If you missed it yesterday, you can read my preview of the Steelers-Titans game to see how I did. Normally, you can find me here every Friday for a preview of the week's games. I am here to give you my thoughts on some of the obvious fantasy players, who to start and to avoid. Feel free to call me out on any bonehead picks or argue with me about winners and losers.
Dolphins at Falcons
This may be our first glimpse at one of the top offenses in the league. I am one of the believers who jumped on the Matt Ryan bandwagon. I liked what I saw out of him last year and with a full offseason under his belt to learn and grow with Roddy White and the addition of Tony Gonzalez what isn't there to love. I see Turner, Ryan, White, and Gonzalez as definite starts. Miami is coming in with a lot more questions on offense. Luckily, Atlanta's defense isn't a top D and there may be some room for them. Ronnie Brown is a solid #2 running back option this week, but I would avoid most other Dolphin players until we see how the RB situation breaks down and whether Pennington can throw the ball further than 15 yards. If you are looking for a sleeper, I like Greg Camarillo more than Ted Ginn Jr, he provides a better possession option for the weak armed Pennington. The Falcons start the season right, 27-16.
Redskins at Giants
For an upper-echelon team, the Giants come into this season with plenty of questions on offense. They still have a good running game and solid defense, but when Kevin Boss is your best receiving option, troubles may be ahead. Speaking of Boss, he is my sleeper special for this game. Boss developed well last year and with him being the only NFL capable receiving option available to Manning, I expect a lot of looks. I like Jacobs as well, but the Redskins D-line isn't too shabby and should be able to close some holes. The Redskins don't have anything better going for them on offense. Portis is still a very solid back, but with Jason Campbell throwing the ball, the Giants will stack the line. With Campbell slinging the rock and the Giants D bringing pressure, I expect the entire Redskins passing game to suffer. If you have a decent option instead of Moss, take a shot. This one should be close, but the Giants inch this one out 17-13.
Eagles at Panthers
This should be one of the better games this weekend. Each team is most a playoff contender, each has a good defense, each has some stars on offense, but the difference should be the number of them that Philly has. The most notable difference maker will be Donovan McNabb. When everything is even, trust the better QB. I think Desean Jackson, Brian Westbrook, and McNabb are all strong plays this week, but hold off on sleepers Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy until we see more from them. For Carolina, I love DeAngelo Williams. I think Philly's aggressive D over pursues and Williams finds holes. I also like Steve Smith, but who doesn't? I would sit the rest of the Carolina options this week. In the end, the Eagles soar, 27-20.
Cowboys at Buccaneers
I've gone back and forth on this one a couple times. Both teams are coming into the season with some interesting questions. How will Dallas fare sans Owens? Will anyone step up for the 'Boys? Can anyone complete a pass in Tampa? What will the running back carousel look like for TB? I would sit every Bucs running back until we get some idea of what is going on down there. Especially against an above average Cowboys D. Antonio Bryant is an OK play this week and Winslow will be a solid TE play. You need to start all the usual suspect in Dallas, including Felix Jones. I love Jones, I think he really breaks out this year and I see no reason why he can't make something happen this week. If you need to start a third back this week, Jones isn't a bad option. I think his special teams play could be the difference with Dallas spoiling the home TB home opener, 24-20.
Lions at Saints
I won't try and make this game sound interesting because it isn't. The Saints are solid, the Lions are still bad. I like the direction the Lions are going, I really do. But they are still going to be lucky to top six wins. If you own a Saint, start him, start him twice if you can. In fact, my sleeper special of the week is Mike Bell if Pierre Thomas can't go. I expect the Saints to score early and often leaving Bell to grind the clock down. The Saints are far from a juggernaut on D, so I like Megatron and Kevin Smith a lot, more so Megatron because of the catch up duty in the 4th quarter. Don't start Brandon Pettigrew, but keep an eye on him this week, he could be a future sleeper TE. The Saints, this year's greatest show on turf, win easy, 31-20.
Colts at JaguarsThe Jaguars look to be one of the more intriguing fantasy teams to start the year. They are the proud owners of a 1st round fantasy stud, but don't have much else to flaunt. What they do have is a couple under the radar guys that could pay big dividends. David Garrard dropped about 20 pounds this offseason and the Jags improved their receiver core with Torry Holt and Troy Williamson. Neither is amazing, but it has to be better than Matt Jones, right? I think Garrard, Holt and MJD are all startable this week against a soft Colts D. Indy still has that Manning guy throwing to that Wayne guy, they are both sure things. I also love Anthony Gonzalez this year, I just see Reggie Wayne circa 2006 written all over him. Avoid the Indy running backs against a solid run-D and until we see how that situation will play out. I am calling an upset here, Jaguars win the home opener, 24-20.
Jets at Texans
If they weren't playing a strong D, I would love every Texans starter on offense. Since the D is solid, the only one I would think twice about is Kevin Walter. Andre Johnson should never sit, Daniels, Slaton, and Schaub get the week 1 benefit of the doubt. I won't mention D's very often in this article, Juliann Hayes covers that in her weekly column focused only on fantasy defense, but I would also start the Texans D. They have a very good defensive line, and as the giants showed us two years ago, that makes any defense automatically good. I especially like the match up this week because they are playing against a rookie QB, an old and slow RB, and there really isn't a great receiver to help out. With that said, the only Jet I am starting is Thomas Jones. The rest I'll save for a better time. Texans get there first win en route to a playoff birth, 27-13.
