The first weekend of the fantasy football season was filled with plenty of excitement, disappointment and a whole lot of defense (aside from the Giants-Cowboys shootout on Sunday night). A total of 12 teams scored 14 points or less, and four (Atlanta, Cleveland, Kansas City and Tampa Bay) were held to single digits when the final whistle blew. In our look back at some of the best and worst fantasy performances of Week 1, we'll discuss the explosive return to prominence of Randy Moss and the poor stat lines of two of the league's most valuable backfield duos.
1. Tony Romo, QB, Dallas (42 points): Romo destroyed a Giants defense that looked like swiss cheese, as he threw for 345 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-35 win. His touchdown passes came on a 12-yard look to Jason Witten, a 22-yard strike to Terrell Owens, another 47-yard bomb to Owens and a 51 yarder to Sam Hurd. He also rushed for a touchdown on a 9-yard scamper in the third quarter. Romo will have a more difficult matchup next week against the Dolphins, but he remains a solid No. 1 fantasy quarterback.
2. Eli Manning, QB, N.Y. Giants: (34 points): Who would have thought Eli would outscore his older brother Peyton in Week 1? Well, the Giants quarterback did exactly that with a 312-yard, four-touchdown performance against Dallas. The Cowboys' pass defense was awful the entire night, and Manning and the G-Men attacked it with a reckless abandon. Manning threw three scores to Plaxico Burress and one to running back Derrick Ward, but a bruised right shoulder caused him to leave late in the fourth quarter.
3. Plaxico Burress, WR, N.Y. Giants (32 points): Burress didn't see much action in the preseason due to an injured back, but he broke the backs of Dallas defenders the entire night. With CB Terence Newman out of action, the Giants weren't timid in the pass attack and went downfield to Burress often. He totaled eight receptions for 134 yards and scored on strikes of 60, 4 and 10 yards from Manning. Burress has a tougher matchup next week in Green Bay, but he should still be a fantasy starter.
4. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh (30 points): Roethlisberger had a favorable matchup against a porous Cleveland defense, and he exploited it with 161 yards and a career-best four touchdown passes in a 34-7 win. His touchdowns came on a 5-yard pass to Hines Ward, a 40-yard pass to Santonio Holmes, a 5-yard pass to Matt Spaeth and a 22-yard pass to Heath Miller. Roethlisberger, who could be available in some fantasy leagues, will face another favorable opponent in Week 2 against the Buffalo Bills.
5. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis (29 points): The No. 1 quarterback in fantasy football, Manning led countless owners to a win this week with his 288-yard, three-touchdown performance against New Orleans. The Colts picked on Saints CB Jason David all night -- all three of Manning's touchdown passes went to wideouts who had beaten David. His scores came on a 28-yard pass to Marvin Harrison and strikes of 28 and 45 yards to Reggie Wayne. Manning should continue his domination in Week 2 against Tennessee.
6. Tom Brady, QB, New England (29 points): Brady didn't need much time to gain a rapport with his new teammates, as he dominated the N.Y. Jets with a 297-yard, three-touchdown performance at the Meadowlands. His touchdown passes came on an 11-yard toss to slot wideout Wes Welker, a 5-yard pass to Benjamin Watson and a 51-yard strike to Randy Moss. Brady has a far more difficult matchup next week against San Diego, but he's far too valuable for fantasy owners to reserve in most cases.
7. Jake Delhomme, QB, Carolina (27 points): One of the true surprises in our Top 10 performances, Delhomme completed 18 of 27 passes for 201 yards and threw three touchdowns in a 27-13 win over St. Louis. His touchdowns came on a 10-yard pass to Drew Carter, a 68-yard strike to Steve Smith and 9-yard pass to Carter. Delhomme should now be considered a viable starter in leagues with 12-plus teams when he faces a lesser opponent. That seems to be the case next week when he faces the Houston Texans.
8. Jon Kitna, QB, Detroit (26 points): Kitna will give owners heartburn with his proneness to interceptions, but he'll also post some monster numbers in the offense of coordinator Mike Martz. The veteran completed 27 of 36 passes for 289 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in a 36-21 win over Oakland. What's impressive about his numbers is the fact that the Raiders were the NFL's top-rated pass defense in 2006. Look for Kitna to have another nice start in Week 2 at home against Minnesota.
9. Randy Moss, WR, New England (24 points): He's baaack. Or at least he looked like he was back in his Patriots debut. Moss shot down the Jets, as he caught nine passes for 183 yards and scored on a 51-yard pass from Brady in the third quarter. Moss, who didn't miss a beat despite not seeing one preseason snap due to an injured hamstring, looked like the top fantasy wideout from his tenure in Minnesota. He's a must-start wide receiver in Week 2 even against a formidable San Diego defense.
