Week 1 of the 2011 NFL season is in the books. Here are some numbers that stood out to me from the Week 1 action that's already happened.
-2 How many owners were screaming at the final play of Sunday night's Cowboys-Jets game when Felix Jones was the last to touch the ball? He was the last of many to lateral the ball as the Cowboys tried to score on the final play from their own 34. And Jones' last touch ended up in the hands of Jets DL Jamaal Westerman. The result will be minus-2 points in many fantasy leagues for the fumble lost by Jones, and perhaps the difference in a win or loss come Tuesday morning.
1 - Targets Green Bay Packers WR James Jones received Thursday night in 20 snaps of action. He turned it into one catch for one yard. Why did he re-sign with the Packers again? Was it just to jumble this receiving corps up even more for fantasy owners?
4 & 1 - Tampa Bay WR Mike Williams and Houston's Andre Johnson were each targeted a league-high four times in the red zone. Johnson caught two of his, including one for a score. Williams caught one of his for a score.
5 -We're down on Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez this year because his numbers have declined. However, he did receive seven targets Sunday against a solid Bears LB corps, and turned it into five catches for 72 yards. All of those numbers are above his 2010 16-game average of 6.8 targets, 4.4 catches and 41 yards per game. Three targets came in the first quarter, three in the third and one in the fourth. He had the third-longest day of the play for the Falcons, a 30-yard catch in the first quarter.
9.75 - Yards per attempt for Chicago QB Jay Cutler, who completed 22-of-32 passes for 312 yards and two scores. He was still sacked five times, which puts him on pace for 80 this season — well above his league-leading 56 last year.
12 - DeSean Jackson, more known for what he is able to do with limited targets, was the go-to guy for Mike Vick Sunday against St. Louis. Jackson was targeted 96 times over 14 games last season for a 6.9 per game average. Sunday, he was targeted 12 times, one behind league leader Roddy White (ATL). Jackson caught six of the targets for 102 yards and a score. He was targeted double-digit times in just three games last season, including the 2010 opener (11), but keep an eye on this trend as it pertains to how Vick sees the field. TE Brent Celek and WR Jeremy Maclin received just three targets apiece.
13 - The Titans ran the ball just 13 times against Jacksonville, and fell to 0-12 all-time when they have rushed 13 times or fewer. Only three times in Jeff Fisher's tenure did the team run 13 times or less.
21.9 - Wes Welker enters Week 2 with his yards per catch nearly double his career average of 10.9 after an eight-catch, 160-yard performance Monday night against Miami. He was at 9.2 before a 99-yard TD catch in the fourth quarter. He also has his average targets per game well above last year's average of 8.2 after Tom Brady went his way 12 times. That's a good sign for Welker owners as he is still a favorite option despite so many mouths to feed.
21.9 - Fantasy points New Orleans Saints RB/return man Darren Sproles had Thursday night. He tied for the team lead in targets (9) and turned it into seven catches for 75 yards to go with two carries for seven yards. On special teams, he had two punt returns for 92 yards, including a 72-yard TD return, and two kickoff returns for 76 yards.
25 - Matthew Stafford was 18-of-25 for 265 yards, two TDs and an interception by halftime. He went 6-of-8 in the second half with 40 more yards and a score. He had already targeted WR Calvin Johnson seven times, TE Brandon Pettigrew six times and Nate Burleson four times in the first half.
25 - Tim Hightower and Cedric Benson led the league with 25 carries apiece on Sunday. Hightower went for 72 yards and a score with his; Benson scored as well, on a 39-yard run, rushing for 121 yards. Hightower added three catches for 25 yards; Benson had one catch for 2 yards. 18.8 fantasy points for Benson, 18.2 for Higtower.
39 - Minnesota QB Donovan McNabb threw for 39 yards. ... Has that sunk in yet? He threw for 39 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception and added 32 yards rushing for a fantasy day of 9.76 points. It's going to be hard for Adrian Peterson, who miraculously had 98 yards on 16 carries, to consistently find any running room with McNabb stretching the field to the tune of 39 yards.
