Watching the games last weekend, I couldn't tell if my TV was showing actual games or my son playing Madden on "rookie" level.
In the video game, players plow through defenders like they aren't even there and complete 50-, 60- and 70-yard passes at will. Apparently, Matt Forte was playing on the "rookie" level when a Falcons defender gave him a love tap during a 56-yard TD reception. And so was Wes Welker, who beat a Dolphins cornerback so badly on a 99-yard TD that Miami released the poor sap the next day.
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How John Dietz's picks fared:Good bets
Kevin Kolb, QB, Cardinals: 18-for-27, 309 yards, 2 TDs = A
Ben Tate, RB, Texans: 116 rushing yards, TD = A-
Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals: 90 rushing yards, 12 rec., TD= B
A.J. Green, WR, Bengals: 1 catch, 41 yards, TD: B-
Tim Hightower, RB, Redskins: 72 rushing yards, 25 rec., TD= B-
Kyle Orton, QB, Broncos: 24-for-46, 304 yards, TD, INT= C
Brandon Lloyd, WR, Broncos: 6 catches, 89 yards= C
Eli Manning, QB, Giants: 18-for-32, 268 yards, rushing TD, INT= D
Kerry Collins, QB, Colts: 16-for-37, 197 yards, TD= D+
Chad Ochocinco, WR, Patriots: 1 catch, 14 yards= F
Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Rams: 1 catch, 5 yards = A
Shonn Greene, RB, Jets: 26 rushing yards= A
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers: 45 rushing yards= A
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons: 31-for-47, 319 yards, INT, FL= A-
Fred Jackson, RB, Bills: 112 rushing yards= D
Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys: 5 catches, 90 yards, TD= D
The result of this abysmal defense was 14 quarterbacks eclipsing 300 yards, with three of them going over 400. Think about that -- nearly HALF of the QBs hit the 300 mark.
Rookie Cam Newton's 422-yard day was obviously the most impressive, but what also stood out was the fact that many lower-tier quarterbacks (fantasy-wise) posted monster numbers.
I'll look at eight of them here, with my thoughts on their usefulness going forward.
• Jay Cutler (preseason rank of 16). The Bears' offense looked crisp against an overmatched Falcons squad at Soldier Field. Rarely in my 30-plus years of watching this team have I seen wide receivers so open. Still, 109 of Cutler's 312 yards came on two plays. Cutler is still a somewhat risky play going forward, but it's clear he is much more comfortable in Year 2 of the Mike Martz offense.
• Kevin Kolb (14). With 11.4 yards per attempt, Kolb tied Newton for tops in the league last week. He is a nice play when the matchup warrants it. After Week 5, the schedule gets tough, making Kolb excellent trade bait if he continues to light it up.
• Matthew Stafford (13). Those of you who snarfed up the Lions QB in the middle rounds, congratulations. There will be more of these 305-yard, 3-TD games to come.
• Cam Newton (28). I thought so highly of Newton that he was the last QB I ranked. The rookie from Auburn looked spectacular Sunday and many experts were crowing about his performance. But before we anoint him the second coming of Michael Vick, let's see if he can produce an encore when facing an actual NFL defense this week in Green Bay.
• Rex Grossman (unranked). Word to those of you desperate for QB help -- pick up Grossman. He looked good Sunday and except for Week 6 vs. Philly, the Redskins have a fairly easy schedule.
• Kyle Orton (21). The Broncos want to run the ball more this season, but they will fall behind a lot and Orton (304 yards, TD) will be forced to air it out. He's worth a spot start now and then if your No. 1 has a tough matchup.
• Chad Henne (unranked). I'm calling his 419-yard day a fluke for now. But perhaps Reggie Bush is opening up things for receivers in Miami. Give it another 2-3 weeks before jumping on this bandwagon.
• Mark Sanchez (21). Total fluke here. The Jets are a running team that was blitzed to death by Dallas. I don't seen Sanchez going over 335 again.
The Dietz jinx:
Most of you are familiar with the Madden jinx: Whomever is placed on the video game cover typically has an atrocious season.
Well move over, Mr. Madden. Make room for the Dietz jinx.
For the third consecutive year, the first player I grabbed in my unit league (where we bid on players) has gone down with a significant injury. (This is a keeper league, so many of the top players are already spoken for).
