Byron Hetzler/US Presswire
Welcome back to fantasy rosters, Brandon Marshall. We missed you in Week 1!
If we've learned anything about emerging Denver Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler in the first two weeks of the young season -- other than the fact that he's looking like a top-5 fantasy signal-caller -- it's that he certainly locks in on wide receivers. In Week 1, his primary target was rookie Eddie Royal, and he ignored other options. This week, we saw Marshall set a franchise record with 18 catches, just two off the NFL mark that Terrell Owens set in 2000. Cutler went to Marshall time and time again, except on the final two plays that resulted in the exciting Broncos win over San Diego. Royal caught the tying touchdown and winning two-point conversion, salvaging an otherwise below-average fantasy day. As long as Marshall is there, chances are Royal won't approach his Week 1 numbers (nine catches for 146 yards and a score) anytime soon.
Why is that? Well, basically, Cutler and Marshall don't appear to share so well. In 2007, Cutler made Marshall the most targeted wide receiver in football, and Marshall finished fifth in catches. Over his past five regular-season games, Marshall has 55 catches, an NFL record. Maybe the duo is back to its old tricks after being apart in Week 1. Being reunited really does feel so good, and this is great news for fantasy owners who had shied away from either player. Marshall gave fantasy owners their share of angst this offseason, getting in trouble with the law and suffering a serious forearm injury. The league suspended him for three games, then after an appeal, reduced his punishment to one game. Marshall probably came at some discount in drafts and trades, and now he's looking like at least a top-5 fantasy wide receiver, possibly the best. Good for you if you picked him up on the cheap.
We might be saying the same thing a week from now about the Panthers' Steve Smith. Remember to activate Smith for Week 3 as he returns from suspension. Some fantasy owners might have forgotten to activate Marshall as he returned from his suspension, given he was started in only 81.4 percent of leagues in Week 2.
The Chargers, clearly not the same defense this season without Shawne Merriman, had to know Marshall was going to get the ball since he had double-digit catches by halftime, but still, they couldn't stop the third-year player. Of course, credit also needs to go to Cutler, who completed 36 of 50 passes for a career-high 350 yards and didn't seem to panic one bit on the final drive, even though Denver had blown a rather large lead thanks to Philip Rivers and Darren Sproles pilfering its defense. Cutler had a very different offseason than Marshall, but fantasy owners still were a bit cautious in drafting him, as the quarterback was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. However, as we were told all summer, the disease is treatable, and Cutler has gotten off to a terrific start to the season. There was nothing to worry about.
Fantasy owners who put their faith in Cutler and Marshall were rewarded Sunday. Look for more fun the rest of the season.
• If Cutler and Marshall make up the top QB-WR duo in football, Kurt Warner and Anquan Boldin might not be far behind. An angry Boldin playing for a new contract might get his wish soon if he keeps this up. He caught six passes for 140 yards, including all three of Warner's touchdowns. Larry Fitzgerald wasn't exactly forgotten, though, catching six passes for 153 yards. It was the sixth time the pair reached 100 receiving yards apiece in one game. Also, no quarterback has more passing yards than Warner in the past eight regular-season weeks.
• The Raiders' running back situation drew comparisons to that of the Vikings, but really, veteran Justin Fargas was the No. 1 guy entering this week, not Darren McFadden. In Minnesota, Chester Taylor clearly is the backup. However, fantasy owners opted to start McFadden in 48 percent of leagues in Week 2, compared to Fargas in 38 percent of leagues. Of course, Fargas then pulled a groin, and McFadden went off on the beleaguered Chiefs, rambling for 164 of the team's 300 yards. Fargas might not get his job back. McFadden's rushing total was the most for a rookie in his first or second game since Ottis Anderson gained 193 yards in 1979. Third-string back Michael Bush ran for 90 yards and a score as well.
• Another week, another win for the Patriots. Matt Cassel's first start went reasonably well, although he didn't do much in fantasy. He threw 23 passes against the Jets; for perspective, note that Tom Brady never threw that few in a game in 2007. Cassel was picked up in nearly 70 percent of ESPN leagues but started in just less than 25 percent. He did get the victory, however, as Brett Favre had an ordinary afternoon.
|This Week In Fantasy Football History|
By Neil Tardy
1992: If Barry Foster wasn't a fantasy phenomenon after topping 100 yards in Week 1, he was before Week 2 was out. He racked up 190 yards and two touchdowns for Pittsburgh on his way to 1,690 yards on the ground and 11 scores for the season.
