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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Sunday Game Recaps - Week 1
John Tuvey
September 8, 2008
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Giants 16, Redskins 7

The defending Super Bowl champs kicked off the 2008 season looking much like the team that closed out 2007. Brandon Jacobs bruised his way to 116 yards on 21 carries, but it was Derrick Ward and not Ahmad Bradshaw providing the change of pace with 11 touches for 50 yards. Eli Manning reconnected with Plaxico Burress, who accounted for more than half of Eli’s 19 completions and a similar portion of Manning’s 216 passing yards. The only surprise may have been Manning’s one-yard touchdown run, just the third of his NFL career.

Giants Fantasy Impact: At the risk of owing royalties to Denny Green, Eli was who we thought he was. He threw a pick, had a couple more turned down by the Redskins, and finished with 216 yards and in most leagues the equivalent of two touchdowns—right in line with the 208 and 1.4 he averaged during the regular season last year and the 213 and 1.5 he upticked to during the Super Bowl run. Those still aren’t fantasy starter numbers, especially if the G-Men plan to give Jacobs 20-plus carries a game—and the way he was running, there’s no reason they shouldn’t.

Jim Zorn’s East Coast debut of his West Coast offense wasn’t quite what he was hoping for. Picking up where he left off during the exhibition season, Jason Campbell looked uncomfortable—and that’s putting it kindly. Campbell amassed just 133 yards, largely ignoring tight end Chris Cooley (one catch) as well as countless other open receivers while he labored through his reads. With no threat to speak of in the passing game Clinton Portis found little room on the ground, finishing with 84 yards on 23 carries. Let’s just say there are some kinks to be worked out in the Nation’s Capital.

Redskins Fantasy Impact: Isn’t the WCO supposed to be a boon for tight ends and pass-catching running backs? Campbell looked at Cooley twice all night (one catch was erased by offsetting penalties), Portis saw his only look wiped out by another penalty, and Ladell Betts hauled in one of four passes Campbell directed his way (with, again, another catch taken off the books due to a penalty). Not only isn’t this the WCO fantasy folks signed on for when selecting Redskins, the Skins aren’t executing whatever version it is they are running. Fantasy owners have to hope Zorn can use four home games against weaker defenses (the Saints, Cardinals, Rams, and Browns) over the next six weeks to get this system on track.

Falcons 34, Lions 21

With all apologies to Michael Vick, the new-look Falcons let the dogs out in Week One and dismantled an undermanned Lions defense. Michael Turner averaged 10 yards per carry in setting a new franchise record with 220 yards, and he found the end zone twice. When he tired of abusing the Lions, Jerious Norwood pitched in with 93 yards and a touch on 14 carries. The passing game started out on fire, with Matt Ryan completing his first five passes and hooking up with Michael Jenkins on a 62-yard bomb. After that the rookie’s numbers were somewhat subdued, in part by the fact that Atlanta played most of the game with a comfortable lead and ran the ball 42 times. Roddy White made a brief appearance on a 46-yard grab of his own, but this day belonged to the Falcons’ ground game.

Falcons Fantasy Impact: If this offense looks familiar to you—a heavy dose of run-middle with some shots down the field—it’s because Mike Mularkey ran this same scheme with the Steelers earlier this decade. Let’s be honest; the Falcons aren’t going to dominate most of their opponents the way they manhandled Detroit in Week One. But the stats won’t look dramatically different from week to week: Turner and Norwood combining for 30-plus carries (36 this week) and the wide receivers with gaudy yards-per-reception numbers (Jenkins and White averaged 38.7 yards on their three grabs).

For the Lions, their commitment to the run bore some fruit with Kevin Smith scoring once as part of a 16-carry, 48-yard afternoon. Smith also factored into the passing game, catching four balls for 32 yards. However, Detroit was forced to play catchup early on, leaving Jon Kitna to fire 33 passes—completing 24, two for touchdowns, and amassing 262 yards. Calvin Johnson was his most frequent target, hauling in seven balls for 107 yards, but Roy Williams received the end zone love and made a sparkling touchdown grab as part of his three catches on the day. Tight end Casey Fitzsimmons rose from obscurity to make one catch for a touchdown.

