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NFL Tuesday Takeaway: Week 1

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NFL Tuesday Takeaway

You know what makes the NFL great, its unpredictability. Each week, contradiction and conventional thinking collides giving sportswriters more than enough good stuff to write about on Tuesday. From a pair of superstar running backs coming back from ACL injuries to Sanchezmania to a pair of rookie quarterbacks taking charge in year one, it’s all covered in the Week 1 edition of the Tuesday Takeaway.

Cowboys vs. Giants

  • Fantasy owners are already fighting for Kevin Ogletree and free agency hasn’t even opened yet in most leagues. In front of a national TV audience, Ogletree caught eight passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns. If you’re worried about Ogletree being a one-trick pony, don’t be. Last year, Laurent Robinson scored 11 touchdowns as the Cowboys third receiver. Plus, the most telling play from Wednesday’s opener was when Tony Romo connected with Ogletree for a first down  third and 11 with 2:11 to go in the game. That one play proved to me that Romo has a lot of confidence in the fourth year receiver. Get him now and stash him on your bench (or start him this week).
  • The New York Giants running back situation became clearer after Wednesday night’s game, it’s Ahmad Bradshaw’s job to lose. Bradshaw played 53 of the Giants 56 offensive snaps. Not helping himself with an early fumble was rookie David Wilson. Wilson was on the field for just three offensive snaps for the Giants before being benched after his first quarter fumble. While I like Bradshaw this season, I still think Wilson eventually plays a prominent role in the Giants offense. I like Wilson as a good “buy low” candidate.

Redskins vs. Saints

  • Crazy stat of Week 1: Pierre Garçon was on the field for just eight offensive plays on Sunday, but caught four passes for 109 yards and a touchdown (88 yards). Garçon exited Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints with a foot injury. He should play next weekend against the St. Louis Rams and should be considered a good WR3/Flex option.
  • Alfred Morris is sure to be a hot pick-up this week on the waiver wire. The Redskins rookie running back finished Sunday’s game with 98 yards and a touchdown. Not only was Morris the team’s leading rusher, he dominated the other Redskins’ running backs in total number of snaps (Morris: 54 snaps, Helu: 19 snaps, Royster: 3 snaps). While Morris looks like the lead back in Washington right now, don’t be surprised if that changes during the season. With Mike Shanahan you never know which running back is going to be the featured guy from week-to-week.
  • How cool is Robert Griffin III? RG3 was 9 of 10 for 214 yards and two touchdowns when he was being blitzed by the New Orleans Saints. Griffin III’s debut was spectacular. I have no problem starting him every week in fantasy football (which I also said back in June).

Atlanta vs. Chiefs

  • Roddy WhiteRoddy White may have been overshadowed by Julio Jones in Week 1, but don’t give up on the Falcons veteran receiver just yet. In fact, White may be a guy you want to try and buy low right now. Eventually defenses will be forced to focus more of their efforts on Jones, which could leave White to run wild.
  • Could we be seeing a changing of the guard in Atlanta at running back? Sure looks that way. Michael Turner had just 11 touches (11 carries for 32 yards) on Sunday and played just 26 of the Falcons 56 offensive snaps. Jacquizz Rodgers, meanwhile, played 25 offensive snaps and had 9 touches (7 carries for 22 yards, 2 catches for 13 yards). I’ve written about this before, but it’s clear the Falcons are a passing team now and Turner’s days appear to be numbered in Atlanta.
  • Jamaal Charles looked great in his return from an ACL injury last season. The Chiefs running back lead Kansas City with 84 rushing yards on 15 carries, a solid 5.6 yards per carry. However, if you were relying on Charles to be a PPR star this year, that doesn’t look promising. Charles only played 29 of the Chiefs 69 offensive snaps and wasn’t targeted once by quarterback Matt Cassell. Instead, Dexter McCluster was the Chiefs featured back in the passing game, catching six passes for 82 yards on nine targets. Meantime, Peyton Hillis was used sparingly, carrying the ball just seven times for 16 yards. He also caught three passes for eight yards. The good news for Charles owners, look for his workload to increase as the season progresses. As for McCluster, consider him a useful running back in PPR leagues. Hillis, meanwhile, should be stashed on your bench as Charles’ handcuff.

