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Quick Fantasy Hits for Week 1

Senior Fantasy Writer
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As we wade into Week 1 action, there are some nuggets that are too in-depth for the show, too smart for Twitter and a little too short for the full column. Enjoy these Week 1 Quick Hits ...

Beware the subtle secondary genius of Chuck Pagano. Between stints at the University of Miami and the Browns, Pagano built up secondaries that led the NFL in interceptions (2001) and tied franchise records for fewest passing TDs allowed (13, in 2003). The Colts face the Bears in Week 1, so at least consider the fact that, while Rome wasn't built in a day -- Indianapolis finished in the middle of the NFL in terms of passing yards and passing TDs allowed last year while finishing last in interceptions. Jay Cutler might have a little more trouble than his owners might be expecting against Pagano and his Colts pass defense.

Braylon Edwards is not getting the respect he deserves. He hasn't had the most electrifying career (just one season of 1,000-plus yards), and he was a huge mess in 2011 with the 49ers (15 receptions for 181 yards in an injury-ravaged campaign), but Edwards, just 29, is in position to produce some decent numbers. The factors:

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1. While he only has one 1,000-plus yard season, he has four with 870 or more yards. And he did this with these quarterbacks: Derek Anderson, Charlie Frye, Trent Dilfer, Mark Sanchez and Alex Smith. So having Russell Wilson, the rookie, behind center, isn't as daunting a factor.
2. Edwards had 16 touchdowns in 2007. We tend to forget that Browns breakout year, probably because the Jets one is fresher in our memories.
3. You don't have to go too far back in Seattle's history to see a big, former first round draft pick, thought-to-be-washed-up receiver have a nice season. Mike Williams, who is just two inches taller and 18 pounds heavier than Edwards, came out of nowhere in 2010 to put up 751 receiving yards on 65 receptions.
4. Edwards isn't as buried on the depth charts as it may look. He's currently listed as the third wide receiver. But Sidney Rice is coming back from two shoulder surgeries and Golden Tate perennially disappoints, with just 609 total yards in 27 games over two seasons. Edwards has a real chance to make an impact with this figurative door slightly ajar.

This isn't to say that Edwards is going to have a 1,200-yard season with 10 touchdowns (although that's not totally out of the question). But his ADP is 175.62, and he's owned in just 10 percent of CBSSports.com leagues, making him a decent speculative pick for owners who have room on the end of their bench for a very deep sleeper.

Don't wholly discount Rashard Mendenhall for the season. Yes, it stinks that you have to just sit him on your bench for probably the first few weeks, but there are some factors that point to him possibly contributing this year, outside of the recent buzz and rumors that he might play in Week 1 (which is highly unlikely). First, Pittsburgh didn't put him on the PUP list, which would have had him out until Week 7. One would think that the Steelers wouldn't have done this unless they believed he could contribute before that point, as Mendenhall is now taking up a roster spot that could have otherwise gone to someone else, had he been placed on the regular season PUP list. And, second, the man who is serving as Mendenhall's replacement, Isaac Redman, has a hip problem that will likely bother him all year, as well as minor ankle and groin issues.

That being said, Jonathan Dwyer could be a huge Fantasy sleeper in Week 1 ... and possibly beyond. Dwyer had a stellar preseason, but he also had a stellar 2011 preseason (fifth overall in rushing last year) and did nothing with it. Still, here's a fun fact: Willie Parker had 186 rushing yards in eight career games before his breakout 2005 campaign. Dwyer currently has 151 rushing yards in ... eight career games. Parker ran 47 times for 272 yards in Weeks 1 and 2 -- with two touchdowns -- back in 2005, in Jerome Bettis' absence. When Bettis came back, he became one of the game's earliest (and best) touchdown vultures, letting Parker do all the rushing while he came in and scored the TDs. Dwyer is listed at 5'11" and 229 pounds, Parker is 5'10" 212. While Mendenhall isn't nearly as physically large as Bettis, he could slide into a supplemental TD-scoring role as he's eased back into games, with Dwyer playing the role of Parker.

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Bill Belichick runs more than you think he does. Belichick got a reputation -- probably through the high-output exploits of Tom Brady -- of being a pass-happy coach who produced a bunch of worthless Fantasy running backs. But this isn't exactly the case. According to stats culled from Pro Football Reference, New England has been in the top 10 in rushing attempts five separate times since 2006. And they've been in the top five in rushing TDs in five of the last six years.

Pat Shurmur, however, likes to pass, and this could benefit Brandon Weeden and nobody else. If you're looking for some kind of hope from the Cleveland passing game, it's this: last year, the Browns were 11th in passing attempts. And when Shurmur served as the offensive coordinator for the Rams -- in 2009 and 2010 -- his teams never finished in the top 24 in rushing yards. But St. Louis finished 16th in passing attempts in 2009 and fifth in passing attempts in 2010 with a receiving corps led by Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson and Daniel Fells. One could argue that Shurmur's unheralded group in St. Louis is somewhat comparable to the one he has in Cleveland. And while none of the receivers there went over 689 yards (Amendola) or three TDs (Amendola), Sam Bradford, a rookie, passed for 3,512 yards and 18 touchdowns. These numbers are right in line with what we have projected for Weeden this season.

