Fantasy Football

Cruz bounces back in Week 2

Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Owners were hoping for more out of Brady in Week 2.
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Joel Beall

Joel Beall is a writer for FOXSports.com and WhatIfSports.com. He lives with a Golden Tee machine and a jump shot that’s currently broken. Reach Joel on Twitter @FOXSportsBeall.

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Studs

Sam Bradford, Rams
Now there’s why the Rams drafted Bradford with the No. 1 overall pick in 2010. The St. Louis signal caller connected on 26-of-35 passes yesterday for 310 yards and three scores in a 31-28 victory over Washington. Attributable to injuries and an inept offensive line, last season’s flameout facilitated a disconcerting fantasy drop for Bradford this year, going undrafted in a majority of leagues. Blessed with a revamped receiving corps and manageable schedule, don’t be shocked if Bradford finds himself as a top-10 player at his position by 2012’s end.

Andy Dalton, Bengals
Unfortunately, Dalton’s conquest over Cleveland (24-for-31, 318 yards, three touchdowns) will be discounted because, hey, it’s Cleveland. Moreover, the Browns’ top cornerback, Joe Haden, was sidelined due to a suspension. Still, such an overlook is erroneous, as Cleveland’s front seven is a formidable foe, and the unit did force Michael Vick into four interceptions in Week 1. Despite working with inexperienced receivers, Dalton displayed a strong rapport with his ball beneficiaries, with five players hauling in three or more catches. Though this sentiment certainly was not reflected in last Monday’s box score, this was the TCU product’s second consecutive solid performance, as Dalton was efficient against the ballyhooed Ravens, forcing Baltimore to back-peddle for a majority of last week’s contest until a tipped ball led to a pick-six for Ed Reed. Available in over 68 percent of FOXSports.com leagues, Dalton is a serviceable No. 2 quarterback with a plethora of exploitable matchups on his slate.

Trent Richardson, Browns
Richardson shook off a forgettable debut (20 touches, 44 yards) in submitting a gem in Cincinnati, hitting paydirt twice on 145 total yards. While the yardage accumulation is impressive, the figure gains extra commendation for the way it was achieved, as Richardson earned most of his ground work without the help of adequate blocking. More importantly, owners should rest assured that the first-round pick’s knee issues are not hindering his movement or abilities. Or as “assured” as one could be with a fantasy entity playing for a Cleveland team.

Reggie Bush, Dolphins
Concededly, was somewhat skeptical on Bush’s outlook, as 2011’s “breakout” campaign was aided by December triumphs in opposition to depleted defenses and teams that had packed it in for the winter (out of Bush’s 1,086 rushing yards, 519 yards derived from the last four games). Factor in a crowded Miami backfield with a neophyte quarterback, and the forecast seemed ominous. Bush destroyed this doubt by racking up 197 yards of total offense versus the Raiders, making two excursions to the end zone in the Dolphins’ 35-13 win. Given the 27-year-old posted 135 total yards in Week 1, looks like Bush might be on the precipice of fulfilling those lofty expectations when he entered the league in 2006.

Andre Brown, Giants
Before Week 1, David Wilson was envisioned as Ahmad Bradshaw’s replacement in the event of ailment to the G-Men’s starting back. However, with the rookie in Tom Coughlin’s doghouse, Brown saw the majority of work when Bradshaw went down with a neck injury and made the most of his opportunity, taking 13 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown. Like most teams in the current NFL landscape, the Giants are a pass-first offensive assault, but expect Brown, a 2009 fourth-round pick hailing from N.C. State, to take over the first-string duties if Bradshaw is absent for an extended amount of time. By the way, I like Coughlin, but he has to be the only professional coach left that still has a “doghouse,” right?

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Danny Amendola, Rams
FOXSports.com’s Ryan Fowler and I were big on Amendola’s prospects for the 2012 campaign, a conviction that fantasy contributor John Halpin not only disagreed with, but outright mocked during our experts’ draft after Fowler selected the Rams receiver. Following Amendola’s annihilation over Washington (15 receptions, 160 yards and a touchdown), we are requesting a public apology from Halpin, preferably along the lines of Happy Gilmore’s, “I'm stupid. You're smart. I was wrong. You were right. You're the best. I'm the worst. You're very good-looking. I'm not attractive...” admission to Chubbs Peterson. Ball is in your court, Mr. Halpin.

Victor Cruz, Giants
The rumblings regarding Cruz’s off-the-field endeavors were far from imperceptible before Week 1’s date with Dallas and only gained steam subsequent three drops against the Cowboys. However, those trepidations should subside, at least for a week, after Cruz brought in 11 receptions for 179 yards and a touchdown on Sunday.

Dante Rosario, Chargers
Please, please, PLEASE refrain from sending inquiries on Rosario acquisition, especially with the tight end suffering a calf injury in Sunday’s game. I thank you in advance.

Randy McMichael got the start for San Diego in place of Antonio Gates, which made Rosario’s exploits (four receptions, 48 yards, three scores) that more surprising. Considering he entered the day with five career touchdowns, it was quite the bonanza for the backup.

Dennis Pitta, Ravens
Pitta had all the makings of a one-week wonder, as Cincinnati’s susceptible secondary seemed to be the catalyst for his carnage in Week 1 (five catches, 73 yards and a touchdown) rather than his proficiency in the passing game. This theory needs to be reexamined, as the Baltimore tight end received 15 targets versus Philadelphia, bringing in eight receptions for 65 yards. Ed Dickson will syphon his share of passes, yet in Baltimore’s new no-huddle approach, Pitta should be the main recipient of Joe Flacco’s flight forays to the position. The talent pool is deep for tight ends this year, but if Pitta is waiting on your waiver wire, he’s worth the roster stash.