Jaguars vs. Vikings

  • Congratulations to the fantasy owners who took a chance (Mike Rodriguez called that one) on Maurice Jones-Drew and Adrian Peterson. Despite Jones-Drew’s holdout and Peterson’s recovery from an ACL injury, both look ready to carry the load for their respective teams. Jones-Drew finished Sunday with 77 yards on 19 carries and Peterson rushed for 87 yards on 17 carries and scored two touchdowns. Both should be every week fantasy starters and Toby Gerhart and Rashad Jennings should be placed back on benches where they will resume their roles as handcuffs.
  • The Jaguars wasted little time getting Justin Blackmon acclimated to life in the NFL. The rookie wide receiver played 77 of the Jags 81 offensive snaps. While Blackmon only managed three catches for 24 yards (five targets), he will relied on heavily this year by Jacksonville.
  • Without question Percy Harvin is the number one receiving target for the Vikings, but Kyle Rudolph isn’t far behind. The second-year tight end had five catches for 67 yards (seven targets). He’s a nice option in league’s that require a tight end.

Dolphins vs. Texans

  • So much for Arian Foster’s sore knee. While the Texans running back didn’t put up great yardage totals (79 rushing, -4 receiving), he did carry the ball 26 times and scored two touchdowns. In contrast, Ben Tate carried the ball just five times for six yards. Foster owners rest assured, he is going to have a monster season and Tate looks nothing more than a handcuff at this point in the season.
  • As expected the Miami Dolphins offense struggled in Sunday’s 30-10 loss to the Houston Texans. Aside from Reggie Bush, no other Dolphin player should be on your fantasy roster in standard leagues. Bush compiled 115 total yards (69 rushing, 49 receiving), which was 41% of Miami’s offense. Despite playing on a bad offensive team, Bush is a solid RB2 in PPR leagues and a fringe RB2 in standard leagues.

Colts vs. Bears

  • Jay CutlerIt didn’t take Andrew Luck long to find a favorite target. The rookie quarterback targeted Reggie Wayne 18 times on Sunday and connected on nine passes for 135 yards. The Colts will throw a lot this season and Wayne will be beneficiary of many more Luck passes. Wayne should be considered a must-start moving forward. Also, Coby Fleener had a nice pro debut by catching six passes for 82 yards (10 targets). He’s a must pick-up in leagues that require a tight end.
  • Don’t label Donald Brown an NFL bust just yet. The fourth-year running back averaged 5.3 yards per carry against the Chicago Bears on Sunday and found the red zone once. Consider Brown to be a nice RB2/Flex player going forward.
  • As predicted in an earlier article, Michael Bush stole two goal line touchdowns from Matt Forte on Sunday for the Chicago Bears. Still, Forte looks like he will be a fantasy stud this season as long as he can stay healthy. Forte carried the ball 16 times for 80 yards and a touchdown, and was on the field for 57 of the Bears 77 offensive snaps. While it’s frustrating for Forte owners to watch Bush steal Forte’s red zone carries, Forte is still fantasy gold. Along with his 16 carries, Forte was also targeted five times, catching three passes for 40 yards. Forte is a solid RB1, while Bush isn’t a bad option if you’re desperate for a RB2. Bush carried 12 times for 42 yards and two touchdowns.
  • They’ve been apart for three seasons, but Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall didn’t miss a beat Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. The duo connected on nine passes for 119 yards and touchdown. Cutler was not shy when looking Marshall’s way. Cutler targeted his former Denver teammate 15 times. The Cutler/Marshall connection could be one of the best in the NFL this season.
  • It’s not too early to take a flier on Alshon Jeffrey. The rookie wide receiver was targeted five times, made three catches for 80 yards and a touchdown. He was on the field for 43 of the Bears 77 offensive snaps, the second most of any Bears receiver behind Marshall (71 plays).

