Week 2 Revelations
Houston 34, Tennessee 31
We could begin today's Revelations with the obvious -- like fawning over Texans WR Andre Johnson's 10 catches for 149 yards and two touchdowns ... or Chris Johnson's 284 total yards and THREE touchdowns. But let's immediately focus on the poor fantasy owner who started Jason Campbell against the Rams or Brady Quinn against the Broncos, while keeping Matt Schaub (357 yards, 4 TDs) in the dunce-cap corner after his sickly Week 1 performance. Yes, Schaub was a risky play against the seemingly stout Titans defense; yes, he was reportedly still hampered by an ankle injury (from the preseason); and yes, Campbell and Quinn had the luxury of facing two gawd-awful defenses on Sunday. But there's a reason WHY Schaub was taken as high as Round 4 in fantasy drafts. There's a reason why he's a serious candidate to start from Weeks 3-17 (a favorable slate featuring Arizona, Seattle, St. Louis, Indy, New England), even if he's sharing time with Tom Brady, Donovan McNabb, Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Jay Cutler, Matt Ryan or Kurt Warner on fantasy rosters.
Andre Johnson: Andy Lyons/Getty Images
As for Johnson & Johnson, what is there left to say? You probably couldn't get Chris Johnson, via trade, unless you're willing to surrender Steven Jackson AND Roddy White as part of a 2-for-1 blockbuster. And Andre Johnson can only be had, as part of a 3-for-1 whopper, involving T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Jamal Lewis and the aforementioned Cutler -- he's that valuable, especially in PPR leagues! Perhaps the best topic-of-conversation lies with LenDale White: Should non-CJ-holding owners look to dump LenDale ASAP? I say yes, considering that he's 40 pounds lighter and, as a result, less of a power threat near the goal line.
Regarding the other fantasy stars ... Steve Slaton (59 total yards vs. Tennessee) missed the century mark against the Titans for the first time in his career, but he's still on the brink of a fantasy breakthrough -- starting as early as Week 3 (vs. Jacksonville). Texans TE Owen Daniels hauled in six catches for 72 yards and one touchdown, justifying his positional ranking ahead of Greg Olsen and Zach Miller. And the Titans' triplet-set of receivers -- Justin Gage, Kenny Britt, Nate Washington -- are a schizophrenic bunch (none finished with more than four catches or 36 receiving yards) and shouldn't be considered locks as weekly starters. Of course, that means Kerry Collins (220 total yards, 2 TDs) should never be a week-to-week starter ... but then again, you already knew that.
Baltimore 31, San Diego 26
Before the NFL mini-universe declares Willis McGahee (89 total yards, 2 TDs) to be a fantasy fluke, just remember this: The Ravens are on-pace for 32 rushing touchdowns this season (12 more than '08), and McGahee could easily register 10-12 scores in his new role as Le'Ron McClain's goal-line replacement (or so it seems). And at the very least, McGahee (who is noticeably lighter and quicker) now holds tremendous swap-meet value, especially for owners in dire need of bolstering their receiving corps, via trade. So, don't tread lightly on the McGahee issue. If you're going to keep him, ride him in the flex while he's red-hot. And if you're going to deal him, fleece Owner B in the process. As for McGahee's backfield mate, Ray Rice, there's no doubting his standing as Baltimore's best real-world talent. Expect weekly outings of 80-120 yards ... but be weary of McGahee and even McClain (28 total yards) vulturing touchdowns.
The Chargers, on the other hand, are chock-full of fantasy studs with clearly defined roles: Philip Rivers (446 total yards, 2 TDs) remains a top-6 quarterback; Darren Sproles (150 total yards, 1 TD) might be the NFL's second-best backup running back (behind Fred Jackson) ... and at the very least, serves as a must-start option in PPR leagues; Antonio Gates (5 catches, 78 yards) is an elite-level tight end and Vincent Jackson (6 catches, 141 yards, 1 TD) might be the league's best jump-ball-in-traffic receiver (even ahead of Randy Moss). It also doesn't hurt that V-Jax is currently the AFC West's best receiver, bar none. Unfortunately, LaDainian Tomlinson has also become a reliable fixture in fantasyland: If you're looking for a tantalizing talent who cannot escape the on-again, off-again injury bug ... LT's your guy!
