Ah, the preseason.
At this time of year, it's always fun to see how optimistic everyone is about their teams and favorite players. A certain guy is going to have a breakout year or this team is going to be a dark horse as Super Bowl contenders. Injuries, bad fits and draft busts don't exist during this time of year, and that is one of the things that makes the preseason worth following.
Something else that's fun during preseason is planning fantasy drafts and eye-balling the NFL schedule to see who could have a bust-out performance in which week. Yes, it's all a guessing game, and regardless of what some of the gambling sites out there tell you, there is no real science to it.
With that said, I'm going to run through 24 players who I think will have quite the impressive offensive performance in the 2011 NFL season and against which teams. Let me preface it by saying that this is just for fun and not me taking shots at any particular defense out there.
Enjoy and make sure to let me know anyone you think will have a hell of a fantasy week and against who below. It will be fun to go back and she who was right and who will be laughed at.
Jamaal Charles, while splitting carries with Thomas Jones, finished the 2010 season with 1,467 yards rushing—good for second in the NFL. This season, he'll pick up right where he left off against a rebuilding Buffalo defense with a 135-yard rushing day and a pair of touchdowns in a Chiefs victory.
Key Number: 6.4
Yards per carry Charles averaged in 2010.
Frank Gore had his 2010 season shortened when he fractured his right hip in a 49ers victory against the Cardinals. After having a public contract dispute with the team this summer, wanting an extension, Gore comes out firing in 2011. With the offense struggling behind quarterback Alex Smith, Gore rushes for 142 yards and a pair of scores in a loss to the Cowboys.
Key Number: 3
Touchdowns Gore tallied in 2010 through eleven games. He'll want to find the end zone more frequently if he wants that big payday from San Francisco.
Forget about their preseason meeting this past weekend. The Saints are going to take advantage of the Texans struggling to adapt to Wade Phillips' new 3-4 defensive scheme, and Drew Brees will have a big game. He goes off for 341 yards and three scores in an easy victory over the thin Houston secondary.
Key Number: 5
Consecutive seasons Brees has eclipsed 4,000 yards passing. With the new offensive weapons behind him, he's likely to surpass this number again in 2011.
All week leading up to this game we hear the hype about how stout Detroit's defensive line is with Fairley & Suh. But Adrian Peterson, who is in a contract year, isn't buying into all of that. He explodes for a 166-yard day with three touchdowns, as the Vikings pull out a home victory against the upstart Lions.
Key Number: 1
Fumbles Peterson had in 15 games in 2010. Fumbling was the one knock against him, and he seems to have fixed it. He's going to be a rich, rich man.
Even though Antonio Gates only played in 10 games in 2010 due to nagging injuries, he still had a terrific season. With all the reports that he is finally getting healthy, expect a big year out of him in San Diego. One of his first big performances of the year will be against Miami in Week 4, when he will pull down 10 receptions for 112 yards and a couple of touchdowns.
Key Number: 10
Touchdowns Gates scored in the same number of games in 2010, good for the second-best season total of his career. If he can do that with nagging injuries, expect a huge year out of him healthy in 2011.
In two games in the Georgia Dome last season, Aaron Rodgers put up 710 yards passing and four touchdown tosses. Atlanta added Ray Edwards to help with its pass rush but did little to improve the secondary. Therefore, Rodgers picks them apart again with 386 yards in the air to go with three touchdowns passes in a big road win for the Pack.
Key Number: 1
Super Bowl championships for Rodgers—for now. This is also the same number of titles Brett Favre won in Green Bay. At only 27, there is plenty of time to top that number.
From the same game as the previous slide, Greg Jennings is on the opposite end of a good chunk of those numbers Rodgers puts up. He enjoys an eight-catch day for 113 yards and a pair of touchdowns, since Brent Grimes can't cover the entire field on his own.
Key Number: 3
Consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons for Jennings. If Rodgers stays healthy for 16 games, expect this number to go up one more.
For all of the talk about the Jets defense, it seems to bring out the best in Tom Brady anyway. Even though the Patriots lost two of three games to New York last season, Brady averaged 291 yards passing and over two touchdowns passing against them. This year will be no different as Brady goes off for 338 yards passing and three touchdowns in an impressive home victory against the Jets.
Key Number: 34
Age that Tom Brady will be at the start of this season. Even though he shows no signs of a decline, time is bound to catch up with the MVP soon. The Pats haven't won a Super Bowl since 2004, and time may be running out.
I'm sure everyone remembers the video game-like performance Vick displayed against Washington last season. Well, it's going to happen again, as the Redskins have only made minor tweaks to their defense. While Vick doesn't go for six touchdowns this time around, he runs for 74 yards with two touchdowns and throws for 311 with another pair of scores in a dominating victory for Philly.
Key Number: 1
Seasons where Michael Vick has played in all 16 regular season games. He'll have to do that again for this Eagles team to be as great as everyone is predicting.
With Michael Vick compiling those kinds of numbers against the Redskins, you'd have to think Jackson would be the one catching most of them. In the game that breaks the Eagles' back in regards to negotiating a long-term deal with Jackson, he puts up 174 yards receiving on 11 receptions and finds the end zone three times.
Key Number: 50 Million
Guaranteed dollars that Larry Fitzgerald just received. Jackson may not be as good as Fitz, but it will go a long way in negotiating his next deal, be it with Philly or elsewhere.
When Joe Flacco struggles against the new Texans pass rush, Harbaugh decides to start pounding the ball. With former Houston fullback Vonta Leach leading the way, Ray Rice gets the offense going with a 144-yard day on the ground, capped off with three trips over the goal line in a Ravens victory.