Panthers vs. Buccaneers

  • So much for DeAngelo Williams being a must-start against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Williams finished the day with seven carries for minus-1 yard. With Jonathan Stewart out with an ankle injury, Williams was expected to have a good game against a Bucs defense that struggled last season. While Williams’ minus-1 yard rushing is disturbing, perhaps the more concerning stat is that he was only on the field for 22 of the Panthers 52 offensive snaps. Now might be a good time to buy low on Stewart.

  • If Sunday is any indication of what’s to come for Cam Newton, look for the second-year quarterback to run less this year. Newton ran the ball just five times for four yards on Sunday, which was a career rushing low for him. Despite throwing two interceptions, Newton was effective as a pocket passer, connecting on 69% of passes. In 2011, he only had three games with a completion percentage higher than 69%.
  • The Buccaneers spent a lot of money on Vincent Jackson and it looks like they will use him a lot. Unfortunately for his fantasy owners, the Bucs are using him to block. Jackson played 65 of Tampa Bay’s 67 offensive snaps and only caught four passes for 47 yards (7 targets).
  • It’s clear after Sunday that the Bucs have complete trust in Doug Martin being an every down back. The rookie from Rutgers carried the ball 24 times for 95 yards and caught four passes for 23 yards. His 52 offensive snaps to LeGarrette Blount’s six offensive snaps should be enough to convince you that Blount may not be worth a fantasy roster spot anymore.

Eagles vs. Browns

  • The Philadelphia Eagles threw the ball a mind-boggling 56 times on Sunday. While that trend won’t continue every week, one thing that will continue is Jeremy Maclin will be the Eagles top receiver this year. Of Michael Vick’s 56 pass attempts, 14 were directed at Maclin. Maclin hauled in seven catches for 96 yards and touchdown. DeSean Jackson, meanwhile, was second on the team in targets with 11 (LeSean McCoy: 9, Brent Celek: 8 targets). While I expect Maclin to be the Eagles top target, Jackson still has plenty of fantasy value.
  • It’s no secret that the best way to beat Michael Vick is to pressure him. The Browns did a nice job of getting in Vick’s face and it made a huge difference. When Vick was pressure on Sunday, he was 7 of 22 (31%) for 93 yards and three interceptions. Without pressure, he was 22 of 34 (64%) for 224 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Obvious statement of the week: The Cleveland Browns are the worst team in the NFL. The only fantasy worthy player on the Browns is Trent Richardson and I’m not sure he’s even worth a starting spot right now. His 19 carries for 39 yards was hardly the debut many expected. Panicking now may be premature for Richardson owners, but it’s not far off.

Patriots vs. Titans

  • It is panic time for Wes Welker owners. The Patriots receiver was targeted just five times on Sunday and had just three catches for 14 yards. Welker hasn’t had a game this bad since Week 17 of the 2009 season. I hate to jump to conclusions after just one week, but Welker appears to be getting phased out in New England. Many Bostonians I’ve talked to believe Welker mishandled his contract situation this offseason and it wasn’t the “Patriot Way.” Could his reduced role in the Pats offense be retribution for that? Bill Belichick would never do that (sarcasm font). Regardless, Welker’s fantasy value is falling fast. Sell now.
  • As I see it, Welker is now the fourth receiving option in New England. Brandon Lloyd led the way with eight targets, Aaron Hernandez was second with seven and Rob Gronkowski tallied six targets. I would start all three ahead of Welker at this point.
  • And don’t look now, but the Patriots have a legit running game. Stevan Ridley held onto the ball and finished Sunday with 21 carries for 125 yards and touchdown. He was on the field for 40 of New England’s 67 offensive snaps. He even caught two passes for 27 yards (three targets). Ridley’s a solid RB2, maybe even fringe RB1 in deeper leagues. He’s here to stay…if he continues to hold onto the ball.
  • Tennessee Titans rookie Kendall Wright played the most offensive snaps of any Titans wide receiver on Sunday. Wright played 52 of the team’s 65 offensive snaps and led the receivers with five catches (tied with Damien Williams). While Wright managed just 37 yards receiving, the Titans clearly have high expectation for him (as they should). Wright’s value improves this week, and the foreseeable future, with the return of suspended wide receiver Kenny Britt.
  • “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” I wonder how many Chris Johnson owners are saying that. The Titans running back mustered just four yards on 11 carries on Sunday against the Patriots. There really isn’t a silver lining with Johnson’s performance. However, if you’re someone who drafted him in the first round, be glad he at least caught six passes for 47 yards because without those yards he would hung a zero in Week 1.

