The 2006 NFL Season kicks off with as much storylines and
hype as the NFL season in general! Both teams will come into this
game with a conservative offensive approach to gain the edge in
time of possession, relying on their respective defenses to win
the battle for field position and ultimately win the game. The team
that is more successful on the ground should come out on top in
what should be a great game to start the season.
Roethlisberger’s emergency surgery prevents him from playing
in this game and forces Pittsburgh to play Charlie Batch right
out of the gates in their 2005 Championship defense. Batch looked
decent during the preseason, but he isn’t nearly as good
as Big Ben. Hines Ward is also nursing a hamstring injury and
might not be at 100%, Cedric Wilson and Heath Miller should shoulder
more of the work in the passing game.
Miami: Daunte Culpepper has
shown during the preseason he is capable of returning to fantasy’s
elite group of QB’s, but he must prove it during the regular
season before owners can feel good about him as their #1 QB for
the season. Chambers is adept at running deep routes and would
seem to be perfect complement to Culpepper’s ability to
throw the ball downfield. With Pittsburgh’s stingy defense,
Culpepper will be tested early and often in long passing situations.
Should Culpepper rise to the occasion against this defense, consider
trading for him before his value skyrockets against weaker defenses
in weeks 2-7.
- Start: Defense, C.
Chambers, and R. Brown
- Consider: D. Culpepper and R. McMichael
- Sit: M. Booker and O. Mare
Pittsburgh: Although Jerome
“The Bus” Bettis retired, Pittsburgh and Bill Cower
will still come out playing smash mouth football. Fantasy owners
should watch how Willie Parker produces after having a full off-season
to prepare as the #1 RB. Although Cowher has stated Parker will
receive the ball near the goal to start the season, I am not sold
on him being successful in that role. Should Parker fail to score
on carries inside the 5-yard line, his fantasy value will take
a serious hit as the Steelers turn to other options. Heath Miller
should continue to improve in his second year and figure prominently
in the Steelers passing game.
- Start: Defense, W. Parker,
J. Reed and H. Miller
- Consider: C. Wilson and H. Ward
- Sit: B. Roethlisberger and C.
Score: Miami 17 Pittsburgh
Atlanta heads to Carolina for a tough NFC South divisional game.
Many people believe Carolina has the team to win the Superbowl in
2006, including myself, but they must first get through their division
and make the playoffs. Their season begins at home against a very
dangerous Atlanta team that underachieved last season. Atlanta bolstered
their defense with the acquisition of DE John Abraham, SS Lawyer
Milloy and first round draft choice, CB Jimmy Williams. One reason
might be the good run defenses within their division, including
Carolina. Look for Atlanta to become more balanced on offense and
continue to torment defensive coordinators by making Vick a part
of the running game.
Carolina brought in Keyshawn Johnson to complement the league’s
leading receiver in 2005, Steve Smith. Johnson’s presence
will give Carolina and QB Jake Delhomme another quality target
when defenses double-team Smith this season. The defense is still
the most decisive factor in winning football games in Carolina
and will be counted on to win this game.
Atlanta: Michael Vick’s
fantasy value should increase this season as he develops as a
passer. He has all the weapons around him to keep defenses honest,
which includes his legs. Carolina will try and force Vick to throw
the ball to beat them. With another year of seasoning, his young
WR’s should be acclimated to Vick’s style and become
more productive as whole-I don’t see any individual receiver
having a great day this week. Add in the steady and sure-handed
Alge Crumpler at TE and Carolina will have troubles if Vick finds
a rhythm in the passing game. Check out the kicking situation
in Atlanta, Koenen is doing it all and has great range and is
definitely worthy of starting based on your other options.
- Start: Vick, Crumpler and Dunn
- Consider: Koenen
- Sit: Defense, Lelie, Jenkins and White
Carolina: DeShaun Foster had
two of his best games last season against the Falcons. You can
be sure Carolina will run him early and often and test Atlanta’s
revamped defense. As a result, Foster should post respectable
numbers. I think Jake Delhomme will test the Atlanta secondary
all day, finding success enough times to have a good day. Those
who say Delhomme is always locked in with Smith and never looks
at anyone else would do the same thing if you were in his shoes.
