In the latest episode of the NFL Fantasy LIVE podcast the gang previewed Thursday night's NFL season opener between the Patriots and Steelers and reacted to the rash of roster moves from over the weekend. They also answered some of your burning fantasy questions via the mailbag. Don't forget to subscribe and listen in HERE!
It's Week 1. Finally. Hallelujah. This means we can stop speculating and hypothesizing and just tell you what's what from here on out. Ah, who am I kidding? It's still fantasy football and a true fantasy manager knows that he or she truly knows nothing. Yet we'll muddle on and do our best to help you with what you need to know on the defensive side of the football to get your season started off right.
Start of the Week
Cameron Wake, DL, Miami Dolphins: I will sing it loudly from the rooftops. I am a fantasy fan of this year's Miami Dolphins. Plenty of times during the preseason, I have expressed my enthusiasm for Bill Lazor's offense and plenty of its key pieces -- Ryan Tannehill, Jarvis Landry, Lamar Miller and Jordan Cameron. But now I'm extending my love to Kevin Coyle's defense ... especially in Week 1.
You might have noticed, but the Washington Professional Football Club is a mess on offense. And defense. And ... well, just about every way possible. That doesn't bode well for the likes of starting quarterback Kirk Cousins. But it does portend potentially good things for the Miami defense and Cameron Wake in particular. Entering his seventh season in the league, Wake has yet to post back-to-back double-digit sack campaigns. That could change this year with Ndamukong Suh in the middle of the line occupying offensive linemen. Wake, Suh and company get to open their season against an offensive front that has more holes than a Michael Bay plotline.
Sit of the Week
Khalil Mack, DL, Oakland Raiders: Last season, Mack was a beast at rushing the passer. He should experience equal (or more) success this season. But the start of the season isn't likely to bring the kind of joy that fantasy managers in IDP leagues are hoping for. While Mack is a raw talent, there are still some technique issues for the former first round pick to work out before he becomes a more complete pass rusher.
This isn't necessarily the week he'll be able to work them all out. Last year, the Bengals offensive line was in the top half of the league in pass protection according to Pro Football Focus. That is likely the biggest obstacle to Mack getting to the quarterback -- literally. However, he's also going against an offense that has an underrated number of weapons and the ability to get the ball out quickly. Andy Dalton doesn't necessarily move the needle for fantasy (or football) fans, but if he can deliver it quickly to the likes of A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, Jeremy Hill or Gio Bernard, it will put a crimp in Mack's attempts to get into the backfield.
IDP Sleeper of the Week
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, DB, Green Bay Packers: Clinton-Dix was a player that I liked as an IDP sleeper coming into the season and he now has a chance to make an early splash. Not only is he going against the division rival Bears and their eternally shaky quarterback Jay Cutler, but Clinton-Dix will face a receiver corps that is going to be less than full strength. Rookie Kevin White is out for an extended period of time while Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson only recently returned to practice. As for Alshon Jeffery? The Bears think their marquee wideout will play in Week 1, but his ultimate effectiveness remains to be seen after sitting out with a lingering calf injury.
All of this is encouraging news for the Week 1 prospects of Clinton-Dix. Trouble in Chicago's passing game should allow for the corners to play more man-to-man while giving the Alabama product a chance to play centerfield for the Packers. With Jay Cutler's propensity to throw the ball up for grabs, there's a pretty good chance that Clinton-Dix could come down with at least one (or maybe even more) interceptions to get the season started.
IDP Player to Beware Of
Terrell Suggs, LB, Baltimore Ravens: This could become a recurring theme this season. Ever since entering the league, Suggs has been one of the NFL's fiercest defenders and a fairly reliable IDP selection. But that was also as part of the old Ravens defense that was consistently one of the best units around. This year's Ravens aren't those Ravens. This group is likely to struggle to stop opposing offenses this season, which will impact Suggs.
Now don't get it wrong, Suggs won't be a total bust this year. Even entering his age-33 season, Suggs is likely to still be a force on the defensive side of the football. He's just not likely to be a major force in fantasy. He's even less likely to be a major force in Week 1 against the quick strike Denver Broncos offense. Forget all the talk of Peyton Manning declines, this outfit is still one of the most efficient in the NFL and can certainly still get it done in the early part of the season when the weather is favorable. Besides, remember what happened the last time the Broncos and Ravens opened a season?
» The Seahawks look ready to begin the season without playmaking strong safety Kam Chancellor as the veteran continues his holdout. While Chancellor's name has drawn some trade interest, head coach Pete Carroll says the team has no interest in making a deal. While Chancellor wasn't among the top scoring fantasy defensive backs last season, his ability to be a game changer means on a week-to-week basis, he has the ability to post quality numbers. Not having him on the field will impact the entire Legion of Boom.
» The wait for Jason Pierre-Paul's return continues. The veteran defensive lineman hasn't signed his franchise tag and could still be several weeks away from a return. Pierre-Paul's status has been unknown ever since a fireworks accident on July 4 in which he injured several fingers on his hand. The South Florida product had one of his best seasons in 2014 with 12.5 sacks. When he'll record another remains to be seen.
» That's not the only uncertainty with Big Blue. The Giantsreleased veteran safety Stevie Brown on Monday after barely a week on the roster. Brown wasn't expected to make much of an impact, but it was hoped that he could add a stabilizing presence to a suspect secondary. His departure opens the door for Craig Dahl, but he isn't exactly someone fantasy managers will be clamoring to add.
» One thing is for certain: Jadeveon Clowney will be on the field for the Houston Texans when they take on the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1. What is unknown is how many snaps Clowney will see in the season opener. The Texans -- understandably -- don't seem interested in rushing the former No. 1 overall pick back to a full workload, but his recovery will go a long way toward impacting Houston's defense overall. He'll be interesting to watch in his return after an extended recovery from microfracture surgery.