By Dalton Del Don
Randy Moss - Well, that didn't take long. After sitting out virtually the entire preseason with a hamstring injury, Moss figured to take time to gel with his new Patriots teammates. Instead, he exploded onto the scene to the tune of nine catches for 183 yards and two scores. At least for now, Moss' explosiveness appears to have returned, and playing behind an offensive line that should give Tom Brady ample time to look downfield, Moss could be in store for a big year. However, he'll need to remain healthy, and, at this point, it's best not to take that for granted.
Adrian Peterson - Peterson started darting up draft boards toward the end of the preseason and for good reason - the kid is a special talent. After "starter" Chester Taylor went down with a hip injury Sunday, Peterson made the most of his increased touches, including taking a short screen pass 60 yards to paydirt. He posted 163 total yards. Playing behind a good offensive line (the left side much more so than the right side, though), expect similar games out of the rookie, especially if Taylor is forced to miss additional time. Either way, go ahead and treat Peterson like a Top-20 fantasy player.
Clinton Portis - As expected, Portis shared backfield duties with Ladell Betts on Sunday, but the knee tendinitis that hampered him throughout the preseason didn't seem to be an issue. In the same number of carries (17), Portis outgained Betts by 39 rushing yards (98 to 59). He also scored from 19 yards out and got most of the work at the goal line. There are sill more hurdles for Portis to cross to achieve the fantasy value he's accustomed to, but Week 1 was certainly a good start.
Chris Chambers - Chambers suffered through a dismal 2006, catching just 38 percent of his targets while notching an unacceptable 4.4 YPA. However, new quarterback Trent Green looked his way early and often Sunday, resulting in six catches for 92 yards. He doesn't have to be the best real life wide receiver to have serious fantasy value, so he might end up being a draft-day bargain.
Jon Kitna - Kitna impressed Sunday, throwing for 289 yards (8.0 YPA) and three touchdowns against one of the league's better secondaries. Kitna's performance looks even better when considering it wasn't in a dome but outdoors on a difficult dirt-filled surface in Oakland. After taking the most sacks of any quarterback last year (63), Kitna was only brought down twice Sunday and utilized well his new toy in Calvin Johnson. Going back to last season, Kitna has 10 touchdown passes in his last three games, with a quarterback rating of more than 100 in each of those contests.
LaMont Jordan - One of last year's bigger busts, Jordan responded with a huge Week 1 effort. He totaled 159 yards and a score, and even though it was against a soft Lions defense, Jordan ran with a toughness that was missing last season. And most encouraging, he caught nine passes, nearly equaling his total from last year (10). Jordan was a Top-10 fantasy back in 2005, largely because of his involvement in the passing game (70 receptions).
Ronald Curry - Whoever the Oakland quarterback, the first read inevitably goes to Curry. The former quarterback has a knack for getting open, evidenced by his 10 catches, 133 yards and a touchdown in Week 1. In his last four games, Curry has 35 catches for 373 yards. Durability remains a question, but Curry looks like a Top-20 fantasy wide receiver.
Plaxico Burress – Burress’ monster game Sunday night proves just how little the preseason means. After missing virtually all of August with an assortment of injuries, Burress racked up eight catches for 144 yards and three touchdowns Sunday. He won't get to face a secondary with as many holes as Dallas' each week, but it's safe to say Burress is back to full strength. Now, his fantasy owners will just have to hope Eli Manning (shoulder) is OK.
Tony Romo - Romo is best known for mishandling a snap during last year's playoff loss to Seattle, but the fact remains his 8.6 YPA was the best among all quarterbacks last year. After Sunday's brilliant performance (345 passing yards, four passing touchdowns, one rushing score), Romo soon might be considered an elite fantasy quarterback. While New York's secondary is in shambles, the 23 yards per completion and 14.4 YPA are truly special numbers. You're looking at the next great NFL quarterback.
Travis Henry - The 26 touches totaling 183 yards should ease concerns about Henry's knee injury. No other Denver back had more than three carries, so Henry is clearly the Broncos' No. 1 guy in the backfield. If the increased looks in the passing game continues, only health will stop Henry from making a push at 2,000 yards this season.
Andre Johnson - So that's what happens when playing with a quarterback who looks downfield. Johnson hauled in seven balls for 142 yards, including a 77-yard scoring strike during the Texans' win Sunday, revealing an explosiveness previously limited to underneath work. Matt Schaub (10.2 YPA) and Johnson form a duo that will be a force this year.
Chris Brown - Where did that come from? Brown, who was unemployed as of June, vastly outplayed LenDale White on Sunday, gashing the formidable Jaguars' run defense to the tune of 175 yards. His upright running style has led to numerous injuries in the past, so he makes for a good sell-high candidate. Still, his cutback ability and speed make him the Titans' best option at running back. And playing behind an underrated offensive line, Brown could be in store for solid rushing totals, health permitting.
Jason Witten - Witten already matched last year's touchdown total with his 116-yard, one-score effort Sunday. With Terrell Owens demanding constant attention from opposing defenses, Tony Romo loves to attack the middle of the field looking for Witten. And with Terry Glenn's (knee) status for the season in doubt, Witten might very well be the No. 2 option in the Dallas passing game.