With Johnson on board Jake has a real reason to take his eyes
- Start: Defense, Delhomme, Foster,
Kasay and Johnson
- Consider: none
- Sit: Williams
Score: Carolina 27 Atlanta
The Ravens and the Buccaneers match up well against each other
and even have #2 WR’s with the same name (this should make
the broadcast interesting). The Ravens finally shelved Boller
after signing Steve McNair, but don’t get too caught up
in the McNair hype. This is a guy who practically inures every
part of his body throughout the course of an NFL season. At some
point Boller will be starting again for the Ravens again. Jamal
Lewis will try and rebound from a disappointing 2005 campaign,
but won’t find much success against the Bucs in this game.
Carnell “Cadillac” Williams is healthy again and
should be the focus of the offensive game plan in this game. Chris
Simms had a great preseason and appears ready to make the next
step in his young NFL career. He will have a healthy Mark Clayton
to start the season opposite Galloway. Their defense remains amongst
the top units in the league, allowing the fewest total yards per
game in 2005.
Baltimore: Todd Heap’s
value rises considerably with McNair at QB. Heap is a great pass
catching TE and good at working the zone coverage and finding
the seam in the vertical passing game. Heap will be one of the
first places McNair looks when he is being pressured by the Tampa
- Start: Heap and Stover
- Consider: Mason and Clayton
- Sit: Lewis, Defense and McNair
Tampa Bay: Moving the ball
on the Baltimore defense will be a challenge and more than likely,
field goals will decide this game. For this reason I like Matt
Bryant. I also think Tampa Bay’s defense will completely
shut down the Ravens in this low scoring affair. Ed Reed and Ray
Lewis are tough to beat on a consistent basis.
- Start: Defense, Williams and Bryant
- Consider: Galloway, Clayton
- Sit: Alstott, Pittman
Score: Tampa Bay 13 Baltimore
Division rivals Buffalo and New England clash in Foxboro Sunday
afternoon. When these two teams met for the first time at Gillette
stadium last season, Willis McGahee tallied over 150 all-purpose
yards but didn’t get into the end zone once. The Bills only
scored 6 rushing touchdowns all season in 2005. With J.P. Losman
under center this team will have to score on the ground if they
want to contend in this game or this season for that matter.
The Patriots are not as dominant as they once were, but are still
the favorite in the AFC East until another team supplants them.
Belichick and Brady remain united and Corey Dillon should be ready
to go but questions at the WR position may plague this team in
Week 1. With Deion Branch holding out and Reche Caldwell looking
like, well, Reche Caldwell, the Pats traded with Oakland for Doug
Gabriel. Even if Branch decides to end his holdout with the team,
I doubt he would receive any playing time this week, which means
the Patriots, will line up with Gabriel, Caldwell, rookie Chad
Jackson and the ageless Troy Brown at WR. While Brady is excellent
at breaking down defensive schemes, I think this will limit their
passing game substantially allowing the Bills defense to load
up against the run.
Buffalo: New offensive coordinator
Steve Fairchild will build his game plan around McGahee and plans
on utilizing his pass catching skills more in 2006. McGahee will
receive over 30 touches in this game and should produce huge yardage
totals and I believe he gets multiple touchdowns in this game.
The Bills ground attack will also help open the door for some
long pass plays to Lee Evans.
- Start: McGahee
- Consider: Evans and Lindell
- Sit: Defense, Losman, Reed, and Price
New England: Can Brady produce
with less than spectacular options at WR? Yes, but not this week,
as they will need more time to learn the playbook and create chemistry.
Brady will disappoint fantasy owners who selected him as the second
or third QB off the board in this game. The Bills’ secondary
should allow the front seven to play the run. If Brady works his
magic and proves me wrong, TE Ben Watson and Gabriel should be
- Start: Dillon and Watson
- Consider: Gabriel and Brady
- Sit: Caldwell, Jackson, and
Score: Buffalo 24 New England
The Bengals and Chiefs are two promising teams with multiple offensive
weapons that could turn this game into a shootout. Last season,
both of these teams converted over 42% of third downs, whichever
team can come up with big plays to stop drives will win this game.
All signs point to a very good game with two very evenly matched
This will be the first regular season game for Cincinnati’s
Carson Palmer since his injury in last season’s playoffs.
He looked great in his appearances during the preseason, even
taking hits on the knee. Head Coach Marvin Lewis will need to
slow down Kansas City’s running game while trying to outscore
the Chiefs in this one.
