Fantasy Football 2013: An Early Look at Week 1's Best Matchups
Summer smolders as September rolls through the calendar, shortening the days and brightening our Sunday afternoons with the sights and sounds of football.
Fantasy draft season came to an abrupt end this week. There are some stragglers, of course, but for the most part, we have flipped the switch from draft to roster management.
Week 1 is around the corner. Here are its best matchups in the fantasy football realm.
Ben Tate vs. San Diego Chargers
Running back Arian Foster's fantasy stock has taken a major hit through the recent offseason and preseason. Despite finishing in the top five in fantasy scoring in each of the past three seasons, red flags have popped up all over the place.
Foster's efficiency has plummeted as his workload has increased, and his body might be sounding the alarm. He was out for the entire preseason due to injury, prompting many fantasy owners to avoid him in the first round.
That wisdom might prove true in the long run, but Foster should be back on Monday Night Football. Does that mean he will have a vintage performance?
Don't expect that, at least if head coach Gary Kubiak is to be believed. He said, via Drew Dougherty of the team's website, “Obviously I don’t think Arian is going to be a 30-carry guy opening night without camp."
That makes Ben Tate a sneaky good start against a bad San Diego Chargers team. This is the same Tate who looked great while averaging 5.7 yards per carry during the preseason.
New England Defense vs. Buffalo Bills
In recent years, the New England Patriots defense hasn't exactly been known for shutting down opponents. That hasn't stopped them from scoring fantasy points, however.
New England's defense and special teams were among the top fantasy scorers last season, depending on format. A lot of that had to do with interceptions and kick returns, but it matters less how they got those points and more that they got them.
Week 1 provides a tasty matchup for that defense, which faces a Buffalo Bills offense likely starting undrafted free agent Jeff Tuel thanks to injuries to their top two quarterbacks.
Julio Jones and Roddy White at New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints were bad on defense last season. Things don't look much better heading into 2013.
Sure, Sean Payton is back, and Rob Ryan signed on to fix that defense. But there was no overnight fix for that unit, even if Ryan switched it to a 3-4, which suits the personnel well.
The secondary is still bad, and the Atlanta Falcons are just as potent on offense. Julio Jones is still improving in his third season, and Roddy White might be wading in the same youthful waters as Tony Gonzalez.
Both are liable to wind up in the top 10 in fantasy scoring this week.
LeSean McCoy at Washington Redskins
Head coach Chip Kelly brought his high-octane offense to Philadelphia from Oregon this year. The Eagles get their first crack at scoring points against divisional rivals in Washington.
It stands to reason that no player will benefit more from the uptempo game than LeSean McCoy, who was already a big-time threat. He did, after all, score 20 touchdowns without Kelly just two seasons ago.
The Washington Redskins actually were pretty good against the run last season, but it came at the expense of the pass defense. They were one of the worst in the league in passing yards and touchdowns given up.
By the way, McCoy is rather adept at catching the ball out of the backfield and doing insane things with it after the catch.
Colin Kaepernick vs. Green Bay Packers
Dom Capers still wakes up in a cold sweat from nightmares about last year's playoff debacle against the San Francisco 49ers.
Green Bay should be far better prepared heading into the first game of the season, but it stands to reason that the Packers would have been somewhat ready for a playoff game. Alas, Kaepernick still accumulated nearly 450 total yards to go along with two passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns.
Sunday's game marks the beginning of the end for the 49ers in Candlestick Park as they get ready to move to Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara.
Kaepernick will be more than ready.
Danny Amendola and Zach Sudfeld vs. Buffalo Bills
The New England defense isn't the only unit to have a favorable matchup for the Patriots this Sunday.
Buffalo's defense has been hit hard by injuries. Stephon Gilmore is ostensibly out for the first half of the season, and star safety Jairus Byrd is suffering from plantar fasciitis, per Kevin Patra of NFL.com.
Tom Brady has actually had some trouble with the Bills on occasion, but this Sunday should be a walk in the park. His top targets should be Danny Amendola and Zach Sudfeld, who should be a fantastic fantasy starter until Rob Gronkowski returns from surgery.
Pierre Garcon vs. Philadelphia Eagles
It's easy to write Pierre Garcon off after the injury-marred 2012 campaign he had. But did you know you would be writing off the league leader in fantasy points per opportunity (PPO)?
That's right, when Garçon was healthy, he scored points at a clip of 0.40 PPO, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
The Eagles, meanwhile, led the league in giving up passing touchdowns last season. That's not a good thing.
Granted, it's difficult to predict just how good or bad a defense will be until the regular season rolls around. The Eagles bolstered that secondary on paper when they signed Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams, but neither has been particularly good with the team thus far.
Tampa Bay Defense at New York Jets
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were horrific on defense last season. On paper, that is no longer the case.
Tampa Bay's biggest offseason addition was one Darrelle Revis, who was traded from the New York Jets after it became clear it would be difficult to retain his services beyond this year. He will make his Week 1 debut against his former team, and it couldn't be an easier matchup.
Revis will go up against lackluster receivers Stephen Hill and Jeremy Kerley, who headline an anemic Jets attack led by uninspiring rookie quarterback Geno Smith.
The Bucs won't have Mark "Buttfumble" Sanchez to count on for hilarious gaffes, but it could get ugly for that Jets offense anyway.
The Entire Indianapolis Offense vs. Oakland Raiders
That's right, if you play in a league that plays offensive linemen, you should start the Indianapolis offensive line.
Oakland simply looked awful throughout the preseason, and there is little reason to believe we will see improvement as we roll into the regular season. The defense is particularly in tatters, which only means good things for that Colts offense.
Quarterback Andrew Luck should have a field day throwing to receivers Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton, not to mention tight end Coby Fleener. If Ahmad Bradshaw is well enough to play, he should make for a nice flex play. If not, his backup, Vick Ballard, will be an even better start.
Heck, even perennial fantasy disappointment Darrius Heyward-Bey might get in on the action.
Russell Wilson at Carolina Panthers
In truth, there are few bad matchups for Russell Wilson. But the Carolina Panthers are a good one.
Carolina lost its best cornerback, Chris Gamble, to retirement, of all things. The 30-year-old left his former team in a lurch at the position, where Captain Munnerlyn is the best player. The secondary is ripe for the picking.
Granted, Wilson doesn't exactly have a host of weapons to take advantage of the situation—receiver Percy Harvin is out with injury, and Sidney Rice isn't much healthier on a regular basis—but we all know what Wilson did with essentially the same group last season.