Aug 17, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA Miami Dolphins running back Daniel Thomas (33) jumps over Carolina Panthers linebacker James Anderson (50) during the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE

NFL Fantasy Football: Locks, Busts and Sleepers


The first NFL weekend is fast approaching. Although there was already one game played Wednesday night when the Dallas Cowboys stunned the reigning Super Bowl champs New York Giants 24-17 in the season opener. It is not too late, however, to write a sit or start fantasy post as most people didn’t think to start Kevin Ogletree and anyone who had any star players from either team (Cruz, Nicks, Manning, Romo, Witten, Bryant, Austin) probably started them.

LOCKS:

Quarterbacks – Not that you wouldn’t start Matthew Stafford if you have him on your roster, but this is the surest lock at QB this week. Stafford is one of 4 players in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards, he has the best receiver in the league, Calvin Johnson in his arsenal and most importantly his Detroit Lions are playing the St. Louis Rams at home. The Rams have new faces throughout their secondary but Stafford is a proven veteran at this point in his career and so is Megatron for that matter. Count on him putting up monster numbers.

I also really like another Matthew at QB, Matt Schaub. Schaub is a lock this week because the Houston Texans will take the opportunity to blow the top off this match-up in the passing game. They will take an early lead and as Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill struggles against the Texans punishing 3-4 defense, Schaub will take some shots down the field to make this a runaway victory. Running back Arian Foster is also dealing with a knee ailment, and although Ben Tate is a serviceable backup, the Texans for look for a lot of yards through the air against a Dolphins secondary that traded their best CB Vontae Davis to the Colts and plan to start CB Richard Marshall and CB Sean Smith.

Running backs – LeSean McCoy is going to be the top running back of this week. Why? The Philadelphia Eagles will get a big lead early on the Cleveland Browns for two reasons. The Eagles offense is so high powered few teams, including the Browns, have the personnel to match up. The second reason is because I expect Browns rookie QB Brandon Weeden to turn the ball early and often and rookie RB Trent Richardson is still trying to get 100% healthy. With an early lead the Eagles will hand the ball off the McCoy often to bury this game.

Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson is a lock this week because the New England Patriots defense has been a mess for a while. How bad has the Pats defense been? They almost let the Curtis Painter led Colts get their first win of the year during their worst season in over a decade. Johnson is determined and running with purpose as he looks to rebound from a disappointing season a year ago.

Wide receivers - Calvin Johnson. Enough said.

Andre Johnson has dealt with groin and rib injuries this preseason and didn’t play or practice much. But if he is in the starting lineup against this Miami secondary he is the definition of a lock.

Brandon Marshall faces a Colts secondary who, much like Miami’s, is fielding less than formidable corners. Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler struggled to get his offense into a rhythm much of the preseason but Marshall faces little resistance and should have no trouble putting up big numbers. An interesting match-up will be if the Colts put Marshall’s former Dolphins teammate CB Vontae Davis in coverage against him as they’ve seen a lot of each other in practice.

The Baltimore Ravens defense looks like it is sorely missing the pass-rushing abilities of Terrell Suggs and their secondary which they boasted would be ready to go doesn’t look like it will be able to handle A.J. Green. Andy Dalton should have no trouble hooking up with Green for some big gains.

Tight ends – Rob Gronkowski is a week to week lock because of his freakish combination of stature, strength, speed and ability to catch the ball anywhere on the field.

Jimmy Graham, same as Gronkowski.

Defense/ST – The Eagles defense will be the most valuable unit this week when they take the field against the Cleveland Browns and their28 year old rookie QB Brandon Weeden. I predict plenty of sacks and turnovers.

The Houston Texans defense will give the Miami Dolphins fits this week in their season opener. Miami wont get a lot of room to run and they’ll have to depend on the rookie arm of QB Ryan Tannehill who doesn’t have a clear #1 WR to throw to.

BUSTS:

As stated above, Miami will have no room to run against the Texans defense. Sit Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas.

Browns RB Trent Richardson isn’t fully recovered from a minor knee surgery he had a few weeks ago and the Eagles defense is not going to make it easy to find holes with new linebacker Demeco Ryans manning the middle.

Green Bay running back James Starks is listed out with an injury against the San Francisco 49ers who return all 11 players on defense that only allowed 53 rushing first downs, 3.5 yards per carry and 3 rushing touchdowns. Cedric Benson will probably get the majority of the carries on a team that rarely runs the ball. Don’t even think about starting him.

Rookie quarterbacks Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill will have their hands full facing much more talented teams this week. Don’t start either.

Sam Bradford has no one to throw to. I don’t think he will have as bad a year as he did last season but I wouldn’t give him a chance yet until this offense proves to have a weapon other than Steven Jackson.

SLEEPERS:

Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham will be Dalton’s outlet against a Ravens defense that likes to bring pressure. He’s worth a start if you have him.

Titans WR Nate Washington had over 1,00 yards last year and with Kenny Britt suspended for week 1 look for Washington to get a lot of targets. He should produce against a porous Patriots secondary.

The Buffalo Bills defense added one of the best pass rushers in the league in Mario Williams. They also added DE Mark Anderson, the New England Patriots sack leader last season. They bolstered their secondary with the addition of rookie CB Stephen Gilmore and they have the opportunity to feast on a Jets offense that didn’t score a touchdown for almost the entire preseason until 3rd string QB Greg McElroy tossed a TD in the Jets’ final preseason game. I know it is just preseason, but the last time a team failed to score a TD in it’s first 3 preseason games was 35 years ago. That team was the Atlanta Falcons who went 7-7 that year.

Jeremy Maclin is lightning in a bottle. He has speed and knows how to get open. He has a tremendous chip on his shoulder after struggling with injuries last season and so to does his entire Eagles team. He get a boost in production if Browns CB Joe Haden has his suspension upheld and enforced.

Frank Gore is going under the radar so far among Fantasy forecasters. I think he could have a huge game against the Green Bay Packers defense that allowed 1,789 yards for 4.7 yards per carry and 10 rushing touchdowns a year ago.


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