For those of you with the NFL Network, have fun watching the game. This is a game I wish I could actually watch, although I may be biased with purple blood.
Tonight the Lions and Bears take the national stage for a critical NFC North contest. The Lions need this one to keep pace with the rest of the division and the Bears need it to stay on top. It should be a good game. The match-up I’m most excited to see is how Bears corners, Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings do against the best WR in the NFL (despite how well AJ Green has done), Calvin Johnson. They’ll obviously still be given help from their safeties but Jennings, the former Colt, has suddenly emerged as one of the top DBs in football this season after being benched last year in week 15 vs Seattle then subsequently still being offered a two year extension. That could be viewed as a backhanded way for an organization to get a discount on a player they like after being eliminated from playoff contention but it’s irrelevant now…
Back to the rest of the league… As usual, this fantasy season has brought with it some new lessons to recognize and try to learn from. Adjusting on the fly is one of the most critical components of a successful season. Some thoughts below.
1. Coaches can come around.
Mike Shannahan and Bill Belichick have long been loathed by fantasy football players for the way they handle their running backs since the careers of Terrell Davis and Corey Dillon ended. This season, however, a few lucky owners are starting to come around. Alfred Morris and Stevan Ridley have been the clear-cut main ball carriers for these previously frustrating coaches to have in charge of your fantasy runner thus causing owners to… trust them???
Ridley (ADP: 52) is still dealing with a decent amount of competition but he’s clearly the main guy at least for the time being despite Shane Vereen technically starting vs the Jets. Brandon Bolden has also looked good but most of his work comes in blowout situations. Danny Woodhead is still in the mix as their third down ‘Sproles’ but he’s not getting a lot of a carries. From a pure talent perspective, many still feel Shane Vereen is the best on this team but with the way Ridley is producing it’s going to be tough to take him off the field. If you have the bench space and are desperate for a runner Vereen could be worth a shot but he’s not someone you can trust until there’s a few injures in that backfield.
Morris (ADP: 101) has been the beneficiary of some injuries to Roy Helu, Tim Hightower, and Evan Royster. This has helped his job security but he was still slated to be the starter week 1 and he’s done nothing to have it taken away yet. If you drafted him, well done. If not, hopefully you were able to get him off waivers.
2. The NFC West might have the 3 best defenses in the NFL.
I’ve loved the Seahawks defense for a while now and knew they’d be good this year but the Cardinals and (to a lesser extent) St. Louis Rams are both playing at a very high level and have impressed thus far . There’s also the 49ers– who happen to be pretty good. The division as a whole is leaps and bounds ahead of where they were a year ago. This is no longer a welcome matchup for your players. The worst matchup of all of these teams is when one of your players is facing the Seahawks in Seattle.
3. A secondary can be improved quite quickly.
Just ask fans of the Rams or Vikings. Both teams added two new starters. The Rams added rookie corner, Janoris Jenkins as well as veteran, Cortland Finnegan for a pretty solid chunk of cash. The Vikings added two rookies. They traded back into the first round to grab free safety, Harrison Smith and he’s added a much-needed physical presence on the back end. Third round corner, Josh Robinson was the fastest player at the combine and he’s used his speed to make up for any deficiencies in positioning. Both teams have since become a much less appealing matchup for your QBs and WRs, despite the Packers’ solid numbers this week in St. Louis.
4. Thursday night games are typically pretty crappy.
It’s great that there’s another night of football but the quality of these games is typically sub-par. It’s not that this is a revolutionary idea but with the greater number of Thursday night games this season it has certainly become more accentuated. If you have two similar options and you can’t decide who to start and one has a Thursday night game, it’s probably a good idea to give the nod to the other guy. Players obviously aren’t as physically prepared as they would be had they been given the extra three days to rest but the game plans are often condensed as well. This leads to much more conservative play calling. Normally that’d give a little bump to runners but then you remember they’re not as fresh as they should be. I’ll be curious to see how much work the Vikings give Adrian Peterson this Thursday night vs the Bucs after getting 22 carries vs Arizona in week 7.
The flip side of this is that your players coming off the Thursday night games are basically coming off a mini bye week. This can be used as a tie-breaker in their favor because of the extra time to rest and prepare.
