I bet on the Steelers to win more than 9.5 games, to win the AFC North and to win the Super Bowl this season, but if that wasn’t enough on the line Sunday, I picked them in my Survivor league. To be honest, I hated all the Week 1 options and wasn't shocked I lost, but this wasn’t just a “pot odds” play – I really thought they were more likely to win than the Colts and Patriots (the latter two both nearly losing yet securing a win inside the final 10 seconds of both their games was absolutely salt in a large wound). Pittsburgh not only lost, but they did so after being gifted a safety on their first play of the season. Their offense wouldn’t score a single point until 1:23 left in the fourth quarter at home against a Tennessee team that allowed an NFL-high 29.4 points per game last season. Losing a center (especially so early on and a good one in Maurkice Pouncey) is actually one of the tougher positions to replace mid-game, but that’s still inexcusable.
I always talk about running back being the most fungible position in football, but there’s a threshold for which it becomes a problem, and Pittsburgh has officially reached it. Isaac Redman had two fumbles within the first 20 minutes, including losing one inside Tennessee’s 5-yard line, and the team got 2.1 YPC. I still believe in Pittsburgh’s defense and Ben Roethlisberger (and every other team in the division lost Sunday, although the Steelers were the only favorites to do so), but this was a pretty discouraging start, obviously. Here’s a (pretty heavily) favored home team who allowed 117 net yards passing and 2.7 YPC and yet lost (pretty handily I might add)…Le’Veon Bell can’t return soon enough. Clearly, Pitt’s backfield needs to be totally avoided at all costs until then…Chris Johnson lost GL work to Jackie Battle even after Shonn Greene left hurt, but CJ should have much better days ahead. Don’t worry about him.
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Comparing E.J. Manuel to Tom Brady, the rookie had a higher completion percentage, YPA and QB Rating while taking two fewer sacks and committing two fewer turnovers while throwing for the same amount of touchdowns. Despite this while playing at home and also scoring a defensive TD, Buffalo still lost…I wrote off 32-year-old Fred Jackson this season, but he averaged 5.2 YPC compared to C.J. Spiller’s 2.4, with the latter also losing a fumble. Still, Spiller should still be valued just as he was before Sunday’s game…Speaking of lack of ball security, while I’d like to brag about being so high on Shane Vereen entering the year, I was also all in on Stevan Ridley, who was benched after fumbling twice, including losing one on a play in which he was untouched (and frankly, looked like he might have been badly injured but wasn’t). Bill Belichick is so ruthless. Ridley also lost a fumble during New England’s loss in last year’s playoffs, but that came during a crushing hit that resulted in a serious concussion, and luckily for him and his owners, Vereen will be out the next few weeks after undergoing wrist surgery…It was nice to see Danny Amendola gut it out and play through his groin injury, hauling in 10 catches for 104 yards. It’s simple with him, he’s going to be a fantasy monster as long as he stays healthy, but that's far from a sure thing...Zach Sudfeld was a total no show (although this may have been due to injury), and Kenbrell Thompkins somehow got just 3.0 YPT against a Buffalo secondary decimated by injuries. Julian Edelman has quickly become fantasy relevant as a result. Rob Gronkowski will be back soon, but Edelman recorded seven receptions for 79 yards and two touchdowns Sunday, and just imagine how important he’d become if Amendola goes down. I’d be VERY aggressive with my FAAB this week on Edelman. He absolutely has a chance to be a major difference maker.
In a week full of surprises (as always), the Saints/Falcons game combining for just 40 points was certainly one of them. Moreover, those who were Steven Jackson haters in the preseason (myself included) pointed to his high career rushing attempts with the thinking being he will wear down and won’t be efficient, whereas the counter was he’ll be a workhorse and score a bunch of TDs in Atlanta’s system. So naturally, he gets 7.0 YPC (and added five catches for 45 yards) while getting just 11 carries and not scoring, even ceding a carry inside the 5-yard line to Jacquizz Rodgers. Go figure…It’s pretty funny Roddy White is now letting the world know he’s more injured than Atlanta led on…The Saints’ running back situation remains as muddled as ever, and after a lot of praise about Mark Ingram being healthier and more explosive than ever in the preseason, the third-year back managed just 1.2 YPC against an Atlanta front seven that allowed 4.8 YPC and 16 rushing scores last season, which isn’t exactly encouraging.
