In many parts of the country, the weather is cooling off. May we suggest warming your hands in front of your digital screen. Because the takes ... they are hot. Every week, our analysts will drop their boldest predictions and inevitably dance around their desks with idiotic grins if they ever happen to come true. If said predictions go belly up, we shall never speak of them again.
The Bears don't have a true No. 1 wideout after the loss of Alshon Jeffery (free agent) and Cameron Meredith (knee), and Kevin White has barely been on the field in his first two years due to injuries. Enter Wright, a former 1,000-yard wide receiver who knows the offense of coordinator Dowell Loggains from his time in Tennessee. He should see plenty of snaps out of the slot and could even end up leading the Bears in targets this week.
Christian McCaffrey was selected in the early rounds of most fantasy drafts this year based on his raw talent and ability to do big things with the football in space. McCaffrey's addition to Carolina's backfield has seemingly relegated veteran runner Jonathan Stewart to the forgotten lands, but he should not be ignored. Considering the 49ers had the NFL's worst rushing and total defense a season ago and allowed the third-most yards per play a season ago, Stewart has potential to outscore McCaffrey in Week 1 as the Panthers likely short-yardage and goal-line back. He's a strong start at running back in Week 1 with touchdown upside.
Last season, Philadelphia's defense was extremely tough on opposing tight ends (lowest passer rating allowed to TEs), but one of the most generous to passes of 21-plus air yards (28th). While Ronald Darby was brought in to help address deep balls, none of the starters in the secondary are taller than six feet which is four inches shorter than Pryor -- one of many examples of why Pryor is in a good upside situation. It seems the current narrative around Pryor is that he didn't look great in preseason, which maybe has led some people to be wary of him this week? In this game, which figures to be close, I think Cousins to Pryor has top 15 volume and touchdown potential.
The Saints were burned through the air by running backs last year (85 catches, 868 yards), and Dalvin Cook's dual-threat nature will keep him on the field all game in what could turn into a shootout. 100-plus total yards and a touchdown could be a conservative projection for the talented rookie if it all falls into place for him on Monday night.
The Todd Gurley Revival begins in Los Angeles against a Colts team that is woefully undermanned to begin the season. A defense that was victimzed by running backs last season -- allowing nearly five yards per carry and six receiving TDs to the position -- gets to face the Rams' new-look offense under Sean McVay. Gurley is already slated to be a workhorse as a rusher, but his newfound duties in the passing game will make him even more of a dynamic threat than before.
Damn the weight jokes, he's playing with a purpose! Kelvin Benjamin looked dialed-in and ready to go this preseason, nabbing a pair of touchdowns from Derek Anderson and Cam Newton. Benjamin has long been Newton's best friend in the wide receiver room and he consistently speaks with a rosy tone when asked about the hulking wideout. I personally believe in the offensive evolution in Carolina, centered around Christian McCaffrey and providing more layup throws for Newton in the short passing game. Yet, don't be surprised if the quarterback defaults a bit more to what he knows in his first game off a shoulder surgery rehab this offseason. That means plenty of targets for Benjamin, especially in scoring position. The last time Benjamin and the Panthers played the 49ers was in Week 2 last year and the 245-pound behemoth smashed them for seven catches, 108 yards and a pair of scores. We could see a redux this coming Sunday in a game that could be sneaky high-scoring, as the San Francisco cornerback room is littered with inexperienced players.
For whatever reason Seattle's staunch defense has consistently given up production to opposing tight ends. Enter Marty B. Plus the game has all the makings of a high-scoring affair meaning plenty of opportunities for Bennett. A five-catch, 75-yard performance with a touchdown or two is absolutely within the realm of possibility for the Black Unicorn.
Sam Bradford is still a bit of a punchline to most NFL fans, but he was absolutely putting in work last year with no offensive line, no running attack and a dude from Minnesota State. He's now got Dalvin Cook, a revamped o-line and a healthy Stefon Diggs. So he's going to be much better. And I also would go so far as to say Bradford deals this week against the Saints. While Philip Rivers struggles against the Denver Broncos, a team that has given him fits over the course of his career.