Sunday Night Football
Dallas @ NY Jets
I always felt Santonio Holmes was underrated in drafts. He'll show up big in this one. Cowboys LCB Terence Newman (groin) has been ruled out, moving slot corner Orlando Scandrick outside. Scandrick is routinely burned in space, and the Jets' dangerous rushing attack will prevent Dallas from bracketing Holmes out of the pass game. Holmes will set career highs in targets, receptions, and fantasy rank this year. It begins on Sunday Night Football. ... Cowboys NT Jay Ratliff slimmed to 285 pounds this offseason, a questionable move from a run defense standpoint. Jets All-Pro C Nick Mangold and RG Brandon Moore should manhandle Ratliff at the point of attack. During the preseason, Dallas' first-team defense allowed 175 yards and a TD on 33 carries (5.30 YPC) to opposing first-team backs, perhaps due in no small part to Ratliff's melting body. Shonn Greene is ticketed for 20+ carries.
I wouldn't bet against Plaxico Burress scoring a touchdown in prime time, but he needs to prove himself a full-time player before he's inserted into fantasy starting lineups. You probably drafted him as a WR4. Let's see the 34-year-old receiver make it through four quarters before using him. ... Dustin Keller would've been a lot more intriguing from a fantasy standpoint had the Jets not signed Derrick Mason. Keller's weekly targets will be inconsistent, and his snaps may be as well. When Burress or Mason goes down -- and, considering their age, one of them probably will -- Keller could emerge as one of Mark Sanchez's go-to receivers. For now, he's TE2 material.
The Cowboys will field one of the NFL's most explosive offenses this season. And they'll have to, because their secondary won't stop anyone. Underrated in 2011 fantasy drafts, Tony Romo will reap the rewards. Romo can be expected to target Jason Witten and Dez Bryant relentlessly on Sunday night, attacking the Jets over the middle and deep downfield. Miles Austin is an excellent receiver, but he needs to be on benches. Darrelle Revis will approach Nnamdi Asomugha status this season as a cornerback against whom offenses just don't throw. Revis shadows all opposing No. 1 receivers, and it certainly doesn't help Austin's chances that he typically plays on the right side of the offensive formation. Revis, in nature, is an LCB. ... Bryant and Cromartie will be the matchup of the night. It is impossible to predict things with certainty in this business, but by all appearances, Bryant is on the hook for a big game. The Cowboys need him, because Austin won't be a factor.
Someone told me in the spring that Jason Witten was overrated in fantasy. After a double take, I hit the internets for Witten's career stats. Witten has finished either No. 1 or No. 2 in fantasy scoring among tight ends in three of the past four seasons. He has never missed a game in his career due to injury, and enters Week 1 as the favorite to lead the Cowboys in catches and yards. Romo will need to get it out quick to Witten with RT Tyron Smith nursing a hyperextended knee, and it can't hurt Witten's target total that No. 2 TE Martellus Bennett is out for the game with a high ankle sprain. ... The Jets are annually tough in run defense, but Felix Jones is setup for 20 touches in this one. While he's not an especially good bet for a true breakout game, 100 total yards are within reach. I watched every preseason snap taken by Jones. Notable: When Dallas' first-team was on the field, Jones was in for each play inside the opposing 10-yard line. He will get goal-line carries.
Score Prediction: Jets 24, Cowboys 23
Monday Night Football
New England @ Miami
The Patriots' backfield will become muddied over the course of the season, but in Week 1 expect it to open like it finished 2010. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is the clock-killing early-down back, and Danny Woodhead the rich man's version of Kevin Faulk as a receiver, slot man, occasional inside carrier, and blitz protector. Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley are the future, but there is no reason to believe they are the present. At least not yet ... Green-Ellis has scored in three of his four career meetings with Miami. This is a game setup well for "Law Firm" because he dominates when New England has the lead. And the Fins look like a pushover opponent. ... Woodhead can be expected to receive 10-12 touches. I personally would be looking for an option with more upside. ... Wes Welker has at least eight catches in each of his last four games against the Fins. Start 'em, especially in PPR.
The Dolphins field one of the better outside corner duos in football with Vontae Davis on the left and Sean Smith on the right. The Pats' three-receiver set is comprised of Chad Ochocinco, Welker, and Deion Branch. Branch and Ochocinco are the outside receivers on most of the snaps. Perhaps one of them will score a fluky touchdown, but neither has a good-looking matchup. I'd like to know more about the Patriots' receiver rotation before investing in it, anyhow. ... Rob Gronkowski caught six balls for 102 yards and a TD in his last meeting with the Dolphins. I'm just not sure how the Fins are going to stop him, barring a game plan that employs Gronkowski as a blocker. ... Aaron Hernandez is coming off a big August and has rare athleticism for a tight end. The TE position is just so deep in fantasy, and Hernandez plays about 50 percent of the snaps. He's too boom or bust for my liking.
The Pats-Fins over-under is the second largest of Week 1. If there ever was one, this is the week to play Reggie Bush. Daniel Thomas came down with an in-practice hamstring pull, and the coaching staff has never shown faith in Lex Hilliard. Bush is in line for 18-20 touches, opening the season as a true feature back. ... Especially in a PPR league, I'll take these averages against New England from Brandon Marshall: Seven catches for 74 yards with two touchdowns in four games. Marshall is a shoo-in WR2. He looked as athletic and fast as ever in the preseason. ... Davone Bess is never a sexy start, but he gets open and catches passes. He's a borderline every-week WR3 in PPR.
Score Prediction: Patriots 24, Dolphins 13
Oakland @ Denver
The Broncos are rushing back NT Brodrick Bunkley from a knee injury that cost him over two weeks of camp and the preseason finale. New to the system, Bunkley is likely to be at least somewhat behind the curve and perhaps a bit out of shape. Even if Bunkley were in top condition, Denver was going to contend for the worst run defense in football. Darren McFadden, legs fresh after a carry-less preseason, has faced the Broncos six career times. He's averaged an otherworldly 6.16 yards per carry with six touchdowns. McFadden also averages 98 total yards per game against Denver, though that's only on an average of 15 touches. He'll get the rock 25 times on Monday night. ... Jacoby Ford is going to be much better than his fantasy draft slotting indicated, but this is a week to wait and see. Don't mess with Champ Bailey. ... Jason Campbell is basically in the same boat. Oakland needs to pound the Broncos with the run, shying away from an underrated pass defense.
The Raiders have lost 11 straight prime-time games, seven of them on Monday night. So Broncos fans have something to get excited about; it certainly won't be their team's offense. All indications from the Denver preseason were that John Fox will install a heavily run-oriented attack, as expected according to his history. Knowshon Moreno will get the vast majority of the work between the 20s and is a candidate for 18-plus weekly touches. Willis McGahee is a roll of the dice as a goal-line back who will kill you if he doesn't score. ... Brandon Lloyd should've been the happiest guy in the room when Nnamdi Asomugha left Oakland in free agency. Lloyd struggled against a healthy Asomugha last season, and Stanford Routt isn't quite as intimidating. Lloyd is the Broncos' pass catcher to start in this one. ... Kyle Orton's attempts will be down, and he did not fare well in his lone 2010 meeting with the Raiders, going just 12-of-29 for 198 yards. That's a 41.4 completion rate.
Score Prediction: Raiders 21, Broncos 17