WE LIKE THEMATCHUP
The Jaguars will stuff the Dallas running game, but Bledsoe was firing on allcylinders throughout the preseason, even with Patrick Crayton and Terrell Owenssidelined. Now at full strength, the Cowboys will be unstoppable through theair.
He's shown that his knee isn't a problem. He's got three first-rate receiversin Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry. And although he faces amuch-improved Chiefs secondary, Palmer is a solid must-start every week.
Pittsburgh's already-conservative play-calling will be even more cautious withBen Roethlisberger sidelined after his appendectomy. That's great news forParker owners, who will benefit from his probable 30 carries against theDolphins.
Although he didn't totally bust out against the Pack last season (198 yards intwo games), Jones was more effective when Rex Grossman was at QB in the rivals'second meeting (105 yards, TD) than when teamed with Kyle Orton in the first(93 yards).
We've been assured by sources close to the team that Philadelphia's best runnerand receiver is healthy and will be a force against a reinvented Texansdefense. Last year's edition of the Houston D ranked dead last against therun.
He won't find many favorable matchups this season while running behind amakeshift offensive line, but here's one. The New Orleans linebacking corps isdecimated by injuries to James Allen and Tommy Polley (both on IR).
The battle of the Manning brothers will result in upward of 500 total passingyards, many of those going to Wayne and his Colts teammates. He'll often drawGiants veteran Sam Madison in coverage for one of the most glaring mismatchesof the week.
The Seahawks defense has trouble defending elite receivers (see: Super BowlXL), and Detroit will have to throw a lot if, as expected, it falls way behindShaun Alexander, Matt Hasselbeck and a superior Seattle squad.
One of the league's top receivers before he tore an ACL last season, Walkershowed no ill effects of the injury in the preseason. He faces Rams cornersTravis Fisher and Fakhir Brown, a duo that scares no one, especially a 2004 ProBowl wideout.
Play him if you've got him. Going against the battered Saints is a great wayfor the oft-injured Winslow to begin to deliver on his promise. He has onlyfive career catches for 50 yards in two games since the 2004 Orange Bowl.
The game shapes up as a nip-and-tuck affair dictated by two top defenses,meaning Stover and Bucs kicker Matt Bryant should be trading field goals allday long. Raymond James is one of the stadiums in which visiting placekickersenjoy the most success.
Philly was sack-happy all preseason, leading the NFL with 21 QB takedowns.(Defensive end Juqua Thomas had a preseason-high 4 1/2 sacks.) The Texans, ofcourse, have been notorious for not being able to protect QB David Carr.
DON'T LIKE THE MATCHUP
The Steelers looked awful in the preseason, while Culpepper looked sharp. Thatwas then, this is now. The Dolphins will be strong--but not until after TroyPolamalu, Joey Porter and Pittsburgh's pass rush stifles the new Miami QB.
Baltimore's Ray Lewis, Adalius Thomas and Ed Reed are back, and that spellstrouble for opposition offenses. Simms will feel pressure from the Ravens'front seven all day, which means he'll be held in check in his first Week 1start.
The last thing you want to do is send a banged-up back up against the swarmingpack of wolves in the Chicago defense--even on the temperate tundra. Greenhasn't gained 100 yards in a game since Week 10 of 2004, and it's not happeningthis week.
Not that the 49ers can stop James (they allowed 81 yards per game to lesserArizona ballcarriers last season), but it should be so easy for Kurt Warner& Co. to move the chains with the passing game that the Edge won't reallybe needed that much.
He ran for 136 yards on 31 carries in Buffalo's first meeting against the Patslast season. However, in three other career contests against New England he haszero, three and 37 rushing yards. Not exactly a predictor of success.
San Diego does a fine job of shutting down Jordan, having held him to 36 and 55rushing yards (plus 58 and 10 receiving yards) in two '05 meetings. One of hisfive career 100-yard rushing games came against the Chargers--in '02, when hewas a Jet.