5. Modern medicine requires modern thinking.
This preseason, I made it clear that I felt the runners coming off of severe knee injuries weren’t worth the risk that accompanied them. So far this year, Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson have been well worth it. The main reason for this is modern medicine. Surgeries are constantly becoming less invasive, physical therapy is always improving/evolving, and I’m sure there are many more reasons I could mention but I’d have an even lesser grasp of what I’m talking about than with the first two I mentioned…
Jamaal Charles is less of a surprise since he had almost a full year to recover but Adrian Peterson clearly isn’t human because he had roughly nine months of recovery time after tearing his ACL and MCL before scoring two TDs vs the Jags in week 1 of this season. Both are now running as if nothing ever happened and their coaches obviously aren’t concerned anymore (Charles is on pace for the most carries of his career). Jamaal’s Olympic-worthy speed is still there. Adrian’s patented jump-cuts and elite acceleration are still there. Just ask the Arizona front seven.
Terell Suggs, as of this week, has set a new bar for Achilles injuries. A little over five and a half months and the guy is back on the field. That is pretty much unheard of.
Obviously these cases, specifically Adrian’s, shouldn’t be viewed as the new standard recovery model but they shouldn’t be dismissed either. It’s important to take the player’s reputation into account. Adrian Peterson has as much heart as anyone to ever play in the NFL– I never doubted that. We’d probably hear a lot more about Terrell Suggs’ ridiculous drive if he wasn’t constantly overshadowed by playing on the same team as Ray Lewis. Both Peterson and Suggs vowed to return much faster than anyone anticipated. Their fans liked hearing it and some believed it. I didn’t. For me, it was a case of having to see it to believe it because players are always optimistic when it comes to their injuries.
An ACL tear no longer means the same thing that it did even two years ago and apparently the same goes for Achilles tears…. unless it’s an idiot who doesn’t value his talent/opportunity and won’t take his rehab seriously. That was aimed to you, Kenny Britt.
Game 1- Colts-Jets
Week 3 is here. If you haven’t read Steve’s mega preview, check that out. There are a few injury situations to monitor this weekend.
First is Pierre Garcon. He’s currently listed as doubtful so hopefully they let him wait another week to come back at 100%. With Bobby Griffin elevating the play of everyone on the Redskins offense, Pierre Garcon is someone who should definitely be in your lineup when he’s healthy but if he were to play tomorrow I would have my doubts about safely deploying him.
Steven Jackson, despite not practicing all week, is listed as questionable. Even if he plays, I would imagine Darryl Richardson and to a lesser extent, Isaiah Pead will see a fair amount of touches. Jackson has a history of playing hurt but I’d only use him if you’re desperate seeing as how it’s not a very good matchup vs Chicago anyway.
Ryan Mathews and Antonio Gates are both expected to play. You’re obviously deploying Gates if you have him unless you picked up someone like Martellus Bennet and started him Thursday night vs the Panthers when Hakeem Nicks was ruled out (in which case– power move). If you drafted Ryan Mathews you’re probably eager to get him in your lineup and rightfully so but if you have a safer option, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to wait and see how this first week back goes. He’s a personal favorite of mine as I am of the opinion that when he’s healthy he is a top 5 runner in the NFL but we don’t have an idea of how big a workload he’ll be given in his first week. The upside is certainly there but it comes with a little more risk than I’d like this week.
Matt Forte is out. This means Michael Bush must be in your lineup. As far as backup runners go, Bush is as good as it gets as he always produces when he gets 20+ carries. Forte’s injury apparently isn’t as bad as once thought so enjoy these weeks while you can if you own Bush.
Jeremy Maclin is out. The immediate thought is to assume this means more targets for DeSaun Jackson. It could, however, mean much more Patrick Peterson for DeSean which could lead to Vick shying away. The Cardinals and Eagles defenses could easily end up being the highest scorers for this matchup. For what it’s worth, Larry Fitzgerald shredded the Eagles defense last year for 146 yards and a pair of TDs. Don’t give up on Fitz yet and if you can buy him while his stock is low that would certainly qualify as a power move.
Some buried treasures I like for this weekend are Darryl Richardson (even if Steven Jackson plays), Kendall Hunter, Lance Moore, Greg Little, Kendall Hunter, Donald Jones, Jason Avant, and Matt Cassel.
