I can't promise you the Chargers will be a winning team this year. I can't promise you Ryan Mathews and Antonio Gates will stay healthy. I can't promise you Philip Rivers and Eddie Royal (Eddie freaking Royal) will continue to make beautiful music together.
But we can probably all agree on one thing: the Chargers did the right thing with their coaching shakeup in the offseason. The electricity is back, and so is the fantasy production.
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San Diego finally closed the ledger on Norv Turner after the 2012 season, bringing in Mike McCoy and a new coaching staff. We can't be sure how much of it is McCoy and how much of it is new offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, but someone has done a terrific job rebuilding San Diego's offensive line - and by extension, the confidence of Rivers.
The Chargers pulled out a 33-30 victory at Philadelphia on Sunday, one of those pinball games where most of the fantasy players put up crooked numbers. Rivers looked like his former Pro Bowl self, chucking for 419 yards and three scores. Royal caught all three of the touchdowns (here's video evidence), securing seven of eight targets for 80 yards. Gates turned back the clock, a monster 8-124 day on 10 targets. Even Malcom Floyd rolled up 102 yards before leaving the game with a scary neck injury.
Some will write this game off as a fluke, pointing at Philadelphia's spotty defense - but remember Rivers threw for four touchdowns against the respected Texans defense a week ago. Two weeks into the new season, we have to take an open-minded view of these numbers.
Maybe McCoy is a miracle worker, it's just a matter of the reputation catching up. Consider his track record from the coordinator days in Denver. Kyle Orton was a solid Broncos quarterback in 2009 and 2010, on McCoy's watch. Brandon Marshall went to the Pro Bowl in 2009 and journeyman Brandon Lloyd exploded for a league-leading 1448 receiving yards (along with 11 touchdowns) the following year. Tim Tebow's best days in the NFL came in 2011, under an offense completely rebuilt by McCoy in the middle of the season.
And obviously the Broncos did plenty of scoring last year, rolling with Peyton Manning and Co. Okay, Manning makes a lot of coaching staffs look good.
Royal now has five touchdown catches through two weeks, the shocker special of the year. He's still unowned in 80 percent of Yahoo leagues as we go to press. Keep in mind Royal had a 91-catch season as a rookie back in 2008, and he was a respectable player with the Broncos in 2010 (59-627-3). Durability has been the biggest concern for the 5-foot-10, 185-pound receiver; he's played one full season out of five, and he's missed 10 games in the last two years. The emergence is a stunner, sure, but he's not without talent.
Obviously major Royal regression is on the way, but I don't expect him to fall completely off the map. He has outstanding lateral movement and a budding rapport with Rivers, and the Chargers have been creative with their use of the veteran. Both of Royal's scores in Week 1 came from in close (1, 6), and two of his three scores Sunday were red-zone specials. Size and power get so much attention in the game, but sometimes the battle is won by quickness, agility and design.
The Shuffle Up ranking series returns this week and I've given a lot of pregame thought to these Chargers. I'll probably have Royal in the mid-30s at wide receiver, a WR3 in most formats. I don't see any reason why he can't make a push at 10 touchdowns or more, clicking in the new scheme (especially if Floyd has to miss any time). Rivers is pushing into the Top 12 argument for his position, especially with the San Diego defense struggling so much. The Chargers offensive line still has issues, but McCoy and Whisenhunt have found ways to mask them. Gates is a lower-end TE1 so long as he stays healthy.
Mathews remains a tricky call, par for the course with him. He collected a respectable 73 yards on 16 carries Sunday, though he also lost a fumble. And while he was ignored in the passing game (one catch, three yards), Danny Woodhead saw plenty of satellite looks (9-27 rushing, 8-37 receiving). I'll probably have Mathews ranked as a lower-end RB2 for the next few weeks, but I don't think anyone expects him to play a full season.
Those generic injury concerns apply to the main Eagles too, of course. Chip Kelly's two-week show in the NFL has been everything we love for fantasy - points, yards, volume, an explosion on the scoreboard. Michael Vick was brilliant again (23-for-36, 428 yards, two TD passes, one TD rush), though he also left briefly in the fourth period after one of the Chargers planted him to the turf. Does Vick make it to December in one piece? Heck, can he last half the season taking this many hits? Nick Foles is the most intriguing backup quarterback play in the fantasy world, and worth a speculation-own in deeper leagues.
DeSean Jackson was an uncoverable stud all afternoon, posting a silly 9-193-1 line on 15 targets (he narrowly missed two other scores; one penalty, one slight overthrow). The Chargers had no idea what to do with him. LeSean McCoy didn't score but no one is going to quibble with 167 total yards (11-53 rushing, 5-114 receiving). But again, we have to speculate. Can the undersized Jackson stay in one piece all year? Does it bother you that McCoy hasn't played a full season since 2009?
The Eagles host Kansas City on Thursday (the Andy Reid comeback special), then visit Denver and the Giants. Maybe the Chiefs defense - and the quick turnaround of Thursday football - will hold the Eagles back a speck in Week 3, but there's no way you're benching (or aggressively selling) your prime-time Philly guys now. The Denver and New York games figure to be high-scoring.
The Chargers look at this upcoming schedule: at Tennessee, home against Dallas, at Oakland. Nothing to be afraid of, so long as Rivers is reasonably protected and his skill guys stay on the field. Let's have some fun with this rebuild story. When you find an NFL carnival, you'll want to follow it around all season. Go where the fun is.
• One simple word to sum up Washington's 38-20 loss at Green Bay: rerun. The Week 2 script was almost identical to the Monday loss to the Eagles. The Redskins spotted a 31-point lead to the Packers before garbage-time production late; although Robert Griffin has topped 300 yards in both of his starts, it's impossible not to be concerned here. Griffin showed little interest in running, and he didn't throw the ball well while the game was still within reach. Alfred Morris (120 total yards) and Pierre Garcon (8-143-1 on 13 targets) filled the stat-sheet nicely, but you can put Fred Davis on a milk carton (one catch for three piddly yards; two looks). The Week 5 bye can't get here quickly enough; in the meantime, Washington plays Detroit and Oakland.
There's no new tale to tell with the Packers passing game: Aaron Rodgers was letter perfect (34-for-42, 480 yards, four TDs), and he included all of the major receiving options. James Jones piled up 178 yards on 11 grabs (his lone mistake was a fumble around the goal line), while Randall Cobb (9-128-1), Jordy Nelson (3-66-2) and Jermichael Finley (6-65-1) all found the end zone. Bang on the drum all day.
Green Bay's only sad story came in the backfield. Eddie Lacy suffered a concussion on his first carry, courtesy of a nasty Brandon Meriweather hit. Unheralded backup James Starks took full advantage, rolling to 132 yards and a score on 20 carries. I'd like to think Lacy would have done just as well - if not better - had he been healthy, but we'll never know. By default, Starks belongs near the top of anyone's free-agent list, despite his mediocre history. Every post-concussion timetable is a guessing game.
• It's a story we know by heart - a talented-but-unhappy receiver is usually catered to after a week of complaining. Miami's Mike Wallace spouted off after his quiet Week 1, and the Dolphins fed him early and often in a victory at Indianapolis (9-115 on 11 targets, with a first-quarter touchdown). Well played, Joe Philbin. Well thrown, Ryan Tannehill (319 yards, 9.4 YPA). Brian Hartline had a respectable day (5-68 on eight targets), though he was mildly upstaged by hybrid tight end Charles Clay (5-109, plus a one-yard rushing score).
Lamar Miller also got off the skids, rushing 14 times for 69 yards and a score, a nifty jaunt around left end. He's no sure thing week-to-week, but his quiet opener told us more about Cleveland's staunch defensive front than it did about Miami's rushing game. Daniel Thomas (8-30 rushing) is just a guy, no one to fear. Miami's off to a solid 2-0 start, winning a couple of road games. An interesting test comes next week, the home opener against Atlanta.
The Colts dusted off a few of their own weapons: T.Y. Hilton was mercifully added to the game plan (6-124 on 12 targets) and Coby Fleener was busy (4-69-1) in the absence of Dwayne Allen. Hilton's work came at the expense of Darrius Heyward-Bey, a non-factor (2-10-0 on five looks). Ahmad Bradshaw was passable on 18 touches (84 total yards), adding a short touchdown run. Donald Brown (7-30 rushing) hasn't changed over the years.
• Atlanta's 31-24 victory over St. Louis sounds delicious, but there were a handful of fantasy land mines. Matt Ryan (374 yards, two TDs) and Julio Jones (11-182, 81-yard score) went bonkers, as is their wont, but Steven Jackson injured his thigh on a first-quarter touchdown and Roddy White (3-21-0) and Tony Gonzalez (4-33-0) didn't do much. I don't see how we can trust White until he shows us one complete, productive game. Jacquizz Rodgers was disappointing (11-17 rushing, 4-28 receiving) in the absence of Jackson; Jason Snelling had two effective carries (2-17-1) and might be the better handcuff, if you need to play that card. Given Atlanta's mediocre run blocking, Ryan's a safe week-to-week volume play.
Sam Bradford had a monster game (33-for-55, 352 yards, three scores), most of it born from garbage time. Chris Givens went for 105 yards, Tavon Austin scored twice and Austin Pettis added an 8-78-1 line, but tight end Jared Cook (1-10-0 on six targets) wasn't a factor. I'm curious to see how many routes Cook actually ran in this game; the Rams lost tackle Rodger Saffold to a knee injury, which may have shifted Cook's role somewhat. We'll see what the tape tells us.
• Both of the Manning Brothers went over 300 yards in their meet-up, but that's where the similarities end. Peyton collected two touchdown passes (drop-plagued Wes Welker, shiny toy Julius Thomas), while Eli had one score against four picks. Following those numbers, the Broncos turned the game into a rout in the second half. Peyton is on pace for 72 touchdown passes; Eli's on a 56-interception clip.
Knowshon Moreno grabbed the baton in the Denver backfield, scoring on two snappy runs (20, 25) and making 93 yards on 13 attempts. Make sure he's not floating around the wire. Ronnie Hillman only had one touch, and Montee Ball had a day to forget (12-16 rushing, goal-line fumble). Ball did make 27 yards on two catches, but the day belonged to Moreno. Oakland waits in Week 3.
No one in the Giants backfield went anywhere, as the trio combined for 23 crummy yards on 19 carries. David Wilson ran like a man petrified of losing his job; maybe the club went too far with the fumble concerns. You don't want to psyche out your playmakers. Brandon Jacobs didn't show anything in his seven carries (four yards), though he scored on a one-yard plunge.
• It might be a few seasons before EJ Manuel enters the QB1 discussion, but the rookie's presence shouldn't hurt Buffalo's key offensive talent. C.J. Spiller found plenty of lanes against Carolina (16-103 rushing; 4-26 receiving), though Fred Jackson poached 16 touches and a four-yard score. Stevie Johnson (8-111-1) is already in step with Manuel, though it was kind of the Panthers to lose track of Johnson on the game-winning score in the final seconds. Rookie Robert Woods did well with his opportunities (4-68, six targets).
Worried about Cam Newton yet? He threw for a modest 229 yards on 38 attempts (two scores, one pick) and wasn't running much (4-15). If Newton doesn't step up the ground game, he's no longer an automatic fantasy start on my clipboard. Carolina's receiving group is nothing special. Perhaps a Week 3 date with the Giants (or the Week 4 bye) will help the Panthers sort things out.
