Chicago Bears Preview

3 September 2008

 

David Funk of the Fantasy Sports Depot was kind enough to preview his beloved Bears for me.  Here is a look at his solid work.

 

There has been more talk about the starting quarterback controversy in Chicago in the past two years, that it’s easy to forget this is a team that is one year removed from playing in a Super Bowl. The Bears are hoping that Kyle Orton can bring consistency to the position, and won’t have to be in situations where he’s relived upon to win games.

The running game was equally as bad, if not worse, than the quarterback play for the team a year ago. Troubled and mostly ineffective running back Cedric Benson is now gone from the team, and Tulane standout Matt Forte was drafted to challenge for a starting job anyway. Former Lions running back Kevin Jones was signed to help restore a running game as well.

The offensive line for the Bears is a question mark especially with the uncertainty of first round pick Chris Williams hurting at this time. The team is thin on depth as a result, and this isn’t good news for an offense that has issues and concerns in other areas already.

The Bears have talent have wide receiver, but they’re mainly unproven. Marty Booker returns to Chicago to give the team a veteran presence while Brandon Lloyd and Mark Bradley have something to prove. Earl Bennett, the team’s third round choice this year, could figure into the equation, too. But the big move was Devin Hester moving to wide receiver full-time to give them a big-play threat, and he’s expected to be just that for them.

On defense, Chicago fell off last year because of injuries, ineffectiveness, and consistent play-calling.  Brian Urlacher is being looked upon to return to form this year, and Lance Briggs is also back to return what should be one of the league’s best linebacking duos.

The defensive line will have to get back to controlling the line of scrimmage which proved to be a problem at times a year ago. Tommie Harris is a force up the middle, and Mark Anderson will have to provide a consistent pass-rush at for the team to get back to having one of the league’s better defenses.

The secondary is returning healthy which wasn’t the case for a stretch last year. Emphasis was put on adding depth to the unit in the draft to ensure this isn’t an issue for the second year in a row.

Hester will be given many opportunities to score on returns, and the Bears special teams unit is one of the best in the league. Robbie Gould is a reliable kicker and the return coverage has been a strong point for them, too.

Lovie Smith has been a successful coach since he came to Chicago, but has been criticized by many for the decisions made on the offensive side of the ball in particular. The distractions of Benson, Tank Johnson, and the starting quarterback job has dominated much of the talk in the Windy City the last two years.

Fantasy-wise, Hester is a strong pick especially in leagues that count return yardage and touchdowns. Tight end Greg Olsen could be a sleeper pick as well.

The Bears should have enough to contend for a division title because other teams also have question marks at the quarterback position as well as elsewhere. The team will have to get back to winning games the way they did in 2006 with a power running game and strong defense to get back to the playoffs. Special teams play will be good, but should they not get back to their ways of 2006, it will be a long and very cold season in the Windy City in 2008.

Nice job David.  I’m putting the Bears on a 7-9 season and 3rd in their division.  Sorry pal.

Oakland Raiders Preview

3 September 2008

The Raiders are a mess. Until Al Davis steps down, I’m not sure how this situation will improve.  How else can you explain throwing a bucket of cash to a WR (Javon Walker) who isn’t all the way healthy and nearly retired.  Part of the reason they have been so bad is they have been shackled with so many top picks in recent years.  You need to hit a Home Run in the draft or you’ll never improve with the ridiculous contracts that come with these prized rookies.  That’s a different argument for a different day though.

On offense, you don’t know what you’re going to get.  JaMarcus Russell has a big arm, but he also has a big affinity for eating.  If he can’t say fit, I don’t see how he’s going to be able to elude pass rushers.  His holdout last year cost him much of the season.  He looked OK at the end of the year, but often teams quit by then.  He’ll be handing the ball off to another prized Rookie, on Darren McFadden.  Run DMC was an explosive back in college, which appears to be able to translate into the pros.  He’ll be sharing carries with Justin Fargas, who ran for 1000 yards last year, and oft-injured Michael Bush.  Javon Walker and Ronald Curry are Russell’s primary wideout targets.  Zach Miller looks to be a nice up-and-coming Tight End who seemingly built a nice rapport with Russell last year. 