Lions vs. Rams

  • Beyond Steven Jackson, there wasn’t much to get excited about with the St. Louis Rams. The top two receivers for the Rams were Danny Amendola (52/58 offensive snaps) and Brandon Gibson (46/58 offensive snaps), but neither did anything to warrant a fantasy roster spot in standard leagues. Amendola did have nine targets and hauled in five passes for 74 yards. He’s worth a spot on your bench in PPR leagues. Rookie Brian Quick, who many projected to have an impact this season, played just three offensive snaps.
  • Don’t forget about Nate Burleson. This offseason, the Titus Young hype reached a fevered pitch, but on Sunday it was Burleson who led the Lions in targets with eight. He finished the day with six catches for 69 yards. Young, meanwhile, was targeted just three times and caught one pass for 14 yards. Burleson was on the field for 54 of the Lions 69 offensive snaps, while Young played 40 offensive snaps.
  • The Lions featured their tight ends prominently against the Rams, targeting them 18 times. Quarterback Matthew Stafford targeted Brandon Pettigrew 10 times (5 catches for 77 yards) and Tony Scheffler eight times (5 catches for 30 yards).

Buffalo vs. Jets

  • So much for not being able to score touchdowns in the preseason. The Jets exploded on Sunday for 48 points, which included three touchdown passes by Mark Sanchez against Buffalo. Two of those touchdown passes went to rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill. Hill led the Jets with five catches for 89 yards and the two scores (six targets). I’m still ready to endorse Sanchez as an every week QB1, but he was impressive on Sunday. As for Hill, he’s definitely worth a roster spot after his strong performance in Week 1.
  • If for some reason C.J. Spiller is still available in your league, go get him immediately. Fred Jackson hurt his leg Sunday and will miss 3-4 weeks. Spiller filled in splendidly in Week 1 tallying 194 total yards (169 rushing, 25 receiving) and a touchdown. As long as Jackson is out, Spiller is a must start in all leagues.
  • The Bills lost wide receiver David Nelson for the year with a torn ACL. Nelson was a target magnet last season and someone will need pick-up his slack. The early favorite for an increased workload is Donald Jones who caught a team-high five passes for 41 yards and touchdown (7 targets). Jones is a sneaky pick-up if you’re already desperate at wide receiver, especially in PPR leagues.    

49ers vs. Packers

  • The Packers and Aaron Rodgers are known for spreading the ball around, but few people expected Randall Cobb to be the Packers leading receiver Sunday. Cobb hauled in nine passes for 77 yards and scored a touchdown on a punt return. Cobb is definitely worth a roster spot and is a good flex option this week, especially if Greg Jennings missed Thursday’s game with a groin injury.
  • James Jones is also a solid option this week if Jennings is out. Jones led the Packers with 81 receiving yards on Sunday and scored a touchdown. Jones’ had six targets (four catches) and looks like he’s poised to play a prominent role in the Packers offense.
  • Michael Crabtree picked up where he left off late last season and looked like a solid fantasy option for the Niners. His seven catches for 76 yards led San Francisco and Alex Smith looked to Crabtree on many critical plays. Crabtree is good WR3/Flex option going forward.
  • So much for Frank Gore’s demise. His 112 rushing yards was his highest rushing total since Week 8 of last season. Gore looked great against the Packers and solidified himself as the Niners featured back. Kendall Hunter (nine carries for 41 yards) will steal carries, but Gore looks good enough to be a must-start running back each week.

