1. The NFL has clearly morphed into a passing league over the past several years with that trend culminating in six quarterbacks throwing for more than 4,600 yards in 2011. While that trend is expected to continue in 2012, there is also a chance that the total passing yardage in the league will decline this season with five teams starting rookie quarterbacks in Week 1. Of those five, only Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck appears poised to post a season with over 3,000 passing yards with the Redskins Robert Griffin III having an outside chance to reach that level of production. However, Russell Wilson is expected to lead a Seahawks offense that will rely heavily on the run while the Browns Brandon Weeden and the Dolphins Ryan Tannehill lead offenses that are devoid of proven playmakers. With so many rookies under center, expect inconsistent production from the wide receivers on these five teams.
2. The fantasy value of Packers running back James Stark has plummeted since the start of training camp, courtesy of his lackluster performance and a high ankle sprain that caused him to miss most of the preseason. The 2010 sixth-round pick has lived up to his label coming out of the draft of being injury-prone and currently sits third on the depth chart behind recently signed Cedric Benson and 2011 third-round pick Alex Green. While Starks’ third string status is clearly problematic, his ascension back to the top of the depth chart may not be as far-fetched as his current fantasy value reflects. There is a reason that Benson was available on the free agent market as teams were wary of his penchant for putting the ball on the ground in 2011 as well as his lack of burst. As for Green, the Packers brass is high on him but he is coming off a torn ACL and the team is wary of overusing him. Add it all up and taking a flyer on Starks in midsize to larger leagues isn’t a bad bet.
3. Fantasy owners are hoping that Week 1 would provide some answers regarding the workload their running backs will receive in the many RBCC backfields in the league. However, injuries and surprising returns from injuries seem certain to keep those answers from being discovered for several weeks. In Carolina, Jonathan Stewart may not be a go in Week 1 while Bengals backup Bernard Scott will not play on opening day. Meanwhile, the Vikings Adrian Peterson and the Steelers Rashard Mendenhall will likely be game time decisions on Sunday as will the Chargers Ryan Mathews on Monday night. Throw in Maurice Jones-Drew’s return from a lengthy holdout, Marshawn Lynch’s back spasms and Mikel Leshoure’s suspension and there will be a whole pile of fantasy owners with tough decisions on who to start in their backfield in Week 1.
4. One of the bigger questions after Week 1 for many fantasy owners will be whether to buy into Kevin Ogletree based on his performance during the Cowboys win over the Giants. Ogletree had the best game of his career, catching 8 of his 11 targets for 114 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Not bad for a player who had accumulated 294 receiving yards during the first three years of his career. He clearly benefited from Jason Witten’s lack of use due to a spleen injury but it is also worth noting that the Cowboys only threw the ball 29 times in the game. Ogletree has an outside chance to replicate Laurent Robinson’s production from a year ago as the team’s third receiver (54 receptions for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns) but he lacks the size to consistently get clean breaks off the line of scrimmage and the Cowboys have been underwhelmed by his consistency in the past. If you are in the market for help at wide receiver, Ogletree is worth grabbing but not likely at the expense of dropping a player who you were high on entering the season.
5. The Rams passing offense featured plenty of question marks entering training camp and the preseason did little to provide any answers to those questions. In fact, the team’s passing attack enters the season looking worse than predicted. Rookie receivers Brian Quick, chosen in the 2nd round, and Chris Givens, taken in the 4th round, did little to differentiate themselves from the pack of veterans led by Steve Smith and Brandon Gibson. Only diminutive Danny Amendola is assured of consistent playing time at wide receiver throughout the year. Making matters worse for the Rams were the surprise decisions to release backup quarterback Kellen Clemens and backup tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, leaving undrafted rookie free agent Austin Davis backup up Sam Bradford and no proven pass catching tight end to compliment Lance Kendricks.
6. The Cardinals made the not altogether surprising decision to demote Kevin Kolb from the starting lineup in favor of John Skelton. Kolb has struggled during his short stay in Arizona and Skelton went 6-2 as the Cardinals quarterback last season. While Skelton’s ascension to the starting lineup shouldn’t surprise, the Cardinals have not committed to using him as their starter for the entire season. More than likely, Kolb will get a shot to reclaim the job at some point as Skelton’s lack of accuracy is almost sure to land him in the doghouse with the team’s coaching staff.