by Steve Stegeman
September 12, 2003
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     Well, as I write this, it's the "Thursday after"... the Thursday after kickoff Sunday, a sad day of lamenting that we yet again are a year away from another Week 1; the excitement has died down; we have become inured to all the initial Week 1 rushes to judgment; we start to think clearly again and regain our faculty of reason; the hype fades away and "fantasy reality" once again sets in, a reality that is a little difficult to decipher with much accuracy, though,... when all of a sudden you digress and abruptly come to realize that you have just read the longest, rambling apparently run-on sentence of your life written by some deluded, albeit good-hearted, soul, who evidently is under the false impression that his fake I.D. is actually the literary license of Mark Twain.


     Then, dazed,... You snap back to reality...  Oh, Steg is grabbin' me...  He's back talkin' fantasy!  (Wonder how many of you read... rapped that the way I intended!)

     It's been awhile, almost a year, since I tapped the keys and put out, probably to the chagrin of only a few.  But, post Week 1 of the NFL season, the talk is loud, opinionated and not well thought out; opinions and knee-jerk reactions are abound and I got to speak up.  The "Thursday after" seems like a good time to chime in as by now most of us are coming down and calming down and starting to see through the deluge of saran-wrap thin hype we have all been exposed to over the last four-plus days.  And, in the effort to get fantasy footballers, the world over, over the side-effects of all this prematurely-ejaculated hype, let's expose it...

     There is on-field hype based on the insufficient data, or perhaps I should say datum, of one week of ball, no less one of the most unpredictable weeks of the season, Week 1.  Then, there is rhetorical hype, hype in the form of sugar-coating and coach-speak after the fact.  It's ALL hype, though, and don't believe it...

On-field Hype

     RB Ahman Green comes out Week 1 and has over 100 yards combined and two touchdowns, moreover, while the offense was not really clicking.  Looks hype!  Actually, looks like hype.  He lost a fumble, as usual, and make no mistakes (as I have maintained all off-season long on "the Gridiron"), this team will struggle this season, meaning lots of times when they will be in pass-mode playing catch-up, okay for the quarterback and receivers, from a statistical perspective, but VERY bad news for the tailback.

     RB Aveion Cason has a freak "'back-in-the-day, Herschel Walker-in-Philadelphia, 2-for-100-2-TD'-type" week and many are jumping on the bandwagon.  Please!  Troy Hambrick will remain the workhorse in Dallas, not that that is that great.

     QB Joey Harrington has a big day touchdown-wise.  It's a good sign!  But, it was at home against Arizona on opening day.  Just temper your expectations for him this year, and you won't be disappointed.  If you start buying into the Week 1 hype about him, you will be destined for frustration.

     RB Stacy Mack puts together a 80+-yard rushing effort in Miami; now he is the "real deal" according to many.  That whole game was a fluke, okay.  Don't get me wrong!  Houston may make a Jacksonville/Carolina-like year-two run.  But, know that Mack could come right back next week with a 10-for-22 effort, he will be up and down all year long, and in the long-run his TD production will be very limited this season.  If you pencil him in for 800 yards and four TD's rushing, you will be happy.  If you are banking on more like 1,100 and eight, you will be disappointed.

     RB Garrison Hearst puts up two TD's and 90+-yards of combined production, and has been named the 49ers starting tailback and could very well remain so for the season.  Kevan Barlow is still the better rusher, though.  He does not have as good of a complete game as Hearst, however, i.e. with regards to blocking and receiving.  Hearst's stats were achieved at home against Chicago Week 1, not much of a test.  Also, remember how Dennis Erickson phased out his senior back, Chris Warren, back in the day in Seattle in favor of the younger Steve Broussard.  Barlow will get his chance this year.  I would expect a steady increase in rushing attempts as the year goes on.  Point being, just don't think Hearst will have a better, more steady season than last based on his performance Week 1.

     RB Amos Zereoue was Pittsburgh's starter against Baltimore Week 1.  Excellent move!  And, he had a good game.  Bettis typically struggled against them, though he did look good on Sunday in limited play.  With Bettis now slowed by an injury, Zereoue is even more firmly entrenched as the starter.  He still has not shown he can consistently produce a good yards-per-rush, which is really the key stat for his style of back, i.e. Tiki Barber-ish.  Having a high yards-per-rush is how these kinds of backs earn their keep.  Just don't go by his overall Week 1 numbers and go tacitly discounting that aforementioned stat or a healthy Bettis for that matter.  People are actually predicting him to light it up this week in KC.  Did you not see what they did to LaDainian Tomlinson in his backyard?  Which hype do you want to believe?  Don't believe any of it!  Just know that the jury is still very much so out on Zereoue, Week 1 notwithstanding!