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Anyone who knows gambling quickly realized this week’s Bucs/Jets game was an obvious “go ugly” play, as more than 90% of the public money was on Tampa Bay. I would have said the same thing even if the Bucs covered, as the point is you’ll win these types more often than not in the long run (although to be fair, I want to say I lost my one teaser bet this week)…Did Kellen Winslow really secure seven of eight targets for 79 yards and a touchdown against a strong Tampa defense with a raw rookie QB throwing to him? I have to say I didn’t see that coming…Stephen Hill has the physical attributes to be a beast, so his ability to be a fantasy factor will be directly tied to Geno Smith’s development...Doug Martin not only got 2.7 YPC and lost a fumble, but he somehow also had negative receiving yards while seeing six targets. At least he scored a five-yard touchdown, despite being the worst goal-line runner in the NFL last season…Lavonte David’s personal foul on a late hit on Smith when the outcome was almost certainly solidified will definitely go down as one of the crazier ways to lose a football game this season.
Around 20 minutes into Week 1, three teams led 2-0, which isn’t exactly normal (a fourth safety later occurred Monday night). One of those teams was the Jaguars, who would end up losing 28-2 at home against a KC squad that finished an NFL-worst 2-14 last season…Alex Smith somehow recorded a 94.4 QB Rating while getting 5.1 YPA, but Dwayne Bowe owners have to be concerned. Smith is without question an upgrade over Matt Cassel, but his unwillingness to go downfield is going to really hurt Bowe’s fantasy value. Still, Smith threw for 25 percent of the Chiefs’ total TD passes all of last season Sunday…Cecil Shorts pulled down just 27.3 percent of the passes headed his way, getting an anemic 3.6 YPT in the process. Of course, it wasn’t his fault. Blaine Gabbert, who was facing a Chiefs secondary that allowed 8.0 YPA with an NFL-high 99.9 QB Rating last season, completed just 45.7 percent of his passes with a 3.5 YPA mark while taking six sacks and posting a 0:2 TD:INT ratio. I don’t care if this is a controversial statement, but I feel like Gabbert isn’t Jacksonville’s long-term solution at quarterback.
Carolina was impressive defensively, holding the Seahawks to just 12 points. This front seven is legit, although Greg Hardy, who set his goal to record 50 sacks this season, better step it up after getting none Sunday. Still, Russell Wilson managed to quietly complete 75.8 percent of his passes for 320 yards (9.7 YPA) anyway. This play was just silly. I’m beginning to think teams overly worried about his height during last year’s draft…Golden Tate had a disappointing performance, especially for me, as I own him in nearly all of my leagues, but at least he saw seven targets (Sidney Rice saw just three, in comparison)…With a 69.6 completion percentage and a 5.4 YPA, the Panthers didn’t exactly attack downfield, although a couple of Greg Olsen drops didn’t help…Robert Turbin appears to be Seattle’s clear RB2 right now, but I still say Christine Michael is a difference maker at some point…With 2:14 left in the fourth quarter after a Marshawn Lynch run, the Panthers called a timeout, to which announcer Tim Ryan said: “I may have saved that last timeout until after the two-minute warning.” It’s almost as if Ryan doesn’t understand the most rudimentary math. We have been over this simple equation for years now, yet someone whose career is calling NFL games still doesn’t get it. Ugh.
The Browns have an underrated defense, but 10 carries for three yards is the type of performance to get Lamar Miller fantasy owners rightfully concerned, especially when it’s accompanied by just one target. Daniel Thomas certainly didn’t do much better, getting just 1.8 YPC, but he at least reached pay dirt. If Miller doesn’t bounce back in Week 2 against an Indy D that was gashed for 5.1 YPC last season, it will be time to officially panic…I’m firmly on the Trent Richardson bandwagon, but he’s now rushed for fewer than 55 yards in nine of his 16 career games...Mike Wallace had one catch for 15 yards on five looks, whereas Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson combined for 25 targets…It appears the preseason buzz on Jordan Cameron was worthwhile, at least while Josh Gordon remains suspended…Cameron Wake had 2.5 sacks, as he remains one of the five or so most valuable defensive players in football.
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It’s pretty remarkable Adrian Peterson had a 78-yard touchdown run on his first touch of the season (and scored two more times thereafter) yet finished with just 93 rushing yards. Of course, fantasy owners aren’t complaining…Calvin Johnson wasn’t tackled at the one-yard-line like he commonly was last year, but he had a very close TD catch overturned by the booth, making his day quite disappointing…Matthew Stafford is on pace to throw “only” 688 passes this season…Reggie Bush had a monster game, totaling 191 yards and a score, but it could’ve been so much bigger, as he had two originally ruled touchdowns overturned by booth reviews that couldn’t have totaled more than six inches before reaching the end zone. Even if he’ll continue to get replaced by Joique Bell at the goal line, only health will prevent Bush from finishing as a top-10 fantasy back.