Kansas City enters a new era in 2006 with Herm Edwards taking
over as head coach after the retirement of Dick Vermiel and Dick
Curl taking over as offensive coordinator with the departure of
Al Saunders to Washington. What effect will this have on the Chiefs
in 2006? Edwards loves to run and plays very, very, very conservative.
Larry Johnson finally got his shot in the second half of last
season and proved he can be a game changer. The Chiefs will utilize
Johnson to set up the play action and give TE Tony Gonzalez and
speedy Eddie Kennison opportunities downfield when they do decide
to pass the ball.
Cincinnati: The Chiefs feature
two capable defensive ends in rookie Tamba Hali and Jared Allen
that can rush the passer as well as a secondary featuring free
agent acquisition, Ty Law, that have the ability to cover the
likes of Chad Johnson and T. J. Houshmandzadeh. Rudi Johnson will
be needed to keep the defense guessing as well as keeping the
Chiefs potent ground attack on the sidelines. Rudi should be up
for the task as the Bengals pick up where they left off last season.
- Start: Palmer, C. Johnson, R. Johnson, Houshmandzadeh and Graham
- Consider: none
- Sit: Defense
Kansas City: Johnson will be
fed the ball and be among the best fantasy running backs this
week. Even if Cincinnati puts 8 in the box, Larry Johnson should
still be effective. The depth and stamina of the Chiefs’
offensive line versus the Bengals’ defensive line will play
a huge factor in Larry Johnson’s final numbers. With it
being the first week of the season, it is not uncommon to see
cramping among players and the Chiefs no longer have road-grader
Willie Roaf around.
- Start: L. Johnson, Gonzalez, Kennison and Tynes
- Consider: Green
- Sit: Defense and Parker
Score: Kansas City 33 Cincinnati
If you enjoy watching two teams try to run each other over then
you will want to watch the Rams take on the Broncos in St. Louis.
Denver’s Mike Shanahan and Scott Linehan, making his NFL
debut as Head Coach of the Rams, have masterminded many successful
backfields in their professional coaching careers. Both teams
are capable moving the ball through the air as well so it will
be interesting to see how each coach integrates the passing attack
to complement their ground game. The Rams won only three of their
eight home games last season and missed the playoffs. The Broncos,
however, won five of eight road games last year and made the playoffs.
Denver’s defense tied for the third most takeaways in the
NFL in 2005 and finished with twenty more takeaways than giveaways.
Turnovers usually decide close games, so Bulger and Steven Jackson
are going to have to play mistake-free to pull out a win. Bulger
has always had a knack for throwing INT’s but that was also
when he was chucking the ball Mike Martz style. Look for Linehan
to instill the same type of changes in Bulger as Mike Shanahan
did with Jake Plummer last season.
Denver: Without actually looking
it up, I bet the word “carousel” is one of the most
often written words in articles relating to the Denver Broncos.
Mike Bell and Tatum Bell are the broncos spinning around and Mike
Shanahan will undoubtedly ride them both during this game. A bigger
fantasy question lies with WR Javon Walker, who will see his first
regular season NFL action since a torn ACL in Week 1 abruptly
ended his 2005 season. Many fantasy owners will be eager to find
out how Walker looks and is utilized in the passing game. St.
Louis’ secondary is suspect and should be exploited making
Walker a decent play this week even though he is coming off major
- Start: T. Bell, M. Bell, Walker, R. Smith and Elam
- Consider: Plummer and Defense
- Sit: Alexander
St. Louis: Steven Jackson is
primed for a breakout season and will get his first licks against
a fairly stingy defense. As long as Torry Holt and Marc Bulger
are playing, the defense must pay attention to the pass giving
Jackson just enough room to produce solid numbers in his season
debut. Teams challenged Champ Bailey time and time again last
season and Bailey rose to the occasion more often than not. Bailey
will not shut down Torry Holt completely but his presence and
the more conservative offense may lead to fewer targets for him
in this game.
