UH OH! NO ROMO
The Dallas Cowboys came away from Sunday’s game against the Eagles with their second win and their second major player injury. As difficult as the Week 1 loss of Dez Bryant will be to overcome, what happened in Week 2 is much worse; quarterback Tony Romo broke his collarbone during the third quarter of Sunday’s matchup against the Philadephia Eagles. Just how long Romo will be out is unknown, but he fractured the very same clavicle in Week 7 of the 2006 season and didn’t play again that season. The only comparable injury to a quarterback in recent memory was in 2013, when Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone and missed seven games. Regardless of how long Romo will be out, the Cowboys’ odds of getting into the postseason just became very long indeed.
Brandon Weeden, a 31-year-old washout in his fourth pro season, came off the bench after Romo’s injury and completed all seven of his pass attempts for 73 yards and a touchdown, a 42-yard strike to Terrance Williams. Unfortunately, Weeden’s statistical record is far from stellar. He’s thrown 26 TDs and 28 interceptions in his 28 games played, with a completion rate of just 56 percent. However, there are some things about this Cowboys team that may help Weeden succeed. The Cowboys have one of the best offensive lines in the game, so Weeden should have plenty of time to find open receivers. The presence of veteran TE Jason Witten, WR Terrance Willams and pass-catching RB Lance Dunbar surrounds Weedon with a corps of talented receivers who know the offense inside and out, which can only make his job easier.
Fantasy-wise, Weeden is clearly not in Tony Romo’s league; at least that’s what his history tells us. However, if Weedon is to enjoy any success at the helm of the Cowboys, the next two games are his best chance for a while. The Atlanta Falcons come to town next week, and then the Cowboys will visit the Saints in New Orleans. Both of those matchups would be very favorable for the Cowboys with Romo under center and should be with Weeden, too. If you’re a desperate Romo owner in a deep league and need to grab Weeden off waivers just start anyone at quarterback, you’ve got two weeks to swing a trade for a replacement. After that, the Cowboys face the Patriots, the Giants (whom they barely beat in a close game) and then the Seahawks. You won’t want any part of Weedon for those matchups; that much we know already.
DEFENSIVE BILLS DON’T PAY OFF
Fantasy analysts had the Buffalo Bills defense pegged as one of the Top 5 team defenses before a single down was played. In Week 1 against the Indianapolis Colts, the Bills were defensively superb. They limited the Colts to just 64 net yards on the ground and kept quarterback Andrew Luck off balance throughout the game. Luck was intercepted twice, completed just 53 percent of his pass attempts and could only muster 14 points against an aggressive Bills defense.
Fast forward to Week 2, and you’d swear you were watching a completely different Buffalo team. The Patriots didn’t fare any better on the ground, amassing just 56 net rushing yards on 15 running plays. But quarterback Tom Brady picked the Bills’ secondary apart, throwing for 466 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Bills did manage two sacks of Brady, who completed nearly 65 percent of his pass attempts (38 of 59). Overall, the Bills very likely scored zero Fantasy points in most leagues and negative points in others, depending on the scoring system.
So, what should an owner of the Buffalo defense do? Are the Bills going to be a Jekyll and Hyde defense, with owners never knowing which will show up any given week? The short answer is no, owners shouldn’t worry going forward. This was a very emotional game between two bitter division rivals. The Bills were playing their home opener and the crowd noise was intoxicating. The problem is that all the intoxicating noise caused an adrenaline rush that resulted in a sloppy, penalty riddled game. The Bills committed a total of 14 penalties that cost them 140 yards and derailed several offensive drives. However, 96 of the yards lost came on defense/special teams penalties that kept several Patriots offensive drives alive. Add in three interceptions thrown by Tyrod Taylor (who otherwise played quite well) and it’s easy to see why the Bills had such a tough game. The Bills’ schedule is fairly soft over the next five weeks, so if you own the Buffalo defense you can bank on better weeks to come.
MARIOTA CAN’T DO IT ALONE
Titans rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota had another solid game in Week 2, this time against the Cleveland Browns. Unfortunately, Mariota didn’t get much support from his teammates. He finished the day completing 21 of 37 pass attempts (57 percent) for 257 yards and two touchdowns with zero interceptions. However, he did fumble the ball three times, turning it over twice. He was also sacked seven times for a total of 38 yards lost. His teammates also racked up nine penalties, which cost them another 85 yards. The Browns have one of those “bend, don’t break” defenses that tends to give up scads of yards but doesn’t let you get into the red zone. So, even though the Titans piled up 385 net yards of offense, they only got into the red zone three times and scored twice.
