Oakland @ New England
New England lost Tedy Bruschi for the year, and will replace him with LB’s Monty Beisel and Chad Brown. Neither are the player Bruschi is, but both will be productive as long as they are healthy. Rodney Harrison may even have more tackles this year as a result. Oakland is as porous on defense as any in the NFL.
New England should be able to score at will on this defense and likely try and salt the clock in the 4 th qtr running Corey Dillon. Oakland will be chunking it on virtually every down after halftime, keeping the Pats secondary active most of the night. Look for Rodney Harrison to have an active night and MLB Danny Clark and both Safeties to put up nice tackle totals.
Best Bets – OaklandLB Danny Clark. New EnglandDB Rodney Harrison.
Solid plays – Oakland DBDerrick Gibson. New EnglandMonty Beisel.
Others to Consider – Oakland Stuart Schweigert.New England Chad Brown.
Tampa Bay @ Minnesota
Minnesota retooled its defense this off season adding 4 new starters. Sam Cowart now roams the middle of the field where EJ Henderson struggled last year. Fred Smoot is an excellent complimentary CB to Antoine Winfield. LB Napolean Harrison was added in the Randy Moss trade, and “Fat” Pat Williams was plucked from Buffalo to plug the middle of the defensive line. Tampa Bay drafted Barrett Rudd to be their future middle linebacker and Anthony “Booger” McFarland is also returning from injury to shore up the Defensive Line.
The Minnesota defense will have some growing pains early, but should get by Tampa rather easily in this game. The Tampa Bay defense has its hands full in this game with an explosive Viking offense. Both teams Linebackers should lead the way in scoring for your fantasy teams.
Best Bets – Tampa BayLB Derrick Brooks. MinnesotaDL Kevin Williams, LB Sam Cowart
Solid plays – Tampa BayDB Ronde Barber. MinnesotaDarren Sharper
Others to Consider – Tampa BayDL Simeon Rice. MinnesotaDB Antoine Winfield, DB Corey Chavous.
Denver @ Miami
Ian Gold returns to the mile high city after time in Tampa Bay. Gold returns to his natural weak side LB position and will move DJ Williams to the strong side and take away some of his tackling opportunities this season. Al Wilson should have another solid season in the middle and the Broncos defense. Denver is also replacing SS Kennoy Kennedy with Nick Ferguson. Miami will be moving Jason Taylor all over the field lining him up at either DE or LB on any given down and distance. Zach Thomas is due another monster year if he can stay healthy, and the Dolphins secondary will be replacing SS Sammy Knight and CB Patrick Surtain both to Kansas City, with Reggie Howard and Tebucky Jones taking their place respectively. .
In this game Miami will be starting a rookie RB (Ronnie Brown) and a new QB (Gus Frerotte). That sound you hear from Denver is their defense licking its chops at that match up. Denver may struggle early but should wear out the Dolphins defense pounding the rock in the 4 th qtr. Looks for Zach Thomas to lead the way in tackles, and al three of Denver’s Lbs to be active all night against the run and the intermediate passing game.
Best Bets – Denver – LB Al Wilson. Miami – LB Zach Thomas.
Solid plays – Denver – LB Ian Gold. Miami – DL Jason Taylor.
Others to Consider – Denver – LB DJ Williams. Miami – DB Tebucky Jones.
Tennessee lost Samari Rolle at DB to Baltimore because of salary cap constraints, and will be starting a rookie corner to take his place. Pac-Man Jones is a solid punt returner but its unknown how good a corner he will be at this level. Pittsburgh lost often injured LB Kendrell Bell to Kansas City and LB Joey Porter is currently injured, leaving their LB core very thin to start the season.
Pittsburgh will be without RB’s Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley for week 1, but Willie Parker should shred this rebuilt Tennessee defense. Norm Chow the new OC for Tennessee from USC will move the chains from 20 to 20 on the Pitt D, but will have a hard time scoring inside the Red Zone. Bullock and Kassell will be very active with the Steelers running game, and look for Kyle Vanden Bosch to turn his career around in Tennesse this season.
Best Bets – Tennessee – LB Keith Bullock. Pittsburgh – LB James Farrior, DB Troy Polamalu
Solid plays – Tennessee – LB Brad Kassell. Pittsburgh – LB Larry Foote
Others to Consider – Tennessee – DL Kyle Vanden Bosch Pittsburgh – DL Aaron Smith
Chicago @ Washington
Washington lost CB Fred Smoot to Minnesota, and LB Antonio Pierce to NY Giants. Both will be huge loses for their defense in 2005. Chicago is returning FS Mike Brown from injury and moving him to SS to allow him to drop down into the box and stuff the run because of his now physical limitations in coverage. Former SS Michael Green is moving to FS as a result and will be the ball hawk of this defense.