I’ve ascended from the depths of fantasy darkness and hell, going 2-6 through the first two weeks of this unpredictable whirlwind of an NFL season. Am I frazzled? A bit. Am I tired? Fo sho, mos def. Am I done? No way. I return to you, fantasy players and readers, a renewed man and a rejuvenated owner. I will be looking into ways to solidify my shaky rosters, including perusing the trading block, watching the waiver wire like a hawk and making shady, back alley deals with other desperate outlaw owners like myself. With these horrid past two weeks behind you, I write to you as a new soul that has found The Light. I am awakened by the prospects of week 3 in the NFL. With no further ado, my long anticipated preview.
Game 1: Giants at Panthers
Who I like: Cam Newton – QB – Panthers – this dood can flat out break down a defense. The Giants have a depleted, poor secondary that Cam can exploit with his arm. If the defense chooses to dedicate extra defenders to spy Cam and help stop the run, expect a big night through the air. If not, Cam could do some major (even more than usual) on the ground.
Andre Brown – RB – Giants – With Ahmad Bradshaw out the G-Men are going to put their running game on Mr. Brown. He looked good against the Bucs, gaining 71 yards on 13 carries with a TD. I like for those numbers to swell against a Pathers D thats allowing 146.5 yards on the ground per game.
Others: I think Eli Manning – QB – Giants is a must start but I’m not thrilled with the match up. I think the Giants will try to establish the run and Eli probably won’t have the game most owners would hope for or expect. I like Steve Smith -WR- Panthers, Hakeem Nicks -WR- Giants, and Victor Cruz -WR- Giants as must starts. All three are explosive receivers able to put up big numbers every week. I do not like the Panthers RB committee, Jonathan Stewart and Deangelo Williams. If you have any better options, play them. Cam Newton has been Carolina’s best runner and a committee is never favorable in fantasy.
Game 2: Rams at Bears
Who I like: Brandon Marshall-WR-Chicago: St. Louis does not have anybody with the ability to take on Brandon Marshall. The Rams secondary is a little suspect and I think Brandon will put up the numbers he’s used to.
Michael Bush-RB-Chicago: With Forte out, I foresee Bush filling the void the way he has for the Raiders and DMC the past few years. The Rams are giving up 129.5 yards a game and I don’t see that changing this week.
Others: No one really. I need to see more from Jay Cutler to ever trust that jerk again. I cannot believe his game against the Packers. His game was bad and he should feel bad. I usually like Steven Jackson, even coming off a groin injury, but not against the Bears at home. Sam Bradford -QB- Rams: I’m on the fence with Sammy, his confidence should be sky high coming into this game, the Bears secondary isn’t anything to bring home to mom and the prospect of Jackson sitting out may shout pass attempts, but I remain skeptical…
Game 3: Bills at Browns
Who I like: RBs for both teams. I’m not big on either teams defenses, not yet at least. I think C.J. Spiller (Bills) is trying to hold on to that starting gig and will continue to impress. On the flip-side, the Bills couldn’t stop the Chiefs from running the ball so I expect another big day from my ROY pick Trent Richardson.
Others: Stevie Johnson -WR- Bills: Stevie should be a solid start this week as in most weeks. Ryan Fitzpatrick – QB- Bills: I’d consider starting him, if, and only if, you’re only other option is Brandon Weeden.
Game 4: Bucs at ‘Boys
Who I like: Demarco Murray -RB- Cowboys: This man is tough to tackle, even tougher at home so he should be putting up decent numbers, even against the stout D-Line Tampa Bay has. Doug Martin -RB- Bucs: Expect Doug to gain you some serious fantasy points against a fairly terrible run D in Dallas.
Others: Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Jason Witten and Tony Romo are all decent starts if you own those Cowboys. Dallas will be throwing the ball this week so they all should benefit. For the Bucs, I’d start Vincent Jackson but sit Mike Williams. Jackson is Freeman’s #1 option so he is the safer start this week against a solid Dallas secondary.
Game 5: Jaguars at Colts
Who I like: Maurice Jones-Drew -RB-Jaguars : This is the start and end of my list.
Others: Coby Fleener and Reggie Wayne are solid plays for the Colts, but I want to see more from Luck before relying on him as a starter. Laurent Robinson -WR- Jags is a solid #3 receiver in most leagues, but with Gabbert’s inconsistency I don’t know if I could start him.
