Fantasy Football 2012: Predicting Week 1 Stats for Top Banged-Up Stars
The clock sits at 11:59 for NFL teams: it's almost the start of the NFL season. Naturally, it wouldn't be the start of the season without a little bit of worrying. Unlike the offseason, you shouldn't worry about whether you'll be able to fill out your roster the way you want (right Jaguars fans?). Rather, it's whether the guys you already have will be healthy enough to play effectively.
Other than the voodoo priests in Arizona, every single NFL team has at least one guy on the injury chart after the final week of the preseason. Even more players are coming back from major injuries last season.
The trick for you, all-knowing fantasy owner, is to figure out exactly how well these guys are actually going to play.
NumberFire.com has crunched the numbers, and stats guru Keith Goldner has projected what some of these banged-up players will do in Week 1. The projections aren't yet set in stone—that will happen when final roster cuts are made entering the weekend. But this is a good sneak peak into what you should trust these guys to do Week 1.
These numbers are based off of a standard Yahoo! league, with no points per reception and only four points for passing touchdowns.
RB Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
Peter Aiken/Getty Images
Week 1 Opponent: Atlanta Falcons
Projected Stats: 12.44 rush attempts, 36.18 rush yards, 0.24 rush TDs, 0.96 receptions, 7.11 receiving yards, 0.00 receiving TDs
Projected Fantasy Points: 5.64
I'm not quite sure which tear was worse: Jamaal Charles' ACL in 2011, or the heart of every fantasy owner that drafted him in the first round. Charles is expected to have a bounce-back year—numberFire has him as the No. 10 RB on our draft board—but this is clearly not the best matchup to begin his comeback.
Last season, the Falcons finished sixth in the NFL in average rushing yards allowed with 97, one of eight teams to be under the 100-yard-per-game mark. Lofa Tatupu may be out for the season, but the rest of that Falcons defense returns with a vengeance, perhaps even a little stronger with the addition of Asante Samuel at corner.
And remember: this isn't only Charles' return party, it's Matt Cassel's as well. Couple that with Dwayne Bowe holding out most of the preseason, and it may take a while for this Chiefs offense to get back on track.
I'd trust Charles more against Buffalo, New Orleans and San Diego the next three weeks than I would here.
Verdict: Borderline fantasy starter
WR Andre Johnson, Houston Texans
Bob Levey/Getty Images
Week 1 Opponent: Miami Dolphins
Projected Stats: 5.03 receptions, 65.72 yards, 0.42 TDs
Projected Fantasy Points: 8.88
Sure, Andre Johnson may have only played seven games last year and is listed as probable for Week 1, but you're not really thinking about sitting him, are you?
Despite playing less than half the games of the other Houston receivers, he still finished fourth on the team in both receptions, with 33, and receiving yards, with 492—an average of over 70 yards per game.
The most impressive aspect of Johnson's game may be his catch rate, turning the times he's targeted by Matt Schaub into successful completions 64.71 percent of the time last season (the league average sits around 60 percent).
In addition, the Miami Dolphins gave up 249.5 passing yards through the air last year, the eighth most in the entire league. One of those games was against the Texans, when Andre Johnson went off for seven catches, 93 yards and a touchdown in Week 2.
I'd say the Texans won't have any issues with him leading the team into battle, and neither should you.
Verdict: Must start
RB Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Week 1 Opponent: Dallas Cowboys
Projected Stats: 15.24 rush attempts, 62.04 rush yards, 0.40 rush TDs, 3.18 receptions, 21.79 receiving yards, 0.08 receiving TDs
Projected Fantasy Points: 11.04
Sitting with an average draft position right around the late-fourth to early-fifth round, Bradshaw will likely be on the cusp of starting in many leagues come Week 1. He's been a great fantasy back when healthy.
However, that's an extremely big caveat—he only played in 12 games and started nine for the Giants last season.