Lions Fantasy Impact: Has the torch been passed? It’s not as if one side of Atlanta’s secondary was in lockdown mode, yet Johnson received twice as many looks as Williams. The official 10-5 tally was merely a 6-4 advantage until the Lions’ first series of the second half, when Kitna was picked by safety Lawyer Milloy while trying to hit Williams down the seam; after that it was all Cal with the Lions in full-on catch-up mode. Both receivers were targeted one time each in the red zone; both drew penalties on the play, with Johnson’s setting up the Fitzsimmons touchdown.

Ravens 17, Bengals 10

With Willis McGahee dressed but not playing, the Ravens turned their running game over to… Le’Ron McClain? Ray Rice tallied 83 yards on 25 touches, but the fullback with 17 career NFL touches carried 19 times for 86 yards and caught two passes for another 24 to ease the burden of quarterback Joe Flacco. The rookie’s passing numbers were neither impressive nor fantasy-friendly (15-29 for 129 yards), but he didn’t turn the ball over and he weaved 38 yards down the sidelines for a score. Flacco also delivered a key block on Mark Clayton’s 42-yard end-around touchdown run. The rest of the Ravens’ offensive output was, in a word, underwhelming.

Ravens Fantasy Impact: Todd Heap was supposed to be healthy, right? So he limped into the game with a bad calf and knee, then coughed up the football on his lone catch of the day before exiting with a bad back. Young quarterbacks tend to look to the tight end as a security blanket, but with Heap being so unreliable it appears Flacco’s relief valves will be his running backs, who pulled in six of the rookie’s 15 completions.

The only touchdown the Bengals could muster came on a fumble return, and there no joy to be found anywhere else on the offensive side of the stat sheet. Carson Palmer looked like he hadn’t throw to T.J. Houshmandzadeh or Chad Johnson all preseason, probably because he hadn’t. The once-vaunted trio combined for four catches and 66 yards, two-thirds of Palmer’s meager output on the afternoon. Cincy’s running game fared no better, with Chris Perry averaging just over two yards per carry on 18 attempts—by far his heaviest workload as a professional. Maybe the solace is that he didn’t get hurt.

Bengals Fantasy Impact: The Ravens can still bring the wood defensively, but the Bengals have had plenty of success against their division rivals in the past. No running game will quickly make Palmer a sitting duck, and a harried quarterback won’t have time to look downfield for his wideouts—and you can imagine how frustrated that will make Housh and CJ. It may be too soon to hit the panic button… but with dates against the Titans and Giants over the next fortnight, waiting too long will put you at the end of what could be a lengthy line.

Bills 34, Seahawks 10

The Bills got a punt return for a touchdown, a touchdown pass from their punter, and a score from tight end Robert Royal (playing the Rodney Holman role in Turk Schoenert’s Sam Wyche-style offense) in a route of visiting Seattle. They also received solid quarterbacking from Trent Edwards, who leaned heavily on Lee Evans to the tune of 102 yards, and 96 combo yards (and a touchdown) from Marshawn Lynch. A little of this, a little of that, an improved defense and the typically sterling play of Bobby April’s special teams unit… and all of a sudden you’re pasting 34 on the Seahawks.

Bills Fantasy Impact: You can only attribute so much to jet lag. Playing without star left tackle Jason Peters, the Bills gave Edwards plenty of time to find Evans amidst a secondary that put the clamps on wideouts last season. Let’s not get too hasty in claiming this is the year Evans finally lives up to the promise he’s flashed and delivers consistent fantasy results… but it sure is a nice start.

As if the abysmal performance the Seahawks left in Buffalo weren’t enough, starting running back Maurice Morris left after six carries with a knee injury and wide receiver Nate Burleson, one of the few healthy wideouts on Seattle’s roster, also departed with a bum knee. At least Burly delivered the Seahawks’ lone highlight of the day, scoring on a 20-yard reception from Matt Hasselbeck before exiting stage left. Hass looked very much like a quarterback who had missed most of the preseason, starting 1-for-8 and finishing not much better at 17-for-41 for 190 yards with a touchdown and a pick. Rookie tight end John Carlson emerged as the top target in Burleson’s absence, catching four balls for 52 yards. Overall, the Hawks could have saved a ton on jet fuel and just mailed this one in.

Seahawks Fantasy impact: While Burleson indicated following the game that he expects to play next week against the 49ers, there’s no word on Morris just yet. High-priced offseason acquisition Julius Jones was mediocre in his Seahawk debut, busting one run for 24 yards but totaling 21 on his remaining dozen carries. If Morris is out for any extended period, however, Jones would not only be the primary ballcarrier by default but also benefit from a pair of home games against divisional cupcakes San Francisco and St. Louis.

