Fantasy Football thoughts and opinions heading into NFL Week 1.
New Orleans 34, Green Bay 42
- I think the NFL should have used this version of an American anthem to kick off the season.
- Pierre Thomas, not Darren Sproles, was the running back in the first part of the two minute drill. Head coach Sean Payton smartened up real quick and got Sproles out there, who immediately ripped off a 16-yard catch and run. How about the Saints’ decision to sign Sproles (four-year, $14 million contract, $6 million in guarantees) instead of RB Reggie Bush (two-year, $9.75 million contract, $2.5 million signing bonus).
- Gorgeous play-call and execution on QB Drew Brees to TE Jimmy Graham fourth quarter TD.
- DB Roman Harper wasn’t terrible. He’s just not big enough to handle TE Jermichael Finley.
- Great pop by DB Malcolm Jenkins on WR Donlad Driver at 9:44 of the second quarter. We know he can ball-hawk, but fantasy owners love the aggressive hitting.
- Superb hide-and-seek blitz by LB Jonathan Casillas on the fourth play of the game. Awful football instincts by Casillas on RB James Starks 17-yard touchdown scamper. Don’t tell me his job was to blow up the offensive lineman. He had a clear lane to cut off Starks if he ran horizontal to the field of play. Instead, he ran directly at OL Josh Sitton and lowered his shoulder.
- QB Aaron Rodgers’ accuracy is scary great. Nine different players caught a pass.
- Get to know rookie WR Randall Cobb. Obviously there are too many weapons for him to be productive every week, but it appears he’s a nice addition to your roster.
- IDP owners love when the referees throw the blue chip. Watch carefully at 12:35 of the third quarter – DB Morgan Burnett is going to get credit for a forced fumble.
- LB Desmond Bishop was silent in the first half. On the Saints’ first possession of the second half, he was involved in six tackles. Whew.
- Burnett (7 solos, 7 assists, 1 soon-to-be FF) and LB Erik Walden (3 solos, 1 assist, 1 sack, 1 PD) did what DB Charles Woodson (2 solos, 1 PD) and LB Clay Matthews (1 solo, 3 assists) were supposed to do.
- Disastrous play-call to end the game. Rookie RB Mark Ingram was drafted to get that TD, but it wasn’t his fault. His offensive line got destroyed.
Atlanta at Chicago
- RB Michael Turner is 29-years old and has 1116 career rushes. In an article I published last year (I had no time to update it this year), the averages for RB breakdown (defined as a significant drop-off in production) was 27-years old and 1098 career rushes. The data covers 103 running backs, so it’s pretty extensive research. So, you have any running back depth?
- Rookie WR Julio Jones should get a long leash as your fantasy starter, but make sure you’re not starting him over a proven veteran.
- It has been reported that LB Curtis Lofton played with bum knees last season, and he still ranked 16th in solo tackles.
- Quick, who are the Bears’ tight ends?
- Hey WR Johnny Knox owners, WR Roy Williams is still ahead of him on the depth chart. Don’t go do something stupid like start Knox in Week 1.
- I own RB Matt Forte in multiple leagues, and I have zero concern about RB Marion Barber (who’s already hurt and will miss Week 1). Forte will do no worse than last year, which means he’s a RB1.
- CB Charles Tillman is a turnover machine and a solid tackler. He’ll be very busy trying to contain WR Roddy White.
- Tight end answer: Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth.
Cincinnati at Cleveland
- For me to be excited about RB Bernard Scott, I need to see at least 12 carries with considerable action in the passing game. Or else it’s just the same old crap coming out of Cincy.
- You’re reaching if you’re starting WR A.J. Green, WR Jerome Simpson, or TE Jermaine Gresham. We need to see a few games out of rookie QB Andy Dalton before they can be trusted.
- Apparently fantasy owners are ignoring the Bengals’ depth chart. I checked four sites including bengals.com and DE Carlos Dunlap is not listed as a starter. Temper expectations.
- Anyone starting QB Colt McCoy this week? It seems a bit early to trust him, but it’s a decent match-up.
- Pay close attention to how rookie WR Greg Little is used.
- LB D’Qwell Jackson is healthy again, and belongs in your starting lineup. In case you have a poor memory, check out his 2008 season.
- I saw CB Joe Haden destroy RB LeSean McCoy with a textbook tackle in the preseason. The pic looks like Haden took the worst of it, but believe me, he cut McCoy in half with an open-field, shoulder-on-thigh tackle. Feel confident starting him in any IDP league.
Buffalo at Kansas City
- Quick, who are the Bills’ tight ends?
- RB Fred Jackson has been declared the primary back. However, I wouldn’t trust the coach-speak. Week 1 will give us a better picture of the team carries he’ll share with RB C.J. Spiller.