Here’s a terrible driver who at least realizes as much soon after making a poor decision.
While it shouldn’t have had to come down to it as big favorites at home, Andrew Luck recorded yet another game-winning fourth quarter drive Sunday (he had a whopping seven of them last year as a rookie), punctuated by a 19-yard TD run. It was a favorable matchup, but Luck played well, completing 78.3 percent of his passes while getting 7.7 YPA and posting a 3:0 TD:TO ratio. I fully expected Ahmad Bradshaw to be a worthy RB2 in fantasy leagues, but he ended with just seven carries for 26 yards, so um, my bad…Unless injuries strike, T.Y. Hilton is going to go down as a major fantasy disappointment. He played just 26 snaps…The biggest takeaway here has to be Terrelle Pryor, who looked quite competent. It was against a suspect Colts D, and he made some terrible mistakes (taking a bad sack on 1st-and-goal with less than one minute remaining in the fourth quarter jumps out), but he actually showed some accuracy while getting 7.5 YPA, and most importantly for fantasy owners, ran for 112 yards (the most by any player Sunday!). I’m not projecting Pryor as a sure franchise QB, but I will say this, especially considering the Oakland offensive line in front of him, what he showed Sunday should make a Raiders fan far more optimistic than they were two weeks ago (and in fantasy terms, Pryor’s rushing ability makes him obviously intriguing).
I’m told this GIF of Lady Gaga is funny, but I don’t get why. I demand this on a regular basis.
Among the non-quarterbacks, I’d argue A.J. Green was the best football player Sunday. He torched a Chicago secondary that allowed just 6.3 YPA and a 71.3 QB Rating last season for 162 yards (12.5 YPT) and two touchdowns, but it wasn’t just the numbers, as he hauled in several impressive catches in tight coverage. Not that I’m telling you anything you didn’t know, but this was an elite talent on full display while playing on the road and with a QB who was 0-for-5 with an interception on passes that traveled 15-plus yards in the air this preseason throwing to him. At minimum, it’s safe to say Green is fully recovered from his recent knee injury…Giovani Bernard owners can’t be happy with five touches, but how long can Cincy stick with BenJarvus Green-Ellis (14 carries, 25 yards)?...Tyler Eifert sure looks like a future star…Martellus Bennett saw more targets Sunday than he did all of the preseason with his new team…Matt Forte was held to just 50 rushing yards on 19 attempts, but a one-yard TD conversion is huge for a RB who went 3-for-33 at the GL from 2009-2011.
Not only did Jared Cook have seven catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns, but he also lost a fumble at the 1-yard line a mere second before scoring, so he nearly reached pay dirt three times against an Arizona secondary that allowed an NFL-low 71.2 QB Rating last season. Looks like Cook’s much-delayed breakout might actually finally be in store…Chris Givens and Golden Tate, two of my favorite mid-round wide receiver targets, didn’t exactly get off to great starts in Week 1…Daryl Richardson left banged up, but he returned and totaled 99 yards on 25 touches as the team’s clear lead back. It was more encouraging than discouraging for fantasy owners…I’m beginning to think Larry Fitzgerald might put up better numbers with Carson Palmer now his quarterback.
What a game between the 49ers and Packers. Many more of those this year, and there’s going to be problems in the Del Don household, and I say that on behalf of my six-month old daughter…First off, Aaron Rodgers is so good it’s almost unfair. Some of the throws he made Sunday were just ridiculous, and his interception was 100 percent Jermichael Finley’s fault (despite that, the tight end did look good, living up to the preseason hype)…Eddie Lacy was benched for a good period after losing a fumble, but it’s clear who’s the team’s No. 1 back. Lacy is in store for a huge rookie season. Buy him now if your league offers anything resembling a discount...Jordy Nelson looked fantastic…There have been three 10+ catch, 200+ yard receiving season opening performances in NFL history, and Anquan Boldin now has two of them. Obviously, there’s nowhere to go but down, but don’t consider this a total fluke. Boldin is clearly SF’s WR1 and should be treated as a top-20 fantasy WR moving forward, if not top-15…Since entering the league in 2011, Aldon Smith is tied for the most sacks in the NFL (35)...Frank Gore was held to just 44 yards on 21 carries, but the vision he exhibited on his TD run was as good as it gets.
