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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
Bills' running game sputters vs. Raiders in Week 16
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:56 pm ET) The Bills managed just 13 yards on 13 carries as a team in Sunday's 26-24 loss to the Raiders in Week 16, with running back Fred Jackson leading the team with 10 yards on six carries.

It was an absolutely abysmal game from the Bills' rushing attack with the team's season on the line. Jackson did serve as the team's leading receiver, catching nine passes on 12 targets for 93 yards, giving him his first game with more than 100 yards from scrimmage since Week 5. Anthony Dixon rushed for seven yards on three carries.

C.J. Spiller returned from a stay on injured reserve but struggled mightily in his limited playing time. He lost four yards on four carries and added four receptions for 14 yards, putting the ball on the turf once but recovering his own fumble.

The Bills head to New England for the regular-season finale next Sunday.


Dan Bailey wide right from 52 yards
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7:54 pm ET) Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey pushed a 52-yard field-goal attempt wide right Week 16 against the Colts, making him 5 of 7 from 50-plus yards this season. He hit six PATs and got no other field-goal tries.

Bailey visits Washington in Week 17.


Bills QB Kyle Orton throws three TDs vs. Raiders
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:52 pm ET) Bills quarterback Kyle Orton completed 32 of his 49 pass attempts for 329 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in his team's 26-24 loss to the Raiders in Week 16.

Though Orton wound up with a nice stat line thanks to two fourth-quarter touchdowns, he made plenty of poor throws, including a massive overthrow on third-and-long deep in his own territory late in the fourth quarter for his second pick of the day. On a positive note, his third touchdown, which came with a little more than a minute left on the clock, was the 100th of his career.

The Bills have been eliminated from postseason contention with the loss. Orton will square off with the Patriots in Week 17.


Cole Beasley scores fourth touchdown in past five weeks
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7:51 pm ET) Cowboys receiver Cole Beasley found the end zone for the fourth time in the past five weeks in Sunday's 42-7 win over the Colts. Beasley caught a pass over the middle, spun away from a tackle and scored from 24 yards out in the second quarter.

He finished with two catches on three targets for 29 yards. Beasley visits Washington in Week 17.


Buccaneers DST not an embarrassment
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(7:50 pm ET) Facing one of the league's most prolific offenses Week 16 against Green Bay, the Buccaneers defense didn't do so poorly, allowing 20 points on 431 yards. Of course, its DST wasn't so productive in Fantasy either thanks to just one sack and one takeaway, a fumble recovery by Clinton McDonald.

The Buccaneers DST had a stretch of three games in Weeks 11-13 when it scored double-digit Fantasy points in standard CBSSports.com leagues, but it's been held to less than 10 in three since. It remains an unreliable unit and certainly isn't worth using against the Saints in Week 17.


Joseph Randle gets 14 touches to Lance Dunbar's four
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7:48 pm ET) Cowboys backup running backs Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar combined for 18 touches behind DeMarco Murray in Week 16, with Randle getting the bulk of the work. Randle ran 13 times for 37 yards and caught a 7-yard pass, while Dunbar rushed twice for 4 yards and caught two passes for 10 yards.

Randle lost his second fumble this year. Randle and Dunbar could get a substantial workload Week 17 at Washington if the Cowboys don't believe they can improve their playoff position.


Defense carries Packers in Week 16
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(7:36 pm ET) With quarterback Aaron Rodgers playing through illness, the Packers offense wasn't up to its usual standards Week 17 at Tampa Bay, but the defense responded with one of its best performances of the season, allowing a season-low three points on a season-low 99 yards. The Packers had only one takeaway, an interception by Datone Jones late in the fourth quarter, but they set a season high with seven sacks.

It was only the fifth game with double-digit Fantasy points for the Packers DST, but it's scored 20 or more in four of those games. Since it's a feast-or-famine unit, you'll want to pay close attention to the matchups with it. Week 17 against Detroit may be a bit too risky.


Terrance Williams catches a pair of touchdowns
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7:35 pm ET) Cowboys wideout Terrance Williams made both his targets count Week 16 against the Colts. He took a first-quarter slant from Tony Romo for a 9-yard touchdown, and got behind the defense for a 43-yard scoring strike from Brandon Weeden in the fourth quarter.

Sunday's outburst came as a surprise, as Williams had not scored since Week 7. He's up to seven touchdowns entering Week 17 at Washington.


Falcons K Matt Bryant registers 12 points in win over Saints
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(7:30 pm ET) Falcons kicker Matt Bryant came up big with three field goals and three extra points in his team's 30-14 victory over the Saints in Week 16.

Bryant converted a 44-yard attempt in the first quarter, a 50-yard kick in the second quarter and a 32-yard shot in the fourth quarter. He finished 3 for 3 in the win.


Cowboys TE Jason Witten makes seven grabs again
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7:29 pm ET) Cowboys tight end Jason Witten caught seven passes for the second straight game, securing all seven of his targets for 90 yards and a touchdown in the 42-7 win over the Colts. Witten's 25-yard touchdown grab in the third quarter made Tony Romo the franchise's all-time leading passer.

Witten is up to five touchdowns entering Week 17 at Washington.


 
 
 
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