Ah, TheBaker’s fantasy football expertise. It’s a Rumors and Rants’ tradition. OK, so I didn’t win the league last year. I inexplicably finished second (in a 12-team league) despite having a loaded roster. But that’s how it goes in head-to-head leagues. Sometimes you put up 58 points when 80 is the mean.
But it’s a new year. And Touchdown My Pants will rise again.
I’m often told, “I’d love to get in your head and figure out what the hell you’re thinking.”
Well, lucky you. I’m opening up. Here are Week One’s Sink or Swim. Enjoy.
Drew Brees vs. Detroit. Is any explanation needed? Phillip “Toast” Buchanan and Anthony Henry are the Lions’ starting corners. Ugh. I feel sorry for any manager facing Brees this week.
Kurt Warner vs. San Francisco. Warner absolutely picked apart the Niners’ secondary in Week Nine last season, throwing for 328 yards and three scores. Anquan Boldin should be ready to go, as should Steve Breaston. Mike Singletary will have San Francisco improved, but not enough to slow down one of the league’s most explosive offenses.
Aaron Rodgers vs. Chicago. Everyone’s favorite new man crush, I was on the Rodgers train last year, and rode him to the money. He’s been downright filthy this preseason and has Packers’ fans rejoicing they have Rodgers instead of Brett Favre. Chicago’s defense isn’t nearly as strong as it once was, and its weakness lies in the secondary (30th against the pass last year). Charles Tillman just started practicing again, so matching him up against Greg Jennings right off the bat could be troubling.
Matt Cassel at Baltimore. This one could get scary. Cassel has practiced this week and should be ready to go on Sunday. He’s probably hoping that wasn’t the case. Get the ice ready.
Trent Edwards at New England. Buffalo just fired its offensive coordinator and his replacement, career backup Alex Van Pelt, has never called an NFL play. Edwards has targets with T.O. and Lee Evans, but his offensive line is a Niagara Falls-sized question mark. Edwards won’t get much time and may try to force a few to T.O., that result in picks. He was a trendy sleeper – before the preseason started. Stay away.
Matt Schaub vs. New York Jets. When healthy, Schaub is a solid NFL quarterback capable of putting up big numbers. He has one of the league’s top receivers in Andre Johnson, but expect Jets corner Darrelle Revis to remain on No. 80’s hip. Rex Ryan’s defense is all about getting pressure on the quarterback, and Schaub has proven to be more brittle than nimble.
Maurice Jones-Drew at Indianapolis. Everyone remembers the 166-yard performance MJD dropped on the Colts as a rookie in 2006. Mighty Mouse continued to fatten up on Indy’s defense last season, racking up a combined 294 yards rushing and receiving in two games against the Colts. That was with a timeshare with Fred Taylor. Taylor is in New England. MJD got dinged up late in the preseason, but a date with Indy’s D is just what the doctor ordered.
Adrian Peterson at Cleveland. I know, no shit Sherlock. But it’s early in the season. I’m trying to get as many as these right as I can to start. Cleveland ranked 28th against the run last season (151.9 yards a game). Last year’s league leader in rushing is salivating. We may see at least two 50-plus yard runs from All Day in this one.
Ray Rice vs. Kansas City. The Chiefs allowed 158.9 rushing yards a game last season (third worst in the league). Baltimore ran the ball more than any team in the NFL last year. Kansas City is tinkering with a new 3-4 defense. Don’t expect the experiment to start out well. Rice won the job outright from Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain, though all three will likely see time in the backfield. Rice is more explosive and a better pass-catching threat out of the backfield and should get a pretty heavy workload. I expect the Ravens to spend plenty of time in Chiefs’ red zone, so McClain is a nice sneaky start as well.
Larry Johnson at Baltimore. I actually think LJ is going to have a bounceback year, but it won’t start on Sunday. Baltimore’s defensive strength is nothing new. The loss of coordinator Rex Ryan could have an effect, but nothing to worry Ravens’ fans in the opener. Questions regarding KC’s offensive line and Matt Cassel’s health and/or ability should make for a near impossible day for LJ.