Game 6: Jets at Dolphins
Who I like: Reggie Bush -RB- Dolphins: Especially in PPR leagues, Reggie Bush is returning investment in fantasy this year. He looks sharp, and playing with a fresh bounce in his step. Mark Sanchez -QB- Jets: Sanchez has looked pretty good this year, hushing the Tebow Mania and should do well against a Dolphins team that is giving up 314 yards through the air a game.
Game 7: Niners at the Vikings!
Who I like: My best picks for this game are Percy Harvin and the TEs from both teams. Harvin -WR- Vikings is dynamic with the ball and threatens to score every time he touches it. Kyle Rudolph -TE- Minnesota and Vernon Davis -TE- 49ers are both good starts for any fantasy team. Rudolph is a security blanket for a young quarterback and Davis is the safety for a fairly mediocre QB and passing game.
Others: I, personally, expect a big game from Randy Moss -WR- 49ers who was spurned by the Vikings two years ago. I don’t expect a silent game from him. Also, I never, ever, ever, ever count out Adrian Peterson, talk about a freak. I can’t believe he’s playing and he always steps up in big moments so why not against a sooper tough 49ers D???
Game 8: Chiefs at Saints
Who I like: Pretty much everyone on both offenses. Both defenses have been horrible this season and with their seasons hanging in the balance I foresee some major offensive outputs. Dwayne Bowe -WR- Chiefs, Darren Sproles -RB- Saints, Jimmy Graham -TE- Saints, Drew Brees -QB- Saints and Marques Colston -WR- Saints are all must starts.
Other players: Matt Cassel -QB- Chiefs may be in for a big game, this should be a high scoring affair. Jamal Charles -RB- Chiefs and Peyton Hillis -RB- Chiefs could also have big games against a Saints D that can’t seem to tackle anyone. I am weary of two -headed running attacks but I think both backs have big potential in this bout.
Game 9: Lions at Titans
Who I like: Calvin Johnson -WR- and Brandon Pettigrew -TE- for the Lions are both smart, safe starts.
Others: What happened to Chris Johnson -RB- Titans? He does not look anything like the RB he was 2 and 3 years ago. Matthew Stafford has fallen off a bit but I look to him to rebound at some point, no better game than this. Mikel LeShoure -RB- Lions will also see his first NFL action and could make a big impact in the Lions offense.
Game 10: Bengals at Redskins
Who I like: RGIII -QB- Redskins has lived up to the hype so far, even after a disappointing week 2, and I foresee another big game against the Bengals. A.J. Green -WR- Bengals is always a must start. I see big things coming for BenJarvus Green-Ellis -RB- Bengals this week. I’d start him and sit back and watch the points roll in.
Others: Alfred Morris -RB- and Pierre Garcon -WR- for the Redskins are reaping the benefits of RGIII’s electric play. They both seem to be safe plays this week.
Game 11: Eagles in the desert vs. the Cardinals
Who I like: Larry Fitzgerald -WR- Cardinals: Kevin Kolb didn’t call Larry’s number last week but I don’t expect that to be par for the course. He is still one of the most dangerous receivers in the game. LeSean McCoy -RB- Eagles This guy is a stud and the Eagles have leaned on him hard early this season, I don’t see it playing out differently this week.
Others: Michael Vick -QB- Eagles, I was high on Vick before the season and that has burned me. This week probably won’t help with his offensive line and Jeremy Maclin -WR- ailing. Brent Celek -TE- and DeSean Jackson -WR- Eagles are strong plays as Vick’s targets. Neither has found the end zone yet, but don’t expect that to last.
Game 12: Falcons at Chargers
Who I like: Matt Ryan -QB-, Roddy White -WR- Julio Jones -WR- and Tony Gonzalez -TE- have all been safe starts this season. This should remain the case this week. Phillip Rivers -QB- Chargers is another good, safe play. He’s putting up numbers you’d expect and will again this weekend.
Others: The RBs. Ryan Mathews should be (finally) returning from a broken clavicle. I’d wait another week to start him and see how it goes. Michael Turner -Falcons- was caught celebrating late Monday night, receiving a DUI so what can we expect from him?? Both are big question marks in my book and none of their back-ups are worth the chance starting at this point.
Game 13: Texans at Broncos
Who I like: Arian Foster -RB- Texans and Andre Johnson -WR- Texans: Who wouldn’t like these two?? I also like both Demaryius Thomas -WR- and Jacob Tamme -TE- for the Broncos. Thomas has huge big play potential and is a solid receiver, Tamme provides a nice target in the red zone, where Peyton loves to throw the ball.
