Ryan Fitzpatrick's NFL debut could have come straight out of a Hollywood script. A seventh-round draft pick from Harvard who spent all season as the emergency quarterback, Fitzpatrick entered the game with his Rams trailing 14-0 and orchestrated an overtime win. Never mind that the opponent was the Houston Texans, who may be on par with some of Fitzpatrick's former Ivy League competition. The rookie's composure resulted in 310 yards passing and three touchdowns, including a 56-yarder to Kevin Curtis for the victory.
"You'd think a guy coming into that situation, he may rattle and may not be sure of himself," wide receiver Torry Holt told reporters after the Rams' 33-27 win. "He has a swagger about him, a quiet confidence."
Many fantasy owners made the prudent decision to add Fitzpatrick to their rosters immediately after starter Jamie Martin was injured with 11 minutes 26 seconds left in the first half. Those who balked were left second-guessing themselves in the wake of Fitzpatrick's unexpected showing.
This week, owners are facing two questions regarding Fitzpatrick. The first is whether he will start Sunday against the Washington Redskins, also 5-6 and desperately trying to stay in the playoff chase. The second is whether he can produce similar statistics.
After Fitzpatrick's splashy opening, it's probably safe to presume the Redskins are preparing more for him than Martin, a veteran who has been functional but not spectacular. In five games this season, Martin has thrown four touchdowns and five interceptions, with a high of 200 yards passing.
If it becomes more clear as kickoff approaches that Fitzpatrick will be the starter, he is a viable fantasy play because of the talent around him and shuffling in the Redskins' defense. The Rams, with Holt, Curtis, Isaac Bruce, Shaun McDonald and Dane Looker, have an embarrassment of riches at wide receiver. The only other group in the discussion plays in Indianapolis. Throw in versatile tailback Steven Jackson, and Fitzpatrick has the luxury of knowing defenses rarely will be able to turn the Rams into a one-dimensional team.
Then there is the unsettled situation with Washington's secondary. Rookie Carlos Rogers apparently is set to become a full-time starter at cornerback, and the Redskins are eager to find out if his development is on track. Auditioning against the Rams' quick-strike offense isn't exactly an ideal circumstance. St. Louis is first in passing at 279.6 yards per game, and its 21 touchdowns are tied for third most.
The Rams also have a documented record of passing efficiency no matter who is taking the snaps, beginning with Kurt Warner in 1999. Trent Green followed in 2000 when Warner was injured. In 2002 when Warner was hurt again, Marc Bulger finished the season with 1,826 passing yards and 15 total touchdowns in seven games.