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 Now that the season is finally under way, a few things have become perfectly clear.
Larry Johnson can't play anymore. Neither can Donovan McNabb. Maurice Jones-Drew was a fluke last year. So were Drew Brees and the rest of those Saints - who are obviously back to their bumbling three-win ways. Half the NFL is injured. Oh, and the Patriots will go 16-0.
These dopey notions are based on one week of play, of course, but similar knee-jerk thoughts are driving many fantasy football players to shop half their rosters already.
Before you go and trade away Johnson or McNabb for Vernand Morency, however, first try to think all the way back to opening day last year.
Would you have won your league had you acquired Week 1 top passers Chad Pennington, Kurt Warner or Alex Smith? Or how about leading rusher Warrick Dunn, or top five receiver Antonio Bryant?
As you calmly and rationally ponder trade offers, here's a look at some players to start in Week 2, some to avoid, and a few long shots who just may pan out:
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QUARTERBACKS
A SAFE BET
-In keeping with the don't-panic theme, plug Brees into the lineup again. The Bucs' defense isn't much, and the Saints aren't as bad as they looked. Last year Brees had 314 yards and three TDs at Tampa.
-Overthinker Alert: Don't bench New England's Tom Brady against the scary Chargers defense. All those weapons should make for guaranteed points every week.
-Carolina's Jake Delhomme faces a Texans defense that looked tough last week, but only against the loose confederation of athletes known as the Chiefs. Look for Delhomme to squelch that flicker of optimism recently spotted in Houston.
-The Jon Kitna Era is here! (And not just because I have him on a fantasy team.) Kitna ran Detroit's Mike Martz Pass-O-Rama to perfection last week. He's sure to have a few bonehead turnovers against the Vikings, but he'll also get plenty of scores.
-Denver's Jay Cutler may get his second straight 300-yard game against an Oakland pass defense that was befuddled by Kitna (and also may have been a bit overrated heading into the season).
TAKE A SHOT
-Once Green Bay's Brett Favre watches film of the Giants pass defense, he'll feel 10 years younger. A 300-yard game with at least a couple scores would be hard to avoid.
BACK AWAY SLOWLY AND NOBODY GETS HURT
Please, in the name of Matt Blundin, don't start these guys:
-Oakland's Josh McCown was a great free-agent pickup after going for over 300 yards, but not if you need to start him this week against Denver. The Broncos kept Buffalo from even considering a passing attack last week.
-Houston's Matt Schaub looked good while kicking around the Kansas City defense, but the much more football-oriented Panthers should bring him back to earth.
-If the Giants' Eli Manning can't play as expected, please resist the urge to start backup Jared Lorenzen. (Quarterbacks whose passing yardage might not exceed their weight are always worrisome.)
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RUNNING BACKS
ALL DAY LONG
-The Rams' Steven Jackson was held under 100 total yards just twice last year, so it's doubtful he'll open the year that way. And don't worry about tackle Orlando Pace's absence; he was also gone when Jackson scored 10 times in the last four games of 2006.
-The Vikings say Chester Taylor might return from injury this week and would split carries with Adrian Peterson if he does. Uh ... right. Look for Peterson to plow through another Iowa State-like defense.
-Which Colts' defense will Tennessee's Chris Brown face, the one that crushed Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister, or the one that was the NFL's worst last year? Who cares? You have to start a guy who just ran for 175 yards.
-Cedric Benson didn't do much in his first game as the featured back, but things get considerably easier at home against the Chiefs. Rex Grossman may not even have to pass - a thought that surely has occurred to Chicago coaches.
-Miami's Ronnie Brown is headed for the bench in many leagues after failing to get 3 yards a carry and catching all sorts of 4-yard passes. But remember he faces a Dallas defense that was awfully light on defending last week.
HE COULD FIND A SEAM
-Cleveland's Jamal Lewis looked like a worn-out, run-down back last week against the Steelers, but his team can't throw and faces a Bengals team that's poor against the run.
RED FLAGS
-Larry Johnson was out of shape in the opening loss to the Texans, but what about the Chiefs' other 10 offensive players? Bears should make the whole gang look crummy again.
-Turns out the Bears got rid of Thomas Jones because he kind of stinks. Things should get even stinkier against the Ravens.
-Don't get too excited about Atlanta's Dunn or Jerious Norwood against a Jaguars defense that allowed 282 yards rushing. The Falcons' offense is really bad, and the Jags aren't that bad.
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WIDE RECEIVERS
THROW HIM THE DARN BALL!
-New England's Randy Moss is officially done with whatever his problem was in Oakland. Unless he can't walk, he's once again in the don't-ever-think-about-benching category.
-Don't toss Lee Evans aside just yet after his pathetic two-catch opener for the Bills. As unpredictable as he was last year, he could somehow go for 200 yards at Pittsburgh.
-Even though he's seen two or three generations of cornerbacks in his 13 NFL seasons, Tampa Bay's Joey Galloway has to be really excited about running past New Orleans touchdown donor Jason David.
-Let's think this Chris Chambers thing through. The Dolphins don't have much offense, but still mainly throw to Chambers. And he's playing against the Cowboys, who don't appear to be very involved in the coverage business.
-Start any Packers receivers you can scare up against the overly polite Giants. (The New York secondary last week looked like the bumbling extras filming yet another Tony Romo commercial.)
MAYBE THROW HIM THE DARN BALL?
-Patrick Crayton gets another start if Terry Glenn can't go for Dallas, which is starting to look like one of those offenses where any receiver is worth a shot.
SHOW HIM THE DARN BENCH
-Santana Moss and the rest of the Redskins' passing game looked awfully shaky, and now they face the blitz-happy Eagles on the road without tackle Jon Jansen.
-Early on it looks like Donte' Stallworth is the odd man out in New England. (Sourpuss rants about lack of touches won't get him far on a team with dozens of receivers, though.)
-It also looks like time to bench Seattle receivers after Deion Branch's big fat goose egg. Seahawks spread it around so much that you can't really count on anyone.
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FREE AGENT SHOPPING LIST
Pick up these guys if they're available in your league:
RB Derrick Ward (Brandon Jacobs' backup), RB Michael Pittman (Carnell Williams' backup), WR Ronald Curry (10 catches, 133 yards, TD), WR Wes Welker (61 yards, TD), WR Antwaan Randle El (162 yards), WR Shaun McDonald (90 yards, TD), WR Arnaz Battle (TD), WR Drew Carter (2 TDs), WR Patrick Crayton (Terry Glenn's backup), WR Jason Avant (TD), RB Kenton Keith (Joseph Addai's backup), QB Josh McCown (313 yards, 2 TDs).
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WHAT DO I KNOW?
Here's the best and worst of last week's projections:
Big Hits: I expected big things from Tony Romo (345 yards, 5 TDs), Eli Manning (312 yards, 4 TDs), Ben Roethlisberger (4 TDs), Jon Kitna (3 TDs) and LaMont Jordan (159 total yards, TD). I predicted failure for Ronnie Brown (32 yards) and Vince Young (78 yards passing).
Big Misses: I for some reason expected bad things for Randy Moss (183 yards, TD), Adrian Peterson (163 total yards, TD) and Clinton Portis (98 yards, TD). I also forecast successful days for Larry Johnson (43 yards), Vincent Jackson (28 yards) and Deion Branch (0 catches).

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