You ready for the 2012 NFL season?
We sure are, so come check out what all the fantasy players will be doing before the first kick of the season!
Get some guidance for your fantasy team or just kick back with some good reading on the latest fantasy stuff
Wednesday Night Kickoff
Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants – 7:30pm CT on NBC
Thanks to President Obama and the Democratic National Convention, Christmas will be coming a day early this year. Fantasy owners around the world will wake up the morn of September 5th to find the greatest gift they could have ever dreamed of sitting right there in their very own den… the beginning of the 2012 NFL season!!! Of course, owners can find this pig-skinned surprise in many other places besides their own abode; such as the local pub, at a friend’s apartment or even in Mama’s basement. But make no mistake about it, fantasy football lovers—good or bad; everyone will receive a present this year.
The gift of fantasy football starts out the same for everyone; with anxious anticipation, a 0-0 record and more often than not, a beer. Not everyone will be able to quench their thirst for dominance this Wednesday night, however, as not every owner will have a Dallas Cowboys or New York Giants player on their team. On the other hand, there are quite a few fantasy-relevant players that might be going against you in your Week 1 matchup, so without further ado, here is our analysis of each of those players and what they might do for (or against) your fantasy team this Wednesday night.
Tony Romo – Being a 32-year-old veteran now, Tony Romo is no spring chicken so if he ever plans on joining the elite group of fantasy QBs, he might want to get down to business. Week 1 has always been good to him as he’s averaged 328.4 yards and 2.2 TDs in his five opening games since becoming a starter in 2007. This season, however, his offensive line won’t be as good at protecting him as they have in years past and I have no doubt the Giants will do everything they can to exploit this weakness immediately. I still expect Romo to have a nice fantasy day as he averaged 305 yards and three TDs against the G-Men last season, but it won’t be easy. If the Cowboys find themselves down in the game early, which I suspect they might, look for the Cowboys offense to climb on Romo’s back in an effort to get out of the hole.
Fantasy Call – He’s an iffy fantasy start this week, so if you backed him up with another borderline QB1, you’ll want to check out my Player Rankings piece (which will be up on the site on Thursday after the Wednesday night game) to see which one I have ranked higher.
Eli Manning – Eli Manning never threw for less than 223 yards in any one game last season and joined Dan Marino as the only other QB in history to have three or more 400-yard passing games in a single season (Marino did it in 1984 and 1986). One of those games was against these Cowboys while in their other 2011 matchup, he threw for 346 yards and three TDs. In fact, over the last three seasons (six games), only once has Manning failed to throw for over 300 yards and never has he tossed up fewer than two TDs. His average numbers in that span are 332.7 yards and 2.5 TDs which are of course, monster numbers for your fantasy team.
Fantasy Call – Considering that these two teams have combined to average almost 61 points per contest since 2009, I’d bet on a high-scoring affair and for Eli to be a great QB1 fantasy start.
DeMarco Murray – The first chance he got to show what he could do last season, Murray went out against the Rams and set a Dallas rushing record of 253 yards on 25 carries, including a 91-yard TD run on his first touch of the day. The fantasy world went ballistic, but the hysteria would be short-lived as Murray was lost for the year after breaking his right ankle in Week 14 against these same New York Giants. DeMarco will get his chance at revenge with the first snap of the season as he will be both the Cowboys early-down and goal-line back against the Giants in Week 1. His 227-pound body and shocking 4.4-speed should give this pass-rushing, penetrating Giants front four fits all day long, but with the Cowboys offensive line still a work in progress, Murray might have to find a few holes on his own.
Fantasy Call – The Giants rush D gave up the eighth-most rushing TDs and six 100-yard rushers last season, with one of them being Felix Jones after he took over for the injured Murray in Week 14, so the potential is certainly there for Murray to put up RB1 fantasy stats.
Felix Jones – Felix has had a tough time living up to the hype from a few years ago and as long as DeMarco Murray stays healthy, he won’t get a chance to prove himself this season. He might see 8-10 touches in this opening week matchup, but even that’s a bit of a stretch considering how poor of an offseason he’s had.
