Welcome to the real opening day of the NFL and dynasty leagues around the world!
Let’s face it, there’s an enormous amount of information out there this morning.
We’re not going to waste your time by repeating the news and notes about who’s in or out this week, since that’s really not what you visit us for. We’re also not going to do another article on starts or sits this week – we already have the personalized lineup advice for you on the premium content, but also have our new Calling Our Shots post on the free side to talk about game predictions and players we feel good about. Again, there are 100 places you can go for that, so we’re going to something different on Sundays for our premium content subscribers this year.
The Sunday Morning Huddle is going to go through each game and state what we’re looking to see from a dynasty perspective. We’ll pick one player from each team who have our eye on and describe why their weekend performance is a key one for them in relation to their dynasty value.
Miami at Houston
For the Dolphins, all eyes are squarely going to be on rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He did enough over the span of the last month to earn the job, but didn’t look sharp in their dress rehearsal. He doens’t have a lot of receiving weapons and only really has Reggie Bush to try to keep the defense honest. If he can survive Houston’s pass rush and not completely fold under the pressure, that’s going to be a good sign for the young signal caller.
The Texans running back situation is a mess at the moment as Arian Foster is dealing with knee soreness. Those who own Foster and Ben Tate likely hope Foster just sits. Otherwise, he may not get a full workload if he plays. If you own Foster and he’s active, you have no choice but to play him. The player we’re watching is Matt Schaub today. Injuries are really the only thing keeping this team from being elite and Schaub needs to start stringing together some healthy performances – it starts today.
New England at Tennessee
The Patriots offense is one of the best in the league, but they’ve relied almost exclusively on the pass over the past few years. With Shane Vereen out this week, Stevan Ridley is going to have a chance to solidify himself as a fantasy option and possible RB3 or flex option with a strong performance this week. While Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd are all going to get theirs, Ridley could make a case to bring some semblance of balance to the offense.
For the Titans, this is all about Jake Locker. Sure, you could make a case for Kendall Wright or Chris Johnson, but Locker has an immense amount of pressure on him today. After all, the Titans could be playing from behind, forcing them to throw. Can Locker get past his well chronicled accuracy woes, avoid the big mistakes and put up enough points to keep this game close? If so, his owners are going to feel really good about the season he could put together.
St. Louis at Detroit
Jake Locker and Sam Bradford seem to be tied at the hip on DLF this week, but for good reason. This is a huge year for Bradford as he tries to make good on his potential. The Rams haven’t done much to surround him with elite weapons and he’s already dealing with some ankle issues. Steven Jackson will do enough to keep the Lions defense honest, but Bradford needs to keep his composure and make some plays against a defense susceptible to them.
For the Lions, we pretty much know what to expect from Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson. The running game is most interesting here as Kevin Smith and Mikel Leshoure attempt to carve out their roles for the season with Jahvid Best still recovering from his concussions. Smith looks like a nice option for now, but his ability to stay healthy is always going to be in question. Can Smith do something to promote some confidence while Leshoure serves his suspension?
Washington at New Orleans
It’s easy to say RGIII in this game and he’s a great option. The most intriguing story revolves around the running backs as Alfred Morris, Roy Helu or Evan Royster could each conceivable start the game. At this point, it looks like Morris will get the call, but I doubt if they even know what’s going to happen. If Helu doesn’t play a lot, that’s going to be a huge temporary blow to his dynasty value.
For the Saints, the focus for us is on Mark Ingram. After a decent rookie campaign, owners are wanting more from the former Heisman Trophy winner. The Saints are going to employ a committee approach at running back, but owners of Ingram want to see him used much more than he was last year. We’ll just have to see what the interim interim Head Coach has in mind.
Philadelphia at Cleveland
Who knows how this is going to turn out. The person in the crosshairs this week could be Nick Foles if the Eagles can’t figure out how to protect Michael Vick. I’m going to go with DeSean Jackson, though. It looks like he’s going to be covered by Joe Haden, so his opportunities could be limited. However, he was dying for a new contract and now that he has one, it’s up to him to start playing up to his ability again – there are simply no excuses for him any longer.
For the Browns, you have to be dynasty owners are going to be paying close attention to Brandon Weeden and Josh Gordon, but let’s not kid ourselves. Trent Richardson will hit the field for the first time and expectations will be high. It’s hard to say how many carries he’s going to get, but each one of them will be highly scrutinized by dynasty owners.
Atlanta at Kansas City
Atlanta’s offense has looked unstoppable this season, despite the obvious decline of Michael Turner. The player everyone wants to see in a complete game is none other than Julio Jones, who has looked absolutely unstoppable in limited action this preseason. If he can continue elevating his play, he’s going to be one of the best dynasty players in the game for the better part of the next decade.
The Chiefs offense hasn’t looked quite so good. The cop out answer here is Matt Cassel, but I think we all know what he is by now. The more intriguing story line here is how the carries are going to get split up between Peyton Hillis and Jamaal Charles. We really need to see a bit more of Charles to be convinced he’s fully healthy, but he sure has looked great thus far.
Buffalo at New York Jets
Another running back time share is going to clearly be the focus here as Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller are both going to want the ball. Right now, it certainly looks like Jackson is going to get the lion’s share of the carries, but exactly how Spiller is going to be deployed remains an important mystery in dynasty circles.
For the Jets, let’s see. Hmm. Who has pressure on their shoulders? Geez, we just can’t think of any player who has a backup behind him who seems to be the most popular player on planet Earth. Perhaps the jets can just score a touchdown this week and silence their critics. Nah, that would be too boring.