Honorable Mention: Brandon Weeden, Browns
Overreaction in the NFL is a common fallacy, and one has to always be cognizant of avoiding year-long pronouncements behind a sample size of two weeks. HOWEVER…the Cincinnati defense is bad. Really bad. As in “Nate Clements, Terence Newman and undrafted rookie Vontaze Burfict are playing valuable minutes” bad. Even against this putrid opponent, it was encouraging to see Weeden recover after a horrendous Week 1, tossing for 322 yards and two touchdowns in defeat. In deeper leagues, Weeden may be worth a second glance as a backup, as the Browns should find themselves playing from behind more often than not this season, which will correlate to escalated passing stats for Weeden and the Cleveland receivers.

Duds

Jay Cutler, Bears
Remember how I told you Cutler, with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery in tow, would torch a secondary that surrendered the most passing yards in the NFL last season? If you can go ahead and erase that tidbit from your memory Men In Black style, that would be appreciated.

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The Chicago QB was in scramble mode the entire night thanks to a porous offensive line, leading to seven sacks and four interceptions. Cutler’s wideouts did him no favors, with several wrong routes and drops highlig, er, “lowlighting” Thursday’s affair. Of course, Cutler did not help his own cause by tweaking the Green Bay corners prior to the contest and ripping into his linemen during the game. Again, if you can forget that I endorsed Cutler, that would be great.

Tom Brady, Patriots
Is it a tad too harsh to place Brady in this forum after finishing with 316 yards? Perhaps. Nevertheless, Brady proprietors harbored hope of better output against the Arizona defense. To the Cardinals’ credit, the team is vastly improved over the squad that logged a meager 10 inceptions in 2011. Alas, no matter what adversary is staring him down across the way, more is anticipated from an upper-echelon fantasy commodity than Brady’s pedestrian production in Week 2.

Chris Johnson, Titans
Last week, I tried to keep managers from jumping ship off the S.S. CJ2K, stating the New England front seven would suffocate most opposing ground games and that Johnson’s contributions in the passing attack kept his relevance in fantasy afloat. In wake of Sunday’s catastrophe (eight rushes, 17 yards; two receptions, 11 yards), forget keeping owners on board; I am too busy scrambling for my own life preserver.

In Johnson’s defense, the Tennessee offensive line is deplorable, as even Tecmo Bo Jackson would struggle to surmount a charge behind this protection. Sadly, this state of affairs will not be progressing for the foreseeable future, meaning a replication of Johnson’s infamous 2011 is probable.

Darren McFadden, Raiders
The return of Denarius Moore was imagined to Rock the House for McFadden in Miami. Instead, the Raiders runner was hit with Hard Times, Walking This Way to 22 yards on 11 carries. You would hope that McFadden Wakes Up and is Not Going Out Like That, but with Oakland’s woes up front, It’s Tricky to surmise positive perspectives on his potential for the rest of the season. And though It’s Not Funny to McFadden owners, Can I Get a Witness that these Run-D.M.C. puns are somewhat entertaining?

Brandon Marshall, Bears
Earlier in the week, Marshall mentioned one of his aspirations was to someday catch Marvin Harrison’s mark of 144 receptions in a season. Marshall might have to put that objective on the backburner after Thursday night’s lackluster showing, finishing with just two catches against Green Bay and dropping a wide-open end-zone target in the third quarter.

Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
What’s more shocking: that Arizona went into Foxborough and knocked off New England, or that the six-time Pro Bowler Fitzgerald was held to one catch for four yards? Mindful of the NFL’s parity, my vote is for the latter. Yes, having Kevin Kolb at the helm was not helping matters, yet Fitzgerald has dealt with his share of unevenness under center throughout his career. Monitor the situation closely the next few weeks, and definitely hold back from pulling the trig on a trade, but Fitzgerald may be in danger of disappointing his first-round fantasy status.

PAIN TRAIN

Injuries are a part of football, but these players have been hit particularly hard.

Fred Davis, Redskins
With a greenhorn taking the reins for Washington, a passing scheme featuring an abundance of quick-hits and slants was visualized, equating to statistical dividends for the tight end Davis. Through the first two games, this conception has come to fruition, with Robert Griffin III unleashing a firm grasp and command of the offense, releasing the ball quick and letting his receivers do the grunt work. Unfortunately, Davis has not been a part of this game plan, with just four receptions for 52 yards in two games. Those looking for a silver lining can take comfort in Davis’ five targets versus St. Louis, though such a practice is grasping for straws.

Coby Fleener, Colts
Week 1’s attainment (six catches, 82 yards) made Fleener a popular pick-up on the waiver wire. While I am a proponent of Fleener for the rest of the season, the Stanford rookie did not capitalize on a favorable matchup, collecting two balls for 16 yards. Worse, fellow tight end Dwayne Allen was the recipient of an Andrew Luck touchdown.

Dishonorable Mention: Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
Two theories are emitting from Kansas City in reference to Charles’ six touches against Buffalo: that the running back is not fully recovered from knee surgery or that new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is laughably incompetent. Remembering that Daboll has had a hand in the, ahem, “attacks” of the Jets, Browns and Dolphins since 2008, I am leaning towards the latter, but both thoughts are alarming.

Tagged: Bears, Bengals, Browns, Titans, Colts, Chiefs, Raiders, Rams, Dolphins, Patriots, Giants, Jets, Redskins, Ravens, Cardinals, Chargers, Nate Clements, Tom Brady, Ed Reed, Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Bush, Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Ahmad Bradshaw, Dante Rosario, Fred Davis, Darren McFadden, Danny Amendola, Andre Brown, Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta, Sam Bradford, Victor Cruz, Chris Johnson, Andy Dalton, Brandon Weeden, Trent Richardson, Coby Fleener

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