Seahawks vs. Cardinals

  • The Cardinals running back situation is a mess and neither Beanie Wells nor Ryan Williams assert themselves as the lead back. Wells finished with 14 rushing yards on nine carries, while Williams tallied nine yards on eight carries. The Cardinals leading rusher was wide receiver Andre Roberts, who rushed once for 15 yards. Avoid using any Arizona running back.
  • Larry Fitzgerald lead the Cardinals in receiving yards on Sunday, but Roberts led the team in catches. If you drafted rookie Michael Floyd (zero catches) with the expectation that he’d start opposite Fitzgerald, consider dropping Floyd and picking-up Roberts.
  • Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson relied on his veteran receivers in his NFL debut. Wilson targeted Sidney Rice and Braylon Edwards nine times each on Sunday. Edwards led the way for the Seahawks with five catches for 43 yards, while Rice caught four passes for 36 yards and a touchdown. I like both Edwards and Rice in deeper leagues as WR3/Flex players going forward. As for Wilson, keep him on your bench for now.

Steelers vs. Broncos

  • Peyton ManningThere’s no need to keep Isaac Redman on your roster anymore. The Steelers running back looked slow on Sunday night and was eventually replaced by Jonathan Dwyer. While Dwyer wasn’t much better, he was on the field more often than Redman (Dwyer: 42 snaps, Redman: 21 snaps). Once Mendenhall returns to the field, Dwyer is the only other Steeler running back worth stashing on your roster.
  • After missing all of last season with a neck injury, Peyton Manning looked like he was never gone. Manning finished the night with 253 yards and two touchdowns. Manning was vintage Manning when the Steelers dialed up the blitz. When Pittsburgh brought an extra rusher, Manning was 8 of 10 for 146 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Much like he did in Indianapolis, Manning distributed the ball evenly among his receivers. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker each had seven targets, while Jacob Tamme had five targets. All three should be owned in most fantasy league, with Decker and Thomas being used a WR2/WR3 option. Tamme is a solid option in leagues that require a tight end.
  • For those of you who bought into the preseason Ronnie Hillman hype, you can safely dump him from your roster. The rookie Hillman was expected to play a role in Denver’s offense, but instead he was inactive. Knowshon Moreno served as Willis McGahee’s backup and scored a touchdown, but Moreno only saw the field for 16 plays (59 total plays for the Broncos, 51 for McGahee). 

Bengals vs. Ravens

  • Joe Flacco wants to get paid like an elite quarterback and he looked like one Monday night. Flacco completed 21 of 29 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns. Flacco played well enough to consider him a QB1 going forward in most leagues.
  • The Ravens new no huddle offense could mean less Ray Rice this year, but he’ll still be a fantasy superstar. Despite carrying the ball just ten times on Monday night, Rice still totaled 67 yards and scored two touchdowns. Rice will get his touches and most importantly fantasy points.
  • The Cincinnati Bengals found a new grinder in BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The former Patriots running back took over Cedric Benson and finished Monday’s game with 91 yards and a touchdown. Green-Ellis was impressive against a normally stout Ravens defense. Green-Ellis averaged 5 yards per carry, something Benson did just once last season. Green-Ellis looks like a solid RB2 going forward.
  • A sneaky PPR pick-up this week is Andrew Hawkins. The second-year receiver caught eight passes for 86 yards. It was clear Monday night that the Bengals were making an effort to get the ball in Hawkins’ hands.

Chargers vs. Raiders

  • For a third year in a row I’ll say this: Darren McFadden will be a top 5 fantasy player if he can play a full season. He is such a dynamic player – in the running and passing game – that he has the potential to score a ton of fantasy points each week. While McFadden managed just 32 rushing yards on 15 carries, he was targeted 18 times against the Chargers, making 13 catches for 82 yards. A healthy McFadden will make any fantasy team better, even though the Raiders looked awful.
  • With the departure of Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd looks to be the Chargers top wide receiver this season. While they went out and signed Robert Meachem in the offseason, it was the veteran Floyd who led the Chargers on Monday night. Floyd finished with six targets, four catches for 66 yards and a touchdown. Meachem, meanwhile, was targeted just twice making two catches for 49 yards.

**Writer’s note: ProFootballFocus.com was used as a source for this article.

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Matt Lechner

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