N.Y. Giants 33, Dallas 31
Is there any plausible explanation behind two no-name Giants receivers pulling down 10 catches each in Big D? How has Mario Manningham (10 catches, 150 yards, 1 TD) effectively separated from the pack of inexperienced New York wideouts? And how has Steve Smith (10 catches, 134 yards, 1 TD) emerged as Eli Manning's go-to guy? Here's another question: At what point do fantasy owners stop referring to Smith as "the bad Steve Smith" when comparing him to Carolina's Steve Smith (aka, "the good Steve Smith")? Whatever the case, perhaps Manning (330 passing yards, 2 TDs) deserves to be treated like Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler, Matt Schaub, Carson Palmer and Matt Ryan in fantasy circles. On the negative side ... the success of Manningham and Smith adversely affected the play of Brandon Jacobs (58 rushing yards), Ahmad Bradshaw (45 total yards) and tight end Kevin Boss (1 catch, 13 yards). We're assuming their pedestrian numbers aren't a big deal; but just for kicks, we'll be investing some free-agent bidding money on Manningham and/or Smith during the week.
The Cowboys' Week 2 production is easier to explain: Marion Barber (155 total yards, 1 TD) runs sooooo angry all the time, which helps him near the goal line but likely hinders him amid 35-yard runs. Felix Jones (one touchdown) is a reliable threat for 100 yards with Barber ... and 140 total yards without him in the lineup. And Jason Witten (5 catches, 33 yards, 1 TD) is a top-4 tight end, no matter how you slice it. Heck, even Tony Romo's 127-yard, 1-TD, 3-INT night can be rationalized in this way: No NFL quarterback can succeed at the highest level with Roy Williams (1 catch, 18 yards), Miles Austin (1 catch, 20 yards) and Patrick Crayton (1 catch, 4 yards) serving as his top three pass-catchers.
Cincinnati 31, Green Bay 24
The Packers may have been world-beaters wayyyy back in August, but oh how things have changed on Walton Mountain! Greg Jennings was literally nowhere to be found, Ryan Grant (68 total yards, 1 TD) posted acceptable numbers but also lacks the killer chutzpah to carry a struggling team and QB Aaron Rodgers (304 total yards, 1 TD) has just two touchdown passes after two games. But hey, at least Donald Driver (6 catches, 99 yards, 1 TD) and the tight ends (Jermichael Finley, Donald Lee -- 8 combined catches) can deliver in a pinch ... which is more than James Jones (2 catches, 24 yards) or Jordy Nelson (1 catch, 11 yards) can say right now.
The Bengals, on the whole, weren't infinitely better than their NFC North counterparts. Outside of The Big Three -- Carson Palmer (186 total yards, 3 TDs), Cedric Benson (141 rushing yards) and Chad Ochocinco (4 catches, 91 yards, 1 TD) -- the rest of the stat sheet read like the fourth quarter of a Week 4 preseason tilt. But the half-glass-full person in me must remind everyone that Laveranues Coles and Chris Henry both scored touchdowns (despite totaling 14 yards) ... and that Andre Caldwell still has a golden chance at becoming a top-3 wideout for Cincy (despite the two catches for 16 yards on Sunday). How's that for a Lambeau leap of faith?
