Ninja Know-How: 10 Bold Week One Predictions You Can Take To the Bank

John ZaktanskyCorrespondent ISeptember 12, 2009

ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 14: Donnie Avery #17 of the St. Louis Rams looks to get past Kelly Jennings #21 of the Seattle Seahawks at the Edward Jones Dome on December 14, 2008 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Seahawks beat the Rams 23-20.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Let me go on record as saying that I totally HATE pregame shows.

Did you see the Black-Eyed Peas’ poor excuse for lip syncing? Did you see the cheesy countdown clock? It was hard to tell if I was waiting for a football game, or getting ready to watch the ball drop on New Years’ Eve.

I wonder if they run that junk to help people better savor the actual start of the game. You can safely turn up the volume on the TV and sink your teeth into some football.

Preseason football is a similar story. It’s all a tease. It’s all just a placeholder, keeping us at bay long enough to drown in our own drool waiting for the actual season to begin. Tomorrow, the wait is officially over. It’s finally safe to turn up the volume, grab a bowl of popcorn and savor the action.

But before we do this, let’s look one last time at some themes, predictions and suggestions before the real day of opening games is upon us. (Also, don't miss out on my fantasy recap of the Steelers-Titans game from Thursday night.)


Ninja sixth sense: 10 things that will happen the rest of Week One.

1. See Clinton Portis run. See Clinton Portis get whacked by the Giants defense. I personally love Portis as a fantasy player. Few can match his reliability as a running back at a position known for inconsistency. However, his statistical nosedive late last year paired with talk that Ladell Betts will see an increased role in the running game leaves a series of red flags for Portis in 2009.

Facing the Giants’ brick wall of a defense won’t help matters. Things will get better against the Rams and Lions in weeks two and three, respectively, but don’t expect huge stats Sunday. For more on Portis an the rest of the NFC-East, click here.

2. Ray Rice has been gaining steam in many season projections this year, and for good reason. He has been named the official starting tailback on a team that loves to run the ball. He matches up against a Kansas City defense that is a work in progress. While he may lose a few touchdowns to Willis McGahee and LeRon McClain, expect Rice to make up for that with Flacco screens and a welcome-to-the-big-time Week One performance. Here’s expecting him to outscore Portis.

3. Still trying to understand how Earl Bennett is owned in just 30 percent of Yahoo leagues. Against a transitioning defensive scheme in Green Bay in a prime time game that screams shootout potential, Bennett will arrive Sunday night in fantasy football leagues. Get him now before waivers close Sunday morning, or you’ll be blowing your waiver priority and be playing a 1-in-12 chance at snagging him Tuesday morning. For more on Earl Bennett and why he's my top WR sleeper for 2009, click here.

4. Really struggling at quarterback? Want a ninja-esque play? How about Shaun Hill, who will get enough action against a suspect Cardinals defense while playing catchup Sunday. Josh Morgan will fair well, too, as he makes his case to hold down the WR1 spot in San Fran regardless of what Crabtree does contract-wise.

5. Pierre Thomas won’t play for the Saints this week, vaulting Mike Bell into the limelight against the woeful Lions defense. Bell will be a solid play in most every format Sunday, and he’s only owned in 11 percent of Yahoo leagues. Even if you don’t need him as an RB2 or flex player, grab him before Sunday’s games and dangle him like a carrot to whoever falls prey to the week one injury curse.

6. One wide receiver that will really shine Sunday will be new Seahawk T.J. Houshmanzadeh. Seattle will be chomping at the bit to unveil its new weapon, Matt Hasselbeck is itching to put last season in the rearview mirror and the Seahawks are matching up against the Rams. If you think the stars are aligned for Housh, also consider that Deion Branch is looking less and less likely to play.

7. There are so many rookie receivers this year that could make some noise, that it is easy to forget about PSU grad Deon Butler, also a Seahawk. For all the reasons listed above for Housh (especially the part where Branch will likely sit), I expect Butler to get some sneaky-good stats.

8. Donnie Avery was hampered by injury this preseason and not expected to be available so quickly. However, he will start Sunday against the Seahawks, who aren’t exactly the Steel Curtain. Avery is the best receiving threat on that offense, and will see targets early and often in a game that promises to be a shootout.

 9. If you are starting anyone on the Cleveland Browns, you should reconsider quickly. I’m expecting the Vikings-Browns game to be one of the most lopsided games in recent memory, and not in the Browns’ favor.

10. I’m a huge Texans advocate in fantasy circles this year, including one who expects continued solid play from Steve Slaton. However, I think he may struggle some in week one against the Jets’ vastly improved defense. Slaton was fairly mediocre in preseason play and the Jets matchup will be tough one right out of the gates. I don’t expect him to be horrible in the game, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him miss the 100-yard mark on the ground and manage one TD at best.

For more in depth fantasy feedback, plus a new post later Saturday on guys

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