- Start: Bulger, Holt, and Jackson
- Consider: none
- Sit: Defense, Bruce, Curtis and Klopfenstein
Score: Denver 24 St. Louis
The Saints are a year removed from one of the most bizarre seasons
any team has ever had to endure after Hurricane Katrina ripped
apart the Gulf Coast. They will face the Cleveland Browns who
are entering their second season under former Patriots defensive
guru, Romeo Crennel. The Saints open the season with plenty of
promise on the offensive side of the ball but appear challenged
defensively. Reggie Bush and Duece McAllister should give Saints’
first year head coach, Sean Payton, plenty of options running
the ball. The Saints are also hoping newly signed Drew Brews can
step in and consistently keep the chains moving on offense and
be a team leader.
The Browns have had a full off-season to bring in personnel more
fitting of Crennel’s style of play and are handing the offense
over to Charlie Frye. Rueben Droughns will be the featured RB
after the team released Lee Suggs earlier this week. Braylon Edwards
and Kellen Winslow, Jr. return from injury riddled 2005 seasons
and join Joe Jurevicius to round out a much more formidable offensive
lineup in 2006. Crennel lured Willie McGinest away from the Patriots
and he will be valuable in keeping pressure on Brees during this
New Orleans: Fantasy owners
will be watching the Saints’ backfield very closely in this
game. They are wondering what they are going to get from former
undisputed fantasy first rounder, Duece McAllister, who is returning
from a knee injury that cut his 2005 season short. Rookie Reggie
Bush also enters the equation, leaving fantasy owners drooling
with anticipation of a great season. How this situation pans out
in week 1 against the Browns will give fantasy owners a better
idea of what to expect from these two running backs in the future,
or at least the first half of the season.
- Start: McAllister, Horn
- Consider: Bush, Carney and Brees
- Sit: Henderson, Hilton and Defense
Cleveland: Kellen Winslow,
Jr. was drafted to become an immediate difference maker on the
offensive side of the ball. Well he was, just not in the kind
of way Cleveland hoped when they drafted him. Unless something
happens before the start of the game he should make it to opening
day 2006 healthy enough to actually play. He has plenty of motivation
and will quickly become one of Charlie Frye’s favorite targets.
Since Droughns only scored twice last season on 1,200 yards rushing,
I’m guessing the Browns incorporate Winslow, Jr. around
the goal line as well.
- Start: Droughns, Winslow, Jr. and Dawson
- Consider: Edwards and Jurevicius
- Sit: Frye, Northcutt and Defense
Score: New Orleans 20 Cleveland
Gang Green rolls into the Music City in a game that features two
of last season’s worst teams. The Jets made several changes
in the off-season, installing a new General Manager and Head Coach
in the process. The Jets hope Chad Pennington is fully healed
so he can rekindle some of the magic he had with WR Laveranues
Coles during 2002. The Jets will start their two top draft choices
in D’Brickashaw Ferguson at tackle and Eric Mangold at center
on the offensive line. Their development is vital to keeping Pennington
healthy and improving upon a running game that was second to last
a year ago.
Jeff Fisher’s days in Tennessee seem to be numbered as
the Titans open the season. Kerry Collins was signed only week
ago and should be the starter for this game which has angered
the incumbent Billy Volek. Travis Henry and Chris Brown have not
had an impressive preseason and will most likely share carries
in this game. The Titans have brought in David Givens to add depth
to a WR corps that was decimated by injuries last season.
New York: The Jets do not offer
much production in regards to fantasy football. Coles is about
the only player worth considering in your lineup this week. Pennington
has plenty of motivation this season and Coles is his favorite
target. Look for Chad to hit Coles deep early and gain some confidence
and momentum. The offense should move the ball enough to give
Kicker Mike Nugent a few opportunities in this game as well.
- Start: none
- Consider: Coles, Nugent
- Sit: Pennington, Cotchery, Barlow
Tennessee: Which running back
starts and gets the most carries is the most intriguing fantasy
impact in this game. Brown and Henry have 1000-yard seasons to
their name, but neither will approach that number if this turns
into a RBBC. With Kerry Collins being named most likely starting
at QB, Tennessee will have to rely on the run to move the ball
as Collins continues to digest the playbook. Regardless of who
starts this game, the more productive runner should have the edge
going into the following weeks. If Henry or Brown emerges as the
clear-cut starter they would become a viable #3 RB on your fantasy
- Start: none
- Consider: none
- Sit: everyone
Score: New York 16 Tennessee
Philadelphia ATO (After T.O.) begins in Houston. McNabb and Head
Coach Andy Reid will feel the pressure to return this team to
the playoffs with TO gone. The Eagles traded for Donte Stallworth
last week, adding a talented vertical threat to the passing game.