Minnesota 27, Detroit 13
Still convinced that Brett Favre -- at the tender age of 40 (come Oct. 10) -- has the look of an Old West gunslinger? Look no further than his 23-of-27 passing day for 155 yards and two touchdowns. His ultra-conservative approach to quarterbacking may be intelligent in real-world football, but it greatly hinders the value of long-range targets like Bernard Berrian (6 catches, 46 yards) and Sidney Rice (3 catches, 29 yards), while dramatically increasing the worth of Percy Harvin (55 total yards, 1 TD -- on just seven touches), tight end Visanthe Shiancoe (one TD vs. Detroit) and, of course, all-everything tailback Adrian Peterson (116 total yards, 1 TD). As for Favre's fantasy value, he's nothing more than a bye-week or emergency replacement, on the whole -- unless you're comfortable with a guy who'll struggle to get 200 yards and two scores week after week?
As for the Lions, they may stink at the present time. But just like those catchy milk commericals from the 1980s -- where a scrawny girl/guy develops into a strong, healthy and more-attractive man/woman, courtesy of 2 percent milk -- they're just a few tweaks away from being respectable in NFL circles ... and dynamos in fantasyland. Let's begin with Matthew Stafford: His day of fantasy reckoning will occur at Week 8 (at St. Louis), assuming he can withstand the physical/mental torture of Washington, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Green Bay before that. Calvin Johnson (5 catches, 51 yards, 1 TD) should average one touchdown per game this season. Kevin Smith (93 total yards) has emerged as a top-20 tailback (even better in PPR leagues) ... and Brandon Pettigrew (4 catches, 40 yards) could butterfly into a top-15 tight end by season's end. Add it all together, and Lions fans might someday come to realize the 0-16 flameout was a necessary evil. (yeah, right)
Revelations, Book II
New Orleans 48, Philadelphia 22
Here's a midweek bet you would have lost with your buddies: Which team would hold the Saints to fewer points to start the season -- the Lions in Week 1 (45) or Eagles in Week 2 (48)? Yes, New Orleans nearly hung a half-hundred on Philly at The Linc ... but is anyone really surprised by how unstoppable the offense is at this point? From WR Marques Colston (8 catches, 98 yards, 2 TDs) and RB Mike Bell (95 total yards, 1 TD) to Reggie Bush (75 total yards, 1 TD) and Drew Brees (311 yards, 3 TDs), the unsinkable Saints can absorb a few individual clunkers -- like Pierre Thomas' -4 yards, Robert Meachem's one-catch day or Jeremy Shockey's so-so outing (4 catches, 49 yards) ... and still be this year's version of The Greatest Show on Turf.
Drew Brees: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
As for the Eagles, QB Kevin Kolb deserves props for a 391-yard passing day (along with two TDs) ... but his fantasy-friendly numbers were likely a byproduct of classic garbage-time fun, and not his accelerated development as Donovan McNabb's heir apparent. But he did enough Sunday to earn a Week 3 start, which is crucial since Michael Vick and Jeff Garcia will be prowling the Philly sidelines against Kansas City. Kolb's most electrifying target, DeSean Jackson, caught four balls for 101 yards and one touchdown, justifying his standing as a Tier II pass-catcher (along with Boldin, White, Bowe, Houshmandzadeh, Colston). And Brent Celek registered eight receptions for 104 yards, making him the most attractive tight end in free agency -- at least while Kolb is under center. Last but not least, assuming Brian Westbrook's ankle injury isn't serious, he's a reasonable threat for 100 total yards each week, once McNabb returns to the field. In the meantime, he'll just have to hope that Philly can avoid 26-point losses in the very-near future -- a major factor in getting only 16 touches for 66 yards on Sunday.
