Charles Woodson schooled Cam Newton, while Tom Brady continued his record pace in Week 2.
Tony Gonzalez, TE, Falcons
With all eyes on quarterbacks Michael Vick and Matt Ryan, it was the 35-year-old future Hall of Fame tight end Gonzalez who stole the show in Atlanta on Sunday night. The 15-year veteran had seven catches for 83 yards and two acrobatic TD receptions — the 89th and 90th of his illustrious career — during an especially sweet 35–31 victory over the Eagles.
Some of the players listed in Athlon Sports' NFL Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Week 2 may be one week adds, some may be season-long adds and some are listed just for you to keep an eye on or even stash on your roster if you have the space.
Scoring is based on Athlon Sports default scoring which is 6 points for all TDs, .5 points per reception and 1 point PER 25 yards passing, 10 yards rushing/receiving and 40 return yards.
Also, if you have any fantasy football questions for Week 2's Ask Athlon, send them my way @AthlonCorby on Twitter or via email to email@example.com
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo
The yardage left a bit to be desired (208), but he did throw four touchdowns and did not turn the ball over against what was supposed to be a good Chiefs defense. The Bills play host to Oakland this Sunday, which just surrendered 304 passing yards in the rain to the "run-oriented" Broncos last night.
Rex Grossman, Washington
Cam Newton. Arizona Cardinals. At home. Enough said. Grossman is coming off a game in which he threw for 305 yards, two scores, no interceptions and a fumble against the New York Giants. Now he gets a Arizona defense reeling from the 422 yards and two scores rookie Cam Newton racked up against them in his first NFL start.
Cam Newton, Carolina He will be a popular waiver add this week after what he did against the Cardinals. If you have the room or patience, you might want to add him and sit him. Newton will come off the Arizona high by likely getting brought back to Earth in the most extreme way against the Green Bay Packers. However, in Week 3, Newton and the Panthers get the terrible pass defense that is Jacksonville. So add him now, wait and then use.
Running Backs Earnest Graham, Tampa Bay If he's going to be the third down back, and the Bucs had 14 of those opportunities Sunday, then he might be a worthy PPR-flex add. Graham had nine targets in the passing game, catching eight of them for 58 yards and six carries for 13 yards. That was good for 12.10 points in the Athlon scoring format. Tampa Bay faces a Minnesota team that just forced San Diego into 13 third-down opportunities.
Dexter McCluster, Kansas City
Offense is going to have to come from somewhere after that lackluster performance Sunday against the Bills. McCluster had four carries for 42 yards, caught all five of his targets for 25 yards and added 92 return yards. The Chiefs may get more opportunities on offense as Eric Berry is lost for the year, and they could look for last year's other high draft pick in McCluster to provide a spark. He scored 10.5 in the Athlon format Sunday, and if he could add a TD every now and then, I'd be happy to take 16.5 from the flex.
Darren Sproles, New Orleans Maybe it's because they were down, but Sproles certainly was the receiving threat out of the Saints' backfield. He was targeted nine times in the passing game, catching seven of them for 75 yards. He also had three red zone targets, catching two of them. If you are in leagues that award return yardage, he added 168 yards and a touchdown for a 21.9-point night in the Athlon format.
Ben Tate, Houston Until Foster comes back, and even after that, Tate needs to be on a roster. If he's still available in your league, which he should not be, go get him. He had 24 carries for 116 yards Sunday vs. the Colts - tied for third most in the league in carries Sunday behind Tim Hightower and Cedric Benson's 25. Houston travels to Miami, which possesses a solid secondary, and the Texans may lean on the run game even more.
LaDainian Tomlinson, New York Jets The old man is done. Yeah, right. Until the Jets prove they are committed to Shonn Greene (10 carries for 26 yards vs. Dallas), then LT needs to be on a roster. He had seven targets, six catches for 73 yards and 16 yards on five carries. He scored 12.9 points in our format, certainly worthy of a flex spot.
Cadillac Williams, St. Louis Rams
Steven Jackson (quad) is unlikely to play and the Rams travel to play the Giants on Monday night. Also lost was WR Danny Amendola (elbow). Williams will be a great PPR play. He had nine targets in the passing game, catching five for 49 yards to go along with 19 carries for 93 yards.
Ricky Williams, Baltimore
Williams wasn't the vulture just yet, but he did get 12 carries for 63 yards (5.3 YPC) against Pittsburgh Sunday, the No. 1 run defense in the league. He also received two targets in the passing game, catching one for four yards. If he's getting 13 touches a game, and producing, he's maybe more than just a handcuff if he can start scoring.
Anthony Armstrong, Washington
He has a good rapport with Rex Grossman. He was targeted two times in the red zone, catching both, including one for a score. The Redskins draw the Cardinals terrible pass defense this week.
