Week 1 Fantasy Football Projections: Dark Horses to Open Up Season with a Bang

Patrick Clarke@@_Pat_ClarkeCorrespondent ISeptember 4, 2012

August 23, 2012; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith (82) during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-US PRESSWIRE
Evan Habeeb-US PRESSWIRE

The NFL's top superstar talents are sure to deliver for fantasy football owners in Week 1, but there are some breakout players that are being overlooked.

Whether they will benefit from another player's injury, a great matchup or both, these are the players who should be on your fantasy radar as Week 1 gets set to kickoff Wednesday night. 

Let's take a look at three dark horses set to open up the new season with a bang in Week 1.

Mike Tolbert, RB

Sturdy Carolina Panthers' running back Mike Tolbert is poised for a strong Week 1 fantasy performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Tampa ranked 32nd (dead last) in the NFL last season in rush defense; allowing more than 156 yards on the ground per week. 

Also, with Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart's Week 1 status still up in the air after suffering an ankle injury during the preseason, Tolbert could see plenty of carries while rotating in and out of the backfield with RB DeAngelo Williams.

Tolbert averaged 4.1 yards per carry and eight yards per reception with the San Diego Chargers in 2011. And at 5'9", 245 pounds, Tolbert is a versatile threat and primed for a big day against the Bucs this weekend.

Week 1 Projection: 12 carries for 65 yards, one touchdown and 5 receptions for 30 yards

Minnesota Vikings, D/ST

The Minnesota Vikings' defense and special teams will have a dominant effort against the Jacksonville Jaguars this Sunday.

Although the Vikings struggled to stop the pass last season, they ranked 11th in the NFL against the run, which just happens to be the Jaguars' greatest strength offensively.

Jacksonville ranked dead last in the league in passing offense in 2011, averaging just 136 yards through the air per week. 

If you're looking for a dark horse defense/special teams unit to start in Week 1, don't sleep on the Vikings. 

Week 1 Projection: 9 points allowed, 2 interceptions and 1 fumble recovery

Torrey Smith, WR

Baltimore Ravens' wide receiver Torrey Smith is ready for a big season in his second year in the NFL. 

On Monday night, Smith will suit up against the Cincinnati Bengals, the team he had his biggest receiving game against as a rookie in 2011.

Smith caught six balls for 165 yards and a touchdown last November against the Bengals in Baltimore.

Smith averaged more than 27 yards per catch and proved to be a thorn in Cincinnati's side throughout the matchup.

Look for Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco to find Smith early and often in Week 1. 

Week 1 Projection: 7 receptions, 125 yards and 1 touchdown

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter For More Fantasy Football Projections and Analysis. 

Follow _Pat_Clarke on Twitter

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