Chicago is starting a rookie QB, and rotating a rookie RB (Cedric Benson) in with Thomas Jones. The key defections from Washington likely won’t be missed in this game and both defenses should be the story of the day. Play your playmakers in this game as this should be a defensive struggle all afternoon.
Best Bets – Chicago – LB Brian Urlacher. Washington – LB Lemar Marshall.
Solid plays – Chicago – LB Lance Briggs. Washington – DB Sean Taylor.
Others to Consider – Chicago – DB Mike Brown, DB Michael Green. Washington – DL Cornelius Griffin.
New Orleans @ Carolina
New Orleans will be playing with a heavy heart in lieu of the recent Hurricane that has destroyed its city and home field. New Orleans will turn over the keys to its defense to 2 nd year MLB Courtney Watson. Carolina is also playing for cancer survivor LB Mark Fields who is sitting out the season. Carolina added a huge playmaker in SS Thomas Davis via the draft, and he will put up Cowboys SS Roy Williams type of numbers his rookie year.
Carolina plans to run Deshaun Foster and Stephen Davis at New Orleans all day, and wear them out defensively. New Orleans will need solid play from its OL, to prevent the best front four in football from wrecking havoc on their offense. New Orleans is vulnerable to the run, and should give up huge chunks at a time.
Best Bets – New Orleans – DL Charles Grant. Carolina – LB Dan Morgan
Solid plays – New Orleans –LB Courtney Watson. Carolina - DB Thomas Davis
Others to Consider – New Orleans – DB Jay Bellamy., DB Dwight Smith. Carolina – LB Will Witherspoon.
Seattle @ Jacksonville
Seattle lost CB Ken Lucas to Carolina, and plans to replace him with Andre Dyson, which is a definite downgrade. Seattle also plans to start rookie Lofa Tatupu at LB but gets DL Grant Wistrom back 100% to start the season. Seattle also added Jamie Sharper to shore up its LB core. Jacksonville was one of the best defenses in the league a year ago, and didn’t lose or add any major contributors.
Seattle has shown in preseason the ability to move the ball through the air virtually at will, but that wasn’t against a defense like Jacksonville. Jacksonville has been suspect at best, passing the ball this preseason, but Seattle is as porous in its secondary as any team in the league. Start your playmakers on these squads as its unlikely anyone else will stand out.
Best Bets – Seattle – DB Michael Boulware. Jacksonville – LB Mike Peterson
Solid plays – Seattle – LB Jamie Sharper, LB Lofa Tatupu. Jacksonville – DL John Henderson, DL Marcus Stroud.
Others to Consider – Seattle – DL Grant Wistrom. Jacksonville – DL Reggie Hayward, LB Daryl Smith.
Houston @ Buffalo
Houston lost LB’s Jamie Sharper and Jay Foreman this off season, but added LB Morlon Greenwood and DB Phillip Buchanon. Houston runs the 3-4 defense and added more versatile players who can all run to take the place of the previous 30+ yr old LBs. Buffalo lost the anchor to its DL, nose tackle Pat Williams to Minnesota. Buffalo was excellent vs. the run a year ago, but Williams 350 lb presence will be missed for sure.
Houston loves to run the ball and if they are successful will do so all day. But Buffalo is smart enough to add a LB or SS in the box to stuff the run, and force David Carr to beat them. Buffalo is replacing Drew Bledsoe with 2 nd yr QB J.P. Losman. Houston will also put another man in the box to stop the run and make the young QB beat them.
Best Bets – Houston – LB Morlon Greenwood. Buffalo – LB London Fletcher.
Solid plays – Houston – LB Kaliee Wong. Buffalo – LB Takeo Spikes.
Others to Consider – Houston – DB Dunta Robinson. Buffalo – DL Aaron Schobel.
Cincinnati @ Cleveland
Cleveland hired Romeo Crennel to take over as head coach for Butch Davis. Crennell went onto cut or trade 3 of its 4 defensive lineman, and all three ended up in Denver. Crennel will make the Browns defense respectable his first year even with sub par talent. Cincinnati added their middle linebacker of the future with the draft pick of Odell Thurman, and also added a wing DE/LB with the selection of David Pollack. Thurman has rare athletic ability and could be a force the first snap of the season.
