Oakland Raiders at New England Patriots
The Raiders get to showcase newly acquired WR Randy Moss and RB LaMont Jordan against the Superbowl champs to kick off 2005. Patriots' coach Bill Belichick may try to keep Moss quiet, but Moss loves the spotlight and is rarely shut down in big games. Jordan and Moss will try to prove they belong in Oakland and are both likely to score touchdowns. Expect New England to come out in a controlled offense as QB Tom Brady throws strikes to various receivers without favoritism. Corey Dillon should get at least one score as the Pats balance their attack.
Chicago Bears at Washington Redskins
Rookie Kyle Orton was an excellent college quarterback and may eventually shine at the pro level, but Sunday will be baptism by fire. Orton and the Bears' receivers will have minimal effectiveness in his first game as a pro. RB Thomas Jones will be good for at least one touchdown and some yardage as the Bears focus on their running game behind a solid offensive line. Washington RB Clinton Portis may have a decent game for the Redskins, but don't expect much from either side in this low scoring affair.
Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns
The Bengals are one of the most hyped teams going into the season...and the Cleveland Browns may be the perfect opponent for the breakout Bengals to test their stuff. We expect huge games from QB Carson Palmer and Cincy WRs Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. RB Rudi Johnson should also be good for at least 100 yards and one score. The Browns will score points, but will not put up 48 of the game's 106 points like they did in the shootout the last time these teams faced each other. The Bengals have an improved defense from last year, but will still yield late production for RBs William Green/Reuben Droughns and rookie WR Braylon Edwards in a high scoring game.
Denver Broncos at Miami Dolphins
Ricky's back…but he's not playing, at least in this game. Miami has won the last six home games against Denver, but we think the streak ends on Sunday. Broncos' QB Jake Plummer looked excellent in pre-season and should be able to connect with WRs Ashley Lelie and Rod Smith routinely while Denver dominates the ground game with RB Mike Anderson. QB Gus Frerotte gets his first start for the Dolphins and will have reasonable success with WRs Chris Chambers and David Boston. Rookie RB Ronnie Brown should be good for one score.
Houston Texans at Buffalo Bills
Buffalo has a solid run defense and will make things tough on RB Domanick Davis. Expect the Texans to go the air in search of WR Andre Johnson for one of the few touchdowns in this low scoring game. Buffalo RB Willis McGahee should get the other score as both teams struggle to find their offense.
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers
The Saints are historically a better road team. They may need the same to be true this year due to the tragic events facing New Orleans. Jim Haslett is vowing to feature the run more this year which should mean a big year for RB Deuce McAllister. But, the Panthers are tough up front and will limit Deuce's success this Sunday. Expect QB Aaron Brooks and the Saints to look for WR Joe Horn as Deuce gets shut down early. For Carolina, we like QB Jake Delhomme and the air-it-out approach. WR Steve Smith and the Panthers' passing game will do well against the New Orleans' corners.
New York Jets at Kansas City Chiefs
Jets' new offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger is throwing out last year's playbook and going to a less conservative offense. But, QB Chad Pennington is known more for his accuracy than his arm strength and is coming off shoulder surgery. Pennington appeared fine in his pre-season tests and should be able to hook up with WR Laveranues Coles for a couple deep routes against the Chiefs secondary. Kansas City will feature RB Priest Holmes behind the league's top offensive line and is good for 1-2 scores and 100+ yards.
Seattle Seahawks at Jacksonville Jaguars
Jaguars' RB Fred Taylor vows to be healthy again and is promising a big season. If he is up to his word, expect rushing touchdowns on both sides of the ball as Taylor and Seattle RB Shaun Alexander put up scores and decent yardage. The weather could play a factor in this game, so plan accordingly. Dry conditions would favor Seattle's passing game with QB Matt Hasselbeck and WR Darrell Jackson, but tropical rains could develop by Sunday forcing fantasy owners to stay clear of either team's quarterback or wide receivers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings
Randy Moss is gone. But, Vikings' QB Duante Culpepper is a stud and will throw touchdowns,…even without Moss. WRs Nate Burleson and Travis Taylor should each score and can be started with confidence. Vikings' coach Mike Tice has labeled RB Michael Bennett as his breakout player, but we label Bennett ‘injury prone'. For the Bucs, rookie RB Carnell Williams and sophomore WR Michael Clayton should have decent games and are okay to start against Minnesota's improving defense.
Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers
Titans' QB Steve McNair should be able to pick up with WR Drew Bennett where Billy Volek had success last year. Tennessee may start RB Chris Brown, but alternate with Travis Henry. This combination may be successful for the Titans, but fantasy owners should stay away. Pittsburgh is without RBs Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley on Sunday and will start Willie Parker at running back. Parker will have a nice game, but we wouldn't advise on starting him unless he is your only starting option. QB Ben Roethlisberger is struggling a bit of late, but should be able to find Steelers' WR Hines Ward for a score.
Arizona Cardinals at New York Giants
QB Eli Manning's improvement in his sophomore season is the multi-million dollar question in New York. We think Eli may end up being a great quarterback, but not yet. He may have limited success in the air to WR Plaxico Burress and TE Jerome Shockey against the Cardinals, but we'd be cautious about starting Eli or Giants' WRs in week one. Former Superbowl MVP Kurt Warner is just as perplexing as Eli for fantasy owners. Cardinals' coach Dennis Green believes that Warner still has his stuff. He definitely has some fine young receivers on his team in Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. But like the Giants, we'd be cautious about starting Warner or his receivers until we see what he does in week one.
Dallas Cowboys at San Diego Chargers
RB Julius Jones is a special back and will do well against a tough Chargers' front. QB Drew Bledsoe needs more time in a Cowboys' uniform before we'd recommend him or his receivers. San Diego QB Drew Brees will have a decent day as he spreads the ball around to several Charger receivers. One of his targets will be the ever present running back LaDanian Tomlinson. LT2 will put up huge fantasy stats every week and should be started as the number one option regardless of the opponent.
Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions
The Packers certainly had no magic in pre-season. However, QB Brett Favre is still the man with a solid WR in Javon Walker that should have some success against the Lions. As for Detroit, the question is who gets the rock. QB Joey Harrington has looked better this pre-season than any time he has been in Detroit. Maybe it's because he has three stud wide receivers and a strong tight end. It's difficult to discern which of Charles Rogers, Roy Williams, or Mike Williams will become the favorite of Harrington, but we do expect at least two touchdowns through the air against the Packers. RB Kevin Jones is also a good play this week.
St. Louis Rams at San Francisco Forty-Niners
QB Mark Bulger is a top fantasy pick this week as he should have no trouble finding WRs Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce early and often. RB Steven Jackson will have a huge breakout year that will begin with the Niners. San Francisco RB Kevan Barlow will put up surprisingly big numbers and a score as this one gets out of hand early in favor of the Rams.
Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens have a very formidable defense, but fantasy owners should never rest their studs. QB Peyton Manning will still throw touchdowns to WRs Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. RB Edgerrin James will be kept in check, but should still be good for one score. The Ravens have little in the passing game, but have a solid ground game. There is a question regarding playing time of RBs Jamal Lewis and Chester Taylor. If a clear starter is announced by game time, put him in your starting lineup for good yardage and a score or two.
Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons
The Eagles want to prove that the soap opera in Philly is over. MNF will also help to motivate QB Donovan McNabb and WR Terrell Owens to light up the scoreboard for at least two touchdowns and big yardage totals. RB Brian Westbrook should also have a big game on Monday. Falcons' QB Michael Vick is always a playmaker and should be in your lineup. Expect RB Warrick Dunn to have a big game as the Eagles' defense keys on Vick.
NFL Fantasy Matchups - Week 1
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