46 - Denver QB Kyle Orton attempted 46 passes in Monday night's loss to Oakland. And it was not all in the second half as the Broncos attempted to come back. The Broncos ran 33 first-half plays, traling by no more than 10 points, yet 23 of those 33 plays were pass attempts by Orton. He attempted 46 or more passes just twice last season under Josh McDaniels. So just because John Fox came to town, and many worried that the forward pass would cease to exist, Orton should still be slinging the ball.
71 -Dallas WR Dez Bryant had three catches for 71 yards and a score in the first quarter. The first two catches and the score came against New York Jets DB Antonio Cromartie, the final catch, a 26-yard play down the sidelines came against Darrelle Revis. It was the last catch of the night for Bryant, despite five more targets.
An in-depth look at the Lions offense, defense and special teams this year.
The streaks are almost all gone now, which means the Detroit Lions finally are ready to put their past behind them. The Matt Millen era is a fading memory, along with the historically awful 0–16 season that capped it in 2008. In the span of two weeks last December, the Lions ended both a 19-game losing streak in the NFC North and a 26-game losing streak on the road. And by winning four in a row to finish the season — even without their franchise quarterback — the Lions have suddenly offered tangible evidence that they’re a team on the rise.
• Inside the Locker Room
With John Niyo of the Detroit News
Can Matt Stafford finally put his injury issues behind him and start a full season?
There’s a misconception that the Lions’ offensive line is directly responsible for Stafford’s injuries, though it was a Julius Peppers sack that got 2010 started off on the wrong shoulder. Still, there’s no mistaking Stafford’s offseason determination to put an end to all that idle time, opting for surgery and an intense rehab on his throwing shoulder. By strengthening the muscles around his joints, the expectation is he’ll be better equipped to withstand punishment. He’s also now well aware of the value of throwing it away to avoid a sack. But really, the best medicine might be an offense with more playmakers and quick-read outlets that allows Stafford to dictate the tempo and avoid the kind of desperate situations that lead to problems.
Can Brandon Pettigrew develop a relationship with Matt Stafford like he did with Shaun Hill?
Pettigrew has the ability to be any quarterback’s best friend, as long as he figures out a way to hang on to the football. And while he had a breakout year with 71 catches — most of them without Stafford — his yards per reception, downfield targets and touchdowns go way up when the No. 1 quarterback is in the game.
How soon will Titus Young beat out Nate Burleson for a starting spot?
Young wasn’t drafted to replace Burleson. He was drafted because the Lions’ No. 3 wideouts — Bryant Johnson and Derrick Williams — were so ineffective in 2010. The Lions wanted another receiver who could get separation and threaten defenses with deep speed to take away defenders over the top for Calvin Johnson, Burleson and Brandon Pettigrew.
• Fantasy Playoff Run — Weeks 14-16: MIN, @OAK, SD
Let’s be honest — we’re all looking at the Lions as a passing team. With that said, the playoff schedule is not friendly. All three opponents were in the top 10 against the pass last season — in fact, San Diego and Oakland were first and second vs. the pass, respectively. So maybe the Lions can run. Well, the Chargers (fourth) and Vikings (ninth) possessed top-10 rush defenses last year.
• Athlon Best Bets
Sleeper: Brandon Pettigrew, TE Deep-Sleeper: Jerome Harrison, RB Overvalued: Nate Burleson, WR Top Rookie: Titus Young, WR Bounce-Back: Matthew Stafford, QB Top IDP: Ndamukong Suh, DL
• Try to Avoid
Nate Burleson, WR
With Titus Young joining the fantasy ranks, and Jahvid Best, Brandon Pettigrew and Calvin Johnson combining to command high target totals, Burleson’s time on fantasy rosters may be ending. WAIT UNTIL: 19th RD
• Draft Class Fantasy Impact
The Lions should be a good source of fantasy value this season, and more weapons were added through the draft. Young will help take away some of the pressure on Calvin Johnson and tight end Brandon Pettigrew. Don’t expect Young to make much of a fantasy impact in 2011, but he should be targeted in keeper formats. Even though Jahvid Best was solid as a rookie, adding a bigger, complementary back was necessary. Leshoure could have fit that mold and passed Best for the team lead in rushing yards. But with Leshoure's season-ending Achilles injury, it is hard to tell what the Lions' running game will look like.