I've heard heaven described in countless different ways. Whether it's amidst clouds, angels and large golden gates, or a place where people are at peace, it still doesn't sound as good as a Sunday at the NFL offices in Culver City, Calif. There are no angels with wings, golden gates or clouds, but there are around 30 televisions showing nothing but football. It's enough to resurrect Vince Lombardi and make Tom Landry smile under his fedora -- it is 100 percent National Football League nirvana.
While it's a bit difficult to watch nine contests at one time, I tried like heck to accomplish the mission set before me. (It's a tough job, but someone has to do it). And in the process of watching all of this football flashed across my eyes, I saw several different trends that will no doubt have an impact for fantasy football owners down the road. The most notable was the defense (or lack thereof) from Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, New Orleans and the New York Giants. At least in the earlier portion of the season, these will be six teams that owners will want to target in their matchups.
Let's start off in Atlanta, where a lack of offensive firepower will no doubt lead to the defense being left on the field a lot. The effectiveness of the pass defense remains to be seen -- Minnesota didn't throw the football much in Week 1 -- but it's apparent the team could struggle against the run. The Vikings, with the help of stud rookie runner Adrian Peterson, rushed for 139 yards against the Falcons and averaged 5.1 yards per carry. Don't think Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter won't notice that in their game planning this week. That will mean a whole lot of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, both of whom should be active for owners.
Cleveland's defense looked like a bad Pop Warner unit against Pittsburgh, which scored 34 points and totaled 365 total yards. Big Ben Roethlisberger tossed four touchdown passes and Willie Parker ran for 109 yards, so Cincinnati will be licking its collective chops in Week 2. Dallas looked like it hadn't solved the pass defense problems it endured last season, and the absence of CB Terence Newman made their unit even more vulnerable. It was obvious that the Giants wanted to exploit this evident weakness with Plaxico Burress, who shredded the Polks for 144 yards and three touchdowns. Overall, the G-Men recorded 438 total yards and made the Cowboys look foolish all night.
Until Newman returns to 100 percent health (and maybe even once he does), the opposition will look to hit the long home run strike because S Roy Williams can't cover deep. As a result, owners who have Chris Chambers should be sure to start him this week when the Dolphins host the Cowboys down in South Florida.
Detroit's defense actually looked good for a little while, but the Oakland offense woke up in the second half and finished with 375 total yards. That was evident in the final numbers of Josh McCown, who threw for an impressive 313 yards and two touchdowns. McCown is a serviceable NFL quarterback, but immense totals like that have a lot to do with playing a bad defense. LaMont Jordan also had a monster performance with 159 all-purpose yards and one touchdown, and Ronald Curry caught 10 passes for 133 yards and a score of his own. Minnesota head coach Brad Childress is one of the better offensive minds in the business, so he'll look to exploit the Lions in Week 2 with a lot of Adrian Peterson. Heck, fantasy owners in larger leagues who are required to start two quarterbacks might even want to take a look at Tarvaris Jackson.
It might not be fair to focus on the entire New Orleans defense after last Thursday night's debacle against Indianapolis and Peyton Manning. The Colts exploited CB Jason David throughout the contest, but this unit as a whole still surrendered 41 points and 452 total yards. We have to keep in mind that it was Manning and a juggernaut Indianapolis offense that did such damage, however, and a Week 2 contest against a Tampa Bay team that could be without Cadillac Williams is a more positive matchup.
The final defense to target is the Giants, who looked like swiss cheese with extra holes on Sunday night in Dallas. Tony Romo threw for 345 yards and four touchdowns, and the Cowboys offense finished with 45 points and 478 total yards. New York has endured multiple injuries and changes on defense, none of which seemed to improve what was an inconsistent unit last season. Brett Favre should benefit from the Giants' lack of defense next week, so both he and Donald Driver are fantastic fantasy starters.
Waiver wire focus
Chris Brown, RB, Tennessee (19 carries, 175 yards): Brown came off the bench to post monster numbers in Jacksonville, and he's still available in more than 45 percent of NFL.com leagues. A former 1,000-yard rusher, Brown could overtake LenDale White as the top back on the depth chart with continued success.
Nate Burleson, WR, Seattle (2 receptions, 41 yards): Burleson is expected to take over as a starter opposite Deion Branch now that D.J. Hackett is out indefinitely due to a high ankle sprain. Burleson, who had a 1,000-yard season while in Minnesota, is worth a look in larger formats.
Ronald Curry, WR, Oakland (10 receptions, 133 yards, TD): One of NFL.com's top sleepers, Curry exploded against a bad Detroit defense and appears to be the unquestioned No. 1 option in the pass attack. The former collegiate quarterback has a knack for getting open, and he's available in more than 40 percent of NFL.com leagues.
David Garrard, QB, Jacksonville (204 yards, TD): Garrard didn't have huge numbers against Tennessee, but he does have a nice matchup this week against Atlanta. He's well worth a look in larger leagues or for owners who are required to start two quarterbacks each week.
Eric Johnson, TE, New Orleans (8 receptions, 57 yards): Johnson, who had an 82-catch season while in San Francisco, led the Saints in receptions and receiving yards in Week 1. As long as he can avoid injuries, Johnson could be a solid addition for fantasy owners.
Antwaan Randle El, WR, Washington (5 receptions, 162 yards): Any time a borderline player puts up huge numbers, fantasy owners should take interest. Randle El won't end up being a consistent option, but he's earned a spot on fantasy teams ahead of the Troy Williamsons and Michael Jenkins of the world.
Shaun McDonald, WR, Detroit (6 receptions, 90 yards, TD): Believe it or not, but McDonald was the Lions' top wideout in Week 1. Much like Randle El, he now warrants consideration over some the late-round fliers owners took in drafts.
Michael Pittman, RB, Tampa Bay (5 receptions, 38 all-purpose yards): There's a chance that Cadillac Williams will be out this week (the St. Petersburg Times calls him doubtful with bruised ribs, so Pittman would take over the backfield duties.
Who should I start in Week 2: Bernard Berrian or Donte' Stallworth? -- R. Lester, Washington, D.C.
Should I drop the Dallas defense and add the Minnesota defense? -- G. Braun, David, Fla.
M.F.: I would suggest passing on both defenses and instead looking to add Indianapolis or Cincinnati, which have more attractive matchups.