Instant Impressions: Week 2
C.J. Spiller, Robert Griffin III shine again; Trio of top-10 caliber backs disappoint
• Remind me again: Who exactly is this Fred Jackson you speak of? The Buffalo Bills sure didn't miss Jackson on Sunday, as C.J. Spiller ran wild to the tune of 194 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns (he nearly scored a third) on 16 touches. Unlike Week 1, Spiller's TDs were shorter this time around (17 and 5 yards), but he nevertheless made chunk runs of 38, 27 and 20, usually jetting through the middle and making people miss at the second level. Our ESPN rankers, yours truly included, were bullish on Spiller heading into Week 2, ensconcing him within our top 10 RBs. Even with a relatively tough matchup against a reasonably stout Cleveland Browns run defense on next week's horizon, Spiller will verge on top-5 territory. According to ESPN's own Adam Schefter, Spiller is the first player to average at least 10 yards per carry through a season's first two games (with a minimum of 25 attempts) since Jim Brown in 1963.
• Robert Griffin III still hasn't produced an exceptionally great passing day, and might not consistently do so for a while, but his legwork is starting to get serious. In the Washington Redskins' opener, RG3 had nine carries for 42 yards, and that was a mere appetizer for Sunday, when he produced 82 yards and two rushing TDs on 11 carries, many of them scripted. If you're getting early-Michael Vick vibes off this guy, I understand why. The question now becomes whether he deserves to start over your incumbent fantasy signal-caller. I'll reserve judgment until I review the game tape -- RG3 will be a topic of conversation in this week's version of my new podcast with Field Yates, called The Fantasy Underground -- but it's now a legitimate possibility. Take away Griffin's Week 2 rushing and he'd have produced 10 fantasy points in standard ESPN leagues. Add back in the running, though, and he wound up with 30.
• In the same game, Steven Jackson apparently had to leave in the second quarter because of a groin injury. He was on his way to a terrific day, with 58 yards on nine carries, but was stuffed on back-to-back plays from the Redskins' 1 and got an unsportsmanlike penalty for spiking the ball in anger on the second of them. Initial speculation had it that Jeff Fisher benched Jackson for the foolish penalty, but St. Louis Rams beat reporters have subsequently reported that Jackson was injured. In Jackson's stead, rookie Daryl Richardson proved that he's Jackson's handcuff, as he produced 102 yards on 17 touches while Isaiah Pead didn't have a touch from scrimmage. Jackson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that his injury isn't severe, but, regardless, Richardson should be owned in all leagues, preferably by whichever fantasy team owns Jackson.
• Ahmad Bradshaw also had to leave Sunday's game, and, because the New York Giants play on Thursday, Bradshaw's status for Week 3 is up in the air. David Wilson had a horrendous drop early, following up his Week 1 fumble, and that might have contributed to Andre Brown's taking over first-string duties after Bradshaw suffered his neck injury. Although Wilson had three carries for 6 yards, Brown (a "Super-Deep Sleeper" of mine from two years ago, so, y'know, better late than never) managed 90 yards and the game-winning 2-yard TD on 15 touches. I'm not convinced that Brown will be a fantasy must start Thursday if Bradshaw can't go, but, based on the two RBs' usage, you'd have to conclude that Brown would be a better start than Wilson.
• What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on with Jamaal Charles? Following up on his Week 1 effort of 16 carries for 87 yards and no scores, J-Mail had nine touches for 22 yards on Sunday. He barely played in the second half (he had two touches in that stanza), when Peyton Hillis and the immortal Shaun Draughn were made to suffer as the Kansas City Chiefs were getting their doors blown off. After his strong preseason, Charles looked as if he had bounced back from his torn ACL to become the same lightning-quick, ultrafast player we all fell in love with in 2010, putting him on the fringes of the RB top 10 in drafts. Clearly, though, something is wrong here. Remove a 46-yard Week 1 scamper against the Atlanta Falcons assisted by a hole the size of the great outdoors, and Charles has 21 carries for 34 yards. The winless Chiefs get the winless New Orleans Saints next week, and the Saints have allowed 56 fantasy points to opposing RBs through two games. Charles had better get his helmet on straight for this one.
• If Charles is a disaster running the ball, Darren McFadden isn't far behind. He produced 22 yards on 11 carries Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, plus missed the play on which Mike Goodson took a screen 64 yards to the house because he'd just been poked in the eye. His fantasy owners know the feeling. Unfortunately, unlike last Monday night, when Run-DMC had 13 catches on 18 targets, McFadden caught only two of seven targets Sunday, for a pedestrian 19 yards. The entire Oakland Raiders offense seems held hostage by Greg Knapp's archaic-feeling West Coast offense, and by Carson Palmer's erratic play. It's difficult to imagine things getting better against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3.