Arrelious Benn, Tampa Bay
Forgotten by many after his ACL injury and the emergence of Dez Briscoe in the preseason, but Benn is the No. 2 WR on this team. He was targets seven times, catching four for 27 yards Sunday. These are not great numbers at all, but it's worth noting that he was looked at seven times; that's more targets than any game last season.
Malcom Floyd, San Diego
He may be the fourth option in the passing game as he sits behind Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson and maybe even Mike Tolbert at the rate he was going Sunday. But Floyd did receive the second-most targets (8) against the Vikings against Jackson's three. If you have the room, save a space for Floyd or at least monitor his use vs. that of Tolbert and Jackson's.
Jabar Gaffney, Washington
He is on this list for two reasons: Rex Grossman and Arizona's pass defense. Gaffney and Grossman were teammates at the University of Florida and the Cardinals' defense, or lack thereof, has already been well documented. Gaffney received seven targets from Grossman Sunday, catching three of them for 54 yards and a red zone score.
Brandon Gibson, St. Louis
He was already a starter, but perhaps a draft casualty due to all of us waiting to see just how the Rams' WR corps shook out. Well, the favorite son of the WR corps, Danny Amendola (elbow) is now gone for an what should be an extended period of time. Gibson received five targets, catching three for 50 yards Sunday vs. Philadelphia. Expect his workload to increase.
Devery Henderson, New Orleans
Marques Colston is out for at least a month (shoulder) and Lance Moore is nursing a groin injury. Drew Brees needs pass catchers, and Henderson certainly proved capable with a nine target night Thursday against the Packers, converting them into six catches for 100 yards and a TD. Chicago has the LBs to handle the Saints run game, so New Orleans will need to go to the air for offense.
Jacoby Jones, Houston
Kevin Walter may or may not be out for some time (collarbone) and the Texans face a Dolphins team that just gave up 517 passing yards to the Patriots on Monday night. Jones has never really been a consistent fantasy option, partly because of his play and partly because of the presence of Walter. He is certainly worth an add now, and if he continues his special teams performance (91 return yards, including a 79-yard punt return for a score Sunday vs. the Colts) then consider that icing on the cake. He caught all three targets on Sunday for 43 yards.
David Nelson and Donald Jones, Buffalo
The Bills have to go somewhere else besides Steve Johnson, right? And Chan Gailey's strange Week 1 infatuation with the TE (Scott Chandler catching all five targets for 63 yards and a score) can't be real, right? Maybe Buffalo can go with just these two, considering Fitzpatrick threw for just 208 yards Sunday and won big. Nelson caught four of six targets for 66 yards. Jones caught just two of five targets for a measly three yards but a TD as well. Also to note: Jones had one less target than both Johnson and Nelson, and played more snaps than both — Jones 63, Johnson 59, Nelson 36, according to ProFootballFocus.com. Plus, Marcus Easley (undisclosed illness) was placed on IR Tuesday.
Greg Salas, St. Louis
Danny Amendola was supposed to be the "new Wes Welker" for 2011. Now he's out and someone has to slide into that slot role. Amendola receivied six targets for five catches and 43 yards before the injury Sunday. Salas, a rookie from Hawaii, is taller and bigger than Amendola — 6-1, 210 compared to 5-10, 186 — and he was a scorer in college, registering 22 TDs his final two seasons.
Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh
Antonio Who? Brown, the darling of the preseason, had two catches for 14 yards and 110 return yards for 5.1 fantasy points. Sanders, who was out for a majority of the preseason (foot), resumed his role as the No. 3 WR and garnered just three targets, but more importantly, two of them were in the red zone. He converted one of the two into a touchdown and finished with two catches for 20 yards, the score and nine fantasy points. Consider the Ravens game an anomaly regarding the Steelers' offense; Sanders will play a vital role for the rest of the season.
Jerome Simpson, Cincinnati
Remember him? The stud from the end of last season in Cincinnati? Well, he sort of returned Sunday vs. Cleveland. He was the most targeted player for the Bengals (9). He did little with them (4-44) but keep an eye on him as Cincy heads to play a Denver team that allowed Oakland to rush for 190 yards and might try to shore that up and see if rookie QB Andy Dalton or Bruce Gradkowski can beat it.
Fred Davis, Washington
Even with Chris Cooley in the lineup, Davis had six targets, five catches and 105 yards. And we can't stress it enough: the Cardinals are coming to town,
Ed Dickson, Baltimore
He caught all five of his targets for a total of 59 yards and a score. Two of the five targets and catches came in the red zone.
Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta
Gonzalez 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.
Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati
He was the second-most targeted Bengal against the Browns as the second-year player caught six of eight targets for 58 yards and a score. Only one target came in the red zone, which he scored off of, but he was being utilized outside the 20 as well.
