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Exceeding expectations, but how long will it last?

A good draft can take you a long way in fantasy football, but most championships are determined not by the team you assemble in August, but by the one you refine throughout the regular season.

The challenge for fantasy owners is to quickly analyze the unanticipated performances, good and bad, that are a part of every NFL season. Certainly, a lot of what we've seen in the opening two weeks of 2006 won't last -- e.g., 2-0 New Orleans probably isn't a playoff team, and 0-2 Carolina and Tampa Bay definitely aren't the league's worst rushing defenses.

However, some of what we're seeing is no fluke. For instance, I'm buying the Bears' offense with Rex Grossman, Bernard Berrian, Muhsin Muhammad. And Desmond Clark and Robbie Gould, too. It's not that I think Grossman is this year's Carson Palmer, but I do think he'll continue to outperform bigger names like Steve McNair, Drew Bledsoe and Brett Favre. Grossman's always had the ability; now he's finally healthy enough to show it.

Here's a quick list of some other players who've exceeded expectations so far, and my opinions on whether they'll continue to be successful.

Trends

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Frank Gore, 49ers -- Gore is a skilled runner and the centerpiece of what is looking like a decent offense. But check the schedule. I don't like Gore this week against the Eagles -- look at what Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jim Johnson did to contain L.T. last year and to Tiki Barber last week. But if the guy stays healthy, Gore will be golden in December. The Niners play New Orleans, Green Bay and Arizona in the last month.

DeAngelo Williams, Panthers -- Even with Carolina's offensive line in shambles, the rookie looked explosive against the Vikings last week. Williams will displace DeShaun Foster before too long.

Donte' Stallworth, Eagles -- Stallworth looks like a great fit in Philly, especially with a very favorable early schedule. The Eagles face San Francisco, Green Bay and Tennesse within the month. Even with Brian Westbrook and L.J. Smith banged up, I like Stallworth's chances.

Accidents

Chad Pennington, Jets -- People have forgotten about his shoulder issues after his impressive start, but I don't think it will last. For one thing, Pennington won't get to abuse Tennessee's secondary again this year, and Laveranues Coles is iffy this week with a bum calf.

Amani Toomer, Giants -- The veteran had a huge game against Philadelphia, but don't get carried away. Even with Jeremy Shockey banged up, Toomer is still a third option behind Barber and Plaxico Burress.

Jeff Wilkins, Rams -- The long-time St. Louis kicker already has 10 field-goal attempts -- two more than anyone else. While the Rams have a reasonably easy schedule, they don't have a great offense. Wilkins is nothing more than a slightly above average kicker for fantasy purposes.

Next week, I'll look at some slow starters, and tell you if I think they'll keep struggling. For now, a preview: Don't give up on Daunte Culpepper just yet. Yes, he's looked gimpy and out-of-synch so far, but the Dolphins have Tennessee this week, Houston next and Green Bay three weeks after that. If nothing else, wait for Culpepper to put up a big game or two, then see what you can get for him in a trade.

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Neil Tardy is the Post-Bulletin's fantasy football columnist. His columns appear on Fridays during the NFL regular season. Visit his Web site, www.PunditSports.com and send him your fantasy football questions.

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