WEEK 1 GAME CAPSULES
Dallas at New York Giants, Weds 8:30 PM By Bill Aquaviva and Dish Adams
The NFL starts it all off this year with the defending Super Bowl champs hosting the perennial underperforming Dallas Cowboys, and they do it on a Wednesday night. Dallas has their usual on-the-field and off-the-field problems their dealing with but should still be a tough challenge for the Giants as New York always seems to struggle on opening day (see last year’s loss to the Redskins).
Tony Romo might be without his stud TE Jason Witten but that’s not his biggest problem: the Giants defensive line is. Look for Romo to have a big play or two but to be battered most of the game and sacked multiple times, rushed all day and turnover the ball a time or two . . . DeMarco Murray begins the year as the starting RB with high hopes for continued fantasy success. He’s quick enough to get some outside runs on the G-men and will struggle to about 75 yards rushing and a score . . . Both Miles Austin and Dez Bryant are each capable of taking advantage of a beat up and suspect Giants secondary. The DBs are clearly the weakest spot on the Giants team and both these WRs should be between 60-70 yards and either or both could score – they are both recommended plays . . . TE John Phillips is likely to start as Witten looks to be on the sidelines for this and back for Week 2 . . . Dan Bailey might be the big scorer for this team this week as drives stall in the redzone so he makes a good start this week . . . The Cowboys DST will be able to get some pressure on Eli throughout the game but not consistently enough to shut down the high-powered passing attack and rejuvenated rushing attack. Look for a couple of sacks and a turnover but also for them to give up 20+ points in this game.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Eli Manning should be able to handle the Cowboys pressure well for most of the game. He’ll take a couple of sacks and throw a pick but he’ll also throw for close to 300 yards and 2 TDs and makes a solid start this week . . . Rookie David Wilson and starter Ahmad Bradshaw should make a nice 1-2 punch this season but I wouldn’t be too excited about their prospects this opening week against Dallas. I’d let a week or two go by and see if the Giants ground game really has improved since last year or not . . . Hakeem Nicks and the clear celebrity of this team, Victor Cruz, make up the most potent WR duo the Giants franchise has ever known. That means lots of catches, yards and scores each week. Both are must starts . . . last year he was the Cowboys backup but rising star TE, this year he’s the starting TE in New York. Martellus Bennett should be a huge addition to the Giants offense this year and I can see him making a statement against his former team this week with some big catches and a possible score . . . Lawrence Tynes should have a pretty busy night kicking FGs and XPs and is a consistent fantasy kicker . . . as long as the secondary can tape and patch their injuries and holes The Giants DST will be very effective thanks to their pass rush. But with them being hurt I hesitate to start them because Bryant and Austin can burn them deep and put points on the board. I’d look elsewhere for a defense this week despite the multiple sacks and 1-2 turnovers they should get.
Indianapolis at Chicago, Sun 1:00 PM
There’s a new sheriff in town, and in the NFL, and he has a lot of Luck. QB Andrew Luck makes his debut in Chicago, so no time like the present to bring it against a fearsome defense. Luck has all the intangibles and may struggle with turnovers like every other QB who goes to Chicago, but we still like him for two TDs opening week . . . RB Donald Brown is getting heat from Vick Ballard and will give up third downs to Mewelde Moore because Moore knows Bruce Arians offense and won’t miss his blocking assignments. Ballard is a fantasy expert league favorite and Smitty and Tim Van Prooyen are both in his corner, but week 1 Donald Brown is the only playable RB on the Colts . . . WR Reggie Wayne looks spry and ready to exploit the talents of his new QB. He has spent time in the slot and outside and appears in for a big Week 1 with a probable score. Austin Collie will start on the outside week 1 and has looked unguardable, but he has trouble making it through a full game and is too risky. But if you have him play him now before he gets hurt . . . Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen man the TE position with Fleener the likely beneficiary of most of Luck’s checkdowns because of their comfort level at Stanford. Fleener is a good bet to lead the Colts in targets . . . Adam Vinatieri is consistent and will get more opportunities this year, he can’t kick from distance but is a viable week 1 play . . . The Colts DST should keep Luck throwing because they cannot stop anyone – stay away from this unit.
QB Jay Cutler got his wish and he better like what he asked for. With weapons all around and depth at each offensive position, Cutler is poised for a huge Week 1 with a lousy Colts secondary trying to contain huge WRs. A 3TD performance isn’t out of the question . . . RB Matt Forte was downgraded by many because of the presence of Michael Bush but I’m not buying. Forte is a dynamic talent and will have over 100 combined yards and a score easily . . . WR Brandon Marshall is reunited with the man who saw hip as always open, and Cutler will play chuck n’ pray with Marshall all game long. He’ll have at least 10 targets and has a strong possibility for 2 TDs week 1. Rookie Alshon Jeffery has the same skill set as Marshall and will be in single coverage. He has a chance to score as well and is ready as a WR#3 or Flex-Play right away . . . TE Kellen Davis is one of Mike Nease’s major sleepers for 2012 and he’ll get his chance against a Colts squad learning a new defense. He won’t be a target hound but he’ll see plenty of tosses in the redzone. Week 1 he is a middle of the road play . . . PK Robbie Gould is as consistent as they come and sure to boot at least 2 FGs and 3 XPs in week 1. A strong start in all formats. The Chicago DST is always strong under Lovie Smith and will force a few turnovers against Luck and company – don’t forget Devin Hester gives them a chance to score every week.
