Instant Impressions from Week 2
Many big names injured; plenty of quarterbacks turn in huge performances
We got a reminder Sunday of why NFL players get paid millions of dollars. It's not because of their intrinsic value to society. It's because they put their bodies in the path of a ridiculous amount of harm. If anyone deserves to be paid that much (and sure, that's debatable), it's these guys.
Eddie Lacy suffered a concussion on a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit on his first carry Sunday and didn't return. Steven Jackson took a hit on an eight-yard TD catch and suffered a thigh injury that caused him to miss the rest of the game. Ray Rice suffered a non-contact injury on an early fourth-quarter carry and went to the locker room; the Baltimore Sun reports it's a hip flexor strain and Rice won't need an MRI, but still. Maurice Jones-Drew suffered a sprained left ankle in the first half and never returned. Reggie Bush took a helmet to his knee in the first half and writhed around on the turf, then hurt it again in the second half and couldn't return. Andre Johnson took a big hit from Bernard Pollard and left the game with what might've been a concussion, and he didn't return (preliminary reports indicate he'll play Week 3). Vernon Davis came out of Sunday night's game with a bad hamstring, though the score was out of control when he sat. For the second straight week, Roddy White was a passing-game decoy. And Larry Fitzgerald was on the sideline with his bad hamstring during a crucial fourth-quarter drive.
We'll get word about these players' availability as the week progresses. (Follow me on Twitter @CHarrisESPN.) For now, let's look at Sunday's other top storylines:
• Michael Vick also looked like he'd join the injury parade after taking a huge hit late in the fourth quarter of the Philadelphia Eagles' loss, and in fact Nick Foles came in for one play, missing on a pass attempt. But Vick returned after the two-minute warning, finishing off the best passing day of his career: 428 passing yards, two passing TDs and no turnovers, backed up with six carries, 23 rushing yards and one rushing TD. Unfortunately for Philly, the supposed defensive resurgence from Week 1 may have turned out to be mostly related to an awful Washington Redskins team; the Iggles helped Philip Rivers turn back the clock (to the tune of 419 yards, three TDs and no picks). I'm looking forward to digging into the tape to take apart what happened to Chip Kelly's game plan, but through two contests, we're getting every bit the amount of fantasy magic optimists hoped this summer.
• The San Diego Chargers probably shouldn't have been in a close game Sunday, as they thoroughly dominated the first half yet gave away two probable TDs. First, Antonio Gates fumbled at the goal line, succumbing to a bad habit of lax ball security. Then Ryan Mathews (surprise!) fumbled in the red zone. The men who really rescued the Chargers from a second straight pratfall were Rivers and Eddie Royal, who hooked up for three TDs. Ridiculously, Royal now has five scores in two games. Given a serious-looking injury to Malcom Floyd and the relative lack of production by Vincent Brown and Keenan Allen, it's fair to say Royal now needs to be added in all leagues. But it should go without saying that we've almost certainly missed the best of his production for '13.
• There's always a temptation to overreact based on the most recent thing you've seen, but those who stayed patient with the Miami Dolphins' Mike Wallace and Lamar Miller were rewarded Sunday. Wallace is a feast-or-famine player who feasted on the Indianapolis Colts: Nine catches for 115 yards and a TD on a wide receiver screen. Miller didn't exactly dazzle and was bottled up most of the day by the Colts, but he showed he's got wheels enough to take advantage of a defense that leans the wrong way, as he did on his 10-yard TD. (However, Daniel Thomas continues to be a factor.) The most surprising contributor was Charles Clay, who's technically a tight end but plays enough fullback to have gotten an out-of-the-blue goal-line carry that led to a TD. (Thomas was in the game at halfback on the play.) Through two weeks, Clay now has 10 grabs for 163 yards and that vulture TD. He deserves a top-20 TE ranking at the moment.
• Statistically, the best of the understudies forced into action Sunday were James Starks and DeAndre Hopkins. Starks became the first Green Bay Packers RB to run for 100 yards in 45 games. But it was 24-0 at halftime, and at that point, Starks was stuck on 47 yards. That means he racked up 75 yards in utter, complete garbage time, and that means we shouldn't overreact. Let's find out what the word is on Lacy; if it's OK, I still think he's got a pretty safe workload. (It's worth noting that rookie Johnathan Franklin didn't get a single touch. He definitely doesn't need to be owned in any but deep dynasty leagues.) Meanwhile, Hopkins took over as Matt Schaub's primary threat after Johnson's injury and wound up with seven grabs, 117 yards and the game-winning catch in overtime. Hopkins is available in about 40 percent of ESPN leagues and can be added by a WR-needy team in any league. Starks is essentially unowned, but right now I think you'd have to be a Lacy owner to add him.
• What became of the freak young tight ends who lit things up in Week 1? It was a mixed bag. Jared Cook caught one pass for 10 yards, which is merely 131 yards fewer than last week. Jordan Cameron fared better, catching five balls for 95 yards, though he failed to find the end zone. Julius Thomas fell down on what would've been a wide-open long TD and only accounted for 47 yards, but was able to score on a fourth-quarter red-zone play. But the big winner was Martellus Bennett, who scored his second and third TDs of the season, including the game-winner. Bennett was everywhere in Sunday's win over the Minnesota Vikings and is obviously one of Jay Cutler's preferred red zone targets (though we'll have to check in on his injured shoulder during the week). But this overall decrease in "freak" production represents a word of warning against assuming the upper echelon of TEs has several new members. These kids are still likely to be frustratingly up-and-down.
• It isn't an immense shock that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense is good now that Darrelle Revis is in the fold. But this good? The Bucs lost their second straight unforgivable heartbreaker after a lightning storm in Tampa, but don't blame the D: They held Drew Brees to 10 measly fantasy points in standard ESPN leagues while scoring a TD on an interception return, causing three turnovers and generating four sacks. However, let's not lose sight of how unexpectedly good Rob Ryan's New Orleans Saints defense has been. I dogged this unit like crazy over the summer, and I still have to admit I'm skeptical, given their linebackers. But through two weeks, they've been legit, allowing 31 combined points while generating four turnovers and four sacks. They're worth deeper-league streaming consideration at home against the Arizona Cardinals next week.
• It has simply not been a good start for the rookie rushers. Montee Ball added to the crud by accepting a first-quarter goal-line carry for the Denver Broncos and promptly fumbling it away into the end zone. Meanwhile, Knowshon Moreno ran for twin TDs around the right side and seems to have a stranglehold on the starting job. You can take solace that Ball wasn't exiled a la David Wilson or Stevan Ridley; he even got another red zone carry early in the fourth quarter, but wound up with 16 yards on 12 carries. He seems to be ahead of Ronnie Hillman, but overall, the kid is squandering his early-season chances.
• EJ Manuel led an improbable comeback to get the Buffalo Bills their first win, and in so doing, tossed for 296 yards, the most by a Bills rookie QB since 1970. But don't be fooled into thinking he looked great. He really didn't, not until the final drive. The thing that drove Florida State fans crazy about Manuel is still a problem: He overshoots open targets too frequently. Most problematic for fantasy owners, he also hasn't been unleashed as a runner for two straight games. For the early part of the season, anyway, if you're looking to roster a potential high-upside running threat at QB, Terrelle Pryor is your man. It's true that he's taken advantage of two subpar defenses, and he's absolutely not an NFL-caliber thrower, but Pryor has 162 rushing yards. He's given the Oakland Raiders some life.
• This Week In Vulturing. I already mentioned Charles Clay. Michael Bush came in for Matt Forte on the goal line (but neither actually got a goal-line carry). Fred Jackson stole a red zone TD from C.J. Spiller. And then there was this New York Giants nonsense: Brandon Jacobs seems firmly entrenched as the Jints' goal-line back, as he got three cracks on a third-quarter possession before punching one in from the 1. Worse yet for David Wilson owners, when Jacobs came out close to the end zone, Da'Rel Scott came in. For now, Tom Coughlin just doesn't trust Wilson, who wound up with 17 yards rushing. Lovely.
• Did I mention that Chad Henne wasn't going to be a magic tonic for the Jacksonville Jaguars? Henne looked every bit as ugly as Blaine Gabbert, and the Jags didn't score their first TD of the season until garbage time Sunday. (And it went to Clay Harbor.) If MJD misses time, his direct backup appears to be Jordan Todman and not Justin Forsett, but I have a hard time caring.
FANTASY TOP HEADLINES
- Matthew Berry's fantasy football top 200 for Week 13
- Karabell: 2014 rankings update
- Harris: Week 13 free-agent finds
- Cockcroft: The 'December performer' myth