The point of all this is to illustrate the difficulty of using a rookie quarterback in Fantasy play. After last week’s huge performance against the Buccaneers, we received dozens of inquiries about Mariota. Fantasy owners wanted to know whether they should drop their current QB or make some sort of trade to pick up Mariota, all in the hope of catching lightning in a bottle. Now that you’ve seen what a mediocre defense can do to the Mariota-led Titans, do you understand why you want no part of the rookie? Sure, he may put up some good games, perhaps even some games with gaudy looking numbers. But by and large, he is going to experience some heavy duty growing pains. More often than not, he will be held to low total yardage numbers or poor completion rates. Part of the problem is his lack of experience, but the rest of the problem is the lack of real talent around him. The offensive line is among the worst in the NFL. The receiver corps is devoid of a standout player. Anthony Fasano was the big receiver in this game. If that doesn’t tell you something, you’re not paying attention.
EVANS AND SPILLER PLAY, OR DID THEY?
Two of the big stories of Week 1 were about who didn’t play. Wide receiver Mike Evans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was out with a hamstring injury and running back C.J. Spiller was still coming back from offseason knee surgery. As Week 2 approached, it became clear that both Evans and Spiller were going to play, and both were expected to make major contributions to their respective teams this week when the two teams faced off in New Orleans. The Saints were hoping that the addition of Spiller to the backfield would expand the running game to take the pressure off Drew Brees. The Buccaneers hoped that Evans would give them the deep weapon they lacked last week against Tennessee.
Owners of Spiller and Evans know exactly what both players gave them this week. Almost nothing. Well, in the case of Spiller, you got three carries for seven yards and one reception for 19 yards. Four touches. Really? Evans owners would have been delighted with four touches because he didn’t catch a single pass. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Spiller’s lack of production is almost forgivable. The Saints have Khiry Robinson, who gives them pretty much what Spiller gives them, and they also have Mark Ingram. And let’s not forget that Spiller is coming off that knee surgery and only started practicing in full this past week. But Evans’ lack of production is a real head scratcher. The Buccaneers don’t exactly have a dynamic group on offense. Adding Evans back into the mix should have given the Bucs at least a few opportunities to throw the ball downfield. Alas, it was not to be.
There is a lesson to be learned here for Fantasy owners. Players coming back from injuries are not great Fantasy plays the vast majority of the time, especially when the injury involves the lower body. So keep this in mind next week and beyond. Alshon Jeffery and T.Y. Hilton are both nursing leg injuries. It’s too early to tell just now whether they will be back next week. Whenever they do come back, don’t immediately expect them to deliver top notch production. The same goes for Dez Bryant, who we’re now hearing could be out 10-12 weeks. He may not be his usual productive self again until next season. If anyone tells you that you “must” play someone returning from injury, be wary and be wise. Go with a better option if you can, or at the very least, don’t rely on that formerly injured player to carry your Fantasy team in his first game back.
PALMER DEALS CARDS
Carson Palmer has reestablished himself as one of the premier quarterbacks in the game with another multi-touchdown effort in Week 2. Larry Fitzgerald was the primary beneficiary this time, as he caught three of Palmer’s TD strikes and piled up 112 receiving yards in Arizona’s 48-23 rout of the Chicago Bears. Palmer was efficient, completing 17 of 24 pass attempts for 185 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. He now has seven total touchdowns after two games.
The question on everyone’s mind has to be whether or not Palmer can keep this up. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to give a definitive answer one way or the other. Next week’s matchup looks pretty favorable, as the 49ers were just torched by Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers for 453 total net yards and 43 points. After that game, things get a little tougher. Palmer will have to deal with the Rams and Seahawks for two games apiece, and there are also matchups Ravens, Lions and Browns that could prove difficult. Still, Palmer has so many good receivers to throw to that it’s hard to bet against him.
Is Palmer worth trading for? Right now, his value is pretty high, which means you’ll pay a pretty penny to acquire his services. It would be nice to see the Cardinals do a better job with the ground game, which would take some pressure off Palmer to carry the offense. I’d wait another week or two before making a play to acquire Palmer. Give the Cardinals a chance to either establish David Johnson a little more in the running game, or at least get Andre Ellington back into the fold. That way the team will be at its full offensive strength, giving Palmer the best chance to succeed. The matchups during the Fantasy playoff weeks look tough, so I wouldn’t trade away any major assets for Palmer. However, if you can get him on the cheap, he’s a good bet to consistently put up 18-20 Fantasy points in most weeks.