Fantasy Football Insider - Week 1
by Tim Heaney and Bryce McRae
on September 11, 2010 @ 00:46:48
Here's what KFFL's inside sources are saying this week.
- Chad Henne: mixed preseason results. He's going through his progressions faster and making better reads, including on dump-offs and not forcing bad throws. However, the Miami Dolphins slinger has struggled on third downs and still needs an effective running game behind him to succeed. The ground game has struggled in exhibition work (more on this in the RBs section).
- Many in San Francisco feel Alex D. Smith is a new quarterback. The 49ers catered their offseason moves to him. Two first-round picks were spent on tackles to give him some blocking. Ted Ginn Jr. was brought in to give him a speed option. They kept offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye. It has paid off. Smith has shown he's comfortable in this offense. He's directing others. He hasn't been timid. He'll probably end up as something just above a game manager.
- San Diego Chargers head coach Norv Turner wants to give rookie carrier Ryan Mathews double-digit carries in each half - plus some possible receptions. He's looking like a centerpiece back, even this year.
- Don't worry about reports of the Pittsburgh Steelers not wanting to overwork Rashard Mendenhall. He'll still be used a bunch. They'll probably mix in some work to Mewelde Moore and Isaac Redman, but it won't be enough to make a huge dent. Might not be 25 for Mendy, but OC Bruce Arians said the back will be on in goal line sitches, too.
- Count on a 2-to-1 New York Giants touch split in favor of Ahmad Bradshaw over Brandon Jacobs. Jacobs would be the logical choice, but he has stunk at that role. Bradshaw didn't exactly impress in short-yardage in the preseason, but he still might see some work there.
- Expect a 60-40 touch split for the Miami Dolphins' Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. Miami's ground game struggled in the preseason, though. The offensive line isn't providing enough forward surge, and they've rebuilt the interior of the line. Chemistry is nowhere to be found.
- More rookie love: The Detroit Lions treated Jahvid Best with kid gloves in the preseason and are primed to give him featured back work for Week 1 and beyond. There's a slight risk he'd lose goal line work to Kevin Smith or Jerome Felton, but not enough to worry about.
- Our source would "be shocked" if Beanie Wells suits up for the Arizona Cardinals this weekend. For the long run, Wells should still see the majority of carries when he's healthy. If Wells doesn't play, don't expect the game plan - more running than last year - to change, with Tim Hightower seeing most of the work.
The Houston Texans' Arian Foster has averaged 6.0 yards per carry in the preseason. Expect him to touch the ball 20-plus times this week, with No. 2 Steve Slaton seeing something in low double digits. They want to keep the Indianapolis Colts' offense off the field as much as possible - hello, running game.
Ground and pound attack
- Knowshon Moreno looks good to go for Week 1, and he'll probably see 12 to 15 touches for the Denver Broncos, who'll likely have Correll Buckhalter in his familiar complementary role.
- As expected for Tampa Bay Buccaneers backfield, Cadillac Williams will be the No. 1, with Earnest Graham the goal line and short-yardage back on occasion. Kareem Huggins will work as the change-of-pace and third-down option.
- The Indianapolis Colts hope Donald Brown will see more carries this year, Joseph Addai's contract season. They won't run Addai into the ground, so they're hoping Brown's blitz pickup can improve. The team isn't worried about Addai's recent concussion, by the way; he appears to be fine and isn't even on the injury report.
- Expect both Marion Barber III and Felix Jones to receive 10-12 touches for the Dallas Cowboys. Though they haven't followed through on this plan in awhile, Dallas wants to get Jones more involved in the passing game.
- Either way, the Cowboys' running game might suffer this weekend because of the absence of guard Kyle Kosier and tackle Marc Colombo, both out with knee injuries.
- Despite the up-in-the-air situation, the elusive Justin Forsett remains the Seattle Seahawks' backfield favorite. For now, rank Julius Jones ahead of Leon Washington. They don't want to rush Washington; they're still concerned about his health.
- Clinton Portis lost 15-18 pounds per request of Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan. Portis feels fresher this preseason than he has in years. He might be looking at one more notable statistical season.
- Laurence Maroney drafters shouldn't be pleased. There's no reason to believe he'll start or be significantly involved. In fact, third-down back Kevin Faulk is the only New England Patriots toter with a defined role. Expect a hot hand situation, with Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris the best bets (relative term). Bill Belichick: the new, more maddening Mike Shanahan.
- The San Francisco 49ers will be the Frank Gore show this week. He has performed extremely well against the Seattle Seahawks in his career. Brian Westbrook has a nagging hamstring injury. San Fran isn't sure what Anthony Dixon can do; he'll probably receive a carry or two. Westy's contributions could reach a high point of eight to 10 carries per game in a few weeks, says our source.
- The Buffalo Bills' C.J. Spiller should see at least half of the workload this week, possibly approaching two-thirds, with Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch divvying up the rest, favoring Jackson.
- The Chicago Bears' breakdown of touches at running back will be roughly 65-35 between Matt Forte and Chester Taylor, and both will receive work out of the backfield. Forte has looked good so far.
- Look for a 50-50 split between Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles among the Kansas City Chiefs running backs. It could change on a game-to-game basis, but Kansas City wants it to be fairly even.
- In Week 1, Cleveland Browns starter Jerome Harrison will receive the bulk of the workload. Peyton Hillis should receive the short-yardage and possibly goal line work while James Davis might receive a series per half.
- In his new digs with the New York Jets, LaDainian Tomlinson could touch the ball around 20 times this week, including carries and catches. Our source felt LT could catch the ball five to eight times per game and is likely going to be used inside the 10 because of his knack for finding the end zone.
