Newton a hot name but Fitzpatrick may be the more effective player
Cam Newton's big first game was due in part to a poor Cardinals secondary
Ben Tate appers poised to get work throughout season behind Arian Foster
Jordy Nelson was targeted as much as Greg Jennings in Packers opening game
Football season has finally arrived, and with it all the usual rituals of fall: Laughing at the Chargers special teams and Andy Reid's timeout usage, complaining about other people complaining about their fantasy football teams on Twitter, praising whoever invented NFL RedZone, watching the Cowboys lose a lead in the fourth quarter, et cetera. Oh, yeah, and obsessively checking fantasy football scores in several different leagues.
I'm so glad it's all back.
Week 1 was a pretty good kickoff to the year. The Thursday opener was great. Cam Newton threw for 422; Tom Brady topped him with 517. A punter hit a 40-yarder on his first career field goal attempt. Ron Jaworski cursed on air during Monday Night Football. Fantasy wise, Brady's 99-yard touchdown pass to Wes Welker changed the results of many a fantasy game, and a bunch of quarterbacks put up ridiculous numbers.
Picking up a guy on the waiver wire after Week 1 can be a crapshoot. While everyone was recommending Brandon Jackson after Ryan Grant went down in the first game last year, Peyton Hillis would have been a better waiver pickup that year. Here's a look at the top fantasy waiver pickup possibilities after Week 1 of the 2011 season.
Cam Newton, Panthers (43 percent owned on Yahoo): Newton's relatively high-percentage of ownership is a byproduct of teams without waivers already picking him up after his Week 1 rookie record for yardage on Sunday. People are probably a little over-exuberant; the Arizona secondary was bad last year, and that was before they traded Dominique Rogers-Cromartie to the Eagles. In his first game, cornerback Patrick Peterson was outclassed by Steve Smith. Newton, though, looked great at times, but he's not going to be an every-week fantasy starter. He's worth picking up if you have another decent guy who you can start on matchups, but the upcoming schedule isn't kind to Carolina.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills (48 percent): You all know Fitzpatrick as the quarterback who went to Harvard, as announcers are sure to mention it several hundred times a game. Fantasy-wise, though, he's now the quarterback who goes undrafted and puts up some solid performances. Fitzpatrick never looks all that great and his overall numbers are never spectacular, but I'm with SI.com's Eric Mack: Fitzpatrick could put up great fantasy stats in Chan Gailey's offense.
Mark Sanchez, Jets (62 percent): They played from behind for most of the game, but it still looks like the Jets are going to throw the ball a bit more this year. (Try to breathe easy, Shonn Greene owners.) Dallas' secondary isn't that great, but if Sanchez gets a decent amount of attempts, he should be a good fantasy QB with all the weapons he has on offense.
Cadillac Williams, Rams (18 percent): Nothing like a Week 1 injury to shoot a guy up the waiver wire. The Rams' Stephen Jackson managed to injure his quad on his first carry of the year -- a 47-yard touchdown run -- and only returned for one more play. Jackson is likely out for next week's game against the Giants, so go grab Cadillac: He rushed for 91 yards in 19 carries and hit the hole well. Of course, the Eagles' run defense is going to have a lot of huge holes, but Williams is still an excellent fill-in starter until Jackson comes back.
Tiki Barber (0 percent): I was just checking to make sure you're paying attention. Move along.
Ben Tate, Texans (46 percent): Tate filled in admirably for the injured Arian Foster, rushing for 116 yards and a touchdown against the suddenly-woeful Colts. Foster isn't a definite to play next week; with Gary Kubiak praising Tate's blitz pickup he'll be the recipient of most of the carries if Foster can't go in any week. He's an intriguing guy to have on your bench.
Darren Sproles, Saints (61 percent): Reggie Bush's replacement looked sharp on Thursday, and could be a third running back, especially in points-per-reception leagues. Sproles had seven catches on nine targets; Drew Brees looked his way as often as any receiver.
Robert Meachem, Saints (57 percent): Marques Colston broke his collarbone in the opener and Lance Moore has an injured groin. Drew Brees is going to put up big passing numbers and somebody has to make those catches. Meachem is probably the No. 1 beneficiary of those injuries and should be picked up if you're short at receiver. A lesser option is Devery Henderson (29 percent) if Meachem is taken. Henderson received more targets on Thursday night -- 9 to 8 -- but Meachem will get more fantasy points in the coming weeks.
Jordy Nelson, Packers (71 percent): Nelson might be gone in your league, but if he happens to be available go get him immediately. The Packers look like they're going to put up big numbers again, especially in the air, and Nelson was targeted as many times as Greg Jennings in the opener.
Jacoby Jones, Texans (21 percent): With Kevin Walter (7 percent) possibly out a few weeks with a bruised collarbone, Jones should pick up some more targets. Matt Schaub leans heavily on Andre Johnson -- Jones was only targeted three times on Sunday -- but if Walter is out Jones becomes a more favorable play. He's shown flashes of brilliance at times; he might be able to snatch the No. 2 wideout job if given the chance.
Early Doucet, Cardinals (6 percent): Is this the year he breaks out? Doucet had a 70-yard touchdown on a blown coverage on Sunday, and looks to be Arizona's big-play threat. He's not an every-week fantasy starter yet, but could be a third fantasy wide receiver when the matchup's right. Andre Roberts (8 percent) is Arizona's other No. 2 possibility.
Jermaine Gresham, Bengals (16 percent): The Bengals QB situation isn't great, but young quarterbacks tend to rely on tight ends; if Andy Dalton continues to play, Gresham could get a lot of catches. He was targeted eight times on Sunday and caught 6 passes for 58 yards and a score.
Fred Davis, Redskins (3 percent): Is Chris Cooley now the second tight end? Davis caught five passes for 106 yards and was targeted six times to Cooley's two. Rex Grossman might not be Good Rex every week for Washington, but Cooley's getting older and could be used more as a blocking tight end. Davis looks to be the guy who will get the looks in D.C.
San Francisco (52 percent): If you get points for special teams touchdowns as part of a defense, the 49ers' Ted Ginn scored on two returns -- a kickoff and a punt -- against Seattle on Sunday. Ginn was third in the NFL in punt return average last year; he could certainly score again this season. San Francisco has an easy schedule -- based on 2010 schedule the season's third-easiest. Seattle isn't going to be good this season and the Niners had some secondary issues, but they are a good defense to look at if you're not happy with your current one.
Whoever kicks for San Diego: Nate Kaeding was the No. 1 fantasy kicker in most predraft rankings this year. Naturally, he was injured on the first play of the season, tearing his ACL while attempting to tackle Percy Harvin on his touchdown return to open the game. The Chargers haven't signed a kicker yet, but when they do their offense should get him enough attempts to score decent fantasy points. (Punter Mike Scifres hit a 40-yard field goal and three extra points in relief on Sunday.) San Diego is working out kickers as you read this.