Jets 20, Dolphins 14

The hue of green may be the only thing that’s changed, as there was plenty familiarity in Brett Favre’s successful Jets debut. Favre spread the ball around, with seven different receivers catching balls and none exceeding three grabs; he also went deep, hooking up with Jerricho Cotchery on a 56-yard score to put the Jets on the board. Tight ends Chris Baker and Bubba Franks got in on the action, catching four balls for 53 yards between them, while Laveranues Coles caught Favre’s first Jets’ completion—then disappeared, failing to record another catch. Thomas Jones matched last year’s total with a rushing touchdown and also topped the century mark with 101 yards on 22 carries in a balanced offensive effort for Gang Green.

Jets Fantasy Impact: Cotchery leapfrogged Coles on most draft boards once Favre landed in Gotham; was that the right move? Coles recorded just the one catch, though he was targeted four more times during the game (three officially; one was wiped out on an interference penalty); Cotchery was targeted a total of six times, catching three—including the money ball. It may be too soon to know for certain, but three targets (and two completions) to third receiver Chansi Stuckey—plus four to the tight ends and five to his running backs—are a clear indication Favre will continue to spread the wealth. That’s not the news either Cotchery or Coles owners want to hear.

Chad Pennington nearly served up a thoroughly unexpected dish of revenge on his former squad, throwing for 251 yards and two scores and falling just shy of completing the comeback. Chad locked in on his tight ends, directing Anthony Fasano to a career day (eight catches, 84 yards, one touchdown) and making sure David Martin (4-53-1) wasn’t left out of the fun. Dolphin wideouts accounted for just seven of Pennington’s 26 completions, matching the number of grabs backfield committee Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown hauled in. Speaking of the Miami Ground Machine, Williams carried 10 times for 24 yards while Brown chipped in 23 yards on six carries; neither broke a run longer than seven yards.

Dolphins Fantasy Impact: Rather than clarity, all Week One did was further muddle the Miami running back situation. Neither back was particularly impressive, neither received a large enough share of the workload to separate himself from the committee tag, and at the end of the day neither warranted a fantasy start. Shame, too, what with a trip to fantasy-friendly Arizona on the docket for next week.

Patriots 17, Chiefs 10

Let’s tackle the elephant in the middle of the room right off the bat: multiple sources are reporting that Tom Brady has a torn ACL and will miss the rest of the year; those who spent a first-round pick on Brady got 76 yards and no touchdowns for their troubles. Bill Belichick is telling his team to expect Matt Cassel to start, and the Pats are reportedly bringing Chris Simms and Tim Rattay in on Monday. At least Cassel knows where to go with the ball; Randy Moss finished with six catches for 116 yards and a score while Wes Welker added six grabs for 51 yards. Laurence Maroney continues to frustrate those who put any fantasy faith in him as he split carries with Sammy Morris, who outgained LoMo 53-51 on the ground and scored a touchdown while also contributing five catches for 34 yards.

Patriots Fantasy Impact: What will New England look like sans Brady? Cassel dumped off to Morris a little more frequently, though that may be because the offensive line isn’t as tight as it was a year ago. Moss and Welker are clearly the primary targets; Jabar Gaffney was targeted but twice all game (once each by Brady and Cassel), and hopes of a sleeper season from him may be dashed before they’ve even begun. The running game still smacks of committee, and so long as Morris produces there’s no reason to abandon the approach. In other words, last year’s record-setting quarterback is just another cog in the mighty Patriot machine. At least, against a team like the Chiefs that appears to be the case; this might be the portion of the program where New England’s cupcake-on-paper schedule becomes a true blessing.

Herm Edwards didn’t have to abandon the run, as many feared a trip to New England might necessitate. And he even went to Larry Johnson with the game on the line at the five-yard-line—though it should surprise no one that LJ was stopped cold. Johnson finished with 74 yards on 22 carries, though if you take out his 22-yard run the resulting 2.4 yards per carry hardly feels like a success—as if the 3.3 ypc with the 22-yarder included is anything special. With Brodie Croyle knocked from the game with a separated throwing shoulder, Damon Huard filled in admirably and even connected with Dwayne Bowe for the Chiefs’ only touchdown. Bowe and Tony Gonzalez put up solid but hardly spectacular stat lines, with Bowe finishing 5-49-1 and Gonzo 6-55-0. Expectations for the handful of Chiefs on fantasy rosters were reduced due to the matchup, and fantasy owners received about what they expected.