Atlanta at Kansas City, Sun 1:00 PM
Much has been made about the Falcons revamped offense under spread architect Dirk Koetter. QB Matt Ryan is in line for a big season, but the KC defense is tough and will hit him a lot and force at least one INT . . . Ryan will dump off a lot to RB Jacquizz Rodgers who has a better shot for game 1 success than Michael Turner, who will be the goal-line and early down back but will lose a lot of touches to Quizz. Rodgers and Turner are both flex-plays, we don’t like them as RB2 candidates against a stoudt KC Defense . . . WR Julio Jones is the talk of fantasy nation and the next coming of Calvin Johnson and he starts his assault on the league in KC. He is a threat to score on every play and 100 yards with a TD would be underachieving. Roddy White still has plenty left in the tank and will see more short targets but could find great success with double coverage rolling away from him instead of towards him now . . . TE Tony Gonzalez returns to play in KC and is certain to make the fans remember why they miss him and how much they loved him in a Chiefs uniform. He should score against his former team . . . Matt Bryant is as solid as they come in the kicking game and is a strong week 1 play. The Falcons DST is a recommended start against what we believe will be a woeful Chiefs offense.
The Chiefs made far too few changes on offense to believe that they have any real fantasy value beyond Jamaal Charles. Todd Haley and his heavy attitude are gone, but so are the days of the bruising Chiefs line that wore people into submission with Thomas Jones and company. Matt Cassell is one of the worst fantasy QBs on the board, and this ball control offense won’t help. He’s a never-start in our book . . . Jamaal Charles looks totally healthy and ready to excel, but reports are that Peyton Hillis is starting along with Charles and will get the goal line work and most between the tackle carries – enough to hurt the value of both – Charles is a still a recommended start despite the time share . . . The Chiefs receiver situation is confounding with Dewayne Bowe back and ready, but Stevie Breaston listed as a starter over the much heralded Jon Baldwin. This was supposed to be the year that diva Baldwin excelled, but the fact he is behind Breaston on the depth chart means Bowe is the only one in this group worthy of a start . . . Ryan Succop is not a recommended play because he has a weak leg and is inaccurate, but the Chiefs DST is highly recommended because of their ability to create turnovers and to score in the return game with all of their athletes.
Philadelphia at Cleveland, Sun 1:00 PM By Bill Aquaviva
Now that Andy Reid’s job is on the line the Eagles have even more pressure to perform this year. Lucky for them they get to open the season against the Cleveland Browns with a win. This should give them the start they need to build some confidence and try to save Andy’s job. Don’t expect Cleveland to roll over though. They’ve got some impressive rookies the Eagles will need to deal with.
Michael Vick will have his new fancy flak jacket to protect those ribs and this week’s matchup against the Browns should allow him to stay injury free as long as he doesn’t do something stupid like run and leave himself open to a vulnerable shot. He should have a huge game with 280 yards and 2 TDs plus 50 yards rushing.
LeSean McCoy is my #1 ranked RB ahead of Arian Foster. I really think he goes off this year and it all starts this week. Look for McCoy to run for 150 yards, catch balls for another 50 yards and score twice.
DeSean Jackson is the WR stud on this team but Jeremy Maclin can’t be overlooked or he will burn you. Jackson should have a big game and could rack up 100 yards receiving and get in the end zone while Maclin should have a solid game with 60 yards receiving.
I don’t see a big role for Brent Celek this week and would recommend keeping him on the bench unless you’re good with 25 yards receiving and no scores.
Alex Henery will be a benefactor of the Eagles offense going off against Cleveland. He’ll have more XPs than he will FGs but still get you double-digit fantasy points.
The Eagles DST should make for a very un-welcomed debut for Cleveland’s rookie QB and rookie RB. Look for them to shut down the Browns and cause turnovers, sacks and produce a score of their own.
Rookie Brandon Weeden is the new starter in Cleveland as Colt McCoy moves to the sideline to hold the clipboard. There might not be a worse opening matchup for Weeden than the Eagles defense. Expect this to be ugly and clearly do not start Weeden if for some reason you have him on your team.
Rookie Trent Richardson should fare better than his fellow rookie QB Brandon Weeden, but it still won’t be enough to make him a viable start this week if he isn’t cleared for a full go. Check the injury reports prior to game time.
OK, so your starting WRs are named Greg Little and Mohamed Massaquoi. Your backup WRs names aren’t even known by their own moms. The passing game in Cleveland will be non-existent and nobody should be started on the Cleveland team this week at all. Josh Gordon is likely the only startable Cleveland WR at the flex position.
Ben Watson might end up being the leading receiver for the Browns this week but he’s certainly not worthy of a start.
Phil Dawson might not kick at all this game except for the opening kickoff or second half kickoff depending on the coin flip. Like the rest of the Browns team make sure he’s benched.
Look for the Eagles to run and pass at will all day against the Browns, so clearly you do not want to play the Cleveland DST.
Washington at New Orleans, Sun 1:00 PM By Bill Aquaviva
The RG III era opens for Washington, but the problem for them is it opens against the Saints – in New Orleans. Sean Payton won’t be there but he’ll still out-coach Mike Shanahan in this game. It should be an exciting, highlight-filled game with plenty of scoring.
Super rookie QB Robert Griffin III, more commonly referred to as RG III, begins his Redskins career on the road against New Orleans and I think he’ll actually do pretty well. He could get you 250 yards passing and 2 TDs and might even run one in. I think he’ll have a very successful debut.
Expect the usual RB shuffling to occur again this year in Washington, which means the named starter means nothing from week to week. Evan Royster and Roy Helu will share most of the work but Alfred Morris will disrupt things as well. My advice is avoid the Redskins RBs because it’s a crap shoot each week.
The Redskins receiving corps is made up of one longtime consistent WR, Santana Moss, and a new addition from the Colts, Pierre Garcon. I think Garcon will find life outside of Indy tougher and I’m willing to start him right off the bat because of his pre-season relationship is with RG III. Josh Morgan gets the starting spot but must produce before we recommend him.
Chris Cooley is gone, and pothead Fred Davis is the new starting TE in Washington. Davis has a lot of talent so if he can stay smoke-free he should do very well, starting this week. He had a quiet pre-season but is one of FI’s top 10 TEs.
Recently signed Billy Cundiff takes over kicking duties for Graham Gano. Cundiff should have lots of opportunities for FGs this year and should be a very good play this week with plenty of opportunities.
