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First Quarter Recap

This NFL season has been unlike any other thus far. Fans have seen three atypical things already: a blockbuster trade during the regular season, a first round rookie holds out and finally signs four weeks into it all and a 40-year-old quarterback coming out of retirement. Okay, so maybe the last one wasn’t so new or unusual to us, but you get the point- this season is shaping up to be exciting. There are teams like the Bengals and Broncos that are shocking football fans across the nation. On the other side of the spectrum teams such as the Titans and Panthers have performed below par. I am here to use these events and trends to see how it affects the bigger picture- fantasy football.

Surprises:

Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore­- Last year Flacco was a part of, rather than led, the Ravens’ unexpected push for the Super Bowl. He simply fulfilled his role by not making mistakes and letting the ground game and staunch defense pull their weight. This year, Flacco is proving himself to be a bona fide fantasy quarterback with eight touchdowns and over 1,100 yards passing. Expect his success to continue, so unless you have another star quarterback on your roster, keep this guy.
The Defenses/Special Teams of San Francisco, New Orleans and Denver- Who would have expected these three to be in the position they are in today, let alone that their defenses would be the top three in fantasy? I’ve always liked picking up defenses on the waiver wire based on match ups every week, so I am not a big fan of drafting a defense high. However, these teams have proven my personal theories wrong. I feel the Denver and San Francisco D/ST will continue the good work, but I wouldn’t depend on the Saints to keep it up. Their team is not based around defense at all. They are most likely overachieving on account of the intensity the offense has brought so far.
Steve Smith, WR, New York (Giants)- No, not Carolina’s Steve Smith, but the other one. With Plaxico Burress now out of the NFL, Smith has stepped up and become Eli Manning’s favorite target. He has four touchdowns (already a career high) and has amassed 411 yards. Better yet for points per reception league owners, Smith has 34 receptions. It’s hard to believe, but Smith looks to be for real and I see him remaining successful for the rest of the year. It will take teams at least that long to figure out how to match up against the small and quick USC graduate.
Cedric Benson, RB, Cincinnati- Wasn’t this guy supposed to be a major bust? Don’t tell Benson that; he is playing the best he has in his pro career. Though he isn’t blowing anyone out of the water with just two touchdowns, Benson has 367 yards rushing and has become a nice compliment to the Bengals pass game. However, trade alert: Benson surely cannot keep this up, as he hasn’t rushed for even 800 yards in a given season nor played all 16 games of any season. Get some decent value for him now while you can.

Biggest Disappointments:

Trent Edwards, QB, Buffalo and Kurt Warner, QB, Arizona- I’ll admit, I drafted Edwards on my team. But let’s just say, he won’t be playing for Team Feingold any longer after his weak performance. The third year pro was expected to have a breakout season with the Bills’ addition of Terrell Owens and the presence of stud Lee Evans. However, Edwards and his team have started off poorly, going 1-3 in a division that is extremely tough. Edwards has under 800 yards passing, and as many interceptions as touchdowns, at five. While Edwards couldn’t possibly underachieve this much for the remainder of the season, for the time being, he has earned a spot on your bench. Kurt Warner is a similar story. He has all the talent in the world around him, yet he has played mediocre, along with his defending NFC Champion Cardinals. Warner too, like Edwards, will eventually pick up the pace, but for right now, either start Warner only in very favorable match ups, or sign a guy like David Garrard or Kyle Orton. Think of it this way: in my ESPN league, Edwards and Warner have individually accumulated less fantasy points than both Jason Campbell and Kevin Kolb.

Ladainian Tomlinson, RB, San Diego- Okay, so nobody expected him to have a banner season coming off an injury while entering his older years in the league; but only 72 yards from scrimmage and one touchdown? Even for just two games, those are average numbers at best, and average is not what fantasy owners or any football fan expects from LT. He has dropped off quite a bit the last few seasons, and as Darren Sproles continues to shine, LT’s presence in the offense will be missed less and less. Let’s wait to hold back on any further judgment until he gets healthy, but it’s not looking good this year for LT.

Player to pick up:

Shane Andrus, K, Tampa Bay- Yes, I’m serious. We all know how abysmal the Bucs have looked in all aspects of football. Their offense does, however, manage to move the ball down the field a decent amount and stalls in the red zone. Had Mike Nugent done his job, he would have had 27 points this season (based on normal fantasy football kicker calculations). The Bucs will continue to struggle, but succeed just enough to have a lot of field goal attempts. Hopefully for the Bucs, Andrus will make his kicks. If he doesn’t pan out, then oh well, he’s just a kicker. It’s not like you can’t pick another one up for the following week.

Jermichael Finley, TE, Green Bay- Everybody saw Favre play against the Packers this past Monday night. What most probably didn’t notice was Aaron Rogers connecting with second year man Jermichael Finley six times for 128 yards and a score. Finley displayed his rare speed for a tight end, breaking two plays of over 35 yards, one being a 60 yard touchdown. If the offensive line continues to struggle, Rogers could find himself looking more Finley’s way with quick passes. Finley should be available on the waiver wire in most leagues.

I hope this fantasy recap has been of some help to you and your team(s). In case you’re wondering of my fantasy credentials: I have made the playoffs every year, except  one of the years I’ve played, won the championship in a 14 team league last year, and am currently 3-1 this year. Look for more fantasy recaps in the weeks to come, good luck to your team and enjoy the season!

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