FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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WEEK 1
2012
DAL at NYG (WED) *IND at CHI *PHI at CLE STL at DET
ATL at KC JAC at MIN *PIT at DEN *WAS at NO
*BUF at NYJ *MIA at HOU *SEA at ARI *CIN at BAL (MON)
*UPDATED *CAR at TB *NE at TEN SF at GB *SD at OAK (MON)

Prediction: ATL 24, KC 23 (Line: ATL by 2.5)

Players to Watch: Jacquizz Rodgers, Peyton Hillis

The Falcons reached the playoffs last year and look to take another big step (like winning in the playoffs) with a new and more aggressive passing offense and what should be a better defense. The Chiefs come off a nightmare season where they lost Jamaal Charles and continued to lose players and games the entire season though a late season surge left them at 7-9. The Falcons were only 4-4 on the road last year but have to open their season with a win here in order to show they are going to be a force in the NFC. The Chiefs have players back and all new coaches from last year. This could be a sneaky win by the Chiefs but should have the Falcons flexing some muscle.

Atlanta Falcons
Homefield: Georgia Dome
FieldTurf
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 @KC ----- 10 @NO -----
2 DEN ----- 11 ARI -----
3 @SD ----- 12 @TB -----
4 CAR ----- 13 NO -----
5 @WAS ----- 14 @CAR -----
6 OAK ----- 15 NYG -----
7 BYE ----- 16 @DET -----
8 @PHI ----- 17 TB -----
9 DAL ----- ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster

Pregame Notes: This has the marks of a very good season for the Falcons who have one of the lightest schedules in the NFL and an offense on the upswing. Matt Ryan already had a break out season with 4177 yards and 29 touchdowns in 2011 (Authors note - remember when a 4000 yard season was considered a big one?). He returns all the same receivers and helms a new offensive scheme that will be more open and more predicated on the pass like virtually every other team this year.

The rushing effort will be less relied on according to the plan and that's a good thing given that Michael Turner has apparently lost a step already and looks slow and less powerful. He can be relied on for touchdowns and had 11 last year but if he loses any power rushing ability the Falcons could just throw a scoring pass or try out Jacquizz Rodgers instead which is what they did in the preseason with encouraging results. The hope is that Rodgers takes a much more prominent role this year as both a runner and receiver. This will be a tandem attack and if Turner really has take a turn for the worse, then Rodgers may end up as the back to own here. Rodgers can do himself a huge favor by showing up big this year and making the case to be the man in 2013 while negating the need to bring in any heavy hitter to replace Michael Turner.

Another source of optimism is Julio Jones who is everything that Michael Turner is not - young, comes off a great year and has by all accounts gotten even better this summer. Jones ended his rookie year with 54-959-8 and that was with missing three games. He had five efforts top 100 yards and better yet, he scored six times over the final five games. Roddy White started the year out slowly but picked it up and ended with his second straight 100 catch season. This is a very powerful tandem now and the biggest reason to expect more from the Falcons this year. Harry Douglas takes the #3 role again but there has not been enough passes to trickle down and make him fantasy relevant. This may change a little with the newer offense but not much to go on yet.

Tony Gonzalez returns for what has to be his final season (and he means it this time) but kudos to the best tight end in NFL history. He had a nice 80-875-7 season last year while burying nearly every record for his position.

Chances are best that the Falcons are able to get a win here with a powerful offense and improved defense against a team that will be better than 2011 but also has new schemes and such to install and new players to meld in. Should the Falcons lose this opener, they have to wonder if their road woes are going to continue to be a problem. They catch a break since the Falcons LCB Brandon Flowers has been out with a heel injury and may not play this week and at the least be less than 100%.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points ATL 9 10 7 10 12 14
Preventing Fantasy Points KC 11 21 4 8 8 11

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Matt Ryan, ATL @NO 0000027030 ***
The last time Ryan saw the Saints he put up 448 yards and three TDs--and it's only the second-biggest game New Orleans has allowed to an opposing QB. In fact, four quarterbacks have topped 30 fantasy points against the Saints. Heck, the deposed Jay Cutler threw two TDs against them last week. Ryan has four straight games with multiple scoring strikes and an average of 362 and 2 in his last three trips to the Big Easy; what's not to like?
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Steven Jackson, ATL @NO 5001100000 ***
Jackson's numbers have declined in each of his three games as a Falcon, culminating with his 12-52 back in Week 1. And while the Saints have been softer of late against the run, Jackson has been delivering a steady supply of Jackson-like games--especially on the road: 16-50, 17-41, 16-81, 8-22, 13-37, 13-49, 11-46. Those are not the lotto-winning numbers to plug into your fantasy lineup.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Harry Douglas, ATL @NO 006901000 ***
Douglas delivered 69 yards as a third wheel in the earlier matchup, so he's usable even if Julio Jones plays. And if Jones can't go... well, you saw last week's 10-131 for yourself.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Roddy White, ATL @NO 007801000 ***
White has taken a back seat to Julio Jones, both against the Saints and in general. However, he did score in the earlier meeting with New Orleans this year and has scored in each of the past two games. He's not quite 1A again, but he's a solid secondary option worthy of a fantasy start in a game that projects to fill plenty of fantasy mugs.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Devin Hester, ATL @NO 003401000 ***
Hester had 99 yards against the Saints in his Atlanta debut, and 85 and a score last week with Julio Jones out. Tough to bank on Atlanta going four deep at receiver again, but if Jones can't go Hester climbs onto the fantasy radar.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Julio Jones, ATL @NO 00000000 *
If Jones is deemed ready he's worth the risk against a Saints secondary that's allowed more WR TDs than all but five other teams; something about the 116 yards he had against New Orleans in the opener, or the 42 targets and 26-516-3 he posted the past three games he played.
Update: Jones didn't practice for a second straight week; last week that meant no game, and while he's listed as questionable Atlanta's top beat writer seems to think it means another week without Julio in the lineup. The plan is for him to test his hip on Saturday, so maybe we'll know a little earlier than game time regarding his availability.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Matt Bryant, ATL @NO 1133 ***
Bryant kicked his way to 13 points the last time he faced the Saints, and he's averaged better than 10 points per game over the past six. New Orleans gave up back-to-back-to-back double-digit games to kickers before encountering the feeble Bears last week. With the Vegas line set at a lofty 56 for this one, expect fireworks--and plenty of opportunities for Bryant.