The Redskins DST is going to be better than they appear against the Saints this week. Feel free to play them most weeks if you have them, but for this week in New Orleans, leave them on the bench because the Saints are going to score often.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Drew Brees. Is there really anything else that needs to be said here? I expect Brees to throw for 350 yards and 3 TDs and he’s obviously an every week starter.
Between Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles, it’s hard to draft a Saints RB and know who to play week in and week out. Sproles is the safest play because he puts up receiver numbers in a worst-case scenario.
Marques Colston, Lance Moore and Devery Henderson are going to get their catches, yards and scores, and much like the RB situation it’ll be tough to know who will be “on” each week. But the smart money is on Colston and Moore. Colston is a must-start every week and Moore is a spot starter. When healthy he produces but there are better options this week.
Arguably the best TE in football right now, Jimmy Graham is going to be huge again this year and this week will be no different. Look for Graham to catch a lot of balls for 80+ yards and a score.
With old man John Kasay being cut the kicking job belongs to Garrett Hartley who will benefit from the unstoppable New Orleans offense. He’s good for 10+ fantasy points this week.
The Saints DST is going to have a difficult time with rookie QB RG III at times, but he is still a rookie – they’ll create some turnovers.
Saint Louis at Detroit, Sun 1:00 PM By Mike Nease
Will new HC Jeff Fisher make a difference in the confused world of the Rams? They have been stumbling along like a rudderless ship and they need to find some success this year. Otherwise the people of St. Louis may help the pack up the trucks and send them back to Los Angeles.
It all revolves 3rd year QB Sam Bradford (10 games – 2164 yards 6/6 TD/INT ratio) staying healthy and finding some magic with his revolving door receiving corp. Unfortunately he begins this quest as a visitor of the Detroit Lions who are chomping at the bit to play the Rams. Expect about 200 yards and a TD pass from Bradford. He is outclassed in this matchup.
For the last 2-3 years the Rams have brought in successors to 29 year old Steven Jackson (260-1145-5///42-333-1). This year that guy is Isaiah Pead. Don’t write off Jackson yet. He continues to play and his prior successors have faded into oblivion. The only threat to S-Jax in week 1 is the Rams will be playing from far behind and abandon the running game early.
The WR corps is a work in process and may not be too bad. Danny Amendola (injured in Week 1 in 2011) and Brandon Gibson (36-431-1) return. They are joined by Steve Smith (2009 — 107-1220-7) who has been recovering from a knee injury for two years and is finally healthy and promising rookie Brian Quick. Don’t expect much fantasy wise out of this crew against the Lions, but they could develop into a credible unit over the next few weeks.
Last year TE Lance Kendricks (28-352-0) was a fantasy sleeper that just never lived up to expectations. Over the offseason he took up Yoga to help him focus better. We expect him to improve in 2012 and to put up about 4-60-0 numbers this week.
Last year rookie PK Greg Zeurlein kicked nine 50+ FGs for Missouri Western State. This year he will be kicking for the Rams. Unfortunately he is on a team with no proven offense playing a strong defense and has no fantasy value this week.
The hardest thing for the Lions over the last few months has been keeping players out of jail. The only offensive weapon facing a suspension is Mikel Leshoure who is out for the first two games. With a RB group that is running on fumes, the Lions can thank the schedule-makers for feeding them the Rams in Week 1.
QB Matthew Stafford (5038 41/16 TD/INT ratio) was finally able to complete a full season in 2011, after two injury plagued years to begin his career. In doing so he moved into the upper echelon of NFL QBs. If he can stay healthy, he should be a fantasy jewel again in 2012. With injured RBs, look for Stafford to pass-pass-pass throughout the game. Expect 300+ yards with about three TD passes.
With Jahvid Best on the PUP list and Mikel Leshoure suspended the rushing load falls on the back of Kevin Smith (7 games – 72-356-4///22-179-3) who has been nursing an ankle injury. He is said to be healthy but the failsafe backup is Keiland Williams. Expect Smith to have about 80 combined yards with a TD.
The WR position for the Lions is a strong as the Rams are weak. Calvin Johnson (96-1681-16), Nate Burleson (73-757-3) and 2nd year player Titus Young (48-607-6) lead the way. They have been joined by promising rookie Ryan Broyles. We anticipate that Titus Young and Ryan Broyles will become more dominant this year and Nate Burleson will start to fade away. Watch for CJ to have a strong 7-120-1 game, with the others all being around 3-4 catches for 4—50 yards, with Young also catching a TD pass.
As if the WRs are not potent enough, TE Brandon Pettigrew (83-777-5) is turning into a stud in his own right. Look for him to have around a 5-65-1 game.
I love seeing old guys like 42 year old PK Jason Hanson (24/29 FGs and 54 XPs) still playing. I drafted him as a rookie 30% of my lifetime ago. At his age he still made five of seven 50+ FGs last year. Anticipate him getting about two FGs and about 3-4 XPs.
The Lions DST is an excellent play against the hapless Rams offense.
New England at Tennessee, Sun 1:00 PM By Todd Colburn
The Patriots kick off the 2012 season on the road at Tennessee, featuring a revamped defense and a new weapon on offense. Quarterback Tom Brady did not show much in preseason , but the 35 year-old veteran doesn’t really need to show much, does he? Coach Bill Belichick is notorious for keeping things very vanilla in the preseason, so the fact that there didn’t seem to be much chemistry on offense shouldn’t be cause for alarm. With the addition of Brandon Lloyd to the wide receiver corps, Brady now has four excellent targets in the passing game. It’s an embarrassment of riches, and Brady will capitalize. For week 1, Tennessee will struggle and not be able to contain the Pats’ passing attack. Look for Brady to reward fantasy owners early with a high scoring performance.
Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen put together a pretty spirited competition for the starting running back position, and Ridley won (if only by attrition). Though Ridley took the prize of getting the starting credits, this is still a timeshare. Though the Titans are susceptible to the run, the Patriots will make their hay through the air, and this committee should be a stay away for week 1.
