Ed Barkowitz| Some early-season gems end up duds

Posted: September 07, 2007

THE FANTASY cemetery is littered with the ashes of opening-week stars. It is filled with guys that had us sprinting to the waiver wire to grab a seemingly unmined diamond, which turns out only to be a piece of cubic zirconia.

Anybody who picked up Denver running back Quentin Griffin after he ran for 156 yards and two touchdowns in the 2004 opener knows the feeling. Griffin played in just four more games that year, running for just 155 more yards.

In their 2003 openers, Arizona's Jeff Blake threw for 363 yards, Minnesota's Moe Williams ran for 108 and Oakland's Charlie Garner had 112 receiving. In 2002, Washington's Shane Matthews and Cleveland's Kelly Holcomb each threw for at least 325 yards and three scores. None of those guys materialized into consistent fantasy starters.

Anybody remember Kurt Warner's 301 yards and three touchdown passes for Arizona last year?

The 1998 opener was the finest day in Glenn Foley's 21-game NFL career. But, as he points out, it also was "the beginning

of the end."

The Jets' Foley and Steve Young hooked up in a duel for the ages with Young's 49ers winning, 36-30, thanks to Garrison Hearst's rollicking 96-yard touchdown run in overtime. Each quarterback had three touchdown passes. Young threw for 363 yards. Foley threw for 415.

"All I remember is that I missed a guy who was wide open," said Foley, the former star at Cherry Hill East High and Boston College. "[Offensive coordinator] Charlie Weis called a brilliant, brilliant game."

Though he completed 30 passes that day (on 58 attempts),

an incompletion is what Foley

recalls most clearly. It was late in the fourth quarter and he and Dedric Ward just hooked up on

a curl pattern. The next play, Ward faked a curl and made a move to go deep. He was wide open. Foley missed him.

"There's a clock in the quarterback's head and the alarm went off," said Foley, currently a talk-show host for Sports Radio 950. "If I could just have waited

another millisecond."

The Jets settled for a field goal that forced overtime and set up Hearst's heroics. "[The incompletion] didn't cost us the game,"

Foley said, "except in my mind."

The next week, the Jets played the Ravens.

"That was the beginning of the end for me," Foley reflected. "I got my ribs crushed against

Baltimore and never really got back on the field. Vinny Testaverde came in for me and just played lights out; led us to the AFC Championship Game."

Foley played in five games in 1998 and the 415 yards he had in the opener represents 17 percent of his 2,469 career yards. He retired the following year after

six seasons.

For fantasy players, it's about numbers. For the guys between the lines, it's much more.

"That was a wild game," Foley reflected. "Me and Steve Young. Four-hundred yards passing and a bunch of touchdowns . . . a wild game."

Waive hello?

With that, here are five guys who could spark waiver-wire interest with big games this week:

With that, here are five guys who could spark waiver-wire interest with big games this week:

* Josh McCown, quarterback, Raiders.

* Michael Pittman, running back, Buccaneers.

* James Jones, wide receiver, Packers.

* Owen Daniels, tight end, Texans.

* Steve McNair, quarterback, Ravens.

Shirt time

Got a feeling about an unheralded offensive skill player that will have a breakout game this week? Send an e-mail to fantasyfootball.com for a chance to win a prized Daily News

Got a feeling about an unheralded offensive skill player that will have a breakout game this week? Send an e-mail to fantasyfootball.com for a chance to win a prized

Fantasy Football T-shirt. The

fantasy football staff will award up to three shirts, so include your name and hometown.

Injury report report

The NFL's competition committee changed the style of the league's injury report. Coaches do not have to classify players as being out, doubtful, questionable or probable until Fridays. For the early part of the week,

The NFL's competition committee changed the style of the league's injury report. Coaches do not have to classify players as being out, doubtful, questionable or probable until Fridays. For the early part of the week,

injured players will be listed

by whether they practice.

Rich McKay, the Falcons

president and general manager,

co-chairs the committee.

"We are always tweaking the injury report because we don't want it to be too much of a hassle for the coaches," he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

"By the same token we know that the media, the fans want the information. So we are trying to make it a little easier by the coaches not having to declare what category they are in until they have more information."

Three up

* Packers running back Brandon Jackson vs. Eagles: Still not sold on that Eagles run defense.

* Packers running back Brandon Jackson vs. Eagles: Still not sold on that Eagles run defense.

* Jets wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery vs. Patriots: Came on strong last year, including a 100-yard effort with a score in a playoff loss to the Pats.

* Jaguars quarterback David Garrard vs. Titans: Keep an eye on him. Jacksonville has a soft early schedule, which will make Garrard decent trade bait come October.

Three down

* Lions running back Tatum Bell at Raiders: Try to give him a seat, even if it means starting a running back you drafted later.

* Lions running back Tatum Bell at Raiders: Try to give him a seat, even if it means starting a running back you drafted later.

* Redskins running back Clinton Portis vs. Dolphins: Don't like the matchup and don't like the fact that Portis hasn't been on the field much.

* Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers vs. Bears: Love him for the season, but not this week. *

Ed Barkowitz, who is sitting Philip Rivers in favor of Ben Roethlisberger this week, has been writing about fantasy football in the Daily News since 2001.

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