We're just one week into the 2009 season and already you can check a few things off of your yearly NFL happenings list. Donovan McNabb injured? Check. Brett Favre makes another start at quarterback? Check. The Lions lose another game? Check. The Madden Coverboy Curse strikes another victim? Check.
Some things never change but the Madden Curse is one of the more baffling trends that has claimed a victim every season since 2004. For the uninformed, the Madden Curse relates to the EA Sports video game named after the famous, recently retired, former coach and broadcaster, John Madden. With every new installment of the game each season, a new player is usually featured on the cover of the game. And every season, the player featured on the cover of that year's game seems to get injured.
You can look it up for yourself, but the list includes some of the most recognizable names in the NFL like Michael Vick, Ray Lewis, Donovan McNabb, Shaun Alexander, and Vince Young. Brett Favre appeared to break the curse last season, but it has since been revealed that he played with a torn bicep, which could explain his feeble performance down the stretch for the Jets.
Now this season, both Troy Polamalu and Larry Fitzgerald are featured on the cover of Madden NFL 10 and sure enough, Polamalu suffered an injury in the Steelers' opener against the Titans and is expected to miss at least 3-6 weeks. You can believe in curses or you can scoff at the notion of such a thing, but the evidence is pretty strong and if I owned Fitzgerald on my fantasy team, I might be looking to trade him ASAP.
GOOD MATCH UPS
Clinton Portis vs. Rams defense: Portis was far from spectacular last week against the Giants, amassing just 62 yards rushing and one catch for 10 yards. Some of that had to do with the Giants tough defense. This week Portis and the Redskins host the Rams in their home opener, a team which Portis should feast on. Last season, St. Louis ranked 29th in the NFL, allowing 154 yards rushing per game and in case you missed it last week, Seattle's Julius Jones ripped them apart for 117 yards and a touchdown. It doesn't seem much has changed, so start Portis with confidence.
Terrell Owens vs. Buccaneers defense: T.O. didn't have the best debut with the Bills, catching just two passes for 46 yards against the Patriots. The good news is that the Bills will host the Buccaneers in their home opener this week which should bode well for both Owens and teammate Lee Evans. Owens' old pal Tony Romo picked apart the Tampa Bay secondary last week, spreading the ball around for 353 yards passing. Expect similar, though slightly lower, numbers from T.O. and the Buffalo offense this week.
NOT SO GOOD MATCH UPS
Cedric Benson vs. Packers defense: The Bears' Matt Forte got his touches last week against the Packers but wasn't able to get anything going. The Packers defense showed up to play and you can expect more of the same out of the Green Bay defense this week against the Bengals. Stay away from using Benson this week if you can help it.
Randy Moss vs. Jets defense: Last week I told you to watch out for the Jets' Darrelle Revis and his lockdown ability against the Texans' Andre Johnson. And Revis did shutdown Johnson, holding him to four catches for 35 yards. Look for Revis to try and put the clamps on Randy Moss this week, which shouldn't hurt New England too much because of all the weapons they have at their disposal. Don't expect another 12 catch, 141 yard performance from Moss this week.
WAIVER WIRE WATCH
Michael Vick, QB, Eagles: It didn't take long for Donovan McNabb to go down with an injury and everyone to turn their eyes towards Michael Vick. The only problem is that Vick is not eligible to play until Week 3, when the Eagles play the Chiefs. Oh, and there's that thing about him not having played in an NFL game since 2007. If you're desperate, I suppose you could pick him up, but you're better off grabbing Jeff Garcia, who the Eagles just signed.
Byron Leftwich, QB, Buccaneers: Or, you can take a chance on another familiar name, Tampa Bay's Byron Leftwich. Leftwich played well against the Cowboys in the Bucs' home opener, throwing for 276 yards and a touchdown. Tampa Bay travels to Buffalo next week, which is enough for me to stay away from Leftwich until he shows he can string a couple of decent games together.
Cadillac Williams, RB, Buccaneers: Cadillac looked like his old self on Sunday, gashing the Cowboys defense for 97 yards rushing on just 13 carries, and a touchdown. I took Cadillac as a late-round pick once he was named the starter and it now appears he'll get sufficient touches to make him a decent fantasy option as long as he stays healthy. If you need RB depth, Cadillac is a good pickup right now.
Percy Harvin, WR, Vikings: Harvin wasn't spectacular in the Vikings win over the Browns last week, but he got the job done for those of us who started him on our fantasy teams. Harvin caught three passes for 36 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing twice for 22 yards. The Vikings didn't need him to do much since Adrian Peterson was pretty much a one-man wrecking crew but look for Harvin to post bigger lines as he and Brett Favre become more familiar with each other. If he's available, you should pick him up immediately.
Louis Murphy, WR, Raiders: I liked what I saw from Harvin's former Florida Gator teammate, Louis Murphy, Monday night against the Chargers. The rookie wide receiver caught 4 passes for 87 yards, including a 57-yard touchdown late in the game to give the Raiders a lead. He played much better than fellow rookie teammate Derrius Heyward-Bey. Chaz Schilens, currently out with an injury, is still listed ahead of both Heyward-Bey and Murphy on the depth chart, and is expected back for Week 3 so you may want to hold off on picking up Murphy for now until Schilens returns and we know what his permanent role will be for this season.
Patrick Crayton, WR, Cowboys: With T.O. out of the picture in Dallas, we knew that Crayton would see more balls thrown his way this season, but I don't think anyone expected Crayton's 4 catch, 135 yards and a touchdown performance against Tampa Bay last week. Crayton makes for a solid pickup right now but don't expect the same type of performance as the Cowboys will face a much tougher Giants defense this week. Long-term, though, Crayton has good potential as long as Tony Romo keeps looking his way.
Todd Heap, TE, Ravens: Heap looked like the 2002 version of himself on Sunday, rather than the oft-injured Heap we've all come to know. Against Kansas City, he roped in 5 catches for 74 yards and a touchdown. It's important to note that those numbers came against Kansas City. Heap will face much more difficult defenses this season, starting this week against the Chargers. I would be reluctant to roll the dice on Heap but you could do worse right now.
Kyle Mulligan is a contributing sports writer for the Observer. He welcomes your feedback and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.