Fantasy Football 2011: Week One Preview with "The Fives" Rankings

What a way to start the season, eh?  The Saints and Packers not only gave us a thrilling finish, but a lot of fantasy owners came away satisfied last night. 

The usual suspects like Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Marques Colston came through, but we also got surprise big games from Randall Cobb (my Sleeper pick of the game yesterday) and Darren SprolesDevery Henderson and Robert Meachem both had big games, but their roles would have changed had Lance Moore been able to play. 

I was most disappointed by Jermichael Finley's final numbers.  He looked like and elite tight end in the first quarter with 3 catches for 53 yards, including one catch that still has me shaking my head on how was able to put his hands through the chest cavity of the defender and grab the ball while also holding his bloody, still-beating heart in his hand as well.  My expectations were high and then his final game numbers were the same as first quarter numbers.  Come on Pack, feed the big fella with at least 12 targets a game!

I wasn't disappointed in any of the running backs because I didn't expect any of the running backs to have a big game.  Even if one of them did, how would you know which of the four running backs in this game would be the lucky one?  My guess was that it would be Mark Ingram, but instead it was James Starks that got the best timed carry while Ingram fell just short of the goal-line.  (Benching Ingram made that final play so much easier to watch.)  Ryan Grant came away pretty much empty-handed, while Pierre Thomas looked very good out there but didn't get enough touches to make a scoring impact in fantasy. 

Onto the rest of the week 1 previews with some rankings and lists because who doesn't love some rankings and lists?  If rankings and lists were candies and nuts, then every day would be unte donk-fest.  As Van Halen said, Go Ahead and JUMP!

 Here are "The Fives"

The Five Best Games of the Week for Fantasy:

5. Minnesota at San Diego

The Vikings were a decent defensive team last season but not the dominant run defense that they used to be.  Kevin Williams will be out for at least two games because of suspension, so expect Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert to get their yards.  The Vikings could also be without defensive back Asher Allen.  Meanwhile, the Vikings could have a hard time scoring against last seasons #1 defense, but Adrian Peterson will get his.  If not, then at least the Chargers D is a good play.

4. Indianapolis at Houston

The two biggest preseason injury stories meet head to head in the first week.  It's too bad because this would have been the perfect matchup with one of the leagues top QB's going against one of the leagues worst pass D's and then last seasons top running back going against a bad, bad run defense.  I think Arian Foster will play, but no matter who gets the carries, the Texans will put up big points against the Colts.  The Colts were tied for 2nd to last in the NFL in interceptions last season and they allowed 22 passing touchdowns.  Meanwhile, I expect Austin Collie and Anthony Gonzalez to play, and even Kerry Collins could have a nice game.  The Colts could fall behind and just start chuckin' the football, so I would hesitate to use one of their receivers.  These teams combined for 58 points in week 1 of 2010, and 47 points in week 8.

3. Dallas at New York Jets

It's true that the Jets are one of the league's top defenses, but the Cowboys are not.  Their are a lot of big fantasy names in this matchup, including perhaps this seasons fan favorite: Felix Jones.  The Jets were third in the NFL in rushing yards against and yards per attempt against, but the beauty of Jones is that he might catch 80 balls this season too.  Meanwhile, the Cowboys have a terrible defense so even Mark Sanchez could do some damage and continue to be overrated for another week.  Especially if cornerbacks Terrence Newman and Mike Jenkins (both questionable) are out or limited. 

2. Oakland at Denver

These next two games surprise me as much as they surprise you.  And I'm the one writing it, why should I be surprised?!  I should throw myself a surprise birthday party.  Someone else that might get a surprise birthday party this week is Jason Campbell.  (How you like that transition?)   The Broncos defense last season was beyond terrible and they gave up some of the biggest fantasy performances of the season.  They were last in points allowed, last in yards allowed, 24th in passing touchdowns, 30th in interceptions, 31st in rushing yards, and gave up the most rushing touchdowns.  They gave up 98 points to the Raiders in two games.  The 2006 Raiders scored 168 points for the entire season.  Ninety-eight points is half of what they scored in 2009. 

