Peyton, Peterson put up serious points in season openers

What a fantastic opening weekend of NFL football and, subsequently, fantasy football. And we still have two games left on the docket.

The Manning brothers – ahead of a Week 2 Manning Bowl in New York – combined for over 900 yards passing and 11 touchdowns. Of course, Eli had those three ugly interceptions, but seven touchdowns from big bro Peyton is a lot to live up to.

The reigning NFL rushing leader, Adrian Peterson, literally hit the ground running with a 78-yard TD jaunt on his first carry of the season and three total touchdowns in an opening loss at Detroit. It was the longest first carry of the season since the merger – a great stat but no fantasy points for that.

Tight ends around the league were on display. Former Gamecock Jared Cook had a brilliant debut for his new team and solidified himself as a starting fantasy option. Jordan Cameron did precisely what many expected in leading the Browns receiving corps and scoring a touchdown while suspended wide receiver Josh Gordon was unavailable. In all, ten tight ends have scored double digit fantasy points so far in Week 1, showing just how deep and athletic the position is this season.

There have been prolific wide receivers, high-scoring kickers and quarterbacks not named Manning who have almost singlehandedly won fantasy matchups. But most of these guys are already owned in the majority of leagues and this is about the guys who could be free agents in your league and players who came out of the gate slowly who you can begin targeting for potential trades:

  • Terrelle Pryor – If you’d told me two years ago that I’d be writing about Pryor as a relevant fantasy option, I would have laughed in your face. Loudly. Yet here I am. Make no mistake, Pryor will never post 400 yard passing games and likely won’t hit 20 touchdown passes on the year. But what he can do is run. Pryor combines Ben Roethlisberger’s elusiveness behind the line of scrimmage with a top quality running back’s ability to find holes and break big runs. Yeah, he barely throws the football better than that Tebow guy, but 25 fantasy points is 25 fantasy points and I’d take Pryor as a reserve QB over at least a dozen others right now.
  • Julian Edelman – As much as people have wanted to sell you on Danny Amendola as New England’s new Wes Welker, Edelman is most likely to fill that gap. It’s not that Amendola isn’t good. He’s very good. But in spite of having a bundle of things in common with Welker — both white, both from Texas Tech, both undrafted free agents — Amendola plays a more all-around game. Edelman is a slot receiver. It’s what he does. And he learned his craft from Welker. Edelman is a particularly valuable add in points per reception leagues, but should be rostered in all leagues.
  • Brian Hartline – Remember him? You should, because I just mentioned last week that we should be watching him in Week 1. Hopefully, you listened. Otherwise, you missed a good show. Hartline posted nine catches for 114 yards and a touchdown and is poised for an improvement on his 1,000 yard season in 2012. Add him if you have a need at WR.
  • Julius Thomas – Please allow me to be the one millionth person to recommend Orange Julius this week. I apologize for the lack of originality, but Thomas’ 110 yard and two touchdown performance on Thursday night has him firmly entrenched on everyone’s radar. I mentioned earlier that TE appears unusually deep this season, but they’re not all winners. If you own Brandon Pettigrew or Marcedes Lewis or even Antonio Gates as your starter, you’ll probably want to bring Thomas into the fold to hedge your tight end bets. Just understand that he likely will not match or top his Week 1 output all season.

Finally, here is a list of under-performing players from this weekend that you may be able to pry away from one of your panicky league mates on the cheap. It probably won’t get any worse for these guys: Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Chris Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Stevan Ridley, Lamar Miller, Giovani Bernard, Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, Roddy White, James Jones and Eric Decker. Just make a fair offer — in which you clearly benefit, of course — and wait for a reply. The worst they can do is say “No”.

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