Chiefs Fantasy Impact: Croyle’s injury sounds like a week-to-week proposition, and Huard’s arrival in the lineup certainly sparked Bowe’s stat line. Four of Bowe’s five catches came on Huard tosses, and of Huard’s dozen throws half were directed at Bowe. Gonzo, meanwhile, had five catches from Croyle but was targeted just twice by Huard, catching one. For Bowe’s fantasy owners, a slow Croyle recovery might be just what the doctor ordered.

Saints 24, Bucs 20

Drew Brees didn’t seem to have any troubles with the Tampa-2, firing for 343 yards and three touchdowns. Surprisingly, Marques Colston did little of the damage, with just three catches for 26 yards. Secondary targets Devery Henderson and David Patten caught one ball apiece, but each took their lone grab the distance. Reggie Bush (eight for 112 and a touchdown that reminded folks of the guy who played at USC) and Jeremy Shockey (six for 54) were the quantity winners in the Saints’ passing game, while Bush added 51 rushing yards on 14 carries. Deuce McAllister sat this one out, leaving Pierre Thomas to complement Bush on the ground with 52 yards on 10 carries.

Saints Fantasy Impact: If this is how the Saints plan to use Bush this season—10-15 rushes and almost as many touches in the passing game—he may actually live up to the lofty expectations placed on him coming out of college. Thomas was effective in his change of pace role, and the Saints used both on nearly every drive—at least until Thomas left with an undisclosed injury late in the fourth quarter. McAllister has had a nice run, but there’s little question his days as a fantasy helper are likely numbered.

The Bucs didn’t do nearly as much damage to a secondary that featured Jason David as one might think. Joey Galloway’s 2008 debut was a bit of a disappointment considering how he’s owned the Saints the past few matchups; his six grabs for 56 yards still led the club, but it was Ike Hilliard who caught Jeff Garcia’s lone touchdown toss. Perhaps most surprising was a Tampa Bay game plan that called for 41 passes and just 10 Earnest Graham carries—augmented by nine carries from Warrick Dunn. Graham averaged nine yards per carry and Dunn six per tote, yet Graham received just three second half carries despite the Saints’ lead never exceeding one possession.

Buccaneers Fantasy Impact: This was a matchup the Bucs should have had more success exploiting. Is the New Orleans defense that improved? Was Jon Gruden’s game plan flawed? Or are the Bucs not as talented as we’ve been giving them credit for? If Graham will be sharing with Dunn and Galloway with Hilliard all season long, the fantasy values of both Killer G’s will take a significant hit. Let’s hope next week’s home tilt against the Falcons restores our faith in Graham and Galloway as fantasy factors.

Eagles 38, Rams 3

Who needs a No. 1 receiver? Donovan McNabb directed three different wideouts past the century mark, paced by rookie DeSean Jackson’s 106 (Greg Lewis added 104 and Hank Baskett 102, thanks largely to a 90-yard touchdown), and Brian Westbrook was Brian Westbrook as the Eagles embarrassed the Rams in Week One. L.J. Smith got in on the fun with five catches including a touchdown, and Tony Hunt stole a late score as well. By that time Westy already had 92 combo yards and a couple scores of his own.

Eagles Fantasy Impact: The dual Westbrook scores are hardly a surprise, but if we’re going to be treated to this McNabb—the MVP-caliber Don we’ve seen glimpses of the past few seasons—on a regular basis those in need of a wideout will find plenty of plug-in help on the Philly depth chart.

You have to go a long way to find a silver lining in the Rams’ abysmal Week One effort. St. Louis punted on their first 10 drives and didn’t even cross midfield until their final possession, which ended in a 46-yard field goal that unfairly cost those sporting the Philly D in fantasy leagues their shutout. Steven Jackson could have held out another couple weeks and provided as much fantasy impact, and Torry Holt barely cracked the stat sheet with one lone catch. We’d say more, but Mama always said if you can’t say anything nice…

Rams Fantasy Impact: At least Al Saunders’ push for another Pro Bowl tight end is off to a strong start. Randy McMichael paced the Rams with five catches for 77 yards—almost one-half of Marc Bulger’s output for the afternoon. Of course, on a weekend where several other formerly anonymous tight ends stated their case for a fantasy roster spot, it’s easy to overlook McMike in this lost Rams outing.

