Every week, Scott Engel of RotoExperts.com previews all of the NFL games from a fantasy perspective.
Atlanta Falcons at Chicago Bears:
The Falcons should operate their passing game very effectively, as the duo of Matt Ryan and Roddy White will pick up where they left off last season. Expect Ryan to throw more than one touchdown pass, and when the Bears roll coverages to White's side, rookie Julio Jones will be left open to make some possession grabs. Jones should have opportunities to make plays, but it's still risky to start a rookie wide receiver in his first pro game. A quality passing game should open up some nice running lanes for Michael Turner. The Chicago offensive line will have its hands full with a tenacious Atlanta defensive line, and Jay Cutler will likely be harassed and rushed. It will not be a good day for the Bears QB, who lacks dependable targets. Matt Forte could become a non-factor in the second half as the Bears fall behind, and he is not one of the top running back starts of the week.
Week 1 Start 'Em & Sit 'Em
Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs:
This one could get out of hand quickly, as I expect Jamaal Charles and the improving Kansas City defense to rule the day. Charles should begin the season with a flourish, rolling up big yardage and keeping pressure off QB Matt Cassel, who will play through a rib injury. Expect Cassel to be conservative and work consistently to both Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston, who should post quality PPR totals. Thomas Jones should also score from short range. Look for the Chiefs defense to ride emotion at home in the opener and shut down the Buffalo running game early. Fred Jackson will not be an optimum start this week. Ryan Fitzpatrick will likely post only adequate numbers, and Steve Johnson will be effectively double teamed, limiting his statistical upside.
Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals:
Look for the Cardinals to get heavy pressure on rookie QB Cam Newton, who still has mechanical and fundamental issues to work out before he can be effective. I expect the Panthers offense to consistently sputter, and the Arizona defense is a fine one-week fantasy option to open the season. Carolina will try to stay in the game by using the duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, but the Cards should be ready for the run and neither will post better than acceptable totals. The Panthers defense will likely spend a lot of time on the field, and will be worn down by Beanie Wells, who could have a big second half. Kevin Kolb will not have to open things up too much with the running game rolling, although he could use play-action effectively to connect with Larry Fitzgerald for more than one big play.
Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns:
The job of Andy Dalton will be to complete high-percentage passes and not turn the ball over. Unfortunately, his pass-catchers are mostly unproven as well, and shouldn't challenge a Cleveland defense that has some impressive young talent in its secondary. The Browns will be well aware that Cincinnati will want to establish the run early, and Cedric Benson will likely face swarms of defenders. Do not start him as anything more than a RB3. Expect Colt McCoy to work the corners of the field effectively, and do not be surprised to see him throw more than one TD pass. Peyton Hillis will instantly erase doubts about whether he can follow up his breakout 2010 season. Look for him to run for a score and also roll up some nice bonus yards as a pass catcher.
Dallas Cowboys at New York Jets:
Terence Newman will not play and makes a vulnerable Dallas secondary even weaker. Mark Sanchez is actually a nice upside pick this week, and look for him to throw at least two TD passes. Santonio Holmes is one of the top WR starts of the week, and Plaxico Burress will be a TD threat even if he isn't quite up to where he used to be just yet. You can also reach for veteran Derrick Mason as a desperation WR play. Shonn Greene should be set up for some short-yardage scoring opportunities as the Jets try to increase his offensive role. Felix Jones is not afraid of physical contact, but expect him to have trouble finding much open running room. He should not be used as more than a RB3. Look for Tony Romo to be put in many adverse passing situations and he will make some key plays, but will also turn the ball over more than once. Jason Witten should be a safety valve for him often. Neither Miles Austin nor Dez Bryant will work against Darrelle Revis exclusively, so both can be used with some confidence, although Austin figures to be less productive if his hamstring issue limits him at all.
Detroit Lions at Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
The Lions cannot afford to run Jahvid Best into the teeth of a young and hungry Buccaneers defensive front. Look for them to get Best the ball in space so he can build a quality stat line in the season opener. Pressure will be on Matthew Stafford to carry the offense, and look for him to spread the ball around effectively to Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson and Brandon Pettigrew. He'll look for high percentage completions, yet will likely take timely downfield shots. He should be started for sure unless your other option is a fantasy superstar. The Detroit defense is also on the rise, so Josh Freeman must be careful, and will take what the defense gives him. Look for Mike Williams to stack up several possession grabs while Kellen Winslow also makes timely catches. Expect a solid, but not outstanding performance from Freeman. He should be able to loosen up the defense enough to ensure LeGarrette Blount sees enough open running room. Start Freeman, Williams and Blount for sound fantasy production in Week 1.
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans:
Kerry Collins simply did not have enough time to work with his new receivers during the preseason, so expect the Colts offense to lack continuity as a result. It's difficult to bench Reggie Wayne or Dallas Clark, but both have minimal statistical upside without Peyton Manning. Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie should be reserved without Manning to fuel their production. Joseph Addai could post decent numbers once Collins starts to get into a respectable flow down the line, but not this week. The Houston running back situation is murky and should be avoided, as an injured player such as Arian Foster is always a risk even if he is active. Foster is a game-time decision, and Derrick Ward will start in his absence. Still, it's a roll of the dice you want to avoid in Week 1. Matt Schaub will be the crux of the offense and should benefit as the Colts defense logs too much time on the field. Expect the Schaub/Andre Johnson duo to click in the opener, and look for TE Owen Daniels to post some impressive PPR totals.