- Our insider would be stunned if the Oakland Raiders' Michael Bush (thumb) played this week. It has been just 13 days since the left-handed Bush had screws put in his left thumb. The Raiduhs will give Darren McFadden the first shot as the lead back, but if he gets stuffed a few times, they could go elsewhere quickly. Michael Bennett and Rock Cartwright would be next in line. Ideally, when Bush and Run DMC are both healthy, Oakland will utilize them similarly to the way the New Orleans Saints do Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush.
- Atlanta Falcons workhorse Michael Turner has looked faster and leaner and could have more of a role as a receiver. Owners might garner something in the neighborhood of 20 catches from him.
- Don't expect the New England Patriots to give Randy Moss a new deal until after the season. Moss plays better when motivated; this was his best camp as a Pat. Expect the Pats to dangle the carrot.
- The Miami Dolphins might struggle giving Brandon Marshall enough targets to satiate his fantasy owners. Do they have enough to take attention off him?
- Threats to Hines Ward's effectiveness for the first four weeks of 2010: Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's suspension, and Mike Wallace's undetermined ability to draw respect from the defense. Ward could be facing ample double teams.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh shouldn't have any problems picking up the Baltimore Ravens' offense; many players catch on to Cam Cameron's system easily. Housh knows he'll be the No. 3, and he's OK with it. He'll take this one-year deal for a contender and hopefully parlay it into a bigger role next season.
Offense a quick study for Housh
- Speaking of Ravens wideouts, expect a lot of hot reads to Housh, Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason. Remember, New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan's D is familiar to quarterback Joe Flacco, who used to face it in practice as a Baltimore rookie.
- First contestant on Darrelle Revis Island: Boldin. Baltimore will not change their game plan, because Boldin is physical and will probably make it tougher on Revis, who might not be at full speed yet.
- Among Denver Broncos wideouts, Jabar Gaffney has the most chemistry with quarterback Kyle Orton. Eddie Royal, meanwhile, probably will remain a frustrating fantasy play as the slot wideout, given how many options the Broncos have.
- Dez Bryant owners shouldn't worry much about the "starter" designation the Dallas Cowboys give Roy Williams. A reminder: They often give the backups more time or looks. Bryant should still see decent time this weekend.
- Our Jacksonville Jaguars sage warns not to be deceived by Mike Thomas' meager reception average; he's more of a big-play threat than that lets on. Expect reverses, flares and screens for him.
- Seattle Seahawks wideout pecking order: Mike X. Williams, Deion Branch, Deon Butler, Ben Obomanu and Golden Tate. Don't count on Tate until the second half of the year. Butler will probably make a quicker impact, because he has done properly the little things that Tate hasn't yet.
- The talented Kenny Britt has a long way to go - both in performance and attitude - to prove himself to the Tennessee Titans. Off-field issues and erratic focus on the field have knocked him down the depth chart.
- Patrick Crayton has the goods as a possession wideout to climb the San Diego Chargers' pecking order in the next few weeks, maybe as high as No. 3 behind Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd. He's still adjusting to his new squad but could challenge Legedu Naanee for looks soon.
- Sleeper: The Arizona Cardinals' Stephen Williams. Despite his spotty route running, the 6-foot-5 Williams would be an appropriate complement to the other wideouts; don't be surprised if they work him in more as the season goes on.
- Another flier: Fast deep threat Anthony Armstrong has a good connection with quarterback Donovan McNabb and is currently No. 3 on the Washington Redskins' wideout pecking order. Could he be starting across from Santana Moss soon?
- DeSean Jackson, of the Philadelphia Eagles, might be the more talented wideout, but Jeremy Maclin is the outlet quarterback Kevin Kolb looks for when in trouble. If Maclin is lined up on the Green Bay Packers' undrafted corner, Sam Shields, this weekend, he could be in for a few big plays.
- Despite some grumblings about his exhibition effort, Michael Crabtree, of the San Francisco 49ers, was far and away the best player in camp. He could be coming into Week 1 to show others that he doesn't need a preseason, either.
- Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer has done a good job distributing the ball between Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco, Jordan Shipley and Andre Caldwell. Our source felt TO, likely matched up on Devin McCourty, would have a big day against the New England Patriots this week.
- The more the Chicago Bears utilize the two-tight end set, the less Devin Aromashodu will see the field. Of the Bears' wideouts, Johnny Knox has the most natural instincts for the position as well as the best chemistry with quarterback Jay Cutler.
- Pencil in 12-15 touches per game for the Kansas City Chiefs' Dexter McCluster, per our source.
- The Oakland Raiders' Darrius Heyward-Bey is the second option in Oakland's passing attack. They'll try to force him the ball, and he should catch a few more passes this year. After him is Chaz Schilens (knee, out) and Louis Murphy, the latter probably the Raiders' most dangerous guy.
- Carolina Panthers rookie Brandon LaFell will be the one to start, over Dwayne Jarrett, this week.
- Mark Clayton has been a quick study in the St. Louis Rams offense and could play a lot in Week 1. He might even start.
- The San Diego Chargers are having trouble replacing nose tackle Jamal Williams, which has hurt their ability to hold the D-line in all facets. However, the Chargers' increasing comfort with defensive coordinator Ron Rivera's system should speak to them regaining some thunder this year. They probably won't be as dynamic in creating turnovers, but their experience is working in their favor.
Around the league
- Are the New York Giants a pass-first team? Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride would probably like that. We can't think of the 2008 team, when the G-men had two 1,000-yard rushers. Gilbride is a pass-first guy. It remains to be seen whether the aerial attack will dominate, though.
- The Atlanta Falcons should be able to attack teams vertically more often provided their no-huddle offense works out. They've increased the number of plays in it to more than 30 and will try to catch teams by surprise with it.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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