One of a bevy of receivers who came down with hamstring woes in the preseason,the reigning Super Bowl MVP's availability for the Thursday opener againstMiami's soft secondary was in question. Too bad, because backup QB CharlieBatch needs the help.
Aside from the uncertainty swirling around Tennessee's starting quarterbackjob, Givens also has been nursing a strained hammy. Plus, the last wideout witha 100-yard game against the Jets was Hines Ward--in Week 17 of 2004.
David Carr is having trouble adapting to Gary Kubiak's system, so playingagainst a tough Eagles squad is no way to get his feet wet, especially with asuspect running game. That spells trouble for Johnson, who will be the focus ofPhilly's secondary.
To tight ends, Reed (as in Ravens strong safety Ed Reed) is indeed afour-letter word. Last season no tight end had more than 50 receiving yardsagainst Baltimore, with Reed the main reason. The second-year Smith is a starin the making--but not this week.
The biggest free-agent acquisition of the off-season for Indianapolis,Vinatieri has a ligament sprain in his non-kicking (a.k.a., plant) foot thathas left his status in doubt for the Sunday-night game. Play it safe and pickup a temporary alternative.
The strength of the Giants' defense is its ability to get to the quarterback.Unfortunately for New York, the Colts are exceedingly good at protecting PeytonManning, allowing less than one sack per game over the last two seasons.
Kurt Warnerowners, rejoice. This week is the fantasy football equivalent of a fastball inthe wheelhouse. Consider: The Cardinals face the 49ers, who in 2005 had theworst pass defense in the league (276.7 yards surrendered per game). Lastseason, in his one appearance against San Francisco's secondary, Warner carvedit up, passing for 354 yards and a touchdown. To be fair, the Niners had theirhands full: The Cardinals feature Pro Bowl receivers in Anquan Boldin and LarryFitzgerald, who each had 100-yard efforts in both games against San Franciscoin '05. Many feel that the arrival of running back Edgerrin James means thatArizona will rely less on the passing game, but the Cardinals have not yetshown that they have plugged the leaks in their run blocking. And James'spass-catching ability gives Warner yet another option. As if he needs one.
BEWARE OF BUST
He was the No. 1wideout taken in many fantasy leagues, following a season in which he becamethe first receiver to lead the NFL in catches, receiving yards and receivingtouchdowns since Green Bay's Sterling Sharpe in 1992. Smith won that triplecrown after missing all but one game of the 2004 season with a broken left leg.This week against the Falcons, however, don't expect a productive game from the√ºbercompetitive receiver. A sore hamstring and an ingrown toenail havesidelined Smith for nearly the entire preseason, so he's rusty. Plus he'll becovered by one of the best clampdown cornerbacks in the NFL, his friendDeAngelo Hall, one of the few players in the league who can outrun Smith. (Hallshowed off his speed by winning the NFL's Fastest Man competition at the ProBowl last February.) Smith will make some catches, but he won't get away fromHall--at least not this week.
Find out how the latest news affects your fantasy team and weigh in on JamesQuintong's blog at SI.com/fantasy.
NICK DOAN/ICON SMI (WARNER); BOB ROSATO (BLEDSOE); JOHN BIEVER (PARKER); AL TIELEMANS (WESTBROOK); AGGIE SKIRBALL/WIREIMAGE.COM (WAYNE, WALKER); JOHN STROHSACKER/WIREIMAGE.COM (STOVER)
DOUG MURRAY/WIREIMAGE.COM (CULPEPPER); MIKE EHRMANN/WIREIMAGE.COM (GREEN); DAMIAN STROHMEYER (MCGAHEE); DAVID BERGMAN (WARD); PAUL SPINELLI/GETTY IMAGES (ALEX SMITH); BARRY TAYLOR/WIREIMAGE.COM (VINATIERI); STEPHEN DUNN/GETTY IMAGES (STEVE SMITH)