Defensively, this unit is led by Linebackers Kirk Morrison (120 Tackles, 4 INTs) and Thomas Howard (95 Tackles, 6 INTs).  They brought in DeAngelo Hall to team with Nnamdi Asomugha to give the Raiders two very capable Cornerbacks.  Michael Huff is coming of age at Safety and could approach 100 Tackles this year.  Gibril Wilson was brought over from the Giants to team with him.  Derrick Burgess (8 Sacks) will be asked to put pressure on the QB.  Thomas Kelly will hold down the middle. 

 

The Raiders will battle the Chiefs to avoid the basesement of the AFC West.  If they got any more that 6 Wins, I’d say they had a good year.

Fantasy-wise they have a few worthy guys.  First off, both Run DMC and Fargas will be taken.  McFadden will go first because of the hype.  Fargas could be the better value.  At WR you can take a chance on Javon Walker.  I’m a little worried about him, but he should be just fine.  Ronald Curry is a possibility, but my wideouts would have to be pretty weak for him to make it on.  Zach Miller makes the perfect backup Tight End.  If you’re hurting, you can use JaMarcus Russell.  For the most part, I’ll ignore Russell.

Kansas City Chiefs Preview

3 September 2008

For the Chiefs to even remotely have a chance, Larry Johnson is going to have to return to form.  It’s that simple.  He is easily the best player on the Offensive side of the ball for the Chiefs when he is healthy.  Unfortunately his foot gave him fits last year.  He appears to be strong, and I don’t see as heavy a workload this year.  I expect Kolby Smith and Jamaal Charles to get into the mix as well.  Aside from LJ, the Chiefs have an emerging star wideout in Dwayne Bowe and the best offensive Tight End in the history of the game in Tony Gonzalez.  Brodie Croyle will lead the charge, but if the season gets away from them, don’t be surprised if they turn to Tyler Thigpen.  Devard Darling left Baltimore, and is in line to start opposite Bowe.  He and Gonzo will draw a lot of attention so Darling and company should be able to operate quite freely.  The Chiefs drafted Offensive Lineman Branden Albert, who should hold down the Left Tackle spot.

Defensively the Chiefs will have to make due without Jared Allen.  They have weapons in Tamba Hali (7.5 Sacks) and rookie Glenn Dorsey.  They have some excellence at Linebacker in Derrick Johnson (94 Tackles, 4 Sacks, 2 INTs), Napoleon Harris (116 Tackles) and Donnie Edwards (104 Tackles).  Bernard Pollard (90 Tackles) and Jarrad Page (59 Tackles, 3 INTs) provide strength in the Safey positions.  Patrick Surtain and Rookie Brandon Flowers will hold down the Cornerback spots.

This is going to be another tough road for Kansas City.  The playoffs are out of the question.  7 Wins is not though.  That’s where I put them.

Fantasy-wise the Chiefs have three options.  Larry Johnson, Tony Gonzalez, and Dwayne Bowe.  I don’t even want to hear about other Chiefs getting picked up.

I’m going to look at the matchups each week and pick five fantasy starters that could be in for a tough week.  Here’s who could have trouble out of the gates.

Quarterback
Matt Hasselbeck
- He didn’t play much in the preseason.  I know Brady and Manning didn’t either, but they have more weapons at their disposal.  So you have a QB that didn’t get many reps with two of his top WR options (Bobby Engram and Deion Branch) out with injuries.  Throw in a cross-country trek to Buffalo.  This isn’t adding up to a solid season opener.
Stat Line:  17 of 41 for 190 yards, TD, INT

Running Backs
Larry Johnson
- I’m not down on LJ this year, but I am in the opener.  They are the first team that gets to face New England after the Perfect Season slipped away.  That doesn’t seem like a fun task.  They could be down by 3 TDs early and be forced to abandon the run.  Throw in a QB that’s probably not ready for the complex defenses he’ll be facing and you have a recipe for disaster.  LJ could salvage his day with a one-yard plunge though.
Stat Line:  22 carries for 74 yards, 1 catch for 12 yards

Steven Jackson – Let’s see, he held out forever and gets to start on the road vs. a tough Philly team…in Philly.  Yeah, that’s trouble right away.  I wouldn’t trust him until he proved something to me.  I’m rolling my 3rd RB out there on Week 1 instead of S-Jax.  I’ll avoid that risk to get off on the right foot.
Stat Line:  14 carries for 40 yards, 3 catches for 34 yards

Wide Receiver
Greg Jennings
- Think Aaron Rodgers is going to be jacked up in his first game replacing Brett Favre…in Lambeau…on Monday Night Football.  Can you say pressure?  That’s just internallly.  Let’s not forget he gets to face Jared Allen and the Williams Brothers.  I don’t see Jennings getting the time to get open deep.  If he does, I’m not sure Rodgers makes the play.
Stat Line:  5 catches for 91 yards

Santonio Holmes - For some reason I think the Steelers are going to open the season by running the ball down Houston’s throat.  Forget the Air Steelers of last year.  They are going to do the two-step (Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall) until Houston is begging for mercy.  Holmes will get a few catches, but won’t have the big game.
Stat Line:  2 catches for 19 yards

Those are my choices for Week 1.  Good luck.