Brian Westbrook will serve as the #1 RB, starting this game after
being held out of the preseason for “precautionary reasons.”
Philadelphia should not have any problems moving the ball against
this defense and win this game.
One of the main problems for Houston last season was pass protection.
Carr was sacked 68 times, more than any other QB in the league
and 19 more than the next most sacked QB. Philly defensive coordinator
Jimmie Johnson has made a living out of blitzing from everywhere
and on any down. I sure hope Kubiak worked out the kinks over
the off-season and preseason for Carr’s sake. The Texans
backfield will become a RBBC after they placed Dominic Davis on
the Injured Reserve with a bum knee. Wali Lundy, a rookie out
of Virginia, will open the season as the team’s starter
but will share carries with Vernand Morency and possibly Ron Dayne,
who was picked up after the Broncos released him earlier this
week. If Carr is given some time, he will have two capable wide
outs, Andre Johnson and Eric Moulds, to target.
Philadelphia: The Eagles’
Brian Westbrook has had injury problems in the past. I don’t
doubt he is healthy enough to play, but if this injury was serious
enough to prevent him from playing a single down during the preseason
I am a little worried about him as my #2 RB heading into Week
1. He should be a great play against the Texans but be ready to
pounce on Buckhalter should something indicate Westbrook is not
at 100% in this game. Reid is also tinkering with a goal line
package that includes 350-pound center Nick Cole as a lead blocker
which may increase Westbrook’s chances of scoring with goal
- Start: McNabb, Westbrook, Stallworth, Akers, Smith and Defense
- Consider: Lewis and Brown
- Sit: none
Houston: The Texans offensive
line must play well for any of their players to produce solid
fantasy numbers. While the Texans supporting cast may not be among
fantasy’s elite, a few Houston players will deserve consideration
during the fantasy season. I am not starting any Texans this week,
but how this team performs in Week 1 will help answer lineup questions
for Andre Johnson, Wali Lundy and Vernand Morency owners in Week
- Start: none
- Consider: none
- Sit: everyone
Score: Philadelphia 33 Houston
Some people consider Seattle to be a depressing place due to the
rain, but when fall approaches, Detroit football can cause serious
bouts of depression as well. Seattle dominated the NFC last season
while Lions were in civil unrest with questions regarding management,
coaching and the talent on the field.
Despite being overmatched at almost every position on the field,
Detroit fans will be interested in watching how their new offense
pans out with Jon Kitna now taking the snaps behind center and
Mike Martz calling the plays. Seattle shouldn’t take the
Lions lightly. Detroit’s defense should be improved over
last season and one would expect a Mike Martz offense to score
a few points. Detroit’s offensive line must give Kitna time
to throw the ball if the Lions have any hope of keeping this one
Seattle: The status of Darrell
Jackson’s knee and lack of a serious TE threat is a concern
and owners smart enough to grab Nate Burleson this season may
get early dividends in their investment. For those fantasy owners
who are anxious to see how Shaun Alexander does without Steve
Hutchingson, this week should quell any doubts. If Alexander’s
2006 fantasy totals are lower than last season it won’t
be due to his production in this game.
- Start: Hasselbeck, Alexander, Burleson, Brown
- Consider: Defense and Jackson (knee)
- Sit: Engram and Mili
Detroit: Last season when Martz’
Rams faced off with Seattle, Bulger threw 40 passes in each game.
Expect Kitna to approach that number on Sunday with at least ten
balls thrown to Roy Williams. After Williams, I think Kitna will
spread the catches around. If I were to pick another WR that could
post respectable numbers I would go with Corey Bradford. Kevin
Jones will have trouble reaching 100 yards rushing once Seattle
gets the lead and forces Detroit into throwing situations. After
Jones’ disappointing 2005 campaign I would like to see him
perform before feeling good about making him my #2 RB this week.
- Start: Kitna and Williams
- Consider: Bradford, Jones
- Sit: Hanson, Defense
Score: Seattle 34 Lions 17
The Bears and Packers continue their storied rivalry in Green
Bay to kick off the season. The Bears enter the 2006 season with
a great deal of promise and a healthier situation at quarterback-signing
Brian Griese at QB. If or when Grossman gets hurt or becomes ineffective,
the Bears have someone that can count on to keep the offense rolling
along. The Bears have two capable running backs to carry the load
against the Packers, as Cedric Benson is healthy enough to spell
Thomas Jones who was named the starter coming out of the preseason.