Steelers 38, Texans 17

Remember that guy who was leading the NFL in rushing last year before busting his leg? Yeah, and then his team lost their top offensive lineman and drafted another running back to take some of his carries? Well, the Willie Parker who plummeted down fantasy draft boards this preseason was nowhere to be seen on Sunday; instead, we were treated to the Parker of old as he shredded the Texans for 138 yards and three touchdowns. Rashard Mendenhall, the aforementioned draft choice, received 10 touches and amassed 28 yards—hardly a threat to what Parker produced. Ben Roethlisberger was efficient with a workload limited by the score, completing 13 of 14 balls for 137 yards and two touchdowns—both to Hines Ward, another Steeler forsaken by fantasy folk. Santonio Holmes, the sexy fantasy Steeler, was limited to just two catches on the afternoon.

Steelers Fantasy Impact: He’s ba-ack! Or is he? Tough to judge based on how thoroughly the Steelers dominated a Houston team most thought would be improved. But right now those who plucked Parker in the third round (or later in many leagues) are laughing all the way to 1-0. Mendenhall, meanwhile, did little to warrant more looks and still has the stigma of being a fumbler to shake off.

The good news is, Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson are still healthy. And if there’s a silver lining in this blowout loss it’s that Schaub put up decent stats, helped by a rushing score, while Johnson caught 10 balls for 112 yards. Kevin Walter added a touchdown to salvage an otherwise ordinary fantasy day, but there was little else about this loss for the Texans to build upon.

Texans Fantasy Impact: Steve Slaton received the bulk of the carries—13, to be exact, compared to Ahman Green’s five—and added three catches for a total of 49 yards from scrimmage. That’s not much to write home about, but considering the beating the Texans absorbed it’s at least something. And compared to the 31 yards Green amassed, it appears that if you’re forced to back a horse in the Houston backfield the West Virginia rookie is your best bet.

Titans 17, Jaguars 10

The Titans ran the ball more than they threw it, which for them is the best possible situation. Chris Johnson rushed for 93 yards in his pro debut and mixed in three catches, including a touchdown, before exiting late with an undisclosed ailment. The carries were split right down the middle, with Johnson not surprisingly more than twice as effective with his 15 touches as LenDale White was with his. White, however, did contribute the winning touchdown with less than four minutes left in the game. The Titans also finished this game without Vince Young, who exited on the final drive with what the team believes is a torn MCL in his left knee. Young’s line was typical—12-22, 110 yards, one TD and two picks—but once again his team won. The bulk of Young’s completions went to tight end Bo Scaife, who finished with six catches for 105 yards; shades of Frank Wychek’s numbers in Mike Heimerdinger’s offense?

Titans Fantasy Impact: Obviously, having Collins under center could change the distribution, but Titan wideouts accounted for just three of the team’s 14 completions in their season opener. Running backs touched the ball 34 times in 56 plays, while wideouts ranked behind incompletions (10) and tight ends (seven) and barely ahead of quarterback carries (two). So, if you still have Justin Gage on your roster… well, you have a free spot to work with when the waiver wire opens later this week.

Already down a couple linemen the Jags could ill afford to lose both starting guards to injury. That, however, is no excuse for Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew accounting for just 31 rushing yards; at least MoJo chipped in 37 receiving yards to salvage an abysmal stat line. Matt Jones was David Garrard’s primary target, finishing with 80 yards on six grabs; would it be too soon to make a crack about him always running sideline routes? Okay, too soon. Greg Jones scored the Jags’ only touchdown, a one-yard reception from Garrard, as Jacksonville could muster a mere 189 yards of offense against a Titans defense that registered seven sacks.

Jaguars Fantasy Impact: Garrad threw more interceptions on Sunday than he did through the first 14 weeks of last season; he has now tossed picks in each of his last five games (seven total) including the playoffs last year. Between the immense pressure he faced behind a banged-up offensive line and a lack of any proved targets, much of the shine has come off Garrard as a consistent fantasy contributor.

