2011 NFL Predictions: The Top 10 Fantasy Performers from Week One

Robert TheodorsonSenior Analyst ISeptember 3, 2011

2011 NFL Predictions: The Top 10 Fantasy Performers from Week One

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    Week One can set the tone for any fantasy season. Getting off on the right foot is always important if you are in a league where every team does not have an automatic playoff bid.

    For Week One, we’ll look for mismatches by using statistics and levels of play from last year, combined with additions or subtractions that teams have made to their rosters and organizations, to predict the top ten fantasy performers.

10. Frank Gore vs. Seattle Seahawks Defense

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    The Seahawks pulled off two miracles last year.

    First, they made the playoffs as a .500 team.

    Second, they beat the defending Super Bowl champions in the playoffs.

    Seattle is going to be exposed this year for what they really are. Last year, the Hawks defense was among the league’s worst.

    Matt Hasselbeck, who had been the face of the franchise for seemingly ever, is now gone, and the team’s new identity is whatever Pete Carroll can turn it into.

    I can’t expect new 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh to have too much faith in Alex Smith, because let’s face it, anybody who has in the past has just been let down in one way or another. The fact that Smith is still around tells me that the 49ers are unwilling to let go of the past, and their game plan will once again remain the same: run Frank Gore for all he’s worth. 

    Gore is another running back you start every week, and those who drafted him will be handsomely rewarded with their decision to take him. 

9. Philadelphia Defense/Special Teams vs. Sam Bradford and the St. Louis Rams

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    The self-proclaimed “Dream Team” will get a chance to show off their skills against a rather weak opponent.

    Although they may not gel immediately, the cornerback trio of Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are going to make Sam Bradford’s life a living hell.

    Philly knows that Stephen Jackson is still the Rams best player, and they will create their game plan around stuffing him at the line of scrimmage or taking him down for a loss.

    The veteran Eagles will look to break the Rams down mentality and physically in what should be a blowout. 

8. Larry Fitzgerald vs. Carolina Panthers Secondary

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    Fitzgerald will resume his winning ways now that he has a legitimate NFL starting quarterback back in Arizona.

    Everyone knew that once Kurt Warner left Fitzgerald’s numbers would suffer, and they did, along with the rest of the team last season when the Cardinals provided a carousel of quarterbacks that had no business playing in the NFL last year.

    Kevin Kolb will get a chance to show he can be a great quarterback, and luckily for him he has arguably the best receiver in the league to throw to. Other than Andre Johnson, Fitzgerald is the only receiver that can consistently take on double coverage and beat both defensive backs.

    Arizona has lost faith in young running back Beanie Wells, and a large majority of the offensive playbook literally revolves around Fitzgerald. The Panthers will not be able to contain him. Three touchdowns in Week One for Fitzy would not surprise me in the least. 

7. Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Tennessee Titans Defense

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    MJD will face a team that is a shell of the 14-win Titans from a few years back. Most of the Titans good players have been sent off, and it looks like Tennessee will rebuild over the next couple of years. 

    Jacksonville has a decent defense and might struggle against superstar running back Chris Johnson. However, I don’t believe the Titans will be able to provide much offense once the Jags start targeting Johnson.

    Jones-Drew will get every opportunity to scorch the Titans. Self-aware of his fantasy owners and very active in the fantasy community himself, I think and hope that MJD will try to shake the bad feelings from last year, when he gave up on scoring a touchdown in an effort not to run up the score of a game.

    Jones-Drew is a natural fantasy starter who the Jaguars will run hard all 16 weeks. I expect big things from him all season long—he is essential to the Jaguars’ offense. 

6. Darren McFadden and Michael Bush vs. Denver Broncos Defense

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    Denver had the league’s worst defense last year, and it doesn’t look that much better this year.

    Denver is under new management and has a new coach and new system, and of course the Tim Tebow controversy is the only reason Denver got any attention this offseason.

    Oakland also boasts a new coaching staff and new questions, but Michael Bush and Darren McFadden have proven they can run the ball down other teams’ throats with ease.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Jason Campbell puts up decent numbers for himself. You shouldn’t have drafted Campbell, even as a backup, but if you did he can’t go wrong in Week One.

    With tight end Zach Miller gone, I expect the Raiders to intensify their ground game even more this year. 

5. New York Giants Defense and Special Teams vs. Washington Redskins

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    When you think of offensively inept teams, Washington is pretty high on the list. The Carolina Panthers are probably the only team in worse shape than the Redskins.

    It doesn’t really matter who starts at quarterback for the Skinsthe Giants defense will look to carve up John Beck or Rex Grossman, and Tim Hightower is not a true No. 1 back.

    Washington also brings back an unimpressive group of receivers. The only real star on offense is tight end Chris Cooley, who might be able to hook up for 50 yards or so, but I wouldn’t expect a touchdown. 

    This rivalry is completely one-sided as of this year.

    Look for New York to get a pick-six or two and maybe a punt/kick return score, as well.

4. Jamaal Charles vs. Buffalo Bills Defense

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    Fantasy stud Jamaal Charles will face the league's worst run defense from last year.

    Buffalo made significant moves through the draft to improve their defense; however, it would be foolhardy to assume that this team will be better off the bat with a bunch of inexperienced rookies.

    Kansas City is definitely a team on the rise and can beat you in a variety of ways. Charles is their big gun and main weapon. 

3. Peyton Hillis vs. Cincinnati Bengals Defense

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    The Madden 12 cover boy faces a team in absolute disarray.

    The Bengals have next to no offense, and I don’t believe that Cleveland will unleash Colt McCoy at this point. Instead, they will go the route of Joe Flacco and have McCoy be a game manager early in his career before he develops into a versatile starter.

    Cincinnati had a middle-of-the-pack run defense last year and made no real impressive moves that make you think they will win any more than four games this year.

    Cleveland’s offense figures to be on the field much more than Cincinnati’s. Hillis is fresh and motivated. In his first week, Hillis will face a hated rival and be out to show that he could be this year’s best running back. 

2. Tom Brady vs. Miami Dolphins Secondary

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    Brady will see a significant amount of time on the field against this Dolphins defense.

    Brady will get to test out his new toy in Chad Ochocinco; throw to the always reliable Wes Welker, who regularly burns his old team, Miami; and dump the ball off to Danny Woodhead, who will be protected by the Pats’ impressive offensive line. 

    The Dolphins had a rather impressive pass defense last year. However, the fact that Chad Henne is still at the helm and the Dolphins “big plan” this year was to trade for Reggie Bush means that the Pats young D is going to put Brady on the field as much as possible.

    Everyone knows Coach Belichick doesn’t mind running up the score, especially against division rivals, and he always lets Brady play as much as he wants to in such situations. Week One will be that situation.  

1. Michael Vick vs. St. Louis Rams Defense

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    See the above video to see a preview of what Vick will likely do against the Rams next week.

    Vick is being pushed by some as the top fantasy player in the league. Vick has all the toys on offense to help him amass a gross amount of touchdowns, passing yards, and rushing yards.

    While the Eagles offensive line is highly suspect, it helps that Vick is the most mobile quarterback in the league. When his line fails him, he will find a way to escape the pressure and still move the offense up the field, using his wide array of running backs and receivers, or simply by doing the work himself.

    The Rams are a team on the rise, but next week they will be turkeys waiting to be carved. With all the additions the Eagles have added this off-season, there is no way that St. Louis can possibly have an effective game plan. This one will be ugly. 

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