Fantasy Call – Stay away, save for maybe a flex play in 14- to 16-man leagues.
Ahmad Bradshaw – Ahmad has both the talent and heart to be a great NFL running back, but the obstacle he can’t seem to get past is the injury bug. Week 1 of the 2012 season will be no different as he’ll be listed as “probable” for the game after suffering a hand contusion during the Giants second preseason game back on August 18th. The hand won’t be a problem, but what might be is the man they grabbed in the first round of this past year’s draft, David Wilson, who showed the fantasy world a thing or two during the pre-season. Wilson may not bite Bradshaw-owners in the ass this first week of the season, but somewhere down the line, he will.
Fantasy Call – For Week 1, Ahmad is actually a pretty decent fantasy play, though likely no better than a mid-to-low-end RB2.
David Wilson – The Giants didn’t draft this kid in the first round and let Brandon Jacobs walk just to sit him on the bench, that’s for sure. He’s as explosive of a player as the Giants coaching staff has seen in a while and they’re slowly falling in love with his game, so watch out for this kid maybe sooner than you think…just not so much in Week 1 against the Cowboys.
Fantasy Call – David Wilson will play and could get a good 8-12 touches after Bradshaw sat out the last couple weeks with a hand injury, but he probably won’t be worth putting in your lineup as more than a flex play in 12-man leagues until Ahmad Bradshaw gets hurt—which he always does.
Dez Bryant – There’s no doubt Bryant has the skills to overcome all this sideshow mumbo-jumbo and jump up into the elite group of wide receivers where he belongs, but until he shows he can thrive under the pressure of the big lights in Dallas without something distracting his on-field success, he’ll forever be a fantasy WR2 with more upside than most. Tony Romo staying healthy and even-keeled for a full season would go a long way towards that end, but that particular little wish is out of his hands. In his four career games against the Giants, Dez has been less than impressive with his 3.5 catches/game, mediocre in his yardage at 69.5 yards/game, and WR1-worthy with four TDs in four games.
Fantasy Call – The Giants gave up a ton in the passing game last season, so with Dez heading into Week 1 as Romo’s #1 option and Jason Witten unlikely to play, the targets he’ll be receiving should translate into a low-end WR1/high-end WR2 play.
Miles Austin – Is he completely healthy? No. Do the Cowboys know how well he’ll respond to starting and playing a full NFL game on Wednesday? No. Does he have the talent to be a top-tier fantasy receiver for your team this season? Yes. Will he stay healthy for the entire season AND live up to his potential? Go to your nearest Tarot Card reader. Yes, Miles Austin is listed as “probable” and will start the first NFL game of the season, but what you’ll get in terms of fantasy production can be best termed as a “coin flip”.
Fantasy Call – Considering that this game has the looks of a high-scoring affair, Austin looks worthy of an upside WR3 fantasy play with three other things going for him: He’s done relatively well against them in the past (three TDs in his last five games); the Cowboys will likely be without target-hog TE Jason Witten; there’s no true WR3 on the team (like Laurent Robinson) to steal Romo’s attention.
Dwayne Harris – With his recent pre-season play, Harris is probably the best crapshoot of the four receivers vying for playing time at the WR3-slot.
Fantasy Call – If forced to take a chance on someone as a flex play in deeper leagues, Harris would be my call.
Kevin Ogletree – Crapshoot…or maybe just crap.
Fantasy Call – If you have Ogletree on your team and are even considering him as a starter, you need a new hobby.
Cole Beasley – Cole probably has just as much of a chance to do anything as Dwayne Harris this season, but since Harris was the last one to impress the coaches in the pre-season, Beasley will likely have to wait until Week 2 or 3 after Harris does nothing with his chance.
Fantasy Call – Might be a slightly better smelling crapshoot than Ogletree.
Andre Holmes – Holmes might have been a minor consideration for a flex play in Week 1 if recent injuries didn’t slow down his early contention for the WR3 job.
Fantasy Call – His 6’5” frame might still be good for a couple of red-zone looks—if he plays—which has been deemed “questionable” at this point, so don’t bother.
