The first week of the NFL season is the toughest to project, but even so there are some indicators and warning signs that can be heeded. We’ll go through the schedule and make suggestions and recommendations for each game and team. Let’s do it.
Colts vs Saints
For the Colts; Manning, Addai, Harrison, and Wayne are no brainers. You didn’t need me to tell you that. While the Colts have started out slow in the past, there is no reason to think they will struggle terribly offensively. For the Saints; Brees, Bush, and Colston should put up the numbers you drafted them for. I had McAllister last year, and he was a great last round investment. This year he scares me a little. As Reggie Bush matures in that offense he will see the ball more and more. Deuce may be a safe play this week, but I am keeping my eye on this situation. The key match-up here is Colts left tackle Tony Ugoth vs Saints DE Will Smith. Smith had 10.5 sacks last year and was invited to Hawaii. He puts pressure on Peyton in this game. Expect at least a sack from him. This game is a shootout. Fantasy points abound.
Eagles @ Packers
McNabb, Westbrook, and Reggie Brown are solid plays this week. McNabb has a history of torching the Packers, including a 2 TD 288 yard game last year. Ditto with Westbrook in ’05. For the Packers, it isn’t as pretty. Brandon Jackson is going to start, despite the concussion he suffered last week. I wouldn’t start him on a bet this week. The Packers are going to have to air it out. Start Donald Driver. Favre? His 200 yard, 2 interception game against Philly last year should be a huge blinking warning sign. Truth is, I can’t think of many favorable match-ups for Favre this year. I’d start someone else this week for certain.
Chiefs @ Texans
Saddle up Chiefs fans. Its time to ride the Larry Johnson train. Start Gonzalez too. For the Texans, this might be a good week to try Schaub. He certainly has a decent chance against KC’s pass defense. Andre Johnson is a must start. Watch TE Owen Daniels this week too. He could easily grab a TD. Houston’s defense surrendered 122 yards and a rushing TD on average last season. That won’t improve here. Kansas City gave up roughly the same, so Ahman Green might be worth a look this week.
Broncos @ Bills
Is there a more hated coach among fantasy football enthusiasts than Mike Shanahan? Well fear not fantasy owners, this year Travis Henry owns the rushing duties in big D. Or does he? It would not surprise me at all if rookie Selvin Young got some of the carries in the game this week. Still, Henry’s potential commands that you start him. Javon Walker is a start every week guy, Jay Cutler will probably have a decent game here, though he didn’t look spectacular in preseason. For the Bills, Lee Evans has probably reached start every week status as well, though he will be matched up against Champ Bailey here. I think the Broncos will be up in this game, and Buffalo will have to throw. I’d wait on Lynch.
Steelers @ Browns
Willie Parker is a solid play here, but I would be hesitant to go with Hines Ward or Ben Roethlisberger here. This is not hometown bias- the Browns secondary is good. If they can get pressure on the QB they will be a great defense against the pass. The run defense is shaky however. For the Browns Jamal Lewis will get a ton of carries. Winslow is a good play at TE. I hesitate to start Edwards here. This should be a grind it out kind of game. Wouldn’t surprise me if it was low scoring to boot.
Panthers @ Rams
Steve Smith, of course. The running back situation is confounding. Foster and Williams will probably split the fantasy points here, and that isn’t good news. If you can afford to, let this situation play out for a week or two and get a better feel. The Panthers defense is always good. That being said, so is the Rams offense. If you own Jackson, Bulger, and Holt start them as usual and hope for their average weeks. Jackson is probably the best bet to score multiple TD’s here.
Falcons @ Vikings
All I can say is the schedule makers were kind to Joey Harrington. The Falcons get off to a good start in this one. Crumpler is a good play here, as is Joe Horn. Stay away from Atlanta RB’s. Tough call with Minnesota. If the Falcons struggle a little, the running game will carry the Vikings. Peterson will be a stud this year. But maybe not this week.