Others: Ben Tate -RB- Texans has put up some decent numbers of his own may be slowed by the Broncos. Willis McGahee -RB- Broncos had a strong showing on Monday but I don’t like him against the Texans.
Game 14: Steelers at Raiders
Who I like: Honestly no one…
Others: Darren McFadden -RB- Raiders will hopefully start putting up the numbers we all know he is capable of. Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown -WRs- Steelers are both decent starts. No one in this game really catches my eye.
Game 15: Pats at Ravens
Who I like: Gronk -TE- Patriots is a beast and Brady -QB- Patriots should find him often. Both should have games you’ll like. Ray Rice -RB- Ravens and Steven Ridley -RB- Patriots have shown their abilities and both are no-brainer starts Sunday.
Others: Joe Flacco -QB- Ravens has been good but he faces a tough test against the Patriots and his numbers will suffer a bit. Torrey Smith-WR- Ravens is a speedster who could take advantage of a slower Patriots secondary, he has to bust out one game, right??
Game 16: Packers at Seahawks
Who I like: Seattle can be a tough place to play but I still like Aaron Rodgers -QB- Packers, Greg Jennings -WR- (he should be back Monday night) and Jermichael Finley -TE- to put up respectable numbers. I also like Marshawn Lynch -RB- Seahawks to go into Beast Mode on the big stage.
Others: Maybe grab some insurance for Jennings with Randall Cobb or James Jones. Other than that, Sidney Rice and Russell Wilson just aren’t viable as of now as reliable starters.
There are several situations to monitor for today.
Pierre Garcon is not expected to be active for the Redskins today in St. Louis. This could mean increased targets for Fred Davis and Santana Moss. Maybe Leonard Hankerson will actually find the field. The Rams pass defense was feisty last week vs the Lions despite giving up 300+ yards to Matt Stafford. The only Redskins receiving option I’d start would be Fred Davis.
Jeremy Maclin and DeSaun Jackson are expected to play despite missing practice this week. Confirm this before kickoff.
Nate Washington hasn’t practiced all week and is questionable for today’s game vs San Diego. It’s a late-afternoon game so if your safer option starts early be sure to get him in. Jake Locker will play despite the questionable designation although I’m pretty sure I’m the only person reading this who would consider starting him.
Also in question for the San Diego-Tennessee game is Ryan Mathews. He was cleared for contact earlier in the week but the consensus at this point is that they’ll hold him out another week. Hopefully you’re not in too big of a hole by the time he actually plays if you’re a Mathews owner.
I’ll update this when the early inactives are announced. If you’re deciding between two similar options, I highly suggest waiting until you have as much information as possible to potentially use it as a tie-breaker. For instance, Darrelle Revis is out with a concussion this week. You were probably going to start Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace anyway but if you’re in a small league you should bump them up.
After a moderately entertaining opening game this past Wednesday that saw the Dallas Cowboys’ off-season additions [read: revamped secondary] pay early dividends, today we’re in for an all-out football bonanza. Several good games will be played in week 1.
The early games this Sunday aren’t quite as high-profile as those that follow but that’s not to say there isn’t plenty of to watch for.
Jacksonville at Minnesota: Blaine Gabbert vs Christian Ponder. Two first round quarterbacks from last season face off with both fan bases expecting improvement from last year but to say this game will prove which one is the better player is premature. Keep an eye on the status of Adrian Peterson. If he’s inactive and you own Toby Gerhart be sure to get him in. If I owned Adrian Peterson I wouldn’t play him this week unless I had to. I would also sit MJD this week and wouldn’t play Rashad Jennings unless I had to (Rashad over MJD though if that’s the decision you’re faced with). Rashad is apparently starting and MJD is getting third down duty but if MJD busts off a 25 yard run on his first carry it’s a pretty safe bet he’ll get more work than they initially planned. Murky backfields = avoid if possible. Update: 11:33 A.M. — Adrian is active. To me, this makes both he and Toby less useful and I’d avoid if I could.
