Thursday night Minnesota heads to New Orleans to kick off the 2010 NFL season. By game's end we'll know how much Brett Favre has left in the tank and whether the Saints appear ready to defend their Super Bowl crown. But in the meantime you've got a fantasy lineup to submit, so let's break down the Vikings and Saints from a fantasy perspective.
While Drew Brees, Adrian Peterson, and Marques Colston are players you drafted knowing you'll start them week in and week out, the Vikings and Saints are chock full of fantasy talent that may or may not be the early key to starting your season off right. Here are your fantasy predictions for opening night...
With Sidney Rice out indefinitely, Percy Harvin sure to draw the bulk of the defense's attention, and Bernard Berrian loafing through the pre-season, Favre will be in desperate need of a target he trusts. That man is Vinsanthe Shiancoe. Look for Shiancoe to be targeted often, especially in the red zone.
Prediction: 6 catches, 54 yards, and 1 TD.
Without a doubt, Percy Harvin will likely have more than his fair share of opportunities Thursday night. But with Sidney Rice out, many fantasy owners are elevating Harvin to high WR2 or low WR1 status. He just isn't their yet. Though a bit undersized to play on the outside, Harvin does have the speed and wiggle of Carolina's Steve Smith. The problem is, we haven't yet seen his talent materialize into that. Remember, Harvin only posted one 100 yard game all of last season while playing second fiddle to Sidney Rice. On the bright side, Harvin will likely have to be Favre's go-to receiver in this one, though he will see plenty of attention from the Saints defense. Harvin should have a solid but unspectacular game.
Prediction: 6 catches, 70 yards, and no TDs.
Bernard Berrian and Brett Favre do have rapport, but from what we saw in the pre-season it appears that a now healthy Berrian had resigned himself to being what was likely the fourth option in the passing game, and the fifth if you count Adrian Peterson. That being said, he's a savvy veteran wide receiver playing with perhaps the ultimate savvy veteran gun-slinger at quarterback. He's always been able to get down the field, and I expect the same in this game. I think Berrian gets loose for a long score and makes himself fantasy relevant this week.
Prediction: 4 catches, 68 yards, and 1 TD.
I don't think it will be pretty, but do I think Favre could put up some big numbers this week. Expect the Saints to stack the line in order to stop Adrian Peterson, forcing the aging wonder to beat them with his arm. Favre can still chuck it, and I believe he does plenty of that Thursday night. With the Vikings secondary banged up, his stat line has more to do with having to match the Saints gaudy offensive output than anything else.
Prediction: 23-37, 312 yards, 2 TDs and 3 INTs.
Now that he's no longer wearing the heavy crown of Heisman winner, I expect Bush to be fleet of foot in this one. But it's never really been Bush's feet, it's always been his ability to stay healthy that has held him back at the pro level. Perhaps this off-season was a wake-up call for Bush, as he's looked to be running angry all pre-season. I expect the Saints to get Bush involved early, and I think he has a solid game this week.
Prediction: 54 rushing yards, 5 catches, 65 receiving yards and 1 TD.
Call it a gut feeling. Call it hopeless optimism by a guy who's been burned by Sean Payton and Pierre Thomas so many times before. Regardless, I think he's a top 10 fantasy performer this week. There, I said it! With the Vikings secondary hurting I think Brees goes for the jugular early and then the Saints turn to a healthy dose of Pierre Thomas to close it out. I think he runs well, plays a role in the passing game, and hits pay dirt a couple times before this one is over.
Prediction: 91 yards rushing, 6 catches, 47 yards receiving and 2 TDs.
While last year Robert Meachem seemed to be the recipient of Brees's long score opportunities, Henderson quietly caught 51 balls for over 800 yards and currently resides opposite Colston in the Saints starting lineup, but more importantly, ahead of Meachem on the depth chart. I expect Henderson to take advantage of a hobbled Vikings secondary whose main focus will be on stopping Marques Colston. Meachem is always a threat to steal catches and Lance Moore appears healthy once again, but I like Henderson to post the best Saints wide receiver numbers in this one.
Prediction: 6 catches, 73 yards, and 1TD.
Brett Favre is always a candidate for interceptions, but with suspect mobility due to his ankle, he's now also a prime candidate for sacks. If the Saints pass rush can get to Favre, the Saints defense could really do some damage. The potential always exists for Favre to throw a pick-six, and that combined with questions about his mobility and a less than stellar Vikings receiving corps, makes the Saints a very nice play this week. Additionally, if your league factors in special teams statistics, you could do a lot worse than the potential of one Reggie Bush.
Chances are good that if you drafted the Vikings Defense, you have to play them this week. Unless of course you're the kind of owner who drafts multiple fantasy defenses, in which case it's unlikely you follow the advice of fantasy prognosticators anyway. At any rate, it's no secret that the Vikings banged up secondary matches up badly against the Saints explosive offense. But the Saints do have questions across the offensive line and the Vikings do have Jared Allen. Factor in Percy Harvin if your league counts special teams and this one might not turn out to be all that bad a play. Regardless, temper your expectations this week.
In my mind the rest of these players are deep fantasy sleepers and flier plays you're hoping to get lucky with. Here are my predictions for the players who are likely owned in standard or deeper leagues.
WR-Robert Meachem, New Orleans Saints: 3 catches, 48 yards, 0 TDs.
WR-Lance Moore, New Orleans Saints: 4 catches, 53 yards, 0 TDs.
WR-Greg Camarillo, Minnesota Vikings: 4 catches, 39 yards, 0 TDs.
TE-Jeremy Shockey, New Orleans Saints: 2 catches, 21 yards, 0 TDs.
Good luck fantasy football owners, and enjoy opening night!