Each week, we will review the biggest story lines from the previous week. As we enter week one, it's important to review some major points of interest from the preseason. Some NFL fans and fantasy owners may believe that preseason play is worthless. There are no absolutes in pro or fantasy football and each situation must be viewed individually. The following items cement some of the truths that you should never discount before the real season begins.
Veteran T.J. Houshmandzadeh was dumped in favor of reclamation project Mike Williams, who will open the season as a starter. Williams reportedly still has the skills to be a playmaker, but it is his renewed zest for the game that made him the unreal comeback story of the preseason. No one indicated the importance of preseason play more than Williams.
He becomes a viable fantasy free agent pickup with news of Houshmandzadeh's release. Do not start him early in the season, but monitor his progress because if he can carry his renewed value into the real games, he could be worth using in larger leagues or when matchups dictate consideration.
Deion Branch has the faith of the new regime, but is notoriously an injury risk, so watch Deon Butler as a possible sleeper. Houshmandzadeh landed in Baltimore, where he may struggle to be consistently productive with a lot of balls to go around. Keep him if you drafted him, but keep him reserved early in the season until the passing game become apparent in Baltimore.
A new star in Buffalo:C.J. Spiller looked like an immediate impact player in exhibition play, averaging 4.7 yards per carry while scoring three times. Spiller is likely to open the season as Buffalo's top option at RB, with Marshawn Lynch still in the fold and Fred Jackson recovering from a hand injury.
Spiller is obviously electric and can score from anywhere on the field. Be careful not to overrate him though, as Buffalo will continue to use Lynch a lot and the situation may become even more muddled when Jackson returns. The Bills will be careful not to overwork Spiller and will pick their spots with him offensively.
Do not expect Spiller to be a regular standout, but often a boom-or-bust type. Once opponents seal off the edges on him and prevent him from bouncing outside more often, yardage may be tougher to come by. Spiller will be a fine play maker, but the heroics will be spread out. Start him as a flex player right away, but do not use him over a much more established starter in week one.
Many Fantasy players are concerned that Philip Rivers will be much less effective without Jackson around, but the QB still has his favorite, longer-tenured target, Antonio Gates. Rivers also does a good job of distributing the ball and takes advantage of all of his receivers, and should adjust accordingly without Jackson without much of a drop-off. Malcom Floyd may be overmatched as a No. 1 WR, but he will command defensive respect and allow Rivers to operate a balanced passing attack.
Start Rivers as you normally would, but do not boost Floyd in your team pecking order until he proves he is worthy of the depth chart boost. Right now, he is nothing more than a WR3 in fantasy. Ryan Mathews averaged 48.7 yards on 11.3 attempts per game in the preseason and could easily boost his numbers in full games when the regular season begins. Mathews is an immediate must-start in the season opener against the Chiefs, and could have a big coming-out party in week one.
Lack of faith in Philly:Kevin Kolb was unimpressive during the preseason, as he failed to throw a TD pass. Owners who drafted Kolb as a possible starter are entering the season with a bit of uneasiness, as they do not have much confidence in the Eagles' new starter. Kolb certainly has the ability to deliver some outstanding performances, but there may be a clunker for every quality outing. Kolb still has a lot of upside, or else the Eagles would not have handed him the starting job if he was not ready for it, so expect some quality performances.
The best way to handle Kolb early in the season is to play match ups each week and consider your alternatives if somewhat close in value. In week one, Kolb faces a Green Bay defense that will be vulnerable in the secondary, so you can start him with the expectations of at least respectable totals.
Arian Foster makes his statement: Early in the summer, Foster was an afterthought, as rookie Ben Tate was considered the instant solution to a longtime RB problem in Houston. Tate was never a real threat to Foster in camp and after his season was lost, Foster leaped into the spotlight and left the quickly forgotten Steve Slaton behind him.
Foster averaged six yards per carry and scored twice in exhibition play, demonstrating tremendous tenacity, determination and toughness. I was getting Foster in the 13th round of early summer drafts. By late August, he was often a fourth-round pick. Foster should be a big factor for the Texans in their opener, as they look to control the ball as much as possible against the Colts. Foster has arrived as a quality RB2 in fantasy.