So Awesome and The Legend are going to step into the Fantasy Football Cage Match.  This time nobody is coming out…until the end of the year.  You heard it.  16 Weeks of head-to-head matchups.  We’ll find out who is the ultimate champion.

Awesome had the first pick in the two-team snake draft.  Here’s how the rosters turned out (in order of round selected).

Awesome
LT
Brady
Moss
Addai
S-Jax
Witten
Marion the Barbarian Barber
Housh
Brandon Marshall
Ryan Grant
Frank Gore
Torry Holt
Andre Johnson
MJD
Anquan Boldin
NE DEF

Strategy:  So my basic strategy for this draft was to grab LT, and stack up on top WRs.  That strategy went out the window when The Legend grabbed 4 WRs in Rounds 3-6, which left me scrambling.  To compensate for that I didn’t take a QB, instead opting to draft RBs and WRs that were a little more risky but with bigger upside, like Andre Johnson or MJD, hoping that one or more of those guys overperforms their draft position and/or doesn’t get hurt, and ends up being closer to the top in scoring at their respective postion.  Of course, it may not matter at all unless some of the studs get hurt or really underperform. 

The Legend
AP
Brian Westbrook
T.O.
Reggie Wayne
Braylon Edward
Colston
Romo
Marshawn Lynch
Brees
Fitz
Portis
LJ
Winslow
Gates
Jamal Lewis
MN DEF

Strategy:  In the first two rounds I went with the Killer RB Combo of AP and Westbrook to offset the LT dominance.  With my next four picks I decided to stock up on Top End WRs since they come with less question marks than the Kickers.  I turned to Romo because he easily could be the top fantasy QB this year.  I added Lynch because he’s a dynamic young RB.  Then I took Brees because I feel he’ll be playing more meaningful games at the end of the year than Romo.  I grabbed Fitzy because he was the best available.  I turned to a duo of RBs that get carries between the 20s as well as at the stripe.  I then grabbed two top notch Tight Ends because I didn’t think I could wait on either one and have the top backup in a two-man league.  Ithen took Jamal Lewis because he gets the ball between the 20s and at the stripe.  I finished with MN D because they should be rock solid, especially when you consider the QBs they face.  We didn’t take Kickers because they suck and we eliminated them.

Denver Broncos Preview

2 September 2008

The Broncos are hoping this is the team that can make it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2005.  Fortunately this offseason wasn’t as tragic as last year when they had to deal with the death of two teammates (Darrent Williams and Damien Nash).  They had their issues with Brandon Marshall, but it appears that had a “happy” ending as his suspension was reduced to just one game.

On Offense Jay Cutler enters his second season as the starter.  He had a solid season last year throwing for 3500 yards and 20 TDs, numbers which he can improve on.  Brandon Marshall was his go-to-guy last year and he’ll miss the opener because of a suspension.  He dodged a bullet though because he was initially suspended for three games.  Javon Walker is gone to Oakland, but it wasn’t like he played much last year anyway.  The other wideouts are Eddie Royal, Darrell Jackson, and Brandon Stokely.  They also have two capable Tight Ends in Tony Scheffler and Daniel Graham.  At Running Back Selvin Young is the lead back.  I thought Ryan Torrain might challenge him, but an broken bone is his elbow will cost him the beginning of the season. 

On the other side of the ball Denver is led by LB D.J. Williams (141 Tackles) and CB Champ Bailey (84 Tackles, 3 INTs).  Dre Bly is a nice compliment to Bailey at Cornerback while Marlon McCree (San Diego) will be their new Free Safety.  Elvis Dumervil (12.5 Sacks) is their main pass rushing force, although he’ll need help.  DeWayne Robertson was brought in to help plug the middle.  Nate Webster (87 Tackles) and Boss Bailey round out the Linebacker corps.