Kansas City Chiefs
Homefield: Arrowhead Stadium
Grass
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 ATL ----- 10 @PIT -----
2 @BUF ----- 11 CIN -----
3 @NO ----- 12 DEN -----
4 SD ----- 13 CAR -----
5 BAL ----- 14 @CLE -----
6 @TB ----- 15 @OAK -----
7 BYE ----- 16 IND -----
8 OAK ----- 17 @DEN -----
9 @SD ----- ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster

Pregame Notes: The Chiefs come off a season they want to forget where Jamaal Charles was instantly lost along with Tony Moeaki. That sent the offense into a tailspin. Matt Cassel missed seven games. The Chiefs finally dusted themselves off and got back into the game later in the year but the damage was already done to a lost season. The ownership brought in new coaches and bumped Romeo Crennel to head coach.

Jamaal Charles is right at one year removed from tearing his ACL but has seemed to bounce back exceedingly well. His trademark burst is intact and his speed has not suffered. He played in three preseason games and looked good. What will be a factor this year is the addition of Peyton Hillis who played previously with OC Brian Daboll when he had his big year. The natural assumption is that he becomes the new Thomas Jones. And two seasons ago in what was Charles best year, Jones actually had a lot of carries (265 vs 294). The fantasy fear is that Hillis takes all the short scores but Charles has never had more than seven rushing touchdowns in a year anyway. His role as a runner and a receiver getting big chunks of yardage is his tool in trade. There is room for both in this offense and most notable will be just how much they use Hillis and how much they protect Charles and take him out of short yardage situations. This running attack once again has a lot of potential.

The receivers are also a strength here with Dwayne Bowe seemingly coming off a bad year (81-1159-5) though that was with multiple quarterbacks and he scored 15 touchdowns in 2010 playing all year with Cassel. Jonathan Baldwin is the second-year player who did not get into any fights, did not break his hand and who has be all accounts had a very good camp and should be ready to step up from an otherwise lost rookie year. Steve Breaston will lose more work as Baldwin improves. Tony Moeaki returns from his knee surgery but finds Kevin Boss there to share the load with and there's not enough passes to the position to split the bounty.

This is a home game and the Chiefs always play tough at Arrowhead. At full strength, they'll put up a fight but first week out after coaching upheavals in the offseason make it harder to come together.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points KC 30 19 20 32 28 24
Preventing Fantasy Points ATL 19 6 20 20 9 9

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Alex Smith, KC @PIT 0000024021 ***
Smith has thrown multiple touchdown passes in three of his last four games and should be able to replicate that feat against a Steelers secondary that's served up multiple scoring strikes in eight straight. That's what passes for a big game for Smith.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Jamaal Charles, KC @PIT 9004401000 ***
Charles is battling head, ankle, and knee injuries so he's been ceding touches to Knile Davis. He's still a must-start, but the fact that Davis swiped two scores last week alone takes some of the luster off.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Dwayne Bowe, KC @PIT 006900000 ***
It's been 17 games, 222 targets, 132 catches, 1,628 yards since a Chiefs wide receiver last scored a touchdown. That streak ends here, against a Steelers secondary that's allowed at least one WR TD in seven straight games, and Bowe is the most likely Chief to do it.
Update: Alas, just as opportunity knocks in Kanas City Bowe finds himself unable to answer. He's missed practice all week due to illness, and he's listed as questionable. There's simply not enough upside to offset that risk; seek fantasy assistance elsewhere.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Albert Wilson, KC @PIT 004500000 ***
Wilson matched Dwayne Bowe's catches and yardage last week and recorded the second-most targets among KC wideouts as well. Memo to Wilson: if you're going to emulate someone, aim higher.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Travis Kelce, KC @PIT 005601000 ***
More reliable targets, i.e. not sharing with Anthony Fasano, and this favorable matchup would make Kelce one of the top tight end plays of the week. Settle for solid and hope Fasano stays out of the mix.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Cairo Santos, KC @PIT 2222 ***
Raise your hand if you remember all the way back to Week 8. That's the last time Santos had double-digit points, as well as the last time Pittsburgh gave up double-digit points to an opposing kicker. Two months of evidence suggests you should get your fantasy kicks elsewhere this week.

WEEK 1
2012
DAL at NYG (WED) IND at CHI PHI at CLE STL at DET
ATL at KC JAC at MIN PIT at DEN WAS at NO
BUF at NYJ MIA at HOU SEA at ARI CIN at BAL (MON)
  CAR at TB NE at TEN SF at GB SD at OAK (MON)

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