- Until the Bills sort out their middle linebacking unit, Nick Barnett, Andra Davis, Kirk Morrison, and rookie Kelvin Sheppard can’t be trusted to start for you.
- Tight end answer: Scott Chandler, David Martin, and Lee Smith.
- Cracked ribs for QB Matt Cassel mean a ton of carries for RB Jamaal Charles. Please take note of the correct spelling of “Cassel” and “Jamaal”. Yeah, I’m a bit biased considering how my name is constantly butchered.
- TE Tony Moeaki owners, who’s your backup-now-starter?
- DB Eric Berry begins his ascension to the top overall defensive back this week.
Detroit at Tampa Bay
- QB Matthew Stafford is healthy, so start him.
- Rookie WR Titus Young needs time to develop and WR Rashied Davis is nothing special, which means WR Nasty Nate Burleson is going to be on the field almost every snap. Burleson is a solid fantasy WR3.
- Stephen Tulloch, Deandre Levy, and Justin Durant are the starting linebackers in the Lions’ base defense. Right now, Tulloch is a must-start, Levy is a must-own, and Durant is a Waiver Wire option. Keep an eye on the nickel and dime packages, as it will be very telling about all their values for the future.
- Don’t be scared of the PFT report of a Buccaneers’ RBBC (Running-Back-by-Committee). Stay informed, but seriously, do you really see RB’s Earnest Graham or Kregg Lumpkin stealing significant fantasy value from RB LaGarrette Blount?
- WR “Reety-awrighty” Arrelious Benn is coming back awfully quick from an ACL injury. Own him, but make him prove he’s ready to be in your starting lineup.
- Mason Foster is the rookie middle linebacker owners are reaching for, and Geno Hayes is the weakside linebacker that owners generally prefer over the strongside linebacker. Be smart, Quincy Black is the linebacker to own in Tampa. He was highly productive when healthy and he’ll be wearing the green dot, which means he’s a three-down linebacker. Start him with confidence.
Tennessee at Jacksonville
- I like QB Matt Hasselbeck. He brings an instant credibility to the Titans. He’ll be way more useful to the Titans this season as opposed to your fantasy squad, so only carry him as a player off the bench.
- So much for the hype for RB’s Javon Ringer and rookie Jamie Harper. RB Chris Johnson returns and pushes both guys to the Waiver Wire.
- Sleeper Hype Machine, meet TE Jared Cook. What exactly has he done to be blindly inserted as a fantasy starter?
- LB Barrett Ruud gets a chance at fantasy redemption in Tennessee after years of dominance in Tampa. Hope for LB1 results, but expect LB2 status.
- If the Jags kept QB David Garrard, why couldn’t they have won the Manning-less AFC South? Now they’ll battle for the league basement behind QB Luke McCown.
- I don’t buy for one second that RB Maurice Jones-Drew is anything close to his former stud-status. Clearly you start him, put proceed with caution.
- Ever since WR Jimmy Smith retired, the Jags haven’t had a consistent, reliable fantasy receiver. Calm down about WR Mike Thomas.
- Take a look at the Jags’ defensive depth chart. Besides LB Paul Posluszny, these guys are lousy fantasy options.
Pittsburgh at Baltimore
- The only reason RB’s Isaac Redman and Mewele Moore belong on your fantasy roster is if (1) you own RB Rashard Mendenhall, or (2) you’re a relative. Don’t get wrapped up in the match-up with Baltimore; start Mendenhall.
- WR’s Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown still haven’t proved to me that they will outperform WR Hines Ward.
- Besides DB Troy Polamalu, it’s impossible to predict the fantasy success of the Pittsburgh secondary. DB’s Bryant McFadden, Ike Taylor, and William Gay have all had their moments, but each should be on the Waiver Wire in Week 1.
- Like my advice to start Mendenhall, don’t be scared to start QB Joe Flacco. It’s Week 1 and you shouldn’t be making crazy decisions like benching him in favor of guys like Chad Henne or Kerry Collins.
- WR Lee Evans speed is great for his teammates, but he belongs on your bench.
- DB Bernard Pollard is listed as a back-up on the Ravens’ depth chart. Seriously, he couldn’t beat out DB Tom Zbikowski?
Indianapolis at Houston
- QB Peyton Manning is out until Halloween. Maybe Thanksgiving. Maybe the season. Did it ruin your season?
- Reggie Wayne is still a WR1. Don’t panic, yet.
- Dallas Clark is still a TE1, but you should be in full panic-mode.
- Week 1 rushing attempts prediction: Joseph Addai (18), Delone Carter (8), Donald Brown (4).
