Look, let's be honest. I love Schoolhouse Rock. Instead of devising some sort of creative way around it, I shall speak plainly: I love Schoolhouse Rock. I remember countless childhood Sundays grooving to 3 is a Magic Number or Conjunction Junction, shamelessly dancing on my couch in much the same fashion as I did yesterday during the Chicago Bears' near-flawless annihilation of "Matty Melt" (as I have already heard him called) and the Atlanta Dirty Birds. Of course, there are many more tangential connections to be drawn between the Dance N'Learn epic and this year's opening weekend. For example, and perhaps the most pertinent: much like the timeless music of Schoolhouse Rock, week one of the 2011 NFL season was both funky and educational.
As with everything fantasy and pop-culture related, it remains important not to overreact. Remember the popped-collar-polo phase you thought was "the bomb" a few years ago? Remember using phrases like "the bomb?" Or how about as recently as last spring when everyone was convinced zubaz were making a comeback? Yeah. You'll thank me later, surely, for this golden nugget: don't go mortgage the proverbial farm for the "Fantasy Hall of Fame" Carolina passing attack. Hey, Cam Newton could certainly have a great first year- and I do like his chances to outperform expectations- but he will have his down weeks, too, as will the ageless Steve Smith (Green Bay brings a formidable secondary to town next week and the Panthers visit Soldier Field in week four).
But, we have much to attend to. Cue the music! As with The Rocks from the Schoolhouse, the best part, the start, the intro, that which we must begin with is of course the funky...
Week 1: The Funky
One nation, under a groove, gettin' down just for the funk of it. -George Clinton
Sadly, unlike Mr. Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic, some of the happenings in this week's batch of games were anything but smooth and soulful. In fact, watching Dallas' 4th-quarter self-destruction was harder to stomach than an episode of Toddlers and Tiaras. You want funky? Consider this: it's one thing to blow a lead. It's another entirely to be up fourteen with the ball inside your opponent's five in the fourth quarter and lose without scoring any more points. Speaking of which, the play that led to the just-mentioned scenario? Tony Romo hit Jason Witten in the seam and Witten took it to the house... almost. It was the longest reception of his career and a few more yards would have made it a monster day for Witten, Romo, and the Dallas Cowboys. Instead, Witten remembered how slow he was and found a way to get caught just shy of the goal line, erasing an additional four points from Romo's fantasy day. The Dallas Quarterback then fumbled three plays later, costing some owners even more. As for the rest of the team? It's more of what we already knew: Miles Austin and Dez Bryant will be starter-worthy, and Felix Jones will get his touches (what he will do with them is another question entirely).
Oh, and then there's this guy named Plaxico Burress. 72 yards and a score on nine targets. Nine targets. If you watched the game, Mark Sanchez looked his was when it counted. I think Plax is for real. LaDanian Tomlinson might be, too. Let's not forget, Tomlinson had the better 2010 fantasy season between the two Jets rushers. I'm not saying Shonn Greene won't show up and be who we think he will be- maybe he will. But if this game is any indication, he wasn't worth his average draft position.
Yeah, I think Burress could and probably will have a decent year- at least I wouldn't want to bet against it. He doesn't look like he's lost much... and you can't teach size. Dare I say it? I dare: the Jets offense looks like something you want a fantasy part of. We even had a Dustin Keller sighting.
-Michael Vick's two kneel-downs angered plenty of owners, especially those in leagues who award bonuses for eclipsing 100 yards. Hey, it's fantasy folks. But seriously, how 'bout them Eagles?
-Anyone care to explain why the Bears almost exclusively threw the ball during a possession with under eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, leading 30-6? This brilliant strategy resulted in a pick-6 for the Falcons' defense. I wonder how many fantasy hopes and dreams that brilliant move crushed?
-The Steelers Defense, or as I like to call them, "Ray Rice's former Kryptonite" (cool funk band name- take notes) looked like they could have used a few more OTA's and perhaps another, oh, decade's worth of training camp. Nah, I'm not worried too much about the unit as a whole. I think what this shows us more than anything is that Baltimore. is. for. real. P.S. Rice's explosion is a perfect example of why you always, always play your studs. No matter the matchup. Rule no. 2 of fantasy football: you don't talk about fant... I mean: rule no. 2 of fantasy football: don't get cute.
Week 1: Edumucation
As your body grows bigger your mind must flower. It's great to learn, 'cause knowledge is power! -Schoolhouse Rocky
This is the part of the program where little bits of a rainbow begin to form on your mostly-black television screen and a celebrity voice comes on and says, "The more you know!" and you get that happy feeling inside.
Actually, this is where I extol the virtues of Mike Tolbert. Assuming he is as "fine" as Norv Turner claims, he just may be the true Fantasy Hall of Famer for 2011. Yes, he had a monster three-touchdown day, which may be his best output of the season. But, let's look a little closer at the numbers. Tolbert:
-Received an equal number of carries as Ryan Mathews (12) but got the score.
-Was targeted nine times in the passing game and caught all nine passes, including two scores
That's 21 total touches on a competent offense with plenty of weapons. Obviously, a lot of the passes were dump-offs, but Tolbert did something with them.
As for Minnesota? Nothing to see here. Move along.
In other news, Beanie Wells put together a nice day. I've heard grumblings and in fact have personally received several phone calls offering Wells as a "sell-high." I took him in trade in every instance but one (No, I'll not part with Michael Vick, thank you). I believe in Wells this year (can we get a T-shirt made to that effect?) and here is why:
-He's on an offense with stars at the skill positions. Kevin Kolb was a great acquisition and Todd Heap was a nice pickup, too.
-He's not in a time-share of any kind. Remember, Tim Hightower is on the other side of the country now.
-He does things with his touches, to the tune of 90 yards on 18 carries.
Again, don't fall victim to overreaction. Things are in place for Wells to have a nice season in Arizona, yes, but it's still only week one.
Three is a Magic Number
- Amongst quarterbacks, Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford had arguably the most to prove on opening day. The Chicago offensive line held up and Mike Martz's playcalling seemed spot-on all day (minus the fourth quarter blip). If his schedule wasn't so murderous, I could buy Cutler as top-10 this year, fantasy-wise. Stafford, on the other hand, looked terrific. It helps that he has freak of nature Calvin Johnson doing whatever he pleases to opposing secondaries, but Stafford spread the love, completing passes to eight different receivers for over 300 yards and three scores.
- Sticking with the Lions, their defense was impressive. The lovable Buccaneers were held to only 56 total yards on the ground. No, I'm not worried about LeGarrette Blount... yet. Though it is troubling he was not involved in the passing game.
- The Bengals-Browns game was interesting on several fronts. Yes, we had a Cedric Benson sighting. But more interesting was the play of Colt McCoy, who also connected with eight different receivers for 213 yards and two scores. That's starter material. And next week the Browns get the Colts... just saying. If you're thin at quarterback, in a deep league, or just enjoy rolling the dice, McCoy is worth a look. Oh, and Peyton Hillis should feast mightily.
Until next time,
keep it funky.
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