NFL Week One Games (Part Two)
Time to finish up our game previews for Week One. Check out the first part here.
Philadelphia at Houston – This marks the first time quarterback Donovan McNabb will take the field since being sidelined by a hernia injury last season. Terrell Owens is out of the picture, but other weapons remain. Against the Texans, look for McNabb to flirt with 300 yards. Running back Brian Westbrook is, as of now, a go for Sunday. He should total over 125 yards. While wide out Dont’ Stallworth is going to start, his partner Reggie Brown is the more attractive play this week. Consider him a third option at wide out. Tight end L.J. Smith doesn’t have the best hands, but he’s a start.
Yes, Reggie Bush would look good in a Texans uniform. What would look even better, however, is a competent offensive line. Quarterback David Carr should be benched until he can prove 1.6 seconds is long enough for him to pass successfully. Running back Wali Lundy could be used as a flex player against an Eagles’ defense that is weak at linebacker, but you should have two better options at the tail back spot. Andre Johnson is a marginal start in deeper leagues.
Seattle at Detroit – There shouldn’t be too much intrigue for the Seahawks’ offense in this game. The Lions’ pass defense is good but not great, which means there should be no hesitation starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. The only real question mark for the NFC Champions is the status of wide receiver Darrell Jackson (knee). He has practiced and should play, but consider him a second option this week as he comes back a bit slowly from the injury. Nate Burleson would be in line for more looks if Jackson couldn’t go or missed plays, but he remains a marginal third starter at best. Oh yeah, you can start MVP running back Shaun Alexander. I guess.
The Lions look to turn a new leaf with quarterback Jon Kitna controlling the offense. The Seahawks have a decent pass defense that you wouldn’t realize by looking at their rank last season (25th). Because they got ahead, opponents would pass as often as possible to catch up. You can do better than Kitna this week. Hopefully you can do better than running back Kevin Jones as well. The Seahawks’ run defense gave up a measly 3.6 yards per carry. Jones is a clear cut starter, but don’t anticipate good numbers. Wide out Roy Williams is the safest play for the Lions. He should grab a touchdown in this contest.
Chicago at Green Bay – I’ll make this easy. Running back Thomas Jones is a sneaky start and should approach 100 yards. For the Packers, wide out Donald Driver is a marginal start. He actually did well last season against the Bears in terms of yardage. Bench everyone else in this game.
Dallas at Jacksonville – Well, well, well. If it isn’t wide out Terrell Owens. He’s playing, which means he’s starting for your fantasy team. Quarterback Drew Bledsoe should pass for around 200 to 225 yards with a touchdown or two. He’s a safe, unspectacular selection this weekend. Avoid running back Julius Jones if at all possible. The Jaguars had a strong run defense last season and coach Bill Parcells won’t hesitate to bring in Marion Barber III if Jones struggles.
Jacksonville, meanwhile, has looked awfully shaky this preseason. Quarterback Byron Leftwich no longer has wide out Jimmy Smith, who provided the Jaguars with a consistent option in the passing game for many seasons. Leave Leftwich on the pine until we see how he does without the future Hall of Famer. Running back Fred Taylor is not a terrible pick since Dallas gave up 4.2 yards per carry last season. Consider Taylor a great flex option. The only wide receiver worth looking at from the Jaguars is Matt Jones. He’s basically a tight end with wide out speed. He’s a decent third starter and could score a touchdown.
San Francisco at Arizona – From a fantasy football perspective, this is one of the top five games of the week. San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith could find some room to pass in this game, but it’s still too soon to start him. Running back Frank Gore is a sleeper this year and certainly start worthy in this game. Look for 90 total yards with a touchdown. Wide out Antonio Bryant should only be considered a starter in very deep leagues. Tight end Vernon Davis should pick up a touchdown but his yardage total won’t be that impressive.
Start ’em if you got ’em on the other side of the ball. Quarterback Kurt Warner should exceed 300 yards to go along with two or three touchdown strikes. Running back Edgerrin James has question marks swirling with the move to Arizona, but this game isn’t one of them. He should run for over 100 yards and a touchdown. Wide outs Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald are both studs. They should start this season much the same way they got along last season: swimmingly. Both will cross 100 yards to go along with a touchdown.
Indianapolis at N.Y. Giants – The Manning Bowl features other players besides the quarterbacks, though NBC may not be aware of it. Quarterback Peyton Manning is a top passing option this week, but again, do I really need to tell you that? The running back spot is a little messy for the Colts and I advise avoiding it altogether if you can. Both Dominic Rhodes and rookie Joseph Addai will get touches. If you must start one, I’d lean to Rhodes, but again, look elsewhere. Wide outs Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne are both obvious starts. Normally, tight end Dallas Clark would be a go-to guy in this type of game, but he is questionable (concussion), so you should probably consider someone else.
Quarterback Eli Manning should also be in your lineup. When the Giants get behind early, they will heave the ball 50 times in this game. The little Manning can’t help but get statistics if that happens. Running back Tiki Barber is a good play. The Colts’ run defense was overrated, as opponents were forced to abandon their run game against them last season to catch up. Even if Barber only get 18 to 22 carries, he will have a fine day. Wide receiver Plaxico Burress and tight end Jeremy Shockey will be the main receiving threats. Both should cross the stripe.
Minnesota at Washington – This game is quickly becoming a potential snooze-fest. The only Viking to start is running back Chester Taylor. He’s looked pretty bad in the preseason, but Minnesota has no other option but to run him 25 times. He should get his yards. On the other side of the ball, Clinton Portis (shoulder) is still listed as questionable, but reports are that he won’t be able to go. Be safe, leave Portis on the bench for this one. Wide out Santana Moss could get a long touchdown. Tight end Chris Cooley will serve as the Redskins’ possession guy and is a start.
San Diego at Oakland – This should be another fun game. Quarterback Philip Rivers is young and there’s really no track record, but I’m going to be bold and name him a sneaky start. The Chargers have torched the Raiders in recent years. If he can get the ball to tight end Antonio Gates and running back LaDainian Tomlinson, they will do the rest. Speaking of Tomlinson, he may not duplicate the ‘throw one, catch one, run one’ touchdown trifecta from last year, but expect him to go for over 150 total yards with one or two strikes. Start Gates and consider Keenan McCardell a very deep number three option or a flex player in huge leagues.
Quarterback Aaron Brooks is another sneaky start. Wide out Randy Moss has had his way with the Chargers, so all Brooks needs to do is throw the ball very long and very high. That’s the one thing he can do well. Running back LaMont Jordan will have a long day, unfortunately. You may not be able to bench him, but only the Steelers gave up fewer yards per carry than the Chargers. If you do start Jordan, hope for a cheap, short touchdown and also for contributions in the passing game. Moss is an obvious start, but I’d leave fellow wide receiver Jerry Porter on my bench until he proves his head is into this season.
Good luck this weekend, and may you never find yourself in a car being driven by Joe Cullen.
– Andy Goldstein