Victor Cruz – The Meadowlands (MetLife) Magician. That’s my new nickname for the circus performer formerly known as Victor Cruz. He won’t be sneaking up on anybody this season, but that doesn’t mean he won’t succeed either. If Nicks stays healthy, it’s really, really hard to sustain two top-flight fantasy receivers on one team, but they both have the talent to do so and I believe will both produce at a high rate, including in this first game against the Cowboys. Last season, Cruz put up 12 catches for 252 yards and a TD in his two games against them, so it seems he’s developed a liking for these inter-division rivalries. Cut those numbers in half and you’re likely looking at some semblance of his fantasy numbers in Week 1 (six catches for 126 yards and maybe a touchdown), though I believe his upside is even higher than that with Nicks being a bit hampered by his toe injury.
Fantasy Call – His upside is tremendous no matter who he plays, though he seems to have a flare for the big game. He’s a no-brainer WR1 on your fantasy team this week.
Hakeem Nicks – Nicks has all the skills to be a fantasy WR1 for your team, but it’s gotten to the point where his pile-up of injuries is starting to bother me. Add to that a young stud like Victor Cruz stealing away targets and the stress that Nicks ends up bringing might be a bit much to handle. That said, Nicks DID have 239 yards and a touchdown in his two games against them last season, so if he can ignore his latest toe/foot injury, he should have himself a nice game, especially with the rookie first-round draft pick, Morris Claiborne, trying to cover him.
Fantasy Call – Nicks has averaged 93.2 yards in five career games versus the ‘Boys and added four TDs to the stellar line. Ignore the “questionable” tag and play him with confidence as a low-end WR1 with upside.
Rueben Randle – I’m not expecting much from the rookie just yet, but he’s got a ton of potential and should pass Domenik Hixon on the depth chart soon enough.
Fantasy Call – Could be a flex play in larger leagues, but I’d probably wait until he has that one big confidence-building catch that catapults him into the Giants main offensive equation first.
Domenik Hixon – Hixon winning the starting WR3 spot for the Giants is the right call for now, but he won’t hold down the job for long.
Fantasy Call – This could end up being a scoring-fest, so if you’re desperate, Hixon might be worth a chance as a flex in deep leagues this week.
Jason Witten – Witten hasn’t missed a game since his rookie season in 2003 and hasn’t caught less than 79 balls since 2006, but it looks like his streak will likely come to an end in the NFL’s season opener. He’s listed as “doubtful” right now and probably shouldn’t play in this game, but regardless of whether he does or not, I wouldn’t put him in your starting lineup anyway. He simply won’t get the amount of snaps necessary to do any fantasy damage.
Fantasy Call – Go with your backup this week whether Witten plays or not. It’s just not worth the risk.
John Phillips – Phillips can actually play, folks, as could the Cowboys backup before him last season, Martellus Bennett. He hasn’t done a whole hell of a lot in his career catching just 22 passes for 163 yards and one touchdown over three years, but it looks like he’ll get his first big opportunity under the lights in Week 1. I’m interested to see how he responds as I’m slightly skeptical Jason Witten lasts the whole year after that spleen injury.
Fantasy Call – If you need a spot-starter for any reason or are in a 16-man league without a legit tight end, Phillips could be a decent start this week as the Giants allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to tight ends last season.
Martellus Bennett – If there’s one thing the kid out of Texas A&M has, it’s SIZE brotha! Holy COW is this kid big! Even better for the Giants, he also has pass-catching skills and a ton of speed to boot. Granted, he hasn’t done much with his talents over his first four years in the league, but being behind Witten wasn’t the easiest spot to be in. The Giants have worked wonders with tight ends lately making Jeremy Shockey a beast a handful of years ago and then making Jake Ballard a name to reckon with last season. JAKE BALLARD! Not even close to Bennett in terms of fantasy-skills…
Fantasy Call – The Cowboys allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to tight ends last season, so he’s definitely worth a shot if you drafted him in tandem with another mid-tier tight end. Ballard went for four catches, 52 yards and a TD against them in Week 14 last season.
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