10. Terrell Owens, WR, Dallas (24 points): Owens was quieter than a church mouse in the first half against the Giants, but he roared like a Lion after halftime. The talented wideout caught three passes for 87 yards and found the end zone twice in a win. His scores came on passes of 22 and 47 yards from Tony Romo, who also had a monster performance. Regardless of the matchup, T.O. is one of those wideouts that fantasy owners can never afford to sit. He'll be prominent in Week 2 at Miami.
1. Deion Branch, WR, Seattle Seahawks (0 points): You can't do worse than the old goose egg, and that's exactly what Branch put on owners who started him this week. While he was on the field quite a bit, Branch didn't catch a single pass in Sunday's 20-6 win over Tampa Bay. He saw a mere three passes from Matt Hasselbeck, and two of them came on consecutive plays in the second quarter. Fantasy owners shouldn't fret, however, as Branch should bounce back in Week 2 against the Arizona Cardinals.
2. Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis Rams (1 point): This is one name we never expected to see on the worst-performances list, but Jackson hurt a lot of owners this week with his lack of numbers against Carolina. He posted 58 yards on 18 carries, caught just one pass for 3 yards and lost two fumbles in the contest. The No. 2 overall pick in most fantasy drafts, Jackson won't be held down in consecutive weeks and should redeem himself next Sunday when his Rams host San Francisco at the Edward Jones Dome.
3. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints (1 point): Another name that we didn't expect to land on this list is Brees, who is one of the top-five quarterbacks in fantasy football. He finished with 192 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions in the loss to Indianapolis, and his 6.8 yards-per-completion average was porous at best. Brees should return to prominence next week in Tampa Bay, where he'll face a Buccaneers defense that can be vulnerable to prolific pass attacks.
4. Fred Taylor, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars (1 point): The Jaguars were supposed to be built on the run, and the Titans were awful against the run last season. Seems like a favorable matchup for Taylor, right? Well, the exact opposite happened in Tennessee's 13-10 win. Taylor rushed for 16 yards on six carries and didn't record a single reception in the contest. And he wasn't the only Jaguars back to fail this week. Taylor is no more than a flex starter in Week 2 against Atlanta.
5. Jamal Lewis, RB, Cleveland Browns (2 points): A questionable offensive line, a porous pass attack and an early deficit is not conducive for a running back to have success. That was exactly the case for Lewis, who rushed for 35 yards on 11 carries and was invisible in the second half of a bad loss to Pittsburgh. Lewis should still be seen as a viable No. 3 fantasy runner or flex starter in Week 2 against Cincinnati, but his level of production will be inconsistent the entire season.
6. Tony Gonzalez, TE, Kansas City Chiefs (2 points): One of the greatest tight ends in the history of fantasy football, Gonzalez didn't start the 2007 season off well with a 28-yard performance in a 20-3 loss to Houston. His numbers were a bit better in leagues that reward points for receptions -- he had five catches -- but overall Gonzalez was a real disappointment. He remains a must-start player in most formats, but Gonzalez could be in for another tough week when the Chiefs head to Chicago to face the Bears.
7. Reggie Bush, RB, New Orleans Saints (3 points): Bush started off the season on a sour note in Indianapolis, as he recorded a mere 45 all-purpose yards in a blowout loss to the Colts. The versatile runner out of USC was a bit more productive in PPR leagues -- he caught four passes in the contest -- but overall Bush didn't help owners in their quest for a win. Look for him to rebound next week in Tampa Bay when he faces a Buccaneers defense that has more than its share of question marks.
8. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars (3 points): The Titans put the clamps down on both Fred Taylor and Jones-Drew, who recorded a mere 60 all-purpose yards and lost one fumble against Tennessee. The smallish runner was a fantasy football hero in the second half of last season, but his lack of heroics had to make owners cringe in Week 1. He's got a great matchup in Week 2 against Atlanta and should be considered a borderline No. 2 or 3 fantasy back, but don't be shocked if he's inconsistent all season.
9. Deuce McAllister, RB, New Orleans Saints (3 points): McAllister seemed like a tremendous start for owners against a Colts defense that was awful against the run in 2006, but the matchup didn't bear fruit for owners. In fact, the results were even sour. McAllister recorded just two receptions and 45 all-purpose yards in the loss to Indianapolis, as the Saints offense sputtered the entire night. Despite his poor totals, McAllister is still a viable No. 2 fantasy back in Week 2 against Tampa Bay.
10. Cedric Benson, RB, Chicago Bears (3 points): Benson should emerge into a viable No. 2 fantasy runner this season, but his first start of 2007 left much to be desired. He recorded 42 yards on the ground and averaged a mere 2.2 yards per carry in a 14-3 loss to San Diego. He'll produce better numbers next week at Soldier Field against a Kansas City defense that made the Texans look like a world beater this weekend, but fantasy owners can expect some up and down weeks from Benson all season.