- I can’t definitively say which cornerback (Jerraud Powers or Jacob Lacey) will be covering WR Andre Johnson, so I can’t recommend exploiting the great fantasy match-up. The Colts have Lacey listed as their LCB, which means he should be on Johnson considering QB Matt Schaub is a righty. But it’s Week 1 and you should have some definitive options instead of reaching so soon for match-ups.
- The three most annoying words regarding injuries: “Game Time Decision”. If a guy is “Out” or “Doubtful”, at least you can prepare ahead of time. RB Arian Foster will give every fantasy owner an immediate injury headache to kick off the year. I don’t own him in any league so I’m not obsessing about it. I’m of the opinion that whatever decision you make about him will be wrong, especially if you’re my Foster-owning opponent.
- I find it odd that the WR depth on the Texans (Kevin Walter, Jacoby Jones, Bryant Johnson) are such weak fantasy options for such an explosive offense.
- If you play in a manly league, then no doubt Mario Williams is listed as a linebacker and not a defensive lineman. I hope you didn’t reach for the guy. The new 3-4 scheme may turn him into a pedestrian LB option.
NY Giants at Washington
- Trust QB Eli Manning. If your fantasy roster is good, he’s more than capable to lead to you a fantasy championship.
- Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett’s defense gave up the second most passing yards in 2010. WR’s Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham are must-starts. I wish we knew who was going to be the Giants’ primary WR3.
- The G-men lose another player to injury, as LB Jonathan Goff blew out his ACL. Bad for the Giants, irrelevant for fantasy purposes. If you were staring him, your IDP stinks. The Giants should be contacting LB Lofa Tatupu after contracts are no longer guaranteed.
- Argh! I go bonkers every time I see the forums lit up with players who are suddenly bound for significant fantasy production just because they have an opportunity for playing time. I call it the “J.J. Arrington Assumption”. The latest example is rookie LB Greg Jones, who takes over in the middle. First off, he’s a sixth round draft pick, and recent history states he has a 2% chance at being a fantasy backup, and a 0% chance at being a fantasy starter. Secondly, if he was really that good, he would have beaten out Goff for the job.
- Smart IDP owners have already stashed DB Kenny Phillips on their roster, with many giving him the start in Week 1. Don’t let him be a free agent in shallow leagues and acquire him now.
- QB Sexy Rex(y) Grossman gets the nod in Week 1. I actually own him in one league, but it was because I also drafted QB John Beck. Take it easy, the Washington QB ain’t going to be my starter. You can never own too many quarterbacks in a 16-team Dynasty League.
- Over/Under on RB Ryan Torain carries in Week 1 if he is Active: 6. I’ll take the “over”. If he pops a few decent gains, he could see a bunch of handoffs in a row.
- Over/Under on when Torain misses his first game: Week 4.
- DB LaRon Landry will miss Week 1. It’s a slight blow to your IDP, but you can use one of the billion serviceable options available on the Waiver Wire.
- I’m a big fan of DB Oshiomongo Atogwe. I’m starting him in multiple leagues and I anticipate a return to IDP dominance.
Philadelphia at St. Louis
- RB Ronnie Brown will be a useful tool for the Eagles, but I doubt it translates into any significant for fantasy purposes.
- WR’s Jeremy Maclin and Steve Smith avoided the PUP, and both appear like they’ll make a fantasy impact sooner than later. I’m sure numerous owners got great value in their draft on these guys. If Smith is still available on the Waiver Wire in your league, stop reading and go pick him up now! Remember, the guy shattered the Giants’ record for most receptions in a season (107).
- LB’s Casey Matthews and Jamar Chaney make great starts for your 24-team league. Again, “J.J. Arrington Assumption”.
- Now that WR Donnie Avery has been removed, stlouisrams.com lists Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola as the starting wide receivers with Mike Sims-Walker and Danario Alexander coming off the bench. I’ve seen a lot better groups, but I’ve also seen a lot worse. It appears a bit too early for you to start Sims-Walker.
- In my Individual Defensive Player (IDP) only league, I was fortunate enough to land DE James Hall at good value. I don’t care that he’s 34-years old or has rookie DE Robert Quinn pushing for playing time. The guy was great last season. He doesn’t deserve to be benched until he’s too good to ignore… he deserves to be started until he’s hurting your team.
Seattle at San Francisco
- Seahawks’ management should fly to Florida, throw recently released QB David Garrard in a sack, bring him back to Seattle, and force him to sign a one-year contract. Garrard is an average quarterback at best, but he’s light years ahead of QB’s Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst.
- Word has surfaced that WR Sidney Rice is in danger of missing Week 1. Plan accordingly.
- RB Leon Washington is a good player. I’m not sure he’ll ever regain his line-of-scrimmage explosion, but he’s a nice acquisition if you have the roster room.
- TE Zach Miller could lead the league in snaps played for a tight end. Don’t worry about who’s getting him the football. He’s still a TE1.
