With the NFL season starting tonight, I figured it might be a good idea to finish off my rankings before the season gets underway.
21 – Bills – Firing the offensive coordinator before the first game of the season usually isn’t a good sign. Figure in a three game suspension for Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch and the potential for a T.O. blow-up, things could get ugly in Buffalo (and Toronto).
Fantasy player to watch – Lee Evans – Has been a number two WR trapped in a number one WR’s body. With the addition of T.O., the deep threat should see a lot more single coverage.
20 – Broncos – The Raiders, Chiefs and Broncos all can’t go 4-12. It would be a statistical phenomenon. That’s why, despite the awful Jay Cutler fiasco this off-season, I’m buying Belicheck-disciple Josh McDaniel to put together a high-flying offense in the Mile High city. A five-game stretch against Dallas, New England, San Diego, Baltimore and Pittsburgh could be their undoing.
Fantasy player to watch – Knowshon Moreno – Every year there is a rookie RB who goes nuts. The former Georgia Bulldog couldn’t have landed in a better spot than Denver, where anybody can rush 1,000 yards.
19 – Texans – The Texans are the Tampa Bay Rays of the NFL. Loaded with athletes and top picks, but just can’t put it together. This year will be no different, as Brian Cushing won’t be able to stop the run all by himself.
Fantasy player to watch – Matt Schaub – Has always put up great numbers when he’s been healthy, is this the year he finally stays on the field for 16 games?
18 – Redskins – Love the defense. Love the addition of Albert Haynesworth. Love Clinton Portis as a fantasy sleeper. Don’t love the division. Put them in the NFC West and they’re 10-6, but that could be said about a lot of teams.
Fantasy player to watch – Clinton Portis – He’s one of those guys who drops in drafts because you know what you’re getting with him – even though it’s 1,500 yards and 10 TD’s a year.
17 – 49ers – Can’t justifiably have them any higher than this. Love what Singletary is doing in San Francisco, but at least until Crabtree signs, the offense is too one-dimensional.
Fantasy player to watch – Josh Morgan –Showed flashes of brilliance in his rookie year. With a more stabilized situation at QB, Morgan will emerge as Hill’s favorite deep threat.
16 – Panthers – If you watched any of Jake Delhomme’s spectacularly bad, five INT performance in the playoffs last season, you can’t take Carolina seriously. How far can the running game carry them?
Fantasy player to watch – Jonathon Stewart – Have to give love to my former Ducks. J-stew was awesome last year in a limited role, look for a more equal timeshare with Williams this season.
15 – Packers – It all depends on how well the defense adjusts to the new 3-4 scheme; the offense will be there. If the Packers can contain the run, there’s a good chance playoff football will return to Lambeau field.
Fantasy player to watch – Aaron Rodgers – I don’t know how many people realize he threw for over 4,000 yards and had a 28:13 TD/INT ratio. Pretty good for a first full season.
14 – Saints – Is there a more fun team to watch than the Saints? Drew Brees makes the NFL look like a video game. Unfortunately, so does their D. Maybe Malcom Jenkins is the answer.
Fantasy player to watch – Marques Colston – The favorite target of a quarterback who will throw for 4,500+ yards? Sign me up.
13 – Ravens – How will they handle the departures of Rex Ryan and Bart Scott on defense? Lewis, Suggs, Reed and Ngata still make up a pretty formidable nucleus. Joe Flacco needs to build on solid rookie campaign for the team to make the playoffs.
Fantasy player to watch – Ray Rice – The Ravens have always been a run-first team and it looks like Rice will get the majority of the workload. 75% of fantasy success is opportunity.
12 – Cardinals – Still the best team in the NFC West, but that isn’t saying much. Card fans must pray for Warner to stay healthy, because they won’t go anywhere without him.
Fantasy player to watch – Anquan Boldin – Gets overlooked because he plays next to the best WR in football, but any player who breaks his face and then grabs nine passes and two scores two weeks later is an absolute beast.
11 – Bears – Cutler is the first legit QB in the Windy City since Jim McMahon. Too bad Cutler’s best WR was a DB two years ago. Could be a frustrating year with expectations so high.
Fantasy player to watch – Greg Olsen – I have an uncanny obsession with Miami Tight Ends.
10 – Cowboys – Maybe getting rid of T.O. is just what Dallas needs to get back to the playoffs. Must hope Roy Williams can revert to his 2007 form with the Lions. Never a good thing, though, to be counting on former Lions.
Fantasy player to watch: Roy Williams – Severely underrated after difficult time adjusting following the trade.
9 – Giants – Loss of Plax makes Eli Manning a below-average quarterback. Concerns on defense and one-dimensional offense will keep the Giants from returning to the promise land this season.
Fantasy player to watch: Ahmad Bradshaw – The Giants will have to run to be successful this year; Bradshaw slides into the spot Derrick Ward had last year as lightning to Jacobs’ thunder.
8 – Falcons – I learned my lesson last year after doubting Matt Ryan. He is for real. Emergence of Roddy White and the Tony Gonzalez acquisition only make Ryan more dangerous.
Fantasy player to watch: Tony Gonzalez – Will be amped up now that he’s finally on a contender again. Amazing what a winning environment can do for a player.
7 – Eagles – Top 3 defense will miss the late Jim Johnson. With the workload Westbrook handles each year, you have to wonder when he will break down. But until then, the offense will have plenty of firepower.
Fantasy player to watch: DeSean Jackson – McNabb will throw plenty, and Jackson has become his favorite target. Must rid stupid me-first attitude.
6 – Colts – Huge hole left by the sudden departure of Tony Dungy. Coach-on-the-field Peyton Manning will be more important than ever this season. O-line needs to step up big time.
Fantasy player to watch: Anthony Gonzalez – Increased role in the offense and third year in the league will lead to a breakout season.
5 – Titans – It’s amazing what laying off the Tequila will do for you. If career fizzles out in the NFL, Lendale White will have one waiting for him in the weight loss industry.
Fantasy player to watch: Nate Washington – Quietly was very solid for the Steelers, now number one WR in Tennessee.
4 – Vikings – Despite my hatred for Brett Favre, the combination of AD (I’m on your side Oklahoma) and the defense make this team a sleeper Super Bowl contender.
Fantasy player to watch: Bernard Berrian – Berrian is a deep threat. Favre loves to throw deep. With defenses needing to stack eight in the box, this is a match made in heaven.
3 – Chargers – Yes, I know what happened the last time the Chargers had this much hype, but with so much talent and their division so weak, they can go 10-6 without breaking a sweat. I think they do better.
Fantasy player to watch: Vincent Jackson – With LT getting old and Rivers coming into his own, the Chargers have shifted their focus to the passing game.
2 – Steelers – Probably should be number one but my man crush on Tom Brady is too big.
Fantasy player to watch: Willie Parker – Has been so overrated that he is now underrated. Mendenhall will not steal his touches.
1 – Patriots – It’s almost unfair how veterans in their twilight years go to New England on the cheap. Oh and that Brady guy is back at full strength. I like their chances.
Fantasy player to watch: Wes Welker – How do you not love a 5-8 white WR? With Brady back, you can count on 100 receptions.