Cincinnati has a rushing attack to gouge the Browns defense on any play. They also will test the secondary with one of the best WR corps in football. Cleveland should be in for a long day against the balanced Bengals. Cleveland on the other hand has journeyman RB Reuben Droughns and former 1 st round bust Williams Green vying for the start at RB, and picked up journeyman QB Trent Dilfer to lead its attack. The Bengal’s should feast on turnovers all afternoon.
Best Bets – Cincinnati – LB Odell Thurman. Cleveland – LB Andra Davis.
Solid plays – Cincinnati – DB Madieu Williams. Cleveland – DB Brian Russell.
Others to Consider – Cincinnati – DL Justin Smith. Cleveland – DB Sean Jones.
NY Jets @ Kansas City
The NY Jets traded Sam Cowart to Minnesota and handed the reigns to its defense to 2 nd year stud MLB Jonathon Vilma who proved last year he was capable of being their defensive leader. Kansas City revamped its defense with 2 former pro bowl players CB Patrick Surtain and SS Sammy Knight. But the greatest addition may have been the selection of LB Derrick Johnson from Texas in this years NFL draft.
Kansas City will run RB’s Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson all day to try and protect Trent Green as much as possible. This will undoubtedly make LB Jonathon Vilma one of the highest scoring LB’s of week 1. New York will also use workhorse running back Curtis Martin to set up play action passes to Laveranues Coles down the field. The Chiefs defensive statistics could be spread out all over the place in week 1. I am avoiding DL John Abraham week 1, because he just reported to camp and is not in playing shape yet. Unless you have another option, I would sit Abraham.
Best Bets – NY Jets – LB Jonathon Vilma. Kansas City – LB Kendrell Bell.
Solid plays – NY Jets – LB Eric Barton. Kansas City – LB Kawika Mitchell.
Others to Consider – NY Jets – DL Shaun Ellis. Kansas City – LB Derrick Johnson.
Green Bay @ Detroit
Green Bay added 2 key additions this off season. First they traded for LB Robert Thomas last week from St Louis, and then the selection of SS Nick Collins in last Aprils NFL draft. The Packers did however lose DB Darren Sharper this past off season. Detroit added former Denver SS Kenoy Kennedy to its defensive backfield. And in a surprising move passed on LB Derrick Johnson or LB Shawne Merriman in last years draft for yet another WR in round 1 for the 3 rd consecutive season.
This game will pit two of the worst defenses on the field against each other, so do not predict a low scoring game. Favre and Co. should be able to light up the Lions secondary, as Kevin Jones will be able to run all day on the Packers front 7.
Best Bets – Green Bay – LB Nick Barnett. Detroit – DL Shaun Rogers.
Solid plays – Green Bay – DB Nick Collins. Detroit – DB Kenoy Kennedy.
Others to Consider – Green BayLB Robert Thomas. Detroit – LB James Davis.
Dallas @ San Diego
No team outside of Minnesota added as many playmakers as the Dallas Cowboys did this off season. First with the draft selections of DL Demarcus Ware and Marcus Spears, as well as LB Kevin Burnett. Dallas also added CB Anthony Henry and CB Aaron Glenn to shore up a pathetic secondary. But the key move of the off season was NT Jason Ferguson to allow the Cowboys to switch from the 4-3 to the 3-4 defense. Ferguson is the plugger that the Cowboys needed to make the switch successful. San Diego added Shawne Merriman via the draft, but he is unlikely to play week 1, at this time.
Dallas will show teams just how valuable TE Antonio Gates is to the Chargers offense this week. LT and Co. still may win the game and are favored to do so, but life wont be as easy for QB Drew Brees without his safety outlet Gates out there this Sunday. Dallas will need to protect statuesque QB Drew Bledsoe to keep the Charger blitzers off his back all afternoon. Look for both teams SS and middle linebackers to have nice games.
Best Bets – Dallas – DB Roy Williams. San Diego –LB Donnie Edwards.
Solid plays – Dallas – LB Dat Nguyen. San Diego –DB Terrance Kiel.
Others to Consider – DL/LB Demarcus Ware. Dallas – San Diego –LB Steve Foley.