Pierre Thomas vs. Detroit. A sprained right knee is trouble this week for Thomas, who would have been a prime start had he been healthy. His status for Sunday is still unclear, but with it being Week One and the game presumably over by the six-minute mark of the first quarter, there will be no reason to rush Thomas back. Reggie Bush is dinged too, but should play. Mike Bell and Lynell Hamilton will get carries as well.
Joseph Addai vs. Jacksonville. The Jaguars were middle of the road stopping the run last season (tied for 13th), but the Colts were second to last running it last season. That’s why Bill Polian spent a first round pick on Donald Brown, who did nothing in the preseason to second guess the team’s decision. Addai will get the majority of the carries, but Brown will receive touches and most likely show more than Addai does.
Marques Colston vs. Detroit. When healthy, he’s Drew Brees’ preferred outlet. He rewarded patient managers last season with 508 yards and five TDs in the final five games of the year. He’s looked good to go this preseason and Brees should torch the sorry Lions.
Calvin Johnson at New Orleans. So with Brees lighting up Detroit, that means the Lions will be chucking it to play catch-up. There isn’t a receiver more physically gifted than Megatron and the Saints’ secondary isn’t exactly stout.
Eddie Royal at Cincinnati. It’s still unclear whether or not Kyle Orton will be healthy enough to start against the Bengals. And now it seems the Broncos and Brandon Marshall have kissed and made up. But Baby T.O. has barely practiced for a week and can’t be counted on for much in the opener. Meanwhile, whoever is throwing the ball, it’s more than likely Royal will be on the other end of it. He might not break any for 40-plus yards, but Royal very well could catch at least 12 balls in Week One.
Santonio Holmes vs. Tennessee. Sure Holmes had a great Super Bowl. But that performance was Holmes’ only 100-yard game all last season. No lie. Now, he did manage five catches for 93 yards and a score in Week 16 against the Titans, but expect him to be matched with cover man extraordinaire Courtland Finnegan, who made the Pro Bowl last year.
Braylon Edwards vs. Minnesota. We now know Brady Quinn will be the one tossing to Edwards, at least for Week One. That’s a shame for Edwards, who had a nice rapport with Derek Anderson (when he wasn’t dropping the ball). Minnesota’s defense is one of the best in the league and Jared Allen and Co., will harass Quinn all day, making it a rough go for the passing game.
Lee Evans at New England. Evans was close to invisible last season against the Patriots, catching just four passes for 41 yards in two games against the Bills’ division rivals. Now, he has contend with T.O. and his mouth to feed. Mix in the firing of the team’s offensive coordinator and the spotty preseason performance by Trent Edwards, and things don’t look good. You think Bill Belicheck is licking his lips?
John Carlson vs. St. Louis. T.J. Houshmandzadeh will be Matt Hasselbeck’s primary target, but Carlson isn’t too far behind. As a rookie, Carlson caught 55 balls for 627 yards last year and talk out of Seattle was that the team wanted to expand his role in the offense. With Nate Burleson and Deion Branch the other options, expect Hasselbeck to call Carlson’s number against the Rams and their still-learning defense.
Dallas Clark vs. Jacksonville. Many think Anthony Gonzalez benefits most from Marvin Harrison’s absence. In actuality, it’s Clark who moves to No. 2 on Peyton Manning’s target list. The Colts’ reliance on Clark is evidenced by the team’s decision to keep just four wide receivers on its 53-man roster. In his last four games against the Jags, Clark has averaged six catches for 70 yards and a score a contest (totals – 23 catches for 278 yards and four scores).
Visanthe Shiancoe at Cleveland. A top-five fantasy TE last year and no one knows it. Brett Favre loves tight ends, and I’m not talking 34-waist Wranglers. Any viewers of Favre’s preseason drives certainly noticed his affinty for Shiancoe, who is primed for a big year.