I took some dispiriting losses during Week 1 of the fantasy football season.
Donovan McNabb, the quarterback of both my teams, played indifferently. Larry Johnson did nothing to allay my fears that he's a diminished runner at the heart of a terrible offense in Kansas City. And former Terps tight end Vernon Davis, with a chance to help me to a comeback win, caught a whopping two balls for 4 yards Monday night.
I feel a fantasy funk coming on. To prevent or at least delay it, I'll attempt a constructive look at what we learned from the first weekend of games.
We learned that Mike Shanahan might finally be ready to drop his vendetta against fantasy owners and use one back, Travis Henry, most of the time. Some owners managed to snag Henry as a second back, and I'm starting to think that will be key to many championship runs. Good offensive systems and lines can create star runners, and we could be reminded of that in Denver this season.
We learned that with former Raven Chester Taylor suffering from an oblique injury in Minnesota, rookie Adrian Peterson is more than ready to fill his shoes. Talent watchers have predicted Peterson would be an NFL monster since high school, and a 19-carry, 103-yard debut certainly fits that prophecy. Many of the great backs in history have been greatest early in their careers, so I won't be surprised if Peterson ranks among the league's top 10 this season.
We learned that the New York Giants' Derrick Ward was the season's first waiver-wire wonder. I didn't hear a peep about Ward in the preseason, but after Brandon Jacobs went out with a knee injury, the unknown reserve tore up the Dallas Cowboys for 89 yards on 13 carries. It will be interesting to see if one 44-yard run skewed Ward's numbers to the point where we have an unrealistic picture of him. Owners were right to snap him up, because any feature back is worth having. But Ward was a seventh-round pick and had no offensive track record in three previous NFL seasons, so I wouldn't go jamming him into your starting lineup unless you're desperate.
In the same game, we learned that Tony Romo is just fine, thanks, after his nightmarish end to last season. I promoted Romo as an overall buy for the season and as a strong start Sunday. He had 14.38 yards per attempt against the Giants, showing his ability to generate big numbers without a lot of throws. Romo probably will have some bad games this season but also will be a top-five quarterback about half the time.
We learned that even though Ben Roethlisberger had a tremendous game Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers might not throw the ball enough to make him an every-week fantasy starter. Four touchdown passes is great, but 23 attempts and 161 yards aren't. And without the attempts, the touchdowns won't keep up.
We learned that, as much as I hate to admit it after owning him last season, Randy Moss has something left. The nine catches and 183 yards weren't the extent of it. Moss reminded us that in a league of remarkable athletes, he's a little more remarkable on his best days, gliding past defenders like he's the best kid in a pee-wee game. I still wouldn't bet on him in the long term, but I don't blame New England Patriots fans for gloating.
We learned the downside and upside of Vince Young. An NFL quarterback can't throw the ball much worse than Young did in Week 1, when he managed only 78 yards on 18 attempts and tossed an interception. Despite all that misery, he scored a touchdown, meaning owners who invested high picks in him were happier than those who picked Drew Brees or Marc Bulger. That's going to be the dichotomy with Young all season. He's not ready to be a consistently productive NFL passer. But he's hard to sit because his running ability often bails him out.
Hey, at least he was better than Matt Leinart, who also looked unprepared to throw passes for a professional team and won't do much running the ball.
We learned in the season opener that the Indianapolis Colts have improved their defense or that the New Orleans Saints' offense is shakier than expected or that whole 41-10 mess was a fluke. I'll go with a little of column B and a little of column C. As much as I like Reggie Bush, I don't see him hurting opponents with his running every week, and the Saints haven't figured out how to make him a Michael Westbrook type. Brees and Marques Colston will do better, but I'd keep a concerned eye on that team.
I'm sure we learned some other stuff as well, but the biggest lesson for now is that one week is just one week. You can't wait as long to make moves in fantasy football as you can in fantasy baseball, but you still probably should wait three or four weeks before you blow up your team. At least that's what I'll be telling myself as I hope for a win this weekend.