Each week Studs & Duds will take a look at the best and worst matchups from around the NFL and choose 4 players that could mean the difference between fantasy success or failure.
Matt Hasselbeck / QB / Seattle Seahawks- (vs. Rams) After missing nine games last year with a back injury, Hasselbeck gets a favorable match up against St. Louis to ease back into his starting role. The Rams allowed over 217 passing yards per game last year and they haven’t made any significant changes to improve their secondary. Combine that with the arrival of WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh (championship!) to Seattle, and you’ve got the makings of a huge game for Hasselbeck.
Prediction: 25-33, 324 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 14 rushing yards
Lance Moore / WR / New Orleans Saints- (vs. Lions) Moore is coming off shoulder surgery this past off-season and questions are circling about whether or not he’ll be able to carry over his success from 2008 into the new season. Even if he can’t match the 10 touchdowns he had a year ago, Moore will at least have fantasy owners excited after a first week match up against the Lions. With the Saints running game struggling with injuries expect a lot of passing plays, and that will mean big numbers for New Orleans #2 receiver.
Prediction: 7 receptions, 113 receiving yards, 1 touchdown
Cedric Benson / RB / Cincinnati Bengals- (vs. Broncos) Benson has been flying under the radar for much of the pre-season this year, but has recently been touted as a possible surprise player in 2009 by several sources. Carson Palmer at QB will help spread the field a little more, meaning bigger lanes for Benson to run through. This week Benson faces a Denver rush defense that allowed 146 rushing yards per game last year, so look for this possible comeback player candidate to get things rolling right off the bat.
Prediction: 24 carries, 115 rushing yards, 4 receptions, 27 receiving yards, 2 total touchdowns
Dustin Keller / TE / New York Jets- (vs. Texans) The Jets are starting rookie QB Mark Sanchez and he’s sure to be a little nervous in his first official NFL game. He developed a rather nice rapport with Keller in the preseason so don’t be surprised if he relies heavily on him in the week 1 match-up against the Houston Texans. Houston ranked in the middle of the pack last year against the pass so don’t expect a ton of yards, but if the Jets can get into the red-zone Keller will get plenty of looks.
Prediction: 8 receptions, 67 yards, 1 touchdown
Philip Rivers / QB / San Diego Chargers- (vs. Raiders) After coming off the best year of his young career in 2008, many people are projecting Rivers to once again put up solid numbers. However, if LaDainian Tomlinson can bounce back after an off year, Rivers may see a drop in the stats that saw him become a top 7 quarterback in most fantasy drafts this past off-season. To open the year he’ll face a Raiders pass D that ranked 10th in the NFL last year. Expect him to have trouble finding open receivers, and expect the Chargers to rely heavily on their running game. This week will be an early sign to all his owners that perhaps they overpaid for him in their drafts.
Prediction: 20-35, 212 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions, 24 rushing yards
Terrell Owens / WR / Buffalo Bills- (vs. Patriots) T.O. made the move to Buffalo this past off-season hoping to bring with him the numbers that make him a constant fantasy threat. Going from a proven star like QB Tony Romo to the un-proven Trent Edwards and an inexperienced Bills o-line might not have been the way to get it done. Not only is the QB situation in Buffalo a question mark, but combine Owens history of dropped passes with the extremely cold weather that Buffalo can experience and you’ve got the makings of poor numbers for T.O. this year. The first week will not make the situation any easier as the Bills face the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Owens should face double coverage all game as the Pats look to take his play-making ability out of the equation.
Prediction: 3 receptions, 38 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns
DeAngelo Williams / RB / Carolina Panthers- (vs. Eagles) Williams was the surprise fantasy running back of last year piling up over 1600 total yards and 20 touchdowns. He’ll have a solid ’09 campaign but he won’t be able to match his success from a year ago. This week the Panthers face off against the Eagles who limited opposing rushers to just 92 yards per game last year. Williams’ speed won’t help him this week against the very strong and aggressive Philly D that loves to blitz. Expect backup RB Jonathan Stewart to put up better numbers than Williams as his strength and power will help him burst through the Eagles d-line.
Prediction: 20 carries, 68 rushing yards, 3 receptions, 18 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns
Jason Witten / TE / Dallas Cowboys- (vs. Bucs) The Cowboys will face off against a Tampa Bay team this week that’s in a rebuilding stage. Unfortunately for Witten the rebuilding is taking place mostly on the offensive side. QB Tony Romo has been inconsistent in the preseason so don’t expect a perfect outing from him against a very strong Bucs pass defense. With Romo likely to struggle, and backup TE Martellus Bennett likely to see a solid amount of playing time, fantasy owners should temper expectations for Witten at least for the first week.
Prediction: 5 receptions, 48 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns