If you tuned out early from Monday's Green Bay Packers-Carolina Panthers matchup, you missed the injury sustained by Steve Smith as he attempted to elude would-be tackler Hannibal Navies en route to the sideline. Smith was unable to return to his feet and was carted to the locker room. Initial speculation of a severe sprain gave way to an official report of a broken fibula.
With the Panthers unable to initiate any kind of running game (Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster combined for 38 yards on 12 carries), it's hard to gauge how this offense will evolve. The man who will roll up to the No. 1 spot in Smith's absence, Muhsin Muhammad, was on the receiving end of a Jake Delhomme pass for a 30-yard touchdown on the very next play. Muhammad saw eight passes on the night, including one from Smith on some early trickery by John Fox. He caught four balls for 65 yards in the contest and goes from a fourth receiver on most fantasy rosters to a solid No. 2 play.
For the final five minutes of the contest, special teams standout Karl Hankton saw time in the slot with the cagey veteran Ricky Proehl moving into the No. 2 role. While catching only two passes on four throws from Delhomme for 56 yards, Proehl garnered a lot of attention from the Green Bay secondary. If your league rewards you for receptions, Proehl will be of value to you with Smith out. Hankton's ascent to the rotation will be short-lived. To replace the lost speed from Smith, watch for John Fox to work rookie Keary Colbert into the rotation in Week 2 to stretch the defense. He's on my Watch list, as this guy has home run potential every time he touches the ball.
The loss of Smith also has repercussions in the backfield. With their No. 1 receiver down (Smith is the 12th WR drafted on average in Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Football PLUS leagues), the Panthers will need to utilize DeShaun Foster's pass-catching ability out of the backfield to complement a lackluster receiving corps. He is a better receiver than his counterpart Davis, hauling in four catches in Monday's loss to Green Bay. Look for his touches to rise as well.
Jake Delhomme was inconsistent in his first outing since the Super Bowl and will feel more pressure without the speedy Smith, particularly if Stephen Davis reprises his role as The Invisible Man. Smith was a worker, continuing to work his defender until the whistle. Only Proehl currently maintains that discipline, and that will be a detriment to Delhomme. He remains a fantasy backup for the time being.
For those of you who drafted Smith and now are scouring the waiver wire looking for relief for the next month, here are some names of note available in a large percentage of leagues.
- David Terrell of the Chicago Bears led all receivers in yardage (126) in Week 1, despite a lackluster effort from the offense against Detroit. He's trying to stave off the label of Bust, so he's motivated to post numbers. Rex Grossman will look his way often.
- Antonio Bryant emerged from Bill Parcells' doghouse to rack up eight receptions and 112 yards for the Dallas Cowboys. Vinny Testaverde and company will test the Cleveland Browns' defense at home in Week 2.
- Rookie Roy Williams came to play for the Detroit Lions in Week 1, catching four passes for 69 yards. He moves up to the top spot for Joey Harrington due to Charles Rogers' season-ending injury.
- Michael Clayton in Tampa Bay was impressive and lived up to Coach Jon Gruden's preseason hype. He caught seven balls for 53 yards in the Buccaneers' season-opening loss at Washington. With Joey Galloway out for the first half of the season, he's the No. 1 option for Brad Johnson alongside Tim Brown.
- Reche Caldwell of the San Diego Chargers caught four balls for 65 yards and a score against Houston. Caldwell may not be a long-term play, but he's worth a look-see on your league's waiver wire. The Chargers next play the Jets, who made Carson Palmer look good in his NFL debut.
- Cedrick Wilson of the San Francisco 49ers pulled in seven balls for 94 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons. Ken Dorsey will be the signal caller for the 49ers in Week 2 against New Orleans, who showed some holes in their opening loss to Seattle.
- Finally, I'll stay in the Bay Area with Rich Gannon's home run threat, Doug Gabriel. He caught three balls for 81 yards, including a touchdown on a 58-yard bomb. Gannon will use his new toy earlier against the Bills.
And with that, it's time to crunch some numbers for the week that was and to prep for Week 2. Happy New Year!