Dustin Keller, New York Jets
It took a while for Mark Sanchez to target Keller (1:51 left in the first half), but he wound up with eight targets, three in the red zone and caught five balls for 61 yards and a score. Sanchez spreads it around, targeting at least four players seven times on Sunday, but Keller should be a red zone favorite. Plus, Jacksonville comes to town Sunday. Yum.
Evan Moore and Benjamin Watson, Cleveland A sleeper in the preseason, Moore caught three of his targets, but two of those targets came in the red zone, which he converted one of into a score. Watson was targeted seven times, catching three for 45 yards, including a 34-yard TD. The Browns get the Colts this week, and if they try to focus on shutting down RB Peyton Hillis, Moore and Watson could feast on a Indy defense that was 11th-worst against the TE last year at 9.6 fantasy points per game.
Greg Olsen, Carolina Olsen kept his solid preseason going into Week 1, catching four of six targets for 78 yards. Carolina gets Green Bay this week, and the Packers have more than enough players to cover WR Steve Smith. Also, assuming the Panthers get blown out, Olsen may find some seams down the middle late in the game to get some late trash points (a la Jimmy Graham for New Orleans vs. the Packers last week).
Leonard Pope, Kansas City Like McCluster, Pope may benefit from the Chiefs needing to find offense from somewhere. Pope stepped in for Tony Moeaki (lost for the year after an ACL injury) and caught three of six targets for 24 yards and had a 19-yard TD catch called back.
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.
Every once in a while there’s that player who has the “magic” season in fantasy football. But what does history say his next season will look like? Let’s take a look at those players over the five seasons prior to 2010 who led their positions and were at least 30 points ahead of their next-closest competitor in one season, and see how they fared the next season. A repeat is possible. However, it’s also worth noting that the two who did repeat their No. 1 ranking did not increase their points totals in doing so.
If you are in a keeper or dynasty league, we believe the following players will begin their descent down the rankings after this season.
Steven Jackson, RB – STL Athlon Top 280 Rank: 14
Jackson, one of the league’s last true workhorses, turned 28 in July. Even at such a young age, he’s already cracked the NFL’s top 40 in career carries with 1,878. He’s bounced back from missing a combined eight games in 2007 and ’08, but the Rams still probably won't be involving Cadillac Williams or Jerious Norwood in the game plan enough to releive pressure from Jackson.
Michael Turner, RB – ATL Athlon Top 280 Rank: 16
Turner’s YPC average dropped to a career-low 4.1 last season, and that was with a cohesive offensive line. The Falcons’ front wall could have three starters leave via free agency, and several untested youngsters would fill the holes. Add the potential deep threat of Julio Jones, and Turner may not be needed or able to roll the kinds of numbers we’re used to seeing.
Reggie Wayne, WR – IND Athlon Top 280 Rank: 27
In single-season leagues, Wayne is still elite. If you have to plan for next year, though, free agency could rear its ugly head. Wayne still produces like a top-10 receiver, but at the age of 32, will the Colts be willing to pay him like one until he’s 37 or 38?
Anquan Boldin, WR – BAL Athlon Top 280 Rank: 51
Boldin’s chemistry with QB Joe Flacco was slow to develop last season, so the two worked together as much as possible during the lockout. Even so, the Ravens will also look to get rookies Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss up to speed with Flacco. Boldin absorbs a lot of shots and will be 31 in October, so tailor your expectations when deciding what receivers to keep.
Cedric Benson, RB – CIN Athlon Top 280 Rank: 60
There's a lot of wear on these tires. Benson ranks fourth amongst running backs in touches per game over the last three seasons at 22 TPG (901 overall over 41 games). There aren't a lot of options in Cincy with rookie Andy Dalton quarterbacking the team, so the ball will find itself in Benson's hands a lot this season as well. So add another 300 touches and that's 1,200 touches on a player that will be 30 near the end of next season.
Tony Gonzalez, TE – ATL Athlon Top 280 Rank: 123
It’s not breaking news that Gonzalez is getting old (35 this season). The developing news is how the Falcons’ offense will integrate rookie Julio Jones and to what extent the deep ball will be emphasized. If Jones’ speed becomes a focal point quickly, there will be much less need for Matt Ryan to target his tight end 100-plus times.
LaDainian Tomlinson, RB – NYJ Athlon Top 280 Rank: 97
L.T. leaped off the line like a classic muscle car in 2010, averaging 106 yards from scrimmage in the first five games. From Week 6 on, the car had a flat. In the season’s last 11 games, he averaged 3.3 yards per carry. In the last five, he caught only nine passes for 53 yards. Whether he even stays in the game could be riding on how he produces this season.
