Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will come out looking to make a statement in Week 1. It’s been just over a week since Brady’s four-game suspension was lifted, and while some might expect the Pats to ease Brady into the action a little bit at a time, I’m expecting him to come out firing.
New England figures to need 30-plus points to beat the high-powered Pittsburgh Steelers. Both teams have some question marks on defense, so this one figures to be a high-scoring affair. I like Brady to shine brightest of all the quarterbacks in Week 1 with a performance that sticks it to his haters one more time.
Many of the QB rankings you see for Week 1 have the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers at No. 1. That’s understandable because he has owned the Chicago Bears throughout his career. It’s been especially nasty lately as Packerpedia tweets, with reference to Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune:
That said, this is a new Bears regime, with a new defense. Rodgers feasted on the Cover 2, but he may not run quite as wild against the Bears’ new 3-4 look.
Pernell McPhee is a solid pass-rusher, and Jared Allen looks primed for a resurgence as a situational pass-rusher from the outside linebacker position. Chicago will lose, but its defense will play well enough to keep Rodgers’ numbers from besting Brady’s haul.
After sitting out the entire preseason, he’s about to be turned loose on the ransacked San Francisco 49ers defense. Peterson should be motivated to perform well after being away from the game since the beginning of the 2014 season. Back on July 31, Peterson tweeted about his readiness for the season to begin and gave a shoutout to his Oklahoma Sooners roots:
The Niners defense is a shell of what it once was thanks to retirements and released players with off-the-field issues. San Francisco is the perfect mark for Peterson to have a huge game against. If he has less than 100 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1, it’ll be a shock.
I told you the Steelers vs. Patriots would be high-scoring. Because of that, we’ll tab another star from that game as a top fantasy performer at his position.
Antonio Brown simply knows how to get open, and he and Ben Roethlisberger have excellent chemistry. Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant are out, per Mike Giardi of Comcast SportsNet New England. That’ll likely lead to more opportunities for Brown as Roethlisberger looks to lean on his No. 1 weapon.
Another AFC North player who is set up for a nice game is the Cincinnati Bengals’ A.J. Green. The Bengals will visit the Oakland Raiders, and the latter doesn’t have a secondary physically capable of slowing down Green if he’s on.
Per Pro Football Focus, not one Raiders corner rated in the top 15 amongst players at the position in yards per cover snap. Green’s day will be second only to Brown’s explosive Week 1.
Who else does Cam Newton have to throw to besides Greg Olsen? The diminished wide receiver corps that the Carolina Panthers are forced to work with hurts their bottom line, but it makes Olsen all the more valuable as a fantasy performer.
Last season, Olsen had 84 receptions for 1,008 yards and six touchdowns. With so few options for Newton out wide, you’d have to think he’ll spend a lot of time looking for his dependable tight end again this season. In Week 1, the Panthers will be visiting the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In 2014, quarterbacks had the fourth-highest passer rating (99.1) in the league against the Jags. Carolina will lean on its running game, but when it does go down the field, look for Olsen to figure prominently.
As usual, you can’t go wrong with Rob Gronkowski when he’s healthy. The Steelers will probably try to slow him down with speedy linebacker Ryan Shazier in coverage. At 6’6″ Gronk has about a five-inch height advantage over Shazier. That should still make him a viable option in the red zone.
Defense and Special Teams
This seems pretty easy, but it’s not as straightforward as it may seem. I’m picking the St. Louis Rams to upset the Seattle Seahawks in Week 1 but still tabbing the defending NFC champions’ defense/special teams as the top fantasy unit.
The Seahawks-Rams tilt figures to be a low-scoring game because neither team is high-scoring, and both feature better-than-average defenses that can really generate pressure on the quarterback. Seattle gets the nod from a fantasy standpoint for two reasons: First, the secondary and linebackers not only possess the ability to get takeaways, they can also go the distance after picks. The team had two defensive touchdowns in 2014.
Secondly, Seattle has one of the most dynamic and dangerous kick and punt returners in the NFL in rookie Tyler Lockett. With Lockett and the Legion of Boom, Seattle’s D/ST has a chance to make an impact in Week 1.
Let’s go back to the Panthers vs. Jaguars for this category.
Graham Gano was so-so for the Panthers last season as he made 29 of 35 field-goal attempts. In Week 1, he is in great position to take an early lead in the field-goals made category.
The Panthers offense is going to struggle to get the ball into the end zone all season. While there will be drives into opponent’s territory, Gano will often hear his name called to salvage three points for the team.
I like him to get a shot at three or four makeable field goals in the season opener.
Stats per Pro-Football-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
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