Michael Turner / Jerious Norwood, Falcons -
NFL schedule makers truly did Arthur Blank a solid, delivering the continually hapless Lions to the Georgia Dome to help usher in the new era of Dirty Bird football, sans disgraced ex-franchise QB Michael Vick. Detroit’s defense proved quite the welcome mat, allowing one-time Charger’s backup RB Michael Turner to bust out from LaDainian Tomlinson’s shadow with 220 rushing yards and three touchdowns on just 22 carries. Just about every ball-touch appeared like he could take it to the house as there seemed to be no Lions defender willing to get in the way.
Fantasy owner’s by and large saw Turner’s potential as a reliable No.2 RB in their lineup this year, as evidenced by his average draft selection hovering around the fourth or fifth round. But the highly-talented Norwood, who languished for too long as the frustrated understudy to aging Warrick Dunn in season’s past, surprisingly used Michael Turner’s breakout game as a launching pad of his own, playing Robin to Turner’s Batman with 93 yards rushing and a touchdown from 14 carries. They won’t face the Lions defense every week, but Norwood can be found on most league’s waiver wires and should be monitored closely by teams looking to shore up their RB depth.
Matt Forte, Bears -
There are several rookie running backs that look like impact performer’s this year, Ray Rice, Felix Jones, Kevin Smith, but Forte remains the leader of this group as week one comes to a close. Forte, despite the pressure of being the only rookie running back to start for the Bears since Walter Payton did it in 1975, the former Tulane product made his mark on the game from jump, breaking a 50-yard scoring run in the first quarter, which included breaking a tackle and outrunning last season’s defensive player of the year, Safety Bob Sanders. The baby Bear would finish the game with 123 rushing yards and a score with three receptions for 18 yards.
Willie Parker, Steelers -
If there was a post FFL Draft award for “Most Disrespected Back”, it would go to Fast Willie. Burning 2007 FFL owners who took you in the first round with only two rushing touchdowns will do that to a player. Then the Steelers draft classic power back Rashard Mendenhall in the first round of the 2008 Draft and Parker became persona non grata in fantasy drafts, dropping as low as the 10th round in some selections. Someone must have gotten word to Parker before Sunday’s home kickoff against Houston that his fantasy street cred had hemorrhaged, because he played like a man on a face-saving mission, racking up 138 yards and three touchdowns (besting last season’s total of two) on 25 carries. I do think Parker’s per game production will decrease from this great start, but he was grossly misjudged by many fantasy owner’s this year.
Reggie Bush, Saints -
Bush needed last Sunday’s performance against Tampa Bay in the worst way. Following last year’s disappointing campaign, increasing echoes of “overrated” and “bust” surrounded the former USC Trojan all preseason. It’s clear that he is not an every down, dot-the-I back, but he is very capable of the 163 total yards (112 receiving) and a score (42-yard catch and run) that he posted in a much healthier 2008 Saints offense, complete with the return of LT Jamal Brown and explosive TE Jeremy Shockey to help further open up opposing defenses. Kim Kardashian cam after Bush touchdowns is an added bonus for owners this season.
Thomas Jones, Jets -
Another running back seeking to win back follower’s after a woeful 2007, Jones needed to validate a lot of the positive buzz about him returning to fantasy starter status due to the Jets offense receiving a major talent infusion both at quarterback (Brett Favre) and offensive line (Alan Faneca, Damien Woody), both improvements expected to create space for Jones to significantly improve his production. In last Sunday’s 20-14 win over the Dolphins, Jones helped balance the New York offense with 101 rushing yards and a touchdown, setting a hopeful tone for the 2008 campaign.
Joseph Addai, Colts -
A top five to ten pick in almost every fantasy draft that I witnessed, there did seem to be trouble on the horizon heading into week one, primarily due to Peyton Manning’s slow injury recovery and three new starters along the offensive line. Addai left the Sunday night game against the Bears early with a head injury after just 44 yards on 12 carries. With Manning looking like he’s still weeks away from being at peak form, TE Dallas Clark lost to injury for an indefinite amount of time and the offensive line missing veteran center Jeff Saturday for at least six more weeks, Addai is an early season candidate for “Most Disappointing Back” for 2008.
Maurice Jones-Drew/ Fred Taylor, Jaguars -
One of last year’s more formidable ground game tandems, things started off rocky with Fred Taylor’s ugly run-in with the police before week one, and the Jaguars’ growing deficit of proven receivers had an even more pronounced, negative effect on the running game in week one’s 17-10 road loss to Tennessee, resulting in paltry efforts from both Jones-Drew (13 yards on five carries) and Taylor (18 yards on nine carries). Their offensive line drew little praise as well, with Titans DT Albert Haynesworth setting up a temporary residence behind the Jaguars line of scrimmage.
Steven Jackson, Rams -
All the Scott Linehan-inspired pre-game talk about Jackson getting 50-plus touches against the Eagles this past Sunday, got us all hot and bothered and sparked a late August surge in Jackson’s fantasy draft value (top 5), only to be splashed in the face with a lopsided, week one 38-3 road loss in Philadelphia. Yes, Jackson will get better, but make no mistake, the Rams team success, or lack thereof, and shoddy offensive line will play a role in dragging the franchise back’s overall production downward.
Julius Jones/ Maurice Morris, Seahawks -
Seattle’s 34-10 road dismantling in Buffalo was not kind to Mike Holmgren’s already beleaguered offense, exposing major flaws in Seattle’s supposedly revamped running attack and the passing game’s glaring lack of able-bodied pass-catchers. Maurice Morris (31 yards), who left the game early with an injury, and big ticket free agent acquisition Julius Jones (45 yards) were non-factor’s, combined with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck re-injuring his back and the lone bright spot in the receiving corps, veteran receiver Nate Burleson, succumbing to a year-ending knee injury.