The addition of Brandon Lloyd gives the Pats the deep threat they have been lacking since Randy Moss stopped being Randy Moss. Wes Welker is poised for a big year, particularly since he and the Pats couldn’t come to terms on a contract extension, thus making this a contract year for Welker. Lloyd and Welker should both be fantasy starters this week, as they look to gash the Titans’ pass defense.
Rob Gronkowski has somehow gotten worse this offseason by virtue of supposedly not being able to repeat last year’s performance. I disagree – Gronk will be back and as good as ever, even though he and Brady seemed to be out of sync this preseason. Meanwhile, Aaron Hernandez should still continue to see multiple opportunities in the passing game. Both Gronkowski and Hernandez should be good starts for fantasy in week 1.
The Patriots defense is a favorite of ours this season. The addition of Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower, and Steven Gregory are just a few of the additions that should make the Pats more athletic and stingy on defense. The Titans are starting a young quarterback, and we’re still waiting for Chris Johnson to be “back” against a better team than the Bucs. We like the Patriots as a top five starting defense this week.
The Tennessee Titans had an up-and-down preseason. So did newly minted starting quarterback, Jake Locker. The theme of this season is, “as goes Locker, so goes the Titans.” The Titans’ fortunes truly rest in how well Locker adjusts to the starting role. Locker has seemingly developed some nice chemistry with rookie Kendall Wright, but he won’t cause anyone to forget the suspended Kenny Britt anytime soon. Locker should have moments of success in this game, but ultimately he’s not someone you want as your starting fantasy QB…this week or later.
Chris Johnson rattled off a couple of touchdown runs in week 2 of preseason against the much-maligned Tampa Bay defense, and many declared him to be “back.” Though there were moments where he looked like the old CJ2K, a subsequent start versus the Cardinals in week 3 looked like more of last season. Because running backs with the starting job all to themselves are few and far between, Johnson needs to start for fantasy. If nothing else, he will get 15-20 touches, which is sometimes all you can ask for in today’s NFL. We are cautiously optimistic that he will put together some good runs in week 1.
We were talking about Kenny Britt and the Commissioner at this point last season – here we are again with a one-game suspension. He is in recovery from multiple knee surgeries, so clearly he would not be playing anyway. Nate Washington and Kendall Wright, on the other hand, are playing, and are both worth a WR3 spot this week versus the Pats.
Jared Cook flashed enough last season that he is no longer a fantasy secret. This guy has potential to be a good one, though it remains to be seen how well he grooves with Locker. He should see 5-7 targets in this game at minimum, so he should be starting in week 1. He will create some mismatches in that New England secondary.
Last season’s Titans defense did not live up to expectations. This season’s version doesn’t really seem much different. There are guys who could step up this year, namely Derrick Morgan and Robert Johnson, but as of right now, this looks to be more of the same for fantasy. This is a defense that will do well against a bad offense, but will offer little resistance against a stellar offense. We know what kind of offense the Pats bring to the table, so leave the Titans on the wire for week 1.
Jacksonville at Minnesota, Sun 1:00 PM By Mike Nease
New owner + new coach = no consideration to holdouts. As MJD learned so graciously, he is just a replaceable part on a team that is seeking to rebound from some lean times. Now that MJD realizes that Mike Mularkey won’t tolerate any malarkey, he has at long last reported and faces an uphill climb to get into football shape and be ready to shoulder the load.
With so many young QBs playing, Blaine Gabbert (2214 yards 12/11 TD/INT ratio) has stayed somewhat in the background, far from the limelight. Last year he led (oxymoron) the Jags to the pathetic 32nd ranking offense, a dubious honor at best. And that was with MJD generating almost 2,000 yards himself. With a new coach and system he hopes to rebound in 2012 In order to accomplish that he might be better off playing basketball. Don’t expect more than 175 yards and maybe a TD pass this week.
Here is the real conundrum. You have Maurice Jones-Drew (343-1606-8///43-374-3) paired with Rashad Jennings to back him up. MJD has been designated as the 3rd down back as of this writing. Between them they will have about 140 yards and a TD. We will need to watch this situation closely to see how nit develops prior to the game. If possible, as well as advantageous, you might want to play both, using your flex position for one of them.
Another major question is at the WR position. Justin Blackmon is a highly touted rookie, but former Cowboy Laurent Robinson (54-858-11) and Mike Thomas (44-415-1) are less than stellar performers. Robinson is having trouble adapting to the system and Gabbert (after working with Romo/Kitna this is no shocker) and Thomas just seems very average. Expect Blackmon to lead this unit and be the only WR on this unit worthy of starting this week. But keep your eye on Robinson. If he comes close to what he did last year, he could be a difference making waiver move.
TE Marcedes Lewis peaked at a 58-700-10 level in 2010 and dropped precipitously to 39-480-0. There were no signs of improvement in the preseason. There are countless TEs you would be better off with in your lineups.
PK Josh Scobee is accurate (23/25 FG and 24 XPs), but you do not want a kicker from a struggling offense in your lineup.
The Jaguars DST is a fine play against Minnesota and Christian Ponder.
With the Jaguars superior defense and no offense, coupled with the Vikings mediocrity on both sides of the line, I am glad that game will not be shown in too many markets. It kind of looks like it will be comparable to the Puppy Bowl made famous by Animal Planet. At least the puppies are cute. What could have been a matchup of top RBs AP vs. MJD is now about the 16th most interesting game to watch this week.
After experimenting with ancient washed up QBs, the Vikings at least have a young guy they are trying to develop. Some think that he may be the wrong one for the job, but that is a point to ponder at another time. Christian Ponder (11 games – 1853 yards 13/13 TD/INT ratio with another 219 yards rushing) had a less than spectacular, but better than Blaine Gabbert-s, rookie season. With WR Percy Harvin though, Ponder has the WR edge. Look for him to throw for about 180 yards with a TD pass. With the Jags defense he will likely have another 30-40 yards rushing (uh, running from big, fast defenders eluding his blockers).