But even with Bradshaw currently on the injury list (probable) for Week 1, I don't see too much reason to worry entering this first game. The main upside for Bradshaw is catching the ball out of the backfield; he had at least two receptions in nine of the 12 games he played last season. That doesn't even take into account his two receiving touchdowns, and one of those scores came against these very same Cowboys in Week 17.
That day, he scored a rushing TD as well on his way to a big 18 fantasy points in many fantasy leagues' championship game. The Cowboys were impressive against the run last year (No. 7 in the NFL), but a big reason for that was their secondary's failure against the pass (No. 23 in the NFL).
The Cowboys have made massive improvements at corner, but that might only mean more opportunities for Bradshaw up the middle of the field.
Verdict: Likely starter
WR Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys
Week 1 Opponent: New York Giants
Projected Stats: 4.22 receptions, 58.11 yards, 0.50 TDs
Projected Fantasy Points: 8.71
Miles Austin missed six games last season and comes into Week 1 this year probable, just like seemingly everybody else with the Cowboys, including the peanut vendor in the south end zone.
Dez Bryant is thought of as a must-start option at this point; Jerry Jones wouldn't have shelled out the money for a babysitter if he didn't think it would benefit him in some way.
But what about the forgotten receiver? With Jason Witten's status still up in the air, the opportunities will likely be there for Austin; he averaged just over seven targets a game from Dallas QBs last season, even with Witten and Laurent Robinson in town.
His main issue, then, is turning those targets into receptions, as his 58.9 percent catch rate sits slightly below the league average for receivers. In two games last year against the Giants, Austin's performances were Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, with a 12-fantasy point day and a TD in Week 14, but only two catches for 20 yards in Week 17.
I'd be extremely wary of him as the season goes on, but if he's on your team, you're not going to get many opportunities better than a Week 1 game against the fourth-worst passing defense in the NFL in 2011.
Verdict: Likely starter
RB Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Week 1 Opponent: Jacksonville Jaguars
Projected Stats: 16.96 rush attempts, 76.61 rush yards, 0.48 rush TDs, 3.60 receptions, 26.30 receiving yards, 0.10 receiving TDs
Projected Fantasy Points: 13.54
And now for the fun one: Adrian "All Day" Peterson. While Jamaal Charles has had almost a full 12 months to recover from his torn ACL, AP just started taking hits in practice for the first time earlier this week.
The Vikings still aren't quite sure whether he'll be able to go Week 1; it would be Toby Gerhart if he couldn't. Still, it's hard to see them purposefully sitting the man who brought them a positive net expected points (NEP) value per rush last season, meaning that when he touched the ball, on average, the Vikings' chances of scoring increased.
When compared to Gerhart's -0.05 NEP per rush score (meaning the Vikings would lose 0.05 expected points every rush), they surely want AP on the field.
If he is in fact able to go, there's no way you can keep him off your roster. In every single game that Peterson had a dozen carries last season, he had at least eight fantasy points. In five of the six games where he had at least the 17 carries that numberFire projects for Week 1, he had at least 14 fantasy points.
Now, let's say that you're a pessimist and 100 percent convinced that he won't be the Minnesota starter for Week 1, but will still get some carries. According to Keith Goldner, numberFire's main stats expert, the best way to do the projections would be to cut them in half. So, if Gerhart is your supposed Vikings starter, figure about 8.5 carries for Peterson, 38 rush yards, 1.8 receptions and 13.2 receiving yards for an estimated 6.77 fantasy points.
Considering what you're expecting out of most flex players Week 1, that's not a bad projection for a guy who has huge upside potential anyway.
No matter who you think is going to start on the field in Week 1, I want Adrian Peterson in my starting lineup in a standard fantasy league, end of story.
Verdict: Must start
Zach Warren is a writer and editor for numberFire.com as well as Bleacher Report. And he's here to bring the Fire to your fantasy team. NumberFire.com specializes in predicting stats for players and teams through their prediction models.