I think the Broncos will challenge for the Wild Card with around 9 Wins.  If San Diego suffers injury setbacks, Denver could jump the shark and win the AFC West.  In the end, I feel they will be on the outside looking in when the playoffs get underway.

Fantasy-wise their main weapon is Brandon Marshall.  He’s worthy of a #1/#2 WR slot in most leagues.  Jay Culter is a good starting QB option, and a great backup if you’re afforded that luxury.  Scheffler is a nice sleeper at Tight End.  Denver Defense should solid as well.  Selvin Young is worth taking, but I wouldn’t want him as anything more than a #2 RB at best.  I’d be more comfortable with him as your #3.

San Diego Chargers Preview

2 September 2008


LT’s getting older.  Shawne Merriman should be going under the knife.  Antonio Gates is limping.  So what.  They still are one of the best teams in the NFL, which could easily be holding the Lombardi Trophy at season’s end.

Offensively they are a powerhouse.  LaDainian Tomlinson is the best Running Back in the league.  He is so versatile and elusive.  Michael Turner has moved on the Hotlanta, but Darren Sproles and Jacob Hester are ready to jump in and fill that role.  Philip Rivers appears recovered from his knee injury.  So much so that at times he can’t remember which one he hurt.  He has had more time to develop a rapport with Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson will probably hit this year since last year was his supposed “breakout year”.  All too often that happens a year late.  Antonio Gates should be fresh once he gets the rust off from missing the preseason with a toe injury.  Their Offensive Line is Rock Solid and Nate Kaeding is one of the best Kickers in the game.

Defensively it all depends on how Shawne Merriman holds up.  Personally, I think he should have surgery, but I’m not the one who makes that decision.  As stupid as it is for Merriman to risk his career on it, it’s equally negligent for the Chargers to allow it.  Stephen Cooper (108 Tackles), Matt Wilhelm (97 Tackles), and Shaun Phillips (8.5 Sacks) complete one of the best Linebacking units in the league.  Luis Castillo anchors their Defensive Front.   Antonio Cromartie picked off 10 passes last year.  Clinton Hart (85 tackles) was solid at Safety.

They are going to go as far as Shawne Merriman allows them.  Sure, they can win withouth him, but it’s going to be an emotional blow.  If they decided before the season started to shut him down, they could have prepared better.  I still think they will win the AFC West and make it to the AFC Title Game. 

Fantasy-wise they are loaded.  LT is your #1 pick.  Antonio Gates is the first or second Tight End selected.  Philip Rivers is a fantasy starting QB.  Chris Chambers makes a great #2 or #3 wideout.  Vincent Jackson is good for WR depth.  Nate Kaeding should be one of the first Kickers taken (in the last round of course). San Diego Defense should be one of the first taken as well.

Atlanta Falcons Preview

1 September 2008

 

Well, at least the Falcons didn’t have their star QB arrested on dog fighting charges this offseason.  They brought in new Coach Mike Smith, Jacksonville’s former Defensive Coordinator.  Hopefully he doesn’t quit on them like Bobby Petrino.

Offensively they are handing the keys to Boston College Rookie Matt Ryan at QB.  He has a couple of decent threats in Roddy White, who emerged last year with 83 catches for 1202 yards, and 6 TDs, and Michael Jenkins.  Alge Crumpler has moved on to Tennessee and has been replaced by Ben Hartsock.  Their prized free agent signing was Running Back Michael “Burner” Turner from San Diego.  He’ll get teh chance to be the lead back for a change.  Jerious Norwood will be the change-of-pace back as Warrick Dunn returned to Tampa.

Defensivley they are going to hope Jamaal Anderson can improve as a second-year DE.  If he can, he’ll take some of the pressure off John Abraham, who had ten Sacks last year.  Keith Brooking and Michael Boley each had over 100 tackles at Linebacker.  Demorrio Williams has moved on to Kansas City, and will be replaced by Tony Taylor.  Another key missing piece is DeAngelo Hall, who went to Oakland.  He had big ability, but a big attitude to match.  Brent Grimes will step in to replace him to go with Chris Houston.  Chris Crocker was solid at Safety, but went to Miami and will be replaced by Erik Coleman.  Lawyer Milloy returns at the other Safety position.  He had 90 tackles last year.