RB Adrian Peterson (12 games – 208-970-12///18-139-1) is a dreaded game time decision. The last time that happened it literally cost me a fantasy bowl (insert mental image of grown man crying). Backup Toby Gerhart (109-531-1///23-190-3) is very competent and will seriously eat into AP’s stats even if AP starts. This is another wait and see proposition. Between them they will have around 140 yards and a TD.
WR Percy Harvin can catch (87-967-6) and also run with the ball (52-345-2). He is complemented by Michael Jenkins (38-466-3) who has had a long, mediocre career, as well as Devin Aromashodu. Harvin will be a key in this game with about a 7-90-1 receiving stat line and some good yards rushing. Nobody else will be a fantasy factor out of this group.
TE Kyle Rudolph (26-249-3) has been given the starting job. Now it’s a matter of whether he can handle it. He has had some favorable reviews and is a good sleeper prospect. Watch for him to have about 7-60-0 numbers this week
PK Blair Walsh was drafted to replace long time NFL kicker Ryan Longwell. As is the case with bad offenses, avoid using him in your lineup. He has a strong but inaccurate leg.
Buffalo at New York Jets, Sun 1:00 PM By Bill Aquaviva
The Bills travel down state to take on the dysfunctional Jets and their impending QB controversy. The odds should belong to the Jets and their powerful defense but they have a way of making things interesting for themselves so it’s not a guarantee by any means.
Ryan Fitzpatrick looked like a Pro Bowler at times last season but he and the Bills disappointed their fans yet again. This year should be more of the same. This week should be a little rough for him with the tough Jets defense so he should not be considered a play.
Fred Jackson should begin to give over the reins to C.J. Spiller this year but it won’t start in week 1. Jackson will still be the main man this week but don’t count on a lot of production from him against the Jets. Something along the lines of 65 yards and maybe a score. Spiller fans can expect 40 yards.
Stevie Johnson is the cream of the crop here and one of the only WRs to have consistently good performances against Revis. Mind you, good is about 4 catches for 65 yards so if he doesn’t score he can hurt you. David Nelson looks to be the beneficiary of soft coverage in the slot so he could finish with 75 yards and a score.
Scott Chandler is a solid TE but I’m not sure he’ll do well this week. It’s best to leave him on the bench as the best you can hope for is 40 yards, although he may get you a TD.
Rian Lindell is good for about 7 points this week with 2 FGs and XP possible.
The way the Jets offense played this pre-season it’s tempting to start the Bills DST this week and expect them to hold the Jets to about 9 points on all FGs and have a couple of turnovers. Pre-season is not regular season but the Bills sure do look like a good play this week.
NEW YORK JETS
Let the chants for Tim Tebow begin! It’s only a matter of time before Tebow replaces Mark Sanchez as the starter this year. It won’t be this week so Sanchez is a safe start if you think the Jets offense is going to suddenly explode, move the ball and score points. I would avoid Sanchez at all costs.
Shonn Greene gets to own the backfield by himself with no LT in the way. But can this offense make that worth anyone’s while? Greene could get you a TD but his yardage is likely to be low – around 55 yards, and he’s a risk to play until we see how the Jets offense operates in the regular season. Bilal Powell could end up stealing carries before long.
Rookie Stephen Hill joins malcontent Santonio Holmes as a starting WR this year. Holmes is a trouble-maker in the clubhouse and in the media but if Sanchez can get the ball downfield he can still make some plays. I just don’t see the Jets being in sync this week and would avoid their passing game altogether.
Dustin Keller could be the Jets leading receiver in this game and that would only be with about 60 yards. He could get a TD though and of the Jets offensive players he is probably the only possible start.
Nick Folk should get some FG tries and could be good for an XP as well. But even so, we’re only talking about 6-7 points for him this week.
The Jets’ best chances at scoring in this game will come from their defense with QB pressure and turnovers and short fields from the return game. If the defense can setup the offense they might be able to find the end zone. I expect a big game from them anyway, with multiple sacks and a couple of turnovers.
Miami at Houston, Sun 1:00 PM By Mike Nease
On HBO’s “Hard Knocks”, the Dolphins were portrayed as a rag-tag bunch of misfits brought together to play football under the caring, fatherly guidance of Joe Philbin. It was reminiscent of the “Bad News Bears” genre of movies. As the 0-4 record they racked up in the preseason indicates, they are like a dike without nearly enough hands on board to plug all the holes and keep the team afloat. Houston made the playoffs for the first time last year and is ready to feast on some mahi-mahi this week.
Rookie QB Ryan Tannehill has the pedigree, young trophy wife and an engaging smile. The problem is that he has basically nobody that can catch his passes. Chris “7-11” Hogan, named after the convenience store because he is always open, wound up on the Practice Squad. Brandon Marshall became a Bear and what’s left is, let’s be nice here, a challenged receiving corp. Expect Tannehill to spend the game running for his life, with about 150 yards passing and maybe a TD pass.
The center of the offense is RB Reggie Bush (216-1086-6///43-296-1). The 7th year veteran is the only player on the Dolphins you would even think about putting in your lineup. Daniel Thomas (165-581-0///12/72-1) had a ho-hum rookie year and we expect more of the same. Look for Bush to have about 100 combined yards with a TD and Thomas to add about 35 yards as a backup.
The WR position could be in flux for a while as they experiment to find a competent group. Right now Davone Bess (51-537-3), Legedu Naanee (44-467-1) and recent Redskins discard. Anthony Armstrong (7-103-2) are the fill-in-the blank guys on the depth chart. Look for about 3-5 catches for around 30-50 yards from these guys.
Veteran TE Anthony Fasano (32-451-5) fits into the new offense as more of a blocker than a receiver. Charles Clay (16-233-3) has a real opportunity to succeed here. Don’t expect more than a couple of catches from these guys either this week.
5th year PK Dan Carpenter (29/34 FG; 26XP) is a decent kicker up to about 50 yards, but being on a team with no offensive pulse makes him a bad fantasy choice.
The Texans had a successful preseason record wise (3-1), but more importantly, health wise. They enter the 2012 season with all the key offensive weapons healthy and a strong defense. That combination will win a lot of games for a team.