Indianapolis at Chicago: Andrew Luck’s NFL debut. The prized rookie has looked as advertised– that being the most pro-ready quarterback to possibly ever come out of college. I watched this kid at Stanford every chance I got and was always impressed but didn’t think he’d look as good as he has so far. I swear– something about putting on an NFL uniform all of a sudden makes a quarterback’s arm look a lot better… Also in this game, Brandon Marshall and Jay Cutler are reunited in a Bears offense run by Professor Mike Tice. Look for the Bears offense to look a lot better now that they have an offensive coordinator that’s not trying to party like it’s 2001 and run the greatest show on turf with Devin Hester, Earl Bennet and 5-man protections with an offensive line not anchored by Orlando Pace.
Philly at Cleveland: Can Michael Vick play more than 3 snaps? Will Brandon Weeden be able to complete a pass 10+ yards down field? The answer to both questions is yes. I’m excited to see how Trent Richardson looks in an NFL uniform. He’s another guy I watched in college whenever I could and he always looked dominant but everyone running behind an Alabama offensive line looks pretty good these days. Is he the best running back to enter the league since Adrian Peterson? We’ll start to get an idea today.
St. Louis at Detroit: Ram Bradford and his new head coach, Jeff Fischer take on former Fischer understudy and Lion’s head coach, Jim Schwartz. Most people are already giving this game to the Lions and I agree that the Lions will win but I think the Rams could make this closer than peope think. Louis Delmas and Chris Houston most likely won’t be playing. This makes an already awful Detroit secondary even worse and could certainly lead to a nice day throwing the ball for Ram Bradford. I think Danny Amendola could have a very nice game.
Miami at Houston: This game is one of the least appealing on paper this opening week. The Texans should be able to treat these Dolphins like a Japanese whaling ship would. This undoubtedly means we’re in for a really close game that the Dolphins will have a chance in. This is the National Fake-you-out League.
Atlanta at Kansas City: Among the early games, this one stands out as the one with the most potential to be a close one. Then you remember that Tamba Hali is suspended to start the season and Brandon Flowers (arguably as good as Revis– he just doesn’t play in New York so no one gives a crap about him…) is apparently already banged up and it makes me think the Falcons shouldn’t be overly challenged. Nevertheless, Arrowhead is an extremely difficult place to go get a win as the 15-1 regular season of the 2011 Green Bay Packers will attest to. Update 11:33 A.M.– Brandon Flowers is inactive. Julio and Roddy should be going nuts today.
Washington at New Orleans: Bob Griffin III makes his highly anticipated pro debut against the New Orleans Saints. Let’s hope the Saints don’t high-low him the first chance they get and that they let this kid try to have a semblance of a career. I would love it if the Redskins won this game.
Buffalo at New York Jets: The new look Bills defensive front gets it’s first real action against the Jets. The return to health of Fred Jackson? Mario Wiliams’ Buffalo debut? Stevie Johnson (if he plays) vs Darrelle Revis? Ryan Fitzpatrick with healthy ribs? None of these real story-lines will probably get any play and all the coverage for this game will be about Tim Tebow and the amount he plays or does not play. Let’s hope it’s pretty uneventful on the Tebow front just so we’ll be able to get media coverage of other games that happened this week too…
New England at Tennessee: Jake Locker’s first NFL start vs a New England defense that was pretty awful last year but can’t possibly be any worse this year. I like Locker and I’m actually starting him in one league this week where I got too cute at the quarterback spot (5 people took backup QBs on the way back in the end of round 6/beginning of round 7… I KNOW, RIGHT?!?) Locker will leave some throws on the field but he’ll also make plenty of plays that Matt Hasselbeck just can’t anymore and he’s capable of having a nice game running the ball any given week.
Brandon Lloyd makes his debut for the Patriots as well. He apparently had a pretty good rapport with Brady throughout training camp which has a lot of people thinking he’s in for a Randy Moss type splash in New England this year. I don’t know that he’ll set a record for the most receiving touchdowns in a season but I do love his talent. That being said, I only got him in one league and that was because he fell to round 6 somehow.
Late Afternoon Games
Seattle at Arizona: Two of the best-schemed defenses in the NFL face off in Arizona along with two quarterbacks looking to answer some questions. John Skelton beat out Kevin Kolb and will look to stay on the field and prove capable of feeding Larry Fitzgerald. Russell Wilson showed enough in the preseason to earn the trust of Pete Carroll and his teammates. I loved what I saw from Wilson and I drafted him as my backup in two leagues. I could easily see myself starting him over Locker the rest of the way if he passes his test this week. No more bland preseason base defenses– this is Pittsburgh West’s 3-4 Dick LeBeau zone blitz impression. I KNOW YOU CAN DO IT, RUSSELL!! I’m also excited to see Ryan Williams get a good workload if Beanie Wells remembers he’s Beanie Wells and sits out because he’s hurt.