• Every piece of Dez Bryant summer propaganda was justified at Kansas City (9-141-1 on 13 targets), but the rest of the Cowboys dropped the ball en route to a 17-16 defeat. DeMarco Murray managed just 25 yards on 12 carries (a 5-49 receiving day partially soothed the pain) and just three of eight Jason Witten targets went for receptions. You don't want to crush Tony Romo after a 99.1 rating game (no picks, 30-for-42, 298 yards), but you need to convert more than three third downs. Dallas has three home games in the next four weeks, starting with the Rams next Sunday.
Alex Smith held the game-manager role for the Chiefs, making just 223 yards on 36 attempts. At least he threw the scores to our fantasy players of interest, Jamaal Charles (16-55; 8-48) and Dwayne Bowe (4-56, eight targets). Smith also ran for 57 yards on eight carries. The Chiefs defense didn't go crazy, though it collected three sacks and a couple of fumble recoveries against a difficult matchup. This will be a plus unit for many weeks, but Philly is a dangerous Thursday night opponent.
• Everyone silly enough to buy into Chad Henne as a competent replacement, raise your hand. Okay, maybe it's just me. Henne struggled throughout the ugly 19-9 loss at Oakland, and most of his 241 passing yards came on two late drives after the game was decided. If the Jaguars were improved over Week 1, it was by the tiniest of margins. Cecil Shorts at least helped us (8-93 on 14 targets), better late than never. The Jaguars offense was mediocre with Maurice Jones-Drew (10-27 rushing), and downright horrendous after he left the game with a sprained ankle. X-rays came back negative.
Now Jacksonville heads to Seattle for Week 3. Good luck with that.
The Raiders controlled the game on the ground, running for 226 yards (Darren McFadden 129, Terrelle Pryor 50, Rashad Jennings 32, Marcel Reese 15 - and a fantasy-irrelevant touchdown). McFadden lost a fumble but otherwise looked engaged throughout. Pryor's legs drive most of his value, obviously; he was scattershot through the air (15-for-24, 126 yards, no TDs or picks). No Oakland receiver topped 42 yards, and Denarius Moore was shut out on two targets.
• The understudies had a major role in Houston's overtime win over Tennessee. Rookie wideout DeAndre Hopkins was terrific (7-117-1, game-winning score), stepping up after Andre Johnson's concussion. Johnson expects to play in Week 3, but you never know with head injuries. Ben Tate (9-93 rushing) continues to produce, stealing work from incumbent Arian Foster (19-79). Foster scored a late touchdown and two-point conversion to force the fifth period, but he was snuffed out on a goal-line carry on the final possession. I can't imagine Tate getting less than 30-40 percent of the backfield work for the foreseeable future.
Chris Johnson remains a mixed bag for Tennessee. A 96-yard day on 25 carries isn't so bad, but he's not getting goal-line looks or work in the passing game (one catch). Maybe he's closer to a RB2 this season. Kendall Wright (7-54-1, 11 targets) had a credible showing as the busiest Titans receiver, but Kenny Britt can't seem to get going (4-28, nine targets).
• No new themes were established in New Orleans's 16-14 victory at Tampa Bay. The Saints passed to set up the pass; Greg Schiano stomped around the sidelines mad at the world; Josh Freeman made key mistakes at the worst times; and the Bucs somehow found a way to blow a lead in the final minute. Jimmy Graham had a monstrous day (10-179-1), certainly nothing new. Vincent Jackson (5-77-0) lost a 73-yard touchdown, courtesy of a Tampa Bay formation penalty.
The Freeman benching could come at any moment, not that rookie Mike Glennon is necessarily ready to play. Schiano and Freeman clearly don't get along, and the 0-2 Bucs need to make something happen. Tampa heads to New England next weekend.
• Flash scoring was the story of the first half in Chicago - Cordarrelle Patterson ran the opening kick back; both teams scored on defense - but when push came to shove, the Bears made more plays in the trenches and snuck past the Vikings. Martellus Bennett won the game with a sparkling 16-yard touchdown catch in the final minute, his second score of the game. And to think, the heroics came despite what Bennett terms a "messed up shoulder." Here's hoping Bennett is hale for Week 3 at Pittsburgh - the Marc Trestman offense agrees with him. Unfortunately, it's a late start and we might not know the skinny by 1 pm ET.
