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Original Issue

Reality Check

When 32 teams took the field last week, the fantasy universe met the real world. What did we learn?

Fantasy players pick a team based on research, history and good old hunches. Then the games begin and everything goes out the window. Maybe some were smart enough to take running backs Matt Forte (Bears) or Arian Foster (Texans), but no one knew those guys would rack up more than 200 yards of offense apiece. That's what makes it fun. Here are the risers and fallers for the week.

• Peyton Hillis, RB,Browns

Listed on the depth chart as the second-string fullback, Hillis split carries with starter Jerome Harrison last week in Tampa, gaining 41 yards and scoring a 10-yard touchdown. The ex-Bronco also caught four balls, and despite two fumbles (one lost) he appears to have the confidence of coach Eric Mangini and a big role in one of the league's most underrated ground attacks. He's worth a flex spot this week at home against the Chiefs.

• Mark Clayton, WR,Rams

Less than a week after being traded from Baltimore, the sixth-year wideout made himself at home in St. Louis. In his Rams debut the alltime leading receiver at Oklahoma quickly became the favorite target of the Sooners' alltime leading passer, Sam Bradford, with 10 catches for 119 yards against a tough Arizona secondary. With the talented Bradford running the attack, Clayton is a great option as a third or fourth wideout.

• Mario Manningham, WR,Giants

Hakeem Nicks may have scored three times against Carolina, but it was Manningham who led the Giants with 85 receiving yards. With Nicks and Steve Smith entrenched as starters, Manningham is often overlooked, but his craftiness in the flat and along the sidelines gives Eli Manning a terrific change-of-pace receiver, especially if tight end Kevin Boss misses this week's matchup with the Colts as a result of his head and neck injuries.

• Leon Washington, RB,Seahawks

The only one of Seattle's running backs to contribute in the surprising home blowout of the Niners was starter Justin Forsett (seven carries, 43 yards)—not Washington. The multipurpose weapon, who was competing for the starting job as recently as two weeks ago, gained only 12 yards on six carries and had no catches. In Washington's defense Pete Carroll's team showed little desire to run until late in the game and will most likely depend more on the pass. At this point Washington and Julius Jones have been reduced to little more than fantasy filler.

• Brandon Lloyd, WR,Broncos

Losing Brandon Marshall to Miami and first-round pick Demaryius Thomas to a sore left foot created an opportunity, and Lloyd grabbed it, matching his 2009 total with 117 yards in Jacksonville. But don't pick up this journeyman. Thomas may be back this week, and so may Eric Decker, another rookie nursing a foot sprain. Some things are too good to be true.

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Stay Cool

The first week is exciting, but you can't overreact. Give your starters at least two or three weeks to get into the flow of the season before you begin making moves. Consider Matt Schaub(below) of the Texans. After his teammate Arian Foster ran for 231 yards, you could think "they're a running team" and look for a new QB. But that running game is going to open up the field for Schaub and make him better over the long haul.

However, it's never too soon to tweak the bench. The Eagles' Kevin Kolb will be out at least two or three weeks, so Michael Vick would be a great pickup. Likewise, Matt Hasselbeck looked strong. On the other side, Wes Welker's return for the Patriots makes Julian Edelman expendable.



ARMS RACE In Week 1 Hillis went from buff backup to cool costar, splitting carries, catching passes and scoring a TD.