Cowboys 28, Browns 10

Maybe the Cowboys’ offensive line felt a little undersold, what with all the publicity the Browns’ blockers have received. Whatever the reason, Tony Romo had time to drop back, call Jessica Simpson, call Carrie Underwood, find a receiver, and deliver a strike as he picked apart the Browns to the tune of 320 yards and a score. Meanwhile, Marion Barber found plenty of running room to amass 80 yards on the ground and another 21 in the air, scoring twice before exiting with sore ribs (X-rays were negative). The ‘Boys didn’t miss a beat, handing the ball to rookie Felix Jones nine times for another 62 yards and yet another score. Dallas didn’t even need a third receiver, with Jason Witten (six for 96), Terrell Owens (five for 87 and a score) and Patrick Crayton (six for 82) doing the bulk of the damage against an overmatched Cleveland secondary.

Cowboys Fantasy Impact: The Cowboys didn’t appear as if they were going to limit MB3, so perhaps the rib injury was a blessing in disguise as it got Barber off the field after just 19 touches in a game that Dallas clearly had in hand. A two-to-one split beween Barber and Jones seems like the logical way to get maximum production from MB3 without wearing him down prior to what the Boys expect to be a lengthy playoff run.

The Browns entered their opener a bit banged up, and they received zero sympathy from the visitors. Jamal Lewis didn’t look gimpy, totaling 76 yards on 14 touches, but he was stuffed at the stripe and eventually taken out of the game by the score and the Browns’ need to play catch-up. Derek Anderson never looked comfortable, connecting with Braylon Edwards just twice for a total of 14 yards. Kellen Winslow was the lone fantasy bright spot, catching five balls for 47 yards and scoring after Lewis failed to punch the ball across inside the five.

Browns Fantasy Impact: Where was the Derek Anderson of last September? A home date with the Steelers in prime time and a trip to Baltimore don’t give the Browns much wiggle room for getting this offense back on track. And a struggling Anderson translates into a struggling Edwards—meaning major disappointment for those who had him pegged as a top-five fantasy wideout heading into the season.

Panthers 26, Chargers 24

Sans their slugging superstar, the Panthers proved you can go Delhomme again by traveling cross-country and pulling out a victory on the final play of the game. There was no one major fantasy contributor in Carolina blue, though Jake Delhomme’s 247 yards and a touchdown were a welcome return for a guy coming off major elbow surgery. The yardage was spread amongst Muhsin Muhammad (six for 56), D.J. Hackett (five for 48), and the hero of the hour Dante Rosario (seven for 96 and the game-winning score). The ground game was equally balanced, with DeAngelo Williams carrying 18 times for 86 yards and rookie Jonathan Stewart adding 53 yards on 10 totes. The Panthers didn’t score an offensive touchdown in regulation time, as Rosario’s grab came after the clock had expired.

Panthers Fantasy Impact: Dante who? The Panthers appear to have found a pass-catching tight end in Rosario, a second-year player who started two of Carolina’s final five games a year ago and scored twice in that limited action. He hasn’t completely replaced Jeff King, who had one catch on Sunday, but he’s clearly the better receiving (and thus fantasy) option. Don’t go overboard to get him, though, as you have to believe Steve Smith will siphon off a share of everybody’s looks when he returns in Week Three.

If you had told us the Chargers would get three touchdowns from Philip Rivers and 97 yards from LaDainian Tomlinson, we’d figure the Bolts would be in the win column. Instead, LT’s 112 combo yards don’t lead to the end zone and the Chargers are 0-1 looking up at the winner of Monday’s Broncos-Raiders clash in the AFC West. A look at the box score suggests all the usual suspects did what was expected: Antonio Gates had 61 yards and a score, Vincent Jackson added 47 yards and a touchdown, and Chris Chambers took his lone grab 44 yards for six points as well. The only misfire was a Gates fumble that Carolina returned for six points. Gates also left the game in the first half with a bruised hip but returned to action later in the game.

Chargers Fantasy Impact: Tomlinson suffered a toe injury on his next-to-last carry of the game, and while he didn’t seem to think it was serious the team will re-examine him on Monday. Fullback Mike Tolbert received the second-most carries in the Charger backfield and added three receptions as well, while Darren Sproles carried twice—including the play after LT took himself out because of the sore toe. We’re not looking to incite a riot, but if you’re an LT owner you should make sure you get a bid in on Sproles this week; you never need insurance until you need insurance, you know.