Minnesota Vikings at San Diego Chargers:
The Chargers defensive front should dominate the interior in this matchup, crushing the pocket around Donovan McNabb. The veteran passer does not have many reliable pass-catching options and could be in for a long day. It is hard for any defense to fully contain Adrian Peterson, but do not expect a stellar performance from the Minnesota superstar. The Vikings will likely have a lot of trouble handling the RB duo of Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert. Look for Mathews to play with vigor, as he tries to silence his doubters. He will be worth a RB2 start. Tolbert should be good for a score as the Chargers move the ball very effectively. I see Philip Rivers connecting with Vincent Jackson for some big gainers, and both will be top starts at their respective positions this week.
New York Giants at Washington Redskins:
The Giants want to create optimum balance in the run game, so expect a heavy dosage of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. The latter has the potential to score more than once this week. Eli Manning lacks ideal depth at receiver, but they should present matchup problems for the Washington CBs. Manning will throw more than one TD pass even if interceptions continue to plague him against a divisional opponent that knows his tendencies. Mario Manningham is a top WR2 start in Week 1. The Giants will focus heavily on stopping Tim Hightower and I see him having limited production in his Redskins debut. New York wants to put the game on the shoulders of the erratic Rex Grossman, who can be very mistake-prone when he is not going well. Grossman is also not afraid to sling it, though, and should get the ball to Santana Moss frequently enough to make him a quality WR start this week.
Philadelphia Eagles at St. Louis Rams:
The Rams will bring the heat against Michael Vick, and he will have to endure some big hits while also taking off to scramble often. Vick's owners will cringe as he puts himself at apparent risk right away as the season begins. Of course, Vick can create on the run and should complete some pretty downfield passes to DeSean Jackson. Expect more than one TD pass and a TD run from Vick, but he will also get sacked and will turn the ball over at least once. Look for LeSean McCoy to catch some passes to bail Vick out of trouble en route to a strong statistical showing. Rams QB Sam Bradford will likely pick his spots carefully against the highly-touted Eagles defense, and will be an adequate -- but not outstanding -- fantasy starter this week. Steven Jackson will not back down against the Philadelphia front seven and will fight hard to build a respectable stat line.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens:
Ray Rice has historically been mediocre against the Steelers, but he has never run behind Vonta Leach before, and the Ravens will be looking to make a statement with their running game. Expect Rice's first career rushing score against Pittsburgh. Joe Flacco now has a more balanced receiving crew that can actually challenge the Pittsburgh defense this season. While Flacco is no candidate to explode, he will not look bad this week, either. Anquan Boldin should kick off a rebound season with a TD reception, and the presence of Lee Evans stands to open things up for him more. Look for Rashard Mendenhall to gain at least 80 yards on the ground and Ben Roethlisberger to attack the Baltimore secondary, and that means a big game for Mike Wallace. Expect a solid numerical reward from Roethlisberger, and Hines Ward should make a decent amount of possession grabs.
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers:
The Seahawks want to focus on the run this season, but don't expect the ground attack to be effective in the opener. Seattle's revamped offensive line is still coming together as a unit and the 49ers will be looking to stuff Marshawn Lynch, who should not be started. Tarvaris Jackson will face a lot of challenging down-and-distance situations, and with Sidney Rice (shoulder) doubtful, Jackson will certainly struggle when he cannot locate Mike Williams or Zach Miller. The 49ers defense is a good starting option. The Seattle defense could tire during the second half and Frank Gore will rip them to shreds. Alex Smith should have time to throw and is worth a look as a desperation QB start. Braylon Edwards will build a good statistical line, and when Smith is playing well, you can count on good things from Vernon Davis.
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars:
Luke McCown is no rookie, and he should at least be able to keep the Tennessee defense honest. That is good news for owners of Maurice Jones-Drew, as it will not be simple enough for the Titans to stack the box against him. MJD is eager to prove the doubters wrong and should start the season off well. McCown should help Marcedes Lewis and Mike Thomas post at least decent numbers. Chris Johnson cannot be reserved, but may not look fully ready after missing the entire preseason. Jamie Harper could steal some short-yardage carries. Matt Hasselbeck will be effective as long as he is healthy and he can make Nate Washington a deep sleeper when the matchup is right, like this week. Kenny Britt should be very busy catching accurate passes from Hasselbeck and adding good chunks of yardage after his receptions.
New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins:
The Dolphins offense could immediately prove to be a big hindrance in the opener. With Daniel Thomas (hamstring) hurting after a disappointing preseason, Reggie Bush will get the featured role he covets. He likely will not be up to the task, though, and extra pressure will be on Chad Henne against an opportunistic defense. Brandon Marshall should be the only Dolphin you start. The New England offense might be inconsistent early, but the Dolphins defense will spend too much time on the field and will suffer the consequences during the second half. Expect Tom Brady to post strong final totals, and Wes Welker always shows up for good numbers against his former team. Chad Ochocinco is a top candidate for a TD, and expect BenJarvus Green-Ellis to find the end zone for sure.
Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos:
The Broncos know the Oakland running game is coming, but they will have trouble containing it again. Darren McFadden is one of the top fantasy starts of the week, and Michael Bush might also get into the act with a score. Jason Campbell has a mostly no-name bunch of receivers, so this game will be one to watch to see who potentially steps forward. The Broncos should also be able to run the ball effectively, as Knowshon Moreno looks more promising heading into the new season. Willis McGahee will be a regular TD threat this year, and he will start to build the scoring totals this week. The Raiders secondary is less imposing this year, so expect quality showings from Kyle Orton and Brandon Lloyd in the opener.
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