2004: This was the year Denver coach Mike Shanahan officially started driving fantasy owners insane. After trading Clinton Portis in the offseason, Shanny unleashed the 5-foot-7 force that was Quentin Griffin to open the '04 campaign. And on a night when Griffin's opposite, fantasy superstud Priest Holmes, ran for 151 yards and three TDs, Griffin was every bit as good -- 157 total yards and three scores. For. One. Night. By Week 4, it was Reuben Droughns -- not Griffin, Garrison Hearst or Tatum Bell -- who emerged as the Broncos' top back. Griffin would make only three more starts in his NFL career. He never found the end zone again.
Don't be fooled by Torry Holt having had a decent day, because more than half his yards and his touchdown came on a fluky play. Definitely downgrade Holt, as Marc Bulger has no time to throw, even when trailing. Heading into the final minute of play, Week 1 hero Eddie Royal had caught four passes for 33 yards. He is not a weekly play. Staying with the Broncos, 33-year-old Michael Pittman clearly is the touchdown guy, but what is Mike Shanahan doing with Selvin Young? Other than a 49-yard run, Young did very little, and carries are tough to find. Earnest Graham broke a late 68-yard touchdown run to salvage his day, ending up with 116 yards. Before his big run, he and Warrick Dunn were splitting carries, though. Oh-so-reliable Laurence Maroney suffered a shoulder injury before halftime, then returned late in the fourth quarter. He gained 16 rushing yards overall. LaMont Jordan might have passed Maroney on the depth chart, gaining 62 yards on 11 carries. Of course, Sammy Morris scored the touchdown, but his eight carries went for zero yards. Hampered some by quarterback Matt Ryan, Michael Turner crashed down to earth, but he's got the Chiefs coming up in Week 3. The Raiders ran for 300 yards against Kansas City on Sunday. It's way too early to call Edgerrin James free-agent fodder, but it's not a good sign that Tim Hightower scored on a short run for the second straight week. I had Isaac Bruce active on a few teams, although he was missing in action Week 1, and he responded with 153 receiving yards. Good for Chris Perry! In Week 1, he averaged 2.2 yards per carry. In Week 2, his 21 rushing attempts went for 3 yards per carry, raising his overall average. He scored on a 13-yard jaunt, and Kenny Watson barely touched the ball. In Week 1, eight tight ends scored touchdowns. Entering Monday, only three tight ends have scored in Week 2. Ahmad Bradshaw looked very, very good in trash time against the Rams, but Brandon Jacobs remains healthy. For now. Likewise, kind of, Brandon Jackson enjoyed his seven carries, gaining 61 yards and scoring a late touchdown. Ryan Grant really struggled, possibly due to a sore hamstring. Please tell me every Andre Johnson owner removed the stud wide receiver from their lineups this week. Sadly, I know that is not the case, as 42.3 percent of you started the wide receiver -- and assorted Texans and Ravens -- despite the game being rescheduled for Week 10 and Week 2 being treated as a bye for fantasy purposes. Remember to check with us Sunday morning for all the latest news, inactives and start-sit advice, all packaged neatly on our Fantasy Surround page.
Darren Sproles, Chargers
The Darren Sproles era has arrived. With top fantasy draft pick LaDainian Tomlinson on the shelf in the second half, Sproles, not Jacob Hester, was called on to handle the star load, and he did, gaining 53 yards on the ground and turning a swing pass into a 66-yard touchdown. He also returned a kick 103 yards for a score. Sproles is the clear handcuff to LT and a worthy pickup, just in case.
Randy Moss, Patriots
Has Randy Moss left with Tom Brady's ACL and MCL? Moss caught only two passes for 22 yards, while the New England wide receiver most believed would be most hurt by the quarterback change, Wes Welker, caught seven passes for 72 yards. Don't treat Moss as a matchups guy quite yet, but it's tough to pay anything close to preseason value to acquire him in trade.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers: Maybe we should view anything against the Lions as misleading, but 328 yards and three touchdowns looked very Brett Favre-like. Rodgers soon could be a weekly fantasy start (he was started in 39 percent of leagues in Week 2).