- The Seahawks have become obsessed with height. 5’11” CB Marcus Trufant should be covering 6’0” WR Josh Morgan, which means newly installed 6’4” CB Brandon Browner will cover 6’3” WR Braylon Edwards. So yeah, start Edwards.
- If you were planning on starting QB Peyton Manning this week, try QB Alex Smith. It’s one of his extremely few chances to be a positive fantasy factor in 2011.
- Navorro Bowman is the new inside linebacker next to Patrick Willis. Last season, LB Takeo Spikes has 82 solos and 109 total tackles for the 49ers. Bowman isn’t doing better than that, but he’s worth monitoring early in the season as a possible Waiver Wire addition.
Minnesota at San Diego
- Do WR Percy Harvin’s headaches give you a headache? Me too. Check out my Third Season WR Production report. Since it was written, Harvin has clearly overtaken Maclin. Keep starting him until his headaches pop up.
- The Vikings defense possesses four must-starts: DE Jared Allen, LB E.J. Henderson, LB Chad Greenway, and CB Antoine Winfield.
- Another season of missed opportunities and disappointment for the Chargers.
- Who’s starting RB Ryan Mathews? You got balls.
- Who is the Chargers’ WR2 this week? Malcom Floyd? Patrick Crayton? Vincent Brown? Make sure they are all on your bench.
- Start LB Takeo Spikes. He’s old, but he’s still a tackling monster. Plus he’ll come to your house and kick your ass if you bench him.
- This might be your one chance to start DB Bob Sanders all year. Go for it.
Carolina at Arizona
- I wonder if RB Mike Goodson will get touches this week.
- TE Greg Olsen’s fantasy career has been resurrected. Start him.
- LB Jon Beason is expected to play. “How well” is another question. Be concerned.
- Okay RB Beanie Wells, many fantasy owners trust you won’t suck. It is too much to ask for 85 yards and a touchdown?
- I keep getting swayed by WR Early Doucet’s arms. I keep thinking he’s too beefy to disappoint, but then I snap out of it.
- LB Daryl Washington will be the best IDP in Arizona this year. That’s not a bold statement at all, so if you don’t know his name you are an IDP noob.
Dallas at NY Jets
- WR Miles Austin should be visiting Revis Island. You can’t bench him, so deal with it.
- If you read in between the lines, RB Demarco Murray will receive more carries than RB Tashard Choice. It’s not significant right now, but it will be once RB Felix Jones wears down.
- Dallas’ top two cornerbacks, Terance Newman and Mike Jenkins, are banged up. Start QB Mark Sanchez. He’ll be doing his cute plane celebration three times.
- I guess if you own WR Plaxico Burress, you’re starting him. He’s probably better than your other options.
- LB David Harris, please return to fantasy LB1 status.
New England at Miami
- WR Wes Welker’s neck is fine and WR Chad Ochocinco is behaving. Start both, but keep in mind that Dolphins’ cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Sean Smith are very good.
- RB’s BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen. Have fun with that mess.
- In leagues that don’t require a cornerback, I need to see Devin McCourty start hot before I insert him into my starting lineup. Cornerback is a weird fantasy position, and I can’t blindly use him based on last season’s breakout performance.
- Over/Under on RB Reggie Bush carries in Week 1: 21. I’ll take the “under”, but he’s still a great RB option considering he’s going to get a ton of check-downs from QB Chad Henne.
- LB Karlos Dansby is a must-start, but I’m concerned with how many tackles per game newly acquired LB Kevin Burnett will steal from him.
Oakland at Denver
- It seems like only yesterday that fantasy folks were down on RB Darren McFadden. Imagine how good he could really be if he were surrounded by respectable offensive weapons.
- Follow your eyes (reality) and not your heart (hype). Every Raiders’ wide receiver – Jacoby Ford, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore, Louis Murphy – should be benched in Week 1.
- LB Rolando McClain was a strong performer last season, but it didn’t translate to fantasy. It will this year. Start him right away.
- RB Knowshon Moreno owners, meet RB Willis McGahee. He’s the guy that will drive you nuts on 1st and Goal from the 2-yard line.
- Denver’s wide receivers are fascinating stories. Can Brandon Lloyd reprise his outstanding 2010 season? Can Eddie Royal be trusted? Yes and Yes. Well, Yes and No. Eh, No and Yes. Screw it, No and No. Figure it out on your own.
- Reminder, LB D.J. Williams is out for a few weeks. No need to pick up his replacement LB Joe Mays.
- Second overall draft pick LB Von Miller is going to be special… but they said that about fourth overall pick LB Aaron Curry.
Vegas, NFL Spreads Week 1
- St. Louis (+4.5) vs Philadelphia
- Minnesota (+9) at San Diego
- New England (-7) at Miami