Cardinals 23, 49ers 13

Kurt Warner didn’t pick apart the 49ers like he’d done so many times in the past, but he did enough. Not that his 197 yards and a touch warranted pulling him out of mothballs for the start, but he did hit Larry Fitzgerald for a first-half touchdown. And after ignoring Anquan Boldin in the first half, Warner remembered he had another stud receiver and hooked up with Boldin eight times for 82 yards. But the Cards’ primary weapon was a bludgeoning ground game that featured 26 carries and 100 yards for Edgerrin James. Edge won’t win many style points, but he helped the Cards control the clock and wear down a game Niners defense.

Cardinals Fantasy Impact: Remember when Tim Hightower scored short touchdowns in the first three preseason games and we suggested he was more than just a handcuff to James? Well, guess who capped the Cards’ third-quarter scoring drive with a two-yard touchdown run? Here’s a hint: he didn’t used to play for the Colts. Hightower was also the primary back in Arizona’s two-minute offense at the end of the first half and finished with eight carries and three receptions for 34 yards from scrimmage. But most importantly, he appears to be Arizona’s goal line guy.

To Mike Martz’s credit, he did find a way to get the ball into Frank Gore’s hands 18 times; as a result, Gore accounted for 151 of the team’s 291 total yards and scored their lone touchdown. Gore was far and away the only fantasy entity for the home team in Week One; J.T. O’Sullivan contributed a pedestrian 195 yards and Vernon Davis was the team’s top non-Gore receiver with three catches for 51 yards. And this was at home against the Cards, a team they usually put up points against. In other words, it’s gonna be a long year by the bay.

49ers Fantasy Impact: Let’s revisit Gore’s role in this offense. Of the 40 plays the Niners ran, 18 resulted in Gore touching the ball. The next largest share? Incomplete passes (six), followed by DeShaun Foster (five). At least Martz has figured out early on where his bread will be buttered—however stale that bread may be.

Bears 29, Colts 13

The Bears used a defensive touchdown and a monster debut from Matt Forte to christen the Colts’ new stadium with a big ol’ L. To the surprise of no one Chicago’s passing game was subpar; Kyle Orton mustered just 150 yards and no pass-catcher other than Forte topped two grabs or 46 yards. The ground game, on the other hand, dominated the Colts almost from the start. Forte ripped off a 50-yard touchdown, and the rest of his 123 yards came in decent-sized chunks as well. There was nothing at all remarkable about any other member of the Bear offense, but we’ve apparently forgotten just how good this defense can be. And a solid defense and good ground came can cover a whole lot of flaws.

Bears Fantasy Impact: So, is Forte really that good or are we just seeing the Colts return to the sieve-like run defense they fielded during the regular season prior to their Super Bowl run? Well, Indy did have Bob Sanders on the field and he usually makes them solid. But Chicago’s much-maligned offensive line had its way with Indy’s undersized line and had tremendous success reaching and shielding off the Colts’ linebackers. And Forte himself looked quick and ran extremely hard. A buck-twenty three might not be as likely against, say, the Williams Wall, but there are still plenty of run-friendly dates on the Bears’ schedule.

Peyton Manning completed 30 passes, Indy’s trio of talented receivers accounted for 210 yards… and the Colts still weren’t even close in this one. You can pin some of the blame on Marvin Harrison, who looked healthy in catching eight balls for 76 yards but coughed up a fumble the Bears returned for a touchdown. But Manning should shoulder some as well, as his typically efficient offense looked discombobulated and uncharacteristically burned timeouts outside the two-minute drill. The absence of center Jeff Saturday didn’t help, and that may have been the key in what really plagued Indy: the inability to run the football. The Bears offer a solid defense, to be sure, but Joseph Addai managed just 44 yards on a dozen carries and Dominic Rhodes was stopped short on a critical fourth-down carry early in the fourth quarter. Adding injury to insult, tight end Dallas Clark left the game with an apparent knee injury after one catch for eight yards; rookie Jacob Tamme had one grab for six yards in his place.

Colts Fantasy Impact: If Indy can’t get its ground game on track until Saturday returns, it’s going to be a long September for Addai owners. However, that may put more of the offensive onus back on Manning, who threw more passes Sunday night than he has since the six-pick game against San Diego last November. Reggie Wayne caught 10 balls for 86 yards and a touchdown and doesn’t appear to be in danger of suffering; the same can’t be said for Addai.

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