San Francisco at Green Bay: Everyone is calling this a potential NFC Championship Game preview. I disagree with that take. Green Bay will be around come playoff time but I think the 49ers are getting way too much respect to start this season. They had a ridiculously easy schedule last year that not only featured bad teams with bad quarterbacks, but often times, the even worse backup quarterbacks on those bad teams because the already bad quarterback was out with an injury. That last sentence was quite a bit to handle.
Even though Aaron Rodgers claims to be cordial with Alex Smith, you know he still takes this game personally and will see to it that the 49ers are not just humiliated but obliterated. I would absolutely love to see Alex Smith down by 21 in the first half and have to throw pretty much the whole rest of the game.
Carolina at Tampa Bay: This is going to be a fun one. I’m excited to see how the new look Bucs offense looks– specifically Doug Martin. On the other team there’s this guy named Cam Newton who happens to be pretty fun to watch. As tempting as the Green Bay-San Fran game will be when it’s close, I’m pretty sure most of my time for the later games will be on the NFL RedZone Channel.
The real viewing fun for this one, however, might be on the defensive side of the ball. This game features the league’s best rookie LB for Carolina in Luke Kuechly and the best rookie safety for Tampa in Mark Barron– both of whom made some very nice plays in the preseason. Those two guys will be household names in a short amount of time.
Pittsburgh at Denver: I’m definitely looking forward to this game. Peyton Manning makes his glorious return to the NFL against the vaunted Pittsburgh defense. I’d be even more excited if James Harrison were healthy but he’s not going to be playing and that’s good news for Peyton’s neck/Broncos fans. This defense isn’t the same without him. Combine that with the fact that Ryan Clark doesn’t play at Mile High because of a sickle cell trait and you’ve got a defense that’s not at full strength. Ryan Clark may not seem like a huge loss, but he’s the one who reacts appropriately to all the crazy pre-snap stuff that Troy Polamalu does and prevents the secondary from getting overexposed.
Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas are certainly startable this week, as are Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace. If you have a better option, I’d try to bench Willis McGahee but don’t get cute as he could easily score a TD or two– just don’t expect a huge day yardage-wise.
Cincinatti at Baltimore: AJ Green and Andy Dalton enter year two in the NFL and look to build upon a damn good rookie campaign. BenJarvus Green-Ellis hopes to show he can be an every down back. Joe Flacco looks to build on a season that should have ended at the SuperBowl if Lee Evans could hang on to a ball. Torrey Smith looks to prove that he is more than a deep bomb guy and Ray Rice is looking to prove he’s the best runner in the NFL right now.
The thing I’ll be watching closest is how father time has treated Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. One of my favorite sayings in recent years is “Gravity is undefeated.” Last year, Ray Lewis proved to still be a quality NFL linebacker despite beginning to decline in coverage and Ed Reed was still Ed Reed. They’re another year older and top of that, they’re missing the best pass rusher on their team in 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Terrell Suggs. I still think this Ravens defense will be good but not the same dominant group we’re used to seeing.
San Diego at Oakland: San Diego has an awful offensive line and no Vincent Jackson or Ryan Mathews. They do, however, have a healthy Antonio Gates (we’ve heard that before…). The Raiders have a healthy Darren McFadden. I have no idea what to expect from this game and that, to me, is the appeal of it. If Richard Seymour is in Philip Rivers’ face every play this is going to be a long game for the Chargers. If Malcolm Floyd and Robert Meachem are making plays down-field and Gates is cleaning up in the middle, it could be a long day for the Raiders and their weak secondary. The only thing I’m not excited about is Chris Berman in the booth for Monday Night Football. I wish he’d go “back, back, back, back, back” to Bristol where he belongs but it’s only one week and I’ll deal.
Don’t forget to set your line-ups today. The NFL regular season kicks off tonight in New Jersey with the Ca’boys facing off against the New York Football Giants!
I don’t particularly love any match-up this game offers. Last year I would’ve jumped all over to start Eli, Victor and Hakeem but Dallas has a revamped secondary featuring Brandon Carr and Morris Clairborne.