Speaking of the Browns -- get to know wide receiver Josh Gordon. The Browns used a second round supplemental pick on the former Baylor wide receiver, who has a ton of talent but hasn't played on an organized team since 2010, when he was suspended for failing drug tests. But Gordon is part of a receiving corps that only saw two players get over 500 yards receiving last year. The Browns are just two seasons removed from having their tight end, Benjamin Watson, lead the team in receiving yardage. If opposing teams focus on Greg Little, Mohamed Massaquoi and Watson, it could free up Gordon to do some serious damage. He's definitely in the right situation and has the opportunity and talent, it just remains to be seen if he can master the playbook and catch on quickly enough. If he does, he could very well lead the Browns in receiving in 2012.

Don't be surprised when Steve Johnson blows up this year. Johnson ends the Fantasy draft season with an ADP of 66.73, slotting him 24th among wide receivers. He sits behind the duo from Philadelphia, as well as two from Denver and two from the Giants. Here's my problem with some of this: Johnson is coming off two straight 1,000-plus yard seasons (1,073 over 13 starts in 2010, and 1,004 in 16 starts in 2011), with 17 total touchdowns over those two years. In 2011, he battled groin and shoulder problems, which deflated some of his mid-season value. But hold Johnson against a few of the receivers going ahead of him, and some of the ADP data seems skewed:
Jeremy Maclin: zero 1,000-plus yard seasons (although a case can be made that a healthy Maclin might have reached that benchmark in 2011, when he had 859 yards in 13 games).
Eric Decker: 718 total receiving yards over 13 career starts (with the argument being that Peyton Manning will likely lift his value).
Percy Harvin: zero 1,000-plus receiving yard seasons in three seasons. He has never gone past six touchdowns in one season.

It's not that Johnson is insanely better than any of those players, but any argument for one of them could be canceled out by simply pointing at Johnson's numbers over the last two seasons. Mix in a third straight year with the same quarterback and the same coaching system in place, and Johnson seems set up to have a bigger season than many owners are anticipating.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyFB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasyfootball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Marqise Lee doesn't expect to play Week 3
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:31 pm ET) Jaguars rookie wide receiver Marqise Lee told reporters Thursday he doesn't expect to play Week 3 vs. Indianapolis due to a hamstring injury.

Mychal Kendricks looking 'very doubtful' to practice
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:26 pm ET) Eagles coach Chip Kelly said Thursday linebacker Mychal Kendricks (calf) might practice Friday. He said he won't determine his status for Week 3 against the Redskins until later in the week.

"We'll see where he can go," Kelly said, per the team's official website. "I don't think he's gonna go in practice today, from the looks of it in the training room. We'll see if there's something he can do tomorrow or Saturday, but right now he's very doubtful (for practice)."


Report: Doug Martin unlikely to play Thursday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:21 pm ET) Buccaneers running back Doug Martin, who is questionable due to a knee injury, is unlikely to play Thursday against the Falcons, a source told NFL.com. However, he is expected to test his injured knee during pregame to see if he can play.

Report: Gerald McCoy expected to be inactive
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:19 pm ET) The Buccaneers are not planning to play defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (broken hand) Thursday against the Falcons, sources told NFL.com.

Joe Flacco back at practice Thursday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:39 am ET) After missing Wednesday's practice due to an illness, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco returned to practice Thursday. The Ravens are preparing to play AFC North rival Cleveland Week 3.

Marqise Lee won't practice Thursday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:00 am ET) Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee will be held out of practice Thursday due to a hamstring injury, according to The Florida Times-Union. Lee was limited in practice Wednesday.

Bucs might use three RBs Thursday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:35 am ET) Even if Buccaneers running back Doug Martin, who is questionable due to a knee injury, suits up Thursday against the Falcons, coach Lovie Smith indicated the team will use multiple running backs to pace the rushing attack Week 3.

Bobby Rainey rushed for 144 yards in a Week 2 loss vs. St. Louis and third-string running back Mike James had six carries with Martin sidelined Sunday.

"We want to play more than one running back, two, maybe three," Smith said, per ESPN. "That’s why we’ve had three (active) every time we could. That’s just making our running back position stronger."


Head coach optimistic about Eric Decker
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Jets wide receiver Eric Decker expects to play Week 3 against the Bears.

Decker sat out of practice Wednesday, and didn't want to put a timetable on the injury. Head coach Rex Ryan, on the other hand, expressed optimism that both Decker and corner Dee Milliner would play. "We’re confident that they will be ready. We know that they are going to work to get out there. I’m confident, we’ll see how it goes during the week, but I should say I guess I’m hopeful that they will play."

Decker is dealing with a hamstring injury. 


Carson Palmer limited Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer was limited in practice Wednesday.

Palmer is dealing with a shoulder injury. He missed Week 2 due to the issue. It's unclear whether Palmer will play Week 3. 


Cardinals release statement on Jonathan Dwyer
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) The Cardinals have released a statement regarding Jonathan Dwyer .

In the statement, the team confirms Dwyer has been deactivated from all club events. "We will continue to closely monitor this as it develops and evaluate additional information as it becomes available," the statement read. Dwyer is under investigation for a domestic violence incident that took place in July. 


 
 
 
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