Adam Levitan

Football Daily Dose

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Brady's New Bunch

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

We knew that the NFL has turned into a league where teams throw to set up the run. But this is ridiculous. Despite the lockout, 14 quarterbacks threw for 300-plus yards in Week 1, four racked up 400 or more and one popped off for 517 yards.

That one was Tom Brady, who absolutely humiliated the Dolphins Monday night. Miami had a month to prepare, but their inept coaching staff still wasn’t ready for the no huddle offense. Brady’s 517 yards were the fifth-most in NFL history and the most since Boomer Esiason went off for 522 yards in 1996.

The fantasy news here isn’t Brady though, it’s his tight ends. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez were constant targets, combining for 13 catches, 189 yards and two touchdowns. Owners shouldn’t hesitate to use either one as starters each week -- they will remain a much bigger part of the offense than the secondary receivers. That's because the two tight ends are difference-making, elite talents that dominate one-on-one matchups.

Speaking of those secondary receivers, you can’t say we didn’t warn you on Chad Ochocinco. He has been slow to pick up the offense and drew horrific reviews during the preseason. He’s simply not in a position to contribute right now. Bench him.

And while we’re on the subject of big-name players not worth the hype, the Dolphins were true to their word on Reggie Bush. He was the clear feature back, racking up the 20 touches he wanted. The problem is that no one in the league wanted Bush as a feature back except for the Dolphins for a reason. He predictably struggled between the tackles, averaging 3.5 yards per carry. I wouldn’t hesitate to sell Bush before he really wears down.

Chad Henne hasn’t turned the corner yet, but he has improved tremendously. Brandon Marshall is in position to have a monster year. … Danny Woodhead led the New England backfield as the Patriots ran a ton of no-huddle. BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ weekly value will be dependent on how many times the Pats get inside the 5-yard line. … Lex Hilliard got two short-yardage carries and flubbed them both. … Daniel Thomas was inactive while Larry Johnson suited up. Yikes.

Editor’s Note: For early rankings, exclusive projections, the Running Back Report, chats and much more, check out the Season Pass!

Michael Bush was used in goal-line situations. Still, I’m not worried if I’m a McFadden owner (which I am). His difference-making speed and power is visible to anyone with two eyes. DMC is a really special talent. He came up one yard short of the end zone on a 47-yard run in the fourth quarter. … Sebastian Janikowski kicked a record-tying 63-yard field goal at the end of the first half. … Jacoby Ford picked up a hamstring injury. Something to monitor. … The Raiders brought in Denarius Moore for a goal-line play, but Darrius Heyward-Bey and Ford were the main wideouts. … Knowshon Moreno looked shifty as a receiver out of the backfield, but the Broncos still can’t open any holes up front. Willis McGahee was used in the red zone, as expected. ... Moreno limped off the field late in the fourth quarter and appeared to be in some real pain.

The Rams got bit by the injury bug right out of the gate. Steven Jackson’s quad strain sounds like it’s at least of the Grade 2 variety as coach Steve Spagnuolo conceded his feature back “probably” won’t play in Week 2. Cadillac Williams is going to have this backfield to himself for at least the next week. While I don’t think Caddy is a good bet for elite production, the Rams are going to give him tons of reps. He got 25 touches after Jackson went down on Sunday.

Meanwhile the news is better on quarterback Sam Bradford. He has a mere contusion, or bruise, on his right index finger. It’s something that he can play through as long as he regains good feeling in there. With the Rams playing on Monday night, he should be fine. However, Bradford won’t have Danny Amendola. The slot machine is out at least three games with a dislocated elbow. Mike Sims-Walker was already the most talented receiver on the Rams and now should see a ton of snaps in the highly productive slot position.

The Texans backfield continues to drive owners up a wall. Part of the problem is that they have the best offensive line in football, making all their backs look like studs. The other issue, of course, is injuries.

Coach Gary Kubiak said that Arian Foster (hamstring) will have to practice in order to play. At this point, that’s completely up in the air and we likely won’t have an update until Wednesday’s workout. Meanwhile, Derrick Ward said his ankle injury is minor and he left Sunday’s romp as a mere precaution. We could very well be looking at the same scenario in Week 2 as we were in Week 1 -- Foster ruled out late Sunday, Ward starts, but Tate out produces him.

We’ll stay in Houston and look at the No. 2 receiver job opposite Andre Johnson. Kevin Walter was rumored to have a major shoulder injury that would cost him at least two months. But on Monday, the Texans said that Walter just has a bruise and may even be able to play in Week 2.

Still, I’m adding Jacoby Jones where I can. He’s wildly inconsistent and often a headache, but he’s explosive. If Walter does end up missing significant time, I’ll want Jones’ upside for the bloated bye weeks. Note that over the final four weeks of last season, Jones averaged 5.5 catches for 71.7 yards while sustaining his punt return role.

The Bucs basically came out and said LeGarrette Blount has to get better in passing situations. When they’re behind, Earnest Graham is going to be the man. … Chris Cooley says he’s healthy, but he’s going to keep losing targets to Fred Davis. As is often the case, the younger player is simply better. … The Titans went out of their way to say Chris Johnson is going to get a bigger workload in Week 2. … Preston Parker is set to fill in as the Bucs’ slot receiver with Sammie Stroughter (foot) out a few weeks. … Victor Cruz had a drop early in Sunday’s game and then ran behind Domenik Hixon the rest of the day.

Dez Bryant has a bruised quad. He’ll probably be taken off punt returns, but should be fine for Week 2. … Mike Tolbert (knee) is also fully expected to play next week. Scoring three touchdowns again will be far more difficult regardless. … Hakeem Nicks went for an MRI on his knee. Not a big deal, but something to monitor. … Sidney Rice (shoulder) remains in doubt for Week 2 and will be a poor option even when active. … Nate Kaeding (ACL) is likely done for the year. How about Jason Hanson as a backup plan? … Marcedes Lewis says he was just cramping in his calf.

Editor’s Note: Sick of your team already? Draft a new one just for Week 2 in SnapDraft!

Adding a different defense/special teams each week based on matchups is a fine strategy. Last week, we hit a home run with the Texans and Niners as the top two plays. Here are units that might be on waivers to consider this week for streaming purposes:

1. COWBOYS at 49ers - It’s not a concern that Dallas’ secondary is banged up because Alex Smith won’t test them. The Cowboys can stack the box and stop Frank Gore.

2. LIONS vs. Chiefs - The Bucs’ offensive numbers were bloated by a bunch of garbage time drives against Detroit in Week 1. This remains a playmaking defense that posted two sacks, one interception and one fumble recovery.

3. BRONCOS vs. Bengals - I’m not buying the running game the Bengals showed against the Browns in Week 1. Cincy’s offense and Cedric Benson still project as one of the most inefficient units in the league.

Adam Levitan is in his sixth season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
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