QB Matt Schaub (10 games – 2479 yards 15/6 TD/INT ratio) completed over 70% of his passes in the preseason and looks ready to go. He has his favorite target AJ back and look for them to hook up for some Sports Center highlights plays this week. The Dolphins pass defense leaves a lot to be desired. Look for Schaub to throw for about 275 yards with a pair of TD passes. The only thing that will slow him down is the fact that the Texans will turn to the running game as they dominate this game.
The RB combo of Arian Foster (278-1226-10//53-617-2) and Ben Tate (175-942-4///13-98-0) are as dynamic of a backfield duo as there is in the NFL. With over 500 touches, almost 2900 combined yards and 16 TDs, they give the Texans an offense that is as close to unstoppable as it gets. Does the run setup the pass here, or does the pass setup the run? Who cares? It works! Expect about 140 yards and a TD from Foster and another 70 yards from Tate.
WR Andre Johnson (7 games – 33-492-2) is as good as it gets when he is on the field. Unfortunately he has missed 12 games over the last two years. That durability issue will linger over him until he eventually retires. For now he is healthy and we have to play our game with the assumption that he is a stud, until proven otherwise. He is joined once again by Kevin Walter (39-474-3) and two youngsters with some promise, Keshawn Martin and Lester Jean. Look for a big 7-110-2 game from AJ, and 3-4 catches for 40-50 yards for Walter, Martin and Jean.
At TE, Owen Daniels (54-677-3) has slipped down a tier or two, Young 3rd year TE Garret Graham is someone to watch as the season goes on. Look for 3-4 catches for about 40 yards from Daniels.
PK Randy Bullock was drafted to fill the kicking role, but he wound up on IR. Journeyman Shayne Graham (Five teams in last four years) won the job by default. Although not a good choice normally, Houston is a PK dream job. Look for a couple FGs and 3-4 XP.s
Seattle at Arizona, Sun 4:25 PM
The rookie just kept ballin’ and ballin’ and ballin’. Carroll was left with almost no choice as Russell Wilson impressed with video-game numbers in the pre-season. We love Wilson because he only had 2 passes batted down at the line of scrimmage in college and threw only 3 INTs against 44 TDs in his Senior season. He is a lock to rush for 40-50 yards and should have 2 TDs between the rush and pass combo.
Marshawn Lynch skated by without a suspension and will play despite back spasms he has been suffering from. Rookie Robert Turbin will cut in to Lynch’s workload, but not enough to sit Lynch on a regular basis. This week Lynch has back spasms that could keep him out. He is a solid bet for a TD and 100 combined yards at the least if he plays. Turbin is a fine start if Lynch sits, but you will not know until the early games have already kicked off.
Who’s on first? Braylon Edwards and Sidney Rice look to be the week 1 starters with Doug Baldwin manning the slot. Golden Tate was supposed to start but his injury is now expected to keep him out of game 1 and possibly game 2 as well. Production at the WR spots will be erratic because of limited practice time and a rookie QB. We don’t see either Rice or Edwards as viable WR starts but both have potential value as flex-plays.
When Winslow was cut only Zach Miller remained, but the team signed Evan Moore off waivers from Cleveland. Over the longer term Moore has some fantasy viability, but in this offense Miller was held to virtually no production last season. Another week 1 no-play in the Seattle offense.
Steven Hauschka sounds like a restaurant owner in Prague, and kicks like it. He’s not worth playing this week, let alone rostering at all.
The Seattle DST looks fierce and Carroll always puts a quality, turnover producing defense on the field. With Leon Washington returning kickoffs they have an opportunity for DST scores as well. A unit that is always playable, this week they are a must-start against the woeful Cardinals offense.
John Skelton won the least exciting and QB competition in quite some time beating out Kevin Kolb for week 1 honors. Skelton is not playable because he could be benched if he falters as soon as halftime. Despite a nice WR corps, Skelton will not be consistent and will turn the ball over quite a bit against a fierce Seattle D.
Beanie Wells is finally healthy and will start, but the bigger threat to his fantasy value is a now healthy Ryan Williams. Williams is starting out as the change-of-pace back but has surpassed Beanie in fantasy circles in ADP. For now they will both cut into each other’s workload enough to minimize the value of both. We like Williams better in PPR leagues against Seattle’s tough run defense.
Larry Fitzgerald is as good and as consistent as WRs get in Fantasy Football. The problem for Fitz is that he doesn’t have an ace to get him the ball. Even so he is our 4th ranked overall wideout and likely to have a TD in week one. He’ll see 10 targets or more. Andre Roberts, Early Doucet, and Michael Floyd will all get enough reps to make sure none are playable other than as a flex in very deep leagues.
Rob Housler is a name to watch at TE as he has gone virtually unnoticed in drafts. He has downfield pass catching ability and will likely be one of Skelton’s favorite targets with a heavy Seattle pass rush.
PK Jay Feely is the only other Cardinals player aside from Fitz who is worth starting. He is still accurate, has a booming leg, and the offense is unlikely to be able to convert redzone opportunities to TDs.
The Arizona DST is opportunistic with rookie Justin bethel blocking kicks and Patrick Peterson returning them. Russell Wilson is still a rookie so he is bound to make mistakes that the Cardinals can capitalize on. They are a threat for a score this week.
San Francisco at Green Bay, Sun 4:25 PM
Alex Smith has many more weapons, a much better understanding of his offense, and a coach who fully believes in him. With that said, he still isn’t worth a start as the Niners rely on the ground and pound attack with the long ball hit or miss. He’ll have some big games, but at Green Bay is not the place to test out the new Alex for your team. There are so many of them it is hard to know who to discuss. Frank Gore is the only semi-reliable fantasy play in this backfield, but we have tempered expectations for the year and for this game. With Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James hovering around, Gore will get a little too much rest for our taste. He’ll still get the ball near the goal line and is likely to get a TD, but his yardage totals are unlikely to impress. Michael Crabtree is somehow the #1 WR on a team where he couldn’t last as the #2. With Randy Moss named the starter but expected to share the load with Mario Manningham, both are less attractive. Moss has to show us how he fits into this offense before recommending him, but he is likely to grab a few catches and some good yards. His TD production is doubtful. Vernon Davis is the lone reliable offensive fantasy play for the 49ers. He will find more separation with Moss on the outside and is a good bet to lead the Niners in targets. He is Smith’s favorite redzone target as well, so is the most likely 49er to catch a TD pass. David Akers was the best kicker in the league last year and is a must-start every week. The San Francisco Defense is an amazing real football defense, but just a marginal fantasy D in leagues that don’t penalize for points against. They do create turnovers and get sacks and INTs, but they are lacking in the return game. We don’t see them as a must start against the powerful Green Bay offense.