Julius Jones, RB, Seahawks: Jones gained 127 yards on 26 carries, as the Seahawks leaned heavily on him with the passing game struggling. Expect more of the same in future weeks, meaning Jones gets No. 2 running back status.
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers: While DeAngelo Williams struggled, the rookie Stewart had a big second half, rushing for 76 of his 77 yards and finishing two touchdown runs. A depth chart change could be pending.
Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Colts: With a non-existent running game, Marvin Harrison catching only one pass and the team's top two tight ends out, Gonzalez caught nine passes for 137 yards, career bests in each category.
Santana Moss, WR, Redskins: Jason Campbell and friends bounced back after a brutal preseason and tough Week 1, and Moss came up large with 164 yards and the game-winning touchdown, making him the top Moss in Week 2.
Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals: The mess that is the Cincinnati Bengals struggled again, and Palmer now has a total of 233 passing yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions after two losses. He got one fantasy point Sunday. Next up, the Super Bowl champion Giants!
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons: Those who figured the rookie would defy the odds and be a weekly play couldn't have enjoyed seeing him throw his first nine passes incomplete and finish 13-for-33. Look elsewhere for your fantasy quarterback.
Larry Johnson, RB, Chiefs: Considering how LJ normally torches the Raiders, this 22-yard effort was a huge disappointment and really should concern fantasy owners who assume he is a weekly play. Without a quarterback, this isn't the case anymore.
Joseph Addai, RB, Colts: The top-5 overall fantasy pick didn't have to share carries with Dominic Rhodes, but 15 rushes for 20 yards isn't very productive. Blame injuries to the offensive line and a stout Vikings run defense. It's not a bad time to buy low on Addai.
Dante Rosario, TE, Panthers: The top fantasy tight end in Week 1, Rosario fell 90 yards and a touchdown short of that performance in Week 2, with one catch for 6 yards. In fact, a few of the top guys at this position fell off Sunday, including Anthony Fasano, Robert Royal and David Martin.
Many fantasy eyes will be on LaDainian Tomlinson this week to see whether his sore toe will keep him out of Week 3. Tomlinson carried 10 times for 26 yards Sunday and spent the second half on the bench with ice on his foot. Darren Sproles is the obvious replacement.
If not for Justin Fargas leaving Sunday's game early with a sore groin, Darren McFadden might not have had the chance to run wild. Fargas was off to a good start, with 43 yards in the first half. If he misses Week 3, and even if he doesn't, he might not get his starting job back.
Damon Huard threw four passes -- one of them an interception -- and his day was done. Later, it was announced he had suffered mild head trauma. Tyler Thigpen replaced Huard, who was replacing Brodie Croyle, and was ineffective. The Chiefs are in big trouble.
Bears wide receiver Devin Hester hurt his ribs returning a third-quarter punt, leaving Kyle Orton with one fewer target. The only Chicago wide receiver to catch more than two passes was Brandon Lloyd. Hester had one reception for the second consecutive week.
The Seahawks can't get a break with their wide receivers. With Matt Hasselbeck's top four options hurt, backup quarterback Seneca Wallace was slated to start. He hurt his groin in warm-ups. Logan Payne stepped in for him and tore a knee ligament, ending his season. Steve Largent should be expecting a call any day now.
Clinton Portis and the Redskins host the Cardinals. Portis has faced Arizona three times in his career and scored five touchdowns. The first time he played the Cardinals, he ran for 228 yards.
Meanwhile, Ronnie Brown has scored only one touchdown in four career games against the Patriots and averaged 50 yards rushing. It was against New England that Brown blew out his knee last season.
Matt Schaub got injured early and left both games against the Titans last season, totaling 14 pass attempts. Get ready, Sage Rosenfels! Andre Johnson has nine receptions and a touchdown each of the past two times he's faced Tennessee.
Maybe what Peyton Manning needs is a home game against the Jaguars. Manning was 20-of-29 for 288 yards and threw four touchdown passes against Jacksonville in Week 13 in 2007. Of course, the two previous seasons against that same Jags team at home, he totaled 341 yards and one touchdown pass.