Week 1 is notoriously hard to predict. All you have to do is look back at Wednesday night’s opener for a reminder. (Here’s five fantasy football facts to take away from it).
Before the game, everyone thought the G-men would roll the Cowboys and that David Wilson was a great fantasy football sleeper at running back. One carry and one fumble later, he was stuck on the bench in Tom Coughlin’s doghouse. The flip-side of Wilson’s story is the story of Kevin Ogletree (breakdown here). Ogletree was undrafted in almost all formats but exploded onto the scene with a huge game and is now the talk of the early season.
Despite the radical change in perceptions after week one and the lack of data from football games that count on some players, here’s my best shot at picking, previewing, and updating any injuries for each NFL game. If you’re looking for starter rankings check out our week one ranks which came out Tuesday as they will all season.
The best strategy in week one is to take the points whenever you can. Underdogs in last year’s week one ended up 9-7, in 2010 they went 7-7-2. So don’t take all favorites if you’re picking against the spread and don’t be afraid to take the underdog especially at home.
Here’s how I see the first part of Sunday’s games going down:
Indianapolis Colts (+10.5) at Chicago Bears
My One Big Question: Who does Andrew Luck connect with? Andrew Luck makes his first start in the NFL against the formidable Bears defense. Watch his target selection to see who on the Colts will have value going forward for the rest of the season. If you’re looking for an Ogletree like explosion, T. Y. Hilton may be your guy if he gets the touches to make things happen.
Injury Update: Austin Collie was only a partial participant in yesterday’s practice and may not be ready to go week one as originally expected. His concussion issues are a real concern and I like Hilton to play a big role if Collie is sidelined.
Pick: 10 points is too many to give here in my opinion. Straight up I’d take the Bears, but getting 10 I’ll go with Indy. Andrew Luck will be a solid QB this year and will keep the Colts close enough to cover.
Philadelphia Eagles (-8.5) at Cleveland Browns
My One Big Question: Is there hope for the Browns offense? With all the rookies in key roles, there’s no solid indication of how good or bad they’ll be until they get real in-game experience Sunday.
Injury Update: Trent Richardson returned to Browns practice and is expected to start and get about 15-20 touches against the Eagles a month after getting his knee scoped.
Pick: The Browns are a huge unknown, and the Eagles tend to pummel weaker teams when Michael Vick is healthy. His flak jacketed skills will be on full display Sunday in Cleveland and I think the Eagles will win and cover.
St. Louis Rams (+8.5) at Detroit Lions
My One Big Question:Is Kevin Smith able to stay healthy enough to balance the Lions offense? Stafford and Johnson bring the passing game week in and week out, but at some point Detroit needs a rushing attack. With Jahvid Best out for the first half of the year and Mikel Leshoure suspended, Smith gets first crack at the full-time job.
Injury Update: Kevin Smith’s ankle injury a couple weeks ago was a “minor tweak” and he should be full speed for Sunday.
Pick: The Lions at home should lay a beatdown on the Rams. I do think St. Louis will be better this year and that Sam Bradford will turn things around with the help of Jeff Fisher, but I don’t think they’ll be able to hang with the Lions in this one. I’ll go with Detroit and give the points.
New England Patriots (-6.5) at Tennessee Titans
My One Big Question: Are Brandon Lloyd and Jake Locker sleepers or busts? Both have been ranked all over the board by multiple experts and Sunday we’ll get our first look at if either or both are legit fantasy options this year.
Injury Update: Shane Vereen still isn’t practicing so expect Stevan Ridley to get most of the work Sunday with Danny Woodhead seeing some time as well. For the Titans, Kenny Britt will serve his suspension but the rest of the fantasy relavant players will be in place.
Pick: The Pats offense is going to be scary good this year and the Titans Jake Locker won’t be able to keep up. I’ll take the Pats and give the points.
Atlanta Falcons (+0.5) at Kansas City Chiefs
My One Big Question: Is Romeo Crennel pulling a Bill Belichick? Belichick started in Cleveland, struggled, got fired and then moved on to the Pats where he’s had all his success. Can Crennel do the same thing with the Chiefs? If he does, on offense the plan will have to go through his two-headed backfield of Peyton Hillis and Jamaal Charles both of whom could be huge fantasy beasts if they get the opportunities in the right situation without Matt Cassel killing the offense.
Injury Update: Jamaal Charles is not expected to be limited in touches by his physical condition. I expect a pretty even split between Charles and Hillis as Romeo goes with the hot hand at RB.
Pick: The Falcons are again a trendy pick this year to explode on offense with Julio Jones and Roddy White and possibly Jacquizz Rodgers. I’m not buying in yet though this year and think too many people are overlooking a solid Chiefs team. I’ll take the underdog at home and go with KC at Arrowhead. (side note: spreads here are from Pigskin Pick’Em. since the line was posted it’s drifted closer to Atlanta by three).
Jacksonville Jaguars (+4.5) at Minnesota Vikings
My One Big Question: Will either second-year QB step up and create a viable passing offense? Christian Ponder and Blaine Gabbert face off in this in a matchup of the draft class of 2011. They’ll both be mostly without their star running backs since Adrian Peterson is expected to be limited due to his ACL injury and MJD is just working his way back in after a protracted holdout. If Ponder and/or Gabbert can be successful it offers a huge boost to these backs when they return to full strength as well as to the receivers who’ll be catching the passes.
Injury Update: The Vikings said that they will decide Peterson’s status before Sunday which is nice for fantasy owners who need to set their lineup early. Even if he does play, he’s expected to be extremely limited so try to go a different direction if possible. Also for Minnesota, don’t forget that Jerome Simpson is suspended so Michael Jenkins will get the start. For the Jags, Justin Blackmon returned to practice a day after an ankle injury and is expected to participate fully on Sunday.
Pick: This is one of the toughest picks on the board for me. The QB situation is basically a wash but I think the Vikings defense, home-field advantage, and other weapons will be enough to get them the win. The question is whether they’ll do it by more than a field goal. I think that they’ll cover, but I don’t have much confidence giving the 4.5.
Washington Redskins (+9.5) at New Orleans Saints
My One Big Question: Will the Saints offense be the same without its architect Sean Payton? Drew Brees and company covered every single time at home no matter how steep the spread last year as they put on a show in the dome every game they played. The main weapons are all still there with Robert Meachem the only loss. Brees should be able to continue the success, but until we see them in real-game action there will always be the question of how they’ll respond to a turbulent offseason.
Injury Update: Marques Colston has missed some practice time but is expected to be ready to go for Sunday’s game. His teammate Darren Sproles is not even on the injury report after a minor knee issue and will be ready to play his usual role on Sunday.
Pick: RG3 will have a nice opener in New Orleans, but the Saints will be too much for him to keep up with as Graham, Sproles, Brees, and Colston will power a scoring exhibition to remind everyone of their offensive fire-power. I’ll take the Saints and lay the 9.5.
The other seven Sunday game previews and the rest of the staff’s Pigskin Pick’Em entries will be posted tomorrow, so check back then for the second half of the set. Sunday we’ll post Monday previews as well as covering all the game-time decisions so follow on on Twitter @FantasyCPR, subscribe to our XML feel, or just drop a bookmark and come back regularly as we enjoy a whole new year of Fantasy Football hopes and dreams.