St. Louis @ San Francisco
St Louis revamped its defense with additions of LB Chris Claiborne, and Dexter Coakley. The Rams did however lose its best CB Jermetrius Butler to a season ending injury in the preseason. San Francisco added former Raven DL Marques Douglas, and gets franchise player Julian Peterson back from injury. Andre Carter is moving from DE to LB this year for the 49ers as well.
This game has bloodbath written all over it. The 9ers offense is one of the worst in the NFL, with Tim Rattay leading the charge at QB, and underachieving RB Kevan Barlow starting the season as the #1 tailback. While the Rams are clicking on all cylinders with QB Mark Bulger throwing it all over the field to his favorite targets, and RB Steven Jackson making holes to run through when his OL fails to do so. Adam Archuletta is returning to SS fulltime, instead of playing some FS, that is why he is considered a best bet.
Best Bets – St. Louis – DB Adam Archuletta. San Francisco – LB Derek Smith.
Solid plays – St. Louis – LB Chris Claiborne. San Francisco – LB Julian Peterson.
Others to Consider – St. Louis – DL Anthony Hargrove, DL Leonard Little. San Francisco – DB Tony Parrish.
Arizona @ NY Giants
Arizona added 3 potential starters with the selections of DB Antrel Rolle, LB’s Lance Mitchell and Darryl Blackstock. If the Cards start the season slowly all three of these rookies could be on the field at the same time by midseason. The Giants added one of the best kept secret free agents in LB Antonio Pierce. A healthy Michael Strahan and emerging studs DL Osi Umenyiora and DB Gibril Wilson could make this one of the better defensive units in football before seasons end.
Both teams want to run the ball, making the LBs and SS in this game the potential highest scoring players on the field for each team. But do not forget the DL’s on either team as Strahan and Osi as well as Bertrand Berry are 3 of the finer DE in football.
Best Bets – Arizona – DB Adrian Wilson. NY Giants – LB Antonio Pierce.
Solid plays – Arizona – DL Bertrand Berry. NY Giants – DB Gibril Wilson.
Others to Consider – Arizona – LB James Darling. NY Giants – DLMichael Strahan, DL Osi Umenyiora.
Indianapolis @ Baltimore
Indianapolis added Cory Simon last week to take double teams off of DL Dwight Freeney. Baltimore added DB Samari Rolle, and LB Tommy Polley to improve arguably the best defense in the NFL. Indianapolis has had its season end in New England the last 2 yrs, and knows it needs home field advantage if it wants to take the next step to the Super Bowl. Last night on ESPN, Peyton Manning said 15 wins is what its going to take to get that done. The Colt defense has been its Achilles heal the last few seasons and Tony Dungy is finally adding the talent to allow the Colts to live up to their lofty expectations. Baltimore on the other hand is in need of a QB who can make smart decisions. Imagine the Colts offense and the Raven defense on the same team. Would that be the best team ever?
Baltimore will have to run the ball and win the time of possession battle to have any shot at winning this game. Kyle Boller simply can not be counted on to get it done. Indianapolis has to keep turnovers to a minimum and force Boller to beat them and they should win easier than most think. Again, start your playmakers in this game.
Best Bets – Indianapolis – DL Dwight Freeney. Baltimore – LB Ray Lewis.
Solid plays – Indianapolis – LB Cato June. Baltimore – DB Ed Reed.
Others to Consider – Indianapolis – DB Bob Sanders. Baltimore – DL Terrell Suggs.
Philadelphia @ Atlanta
Atlanta made a huge splash in free agency adding the talented LB Ed Hartwell from Baltimore to leads its defense. Atlanta also sports one of the best defensive lines in football and has excellent Lbs and DB’s. Philadelphia on the other hand lost DL Corey Simon to the Indianapolis Colts just last week. Philly is planning on putting rookie DL Mike Patterson in Simon’s former spot to start the season.
This is a preview of last yrs NFC Championship game, with Atlanta playing at home this time around. Atlanta does not have the size in its secondary to play Terrell Owens man to man, but will double him on virtually every play and use its speed at LB to keep Brian Westbrook in check. Philly is soft up the middle but has a great secondary who can cover the Falcons receivers or come up to stop the run or blitz.
Best Bets – Philadelphia – LB Jeremiah Trotter. Atlanta – LB Ed Hartwell.
Solid plays – Philadelphia – DB Michael Lewis. Atlanta – LB Patrick Kerney
Others to Consider – Philadelphia – DB Brian Dawkins. Atlanta – LB Keith Brooking.