The first week of the fantasy football season was dominated by quarterbacks. In fact, seven of the top 10 fantasy point producers were signal-callers. No one was better than Tony Romo, who posted 42 points on 345 passing yards and five total touchdowns. Eli Manning was also spectacular, as he threw for 312 yards and four touchdowns of his own. He was forced to leave the game in the fourth quarter with what has been diagnosed as a separated shoulder, however, and NFL Network analyst Adam Schefter reports he could be out until Sept. 30 (Week 4).
It was also a big week for Ben Roethlisberger, who threw for just 144 yards but tossed four touchdowns against a Cleveland defense that looked plain awful. Eli's big brother Peyton threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns against New Orleans, Tom Brady posted 29 points on 288 yards and three touchdowns at the Meadowlands, and Jake Delhomme beat on the Rams for 201 yards and three scores. The final quarterback in the top 10 was Jon Kitna, who completed 27 of 36 passes for 289 yards and three touchdowns against Oakland.
All of these impressive quarterback performances proves one simple point: While it's great to have Peyton Manning on your fantasy roster, there are better value picks at the position in the middle rounds. In fact, none of Romo, Eli Manning, Roethlisberger, Delhomme or Kitna were selected before the middle stanzas of most drafts.
There were also some poor quarterback performances, none more evident than Marc Bulger. The veteran scored 13 points on 167 yards and one touchdown, and he completed a mere 52 percent of his passes. The loss of T Orlando Pace, who sustained a torn right labrum and rotator cuff against Carolina, will be a serious detriment to Bulger down the road. It was also a bad week for Drew Brees, who had a 58.2 passer rating and scored one fantasy point against Indianapolis. He'll bounce back this week against Tampa Bay -- Brees posted 485 yards and four touchdowns with 111.4 passer rating in two starts against the Buccaneers last season.
Week 1 was not as kind to stud running backs like Steven Jackson (one point) and Larry Johnson (eight points), but there were some notable performances. It was hard not be impressed with rookie standout Adrian Peterson, who shredded the Atlanta defense for 163 all-purpose yards and one touchdown. If Chester Taylor's injured oblique keeps him out of action for an extended period of time, Peterson could turn into a statistical monster. He's a must-start back in Week 2 at Detroit.
LaMont Jordan resurrected his value against the Lions with 159 all-purpose yards and a score against the Lions. Head coach Lane Kiffin utilized Jordan much like Norv Turner did in 2005 when the veteran runner had a breakout season, so don't be afraid to start him while Dominic Rhodes (suspension) is out. Owners also had to like the numbers from Travis Henry (183 all-purpose yards), who is a perfect fit for Denver's zone-blocking scheme, as well as Shaun Alexander, who recorded 105 yards on 27 carries and scored a touchdown in a win over Tampa Bay.
Wide receivers also shined over the weekend, as eight posted 100-plus yards and 10 had at least 15 fantasy points. The top performer was Plaxico Burress, who smashed a Dallas defense that was without CB Terence Newman. He hauled in eight receptions for 144 yards and three touchdowns in the loss, and looked no worse for wear after a preseason that was limited due to back problems. The usual cast of characters at the position -- Reggie Wayne, Terrell Owens, Andre Johnson and Steve Smith -- also posted enormous numbers, but the real tale of the wideout occurred at the Meadowlands.
Randy Moss, who didn't see one preseason snap due to an injured hamstring and was rumored to be cut from the 53-man roster, posted nine receptions for 183 yards and scored a touchdown in his New England debut. While I wouldn't expect those sort of numbers from Moss on a consistent basis, this was a positive sign for the value of what used to be the top wide receiver in all of fantasy football.
It was also an incredible week for Ronald Curry, who I discussed with Derrin Horton on Friday's Point After. He finished last season on fire, and he burned the Lions for 10 receptions, 133 yards and one touchdown. He'll be one of the hotter names on the waiver wire this week, but he won't be a viable starter next week if he has to line up against CB Champ Bailey (aka the fantasy stopper) when the silver and black travels to Denver to face the Broncos.
Fantasy footballers should also remember the names Antwaan Randle El, Shaun McDonald and Wes Welker. Randle El posted 162 yards against Miami and is worth a roster spot as a No. 4 or 5 fantasy wideout. The same is true for McDonald, who had a tremendous preseason and knows Mike Martz's offense from his time in St. Louis. Welker, who is a favorite of both Jim Nantz and Adam Schefter, recorded six receptions for 61 yards and scored a touchdown against the Jets. He could be a real asset for owners in leagues that reward points for receptions.