Chicago 17, Pittsburgh 14
Before you even ask ... yes, Matt Forte owners should be a little concerned about his 62-yard output against the Steelers, the result of 18 miniscule touches. But at least he caught five more balls than last week (zero), suggesting that Jay Cutler is growing more comfortable throwing to an elite-level back, like Forte. After all, it's not like Cutler (236 passing yards, 2 TDs) was wildly successful throwing downfield on Sunday. His primary pass-catchers -- Greg Olsen, Earl Bennett, Devin Hester -- combined for nine catches and 84 yards. That said, if Forte doesn't bring home the fantasy bacon in Week 3 (at Seattle) or 4 (vs. Detroit), it might be time to consider a blockbuster trade. One person NOT worthy of trading for is Johnny Knox, despite his six catches for 70 yards and one touchdown. His outing, while impressive, reeks of the work of a one-hit wonder who doesn't deserve your fantasy attention (until further notice).
On the flip side, until Willie Parker (50 total yards) or Rashard Mendenhall (52 total yards) steps forward as the team's redoubtable, every-down back, Pittsburgh will bear a strong resemblance to the pass-happy Steelers of 2007 ... which certainly benefits the sustained fantasy viability of Hines Ward (6 catches, 57 yards), Santonio Holmes (5 catches, 83 yards) and, of course, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (227 total yards, 2 TDs).
N.Y. Jets 16, New England 9
Jets-Patriots may have ruled the roost in media circles for Week 2, but it had all the fantasy goodness of Broncos-Bengals from Week 1 -- before the tipped Hail Mary pass/catch with seconds to play. On the New England side, Tom Brady (216 yards, zero TDs) and Randy Moss (4 catches, 24 yards) were painfully mediocre, Fred Taylor, Laurence Maroney and Kevin Faulk were noticeably invisible and some ham-and-egger named Julian Edelman pulled down eight catches for 98 yards in Wes Welker's stead. What more is left to say? Brady, Moss and Welker are still must-starts regardless of scoring format ... but eventually, the nonexistent rushing attack and inconsistent play from the tight ends will take its toll.
New York's fantasy outlook isn't much sunnier: Leon Washington (76 total yards) and Thomas Jones (53 total yards) should always be considered as flex starters, but they'll probably have middling days like this 4-6 more times, given the lack of a dominant receiver (sorry, Jerricho Cotchery) and the steady-but-slow progress of rookie QB Mark Sanchez (161 total yards, 1 TD). In other words, caveat emptor on the trade market.
Arizona 31, Jacksonville 17
The Cardinals' rushing attack may be lost in Bizarro World right now -- where up is down, day is night ... and Tim Hightower (84 total yards, 1 TD) remains relevant in fantasyland -- but it's good to know all is right with the receivers again. Yes, Larry Fitzgerald had a subpar day (at least for him) of 34 yards and one touchdown, but he also has Anquan Boldin (8 catches, 69 yards) and Steve Breaston (5 catches, 83 yards) back in the fold and seemingly healthy enough to be established weekly starters (especially in PPR leagues). This obviously had a trickle-down effect on QB Kurt Warner, who bounced back from a mediocre Week 1 with 243 passing yards and two touchdowns -- solid numbers in a blowout. Now, if only Beanie Wells could demonstrate some of the form that made him a Round 4/5 pick in high-stakes fantasy drafts.
Regarding the Jaguars ... nothing beats a garbage-time run of fantasy fun, eh? From QB David Garrard's 309 total yards and two touchdowns to Mike Sims-Walker's stellar day (6 catches, 106 yards, 1 TD), it was barely enough to make owners forget -- albeit temporarily -- that Maurice Jones-Drew only posted 83 yards ... and that Torry Holt (6 catches, 65 yards) hasn't retired yet.
Atlanta 28, Carolina 20
Theoretically speaking, if you live in Atlanta and had access to only Falcons-Panthers from 1-4 p.m. on Sunday -- not because your precious DirecTV Sunday Ticket package was on the fritz ... but that you were attending a pre-wedding brunch (like yours truly) -- life didn't turn out too bad in the end (FYI: the egg frittata was excellent!). From Matt Ryan (223 total yards, 3 TDs), Michael Turner (110 total yards, 1 TD) and DeAngelo Williams (111 total yards, 1 TD) to the stellar efforts of Tony Gonzalez (7 catches, 71 yards, 1 TD), Roddy White (6 catches, 53 yards, 1 TD) and Steve Smith (8 catches, 131 yards) ... this game had it all for fantasy owners. Heck, even Jake Delhomme threw for 308 yards and one touchdown. But then again, if you were starting Big Jake after his Week 1 meltdown, that proves you're either a sadist (wanting him to throw SIX picks) or play in a fantasy league that rewards QBs for interceptions.