Steve Smith, WR – CAR Athlon Top 280 Rank: 108
His flagging production can be blamed on bad quarterback play even more than the aging process. Still, Smith Version 1.0 has dealt with nagging injuries for years (2004 was his last 16-game season) and a nagging one already sidelined him this training camp (a finger injury).
Charles Woodson, DB – GB Athlon Top 100 IDP Rank: 31
Soon to be 35, Woodson carries the perpetual threat of retirement. Even this year’s production may be restricted by his increased use as a slot corner. He can attack running backs and force fumbles like no other CB in the game, but don’t plan on a huge interception total.
Ray Lewis, LB – BAL Athlon Top 100 IDP Rank: 34
Lewis’ continuing production is impressive. Still, his coverage ability is beginning to suffer thanks to Father Time, and it’s possible that he may continue to soldier on when his tackling begins to do the same. He remains a leader on the field, but there are better (read: younger) options for your fantasy squad.
Brian Urlacher, LB – CHI Athlon Top 100 IDP Rank: 45
Dhani Jones didn’t rate him as one of the league’s top 10 linebackers, and many might agree. Like Lewis and London Fletcher, he’s still productive despite his creeping age, and younger players are racking up comparable numbers. Draft them first.
London Fletcher, LB – WAS Athlon Top 100 IDP Rank: 99
A linebacker playing in 208 straight games is an incredible feat. Fletcher is 36 years old and still producing, but the linebacker position has a fresh jolt of talent on the rise. Even if London keeps calling on opposing ballcarriers, it’s hard to draft him over guys like Lawrence Timmons or A.J. Hawk.
We take a look at the Falcons chances at making a Super Bowl run this year.
The Saints and Packers rode the explosive offense and opportunistic defense formula to the past two Super Bowl titles. The Falcons appear to be following a similar plan.
Few teams can match the Falcons’ firepower on offense. Their weaponry at the skill positions equals any team in the league. Yet instead of fortifying the defense, the Falcons used two of their first three draft picks on wide receiver Julio Jones and running back Jacquizz Rodgers, bolstering an already loaded offense.
• Inside the Locker Room
With Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune
Do you see Michael Turner getting the same 325-plus carry workload this season?
If things go as planned, the Falcons should be playing with a lot of leads this season. That’s where Turner becomes the workhorse and finishes games with his powerful runs. The addition of Julio Jones and Jacquizz Rodgers should only help Turner’s production because it will force defenses to cover more of the field.
With his average dropping below 10 yards per catch for the first time in his career last season, have we seen the end of Tony Gonzalez as an elite tight end?
At this stage of his career, Gonzalez is a notch below the game’s elite fantasy tight ends, but he remains a solid weekly points producer. He’s in terrific shape, can beat most linebackers in single coverage between the numbers and is highly trusted by Matt Ryan. Expect another solid year from him, but his reception totals might decline a little because there’s more competition for catches with the addition of wideout Julio Jones.
What type of numbers do you expect from Jones in his rookie season?
While Jones will start from Day 1, he’s no better than the No. 3 option right now behind Roddy White and Gonzalez. Still, he figures to see a lot of single coverage with teams concentrating their coverage on White, and that should lead to some big-play possibilities. White will still catch the bulk of Ryan’s passes, but Jones could easily score 8-10 touchdowns as a rookie. Much will depend on how quickly he masters the Falcons offense.
• Fantasy Playoff Run — Weeks 14-16: @CAR, JAC, @NO
So we’re all expecting the aerial game to improve for the Falcons, and the fantasy playoff schedule should cater to that. Matt Ryan threw a combined six TD passes and averaged 210 yards in the four meetings against the Panthers and Saints in 2010, and the Jags’ 28th-ranked pass defense is sandwiched in between. The porous run defenses of the Jags (22nd) and Panthers (23rd) are also inviting for Michael Turner and Co.
• Athlon Best Bets
Sleeper: Julio Jones, WR Deep-Sleeper: Jacquizz Rodgers, RB Overvalued: Tony Gonzalez, TE Top Rookie: Julio Jones, WR Bounce-Back: Harry Douglas, WR Top IDP: Curtis Lofton, LB
• Try to Avoid John Abraham, DL
The addition of Ray Edwards as the other bookend on the Falcons’ line and Kroy Biermann in the rotation means, Abraham, the 12-year veteran, may not get enough snaps to warrant being a top IDP defensive lineman. WAIT UNTIL: 20th Rd
• Draft Class Fantasy Impact
The Falcons paid a steep price to move from No. 27 to No. 6 in the first round, but they believe they landed the missing piece to make a Super Bowl run. Jones should help ease the pressure on Roddy White and tight end Tony Gonzalez while adding even more fantasy value to Matt Ryan. Jones should be Atlanta’s No. 2 receiver this season and a solid WR3 or WR4 pick. Rodgers lacks ideal size (5'6") but will slide into a third-down role.