Break out the fantasy stars as Green Bay continues to dominate at key passing game positions. QB Aaron Rodgers is arguably the #1 player in all of fantasy and certainly one of the few QBs who can still dominate against the 49ers defense. Temper expectations a bit, but Rodgers is a must –start regardless of who he is facing.
Cedric Benson and the Pack got a big lift when he signed. He’ll find the going against the Niners tough as all running backs do, but the Packers are likely to do everything they can to get him a rushing TD in order to start some momentum. Alex Green will get most of the third down work but is not worth a play yet even as a flex play.
Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson are fantasy royalty and both will produce against the Niners as the Pack finds it tough on the ground. Donald Driver, James Jones, and Randall Cobb are not worth fex-plays as they will rotate, but Cobb gives the Packers DST a big lift in the return game with the opportunity to score. Jermichael Finley is thought of as one of the league’s best, but will find catches tough against a strong 49er linebacking crew and secondary.
Carolina at Tampa Bay, Sun 4:25 PM
The Panthers fortunes rise and fall with QB Cam Newton, who should be really scary to play against after a full off-season of work, training, and film study under his belt. Coach Ron Rivera also said he has not put any restrictions on Newton’s running, which bodes well for fantasy nation. Newton is an obvious every week play . . . The Panthers RB situation is maddening, but not like Shanahan style. Here they just have three really good backs that need to touch the ball and in Week 1 D’Angelo Williams looks like a viable start with Jonathan Stewart banged up with a bad wheel. Mike Tolbert may vulture a TD from Newton near the goal-line, and Stewart is not a recommended week 1 play because of his ankle . . . Steve Smith is the obvious every week start, but Brandon LaFell is an exciting sleeper. LaFell has Newton’s trust, downfield speed, and most importantly, single coverage – he is worth a week 1 flex play . . . TE Greg Olsen has the position to himself this year and has every possibility of being a top 10 TE. Week 1 against a soft Tampa middle he is likely to score in play-action near the goal line . . . Justin Medlock replaces Olindo Mare at PK and despite Ron Rivera’s praise on him, we are passing . . . The Panthers DST is an improved unit but will give up plenty of points – even to the hapless Bucs.
Coach Greg Schiano brings in a whole new mentality of toughness and discipline to team that was one of last season’s greatest disappointments. The problem is you need talent to win, and this team has very little at QB. Josh Freeman should be improving and getting comfortable, but he looks as lost as any rookie. He’s not a consideration to start, and is borderline even in two QB leagues . . . RB Doug Martin is Dish Adams favorite pick of the year, coming in at #7 amongst RBs. The kid runs, catches, blocks, and has that ability to keep a low center of gravity and fall forward. He’ll make his NFL debut with over 100 combined yards and a TD at the least. LeGarrette Blount is an afterthought and not worthy of starting consideration . . . Vincent Jackson arrives to bolster the Bucs WR talent but they have no one to get him the ball. V-Jax will see plenty of double coverage until Mike Williams proves he needs to be accounted for. Again, both suffer because of Freeman’s struggles at the key position. Preston Parker is a flex-play sleeper in deeper leagues . . . Dallas Clark was old reliable, but now he is just old. He’ll see plenty of targets from check down master Freeman, but whether he can make those catches this year remains to be seen. We’re soft on Clark . . . Connor Barth is a Tampa bright spot with a propensity for nailing 50 yarders. He’ll get chances on an offense that will have trouble converting first downs . . . The Buccaneers DST is dreadful and not worth playing, particularly against the high-powered Newton.
Pittsburgh at Denver, Sun 8:20 PM
The Steel Curtain returns to the scene of the crime, where Tim Tebow stole a playoff win and ended their season. They’ll be facing a different type of dynamic quarterback this time out.
Ben Roethlisberger is injury free for Big Ben, slightly wounded to most NFLers. His armstrength has looked good at practice, and without a quality running game the Steelers are expected to air it out which bodes well for his fantasy value. Denver’s defense is tight and Champ Bailey will shut down one-side of the field, but Big Ben is a viable every week starter and will put up a solid performance in week 1 . . . Isaac Redman tried to fill the vacuum left by Rashard Mendenhall’s injury, but then he got hurt and now Mendenhall is practicing again and could be back as soon as week 2. As of this writing Tomlin had still not ruled Mendy out, but put restrictions on Redman and it looks like Jonathan Dwyer is the only possible fantasy play in Week 1. Chris Rainey is an outside flyer for a flex spot because of his big play ability and handling of bot punts and kick returns . . . Mike Wallace reported and will start but it is Antonio Brown who is grabbing all the headlines. Both are must-starts and each should score. Emmanuel Sanders has the ability to be a flex play this week in deeper leagues because of the Steelers problems run-blocking . . . Heath Miller is a beast but a fantasy lamb – stay away . . . Shane Suisham has a strong enough leg to boot some long kicks in the mountain air, but s a middle of the road fantasy play . . . The Steelers DST is taking heat but with Chris Rainey on returns and the 3-4 LeBeau system intact we like them as a start even against the Manning-led Broncos.