Derrick Ward - Ward has been injury-prone since getting drafted in the seventh round by the Jets in 2004, but he really impressed when subbing for an injured Brandon Jacobs (knee) Sunday. He ran 13 times for 89 yards while also chipping in 27 receiving yards and a score. While it's uncertain how long Jacobs will be out, it figures to be a few weeks at a minimum, and while Ward may have to share some of the load with Reuben Droughns, he's likely to get nost of the touches and is worth adding in every fantasy league.
Lee Evans - Evans turned in a stinker Week 1 (two catches, five yards), but he had Champ Bailey hawking him most of the day, and the Bills mostly played with the lead, so the ground game took precedence. It's a scenario unlikely to occur frequently this season, and J.P. Losman just missed Evans on a potential long-score during the fourth quarter Sunday as well. Don't let one bad game sway your view of the emerging wideout.
Maurice Jones-Drew - Facing a Titans team that struggled against the run last year, the Jaguars inexplicably went pass-heavy Sunday with a quarterback just named the starter days before the season began. Even during an off game, Jones-Drew still managed 4.6 YPC and remained active in the passing game. He was still used at the goal line, so expect much better performances.
Shaun Alexander - The overall numbers look nice - 105 rushing yards with a touchdown - but Alexander also appeared slow and tentative at times. Facing a Tampa Bay defense that was routinely gashed by the run last season, Alexander managed just 3.9 YPC, and that was with a long run late in garbage time. Alexander has no competition for touches in Seattle's backfield, so his overall numbers should be solid if he remains healthy.
Torry Holt - After suffering what appeared to be a setback with his knee-surgery recovery in late summer, Holt entered the season with questions surrounding him. Those concerns seem safely put to rest, though, after his performance Sunday in which he made eight grabs for 73 yards and a score. But there's bad news as well. Orlando Pace may have been lost for significant time with a shoulder injury. When Pace was out of the lineup last year, the team rarely had enough time to look downfield, so Holt's fantasy value might have already taken a hit despite his looking healthly.
Antwaan Randle El - Randle El's 162 receiving yards Sunday equaled nearly half his total from last season, so don't go crazy for him just yet. Sure, the quarterback play in Washington should only improve with Jason Campbell's maturation, but realize that 54 of those yards came on a fluke last-second Hail Mary at the end of regulation.
Tatum Bell - The 87 rushing yards and touchdown run were nice, but the 15 carries highlights just how few chances the Detroit running system offers. Even while playing with a 17-0 lead, Mike Martz continually chucked the ball, so unless Bell becomes more active in the passing game, his upside will remain limited, as will his carries. However, T.J. Duckett sprained his ankle and did not return, so Bell could have the backfield to himself for a couple of weeks.
Brandon Jackson - Jackson didn't take advantage of his opportunity Sunday (75 total yards), but Vernand Morency's (knee) availability for Week 2 remains in doubt. It looks like the rookie will continue to get most of the work in the Packers backfield, but Jackson will need to improve his miniscule 2.7 YPC if he wants to keep the job.
Brandon Jacobs - Jacobs left Sunday night's game against Dallas with what appears to be a sprained MCL. He'll likely be out at least three weeks, with the possibility of it being much more.
Ronnie Brown - Brown might have earned the starter moniker by name, but it looks like Miami's backfield is going to be a committee. Brown and Jesse Chatman were frequently on the field at the same time Sunday, with Brown even lining up at fullback in front of Chatman at times. The activity in the passing game helped (six catches, 40 yards), but the weak 2.9 YPC was just another disappointment in the third-year back's career. Cam Cameron, who previously coached Chatman in San Diego, clearly wants to get him onto the field more than any Brown fantasy owner would like.
Carnell Williams - Speaking of Auburn running backs failing to live up to the hype, Williams continued his injury plagued NFL career by succumbing to bruised ribs Sunday. Before departing, Williams looked good, gaining 60 yards on just 12 carries against the Seahawks. Still, it's an injury that might sideline him "indefinitely," so the optimism felt after the quick start has fast turned to pessimism.
Marc Bulger - If last year was any indication, the loss of Orlando Pace is felt most dramatically in the Rams' aerial attack, specifically the downfield passing game. Since Pace (shoulder) is out again, Bulger's statistics figure to suffer as a result. Protecting his blind side is a major area of concern moving forward.
Chris Cooley - Cooley was held to just one catch in Week 1, which didn't even come until overtime. The loss of Jon Jansen (ankle) resulted in Cooley being asked to help out in blocking much more than usual, but hopefully that was only a one-week assignment that was mandated by the mid-game situation.
Joey Harrington - If he can't do anything against the league's 32nd-ranked pass defense from last season, there's not a whole lot to be optimistic about moving forward. Harrington threw two touchdowns Sunday - unfortunately, both were interceptions returned to the house by the Vikings defense, though only one of those was truly Harrington's fault.
Deion Branch - While seven teammates caught a ball Sunday, Branch did not. He was targeted a paltry three times. He lacks the speed necessary to be a downfield threat and also the size to be a red-zone target, severely limiting his upside as a fantasy wide receiver. The Seattle passing attack might be in some trouble this year.
Chad Pennington - Pennington is dealing with an ankle injury and has a difficult Baltimore defense to contend with in Week 2, if he's even able to suit up.
D.J. Hackett - Hackett suffered what appears to be a high-ankle sprain and looks likely to miss significant time with the injury.
Article first appeared 9/10/07