Jacksonville at Minnesota
Justin Blackmon makes his debut, Rashad Jennings get the start, Maurice Jones-Drew will be finally active, Laurent Robinson tries to build on his 2011 season with another team, yet none of them can hold a candle to Blaine Gabbert and his place in the pressure cooker. Gabbert was truly awful last year and while it looks like he’s made some strides in the off-season, he has a long way to go. You can bet Jared Allen smells blood in the water this morning.
For the Vikings, Toby Gerhart looks to be getting the start, but it also looks like Adrian Peterson may play. It would be fantastic to see Peterson in the game and looking healthy. He won’t be 100% by any stretch of the imagination, but even an 80% Peterson is better than most of the league – let’s see how he looks when he cuts or turns the corner on a run.
Indianapolis at Chicago
OK, let’s just go with the obvious. Andrew Luck will get a stiff test in his debut as he faces the stout Chicago defense on the road. He’s passed every test thus far and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him play fairly effectively, even at Soldier Field. If he can put together a halfway decent performance, it will go a long way to solidifying him as a QB2 as early as this season.
The Bears new look passing game gets its first regular season chance to shine. I guarantee you the real players to focus on here won’t be on your fantasy lineup. Huh, what’s that you ask? I’ll explain – the players to watch in this game are frankly the offensive linemen of the Bears. If Jay Cutler can get enough time to throw to Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and the rest of the Bears offensive unit, this team could be really good. It all starts up front, though.
Seattle at Arizona
Rookie Russell Wilson makes his first start for the Seahawks and he’s easily one of the most intriguing players in dynasty leagues at the moment. He could be without Marshawn Lynch (back spasms), but no matter what, it’s going to be very interesting to see how he performs against a defensive unit who has a game plan for him. The vanilla defenses he saw in the preseason are going to be very different than what he sees today.
The Cardinals are a mess on offense, and it all starts at the quarterback position. We know what Larry Fitzgerald can do and we’ve seen what Michael Floyd can’t do early in his career. We also have a good idea of what to expect from Chris Wells and, to a lesser extent, Ryan Williams. Can the Cardinals get anything out of John Skelton or Kevin Kolb this year? If not, this could be a fantasy mess all season.
Carolina at Tampa Bay
For the Panthers, Jonathan Stewart’s availability is a huge story. If he can’t play, DeAngelo Williams could have a dominant day against the Bucs and should be considered a very strong RB1 for the week. If Stewart is active, they both move down into the depths of the RB2 or RB3 territory.
In Tampa, this is the day we get to see a ton of Doug Martin, who has looked really good this preseason. LeGarrette Blount is quickly looking like an afterthought and Martin has a real opportunity to be a dynamic weapon in dynasty leagues this season. If I was to throw out one more name, Josh Freeman is squarely in the crosshairs this week after a dreadful 2011 season.
San Francisco at Green Bay
For the 49ers, Alex Smith has been given an embarrassment of riches at running back and receiver. The player we’re most interested in seeing is actually Randy Moss. Is he going to be used as a decoy and spot player, or will he actually become a part of the offense? It’s hard to say if Smith can actually get him the ball, but if he can, Moss could be back on the radar for contending dynasty teams.
The Packers were incredible last season and they’re looking to get back to the promised land with a potent offense and opportunistic defense. Aaron Rodgers will have one new weapon and that comes in the form of Cedric Benson. If Benson can find the fountain of youth (early returns have looked good), he could really help out Rodgers by giving him some much needed balance in the offense. We know Rodgers is going to get his, but it sure would be nice if he could have some options on third and three.
Pittsburgh at Denver
With Rashard Mendenhall likely out this week, all eyes are going to be focused on Jonathan Dwyer, who has been pretty impressive thus far. He’ll likely split carries with a healing Isaac Redman, but this is Dwyer’s best shot to show the dynasty world that he’s more than a project or roster stash.
In Denver, you have to focus on Peyton Manning. After a year away from the game, everybody (dynasty league owner, fantasy owner or football enthusiast) wants to see just how healthy he is. If he can take some hits and look like the Manning we know while doing it, the dynasty values of Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and the rest of the Broncos are going to be solidified.
Cincinnati at Baltimore
For the Bengals, it’s all about Andy Dalton. Nobody really stepped up in the pre-season to take the second wide receiver spot next to AJ Green, so Dalton is going to have to really make some plays this season. Is he ready to take the next step? If he can, Green is going to make the expected leap into dynasty’s truly elite receiving options.
The Ravens came up short in the playoffs last year, but they were knocking on the door of the Super Bowl and had a great season nonetheless. With Ray Rice back and under contract, they’re looking to make it all the way this year. The offense is supposed to be more wide open this season, and that leads us to put Torrey Smith in the spotlight this week. He has a ton of ability. Can Joe Flacco and Smith become a legitimate tandem that can be consistent enough to be counted on?
San Diego at Oakland
Ryan Mathews won’t play this week, so it’s going to be committee central at running back for the Chargers. That doesn’t really matter – the health of Antonio Gates could be the key for the Chargers this year. He’s feeling better than he has in years and that’s going to do nothing but help Philip Rivers, Robert Meachem and everyone else on the San Diego offense.
For Oakland, Carson Palmer has looked awful in the preseason and has yet to have all his receivers together for a single practice. That being said, the focus for us here is on Darren McFadden. If he can stay on his feet, he’s one of the most dynamic players in the game. Ironically, the problem he’s had is those same feet – let’s see if he can start a string of healthy games.
Enjoy your weekend of football and keep it here all week as we review the events, look ahead to week two and help you in your quest for that elusive dynasty league championship.
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