When it comes to trading, Ryan's an interesting buy. Yes, he amassed three touchdown passes for the first time in his young career; but the Falcons coaches are also making a concerted effort to feed Gonzalez and Roddy White, while conserving Turner's touches in the process. It's also a determining factor in trying to sell high on Turner, who looks a little thicker or -- dare we say it? -- heavier than last season.
San Francisco 23, Seattle 10
Leave it to Frank Gore and his 246 total yards and two touchdowns to rescue this game from total fantasy obscurity. If it weren't for Gore's two highlight-reel scores, we might've learned nothing from this dud -- except that RB Justin Forsett (92 total yards, 6 catches) makes for a better roster stashee than Edgerrin James (6 yards) ... Seneca Wallace (127 yards, 1 TD) and Julius Jones (9 total yards, 1 TD) are hardly worth mentioning in road games and that Josh Morgan (zero catches), Vernon Davis (2 catches, 32 yards), Isaac Bruce (4 catches, 35 yards) and Glen Coffee (29 total yards) are no longer worth keeping (unless Mr. Coffee serves as Gore's handcuff). And last but not least, we want to send a get-well-in-a-hurry card to Matt Hasselbeck (left game early with "torso" injury), courtesy of Nate Burleson (4 catches, 46 yards) and tight end John Carlson (6 catches, 46 yards). Awww, ain't that sweet?
Denver 27, Cleveland 6
We could devote this editorial space to the Broncos being the NFL's most surprising 2-0 team, or the Browns being the AFC's least surprising winless club. Instead, let's move past this snorefest-of-a-game and focus on the following: Use this week as a chance to land Braylon Edwards, Jamal Lewis, Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, Correll Buckhalter and Knowshon Moreno as buy-low options on the trade market. Through two games, none of the above players have demonstrated any flashes of fantasy brilliance, making them all perfect candidates for creative deals. Need Edwards as a WR4? Offer Ahmad Bradshaw in a 1-for-1 swap? Want Royal for your PPR league? Give up Tim Hightower straight-up, while taking some abuse from the short-sighted owners who suddenly view Timmy as a fantasy wunderkind. Want Buckhalter (106 total yards, 1 TD on Sunday) and Moreno (97 total yards) as a tandem? Surrender Tony Gonzalez as part of a 1-for-2 blockbuster, assuming you have tight ends Dustin Keller, Vistanthe Shiancoe or Owen Daniels on the bench. Moreno, of course, is a must-have for keeper leagues; but he's easily attainable in all other formats, simply because fantasy owners don't trust coach Josh McDaniels -- except me ... and QB Kyle Orton (263 yards, 1 TD).