Matt Forte is also a terrific fit for Trestman's scheme - he rolled up 90 yards on 19 carries and 71 yards on 11 catches. Forte didn't score and he lost a fumble, but most of us will accept that bottom line. Christian Ponder only had one turnover, but his failure to click in the red zone - Minnesota settled for three short field goals late in the game - had a major role in Minnesota's loss. Matt Cassel is no savior, but it's possible he might start at some point in 2013.
• Baltimore's 14-6 win over Cleveland was notable for two injuries: Ray Rice's hip and Brandon Weeden's thumb. The Ravens didn't immediately schedule an MRI for Rice, a piece of positive news, but it's hard to speculate much until we get the Monday update. X-rays on Weeden's thumb came back negative. Jason Campbell is the backup.
Rice (2.8 YPC) and Bernard Pierce (3.0 YPC) both struggled to find lanes against Cleveland's excellent run defense. Trent Richardson (18-58; 5-21) was mediocre on the other side. At least we saw useful production from a couple of buzz players: Jordan Cameron (5-95-0 on seven targets) and Marlon Brown (4-45-1, six targets). The Browns welcome Josh Gordon back next week, another receiver for Weeden to overthrow.
• The medical log was a mess in Arizona as well, where Reggie Bush suffered a knee injury and Larry Fitzgerald dealt with hamstring problems. Joique Bell is the obvious winner in Detroit if Bush needs a timeout. He should be long gone in your league, but check, just in case.
The Lions found a way to lose this game despite two Calvin Johnson touchdowns, the obligatory Carson Palmer pick-six, and a quiet game from every major Cardinals wideout. Arizona had just one third-down conversion for the day, courtesy of a pass-interference penalty on the game-deciding drive. Rashard Mendenhall was a working-class hero, totaling 94 total yards and punching in a short touchdown.
• If you opted for Breaking Bad over the Niners and Seahawks, you didn't miss much of a football game. Both clubs struggled in the weather-delayed first half - Seattle cobbled together a 5-0 lead - then Marshawn Lynch (three touchdowns) and the Seahawks defense put the hammer down over the final 30 minutes.
There's red ink all over the boxscore. Colin Kaepernick threw three picks, Frank Gore ran for 16 yards, Anquan Boldin couldn't get open (one catch), Vernon Davis tweaked a hamstring. Don't let this result sour you on the Niners; a lot of opponents get trampled in this stadium. Heck, Jim Harbaugh's club had an uglier result last year in Week 16. This is a good team that should rebound quickly. (Sorry, Indianapolis: you draw the angry Niners next Sunday.)
Russell Wilson will take the win, but it was one of his weaker games (8-for-19, 142 yards, one score, one pick, 33 rushing yards). Seattle's offensive line could use some work, especially if LT Russell Okung (toe) is out for any length of time.
Early Waiver Considerations For Week 3
QB Philip Rivers (40 percent)
QB Sam Bradford (47 percent)
QB Ryan Tannehill (16 percent)
QB Nick Foles (1 percent)
RB Joique Bell (76 percent)
RB Bernard Pierce (47 percent)
RB Knowshon Moreno (54 percent)
RB James Starks (10 percent)
RB Jacquizz Rodgers (22 percent)
RB Jason Snelling (1 percent)
WR Eddie Royal (20 percent)
WR DeAndre Hopkins (49 percent)
WR Josh Gordon (62 percent)
WR Marlon Brown (25 percent)
WR Stephen Hill (4 percent)
WR Robert Woods (8 percent)
WR Nate Burleson (10 percent)
TE Coby Fleener (11 percent)
TE Charles Clay (2 percent)
DEF Buffalo (4 percent)
DEF Minnesota (19 percent)