The Bears defense should feast on the Packers offense, but will
need to pay attention to Ahman Green who is healthy again after
missing most of the 2005 season.
Just about everything went wrong for the Packers in 2005 so the
2006 season should bring renewed spirits to Lambeau Field on Sunday.
Favre will be the best and worst player for the Packers at times,
but he is a great leader on the field and can still throw the
ball better than most of the other starting QBs in the NFL. Donald
Driver officially replaces Javon Walker as the team’s top
receiver and will keep the Bears secondary on its toes. Green
is healthy again but won’t get much room to run against
the Bears. Bubba Franks also returns at TE and could be a factor
in the passing game.
Bears: Although Thomas Jones
should have a great day rushing the ball for the Bears; Mushin
Muhammad is the player to watch. Rex Grossman seemed to lock in
on Muhammad in limited playing time last season. Muhammad should
be able to get open against the Green Bay secondary that now includes
future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson and get enough targets to
post solid numbers for your fantasy team in Week 1.
- Start: Defense, Jones, and Muhammad
- Consider: none
- Sit: Grossman, Gould, Berrian and Benson
Green Bay: Was Ahman Green
a good value on draft day? Green gets to prove he is back and
better than ever against one of the best defenses in the league.
Green has the potential to contribute as your #2 RB but should
be viewed as a #3 RB until his performance on the Sunday’s
indicates he can be consistent and stay healthy. I wouldn’t
start Green this week, but am certainly keeping an eye on his
quickness and the offensive line’s ability to open up holes
for him. Donald Driver should get plenty of balls thrown his way
as the Packers fall behind and Favre goes into “chuck-it-up-there”
- Start: Driver
- Consider: none
- Sit: everyone else
Score: Chicago 27 Green Bay
Two of the league’s best defenses will be on display in
Jacksonville when the Cowboys and Jaguars meet Sunday afternoon.
Both of these teams have realistic shots at contending for the
Superbowl and this game will set the tone for the rest of the
season. This game should have it all: great plays, turnovers,
big hits, great catches and big hits. The Cowboys feature the
reality soap opera of Terrell Owens and his status for Week 1
is still uncertain because of injuries and team delinquency, but
I’m guessing he starts this game opposite Terry Glenn. Regardless,
Parcells and the Cowboys should be focused for the Jags relying
on their defense to keep the game close and give them a chance
to pull out the win late.
Jacksonville’s defense allowed only 67 third down conversions
(or 32.7%) in 2005. Donovan Darius is healthy and a major part
of the Jags’ defense which is capable of handling Dallas’
offense. QB Byron Leftwich and RB Fred Taylor have had injury
problems in the past but both are healthy for this game. Matt
Jones assumes the role as the team’s #1 WR after the retirement
of Jimmy Smith. He and Earnest Wilford give Leftwich two big,
athletic targets that are capable of running deep routes.
Dallas: Julius Jones has Marion
Barber breathing down his neck and must get out to a quick start
if he wants to keep getting the majority of the carries in Dallas.
He will have a tough time finding room against Jacksonville and
I would look to other options for your #2 RB in Week 1. Terry
Glenn and Bledsoe showed great chemistry during the preseason
and Bledsoe will look Glenn’s way often. If Owens is named
as the starter you have to start him since he can score any time
he touches the ball.
- Start: Defense, Vanderjagt, Witten, Glenn and Owens (hammy)
- Consider: Bledsoe
- Sit: Barber
Jacksonville: Fred Taylor is
never drafted very high because of his history of injuries but
when healthy he can still perform and help your team win as a
#3 RB. Jacksonville will need to run the ball to control the clock
and set up the passing game. LaBrandon Toefield might be called
upon near the goal line. If so, he has the opportunity to become
this year’s Stephen Davis or Jerome Bettis.
- Start: Defense, Taylor and
- Consider: Jones, Leftwich and
- Sit: Toefield and Jones-Drew
Score: Jacksonville 17 Dallas
In a NFC West match up, the 49ers head to Arizona for a date with
the Cardinals. Despite the ugly record in 2005, the 49ers played
hard for Head Coach Mike Nolan throughout the entire 17 game season.