Buffalo 33, Tampa Bay 20
Byron Leftwich may have the slowest passing release in NFL history, but there's no doubting his reliability as a garbage-time quarterback. With the Bucs behind the proverbial 8-ball from the get-go, Leftwich came out with guns a-blazin' -- to the tune of 296 passing yards and three touchdowns. (OK, so his two interceptions contributed to Tampa Bay's early hole ... but work with me here.) Kellen Winslow, Jr. was also rock-steady in defeat, catching seven balls for 90 yards and one touchdown. But his athletic grace while running through the Buffalo secondary wasn't enough to distract us from Tampa Bay's three-headed monster of Derrick Ward, Cadillac Williams, Earnest Graham rushing for only 57 yards. Oh sure, Cadillac had seven catches for 56 yards and one touchdown (72 total yards), but do you honestly think he'll match that receptions mark in '09? Translation: Williams is an excellent sell-high candidate for teams flush with rushers and anemic at receiver. Speaking of versatile backs ... does the Fred Jackson Show only have one more new episode in the can (Week 3 vs. New Orleans), or will Bills coaches keep Marshawn Lynch out of the starting loop when he returns from suspension in two weeks? As if Lynch could produce 188 total yards (163 rushing) at the drop of a hat, just like Jackson did on Sunday. Jackson also pulled down six catches, matching WR Derek Schouman's team-high output; but it's unlikely that either Jackson or Schouman will eclipse Terrell Owens (3 catches, 52 yards, 1 TD) and/or Lee Evans (1 catch, 32 yards, 1 TD) in that category by season's end. Because, as we all know, Evans is a notorious slow-starter ... and T.O. could never be happy (and quiet) as Buffalo's third- or fourth-best pass-catcher. Even at the ripe age of 35.
Washington 9, St. Louis 7
If Jason Campbell was ever going to assert himself as a viable starting QB in fantasyland, Sunday should have been that day. Yes, he tallied 270 total yards (just five less than a certain know-it-all had guaranteed on Wednesday); but to finish with zero touchdowns against the sad-sack Rams is baffling and, frankly, inexcusable. Forget Campbell's TD-count for a second ... how does Washington fail to reach double figures in this one? How does Clintron Portis (88 yards) only register 21 touches in a nip-and-tuck affair? And how does Santana Moss collect only three catches for 35 yards in a supposed bounce-back game? The way I see it, no Redskins playmaker is a fantasy untouchable (including Portis); and no Washington "star" should be an automatic starter the rest of the way -- including next week's gimme-game with Detroit. Speaking of fantasy untouchables ... I'm searching for a reason -- any reason -- to justify Marc Bulger's existence on any roster for 8-, 10-, 12- or 14-team leagues. Believe it or not, but his 134-yard, 1-TD day against the Redskins was a slight upgrade from Week 1 ... but still not enough to keep him as a QB2 over Mark Sanchez, Kerry Collins, Byron Leftwich, Matthew Stafford or even Seneca Wallace, if necessary. On the bright side, Steven Jackson finished with his customary 119 total yards, but he might be a great sell-reasonably high candidate this week. In the buy-low category, enjoy your last week of seeing WR Laurent Robinson (6 catches, 54 yards, 1 TD) on the waiver wire -- because it'll be his last. Right now, he's likely better than your current WR5.
Oakland 13, Kansas City 10
It's a fair question to ask: How did the Raiders win a physical road contest against a divisional opponent with only 166 net yards, while boasting a pair of leading rushers with 35 yards (Darren McFadden, Michael Bush)? Here's another stumper: How does a team (Kansas City) rack up 406 yards of offense, but only walk away with 10 points? This low-scoring debacle was enough to make fantasy owners screaming for those simple, pre-Internet NFL Sundays from the 1970s ... when only Joe Namath-endorsed TV spots for pantyhose left us shaking our heads. JaMarcus Russell with 109 passing yards? Zach Miller, Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey combining for three Oakland catches? Former Viking Bobby Wade (6 catches, 72 yards) leading the Chiefs in receiving? Seriously, this was the true definition of a "blah" game. Luckily, there were some brief flashes of fantasy goodness ... like Larry Johnson's 119 total yards (78 rushing) and touchdowns from Dwayne Bowe (5 catches, 56 yards) and McFadden (55 total yards). And let's be honest: If you have serious designs on making the playoffs and chasing a fantasy title, they're the only ones who mattered and WILL matter.
Jay Clemons can be found on Twitter, day and night (@SI_JayClemons), accessing your fantasy questions and comments. You can also read his award-winning Revelations every Sunday and Monday during the NFL season.
Frank Gore: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
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