     Speaking of RB LaDainian Tomlinson, there is also negative hype swirling about.  Everybody has been downgrading Tomlinson, and Week 1 has only fueled their fires.  The Chargers stumbled out of the gate,... not that shocking.  They have some new parts, which already need servicing (read on), and a very young quarterback.  Some say it's Schottenheimer's O.  Was it Schottenheimer last year?  Bottom line, when all is said and done, Tomlinson will by vying for the rushing title and carrying many a fantasy footballer to league championships.  Don't go pressing the panic button because of Tomlinson's numbers Week 1!

     RB Curtis Martin is also undergoing some undue negative hype/scrutiny.  Yet, LaMont Jordan's going 6-for-0 seems to have been completely mitigated by the touchdown he scored.  Again, don't get me wrong!  Jordan likely has a bright future in the NFL.  It is just that depending on any Jet this year is risky business, but if there one I would still put my money on, it would be Martin.  He looked fine against Washington.  It was the team that looked bad, and, yes, that needs to be considered if you have Martin on your fantasy team.  But, the guy is not done!

     Now, as for some due negative hype bandying about, there is QB Jake Plummer.  He did look pathetic, moreover, in what seemed to be a dream match-up against Cincinnati,... not really the case, though, with Jake.  Let me clue you in on Plummer.  Truth be said, he gets bored with those types of games.  He couldn't even throw it away... and he tried.  Overall and over the long-haul, he will succeed in Denver.  He is ultimately an emotional and, to be somewhat expected, erratic player who is going to break your heart sometimes.  He is also not the sharpest knife in the kitchen drawer, but as he finally does come to figure it out, and when the pendulum swings back the other way, you will want to be there to reap the benefits.  You have to take the ups with the downs with Jake, but the ups will outnumber the downs in the end.  Don't just write the guy off because of a bad Week 1,... not with that team.

Rhetorical hype

     Head coaches Andy Reid and Mike Tice, each in his own equivocal way, claim that RB's Correll Buckhalter and Onterrio Smith will see the ball... more.  That's coach-hype!  RB Duce Staley was actually one of the bright spots for Philadelphia on Monday night, and RB Moe Williams had a solid game against Gilbert Brown and company.  Until/Unless those guys falter, which I definitely would not count on with Staley and this is coming from a guy who has never been a big Staley fan, don't believe the hype!  Buckhalter and Smith might have your random "'Aveion Cason-in-Dallas'-esque" weeks here and there, but that is it until further notice... on the field!

     Word out of San Diego is that WR David Boston's foot injury is nothing to worry about.  Don't believe it until you see him produce on the field.  He is not practicing this week and is questionable for Sunday's game.  First his knee last year, now this,... he may be turning into a young Herman Moore.  It is a curious point, at least, that Arizona let him go so easily, a (vantage) point many (dis)missed.  Maybe the human body just cannot take whatever secret regiment it is that makes Boston the monster he is.

     Steve Mariucci and staff are claiming that all the tailbacks in Detroit will be given a shot to show what they can do and be the team's starting tailback.  Whatever!  The job's RB Olandis Gary's, period.  By Week 4, if not sooner, he will be putting up James Stewart-like numbers.

     Everybody is saying that QB Quincy Carter had a good "enough" game.  Please!  27-13 losses do not set well with Bill Parcells and neither do the kind of blatant mental errors Quincy committed on the two turnovers he was responsible for, the lost fumble and the interception, both particularly pathetic.  Yea, Quincy was good "enough" to not lose his job Week 1; short of an injury, though, there is no way he would have.  But, if he continues to play that good "enough" through Week 4, well, good "enough" will no longer be "good enough".

     Surrounding QB Jeff Garcia Week 1 is both on-field driven and rhetorical hype.  Back problems aside, he had a good game at home against Chicago.  Many are claiming his performance Week 1 is proof that his back is good to go and people are starting to put it in the back of their minds.  Wrong!  Just wait 'til he gets his clock cleaned by a real defense... like after a month's worth of regular-season battering, including back-wrenching plane flights for away games.  Bulging discs just don't go away and bad teams don't come through your neck of the woods every week.  It is a long season and that is the key to the equation.  Week 1 is particularly meaningless when it comes to this situation.

     Lastly, and this is more of a "stop believing the last 2+-years of hype that still persists even after Week 1 of '03", despite having solid bookends on their o-line, recently re-signed LT Orlando Pace and newly-acquired RT Kyle Turley, the Rams of '99-'00 are NOT coming back.  Excuses are still being made and hype about the return of the "Best Show on Turf" is still being generated and perpetuated by many, even if it is with the concession that QB Kurt Warner may be done and that they may have to move on with QB Marc Bulger,... although there are still many Warner apologists.  Stop buying into the hype, fellas!  It's over!  The '99 Rams are NOT making a return.  If you are banking on it, you are going to find yourself on the short end of the fantasy football ugly stick more often than not.

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