Meanwhile, Darren McFadden scored 4 TD's against the Broncos in week 7.  In week 15, Michael Bush scored twice and Jacoby Ford had a 71-yard touchdown run.  Throw all your Raiders in the game this week. 

Also, the Raiders weren't a great defensive team last year and now they prepare for life without Nnamdi.  I like Knowshon Moreno in this matchup, as well as Brandon Lloyd

1. Detroit at Tampa Bay

It's hard to believe, but two of the worst offensive teams in the history of the game have no less than eight of the top young players in fantasy combined.  And that's not counting Arrelious Benn, Josh Johnson, Mikel Leshoure (one day.) 

I actually like both team defenses, but how can not salivate over a game of Matthew Stafford versus Josh Freeman or Jahvid Best versus LeGarrette BlountCalvin Johnson is gonna get his, and I expect Mike Williams to do well in this matchup too.  The X-factor for me this season is Nate Burleson for the Lions and Benn for the Bucs.  I haven't seen Burleson play this well since his days in Minnesota and with a healthy Stafford, he could be a solid sleeper this season.

The Five Sleepers (Not Counting Randall Cobb edition)

5. Josh Cribbs

The big breakout season we've been waiting for is probably never going to happen.  Cribbs has some of the most exciting plays in the NFL over the last few seasons, mostly in the return game, but he can't put it together as an every game offensive player.  However, there are several factors at play in week 1: The Bengals are perhaps the worst team in the league.  Mohamed Massaquoi missed the entire preseason with injury.  Greg Little is a rookie.  Colt McCoy is poised for a breakout.  New offensive coordinator, new offense. 

In week 4 last season Cribbs got 5 touches (a season high) against the Bengals, and had 105 return yards. 

4. Jeremy Kerley

The rookie is taking on the Brad Smith role and will be the primary kick returner for the Jets.  I expect a cocky Rex Ryan to put his shiny new toy on display, and the Cowboys defense would be one of the least likely defenses to stop him.  It would be risky for me to say he's going to have a return TD and an offensive TD like Cobb did... so I won't!  But how about 1 TD and 100 total yards from the unknown?

3. Kerry Collins

As I said before, the matchup is just too sweet to ignore and so lucky for Collins.  The thing with QB sleepers is that most teams are happy with their starting QB and even if Collins had 3 TD's, you can probably imagine your QB will get 3 TD too.  But if you are in a terrible situation, this might be the one week of the year to play Collins.

2. Damian Williams

I think Kenny Britt is the breakout player of the year, but Williams could be the breakout player of the day for the Titans.  He looked good in the preseason and the former USC standout could overtake Nate Washington as the teams true #2 wide receiver.  The Jaguars have a terrible defense, and especially a bad pass defense.  Williams, a rookie last season, had the best game of his career against Jacksonville when he caught 4 passes for 48 yards.  I won't be surprised if he surpasses those numbers in the first half on Sunday.

1. Michael Bush

I have to pick a running back somewhere right?  Bush should be a starting running back in the NFL somewhere, but at least in Oakland he'll still get his touches.  He scored three touchdowns against the Broncos in two games last season, and he always had his best games against divisional opponents.  Bush would not be a terrible flex play this week. 

The Five That Struggle

5. Miles Austin

As eklevine already pointed out, Austin gets the unfortunate matchup against Darrelle Revis this week.  Dez Bryant and Jason Witten will be the better plays for fantasy.

4. LaGarrette Blount

Overall, I like Blount this season in non-PPR leagues.  However, I will have a hard time all season playing running backs against Ndamakong Suh.  The guy is already one of the best defensive tackles I've ever seen play, and things will only get tougher for opposing RB's when Nick Fairley is healthy. 