• Aaron Hernandez injured his right ankle in the first quarter Sunday when Julian Edelman fell on him, and, although X-rays reportedly didn't show a break, the New England Patriots are going to be without half of their tantalizing tight end tandem for several games. There are a couple of implications here. First, Wes Welker once again played behind Edelman, which is bizarre, but Hernandez's injury could render it irrelevant. In the first half, Welker had one target and one reception (incidentally, that grab set a record for the most catches ever by a Patriot) and didn't see much time out of two-receiver sets, but business picked up substantially after that. All week, I told folks that my over/under for Welker's targets in Week 2 was 10 and that I was taking the "over," and, in fact, he wound up with 11 (resulting in five catches for 95 yards), but it took a few late-game desperation drives. In a weird way, Hernandez missing time might be the best thing for Welker's fantasy value because he'll probably be on the field all the time now. Second, Hernandez owners are going to need a replacement. Martellus Bennett and Kyle Rudolph are each owned in less than half of ESPN leagues and each scored a TD on Sunday. But the best bet might just be Dennis Pitta, who followed up a big Week 1 with a ludicrous 15 Week 2 targets.
• Antonio Gates sure does get a lot of slack from those of in the fantasy industry, considering how often he has killed his owners. Add another chapter to that particular story. As of noon ET Sunday, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Gates would play, then the inactives came out for the late game and he was scratched. That left his owners scrambling for a late-game solution, but I'm guessing not many of them landed on Dante Rosario. All Rosario did was play the Gates role for Philip Rivers -- and score three red zone TDs. Awesome. Gates supposedly thinks he'll be able to go in Week 3 versus the Falcons, but you know what? I'm done with this guy. Done answering questions about his constant "questionable" status. Just done. He's questionable. I don't know whether he's going to play. So there.
• Danny Amendola fumbled on the Rams' first play from scrimmage, which led to a Redskins defensive touchdown, but, after that, he was golden. He caught 15 of his 16 targets for a smooth 160 yards and a 1-yard TD, leading clever wags to opine that perhaps Welker and Amendola have secretly switched uniforms. Note, however, that this was Amendola's first career 100-yard output in 33 career games. He's startable as a No. 3 fantasy wideout in PPR leagues, and he can be added in standard leagues, too, but I worry he might be tough to start in formats in which he doesn't get credit for receptions.
• Eli Manning played badly for quite a while Sunday. It seemed as if he was about to begin the year with two stinkers and send his owners into paroxysms of doubt. At halftime, he had six fantasy points in standard ESPN leagues. But that's the beauty of Eli, and the beauty of the New York Giants' offense: They will throw -- and throw deep -- until the final whistle. Manning snapped out of his funk and produced score after score, winding up with 510 yards passing and 26 fantasy points. It's his nature to be an up-and-down player, and his lows are lower than almost anyone's. But it doesn't matter so much how you get there. Eli is a strong option once again Thursday night against the Panthers.
• Those of us who felt nauseated by the prospect of Marshawn Lynch as a top-10 RB this summer (but put him there anyway) certainly feel calmer now. Beast Mode was the powerhouse at the center of the Seattle Seahawks' whitewashing of the Dallas Cowboys, producing 122 yards and a TD on 26 time-sucking carries. His back appears to be fine once again, and Lynch hasn't let his fat new contract stop him from punishing opposing defenses. The Cowboys' D is not some pedestrian run-defense unit, which makes this performance all the more impressive. He's locked in as a must start for Week 3 against the Green Bay Packers.
• Yes, I'm burying my requisite Chris Johnson note way down here. He and his offensive line deserve it. Ten touches for 28 yards? Seriously? A week after 11 carries for 4 yards? In terms of total yards, Week 2 was actually worse than Week 1 (51 in the opener versus just the 28 this time), and, although I haven't seen any of the tape yet, CJ0K owners are justified in panicking. Do the Patriots and Chargers have terrible run defenses? No. Are they elite? My guess is not. Perhaps Jake Locker isn't quite striking fear into opponents' hearts the way some surmised he would. But if you're a Johnson owner and you're starting to feel as if he has to ride your bench until he shows something -- one of those "you have to miss his first good game" deals -- you're absolutely forgiven. Frank Gore performed well against the Detroit Lions (Tennessee's Week 3 foe) Sunday night, but it's borderline impossible to have confidence in the Tennessee Titans' run game right now.
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