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NFL by the Numbers

Michael Salfino
Yahoo Sports

You can find more from Michael Salfino at SportsNet Chicago

Let's review the Week 1 NFL numbers, notebook style, and use the little data we have to make some player recommendations. Though far from ideal, everyone is in the dark now. "In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king."

BUY

Jonathan Stewart(notes), RB, Panthers: He had four carries inside the Eagles 10 when the game was still very much alive. DeAngelo Williams(notes) scored on that possession after a couple of penalties. But that's good news for Stewart owners, though his Achilles injury is still of primary concern.

Julius Jones(notes), RB, Seahawks: He's still being sold short because he started fast last year, too, before quickly fading. But there's the back story: Mike Holmgren put him in the doghouse and then assistant coach and now head coach Jim Mora told him to stay positive and believe in himself. Jones might not be able to run through a wall for Mora like he's willing to, but he sure ran through the Rams.

Chargers passing game: Never bet on stupid, not even when it's Norv Turner. Last year, the Chargers were 19th in yards per rush and 1st in yards per pass. Yet they ran 57 percent of all first down plays in the first and second quarter. The supposedly rejuvenated LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) couldn't make it through one game (ankle sprain). Darren Sproles(notes) is mainly a receiving threat. This should be, and I predict will be, a predominantly passing team, especially with key lineman out (it's easier to pass block than to run block).

Correll Buckhalter(notes), RB, Broncos: He's averaged five yards on 146 carries since 2007. It's pretty clear he's the Broncos best back right now. The team seems determined to insert rookie Knowshon Moreno(notes), who looked indecisive and slow following his August knee sprain. But, ultimately, Denver coaches will want to win more than they want to use their new toy.

HOLD

Texans offense: The key to their success in '08 was 6.5 yards per play on first down. The Jets held them to 3.1. But the Jets have the Rex Ryan jailbreak pass rush, which seems like an all-out blitz but really isn't, and a supreme cover corner who can man-up against Andre Johnson(notes) and take him out of the game. Against everyone else, expect the Texans to perform to expectations. It will be a down week against Tennessee, but not another disaster.

Steve Smith, WR, Panthers: Smith is still great. But his QB Jake Delhomme's(notes) career is hanging by a thread. Coach John Fox is very loyal, despite 11 Delhomme turnovers in the last six-plus quarters at home, including the playoff loss to the Cardinals. A.J. Feely has been brought in this week to back up and undrafted veteran Matt Moore(notes) (three career starts) doesn't seem like a plausible option. Smith owners desperately need Delhomme to find his pre-January form as mysteriously as he lost it.

Vikings passing game: They don't need no stinkin' passing game with Superman wearing that purple cape and No. 28. But I'm very worried here. There were no downfield passes – is that a result of Brett Favre's(notes) bicep surgery and torn labrum (which wasn't repaired)? Can Favre hold up if the Vikings pass blocking is as weak as it looked against at Browns defense that couldn't crack 20 sacks in 2008? Give Favre one more week to show some downfield life. Either way, keep Percy Harvin(notes), who is half running back.

SELL

Braylon Edwards(notes), WR, Browns: The Cleveland dink-and-dunk passing game is 26th in yards per play. Quinn won't be around long anyway if he keeps getting sacked 14 percent of attempts. But Edwards needs Derek Anderson's(notes) downfield arm now.

Eagles offense without Donovan McNabb(notes): Kevin Kolb(notes) has averaged 3.7 YPA as a pro (45 attempts). Jeff Garcia(notes) has been signed, which leads our resident Eagles expert Andy Schwartz of CSN-Philly to predict that McNabb will be held out through the Week 4 bye (missing home games against the Saints and Chiefs). Michael Vick(notes)? "Not close to being ready to start," said Schwartz from the Eagles practice.

Titans running game: The Raiders averaged more yards per carry last year than the Titans. This is not an elite running game, necessary when the Vegas over/under on rushing TDs for your two main running backs is a combined 20.5.

Mike Bell(notes), RB, Saints: Back out the carries against the Lions Sunday and last December and Bell has averaged 3.5 yards per carry in his career – 172 attempts. He's a journeyman backup at best. Compare him to Pierre Thomas(notes) – 4.8 yards for the Saints in each of the last two years (181 carries) while other Saints backs averaged about a full yard less. Of course, get Thomas if someone is dumb enough to sell before the Eagles smother Bell (as they surely will in Week 2).

Michael Salfino’s work has appeared in USA Today’s Sports Weekly, RotoWire, dozens of newspapers nationwide and most recently throughout Comcast SportsNet and NESN. Michael also covers the Jets and Giants each week for SNY.tv.

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