The 2013 NFL season will get underway on Thursday night in Denver, meaning that fantasy football owners everywhere are running out of time to lock in their lineups for Week 1.
With 16 matchups scheduled for opening weekend, there are sure to be plenty of surprises as well breakout fantasy stars.
Here I predict the top Week 1 performers at every key position.
Quarterback: Drew Brees and Tom Brady Poised to Start Fast
New Orleans Saints signal-caller Drew Brees is coming off back-to-back 5,000-yard passing seasons and will open up against a suspect secondary in the Superdome on Sunday. Atlanta ranked 23rd against the pass in 2012 and should struggle to contain the bevy of weapons at Brees' disposal.
Meanwhile in New England, future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady looks ready to explode against AFC East rival Buffalo.
Brady found completions, yards and touchdowns easy to come by against the Bills in 2012, throwing for a combined 577 yards and five touchdowns in their two regular-season meetings. He also rushed for a touchdown.
Even with a limited amount of targets to choose from, Brady should have a big day against a Bills team that surrendered 25 passing touchdowns, ranked 20th in interceptions and finished 18th in sacks last season.
Running Back: Adrian Peterson and Alfred Morris Set to Pick Up Where They Left Off
The top fantasy superstar of 2013, Adrian Peterson, looks poised to pick up where he left off in 2012 in Week 1 against the Detroit Lions. Peterson nearly snapped the NFL's regular-season record for rushing yards a year ago and surpassed 100 yards on the ground in both matchups with Detroit.
AP racked up 273 rushing yards and 25 receiving yards in two games against Detroit and rushed for 100 yards or more in 10 of 16 regular-season games overall.
2012's second-leading rusher, Washington Redskins star Alfred Morris, will also have a big game in Week 1. The second-year rusher is coming off a season in which he picked up more than 1,600 yards on the ground.
He'll take on the league's 23rd-ranked rush defense from a season ago in Philadelphia on Monday night.
Wide Receiver: Calvin Johnson and Julio Jones Will Expose Weak Secondaries
Two matchup nightmares in Calvin Johnson and Julio Jones are set for monster opening-week performances on Sunday. Johnson broke the NFL's regular-season record for receiving yards in 2012 and will be going up against a secondary that ranked just 24th in the NFL a season ago in Minnesota.
In his most recent appearance against the Vikings, Megatron went off to the tune of 12 receptions for 207 yards and a touchdown.
Atlanta's Julio Jones wasn't nearly as explosive in two showdowns with the Saints in 2012 but still averaged over 15 yards per catch a season ago and finished the year with 10 touchdowns. With perfect conditions inside the Superdome, and considering the fact that New Orleans ranked a lowly 31st against the pass a year ago, look for Jones to torch this Saints defense in Week 1.
Tight End: Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis Are Sure to Shine
As already mentioned, Drew Brees should find plenty of open targets against the Falcons this Sunday. That also means that Saints tight end Jimmy Graham should find himself in position to make a big play on more than one occasion in Week 1.
The 6'7" former basketball player has unrivaled size and athleticism for a tight end and was good for more than 11 yards per catch in 2012.
Another strong and athletic pass-catching tight end who should thrive this weekend is Vernon Davis. The 49ers star fell off towards the end of the regular season in 2012 after Colin Kaepernick took over under center but was a stud in the postseason, recording back-to-back 100-yard receiving games against Atlanta and Baltimore in the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl XLVII, respectively.
He averaged over 21 yards per catch in the postseason. Remember, San Francisco's Week 1 opponent, Green Bay, was good but not great against the pass last season, ranking 11th in fewest yards allowed and 16th in fewest touchdowns surrendered.
Defense/Special Teams: Buccaneers and Colts Staring Down Favorable Matchups
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will open up against the New York Jets in Week 1, and it doesn't require much explanation as to why the Bucs D—which ranked No. 1 against the run in 2012—will be at a major advantage. The Jets' quarterback situation is a mess, and oh yeah, New York ranked 28th in the NFL last season in points per game.
Elsewhere, the Indianapolis Colts, who are coming off a playoff appearance, will host the struggling Oakland Raiders, who ranked 18th in yards per game and 26th in points per game in 2012.
The Raiders are set to start Terrelle Pryor in Week 1, and although he can be categorized as a dual-threat, he has very little regular-season experience and should struggle against a much-improved Colts defense.
Kicker: Stephen Gostkowski and Blair Walsh Will Be Fantasy Stars
It's not often that a kicker wins you a fantasy matchup, but in Week 1, New England's Stephen Gostkowski and Minnesota's Blair Walsh are two must-start players for fantasy owners everywhere.
Gostkowski is arguably the most consistent kicker in the NFL and led the league with 153 points scored last season. He kicked seven extra points and made a field goal in New England's first matchup with Buffalo last season. He also was 3-of-3 on field goals in the second.
Meanwhile, Walsh made an NFL-best 35 field goals in 2012 as a rookie, including 10 from 50-plus yards. He also connected on six of seven tries in two matchups against Detroit last season.
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