That kind of work ethic and determination will translate into
more wins in 2006. Getting one of those wins in Week 1 will not
be easy with the Cardinals featuring one of the top offensive
units in the NFL. I don’t see the San Francisco secondary
keeping up with the Cardinal receivers but I do expect better
output from second-year QB Alex Smith and the offense. Frank Gore
will carry the ball and Antonio Bryant will take over for Brandon
Lloyd as the team’s #1 WR.
Dennis Green’s job security might be in question if he
can’t get this team into the playoffs. The Cardinals added
a legitimate running threat in Edgerrin James to offset the team’s
strength in the passing game. The Cardinals will use the pass
to set up the run against the 49ers leading to a possible blowout
in the desert. The addition of James will also help the Cardinals
in pass protection, ultimately helping keep Warner off his back
San Francisco: Antonio Bryant
has been overlooked by many fantasy owners and falling to the
late rounds in most fantasy drafts. Fantasy owners should take
note that this will be Alex Smith’s second season as the
starter and he has more talent around him which should yield more
offensive production. With the 49ers likely to be trailing for
a good portion of the second half, Bryant should get enough catches
to warrant consideration in your starting lineup this week.
- Start: none
- Consider: Bryant
- Sit: everyone else
Arizona: Edgerrin James is
a significant upgrade in the running game and he instantly becomes
the best running back the franchise has ever had on its roster.
However, his value varies amongst fantasy owners. The Cardinals
rushed the ball in only 33.5% of their offensive plays last season,
the fewest in the NFL. This percentage will certainly increase
with Edge running the ball, but how much it increases remains
to be seen.
- Start: Warner, James, Fitzgerald, Boldin, Rackers and Defense
- Consider: Johnson
- Sit: Pope
Score: Arizona 42 San Francisco
In the Manning Bowl, the Colts travel to the Meadowlands to take
on the New York football Giants on Sunday night. Indianapolis
had a remarkable regular season in 2005, but couldn’t get
the job done in the post season. Edgerrin James is gone, and his
carries will be replaced by incumbent Dominic Rhodes and rookie
Joseph Addai. The Colts should use the pass a little bit more
to set up the run this season. Expect a lot of no-huddle from
the Colts as they try and take the wind out of pass rushers, Strahan
and Umenyiori. Wayne may be the best #2 WR in the NFL but Marvin
Harrison just gets it done week after week, year after year.
The Giants are hoping QB Eli Manning continues to develop and
improves his completion percentage and becomes more consistent.
Tiki Barber will give the Giants a solid game, but Brandon Jacobs
should become much more involved in the offense, spelling Barber
on short yardage situations and possibly taking a series in the
first half. Contrary to the Colts style of play, the Giants will
want to burn as much time on the clock as possible to give their
defense time to rest and keep the high octane Colts offense off
Indianapolis: On paper the
RB situation didn’t impress during the preseason, but Dungy
and the rest of the staff didn’t appear worried, more concerned
with how the duo of Rhodes and Addai handled blitz protection
and knew were to line up. I suspect Dungy will use both but play
the hot hand at the time. This situation may not change until
an injury occurs or one player significantly out produces the
other. I would consider starting both backs in the Colt’s
offense since one of them is bound to produce.
- Start: Manning, Harrison, Wayne, Vinatieri and Clark
- Consider: Rhodes and Addai
- Sit: Defense and Stokley
New York: New York should run
the ball as much as possible which bodes well for Tiki Barber
and Brandon Jacobs. Although Eli Manning can throw the ball and
has solid receiving option in TE Shockey and WR Burress, I would
temper expectations for him this week. There is a slight chance
this game becomes a shootout, but I am not banking on it. I’m
not sold on the Giants passing game producing huge fantasy points
this week and I would consider other options such as Kurt Warner
at QB and Nate Burleson or T.J. Houshmandzadeh at WR over Manning
and Plaxico. Jay Feeley should get more than one FG opportunity
and be a nice play for you in Week 1.
- Start: Barber, Jacobs and Feeley
- Consider: Manning, Burress and Shockey
- Sit: Defense and Toomer
Score: Indianapolis 26 New
The Vikings head to Washington to open the season against Joe
Gibb’s Redskins in the late game on Monday night (Football’s
version of Midnight Madness I suppose). Minnesota will be under
the direction of new Head Coach Brad Childress. The Vikings signed
RB Chester Taylor, the long time backup to the Ravens’ Jamal
Lewis, and will expect him to carry the bulk of the load in 2006.