Key Number: 16
Touchdowns Arian Foster had in 2010 with Vonta Leach blocking for him. With the whole "Touchdown Vulture" debate over, expect Rice to find the end zone more than the five times he did in 2010.
Matt Schaub is one of those quarterbacks who can shred a defense if he gets into a rhythm, and the Titans are a team that seems to bring out the best in him. This year is no different, as he lights up the rebuilding Titans for 390 yards and three touchdowns in an important divisional road victory.
Key Number: 59
Passing plays that went for 20-plus yards in 2010, second only to Philip Rivers in San Diego.
In the same game, Schaub connects with Andre Johnson 12 times for a total of 181 yards and a pair of touchdowns. There's just something about Tennessee that gets monster performances from Johnson. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it's Cortland Finnegan.
Key Number: 14
Career games in which Andre Johnson has accumulated 10 receptions and 100 yards in a game. This is a feat that is good for second in NFL history behind only Jerry Rice, who achieved it fifteen times.
While the Steelers have gotten the reputation as a running team, Big Ben can still sling the ball if needed. With rookie Patrick Peterson still getting acclimated to the speed of the NFL, Roethlisberger picks on him and the young Arizona secondary all day en route to a 302-yard, four-touchdown day.
Key Number: 3,200
Passing yards that Roethlisberger put up in only twelve games in 2010. With a full season, he could easily eclipse the 4,000-yard mark this year.
After making it to the halfway mark without being burned by the "Madden Curse," Hillis finds himself at the end of a touchdown drive three times, while compiling 131 yards on the ground.
Key Number: 270
Carries Hillis had in 2010 after compiling just 81 in his first two years in the league. The Browns will want to watch his workload if they want to keep him fresh for the full 2011 campaign.
Daniels appeared to shake off the rust at the end of 2010 by posting some big-time numbers in the final four games. In 2011, he becomes Matt Schaub's favorite end zone target again as he is on the receiving end of three touchdown passes against the Browns in Houston.
Key Number: 17
Touchdowns Daniels has scored in just 65 career games in the NFL. As previously mentioned, he is Schaub's go-to guy in red zone situations, and look for that to be the case again in 2011.
With Nnamdi Asomugha departing, Oakland's their secondary will take quite a hit. This thought had to make Philip Rivers happy, and he plays pitch-and-catch all day for 309 yards and four touchdowns in an easy win over the division rival Raiders.
Key Number: 66
Rivers' completion percentage in 2010, the highest of his career. With a healthy Antonio Gates in 2011, there's no reason to believe he won't achieve this number or improve upon it.
From the same game mentioned in the previous slide, Jackson finds himself on the receiving side of Rivers' dominant day. Shaking off a forgettable 2010, Jackson totals nine receptions for 119 yards and three touchdowns.
Key Number: 11.4 Million
Dollars Jackson will make under the franchise tag in 2011. An increase of over twenty times the $583,000 he received in 2010.
Calvin Johnson continues to put the NFL on notice of his talents with a monster 2011, including an 11-catch, 166-yard day that is complemented with three trips past the goal line against the rebuilding Panthers, in Detroit.
Key Number: 12
Touchdowns for Johnson in 2010 with Shaun Hill throwing to him. If Matthew Stafford can finally stay healthy this season, expect that number to possibly increase.
The $120 million man starts to earn that money with a breakout game in Week 12 against the Rams, in St. Louis. Fitz and Kevin Kolb have begun to build some chemistry and it equates into a huge day, with 13 receptions, 171 yards and three scores for the highest paid receiver in the game.
Key Number: 5
1,000-yard seasons for Fitzgerald in seven years in the NFL. With a quarterback that can get him the ball now, he'll be closer to 1,500 yards in 2011.
Josh Freeman had a superb 2010, and he continues his success in 2011 including a four-touchdown day against the Panthers in Week 13. A pair with his legs and a pair with his arm to go with 268 yards through the air make it a day that some fantasy owner will be bragging about somewhere.
Key Number: 10
Wins the Bucs totaled in 2010, while still missing the playoffs. In the stacked NFC South, that number still may not be enough to get them into the playoffs in 2011. So Freeman will likely aim higher.
The biggest fantasy monster in 2010, Arian Foster, saves his biggest performance of the season for prime-time in a Thursday night matchup with division rival Indianapolis. The Colts' run defense has gotten noticeably worse the past few years, and Foster takes advantage with 171 yards rushing and three touchdowns in a win with playoff implications (finally) for the Texans. He also adds 53 yards receiving, just for good measure.
Key Number: 4
Houston Texan players on this list. In case you missed it, I think their offense is going to lead the league in 2011, and your fantasy team should be stacked with Texans.
It's always an entertaining game when the Falcons and Saints, which is the most underrated rivalry in the NFL, go at one another. Roddy White has made his distaste for the Saints known on his Twitter account, and in Week 16 he makes it known on the field. With nine catches for 144 yards and three touchdowns, White could be the deciding factor in a game that will influence the NFC South race.
Key Number: 115
Receptions for White in 2010, which shattered his previous career high by 30 catches. With the team drafting Julio Jones to line up next to him, this number will probably reduce. But the one-on-one matchups that Jones brings could make some bigger plays possible for White.
In a game where the Chargers are resting their starters for the playoffs, Janikowski has a career day with six field goals, after quarterback Jason Campbell struggles in the red zone. It isn't a sexy pick, but it's the best we get while teams continue to rest their starters to prepare for the NFL playoffs.
Key Number: 16 Million
Dollars that Janikowski will earn over the life of his contract, the richest in kicking history. Oh, Al Davis.