Jason Witten was also a standout over the weekend with six receptions, 116 yards and a touchdown against the G-Men. Some were afraid to draft Witten, who had just one score all of last season, but new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett loves what Witten brings to the pass attack. With Terry Glenn out of action, Witten's numbers should continue to be solid. Kellen Winslow was one of the few bright spots for the Browns. He overcame a hardened Pittsburgh defense to catch four passes for 83 yards, and his value will rise when Brady Quinn takes over the reins of the offense. It was also a solid week for Eric Johnson, who found open seams in the Colts defense all night on Thursday and finished with eight receptions for 57 yards. Like Welker, Johnson could be a statistical beast in leagues that reward points for catches. If you need a tight end, Johnson is your man.
I always preach that owners should wait to draft a kicker. The reason is simple -- it's impossible to predict the position in most cases. That was true in Week 1, as at least five of the top 10 point producers at the position (Jason Hanson, Lawrence Tynes, Mason Crosby, Shaun Suisham, Nick Folk) are available on waivers in most formats. The lone "stud" kicker who lived up to expectations was Adam Vinatieri, who totaled 11 points. Nate Kaeding and Robbie Gould, who were ranked in the top five at the position in the preseason, combined to score five points. Owners who have a valuable kicker should not draft him for a potential one-week wonder, but the aforementioned kickers are ones to watch.
Much like kickers, defenses can be unpredictable as well. Houston and Indianapolis, which were left unselected in most drafts, had two of the top five fantasy performances of the week. The Texans benefitted from a matchup against a Kansas City team with no offense, and the Colts looked incredible despite a number of new parts in prominent positions. I wouldn't add the Texans at this time -- they're in for a tougher week in Carolina -- but the Colts are now a useable unit against Tennessee. Most of the top defenses performed well -- Pittsburgh, San Diego, Green Bay and New England all finished in the top 10 in points -- but Dallas was a serious disappointment. Until Newman returns to work, this unit is a bit of a risk.
NEWS & NOTES
» NFL Network analyst Adam Schefter reports that Brandon Jacobs will miss three to five weeks due to a sprained knee. Derrick Ward, who posted four receptions, 116 all-purpose yards and one touchdown against Dallas in his absence, will now assume the top spot on the depth chart. The shifty runner will be one of the hottest names on the waiver wire this week. Another back who could be out this week is Cadillac Williams, who sustained injured ribs in Seattle and is questionable to face New Orleans. Michael Pittman would start if Williams were out and is worth a roster spot on fantasy teams. These two examples highlight the importance of the backfield handcuff.
» Dolphins head coach Cam Cameron stuck with his preseason statement about a backfield committee, and it could be detrimental to fantasy owners that drafted Ronnie Brown. He recorded 11 carries for 32 yards against Washington, while Jesse Chatman had seven carries for 15 yards. Both backs had six receptions, and Chatman was in the backfield when Miami was near the goal line. If this scenario continues, Brown will be an enormous disappointment. The Redskins also had a backfield committee, but Clinton Portis is still the clear-cut better fantasy option. He totaled 98 yards and a touchdown, while Ladell Betts had 59 yards and didn't find the end zone.
» The Cleveland Browns are an absolute mess. Head coach Romeo Crennel didn't even have enough faith in his staring quarterback, Charlie Frye, to keep him under center for an entire half, and Derek Anderson wasn't any better. Jamal Lewis isn't the same back that rushed for 2,000-plus yards in 2003, and talented receivers like Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards will be inconsistent the team names Brady Quinn as the starter. He won't be a savior, but at least the team will have some hope when it crosses the white lines. Here's a not-so-bold prediction: Crennel won't be the head coach of this once-proud franchise next season -- it will be current CBS Sports analyst Bill Cowher.
» Bills head coach Dick Jauron discussed a backfield committee in the preseason, but it was clear that Marshawn Lynch is his featured back. The rookie out of California totaled 99 all-purpose yards and one touchdown against a formidable Denver defense and showcased the skills and abilities that made him a fantasy breakout candidate. Buffalo has a hard schedule with contests at Pittsburgh and New England over the next two weeks, but he should emerge into a regular No. 2 fantasy runner before midseason. Lynch will face lesser defenses such as the N.Y. Jets, Cincinnati, Cleveland and the N.Y. Giants in the second half.
» Josh Scobee is expected to miss six to eight weeks due to a strained hamstring and should now be released in all fantasy football leagues. In his absence, the Jaguars will try out John Carney, Billy Cundiff and Mike Vanderjagt (yes, that Mike Vanderjagt). Whoever lands the role could have some value in larger formats -- Carney was a fantasy starter last season. While we're on the subject of kickers, the Kansas City Chiefs have a new one in Dave Rayner. The team released rookie Justin Medlock, who missed a field goal against Houston and seemed to lack confidence at the NFL level. Rayner won't have much value unless the Chiefs show some signs of life on offense this season.