So the question is no longer “will Vernon Davis live up to the preseason hype?” It’s now “Jimmy Graham or Davis?”…Colin Kaepernick had never thrown for 300 yards in a regular season game before reaching 412 Sunday. During his last two outings against the Packers, Kaepernick has totaled 878 yards and seven touchdowns. Factoring in age and salary, I’d love to hear an argument he’s not the most valuable commodity in the NFL...With 9:51 left in the second quarter, Mike McCarthy accepted an illegal formation penalty that resulted in a 3rd-and-6 for the 49ers opposed to what would have been 4th-and-1. As insane as that decision was, things only got weirder thereafter, as the following play resulted in Kaepernick getting tackled late out of bounds by Clay Matthews, which was a personal foul penalty in which Joe Staley retaliated and got one of his own. The refs ruled them offsetting and had the teams replay third down, only since they were both dead ball fouls, it should have been 4th-and-2. The ensuing play was a Boldin TD, so SF caught a pretty huge break.
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The Cowboys had never beaten the Giants at home since the opening of their new stadium, and they won by just five points Sunday night despite a plus-five turnover margin in quite a bizarre game. The Manning brothers combined for 912 passing yards and 11 touchdowns during Week 1. They face each other in Week 2…The Giants committed three turnovers in the first 6:10 of the game. David Wilson has three lost fumbles during Week 1s against the Cowboys. He has zero fumbles in his other 15 career games played. Buy him right now, please…Dez Bryant, who had 879 yards and 10 touchdowns over the final eight games of last year, tallied 22 yards on eight targets Sunday night against a Giants secondary that allowed an NFL-high 8.1 YPA last season. It’s clear defenses are going to be paying more attention to him in 2013, and while I want to say ignore Week 1, his foot sprain is at least a little worrisome…Jason Witten somehow scored just three touchdowns last season despite recording the most catches (110) by a tight end in NFL history. It’s unclear if the preseason chatter of involving him more in the red zone was real or just natural regression was to blame, but his current fantasy owners are sure happy to see him catch two touchdowns Sunday night…Tony Romo’s 33 pass attempts in the first half were a career high, and fantasy owners can breathe a sigh of relief his rib injury isn’t serious...Dallas trailed in every game last season before never falling behind against the Giants on Sunday night.
Despite a questionable backward pass that led to a Washington defensive touchdown, the Chip Kelly Philadelphia era couldn’t have gotten off to a more impressive start, as the Eagles ran a whopping 53 plays in the first half of Monday night’s game, when they entered halftime with a 26-7 lead (that quickly became 33-7). Philadelphia’s offense became conservative afterward, and it remains to be seen what happens once opposing defenses get more on tape (and whether Michael Vick can stay healthy), but Philly fans have to be awfully excited right now…DeSean Jackson is going to be a top-15 fantasy WR for most weeks in which he’s healthy…LeSean McCoy’s ability to break tackles combined with this system is going to lead to big things. I’ll say he has a 45 percent chance of finishing with better numbers than Adrian Peterson, and you’re crazy if you don’t have him as the clear No. 2 fantasy player…Pierre Garcon had 11 targets and looked healthy. Huge numbers are to come...Obviously it was a pretty dismal start to Alfred Morris’ season, but it shouldn’t be anything to worry about moving forward...Washington committed the fewest turnovers in the NFL last season and yet had two (including a safety that might as well have been another) during the team’s first three possessions Monday night (and later added another)…Robert Griffin was flat out bad early on, as he was clearly rusty. His mechanics were way off, resulting in uncharacteristically inaccurate throws. But RG3 rebounded in a big way, putting up some nice fourth quarter stats that his fantasy owners had to appreciate. His early performance shouldn’t be much of a worry considering he didn’t play a snap in the preseason. Griffin’s recovery will be a process, but he’s only going to get better from here on out.
Longread of the Week: What Happens When You Win “The Price Is Right?”
The Chargers were up 28-7 with less than five minutes remaining in the third quarter at home and yet somehow managed to lose, not even requiring overtime. And this happened without Norv Turner being involved! To be fair, it’s hard not to question the penalty resulting in a first down during the Texans’ fourth-quarter field goal attempt that then led to a touchdown. Pretty nebulous…It’s not easy to kick off, not score a defensive touchdown and be up 7-0 just 15 seconds into a game, but San Diego did so Monday night. Again, they still lost…Of course Ryan Mathews got everyone excited looking so good with the early TD catch and yet still finished with just 33 yards on 13 carries. He’s a walking paradox wrapped in a riddle…Andre Johnson had 12 catches for 146 yards on 16 targets yet didn’t score, while Eddie Royal had two touchdown catches. It’s nothing new for Johnson, but Royal’s performance totally came out of nowhere...Arian Foster gained 57 yards on 18 rushing attempts (3.2 YPC) while Ben Tate gained 55 yards on nine carries (6.1). It won't be as drastic moving forward, but this is telling.