On the other side I don’t necessarily trust Michael Coe starting at corner for the Giants so I could see Dez Bryant or Miles Austin potentially having big nights. The Giants front is solid and I am scared for Tony Romo, Jason Pierre-Paul is a beast, plus Osi and Justin Tuck are fully healed from last years injury woes.
Be careful to check in with Jason Witten’s status, I haven’t heard definitively whether or not he is playing. If I had him on my team, I’d keep him on the bench if I have any other playable option at TE. For my under the radar pick I like Martellus Bennett having a big game for his first game in Big Blue. It’s a revenge game for Bennett who feels like he was toyed around with and mistreated by the Cowboys ever since being drafted by them four years ago. I can’t help but love possible revenge games/stories.*** (Although I do love Bennett’s potential for this year and especially this game I am unsure if I’ll be starting him on the two teams that I own him)***
Update: Jason Witten = Active (6:12 pm) If you don’t have a safer option, feel free to use him. In a perfect world though, you’d like to see him get through this one with no harm.
Just wanted to make sure you set your line-up tonight, make sure you play your must plays and look at the match-ups and set it before tonight. Set your line-up, enjoy the game, then come back Saturday for more last minute tips and treasures.
I’ve adjusted some quarterback rankings. Matt Ryan moves into the 6 spot and into the same tier as the brothers Manning. Whichever of those three you can get the latest would be the best target in my opinion but Tony Romo will look better once he has a full arsenal of skill position players back. Apparently it’s unlikely that Jason Witten will play week 1 but Miles Austin says he’ll be ready. If the offensive line in Dallas doesn’t scare you– Romo would most likely be the QB you should target and get later than our third tier.
Michael Vick has moved down to the fourth tier along with Romo. Vick is falling in drafts as of late for obvious reasons. He’s appeared in two preseason games and been injured in both. If you can get Michael Vick in the 6th round (the latest I’ve seen him go) that certainly qualifies as a play to win move– just be sure to get yourself a safer backup option like Jay Cutler sooner rather than later.
Speaking of backup options, if you’ve got a relatively safe starting QB, I’m all for taking a shot at a high-upside backup like RGIII or Russell Wilson– but don’t go overboard drafting these guys. I’ve recommended Bob-Grif as a backup for Cutler in back to back rounds if you waited too long on your previous target but I wouldn’t want you to go BobGrif-Russell unless you’re prepared to endure some struggles that could certainly happen. Russell Wilson has looked amazing but he’s been going before Cutler in some drafts lately and that’s going a little overboard in my opinion.
As of now, the draft plan is still holding up pretty well– but let me reiterate some targets for rounds 4 and beyond.
Round 4: Marques Colston, Doug Martin, Ryan Mathews, Willis McGahee, Antonio Gates
Round 5: Percy Harvin, Eric Decker, Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas, Aaron Hernandez
Round 6: Torrey Smith, Jermichael Finley, Donald Brown, Matt Ryan/Peyton Manning/Eli Manning/Michael Vick (if any of them are here at this spot that’s pretty damn good value)
Round 7: Denarius Moore, Reggie Wayne, Peyton Hillis, Ryan Williams (this qualifies as a spot where you will be guaranteed to get him Williams– you can probably get him later but he’s listed here to let you know to not get too cute and miss him)
Round 8: Danny Amendola (PPR stud), Rashad Jennings, David Wilson, Jay Cutler
Round 9: Titus Young, Nate Washington, Mikel LeShoure (early but he’s been looking better despite suspension), Robert Griffin III
Round 10: Malcolm Floyd, Kendall Wright, Russell Wilson (early for Wilson but if you want to be sure to get him take him here)
Round 11: Greg Little, Justin Blackmon (Gabbert looking decent– can’t believe I just typed that.)
Round 12: Andrew Luck, Jake Locker (also high upside backups)
Round 13: Kyle Rudolph (MN drafts probably have to take him by now if they want him)
Questions? Post a comment or Contact Us.
Don’t draft Billy Cundiff. In a heartbreaking announcement this morning, the Baltimore Ravens have cut ties with the most amazing kicker/fantasy player of all time. This was a bomb dropped on the fantasy world, changing how drafts will go from pick #1, a true monkey wrench if I’ve ever seen one…touche Baltimore, touche.