Editor's Note:

This fantasy football column will appear Thursdays on the Web site throughout the NFL regular season.


The NFL went Old School in Week 1 to the disgust of plenty of fantasy owners.

Emmitt Smith ran like the Emmitt Smith of old, while Deuce McAllister looked more like the Emmitt Smith of new.


Up-and-comers Michael Vick, Trent Green and Matt Hasselbeck weren't as good as down-and-on-their-way-outers Vinny Testaverde and Rich Gannon.

Running backs Curtis Martin, Jerome Bettis and Warrick Dunn were among the biggest surprises. McAllister, Jamal Lewis and Fred Taylor were among the biggest busts.

But before you start rearranging your lineup and combing the waiver wire for better options - take a deep breath. It's just one week. In fantasy football - just like in the NFL - teams that look great on paper sometimes get shredded on the field. Just ask the Ravens.

Fortunately, there are plenty more games to go and plenty of time for things to balance out. You can rest assured that Bettis' best game is behind him: Three touchdowns and one yard on five carries? Are you kidding? If he scores three more TDs this season, I'd be surprised. In other words, park The Bus in the garage and leave it there, especially this week against what figures to be a fired-up Ravens defense.

So here, in no particular order, are a few tips for Week 2:

Among last week's top five performers were four familiar faces - Daunte Culpepper, Donovan McNabb, Priest Holmes and Shaun Alexander. Newcomer Quentin Griffin (Denver) made a big impression. The pint-sized running back from Oklahoma, ran for 156 yards and 2 TDs in his pro debut and had a touchdown catch as well. Watching him dance and dart through Kansas City's defense reminded me of Barry Sanders. Griffin is going to be a Top-10 back this season behind the Broncos' offensive line. If you're lucky enough to have him, start him.

The Lions lost No. 1 receiver Charles Rogers for the season with a broken collarbone, the same injury that ended his rookie season a year ago. That leaves rookie Roy Williams as Joey Harrington's top target, but don't rush to get him in your lineup. First-year receivers usually struggle (Arizona's Anquan Boldin was a notable exception last year), so leave Williams on the bench for now if you've got better options. Tai Streets will replace Rogers as a starter. I can't recommend him right now, either.

Carolina's offense took a big hit Monday night when Steve Smith broke his leg against the Packers, an injury with far-reaching fantasy effects. Muhsin Muhammad figures to become Carolina's top receiver, with Ricky Proehl and rookie Keary Colbert seeing more playing time. But the boost to their respective values will be minimal compared to the negative impact the injury will have on the value of Jake Delhomme and Stephen Davis. Delhomme loses his favorite target while Davis will struggle if defenses don't respect the Panthers' passing game.

Those in need of running back help should snatch up Miami's Lamar Gordon if he's still available. He was dealt from St. Louis to the Dolphins last week and it's only a matter of time before he replaces Travis Minor in the starting lineup. It could happen as soon as this week because of Minor's bum ankle.

Tight end Antonio Gates led the Chargers with eight catches for 123 yards on Sunday (both career highs) and he figures to see plenty more balls come his way on a team with one of the league's worst receiving corps. Grab him if you can.

Eddie George's days as a useful fantasy back might be over. He had 25 yards on eight attempts for Dallas on Sunday but didn't carry the ball in the second half.

Starting nods

(These guys are primed for big weeks)


McNabb, Philadelphia – He's finally got a target in Terrell Owens and he's also facing a suspect Vikings' secondary. McNabb always comes up big on Monday Night Football

Running back:

Chris Brown, Tennessee – He ran for 100 yards in the first half last week and faces an Indy defense that didn't have much luck stopping Corey Dillon in the opener.

Wide receiver:

Torry Holt, St. Louis – He didn't get in the end zone last week against Arizona; he should this week against Atlanta.

Tight end:

Kellen Winslow, Cleveland – He looked good against a good defense (Baltimore) and should be much better against a Dallas defense that was picked apart last weekend.


John Kasay, Carolina – The Panthers visit Kansas City, which gives up points at an alarming rate.


New England (at Arizona) or Detroit (at home vs. Houston)

Ravens report

You'd be hard-pressed to find a better play at defense this week than Baltimore. After some crucial breakdowns at Cleveland, the Ravens have loads of incentive heading into the home opener against the rival Steelers. Look for a big game.

The same goes for Jamal Lewis, who was kept in check by the Browns. Remember, it was the second game of 2003 (also the home opener) when Lewis broke loose for a league-record 295 rushing yards, to the delight of fantasy owners everywhere. Blame Lewis' slow start Sunday on the absence of tackle Jonathan Ogden. You can bet that Ogden's return will help Lewis break a few big ones this week.

Todd Heap is a Top 3 tight end and should be the Ravens go-to guy in the passing game all season. He hauled in nine passes at Cleveland and is obviously the favorite target of Kyle Boller. Boller isn't as bad as he looked at times on Sunday, but he's not going to put up gaudy numbers, either. He needs time to develop before he will warrant any fantasy consideration.

Dave Alexander is a sports producer at baltimoresun.com.