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First Week Was Full of Surprises
Now that the first week of the 2005 NFL season is in the books, we finally have some clarity on several important issues:
The Dolphins and 49ers are the class of the league. Their fans might as well start making reservations for Super Bowl XL in Detroit.
Daunte Culpepper stinks, Brett Favre is washed up and Willie Parker is the next Barry Sanders.
Priest Holmes is the second-best back in Kansas City.
The Colts' defense is better than its offense.
And we're playing with fire if we allow Chad Pennington to hold our baby.
All of which is another way of saying we don't know jack.
And isn't that what makes the NFL so great? All the talk about "any given Sunday" really is true. For Pete Rozelle's sake, even beleaguered Saints fans had something to cheer about for the first time in weeks.
So, in case you didn't spot the tongue embedded firmly in cheek above, let's curb our enthusiasm for the Frerottes and Rattays, hold off on the eulogies for the Culpeppers and Farves and wait until the Colts stifle a real offense before adding them to our roster.
As Yoda might say: One week does not a trend make. (Please, spare me the Star Wars emails.)
FREE AGENT PICKS AND PANS
To win a fantasy championship, you need to start with a good draft. But filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents is equally important. Here's a look at a few players worth grabbing, and others who would look better in someone else's line-up.
Catch 'em while you can
Willie Parker, RB, Pittsburgh: If you ignored my advice and let him slide last week, it's probably too late for you to do anything but cry about it now. But just in case everyone else in your league is asleep at the wheel, grab Parker now. He isn't going back to the bench just yet. In fact, it may be quite some time before Duce Staley is 100 percent.
Robert Ferguson, WR, Packers: With Pro Bowl WR Javon Walker likely out for the season with a torn ACL, Ferguson will need to step up and give Brett Favre another reliable target opposite Donald Driver. Walker's injury is terrible news for him, for Favre, for the Packers and, most importantly, for me — I have him in my two money leagues.
Joey Galloway, WR, Buccaneers: The speedster racked up 97 yards on five receptions, and was clearly Brian Griese's primary target. With defenses giving '04 rookie sensation Michael Clayton extra attention, Galloway was overlooked by everyone but his quarterback. It looks like the rapport he developed with Griese late last season has carried over to 2005.
Chris Baker, TE, Jets: Until the last week of the preseason, Doug Jolley was expected to be the Jets' starter at tight end. Not only did Baker win the job, he just solidified it with a breakout performance against the Chiefs. While not recommended as an every-week starter, he could fill in nicely on bye weeks.
Courtney Anderson, TE, Raiders: When you've got Randy Moss, Jerry Porter and other talented WRs to worry about, it's easy for a defensive coordinator to ignore a no-name like Anderson. But after two scores in the opener, he's drawn the attention of fantasy owners who must start TEs.
Rian Lindell, K, Buffalo: This may not be the last time the Bills need to lean on their kicker for the bulk of their points. Their offense will stall frequently in the red zone, and the defense will keep their opponents' scores low, giving Lindell plenty of opportunities to repeat his heroics.
Don't be fooled
Gus Frerotte, QB, Dolphins: I'm not shocked that Frerotte threw for 275 yards and two TDs against the Broncos defense. With the receivers at his disposal and at least the threat of a running attack, there will be games where the veteran posts solid numbers. But not often enough to rely on for fantasy purposes.
Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants: Unless Tiki Barber goes down with an injury, or your RB stable is really pathetic, Jacobs is not worth a roster spot. Sure, he'll get the occasional goal line carry and spot duty in relief of Barber, but you'll be in sad shape if you have to start him.
Patrick Crayton, WR, Cowboys: He was Dallas' leading receiver in an improbable win over the Chargers. But count it as an aberration, as he's still No. 3 on the depth chart for a run-dependant team. Even worse, once Peerless Price learns the playbook, he could drop another notch.
Frisman Jackson, WR, Browns: Yes, I've actually received emails asking if I think Jackson is for real. Let's put it this way: He just started his fourth season, and his 128 yards receiving on Sunday was nearly two-thirds of his career total. Yes, that was his first TD, too. Let's see him do it again before we jump on the Frisman Bandwagon.
Arnaz Battle, WR, 49ers: Battle reminded me a lot of Pittsburgh's Antwaan Randle El on Sunday, contributing as a receiver, passer and rusher. Like Randle El, however, his fantasy value will be limited by inconsistency. In addition, he plays for a team that probably just played its best offensive game of the season.