Patriots @ Jets
Maroney is a good bet for this week, as the Jets were in the bottom half of the league in rushing defense last season. Brady is a must start. Ben Watson and Donte Stallworth are worth starts this week as well. For the Jets I’d take a look at the wide outs. Coles and Cotchery might make good plays with Harrison’s suspension, and the Seymour injury. Pennington if you have to.
Dolphins @ Redskins
Wow. Glad I don’t have to watch this one. I wouldn’t touch anyone but Ronnie Brown for the Dolphins right now. For the Redskins, it looks like Campbell and Portis will play. The Dolphins have a good defense however, so it makes anyone but Portis and Betts tough plays as well. Honestly, if you have other options…use them.
Titans @ Jaguars
Well, Jacksonville goes with Garrard at QB. I wouldn’t hold back from starting Wilford, as Tennessee’s defense is absolutely awful. Taylor and Jones-Drew are good plays too. For the Titans Vince Young is a go until his inevitable season ending Madden injury. I’m not sold on anyone else in that offense. Young does it with his feet, and spreads the ball around too well to pick one receiver.
Bears @ Chargers
Now this is a game. In fantasy football you have to count on your main guys to come through even against tough opponents. LT will still probably get 100 yards and at least one score. Gates is your man at TE, but not as a flex. If you drafted Rivers high, then you need to start him. For Chicago it is a little different. That San Diego defense is stout. Muhammad looks like he will start, but might not be a strong play. Though if I were going to attack that Charger defense, it would be through the air. They play the run so tough that it is hard to imagine Cedric Benson getting more than 80 yards. Anything is possible when a team gets in the red zone, so it is possible he gets a TD. I’d be cautious starting him if you have another option.
Buccaneers @ Seahawks
I think this is going to be another high scoring game. Look for Shaun Alexander to run at will. Hasslebeck will have his usual game. Branch could find the end zone. For the Bucs, look for them to establish Cadillac early on. Pass on Alex Smith, let him prove he is recovered before giving him a start. Seattle’s defense took some lumps last year. They gave up 23 scores in the air. That is a tempting stat if you are a Garcia owner.
Lions @ Raiders
Attention fantasy owners- start all Lions! OK, maybe not all Lions. I would certainly start Kitna, Williams, and maybe even Furrey. Wait on Calvin Johnson. Tatum Bell will be the primary back, but I don’t know that he is worth a start. Maybe over some third down or goal line backs. There is no Raider that I would have drafted. None. If you have a really deep league, maybe Lamont Jordan. Maybe. Oakland is dreadful. They will select first in next year’s draft. Maybe they can select JaMarcus Russell again.
Giants @ Cowboys
Romo, Owens, Witten and ….Marion Barber are good starts this week. Barber has New York’s number, and for whatever reason Julius Jones has struggled against them. Dallas was a top ten team against the run last year. Look for them to bottle up Brandon Jacobs. Manning had a decent rating against the Cowboys last year, so I’d give him a shot as well. Jeremy Shockey has caught a TD pass in 3 of his last 4 games against the Cowboys. That’s a trend. Start him. Maybe even as a flex.
Ravens @ Bengals
Last year the Ravens struggled to score points against Cincinnati. That was odd. Everyone else scored on the Bengals. Look for a big game from McGahee. I don’t know if I would recommend any of the receivers or McNair. You have to start him, but Chad Johnson hasn’t had any really big games against Baltimore in the past 2 seasons. Rudi Johnson is a must play every week. T.J. Houshmanzadeh has, however had good games against Baltimore, including a 10 reception game last year. He’s a good play this week too. Obviously you start Palmer.
Cardinals @ 49ers
Another week one shoot out. Edge had decent games last year against San Fran, but not great ones. I wouldn’t expect more than 80 yards here either. Start Fitzgerald, Boldin and Matt Leinert. I think Leinert has a top 5 QB game this week. As for the Niners, Gore had a pair of touchdowns in each of his starts against Arizona last year. He’s a great play here too. Vernon Davis is a good start this week, but you might think twice about Alex Smith here.
That’s all. Hope this helps. If you have a specific question feel free to click on the Fantasy Football page at the top of the screen and leave your question in the comment section. We’ll get back to you with our opinion.