Vikings at Browns
This should be a pretty easy opener for the Vikings, its not exactly Florida playing some D-III team, but its close. Start all your Vikings, even the old man. As a buddy told me, "it is just about the only time he'll be healthy, and he's out to prove something." My start list includes Favre, AP, Berrian, and Shiancoe. Make sure to keep Shiancoe on your radar if he isn't already owned, Favre loves his tight ends. I can't recommend any Browns except maybe Braylon "Sir Drops-Alot" Edwards. Jamal Lewis is a definite bench, as he was almost cut this week and is facing a stingy run-D. Browns fans will see better days than this Sunday, Vikes win easy 24-6.
Broncos at Bengals
Is it possible for two teams to lose? Neither plays any D and each is fairly dysfunctional. I guess I like the Bengals a little bit more this week because of Palmer. Like I said earlier, when everything is even, go with the better QB. There are high school QBs better than Orton. This might be one of the best weeks to play Eddie Royal and you must start Brandon Marshall. Let's just hope he doesn't throw a tantrum on the sideline. For the Bengals Palmer and Ochocinco are sure things this week and I actually like Cedric Benson is, for lack of a better description, not good. While he isn't good, he isn't as bad as the Broncos D, that 8th round pick may be useful this week, if ever. The winner of this slapfest? I guess the Bengals, 20-17.
Chiefs at Ravens
This one is another blowout special. The Chiefs should battle for 1st pick in April, while the Ravens will be battling for a division crown. The only Chief worth considering is Dwayne Bowe, and that's because most leagues start three. If you only need to start two, find someone else. I am generally optimistic about Larry Johnson this year, but he is at best a flex option this week. This should be the Ray Rice coming out party. The Chiefs probably won't be able to move the ball, and the Ravens will control the clock with Rice. I just don't see the Ravens having to throw much, but keep an eye on Flacco to see if he may be worth owning in the future. Willis McGahee may not even be the worst play this week. Ravens win easy, 20-3.
Rams at Seahawks
The same buddy I mentioned earlier always kills me for liking the Seahawks offense this year. This game will shut him up a little, but he is smart enough to know they are playing the Rams. Take advantage of the Rams' weak D. Hasselback, T.J. Houshmanzilly, John Carlson, and even Julius Jones, in deeper leagues, are worth starting this week. Also, keep an eye on Nate Burleson. With Housh drawing safety help, Burleson may be a viable deep threat. Think Bernard Berrian. For the Rams, Donnie Avery makes for a nice third receiver this week and S-Jax is a very solid play against an average Seattle D. I would want to see the Rams play before I risked starting anyone else. Seahawks get the gravy train rolling, 27-17.
49ers at Cardinals
Everyone's favorite grocer, Kurt Warner, is back leading the Cardinals passing attack. He is a must start simply because of the toys for him to play with, but keep an eye on that hip. Many people forget that he is old and coming off a surgery. I don't need to tell you start Fitz and Boldin, but I would hold off on Hightower and Wells. I wouldn't want to risk either without seeing some kind of work ratio, plus the Niners have a surprising solid D. For San Fran, Gore is a must start just about every week and Josh Morgan is a nice sleeper pick for the week. The Cardinals keep their winning ways alive, 30-16.
Bears at Packers
My favorite NFC team, Green Bay, meets my favorite fantasy player from last year, Matt Forte. I love the Packers offense this year. They have looked very good in the preseason and should be running on all cylinders. This Bears D is not the Bears D that once struck fear in the hearts of opponents. I'd feel confident starting Rodgers, Grant, Jennings, and Driver. On a side note, Grant is my sleeper pick for NFL MVP. This is going to be a tough opener for the Bears. If Cutler and the Bears offense can get things going, it will bode well for the season. The Pack have a solid D, which could make things tough for the Bears. Go ahead and start Cutler, Forte, and Olson, but leave Hester on the bench for now. Keep an eye on super-sleeper Earl Bennett. Fondu for everyone, Pack win, 28-17.
Bills at Patriots
This should be a fun one to watch. Brady to Moss, Brady to Welker, Brady to the water boy, all are possible touchdown combos. For those that like to see it aired out, this is for you. The smart fantasy owner is watching this game to try and get some kind of read on the running back situation in NE. The big question, other than Brady, is TO. How long will the honeymoon last with Trent Edwards? My guess, about five minutes left in the third quarter when Lee Evans has more yards than TO. I'll go ahead and start TO and Lee Evans, but I am not jumping on the Fred Jackson bandwagon, at least not this week. The Bills will be playing catchup, which means less touches for Jackson. Unfortunately, the Patriots win easy, 34-13.
Chargers at Oakland
The last game of the kickoff weekend includes a Super Bowl contender and the most dysfunctional team in sports. The Chargers should have no problem getting the season started with a win as I expect LT to roll. Tomlinson should be running with a chip on his shoulder to quiet all his detractors. Philip Rivers, Vincent Jackson, and Antonio Gates shouldn't have a problem getting it going through the air. If you don't have a decent option other than Run DMC, go ahead and start him, but the Chargers have a solid defense and should slow him down a good bit. Other than McFadden, sit every Raider. Chargers roll, 24-10.