Football

Week 1: Lions and Texans and Bears: Oh, my!

I’m guessing you’ve heard about Arian Foster’s record-setting, 231-yard, three-touchdown breakout game against the Colts on Sunday. Foster’s explosion was undeniably the fantasy story of the weekend; but it wasn’t the only one worth reviewing.

For starters, Calvin Johnson — and his fantasy owners — were robbed. I don’t care what the rules state, that was a touchdown catch, and I empathize with anyone who loses their matchup over that travesty. (Especially my brother-in-law, who could have used those nine points against me. Sorry, bro; but rules are rules.)

Any confusion over the pecking order among Giants wideouts was cleared up when Hakeem Nicks racked up three touchdowns against the Panthers. Those who drafted Steve Smith several rounds earlier had better get used to that sinking feeling. Nicks is the real deal.

Chris Johnson’s dominant outing surprised no one; but was Matt Forte’s role as the Bears’ most prolific receiver a harbinger of things to come in Mike Martz’s pass-happy offense, or simply a byproduct of the matchup with the toothless Lions? Keep Forte in your lineup against the Cowboys next week, but don’t be shocked if you get a fraction of the production.

Has Darren McFadden finally seized the feature-back role Oakland drafted him to fill two years ago? Until he’s able to followup one solid outing with another – a feat that has eluded him to date – don’t bank on it. Especially with Michael Bush on the verge of returning to the lineup.

Is it too early to panic over lackluster opening-day performances from such notables as Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Schaub, Michael Turner, DeAngelo Williams, Andre Johnson and DeSean Jackson?

In a word, yes.

As for some other underachievers — I’m looking at you Matt Ryan, Jerome Harrison, C.J. Spiller and Mike Sims-Walker — you’re on a very short leash. Another flop like that and you’re going straight to our doghouse. And trust me, it stinks in there.

Free agent picks and pans

To win a fantasy championship, you need to start with a good draft. But filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents can also make a big difference. Here’s a look at a few players worth considering, and others who would look better in someone else’s line-up.

Catch ‘em while you can

Michael Vick, QB, Eagles —

He looked like the dazzling All Pro of old in taking over for the concussed (and ineffective) Kevin Kolb against a talented Packers defense. Kolb hasn’t been ruled out of Week 2 (yet), but even if he returns, Vick’s shadow will loom large over his shoulder. Next up, Detroit!

Brandon Jackson, RB, Packers —

Ryan Grant has never missed a game due to injury, but a badly sprained ankle will change that. Jackson looked good in relief Sunday, and he’ll get the start for at least one week. Consider the understudy a decent proxy for the Packers’ workhorse against the mediocre Bills. And remember, ankle injuries can linger.

Mike Williams, WR, Buccaneers —

The rookie wideout picked up where he left off in the preseason with five catches for 30 yards and a score. Not world-beating stats, to be sure; but enough to reinforce his value. I’ve been singing Williams’ praises for weeks, and yet he’s still available in more than half of fantasy leagues.

Austin Collie, WR, Colts —

Peyton Manning isn’t going to throw 57 passes every week, but any receiver that catches 10 balls from him is worth a look. Collie still ranks behind Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and Pierre Garcon in the hierarchy, but as we saw Sunday – and several times last season – he can produce when called upon.

Mark Clayton, WR, Rams —

One team’s excess is another team’s gold. With less than a week to get acclimated, the Ravens’ castoff hauled in 10 passes for 119 yards, on a whopping 16 targets. Since St. Louis is bound to be playing from behind more often than not, Clayton should be in line for several more days like this.

Don’t be fooled Peyton Hillis, RB, Browns —

He was the surprise starter and poached the touchdown run from Jerome Harrison, but Hillis also coughed up the ball twice (losing one) while gaining just 41 rushing yards. I’m more concerned now about Harrison than intrigued by Hillis.

Tim Hightower, RB, Cardinals —

There may not be a better time to deal Hightower, after his solid, but flawed, performance against the lowly Rams. Even with Beanie Wells inactive, Hightower had just 54 yards rushing (with one TD); but his two lost fumbles won’t sit well with the coaches. Sell high, while you can.

Marcedes Lewis, TE, Jaguars —
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