Let’s see.  A lot of turnover on Defense.  Rookie QB.  Rookie Head Coach.  Yeah, this team is destined to fail.  Not only will they finish in the bottom of NFC South, they will challenge for the worst record in football.

Fantasy-wise there isn’t much to offer in the ATL.  Michael Turner is worth a gamble on a #1 or #2 RB slot, but you don’t know what you are going to get.  Roddy White makes a solid #3 WR in most formats.  Matt Ryan, Jerious Norwood, and Michael Jenkins are fantasy backups at best.  You’re not going to get rich (i.e. win your fantasy league) relying on too many Falcons.  Look elsewhere.

Carolina Panthers Preview

1 September 2008

It seems like every year Carolina is somebody’s pick to surprise everybody and do it all. I think, for once, that isn’t the case.

Offensively there are some concerns.  Jake Delhomme is coming off an elbow injury that cost him all but three games last year.  Those three games he was terrific, but a major injury like this could linger.  He’ll be without Steve Smith for a couple of games for breaking Ken Lucas’ nose for him.  As long as Delhomme stays healthy Smith should put together a strong season.  Joining him is D.J. Hackett (from Seattle) and Muhsin Muhammad.  He played well in Carolina, so maybe he’ll have a decent year.  On the ground they will employ both Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams.  Personally, I’m afraid of DeAngelo holding up.

On Defense the Panthers have several big name players such as Julius Peppers and Jon Beason, who is an absolute beast.  He tallied 140 tackles.  They were middle of the road on yardage allowed total, yardage allowed – passing, and yardage allowed – rushing.  They will need to get to the QB more as they ranked 31 in the league with 23 Sacks.  That’s just not going to cut it.

The team as a whole won’t cut it either.  There are too many holes to expect a major turnaround this year.  We’ll have to wait and see their approach.  I don’t see the playoffs on the future for Carolina.  I see around six or seven wins.

Fantasy-wise the Panters have some playmakers.  Jake Delholmme is an adequate backup, although he could end up being one of the top sleeper picks at QB.  Both Jonathan Stewart and DeAngleo WIlliams figure to get carries.  I like Stewart better, but that’s because I feel he’s more likely to get the red zone touches.  Steve Smith is worthy of a #1 to #3 WR depending on league size.  He’ll miss a couple of games for breaking Ken Lucas’ nose, but fantasy owners are more worried about their last few weeks.  You can take a chance on Muhsin and Hackett in larger leagues.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Preview

1 September 2008

 

The Bucs are coming off a 9-7 that saw them win the NFC South. They were pretty quiet this offseason, with the exception of being a player in the #4 saga.

Offensively they are pretty old.  Jeff ”Cherry” Garcia is 38.  Joey Galloway will turn 37 this November.  Ike Hilliard is 32.  Michael Clayton sucks.  Oops, how did that slip in there.  That’s your passing attack.  Some old heads and some scraps.  Antonio Bryant came over from San Francisco, and he could provide a boost to their passing game.  Their ground game will again be led by overachieving Earnest Graham.  He took advantage of a break last year to rack up over 1200 total yards and 10 TDs.  Not too shabby if I say so myself.  The Bucs brought Warrick Dunn, who’s 33, to share the load.  Michael Bennett will probably get worked into the mix as well.  Alex Smith showed some promise at Tight End.

Their Defense is anchored by Derrick Brooks, imagine that.  He put together a 109 tackle season.  Barrett Ruud (114 tackles) and Cato June helped round out a solid Linebacking corps.  Jermaine Phillips (83 tackles, 4 picks) was a solid contributor at Strong Safety.  Phillip Buchanon and Ronde Barber round out a stellar secondary.  Greg White, Jovan Haye, and Gaines Adams provided a nice pass rush.  I expect even bigger things for Adams in his Sophomore year.

Cherry Garcia does just enough to pick up victories.  He doesn’t turn the ball over and let’s his strong Defense go to work for him.  That combo will be enough for the Bucs to pick up another nine or ten wins this year.   They will make the Wildcard and be immediately shown the door.  At least they are getting invited to the dance.

Fantasy-wise Tampa has little to offer.  Garcia is only good during the bye week of your starting QB.  If you’re going to roll with him make sure he has a nice matchup that week.  Earnest Graham has great potential if he can prove last year wasn’t a fluke.  Joey Galloway is the weapon you’ll want in the passing game.  I won’t endorse Antonio Bryant fully, but he is worth considering. 

 


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