All hail the king – and not Tebow’s king but rather the former king of Quarterbacks, Mr. Manning. Peyton Manning is reportedly having trouble throwing to his right and with downfield throws, but he is a huge upgrade in the passing game nonetheless and is still a recommended play even against the vaunted Steelers D in his first start in 2 years. He has a solid running game and good weapons, but the first hit will tell the story . . . Willis McGahee shoulders the load for the Broncos and is a borderline start against the Steelers solid run defense. He’s more of a flex option in week 1 and is a borderline RB2. Knowshawn Moreno won the backup job and has all the talent but has to prove it on the field before we are going near him . . . Eric Decker is certain to join Julio Jones and Antonio Brown as one of 2012’s breakout WRs. Decker and Manning have a great rapport and Decker is a candidate for multiple TD games every time out. Against the Steelers we expect 8 receptions and a td as Manning focuses on him. Demaryius Thomas should flourish as well with Manning but we like him to pick it up as the year goes on as Manning’s downfield arm strength improves . . . Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreesen will man the TE position and everyone is high on Tamme because of his rapport with manning. We have tempered expectations as Tamme will dominate touches between the 20’s but we believe Dreesen will be a more consistent redzone target . . . Matt Prater in Denver is as sure a bet as they come – he’s a good week 1 start . . . Denver DST was a fierce unit last year and should replicate the ability to create sacks and turnovers. The Steelers offense will put up points so if your league counts against for points allowed be careful of starting them.
Cincinnati at Baltimore, Mon 4:00 PM
QB Andy Dalton improved a lot over the off-season according to teammates, but it remains to be seen if he can do it against another team. Dalton at Baltimore is an obvious sit Week 1 . . . Benjarvus Green-Ellis will shoulder a big load week 1 with Bernard Scott on the shelf. That’s good news. Bad news – Baltimore’s rushing D will crush him. He’s a low end RB2 or flex play in week 1 . . . WR A.J. Green moves into the upper echelon of NFL receivers and will produce every week. Start him with confidence this week even against Baltimore. Armon Binns and Mohammed Sanu are not viable plays even at flex . . . TE Jermaine Gresham is banged up but should be fine with the extra day to heal. He has a chance to score against the Ravens as he is a strong redzone target on play action . . . PK Mike Nugent is a recommended start in week 1 as he is a quality kicker who will get plenty of chances due to drives stalling repeatedly against the vaunted Ravens D . . . The Bengals DST is one of the more underrated units, but with Baltimore unveiling their new no-huddle the Bengals are just a middle of the road play in Week 1 on Monday Night.
Ravens QB Joe Flacco has adapted well and flourished in the new no-huddle offense and is poised for a big year. We’ll wait to see it on the field and believe that there are no fewer than 15 better options at QB for week 1 . . . Ray Rice is as dominant as there is – a must start every week and a huge week 1 performance is likely . . . Torrey Smith is finally ready to break out because he learned how to run routes in the off-season, he should have over 10 targets against the Bengals in the new no-huddle offense. Anquan Boldin is now just a possession receiver who will only help you if he scores – he’ll be wildly inconsistent . . . Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson share time at TE which makes them both worthless. Check week 1 injury reports on Dennis Pitta and consider Dickson a low end TE2 if Pitta sits out . . . Justin Tucker is a sleeper PK who could have 10 points or more against the Bengals – - he has a big leg and was consistent in pre-season and practices . . . The Baltimore DST is a perennial every week play and despite some downfield danger from AJ Green they Ravens are a must-start again in week 1.
San Diego at Oakland, Mon 7:15 PM
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
QB Phillip Rivers is likely tired of hearing about his declining arm strength and out to prove he’s still a top QB. His deficiencies this year will be tied to a subpar receiving corps, but he is a great start against the Raiders and their risk-taking defense . . . RB Ryan Matthews is listed as Doubtful but will not play, leaving Ronnie Brown to shoulder the load in week 1. Brown fits Norv Turner’s scheme well and is a solid bet for over 100 combined yards and a score against the Raiders. LeRon McClain has a chance to vulture a score but isn’t a viable start even at flex . . . WR Vincent Brown was the reason they let VJax go and the centerpiece of their 2012 plan, but his injury has made the tandem of Robert Meachem, Malcom Floyd, and Eddie Royal the three-headed receiver monster. None is predictable enough to start on a regular basis, but Meachem is our favorite for week 1 production. Turner loves what Eddie Royal can do in the slot, but Royal has trouble staying healthy and is no better than the fourth option . . . Antonio Gates is back near the top of the TE pecking order, 3rd in our overall rankings and a shoe-in to lead the Chargers in receiving week 1. He’s healthy and remains an every week start . . . Nate Kaeding is recovered from the knee injury that sidelined him last season and remains top-flight as long as it isn’t a playoff game or clutch kick – he’s a top week 1 fantasy play . . . The Chargers DST is a mediocre unit that will feast on lousy offenses and make average offenses look good. Week 1 in Oakland is always a high-scoring affair so they are a recommended sit.
The more things change the more they stay the same. QB Carson Palmer had weapons when camp began, but injuries have decimated the WRs. Palmer should be able to put up a solid outing against the Chargers but is not an advisable start . . . RB Darren McFadden is so far off of my radar I actually omitted him from my first pass on the CBR without realizing it. He is an all-world talent and a must start while he is healthy, because it is unlikely to last. Neither Taiwan Jones nor Mike Goodson has any fantasy value while he is healthy . . . WR Darius Heyward-Bey is the Raiders lone fantasy starter, and our good friend the Fantasytaz loves his ability for a breakout year. We are less excited about him and see him as a WR#4 even in week 1. Rookie Rod Streater is my favorite of this bunch because Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford both have problems staying healthy. If Moore doesn’t play Streater has immediate value as a flex play . . . David Ausberry was supposed to be the TE they wanted but Brett Myers is the TE they got. You haven’t heard of him – and you don’t want to . . . Sebastian Janikowski has only one threat – the law. He’s a strong Week 1 play and a candidate fo more than 10 fantasy points in the opener . . . head coach Dennis Allen brings a pedigree of Defense and more Defense to the Raiders DST. But with Rivers looking to show a national audience he is feeling fine, we’ll wait until this unit rounds in to shape and take a pass this week.