• In 2009, I spent 80 of my 200 units on LaDainian Tomlinson. He was hurt in Week 1 and rode the fantasy pine from Weeks 2-6.
• Last season, Ryan Mathews ate up 62 units and he managed just 6 starts the entire season.
• Now: Steven Jackson, who I stole for 37 units. Two carries into the 2011 season and he's out with a groin injury.
The lesson for you fantasy newbies when this happens is DO NOT PANIC. Two years ago, I weathered the storm and when LT returned he was consistent enough to lead me to the playoffs. Last year, I used a good chunk of change to pick up Mike Tolbert, and he helped lead me to the title game.
My hope now is that Carnell Williams can pick up the slack as Jackson's replacement.
An awful start. In my unit league (1 point per 20 yards rushing and receiving), I lost 66-43. Worse, I have Steven Jackson and left Mike Tolbert (22 points) on the bench in favor of LeGarrette Blount (zero). In the regular league, I had the third-highest point total (129) thanks to huge days by Drew Brees (41), Calvin Johnson (21) and Darren McFadden (18). Of course, my opponent had Matt Forte and Wes Welker and prevailed 140-129.
• Bears QB Jay Cutler and WR Johnny Knox at New Orleans. With Roy Williams hurting, Knox will see more playing time and finish with numbers like this -- 5 catches, 90 yards and a TD.
• Packers RB James Starks and WR Jordy Nelson at Carolina. Impressive in the opener (12 carries, 57 yards and a TD), watch for Starks' role to increase. He's a great flex play this week and a so-so RB2. Nelson caught 6 balls on 8 targets and will be a solid WR3 all year.
• Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew and WR Nate Burleson vs. Kansas City. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw 2 TD passes to a tight end nobody had heard of last week. Pettigrew is a good choice for those of you hurting at the position. Burleson (5-60) had a nice opener and is a great play in Week 2.
• Cleveland defense vs. Indianapolis. In a league where we are forced to draft two defenses, I picked the Browns for some spot starts. This is a great play period, but I'm getting greedy and hoping Josh Cribbs takes back a kick or two on special teams.
• Bucs RB LeGarrette Blount at Minnesota. Don't give up on Blount too quickly -- you did see what Mike Tolbert did to the Vikes, right?
• Redskins QB Rex Grossman vs. Arizona. If a rookie can throw for 422 yards on the Cardinals, I'm thinking everybody except Tarvaris Jackson, Alex Smith and Donovan McNabb will tear this team apart.
• Bengals RB Cedric Benson at Denver. I was down on Benson in the preseason, but with an upcoming schedule that looks like this -- SF, Buff., Jax., Indy, off, Sea., Tenn. -- fantasy teams that need RB help may want to consider trading for Cincy's workhorse.
• Texans WR Jacoby Jones at Miami. Kevin Walter (shoulder) is banged up and Houston is facing the defenseless Dolphins.
• Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin at Atlanta. Don't be discouraged by Maclin's quiet opener -- he will explode in this one.
• Bucs RB Carnell Williams at New York Giants. Watch for Williams to get a similar workload to Tim Hightower last week (25 carries).
• Saints RBs Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas vs. the Bears. Let's see -- two tailbacks who are in a timeshare vs. Brian Urlacher and Co.? No thanks.
• Colts TE Dallas Clark vs. Cleveland. Kerry Collins threw to Clark just five times Sunday. Owners that spent too high a pick on the normally reliable Iowa product should start looking for a replacement.
• Titans WR Kenny Britt vs. Baltimore. I'm not saying you should sit Britt, but temper your expectations against a defense that totally shut down the Steelers.
• Chargers RB Ryan Mathews at New England. I can see 70-80 yards from scrimmage, but I can also see Mathews totally disappearing if the Patriots jump out to a big lead.
• Falcons QB Matt Ryan and Roddy White vs. Philadelphia. I may change my mind, but in one of my leagues I'm toying with sitting White in favor of Plaxico Burress.
• Giants QB Eli Manning vs. St. Louis. I still have faith in Manning but with Hakeem Nicks dinged up, the G-men will establish the ground game.
• Patriots WR Chad Ochocinco vs. San Diego. Let's see No. 85 actually get on the field for more than a third of New England's plays before we even think about inserting him into fantasy lineups.