the Raiders lone aerial weapon. Last week the dynamic Baltimore secondary held the fifth-best fantasy receiver from 2005, Joey Galloway, to a doughnut and it could happen again to Moss. This week, the outspoken Raiders wideout will scream to bring Jeff George back. Bench him in all formats.
Scanning media reports with a fine-toothed comb, the Noise puts his fantasy spin on various tasty tidbits.
Fantasy Lucifer Mike Shanahan needs more cow, err, Tatum Bell. Officially named the leader of the Denver Broncos committee on Monday, Tatum will start until further notice, but is expected to alternate series with rookie Mike Bell.
Spin: In order to eliminate the Bell confusion, from this point forward Tatum Bell will be referred to as Taco, and Mike Bell, Mabel.
Still about as clear as mud, Mike Shanahan has not done fantasy owners any favors with his murky denotation. So who do you want? My money is still on Mabel, largely due in part to his mental toughness, superior pass-catching skills and his ability to rack yards after initial contact. Playing with a fractured finger for most of Week 1, the rookie fought through the pain and totaled 88 yards and a touchdown. He is listed as probable.
The most important moment of the youngster's first game was late in the second quarter when Shanahan turned to Mabel – fractured finger and all – to convert on a fourth-and-goal play at the St. Louis 1. The gritty kid plunged into the end zone and earned the respect of his coaches and teammates. Given Shanahan's historical disdain for Taco's inability to stay healthy, this was a major victory for the junior Bell. Also, Mabel was able to secure the ball effectively, while the always fumble-prone Taco coughed up the pigskin in the first quarter. As of now, look for Mabel to be the primary goal-line option ala Mike Anderson 2005 and – despite his 103-yard effort in St. Louis – Taco the same in-between the 20s home-run back. Both have value as high-tiered No. 3s, but expect Mabel to finish with roughly 4-6 more scores. Count on either as a strong flex play against a Kansas City rush D that allowed 116 rushing yards and two scores to Cincinnati last week. If you own both, roll the dice with the rookie.
UNLEASH THE BEAST
Upset you don't have a forum to express your disdain for drafting Willis McGahee? Do you question why on earth you're not a fantasy expert? This is the place for you to vent your thoughts, tirades and frustrations. Can you bring the noise?
Hey just wanted to say: Great picks on your Week 1 lames. Julius Jones was horrible. Michael Vick was horrible. You're just like the other so called "experts" who suggested Atlanta's D be benched in Week 1 against the Panthers. This is the last time I listen to you guys. You know less than my 13-year-old daughter does in picking starts and benches.
Lars, Houston, Texas
Noise: Dude, are you the drummer from Metallica? Come on, Lars, you are only the 1,123 person to tell me this week that my picks were about as accurate as Drew Bledsoe passes. Way to be original.
Yes, my picks were less than stellar, but each was backed by sound, logical reasoning. Sometimes you win, other times you lose. That's the nature of the fantasy beast. Who knew that the Carolina defense would be lambasted by Atlanta for 385 yards of total offense? No expert would have told you that.
The truth is, unlike baseball, predicting football player numbers is an inexact science. No matter how many times you study a situation, surprises happen. Last year, I'm proud to say, I hit on 60 percent of my Flames/Lames and this year I'm gunning for a higher mark. Obviously, I have dug quite a hole, but the law of averages will hopefully bail me out.
Rib me all you want, but I know my football and I'm not afraid to put my neck on the line on a regular basis. If I went out and said start LT every week, what's the fun in that? I always avoid the superficial and dig deep to try and find unforeseen fantasy gemstones and sometimes my bold predictions fail me. Although I missed the mark in the "Noise," if you watched our Fantasy Football Live show last Sunday (Every Sunday at 12:30 PM EST, 11:30 AM CST, 9:30 AM PST) you would have seen me accurately project Mike Bell and Brad Johnson's numbers to the tee. No other expert, except my colleague Brandon Funston, had the stones to pin-point the Denver RB mess, and I nailed it.
Look, fantasy experts are the weather forecasters of sports. Although we may predict sunshine, you might want to bring an umbrella along just in case a popcorn shower develops. Be realistic. No one in this business has a degree in psychic reading. What is my pick philosophy? I analyze recent and historical statistical trends, use observation and listen to my gut to make an educated forecast. If you can't respect that, go play "Enter Sandman" on your little toy drum every Sunday.