Somehow the acquisition of Koren Robinson as their #1 WR didn’t
pan out, paving the way for Troy Williamson’s rise atop
the depth chart. The Redskin’s have a very good secondary
and I doubt they give up much to conservative QB Brad Johnson.
Washington is not being given much respect in the preseason as
many analysts seem to think Dallas and New York are the best teams
in the division. This will only light a fire in Gibb’s boys
who have the team to compete for a division title. The uncertainty
surrounding Clinton Portis will have a huge impact on this game.
Brunell was given more offensive weapons for the passing game
and I suspect he will be throwing the ball much more if Portis
doesn’t play. Brandon Lloyd and Antwaan Randle El were signed
in the off season to help free up Santana Moss, the Redskins’
leading receiver in 2005.
Minnesota: Chester Taylor was
signed to be the main ball carrier in Minnesota and must prove
he can handle the job if the Vikings expect to contend for a playoff
spot. He is in a situation that should allow him the opportunity
to be a great #2 RB for you fantasy team. Childress should also
get Taylor involved in the passing game as well, boosting his
value in PPR leagues. The Redskins’ defense could be a problem
this week, so if Taylor may not give you much this week. I am
willing to take that gamble considering he will not be losing
too many carries.
- Start: C. Taylor
- Consider: Longwell, Williamson, and Defense
- Sit: Johnson, T. Taylor and Kleinsasser
Washington: The running back
situation in Washington is muddied and probably won’t clear
up until game day. Fantasy owners need to know what the role of
T. J. Duckett will be to determine the proper value of Portis
and Betts moving forward. I think Portis will be fine when he
comes back but I am concerned about Duckett stealing touchdowns.
Let’s hope this game answers some of those questions.
- Start: Moss, Cooley
- Consider: Hall, Portis (shoulder, if he starts), Betts (if he
starts) and Randel El
- Sit: Brunell, Duckett, Lloyd, Patten and Defense
Score: Washington 20 Minnesota
San Diego at Oakland features two teams with two new starting
QB’s in the first game on Monday night. Phillip Rivers finally
gets his shot with Drew Brees out of the picture in a divisional
contest on the road. Although Rivers is not a rookie, he doesn’t
have much experience and may have some difficulties in this game
adjusting to the crowd. Charger’s RB Ladanian Tomlinson
can run, catch and pass for touchdowns, which should take some
pressure off Rivers.
The Oakland Raiders are a mess. Art Shell returns to the sidelines
after spending some time in the NFL league office. The Raiders
are learning just how inconsistent Aaron Brooks can be but are
hoping he can be effective enough to get the ball into Randy Moss’
hands downfield. LaMont Jordan will get the carries but may not
have much luck gaining yardage against the Chargers run defense.
The Raiders trade of Doug Gabriel to the Patriots leaves the door
open for Ronald Curry to displace veteran Jerry Porter as the
San Diego: Rivers’ development
has a huge impact on Antonio Gates this season. If Gates continues
to produce like he did with Brees under center he will give fantasy
owners a clear advantage at the TE position. Should his numbers
decline, many fantasy owners will disappointed. Keep an eye on
WR Vincent Jackson. He is a very big target, 6-5 240, and poses
a huge match up problem if covered by nickel backs or linebackers.
However his fantasy value lies in the ability of Rivers to move
the ball efficiently through the air.
- Start: Tomlinson, Gates and Defense
- Consider: McCardell and Kaeding
- Sit: Parker and Jackson
Oakland: Randy Moss’
stock fell dramatically once the preseason game started and everyone
was reminded of how terrible Aaron Brooks can be. Many fantasy
owners took him at a reduced price but are expecting big things
from him. There is no doubt he has the shills, but injury concerns,
play-calling, and his QB situation do not favor a huge season
for Moss. If the Raiders’ find little room running the ball,
Brooks should target Moss quite a bit, especially if trailing
in the second half. If this doesn’t happen it will only
be a matter of time before Moss opens his mouth, which is never
a good thing.
- Start: Jordan and Moss
- Consider: Curry and Porter
- Sit: Brooks, Janikowski and Defense
Score: San Diego 24 Oakland