3. Dwayne Bowe

How healthy is Matt Cassel?  He'll probably start, but the Chiefs are going to pound the football on the ground against the league's worst run defense.  Then they'll be up 20 points in the 2nd half and what are they going to do?  Pound the football some more.  The Chiefs might lead the NFL in rushing attempts this week.  Against the Bills last season Bowe caught 3 passes for 16 yards.  He did have a touchdown in the game, but if it wasn't for that it would have been disaster for Bowe owners who thought he'd just torch the Bills.  That's not going to be the gameplan.

2. Rams Wide Receivers

I actually think Sam Bradford could rack up yards in this game, as the Rams will be playing from behind in the 2nd half and Josh McDaniels will have the offense chuckin' the football.  But to whom?  And who will spend most of the game being covered by Nnamdi?  Mike Sims-WalkerDanny AmendolaBrandon Gibson?  I think for the season a Rams wideout has a breakout campaign, but I'm not going to try to figure that out prior to week 1 and not against Nnamdi.

1. Arian Foster

Sigh.  Well, if you drafted Foster and if he's not listed as "Out" then you have to play Foster.  Unless you are the ballsiest owner in the league.  It should have been a great opportunity for him to put 200 yards on the Colts defense, but the hamstring has been holding him back.  The most important thing about the Peyton Manning injury is that it opened the door in the AFC South, and the Texans are licking their chops over the opportunity to finally make the playoffs.  To do that they're going to need Foster for the whole season, so they won't get crazy and hand him the ball 25 times this week.  He's going to split touches with Ben Tate and Derrick Ward and the Texans are going to be throwing the football a lot in the first half.  Not only that, but you have to keep hitting refresh on injury updates all Sunday morning for the "game time decision" on Foster.   Prediction if he plays: 11 carries, 43 yards with 3 catches for 15 yards.  Maybe a touchdown.

The Five Studs

5. Vernon Davis

In his last 3 games against Seattle Davis has 19 catches, 254 yards, 2 TDs.  The Seahawks don't have a good matchup against Davis (who does?) and I think the Hawks run defense will actually be pretty solid this week.  So the Niners will spend plenty of time going to Davis who might lead NFL tight ends in targets for week 1.

4. Matt Schaub

This is going to be a year of "firsts" for the Texans and why not Schaub having his first monster game against the Colts?  I think this is going to be one of those first halfs of football where everybody starts questioning if the Colts are going to lose 15 games because they're down 28 points to the Texans.  (I don't think the Colts are going to lose 15 games, and I still think they could get the 10 wins it might take to win the division.)  Schaub and Andre Johnson will hook up for 2 first-half TD's, and he'll add another to Owen Daniels.  It's going to be a 4-TD day for Schaub.

3. Vincent Jackson

The Vikings are already thin on defense and a little banged up, so Philip Rivers and V-Jax should get off on the right foot in 2011.  Jackson was one of the best wide receivers in the NFL in 2009, and he'll be one of the best again in 2011.  9 catches, 171 yards, 2 TDs.

2. Darren McFadden

Notice an underlying theme here?  The Broncos defense is terrible, they give up big days.  I'm not saying that McFadden, Bush, Campbell, Jacoby Ford, and Denarius Moore are all going to have multiple TD's... but I'm not saying they won't. 

1. Jamaal Charles

I cautioned against drafting Charles as a top 5 pick, or at least I tried to warn you that he's going to be a disappointment if you expect him to rush for 1,700 yards and 20 TDs, and I stand by that.  The Chiefs 2nd half schedule is just the toughest in the league.  But the stars align in week 1.  On the flip side of the coin for Bowe, Charles is going to get 25-30 touches as the Chiefs roll to an easy victory in this one.  This is the fourth straight year that the Chiefs have played the Bills and Charles games against them so far:

2 carries, 22 yards, 3 catches for 45 yards and a TD as an unknown rookie buried on the depth chart.

20 carries, 143 yards and a TD, 7 catches for 38 yards.

22 carries for 177 yards, 4 catches for 61 yards.

At this pace, he should carry the ball 25 times for 210 yards and a TD, 6 catches for 70 yards and a TD. 

Then what you do is trade Charles for Arian Foster and Kenny Britt.

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